Essentials of Christian Faith

When you say that you are Christian, can you clearly articulate what you mean by that? Could you, with conviction, declare, “I am a Christian, and this is why I am one”? Or are you just a Christian by association? Sadly, the greater likelihood is that most professing Christians are in the latter camp. That’s at least according to a Kenyan journalist’s testimony from 2013: “If an opinion poll were conducted to establish how many citizens regularly go to places of worship, the results would frighten the clergy to death. If the researchers were to probe deeper, it might emerge that going to heaven is hardly the reason the few who visit places of worship go there in the first place,” he said.

Apparently, most Kenyans who identify as Christians do not possess the primary motivations for being one. It’s no wonder church attendance, at least in churches that recorded them, reduced drastically post the pandemic.

Knowledge of the Essentials is Necessary

This reality isn’t exclusively Kenyan. Ligonier Ministries, in partnership with Lifeway Research, surveys ‘The State of Theology’ in America every two years. One of its significant conclusions in its last survey in 2022 was”that Americans increasingly reject the divine origin and complete accuracy of the Bible. With no enduring plumbline of absolute truth to conform to, U.S. adults are also increasingly holding to unbiblical worldviews related to human sexuality. In the evangelical sphere, doctrines including the deity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ, as well as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, are increasingly being rejected.”

In short, as per the Ligonier survey, most Christians don’t hold to the essentials of the Christian faith. It’s necessary, therefore, to speak to some of the essentials of the faith with the hope to at least educate some for the sake of our being built up in the most holy faith, lest we be swayed around by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14, Jude 20).

The Deity of Christ

The first of the essentials is that Jesus is God. The reason Jesus could be an infinitely pleasing sacrifice to the Father is that he was entirely separated from us (Hebrews 7:26). Even though Jesus never directly claimed to be God, he always implied it in a way that angered the Jews (John 5:17-18; 8:58-59; 10:30-31, 37-39). He also never corrected anyone who attributed divinity to him (Matthew 16:16-19; 26:63-64, John 20:28). C.S. Lewis is famously quoted saying, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

If Jesus is any of the latter two, we who have believed have no hope. But the Savior of the world was, and is, holy, unstained, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26). He is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact imprint of his nature, and the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-3). We are saved only because God, in Jesus, became flesh (John 1:1-18, Philippians 2:6-11) and tasted death for all who believe in him (John 3:16-18, Hebrews 2:9-10).

Salvation by Grace through Christ Alone

The second essential is salvation by grace through Christ alone. Salvation brought about by Christ, there are two things to consider. First, salvation isn’t by grace plus works but by grace alone (Ephesians 2:1-10). The Bible teaches countless times that none of us can do anything to earn God’s favour, as none of us seeks God (Psalm 53:1-6, Jeremiah 17:9). We are dead in our sins and trespasses and are separated from God, as Paul tells the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:1-3). However, being rich in mercy, God saved us by grace through faith, not of our own but His gift to us, not as a result of works so that none may boast (Ephesians 2:8-10).

To say there was no work done whatsoever would be wrong, as there was work done, just not our own. It was and is by the work of Christ that we are saved. Christ, “who in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8)He willingly chose to become flesh so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. There is no salvation outside of Christ, even if, as per the Ligonier survey, most people are increasingly rejecting the exclusivity of Christ in salvation. Jesus bears witness to himself as the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6).

The Resurrection of Christ

The third essential is the resurrection of Christ. No event has as significant of a claim to our salvation as the resurrection of Christ. As Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, if Christ didn’t resurrect, our faith is futile, and we are still in our sins. In short, we have no “hope laid out for us” (Colossians 1:5), for Christ would not then be our forerunner in opening the veil for us (Hebrews 6:19-20). Moreover, all our labour as Christians would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), the wonderful news of a once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26-28) would be but a pointless myth, and we would be a truly woeful people.

Our God, He is One

The fourth essential is that God is one. The statement above comes from Deuteronomy 6:4 and, I should note here, is not at all contradicted by the essential doctrine that follows next. The reality of God being one is as old as time. The first commandment states, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). And indeed, we shouldn’t, for before him (the God of the Bible), there existed no god, and neither shall there be a god after him (Isaiah 43:10; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

The Holy Trinity

The fifth essential is the Trinity. How could Christ have claimed to be God when I have just demonstrated using Scripture that God is one? Well, the answer is in the Trinity: a term you shouldn’t expect to find in Scripture but a doctrine Scripture certainly teaches. When Jesus commissions the Apostles to go and preach the gospel, he says they are to baptise those who believe in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Notice he didn’t say ‘names of’; instead, he says ‘name of’. From this, we can infer that Jesus speaks to the reality of one God in three distinct persons.

Some people will say that it is three forms in one being, implying there is no distinction, but Scripture contradicts this view (Matthew 17:5, John 12:27-28; 14:16-17; 16:7). Other scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, as well as Ephesians 4:1-3, among many others, help illustrate this statement as well. Thus, Christ’s claim to deity doesn’t go against the idea of God being one, as he is the Second person of the Trinity who brings about the hope that we have.

The Gospel

The sixth essential is the gospel. Our hope is found in the gospel, which, as Paul tells the Romans (1:16-17), is God’s power unto salvation. I have chosen to end with the gospel because none of it is true if all the other essentials aren’t true. Our faith, Paul would argue, is futile if the gospel is false (1 Corinthians 15:1-4,16). Christ had to die for our sins, and because of his perfect life, he proved to be a pleasing sacrifice to the Father. Since his sacrifice satisfied God’s wrath (Romans 3:21-26, Isaiah 53:10-12, 1 John 2:2, Hebrews 9:23-28), he rose from the dead as a confirmation of this glorious reality (Acts 2:23-24, Hebrews 9:28). Death could not hold him. Since that is true, it confirms that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and all who believe in it will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16-18).

All of these are summed up by faith because faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). It is what connects every thread here, as it were. It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Dear saint, I hope that you will build yourself up in the ‘most holy’ faith (Jude 20), “so that even though it is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

References 

https://books.openedition.org/africae/2565

https://thestateoftheology.com/

https://nation.africa/kenya/news/pastor-see-you-later-why-city-church-attendance-is-falling-4271080

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