by Rob Lundberg
The other day my daughter, Christine, and I were having a conversation about some of the basic essentials of the historical Christian faith, and what the Bible prescribes and describes in its teachings and within the array of Christians and people faith in Christ believe.
So what are the common teachings that bring us together when it comes to embracing this faith known as biblical Christianity?
To give you an abstract illustration allow us to imagine that we have a bowl of M&M’s but I tell you that there are a few candy coated pieces of cyanide in the same bowl. Would you dive into those M&M’s. Here is another illustration.
Let’s say that you have a bottle that has the label of a popular company producing vinegar. The only catch is that you find it out near the back door near a small can of paint. The label is still on the bottle, but the contents smells more like paint thinner. Does the contents match the label on the bottle?
There are core teachings in the Christian faith that have to match what the standard source (the Bible) reflects, describes and teaches. This is what we would call “biblical orthodoxy.”
The core (orthodox) Christian faith is distinct from other faith groups. However there are core teachings among the denominations that bring us together and the only difference is a matter of practice and application. This post is going to cover those historical teachings which make biblical Christianity distinct from all the other faiths, including counterfeit groups claiming to be Christian. Like the ingredients of the label, these are the teachings would label what the historical faith is all about. Anything outside these teachings run the risk of leading one to spiritually deadly results.
What are the key ingredients to the historical Christian faith? Let me share eight that I think are of utmost importance.
There is one God (Jn. 17:3, Rom. 3:30, 1 Tim. 2:5), and this is the monotheistic, personal, transcendent God of the Old and New Testament: (2 Sam. 7:22, 1 Kgs. 8:60 1 Chr. 17:20, Isa. 44:6 Isa. 45:14 Isa. 45:22, Rom. 15:6, 2 Cor. 1:3, Eph. 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3). This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Luk. 13:28, 20:37, Jn. 8:54). This God, the only true God (Jn. 5:44, Jn. 17:3, 1 Thes. 1:9), dwells in Heaven (Mat 6:9, Mat. 10:33, Mat 12:50, Mat. 18:14) and is therefore distinct from His creation (Gen. 1:1, Rom. 1:19-23).
2. The Trinity
God is a trinity. This means that God is a tri-personal God who exists as three distinct persons, all of whom share the same substance, nature, and essence. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different centers of consciousness (subsistences, hypostasis) that are co-equal, co-powerful, and co-eternal, existing one monotheistic God. Jesus is not the Father (Jn. 6:38, Jn. 8:16-18, Jn. 10:36), the Father is not the Holy Spirit (Mat. 28:19, Jn. 14:16-17, Jn. 15:26), but all three exist as one God (Jesus: Jn. 1:1-18, 8:54, Heb. 1:8, Father: Jn. 20:10, Rom. 15:6, 1 Cor. 8:6, Holy Spirit: Act. 5:1-4, 2 Cor. 3:17, Heb. 10:15-17).
While they all differ in role and economy, they are all equal in nature and ontology. Yahweh, the proper name of God in the Old Testament, refers to the Trinity which consists of three co-equal divine persons. While there is no one single verse that alone establishes all three persons are God, but this is what the Bible teaches and expresses in the complete revelation of Scripture.
3. The deity of Jesus
Jesus is God (Jn. 8:56, Jn. 10:30, Rom. 9:5, Col. 1:15, Tit. 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1). When we say Jesus is “God”, we mean that God is actually a triune Godhead that Jesus is a member/person of. Jesus existed eternally into the past alongside the Father as God from the very beginning (John 1:1-3, Phil. 2:5-7) and retained full deity and the full divine nature equal to that of the Father while in the flesh (Col 1:19, Col 2:9).
As God in the flesh (Jn. 1:1-14), Jesus also had and has a human nature (Heb. 2:9, 1 Timothy 2:5) and therefore is truly man and truly God. True deity and humanity are both expressing in their complete natures in the person of Jesus, which is why the death of Jesus (as man-God) was able to atone for our sins as the Bible says man alone cannot die for another man’s sins (Eze. 18:10, Psa. 49:7).
4. Jesus’ death and resurrection for human sin
Jesus died to save sinners (Lk. 19:10, Jn. 3:17, Rom. 5:6, 8, 1 Tim. 1:15, Jn. 12:17, 1 Jn. 3:5). He saved sinners from the penalty of sin and judgment of God (Jn. 3:36, Rom. 5:9. Eph. 2:3) by acting as atoning sacrifice for human sin (Rom. 4:5, 1 Cor. 15:3, Gal. 1:4, Eph. 5:2, Heb. 9:6, Rev. 9:5), thereby satisfying the righteous judgment and indignation of God (Isaiah 53:4-5,11, Rom. 3:5, Heb. 2:17, 1 Jn. 2:2, 1 Jn. 4:10).
In addition to being forgiven of our sins through his atoning death, through the resurrection of Jesus we have been reconciled back to relationship with God (Rom. 5:10-11, 2 Cor. 18:19, Eph. 2:16, Col 1:20, 22) and have been declared righteous in his sight through the imputed righteousness of Jesus that has now been accredited to our account (Rom. 3:22, Rom. 4:6, 9, 4:25, 2 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 3:6, Phil 3:9, Jas 2:23).
Those who reject Jesus will die in their sins and are not forgiven of God (Mrk. 16:16, Jn. 3:18, 36, Jn. 5:4, Rom. 2:8, 2 Thes. 1:8, Heb. 2:3, Heb. 3:12, Heb. 12:25, 1 Pet. 4:17, 1 Jn. 5:10, Rev. 21:8).
5. Salvation in Christ alone
The work of Jesus on the cross is the only offer by God to mankind by which we might be saved. Apart from the salvific death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross, salvation, relationship with God, and entrance into Heaven are not possible. There is no other way to be made right with God apart from Jesus (Jn. 14:6, Act. 4:12, 1 Cor. 3:11, Gal. 1:7, 1 Tim 2:5).
6. Salvation by grace through faith alone
The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith, by believing on Jesus as our Savior (Jn. 3:16, 18, Jn. 6:29, 40, 47, Act. 10:43, Acts 16:31, Act. 26:18, Rom. 5:1, Rom. 10:9, Gal. 3:8, 2 Timothy 3:15). In addition to being saved by faith, we are saved by faith APART from works that we think we can do on our own, apart from Christ. Upon the prompting of the Holy Spirit to trust in Christ, the key ingredients of obedience and repentance of sin enter the picture (Rom. 3:21-28, Rom. 4:3-5, Rom 11:6, Gal. 2:16, Gal. 2:21, Gal. 3:1-3, Gal 3:8, 9-14, 21-25, Eph 2:8-10, Phil. 3:9, Tit. 3:5).
This is the overwhelming testimony of Scripture. We are not saved by a pledge of service, repentance of willful sin, or a ceremony, but by faith. We are not saved by works and faith like Muslims, Mormons, Roman Catholics, and other religious groups teach. There is nothing you can do to receive the atoning benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection apart from faith.
Faith alone is the medium by which we are imputed the work of Christ to our lives. This is why salvation is called a free “gift” (Rom. 3:24, Rom. 5:15, 16, 17, Rom 6:23, Eph. 2:8, Heb. 6:4). In other words, faith is a sufficient condition for being saved, as the work of Christ is fully complete and does not need to be added to with human merit. Only received through faith.
This being said, the Bible distinguishes between a faith that saves (such as mentioned in the verses above), and a faith without works which is a dead faith (Jas. 2:17, 1 Jn. 1:6) that is equal to that of devils (Jas. 2:19) and cannot save (Jas. 2:14). It is therefore useless for salvation (Jas. 2:20).
This is the faith of ‘lukewarm Christians’ whom Jesus will not receive (Rev. 3:14-22), and the false converts who claim to know Jesus though never had relationship with Him or displayed the fruits of obedience (Mat. 7:18-23, Luk. 13:25-27). Salvific faith is a heartfelt trust on Jesus for our salvation (Rom. 10:10), not merely an intellectual grasping or assent of the Gospel, and if we have truly been saved by faith alone, our faith will never be alone.
It will never exist apart from works of repentance. Expressed in the Bible, we see a false faith historically classified as being only ‘ascentia’ or mere intellectual assent (also called easy believism), and saving faith historically classified as ‘feducia’ which couples intellectual commitment with a heartfelt trust in Jesus alone. Such faith will always be carried and accompanied with good works (Mat. 3:10, Mat. 7:16-18, Luk. 6:43-45, Jn. 15:6, Gal. 5:6, Tit. 1:1, Tit. 1:16, 1 Tim. 1:4, 6:3, Jas. 2:18-22, 1 Jn. 2:3-6, 29, 1 Jn. 3:6-8, 10). This does not mean we need faith PLUS works (since salvation is by grace through faith), but faith THAT works.
7. Biblical Repentance
Repentance is the response, byproduct, and consequence of salvation that is supernaturally worked in the Christian through the regenerative power the Holy Spirit. It is not the cause or precondition of salvation.
The Bible teaches that faith apart from works is what saves us, but that a real saving faith is inseparable from works of repentance. Like a sun cannot exist without producing its rays, the saving faith described in Scripture does not and can not exist without producing fruit.
It’s the nature of a salvific faith to be accompanied by works because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whom believers receive when they are saved (Jn. 3:5-16, Rom. 8:9, Gal. 3:2, Eph. 1:13-14) who then begins to do a supernatural work of regeneration in the Christian refining them, sanctifying them, and leading them through repentance (Jn. 7:38, Rom. 6:4, Rom. 8:10-11, 1 Cor. 6:11, 2 Cor. 3:18, 2 Cor. 4:16, 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 5:22-25, Gal 6:15, Eph. 2:5, 10, Tit. 3:5, 2 Pet. 1:3).
Repentance is a work of the God in the believer (Jn. 1:13, Act. 5:31, Act. 11:18, 1 Cor. 15:10, Eph. 1:19, 2 Tim. 2:25, Phil 2:13, Heb 13:21) who empowers the believer to follow his commandments (Eze. 36:27, Rom 6:1-6, Tit. 2:11-14, 1 Jn. 3:9, 1 Jn 5:1-5, 2 Jn. 1:9). We are saved by faith, and then receive the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us and conforms us into the image of Christ.
In addition to this, we are commanded to obey, repent, be baptized, preach the Gospel, forsake our life, surrender our will to Jesus, but these works do not impute the righteousness of Christ to us or atone for our sins. Faith alone does the saving, but a faith that saves will never be alone.
Relating this back to salvation, we would be able to say that a saving faith is a repentant faith with the faith alone being the transmitter/medium by which the sinner is justified and the ‘repentance’ referring to a state of heart and mind pertaining to Christ and one’s own sin that comes alongside saving faith as an inseparable property/quality of saving faith as opposed to being a list of successfully complete works of righteousness. Such repentance as it applies to salvation, as mentioned above, is a product of the Holy Spirit convicting them and granting them this repentance. This repentance does not act as the medium and vehicle of our salvation (since that is faith alone), and is not defined as being “a successful turning from all willful sins” since this is not listed Biblically as a pre-condition for salvation, but is a necessarily present attitude inseparable from saving faith as a) quality of saving faith itself, and b) a quickening of God in/on the individual at/preceding the moment of salvation c) sanctification and regeneration through the Spirit proceeding salvation, and d) the person’s response to honour and love God.
8. Inerrancy of Scripture
Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 2:16) and was produced as men were moved on by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20). The Bible is therefore error-free, complete in it’s revelation, and cannot be added to (Jud. 1:3, Rom. 2:16, 1 Cor. 4:6). It is the final authority on doctrine, theology, and all things pertaining to the Christian faith. It is perfectly clear in the prescriptions it teaches and the descriptions it gives of who Jesus is, who God is what the plan of salvation is, and awaits both saved and sinner in eternity.
This means that any version of Christ that deviates from the Jesus revealed in the Bible is not the Jesus who exists in actuality (Gal 1:6-9, 2 Cor. 11:4, 2 Pet. 2:1, 1 Jn. 4:2-3). Any version of God that deviates from the God of the Bible is an idol and does not exist in actuality (Exo. 20:3-4, Psl. 96:5, Jn. 5:44, Jn. 17:3, 1 Thes. 1:9, 1 Jn. 5:10). Any view that contradicts that of Scripture is false (Isa. 28:13, Jn. 17:17, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, 2 Pet. 3:16).
The Apocrypha is neither God-breathed nor produced by the Holy Spirit and therefore does not belong in the Biblical canon.
 The word orthodox infers the cardinal or biblically correct, sound teachings of historical Christian faith.