What do Christians believe? Ask 10 Christians and you may get 10 different answers. I guess the question aught to be, what should Christians believe. First let us examine what the word "Christian" means. This isn't a dictionary entry, but my own view: A "Christian" is one who believes in Christ. Who is Christ? Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, who died on the Cross for the Sins of the World. So, a Christian is someone who believes in Christ, in the life and teachings of Jesus.
Why then do we have so many different types of "Christians". Why do we have Baptists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Lutherans, etc. What is the difference? Well, I'm not going to debate the virtues of various denominations, but I will list here what is and has generally been accepted as the Fundamentals of Christian Faith. These were first outlined by someone long before my time, so I certainly am not taking credit for this, but I have found the following list to be true, based on my own study of the Scriptures over the past several years. In my humble opinion these five fundamentals are of key importance to any Christian, and if you deny any of these, you are seriously out of step with the Word of God and you should carefully read the Bible for yourself (the entire scripture). You can't base a theology on one verse, or one chapter, or one book of the Bible. You must instead use the entire Scripture. To do any less is error.
- Saved by Faith, not Works
- The Bible is the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the Doctrine of the "Trinity".
- Jesus was both fully God and fully man
- Literal Return of Christ
- Other Important Fundamentals
We are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ. Not by any works we may do. No man can earn his way into heaven. We are not saved by keeping the 10 Commandments, we are not saved by being members of a church. We are not saved by being baptized. We are not saved by being charitable. We are not saved by giving to the poor, helping the sick, etc. All of those things are good, and commendable, but they will not save you. You are saved only by believing the Gospel (bold and underlining added by me):
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1st Corinthians 15:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
John 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Believing the Gospel is salvation, works are not part of salvation (but a saved person should certainly do good works):
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Am I saying that works aren't important? No, works are important. Every believer should do all he is able or willing to do to help others. Salvation, however is not dependent on works. However, you might say that works are proof of salvation.
The Bible is the Inspired and complete Word of God. We can believe that every word in the scripture is there because God wanted it there (in the original Hebrew and Greek). Most modern translations may have minor translation problems, but nothing serious. That isn't to say all modern translations are good.) I use the King James Version mainly but use modern translations as well.
We have a complete revelation. We need no "new revelations". When I first became a believer, I made the mistake of attending a church where every single service, the preacher told how God "spoke to him last night" and gave him some new revelation or prophecy. Well, it wasn't God speaking to him, as none of the prophecy's came to pass. We have the scriptures, and we need no new revelation. I believe that we can (and do) receive (via the Holy Spirit) personal revelations, of importance only to ourselves and families. However, many of these Evangelical preachers receiving new revelations from "God" every day are following another spirit, another Christ, and another Gospel, for they almost always contradict the scripture we were given. Verify every thing with the Scripture. If it contradicts the scripture, then it isn't of God.
If you don't believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then you might as well throw your copy away, and live anyway you please, for if it isn't the truth, then there is no truth. You either believe it or you don't.
The Trinity, or Triune nature of God is that He is one "what" and three "whos". He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). The Bible provides ample evidence that the Son and the Holy Spirit are also God, just like the Father. Does this mean that the one God appears to us in different forms, as it suits his purpose? One day he is the father, one day the son? No, that is not quite correct. God is ALWAYS the Father, always the Son and always the Holy Spirit. He is eternally present in all three persons. Does this mean there are three gods? No, just one. Does this mean he is one God, but has three "offices", such as a woman who is (at the same time), a Mother, a Wife, a School Teacher, a sister, an Aunt, etc. No, that is not correct either. The three persons of the godhead are all equal and all coexist. The word "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible, but then again, neither does the word "Bible", so don't let that throw you for a loop. It is a complex concept, and quite difficult to grasp at first, but the scriptures do show it to be true.
Jesus (Yeshua) is fully God and fully man. Jesus was referred as both the "Son of God" and the "Son of Man". Jesus (the man) was born of a woman (Mary) as flesh and blood. In this way he was fully a man. Yet he was and is the Son of God from eternity past. He became man also when he was born to Mary, and as a man he lived and walked the earth, and died, yet all the while he was also God.
Jesus is returning to earth to rule as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He will physically come back to earth, just as he promised. He told us to watch for him, unless he come as a thief in the night. The time is growing closer every day.
Besides the "Five Fundamentals" given above, there are other doctrines that are important for a Christian to understand, and several of these are the source of division among various Christian groups (i.e. Denominations). I may create articles on each of these someday, but for now I'll just list a few of them.
- Creation vs. Evolution
- Keeping the 10 Commandments
- Keeping the Law
- Keeping the Sabbath
- Baptism, immersion or sprinkling?
- Holy Spirit
- Speaking in Tongues
- Signs and Wonders
- Rapture of the Church
- Replacement Theology (i.e. Christians taking all the promises given to Israel)
- End Time Prophecies.