6. The Essentials

Let the Bible be our Guide

How did I become a Christian? It is a strange tale as I had mentioned in the earlier posts. What I know I got by studying the Bible. Are there errors in the bible? For sure! But for the most part it is easy, with the tools we have available these days, to spot and sort those out.

For example, after the acceptance of the Creed of Nicaea by the Ecumenical Church in 325ad the concept of the Trinity gradually became accepted as the official teaching. With this as their belief translators tweaked their translations. So God’s spirit became the Holy Spirit was now a divine being and the upper case added to indicate that. An easy error to spot, but nevertheless an error.

During much of the debates at those early centuries they mainly debated if Jesus was God; the holy spirit was not considered a divine person. That is still what some denominations believe today, and in the beginning I did too. Once the council started considering that the holy spirit might be a divine person they had to grapple with God is one and the trinity was finally conceived, if they had only stuck to what the scriptures stated explicitly! There are denominations that have made a strange compromise called Oneness. In their view there is only Jesus, he is the spirit, the father and of course he is Jesus.

Most of what I got wrong and had to change later on, came from the teachings of other people rather than the Bible. Doctrinal errors over the centuries usually came about when people speculated or added their philosophies to beyond that what the scriptures explicitly say. In the suggested approach to dealing with doctrine differences that I give below, I will try and stick to the Bible as best I can.

Doctrinal Differences

The book and letters that the apostle John wrote contains so much useful information. Ironically his writings have been adapted most by translators. Incidentally many people don’t know that he was a priest, a descendant of Aaron, and was responsible for the canonization of the bible as we have it, most of the books of the old testament (the tanach) and the new testament.

The Essentials
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” (1 John 5:1)

John understood that believing Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, is the essential criterion for being “children of God” or “born again”.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

“…Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”

(John 1:12-13; 3:5).

John further shows that to believe Jesus is the Christ is the same as believing:
– “in his name” (John 1:12)
– in him as “God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34)
– the “Lamb of God” (John 1:36)
– the “Son of God…the king of Israel” (John 1:49)

It is by believing in Jesus that we will not perish but have life in his name. (John 3:15-16; 20:31)

Let’s look at Peter’s example again, I quote the familiar passage in full:

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man
is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
(Matt. 16:13-18)

Please note he did not say ‘you are the savior, God the son’ but ‘you are the one anointed to be king, the son of God’.

Disputable Matters

There are many things we disagree about like to worship on Saturday or Sunday, did God create the universe in six literal days or a much longer period, do we have free will or predestination, who is the Antichrist, is Jesus really coming a second time, is heaven and real places, or these days are people of the LGBTQ community an abomination? Depending on your position, you might have firm convictions on these issues and they are certainly important, but they are not listed as part of the essentials.

I am glad we won’t have to pass a theological exam to be accepted into God’s kingdom!

There were many in the congregation in Rome who were “quarrelling over disputable matters” (Rom. 14:1). But Paul encouraged them to make peace instead:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Rom. 14:17-19

Unity is Important

Paul exhorted believers to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” Eph. 4:3

When he was about to be killed, Jesus prayed: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21

In the next blog post I would like conclude my account of my journey of faith by describing where I am at now.