Let’s face it, there are a lot of false ideas about what it means to be a Christian floating around, both inside and outside the church. Additionally, there are many in culture and cults who like to latch on to the title of Christian without fully knowing what it means to be one.
Thankfully, the Bible gives us a clear picture of the things a Christian is to believe and as a result the things they are to do, so we should not be deceived whenever someone knocks on our door or boldly claims at work to be a Christian yet teaches something contrary to the Bible. Because of the contents of scripture, we can judge the validity of their statements by the qualifications set forth in the word of God.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 we are told that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” As a result, if we look at the teachings of the Bible, there is an abundance of things that will divide us from both the culture and the cults, which we are to hold fast to, as they are the very words of God written to guide and instruct us as his creation. So what does the Bible say that a Christian is to believe?
The Christian Essentials
One God (Monotheism)
For starters, scripture is very clear that a Christian believes that there is only one God in existence. In Isaiah 44:6 God tells us “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” God additionally says in Isaiah 43:10 “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” To believe in any other or any more God’s other than the one who speaks to us in the Bible is to believe something completely opposite from what scripture teaches.
Jesus is God (Christ’s Deity)
On multiple occasions, Jesus and scripture both state that he is in fact God who has come into the world in a human body. This is incredibly important 1 Timothy 2:5 tells us that Jesus is the mediator between us and God.
Since Christ is both God and man, this means that he alone is able to intervene with God on our behalf. Since the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and we have all sinned (Rom 3:23, 1Cor 5:12), we have all earned our own death sentence… this is the bad news. But Christ came into the world and lived a life without sin (1 Pet 2:22; 1Jhn 3:5) so that he could be eligible to offer to take our place in judgement (Rom 5:19; 1 Jhn 2:2), thereby saving us from the judgement we deserve… this is the good news.
To put all this simply, without Jesus we have no mediator. But since we are all sinners who deserve death, we are in dire need of a way to be forgiven of our sins, since we can not do it on our own. This is why the early church also referred to the Gospel as ‘the Way’ (Jhn 14:6; Acts 24:14).
Jesus Rose from the Dead (Christ’s Resurrection)
Paul wrote it short and sweet in 1 Corinthians 15:17 when he said that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” We can trust that Christ is risen for a number of reasons. For example, if the disciples had simply made up the whole story of Christ’s resurrection and his subsequent appearances, all the authorities would have to do is break open the tomb they had placed Jesus in and show them the body that was still lying there. Furthermore, if the disciples had indeed stolen the body as the Chief Priests instructed the guards to say (Mat 28:11-13), then how are we to explain all the appearances of Christ after his crucifixion? Paul gives us a good account of these appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8:
All but one of the disciples who claimed that Jesus was risen died horrible and torturous deaths after being given a chance to take back their words. We can trust that their words are the truth because unlike us today who take the story of the resurrection on faith, these men knew for a fact whether or not Christ rose from the grave; and no one dies for what they know is a lie. Christ is risen.
Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection (The Gospel of Christianity)
The Gospel – also known as ‘The Good News’ or ‘The Way’ – is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 which says “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”. This passage sums up what the whole life of Jesus is about. It does not get much simpler than this: Jesus Christ is God in flesh (Jhn 1:1, 14; 20:28; Col 2:9) and that deliverance from sin and it’s consequences is received by faith alone in him (Jhn 1:12; Rom 10:9-10; Eph 2:8-9) and his resurrection (Mat 28:6).
In addition, Galatians 1:9 says that “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” That pretty much settles the whole matter. The Gospel which is preached in the Bible is the only gospel that is worth anything. If any message is given to you other than this, it is not given by the mouth of God or the angels but from mouth of demons.
We are Saved by Faith in Jesus Alone (Salvation by Grace)
Grace is the undeserved favor of God, which is granted to us by faith alone in Christ (Eph 2:8-9). Scripture tells us repeatedly that we cannot earn our salvation by our own apparent good works (Rom 3:12, 20; Gal 2:21). In fact, one verse of the Bible actually tells us that if we believe that we are saved by faith and works, then we are really not saved at all (Gal 5:4)!
Rather, what scripture teaches over and over again is that it is by faith alone in Christ that we are forgiven of our sins and saved from the torments of Hell (Rom 4:3, 5; 6:23; 10:9, 13; Eph 2:8-9), and that there is no other way around it but through Christ (Jhn 14:6).
Certainly what is mentioned above is only a basic overview of the essential things a true Christian is to believe, but all the necessary information is there. If these five doctrines are believed, they will also lead to a whole series of other beliefs such as proper views of the Trinity, justification, sanctification, and a whole bunch of other big words.
What I have sought to do is lay out here are the five essential doctrines one must believe in order to truly call themselves a Christian, if there is anything here that you deny, then what you believe is not of Christ and the Bible.