Throughout their lives, people have different experiences of Christianity, and these experiences tend to paint their interpretation of what Christianity is. Whether it was represented properly or not, people carry around images of Christian belief that do not necessarily represent historic or biblical Christian belief. People will reject a Christianity that is foreign to the Bible. They will reject a Christianity that was represented to them by men who, themselves, did not know what Christianity was. I want to represent Christianity as it truly is for people who have never received proper instruction on what it is. So, what is Christianity?
Now it occurs to me that some may find this very proposition offensive. I am insinuating that the Christianity that people have rejected was not “true” Christianity. But that is not always the case. Some people see true Christianity and find it appalling. As the apostle Paul tells us, “the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. But to those who believe, it is the power of God.” Some people do see Christianity, as it truly is, and reject it anyway. Some people hear the gospel and flee from it. Some people see the light and take shelter in the darkness. But there are others who have either never heard a proper outline or summary of Christianity, or they have been given an improper version of Christian theology. For those people, I write about the question, “What is Christianity?”
What Is Christianity? – Jesus is God The Son and the Son of God. This is something the many people struggle with and raises a few philosophical quagmires. But Jesus has existed forever, in the form of God (Philippians 2:6), alongside the Father (John 1:18). Hence, Jesus is God, but he is not the Father, nor is he the Holy Spirit. He is God the Son. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have existed in perfect unity from eternity. But they are not distinct beings. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). But this one God is eternally presented in three persons, or three centers of consciousness.
God the Son transferred his consciousness into the womb of Mary, thus incarnating and becoming a man, and living on earth. Thus the words, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14). This is quite difficult for us to conceive us, that God could become man; the infinite could become finite; the transcendent could become local. The way that I conceive of this is that it is as though God were an author, and he wrote himself into his own story. I expound further upon this in my article, How Could Jesus Be Both God And Man?
What is Christianity? The words marking the beginning of the prologue of John’s Gospel nicely summarize this. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
What is Christianity? We have separated ourselves from God. If a father establishes rules for his children, he is not doing that to be arbitrary (we can hope), nor is he laboring to be oppressive, or to show off how powerful he is to rule over them. Rather, his rules for his children are a demonstration of his love for them. He wants them to live proper lives so that they might be safe from harm and for their own betterment. But when the children break those rules, it is an offense to the father because the children do not trust him. They trust themselves more. Likewise, when a wife cheats on her spouse, the husband will become angry because of his love for her. He has a special relationship with his wife that is harmed by this betrayal.
Similarly, when we sin, we show disdain for God and separate ourselves from him. Unlike a human father or husband, God cannot have sin in his sight. He is righteous, and in his righteousness, he must punish sin. If a father did not punish his children, he would not love them. If a judge did not punish guilty criminals, he would be a corrupt and immoral judge. Just the same, God must punish sin. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and it informs us that, “the wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ.” (Romans 6:23).
What Is Christianity? – There is nothing we can do to merit eternal life. There are no works that we can offer to God that might justify us. If you stopped sinning right now, from today, until the day that you died, living in absolute holiness and morality, you will still die under God’s wrath. It does not matter if your good deeds weigh more than your evil deeds. God cannot have any sin in his sight. The only way for you to merit eternal life is if you lived in absolute holiness, with not a single sin or blemish or spot, from the time you are born until the time you die. Jesus actually encountered a man who claimed to have attained this level of righteousness and said that the salvation for which he was laboring was like pushing a camel through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).
Think of it in the sense of a judge and a criminal. The criminal could promise the judge that he was reformed. He could promise that he would never sin again. He could even say that he had done more good deeds than evil deeds. He would still be sentenced to prison because he must be punished for his crime. In the same way, we must be punished for our crime because of the sin we have committed.
What Is Christianity? – Jesus died in our place. We are guilty criminals in God’s sight. Yet God has allowed sin to go unpunished throughout the generations. God has allowed guilty sinners to live despite that every thought that they have and everything that they do is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). He has allowed rapists, liars, thieves, and you, to continue living. He has withheld his hand. He has not crushed you under the heavy weight of his wrath. But the question is, how can God do that? How can a righteous God know what you did yesterday, and not crush you today? How can he still be righteous when he allows someone with an evil heart to exist?
The answer emerges in the cross of Christ. When God the Son became a man, all of the wrath of God the Father that his people deserve was poured out upon him (Isaiah 53:10). He became a propitiation, to demonstrate God’s righteousness, even considering the past forbearance over sins (Romans 3:25). The unrighteousness of man was laid on Christ and nailed to the cross, destroying it. Now the righteousness of the perfect Son of God can be given to his people. The sins of the past are obliterated, cast as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), because Jesus Christ stepped in and paid our fine. He absorbed the wrath of his Father.
Three days after he died, he rose from the dead, proving that he was who he claimed to be. Jesus died “under the curse of God,” because the Law says that anyone who dies in that way, is accursed. But then he rose from the dead, thus vindicating Jesus. Paul informs us that Jesus was, truly, under God’s curse, because “he became a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13). Further, the physical and bodily resurrection of Jesus provides a model for our future resurrection. Thus, Jesus died under the curse of God, so that we would not have to, and rose again, so that we could rise with him.
What Is Christianity? – Justification By Faith Alone. So Jesus died in our place. He died the death that we deserve. He died for our sins. Does that imply universalism? Does that mean that everybody in the world is right with God? Well, not exactly. It means that God offers us a free gift, and we must receive it. The apostle Paul tells us, “to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). Faith is credited as righteousness. Likewise, Jesus told a woman who had faith that “your faith has saved you,” (Luke 7:50). In this way, God justifies the person who has faith in him.
When I say faith, though, I do not merely mean mental assent. I do not merely mean that we must believes a series of propositional truths. I mean that we trust in the sacrifice that Christ made. We trust that God alone has saved us. But faith is granted solely by the Holy spirit. If you are feeling drawn to faith in Christ, it is because the Spirit is drawing you. So I implore you to draw near to him. Draw near to him, and he will grant you faith, and give you the free gift of eternal life.
What Is Christianity? – Delight in righteousness. Salvation comes by faith alone. That is how we are saved, by our faith, and nothing else. Water baptism does not save. Good works do not justify. Only the work of Christ on the cross justify us. But, the faith that we have is complimented by a righteous lifestyle and a joy in doing God’s will. If we do not have that, then we can be sure that we do not have faith.
The righteousness that a Christian has is not a forced and legalistic righteousness. It is not an oppressive list of rules that forces us to do things that we hate. Rather, it is a righteousness that we love. It is a righteousness that we delight in because we delight to do the will of our Father. As Psalm 37:4 reads, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
This delight is not forced. It is not a matter of manufacturing emotions. It is a matter of being made a new creature by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The Christian is one who is “born again.” (John 3:5). Paul informs us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that the Christian is literally a transformed and new creature. They have been born again and delight in doing the will of the Father.
What Is Christianity? There are more elements to Christianity that could be considered, and you may feel free to browse this blog to learn more. However, the essential and fundamental tenets of faith are outlined here. God is a trinity. We are born in sin, separate from God and cannot earn our salvation. But Jesus died in our place, then he rose from the dead. Now he offers us the free gift of eternal life, making us new creatures and filling our capacity for delight by living lives dedicated to the righteousness of the Father.
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