Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Creed Must I believe - Part 6

This is part six of a series exploring the question: "What set of beliefs do all true Christ followers believe?"

Please read some of these other posts first:

What Must I Believe Part 1 - explanation and look at Acts 16:30 - 31
What Must I Believe Part 2 - where Jesus tells a woman she is saved
What Must I believe Part 3 - a look at John 3:16
What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?
What Must I believe - Part 5 - more verses to consider
What Creed Must I believe - Part 6 - how creeds can divide

The Bible was not written in the form of a creed or catechism.  The previous posts in this series have noted that there is no list of essential beliefs attached to passages related to what we must believe or trust to be saved.  I am concluding that it is trusting in the person of Jesus that is essential, not trusting in a correct set of beliefs about Jesus.

However as Christianity evolved, it didn't take long for creeds and catechisms to become popular.

The well known Apostle's creed is one of the first such lists:
"I believe in God, the Father almighty,creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen "



This is a great list of shared beliefs.  In fact most Christian denominations accept this creed as part of their beliefs.  I love it.

But for many, this creed does not go far enough.  For example the Apostle's creed didn't speak about equality between the Son and the Father.  So the Nicene creed was formed to define the orthodox position on that issue. So accepting the truths in the Apostle's creed was not enough to be considered a true believer.

Next came the Athanasian creed which included beliefs about the trinity.

For many Christians today these creeds are still not enough. For example they do not address how God deals with the sin problem through the work of the cross, or how we are justified by faith.

Over time larger catechisms were created to address many more issues.


Although I wish we could use something like the Apostle's creed as a measuring stick to say who is in and who is out, I don't see the writers of Scripture doing that.  It seems they consistently equate trusting in the person of Jesus as the source of one's salvation.

Unfortunately what has happened throughout church history is that Christians have divided over these distinct lists of essential beliefs.  Instead of recognizing that we are united around trusting the person of Christ, we have recognized we are not united in our different sets of essential beliefs. I see this as a huge problem.  Scripture is clear unity is essential.  I suggest a solution is placing Christ central, and elevating Him above our different understandings about Him.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What Must I believe - Part 5

This is part five of a series exploring the question: "What set of beliefs do all true Christ followers believe?"

Please read some of these other posts first:


What Must I Believe Part 1 - explanation and look at Acts 16:30 - 31
What Must I Believe Part 2 - where Jesus tells a woman she is saved
What Must I believe Part 3 - a look at John 3:16
What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?
What Must I believe - Part 5 - more verses to consider
What Creed Must I believe - Part 6 - how creeds can divide

In previous posts I have been looking for passages which tell us a set of information that we we must believe to be saved.  I haven't found such a list.  I am thinking then it is not so much a list of essential beliefs about Jesus we must place our trust in. Salvation comes instead by placing our trust in the person of Christ.

I'd like to test this thought with a few more verses. As you read each question ask:

Does this passage answer the question: "What information must I believe?"  

Or does this passage answer the question: "What person must I trust?"

Note in some cases I am going with the term trust  instead of believe or faith - where it seems to fit with the greek.

"Yet to all who did receive him, to those who trust in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— John 1:12

"The one who trusts in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him." John 3:36/NET

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and trusts him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24 (NIV)

For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and trusts in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40/NET

"I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture." John 10:9/NET
"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:13/NET
"And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. ’ Act 2:21/NET

Exceptions:

The following passages do not really support my idea that trust in the person of Christ is what brings salvation. But they also don't support the idea that belief in a specific list of information about God does either. (unless you are fine with the really short list in Rom 10:9)
"because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9/NET

"The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:54/NET

"eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality," Rom 2:7/NET



In the next post I'll take a quick look at some of the early creeds or lists of beliefs.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Have I missed any passages that would help us understand what beliefs are necessary for salvation?





Thursday, May 16, 2013

What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?

This is part four of a series exploring the question: "What set of beliefs do all true Christ followers believe?"

Please read some of these other posts first:


What Must I Believe Part 1 - explanation and look at Acts 16:30 - 31
What Must I Believe Part 2 - where Jesus tells a woman she is saved
What Must I believe Part 3 - a look at John 3:16
What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?
What Must I believe - Part 5 - more verses to consider
What Creed Must I believe - Part 6 - how creeds can divide

Yes, I'm playing with what we mean by words again. Please humour me as I find it helpful.   The way we use the terms believe and trust may impact how we read the passages I've looked at so far.

I believe in parachutes. I believe in the science behind them. I even have faith that they work (most of the time).   But I have never placed my trust in a parachute, and have no plans to trust a parachute with my life.

Or take this random fact for example:
"If you have 3 quarters, 4 dimes, and 4 pennies, you have $1.19. You also have the largest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for a dollar. "

(Canadians: just try to remember back to the days when we had pennies.)

Yes I believe this information. The math looks good. Do I place any trust in this statement? No. So far in my life this random fact has made little to no difference in my life.  I don't see the need to place any trust in this information.

Believing that information is correct can be different than placing trust in something.

Up to this point I have been looking at different passages of Scripture for a list of essential beliefs about Jesus that believers must believe to be 'saved'. So far I haven't been able to find such a list.  So I am leaning towards assuming saving faith isn't about faith in a correct set of doctrines or truth statements about God and Jesus.  I am thinking the object of our saving faith is something other than correct information.

When Jesus and others say we must "believe in Jesus" to be saved, they didn't say "believe the following about Jesus".

The greek terms for believe and faith in the previous passages can also be translated trust, or to have trust in.
http://biblesuite.com/greek/4102.htm
http://biblesuite.com/greek/4100.htm

So what happens if we substitute the terms belief or faith with trust?

We get statements like this:

  • Jesus said to the woman, “Your trust [in me] has saved you; go in peace.”
  • "He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who trusts in him will not perish but have eternal life."
  • “Trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Since none of the passages state "to be saved you must believe the following information or truth statements about Jesus", I think it makes sense to assume the object of our trust is in the person of Jesus.

It is not trusting in correct theology, but trusting in the source of truth Himself.

We see in James 2:19 that simply believing correct information about God does not count.  The demons likely have better understanding of theology that most of us.  The concern for them is where/whom they place their trust.
"You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear." (NET)

Obviously there is great value in having accurate theology.  If you are serious about following Jesus, you will want to understand Him better.  But the evidence of Scripture is leaning in favour of salvation based on trusting in the person of Christ, over trusting in some specific teachings about Christ.

I will continue this series with a list of other passages I have looked at.  If you want me to include a specific passage please let me know in a comment.

Please share your thoughts on this.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Must I believe Part 3

This is part three of a series exploring the question: "What set of beliefs do all true Christ followers believe?"

This post may make more sense if you read some of these first:


What Must I Believe Part 1 - explanation and look at Acts 16:30 - 31
What Must I Believe Part 2 - where Jesus tells a woman she is saved
What Must I believe Part 3 - a look at John 3:16
What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?
What Must I believe - Part 5 - more verses to consider
What Creed Must I believe - Part 6 - how creeds can divide

Next I'd like to look at one of the most popular verses in the Bible - John 3:16.  Let's look at a few verses around it too. John 3:14 - 21 (NIV)
"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.
In this passage Jesus simply teaches that everyone who believes in Jesus, and believes in the name of Jesus, will have eternal life.  Seems simple enough.

But like the previous passages I looked at, Jesus does not list how much information about Himself we must believe.  Do we need to understand and believe all that He has done for us in the past, and all He is doing in the world today, and the how and why he does it? He doesn't say we have to understand original sin, where sin will lead us, the work of the cross, justification, sanctification, His mercy, or grace.  I'm starting to suspect salvation isn't based on how much information we believe about Jesus.  If it was, it would have been nice if Jesus had mentioned here what information we need to believe.

However,  on the other hand, is it simply enough to say we believe in Jesus, and live however we please? No.

This passage gives the basis for judging who truly believes. Note that the evidence of true faith is not about how accurate their belief system is.  It looks like it is based on having fruit.   The passage doesn't say we are saved by doing good deeds, but it does say good deeds will be evident if we are saved. Those who follow Christ will become transformed to become more like the one they are following.

I am starting to get some clarity on this topic, I hope it makes some sense to others as well. If salvation is based on agreement with a list of truth statements about Jesus, why don't we see Jesus providing such a list here or elsewhere.  If it is not about belief in some information, what are we to be placing our trust in?

I plan to look at a few more passages soon.  If you have any passages you want to suggest I include in this series please leave them in a comment.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.





Monday, May 13, 2013

What Must I Believe Part 2

This is part two of a series exploring the question: "What set of beliefs do all true Christ followers believe?"

This post may make more sense if you read these too:


What Must I Believe Part 1 - explanation and look at Acts 16:30 - 31
What Must I Believe Part 2 - where Jesus tells a woman she is saved
What Must I believe Part 3 - a look at John 3:16
What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?
What Must I believe - Part 5 - more verses to consider
What Creed Must I believe - Part 6 - how creeds can divide

Next lets look at a passage in Luke 7:36 - 50 where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman:
"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

skip to verse 47 

(Jesus said) "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”  Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  (NIV)

Like the last story, it may seem some things are missing from this story.  The story doesn't mention any gospel presentation. It doesn't mention Jesus going through a list of beliefs that must be accepted by faith.  There is no sinners prayer mentioned.

However it does mention her sins being forgiven, and that she is saved by faith.

Faith in what is the key question?  Is it faith in a set of information? Is it agreement in some truth statements?

If it was her belief in a set of information that has saved her, it would have been nice if Jesus had mentioned that.  But just like the previous example in Acts 16 no list of essential beliefs is given.

I have an idea of what the object of her faith may have been.  But first I'll look at a few more passages.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Must I Believe Part 1

What set of beliefs do all true Christ followers believe?

Christians believe all sorts of different things.  Is there a minimum amount of information a Christ follower needs to accept as truth by faith to be saved? Many Christians over the years have developed catechisms and statements of faith in an attempt to address this question. 

If someone asked you the question "What must I do to be saved?"  How would you respond?  Is there a set of information that you would want to go through to explain the basics of the faith?  Is there a list of verses that you would flip through to point out the most important beliefs?

To explore this question I would like to do a series of posts. There are a number of passages in New Testament that speak about what needs to occur to be saved.

The passage in Acts 16 comes to mind first where a jail guard asks Paul and Silas this key question:

 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 

From this text, what set of information must be believed to be saved?  

Does it say we need to believe that God is Holy? That we are sinners?  That God cannot be in the presence of sin so Jesus paid our debt on the cross so we can be with Him?

What about information about the Trinity? What about the resurrection? What about God's love? What about the role of the Holy Spirit? We could go on and on and create a lengthy catechism.

This passage does go on to say "they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."  We can only guess as to what that sounded like.   I can imagine it including some of  what I just mentioned above.  But we don't know how much.

We must also note the passage doesn't say "Believe the following about the Lord Jesus and you will be saved".  There is a difference between trusting someone, and believing information about someone. Getting the information about Jesus correct does matter for many different reasons.  I would not encourage anyone to embrace doctrines they know are false.  But how much of the information needs to be understood correctly for salvation?  That is the question I would like to explore further.


Here are other posts in this series:


What Must I Believe Part 1 - explanation and look at Acts 16:30 - 31
What Must I Believe Part 2 - where Jesus tells a woman she is saved
What Must I believe Part 3 - a look at John 3:16
What Beliefs Part 4 - Whom Do I Trust?
What Must I believe - Part 5 - more verses to consider
What Creed Must I believe - Part 6 - how creeds can divide

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jesus' Gospel vs Paul's Gospel

"Many biblical scholars and lay Christians have noted that Jesus preached almost exclusively about the kingdom of heaven, while Paul highlighted justification by faith—and not vice versa. Some conclude that they preached two different gospels. Others argue that really they both preached justification; still others say it's all about the kingdom. What gives?"  - Scot McKnight

Many Christians have been brought up understanding the gospel in terms defined by Paul.  The main idea is our justification by faith in Christ's work on the cross.

However many Christians today are recognizing that Jesus also preached a message he referred to as the gospel. For those of you who are not familiar with the idea that Jesus preached the gospel here are some key questions and some verses to consider.

Jesus' Gospel

1) Did Jesus preach a gospel (good news) message?
2) Did His disciples proclaim a gospel message?
3) When the gospel writers instruct us to proclaim the gospel, using how the term was used by that author, what was the good news message they were referencing?

Jesus went all through Galilee, teaching in their Synagogues, proclaiming (preaching) the gospel (good news) of the kingdom (reign, rule, authority, realm, dominion), and curing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people; Mat 4:23

Jesus went around all the towns and the villages, teaching in their Synagogues, proclaiming (preaching) the gospel (good news) of the kingdom (reign, rule, authority, dominion, realm), and curing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Matthew 9:35

Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming (preaching) the gospel (good news) of God —“The time has come, and the kingdom (rule, reign, authority) of God is at hand; repent (change your way of thinking), and believe the good news.” Mar 1:14-15

Jesus, however, said to them: “I must take the good news (gospel) of the kingdom (reign, rule, authority, dominion) of God to the other town also, for that was why I was sent.” Luke 4:43

Shortly afterwards, Jesus went on a journey through the towns and villages, proclaiming (preaching) the good news (gospel) of the kingdom (rule, reign, authority, dominion) of God. Luke 8:1

Jesus sends out His 12 disciples: On your way proclaim (preach) that the kingdom (reign, rule, authority) of heaven (or God) is at hand. Matt 10:7

Shortly afterwards, Jesus went on a journey through the towns and villages, proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the kingdom (reign, rule, authority) of God. Luke 8:1

Then they (the 12 disciples) set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the gospel (good news) and curing people everywhere. Luke 9:6

Then he said to them: “Go into all the world, and proclaim the gospel (good news) to all creation. Mark 16:15

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14
So we may ask the questions?

Did Jesus preach Paul's gospel?

or

Did Paul preach Jesus' gospel?

I recently came across some articles that do a decent job addressing the tension in these questions:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2010/12/14/jesus-vs-paul-an-interview-with-scot-mcknight-about-the-gospel/

which was an interview related to this article:





The articles are worth the read.  It may be an important topic to get your head around. After all, most Christians agree we should be proclaiming the gospel.   So how we define the gospel should matter.  Who gets to define it? Which scripture passages are used to summarize this essential question?

I agree with the idea in this article. When Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom or reign of God, he was announcing that He was the Christ, the anointed King.  He was the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for. He was inviting all people to enter under the reign and authority of His kingdom.  He was their saviour and Lord.

When Paul defines the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15 he uses very similar language.

"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. " (NIV)

Of first importance: that Christ (the anointed King) died for our sins...

Do you see the kingdom connection?  The term Christ means the anointed one.

Jesus and Paul both preached that Jesus was king, Lord, Christ, Messiah.

Jesus and Paul both preached that Jesus died for our sins.

Jesus and Paul both preached victory that comes from our risen Lord.

Jesus and Paul both preach about requiring faith in Jesus.

I do see a different emphasis, but I don't see a different gospel message.  


Scot McKnight writes:
"... when some evangelicals recently rediscovered Jesus' kingdom vision, they were frequently warned that they were on the verge of falling for a social gospel. "
This describes my experience over and over again.  I admit I have been surprised and confused by this.

I'm sorry if my journey to understand and apply the teachings of Jesus has given you concern.  As a follower of Jesus my desire is to become more like Jesus.  I am enjoying studying the life and teachings of Jesus.  It seems clear that Jesus had a favorite topic as he preached from town to town, and His disciples caught on as well.  I believe the words of Jesus have meaning and power for people today as well, without taking away from the messages of Paul and other writers of Scripture.

Is it safe to say "Jesus Christ is the gospel"?

Related Posts: