“For us there is but one God, the Father, from Whom all things came and for Whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom all things came and through Whom we live. But not everyone knows this.” 1 Corinthians 8:6,7.
We must be sure of what we believe. We must know what makes us distinctively Christian. And then we must “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15).
The enduring creeds and confessions of the Christian church, from the simple New Testament proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” to the complexities of the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith and the parallel 1689 Baptist Confession of faith; from the well-known Biblical doxologies to many similar documents, all testify to the need to define clearly what Christians believe.
Particular groupings with their denominational distinctives must be able to explain why they hold certain views, even though other believers do not. Controversy has raged for centuries over the meaning and mode of baptism, the Lord’s Supper or Communion, doctrines concerning the last things (eschatology), the organization of the local church among other matters. Many of the confessions and their catechisms were written in the midst of controversy, to define where Lutheran, Calvinist, Baptist and others identified themselves. None claimed the authority due only to the Bible. Each has tried to help their specific denomination to more clearly define and confirm the Biblical, historic Faith.
Paul encourages us to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realise that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test.” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Every generation of believers needs constant refreshing and recalling to the basics of the Biblical Christian faith. Restoration, through reformation and revival, is needed constantly. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) wrote: “Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine; revival refers to a restoration in the Christian’s life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture; revival speaks of a life brought into its proper relationship to the Holy Spirit…there cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival.”
Professing Christians, church-goers must constantly and thoughtfully ask ourselves, “What do I really believe? What makes me a Christian?” The fundamental, identifying mark of the true disciple of Christ has always been, and remains, a total commitment to obey Christ according to the teachings of the Bible. Jesus’ parables of wheat and tares, wise and foolish virgins are a very sobering reminder of the dangers of a superficial “churchianity,” a social-club “religiosity” under which lives the lost, unconverted soul. Jesus warned “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord’…and then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me.” (Matthew 7:22,23).
Schaeffer wrote: “The Church belongs to those who, by the grace of God, are faithful to the Scriptures.” Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Here we run into the major source of division, conflict and heresies throughout the Christian era, because “the word of truth” has so often not been “rightly divided”, not correctly interpreted.
What makes me a child of God is dependence on Christ alone for salvation, help and guidance. The primary, fundamental, essential doctrines emphasise that there is salvation in no one else but Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, was the rallying cry of the Reformation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Christ is Lord and Savior in every creed and confession of faith and this must be confirmed daily in our lives as believers.
The ultimate question remains, “what is our true relationship with Him, our crucified and risen Lord, who will return to judge all mankind and to gather His redeemed to Himself?” Surrounded by numerous religions and ideologies, overwhelmed by secularism and materialism, plagued by pandemics, crime, violence, corruption of all kinds, the question must be answered, “Is the Biblical, Christian revelation absolute truth? Is it the only answer to humanity’s dilemmas and dead-end situations, personal and collective?” How we answer decides the course of our lives now and our eternal destiny after inevitable death.
Paul proclaimed to the Greeks that God “has appointed a Day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31).
In confirming our faith, we must recall our responsibilities. Faith alone saves through grace, but faith without works is dead (James 2:17). To confirm our faith in Christ and Biblical revelation is to rededicate ourselves to reverence for God, holiness of life, more patient and loving relationships with family and community. It is to strengthen our hope in a perfect world to come under the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ, a new heavens and a new earth, where sin and death are utterly removed, and righteousness dwells. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). After His resurrection, the Lord said He was going to prepare a place for His people (John 14:1-3). Do we believe that?
If we truly reconsecrate ourselves to Christ and His word, we must make improvements in our lives. The visible church needs repentance and revival everywhere. Goals of purity, obedience, generosity, graciousness, love must be set more decisively and clearly. With the present world-wide crises in morality, values, societal collapse everywhere, professing Christians should confirm their life-changing faith to themselves and others as clearly as possible. This is not a time to be careless and compromising in matters of faith in God. This is a time to be sober and awake, “self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Peter 5:8,9). Satan, the adversary, the Devil, is a real being.
When God delivered His people from Egypt, He revealed Himself in a mighty way, both to Pharaoh and to Israel. The time is coming when Jesus Christ, the Holy Creator will reveal Himself in great power to this world and to His people. He will come “to execute judgement on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 14,15). The Church must be ready like the wise virgins.