Features, Inspirational

What we believe: the message of the Cross

“For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)

John Robert Lee
By John Robert Lee

Especially in these days of so many conflicting and diverse messages, Christians must be certain of what they believe. We must know what makes us distinctively Christian. Only then can we 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 and substantial Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms of the Christian faith, from the first New Testament proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” to the larger, well-reasoned Confessional statements (1689 Baptist Confession, Westminster Confession and many others) testify to the need to define clearly what Christians believe. Particular groupings within the Judeo-Christian family, with their own denominational distinctives (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants) must be able to explain as clearly as possible why they hold tenaciously to certain views.

It is very obvious that many divisions and strong disagreements exist between Christians and their denominations. Controversy has raged for centuries over the meaning and mode of baptism, the Lord’s supper, church government. Fierce dissent continues over doctrines of salvation, last things (eschatology), law and grace, worship and the Sabbath day, authority. Today all these are made more complex with factions divided along the spectra between ultra-conservative and ultra-liberal. The Confessions and Catechisms were written in the midst of persecution, religious and political upheaval, to define where denominations and their churches stood on fundamental matters. None, at best, profess or claim the kind of authority due only to the Holy Bible. Certainly, for the majority of Protestants, the Bible remains the supreme authority for faith and practice as the inerrant Word of God. The Church and its leaders are to be subject to the authority of God-given Scripture. Historical documents that supplement the Holy Scriptures are meant to help their adherents to more clearly define, confirm and practice the common faith.

Writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul encourages the Church 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). At the centre of the New Testament Gospel is the Cross of Christ and the declaration that “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Again and again, Paul and the inspired writers emphasise, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7). The sinless Son of God as He is declared to be by the Scriptures, became the sacrificial Lamb of God Who died in the place of His people, a substitutionary, atoning death. And as Paul wrote, this is utter foolishness to the unbelieving world. Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms, while they cover many aspects of doctrine, have this message of the Cross at the heart of their theological teachings.

Every generation needs constant reminding and teaching of the basics of the Christian faith. We are in an age of doubt, cynicism, a post-modern season in which all truth is deemed as relative, or dead. All religious systems are presented as gateways to the same spiritual reality. Strong resistance exists against religious assertions that claim to be truth, to be the “meta-narrative” that explains everything. In our liberal democracies, persons are free to believe whatever they choose, to practice the life style of their choice once it is within the law. Traditional Christian morals and ethics, based on Biblical teachings, are under attack and are not accepted in these post-modern and very liberal societies. So those who profess Biblical Christianity must know what they believe. The fundamental, identifying mark of the disciple of Christ today is a total commitment to the truth and authority of Scripture and to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the grave. How one lives and carries that faith in a generally unbelieving and hostile world, even in these “religious” societies of the Caribbean, is the challenge facing those who are serious, dedicated Christians.

The Christian today, as from the beginning 2000 years ago, lives by dependent faith on Christ alone, for help, guidance, salvation. Christ is the Incarnate Son of God, Deity Himself, the only Mediator between God and man, the only Saviour. On the authority of Scripture, the faithful Christian asserts: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). The Cross of Christ is the heart of the Gospel message, which Christians must study and believe: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:8, 9). As incredible as it sounds to doubters, the Cross of Christ as the centre of the Gospel speaks of God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

But there is also a sobering and alarming message contained in the message of the Gospel – the coming Judgement of God. Paul set the Gospel out to the worldly and philosophical Athenians and presented Christ to them: “Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a Day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30, 31). The Cross speaks of God’s great love and mercy. It also speaks of His certain judgement on man’s unrepentant sinfulness and rebellion. The once crucified Christ is now King of kings and coming Judge.

Professing and practicing Christians today must know what they believe. The Scriptures of the Bible remain the sole truth and authority for our faith and practice. The Church, its leaders and prophets are not above the Scripture. They must stand under the authority of Holy revealed Scripture. This was the battle of the Reformation of the 16th century. The Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms at best are valuable teaching and learning tools for Christians who want to grow in their faith, and in understanding of Holy Scripture. Paul’s advice to young Timothy is still needed today: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth  not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend