Christian Doctrine

Here's a list of the basic principles of Christianity.

--Matthew Slick "Carm" http://www.carm.org.

Essential Doctrines of Christianity 

      The Bible itself reveals those doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith. They are 1) the Deity of Christ, 2) Salvation by Grace, and 3) Resurrection of Christ, and 4) the gospel. These are the doctrines the Bible says are necessary. Though there are many other important doctrines, these four are the only ones that are declared by Scripture to be essential. A non-regenerate person, or a cultist (i.e., Mormon or Jehovah's Witness), will deny one or more of these essential doctrines.  Please note that there are other derivative doctrines of scripture that become necessary also, the Trinity being one.

  1. The Deity of Christ
    1. Jesus is God in flesh (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). See also John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8
      1. 1 John 4:2-3: "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
        1. The above verse needs to be cross referenced with John 1:1,14 (also written by John) where he states that the Word was God and the Word became flesh.
        2. 1 John 4:2-3 is saying that if you deny that Jesus is God in flesh then you are of the spirit of Antichrist.
      2. John 8:24, "I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins."
      3. Jesus said here that if you do not believe "that I am" you will die in your sins. In Greek I am is 'ego eimi,' which means ‘I am.' These are the same words used in John 8:58 where Jesus says "...before Abraham was, I am." He was claiming the divine title by quoting Exodus 3:14 in the Greek Septuagint. (The Septuagint was the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek.)
    2. Jesus is the proper object of faith
      1. It is not simply enough to have faith. Faith is only as valid as what it is put in. You must put your faith in the proper object. Cults have false objects of faith; therefore, their faith is useless--no matter how sincere they are.
      2. If you put your faith in a vacuum cleaner, then you will be in a lot of trouble on the day of judgment. You might have great faith, but so what?  It is in something that can't save you.
    3. The Doctrine of the deity of Christ includes:
      1. The Trinity - There is one God who exists in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are all coeternal, and of the same nature.
      2. Monotheism - There is only one God in all existence (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; 45:5,14,18,21,22; 46:9; 47:8). Mormons believe that many gods exist though they serve and worship only one. Therefore, they are polytheists which excludes them from the camp of Christianity.
    4. The Hypostatic Union - That Jesus is both God and man.
      1. The sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ - The sacrifice of Christ is completely sufficient to pay for the sins of the world
      2. As God - Jesus must be God to be able to offer a sacrifice of value greater than that of a mere man.
        1. He had to die for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Only God could do that.
      3. As man - Jesus must be man to be able to be a sacrifice for man.
        1. As a man He can be the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
  2. Salvation by Grace
    1. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9, NIV).
    2. "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
      1. This verse and its context plainly teach that if you believe that you are saved by faith and works then you are not saved at all. This is a common error in the cults. Because they have a false Jesus, they have a false doctrine of salvation. (Read Rom. 3-5 and Gal. 3-5). 
      2. you cannot add to the work of God. Gal. 2:21 says, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (NIV)
    3. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin" (Rom. 3:20).
      1. "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).
      2. "Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law" (Gal. 3:21).
  3. The Resurrection of Christ
    1. "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Cor. 15:14). "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17).
    2. To deny the physical resurrection is to deny Jesus' work, sacrifice, and our resurrection.
    3. These verses clearly state that if you say that Jesus did not rise from the dead (in the same body He died in -- John 2:19-21), then your faith is useless.
  4. The Gospel
    1. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV).
      1. Verses 8 and 9 here in Galatians are a self declarative statement that you must believe the gospel.  The gospel message which in its entirety is that Jesus is God in flesh, who died for sins, rose from the dead, and freely gives the gift of eternal life to those who believe.
      2. Furthermore, it would not be possible to present the gospel properly without declaring that Jesus is God in flesh per John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8.
    2. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 defines what the gospel is: "Now, brothers, 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" (NIV).
      1. Within these verses are the essentials: Christ is God in flesh (John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9); Salvation is received by faith (John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-10), therefore it is by grace; and the resurrection is mentioned in verse 4.  Therefore, this gospel message automatically includes the essentials.

What is the Trinity?

     The word "trinity" is a term used to denote the Christian doctrine that God exists as a unity of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Each of the persons is distinct from the other, yet related in essence.  Each is divine in nature, but each is not the totality of the Godhead.  Each has a will, loves, and says "I", and "You" when speaking.  The Father is not the same person as the Son who is not the same person as the Holy Spirit who is not the same person as the Father.  Each is divine, yet there are not three gods, but one God.  There are three persons individual subsistences, or persons.  The word "subsistence" means something that has a real existence. The word "person" denotes individuality and self awareness.  The Trinity is three of these, though the latter term has become the dominant one used to describe the individual aspects of God known as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 
       Included in the doctrine of the Trinity is a strict monotheism which is the teaching that there exists in all the universe a single being known as God who is self-existent and unchangeable (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8).  Therefore, it is important to note that the doctrine of the trinity is not polytheistic as some of its critics proclaim.  Trinitarianism is monotheistic by definition and those who claim it is polytheistic demonstrate a lack of understanding of what it really is.

  • The Trinity
    • God is three persons
    • Each person is divine
    • There is only one God.

      Many theologians admit that the term "person" is not a perfect word to describe the three individual aspects/foci found in God.   When we normally use the word person, we understand it to mean physical individuals who exist as separate beings from other individuals.  But in God there are not three entities, nor three beings.  God, is a trinity of persons consisting of one substance and one essence.  God is numerically one. Yet, within the single divine essence are three individual subsistences that we call persons.

  • Each of the three persons is completely divine in nature though each is not the totality of the Godhead.
  • Each of the three persons is not the other two persons.
  • Each of the three persons is related to the other two, but are distinct from them.

     The word "trinity" is not found in the Bible. But this does not mean that the concept is not taught there. The word "bible" is not found in the Bible either, but we use it anyway. Likewise, the words "omniscience," which means "all knowing," "omnipotence," which means "all powerful," and "omnipresence," which means "present everywhere," are not found in the Bible either. But we use these words to describe the attributes of God.  So, to say that the Trinity isn't true because the word isn't in the Bible is an invalid argument.

Is there subordination in the Trinity?

      There is, apparently, a subordination within the Trinity in regard to order but not substance or essence.  We can see that the Father is first, the Son is second, and the Holy Spirit is third. The Father is not begotten, but the Son is (John 3:16). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 5:26).  The Father sent the Son (1 John 4:10).  The Son and the Father send the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26).  The Father creates (Isaiah 44:24), the Son redeems (Gal. 3:13), and the Holy Spirit sanctifies (Rom. 15:16).
     This subordination of order does not mean that each of the members of the Godhead are not equal or divine.  For example, we see that the Father sent the Son.  But this does not mean that the Son is not equal to the Father in essence and divine nature.  A wife is to be subject to her husband but this does not negate her humanity, essence, or equality.  By further analogy, a king and his servant both share human nature. Yet, the king sends the servant to do his will.  Jesus said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).   Does this mean that the one sent must, therefore, be of different nature than the one who sent him?  Of course not.
     Critics of the Trinity will see this subordination as proof that the Trinity is false. They reason that if Jesus were truly God, then He would be completely equal to God the Father in all areas and would not, therefore, be subordinate to the Father in any way.  But this objection is not logical.  If we look at the analogy of the king and in the servant we certainly would not say that the servant was not human because he was sent.  Being sent does not negate sameness in essence. Therefore, the fact that the Son is sent does not mean that He is not divine any more than when my wife sends me to get bread, I am not human.

Is this confusing?

     Another important point about the Trinity is that it can be a difficult concept to grasp.  But this does not necessitate an argument against its validity.  On the contrary, the fact that it is difficult is an argument for its truth.  The Bible is the self revelation of an infinite God.  Therefore, we are bound to encounter concepts which are difficult to understand -- especially when dealing with an incomprehensible God who exists in all places at all times.  So, when we view descriptions and attributes of God manifested in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we discover that a completely comprehensible and understandable explanation of God's essence and nature is not possible.  What we have, however, done is derive from the Scripture the truths that we can grasp and combine them into the doctrine we call The Trinity.  The Trinity is, to a large extent, a mystery.  After all, we are dealing with God Himself.  
     It is the way of the cults to reduce biblical truth to make God comprehensible and understandable by their minds.  To this end, they subject God's word to their own reasoning and end in error.
   The following verses are often used to demonstrate that in the doctrine of the Trinity is indeed biblical.

  • Matt. 28:18, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
  • 1 Cor. 12:4-6, Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
  • 2 Cor. 13:14, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
  • Eph. 4:4-7, There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
  • 1 Pet. 1:2, "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure."
  • Jude 20-21, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."

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