In my discussion with a friend I was asked the question “How would YOU define “historic biblical Christianity”?
This question can be asked as an inquirer seeking an answer (as this person does) or like a skeptic in response to a profession of faith in historic biblical Christianity, “Well, what is historic biblical Christianity?” and then walks away like Pontus Pilate (“What is truth?” John 18:38) assuming that there is no answer or that there are too many answers and none can be trusted.
Is there an answer? I believe so. Many have said it much better than I can but since I was asked, “How would YOU define…,” I will humbly attempt to give my answer.
What is historic biblical Christianity?
First, historic biblical Christianity is CHRISTianity – a belief system, a worldview, a life-view that is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Who was Jesus Christ? Was he fully God? Was he fully man? What is his relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit? What did he come to do? What did he teach? What was the significance of his death? Did he rise from the death? Where is he now? Will he come again? What is your response to the person and work of Christ? These are some of the critical questions that define Christianity. Someone will say, aren’t there different answers to these questions? Yes, and some of the contemporary answers (or re-discoveries) are really far out (like the Gnosticism of the Da Vinci Code or the Gospel of Judas). This is why there needs to be qualifying adjectives like true Christianity or biblical Christianity to set it apart from other ways of answering these questions concerning Christ.
Second, historic biblical Christianity is Biblical. The answers to the questions concerning Christ are to be drawn from the Bible – the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. These books are not mere human works “sanctified” by the human institution of the church, it is the revelation of God through man – “The Bible is God’s Word!” The Bible is authoritative, infallible, without error, and our ultimate standard for faith and practice. The authority of the Bible comes not from the authority of the church but the authority of God. God has spoken in His Word. “Thus says the LORD” or like phrases occur over 3,000 times in the Bible. Bible authenticates itself by its message and the power of the Holy Spirit who testifies in our hearts as we read, “This is My Word.”
The Bible says that Jesus is “the Christ”- the Anointed One – the fulfillment of the Old Testament (Matthew 1:1, 5:17; Luke 24:25-27). The Bible says that Jesus came (and was sent by the Father) to save his people (Jews and Gentiles) from their sins (Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; John 3:16). The Bible says Jesus, the Word, was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1). Jesus was distinct from God yet equal with God in essence, power and glory. Jesus was fully God and fully man (1 Timothy 2:5, Philippians 2:5-11). The Bible says Jesus died to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8). The Bible says that we must repent of our sins and believe in Christ as Lord and Savior in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9). The Bible says that our repentance and faith are gifts of God by grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8). There is much more to say concerning the Biblical faith in Christ. I have only scratched the surface.
Third, historic biblical Christianity is historic. The Bible says in Jude 3 “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (See also Galatians 1:6-9 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Notice the terms “our common salvation” and “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” These terms express a body of belief concerning salvation that was in agreement among the early Christians, defended against early false teachers, and passed on to the future generations. This is the Biblical testimony being preserved and passed on through history. The historic creeds like the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed historically defined biblical Christianity against those who were positing beliefs that were a distortion of the Bible’s teaching. The historic controversies were not about who won and lost the theological power struggle, it was the historic struggle for the preservation of Biblical teaching. I stand with Athanasius (defender of the Trinity) and against Arius (who said Jesus was like God but not God). I stand with Augustine (who believed in original sin and salvation by God’s sovereign grace) and against Pelagius (who believed man had the moral free will to do what God commanded). I stand with the Protestant Reformation in its recovery of biblical authority and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I stand with the Westminster Confession of Faith in its articulation of biblical Christianity. I stand with confessing evangelicals today who believe the Gospel that God saves sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone according to the Scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone.
It is a shame that many who say that they are Christians today don’t know their Bibles and don’t know their history. It is somewhat understandable in light of the attack on historic biblical Christianity from the modernists and the postmodernists. The modernists, for over a century, have worked at deconstructing the Bible. Now the postmodernists are working at deconstructing the history of Christianity. What we need today is a recovery of historic biblical Christianity; for that, I will labor and stand firm.