On Good Friday, we ask, What is Christianity?

I was asked in a recent comment ‘What is Christianity?’ To be more accurate, I was asked; ‘Perhaps you would be able to explain what you take Christianity to be?’ The same person also commented ‘… isn’t the purpose of Christianity, the end goal, to get into heaven? You accomplish this via doing good etc.’ We will see from the Bible verses that follow: we do not become Christians by doing good.

Without being evasive it’s important to preface my reply with this; It isn’t ‘what I take’ Christianity to be that counts. It’s what God says through His Word that counts. What the Bible teaches is quite plain so anyone can check what I’m saying with the Bible text itself. In fact, please don’t take my word for it – check it out and read it for yourself! So ‘what I take Christianity to be’ is what the Bible plainly teaches and says it is. But yes, it is ‘my take’, the same take that has consistently been taught by the Historic Christian Church for the last 2000 years. I’m not saying anything new. To ask ‘What is Christianity’ is to ask What is a Christian? and What is a Church? And further it’s to ask What is the Gospel? These are THE most fundamental questions to ask. I’m not addressing the concept of a ‘Christian’ culture, or some form of social Christianity or of a National consciousness. And for the record, the UK is NOT a Christian nation. Being born in the UK has NEVER made a person a Christian, any more than being born in a bakery will make a person a loaf of bread (choose your own metaphor).

If you are still with me I’m going to quote some verses from the Bible that show plainly and beyond doubt that a person does not become a Christian by being good or doing good things. It depends solely on what someone else has done. Namely, it’s what Jesus Christ has done that counts.

Jesus is speaking in Luke 18:9-14

Luk 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
Luk 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Luk 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Luk 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
Luk 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!
Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans 3:10-28

Rom 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Rom 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Rom 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

And Romans 5:1-12

Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Writing to the Galatians 3:1-13

Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

To the Ephesians 2:1-10

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

And writing to Titus 3:3-7

Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Tit 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I’ll leave it at that, but the Bible teaches clearly and plainly that Salvation is not earned, it is a gift. A gift that is received through faith. Not airy fairy faith, but faith in a person – The Lord Jesus Christ. And what that person has done for sinners like me.

What exactly then has Jesus done that we couldn’t do for ourselves? How appropriate the timing of this post. What is Good about ‘Good Friday’ is that Jesus has paid the price of my Redemption in full by dying in place of the sinner. The charge against us as sinners is that we have not kept God’s law perfectly in every part. But Jesus has. We have not loved God with all our hearts & soul, but Jesus has. We need someone who can do it for us – Jesus has done this. And so the command of the Gospel is to Repent & Believe. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). In the light of all this John 3:16 makes perfect sense. Our response should be in the light of what God in Christ has done is to cry ‘Have mercy on me a sinner’.

This will all be quite shocking to anyone that’s never come across this before. But it’s what Christianity is all about. There’s something in us that wants to add something, or do something, to work our way into heaven. The Gospel message is incredibly radical: there’s nothing like it. We are called upon to simply trust in the work of another. And this Jesus didn’t just die, but rose from the dead having paid the price of Redemption in full. ‘It is finished’ Jesus cried from the Cross.to die no more. (John 19:30)

Verses 2 & 3 from the Hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ sum it up beautifully:

2. Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

‘Rock of Ages’ Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778

Finally, just because someone by the Grace of God becomes a Christian, a Saint, a believer, that doesn’t make them perfect. But it does make them forgiven, Justified & Righteous because they have been given (not earned or even deserved – Romans 6:23) the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus lived the perfect sinless life required by the law of God (Hebrews 4:15). And historically this is what the Reformation was about and still is about. A sinner is saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, by Christ Alone and to the Glory of God Alone.

Now, dear reader, you may not like this, but it’s what the Bible teaches. There is no hope outside of The Lord Jesus Christ. It is His work Alone to save. And if you are a believer, thank God for His Salvation wrought upon the Cross and now raised from the dead to die no more (Hebrews 7:25).

Repent therefore and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).

 

8 thoughts on “On Good Friday, we ask, What is Christianity?

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this, I am glad I had some part in the creation of this post. It was an interesting read but I have worked out quite quickly where our opinion differs, it is simply that I do not believe in Jesus, nor the God that exists in the bible.

    Your belief is based upon the bible and pure faith whereas mine is founded more in logical argument to the contrary.

    I find your point of view very interesting and I have learned more about what your views on the Christian faith are from your post. I do not believe however that it would change my original article as it was more centred around political themes than faith itself. In fact, what you have said actually supports the view I took, that faith doesn’t necessarily mean good deeds.

    Obviously I would object to the idea that everyone is a sinner until they find faith. I believe ‘sin’ itself is a abstract, likely coming about through a need to create order, then being reinforced by religious practice and teachings? Perhaps you have a different view.

    If you are interested, I am happy to continue this debate as a way of learning more from your point of view, and you mine.

    1. Hi Ben,

      A bit long for a comment, but anyway. Thanks again for your comment. Can I just pick up on 4 assumptions you are making and an explanation / comment on each. Then do please come back to me because as you say it’s an opportunity to learn from each other. I’ll do them as points 1 -4. Then finally I’ll comment on the overall point of view. This ought to be another post really. But anyway, please correct me if these are wrong. I often think how much better it would be to chat over a coffee – but here we go:

      1. You are assuming faith (Biblical Faith that is) is an illogical leap into the unknown. It isn’t. If it is a leap at all, it’s a leap into certainty. So when a person through faith calls upon The Lord Christ for salvation, it’s a calling based on things that are known about Jesus. So, historical events, documents, the Bible, and doctrines all form a basis for that faith. Let me try and illustrate it like this: you turn up to a train or bus station or an airport with no idea where you are going, without looking at the timetable and with no ticket and decide to go to another place without even knowing if there is a train or whatever going there. That’s the faith you are speaking of. On the other hand, you know where you want to go, you have consulted the timetable, booked a ticket and so turn up for your journey with every confidence. And there’s one other important factor. You know the driver or pilot. So faith in the Bible is never used in an airy fairy manner but always based on truths that are known.
      We do have one other factor, and that’s the Spirit of God who grants faith and changes our nature to believe the truth of the Bible.

      2. You somehow think there is a conflict between faith and logic / reason. There is no conflict at all. Especially when you consider point 1. above.

      3. The Bible is completely logical. It’s makes perfect sense. On the point of logic I wonder if you can tell me where logic comes from. What is its source? Now you will have to use logic to explain that. I know where logic and reason come from – it comes from God. And without God it is impossible to know anything. Without God you wouldn’t be able to use logic. The logic you used in responding is dependent on God. I know you use it, I know you believe in it, but where does it come from? We are logical beings because we are made in the image God.

      4. Believe me ‘finding faith’ as you put only enhances ones knowledge of sin. You assume Christians think they are without sin. I can’t imagine where you are getting this stuff from as it’s all so wrong. The Bible says if anyone says they are without sin they are a liar and the truth is not in them. (It’s actually addressed to Christians in 1 John 1:7-10)

      Finally. Yes Ben you are absolutely right there is a conflict, and it’s over worldviews. It’s over authority. My Ultimate, my Final Authority is God and the Bible. I start there and I end there. Now it’s my turn to make an assumption: You came to the post not believing and you ended not believing. No surprise there for me. You did exactly the same as me. But you have a different authority. I’d like to know what your authority is. Like so many, what you are actually doing is suppressing the truth of God and the Bible. You need to repent and believe the Gospel.

      A Happy Easter to you.

      Every Blessing Ben, Mike.

      Over to you.

  2. Hi Mike, Happy Easter to you also!

    Nice response, I agree talking this through would be less lengthy but needs must to debate eh and this is the only platform I have to ‘talk’ to you.

    On your first point 1) my argument would be that:

    ‘you know where you want to go, you have consulted the timetable, booked a ticket and so turn up for your journey with every confidence.’

    This is referring to the texts and proof of Jesus you speak of. So your timetable is totally dependent on whether you accept these proofs to be true, otherwise, without trust in the timetable, you are left again with only faith to guide your decision rather than reason.
    I will however agree with ‘knowing the pilot’ I have no experience I would attribute to God, others do. There is no argument against personal experience of God that I find satisfying so I can only come to agree in part with you that your personal faith may guide you.

    2. I partially accept based upon your argument for 1

    3. Logic is synonymous with Maths – it has no foundation so to speak, it simply IS. How would you argue that maths comes from God? Where do things originate from is another argument for God’s existence of course, we may not have answers, you have found yours and that is where we differ.

    4.I do not believe anyone is without sin, sin is related to society and religion . It is not actually a ‘thing’ it is a creation by people used to provide guidance on moral conduct, I believe it is socially driven, you believe it is divine guidance. Forgive my understanding of Christian faith, as you can tell I do not know or understand as much as you regarding it. However, I was under the impression that by having faith in God meant that God forgave sin up until that point. That by having faith meant that you were ‘forgiven’. Perhaps we could discuss sin in more detail and how God and sin fit together?

    “My Ultimate, my Final Authority is God and the Bible” – Does God appear to other faiths in different ways? You must clearly believe in a single God and that your God is everyone’s God whether they see him in the same way or not. Why is your interpretation of God right and not say Islamic interpretation?

    Our authority is very different, since you place more significance on your authority – God. My authority will never be enough for you. I would say my personal authority on the matter is reason, I have no reason to believe in God or the bible. I do not see the truth that you do in its words or teachings.

    All the best Mike!

    1. Hi Ben, thanks for the reply again. Trust you had a good Easter. See my replies below. Hope the order isn’t confusing.

      1. Unless the God who authored The Scriptures is true my personal faith is worthless. So the Bible & the God of the Bible are either true or they are not. There is no middle ground. As I say, if true, my faith is founded in something (someone) real and true, if not my faith is founded on a lie or a (self) deception.

      2. OK.

      3. Where things originate from is pertinent, I have an explanation. It’s the answer for everything as well Ben. What I mean by that is that without God Maths, Logic, Physics, Music, anything you can think of has no foundation. I can tell you the source. Whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not doesn’t change the fact. You cannot say ‘it simply IS’. I can explain where Maths comes from. I can explain where all the laws of nature and the universe come from. You have to agree that it makes perfect sense. It is logical and consistent. You need to explain where logic comes from. From my perspective you have to use or borrow my (The Christian) Worldview to have any explanation.

      4. To have any concept of sin, that is right & wrong, is to have a morality. Again, you need to explain where morality comes from. You have a moral code, and I assume live a moral life within that code. Contrary to popular thought Christians (at least this Christian) definitely believe Atheists live moral lives, look after their neighbours, would stop and help someone in distress and generally do good. The problem is Atheists can’t explain where their morality comes from, but I can (that is, Christianity can).

      Discussing how God and sin ‘fit together’ needs another post – or several posts. You might like to read these posts on the 10 commandments – parts 1 -3. There is a Part 4 to come but I need to read and study some more first.
      Part 1. http://www.xercised.com/?p=3811
      Part 2. http://www.xercised.com/?p=3825
      Part 3. http://www.xercised.com/?p=3891

      Yes there are other faiths, but if Christianity is true all others must logically be false. If Christianity is true it stands alone. Interestingly many faiths are corruptions of the Bible – including Islam. Christianity is based on historical events. These things happened.

      Now here’s the thing Ben. And it’s vital you grasp this as it is foundational to understanding what Christianity is about. Without the Holy Spirit NONE of us (I included myself in this) can ‘see the truth’ AT ALL. Ben, this is what makes Christianity & the Gospel so unique. Salvation is completely from beginning to end a work of God and from God. It is undeserved, it is unearned. Because of this we are all on the same level, there is always hope. It’s why we preach the Gospel – Good News of a Saviour. It’s my prayer for you Ben that you would become a Christian.

      If you really want to know more there are more able people than myself. What I’ll do is post a post (:-)) with links to helpful websites for anyone that wants to know more. In the meantime please come back to ‘Exercised to Discern’ and leave a comment. I’m back at work now so time is limited. In the meantime as well, check out my Website for more info. It needs updating but still good info. http://www.churchaudio.org.uk/roche/index.htm
      Sorry, don’t know how to do HTML in the comments.

      I have really appreciated the spirit in which we have been able discuss what are actually quite weighty matters.

      With Best Regards,
      Mike

    2. Apologies Ben,

      Missed where you said this:

      ‘… I was under the impression that by having faith in God meant that God forgave sin up until that point. That by having faith meant that you were ‘forgiven’.’

      Being forgiven doesn’t mean sinless – actually the Christian becomes far more conscious of their sin than ever they were before. The forgiveness of God extends to past, present & future sins. Basically we sin because we are sinners – that is we have a sinful nature. Here’s what the Apostle Paul said and Christians should fully agree – I certainly do!

      1 Timothy 1:15 ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

      Paul describes himself as ‘The Chief of Sinners’. I’d be pleased to hear (and surprised) David Cameron say that.

      Romans 7:21 ‘I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.’

      ‘O wretched man that I am’. Here Paul is speaking as a Christian. The Christian life is a battle.

      I hope and pray you are beginning to understand what Christianity is. And you can see why I am so disturbed when politicians weigh in on a subject that by and large they have little understanding of. But it’s what people think Christianity is, but are sadly mislead.

      Yours,

      Mike

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