The Three Essentials of Christianity
If we only had a short time to explain the basics of Christianity to someone, what examples from the Scriptures should we use and what are the basic essentials? What are the most important things a new believer needs to know? I would start with -
Essential One -Salvation
The Example -The Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:390-43).
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus -
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, “If You are Messiah, save yourself and us.”
But the other answering rebuked him, saying,” Do you not fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise.”
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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. – John 3:16, 17.
The thief that was hanging beside Jesus recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, the Redeemer of mankind, therefore the blood of the Messiah was appropriated to cleanse him through his repentance and his faith. The thief in Jesus' parable died, and according to Hebrew theology, the repentant thief went to paradise which was the place where the righteous dead waited for the resurrection. It was separated from hell (See Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich man - Luke 16:19-31). After Jesus’ resurrection He went to hell and ministered to the souls there enabling them to receive HIs salvation which qualified them for the resurrection from the dead. (I Peter 3:18-20; 4:6).
Now what if at the last minute our repentant sinner, we’ll call him Roger, suddenly received a last minute pardon? The soldiers rush forward, take him off the cross, and rescue him from death. What would our newly converted, forgiven sinner Roger do after his recovery and he is released from the hospital? What would he do with his gift of more time and a second chance?
He would seek out other believers; they would joyously share the great news that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead, completing his faith, and affirming that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Roger would then have his faith completed by believing in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the fact that He is the Son of God (I John 4:15), enabling him to be resurrected at the last day.
Roger rejoices with the other believers. He is encouraged by them to be water baptized into Christ to affirm his commitment.
Water baptism is derived in part, from the mikveh, which was part of the Hebrew betrothal ceremony that was done prior to the actual marriage. The bride and groom each took separate ritual baths. After the betrothal the bridegroom would return to his father’s house and build an addition for his bride. Those accommodations had to be better than what she would be leaving. When it was completed, then he would return for her, usually in about a year.
When Jesus said to His disciples, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” (John 14:2, 3) He was paralleling this to the Hebrew marriage custom. The church is His bride.
“In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
When a couple had completed the betrothal ceremony, the only way their union could be severed would be if either one was found unfaithful during the year they were waiting to be actually married. It was only during the betrothal period that they would be permitted to obtain a formal divorce.
The ordinance of water baptism represents the same commitment a believer must maintain in order to receive the outcome of our faith, the marriage of the bride and the Son of God (Rev. 19:7,9), the salvation of our souls at Jesus’ coming. (I Peter 1:9).
Our repentant former thief, Roger, is baptized, making a commitment to follow Jesus all of his life – which leads us to the second essential.
Essential Two - Abide
Example – John 15
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me.- John 15:4
Abide means to remain in the faith, and through this union with Jesus, the believer develops the fruit of a Holy Character. When we obey the Lord in abiding, Jesus gives to us another three essentials to help us walk with Him. He gives us His peace (John 14:27), His love (John 15:9) and His joy (John 15:11). These are the three foundational fruits of His Spirit that create in us a foundation of security. When we have this foundation, the other fruits of the Spirit can be developed. For example, when we are secure in Jesus, it is easier for us to be patient, kind, etc. - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:22,23
We need to know we are loved and nothing can ever separate us from that love – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38,39
This trust that develops from knowing we are loved produces peace, and because we know that Jesus has overcome the world, that joy cannot be removed from us no matter what we must endure in this life. We know our future is secure with Jesus because of what He has accomplished for us by His cross and His death and resurrection. “Because I live, you shall live also.” - John 14:9.
As our Roger learns to seek the Lord during quiet times of Bible study and prayer, He asks the Lord to develop in him the foundation he needs to be a credible witness for the Gospel; which leads us to the third essential.
Essential Three – Serve
Example – The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and dug in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
After a long time the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, “Lord, You delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.”
His lord said to him, “Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: you enter into the joy of your lord.”
He also that had received two talents came and said, “Lord, You delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them”
His lord said unto him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: you enter into the joy of your lord.”
Then he which had received the one talent came and said,” Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where have not dispersed: And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: lo, there you have what is yours.”
His lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not dispersed: you should have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to every one who has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. And you cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
When we come to Jesus, He gives each of us the ability to serve Him and expand the Kingdom of God in some capacity. In this parable the one who symbolically put all his efforts into the earth, that is earthly endeavors and service to the world, and did nothing to serve the Lord, was chastened severely.
Roger knows that his service is not a requirement for salvation; that has already been given to him as a gift through his faith in the atonement and Jesus’ resurrection. But faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:17). Roger’s desire to serve the Lord is the natural offshoot of his new relationship with God through Jesus. But I can see our new believer, Roger, wondering how he is to serve. He is poor, he has very little to give monetarily. He is handicapped from his wounds. He’s thinking, ‘what can I do? How much is required of me?’
Roger has some change he’s been saving. He could tithe from what he has and deposit it into the Lord’s bank, the mission field. Jesus praised the poor widow who gave what little she had and He said it was as much as those who had given out of their abundance.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And He called to Him His disciples, and said to them, “Truly I say to you, that this poor widow has cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” – Mark 12:42-43.
Roger couldn’t do very much because of his physical condition, but one of the disciples had taught him about the importance of prayer, so Roger decided to make prayer his ministry. He also became an encourager to the brethren and shared the Gospel with the people he came in contact with during his daily routines.
He realized that if he just gave a cup of cold water to someone in the name of a disciple, (Matthew 10:42) that this simple obedience was of great value and he would not lose his reward.
Roger also has learned how to minister back to the Lord through praise and thanksgiving for his salvation and God’s goodness.
Our Roger has sure come a long way – and so can you.
Believe the Gospel.
Abide in the Vine.
Serve the Lord.
You’ve got the essentials, and someday you are going to hear your Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: you enter into the joy of your Lord.” – Matthew 25:23
Copyright 2012 by H.D. Shively