What Do Christians Really Believe?
- Stephanie Englehart stephaniemenglehart.com
- 2020 23 Apr
A Christian is one who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as God manifested in the flesh, loving us and dying for our redemption; and who is so affected by a sense of the love of this incarnate God as to be constrained to make the will of Christ the rule of his obedience, and the glory of Christ the great end for which he lives. —Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (1863), p. 133.
Whether you are a skeptic looking for truth, a new believer, or a long time disciple, we all must know what we believe and why we believe it. This article is just my attempt at answering the question: What do Christians believe? Simply put, we believe in the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Without Jesus, my life would be in continual upheaval. He has completely changed my life, and it is because of this great news that I’m writing to you today. I pray as you dive into these core beliefs, God would open your eyes to see the truth of His word. That you would come to love God for the all-satisfying treasure that He is, and that you would become a lifelong learner of the God of the Bible. It is so rich, so rewarding, and so transformational that no day would ever be lost to the submission and study of it.
Is There a Core Set of Beliefs in Christianity?
In the Christian faith, there is a core set of beliefs. Some churches differ slightly on their use of confessional statements, catechism, and creeds, but regardless of the label, the core beliefs of Christianity primarily focus, on the four great movements in God’s redemptive history: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Other beliefs such as baptism, church polity, or charismatic gifts are open-handed issues and vary depending upon Protestant denomination. We must note that some of the beliefs listed below cross over between Protestantism and Catholicism, while others provide striking differences. Going forward, this article will largely point specifically to the core set of beliefs that Protestant Christians believe. (If this leads you to ask questions about the difference between the Protestants and Catholics, I’d encourage you to look into this article here as a starting place.)
The Christian's Belief—The Apostles' Creed
Before getting into the 7 core beliefs of Christianity, let’s look at one of the most famous creeds used throughout church history—The Apostles' Creed.
Despite its name, there is no evidence that the Apostles' Creed was written by the Apostles of the early church. Legend states that each of the 12 Apostles wrote a line of the creed, in order to teach the church basic doctrine. The legend was quickly abandoned by scholars during the renaissance, but the act of using the creed to teach basic doctrine was not. The Apostles' Creed can be extremely helpful in pulling out the core beliefs of Christianity. The following Apostles' Creed is a commonly used contemporary version provided by the Reformed Church of America:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
7 Core Beliefs of Christianity
God—We believe in the triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe that this triune God is completely perfect, creator of all things, worthy of all adoration and praise, all-knowing, sovereign, and totally good in His plan to restore all things to Himself. (Genesis 1:1-3, Acts 17:24-25, Job 42:2, Psalm 86:15, Matthew 16:16, John 1:1-3, Acts 2:33, Ephesians 1:3-14, Colossians 1:15-16)
Scripture—We believe God is a speaking God who has graciously revealed Himself to us through His creation, in the person and work of Jesus, and through His Word in the Holy Scriptures. We believe the Bible to be the true and authoritative Word of God. The Bible is made up of 66 books found throughout the Old and New Testament and is to be believed and lived out in its entirety. As we believe and put Scripture into practice, in all that it commands, rebukes, teaches, encourages, and promises, we become equipped as disciples of Jesus and witnesses to the watching world. (Psalm 19:7-10, Proverbs 30:5, Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 24:35, John 5:39, Romans 15:4, 2 Peter 1:21)
Creation—We believe that God created male and female, in His own image, to glorify God. We believe both man and woman were created equally in the image of God, and have equal access to the saving work and satisfaction of Jesus. After the creation of the world, God declared that it was good. God gave Adam and Eve dominion to rule over the world as God’s stewards and commanded them to care for, manage, and govern His creation while living in perfect relationship with Him. (Gen. 1-3, Psalm 8:3-8, Acts 17:26-31, Galatians 3:28)
Fall—We believe that all people have fallen short of the glory of God. Adam and Eve, deceived by the serpent (Satan), distorted God’s creation by sinning against God and His Word. As a result, all human beings experience the pain and suffering that their sin caused, and are under the wrath of God’s judgment. The greatest need of all people is to be reconciled to God. Our only hope as humans is to be restored back into perfect relationship with Him through the loving sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. (Genesis 2-3, Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, 2 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 2, Colossians 1:21-22, 3:10-11)
Redemption—We believe that God, in His great love and mercy, sent His only son Jesus to bear the weight and penalty of our sin through His death on the cross. Jesus lived the sinless life we couldn’t live, being completely obedient to the Father, He died the death that we deserved. Jesus took all our sins, nailing them to the cross with Himself as our substitute, bearing the weight and wrath of God. Jesus’ obedience satisfied our penalty of sin and the wrath of God. Jesus victoriously rose from the dead on the third day, defeating, death, sin, and Satan. Jesus ascended into heaven and claimed His rightful throne, seated at the right hand of the Father. He is now graciously and sovereignly reigning over us, and working for us on our behalf. We believe that salvation is found by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone—for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. (Romans 4:25, 5:8, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, 15:1-8, Colossians 1:21-23, 1 Peter 3:18)
Church—We believe in one Church united in Christ, and saved by God’s grace, through Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. We believe King Jesus is the sovereign, sustaining, authoritative head of the church. We believe that the ultimate goal and purpose of the Church is to glorify God and be the local outworking of Christ’s body. This means that we, as Christians, meet together in the context of a local church and are together called to sing, pray, hear the preaching of God’s word, practice baptism and communion, build one another up, and be a continual witness to the watching world. (Matthew 5:14-16, 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Ephesians 1:22, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, James 5:19-20)
Restoration—We believe that not only has Jesus come once for the salvation of His Church but that He’s coming back again for one final judgment of the living and the dead. On this day, Jesus will exercise His authority as judge to those who did not put their faith in Him. However, the church will be presented before Him as blameless, and Satan and his demons will be punished forever. Jesus ultimately will have come to create a new Heaven and new earth where believers will live with Him for eternity. (Isaiah 65:17, Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:46, Mark 14:61-62, Acts 3:21, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Peter 1:3-5, 2 Peter 3:13)
Why Do These Core Beliefs Matter?
Belief in the gospel changes everything. Before Christ, we are lost in a sinless world with no hope, no satisfaction, and no purpose. With Christ, we have new life and new desires. These new desires begin to change the way we speak, think, feel, and act. They lead us towards becoming emotionally, mentally, and physically healthier people. When we allow our minds to be renewed by the Word daily, we begin to experience change through our belief each day. We find our purpose in the life Christ has given us. We find our satisfaction and hope in the God of the universe. We find our joyful unending life in the death of our Savior, as our belief points us towards the ultimate restoration and renewal of life with Him in the new Heaven and new earth.
When we find this great hope and satisfaction in Christ, the natural outworking of our faith is to share it with others. When Jesus is changing our every day, when we see Him as our only hope, there becomes no greater joy than glorifying Him through our words, actions, and lives. When Jesus is the center and supreme treasure of our life, we commit ourselves to know Him and make Him known. Therefore, these core beliefs matter to Christians, because as disciples of Christ, we cannot speak of whom we don’t know. Our commitment to the gospel, the reading of the Word, prayer, community, and the local church grows our knowledge and love for God in order that we might make Him known in all of life.
In the article What Is a Christian? John Piper phrases it this way:
“Becoming a Christian is coming to believe not only that Christ died for all his people, but that all his people died when he died. Becoming a Christian is, first, asking the question: Am I ready to be persuaded that Christ died for me and I died in him? Am I ready to die that I might live? Then, secondly, becoming a Christian means answering, Yes, from the heart.
The love of Christ constrains us to answer, Yes. We feel so much love flowing to us from Christ’s death that we discover in his death our death — our death to all other competing allegiances. We are so overwhelmed (“constrained”) by the love of Christ that the world fades, as before dying eyes.
A Christian is a person living under the constraint of Christ’s love. Christianity is not merely believing a set of ideas about Christ’s love. It is an experience of being constrained by that love.”
- desiringGod.org, Is Jesus the Only Way to Be Saved? & What Is the Christian Gospel?
- ligonier.org, Why Do We Recite the Apostles' Creed? & Faith Has Its Reasons
- thegospelcoalition.org, 9 Things to Know about the Apostles' Creed
Photo credit: ©Sparrowstock
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.