Good morning, brothers and sisters, may the grace and peace of our Lord be with you!
A Shared Belief
Faith (Greek pistis) can also be translated as “truth”, which can be further elaborated as one’s convictions based on truth, one’s beliefs, or the substance of one’s faith. Paul said to Timothy:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1 Tim 1:15)
In this verse, Paul speaks of a very concrete belief: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He also expresses his approval of this belief: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance.” And he gives his own personal experience of this belief: “…to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” Many “Christians” do not “share” (koinoneo) the truths of the gospel. On the contrary, they believe in other claims:
- “If you believe in Jesus, you can have eternal life. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you will go to hell. You don’t want to go to hell? Then believe in Jesus!” Going to hell is a threat, eternal life is a bait. This technique is a “threat and bait”.
- “Believing in Jesus will bring peace, joy, health, and wealth.” This saying has no threats, only benefits. This is what people like to hear nowadays.
- “The church is a very warm and welcoming place. There are kind and good Christians here, you should check it out!” This will only point people to other people, but not to God.
There are other things that people say about their “beliefs”, for example: when you come to the States, you have to believe in the God of the United States (Jesus). Your relatives are Christians, do you want to get along with them, or reunite with your dead relatives? This pastor or Christian has helped me so much, and they really want me to believe in Jesus, I guess I should just “believe” so as not to make them feel bad. … To be fair, the people who say these things are probably well-meaning without any ill intentions. However, what they do not realize is that they have distorted the gospel and misled others. Those who “believe” in these false assurances will have these common traits: they have not repented of their sins, nor have they submitted to Christ. Perhaps they acknowledge Jesus as Savior, but they do not confess Jesus as Lord. They are religious people, not Christ-believers.
The gospel encompasses the following three core beliefs:
Jesus came to earth to save sinners, those who are lost. Jesus called sinners to repent and believe in the gospel. The apostles also called people to repentance.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Lk 19:10)
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:14-15)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. ( 1 Jn 3:5)
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away (or takes on) the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29)
True believers in Christ must admit they are sinners and repent from their sins. To admit “I am a sinner” is to see myself for what I truly am in the presence of a holy God. I am not just imperfect (everyone is imperfect, so to admit one’s imperfection is really to admit nothing at all), but I am a sinner. To repent means to return to God. We should be like the tax collector whom Jesus spoke about. He was truly repentant and said, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Lk 18:13) To repent is to turn to God, and the fruit of repentance is obedience. In the past, we walked our own ways, but today we belong to Jesus and follow in His steps (1 Pet 2:21). It is indeed very puzzling when we see Christians who do whatever they please. Well, if you just want to continue walking your own ways, then why not keep being yourself? Why do you want to become Christian?
The gospel tells us that we are saved by God’s grace, not by our own works. Salvation can only be received and cannot be earned. The saved can only give thanks; they cannot boast. The believers can only be humble; they cannot be prideful. In the presence of God, we are all recipients of His grace, everyone the same, without distinction.
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. (Jn 1:16)
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor 4:7)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Rom 3:23-24)
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Rom 11:6)
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. (Eph 1:7)
III) Jesus Christ and Him crucified
The core of the gospel is Jesus. The content of the gospel is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Son of God became man, and gave His body on the cross to pay the redemption price for sinners. He was resurrected on the third day, so that anyone who believes in Him will be justified freely and receive the gift of salvation. The book of Acts records the journeys of the apostles as they preached the gospel after Jesus was taken up into heaven. These apostles testified about the risen Christ, preached about the cross, and called people to believe and trust in Christ. God was with them as they faithfully spread the gospel even through many hardships and difficulties. As a result, many came to Christ because of their witness for the Lord.
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:32)
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36)
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:22-24)
Those who have trusted in Christ have admitted and repented of their sin, received God’s grace, believed in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and believed in His resurrection. Religious people have yet to do so. Go ask them, and you will find them stumbling for words as they are unable to share any real salvation testimonies. If you have not repented of your sin, then you will still hold on to worldly values and life philosophies. The meaning of the cross is lost on you, and you would rather look elsewhere for help than look to God’s grace on the cross. You believe in Jesus half-heartedly, and are more interested in other people’s testimonies. You find it hard to believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Christ-believers and religious people do not share common beliefs about the three core aspects of the gospel, which are sin, grace, and Jesus Christ. It is impossible for them to walk together in unity. Only those who are in koinonia have truly repented of their sin, received God’s grace, trusted in Christ, and follow in His steps. Dear brothers and sisters, “This is the way, walk in it!” (Is 30:21)