If you know the character of Captain America, you know he is known for assembling or working on a team. It is a lot easier in the comics or movies. You find some other men and women with super powers or money (I’m looking at you, Stark) and you fight alongside of them. If they have some things you don’t agree with it usually doesn’t matter. Differences can be overlooked when you are facing down an evil super villain or a swarm of aliens seeking to destroy the earth. However, what about in the real world?
As a Christian living in this world we want to know who we can depend on or trust, right? Who can we call brother or sister? And who can we come alongside of to do ministry with?
Listen to what Ephesians 4:11-16 says:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Paul is writing about why the spiritual gifts were given. To build up and establish the church. Re-read what he says in verse 13: “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” There is that word unity. He says the church has the teachers, evangelists, and shepherds to equip them and bring us to a united faith and knowledge.
So what does that look like? A while back I asked on Twitter what were some of your essentials. I got varied responses but it did help me formulate a basic list of what the essentials of the faith were. I have it narrowed down to three but I am open to others.
2. Salvation by Faith Alone
3. Inerrancy of Scripture
They are in no particular order because they are all primary issues in my mind. I will not be going into depth on each topic. The reason being I believe it is better to dive in and study them for yourself. I just want to give a basic overview.
Trinity—As a Christian, one needs not only to believe in the Trinity, but have a proper understanding of it. God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. This means that the divine essence is not divided among the three persons, but is wholly with all its perfection in each one of the persons, so that they have a numerical unity of essence. -Louis Berkhof
In this one Divine Being there are three Persons or individual subsistences, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is proved by the various passages referred to as substantiating the doctrine of the Trinity. – Louis Berkhof.
In knowing the Trinity properly, we also need to understand each individual in the Trinity. We need to have correct doctrines about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All are important for Orthodoxy. If we have a wrong view of Christ that can lead to a wrong view of the Trinity. This is what makes the Trinity essential. If someone claims to be a Christian, but does not believe in the Trinity they are someone should not be aligning with.
Salvation by Faith Alone—This one is simple or should be. We are saved only by the work of Christ. We cannot work or earn our way to heaven.
You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary. -Jonathan Edwards
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9
Christ is our only way to heaven and our only way to be saved. The moment we try to add to that is where false gospels and teachings come into play. This is essential.
Inerrancy of Scripture—Inerrancy is a natural outflow of infallibility in the traditional, Orthodox sense. Since the authors could not err when writing Scripture, the Bible contains no affirmations of anything that is contrary to fact. Inerrancy is a quality of the original text of the Bible. Translations may err, but the original manuscripts penned by the prophets and apostles do not.
The Bible is God’s Word. God’s Word is truth. (John 17:17) Therefore, the Bible is truth. Seems simple right? However, we know that is not the case to most. The Bible ends up as a “guidebook,” or just a source of good information. When that happens, people can read it however they want.
At other times, the argument is made that not all of the Bible is reliable. Because of that people pick and choose what they want to obey. Leading to all kinds of issues and false teachings.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17
Paul makes it very clear that all Scripture is meant to equip and teach us. Scripture is not meant to be used à la carte. It is the complete word of God. We should treat it as such.
These are my essentials. This is the standard I use if I am going to decide who is a brother or sister in Christ, or if they are someone alongside whom I can do ministry. These are also broad and under each can be various other doctrines or beliefs. However, if you adhere to these three essentials then I can say we are on the same team.
This is in no way exhaustive and if you are interested in more perhaps I can do a follow up article. I thank you for reading and I pray I was able to help in some way.
Let me know your thoughts.