According to the common faith
Beloved, while using all diligence to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you and exhort you to earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
I’ve written many things in this blog over the last year that may seem very controversial and even border-line heretical. While I in no way want to diminish the importance of such topics or the benefit they’ve afforded me in my spiritual growth, I do feel the need to write the following about what should actually be contended for.
The Scriptures are rich and full, and their depths can never be fully explored. There are many who have stopped their search after formulating a sound, systematic understanding of God and His work, making their current Bible reading shallow and a source of confirmation bias. For instance, when a Calvinist reads the following:
Or does not the potter have authority over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?
He will undoubtedly be blinded by his already formulated system and simply rejoice that he is clear in regard to man being predestined, either to heaven or hell. This theological veil covers the wonderful truth also conveyed in this verse that man is a vessel! Man is a vessel made to contain God (see also 2 Cor. 4:7). We must be poor in spirit and open to the Lord’s speaking whenever we open our Bibles.
However, I will not contend with a brother that we were made as a vessel. There are infinite truths enumerated in the Scriptures, but there is an irreducible core (thanks Kyle Barton for the term) to the Bible that needs to be contended for (of which I will speak of later).
If I discover in the Word that Jesus became a life-giving Spirit in resurrection, that believers don’t go to heaven when they die, that not all believers will participate in the millennial kingdom, that there are two raptures, that the New Jerusalem is not a material city, etc. that does not mean they are truths I need to contend for or use as a basis for fellowship (see 1 Cor. 15:45; Jn. 3:13 and 6:44; 1 Cor. 3:15 and Matt. 25:10; Rev. 12:5, Phil. 3:11, and 1 Thes. 4:15-17; Rev. 21:2).
The Irreducible Core (i.e. Common Faith)
All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
-2 Timothy 3:16
The basis and content of our fellowship as believers should always be the Scriptures. They are how we receive faith, know the gospel, grown in life, and determine the truth (these of course can only be done with the Spirit aiding the believer and enlightening him as he reads the Word). The Bible is divine, complete, and our only authority.
Hear, O Israel, Jehovah is our God; Jehovah is one.
The name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
God is one and three. He is the Triune God. The three are distinct but not separate. If this is not clear, as is the case with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, then we must contend. To not believe God is Triune is to be in open heresy and unable to be saved. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. The Father is God. All three are included in the singular name in which we are baptized into in Matthew 28:19.
The Word was God…and the Word became flesh
-John 1:1, 14
God became a man in the person of Jesus. To not believe such is to be a deceiver and an antichrist (2 Jn. 7). Jesus was and is fully God, incarnate in the flesh, sinless in His living. He is 100% God and 100% man.
For I delivered to you, first of all, that which also I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
-1 Corinthians 15:3
Jesus died on the cross for our redemption. By His work on the cross, our sins can be forgiven. Without this, there can be no salvation.
And that He was buried, and that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
-1 Corinthians 15:4
Jesus also rose from the dead. Without the resurrection from the dead, our Christian faith would be hopeless. We would have no way to be freed from sin and death. Jesus would have been only a martyr, not a Savior.
Notice the “according to the Scriptures” at the end of the last two verses. This is why we must believe that the Scriptures are the breath of God. All other points rest on the first.
God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
Jesus not only resurrected, He also ascended to the right hand of God the Father to be Lord and Christ of all. Now that He is on the throne, we can rightly confess that this man Jesus is Lord of all! There is a man on the throne!
Repent and Believe
Repentance unto God and faith in our Lord Jesus
As many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name.
In order to participate in the redemption, salvation, and accomplishments of Christ, man must only repent and believe. This repentance (metánoia in the Greek) literally means a change of mind. It is not abstaining from alcohol, changing your vocabulary, or attending church meetings. It is simply turning your heart to the Lord (rather than being His enemy in your mind – Col. 1:21) and believing in Him by faith.
The coming of our Lord Jesus
-1 Thessalonians 3:13
The Lord Jesus, last of all, is coming back. His second coming will not be like His first, which was in humility and as a slave bound for the cross. It will rather be in victory and glory. This is the hope of all believers!
We all believe many things. You may believe we should baptize by sprinkling, I by immersion. You may believe there shouldn’t be instruments in Christian worship, I may beg to differ. None of these issues are part of the common faith that are part of our common salvation.
May the Lord save us from divisiveness and allow all His children to contend for the common faith in oneness and unity!