First Things, Fundamentals - let's look at what the core message of the Bible is. Why? Because what you think the whole Bible is about affects how you understand any part of it.
The Apostle Paul wrote "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures." (1st Corinthians 15:3-4, NIV)
Five basics or fundamentals of the faith are related to this verse, and all who teach or hold to these five assumptions are fundamentalists. Because Paul said they are of first importance, they form a foundation for other beliefs. They are:
- The Bible is totally true.
- Jesus, the Christ, was born of a virgin.
- Jesus died in our place.
- Jesus rose from the dead.
- Jesus will return some day.
I suggest that we who beleive the basics listed here, consider each other to be Christian brothers and sisters. Although what church we belong to, how we are baptized, and other matters that vary among christians are important, they are not of First Importance, and we may agree to disagree about them.
The apostle Paul said several times that important events happened "according to the scriptures". He also wrote "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2nd Timothy 3:16-17, NIV). I read this to say that God gave us the Bible and that we can read and use it. We must use it if we want to be ready to do 'good works'.
As far as the end times, Peter wrote "Prophecy never had it's origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2nd Peter 1:21, NIV). I'm not sure we understand all the prophecy in the Bible, but God knows the future and is always right. Human prophets may be right or wrong, but Bible prophecy is 100% accurate because it is God-breathed. This does not mean that our interpretation is always right.
About 600 years before it happened, the prophet Isaiah wrote "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, God with us" (Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14, NIV).
The angel explained to Mary how she, a virgin, would have a child. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."
Fine. Most of us have heard the Christmas story .. did it really happen? And does it make a difference? Fundamentalists take the words 'Son of God' pretty literally. This says that Jesus was more than just a great teacher, the best man that ever lived, and one that lived in total harmony with God. This specific birth was the means of God the Son becoming a man to be 'God with us'.
Well, its really a question of whether we believe that the Bible is true in the normal way of reading it (The virgin will be with child), and if Jesus is really the 'Son of God' in a way no one else can ever be. If we do not read the Bible in this way ... well, why consider anything else written in the book? I believe the Bible means exactly what it says. If you don't know, why not pray and ask God?
This is the central theme of the entire Bible. Peter wrote "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1st Peter 2:24, NIV)
No avoiding the fact that the Bible contains many commands of God and that from the time of the first man, Adam, we have all been busy breaking them. This is called sin. Sin is what separates us from God .. and also what demands payment or punishment. The penalty of sin is death - both spiritual and physical. This idea here is that God himself (Jesus) became a man, but alone of all men never sinned. When he died on the cross, he took upon himself our sins. Paul wrote "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
The greatest verse in the Bible was written by the Apostle John, "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that whoever would believe in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). We may try to get rid of our sin by living a clean life, but the way God provided is to believe or trust in Jesus and his death in our place.
If we put our trust in him, then we will have the ability to live a better life. You can do this by simply praying to him "I ask You to forgive me and I put my trust in Jesus having died in my place for my sins."
What happens after we die? Is there life after death? Jesus proved there is. Its not suprising that we have trouble believing this - have you heard about Doubting Thomas? One of the twelve disciples, after being told that Jesus had risen from the dead he said "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." (John 20:25, NIV) It was not until after he saw the risen Jesus that he fell on his knees and called Jesus "My Lord and my God".
Some today say it does not matter - it is the teaching and morality of Jesus that we must follow. However, the Apostle Paul denied this. He said "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith ... If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1st Corinthians 15:14 and 19, NIV) Many do pity Bible believers, thinking we have no common sense. Well, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, and if there is no life after death, then they are right!
Jesus rose from the dead and spent some time on earth, until it was time for him to rise into the heavens in his body. After seeing this, an angel said to the disciples "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11, NIV) They saw him rise in a physical body, and someday he will descend in a physical body. What else will happen?
John wrote "But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he really is." (1st John 3:3, NIV) All believers who have died, like John, and those alive when he returns (perhaps us or our descendants) will become 'like him'.
Is this a sideline? NO. It is a central belief. Paul wrote of the early Christians "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." (1st Thessalonians1:9-10, NIV)
At first the five fundamentals seem like random isolated beliefs, but its not like that at all.
Let's put the pieces together. Unless you assume or study and become convinced that the Bible is totally true, study of the faith of the Bible is only an amusement. The basics of the faith are based upon this assumption and they also illustrate what we mean by Bible truth.
When we say that Jesus, the Christ, was born of a virgin, we acknowledge that he is by nature God, and is totally different from any other man who ever lived. Not just a great man, but a unique God-man.
Only a Jesus who is God could have died in our place, for our sins. Even a good man would have to die for his own sins, and could not save us.
Jesus rose from the dead, showing us that there is life after death. His victory is not only over death for him, but our death as well.
Jesus will return some day, and in that day we are promised that we will be like him.
Taken a a whole, the fundamentals summarize the message of the Bible and the historic Christian faith.
Let me know what you think, or just a note to tell me about yourself or what articles you would like to see. I will try to answer email addressed to [email protected]