20th February 2013

The Bedrock Of Christianity

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift … for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:7, 12-13 (NKJV UK)

It is the writer of the Book of Hebrews who lists for us what he calls the “elementary principles of Christ”—the fundamentals of Christianity (Hebrews 6). For centuries it has been disputed as to who wrote Hebrews, If it wasn’t the Apostle Paul, the book is certainly included in his canon of writings, and I, as a professional editor, would argue that there is clear evidence, comparing the book with the other writings of Paul, that he edited Hebrews. So let’s accept Paul as editor, if not as author.

Paul, therefore, is arguing that it’s time to move on; to go on to perfection in Christ. And we’ll see how he tells us to do that. But he lists here the elementary principles which, he argues, we all should have under our belts to begin with.

Ask the average church-goer to detail what these foundational items actually mean in their lives and it’s obvious that many of us have little idea what he is talking about—at least not in detail.

Yet this is foundational, he says. This is what we begin with. These are like the three “Rs” or our once-times table. He says that the bedrock of everything Christian is repentance from dead works…. (verse 1).

A few years ago I was challenged as a Christian. Years before I had repented of what I did—surely these were the dead works? I thought I knew what Paul was advocating but I had missed his point entirely. To go on to perfection, we have not only to repent of what we do, but what we are. That’s the true dead works—us!

Paul tells the Corinthian church that this is what he began with when he first preached to them: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received [first of all]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3; my addition of the ellipse). The very bedrock of Christianity is understanding that Christ took our sins into himself, both what we do and what we are.

Later Paul tells the same people: “…and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15). It’s not what we do so much as what we are, you see. And from there we can go on to perfection.

Heavenly Father, Christianity is so simple—and so complicated. But the bedrock, the foundation laid by Christ for us, is simple: that we can believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer. To grasp that is enough—to begin with. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford

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