What do Christians Believe?
The Christian faith has as its starting point belief in God as Creator – a belief shared, of course, with Jews and Muslims. However, it gives a central place to the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet and healer who was born in Bethlehem in about 4BCE, in the Roman province of Judaea, and grew up in his parental home at Nazareth in Galilee. At about the age of thirty he began a remarkable public ministry of preaching and healing, eventually being arrested by the Jewish religious authorities on charges of blasphemy and executed by crucifixion under the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. On the third day after his death and burial his followers claimed that he had risen from the dead and that they had seen him and talked with him. Several of them died rather than withdraw this claim. Within two or three decades there were Christian believers in many parts of the Roman Empire, including the imperial capital, Rome.
Christians believe that this Jesus of Nazareth was the ‘messiah’ of God – God’s anointed ‘son’ – who through his death and resurrection opened up the life of heaven for all people.
Believing and belonging
Some people begin their journey of faith by believing the Christian message, and then move on into the experience of belonging to the community of believers, the Church. Probably more often people begin their journey through some involvement with the Church, where they explore the truth claims of Christianity. In that way they eventually bring together faith and membership. In baptism this double commitment is acknowledged, because the candidate professes (or parents and godparents profess on a child’s behalf) an inward belief in the gospel, and openly confess it to the church.
The apostle Paul put this double aspect of commitment very starkly in his letter to the church at Rome: ‘If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’.
Four central Christian Beliefs
God as Creator: He is the origin and source of everything that exits, and gives it meaning and purpose.
People: Human beings are made ‘in the image of God’ – in other words, they reflect many aspects of his character (creativity, self-consciousness, moral responsibility, personality) and are consequently of infinite value.
Redeemer: Despite being made in God’s image, human beings have consistently failed to live as God requires, thinking that they know better than their Creator. Consequently, they need to be rescued from the situation they have created for themselves. God sent a Redeemer, Jesus, to achieve this.
Spirit: God is at work in the world, and in people’s lives, through the Holy Spirit, the ‘Special Helper’ sent by God after Jesus left the earth.
This is an extract from The One-Stop Guide to Christianity written by David Winter and published by LionHudson. It is reproduced with the author’s permission.
There are lots of different ways to explore the Christian faith – there is no shortage of books on the subject – but perhaps the best way is to simply come along to church. Here you will find a group of people who haven’t got all the answers, but are seeking after God and discovering together the joys and challenges of the journey of life and faith.