There are some things that are essential and some things which are not. And I think we can agree with that principle, like breathing, breathing is essential. Breathing is one of those basic things that you have to do in order to have life. Chocolate ice cream, well, is not essential.
You need a ball to play baseball. You could have both teams, it could be televised throughout the United States. You could have a hundred thousand people in the stadium. Everybody got their uniforms, they've got the baskets. We're ready to go. But if there's no ball, that one little thing, if that one little thing is missing, there's no game.
I remember once we went to hockey practice, I was coaching hockey and I said to the kids, don't forget to bring all your equipment. Now you goalies bring your face masks, pads sticks, and here, 11 kids were out there. We rented the rink for two hours or whatever it was. We drove all the way out to Moore from Edmond (30 minutes or so) and all the kids put their gear on and somebody said, "do you bring a ball along?" No, did you bring a ball along? There was no ball. No ball, no practice. Some things are essential.
In the rule about essentials, the point that I want to make here, is that it doesn't matter how much of the non-essentials you have, if you don't have the essential, it doesn't work. Having a motor in your car, that's essential having a CD player, that's not so essential. You can have a CD player and a thousand CDs in your car, but if you don't have a motor, it doesn't matter how many CDs you have. It doesn't matter how much of a boombox you've got if you've got no backseat, all you've got to speakers. It doesn't matter if you don't have a motor, you don't have a car. Well, in the Christian religion, the same rule applies. Some things are essential and some things are not.
Now, this idea is not something invented by the Church of Christ. This is not a kind of a Church of Christ idea, it is a biblical idea of the idea of essentials. For example, in the book of Acts Peter is talking about the essentials of Christianity:
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
- Acts 4:12
Now there is an essential for you. The apostles and the early disciples were persecuted because against the trend of inclusivity (the idea that everybody is included) they preached that salvation was exclusively in Christ and no other. And that idea was not popular. They were killed for it. That idea was not popular in the first century and is not popular today. It has never been a popular idea.
Our problem is that once again, the move is towards inclusivity in the 20th century, that's the religious philosophical thought, inclusivity. Let's gather everybody in together. That's the movement and anyone who stands up and says, "no there are some essentials." There are some basics that cannot be compromised. These people are labeled as narrow-minded or bigoted or legalistic. If you stand up and say, "no, no there's a line here, there's a line you can't cross." You are labeled as being narrow-minded. Our other problem is that there are some among us who make the list of essentials so long that hardly anybody can become a Christian.
So those are the opposites. Some people don't want any lists, no essentials, everybody's okay. And then you have the people at the other end who make the list of essentials so long that nobody can become a Christian. Nobody even wants to become a Christian because the list is so long and so impossible. So demanding.
The answer of course, is as always, just to review what the essentials are, according to the Bible, not according to human opinion, and then to stand firm in these, with a loving attitude you're doing this.
People may not like the idea of essentials and exclusivity, but they will at least be sure of what we in the Church of Christ stand for and they will hopefully learn what the Bible teaches.
What Must I Do to Be Saved?
Now, the question in its simplest form is this: what must I do to be saved? Now the question is expressed in a lot of different ways, but the bottom line is what are the things that must happen, or that I must do, in order to guarantee that when I die, I'm going to go to heaven.
Now, I don't think that this question is born out of laziness or selfishness. It isn't. What is the minimum that I must do? Like when I was teaching school you would say "the assignment is to read your history book" and there is always one in the class that'll raise their hand and askes, "what's the minimum pages that we have to read for this report."
This question about the essentials is not about the minimum I must do to be saved. It's what the essentials are. The important, the must things. And there are must things in Christianity.
People who are concerned with their souls don't want to risk losing salvation because of ignorance or neglect. They want to know what the essentials are. These essentials have been packaged in several different ways but basically, they're the following.
Faith in Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God
The first essential is faith in Jesus Christ not just faith in somebody like Christ, it's faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God. It was the faith required of Thomas when he confessed before the resurrected Jesus and said, "my Lord and my God." He confessed a divine Jesus, not just my Lord, my teacher, my superior. He confessed that Jesus was God, Divine.
That the kind of faith in Jesus that is essential to salvation. It was a resurrected Christ and this particular Lord that Peter preached in Acts 2. Peter preached about Jesus, the divine son of God that the prophets spoke of in the Old Testament. That God would raise from the dead as a sign. That's the Jesus that Peter preached about in Acts 2.
It was Jesus, the divine Lord become man and resurrected from the dead that Paul proclaimed in Philippians 2:6-11, when he said, "who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped." What was he talking about? He was talking about Jesus and what did he say about Jesus? He said, this person was equal with God. He preached a divine Jesus.
All religions require faith in some form or another, but Christianity demands that the individual accept as true that Jesus Christ is God, the only divine Son of God. Not only is Jesus the only son of God but that the only way to be saved is through Him (Acts 14).
It's not that, Hey, guess what? We've got another divine appearance here among other Christianity demands that we believe that Jesus is the only son of God and that the only way to enter heaven is through faith in Him. Anything less than this, likfe Jesus is an angel (as believed the Jehovah witnesses) or that Jesus is a prophet (as believed by the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists) or that Jesus is a good teacher (as believed by many atheists). Anything less than faith in Jesus as divine is not faith in Jesus. Anything less is not faith in Jesus Christ that Jesus is God, the only savior and that He is the only one who can save. This is essential. If you don't have this, you're missing a basic element of salvation.
Repentance and Baptism
I put them together: repentance and baptism. First, let me explain to you what these things are and then I'll explain why I've put these two together.
First of all, repentance is a kind of religious word. It means simply to turn or to turn around in the conversion experience. It's a turning away from the world and from sin and a turning towards God.
In a practical sense, it means to abandon sinful practices and to begin pursuing a holy lifestyle. That's as practical as you can get before you were a sinner, you loved sinning and you kind of got involved in it. You didn't care what people thought about it. Repentance means you now turn away from that. You try to avoid sin. You walk towards God, you walk in the light, so to speak.
That doesn't mean being without sin or being perfect and never making a mistake. It means a redirection of your life, a conscious decision to redirect your life towards God and the things that God wants you to do. That's repentance.
Baptism is a procedure where one is immersed or buried in the water. Now the Greek word, but Tito and the imagery that we find in the Bible, as well as the early history of the church, all point to baptism by immersion as the method practice in the Bible.
Now I say this because there are a lot of forms of baptisms that are practiced today, but that are not according to what the Bible teaches on the subject. The best way I could frame this question is: if you were being baptized by Peter or Paul, how would they baptize you? Well, the Bible says they would baptize you by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. That's how they do it. So that's why we do it that way today.
Now, the reason I put repentance and baptism together as one is because they are the biblical response or the expression of faith necessary for salvation. When a person believes that Jesus is the divine Son of God, there is both a requirement by God that the believer expressed that faith. And there is a need by the believer to express his or her.
I believe the expression of faith is seen in repentance, which is the practical redirection of a person's life because of sin and baptism, which is the moment in time when one submits his life to God, for the removal of sin and the renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Some people say that all we need to do is believe in order to be saved but that notion is contrary to what the Bible teaches. From the very beginning to the very end. Faith has always required a concrete expression.
- Abraham believed but he expressed his belief by obeying God and agreeing to sacrifices.
- Moses believed and expressed that faith by going to the Pharaoh snd leading his people out of Egypt.
- Solomon believed and expressed that belief by building the temple according to what his father had instructed him to do inspired by God.
- The apostles believed and they expressed their beliefs by gathering in the upper room and waiting for the Holy Spirit.
Each of these and hundreds of others in the Bible, God gave what they were to do in order to express their faith. Now, when Peter preached Christ as the divine Lord at Pentecost, the people who believed and who accepted as true that statement, asked him what shell we do. They heard what he said. They heard the message. They believed the message and the very next thing they said was what shall we do?
In other words, we hear you. We believe what you say, what do we do to express our faith? You know what Peter could have said, "snap your fingers three times and you will be forgiven for your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." He could have said, "I want you to fast for three days and pray that God forgives you." Those who believed him would have fasted for three days and God would have forgiven them. And God would have given them the Holy Spirit. He could've said, "let each one of you accept Jesus as your personal savior." And all those who accepted Jesus as their personal savior would have raised their hand. And at that very moment, they would have been forgiven and received the Holy spirit. Peter could have said any one of those things, but what did he say?
Through the power of the Holy spirit? Peter said, "Repent and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy spirit." That's what Peter said, what God required and quite clearly explained was that repentance and baptism were the proper biblical, godly, effective response of faith in Christ Jesus and note that it wasn't complicated. People understood that kind of response because in Acts 2:41, it says that 3,000 people responded in faith. They came forward and they were baptized in order to have their sins forgiven and receive. The Holy Spirit now explained the essentials of becoming a Christian.
In part 2 of this lesson, we're going to talk about the remaining essentials for Christians. There's one more essential for now. I ask you to review your own life and see if you have the essentials of Christianity. It would be a terrible thing to sit in church and have all the accessories of Christianity (church attendance, Bible study, fellowship, picnics, family day, etc) but for some reason be missing the essentials.
Ask yourself in regards to your own personal salvation, do you believe that Jesus is the only divine Don of God and the only Savior. Do you believe that have you truly turned to God away from sin and away from worldliness? Have you made the decision? I am going to repent and have you been immersed in water in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? Have you done that?
If you've got this and if you're missing some other stuff, we can always work on that other stuff. We have time to work on those other things, but if you're missing any one of these, it doesn't matter what else you've got. What is really important if you are missing any of the essentials or if you're not sure the don't take any chances.