Sunday, July 3, 2011

Christian Unity and Boundaries in Christian Fellowship, Part 5

Both summaries of Fundamentalism's Fundamentals – from Wikipedia and from, posted in Part 3 – focus on the person and work of Jesus. Keep in mind that these are but other people's summaries of what has recently been re-published as 4 large books! I'm not questioning the summaries' correctness, just pointing out their brevity in comparison to the original.

So what do the lists of Fundamentals say about Jesus?

  • Prior to being born as a human, Jesus was God.

  • Jesus' conception and birth were miraculous (Mary was a virgin).

  • During His ministry, Jesus did miraculous things.

  • Jesus' death atoned for sin.

  • Jesus was resurrected, bodily, from the dead.

  • Jesus will return again.

How do these square with Scripture passages – quoted in parts 2 and 3 – that identify essential and foundational teachings? The following, I think, speak to this question:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, ESV)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2, ESV)

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:4, ESV)

While not as specific and focused as the Fundamentals listed above, these passages agree that the man, Jesus, was unique. What truthful, sane, human being could make the claim Jesus did? Why would “another Jesus” matter, unless Jesus were unique? That Jesus was born of Mary when she was yet a virgin is attested to by the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. That Jesus is God is variously stated and shown throughout the four Gospels and in other New testament books. Both what Jesus said and the passage from Hebrews speak to salvation from sin coming uniquely through what Jesus did (another passage about this shortly).

What about Jesus' bodily resurrection and second coming? Well, the passage from Hebrews alludes to both, but at this point I need to introduce yet another passage that points to essential Christian beliefs, 1 Corinthians Chapter 15. Does this series of blog posts seem to be getting a bit shaggy? Well, it's “my” blog, of which I am in nominal marginal control, and yes, sometimes my memory is more than a bit shaggy. I'm not going to post the entire 15th Chapter of 1 Corinthians – it's one of the longer chapters in the New Testament. While the entire chapter is well worth reading, but I'm only going to quote several relevant passages.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, ESV)

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, ESV)

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:16-20, ESV)

In these passages, Paul states quite emphatically, “as of first importance,” that Jesus rose from the dead and why this fact is important. Much of the rest of the chapter speaks of Jesus' return and what will happen with believers when He does.

Jesus, Who He is, everything He did, everything He will yet do is at the very core of the Christian faith. If Jesus was just a nice inspirational man, if Jesus' death was just another of many individual personal tragedies of injustice, if Jesus' remains are yet in the grave, if everything Jesus did was complete some 2000 years ago, THERE IS NO CHRISTIAN FAITH. It's a pathetic hoax! Christian believers are ridiculous dupes. As Paul said in verse 32 of this chapter, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”!

But Jesus is God Who became man. Jesus' death gives believers forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus sealed our salvation with His resurrection and guaranteed our resurrection to eternal life at His return! This core of the Christian faith is the basis for Christian fellowship: it transcends denominations; it transcends economic differences; it transcends nationality and race. With “another Jesus” the inspirational but tragic “Jesus”, the trickster “Jesus”, the figment of imagination “Jesus” there is no basis for fellowship.

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