TODAY’S READING: EPHESIANS 4-6
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4.11-14)
Every group of Christians – church, institution, organization, ministry, etc. – writes a statement of faith. These statements are meant to define “the unity of the faith” that Paul says we are to attain to.
So, I googled “statement of faith” to see how some of these Christians groups define “the unity of the faith” that their group should attain to. Let’s just examine the first five search results for “statement of faith.”
One would presume that the very first statement in a statement of faith would be the most important thing you must believe to attain the unity of the faith. Here is the very first statement in four of the five.
- The sole basis of our beliefs is the Bible, God’s infallible written Word, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. We believe that it was uniquely, verbally and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it was written without error (inerrant) in the original manuscripts. It is the supreme and final authority in all matters on which it speaks.
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
- We believe in the Holy Scriptures as originally given by God, divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy; and the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
- We believe the Bible to be the only inspired, trustworthy and true, without error, Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Therefore, the most important thing to believe for these groups of Christians is that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God, the only source of inspiration, the only source we can trust, and the supreme authority in everything.
What’s wrong the fifth group of Christians that didn’t put the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible as the very first statement in their statement of faith?
Well, it was their second statement.
- WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.
The seventh search result is an article from www.theologydegrees.org title “How to Write an Effective Statement of Faith.” According to this article,
“In your statement of faith, everything depends on what you believe about the Bible. If you don’t believe it’s the Word of God, everything else you believe will need some basis for belief. For example, if you think the Bible is a collection of fairy tales, yet you believe in heaven, you’ll need to have a solid reason for your belief in the afterlife other than wishful thinking.
“Deciding to believe the Bible as it’s plainly written makes it much easier to settle on what is objectively true, not just what you hope is true. After all, a statement of faith without any logical starting point is just an exercise in creative writing.”
Clearly, from these statements of faith and this article, what you believe about the Bible is the most important thing in attaining the unity of the faith.
And, it’s not just these five statements of faith. I have heard this over and over from many, many Christians.
Four of the first five search results for “statement of faith” says something about the eternal state of believers and unbelievers. Let’s look at what they say about unbelievers.
- At physical death the unbeliever enters immediately into eternal, conscious separation from the Lord and awaits the resurrection of the body to everlasting judgment and condemnation.
- We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
- The Resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
- WE BELIEVE in the bodily resurrection of the just and unjust, the everlasting punishment of the lost, and the everlasting blessedness of the saved.
Clearly, to maintain the unity of the faith you must believe that those who do not believe in Jesus are going to hell to be eternally damned, burning in a lake of fire and torment.
These statements of faith include many other points and lots and lots of words. Everyone of the thousands of Christian denominations has their own statement of faith. Even if they don’t explicitly say it, these groups believe that to have the unity of the faith you must keep the Sabbath, eat certain foods and not other foods, not use instruments in worship, maintain certain views on creation, hold to certain views on the end of the world, and on and on.
Indeed, the article from www.theologydegrees.org gives you a list of questions to answer to help construct your statement of faith. The questions include:
- What do you believe about baptism?
- What do you believe about the Lord’s Supper?
- What do you believe about the will of God?
- What do you believe about the rapture, the great tribulation, and the Second Coming?
- What do you believe about heaven and hell?
But, do you know that Jesus gave us a statement of faith?
Do you know that Jesus told us everything that the his life and the witness of the scriptures was about?
Do you know that he told us this plainly and not in a parable so that we wouldn’t miss what he was saying?
Are you ready to read Jesus’ statement of faith?
Here is what Jesus said we must believe to maintain the unity of the faith.
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and the repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24.46-47)
Jesus didn’t go on for point after point, paragraph after paragraph, page after page.
Jesus said nothing about the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.
But, he did say all scripture points to one thing though – the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.
Jesus said nothing about the resurrection of the dead, the damned, condemnation, hell, a burning lake of fire, and eternal conscious torment.
But, he did tell us why the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead three days later – so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations.
This statement from Jesus is what we must believe to “attain to the unity of the faith.”
Jesus’ one statement is the “knowledge of the Son of God.”
Jesus’ one statement is “mature manhood.”
Jesus’ one statement is “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
He gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers so that we would know in the depths of our beings one thing – that the Christ suffered and rose from the dead three days later so that we could proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations.
Any other belief that must be held is a wind of doctrine, human cunning, and craftiness in deceitful schemes.
We speak the truth in love when we hold to Jesus’ statement of faith and proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Did you get that?
Speaking the truth in love has to do with the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus spoke the forgiveness of sins all the time and the religious leaders, those that thought they knew the scriptures the best and could find life in them, crucified Jesus for it.
And, that’s why all these statements of faith that start with the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible never once mention repentance and the forgiveness of sins. But, they sure do mention the un-forgiveness of sins, the damnation and condemnation of the unbeliever.
Therefore, many Christians today believe and act like speaking the truth in love is kindly telling someone that what they are doing is going to cause them to go to hell and be burned alive forever.
“Turn or burn. But, I love you.”
So, let’s stick to the true unity of the faith.
Let’s stick to the short, simple, clear statement that Jesus gave.
Let’s stick the one thing that Jesus said his entire life and ministry was about.
Let’s stick to the truth, the reality that Jesus said the scriptures witnessed to.
“The Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and the repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”
Faith starts and ends with Jesus.
Jesus, not the Bible, is the author and finisher, the founder and perfecter of the faith.