What Is Christianity?

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Image by Jeff Jacobs. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 12/Dec/2020

Christian Answer

Jesus Christ, the Central Figure of Christianity

Christianity is a monotheistic, Trinitarian religion which puts Jesus Christ at the centre of all things. In fact, the most significant difference between Christianity and every other faith and religion in the world is Jesus Christ himself. While there are many people in the world, both religious and non-religious, who regard Jesus as a great man, prophet, or even the greatest being other than God, Christians go a step further. For Christians, to say that Jesus is just these things (even the second-greatest being in existence), and nothing more, is an insult, tantamount to utterly rejecting Christ and making him out to be a liar.

Christians believe that Jesus is God Almighty in the flesh (John 1:1–3, 14), the greatest being in existence (John 3:31; Ephesians 1:20–21) and the second Person of the Trinity, God the Son (Matthew 28:19), the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), who created all things and was never himself created (Colossians 1:16–18). Furthermore, Christians believe that Jesus is the Saviour of humanity (1 John 4:14), the Promised Messiah (Christ) of the Old Testament (Luke 24:25–26), who lived the sinless life we failed to live on our behalf (Hebrews 4:15), died for our sins by crucifixion (1 Peter 2:24), rose again from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–5), and ascended to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven (Romans 8:34), as God planned before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:20–21).

… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13–14, ESVUK)

Sacred Scripture of Christianity

The Sacred Text of Christianity is the Holy Bible, which consists of the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God—God’s perfect and complete spiritual revelation—given to humankind in written form (2 Timothy 3:16–17; Deuteronomy 12:32). Christians believe that God communicates to them through his Word (Hebrews 4:12), that the Word of God reveals to them his will (1 Thessalonians 4:3–6; 5:16–18), and that all divine doctrines come from the Bible alone (Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 4:6).

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)

Salvation, the Central Message of Christianity

Very much could be said about Christianity, but the central message of Christianity and the Bible is that God the Father has made a way to reconcile sinful humanity to himself, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This can be summed up as the following:

  1. All humans, who were created by God in his image and after his likeness (Genesis 1:26–27), are sinners because we have broken God’s commandments and therefore stand guilty before God, deserving his eternal punishment in Hell (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:23; Matthew 25:46).
  2. God the Father sent Jesus Christ into the world because of his great love for all people (John 3:16), who atoned for our sins by his righteousness (Romans 5:19), death on the cross (Isaiah 53:10–12; Romans 5:9–11), and resurrection from the dead (Romans 4:23–25), and who has made reconciliation between humans and God possible (2 Corinthians 5:18–20).
  3. The Holy Spirit delivers to us the benefits that Christ merited for us—forgiveness of sins, eternal life in Heaven, and salvation—(Romans 8:9–11; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5) through the written or spoken Word of God (1 Peter 1:12; James 1:18) and the Sacraments (Acts 2:38; Matthew 26:26–28), and helps us to live as God wants us to live (1 Peter 1:2).
  4. We receive these benefits by simple faith and trust in Jesus Christ, which believes that for Christ’s sake, God has forgiven us all our sins (Galatians 2:15–16; Colossians 1:13–14), as a free gift of God’s grace alone (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8–9).

When the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and listened to Satan instead in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), their once pure nature became corrupted, and all subsequent humans have inherited this corrupt nature called Original Sin (Romans 5:12–13, 19). This makes us naturally opposed to God’s will and more inclined to sinning (Romans 8:5–8). When the Holy Spirit gives Christians a spiritual rebirth (John 3:5), however, God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and transforms our minds so that we desire God’s ways, and not the ways of our sinful flesh (Galatians 5:22–25).

… yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Jesus Saves

The Bible describes in various ways the saved state that Christians are in. Through faith in Christ, Christians are justified—declared righteous by God—and have peace with God (Romans 5:1). Jesus obeyed all of God’s commands perfectly in our place (Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 4:15), and through faith, Christians have put on Christ like a garment and received his righteousness, which covers their naked sinfulness (Galatians 3:27; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus fully paid the sin penalty we deserved on the cross, as our substitute (1 Timothy 2:5–6; 1 Peter 3:18), because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and on the cross he bore all our sins (1 Peter 2:24).

By his death, Jesus has redeemed—purchased from captivity—Christians from all lawlessness (Titus 2:13–14), and in his blood they have an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11–12). By his bodily resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death once and for all (Romans 6:9–10), and all those who are baptised into his name share in his victory (1 Corinthians 15:54–56) and will be raised again to be with him in Heaven (Romans 6:3–5). In Jesus, we are reconciled to God and saved from God’s righteous judgement and our sins (Romans 5:9–10; Matthew 1:21), and there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12).

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11–12)

Christians believe that people can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and not any other person or religion, or by joining any group which claims to exclusively “represent” Christ (John 14:6; Romans 10:13–15). This is in contrast to the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult,¹ which teaches that one can only be saved by becoming a member of the Watch Tower Society, and Buddhism, which teaches that no one needs salvation from sins or God’s righteous judgement.

God’s Nature

In contrast to polytheistic religions like Hinduism, which teaches that there are many deities, Christianity teaches that there is only one God in all existence (Isaiah 43:10), who created all things by himself (Isaiah 44:24), and whose personal name is Yahweh or “I Am”, signifying God’s eternal, self-existent nature (Exodus 3:14–15). God is sovereign (1 Timothy 6:15), capable of doing anything he pleases (Job 42:2), knows everything (1 John 3:20), is present everywhere (Ephesians 4:6), and never changes according to his nature and will (Malachi 3:6).

God is not only good (Exodus 34:6–7) and the one who teaches us what is good in his Law and commandments (Micah 6:8), but he is goodness itself: light and love (1 John 1:5, 4:16), the source of all good gifts in life (James 1:17), and thus cannot act in a way contrary to goodness (Titus 1:2). Though God punishes sinners and disciplines sinful Christians because he is just (Romans 1:18; Hebrews 12:5–6), God also loves all people, and wants all people to be saved through believing in Christ (1 Timothy 2:3–4).

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3–4)

The Holy Trinity

Christians believe, as the Bible teaches, that throughout the Scriptures God has revealed himself to us as a Trinity of three divine Persons: the Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father (Matthew 3:16–17), but that God is the Father (Ephesians 1:1–2), Son (John 20:28–29), and Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3–4); three Persons of the one Being.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a profound mystery which teaches that within God’s single, undivided being is three co-equal, co-eternal Persons, or centres of consciousness, who can relate with one another in personal ways (John 14:15–17), but who are one in rank, authority, power, and essence. (Please see: What Is the Holy Trinity? for a more sufficient treatment on this topic.)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19–20)

God’s Judgement and Life After Death

Christians believe that Jesus will come again, at a day and an hour no one knows or will expect (Mark 13:32–33; Matthew 24:42, 44), to judge the living and the dead (1 Timothy 4:1). On that day, he will judge all those who have not believed in him according to all the sins that they have committed in life (Revelation 20:11–13) and will cast them into Hell—the absence of God’s loving presence—along with Satan (the prince of demons, see Matthew 12:24–26) and his fallen angels for all eternity as punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:7–10; Matthew 25:31–34, 41, 46). In Hell there is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever (Matthew 13:41–42).

However, Jesus will judge all those who have believed in him as God and Saviour according to his own righteousness, with which the Holy Spirit clothes all Christians the moment they believe in Christ (Philippians 3:8–9; Galatians 3:27), and will send them to Heaven—God’s loving presence—for all eternity (Hebrews 9:27–28; Philippians 3:20–21). In Heaven there is no more suffering or death and people dwell with God in harmony forever (Revelation 21:3–4). This life is our only chance to believe, because after death, God will judge us (Hebrews 9:27). Because Christians have the righteousness of Christ, God’s Word promises Christians that they can therefore be assured of their salvation (1 John 5:13).

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27–28)

Christian Morality

Christians believe that the most important commandments of God are to love God with their whole beings, and love their fellow neighbour as themselves—which refers to anyone we encounter, including friends and enemies—as Jesus himself taught (Matthew 22:34–40; 5:43–45). Of particular significance is also Jesus’ Golden Rule, which teaches that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12). Many atheists and agnostics in Western countries today would be surprised to find out that most of their moral values actually come from Christianity, rather than secular philosophies.

Christians are also commanded by God to share the Good News of Jesus with other people (the gospel) (Mark 16:15), to believe, accept, and teach only biblical doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3–5), and to live holy, pure lives in accordance with God’s will (his Word) (1 Peter 1:14–16; Romans 12:2). In contrast to adherents of Judaism, who believe that they are still obligated to uphold all 613 commandments of the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, Christians believe that they are no longer under the Old Covenant, but the New (Hebrews 8:6–13).

Christians believe that in the New Covenant, Christ has freed us from having to obey all 613 commandments (Colossians 2:16–17) because he fulfilled them perfectly on our behalf (Matthew 5:17), and that God only wants us to uphold the moral commandments, as summed up in the New Testament (Romans 13:8–10; 1 John 3:23). As noted above, though, Christians do not do this to earn their way to Heaven (Galatians 2:21); instead, Christians do this out of gratitude and thankfulness to God for loving and saving them (1 John 4:19), and also simply because it is right.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet”, and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8–10)

The New Life in Christ

Those who truly abide in God will abide in love, too, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8). God has also given Christians a new birth in the Christian rite of baptism, in which our old sinful self dies, and in its place, our new self in Christ’s likeness is raised (Romans 6:3–14). Christians believe that the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—dwells within them (John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16), and that the Holy Spirit daily conforms them to Christ’s image and likeness, which humans lost after Adam and Eve’s transgression (2 Corinthians 3:18), guides them in the faith (John 14:16–17, 26), and intercedes for them whenever they pray to God (Romans 8:26).

Prayer, which is simply talking to God, is an important aspect of the daily Christian life (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18; Philippians 4:6). Christians can approach God the Father in prayer as a son or a daughter would approach their loving father, since the Holy Spirit has adopted Christians as God’s children (Romans 8:15–17).

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15–17)

Even though Christians are still sinners like everyone else, when Christians do inevitably sin, God will forgive them if they are genuinely sorry for it, and keep their faith in Christ (1 John 1:8–10). (For God knows our hearts.) Reading the Bible daily is also an important practice in the Christian life, since this is one of the ways in which Christians are fed spiritually (Matthew 4:4) and by which they guard themselves from false doctrines (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Timothy 6:3–4).

The Community of Faith

According to the Bible, God expects Christians to be part of a local and biblical church community, which they can attend regularly to support other Christians in their faith, to grow as Christ’s disciples, and to receive God’s good gifts (Matthew 18:20; Hebrews 10:24–25; 1 Timothy 3:14–15). The Christian faith has different denominations, but not one of them is the only true one, since the true church is the congregation of saints (Christians) who in every place call upon the biblical Jesus’ name (1 Corinthians 1:2–3), where the gospel is rightly taught (Romans 1:16) and the sacraments are rightly administered (1 Corinthians 10:16–17).

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)

As a general rule, most churches that accept the biblical teachings of the three Ecumenical Christian Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds) are legitimate Christian churches, whereas cults reject them. To unburden our troubled consciences, each Sunday in church services, Christ graciously takes hold of Christians and strengthens their faith when he gives them his own body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Christian rite of Holy Communion (Matthew 26:26–29; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26). This is a profound mystery that God’s Word does not explain fully, but in which Christians nevertheless rejoice and find much comfort regularly, as did the Christians of the New Testament church (Acts 2:42; 20:7).

Christianity, the One True Religion

As mentioned before, because Christians affirm that Jesus is the only way to salvation, as Jesus himself taught (John 14:6), this means that Christianity is either the only true religion in the world, since every other religion rejects this, or it is a false religion. Christians affirm that Christianity is in fact the only true religion based upon the rock solid foundation of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, as recorded in the Bible.

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)

1. Jesus Fulfiled Biblical Prophecy

Firstly, Christians appeal to the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. For thousands of years, from Adam and Eve to before Jesus’ birth, God’s Old Testament prophets proclaimed the coming of the Christ (Messiah) and the signs that would accompany this. Throughout Jesus’ life, he fulfilled every prophecy about him that were to take place during his earthly ministry, and thus proved that he is in fact the Saviour of the world (Luke 24:25–27, 44–47). Some of the prophecies that Jesus fulfiled include: Jesus’ miraculous birth of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18–25), Judas’ betrayal against Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3, 9–10), and Jesus being pierced in his side after his death on the cross (John 19:31–37).

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

2. Jesus Performed Miracles

Secondly, Christians point towards the many miracles that Jesus performed. If Jesus were a liar, he could not have performed the mighty miracles he did, which included casting out demons (Luke 9:40–42), healing the sick (Luke 4:38–41), and raising the dead (Luke 7:11–17). This is in contrast to alleged prophets like Muhammad of Islam, and Joseph Smith of the Mormon cult, both of whom did not perform a single miracle in their lifetimes.

And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marvelled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him? (Luke 8:24–25)

3. Jesus Rose from the Dead

Thirdly, Christians point to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. During his lifetime, Jesus predicted various times that he would suffer, be killed, and rise again from the dead on the third day (Mark 10:33–34), and this actually happened (John 20:26–27). No false prophet would ever promise something that they know they would not be able to keep. By assuring his disciples that he would fulfil a seemingly impossible promise, this proves that Jesus was genuine, and not just a con man.

As for his resurrection, after Jesus died from crucifixion, the Bible records that the Roman soldiers who were guarding Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:62–66) found that it was empty on the third day, even though they were guarding it 24/7 (Matthew 28:1–7). Furthermore, Matthew and John, two of Jesus’ Twelve apostles who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, recorded some of what he said and did when he appeared to them after he was raised (Matthew 28:16–20; John 20:19–23), and so did Mark and Luke, who knew the eyewitnesses and wrote down what they were told (Mark 16:1–8; Luke 1:1–4; 24:36–43).

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:27–29)

Paul himself, who once persecuted Christians but then encountered the resurrected Christ in a vision on the road to Damascus, consequently converted to Christianity and became a devout believer (Galatians 1:11–17; 1 Timothy 1:12–15). He also reported that after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus had appeared to more than 500 disciples at one time, clearly too many for it to have just been a “hallucination” (1 Corinthians 15:3–9).

Furthermore, the fact that the first person to testify to Jesus’ resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene (John 20:15–18), is good evidence that this was not made up. This is because a woman’s testimony in the Greco-Roman world was not considered reliable, and if people wanted to fabricate the resurrection account, they would have made the first witness a man. Luke also reported that Jesus proved that he was alive to his many disciples over a period of 40 days, before returning to Heaven (Acts 1:3).

4. The Conviction of Jesus’ Followers and the Rapid Growth of the Early Christian Church

Aside from the Holy Spirit’s work (Acts 2:4; 4:31), the resurrection of Jesus was the primary cause for the rapid growth for the Christian faith in the first century AD. The eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection were willing to not only suffer but even die at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and Romans for their conviction that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead (Acts 7:54–60; 2 Timothy 2:8–10). Some may be willing to die for a deeply-held conviction, but no one would die for what they know to be false, which is evidence that the early Christians had in fact seen Jesus raised from death.

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:8–10)

What’s more is that the massive growth for the Christian religion in its early stages does not make sense if Jesus had actually not been raised from the dead. The Christian faith’s legitimacy rests upon Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12–19), and there was nothing at all that the early Christians could have possibly gained from lying about it, since as a religious minority in a hostile environment, it only brought them suffering and intense persecution. The facts therefore point towards Jesus’ resurrection being a reality, which means that everything that Jesus and his apostles said and did was true, which means that Christianity is the only true religion.

Conclusion

Christianity is a religion that puts Jesus Christ at the centre of all things. Christians believe that Jesus is our God and Saviour, the second Person of the Trinity, who died for our sins on the cross and rose again from the dead for our salvation. Christians believe that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone and not any other person or group out there. Christians hold the 66 books of the Bible to be the perfect and complete Word of God, and try, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live according to God’s teachings contained within. Christians may not be perfect, but they have a loving, forgiving God who has had mercy on them, and given them the assurance of eternal life.

God offers the free gift of eternal life to you as well, and you can receive this right now by believing that although you are an unworthy sinner, God has forgiven you of all your sins for Christ’s sake, who died for all our sins and rose again, as a free gift of his grace alone (Romans 3:21–26). Genuine faith, which is a gift that the Holy Spirit gives us (1 Corinthians 12:3), is always accompanied by genuine remorse for sins, i.e. repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10–11), which naturally and inevitably leads us to doing good works in accordance with God’s will (John 15:5; Luke 3:8). But it is not us who do these works by our own power, but God, who works in and through Christians (Philippians 2:13).

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8–10)

Notes

1. A cult, in this article, refers to a group with unorthodox or heretical teachings which distinguish it from mainstream Christianity, or whichever religion the cult is based on.

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