The Evangelical Herald
The Four "R"s of the Christian Faith
We, who are living in the 21st century, are the recipients of many religious creeds and statements of faith. The intent of these creeds is to delineate, in a summarized fashion, the important beliefs of a religious organization. These doctrines have been formulated over many centuries in religious councils, schools of theology, and denominational debates. As a result, most Christian churches require of their members an acceptance of a creed or statement of faith if they are to belong to their fellowship. These creeds then are seen as the fundamentals necessary to belong to the fellowship of believers.
Without passing judgement on these various creeds and assuming that a believer in Christ has accepted the divine record as the inspired Word of God, we believe that there are certain essential beliefs for one to be a child of God. However, we would be wise to let the Spirit of God lead us to understand, through a personal study of His Word, what those essential beliefs are. This approach is quite different then having a religious organization tell us what we ought to believe in. In order to arrive to those fundamental beliefs, we must be humble people of faith, people who are not relying on man's past ideas or traditions, people who hunger for truth, and people who are courageous to accept God's truths no matter what the consequences. Above all, we must approach the scriptures with an open mind that has been transformed to a God centered worldview and is guided by the Spirit of God Himself.
It is the intent of this writer to address the foundational beliefs as taught in the primitive church (Heb. 6:1,2). As a help in our search for truth for the fundamentals of the Christian faith, we set forth the four "R"'s of the Christian's saving faith. We set them forth not as doctrines or another "statement of faith", but as general principles for the reader's consideration. These four "R"'s are based on the reading of the scriptures without past religious theological dogmas. However, we believe these concepts run through the scriptures and clearly stand out without deep theological debate. All four require explicit faith on the authority of God's Word, humility to accept them, and an attitude of "uncompromising on the essentials, charity on the non-essentials".
The First "R"
The first of these "R" s is the concept of "Redemption". Redemption is the idea that something that belonged to us was lost and must be bought back with a payment of some kind. What was that something that was lost? From the reading of the Genesis account, we can clearly see that it was life itself that was lost (Gen. 3:19). The life that was lost was not only the capability to live without dying, but it was the loss of a paradise earth where harmony with our Creator was the foremost blessing. The indescribable relationship between the Creator and His creation was lost.
Without going into the deep theological question as to why God allowed this to happen, we can only conclude that it did happen. We see the reality of this truth every time we witness the death of a loved one or when we face the reality of our finite lives. It happened when sin came into the world that God created. As we read in the divine account, we see that sin was the result of man's disobedience to His Creator (Gen. 2:16,17). From that time unto now, we have seen that the whole creation has been under the penalty of death - meaning that, not only that man at some point in time ceases to exist, but has lost the blessing of living in relationship with His Creator. That is what was lost!
But redemption involves purchasing back what was lost. The Biblical concept of redemption is based on love and justice. Justice demands a payment of a value of equal or more value to redeem what was lost. What was the value of the first man and woman if not the life force of the Creator and the innocence of living as free moral creatures capable of worshipping and commuting with their Creator?
The redemption concept of required justice is answered by God's attribute of love. From God's love comes mercy and forgiveness. From the very beginning of the Genesis account, we see that God did not leave man without a promise of a redeemer (Gen. 3:15). Through historical accounts, through types, and through shadows the Old Testament bears witness that God did not forsake His creatures. The promised Messiah was to redeem God's chosen people.
True to His promises, in due time, God sent forth His only begotten Son to redeem what was lost (John 3:16; I Tim. 2:5,6; Rom. 5:6). Born of a virgin, His entrance was supernaturally conceived. His name "Jehoshua" means "JAH saves". He was the Word of God (Logos) made flesh (Jhn. 1:1). In the flesh, He had all the characteristics of a human being - a free moral being capable of choosing right from wrong, yet without the inherent sin of Adam. As such, He was the equivalent of Adam. Having lived without sin, He met the requirement of justice as a redeemer of equal value of what was lost (Heb. 4:15). And true to God's character of love, He died in sacrifice to redeem the human race from the captivity of sin and death (Jhn 3:16).
Essential Christian belief - the first "R": Redemption. A Christian must believe that God's love gave His son, Jesus, to die on the cross to redeem us from sin and death (Rom. 5:6-8).
The Second "R"
The second of these "R" s is the concept of "Rebirth". Mankind now had a redeemer, but in order to participate in this divine exchange, a human being must be united with the redeemer. That is to say, a man or a woman must recognize their need of a redeemer and depend on Him for Divine justice in order for the Redeemer to benefit them (Jhn. 3:3). Even though He died for all mankind, not all would recognize their need of a redeemer, much less, totally depend on His meritorious work on their behalf to receive the benefits of His sacrifice.
Because Jesus did not stay in the tomb, but was resurrected, those that would benefit from Jesus' death would become united in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:5-11). A person that is to enjoy the blessings of the redemption must experience a second birth - he/she must be born again (Jhn 3:3). This second birth is not just a "new beginning" - a chance to start all over again, but it is a totally new birth. This new birth gives us a completely new nature - we die to the carnal nature and become spiritual beings (Rom. 5:14: I Cor. 15:45).
Those that have experienced this born again experience, have repented of their life without God, have died to the old man in association with Christ's sacrifice, are now alive in the new man, and are now associated with Christ in His resurrection. In death, we die to all human aspirations of self-glory that the world has to offer - in resurrection, we live in Christ for His purposes to bring glory to the Father. This voluntary moral decision gives the believer the right to enter into God's eternal Kingdom because of his/her standing in Christ (Rom. 8:6-11).
Essential Christian belief - the second "R": Rebirth. A Christian must experience His own death and resurrection to become associated with His redeemer and become a spiritual member of God's family (Gal. 2:20).
The Third "R"
The third of these "R" s is the process of "restoration". Having been born anew unto a spiritual being, the believer has to grow unto maturity in his new life. The values, desires, and interests of the old man are no longer part of his new nature. As a newborn member of the citizenship of the eternal kingdom, he enters into a new world - new values, desires, and interests.
This process of growth is commonly understood as sanctification, but put more simply, it is a restoration unto the character and image of Christ (Col. 3:10). Christ is now our king. Christ is now our all - we love to serve, obey, and glorify His Name. To do this, we begin as newborn children with a desire of spiritual food (I Pet. 2:2,3). This desire is a hunger to grow to a spiritual mature man/woman of God.
Our Father has graciously provided all the resources necessary for this growth. Foremost among these resources, is His revealed will as brought to light in the Holy Bible (II Tim. 3:16,17). With the baptism and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God in our new natures, we find God's eternal plan of the ages and how we, as His children, can be in harmony with it (I Cor. 2:6-15). Within this plan is His desire that all His children learn to live under the principles that govern His eternal Kingdom. These principles are taught to us in His Word and we, His children, humbly submit to them.
Other resources provided for our eternal welfare are prayer, service, and fellowship with like kindred beings. Prayer is the communication line between the believer and the One who has the power to carry forth the restoration of our natures (I Thess. 5:17; I Tim. 2:8; Lk. 21:36)). Service is the action that confirms our desires of our hearts - it restores our natures from a self-centered life to a God-centered life (Matt. 25:31-46; I Pet. 4:10; Eph 6:70). Fellowship with other believers is the means God has provided for us to belong to His Body - the church of the living God (Rom. 12:4-10; I Cor. 12:12-31). Jesus being the Head, His body provides for the needs of all its members - spiritual encouragement, intercession, instruction, and loving relationships.
Essential Christian belief - the third "R": Restoration. A Christian must submit to the instruction and guidance of the Word as revealed by the Spirit, by prayer, by service, and by fellowship to shape him/her unto a citizen of heaven - thus being restored to the image of His Son - the second Adam.
The Fourth "R"
The fourth of these "R" s is the expectation of "repossession". The concept of repossession is a concept of hope. It is hope that drives us to look forward to the time we will repossess all that was lost in our human experience.
Although we now have a redeemer in Christ Jesus, although we now have been reborn into the divine nature, and although we are in the process of being restored to be citizens of heaven, we remain in a spiritual battle with a defeated foe, Satan. We battle against the flesh, the world, and Satan daily (I Jhn. 3:15,16; I Pet. 5:8). But we will possess all that was lost: our sinless nature, fellowship with our Creator, a paradise kingdom, and life everlasting! That will be the glorious day that we have longed for. It is the kingdom that Christ came announcing and that we were taught to pray for that we will possess (Matt. 4:17; 6:9,10).
The many Biblical promises and prophetic utterances point to the repossession of the promised land - a city not made by human hands (Heb. 11:9-16). We believe that it is a lack of focusing on the eternal that encourages divisions among Christians as many get entangled in the affairs of this temporal life (2Tim. 2:4). It is this eternal perspective and vision that gives meaning to our lives and makes us seek those things that are from above (Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1,2).
Essential Christian belief - the fourth "R": Restoration. A Christian must look forward to the future fulfillment of repossessing, in all its fullness, that which was lost. In His Kingdom there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). "Even so come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).
A Call To Unity Through Individual Growth
We call upon all Christians to fulfill our Lord's desire to be one in Him by coming together on these essential beliefs and permitting the Spirit of God to guide each believer to come to a more mature understanding of his/her faith. Love demands that we be tolerant of each brother/sister's own personal growth unto all truth in the non-essentials.
Let us let go of those dogmas formulated by inquisitive minds on questions that God never intended for us to fully comprehend (Tit. 3:9). How can the finite minds of fallen men understand the deep and mysterious realities of heaven (Isa. 55:8,9)? How can we fully understand the nature and power of life originating from an All-mighty being, Creator of a universe without beginning and without end? Let us humans be satisfied with the revelation that our Creator has given us during this present age that will bring us to comprehend the necessary beliefs that will bring us to Him and Who will guide us to the truths that are necessary for our citizenship in heaven.