Blog #49: Eight Basic Claims of the Christian Faith

By John Cline
John Stott passed on to glory in 2011. You may be asking, “Who was John Stott?”  He was a British Christian leader and author and an Anglican cleric. Time magazine ranked Stott among the 100 most influential people in the world. About him, evangelist Billy Graham wrote, “I can’t think of anyone who has been more effective in introducing so many people to a biblical world view.” In 1958, John Stott published his influential book, Basic Christianity. Ranked number 16 on the list of Christianity Today’s “50 Most Influential Books” list, this book played a major role in my life as a young Christian in the 1970’s. I thought it might be helpful to review its contents in this blog. According to the online website “Eerdword: the eerdmans blog” here are “Eight Basic Claims of the Christian Faith”, as put down in his book Basic Christianity by John Stott:
1. Christianity is Christ
In essence, Christianity is Christ. Who Christ is and what he has done are the rock upon which the Christian religion is built. If he was not who he said he was, and if he did not do what he said he had come to do, then the foundation is undermined and the whole thing will collapse. Take Christ from Christianity, and you remove the heart from it; there is practically nothing left. Christ is the center of Christianity; everything else is peripheral. We are not concerned primarily with the effect he has had on the world, important though that is. Our concern is basically with the man himself. Who was he?
2. Jesus is Sinless
On one or two occasions, Jesus stated directly that he was without sin. When a woman was discovered in the act of adultery and dragged before him, he issued an embarrassing challenge to her accusers, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Gradually they drifted away until there was no one left. A little later in the same chapter, it is recorded that Jesus issued another challenge, this time about himself: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46). No one could answer. They slipped away when he accused them; but when the roles were reversed and he invited them to accuse him, he had no difficulty at all in staying where he was and bearing their scrutiny. They were all sinners; he was without sin. He lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father’s will. “I always do what pleases him,” he said (John 8:29). There was nothing boastful about those words. He spoke entirely naturally, with no fuss or pretension.
3. The Resurrection of Jesus
If Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, then he was beyond dispute a unique figure. It is not a question of his spiritual survival, nor of his physical resuscitation, but of his conquest of death and his resurrection to a new plane of existence altogether. We do not know of anyone else who has had this experience. Modern people are therefore as scornful as the philosophers in Athens who heard Paul preach on the Areopagus: “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered” (Acts 17:32). The argument is not that his resurrection establishes his deity, but that it fits with it. It is only to be expected that a supernatural person would come to and leave the earth in a supernatural way. This is in fact what the New Testament teaches and what, because of this, the church has always believed.
4. We’re Sinners
Paul opens his letter to the Romans with a closely reasoned argument, which extends over the first three chapters, that everyone, no matter who they are, is a sinner in God’s sight. He writes about the corrupt behavior of the pagan world and then adds that his own people, the people of Israel, are no better. They have been entrusted with God’s holy law—and even teach it to others. Yet they break it just as much as anyone else. Paul goes on to quote from the psalms and the prophet Isaiah to illustrate his theme, and concludes, “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22–23). John, another New Testament writer, is, if anything, even more explicit when he declares that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8), and “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar” (1 John 1:10). . . But what is sin? Yes, it affects everyone—but what exactly is it? Several words are used in the Bible to describe its nature. They can be put into two groups, according to whether wrongdoing is seen negatively or positively. Negatively, it is shortcoming. One word represents it as a lapse, a slip, a blunder. Another pictures it as the failure to hit a target. Yet another shows it to be an inner badness, having a character that falls short of what is good. Positively, sin is wrongdoing. One word describes sin as trespassing over a boundary. Another reveals it as failing to keep the law, and another as an act that contravenes justice.
5. Sin Separates Us from God . . . and Each Other
Even though we may not realize it now, the most terrible result of sin is that it cuts us off from God. Our highest destiny is to know God, to be in personal relationship with him. Our chief claim to nobility as human beings is that we were made in the image of God and are therefore capable of knowing him. But this God whom we are meant to know and whom we ought to know is a righteous Being, infinite in his moral perfection…It is more than the wrong things we do; it is a deep-seated inner sickness. In fact, the sins we commit are merely the external and visible indications of this internal and invisible illness, the symptoms of a moral disease.
6. Salvation through Christ
Through Jesus Christ the Savior we can be brought out of exile and put right with God; we can be born again, receive a new nature and be set free from our moral bondage; and we can have the old discords replaced by a harmony of love. Christ made the first aspect of salvation possible by his suffering and death, the second by the gift of his Spirit, and the third by the building of his church.
7. The Church is Christ’s Body
Sin tends to pull us out of harmony with other people. It alienates us not only from our Creator but also from our fellow creatures. We all know from experience how easily a community, whether a college, a hospital, a factory, or an office, can become a hotbed of jealousy and ill-feeling. We find it very difficult “to live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1) . . . But God’s plan is to restore our relationships with one another as well as with himself. So he does not save independent, unconnected individuals in isolation from one another; he is calling out a people to belong to him.
8. The Gospel Requires a Decision
The idea that a decision is needed in order to become a Christian strikes many people as very strange. Some imagine that they are already Christians because they were born in a Christian
country…Others think that if they have been brought up in a Christian home and taught to accept the Christian creed and Christian standards of behavior, nothing further is required of them. But whatever our background and upbringing, each of us as responsible adults must make up our own minds for or against Christ. We cannot remain neutral. Nor can we just drift into Christianity. Nor can anyone else settle the matter for us. We must decide for ourselves.
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