What Are the Essentials of Christianity?

The essentials of Christianity can all be summed up in what is called the Gospel: the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s pretty much what it comes down to.

Heck, we could even boil it down further and say simply, Christ, and we’d still be correct.

Although it’s simple, it’s utterly profound, and we’ll see why in just a moment. But first, let’s take a look at what is commonly referred to as the Gospel.

The apostle Paul says it best:

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Another variation of this, an even simpler version, can be found in Acts:

“They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”” – Acts‬ ‭16:31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

And very often we see another version quoted in 1 Corinthians:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

All of these passages have been used to summarize the Gospel, but they all tell the same story: the good news of Jesus Christ.

It’s good news because it doesn’t depend on us meeting the perfect standard of God to earn His favor. Rather, it’s that God in Christ, met that perfect standard for us. This is why it’s good news.

When talking about the essentials, I personally like to use Romans 10:9 because it is so rich with other truths.

You might say there’s only one essential, and it’s found in Romans 10:9.

But let’s take a closer look for some additional truths.

Here it is again:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Let’s pick this apart.

Believe In Your Heart

In order to be a Christian, you must believe in your heart, which requires faith. Seems simple, but you’d be surprised.

It’s not enough to know all the facts concerning Christianity; you still have to believe them in your heart.

After all, Christianity is a faith. In fact, this is exactly what the ancients were commended for; Hebrews 11 is a great source for that.

Often times, you’ll hear people ask about those who never heard about Christ, or maybe children who died at a young age, or whatever else the case might be? The Bible doesn’t give us all those answers explicitly, but it does give us some.

Hebrews 11 makes it abundantly clear that the ancients were commended for their faith, with the most familiar example being Abraham.

Abraham obviously existed prior to Christ, so he didn’t know him. However, Scripture tells us that he was commended for his faith. He was commended for believing and trusting in God.

Let’s take a look.

“What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” – Romans‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

All of the Old Testament saints were justified by faith, even though they didn’t know Christ.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” – Hebrews‬ ‭11:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It might seem obvious to say that faith is an essential, but I’m surprised at how un-obvious this actually is.

I constantly encounter people who say they grew up in church, or they know what the Bible says, or their dad is a preacher, or whatever. That’s great and all, but none of that matters for salvation. What matters is that we believe it!

And that’s the real question for everyone: do you believe?

Without faith, or belief, you can’t be a Christian.

Belief is essential.

Jesus Is Lord

One of the biggest essentials, I think, is the deity of Jesus Christ.

If you don’t believe that Jesus is Lord – that Jesus is God – you simply cannot be a Christian.

Side note: this also assumes that God exists (I know this should be obvious, but, once again, I am hesitant to assume things are obvious these days). Belief in God is required.

The deity of Christ is a major issue within so-called Christian circles. This is what separates authentic Christianity with the cults, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Bible makes clear that Jesus is God. The Bible says that Christ created all things in the beginning (John 1; Colossians 1; Hebrews 1).

The Bible makes clear that Jesus claimed to be God! He claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30). He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). He even referred to Himself as the great “I am,” only to be associated with the one true God of Israel (John 8:58). The Bible makes it abundantly clear that Jesus claimed to be God, and this was also the very reason they wanted Him crucified (John 10:33).

The Bible also makes it clear that the disciples believed Him to be God (John 20:28). So, in order to be a Christian, we must also believe that Jesus is God.

The deity of Christ is essential.

God Raised Him From the Dead

Christian cross

Well, we’ve already established that Jesus is God. How, then, are we to believe that God also raised Jesus from the dead?

This, I think, is where the Trinity is helpful. If Jesus is God, but God also raised Jesus from the dead, we are assuming a plurality of persons in the Godhead. This is one of the reasons why Christians believe in the Trinity.

But let’s get back to a risen Jesus . . .

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the paramount miracle of Christianity. Paul says that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:14).

And that’s because we, too, look forward to a resurrected body; we must put off this body of death and put on our resurrected body, immortal and imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Christ’s resurrection is essential.

You Will Be Saved

When sharing the good news of salvation, I have heard some people ask, “Saved from what?” And you know what, that’s a good question!

In order to be saved, we need to first know what we’re being saved from . . . We need to know that we need saving!

Well, we are being saved from sin and death. For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And that death is Hell – eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

We obviously need to believe that we are sinners in need of a savior. We need to believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Indeed, it is difficult to be saved if you don’t think you need to be.

Moreover, we need to know that this saving will take place sometime in the future; that’s why we believe we will be saved!

This is our blessed hope; this is what Christians look forward to – eternity with Christ – and we anticipate Christ’s return.

We don’t need to necessarily agree on when He will return, only that He will return. And He’s coming back to take us with Him in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 31:1).

You will often hear Christians disagree on when this will happen (pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, mid-tribulation), but when this will happen is not essential; only that it will happen is.

The fact that we will be saved is essential.

Conclusion

It is truly amazing that all of these essentials are basically the one essential found in Romans 10:9:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

So many truths can be derived from this one simple, yet profound statement.

The essentials of Christianity are fundamentally what it means to be a Christian; what Christians believe and teach about their faith.

Some are taken aback by the tens of thousands of other denominations out there, but I’m not at all. The Bible is very sophisticated literature, and it’s easy to disagree on much of what it says.

However, I have noticed that those disagreements concern non-essential doctrine, and not what’s outlined above. So, there’s really nothing wrong with that, as long as we can disagree in love and respect. Those are still our brothers and sisters in Christ; those are still fellow Christians.

The real issue occurs when we disagree on essentials; we cannot disagree on those. If we do, we might find ourselves disqualified.

This is where Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses disqualify themselves as Christians. They disagree on one or more of the essentials; we cannot do that.

It is not my intention to decide the fate of those persons; however, it is my intention to show the difference in essential belief and why it’s dangerous.

The essentials of the historic Christian faith are what separates true believers from non-believers and other cults, and they’re very easy to identify.

When in doubt, just remember Romans 10:9; it is that essential that speaks for all essentials.

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2 thoughts on “What Are the Essentials of Christianity?

  1. I like the points that you make in your article. However, I would say that sometimes the essentials are what we don’t say. For instance, we don’t say, “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and [insert god]” like those who erroneously believe that there are many deities out there. It also doesn’t say “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and Mary or the pope,” as many Catholics believe.

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