As Christians we are "disciples," which means we learn from the Master. Part of this involves learning who God is, reading what Jesus taught and did, and discovering the doctrines that we see in the Scripture. Jesus instructed His followers, "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" (Matthew 28:19-20).
God has provided means for the process for this learning to be accomplished and the reasons why it is so important. We find this in Ephesians 4:11-14:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up of 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.
This learning is a lifelong process and is part of the joy of being a follower of Jesus. It all begins with the new birth. As there is a physical maturation process that extends from infancy to our death, so there is a similar spiritual process. We approach it little by little, but it must be deliberate and focused. There is a reason why the Church through the ages has maintained schools where new Christians are taught the richness of their theologies.
Christian Basics is just that; it is where we start, where we lay down a foundation upon which to build. Paul wrote these words to his disciple Timothy: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
Section One comprises the Christian Basics, divided into three parts. Part One is entitled "The God Who Reveals Himself" and consists of seven lessons that form the foundation for Part Two, "The Great Themes of the Bible," which consists of five lessons that describe central biblical themes. Part Three, “The Church and the Christian Life,” contains four lessons.
Section Two is entitled “Extramural Debates and Intramural Conversations.” The four debates are those doctrines that are central to Christianity and without which there is no essential and biblical Christianity. The eleven conversations consider issues that Christians often disagree upon, sometimes hotly.
No two Christians agree on everything, yet all Christians agree on key doctrines, the points of which are summarized in the Apostles' Creed. It is, in fact, healthy that Christianity is not a "cookie-cutter" or top-heavy authoritative institution. We acknowledge the three basic branches of the Church—the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and the Protestant—besides some interesting groups that identify with none of the above. Despite differences, we all hold to the Triune God, the author of our Holy Bible, who provided the only means of salvation in our redeemer Lord Jesus Christ.
To this Holy Trinity we owe our devotion and praise.
The God Who Reveals Himself
Lesson One - the God of the Bible
Note: The Bible is not arranged like a systematic theology book. Information about the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, is scattered from Genesis to Revelation. God actually reveals and defines Himself in His words and His deeds. Our methodology is to gather the pieces of God's self revelation under broad themes. These will be God's sovereignty, holiness, and tri-unity.
A. The Creator God is Sovereign
1. Sovereign means that the God revealed in Scripture is almighty. He has done and will do what pleases Him.
2. God is omnipotent, or all powerful. God is omniscient, or all knowing. God is omnipresent, or all present.
3. There is nothing above or beyond God. He has no equal.
4. God is infinite, immaterial, invisible, eternal, self-existent, transcendent, immanent, unchangeable, Spirit, love, Person, and far more than can be expressed by words. (There will be some overlap in the meanings of some of these attributes of God.)
5. Examine: Genesis 1:1, 1:27; Exodus 3: 14; John 1:14, 4:24; Isaiah 55:9; 1 John 4:8; 1 Timothy 6:16.
B. The Creator God is Holy
1. Holy means set apart.
2. Holy means without sin; sin is that which is not in accord with the nature of God; it is the breaking of the Law of God as revealed in Scripture. The words "transgression" and "inequity" are close synonyms of sin but differ slightly.
3. Holy means perfection.
4. Because God is holy, He is also righteous and just. God acts toward His creation righteously and justly. He is the Judge of all humankind. God will judge sin. Jesus, the Son of God, is our righteousness.
5. Examine Exodus 3:1-6; Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 1:13-16; Romans 3:10, 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
C. The Creator God is Triune
1. God is a unity—a unity of three—a Trinity.
2. The Law affirms that God is one, which is the foundation of monotheism, and that oneness is a unity of three.
3. In Genesis 2:24 and Deuteronomy 6:4, the word "one" is echad.
a. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24)
b. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4).
4. Combining the information about God in the two passages, it is evident that Adam and Eve together were an echad and God is an echad. God is an echad—a trinity or three-in-one. That God reveals Himself1 as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not then an expression of three deities. Here is a clear look at a paradox, of which there are many in the Scripture. The trinity is one yet three, three yet one.
5. Examine Genesis 1:2, 1:26, 11:7; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 63:10; Matthew 28:19; Luke 3:21-22; John 10:30, 14:8-9; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; and 1 Peter 1:2.
To be continued
1 God is both male and female at once, which is clear from Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Translators and editors have traditionally and customarily used the male personal pronoun for God rather than employ a clumsier and complicated means of referring to the God of Scripture. Please note also that in the current work, the author capitalizes pronouns referring to God, while the editors of the English Standard Version of the Bible quoted in the Christian Basics do not do so.