What I believe
When I say ‘I believe’, I mean that I believe what the Bible says. I believe that the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3: 16, 2 Peter 1: 21) and therefore is without error, although people can make mistakes in interpreting it. I believe that I (and others) may be wrong but that the Bible never is, that Christians may change their interpretation of the Bible as they come to understand it better but that the Bible does not change its meaning.
I believe that there is only one God, existing as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit (John 10: 30, Matthew 28: 18-19, 1 Corinthians 8: 6).
God is eternal, utterly perfect in holiness, wisdom, power and love (Revelation 1: 8, Isaiah 40: 28). He created the universe and He sustains it (Acts 17: 24), He has no limitations (Jeremiah 32: 27). God is good, He does not lie and He does not make mistakes (Numbers 23: 19, Hebrews 6: 18).
Jesus – Who He is and Why He Came
Jesus came to show us what God is like (John 14: 9). Fully God, He came to live among us as a man (Colossians 1: 15-17, Isaiah 53: 3, Philippians 2: 5-11), the living, walking, breathing word of God (John 1: 14, Hebrews 1: 1-3, John 5: 39). Whatever question you put to me all I can say is ‘what He said’ – see the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible.
I believe that Jesus is the unique Son of God who became fully human to live among us, born by miraculous conception to Mary (known as the virgin birth, Matthew 1: 20, Isaiah 7: 14).
Jesus showed us who God is in the way that He lived and the way in which He treated people, particularly women, children, the sick, the poor and the vulnerable. He taught us how to live. See the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible.
But He had a more important reason for coming – to reconcile us to God.
Sin separates us from God in life and if we don’t get right with God in our lifetime it will separate us from Him in eternity. He is holy, we are full of wrong-doing (1 John 1: 10).
The Bible says simply that God loved humanity so much that since we couldn’t bridge the gap between His holiness and our own imperfections, Jesus stepped in as the only one able to do it (1 John 3: 5, Galatians 4: 4-5, 2 Corinthians 5: 19). He lived the perfect life we couldn’t, suffered and died on the cross to pay for our wrongdoing and make us right with God, was resurrected to prove that He has power to give life to those who trust in Him (John 5: 24, John 3: 16-17).
I believe that Jesus alone can save people from sin and death, and He alone can freely give eternal life to those who put their trust in Him. Without Jesus, we are lost (Acts 4: 12, 1 John 2: 1-2, John 3: 18, Hebrews 9: 26-8).
Sin is wrong-doing (Romans 3: 23, Mark 7: 20-23), following our own self-interest rather than God’s way (Isaiah 53: 6, James 4: 17); ultimately it’s the rejection of God (John 12: 48-50). Sin is like a legal debt or charge that Jesus cancelled (Colossians 2: 14). We are still guilty but He paid the price for our disobedience (Romans 5: 8) so if we turn to Him we’re no longer condemned (Romans 8: 1-4). The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the continuing rejection of God (1 John 1: 8-10, 2 Peter 3: 9, John 6: 37).
Living a good life
The Bible is clear that we cannot save ourselves (Ephesians 2: 8-9, John 6: 28-9). If it were possible for us to save ourselves by good deeds then Jesus would not have had to die on the cross (1 Peter 3: 18, 1 Peter 2: 24, Romans 4: 25). It is insulting to God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice if we try to save ourselves with good deeds. God is holy; even at our best we are far from that (Isaiah 64: 6).
Christians follow Jesus’ teachings and their lives should reflect Him increasingly over their lifetime but any good that we do is as a result of Him changing us. We are saved for good works not by them ie we should do good to honour God and help others but that good cannot cancel out our sins. Only Jesus can do that (Acts 4: 12, John 14: 6, Isaiah 53: 5).
Jesus’ Death on the cross (crucifixion) and Resurrection
People today ask for a sign that God is real. They did in Jesus’ time too (John 10: 25-6, 37-8). Jesus said that He would die and come back to life three days later and He did (Matthew 16: 21, Mark 9: 31, Matthew 28:9, John 20: 14-16, 19-20, 24-28, Acts 1: 3, 1 Corinthians 15: 5-7). No-one else in history has ever died in public and then been seen by many hundreds of people on several different occasions days afterwards (Acts 5: 36-9). Contemporary religious and political leaders tried very hard to disprove the resurrection but couldn’t (Matthew 27: 62-6, 28: 2-7, 11-15). No-one has ever disproved Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus said that He would die and rise again to prove that He is God and has power over death so that His people can have confidence in Him when it comes to their own death (John 10: 17-18, Revelation 1: 18). One of the reasons the early church grew so quickly was that so many people had either seen Jesus after His resurrection or knew someone who had.
The historical evidence for the resurrection is utterly compelling. The case for Jesus as God is utterly compelling.
The Holy Spirit gives Christians strength, comfort and guidance, often through the Bible, other Christians, our consciences or by putting thoughts into our minds as we enjoy the beauty of the natural world. He enables us to understand spiritual things – our sin, God’s love, how to understand the Bible (John 14: 16-17, 26, Romans 8: 26).
I think everyone has the odd moment when they wonder if a higher power exists, when we feel the beauty and power of nature, a feeling that ‘there must be more than this life’, a sneaky feeling in our gut – that’s God’s doing – we can either be open to that thought or we can reject it (Psalm 19: 1, Romans 1: 20).
Death and Eternity
The Bible states that Jesus is the final judge, the ultimate authority (John 5: 22, Acts 10: 42) on judgement day (Hebrews 9: 27, Revelation 20:12).
He will examine our lives; the very best of us cannot attain holiness so where we spend eternity is decided by whether or not we have accepted His offer of forgiveness during our lifetime.
If we admit our sin and need of His forgiveness and turn to follow Him, He has promised to save us (1 John 1: 9).
The Hereafter / Eternity: Heaven (John 14: 1-6, Revelation 21: 3-4) or Hell (2 Thessalonians 1: 9), depending on whether or not we have repented and accepted God’s forgiveness by faith.
We cannot opt out of eternity. We all have a soul, that essence that is us, which does not cease to exist at the death of the body.
I believe that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell (Romans 10: 13) – we choose to accept or reject Him, to live eternally with Him or without Him. Jesus promises never to turn away anyone who genuinely comes to Him (John 6: 37).
The Bible promises a new heaven and a new earth free from sin, disease, darkness, and death (1 Corinthians 15: 55, Revelation 21: 3-4). That’s beyond our understanding in this life but it is our certain hope.
Gender and Equality
I believe that all men and women are equal before God, irrespective of race, gender or social status (Galatians 3: 28, Acts 10: 34-5). If in doubt, look at how Jesus treated social outcasts, women, the poor, the sick. Discrimination and abuse on grounds of race, gender or social status of any kind finds absolutely no basis in His teaching.
This is so important because it has such an impact on our lives but belief in gender equality for example does not determine whether or not we are right with God so it is far less important than faith in Jesus and His saving work on the cross.
Jesus is the focal point, not ‘religion’, the church or human beings (whoever they are)
We need to focus on Jesus, not theological arguments. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament and brought a full perspective on it. Salvation, peace with God, is through faith in Him alone.
The thief on the cross (Luke 23: 40-43) admitted his sin and his inability to save himself, turned to Jesus and asked Him to save him. Jesus assured him that when he died that day he would go to Heaven. The thief had faith in Him to save him. That’s the essence. We turn to Jesus.
Terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity – none of them were done by Jesus, none of them are consistent with what He taught, with the way in which He lived.
He calls us to follow Him. Anyone ill-treating other people is simply not doing that and that is serious.
Biblically, ‘The church’ is made up of God’s people (of whatever denomination). The church’s mandate is to follow Jesus. Churches are made up of people and people are not perfect. However, if the church is not teaching what Jesus taught and trying to live as He lived, something is seriously wrong (Matthew 7: 21-23, 1 John 4: 20, Mark 7: 6-9, James 1: 22-3).
Jesus didn’t come to set up ‘religion’ or an institution to control, let alone abuse people
Jesus was murdered by the religious authorities (John 11: 47-8, Luke 23: 4-5, 10). He was toughest on religious hypocrites and on those who ignored the spiritual and physical needs of others and burdened them with hundreds of complicated rules packaged as religion (Matthew 23: 2-4, 23-28, Mark 7: 6-9). These rules are not from God – they are man-made.
Debating versus Studying the Bible
I am not seeking to start debate but to provide some references for those who are interested. Arguments about the Bible are rarely helpful! Peter warns about this in 2 Peter 3: 16. The Bible encourages us to read and study it for ourselves, to listen to others who may be better informed but always to test what they say against the Bible itself (Acts 17: 11, 2 Timothy 2: 15).
Further resources (free)
The following are well informed resources to help with contextual information and interpretation. I am not necessarily endorsing everything in them but I am grateful to the writers for sharing their work freely to help us understand the Bible better. I would suggest always reading with the Bible in one hand and secondary sources in the other, remembering always that they are by definition secondary.
David Guzik: Bible Commentary (Enduring Word) – a wide-ranging commentary with some very useful contextual material, written in a very accessible way. Guzik’s commentary covers the whole Bible, verse by verse, putting it in context culturally and in terms of the wider Bible itself, with some great quotations from other scholars. It is a terrific resource.
Marg Mowczko: Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism – a wide-ranging academic discussion of biblical teaching on gender, written in an accessible way. An excellent resource, with a lot of valuable contextual material.
More resources to be added soon!