What do Christians believe?
That can be a tricky question to answer. For one thing, Christians believe a lot of things! And for another, there are many things that we may disagree on. Christians often don’t agree, for example, on the appropriateness of baptizing infants. We may disagree on what the Bible says about spiritual gifts, the end times, or how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility relate to each other.
But while we may disagree on topics like these, there are other more primary issues that all Christians across the centuries have united around, such that to even be a Christian is to affirm them. So while Christians may disagree about how to practice baptism, one cannot disagree about a primary issue without placing themselves outside the bounds of Christianity.
What are these primary issues?
- The Trinity
- The deity of Jesus
- Salvation through Christ alone
- The Inerrancy and Sufficiency of Scripture
- The Second Coming of Christ
The Bible teaches monotheism—that there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 states that the “Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And in Isaiah 44:6, God says, “I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but me.”
Yet there is a sense of plurality within this one God. This is known as the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, in Matthew 28:19 Jesus tells His disciples to baptize people “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Also, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul adapts Deuteronomy 6:4 and inserts Jesus into it, writing that “there is one God, the Father…And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” And in Acts 5:3–4, Peter equates the Holy Spirit with God. Christians have long articulated these truths by saying that God is Triune (three-in-one). That is, there is one God who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Deity of Jesus
Closely related to the doctrine of the Trinity is the belief that Jesus, while a human being, is also divine. This is seen in a number of ways throughout the New Testament. In John 8:58, He took the name “I Am” for Himself, thus equating Himself with God who revealed Himself to Moses with that name (Exodus 3:14–15). He forgives sins, which only God can do (Mark 2:5–7). Where the Old Testament said that one day every knee would bow before God (Isaiah 45:22–23), Paul says that every knee will one day bow before Jesus (Philippians 2:10–11). And at several points, we see Jesus being worshiped (2 Peter 3:18, Revelation 5:9–10, Matthew 14:33, John 20:28). Jesus is God the Son, who took on flesh, and will dwell bodily with us for all eternity.
Salvation through Jesus Christ Alone
It is popular in our day to think of all religions as different roads that end up leading us to God. But the Bible presents a much different picture. In the first place, we are all sinners who deserve God’s judgment (Romans 3:23). On top of that, since there is only one God, there is only one way to salvation—not many (Romans 3:29–30). Jesus alone can pardon our sins and save us from the wrath we deserve. It is through Him that we have peace with God (Romans 5:1, Acts 4:12, John 14:6). That is because He died on the cross for our sins. And if we have placed our faith in Him, we trust that just as He was raised from death, so too will we be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).
The Inerrancy and Sufficiency of Scripture
According to 2 Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is “inspired by God.” That is, it comes from Him. To read the Bible then is to read what God has chosen to reveal to us. This has important implications for us as Christians. First, it means that we can trust the Bible. Since the Bible is from God, and since God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2), the Bible will not lead us astray. It is inerrant— or “without error.” This also means that we can trust that God has revealed what we need to know in order to be saved and to walk in obedience to Him. While there are many things about our universe that God could have revealed to us in Scripture, the Bible is primarily focused on the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ. In this way it is sufficient—He has told us what we need to know.
The Second Coming of Christ
While there is much disagreement surrounding the second coming of Christ—when will it happen? What signs will precede it?—what Christians can agree on is that Jesus will come back. Before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus comforted His disciples by telling them that though He was leaving, He would come back for them (John 14:2–3). Paul, speaking of the resurrection of Christians that will occur at Jesus’s second coming, says that without this hope of being raised and living with Jesus, then we as Christians “should be pitied more than anyone” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
The book of Revelation comforts Christians who are experiencing persecution by pointing them ahead to the return of Jesus and the new earth He will create (Revelation 21:1–4). And at the very end of Revelation is the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). The expectation of Jesus’s second coming is deeply embedded in the Christian faith. Our faith is a forward-looking faith, and His second coming is what we are looking forward to.
So, looping back to our original question, “What do Christians believe?”
While we may have agreements on some issues, we do have unity around primary issues. Therefore, when someone asks you what Christians believe, you can point them to the essentials of the Christian faith. And, when disagreements arise, we can have thoughtful discourse around different issues, while knowing that we are ultimately unified around five core beliefs of the Christian faith.
Additional resources on the essentials of the Christian faith:
What Is Theology?