In your opinion, how long would a perfect statement of faith be?
Let’s put it this way: if you had to summarise the things we have to agree on in order to be true Christians, how many words do you think you would end up with? 50? 200? Maybe 2,000?
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul quotes what may be the earliest Christian creed on record — likely dating to around AD 33-38. Look how short it is:
“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5; emphasis mine).
Paul is essentially saying, “When it’s all said and done, these truths are what we must agree on. I’m standing firmly on this gospel message — and I urge you to do the same.”
Less than 40 words. That’s how long this early creed Paul quotes is. It’s astounding for its historicity (dating to just a few years after Christ’s ministry), and also for its brevity. (There’s actually an even shorter creed over in 1 Timothy 3:16.)
Notice everything that is not included in those verses.
All those other doctrines we feel strongly about. All the cultural ideas we hear our families talk about. All the church details Christians argue and bicker and divide over.
When it’s all said and done:
According to Paul, that’s what’s most important. That’s what it’s all about.
So, why does this matter?
A couple years back, I suffered an intense season of questions and doubts, coming close to leaving the Christian faith altogether. I felt confused, discouraged, lost. It was a dark season.
But looking back, I realise something. Nearly all of my doubts? They happened because I mistakenly elevated secondary doctrines to fundamental doctrines in my mind.
Nearly all of my doubts? They happened because I mistakenly elevated secondary doctrines to fundamental doctrines in my mind
I made non-essential ideas non-negotiable.
We do that so often, don’t we?
So then, when my confidence in those secondary things (like the age of the earth, or certain political ideas, for instance) wavered, my entire faith began to crumble and crash down like a house of cards.
And Christian, isn’t that so sadly common? All too often, we naively latch on to the randomest ideas and think they are absolutely important. We lose all sense of perspective. We think our pet issues or theological soapboxes are somehow central to Christianity. We start to think a true statement of faith needs to be 100, 500, or even 2,000 words long, covering all sorts of different issues.
But, as Paul reminds us, it’s just not that complicated.
In his other letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
“I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
A simple, pure devotion to Christ.
The gospel is simple. The message of the cross is succinct. Brothers and sisters, if we’re going to stand, let’s be sure to stand on that.
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