Christianity seems a bit squishy nowadays. It somehow relates to Jesus but has difficulty finding a place for the cross. It is gospel-flavored like those beverages that contain only 10 percent real fruit juice. Some beliefs are prominently on display; others relegated to a back room, if not discarded altogether as unsavory to the modern palate.
Postmodernism has invited conflicting belief to the table, not to debate but to dine in compatibility. Tastes of the partakers seem to set the menu.
Will the real Christianity please stand up?
At its core Christianity has to do with the gospel, the gospel of the kingdom. It holds to a body of teaching derived from biblical revelation and defined by clean lines and sharp edges.
The core of the gospel is the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul distilled the gospel in this way: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). The good news is bound up in the humiliation and exaltation of the promised Messiah.
The gospel content is Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and lives for our life (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Gospel context, however, broadens our scope to see where that gospel originates and how it finds its home. This broader scope sees the God who appointed, the Son who accomplished, and the Spirit who applies so great a salvation.
Today’s squishy Christianity has trouble articulating the gospel, or explaining the necessity of the cross, or affirming a bodily resurrection, or even finding solid footing to take a stand. Surveys have shown that the person in the pew is biblically-illiterate and theologically-indifferent. As a result, the church finds itself ill prepared to be the salt and light our Lord intends for us.
What can we do to address a squishy Christianity? God gives us our answer through the apostle Paul: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6–7).
Notice that Paul speaks of the faith. The faith is something to be taught, something those who have professed faith in Christ are to be established in. Those who profess personal faith are to confess the faith, that they might be rooted and built up in Christ Jesus the Lord. In so doing, they are guarded through being taken captive by the philosophies and vanities of this world (Col. 2:8).
In regard to the faith, three observations are in order.
First, the church is to be guardian of the faith. The pastoral epistles make it clear that God has entrusted a body of teaching to the church, that teaching being the Scriptures. It is by this revealed body of teaching that the Spirit makes disciples as Christ is formed in them, renewing their minds, capturing their hearts, directing their wills.
The church is a guardian not by way of keeping scrolls in a climate-controlled vault, but by way of keeping the whole counsel of God at the fore, by respecting its uniqueness as the word of God once delivered to the saints, and by appealing to that corpus as the only rule for doctrine and life.
With that teaching, disciples are to be grounded in the faith. The church has the call to make disciples. Christ has raised up pastor-teachers to equip the saints toward maturity (Eph. 4:11-16). Maturity is seen as unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.
Disciples are to be brought all to the same page, so as not to wander off into myths and what seems right to a man. Untaught, they will continue to be children, easily led astray by novelty and desire, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.
Finally, from that grounding, disciples are to grow in the faith. Growth is growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, growth in Christlikeness, in relationship with God, in understanding of the deep truths of the faith, in kingdom allegiance to Him before whom we have bowed the knee.
Paul says those established in the faith will demonstrate an overflow of thanksgiving. Why? Because in the faith we see ourselves as absolute debtors to grace and see a salvation entirely rooted in our triune God.
Rooted and built up in the faith — the church’s challenge, the Christian’s call.
Stan Gale has been a PCA pastor for over thirty years. His new book, The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith (Reformation Heritage Books) is slated for release in June.