When Pontius Pilate, one who oversaw Jesus’s execution, asked Jesus himself “What is truth?” in John 18:38, it echos the sentiment a lot of people have today.
Some people think truth is whatever they think it is. Others think truth is decided by people in power. Others still think truth is fixed, unchangeable, yet they don’t know with certainty what or where that truth actually is.
And Christians… well, we know where truth is. Truth is contained in the Bible, which is God’s word.
Before we continue, we must define what I mean by “Christianity” here, as it is very important to establish. This site advertises traditional Christianity. That means believing that Jesus is the only way to salvation, that the Bible is inerrant, that God is the source of objective truth, and that truth does not change with culture over time. While I am for the most part going to steer clear of major denominational differences, it must be noted that this site is written and reviewed by those who have Protestant leanings.
But let’s start from the VERY top. What is Christianity? Christians should be prepared to answer this question in a simple, yet accurate, manner. I challenged myself to prepare a single-paragraph ‘elevator speech’ for this question, and here’s what I have:
In the beginning, God created the universe and everything in it. He made the first humans, Adam and Eve, who, under the influence of Satan, committed the first sin and drifted apart from God. Despite that, God has repeatedly shown His love to his people through history. Then, God gave the world his only Son, Jesus. Jesus walked the earth, being both man and God. This perfect being was put to death on a cross, and paid the ultimate sacrifice – His perfection was infinitely pleasing to God, able to cover all of our sins. Three days from His death, He was resurrected and eventually taken up into heaven. From then on, we only need to believe in Jesus and recognize Him as God’s son, the only path to God, and we can partake in the benefits of Jesus’s sacrifice. In return, we express our thankfulness for God’s great mercy by carrying out His will, and eagerly await Christ’s return.
That’s one paragraph that manages to tie together the beginning, God’s love, Jesus, his sacrifice, his resurrection, and what that means for us today. But as Christians know, there’s so much more to Christianity than that paragraph. Nonbelievers, you will probably also realize this – there are several questions that this may raise, and there are any number of questions you can go with this depending on how much you already know (or think you know) about the Bible. So now I will attempt to break all of this down a bit more.
In the beginning, God created the universe and everything in it.
You’re probably familiar with the story: In Genesis 1-2, the first two chapters of the Bible, God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing in six days, including the land, the sky, the stars, and the animals. On the seventh, He rested.
He made the first humans, Adam and Eve, who, under the influence of Satan, committed the first sin and drifted apart from God.
Shortly afterward, God created Adam, the first human, and his partner, Eve. They were placed in the Garden of Eden which God created, and they were allowed to eat the fruit of any tree except for one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a snake, Satan came out and convinced Eve to eat it, which she shared with Adam. This was the first sin against God – the Fall. Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden in order to make a living for themselves. This is a persistent theme throughout the Bible – Sin separates us from God. And we are all guilty of sin, so we are in the same boat. If nothing else is done, we are fated to go to Hell because of our sin after we die.
Despite that, God has repeatedly shown His love to his people through history.
Throughout the Old Testament (the books of the Bible that take place in the time before Jesus), God is shown to be loving and merciful to those who keep his commandments. And even to those who don’t, God endeavors to give them ample chances to do the right thing.
Then, God gave the world his only Son, Jesus. Jesus walked the earth, being both man and God.
God decided to send His only son into the world through a virgin birth. The child was known as Jesus (which meant “God saves”). Jesus grew up to be an uncommonly wise teacher who divulged the nature of the kingdom of heaven through parables, performed miracles, and who was both man and God. The story of Jesus is told from four different perspectives throughout the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the first four books of the New Testament, which are collectively called the Gospels.
This perfect being was put to death on a cross, and paid the ultimate sacrifice – His perfection was infinitely pleasing to God, able to cover all of our sins.
In the Old Testament, God set forth rules as well as what to do to atone if you should break them. Jesus was eventually handed over to the authorities, having done nothing even remotely deserving of death, yet He was sentenced to die. Since Jesus was God himself, a perfect being, His sacrifice was able to cover all our sins, now and forever.
Three days from His death, He was resurrected and eventually taken up into heaven.
This is the reason behind Easter Sunday. We celebrate the fact that Jesus emerged from the tomb He was buried in after three days. For several weeks afterward, He appeared to His own disciples and many others, all of whom were amazed at what had taken place, even though He had already told them what would happen! They were able to touch Him and eat with Him just as they did normally. Jesus then ascended into heaven after the few weeks were over.
From then on, we only need to believe in Jesus and recognize Him as God’s son, the only path to God, and we can partake in the benefits of Jesus’s sacrifice.
Jesus’s sacrifice was a glorious act of love by God. With one action, we are saved by believing in our sinful nature and our need for what Jesus did for us. Nobody else is able to accomplish what Jesus did, because Jesus is God. The spirits of those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior will go to heaven after life on Earth.
In return, we express our thankfulness for God’s great mercy by carrying out His will, and eagerly await Christ’s return.
With faith, not works, are we saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christians believe that no matter how many good things one can do in their lifetime, they are no closer to being saved from the fate that awaits sinners – human good cannot erase human bad. By choosing to become a Christian, we also choose to partake in God’s grace, which CAN intervene and wash away our sins in the sight of God. We carry out God’s will not strictly out of compulsion, but to show gratitude for this life-saving gift. Jesus said that the day is coming when He will come again, and the kingdom of God will be established on Earth at that time.
This is traditional Christianity in a nutshell. God, Jesus, the Bible, and us. The objective truth.
Things to consider reading next:
The other posts in this blog cover some topics discussed here in more detail.
The Bible itself is a good resource, although it may be daunting to jump right in to a 1,000 (or more) page book. While the Bible does contain everything a person needs to know to be saved, reading it sequentially will bring you face-to-face with some rather hard-to-understand content (for newcomers) early on. Many would recommend starting with the New Testament, specifically the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). After familiarizing yourself with the New Testament, then you are in a better position to understand the how the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ. The text of the Bible is available freely online – click any of the verse links from this article for one such site where you can read it from.
Finally, the best way by far to continue from here is to pop in your neighborhood church, find a pastor or someone else deeply involved with the church, and tell them you want more information about Christianity. The odds are that they’ll be able to point you in the right direction, or even help you personally. If you don’t have a local church, you’ll still find a wealth of resources online.