What is Christianity?

There are hundreds of religions. So, what makes Christianity the right one? In order to comprehend Christianity, it is necessary to understand Christians as people who subscribe to an account of everything. Every religion gives an “account”—that is, basic tenets of what one believes in a religion. What makes Christianity unique and different from all other religions is that as Christians, we subscribe to an account of everything—we live according to the story of everything. That is, we live according to God’s story of everything, which He has given to us in His Word beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. Thinking of Christianity as God’s story of everything, we ask that you allow us the time to tell you God’s story.

In the beginning, God created everything, both visible and invisible. He made mankind in His image by breathing His Spirit into them, and man was in perfect relationship with Him. God created all things through the powerful speaking of His Word. Through His Word, everything came into existence, and by His Word, everything is sustained. In His eyes, His creation was good. Through His Word, He invited the first man and woman—Adam and Eve—into relationship with Himself, a relationship that existed in perfect love and trust in God the Creator. In this relationship, mankind was completely dependent on God, who were given the duty as stewards of God’s creation to take care of it. God cared for man, and He cared for all creation with man as His stewards. There was no death or strife. But through the deception of Satan the Devil, man distrusted the Word of their Creator and rejected Him. Their distrust now brought death and strife not just into humanity, but also in all creation. Their rebellion against God rendered the perpetual pattern of trusting in ourselves or other things rather than the Creator.

Now that mankind’s once perfect relationship with God has been severed, corruption within humanity increased. They did great evil in the eyes of God, and it caused Him to grieve. So, He sought out to destroy this evil, but He had grace on Noah (Genesis 6:1-8). Through Noah, God preserved a fraction of humanity and a fraction of creation, wiping out the rest by means of a Great Flood. After the waters subsided, God created a rainbow in the sky as a promise that He would never again destroy all of man and creation by means of flood (Genesis 9:8-17).

Several generations later, God chose a man, Abraham, from the line of Noah and promised He would make him into a great nation and all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). God began this promise by blessing him and his wife, Sarah, with the ability to conceive in their old age. They were blessed with a son named Isaac. Abraham’s line continued through Isaac in his son Jacob, all the peoples thereafter becoming known as the people Israel, fulfilling God’s promise in making Abraham into the great nation of Israel.

But Israel suffered slavery in Egypt for 400 years. They cried out to God in their suffering, and God heard them (Exodus 2:23-25). To do this, God called a man named Moses, telling him to bring His people Israel out of Egypt, promising He would be their God and they would be His people and bring them into a Promised Land (Exodus 6:7-8). After much reassurance, Moses appeared before the Pharaoh of Egypt ten times, imploring Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Ten times Pharaoh did not listen, even in spite of the plagues that followed. It wasn’t until the tenth plague after the firstborn of all Egypt were killed that Pharaoh, in his grief of his own firstborn son, let Israel go. But in his hardness of heart, Pharaoh pursued the people of Israel once they reached the Red Sea. Through Moses, God split the Red Sea for the people to safely escape on dry land and onto the other side. Pharaoh, in his arrogance, commanded his chariots to pursue Israel, and after all Israel crossed, God returned the waters and destroyed Pharaoh’s chariots.

Thus, God acted through the promise of His Word made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by delivering the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, making them His people and Himself their God. After a time, God fulfills His promise by bringing Israel into the Promised Land—the fertile land of Canaan. God granted Israel many victories over evil nations that threatened humanity and failed to properly care for His creation (Joshua 1-24). Having made them His people, God prescribed His Law as instructions on how to live as His chosen people through His Word and how to care for creation in this new land (Exodus 20-24; Leviticus 1-7; 11-27).

God prescribed His Law prior to their entering the Promised Land in preparation for taking care of people and creation. If Israel failed to care for His creation, God threatened to throw them out of the land (Leviticus 18:26, 28). Just as Israel rested on the Sabbath, so too Israel was required to care for creation by allowing it to rest every seventh year and proclaim liberty throughout the land (Leviticus 25:2-5, 10), as well as all debts being forgiven and all slaves being set free (Deuteronomy 15). This was called the Jubilee year. Israel’s requirement to care for creation is based on God’s premise that we are only tenants whom He allows to live on; therefore, because God allows mankind to live in His creation, mankind—Israel especially—must care for it (Leviticus 25:23-24). Also in His Law, God promised life and death—if Israel trusted in His Word, they would live; but if they distrusted His Word, they would die (Deuteronomy 30:15-17). In spite of the warning of death, Israel followed the pattern of Adam and Eve by not trusting in God’s Word and instead trusted in other gods, whether themselves or the false gods of other nations.

God approached this problem by choosing prophets to speak His Word, giving warnings and promises. Through Jeremiah, God warned Israel that if they did not trust His Word, they would be sent into captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 25). Through Isaiah, God promised this restoration to Him would come from Him through one called the Messiah (Isaiah 52-55). Yet God spoke this promise not just for Israel, but also for the Gentiles—those outside of the nation Israel (Isaiah 56). Besides these two, God sent other prophets to proclaim His Word of warning and promise to restoration.

Israel did not heed God’s warnings. They failed to trust in God’s Word and so they were thrown out of their fertile land into Babylonian captivity. Once stewards of God’s creation, now they are slaves of God’s enemies. After 70 years (Jeremiah 25:8-14), Israel was allowed to return to their land to rebuild their temple to God (Ezra 5:13).

Now, in the beginning was God, and with Him was the Word through which He created all things; this Word is God (John 1:1). God’s Word became human, who walked among us in the man Jesus. This Jesus, the Messiah, was born from God’s Holy Spirit as the Son of God (Luke 1:35) in the small town of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1). Before He could begin His ministry, John the Baptiser was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, preaching baptism for the forgiveness of sins as a foreshadow of the baptism Christ would perform with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:1-17). When Jesus arrived, John baptised Him, where God confirmed Him to be His Son (Luke 3:21-22). After this, Jesus began His ministry in Galilee, the purpose of which was to proclaim the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). That is, the reign of God is made known in Jesus Christ.

As the incarnate Word of God (God’s Word in the flesh), everything Jesus spoke and acted was the proclamation of God’s kingdom. He revealed truths of God’s kingdom (e.g. Matthew 5-7) and He brought His kingdom about. Jesus revealed His authority over creation through miracles: casting out demons (Mark 1:21-28), healing physical ailments (1:29-34, 40-45), and calming a raging storm (4:35-42). Jesus especially revealed His authority over all creation by forgiving the sins of humanity (Mark 2:1-7). Jesus also revealed Himself to be the fulfilment of the Jubilee year from God’s Law. He announces this fulfilment by quoting from the prophet Isaiah, saying that the Spirit of God is upon Him to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty, and the Lord’s favour (Luke 4:16-21; Isaiah 61:1-2; 49:8-10). Jesus showed His fulfilment of this Jubilee by forgiving the debts of sinners who are slaves to sin (Luke 5:20; 7:36-50), bringing rest to those who believe and trust in Him (Luke 6:1-5; 14:1-6; Matthew 11:28-30), and bringing good news to the poor that they are welcomed into the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20; 14:13).

He also reminded His chosen disciples of God’s care for all creation. He reminded them of how God cares for the birds of the air and the plants of the earth. Because God the Creator continues to care for all creation, how much more, then, will He care for His chosen people (Matthew 6:25-34). By revealing truths and showing His authority over creation and sin, the reign and rule of God was made evident in Christ among the people of Israel. Because of this, particularly Jesus’ authority to forgive sins, many of the Jews (the people of Israel) became His enemy and even sought to kill Him, but Jesus would not die until it was the proper time.

Jesus disclosed several times to His disciples that He would have to suffer and die, just as Isaiah foretold. Eventually, the time came when Jesus was arrested by Jewish high priests, was mocked and flogged, and charged with blasphemy before the prefect (magistrate) Pontius Pilate, who then sent Jesus to be crucified on a cross at the Jews’ command. On this cross, Jesus died, and the disciples and all who had believed in Him lost their hope, for they did not understand that Jesus must die.

But on the third day after His death, His tomb was empty. Women who were a part of Jesus’ ministry went to His tomb to finalise His burial. But, much to their surprise, Jesus was not in the tomb. They thought His body was stolen, but an angel appeared to them, saying Jesus has risen. So, they rushed to the disciples and told them the wonderful news, but they doubted, even after some had went to see the empty tomb for themselves. So, Jesus appeared to them. Feeling the holes in His hands and feet, they believed this resurrected Jesus is the same Jesus who died. Suddenly, they understood, through His death and resurrection, Jesus destroyed the work of the Devil that was done at the beginning and conquered death, the punishment of rebelling against God since the beginning.

Jesus continued to teach His apostles for a time, later ascending into Heaven to be with God in order to prepare a place in Heaven for those who believe (John 14:3) as well as promising to give them the Holy Spirit in order to teach them and help them remember all He had taught them (John 14:26; 16:7; Acts 2:1-31), which is why we call the writings of the apostles (the New Testament) Scripture along with the Scriptures they confessed to be the Word of God (the Old Testament; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). Before He ascended, however, Jesus commissioned the apostles to go to all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them everything Jesus taught them and repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is in this Baptism in which God the Creator recreates us into new creatures. In Baptism, God sends His Holy Spirit to kill us in our sins and to raise us as new creatures (Romans 6). As newly created creatures, the guilt of our sin—the sin passed on from Adam and Eve—is cleansed, and we can now stand right with God. Just as Jesus was recognised as the Son of God in whom He is well-pleased at His Baptism, so we, too, are recognised as sons of God in whom He is well-pleased in our Baptism.

The baptised people of God became what is known as the Church. Trusted to the Church is the ministry of reconciliation, which is the proclamation of the message that Christ the Word died for all mankind—that in Christ the Word, God acted and reconciled to Him all those who trust in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Where distrust in God’s Word severed us from relationship with God, now by trust in Christ the Word we are brought back into a reconciled relationship with God. This trust—this faith—makes us right with God (Romans 5:1). Along with this message, the Church baptises all peoples of all nations, to which we can recall as a reminder of having died to sin and being recreated in Christ (Romans 6). Through Christ, Abraham has indeed been made into a great nation and all nations are indeed blessed through Abraham in Christ Romans 4().

The reign and rule of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit makes us citizens of God’s Kingdom in Baptism. As citizens of this kingdom, we exercise our stewardship over God’s creation by caring for it through our various vocations, whether it’s one as biologist, teacher, gardener, veterinarian, doctor, pastor, office employee, garbage man, etc. As recreated creatures in Christ and as we exercise our stewardship over God’s creation, we ultimately look forward to the hope we have in Christ who is to come again to create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22). When Jesus comes again, it is here when God will restore all of His creation that mankind corrupted in the beginning. Death and strife will be no more, and the earth will be utterly and completely anew. Whilst we exercise our stewardship over God’s creation as recreated creatures in Baptism, we look forward to the day when we will continue our stewardship in ultimate perfection over God’s new creation.

As Christians—and as Lutheran adherents to the Book of Concord in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod—this is what we believe here at The Lutheran Column. The above story is comprehensive of God’s story given to us in the Scriptures. It does not cover everything; we purposefully skipped over a few things whilst also selecting other things that are faithful to God’s story. Here, we simply cannot cover absolutely everything given to us in God’s Word. Thus, throughout our website, you will find various writings from talented, proficient writers within the LCMS to tell the details of this story that we cannot fit in the above story. Yet it should suffice to say that as God’s chosen people, whom today we call Christians, through Christ God has saved us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), justified/made right before Him, and now that we are justified He calls us to care for creation in our care of the earth and its creatures and in service to one another.

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