We Believe in Jesus Christ
(This is a series of studies on the Summary of Basic Beliefs by the International Baptist Convention – www.ibc-churches.org. You can find the entire statement online.)
We believe that human beings are incapable of saving themselves and stand in need of God’s gracious love and that Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully human, has, through His death and resurrection, done everything necessary for us to have a personal one-to-one relationship with God; we begin to experience the benefits of this when we repent from and confess our sin; and commit our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, our only Savior.
The International Baptist Convention’s Summary of Basic Beliefs, 2008
Siegi and Klaus were enjoying their success in life in New York City in the 1960’s and 70’s. Klaus’ work in physics at Columbia University, plus Siegi’s job as a flight attendant allowed them and their two sons to live comfortably. Both Germans, they relocated to Berlin where Klaus worked on an atomic particle accelerator facility. During that time Siegi was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required immediate surgery that was successful but left her with permanent damage.
Life became difficult for them – two young boys, Siegi’s disability, and Klaus’s job demands – and they both began to slide into depression. The time came when they felt they could go on no longer. Klaus wrote, “One evening Siegi and I sat in our bedroom and we cried. Seeing no way out of our difficult situation, we decided to commit suicide.” God intervened at that time because they could not decide what to do with their boys, so they carried on with life.
One of their son’s teachers suggested they visit the International Baptist Church of Berlin, meeting not far from where they lived. Siegi went without Klaus at first and in the summer of 1978 committed her life to Christ, and was baptized in December 17 of that year, four years to the date after her surgery. Klaus had continued his slide into depression but four weeks after Siegi’s baptism agreed to attend a special weekend event at the church. Klaus wrote,
Siegi asked me to come along, and I responded, “OK, it won’t help, but it won’t hurt either.” During this weekend, I finally realized my need for faith in God and trust in Jesus. I decided I would follow Jesus from then on. Looking back over these … years, we can say it was the wisest decision we ever made.
Klaus and Siegi responded in repentance and faith to the gospel message and to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and came to experience the personal salvation that Christ offers to all. In this chapter we are exploring the basic biblical doctrines of salvation and about Christ Jesus, our Savior.
We cannot save ourselves
Religions have their own specific goals, things that they seek to achieve in the lives of those who believe. The goals of different religions include: to find inner peace; to submit to the will of God; to be assured of a comfortable afterlife; to avoid pain; to become a moral person; to learn self-control through meditation and discipline; to help find power over evil spirits; to answer the questions of the universe; to re-enforce culture; to progress upwardly through transmigration or re-incarnation.
The goal of Christianity, however, is salvation. We each stand in need of the salvation God offers through Jesus Christ. Salvation means to rescue from danger, to deliver from imprisonment or enslavement, to make whole or to heal. Through Christ we are saved from the judgment of God on our sins, from the power and dominion of sin in our lives, and from the emptiness of life on this earth without Christ. In the Bible salvation means:
To be forgiven by God and delivered from spiritual death, Eph. 2:5
To be adopted into God‘s family, Acts 2:47, Heb 7:25
To be delivered from the bondage of sin and the power of evil, Matt 1:21, Romans 5:10, Eph 6:17, James 1:21
To be covered with the righteousness of Christ, Romans 3:21-24
To enter into fullness of life in Christ by the Holy Spirit, John 10:9-10, 2 Tim 1:9, 1 Cor. 10:33
To enter into a love relationship with God in life and into His presence at death, 1 Cor. 3:15; 5:5
The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message of Southern Baptists, USA, explains clearly the biblical doctrine of man’s spiritual condition.
Man was created by the special act of God, in His own image, and is the crowning work of His creation. In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence; whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfil the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore every man possesses dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.
Humanity is God’s creation: In the Genesis account the Bible uses anthropomorphic language to show the tenderness and compassion of God creating human life. The remainder of creation He spoke into existence, but with man and woman He carefully fashioned them out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7,21-22). The action of God breathing into man the “breath of life” teaches us that man is more than a mere body, and possesses an unseen soul and spirit. Later Christ would breathe upon His disciples telling them to receive the Spirit of God (John 20:22), symbolizing the effect of God’s grace on believers. In the creation God designed that man would rule over creation and bring order to creation. The Bible specifically teaches the solidarity of the human race, that “from one man he made every nation of men” (Acts 17:26), so each human being possesses a spiritual dimension.
Humanity is made in God’s image: The Bible says that God made man, “in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). This does not refer to our physical bodies, that we walk upright, have opposing thumbs, and greater intellectual abilities than the other animals. The idea of being made in God’s image refers to our moral character and also the capacity to know God personally and intimately: “God made mankind upright” (Eccl. 7:29). Both sexes, man and woman, male and female, are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The capacity for intimacy with one another is also reflected in this reality. The Bible describes the first human marriage that Adam and Eve were both naked but “felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). This describes more than only their physical relationship and also reveals the trust and kindness of their day to day conversations. Humanity was never created to ridicule and reject each other, or to experience shame and guilt. These came after the fall. Human life was created to enjoy fellowship with God, to live in harmony with one another, and to rule over creation justly and fairly, and life is still best lived when this original design is rediscovered. In the redemption we find in Christ we are reconciled to our relationship with God, but also restored to one another and to a renewed purpose as God’s creation.
Humanity chose to sin against God: From the beginning God related to humanity with respect and consideration. Human life was given a responsibility, “to fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28), and a level of freedom of choice, but they used this freedom to seek their own will instead of God’s. Genesis 3 describes the first temptation and the first sin, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – which God has commanded them not to eat of. The devil, in the guise of a serpent, tempted Eve, questioning the words and the will of God. Giving into their lusts and their pride, Adam and Eve chose their desires over God’s commands. Humanity’s first sin was basically political in nature, to reject God as their ruler and to seek their independence.
The effect of this sin was devastating. The immediate reaction was the experience of shame and guilt, seen as they tried unsuccessfully to cover their nakedness with aprons of leaves. The relationship with God was broken and they hid themselves from Him in fear. Their consciences were also damaged, “seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2), as they sought to blame others for their actions. Adam blamed the woman but also blamed God for putting a woman in the garden, “the woman you put here with me” (Gen. 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent.
Other effects of sin: After they sinned God explained the result of their sin, that sin would result in the breakdown of the marriage relationship and of the family (Gen. 3:16-19). The pain associated with childbirth was merely the first introduction to the challenges of raising children in a fallen world, and as a mother Eve would experience very soon the tragedy of her son Cain killing his brother Abel. The husband was to “rule over” her, and though this evokes much discussion, the most central meaning is that marriage that was intended to be a relationship of gentle love and considerate intimacy, would be marked by cruelty and power struggles. Adam also would find himself faced with the difficulty of scratching out a living in a land that “will produce thorns and thistles” and to work hard to produce enough for him and his family to live. The high purpose for which God created humanity was also corrupted, and they would not be able to fulfil their role of ruling over creation due to the broken relationship between them and God. Then they would die and would return to the ground from which God had originally formed them.
Sin and sins: Each human being has inherited a sin nature from our original human parents. In Romans, Paul wrote in detail about this phenomenon of human life, as he said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7:18). This is often called the doctrine of “total depravity” and it means that sin as a principle has so devastated the human race that it has permeated the heart of each one. Though we can say that there is something good in the worst of us, we can also say that there is something terrifyingly evil in the best of us. We are not able to save ourselves through our good works for our sin nature is still at the heart of our problem. In Romans, Paul used the word “sin” to describe the principle of sin within us each. The commandments of God, for example, did not change our nature, and, in fact, they even created temptation for they put ideas in our heads of ways to sin we had not yet thought about. For example, the law said not to covet, “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me very kind of covetous desire” (Rom. 7:8). Because of this sin nature, we commit sinful acts or sins.
The promise of the Redeemer: As He pronounced the results of human sin, in the garden God also gave a message of hope as He announced the coming of the future the Savior. The first promise of a Redeemer is in Genesis 3:15, as God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God prophesied an ongoing conflict between Satan’s kingdom and humanity. The offspring of Satan would be demons, evil spirits, and anyone who sought to do his will. The offspring of the woman would be humanity at large, and specifically the coming Christ who would be the “second Adam” (Rom. 5:12-21). Throughout the centuries Satan has struck the heel of humanity, through temptations, through accusations, through deceptions, through intimidations, and through sickness and pain. But Christ has crushed his head through His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.
Adam and Eve were certainly sorry for their sin, but regret does not atone for sin. They were removed from the garden and blocked from returning to it (Genesis 3:22-24), but unpleasant results from sin likewise do not remove our sin. Only the shedding of blood resolves sin – a life for a life – as we read in Hebrews, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22b). God knew that one day, in the fullness of time, the Messiah would come to die for the sins of the world. So from the Fall of humanity until the coming of Christ God began preparing the world to receive the gospel. God illustrated this truth in a beautiful way by slaying an animal and then crafting garments for Adam and Eve from the skins (Gen. 3:21), making a more suitable covering for their shame than the aprons of leaves. Here is the first illustration from history of God covering the shame from sin through the taking of a life.
Christ, the Son
The simple gospel is not mere principles or ideas, but it is a story of the living God acting in history to redeem humanity. Trinitarians do not believe in three gods, rather we believe in One God who reveals Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. One analogy to help explain this concept is the idea of rain as it falls on the earth. There is first the principle of condensation, the unseen process of moisture gathering in the air, coming together to form itself in clouds. This is a picture of the Father who though unseen was gathering the right times and the right circumstances for the coming of the Christ. He prepared the way through the millennia, working in His mysterious ways, until the fullness of time came.
Christ is like the rain that falls to the earth. We see and feel the rain, and so Christ is God manifested in the world, seen and handled, heard and conversed with. He did not merely appear to be human – an early Christian heresy suggested that Christ was not really human but only appeared to be, that he was in reality completely a spirit – rather Christ, the Word eternal, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-14). The Bible presents Christ as fully God and fully human. Consider just a few of the many verses that testify to the deity of Christ.
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” Luke 22:70
No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. John 1:18
I and the Father are one. John 10:30
Theirs are the patriarchs, and form them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God overall, forever praised! Amen. Romans 9:5
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Colossians 2:9
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 6:15
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us…Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. 1 John 1:1-2, 4:2b
The third part of the analogy refers to the Spirit of God, who we will examine later in more detail. The Spirit is like the rain that seeps into the earth, to break up the hard ground and to prepare the ground for planting and to help the plants to grow. The Son is God manifest in the world and the Spirit is God manifest in us His people. All analogies have limitations, and this one does as well, for these Three are eternally working together always, as Christ said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching, My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23), describing the work of the Spirit of God in our lives.
The Simple Story of Salvation
The Bible says, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law” (Gal. 4:4). Christ is God who became a human being, born miraculously of a virgin, and lived a sinless life. These claims are remarkable and are not to be passed off as some archaic superstition or mythical legend passed down through generations. They are the biblical statements and they seemed just as amazing to the people who lived during Bible times as they do to us today. The Old Testament told the human race of our need of grace, and prepared people for His coming. The gospels tell of His life, of His sermons, of His miracles, and of many of His private conversations. They also tell of His sacrificial death, His resurrection, and prophesy His victorious return.
In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul shared a Christian hymn that was sung in the New Testament churches and that displays the story of our Savior’s work of redemption for us, from its inception to His exaltation.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
Being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
And gave him the name that is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
In heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father.
This beautiful hymn describes Jesus’ journey of humility, from His deity in heaven to His humbling death on the cross, all because He was in agreement with the plan on the heart of the Father. It would be unthinkable that it should be any other way but that every thought of the Father would be also agreed on by the Son and by the Spirit. Then it describes His great exaltation: His name above every name, His authority over all, His praise proclaimed in resounding expressions throughout the universe.
The heart of the work of Christ was dying on the cross for our sins as our high priest. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The death of Christ is sufficient for the payment of all sins of all time. He was literally the Lamb of God, the true sacrifice for our sins, who carried them in His own body as He died on Calvary. But it was not only the physical death that was the payment, but on the cross God the Father turned His face from the Son, as Christ cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Old Testament sacrificial system taught and pictured that only the shedding of blood could remove sin, but, according to Hebrews, it did not actually remove our sin and guilt. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were only symbolic and instructive. It took Christ’s death to accomplish our redemption.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
…We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes this truth, that Christ gave His life as a ransom for our sin, to buy us back from enslavement and penalty. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Because of who He was death could not hold Him and he was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). The resurrection of Christ was an indisputable fact of the early church, and was the central piece of their proclamation. On Pentecost Peter preached:
God raised this Jesus to live, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear … Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
The earliest presentations of the gospel emphasized Christ’s Lordship and His exaltation in heaven. Since all authority was given to Him, He demanded that all repent and believe in Him for forgiveness of sins. The New Testament emphasized His intercession for us today, as we read “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Similar words were used in Hebrews 7:23-25., “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
Our Response: Repentance and Faith
We do not need to, nor are we able to add anything to the sacrifice of Christ. It is not Christ’s death plus our penance or acts of contrition that pays for our sin or enables us to be saved. It is only Christ’s death, period. We are called to repent and to believe, and these are two aspects of the same response.
Repentance means to turn from sin and self and turn to Christ. Christ came preaching repentance, as early in His public ministry He cried out, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). The early Christian appeal to the Jewish community in Jerusalem was, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). But the message was also the same to the Gentiles, as Peter explained to the other apostles and leaders in the Jerusalem church how the Gentiles had responded in faith to the message about Christ, they praised God saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). Paul in preaching before philosophers in Athens declared that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Repentance means a change of heart, genuine sorrow because of our sins (2 Cor. 7:10). This comes upon the conviction of the Spirit of God, who gives an inner witness to our hearts whenever the gospel is preached (John 16:8-11). The Spirit does not give us pointless “guilt trips” but instead convinces us of our need of grace, of the fact that Jesus is the answer to our need, and of the urgency of the matter – that we need to now trust in Christ. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4), and to our awareness of how greatly we need the grace of God in Christ. Awareness of how much we have to repent from grows as we live the Christian life. But as our awareness of our sinfulness grows, so also grows our assurance of our forgiveness by the grace of God in Christ – “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
A Serbian woman several years ago repented from her sins and trusted in Christ in my church. She had thought of herself as a good person before she came to Christ, and when she first heard the gospel in our church, she struggled with the idea that she really needed God’s grace. Then the Spirit brought conviction to her heart and she accepted the point that she was not perfect before God and needed His forgiveness. But this was just the slightest level of conviction and repentance, just enough to turn and be saved. Then later she told me, as she began to grow as a Christian, that she knew she was a sinner but had no idea how great a sinner she really was! But along with the conviction of her sin came also the assurance that she was forgiven in Christ Jesus.
Faith or believing means to trust in Christ as God’s answer for our sin. Faith is not just a general acceptance that God exists, but it is a personal response to the personal witness of God in our hearts. Faith believes what the Bible declares about Christ is true, namely that He died for our sins and rose from the grave. Faith trusts in the love of God and believes that God rewards those who sincerely seek Him (Heb. 11:6). According to Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Belief in the resurrection of Christ, then, is the heart of the Christian faith. It is not enough to believe that He was a good person, or a moral teacher, or even to believe in the benefit of following His teachings. Faith in Christ means to believe that through His death and resurrection He is God’s solution for your sins. But even beyond belief in His resurrection, the faith displayed in the New Testament was personal belief in Christ Himself.
Just as with repentance, so with faith, this is only possible due to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (John 16:8-11). And the Spirit is also active in the very process of conversion. He not only convicts, He also converts. Salvation is instantaneous. The minute we believe in Christ we are changed eternally by God. Through the Spirit of God we are born again and become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Cor. 4:6
As a new creation, the believer is brought into the family of God for eternity. The believer in Christ now has a new position given him by grace, and this position is secured by the power of God. Jude wrote, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault” (Jude 24), and our confidence is in Him, not in our selves. The Christian life is now lived under the Lordship of Christ, meaning that we surrender to Him every thought and value for His glory. Through Him we have life, peace, and a new purpose for living.
Have you personally trusted in Christ?
We do not become Christians just by deciding to try to like Christians should act. We do not become Christians just by being born in a “Christian” family or nation. We become Christians by personally hearing the message of salvation, personally repenting of our sins, and personally trusting in Christ.
The church at Laodicea in the New Testament had basically locked Christ out of the church. They had become proud of their wealth, their knowledge, and their moral lives, but they had neglected the simple gospel of Christ. Christ rebuked them in love and called out to them to let Him back into the church. How would they do that? How would Christ come back into the church?
He said that He would come back in through the lives of individuals. He compared both the church itself and the individual lives to houses and He was standing on the outside knocking at the door.
Be sincere and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Christ also stands at the door of hearts and churches today and knocks. Do you remember the time that you heard Him knock at your heart’s door? You heard Him call your name and ask to come into your life. Christ owns the universe, and could force His way into our lives. But He wants us to invite Him. Or, perhaps you have never asked Christ into your life. You can do so right now. Today you can turn from sin and self and turn in faith to receive the salvation that God wants to give you. Here is a simple prayer you can pray:
Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I admit I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I now turn from my sins and turn to You in faith. I believe that You died on the cross and rose from the dead. I ask you to forgive my sins and come inside my life and give me the new life You promised. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Amen.
If you have sincerely prayed this prayer for the first time in your life, you are now saved. There is no magic in these specific words – God looks at your heart! But you are now in Christ a new creation and you need to share this good news with someone. Christ always calls us to follow Him publicly. Share it with your family and loved ones. Tell your pastor, tell a friend, share this news with Christians you know. God has given you a new life and a new hope, and your journey with Christ has just begun.
 Klaus and Siegi’s story is one of many thrilling testimonies of people who found Christ in churches of the International Baptist Convention. These personal conversion accounts are recorded in the beginning pages of a special edition of the New Testament printed by the Convention in association with the International Bible Society.
 The Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptist Convention, USA.