The Third Draft: December 1997 copyright Paul F. Hein
I believe there is a God, and he has been and continues to be active in the world. God is triune: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. Jesus the Christ came into the world and through his life, death, and resurrection he showed us who God is. (Though we need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes.) The story of God and his love for us is found in the 66 books of the Christian Bible. Jesus, the Word of God, is the filter which we use to interpret the Bible for the Bible is the “cradle of Jesus”.
Proper interpretation of the Bible is critical. We must put aside all preconceptions and let the Holy Spirit guide with Jesus Christ and his work as the primary focus. Scripture is to be used to interpret scripture. Other sources may increase understanding but they can not be the primary source for interpretation. Other sources can only enhance the interpretation derived from the comparison of Holy Scripture. (It is very beneficial to have a good understanding of the history and culture at the time when a passage was written.) No one passage can stand alone, rather each passage must be understood in context of Holy Scripture as a whole.
We also can study how Christians in the past have interpreted Holy Scripture for Holy Spirit has enlighten the Body of Christ in the past as he enlightens us today. The Christian faith, though personal, is a faith that is found in community. Therefore the biblical understanding of Christians in the past and the present, under careful scrutiny of Holy Scripture, can be a guide to proper biblical interpretation.
Having a clear distinction between passages of ‘Law’ and ‘Gospel’ greatly increases our understanding of Holy Scripture. Passages of ‘Law’ shows how we should live and our failure to do so. Passages of ‘Gospel’ shows what God has done out of love to save us. Passages of ‘Law’ do not deal with our salvation, and passages of ‘Gospel’ do not deal with our thoughts and actions toward God. Rather the ‘Law’ deals with the doings of mankind, and the ‘Gospel’ deals with what God has done to save mankind.
From Scripture, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we begin to understand God, especially Jesus. And then we can build a framework of beliefs to live by. We can not truly understand the world we live in without understanding the Creator and his plan of salvation for the world. An understanding of reality and truth is only possible by understanding the Creator, Master, Ruler and Owner of the Universe (i.e. God).
God, the Triune God, is the creator of the universe which was made out of nothing. Only God has existed from eternity past. He made everything and he made everything good. He created mankind, Adam and Eve, in his own image. Mankind was (and is) more than just animals. Mankind was specially created and was given souls. Adam and Eve were perfect and lived in complete and holy harmony with God.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and that perfect relationship with God was destroyed. They became corrupted with sin which affected everything. They turned in on themselves and became self-centered. Their relationships with God, themselves and world had all become tainted with sin. The consequences of their actions and the actions of their descendants have caused terrible misery, suffering, and hardship for all the world. All this harm is due to the utterly corrupt and self-centered nature of mankind that results from disobeying God, who as Creator knows what is best for us. The final consequence of our sin is eternal separation from God (Hell).
God, out of love for mankind, had a plan to bring mankind back to him and to restore that relationship with him. The plan was put in action with the calling of Abraham and came to its culmination with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. We, who believe in God by the grace of God through faith, have become new creatures. The relationship with God has been restored. This has not yet been fully realized but the Holy Spirit is at work in us, transforming us into new creatures. In Heaven we will be completely transformed and we will be in a complete and holy relationship with God.
Abraham was called by God, not for anything that he did, but his call was due entirely to God’s undeserving and unmerited favor (i.e. grace). He was a man of faith, sometimes strong and sometimes wavering. He had flaws, just like we do, but God was able to use him to further his plan. God takes ordinary people and makes them the People of God, despite their flaws. This can be seen through out Holy Scripture.
The descendants of Abraham ended up in Egypt, where they became slaves. God did not forget them, even though they forgot God. He sent Moses as his tool to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. After God had saved the Israelites, he gave them laws to live by so that they would know how to respond to God’s goodness toward them, and how to live as thankful witnesses to the world. Because of God’s saving grace, we too respond to God’s love with thankful obedience.
One can see through out the history of Israel how God was faithful to them even though much of the time they were faithless to God. We can learn from the many mistakes that they made for they were just like we are. God continued his plan by calling prophets to correct his chosen people and to proclaim his loving concern, looking forward to when all would be put right.
When the time was right Jesus was sent into the world to save us from our sin. Jesus, out of love for us, was willing to set aside his power and authority as God to save us. He was willing to suffer humiliation, pain and death for us. Such love!
Jesus came to earth, not in mighty splendor, but as a baby born to a virgin, to common folk. His birth was announced, not to the powerful of this world, but to shepherds. Humble servantude characterized his life here. He lived a perfect life in complete holiness, a life not tainted by sin. Jesus lived a life we could not, though he was tempted in every way just like us. His holy life is an example for us to follow.
Jesus was not the Messiah (the Christ) that many wanted. He did not come to Earth to make life comfortable or to make the People of God great. Rather he came to take care of the root of our problems: sin (and death and the Devil). Because he was not the Messiah that many desired, he was put to death.
The horrible death of Jesus was part of the plan of God. His death (that of God and of a man who lived a perfect life) was payment for the sins of all people for all time. We have been redeemed. Those who trust in Jesus are new creatures and have a new and right relationship with God. Sin, death and the Devil have been defeated.
Jesus did not remain in the grave, but he rose back to life. His resurrection means that we too can overcome death and live with God eternally. Jesus did not remain visibly here on Earth but he returned to the Father with all power and authority. The Holy Spirit was sent to bring us eternal life and to make us holy.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, many have been brought to saving faith in Jesus. Faith is a gift from God, not because of any merit on our part. We have been chosen by God, entirely by grace, just like Abraham and the people of Israel were. We are not worthy of God’s goodness and love. It is very important to recognize that there is nothing that we did and there is nothing that we are that caused God to give us the saving faith. He just did.
The Holy Spirit is at work in the People of God transforming us so that we may be God’s workmanship doing good deeds in thankful response to God’s saving love and grace. We have been transformed from being sin-filled and self-centered to being outwardly focused in order to serve God. We serve God by reaching out to others in need. The righteous deeds we do are done only by the power of the Holy Spirit. We do good deeds because God has saved us. (We do not and can not do good deeds to put us right with God.) As new creatures we are connected to God, and by the Holy Spirit’s help, our good deeds flow forth from our faith as a natural fruit of our connection with God.
We can hinder the transforming work of the Holy Spirit for the old sinful nature still exists in us. Sin, though defeated, still taints our thoughts, words and actions. From our imperfect perspective, we must work at being People of God. We must strive to be holy as God is holy, that is to be imitators of God. We have the life of Jesus to follow and Holy Scripture for instruction, correction and training. Also we have other Christians to help us grow more Christ-like.
We have been called to be part of the Body of Christ. As Christians we are part of a community of believers. Our faith is not private; rather we share, praise God and serve fellow believers as one body with Christ as our head. For we, being connected to God, are connected to one another. As one body we share in the pain and joy that other Christians feel. We should have care and concern for other Christians (and for nonbelievers).
Every second of our life is to be lived to the glory of God in thankful response to his saving love and providence. We recognize that everything we have (ourselves, our time, our possessions and our relationships) belong to God. In service to God (and to others) we are to make the best use of what God has put in our lives. We are God’s ambassadors, who make God’s presence known in a sinful and broken world by sharing the Good News of God’s love in word and deed. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must let our new nature shine forth so that people will see our good deeds and give glory to God.
Too often we fail and are in need of God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness comes to us by His word of promise. His forgiveness comes to us purely by His grace. His forgiving word is found in Holy Scripture, through the announcement of that word by a fellow Christian, and in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Sacraments are external means by which God’s grace comes to us. The sacraments consist of a material item (water; bread and wine / body and blood) and the word of God (his promise of forgiveness). The forgiveness in Baptism puts us right with God, whereas the forgiveness in Holy Communion strengthens us, the Body of Christ. This forgiveness, whether it comes to us by Sacrament or not, is entirely God’s doing (i.e. pure grace).
We await the return of Jesus. When he comes on the Last Day, he will take us to be with him in Heaven. He will judge all mankind of all time. All are unrighteous and are deserving of Hell, but those clothed in the righteousness of Jesus by virtue of faith will go to Heaven. In Heaven with new bodies, we will dwell forever in the presence of God, totally cleansed from our sin.
This statement of faith summarizes what I believe and from these beliefs I attempt to live my life to the glory of God, my Savior. To God alone be the glory!
The Third Draft: December 1997 copyright Paul F. Hein