10 Words Every Christian Should Know (and Be Able to Explain)
Here are 10 words every Christian should know—and be able to explain—in order to "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
Saving faith is not, as is commonly believed, a blind faith. There are three aspects of saving faith:
- knowledge of Christ and his salvific work;
- agreement that the claims of Christianity are true;
- hearty trust in Christ alone for our salvation.
Faith is the instrument through which, by God’s grace, Christ’s perfect righteousness and atoning sacrifice are credited to us. It is God’s gift, not a work of any kind (Eph. 2:8-9). For more on the definition of faith, please click here.
Grace is one of God’s attributes. According to theologian Louis Berkhof, the grace of God in our redemption in Christ
is God's free, sovereign undeserved favor or love to man, in his state of sin and guilt, which manifests itself in the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from His justice. (Systematic Theology, p. 427).
There is nothing we have done or could ever do to merit God’s grace. We receive it by God’s sovereign choice alone (Rom. 11:5-6).
There are two aspects to peace—objective and subjective. Just as two countries have a status of peace with each other through official agreements, so Christians are declared at peace with God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). This means that we still have the status of peace with God regardless of how we feel or how well we keep his commands at any given time.
It is normal for Christians to still feel anxious in this troubled world and to feel a lack of peace from the sin in their lives. These feelings should spur us on to trust in God, repent of our sins, and seek to live in such a manner that honors our Lord. Christians should always be exceedingly thankful and find unfathomable comfort in the fact that the blood of Christ sufficiently atones for all their guilt and sin.
God in his perfection must uphold all his attributes. We cannot separate God’s love from his holiness, or his mercy from his justice. God must be true to all his attributes, because to do otherwise would be to deny his own self. As theologian Michael Horton so aptly states in his book The Christian Faith, “God would not be God if he did not possess all his attributes in the simplicity and perfection of his essence” (229). Jesus was born in the flesh so he could fulfill the whole law and be the perfect sacrifice on behalf of all who put their faith in him (Heb. 10:11-14).
At the cross Jesus offered up his life as the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice for all who trust in him for salvation (e.g. John 10:14, 15). According to Horton we observe, "the clearest evidence of the complete consistency between God's goodness and his sovereignty, justice, wrath, and righteousness in Christ's cross" (p. 266). At the cross we see God's “righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
According to theologian R. C. Sproul, the law is like a mirror: it shows us our sin, but it can do nothing to save us. In fact, the law condemns everyone who is not in Christ. Jesus was born in the flesh in order to be the perfect Son whom God had promised since the fall of Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:15).
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3-4)
Jesus kept the law perfectly on behalf of all who trust in him for salvation, and they are counted righteous in God’s sight through faith alone by God’s grace alone.
The law also serves the purposes of restraining evil and showing us what is pleasing to God. Christians should also strive to keep God's law in joyfully thanksgiving for all God has done for them in Christ, although they will do so imperfectly in this life. For more on the "three-fold use" of the law, click here.
The Gospel is the good news of what Jesus did to redeem his people (his birth, life, death, and resurrection) and inaugurate the kingdom of God and the new creation. It is good news because we are unable to save ourselves, as all our works are tainted by sin and we are all guilty in Adam. Without Christ being born in the flesh, keeping the law perfectly, and being the perfect once-for-all sacrifice for sin, we would be without hope. Because of God’s love for the world in sending his Son, there is a way to peace with God: it is the narrow gate that is through faith in Christ alone:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt. 7:13-14)
There is salvation in no other name, because only the God-man could save us from ourselves (Acts 4:12).
Without understanding how they are justified in Christ, Christians may wrongly think their own works, good or bad, could keep them in or out of God’s kingdom. The Bible says that we are declared righteous in Christ—this is a legal verdict and not something that God sees inside of us (Rom. 4:5; 5:8-9). Christ has taken upon himself the punishment we deserve, and he has earned life for us by his perfect obedience to God’s law. Believers will never have to face God’s just sentence for their sins and spend eternity in hell separated from God. Think of someone in a courtroom who is guilty of a horrible crime and deserving of the severest punishment, but is instead declared innocent because someone else received the penalty for them—and even made them coheirs with him, sharing in his vast wealth. This is the joyful justification every believer has in Christ.
Not only do Christians have the benefit of being justified in Christ, they also have the benefit of sanctification. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer and is at work conforming them to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). According to the Heidelberg Catechism, sanctification in Christ consists of two parts:
- the dying of the old self (mortification), which consists of a "heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God by our sin, and more and more to hate it and flee from it" (Q. 89);
- and living unto God (vivification), which consists of "a heartfelt joy in God through Christ, and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works" (Q. 90).
Christians should be diligent to grow in godliness and be confident, as the apostle Paul writes, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church has turned around the teaching of justification and sanctification, erroneously teaching that our justification comes some day in the undetermined future, after we have completed the process of sanctification via the sacraments of Rome and purgatory. The truth is that all believers are coheirs with Christ, and sanctification is God’s gift to all his children. As the apostle John declares,
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
The doctrine of imputation is one of the most under-taught teachings in the church today, and every Christian needs to know it. God credits to us the righteousness of Christ, and this comes through faith alone, which is also God’s gift to us in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Additionally, our sin is credited to Christ, who, though he knew no sin, was punished for the sins of all who trust in him for salvation (2 Cor. 5:21). Martin Luther called this the Great Exchange: Christ’s righteousness counted (credited) to us, and our sin counted (credited) to Christ. You can also think of this double imputation as a balance sheet, with Christ’s assets on one side and our liabilities on the other side. God doesn’t look at our hearts and judge us as righteous based on our holiness; rather, we are judged as righteous because of the perfect work of Christ that is imputed to us. We don’t have to be punished for our sin either, because God imputed the punishment we deserve to Christ who bore it in full at the cross.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our greatest hope, since it showed that our Savior conquered sin, death, and the devil at the cross, and the grave could not hold him. We can also take great comfort in knowing that we, too, will have resurrected bodies like Christ one day. We won’t always be separated from our physical bodies but will one day be reunited with them, and we won’t be able to sin anymore! Praise God!
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:20-22)
One day suffering, pain, evil, and death will be no more, and all believers will behold the beauty of their Savior at last and for always:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:4-5).
Recommended: Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story by Michael Horton