“that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro
and carried about with every wind of doctrine ” (Eph. 4:14, NKJV)
Children display a wonderful naivety to life – trusting, unassuming, authentic. Jesus held up childlike faith as the posture for entrance into the kingdom of God. Challenging worldly conceptions of greatness, Jesus beckoned a child to Himself and said: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3–4).
While a child’s naivety can be endearing, it can also be endangering. Children can be unguarded and easily led astray.
The same is true of God’s children. Disciples are to be trained to be discerning, to watch their step and guard their ways. They are to be taught not to follow strangers but to listen to the voice of their Shepherd and follow Him. They are not to believe everything that sounds pious but to test the teaching to see if it is of God. With the milk and meat of God’s Word they become skilled in righteousness through constant practice.
That God’s children may not be deceived with “persuasive words” (Col. 2:4), they are to be rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith (Col. 2:6). Paul describes the goal of such teaching as mature manhood, defined as the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-14; cf. Eph. 2:20-22).
The faith of which Paul speaks is the body of teaching that promotes knowledge of the Son of God. The reference is not faith but the faith, the good deposit entrusted to the church. The apostle assigns this training responsibility to those Christ raises up to shepherd the flock under their care (Acts 20:28).
A syllabus for introduction to the rudiments of the Christian faith can be found in the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed outlines the Bible’s teaching. The subject is the faith and the centerpiece is the Christ.
The Apostles’ Creed divides into three sections, addressing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit respectively. But its emphasis is not so much the Trinity as it is that salvation is Trinitarian – grounded in the saving purpose of God the Father, gained through Christ His Son, and granted by the Spirit of the risen Christ. The Creed lays all the glory of salvation at the feet of God alone.
The core of the Creed is unfurled in the center section that addresses the person and work of Jesus Christ, commanding more lines than the other two sections combined. The Creed begins by holding up the eternal God. Jesus is the Son given by the Father. The Spirit is the conveyor of Christ’s accomplished work for the church. But the beating heart, the engine of salvation is Jesus Christ, God incarnate to save. The Creed serves as a primer to the gospel.
When children learn to read or write, they first learn the rudiments. They build on the basics. Paul speaks of basics when he says: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). Paul went on to greater detail. But he begins with the basics.
Some have an aversion to doctrine. They are afraid of scaring off potential church members. But leaving God’s children unprotected and unfortified with sound teaching that roots them in Christ is akin to child abuse. It stunts spiritual growth and leaves them open to spiritual predators.
- What would you consider the basics of the faith?
- How does grounding in the faith help us as babes in Christ, as questioning and even rebellious teens, and as aged saints nearing the close of life’s journey?
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, that with one heart and one mind we may exclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.