Unity & the Christian Fundamentals, (I) The Two Creeds of Pristine Christianity

Unity & the Christian Fundamentals, (I) The Two Creeds of Pristine Christianity

Up until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Christians were considered a “sect” (a subdivision) of the monotheistic Abrahamic Faith. The Abrahamic Faith consisted of those who embraced the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and His covenants, promises, and commandments (Acts 24:5,14; Acts 28:22). The other “sects” of the Abrahamic Faith were the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; Acts 26:5) and the Sadducees (Acts 5:17). Lesser known sects were the Samaritans (John 4:19-26) and the Essenes (Josephus, Wars, Bk. II, ch. 8). The sect of the Pharisees and the sect of the Christians (also called “Nazarenes” {Acts 24:5} & “the Way” {Acts 19:23}) shared many of the same interpretations of Scripture and especially the same “Hope,” the resurrection of the body and the permanent Land Inheritance promised to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 23:6-9; Acts 26:6-7; Acts 28:18). After the exodus, the Abrahamic Faith had as its creed the Shema (the Hebrew word for “hear”):  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4 NKJ). This creed was reinforced in the prophets many times, stating that there is one God, and no other (ex. Isa. 43:9-13), and was the essential cornerstone of all of the sects within the Abrahamic Faith. The literal meaning of the Shema, that God is one Person and there is no other God but He, was clearly affirmed by Jesus (Mark 12:29-34; John 17:3). This concept was equally fundamental to the Christian sect. The “one God” was identified by the Apostles with the Father alone (1 Cor. 8:4-6; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19).

All of the sects within the Abrahamic Faith hoped in the coming of the Messiah even though they had various expectations about who He would be. However, only the Christians believed He had already arrived, been crucified, rose again, ascended into heaven, and was seated at God’s right hand in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1. The Christian sect, led by the Apostles through the holy Breath, had a second creed or confession which was just as essential as the Shema. This creed distinguished it from all the other “sects” within the monotheistic Abrahamic Faith. It was the confession that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 16:16-18; John 20:31). This public confession was required upon one’s immersion in order to receive the remission of sins, secure the hope of the resurrection to immortality, and to be added to the local Christian community (Acts 2:21,38; Acts 8:12,36-38; Acts 22:16).

That Christianity was a sect of the Abrahamic Faith can also be shown from Paul’s parable of the Olive Tree in Romans 11. The branches that were broken off were all of those of the Abrahamic Faith who did not embrace the second creed, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. The wild branches that are grafted in are non-Israelites who share in the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants and are adopted sons of God and Abraham, heirs of the promises God made to Abraham, David, and Christ.

Today, Christianity hardly resembles what it was originally. It is cut off from its roots, fragmented, and divided into hundreds of “sects” or “denominations,” carrying nearly two-thousand years of extra-biblical, non-apostolic baggage. Yet it is not much different than the situation that existed regarding the Abrahamic Faith in Jesus’ day, with its leaders “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9), and greatly misunderstanding the Scriptures (Matt. 21:42; Matt. 22:29). All of this is the result of compounding corruption. It creates the opposite effect from what Jesus prayed regarding those who would believe through the apostolic witness:

John 17:20-23 NKJV
 20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

According to Jesus’ prayer, the effectiveness of the Gospel of the Kingdom in the world, and the world’s realization of just who Jesus really is, depends greatly upon the unity of God’s people, that they are united just as the Father and Son are united, one mind, one will, one goal. Paul utterly condemned sectarianism within Christianity as carnality (1 Cor. 1:2-3; 1 Cor. 1:12-13; 1 Cor. 3:1-23; 1 Cor. 12:25). He also commanded that we all strive to preserve the unity of the Faith (Eph. 4:1-6; Phil. 1:27).

Christianity today is broken and ineffective in the world, a far cry from its effectiveness in apostolic times or what God intends. Its failure to remain what it was originally is due partly to the erosion of pristine apostolic doctrines and syncretism with foreign doctrines. Some of this is the result of honest mistakes and misunderstandings of Scripture. But some is from malicious tampering by wolves in sheep’s clothing, men seeking to draw away the disciples after themselves and maintaining their power and positions just like the scribes and Pharisees (Acts 20:39-30; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4).

Virtually all denominations and groups which call themselves “Christian” claim to hold to the above two fundamentals or creeds, that God is one and that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. The problems, which are at the root of the main divisions of Christianity, and are thus hindering the Gospel of the Kingdom, are:

1. The meaning of the Shema (“oneness” of God) is defined differently from what was intended.
2. The meaning of the good confession, that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” is misunderstood.
3. Other doctrines, which Scripture does not hold as fundamental to salvation, have been added as tests of fellowship.

So what is the path back to the effectiveness of pristine Christianity as demonstrated in Acts? It is not by dumbing down doctrine or diminishing its importance. It must start with a willingness of leaders to humbly cross denominational divisions and reexamine the two essential Christian creedal confessions, exactly what they meant within their historical settings. That means examining the meaning of the Shema in its historical setting (the Israelites in the wilderness having been called out of Egypt), and examining the baptismal confession that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”  in the context of first century Christianity. In the following blog posts in this series, I intend to explore these two fundamentals in some detail.

Just as in Jesus’ day “new wineskins” were needed to contain the “new wine” (New Covenant – Matt. 9:16-17), because the current leaders of Israel were too invested in their positions and power, so too most Christian leaders are too invested in their own positions, titles, salaries, peer-groups, etc., to risk humbly reexamining the pillars of the Christian Faith. It is going to take a new rag-tag band of “fishermen” and “tax collectors” whom God can shape and use to begin to turn things around, to be workers in God’s field for the final harvest (John 4:34-36).

Matt. 9:36-38 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Unity & the Christian Fundamentals, Part II: The Meaning of “One God” – TIMOTHEOS’ BLOG (4windsfellowships.net)

15 thoughts on “Unity & the Christian Fundamentals, (I) The Two Creeds of Pristine Christianity

  1. So looking forward to this blog series. It has been a long time coming that those who are tired of the vast diversity of “teachings” in the church get a fresh dose of scrutiny.
    One of the most nefarious and divisive specters (IMO) is that of full or hyper Preterism. Will you be dealing with this erroneous teaching?

    1. Doug,
      I agree that preterism is a very dangerous and destructive doctrine. Dealing with that is not on my radar for the near future, but I may deal with it at some point. For now, I want to focus on the #1 question which both defines and divides Christianity. Paul called this “the Mystery of God.” This “mystery” involves both the Father and the Son, and is revealed (de-mystified) by both Paul and John in the NT, so that mature Christians might be “… attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:2-3 NKJV). The proper understanding of the “mystery of God” is a gold-mine.

  2. This will be good. Your teachings are much needed, especially, with all of the false doctrines running rapid on social media. Let us not be deceived. Thank you, Tim.

  3. Hi Tim,

    Christian unity and pristine doctrine have always been a struggle. Traditions of men have always had a strong pull on the hearts of men as we naturally like unity, even to the point that they will not profess what they believe if it might cause them to be separated from fellowship and branded a heretic.

    People come and people go. You start sharing the truth with them. Their eyes are open and they hunger and thirst for more, thanking God that our paths crossed. Only to be later exposed as rocks that the seed was sown upon that wither due to the heat they take because of the truth they’ve learned from an “unlearned and ignorant man” that opposes “main stream” “churchianity” and Christianity. As they fall back to their former, larger crowd, at least seed was planted that I would hope will torment them if they try continuing to suppress it.

    As you have often said, there are no lone wolves. Yet, I find myself alone most of the time once the “love of the brethren” turns into doctrinal discourse. As some say, “Doctrine divides. Yes, it divides truth from error.” And by and large we are the ones branded as being in error. Jesus said we’d be hated of all men for His sake. Many can’t take such rejection of peers for His sake.

    Looking forward to this new series. May we glean from it and take comfort.

    God Bless,
    Joe

  4. I’m so excited to walk through the reexamine of Scripture! Your blog set a fire in my soul!
    Thank you,
    Shannon

    1. Scripture gives the admonition to, “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head” (Eph4:15) and “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Rom12:16).

      I think that the battle for all our hearts and minds ultimately belongs to God. Our challenge is: “This is the work of God, that you believe [pisteuō: to have faith, in/upon] in Him whom He sent” (John6:29).

      Blessings from the Father through Christ!

  5. Tim,
    Thank you for this blog and the series you are going to be posting. I have not been a part of a “church” denomination since I found your website some 6 years ago. The people of God must be taught the truth as Jesus taught it some 2,000 years ago. There is no place for man made rules in our faith. New fisherman are needed for the coming harvest. It is not about who can have the biggest building with coffee bars and gift shops but it must be about living a life that is Christ centered and knowing and sharing the love of God.
    Blessings to you and your family. I am so looking forward to re-establishing the true meaning of what it means to be a true Christian.

  6. I agree with the two initial “creeds”, and also with the idea that, just for the sake of unity, we should not dumb-down doctrine.

    We must realized that the Bible has only given a handful of specific instances that are salvific issues. Examples (not all inclusive): John 3.3 (Born again), John 8:24 (Jesus as the Christ, Son of God) , 1 Cor 15 (Resurrection), and of course unrepentant sin.

    Christology and Eschatology are big areas of division, but should be studied and not dumbed-down. But I found it interesting that reading Snobelen’s “Isaac Newton, Socinianism, and “The One Supreme God”, Newton states of Justin [martyr], “For when Justin had represented to Trypho the Jew that Christ was God before the world began, & was afterwards born & became a man, & Trypho put him upon proving this: Justin replied that tho he should fail in proving that Christ was God before the world began, yet if he could but prove that Jesus was the Christ of God, it was sufficient for the Christian religion, some of the Christians beleiving [sic] that Christ was only a man.”

    We must also realize that even strongly held beliefs outside of the 2 creeds and the explicitly spelled out doctrines, do NOT necessarily present a cause for disfellowship or disunity. Sometimes it is easier to try and affirm every detail as opposed to actually doing the work commanded by our Master (1COR8.1). He has the words of life, so we study them, but never forget: Jesus did not say we would be known by the perfections of our theologies, but by the way we love one another.

    1. Michael,
      The passage from Justin Martyr that Sir Isaac Newton referenced was chapter 48 of the Dialogue with Trypho. It reads as follows:

      “Now assuredly, Trypho,” I continued,” [the proof] that this man is the Christ of God does not fail, though I be unable to prove that He existed formerly as Son of the Maker of all things, being God, and was born a man by the Virgin. But since I have certainly proved that this Man is the Christ of God, whoever He be, even if I do not prove that He pre-existed, and submitted to be born a man of like passions with us, having a body, according to the Father’s will; in this last matter alone is it just to say that I have erred, and not to deny that He is the Christ, though it should appear that He was born man of men, and [nothing more] is proved [than this], that He has become Christ by election. For there are some, my friends,” I said, “of our race, who admit that He is Christ, while holding Him to be man of men; with whom I do not agree, nor would I, even though most of those who have [now] the same opinions as myself should say so; since we were enjoined by Christ Himself to put no faith in human doctrines, but in those proclaimed by the blessed prophets and taught by Himself.”

      I absolutely agree with you that those who are truly the children of God are known by their love, obedience to God’s commands, and the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit more so than by perfect understanding of doctrine.

  7. I’m very excited to see this blog and this particular topic. I’ve struggled for many years as to whether I should join myself with an assembly that is a denomination, that misunderstands those two fundamental beliefs, and that believes a mixture of scripture and gnosticism/paganism. How can there ever be biblical unity if there is disagreement on the fundamentals?
    I can’t wait for the next blog post. Thank you!

  8. I have learned a great deal from this ministry about the recent history of the Two Peoples of God doctrine of Dispensational Theology. Paul warned against denominations in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, and now we should understand why. The battle between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant began in Acts chapter 15, and continues to the present time. During most of that time the Judaisers have won the day.
    We all need to get back to the original teachings of the first century Church, which are clearly written in scripture through the inspiration of the Spirit of God. I greatly appreciate your efforts in that regard.

    1Jn 2:27  But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 

    I love you Brother.

  9. You last paragraph Just in Jesus Day ….

    Is so true but sad to see operating all around the world. I have tried to share on the correct understanding of Soul and Immortality and challenge the Trinity dogma and peoples eyes gloss over and they think I I have gone mad or just roll their eyes. They dont see their position lacks logic and causes contradictions.
    I cant but think that not having an accurate biblical/godly understanding on these doctrines and others will impact how we react in the tribulation when lying signs are done deceiving even the elect.

    I feel so much out of my depth when trying to just fellowship now with people who hold to old erroneous beliefs of the trinity, immortality and pre-tribulation rapture.
    I see how far the pristine church has fallen and have built their house on the sand.

    Bless you so much my brother in Christ. My heart sings when I think of what God has done and how clearly he actually has had made the teaching of Chiliasm.

  10. Thought provoking as always Tim. I have always learned a lot from your ministry and from the forums and am very happy to see this. I’ve definitely missed seeing your posts, so thank you for taking the time to start this.
    Blessings to you and your family.
    YBIC,
    John

    1. I think the “way back” depends on when God comes like a thief in the night and creates a new heavenly earth then we can start over. When the wicked are cast into a lake of fire and brimstone. That is when we can count on unified Christians being whole that obviously will be few. There is a way back and that to me would be it.

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