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Faith Of Our Fathers: Unity Produced By Christian Doctrine

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Originally published in Uplook magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2011.
Western nations celebrate different belief systems in order to accommodate the disparate races, cultures, and people-types that coexist within their borders. In everyday life, politically correct speech and philosophical relativism combine to make people studiously avoid discussing subjects that are the most important to them, thereby averting controversy. Likewise, conventional wisdom advises one to steer clear of discussions on politics, religion, or worldviews, for they almost certainly result in unpleasantness. By abstaining from discussions of strongly held views, the tenuous admixture of divergent groups mostly holds, at least providing the veneer of peace.
Christianity, on the other hand, demands confrontation and engagement in the rough and tumble issues of life. To become a Christian one must deal with the most depressing reality about oneself: one’s personal sin and guilt in the eyes of a holy God. Unity is achieved by leveling the field of human distinction. That is, all have sinned, all need the Saviour (Rom. 3:23.) People of every kindred, tribe, and tongue are redeemed by the same blood. They place their confidence in the same Lord. Unity comes not by looking to oneself and one’s personal characteristics; rather it stems from adherence to the same body of teachings, known in the New Testament as “the faith” (Eph. 4:5; for other usages of “faith” in this sense see Acts 6:7; 1 Tim. 1:2; 4:1, etc.) These doctrines are the substance of Christian belief, linking the saints to Christ their Head, as well as to one another (Eph. 4:13-15.)
Defining Faith
Of course, faith is a common word, occurring 244 times in the Greek New Testament. Often it refers to belief, such as in God the Father or the Lord Jesus (e.g. Mt. 8:10; Rom. 3:28.) Other times it is used of “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness” (e.g. Rom. 3:3, NKJV.) While some expositors hold that it refers to the first type of faith, in the context of Ephesians 4 it makes more sense to take it in the second sense. As Ironside puts it: “This is not the faith by which we are saved, but the faith of the Christian Church, the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is the one standard of truth that God has given to be proclaimed in the world, it is that which the apostle calls the faith. Faith in Christ is confidence in Jesus, but the faith is the body of the Christian doctrine.” It is used in the New Testament approximately 28 times in this manner (some of the references are debatable as to which of the meanings of “faith” are in view.)
The Content Of The Faith
The teaching that comprises “the faith” is multifaceted and covers every aspect of life for time and eternity. Its doctrines begin with the truth that there is one God (1 Tim. 2:5), existing in three co-equally divine persons (Jn. 14-17, etc.) He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Mt. 22:32), who inspired the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the New Testament writings (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21; 3:15-16; Jn. 14:25; 16:12-14.) Jesus is God the Son, as well as the only impeccable and perfect man (1 Tim. 3:16.) The Father and the Spirit are also God (Jn. 14:16-17, 23; Mt. 28:19.)