As the article “‘Christian Beliefs’ that the Bible Doesn’t Teach” points out, many of the old dogmas taught by Christian preachers and churches aren’t even in the Bible—and in some cases the Bible specifically rejects them.
Strange but true!
A Trinity of Persons in God? Salvation by faith alone? Only Christians can be saved? The Bible doesn’t teach any of these things! They were invented by human beings hundreds of years after the Bible was written.
The Bible is far more concerned with how we live our life than with what we believe. The Bible is a practical book, not an abstract theological treatise.
Still, the Bible does provide us with a foundation of basic beliefs that we can trust and use as guides for everyday life.
Here are some Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach:
- There is one God, and Jesus Christ is that God
- Believing in Jesus Christ leads to salvation
- We must not do evil and destructive things
- We must do things that are good and right
- We must recognize that the power to do these things comes from God
Let’s take a look at each of these Christian beliefs, and what the Bible has to say about it.
There is one God, and Jesus Christ is that God
Because this is such an important teaching, we’ll spend more time on it than on the rest.
Wherever the Bible attaches a number to God, that number is one. Here are just a few examples:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29)
“Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me.” (Isaiah 45:21)
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6)
And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)
In the Gospels, Jesus continues to speak of God as one, and of himself as being one with that God:
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
Though even today many people do not understand what Jesus meant, his opponents at the time understood it perfectly well:
The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” (John 10:33)
When one of his disciples spoke as if Jesus were someone different from the Father, Jesus corrected him:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does the works.” (John 14:8–10)
In the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is called by the same names as God was in the Old Testament. For example:
These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life. (Revelation 2:8, emphasis added)
And listen to the words of this well-known prophecy:
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
The one named “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father,” upon whose shoulders the authority rests, is Jesus Christ:
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
Jesus knew that he was God come to earth:
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:54–59)
Why were they about to stone him? Because his seemingly strange statement, “Before Abraham was, I am” is a reference to Jehovah or Yahweh, the sacred name of the Lord in the Old Testament:
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘Jehovah, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.” (Exodus 3:13–15)
In this famous passage from the scene of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, God connects the Hebrew word for “I Am” with the most sacred name of God, here translated as “Jehovah.” In Hebrew, the two words sound similar. When Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” he was stating that he was, in fact, the very same God that the Hebrew people had known and worshiped from ancient times. In effect, he was saying, “I am Jehovah.”
That’s why, after an angel spoke to Joseph about the child that Mary had conceived, the Gospel writer adds:
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22–23)
And the prologue of the Gospel of John makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is God come to earth:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory. (John 1:1–3, 14)
These should be enough to show that the Bible does teach that there is one God, and that Jesus Christ is that God.
For more, see:
- Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus
Believing in Jesus Christ leads to salvation
Many Christians think that the only way to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach this (see Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?). But it does teach that belief in Jesus Christ leads to salvation.
Here are a few among many passages that teach this:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
Jesus said to them . . . “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.” (John 10:7, 9)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)
He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:30–31)
Of course, in the Bible “belief” does not mean a mere intellectual acceptance of Jesus Christ. And it certainly doesn’t mean repeating some formulaic “sinner’s prayer” that supposedly causes us to be saved just by saying it. Believing in Jesus Christ means accepting the Lord Jesus into our heart and into our life so deeply that we are transformed step by step into a whole new person.
What we truly believe is shown not by what we think or by what we say, but by how we live. If we live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ by actively loving God and loving our neighbor, we are believing in Jesus Christ through our actions even if we don’t intellectually accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
For more, see:
- Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
- If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
- Did Jesus Really Die to Pay the Penalty for our Sins?!?
We must not do evil and destructive things
This one should be obvious. But since there are still many Christians who believe that faith is the only thing that matters for salvation, here are some passages commanding us not to do evil things, and telling us that those who do evil will be condemned to the spiritual death symbolized by the fires of hell.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil. (Isaiah 1:16)
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. (Ezekiel 18:30–32)
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7–9)
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” (Luke 13:1–5)
But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:5–11)
These are just a few of many, many passages teaching us that we must stop doing evil and destructive things if we wish to find our way to heaven.
How can we be in heaven if we keep on doing hellish things? If we say we believe in God, but violate God’s commandments, our “belief” means nothing.
For more, see:
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
- Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
- Repentance: The Unpopular Partner of Forgiveness
- Is it Easy or Hard to Get to Heaven?
We must do things that are good and right
Many Christians have gotten confused by a misunderstanding of Paul’s teachings about faith and works. They think Paul meant that all we need is faith in Jesus, and we don’t have to do good works in order to be saved. But as you can see from Romans 2:5–11, quoted just above, that is not what Paul meant. (For what he really did mean, see: Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does.)
Here are just a few of many Bible passages teaching that we must love our neighbor and do what is good and right if we want to have life and salvation:
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16–17)
If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right—if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully—such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 18:5–9)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:20)
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40)
What does Jesus Christ himself say about what saves us and what condemns us? He is very clear. It is not just believing in Jesus—and it applies to all the nations, not just the Christian nations:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’
“Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31–46)
Jesus really couldn’t be any clearer that those who do what is good and right will go to heaven, while those who do not will go to hell.
For more, see:
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
- What Does Religion Have to Do with My Profession and My Daily Work?
- Money Can’t Buy Happiness . . . But Service Can
We must recognize that the power to do these things comes from God
As we go about our daily lives, doing this or that for our fellow human beings, we naturally suppose that we are doing it by ourselves and from our own power. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t think it’s really true. Because the reality is that by ourselves, we can’t do anything at all.
Our very life comes from God. Without the spirit and life of God within us we are nothing but dust:
Then the Lord God formed a human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
God didn’t just breathe life into us in the beginning. God breathes life into us every moment. When that breath from God is withdrawn, our life is over:
When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. (Psalm 104:29)
Psalm 127 recognizes poetically that everything we do, if it is anything at all, must come from God:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
In the Gospels, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ himself tell us that everything we have, everything we do, and everything we are is given to us from heaven—which means that it comes from the Lord our God:
John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” (John 3:27)
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)
Traditional Christians often reject the idea that our works, or our actions, have anything to do with our salvation. One reason for this is the mistaken idea that doing good works is something we do by ourselves in order to earn our way into heaven.
But the fact is that every good thing we do comes from God, and is done by God’s power working through us. When we take credit for our good works, we are stealing the credit from God, who actually does the works. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does the works” (John 14:10).
Doing good works doesn’t earn us salvation. When it comes from God, it is salvation.
When we love our neighbor by doing good deeds for them, that is God’s love and God’s power filling us and flowing through us. When we accept God into our life, and become filled with God’s love, wisdom, and power, that is the very definition of being saved.
For more, see:
Where does this come from? What does it mean?
To give credit where credit is due, this particular selection of five basic Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach was not my idea. It is based on what Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) wrote in True Christianity #3. (You can read the original “specifics of faith” here. Just scroll down to the paragraph that starts with “.”)
But you don’t have to take Swedenborg’s word for it.
You don’t even have to take my word for it.
You can take the Bible’s word for it.
As you can see if you read the many Bible passages offered above, these Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach are solidly founded on the plain words of the Bible itself. If you read the entire Bible with these things in mind, you will find these simple, basic, practical teachings all through it.
Here is an even shorter version of these Christian beliefs:
- Believe in one God, who is the Lord God Jesus Christ.
- Stop doing evil things, and do what is good instead.
- Realize that everything good you do comes from God.
There is no need to consult fancy theologians or engage in fancy interpretations to understand and believe these things. Unlike the many traditional but non-Biblical “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach, these are Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach plainly and clearly for anyone to see. They are simple and practical.
That’s why we can trust them and use them as guides for everyday life.
If you would like to know more about this type of genuine Christianity based on an open-minded, enlightened view of the Bible, we invite you to explore the articles linked above, and to browse through the other posts here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. We hope your mind and heart will be opened to new inspirations about God and spirit in your everyday life.