When I first came to faith in Jesus Christ — that is to say, when I got “saved” — I was a 9 year old boy. At that time, I had never heard the word “Trinity” (except maybe as part of the name of a church), I couldn’t have told you who Habakkuk was, I was unable to even spell Deuteronomy, and I didn’t even realize there was a difference between Methodists and Presbyterians (except that they attended different churches, of course). Names like John Wesley, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and John Calvin were completely foreign to me. But I did know one thing: I knew that Jesus Christ loved me and cared about me. I knew that He had given Himself for me (although I really had no idea what the Crucifixion and Resurrection were all about or why they were even necessary).
My faith in the Lord Jesus was very simple and literally “child-like” at that time, but it was a real faith. I trusted in Him and knew that I wanted to follow Him, whatever that meant. After a time or two of finding myself wayward and wandering, this prodigal son did eventually come home, and I ended up learning a few more things about my precious Savior and His Word than I knew at the beginning. I didn’t become more saved by learning these things, nor did my faith somehow become more efficacious having found them out. But after I did become a part of God’s family, there were some important components of the Gospel Message that I came to understand more fully, components that are fundamental to what actually defines the Gospel.
But the question remains: Are there essential elements of the Gospel that should eventually be believed and accepted as a Christian gains maturity in their relationship with the Lord? I believe that there are. There are certain absolute, non-negotiable tenets that constitute what it means to truly be a Christian, doctrines which cannot be rejected by one who would claim to trust in and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, once they do learn about them. Traditionally, the Church has written down “creeds” which delineate agreed upon doctrines that should be universally accepted,whose recital and confirmation often establish whether or not an individual may join their congregation as a full member. But long before a single creed was written, the Apostle Paul included 10 such fundamental doctrines for all believers in the Book of Romans:
“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:23-25)
The “it” that Paul is writing about here is “Justification by faith” or, “Salvation.” In the same manner that Abraham was justified before God by the simple fact that he believed God, so it is with the believer in Jesus Christ. Contained within this statement are our 10 key elements that we must believe:
1.) Salvation Is Available To All
“But for us also…”
The universal availability of Justification with God is repeatedly demonstrated throughout the opening chapters of Romans (e.g., 1:14, 1:16, 2:11, 3:22, 3:30, 4:12, 4:16). This is very crucial for us to believe because if we doubt that God’s Grace is available to us, we are not going to put our faith in Him. If we believe that God’s Grace is not available to someone else, we are not going to share the Gospel with them. Therefore, it is very important that we understand and believe that every living person has access to receiving Salvation.
2.) Righteousness Is Imputed, Not Earned
“to whom it shall be imputed…”
Again, many verses in the opening chapters of Romans clearly show that Salvation is a gift of Grace from God, not something earned by man’s efforts (e.g., Rom. 3:20, 3:27-28, 4:4). Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
One of the most crucial things that we must understand about the Gospel is that Righteousness with God is never earned, it is imputed as a gift.
3.) Salvation Is Voluntary And Contingent On If We Believe
“If we believe…”
Salvation is not an automatic provision for anybody. It occurs only if we believe. There are some who teach that you need to do absolutely nothing in order to be saved. There are others who teach that everyone (or almost everyone) will be saved. Neither of these teachings are supported by the Bible.
Granted, our part in the process of Salvation is vastly lesser than God’s part. In fact, He has done EVERYTHING else in order for you to be saved. The ONLY thing that you have to do is believe on Him. But you do have to do that.
4.) We Must Believe On God
“believe on Him…”
Some people believe that it really doesn’t matter who or what you believe, as long as your belief is sincere. But whom we put our faith in is extremely crucial. It is not enough to just have faith, our faith must be in God. We must know in Whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).
5.) Jesus Was Raised From The Dead
“that raised up Jesus…”
We MUST believe that Jesus Christ was literally and physically resurrected from the dead. If we do not, then we remain dead ourselves in our own sin (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). If Jesus Christ was not literally raised from the dead, then He is dead still. And so are we.
6.) Jesus Is Our Lord
“Jesus our Lord…”
There is a movement in some parts of the Church today which teaches that one does not need to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord in order to be saved. Proponents of this “No-Lordship Salvation” teach that it is only necessary to believe that Christ paid the price for your sins. There is no obligation or expectation to turn from sin and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, only to believe that He has paid the price for your sins and then you are consequently free to live your life however you choose.
I am unable to find any passage in the New Testament where the Gospel is presented apart from the accompanying call to follow Christ or the title of “Lord” being attached to His name. This passage is no exception.
7.) Jesus Died
“from the dead…”
Along with a literal, physical resurrection, we must believe that Jesus suffered a literal, physical death. Skeptics and liberal Theologians have suggested countless alternate scenarios where Jesus did not actually die, it only seemed that way. But in order for an actual resurrection to occur, an actual death must also occur.
Jesus Himself said that He was dead and is alive again (Revelation 1:18). How can we say we believe on Him if we do not believe what He has said?
8.) Jesus Was Delivered
“Who was delivered…”
We must understand that Jesus was not a helpless victim, no, He was in control of His destiny and voluntarily went to the Cross (Matthew 26:53, John 19:11). Jesus was the Perfect Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus willingly paid the price for the sins of mankind.
9.) For Our Sins
“Delivered for our offences…”
This is why Jesus was crucified. For our sins. He has paid the penalty required of us.
10.) And Raised For Our Justification
The whole purpose of His death and Resurrection was so that we could be justified with God if we believe on Him.
So, we see nestled into Romans 4:23-25 a summary of the entire Gospel Message. These are the essential components that we must believe if we are truly trusting in Him.