Lesson 1: Introducing The Christian Faith


Hello, and welcome to lesson 1 of An Introduction To The Christian Faith. This is the first of two introductory lessons. Here my objective is to introduce you to this study and to the faith by examining each word in the title of this course: An Introduction To The Christian Faith.


First, let us consider the word “Christian” in the phrase, “the Christian faith”.

The word “Christian” signals that our faith is centered upon the person of Jesus Christ. You can hear the word “Christ” in the word “Christian”.

So, let us consider the name Jesus and the word, Christ.

Who is Jesus? In brief, Jesus was a historical person, born in the town of Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. According to the Scriptures, he lived a sinless life under the Old Covenant law of Moses. He was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead on the third day, after which he ascended to God the Father in glory, and lives forevermore. The first four books in the New Testament Scriptures – the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – tell us all about Jesus, his person, and work.

The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name, Joshua. So Jesus is Joshua. If you know the story of Joshua from the Old Testament (the man who led Israel into the promised land after Moses died), then you will understand why this name is significant – Jesus is the second and greater Joshua who leads his people (that is to say, all who trust in him), not into the land of Canaan, but into the eternal promised land, the new heavens and earth! The name Joshua means, the LORD delivers, or the LORD is salvation, and this is a very fitting name for Jesus, for it is through him that the LORD delivers and saves his people.  

Secondly, let us briefly consider the title “Christ”. Notice, I said title, not name. “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name as many suppose, but is a significant title. 

“Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, “Messiah”. And Messiah means anointed one. In the Old Testament Scriptures, we see that God promised to one day send a Messiah – one who would be anointed with the Holy Spirit – one who would save his people from sin and judgment. When we call Jesus of Nazareth, Christ, we are saying that he is the Messiah who was promised by God long ago.   

So then, the Christian faith centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Joshua. It is through him that the LORD delivers and saves. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. He is the promised Messiah, God’s anointed one, the great prophet, priest and king of God’s people. 

It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul summed up his preaching ministry by saying, “[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28, ESV)

Now, it should be said that though the Christian faith centers upon Jesus Christ, it has as its aim the reconciliation of sinful human beings with the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To state this point differently, though it is true that the Christian faith centers upon Jesus Christ, it has as its goal or aim, the glory of God Almighty and a right relationship with him.

Consider this. In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is called “the only mediator between God and man.” 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” In John 14:6 we find the words of Jesus. He spoke to one of his disciples named Thomas, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). A mediator is a go-between, a middleman, a peacemaker. 

Why do we need a mediator between us and God? Why do we need someone to go through to come to God? Answer: it is because of our sin. The Scriptures teach that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Scriptures teach that our sin makes us enemies of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Scriptures teach that the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that all sin deserves God’s judgment (Romans 2:5). But the Scriptures also teach that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to God, forgiven, and made right with him – it is through faith in Jesus the Christ, the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). And this is why Christ said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). 

So, the Christian faith centers on the person of Jesus Christ – he is the object of our faith because he is the Savior that God has provided. But Christ’s mission was to glorify God and to reconcile sinners unto him (John 17). 

The third thing I would like to say to you about the word “Christian” is that it indicates that the Christian faith is a way of life. The name Christian was given to those in the early days of the church who were followers of Jesus Christ. In Acts 11:26 we read, “And when [Barnabas] had found [Saul], he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. This means that a Christian learns from Jesus, believes in Jesus, and follows Jesus. In other words, Christians will strive to imitate Jesus’ way of life and obey his commandments as they trust in him for the forgiveness of sins. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples as recorded in John 14:15. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As you can see, a Christian is one who trusts in Jesus and strives to obey him because they love him. The Christian faith is a way of life.


Let us now turn our attention to the word “faith” in our title, An Introduction To The Christian Faith

What is faith? That is an important question. 

The Bible says that we are saved by or through faith, so we had better know what it is! Listen to Ephesians 2:8-9. It says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This is an important verse. Notice two basic things about it. One, faith is a gift from God. Two, faith is the instrument by which we are saved. We are saved by the grace of God and through faith in Jesus, and all of this is a gift from God. 

A careful examination of Scripture reveals that true saving faith has three aspects to it:

Firstly, knowledge (In Latin, notitia). To have true, saving faith, a person must know certain things. This should be obvious to all. How can a person possibly have faith in Jesus Christ without knowing some basic information about God, man, man’s fall into sin, God’s gracious plan of salvation, the accomplishment of our salvation by Jesus, and the way in which that salvation comes to be ours? True faith requires a knowledge of the truth.   

The second aspect of true saving faith is assent (In Latin, assensus). To have true, saving faith, a person must assent to the teaching of Scripture. This means they must not only know what the Scriptures teach about God, man, sin and salvation in Christ, they must also believe that the information is true! This might seem like a silly and obvious observation, but there are plenty of people in the world who know what the Bible teaches, but they don’t believe it. They have the knowledge, but they do not assent to or agree with it. This is not saving faith. Listen to Romans 10:9: “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It is not enough to know what the Bible says about Jesus being Lord and about his death and resurrection. To be saved, a person must confess that Jesus is their Lord, and believe in their own heart that Christ lived, died, and rose again for them.

The third aspect of true saving faith is trust (In Latin, fiducia). Listen to what R.C. Sproul said about trust. “The crucial, most vital element of saving faith in the biblical sense, is that of personal trust…” It is that “commitment by which I put my life in the lap of Jesus. I trust him and him alone for my salvation. That is the crucial element, and it includes the intellectual and the mental. But it goes beyond it to the heart and to the will so that the whole person is caught up in this experience we call faith” (Excerpt from, “What Does It Mean to Believe?” by R.C. Sproul).

So then, true saving faith involves the whole person – the mind, affections, and will. To have true faith in Christ involves knowing who he is, what he has done, and why we need him as Savior. It involves believing that what the Bible says about him is true. And it involves trust – personal trust – which will involve repentance and a new obedience.

I’ve heard true, saving faith illustrated as a three-legged stool. Can you imagine a three-legged stool? What will happen if one of the three legs is missing? The stool will not stand. And so it is with faith. True and saving faith will always involve knowledge, assent, and trust. 

Question: How much knowledge (accompanied by assent) does a person need to have to be saved? Does a person need to be a master theologian? No, of course not. But certain foundation truths – the kinds of truths that will be taught in this study – must obviously be known, understood, and believed.

Question: How much trust does a person need to have to be saved? Is strong faith required? No, I think it is right to say that a person’s trust in God and in Christ might be weak but still true. I think of that passage in Mark 9:24 where the father of a sick child cried out to Jesus for help saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I take this to mean that his faith was weak but true. 

So, it is not a mastery of Christian doctrine, nor is it strong faith that is required to be saved. What is required is true faith in Christ. And those with true faith will of course desire to have strong faith. But here is another question: is it possible to have false faith? The answer is, yes.

Think of it. Some have trust in their heart but in the wrong person or thing. Maybe they trust in themselves! Friends, it is not generic faith that saves us, but faith in Jesus Christ! Listen carefully to Romans 9:31-32. There Paul says, “…but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone…” What does this mean? Here Paul is talking about Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. These Jews had a kind of faith, didn’t they? Yes, they were very religious and they put their trust in something. The problem was that they put their trust in the wrong thing. Instead of trusting in Jesus and in the work that he did for them and in their place, they put their trust in themselves and in their ability to obey God’s law. In other words, they trusted in their own good works – they believed in their ability to keep God’s commandments. Paul describes this error as a stumbling over the stumbling stone. What he means is that this is the error that so many people make. Many people stub their toe on this rock and fall down spiritually speaking. They stumble and fall by making the error of trusting in themselves and in their own good works instead of in Jesus. Friends, please hear me. It is not faith that saves you in a generic sense, but faith in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah.  

So there is true faith and there is false faith. It should probably be acknowledged that it is impossible to know what is in someone’s mind and heart. Sometimes it’s difficult to judge our own hearts! But our works do give evidence to the hidden things of the heart and mind. True faith will produce godly fruit. 

Listen to these three Scripture texts.

1 John 2:3-6 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” What is John saying? He is teaching that those with true faith in Christ – those who know Christ truly – will obey Christ and walk as Christ walked. No Christian obeys Christ perfectly. Everyone violates God’s law in thought, word, and deed. John knows that and teaches that elsewhere. The point he makes here is very important though. If someone has true faith in the mind and heart it will result in a turning away from sin and a striving after obedience. Stated negatively, no true Christian will go on living in sin and not care. True Christians will turn from sin and strive after obedience to God’s law. 

Listen now to the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:15-21. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’” This is an important passage. What does it teach? It teaches that some will claim to be followers of Jesus who are not. How will we know? By the fruit that a person produces. We will know by their way of life. Those with true faith will produce good fruit. Those with false faith will produce bad fruit over time. 

Lastly, listen to James 2:14-20. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” What point is James making? Again, there is true and false faith. True faith will result in good works.  

Another question about faith that comes to mind is this: Why did God choose faith to be the instrument by which we are saved? 

Answer: We are saved by faith in Christ alone because salvation is a gift from God. Just as a gift cannot be earned but must be received, so too salvation cannot be earned but must be received. Faith is trust. To have faith is to receive. And we know that faith – that is to say, the ability to believe in Christ – is itself a gift from God.

The Apostle Paul teaches this very thing in Romans 4:1-6: “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works…” What is Paul’s point? He is teaching us that salvation is a gift from God. You don’t work for gifts. You work to earn a wage. Gifts are different. Gifts cannot be earned, they can only be received. And though you might boast about the wage you have earned through your work, no one can boast about a gift that someone gave to them, for they did nothing to deserve it. And so it is with salvation. Salvation is a gift. It cannot be earned. It must be received. And faith is the instrument by which this gift of salvation is received. Faith is the open hand by which we receive Christ and the salvation that he has earned and freely gives.


There is one more word from our title that needs to be explained and that is the word “introduction”. I have two very brief remarks to make about this word, and after that, we will conclude. 

Firstly, as a pastor, I am very much aware of my limitations. I cannot cause anyone to assent to the teachings of Holy Scripture, and neither can I cause anyone to trust in Jesus. God must do that work and give the gift of faith by the working of his Holy Spirit. I can teach the faith though. I’m called to do that. And I am also called to urge you to believe the Scriptures, to turn from sin, and to trust in Christ, and so I will. I’ll introduce you to the great doctrines of the Christian faith and urge you to believe them as I pray.   

Secondly, this study is merely an introduction to the Christian faith. We will be considering the basics together. I’m hopeful that these basic Christian doctrines will give you a firm foundation to build upon in the years to come.  


In this study, the Christian faith will be introduced to you. In the next lesson, we will talk about the way this will be accomplished, that is, with the help of a faithful catechism. 

That’s all for this lesson. God bless you all. Until next time, abide in Christ (John 15:1-17)

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is the central figure of the Christian faith? What does his name mean? What does “Christ” mean?
  2. What is the goal of the Christian faith? In other words, why did Jesus Christ live, die, and rise again – for what purpose?
  3. What are the three aspects of true, saving faith? Explain why faith would be false or lacking if any one of these aspects were missing.
  4. Who is the object of our faith? In other words, who is the one we are to trust in? Explain why.
  5. Do you have all three aspects of faith? How did you come to have faith? When?
  6. Do you feel certain that your faith is true? Why or why not?
  7. Why did God decide to make faith the instrument through which we are saved?


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