Here are explanations three more points (#3-5) from the 10 points in the Free Church Statement of faith (on the Human Condition, Christ and His purpose):
Statement: The Human Condition
3. We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
Humans are created in God’s image, so we are made with good stuff with a great model to be fashioned after (God). However, there is sin. We are the only created beings actually created in God’s image, so we’re the best type of being on earth, but then sin entered into the picture. As descendents of Adam, we have sin, sort of like a baby is born with aids from her mom who had aids. Sin generally causes us to not function properly, so that we do things that make life worse instead of better, which screw stuff up instead of enhancing the world. (We do this in our relationships, our own self-perspective, the way we treat the world around us, and especially the way we respond to God—which is at the heart of all this)
Some Christians tend to focus on the sin, and forget that we are made in God’s image. Other Christians don’t like to talk about the sin part and just want to talk about us all being children of God. Both of these positions are partially accurate in their understanding of Scripture. But you need both sides to really get the whole picture.
The ultimate wrath of God is said to be in Romans 1 when God no longer tries to bring us back to himself. That’s when you know you are in trouble. He just lets us go our own way—away from God, away from life, towards selfishness and death. God’s saving work in Christ rescues us, reconciles us, and the power of Christ who conquered death in the resurrection brings us the capacity to live renewed lives in that power when we simply accept the work of Christ instead of trying to earn God’s favor on our own merit. Of course that renewal can’t happen without us cooperating with Christ once we’ve been rescued and reconciled (see later statements below).
Statement: Jesus Christ
4. We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus-Israel’s promised Messiah-was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
Jesus was human and God. This is a standard Christian belief which has historically been around since the early church. Some had said Jesus was a special man with special wisdom from God, or a man wrapped in the cloak of God somehow…and others said he was God in a man-suit disguise. But the traditional Christian doctrine says Jesus was fully God and fully man. In saying Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah there is a belief here that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham in the Old Testament that he would be a ‘blessing to all peoples’. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, and is believed by Christians to be the fulfillment of that promise to Abraham thousands of years prior. Being born by the holy Spirit of the virgin Mary is standard Christian doctrine, found in the basic historic creeds of the church (which were approved by the united Church). Jesus was a miracle. Its important that Jesus was sinless, because that’s how his death on the cross makes up for us. We, sinners, don’t have to be punished for our sins because Jesus was punished though he had no sin—so he is an atonement sacrifice (this is heavy stuff and has to do with OT sacrifices and traditions I won’t go into here). He was crucified under the authority of Pilate, a Roman official, and rose bodily—not as casper the friendly ghost—with his real body. Now he is in heaven with God, advocating for us. Christ is for us.
So we don’t believe Jesus was just a smart man, or simply divine—he was both man (finite) and God (infinite). We also don’t think Jesus is somehow contrary to the Old Testament ways, but is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham at the center of the OT. His birth was miraculous and fulfilled a number of prophecies from the book of Issaiah written hundreds of years before. He really rose again physically, not just metaphorically (I once heard a pastor preach on Easter Sunday about how that the resurrection of Jesus was really about how we need to help the child within us resurrect from the years of crucifixion which we all endure as children when our parents are bearing down on us, punishing us, keeping us from just being children—that is not what we think the resurrection is talking about.) We think the resurrection account is talking about Jesus, who was dead, coming to live and getting out of the grave. We think that is miraculous and that that same power can somehow live in us to help us.
Statement: The Work of Christ
5. We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
This statement is about what Jesus did for us—for the human condition and the world. He was sinless, as the previous statement said, which meant he was perfect, yet suffered punishment on the cross innocently. I deserve death but don’t get it, because Christ did not deserve it and yet does die. But since he victoriously rose from the dead, he conquered death, and that resurrection power can somehow live in us to help us. Salvation is twofold—not just being forgiven, but also being given the power to help transform our broken wayward lives and get them properly functioning again. Christ isn’t just about forgiveness, his work is also the source of transformative grace which can help really change us for the better.
“Only”—this word is important. Just as Jews reject Christ because they believe their way is superior, and Muslims consider Mohamed the best prophet and Christianity to not be the way to salvation, Christians also have a belief that their way is the superior way. Jesus is the only means of salvation. There are two schools of thought on this—some say that only those who hear about Jesus and respond to that gospel message will be saved. So they think the only way to salvation is through KNOWLEDGE about Christ and subsequent acceptance of that as being true. Others say that Christ’s work on the Cross is the only way of salvation—but that isn’t about knowledge of Jesus– its about the work done at the Cross itself. All salvation comes to a person from the power given through Jesus dying on the cross– but not necessarily on whether or not they know of Jesus. For example, just like people in the Old Testament like Abraham apparently never heard of Christ’s work on the cross (since they lived before Jesus) they still are ‘saved’ through the work of Christ on the cross because they acted with faith on the revelation they had at their point in time. In short, they responded to the revelation they had available. Some would extend this and say that even today some who have never heard of Christ may be saved by the work of Christ on the cross if they respond in good faith to whatever knowledge they do have. (There are a whole lot of questions to be asked and discussed on this point, and I don’t want to go into that here) Of course knowledge of Christ gives greater insight and closer relationship to God, so knowledge is valuable in either view. But in either case, Christ is the only way that one is saved—either by the knowledge of Christ on the Cross, or at the very least the power of Christ on the cross. Only by the event of Christ’s death and resurrection is one saved. This event is central to Christianity, and any church celebrates it through communion– otherwise known as the Eucharist or the Lords Supper. The wine is or symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ– his blood– as the offering for forgiveness. The bread is or symbolizes his body, and its resurrected power which can live on in us through the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness, and the power to live renewed lives.
May God have mercy on us all.