Some Christian Basics you should know
Every baptized Christian should know three basic things: (1) The Apostles’ Creed; (2) The Ten Commandments; and (3) The Lord’s Prayer.
In other words, the Creed, the Commandments, and the Prayer.
The Creed is a skeletal summary of what we are to believe about God. The Commandments are a summary of our moral duty to God and our fellow man*. And the Prayer is a model prayer which models God-centered worship. In other words, basic doctrine, ethics and worship.
Two of these three items (the ten commandments and the Lord’s Prayer) are taken directly from the Word of God. The other item (the Apostles’ Creed) gives a trinitarian summary of basic gospel truths revealed in the Scriptures.
In my opinion, every baptized Christian above the age of six ought to be able to recite these items perfectly from memory, and without hesitation, if asked to do so.
Sadly, one suspects that many who have been professing Christians for years, and perhaps even many pastors, would sputter and stumble if put on the spot and asked to recite these items from memory.
Why do I stress the importance of knowing these Christian basics? For a number of reasons.
First, teaching covenant children** and new converts these Christian basics provides them with a foundational conceptual framework that they can build on as they grow in their understanding of the faith. They may be viewed as a skeletal summary of basic Christian doctrine, ethics and worship. As such they are simple but great tools for Christian discipleship.
Of course, a skeleton is not sufficient. Sinews, muscles and flesh need to be added on to the skeleton in order for it to be part of a living organism. But without a skeleton to hold us together our bodies would be nothing more than useless, non-functioning, sagging blobs. Likewise, neither is a knowledge of these Christian basics sufficient for a vital, growing faith.
However, without a knowledge of the contents of these Christian basics our faith is likely to be unstable, sagging, unformed — a flabby mixture of truth and error. Whereas knowing these Christian basics by heart provides us with a solid conceptual structure and foundation that can be added to with more advanced knowledge as the believer grows in his/her knowledge of the Word, and which can serve to undergird a stable, maturing faith. Therefore, while these basics are not sufficient, they are vitally important and helpful.
Secondly, learning these Christian basics, and passing them on to the next generation of believers, serves to connect us with our fellow believers throughout the world, and with the historic Christian church as a whole. These Christian basics are the heritage of all Christians, whatever their denominational affiliation happens to be, for they belong to the church universal. Knowing them by heart and being able to recite them with our mouths helps to remind us that we are connected not just to our own local church, or to our own denomination, but to something much, much bigger: the church universal, the Body of Christ in its worldwide visible expression!
The historic Christian Church, and in particular the Protestant Reformers, understood the value of teaching these basics as part of catechizing both new converts and those raised in the church. For example, Martin Luther’s Small Catechism is basically an exposition of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. And in our Reformed tradition the Heidelberg Catechism likewise includes expositions of these Christian basics. Our own Westminster Standards do not expressly expound the Creed, though knowledge of the creed is assumed and it is sometimes referenced. However, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, after giving a summary of Christian doctrine, do expound the Commandments and the Prayer.
Finally, learning these Christian basics, and teaching them to the next generation, can serve to help guard Christ’s sheep from false doctrine, false ethics, and false worship.
Most of the pseudo-Christian cults and most of the heretical mainline churches will usually deny or “reinterpret” one aspect of the Creed or another (usually more than one!). The believer who has embraced and understands these Christian basics will be much better equipped to discern false doctrine and sniff out wolves in sheep’s clothing when confronted with them than the believer who doesn’t know these basics.
Likewise, the ethical apostasy we are witnessing today in the mainline churches (and even in some professedly evangelical churches) can be linked to the overt breaking of one or more of the Commandments. The believer who is familiar with the Commandments and understands their basic implications will not be duped by the ethical apostasy and moral relativism that so often comes deceptively disguised under the high-sounding banner of “love” and “justice.”
And much of the narcissistic, man-centered, entertainment-focused “worship” found in many contemporary churches today is countered by the deeply reverent, God-centered, kingdom-focused tone of the Lord’s Prayer. The believer who understands that our God is a consuming fire, and that God our Father is “Our Father in heaven” (and not our chum or pal or buddy on earth), will not be taken in by consumerist, market-driven, entertainment-saturated “worship” offered by the big-box contemporary church. Such a believer will only be satisfied with the reverent, God-centered, Christ-focused, gospel-saturated worship revealed in Scripture and implied in the Lord’s Prayer.
So, while Christian faith and life involves much more than just these Christian basics, these are basics that we would do well to commit to memory and pass along to the next generation.
Dear reader, do you know the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer?
If not, I’ve copied them below. Read, mark and learn them!
The Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic (or “Christian”) church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17):
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
I. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
II. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image”
III. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain”
IV. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
V. “Honor your father and your mother”
VI. “You shall not murder.”
VII. “You shall not commit adultery.”
VIII. “You shall not steal.”
IX. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
X. “You shall not covet”
Quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
The Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:9-13):
“Our Father which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
*Our Shorter Catechism rightly states in the Answer to Question # 3 that “The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”
** “Covenant children” are baptized children raised in the fellowship of the church by believing parents.