It is said that within 10 minutes of a political party speech beginning a visitor knows exactly what the main policies of the party are. How important it is for anyone exploring the Christian Faith to have those clear and distinctive doctrines of the gospel laid out. A weaver begins with a backcloth. All kinds of patterns can be woven in various patterns, but the backcloth holds it all together.
Muslims have the 5 Pillars, but there are 5 great teachings that are the backcloth of the Christian Faith and distinguish the Good News from all false messages.
Based on the acrostic letters that form the word FAITH, it seems to me that the following 5 doctrines are the backcloth to all gospel preaching and ought to be clearly in the mind of anyone who is asking the question, “What is the Gospel?”
Faith. The first is justification by faith. It is not only the test of a true church, but it is fundamental to the Good news. How can we believe any message that says that we are saved by what man does to us as a ceremony or for us as a priest, or what we do for ourselves with good deeds? Christians know that religious observance and charitable deeds cannot make amends for the sin in their lives. We believe that Christ is both willing and able to save. We trust Him. His goodness is accounted to the believer and the believer’s sin is accounted to Jesus. That is why He died.
Atonement. What Christ has done is a substitutionary sacrifice. He died on our behalf and in our place. The punishment He took is directly related to the punishment we deserve, and that is why annihilationism is such an error. It attacks the heart of the gospel: the Person and the Work of Christ. Throughout the Old Testament sacrifices of a lamb were made. It is stated again and again that without shedding of blood, that is, without the penalty of death, there is no forgiveness. The last prophet before Jesus was John the Baptist. He pointed at Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who will bear away the sin of the world.”
Inspiration. The 66 books of the Old and New Testament are the complete, comprehensible, and sufficient revelation of God by God. They are inerrant, containing no error, and infallible, conveying no error. They have been preserved and are true in whatever area they speak. Preaching the Bible is the ordinary means through which the Lord does His eternal, saving work in individual hearts.
Trinity. The Father chose to save, the Son redeemed by His blood and the Spirit is the seal of that saving work. The eternal Son became man and continues to be both God and man in two distinct natures and one Divine Person forever. From Genesis chapter 1 to Revelation the teaching that God is both one Being and three Persons is taught. Old Testament prophecies make clear that the one to be born in Bethlehem though being a baby had existed from all eternity. Jesus was both God and Man.
Holiness. The inevitable outcome of the saving work of God in the soul is, at the first, repentance and faith. However, those first two steps become the whole path of anyone who has been born again. They repent and believe, grow in grace and graces. Their life is one in which the washing of the water of the word cleans them out and cleans them up. Their whole being grows in a desire for God to help them to be holy, and they therefore do pray earnestly and specifically for this. The accusation that Christians live Western and wicked lives is not the teaching of Jesus Christ. If God has changed the heart, then a radical new and godly life, with ups and downs, will follow.
These are the crucial saving doctrines of the gospel. These 5 teachings are the 5 pillars of true and Biblical Christianity.