To start with, there are two fairly common errors that exist in regarding the gospel. One softens the message of the cross to the point where it means almost nothing. We are warned in scripture against “godless men, who turn the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 4b) The idea seems to be to make anyone feel just fine right where they are. The opposite of this is adding traditions and rules to the gospel as a condition for salvation. “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teaching. Such regulations indeed have an appearance (italics mine) of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Col 2:20-23). The worship of comfort and liberty is ungodly as is the worship of law. Both are hopelessly compromised positions.
If the gospel does not confront fallen, sinful men with their reality as sinners under the wrath of a just God it isn’t the gospel. A “feel good” message just sends people to hell. By the same token, if a gospel is preached that demands anything in addition to faith in Christ as a condition for salvation (e.g., baptism, manifestinmg a spiritual gift, do’s and don’ts etc) it isn’t the gospel. Paul, speaking by the Spirit called such preachers “false brothers” (Gal 2:4). The gospel in its purity must be promoted, defended and preserved.
This is the yardstick that we apply to fellowship with other professing believers. So it is essential to know what the essentials are! We as a church have made common cause with several other congregations with whom we are in agreement. We all differ on non essential things but on the essentials we are in agreement and as such, have a biblical basis for fellowship. So, what are the basics, the fundamental points that define us as Christians? They can be stated as five points:
1. The authority and inspiration of the bible. It does not merely contain the word of God it is the word of God and is our final authority for faith and practice. Every teaching must be held up to its light. (Prov 30:5-6, Matt 5:18, 2 Tim 3:15-17, 2 Pet 1:21)
2. The virgin birth and divinity of Jesus. He while never ceasing to be God, became human and was born of a virgin. (Matt 1:18-25, Lk 1:26-38, Jn 1:1-18, Phil 2:5-11, 1 Jn 1:1-4)
3. The sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. We are incapable of earning or deserving salvation because we are sinners and are separated from a holy God by our sin.. (Ecc 7:20, Is 59:1-3, 64:6; Rom 3:23). He took our place in judgment and by one sacrifice for all time, paid for sin.(Jn 3:16, Rom 5:8, Rom 6:23, Rom 10:9-13, Heb 9:11-10:18).
4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Lk 24:38-39, Act 1:1-11, 1 Tim 3:16). His resurrection is essential to our salvation (1 Cor 15).
5. The bodily return of Jesus at the end of the age (Matt 26:64/Dan 7:13-14, Act 1:10-11, Heb 9:28)
If we are in agreement on these core doctrines, we are family, though we may worship in different congregations. There is only one Church – God’s (Eph 4:1-6)