We’ve talked a bit about new believers. So far we’ve looked at The Best Book of The Bible for New Believers and A Bible Reading Guide for New Believers. Today we’re going to discuss some Christian foundations for a new believer. In other words, we’ll look at what are some foundational biblical truths that a new Christian should learn.
The following can’t be learned overnight, of course. It’s the kind of material that will take months, if not years, to learn. You don’t have to cover each topic. And the amount of knowledge a new Christian can digest will vary from new convert to new convert. But whether in a one-on-one Christian discipleship setting over coffee or through a class at church, below you’ll find a suggestive list of topics to consider discussing with a new Christian.
Christian Foundations for a New Believer
1. A Proper Understanding of the Gospel
Don’t assume that they understand the gospel because they are now converted. It’s likely that they have a stifled understanding of the gospel, seeing how some Christians are saved in a theologically deficient setting.
Remind the new Christian about the bad news— that all people (save one) are born as sinners by nature and by choice and deserve eternal condemnation because of God’s righteous wrath toward sin. And then tell them about the good news — because of Jesus’s life, death, burial, and resurrection, they now have a right relationship with God.
You’ll also want to apply this material and explain how the gospel affects all spheres (e.g., work, identity, etc.) of life.
2. The Bible
Briefly cover how we got the Bible. Talk about the Old and New Testaments and how they are both relevant today, that Scripture is the Christian’s ultimate standard of authority. Texts like 2 Timothy 3:16 are essential in conversations about Scripture. There are words like inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency that you also may want to cover. To see a brief snapshot of these terms and more, see my post titled The Bible Is . . . .
3. The 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed
Kevin DeYoung says (and I’m paraphrasing) that the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed, have been pillar items to help the church in Christian discipleship over the years. So I’m putting these three as one point.
Since the above mentioned have been indispensable to Christians for thousands of years, there’s no good reason to ignore them now. In general, the ten commandments teach you how to live, the Lord’s Prayer teaches you what to pray, and the Apostles Creed provides a macro-overview of the faith.
4. The Attributes of God
I read A. W. Pink’s book The Attributes of God either in my late teenage years or my early twenties (I can’t quite remember at the moment). It was extremely beneficial for me. Learning about what God is like is important for every new believer. And an overview of God’s character as described in the attributes is a good place to start.
5. The Trinity
One God; three persons. Each member of the Trinity is equal in divinity. The Trinity is a distinctly Christian teaching, one that separates it from all other religions. Curiously, many of the heresies are either Christological (of or pertaining to the person and work of Christ), or Trinitarian (of or pertaining to the Trinity). It’s important to establish who the Trinity is — without getting caught up in the weeds — to help the new believers understand who our God is and to prepare him or her for the theological errors they may encounter.
6. The Person and Work of Christ
Doctrines like the hypostatic union (that Jesus is fully God and fully man), active obedience (that Jesus lived a perfect life), and penal substitutionary atonement (that Jesus was substituted on our behalf on the cross to provide the payment for salvation), among others (without having to say the technical terms) are important for Christians to know.
7. Christian Living
Here there is a possibility for endless elaboration. Some suggestions to talk about: the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), how God wants his people to kill sin and pursue holiness, the need to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), the importance of spiritual disciplines, the need for ongoing repentance, the need to become a member of a good local church, and so on. I don’t think I would discuss behavior modification first. I’d first make sure the new believer has a firm understanding of the gospel without rushing too quickly on — to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaefer — how should we then live?
8. The Church
Am I saving the best for last? It’s debatable. But no biblical foundation for a new believer is complete without a discussion on the local church. With expressive individualism being a prominent idol in our day, it may be easy for the new Christian to think that “me and Jesus” will suffice. It won’t. Every Christian needs to become an active member of a local church where he or she can experience the primary means by which God intends to build them in their newfound faith (or should I say, the faith that has found them?)
Praise God for the new believer. Hopefully, this material will serve you well as you disciple him or her.