How much do you need to know to be a Christian?

How much do you need to know to be a Christian?

It can seem that becoming a Christian requires a great deal of knowledge. If you are interested in knowing about Jesus and the church, the new material can be a little overwhelming. Church is so strange culturally with singing and praying and listening to sermons. And the Bible is a very big book, much bigger than what many people have ever read. How long will it take to get to know all you need to know?

After all, when you think of any other new thing you might get involved in, there is always a learning curve. Starting a sport will require improving fitness, working on co-ordination, developing skills, and understanding strategy. Changing careers will mean education and training as well as building up experience before you can call yourself a competent person in your field. Is Christianity like that?

In short, no. In fact, coming to know Jesus is almost exactly the opposite of this. You start off by being welcomed by Jesus as one of his people, and then you start a life of learning more and more.

We see this in the book of Acts. The first church started after Jewish people who came to Jerusalem for a festival saw men speaking oddly, listened to one sermon, and then repented and believed in Jesus. They were baptised that same day. Think about that. How much did all of those people really know and understand? They couldn’t pass a complicated theology test. Yet the apostles were happy to call them part of God’s family and mark them as such through baptism.

This is evident all through Acts. The Ethiopian eunuch understood who Jesus is after Isaiah 53 was explained to him by Phillip; he saw some water and was baptised immediately. There was no complicated test he needed to pass. Once he understood that Jesus was his Lord and Saviour, he was one of God’s people.

Over time, and for a lot of very good reasons, the path to baptism in the church became longer and more complicated. It was quite normal in the first few centuries of the church to attend classes once a week for three years prior to being accepted for baptism. While this was well-meaning and did ensure people were well prepared for the world, it could mean that the sense of grace was lost. Jesus accepts sinful people who trust in Him. Even people who don’t know much more than that Jesus is the King and died for their sins in their place.

Church traditions like mine (Presbyterianism) tend towards being scholarly and intellectual. Concise and accurate theology is prized, and it is indeed important to make sure we represent God accurately and well. But we must not miss the big picture. To become a Christian, you don’t need to know complicated theology. You don’t need to know all the possible views on predestination and the complexities of church government. You just need to trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

The message Christians offer the world is one that children can understand. That doesn’t make it simplistic or intellectually weak; those who have spent their lives in the Bible always find more and more riches within what God has revealed to them. At the heart of Christianity is the knowledge that God loved you and died in your place; understanding that places you in God’s family.

Of course, once you have come to know Jesus, you will be keen to know more and learn more. We see that in the church in Acts 2 as well; they devoted themselves to this, among other things, as part of their lives after their baptisms. But they were secure, in God’s family, even when they didn’t know very much. In the end, we need to remember that it is all about what God does for us, not what we do or what we know.