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Almost every Christian makes some distinction between essentials of the faith and non-essentials. The distinction itself is fairly uncontroversial. But what exactly are the essentials? That’s a bit tougher.

There are a number of ways to answer that question. We could look at church history and what God’s people have always believed. We could look at the ancient creeds and confessions of the church. We could look at the biggest themes of Scripture (e.g., covenant, love, glory, atonement) and the most important passages (e.g., Genesis 1, Exodus 20, Matthew 5-7, John 3, Romans 8). I want to take a little different route and consider what are the behaviors and beliefs without which Scripture say we are not saved. These are not requirement we must meet in order to save ourselves and earn God’s favor. Rather these are the essential beliefs and behaviors that will be manifest in the true Christian.

I don’t pretend that this is anywhere close to a comprehensive list from the Bible. But a list like this may be helpful in guarding against false teaching and examining our own lives.

Ten Essential Christian Behaviors

1. We repent and turn from our sins (Matt. 5:29-30; 11:20-24; Acts 2:38; 3:19; Heb. 10:26-27).

2. We forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:33-35).

3. We are undivided in our devotion to God and to Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:24; 10:38-39; 19:16-30; John 12:24-26).

4.    We publicly acknowledge Jesus before others (Matt. 10:32-33; 21:33-44; 22:1-14; 26:24; John 5:23)

5.    We obey God’s commands and do not make a practice of sinning (John 14:15; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 John 5:2).

6.    We live a life that is fruitful and not fleshly (Matt. 12:33-37; 21:43; 24:36-51; 25:1-46; Gal. 5:18-24; 6:5; Heb 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

7.    We are humble and broken-hearted for our sin (Matt. 5:3; 18:3-4; 1 John 1:8-10).

8.    We love God and love others (Matt. 22:34-40; John 11:35; 15:12; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 1 John 3:14-15).

9.    We must persevere in the faith (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29-31; 12:12-17; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 5:11-12).

10.    We help our natural family and church family when there are physical needs (1 Tim. 5:8; 6:18-19; 1 John 3:17).

Ten Essential Christian Beliefs

1.    We must be born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:5).

2.    Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 3:18, 36; 6:35, 40, 47, 53-58; 8:19, 24; 11:25-26; 12:48; 14:6; 15:23; 20:30-31; Gal. 3:7-9).

3.    The benefits of the gospel come by faith, not by works of the law (Acts 15:8-11; Gal. 1:6-9; 2:16, 21; 3:10-12, 22).

4.    Salvation comes from Jesus Christ, our faithful high priest, the radiance of God’s glory and our brother in the flesh (Col. 1:15-23; Heb. 2:4).

5.    God exists and rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6, 16).

6.    We are saved by Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1:18).

7.    The good news of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and he appeared to many witnesses (1 Cor. 15:1-11).

8.    Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected and our bodies will be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

9.    Jesus was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory (1 Tim. 3:16; 1:3, 18-20; 6:3-4, 20-21).

10.    God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8-14).

You could multiply lists like this tenfold. The point is not to be exhaustive, but to show by way of example just how many things the Bible considers to be essential and how precious these truths should be to the Christian. There are a number of behaviors in Scripture which serve to prove or disprove our Christian commitment. Likewise, there are a number of beliefs in Scripture without which we cannot be saved and which must be true if salvation is even possible. We would do well to study these beliefs and behaviors, embrace them, and promote and protect them with our fullest zeal and efforts.

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124 thoughts on “What Are the Essentials of the Christian Faith?”

  1. Ray Hooker says:

    Richard, Thanks for clarifying your concerns.


  2. Joe Olachea says:

    I’m not sure I would call these the “essentials” of the faith. I think they are great guideposts, but these seem too narrow to be the essentials. These could be essentials to being considered evangelical. Christianity seems to be much more diverse than this, and I would rather fall in line with Jesus’ thoughts when he said “For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.” – Mark 9:40-41

  3. Joe Olachea, “essentials” are the things you absolutely MUST believe if you are to be considered a Christian. There is no room for differences on these. The “essentials” separate Christian from non-Christian, orthodoxy from heresy.

  4. Richard UK says:

    Chancellor hi

    1. We might ‘consider’ someone a Christian if he signs up to KdY’s list, but God’s criterion is being born again from above. (I was converted suddenly in my 30’s but have taken decades to understand the key elements of the gospel (despite church attempts to keep me bound in legalism!). I still believe I became a Christian back then not when I could tick off the last of KdY’s list. Anyway, can you or KdY really claim no.3 in the behavior list?!

    2. Yes, we need to identify heresy but this has traditionally been done by a beliefs list; the Holy Spirit then gradually (note gradually)brings about behavioral change. KdY’s behavior list is too easily used as insidious post-conversion man-centred legalism that non-Christians understandably find nauseous

  5. CAS says:

    The Apostles Creed is a more concise statement of the essentials of the faith.

  6. Jorge Lahiff says:

    Faith comes from hearing the word of God. The Jews of Jesus’ day exchanged the word of God for the commandments of men and ended up murdering the Word-Made-Flesh, the Son of God. Tragically, today’s church leaders have followed the same path to apostasy. The Lord has revealed to me a remedy which will revive the churches and help prepair the Bride for Jesus’ return. -The Scriptures are more than reference books for lengthy sermons and sparsely attended midweek and pre-service Bible studies. They are the very words of God passed onto us by His holy prophets and apostles, and through them our spiritual birth in Christ Jesus is facilitated. Churchgoers need and deserve to hear more of them. -From the First to about the Fifth Century most churches devoted more than an hour per service to the public reading of Scripture. If you want the Holy Spirit to operate in your church, you must be willing to hear His voice, -and to obey it! I recommend that churches read through the Bible during their services; completing the New Testament once each year, and the Old Testament about once every five years. Those who do the readings should only be skilled orators.

  7. Jon says:

    Asking questions are really nice thing if you are not understanding anything completely, but this
    piece of writing gives good understanding yet.

  8. Richard UK says:


    KdY’s article does indeed give a good understanding of his views. But I do not believe his views are scriptural – they allow no place for Jn 3 v 16, or the thief on the cross

    He is one of many who maintains that ‘whoever believes on me’ really means ‘whoever believes on me and obeys my law’, forgetting that Jesus came and died because we could not then, and cannot now, obey it to the level that God requires – perfection. Be ye perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect.

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  12. Chancellor Roberts says:

    I’m not suggesting that the list in the article are the essentials of the faith. I think the essentials are found in the Orthodox (and orthodox) version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 A.D.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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