The Fundamental Doctrine of the Christian Faith

The opening verses of John’s Gospel introduce to us the unspeakably glorious reality of God’s Triune being, and to its unfathomableness. Before all worlds existed, before anything was, God was! And staggeringly, he was a community, a fellowship: ‘and the Word was with (“face to face with”) God’! The Father was with the Son, and the Son was with the Father. And together they were with the Holy Spirit. 

What would you say is the fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith? For many of us, the instinctive answer would be, ‘justification by faith alone, in Christ alone’. There is no doubt, or should be no doubt, that this is a biblical and evangelical fundamental. Didn’t Martin Luther describe justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, as ‘The article of a standing or falling church’! We surely understand what Luther is saying. Could anything be more important than knowing how God brings judgment-deserving sinners into a right and reconciled relationship with himself?

Equally surely, however, we cannot say that justification by faith alone is the fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith. That honour rightly and surely belongs to the doctrine of the Trinity. God himself is the fundamental truth of the Christian Faith. He is Truth itself. He is the Creator, Sustainer, Initiator and Sovereign Lord of all that is. God does not exist for us, we exist for him. Paul’s declaration in Romans 11:36 wonderfully makes the point: ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.’

The pre-eminence of God’s Triune being is heralded in a number of ways in the Scriptures. In Genesis l we see the Triune God in creation: God, his Word, and his Spirit, together bringing into being worlds and star systems out of nothing, and creating man and woman in their own image. Who we are is a personal and visual reminder to us every moment of our existence, of the priority of the Triune God. It is surely not without significance, to say no more, that God should disclose the Triunity of his being to us in the Bible’s opening chapter. All that is has its being from, and is a reflection of the Triune God. In the New Testament, we see the Triune God working in harmony to effect the salvation of sinners: The Father purposing, the Son saving and the Spirit applying (though all actively at work at every moment and at every phase of redemption).

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