Within Christianity today, there is an abundance of opinions on the Christian faith and how it should be practiced, and these different interpretations can be a source of conflict and division. If you and I disagree on how someone should be baptized, should that disrupt our fellowship? If two believers have divergent views on the necessity of women wearing a head covering, should they be divided on the basis of those views? According to Christian history, the answer has often been, “Yes!”, but according to the New Testament, it should not be so!
In Titus 1:4, the apostle Paul greets Titus as a “genuine child according to the common faith.” What is this “common faith,” and why is it important to Christians?
The word faith is used in two ways in the New Testament, objectively and subjectively. Perhaps more familiar is the subjective, or experiential, use of the word; in this sense, faith refers to the act of believing. Objectively, the faith refers to the truths Christians believe in regarding Christ and His redemptive work, or, the object of a Christian’s belief.
Thus, Titus is a child of God “according to the common faith,” that is, because of his faith (the act of his believing) in the common faith (the facts concerning Christ’s person and work). A quick search on the internet for “statement of faith” turns up a variety of groups who profess the same common faith, including these basic elements:
It is vitally important for Christian believers to be conversant in these elements of the Christian faith. First, we should know what it is that we believe, both for the sake of our own appreciation of and relationship with God, and for the sake of presenting our beliefs (the gospel!) to others. Second, we may encounter persons or groups who profess to be Christians; if we are equipped with a knowledge of the common faith, we have the proper tools with which to evaluate their beliefs and determine if they are, indeed, genuine Christians. For example, those who deny Christ’s deity or who add another volume to the Bible are not Christians and need not be received as such.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the common faith is the basis for our fellowship together as believers. If someone holds these basic tenets of the Christian faith but differs from you in lesser matters of Christian practice, can you justifiably refuse to fellowship with him? At the beginning of Romans 14, the apostle Paul writes, “Now him who is weak in faith receive.” Juxtapose this phrase with the end of verse 3: “…for God has received him.” The renowned 20th century expositor, Witness Lee, wrote in the study notes of the New Testament Recovery Version (an excellent study Bible—get a free copy from Bibles for America), “The basis on which we receive the believers is that God has received them. God receives people according to His Son. When a person receives God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as his Savior, God receives that person immediately….We should receive people in the same way and should not be more narrow than God. Regardless of how much they differ from us in doctrinal concepts or religious practices, we must receive them. When we receive people according to God and not according to doctrine or practice, we demonstrate and maintain the oneness of the Body of Christ.”
We hope that all believers can be equipped with a fundamental grasp of the basic elements of the common Christian faith. We also hope that this knowledge will deepen our appreciation for and experience of our Savior and our salvation. And finally, we hope that the application of a working knowledge of the faith will lead to more fellowship among believers from different groups—a true demonstration of the oneness of the Body of Christ.