I was reading something a friend of mine wrote the other day and it reminded me of this story. A lady (we will call her Alice) went to a covered dish event at her church. She brought a cake to share. Another older lady brought a very similar cake. Towards the end of the meal Alice decides to try a piece of the older ladies cake as people are commenting on how wonderful it is and aren’t really saying much about her own. Alice gave it a try and was speechless. It was one of the best cakes she had ever tasted. That evening Alice goes home determined to make her cake as good as the older ladies cake. First she makes one with more eggs but, it wasn’t quite the same. Then she adds more sugar, still not right. Maybe more vanilla extract. Maybe a different brand of cake flour. Each cake she bakes is slightly better or slightly worse than the one before. Finally on one of her trips to the grocer’s she happens to run into the older lady and recounts to her the story of her quest for a cake as good as her own. The older lady chuckles at her and then says “Honey, why didn’t you just ask me for the recipe”.
Sometimes the answer we are looking for seems obvious in retrospect. The history of the Christian Church is a lot like that. In 1517 Martin Luther decided to improve on the teachings of the Catholic Church. He objected to the churches practice of granting indulgences and Started a church of his own that did not issue them. At the same time he began to preach the error of justification by faith alone. Around 1530 another reformer came on the scene, John Calvin, He came out with a theory of the total depravity of man and predestination. The cake that was the early church at Jerusalem Led by the Holy Spirit and the Apostles Peter and John and the bishop of the church James, was still not equaled. One after another reformers have come and gone either adding doctrines or deleting them. Calvinists, Anabaptists, Adventists Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Moravians, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s witnesses and the list could go on for quite a while. It is estimated that there are in excess of thirty thousand christian denominations globally. That’s a lot of attempted cakes.
I have a suggestion. Let’s just ask for the recipe from the one that wrote it. Salvation can’t be as difficult as we have been making it. Let’s try this. There are only two things we must believe about Jesus’s nature.
Number one. That He was “Messiah and the Son of God.” This is what Peter confessed, and what Jesus then said was the confession upon which Jesus would build His church/community in (Matt. 16:18.). John’s Gospel ends with a similar message — John saying the Gospel’s entire purpose was so we knew Jesus was the “Messiah and the Son of God.” (John 20:31.) Nothing more and nothing less.
Number two. Jesus was asked directly, twice in the gospels “what must I do to be saved?” to which he replied “obey the commandments”. (referring to the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses).
Number three. One more time in the book of Acts there is a one more question brought to the Apostles to answer about non Jews having to convert to Judaism before becoming Christians and their ruling through the guidance of the Holy Spirit was that converts did not need to become Jews. It was ruled the the new converts must only abstain from meat offered to idols, the blood of animals, Animals that were killed by strangulation and from fornication (Acts 15:28-29)
ADDENDUM: It has been brought to my attention that there is something that I must clarify and/or expand upon. When I am wrong I will gleefully admit and correct it. I never want to be in error in anything that I present to you and so I will add this. Earlier in the same chapter James has this to say (Acts 15:19) “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” James in Acts 15:19 in his decision on the four rules then implies in verse 21 that we Gentiles will progress in obedience to the Torah as we attend on Sabbath the synagogue where a portion of the Law is read weekly. There are a few common sense rules in Exodus, Leviticus, numbers and Deuteronomy that apply to both the Jew and the Godly non Jew. Things like not blaspheming God’s name and not having intimate relations with your Aunt or niece, or breaking the sabbath and a few other things the average new christian would probably not want to do. These things James expected the new christian to come to know as he or she grows into the mature christian.
This is the recipe. These are the ingredients. It came from the author of the recipe. It’s all you need. Any further questions go back to Jesus’ words for the answer as he alone is our sole teacher and pastor and the source of our salvation. Obey Jesus and obtain eternal life. No further trial cakes are necessary.