A Christian Primer (eBook and paperback), Timothy Cross

A Christian Primer


A Christian Primer: Some Basic Components of the Historic Christian Faith

eBook, published by The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
Also a paperback, 2013, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 80pp, paperback, $11. Available from wwwAllianceNet.org


Publishers’ Description

A basic, but comprehensive introduction to the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective. Initially, the elements of redemption accomplished are in view: divine revelation, the incarnation, atonement, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Jesus. Additionally, elements of redemption applied, such as salvation, the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, election, and the church are discussed.



Reviewers’ Endorsements

The author of this book is well known to readers of the Ulster Bulwark  as we often feature his helpful biographies of Bible characters in our ‘Meet …’ series. Dr Timothy Cross is a committed evangelical Protestant with a clear love for the Lord and His Word, and he has the heart of an evangelist. His Christian Primer  is subtitled ‘Basic Components of the Historic Christian Faith.’ It is published by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, a US based coalition that seeks a Reformed awakening and works through media, events and publishing.

Some years ago, former PM John Major launched what turned out to be an ill-fated ‘back to basics’ initiative, but there is very considerable merit in believers getting back to the basics of the Reformed faith. While we desire to move from milk to meat, we cannot do so without a proper understanding of the key tenets (or, as the author puts it, ‘the basic components’) of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. In eleven chapters, this little book addresses such foundational and fundamental issues as Divine Revelation, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Second Coming, Divine Salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Grace of God, Divine Election and the Church. The author’s style makes the book easy to read and he includes plenty of memorable illustrations and anecdotes. The book would also be useful for non-Christians and the author makes this point when he says that his ‘labour of love’ is designed to ‘provide clarification for Christians and even non-Christians possessed of an open mind, seeking to enquire what the historic Christian faith is all about, and what it might offer them.’ In that sense, it is a useful manual for believers to use, not only for their own spiritual good but in evangelism, and also a book to be given to our Roman Catholic and Muslim friends and neighbours. Dr Cross commits his work to the triune God, praying that His blessing would be upon it, and that He would be pleased to use it to further the faith of God’s elect. Having read it and been blessed by it, I know that the Lord will use it, and I heartily recommend it to all.
(Ulster Bulwark).


Read a sample chapter below. This is kindly reproduced from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals


Chapter 2: The Incarnation

July 21st 1969 marked a momentous moment in world history, for on that day, for the first time ever, a man actually walked on the moon. When Neil Armstrong climbed out of the spacecraft – Apollo 11 – and placed his foot on the moon’s surface, he uttered the famous words “One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Could there ever be a feat or event more amazing than a man walking on the moon? The Christian Faith says there is. Even more amazing than a man walking on the moon is God walking on earth. And the Christian Faith affirms that in the Lord Jesus Christ, God did just that. In Christ, God became man. In Christ, God left heaven for earth and walked our soil. In Christ, the eternal God visited our planet in person, on a mission of mercy.

Whilst the first moon landing was certainly amazing, the birth of Christ at Bethlehem dwarfs even that. The distance from heaven to earth is infinitely greater than the distance from earth to the moon. Two thousand years or so ago however, in Christ, the infinite was born as an infant, the eternal God entered into time, the invisible became visible, and pure spirit took on human flesh and left heaven for earth. In Christ “God was contracted to a span and incomprehensibly made man” (Charles Wesley). The event was so momentous that it shattered time into the eras of BC and AD. Each new day, our calendar reminds us of the birth of Christ – that God became man.

We turn then to the incarnation, a basic component of the historic Christian Faith. The word “incarnate” means “enfleshment.” A carnivore is a meat or flesh eater. A related word is the word “carnal” – we sometimes talk of people “indulging in the flesh” when they over eat or drink.

The incarnation refers to the time when God Himself, in Christ His Son, took upon Himself our human form. When the Lord Jesus came to earth it was literally a case of “God in a body”:

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (John 1:14).

For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9).

Great indeed, we confess is the mystery of our religion, God was manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

Whilst the incarnation is central to the Christian Faith and integral to the divine plan of salvation, it is celebrated specifically by Christians each year when Christmas comes around:

Let earth and heaven combine
Angels and men agree
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity
Our God contracted to a span
Incomprehensibly made man

He laid His glory by
He wrapped Him in our clay
Unmarked by human eye
The latent Godhead lay
Infant of days He here became
And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name
(Charles Wesley 1707-88).

The Mode of the Incarnation

The incarnation has its inexplicable mysteries. God becoming man entailed the uncreated Creator entering into His creation, the eternal entering into time, the God Who is spirit taking a physical form and the immortal God becoming mortal so that He could die and pay the wages of sin. The Bible however is clear when it reveals that a miracle occurred when God became man. The conception of Christ was not a natural one but a supernatural one. He had no human father, but was “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary” (Apostles’ Creed).

How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary and born of her, yet without sin (Shorter Catechism).

Whist Christ’s birth was a normal one therefore – if a little obscure and in unusual surroundings – His actual conception – that is, the process by which God became man – was miraculous. Luke, who was also a physician as well as a Gospel writer, records the angel Gabriel explaining to Mary, Jesus’ mother, how: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

The “virgin birth” of Christ is revealed in the Bible as an unembellished matter of fact. Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, but “before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). Joseph initially was sceptical. It took nothing less than a messenger from heaven to assure Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful.

The “virgin birth” of Christ is mentioned in all the major Christian creeds which define the Faith. It is a non-negotiable component of historic Christianity. This was the mode of the incarnation. This was how God became man. Had Jesus been conceived by a human father, He would have inherited our sinful nature, for the Bible teaches that we are all sinners by nature and practice. Had Jesus inherited our sinful nature, He would not be qualified to be the Saviour of sinners. The Bible however affirms the sinless nature of Christ and the Bible affirms that Christ was born of a virgin and the Bible affirms that in Jesus, God became man for the salvation of sinners.

The Reason for the Incarnation

If the incarnation is the most stupendous fact of history, certain questions are begged: What was the reason behind it all? Why did God become man? The answer of the Bible is twofold:- i. He came to reveal. ii. He came to redeem.

i. He came to reveal

We saw in our first chapter that Jesus is the unsurpassed and unsurpassable revelation of the one true God. That God should reveal Himself by words to the prophets was wonderful. But that God should reveal Himself in the Person of His Son is incomparable. Jesus is described in the Bible as “Emmanuel, which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The revelation of God in Christ just cannot be surpassed for “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (John 1:18).

ii. He came to redeem

To redeem means “to set free by paying a price.” The Bible reveals that redemption was the ultimate reason for the incarnation of God – redemption from the penalty and power of sin. “When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4,5).

The Good News is that Almighty God has an eternal plan of salvation to save a people for Himself and His glory. Integral to this plan was the sending of His Son into the world to procure the eternal bliss of these people. In the fullness of time, God put His plan into effect. In Christ, God became man. He came to earth on a rescue mission. He came to redeem His people. Unusually however, He did this not so much by His living but by His dying. To this we will turn in our next chapter. In a nutshell, God became man to atone for our sins. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Timothy Cross (BA., BD., Th.D.), Timothy Cross comes from Cardiff, Wales, and has lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He studied theology at Cardiff University and then trained as an RE and Games teacher at Aberystwyth University. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sacred Literature by the Christian Bible College, Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He is the author of over twenty Christian books and numerous articles in Christian periodicals.

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This chapter was originally published in A Christian Primer: Some Basic Components of the Christian Faith.The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation through broadcasting, events, and publishing. This article and additional resources can be found at ReformedResources.org or by calling 800-956-2644.