Theology ~ a.k.a ~Things We Believe

Because this is a blog all about the study of the Word, I figured you should know in-depth exactly what we believe.  I could give you the basic … I believe that  Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to earth as a man (although still fully God) to die on the cross, and that on the third day he rose again, proving Himself to be the Son of God – so that if I believe that he shed his blood for my sin then I would be saved from my sin for all eternity.  Yes I believe that.  But I believe much more!  The ‘much more’ is stated for you to read below.

It’s important to know what you believe.  Many people will profess to believe in Jesus … but which Jesus?  Is it the Jesus of the Bible or is it their perception of who he is?  Many people will state they believe in certain doctrines, but are those doctrines based upon the Word itself … or … are their doctrines based of their perception or ideology of what they hope the Word says?

If you are truly interested in knowing and learning, then I suggest you grab a coffee and visit this page often.  You might want to read just one point per day and do some study for yourself.

I’ll never forget hearing one of my most loved Bible teachers (Kay Arthur) say … ‘Know the Word, and know it for yourself’ … in other words … KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE!

Below is the ‘Statement of Doctrines’ that my husband wrote as we formed the Constitution for our church – ‘On The Rock Community Church’.  This is what we believe and this is what we hold firm to.

Grab your coffee, cos here we go…..

On the authority of God’s Word, we believe:

Concerning Scripture, Its Inspiration and Authority: God’s Word alone, in it’s entirety, down to each and every word, indeed, down to the tiniest pen stroke of the original autographs, is a revelatory work of God the Holy Spirit Himself who guided and superintended the human authors, utilizing their own unique personalities, in the transmission of the sacred text. Scripture doesn’t merely contain God’s Word; it is God’s Word! Due to its divine origin and because the authoring Spirit is the very “Spirit of Truth”, Scripture is a repository of knowable truth that flies in the face of the post-modern notion that absolute truth cannot be known. We believe it indeed can be, and is available for all in the pages of God’s Word. It is a complete and closed work, totally free of error and is fully authoritative and binding on all people for all time in all matters it discusses. It reveals the one true God and His regard of, His dealings with and His salvation, in Christ, of His fallen creation, including humanity.

Further, because it is a revelation of God Himself, the proper interpretation and understanding of Scripture, although simple, straightforward and literal (as far as the text allows), truly can only be had as the Spirit illumines the darkened mind of the one reading it…and in that illuminated understanding is able of itself to make the reader fully mature and “thoroughly equipped for every good work(II Timothy 3:16,17).

Concerning God, His Trinitarian Make-up: God is a self-existent and personal Being who is, in essence, infinite Spirit, and who is eternally one in divine essence but eternally three in personal distinction – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three Persons of the Godhead are ontologically coeternal and coequal with one another, having existed and will ever exist as such and having been and will ever be equal in power and glory for all time. Each possesses in Himself the attributes, the character, the offices and the prerogatives of deity including personality, eternity, immensity, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence and immutability; perfect holiness, righteousness, justice, truth, faithfulness, goodness, love, mercy and grace; and every right and privilege and power – including the creation of all things, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the worship and judgment of all – that comes from being the one and only God, Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, Lord and Judge of all creation.

Concerning Creation: God is the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of all creation. As the literal rendering of the Genesis account of creation, to which we hold, informs us, in the beginning, as an act of His own free will and for His own glory, God, in His three Persons, brought into being, immediately, out of nothing (not through the reshaping of pre-existing materials), and instantaneously, the whole of the visible and the invisible universe, including humanity as its crown. However, although His creation was originally immediate, God continues, even today, to “create” mediately, that is, through the shaping and adapting and transforming and vitalizing of existing materials, and through secondary causes. To Him, all things and persons owe their being and their continuing sustenance.

Concerning Humanity, Our Fall into Sin and Our Total Depravity: Although man was originally created by God in His very image, with the disobedience and willful rebellion of the first man, Adam, our representative head, the entire human race, to a person, was imputed his sin and became subject to sin and, in light of the essential holiness of the Creator, its necessary guilt and condemnation – in a word, death. This means that the essential constitution of each man from his very conception is an irreparably fallen, diseased, broken, sinful one, one of total depravity – a confirmed state of positional and oftentimes practical enmity towards holy God. Every faculty of our being has been skewed and corrupted so that there is nothing in us of which God can fully approve. In our depraved state, “spiritually dead” in our sins, we have no desire for God and his glory, but rather a consuming and self-destructive preoccupation with ourselves. And, according to the very Word of God, we believe that this selfish, sinful condition, if left to our own redemptive efforts, is beyond repair and will, without exception, ultimately take us, in judgment, to death – a literal place of eternal separation from God, hell itself, the lake of fire.

Concerning Jesus and His Provision for our Salvation: Before creation itself, God saw, allowed and even ordained, in the person of Adam, humanity’s fall into sin. He did this in order that He might have the opportunity to demonstrate the depths of His love for us in His procuring our very salvation at the cost of His only Son. To this end, we believe that the very Son of God, God Himself, chose to empty Himself of the independent use of His divine attributes in subjection to the Father and to take upon Himself our flesh, our humanity, in every detail excluding sin. In form as both perfect God and perfect man – two insoluble natures in one Person –, He was virginally conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a Jewish girl, entering this world to be born, to live and grow and walk with His creation as Jesus, the Christ, our Messiah, God’s answer to our sin problem. He grew to be a meek, yet resolute, man, living a sinless and selfless life of total reliance on the Father and true compassion and concern for others. In His words, He exposed the damning sinfulness and futility of man and taught the far-reaching love and redemptive plan of the Father. And then, in fulfillment of multiple Old Testament prophecies, He put self-sacrificing action to His words…and He gave Himself to die.

And there, on Calvary’s cross, we believe that sinless Jesus, as the last Adam, voluntarily and vicariously took upon Himself the whole of the sin of Adam’s race, our sin in nature and act, and suffered the necessary judgment that a holy God, in keeping with His intrinsic holiness, must, as a matter of essence, mete out against that sin.  Jesus became our substitute, the sacrificial Lamb who, in His death, would pay the ransom due our sins to satisfy not Satan, who, in fact, had no legal claims against the sinner, but the Father Himself whose holy justice demands that the Law, His Law, His very character, be the code by which all are to live and the bar to which all are accountable.  That said, because we, as sinners, are all guilty of falling short of His law, His glorious character, Christ’s death would suffice…and more…to redeem, buy back and set free the repentant sinner from that Law and its penalty and would provide for the whole of this sinful world’s, and especially the elect’s, atonement, a covering of sin, propitiation, an appeasing of God’s anger, and reconciliation, a removing of all obstacles between God and His creation.

Further, we believe that the validation of Christ’s sacrifice came as God, three days after the crucifixion and sure death of His Son, raised Him from the dead.  This resurrection was actual, not merely a reviving from an unconscious state; it was bodily, not merely a resurrecting of Christ’s spirit; and it was unique, not merely a revitalizing of the former weak and aging body but a transforming of Christ’s perishable frame into an imperishable one, still the same flesh and bone body, but one of eternal substance and extraordinary features.  And in this bodily resurrection of Jesus, God showed to us and to all His creation that in Christ’s death, sin and death were forever vanquished and the possibility of access to God, in and through Jesus, was indeed, a confirmed reality.

Concerning the Gospel and Our Salvation: Although God, in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, has indeed reconciled all aspects of this world to Himself, the individual sinner can only know the fruit of that reconciliation as he himself turns to and is himself reconciled to God. This is not a matter of religious effort, good works or self-improvement on his part. Indeed, as was said before, in his sinful condition, the sinner has no means in and of himself to approve himself before God. No, we believe his reconciliation to God is not a work of his own, but a graced work of God by His Spirit, convicting the sinner of his sin and drawing him to a place of repentance and faith: repentance, in that the convicted sinner changes his mind, emotions and will concerning his sin and makes a conscious choice to turn from it; and faith, in that the repentant sinner turns to God, putting the whole of his trust – intellectually, emotionally and volitionally – in the Person and work of Christ, in His death and burial for the sinner’s forgiveness of His sins, and in His resurrection for the sinner’s justification. This is referred to in Scripture as conversion and is fundamentally a Spirit– rather than self-initiated turning of oneself from sin to God…by which the sinner is saved.

We believe that in this graced work of salvation by faith, the sinner, by the Spirit and on the sole merit of Christ’s blood, is simultaneously forgiven, justified, regenerated or born again, baptized into and united with Christ, adopted as God’s child and is given God’s very Spirit as a seal, an assurance of his salvation, and as a pledge, a guarantee of his inheritance.

It must be plainly acknowledged here that we believe firmly in the fact that the one and only Gospel that Scripture acknowledges is this saving work of Christ on our behalf.  The apostle Paul spells it out simply and clearly for us in I Corinthians 15:1-6:

“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”

 And again, in Romans 10:9,10, we’re told the same:

 “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

 Our fundamental need, according to this, the true gospel, is our redemption from sin.

Period.

And it was as the answer to that need that the Son of God, in Jesus, came to this earth.  And although, no doubt, the church should be concerned with holistically helping the needy world around her, nonetheless, her fundamental call must always be to proclaim and to never compromise or relax the narrow truth of this one and only Gospel.  This flies in the face of the myriads of social gospels that are permeating the church today.  Yes, as a bridge to or as an outflow of the Gospel and in love of the very world for which Jesus gave His life, we should and must take seriously Scripture’s call to minister to the hurting.  However, humanitarian endeavors must never be the end of our mission.  Frankly, to merely give a cup of cold water to a thirsty person is to allow that person to go to hell with wet lips.  We must never forget the true need of this world – it’s need of a Saviour from sin.  That is why one of the last commands of Jesus Himself was to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).  It is only in this Gospel of Christ’s death and burial for our sins and His resurrection for our justification that this hurting world can individually and personally know the good news of friendship with God and in that friendship can have hope both for today and for tomorrow.

In this Gospel, we believe…and to this Gospel, we hold.

Concerning our Election of God: As has been noted but must here be explicitly stated, the work of our salvation is a sovereign work, a graced gift, in its entirety, of God. From before time ever began, God is the One who chose and called us personally in Christ – not we, Him. Solely in His sovereign grace and purposes, apart from the merits and acts of the individual, God chose, in Christ, some to salvation. He was under no obligation to save anyone. That any should be saved is a matter of pure grace given that, of our own nature and of our own choice, we all, to a person, were sinners, deserving nothing short of judgment and eternal separation from the presence of the perfectly sinless, perfectly holy God.

But, in love, God chose to intervene on our behalf.  God’s work of salvation for us was a purely selfless act of mercy and grace, love and kindness, in which, in election, He determined to save those who would accept His Son’s sacrifice on their behalf and in predestination, He resolved to effectively accomplish that purpose.

According to Scripture, His predestination of those who would be saved is based on His foreknowledge. However, we believe that His foreknowledge is His actual choosingIt’s not passive and uninvolved, but active and engaging.  His foreknowledge is not an uninvolved prescience, merely a knowing beforehand, but an involved and intimate cognizance, a determinative knowing.  In Scripture, both the Hebrew and the Greek word for “to know” often speak more than just simple knowledge.  They many times convey the idea of an intimate and loving, active and influential relationship or knowledge of someone.  It speaks of a personal, active and influential relationship with that person.  And in the same way is foreknowledge here to be understood.  Only such an understanding retains God’s sovereignty in our salvation.

Scripture is clear:  It’s not we who choose God; rather, it’s God who chose us.  And although such a truth should be incredibly dear and precious to us, nonetheless, it does fly in the face of our deep-seated and arrogant need to be in control.  Fact is, with regards to our salvation, we are not in control.  God is.  From start to finish.  He is the One who chose to reach into life’s raging and hell-bound torrent and pluck certain ones, based simply on His own sovereign designs, from the wild waters.  Yes, the gift of salvation is freely open to all – Christ’s death is more than sufficient for all who believe.  In truth, His death, even now, has secured for all the common blessings of life and a delay in the execution of the sentence against their sin.  However, only those who know God’s foreknowledge, whose hearts are moved on and lovingly drawn by God’s Spirit can and will respond to the actual call of God in salvation.  In that, Christ’s death is efficient only for the elect of God.  The sad truth is, apart from that electing sovereign move of God on our hearts, no one could possibly be saved given that, as Scripture affirms, in our depraved, sinful states, we could never nor would ever hear or respond to His call.  Our ability to even repent and accept His graced salvation is, in itself, a graced work of God in our lives.  God must actively involve Himself not only in the blueprint and the founding and the procuring of our salvation in and through Christ’s death and resurrection, but even in the administration of it, even in the initial draw by His Spirit of our sin-sick, adversarial hearts to Himself. And glory to Him, He has!

From beginning to end, God is sovereign in the affair of our salvation.  Salvation is the story of God foreknowing and electing, choosing and saving us from our sinful and hell-bound selves.

Concerning the Assurance of Our Salvation – the “Perseverance of the Saints”: Every believer who truly is united by faith to Christ, who truly is justified by God’s grace and regenerated by His Spirit, will never fall away from that graced position. Although there are many who make less-than-honest, less-than-complete professions of faith, this doctrine of eternal security is applicable only to those who have indeed experienced the new birth. Further, although seasons of backsliding and stumbles into sin may interrupt the normal growth of a genuine believer in Christ, he will never totally fall away from His state of grace. Salvation is a work of God Himself, from start to finish. And He is and will be faithful to complete the work of salvation He Himself started in us. He gave us this graced gift; He will not take it back. The life we’ve received of Him at our salvation is eternal life, and although the term does indeed refer to the quality of that received life – the blessed and holy life of God Himself – nonetheless, it does indicate, as well, its extent – the forever life of God. Just as the death and resurrection of Christ bring the believer into this graced standing of blessed life, so the present intercessory work of Christ eternally and forever sustains him there. Our eternal security is a truth that affirms and brings glory to the faithful keeping power of our God and to the surety of the Spirit’s seal upon us. We believe God’s Word clearly teaches this truth and the accompanying assurance that is the blessed privilege of every true believer.

Concerning the Cross and the Healing of the Body: It must here be stated that we believe that Christ’s vicarious death was foundationally for sin, and not for the effects of sin. He, as our substitute, took our sin upon Himself and took the punishment of God that our sin deserved. This was done in order that our sin might be dealt with and covered over, atoned for and forgiven, and the ensuing wrath of a holy God against our sin, appeased, satisfied. The issue is always and plainly our sin – not the hurt and pain and sickness and death that our sin, and general sin, can and will, at times, bring into our lives. These sin-stained bodies will ever show themselves to be just that…and until their ultimate redemption, their glorious transformation at Christ’s coming to the air for us, they will always be open to the temporal ravages of sin and death.Now, with that said, thank God that with the death of His Son, the curtain dividing us from Him was torn and we are forever free to approach His throne of grace to find ever enough mercy and ever enough grace to help us with any and every attack of sin. And, within God’s sovereign purposes for our life, that mercy and grace may even extend to healing touches of God for our bodies. However, with that said, we believe the divine healing of our bodies is not in the atonement of Christ, as is the healing and forgiveness of our sinful souls. According to Scripture, sickness and death are the direct or indirect effects of sin…and being that, it is not something, of necessity, covered by the death of Christ. The oft-repeated Scripture, “By His wounds, we are healed,” does not, in context, refer to physical, but to spiritual healing – the healing not of our body’s sicknesses, but of our soul’s sin. Even the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He took up or infirmities and carried our sorrows,” is explained by Matthew in his gospel, 8:14-17, to mean that Jesus, in His living not in His dying, took the bodily sicknesses of many on Himself, healing them on the spot with a word or touch. Too often these verses are misunderstood and taken to mean something that they don’t – a guarantee of physical healing in Christ’s atonement. Yes, as already noted, one day Christ’s death and resurrection will avail to afford even the redemption of our bodies; but until that day, these sin-stained bodies are our home and will know, at times and in God’s purposes, the oft difficult and distressing effects of sin, personal and general.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, His Person and General Work: The Holy Spirit is very God – the third Person of the divine trinity. In Scripture, He is clearly presented not as an “it”, as a mere force, but as a “He”, a unique and viable Person. Just as the Father and the Son are given names and attributes of personality, so the Spirit. And the personal attributes given Him are always in keeping with the divine nature…as are the works carried out by Him (See Statement #2).

In the affairs of this world, God’s Spirit is seen as both convicting the world of sin and truth, and restraining and controlling the course of evil.  He is also the One who, after convicting the unbeliever of his sin, causes him to turn to the Lord.

With regards to the believer, the Holy Spirit is the Person of the Godhead who regenerates, indwells, baptizes, seals, fills, sanctifies, guides, teaches, gifts (See Statement #12) and intercedes (…for explanations of these works of the Spirit, please see the Extended Version).

Concerning the Holy Spirit, His Sanctifying Work: We believe sanctification, the Holy Spirit’s work of making a believer holy, of separating the believer in practice from sin to holy God, thereby transforming him experientially more and more into the express image of Christ, to be indispensible in the life of any and every true believer – not so much the practical realization of it, seeing that sinless perfection will never be realized until we actually see the Lord, but the constant pursuit of it. Although a positional sanctification in Christ was given the believer at the moment of his regeneration and baptism into Christ, his practical sanctification will be an on-going work of the Spirit throughout his entire lifetime. As the theological statement goes, the believer “has been saved from the guilt and the penalty of sin, is being saved from the power of sin, and will ultimately be saved from the very presence of sin”. Our holiness is the entire concern of our salvation.

This present pursuit of holiness, however, the true sign of a believer’s regeneration, is not a work of his own, a self-improvement resolution and regiment, for there is nothing in and of the believer himself that can achieve, even desire, this more-than-superficial, true-to-the-heart transformation.  No, it’s an enlightening and empowering work of God’s Spirit – by and through our submission to the Word, our trust of God in prayer and our humble and repentant heed of His loving discipline – in His opening the eyes and aligning the heart and life of the surrendered, trusting believer to the holy character of Christ as demonstrated and spelled-out for us in the whole of Scripture.  It’s the believer acknowledging by faith his own death to sin in Christ’s crucifixion, and his new life in Christ’s resurrection.  It’s the believer acknowledging his living connection to the Vine that Jesus is, and his appropriating by faith that holy resurrected life of Christ, that holy sap of the Vine, in and through his moment-by-moment living.  This is, in fact, the end for which Christ died and that for which the Holy Spirit works in the life of a believer – our salvation from sin and our living out, by faith, the righteous fruit of the Spirit, the holy life of Jesus…to the Father’s glory.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, His Baptizing and Infilling Work: Although Scripture does in fact teach the baptizing work of God’s Spirit, it is not, as some would say, a work subsequent to salvation in which we receive the Spirit, nor is it a work Scripturally corroborated by the gift of tongues. Rather, the baptism of the Spirit is a foundational work of our salvation in which the Holy Spirit, Himself having taken residence in us, baptizes us, spiritually immerses us, into the body of Christ at the very moment of our regeneration. In and through this one baptism – water baptism being a mere, but necessary, subsequent public affirmation to the reality of this personal and inner work – we are brought into true, vital union with Christ – and with the other members of the church – and are forever identified by God in Him, “in Christ”. That said, apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives, we could never know union with Christ. And that is why Scripture is clear that the person who does not have the Spirit simply does not belong to Jesus (Romans 8:9). Accordingly, there can be no possible need to “seek the Spirit” after our baptism for, as Scripture tells us, He already dwells and lives within us.

However, Scripture does go on to teach us that we must now live our lives in Christ filled with His Spirit.  And here’s where the Scriptural misunderstanding often comes.  To be filled with the Spirit is not speaking of capacity, but of control.  If, in Christ, we already possess the Spirit, it simply isn’t possible to get more of Him than we already have seeing that He is, in fact, a Person…and consequently, is incapable of being divided or given out in portions.  If He truly lives in us, we already have the totality of who He is.  That said, to be filled with Him, is not to have more of Him, but, simply, to allow Him by faith to have more of us.  As the Ephesians 5 passage intimates, to be filled with God’s Spirit is to be controlled by Him as wine controls, albeit irresponsibly, the inebriated individual.  By trust in Him, we are to place the reins of our lives into “the Spirit’s hands” in order that He might responsibly control us and work out through us the will, the character, the power and the very glory of Christ.  That is the responsibility of the Spirit – to bring glory to Christ.  And He does so by working out through us Christ’s holy life.  That is why the foundational necessity of us being filled daily with the Spirit, to be controlled daily by Him.

And with that said, although “tongues” is indeed a Scriptural gift of God’s Spirit, what’s in view with the filling of God’s Spirit is not a particular gift, but a particular life – the whole of the righteous life of Christ.  That said, we do not consider the gift of tongues“knowable earthly languages” – to be the corroborating evidence of the Spirit’s infilling, but the holy life of Christ.  Yes, oftentimes believers in the early church did speak in tongues – again, knowable earthly languages – upon their being indwelt and simultaneously filled with God’s Spirit.  In fact, the entrance of God’s Spirit at Pentecost was indeed substantiated with this sign gift of tongues.  However, such demonstrations were needed at the beginnings of this grace age to plainly affirm God’s new dealings with men.  Shortly afterwards, the apostles themselves, under the direction of the Spirit, would teach that there was no one spiritual gift that was to be had by each believer, the telltale mark of the Spirit’s infilling.  Scripture tells us that only a person living and ministering in the character and in the strength of Christ can be said to be filled with, to be living by and controlled by God’s Spirit.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, His Gifting Work: We believe that one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to irrevocably gift each and every member of the universal church of Jesus Christ with at least one, perhaps more than one, spiritual gift. “Spiritual gifts” differ from natural talents and learned abilities in that they are special and purposed graced giftings of the Spirit, given to individuals upon their baptism of Him into the body of Christ. They are given by the Spirit as He so determines for the express purpose of the common good of the body of Christ, the “edifying and building up” the church, enabling it to carry out, to the glory of Christ, the God-ordained works of service for which it was created. In this way, each true member of any and every local church is important, needed of God in His special design of and mission for that particular church, and needed of each member in the corporate carrying out of that mission. Bluntly, the Spirit’s giftings force us to work together interdependently as the healthy body (of Christ) we’re supposed to be, valuing and encouraging each other in the carrying out of our divine charge. As I Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Such Spirit-giftings include prophecythe passionate preaching of Scripture –, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing(s), miracles, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, helps, administration, hospitality and speaking.  Certain offices within the church are also considered Spirit-prompted, gifts of His, and include the offices of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and Pastor-Teacher.  Other Spirit-gifts may also include intercession, craftsmanship and worship.

With that said, we do not believe that there is any one gifting that is intended for and to be sought out by all believers (i.e., the gift of tongues) – a gift that, of itself, indicates either the baptism and/or infilling of the Spirit, or spiritual maturity.  God the Spirit is the administrator of these gifts, and, as said, He, for His purposes, knows what’s best and will, of Himself, determine who gets what.  However, no one gift is intended of Him for all.

Further, we do believe that the gift of tonguesthe divine ability to speak in a previously unknown human language – was and is a legitimate Scriptural gift given by the Spirit to the church.  Although there does seem to be some indication in Scripture that this and the other so-called sign gifts have come to an end with, as it is argued, the passing of the apostolic age, nonetheless, no Scripture is definitive concerning this.  That said, if the Spirit were to allow for a current demonstration of tongues – again, human languages unknown to the speaker – in a public meeting, it would and must always be founded on and limited by the clear teaching and bounds of Scripture, with the understanding that, as Scripture says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (I Corinthians 14:33).  It should be noted here that if Paul, in his teaching on tongues in I Corinthians 14, is speaking not of the spiritual gift of human languages, but of an unknown, perhaps angelic, personal prayer language, an ecstatic utterance, then the same bounds of Scripture as before must be placed on it in its public demonstration.  Frankly, Scripture must be the framework of any demonstration of spiritual gifting, regardless of the gift.

Lastly, each gift must be used within the context of love, never arrogantly or divisively, always seeking the health, encouragement and nurture of each part, each member, of Christ’s body.

Concerning the Church, its Definition: As already noted, all those who truly have been “born again” of the Spirit of God have been baptized by the same Spirit into the body of Christ. That said, we believe that through this baptism into Christ, the believer can now be said to belong to “the church”, a Scriptural term that denotes a body of “called-out people.” Although the Greek term “ekklesia” is used over 100 times in Scripture, only in a few instances is it used in a secular sense. Almost exclusively, the term in the New Testament is infused with spiritual overtones and rather refers to those who have been called by God out of the world from sinful things into fellowship with His Son. The church is not to be seen as a continuation of the old economy, simply an ongoing Israel, the church and Israel being synonymous terms; nor is it a continuation of the Jewish synagogue; nor is it, of itself, what Jesus refers to as the kingdom of God.

The church is rather to be seen in two senses:

In the universal sense, this term refers to all those who, from the beginning of the church age – the day of Pentecost – until it’s end – the rapture of the church –, have received God’s gift of salvation in Jesus…no matter when in this church age nor where in this world they believed.  Each of these believers is described in Scripture as being an individual member of the body of Christ, the universal church, the “church of the “first-born ones” (Hebrews 12:23).

In the local sense, “ekklesia” refers to a group of such professed believers in any one locality.

Concerning the Church, its Founding and Admittance: Jesus Himself spoke of the founding of this, His church, when, in Matthew 16:18, He said that He Himself would build it on “this rock”, a reference either to Himself or to the apostle Peter and to Peter’s accompanying confession of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Although Scripture is clear that Christ Himself would be the architect, the builder, the cornerstone of and the head over the church, purchasing it with His own blood, nonetheless the apostles, including Peter, would be the foundation, the leaders of this new body, the ones through whom Christ would inaugurate His church.

This inauguration, the actual founding of Christ’s church, came about when, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit “fell” from heaven on that little band of waiting and trusting believers, 120 strong, gathered together in that upper room in Jerusalem in obedience to Christ’s command and in promise of the Spirit.  In that moment of the Spirit’s descent, sent of Jesus as a visible affirmation of His true exultation to and at the Father’s right hand, each individual within the group was immediately and collectively baptized of the Spirit, spiritually and truly immersed of Him into Christ’s body, allowing, by faith, their lives to be lost in His.  And in that very moment, the true church of Jesus Christ, both universal and local, was born.  Those 120 believers, in that historical moment, became not only the founding members of the local Jerusalem church, but, and more importantly, the founding members of the universal church of Christ, itself.  That said, not only is this event of historical importance to the life of the church, but, as well, of theological precedence.  This initial baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost revealed to the church the only and ongoing God-ordained means of an individual’s entrance and admittance into its fellowship – the mystical, yet very real, baptism of God’s Spirit into Christ’s body.  Simply put, this baptism by the Spirit is a loss of life, both personally and collectively, in Christ.  In speaking of the church, I Corinthians 12:13 states simply this truth:

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greek, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

 In these words, not only is that glorious and historical moment of the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost and His baptizing into Christ the church’s charter members recalled, but also inferred in these words is the fact that the same is and must be true of all subsequent members of the church.  Each individual, drawn of God’s Spirit to Christ, must himself know and experience the same baptism of the Spirit, the same loss of life in Christ, that those early believers experienced if entrance into the church, into Christ’s body, is to be had.  The immediate effects and gifts of that baptism may differ, but the fact of baptism by the Spirit into Christ is always the same for each person.  And truth is, apart from it, the misled individual is still his own, not Christ’s, and not a part of Christ’s body, the true church.

Even on that inaugural day of the church, as Peter, freshly baptized and filled of the Spirit, preached his first-ever message to the curious crowds that had gathered to see what was happening, the Spirit even then continued to convict sinners of their sin and to draw them to Jesus, baptizing these, as well, 3000 in total, into this new fellowship.  By Acts 4, the church had grown to well over 5000 believers, (perhaps closer to the 15,000-, 20,000-mark, given that only the men of the church were included in that 5000 count), each knowing and having experienced their own personal baptism of the Spirit into Christ’s body, the new church.  And as the months and years went by, the Lord continued to add more and more new believers to the church.

Concerning the Church, its Mission: The mission of the church, both universal and local, is to glorify God through corporate praise and worship of Him, through humble submission to and uncompromised proclamation of the whole of His Word, through faith-filled reliance on His mercy and grace, His provision and power in prayer, through growth in the appropriation by faith of His holy and loving character in and through our daily living, and through evangelization of the world around us and abroad. And as every true believer in Jesus is a member of Christ’s body, the church, we believe that each has his or her own specific role within that mission of the church. The Spirit has gifted all individual believers with at least one ability, often many, to ensure that the church, both universal and local, carries out its mission with purpose and productivity, bearing much fruit for God’s glory.

One key component of the mission of the church is the local and worldwide proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus:  The death of Jesus on the cross “for our sins”, His burial, and His subsequent resurrection three days later “for our justification” (Romans 4:25).  This is nothing less than the Great Commission of the church given to us by Jesus Himself that we might “make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19,20).

Concerning the Church, its Officers: Further, with regards to the church, each local church body is to have a governing board of Scripturally-mature and spiritually-discerning godly elders or overseers, of which the preaching/teaching elder – the pastor – is one, who tend to the spiritual matters of the church. As well, there is to be a non-governing board of deacons/deaconesses, themselves needing to be godly, who are responsible for the material, humanitarian and financial matters of the church. This leadership as a whole is to work to ensure that the mission of the church is being carried out and that its membership is continually being prepared for and encouraged in “works of service so that that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11,12).

Concerning the Church, its Ordinances: Concerning the Church’s ordinances, we believe that they are rites given to the Church as visible signs of our faith. Although we do not believe that they effect a special grace in the life of the believer, nonetheless they are means whereby we may personally recall and publicly set forth what God has done for us in our salvation and, as a result, through them may truly grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus. The two ordinances as taught in Scripture include both, yet only, baptism and communion:

Baptism, according to Scripture, is a one-time act whereby the individual believer is physically and actually “immersed” in water, giving public testimony to his identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.  We believe that it does not contribute to the believer’s salvation, but is a necessary command of first importance following his salvation.

Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, according to Scripture, is a memorial of Christ’s death for us, a repeated rite in which the believer remembers and meditates on the facts of what Christ did for him in His crucifixion.  Although the elements used, the bread and grape juice, do not become, respectively, the body and blood of Jesus as the Roman church holds to, nonetheless, we believe that there is a true and living and abiding presence of Christ amongst the participants as we partake of the elements, allowing for a participation, a fellowship “with Him in His broken body for us and in His shed blood for our sins.  That encouraging fellowship we can have with Him around the communion table comes in the joy that flows from our affirming, by faith, our union with Christ in His death to sin and in His resurrected life to God.  Just as Christ is forever dead to sin and forever alive to God, so, by faith, are we.  The bread and grape juice are testaments to that fact.  Jesus died to sin…and in His death, we, by faith, died to sin.  But, as well, Jesus rose, in triumph, over sin and death…and in His resurrected life to God, we, by faith, live to God.  In that, there is an incredibly deep and wonderful fellowship with Christ around the communion table.  More real than any other venue is our fellowship with Him in communion…in His body and in His blood.  In and through this ordinance and in that accompanying awareness and fellowship of His Presence, the believer looks back to Christ’s death, proclaiming the new covenant of forgiveness in His blood, looks out to the company of like-minded believers around the table in fellowship with him and looks forward to the sure promise of Christ’s return for him.

Concerning Angels, Satan and his Demonic host: Throughout God’s Word, the existence of angelic beings, originally created perfect by God and for His service and glory, is assumed. They are not a race, but a great genderless host of spirit-beings, “numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Revelation 5:11). They neither procreate nor die. In that, their number, from their very creation, is unchanging. They are distinct from us, not, as some would say, mere glorified human beings. Although they are not all-powerful nor all-knowing, they are greater than man in both power and wisdom. And because they are not omnipresent, they must travel, albeit quickly, from place to place, involving time and delay in their movement. As well, worship is never a prerogative of angels.

There are both good and evil angels, elect and damned.  Each is a vast and organized company – the good, under God’s authority and for His purposes, “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation”; the evil, envoys of Satan to do his bidding, always attempting to thwart God’s purposes.

The fallen, evil angels, a third of all the angelic company, are, by their own choice and allegiance, enemies of God, once His holy servants who rebelled against Him and were cast out of heaven.  Lucifer, himself created by God to be a mighty holy cherub, led this rebellion, in pride purposing in his heart to “raise (his) throne above the stars of God, (to) sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain; (to) ascend above the tops of the clouds; (to make himself) like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13,14).  Crushed in this rebellion, cast out of heaven and forever confirmed in their animosity to God, Lucifer – a personal being, the very personification of all that is evil, now referred to in Scripture by a variety of personal names and titles, including Satan, the devil, Beelzebub, the serpent, the evil one, the enemy, the tempter, the god of this age and the ruler of the kingdom of the air – and his fallen cohorts, under definite boundaries set by God Himself and always under His control, continue their rebellion against God, influencing individuals and governments to question, ignore, set aside and outright defy the character, the purposes, the Word and the Person of God.  However, their future judgment is assured.  Hell itself was originally created and prepared by God for the devil and his wicked underlings…and their judgment and forever incarceration therein is a guaranteed destiny (See Statement #20 & #21).  Until then, through them, God works out His eternal purposes.

Concerning Last Things, Personal Eschatology – The Eternal Fellowship with Christ of the Saved, the Eternal Separation from Christ of the Lost: We believe that each person, having incurred sin and its accompanying and necessary judgment, is destined to physically die. This is not annihilation or cessation of being, but a severance of the physical body from the immaterial soul/spirit, the body left to decay in the ground, to return to the dust of which it was made, while the soul, created of God, continues on, as Scripture teaches, imperishable, never to die.For the believer in Christ, death is hope-filled given that he has been delivered from the power of death through the death of Jesus and his own personal trust in that saving act. When he dies, the soul of the believer is immediately translated into the blessed presence of Christ, to be with Him forever, to fellowship with Him as joint heirs in His inheritance of God. However, for the unbeliever, his physical death immediately ushers him away from the Lord’s saving and comforting presence to face sure condemnation and eternal judgment, the wages of his sin, spiritual death and damnation, hell itself (see Statement #19 & #21). The Bible teaches nothing of purgatory, soul-sleep or annihilationism for the disembodied soul.

Concerning Last Things, Personal Eschatology – The Bodily Resurrection of All, Some to Eternal Life and Some to Eternal Punishment: We further believe in the subsequent bodily resurrection of all persons, “some to life and some to judgment and death”. Although Scripture’s teaching of the bodily resurrection of unbelievers is not absent, the primary emphasis of Scripture is that with regards to believers. We are explicitly told in Scripture that the believer’s fleeting earthly body will one day be redeemed, transformed into an enduring heavenly body, yet one still of flesh like as the resurrected body of our Lord. It will be a body in keeping with the old body, as a ripened stalk of wheat to its seed, yet will be renewed, a body that is sinless, incorruptible, imperishable, glorious and one perfectly given over to the control of the Spirit.  And interestingly, according to God’s Word, there is no general resurrection.  Scripture teaches both a blessed First and a damning Second Resurrection.  In fact, there are even phases within the First Resurrection:

First Phase:  The bodily resurrection of Christ Himself from the tomb.

Second Phase:  The bodily resurrection of believers in Christ, those who have lived in this

   church age and who have trusted Christ’s death for their salvation.  This will occur when Christ comes

   in and to the air to rapture the church to Himself (See Statement #22).

Third Phase:  The bodily resurrection of the two Tribulation witnesses. This resurrection will

occur during the period of the Great Tribulation when the martyred bodies of God’s two witnesses will be resurrected before the eyes of the world.

Fourth Phase:  This last phase will concern the bodily resurrection of all those who came to

know and were killed for Christ during the Great tribulation and all those saints of the Old Testament.  Their resurrection and judgment will happen after this time of trouble at Christ’s coming to the earth.

At this point, at Christ’s coming to earth, the glorious First Resurrection will be concluded.  All who have been a part of this Resurrection will know a blessed existence forevermore – eternal life free from the curse and condemnation of sin, a life lived with Christ, in the fellowship of His glorious inheritance – the inheritance of the saints (See Statement #20 & #24).

The Second Resurrection, the resurrection of the damned, will take place after the thousand-year Millennial Reign of Christ.  In this resurrection, the unbelievers of all ages will themselves be bodily resurrected to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment at which every last person will be judged according to their works, and will be damned on the basis of “the books” and on the basis of their names not being found in the Book of Life – a book in which are recorded the names of all those who are heirs of God’s grace.  Although Scripture does teach a gradation of judgment, nonetheless the whole company of unbelievers before this tribunal will be cast into the lake of fire, the second death, a punishment that we believe Scripture clearly teaches will be eternal in duration.  Just as sure as the final state of believers will be a forever and ongoing blessed existence, so, with regards to its duration, the final state of unbelievers will carry on into eternity.  The construction of the Greek word aionios, used as the qualifier “forever” (elsewhere translated “forever and ever”, “forevermore”, “eternal” or “never-ending”) of the state of the believer’s blessedness and the state of the unbeliever’s torment, always implies duration without end.  However, Scripture depicts this eternal state of unbelievers as not a pleasant, but an unhappy and agonizing one in which “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48)not annihilation, but a confirmed state of ruination and decimation and suffering, lasting forever (See Statement #19 & #20).

Concerning Last Things, General Eschatology – the Rapture of the Church: According to Scripture, Christ’s own, believers in Christ during this Age of Grace, will one day be gathered together to meet the Lord “in the air”. This is not the full revelation of Christ, His second coming to earth, but a glorious event in which Jesus will come from heaven to take to Himself His church, His body, rescuing it from the ensuing outpouring of God’s wrath on this earth in the Great Tribulation period. Although there is much and, to some extent, proper debate as to the timing of this meeting in the air, our view, given Scripture’s teaching, is that it, the rapture of the Church, will occur pre-millennially and pre-tribulationally – before the millennial reign of Christ and even before the onset of the Great Tribulation Period.

There are many arguments from Scripture that found this stance, but none more so than the fact that, according to Scripture, believers in Christ will never have to experience God’s wrath, seeing that Christ, there on the cross, endured its full weight and judgment for them, in their place.  This truth is intimated in God’s deliverance of righteous Lot and his wife before destroying, in judgment, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Although in this life, believers may experience difficulty, discipline of God, persecution from the world and even martyrdom, nonetheless, they will never be subject to God’s judgment and wrath.

Never.

Now, given that the Great Tribulation will be, according to Scripture, a seven-year period of God’s wrath poured out on this sin-cursed earth and its peoples, it is just not tenable, not even Scriptural, that we, as believers in Christ, will be made to suffer this final judgment of God poured out on the earth.  Because of this truth and others (see Extended Version for more), we hold to an imminent, pre-tribulational rapture of the church.  Nothing in history need yet happen before Christ is revealed and comes to receive the church to Himself.  In that moment, when Christ comes to the air,

 “the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up

together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess. 4:13-18).

In that moment, “we will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (I Cor. 15:52).

Upon the believer immediately being translated into heaven in his newly resurrected body, we believe, according to Scripture, that he will then stand before the Bema Seat, the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Here, all believers will be judged not as to their sin, seeing that judgment has already taken place in Jesus’ substitutionary suffering and death on the cross for us, but as to their deeds in the body, whether good or bad.  On the basis of this judgment, believers will be rewarded, receive certain crowns, or will suffer loss of reward, depending on the integrity of their works.

After this, as the earth is going through a time of great tribulation, in heaven, the Church will be formally united with Christ in marriage and will sit with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Concerning Last Things, General Eschatology – the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ: We believe Scripture teaches that as the years pass, the world will continue drowning in its sin. We do not hold to the belief that the church will bring ultimate healing to this planet. Yes, as we walk with Jesus, the church will be used of the Spirit to restrain evil and to encourage righteous governing and living, even bringing measures of order and hope in Jesus to much of the world’s sinful chaos. However, in the big picture, the church herself will not bring about the earth’s redemption. We ourselves will never bring heaven to earth in order, as some erroneously and arrogantly would say, to pave the way for Jesus’ return.

Scripture, on the other hand, tells us that this world will continue in its sinful state, always at odds with God.  In fact, at Christ’s return, the world will be as it was in the days of Noah – every inclination of humanity’s heart “was only evil all the time”.

At Christ’s “coming to the air” to take the church away with Him (See Statement #22), the Holy Spirit’s sin-restraining influence will be removed and the world will be thrown into a time of Great Tribulation, a final outpouring of God’s wrath against the sin of this world.  It will be a period lasting seven years during which a united world government of ten cooperating nations will form, dominated by a false religious system.  Midway through the seven years, the religious element of the governing body will be overthrown and a blasphemous autocratic administration controlled by Satan himself will be established.  The world will then be forced to give allegiance to this human incarnation of Satan, this “beast”, through economic and religious servitude.  All those who counter him and who refuse “his mark” will suffer greatly, multitudes to martyrdom.

As well, during this “time of Jacob’s distress”, the nation of Israel will once again fall into God’s plan.  Many from her will finally recognize Christ as their Messiah, 144,000 of which will be sealed of God to evangelize the world.  Incredible persecution at the hand of Satan himself will follow in which many believing Jews will give their lives for their faith.  However, all of Israel who survive these judgments will be saved.

This seven-year period will end when Satan, as “the beast”, will incite all the kings of the earth and their armies to gather for the infamous battle of Armageddon.  They will gather together in an incredible number to capture Jerusalem, but will be thwarted when the Son of God Himself descends from heaven with His armies – we, the previously raptured church – and in a short and certain outcome annihilates the vast contingent.  The leaders of this opposition, the beast and the false prophet, will immediately be thrown into the Lake of Fire and their armies, slain with the sword that comes from Christ’s mouth.

Concerning Last Things, General Eschatology – the Millennial Period and Eternal State: We believe that after the decisive victory at Armageddon, Christ’s second coming will be complete as He plants His feet on the earth and sets up His earthly kingdom for a literal thousand years.

This millennial reign of Christ will commence with Christ’s binding of Satan and his army of evil spirits and throwing them into the abyss.  He will then proceed with the judgment of the nations coming out of the Tribulation, assessing who are “sheep” and who are “goats”, who will be and who will not be allowed entrance into the kingdom.  Following this, Christ will personally sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem as supreme King, Judge and Lord over the whole earth, ruling in universal righteousness and peace, removing even the curse of sin from the earth and restoring its former glory and perfection.  Those saints of ages past, including those of the church age, will share with Christ in His throne.

It must be noted here that although this period begins with a whole earth of regenerate individuals, as time passes many will be born who will rather choose to go the way of their sinful hearts and will foolishly attempt to thwart the righteous rule and reign of Christ.  Although Satan and his demonic hordes will be bound at this time, nonetheless, the curse of sin in human nature will continue during the Millennium and will be enough to foster all sorts of sin and rebellion.  Christ, however, will make swift judgment of sin, ruling with a rod of iron.

Finally, at the conclusion of the millennial period, we believe that Satan will be released from his prison for a short time and will gather the nations, Gog and Magog, to himself.  He, with his earthly and demonic armies, will encircle the camp of the saints and the city of Jerusalem at which point fire will fall from heaven, consuming them.  Christ will then establish His final judgment, called in Scripture the Great White Throne Judgment.  Unbelievers of all the ages will be physically resurrected, the damning second resurrection, and will be made to stand before Christ as Supreme Judge.  There, along with Satan and his demonic horde, each will be tried from the books and each will be found guilty as to his sin and to the fact of his name not being written in the Book of Life.  As a result, all there will then be cast into the lake of fire to suffer just and eternal punishment.  Death and Hades themselves will be resigned as well to the same lake of punishment.

Christ will then “deliver up” the kingdom to God the Father and the final kingdom, the eternal state, will commence under the sovereignty of God – the Father, the Son and the Spirit.  A new or, better understood, renewed, transformed, even sanctified heaven and earth will be established in which the curse of sin and death and their effects will be no more and righteousness will forever reign.  The New Jerusalem, most likely a literal city, will come down out of heaven and hang suspended between the earth and heaven.  It will be a glorious place of beauty and security.  In it the Lamb will be the light, giving light to the entire earth.

Look forward to hearing from you

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