WHAT WE BELIEVE
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). “Prophecy of Scripture” came from holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). Though it is written by men, and those men can use human methods of communication, the spirit of the Word was delivered by God and is considered to come from Him. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Sola Scriptura (“only Scripture”) was a predominant theme of the Protestant Reformation. It means that Scripture alone has the authority to inform the church’s knowledge of God or to form doctrine. Jesus Christ implored the Father to sanctify His people by His Word, since His Word is truth (John 17:17).
“Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with social, physical, or life sciences” (classic definition by P. Feinberg). Errors can occur among fallible people due to mistranslation, ignorance, wrong interpretation, looking for something that is not there, or taking Scripture out of context; but the Scriptures do not themselves err. God’s way is perfect, and His Word is proven (2 Sam. 22:31 & Ps. 18:30).
There is a “highway of holiness” where not even a wayfaring fool will err therein (Is. 35:8). One does not need to be a scholar to hear from God through the Scriptures. Revelation will progressively increase as one studies the Word and walks in relationship with God; however, all believers can receive from them at any time. Unbelievers, on the other hand, may not understand the Scriptures because they do not have the Holy Spirit to illuminate them: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14).
We believe in one God: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). We also believe that though God is one, He has eternally existed as three distinct “persons,” which are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For us “there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things…and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things…” (1 Cor. 8:5-6). It also cannot be denied that the Holy Spirit is God, as He is frequently called the “Spirit of God,” “Spirit of the Lord,” “Spirit of Christ,” “Spirit of Truth,” “Spirit of life,” etc. We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity. The “Godhead” is coeternal, coequal, and of the same substance/essence.
God the Father is the “Originator/Author” of all things; God the Son is the “Channel” of all things; and God the Holy Spirit is the “Energizer” of all things. We receive from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Our prayers and praise are directed to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Nobody can come to the Father but through Jesus Christ (John 14:6); and yet nobody can come to Christ unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). This is all done through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2).
Jesus Christ is God’s “Word” made flesh (John 1:14) and is God Himself (John 1:1-2). He eternally proceeds from the Father but is not created. He is the image of the invisible God, and in Him, all the fullness of God dwells (Col. 1:15-17,2:9). He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His being (Heb. 1:3).
To see Christ is to see God (John 14:9). It is the image of Christ to which we seek to be conformed (Rom. 8:29). He has always existed as God, but at the appointed time, also became man, being both fully God and fully man. He was crucified for our sins (Is. 53:5), and now sits at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:1), living ever to make intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25).
Man & woman were originally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Man was created from dust, but became a living being after receiving the “breath of life” from God. The human spirit is what separates mankind from other living creatures. Mankind was given dominion over God’s creation (Gen. 1:26); and it is important to properly steward this responsibility. Man was created a relational being – relating to God, other people, and with the world. When God looked at what He had made, He said it was very good (Gen. 1:31).
Man was not created to be a simple obedient slave; nor was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a test of man’s obedience. Mankind was created to be mature sons (and daughters) of God that would play an important role in God’s plans and purposes for the earth. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented a choice to learn through participation and observation.
Man was created to be in communion/fellowship with God. When sin entered the world, mankind’s relationship with the world was changed. Sin created a chasm between God and man. This separation from God also tainted man’s relationship with other people and all creation. Violence, bitterness, malice, and the like have ensued since. In the Garden of Eden, man also had access to the “Tree of Life,” which prevented them from dying; but that access was lost after they sinned. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12).
The Bible indicates that Christians once again have access to the “Tree of Life” (Rev. 2:7, 22:2, & 22:14). “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). The Bible says that Jesus Christ was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). It was always part of God’s plan. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement” (Rom. 3:25a).
Atonement basically indicates “At-one-ment.” “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Eph. 2:14). “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (Col. 1:21). “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life… Now this is eternal life: that they know…the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 3:16 & 17:3).
God calls His people to be perfect, just as He is perfect (Matt. 5:48). “Perfect” in this context does not mean flawless; it means “mature.” Paul said that ministries are given to the church to equip and edify God’s people (Eph. 4:11-13). Some translations go on to use the word “perfect,” while some use “mature.” But characteristics of this “perfect” man include unity of faith and knowledge of God, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13b). This is contrasted to those that are futile in their thinking and darkened in their understanding (Eph. 4:17-19). Believers are taught to put off their old selves and put on the new, which is created to be like God – righteous and holy (Eph. 4:20-24).
All were at one time enslaved by their passions and desires (Titus 3:3), but those that are God’s were saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Having escaped the corruption of the world, those that have been reconciled to God can partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). God’s people are being transformed into His image “with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). There is no stopping point; this is a lifelong process.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Jesus likened His kingdom to a field where a man sowed seed, but where his enemy also sowed tares/weeds (Matt. 13:24-30). The wheat grew, while weeds grew among it. At the harvest, the wheat was gathered into the barn while the weeds were thrown into the fire. The kingdom is represented by the entire field, meaning that God’s rule is all-encompassing. Jesus Christ died for sinners and they can now spend eternity with God; and that is a wonderful thing. But the Gospel message is more than that, as Jesus Christ Himself frequently preached the “Gospel of the Kingdom” before going to the cross (Matt. 4:23, 9:35; Mark 1:14-15). “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Is. 52:7).
Jesus likened the Kingdom to a mustard seed: though it is the smallest of the seeds, it becomes the largest of the trees, and birds will nest in its branches (Matt. 13:31-32). In the latter days the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established above all other mountains and all nations will flow to it to learn God’s ways so they can walk in His paths (Is. 2:2-3).
Jesus said that believers are the salt and light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). Salt was (and is) used both to preserve and to flavor food. Likewise, Christians should both resist spiritual decline and favorably influence society. God called us to let our lights so shine before men that they should see our good works and glorify Him (Matt. 5:16). Darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the people; but the church is to arise and shine, drawing the nations to her light (Is. 60:1-3).
During Jesus’ ministry, He often likened Himself to a bridegroom (see Matt. 25:1-13; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35; and John 3:29). The Book of Revelation also speaks of the “New Jerusalem” as a bride adorned for her husband (21:2). “‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:7-8).
The apostle Paul too spoke of the institution of marriage as an example of Christ’s relationship with the church: “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27). One day Christ will return, and the church that has made herself ready will go with Him to the wedding banquet (Matt. 25:10).
The apostle Paul said that the “Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:26). Just as natural mothers raise up natural children, so too is it the job of the church to love, raise, nurture, teach, and develop her spiritual children. The prophet Hosea said that God’s “people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I [God] also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (4:6).
Church leadership will face a stricter judgement (James 3:1), and this responsibility must never be forgotten. By speaking the truth in love, the church must help believers grow up, no longer remaining immature children (see Eph. 4:14-15). “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). It is the sons of God that will obtain the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of the riches of the inheritance of the saints (see Col. 1:3-14).
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commissioned His church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them (Matt. 28:19-20). He also said that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, receiving power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:5-8). As we preach to every creature, signs will follow those who believe (Mark 16:15-17).
Water baptism should be for believers, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the Remission of Sins, and for the circumcision of the heart (Acts 2:38 & Col. 2:11-12). There is a “putting on” of Christ in the waters of baptism (Gal. 3:27). Those baptized into Christ are baptized into His death; and just as He was raised from the dead, so too should they walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
It is important to note that although the sacraments do not themselves impart grace, they do serve as a means, or channel, of God’s grace. Just as confession of one’s sins does not bring salvation without believing in one’s heart (Rom. 10:9-10), so too must the sacraments be accompanied by faith.
But an impartation of God’s grace can be received by faith, through the sacraments. The question is not whether one must do these to go to heaven. The more appropriate question is this: Is there a partaking of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:3-4) that contributes to one’s spiritual transformation (2 Cor. 3:18) that occurs when participating in the sacraments? And the answer is “yes,” there is.
The elements of the Lord’s Supper represent His body and blood, which He gave on the cross for the remission of sins. We are to partake of them in remembrance of Him, proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes. The Apostle Paul also said that self-examination is an important aspect of communion. It is a time when we can examine our relationship with Jesus Christ in light of the sacrifice that He made for us (see 1 Cor. 11:23-33).
The Bible says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). When Jesus’ disciples preached, they also cast out demons and anointed the sick with oil so that they were healed (see Mark 6:12-13).
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Before Jesus’ ministry, a man named John the Baptist baptized people with water for repentance. Jesus Christ is the one who now baptizes His people in the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; and Acts 1:5). Peter said that all who are baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this promise is to “all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
All those baptized in the Lord receive the “gift” of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and are washed and thus made new (Titus 3:4-6). But there is also a second work of grace available, as we are being transformed “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). Although all believers have the Holy Spirit working with and in them, the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is a deeper reality in which they can be fully empowered to manifest the Spirit’s gifts in their lives.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was often evidenced by the gift of speaking in tongues (see Acts 2:3, 10:45-46, and 19:6). There is a ministry gift of tongues, accompanied by interpretation, that is given to some for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 12:10-11, 14:5). But there is also a private gift of tongues that is available to all Christians, which is for the edification of one’s self (1 Cor. 14:2-5). When one prays in tongues his or her spirit prays (1 Cor. 14:14).
Jesus said that people would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). This power will manifest itself differently in different people who are called to do different things. “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:6-7).
There will be a time when things like prophecy and tongues will cease; however, at this time knowledge will also cease (1 Cor. 13:8). That time has not happened yet. Spiritual gifts were given for the building up of the church, which is not finished. They will be present throughout the church age, until “that which is perfect has come” (1 Cor. 13:10).
THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL THINGS
Jesus Christ has been received into heaven “until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). The first prophecy goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned, God prophesied to the serpent/devil that the Seed of the Woman (Jesus Christ) would bruise his head (Gen. 3:15). Writing to the church in Rome, Paul said that the God of peace would soon crush Satan under their feet (Rom. 16:20).
All things prophesied since the world began will be fulfilled and the very first prophecy declares that in the end, God is victorious! God is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13). “For from him and through him and for him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).
The apostle Peter spoke of a day when the heavens will pass away and the earth and the works in it would be burned up (2 Peter 3:10). He then said that we “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). The apostle John also “saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1). After the final resurrection and judgements, God will usher in what is termed the “eternal state,” where His people will dwell with Him forever!
Jesus Christ was crucified, killed by being hung on a tree; but God raised Him up on the third day (Acts 10:39-40). Christ is risen and is the “firstfruit” of those who have “fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Just as Christ’s physical body was raised from the dead, so too will those of all people – “…those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29).
The soul alone is not eternal but awaits Christ’s return when it will be reunited with the body. “…For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53).
“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with he voice of an archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive…will be caught up together with them in the clouds… And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Believers (those in God’s Book of Life) will escape the judgment mentioned above. However, they will stand before what the apostle Paul called “the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10). Christians should make it their aim to be pleasing to God, as they will one day have to give an account to Him for the things done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:9-10). Paul says that many may run in a race, but only one receives a prize; he then implores them to run in such a way that they may obtain it (1 Cor. 9:24-25). Even Paul himself pressed “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
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