What We Believe
I. The Scriptures/Bible
God has revealed Himself to man through the book commonly known as the Bible. The Scriptures are God’s inerrant, infallible, and Holy Word (2 Tim. 3:16). It was given by God to man over the course of a broad span of time and has been faithfully handed down to the church today. It is God’s revelation of Himself to us and knowledge and relationship with God are not possible without it. As God is Himself perfect and has inspired it perfectly to its human writers, it is completely without any error in the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) manuscripts (Psalm 19:7). As the sixty-six canonical books of Scripture, God’s Word is the means by which God continues to reveal Himself to man. Nothing may be added to it or deleted from it (Rev. 22:18-19). Since the Word of God is the instrument He uses to reveal Himself to man, people ought to devote themselves to study of the Word (Ps. 119:11), letting it dwell richly in their minds and hearts (Col. 3:16). The Word of God informs and equips the church to fulfill all the purposes which God has called her to (2 Tim. 3:16). This being the case, every action and decision of the church must be informed and guided by the Scriptures. All doctrinal formulation must arise from, be built on, and be guided by Scripture.
God is the eternally existing creator of all that exists, both seen and unseen, material and immaterial. He has existed eternally at the same time as one being (Deut. 6:4) and as three persons (1 John 4:8). In theological shorthand, we refer to this concept as God being Trinity.
The Trinity is not three different gods, but One God. The Trinity first arises in Genesis 1:26. When speaking of His intention to create mankind, God says "Let us" rather than "Let me." The Scriptures are clear in that the LORD is One (Deut. 6:4). Yet it is also clear that the Father is God (John 6:27; 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6), the Son is God (Matt. 28:9; John 1:1-4, 14; 5:17-18; Rom. 9:5), and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). The Scriptures are also clear that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons. One important detail regarding the Trinity is that it shows how the persons of the Trinity relate to One another and to creation.
God clearly reveals in His word that He has created all reality, both material and immaterial, from no preexisting materials (Gen. 1-2). Nor did He have any necessity to create; He did it of His own free will. He created by speaking creation into existence. He created from nothing. Each Person of the Trinity was involved in the creative process (Gen. 1:1-2; John 1:1-3).
Creation functions as revelation in a general way to all mankind that God exists (Psalm 19:1-4; Rom. 1:18-20). This general revelation is not sufficient in and of itself to bring men to the point of actually having relationship with God, but it is adequate to make them aware of His existence.
Man was created in the image of God, and is the pinnacle of His created works (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:4-25). This includes at least two primary aspects. One is the capacity to have relationship with God and with other humans. Humans alone have the capability to have meaningful, loving, and cognitive relationship with God and with one another. Another aspect of being made in God’s image is that we function as His vice-regents over creation, having dominion over creation. A third aspect, I believe, is a modified version of what is commonly termed the substantive view—namely that the entire human substance, body, mind, and soul was created to image God.
Man was also created male and female. While man and woman are equal in their essence, worth, and value, they differ in respect to their roles and gifts with God’s creation. There is a complimentarian principle that has always been a part of God’s purpose. Gender roles are a result of God’s design, not man’s sin, although man’s sin has certainly had adverse effects on those roles. This design also has implications for sexual expression. Sexual love, defined as the physical union of two persons, has always been reserved and intended for monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Thus all other forms of sexual expression (homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, etc.), aside from this or celibacy, are gross perversions of God’s intended design and gift of marriage.
Man was created to have fellowship with God and to worship Him (Gen. 2:15; Ps. 16:11; Ecc. 12:13). Unfortunately, due to the choice of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, man is now subject to a corrupted nature. Every part of man is affected, and apart from God grace, there is nothing in man that would seek God or pursue what is truly good (Ps. 14:1-3).
Sin, at a most basic level, is anything that is done contrary to the character and will of God. Sin emerged among mankind as a result of Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden to rebel God’s clear command (Gen. 3).While man was intended to have eternal fellowship with God from the beginning, man himself choose his own ways rather than God’s. As a result, Adam’s sin has been imputed to all his descendants (Rom. 5:18), and his corrupt nature was passed down to them as well. Thus all men are totally depraved apart from God’s grace. This does not mean that all men are as evil as they could be. Rather it means that there is no part of the human composition that is not affected by sin, and man’s natural choice, apart from God, is to not choose God.
Sin distorts, perverts, warps, corrupts, and can even destroy all that is associated with it. It disrupts God’s intended purposes in and for creation. The only one who can overcome sin is God Himself. Apart from God, man is completely futile to resist sin’s influence and deception. Apart from the grace of God, sin condemns its practitioners to literal, eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Thankfully, God has not left man with no hope, but has provided a Savior in Christ.
VI. The Person and Work of Christ
Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, the Divine Logos, becoming man (John 1:1-3, 14). As such, He is fully God and fully human. His coming was specifically foretold in many places in the OT (Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Isaiah.7:14; 9:6-7), and His person and coming were pointed to by typology and allusion at innumerable points.
He was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-25). The virgin birth is important because it reveals at least five important truths related to Christ. 1) The action of the Holy Spirit points to the sovereign newness of the work that God is accomplishing in Christ. 2)The human nature which was taken on by the Son of God was not created ex nihilo, but was inherited through Mary. 3) It forbids any notion of adoptionist Christology. 4) It preserves both the reality of His union with man in genuine human nature, and His freedom from the guilt and curse of Adam’s fall. 5) The conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit is the mode by which the Father’s sending of the Son is affected and as such shows each person of the Trinity involved in this critical stage of the redemptive work.
Christ lived a perfect, sinless life in which He fully met the requirements of the Old Testament law. Not only did He obey the law, but He died on the Cross, taking on the penalty of the law that all mankind (aside from Christ) deserved. Thus He completely fulfilled the Old Testament law. In doing this, He perfectly and completely secured salvation for all who have placed their faith in Him as well as all who ever will place their faith in Him.
Christ was raised from the dead on the third day following His death. His resurrection demonstrated that the Father had accepted His sacrifice and also His final victory over death. His resurrection is the first and is the pattern for believers who will likewise be raised to eternal life upon His return (1 Cor. 15:20-23). He will physically return to the earth one day in the future to set up His millennial kingdom, raise His followers to a glorified state, and wage war on His enemies. He will be adored and treasured by the redeemed for all eternity.
Salvation is by Grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, solely by the virtue of Christ’s work (Rom. 3:21-28). Salvation occurs at the moment of a believer’s sincere belief and trust in Christ as savior along with the believer’s acknowledgement of Christ’s Lordship. Christ is both Savior and Lord for the individual or He is neither. Also, while faith is all that is necessary to receive God’s grace and forgiveness, there is no true saving faith that is not also accompanied by repentance that is evidenced in one’s lifestyle (James 2:17-26).
While it is not possible to arrange all of the aspects of salvation in a sequential manner with absolute certainty, it is clear that some of the aspects of salvation come after others (for instance, it is clear glorification will not be experienced prior to regeneration!). As such, sanctification begins at the moment of a believer’s regeneration, and continues until the believer dies and goes to be with Christ, or until the moment of glorification at Christ’s return, should a believer be so fortunate as to be alive when it happens. Glorification takes place at the moment of Christ’s return first for those who have died in Christ, and then for the believers who are still alive.
The Scriptures are clear that the Lord will sustain those who are His (Phil. 1:6), and as such, believers are eternally secure. Nevertheless, this should never imply or allow for a "do whatever I want" attitude among believers. The perseverance and growth in holiness is still something Christians play an active part in.
VIII. The Church
The church is the community of all God’s people from all times and in all places. This would specifically be termed as the universal church. Local churches are regionalized gatherings of believers who gather together to hear God’s word preached, practice the ordinances, build one another up in Christ through fellowship, mobilize for ministry, and engage the external culture through evangelism.
Christ has promised to build His church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). This should instill and bolster confidence in the local church for two reasons. One, Christ Himself will build the church. Thus the church can know that ultimately it is not about human ingenuity or creativity, but it is ultimately about Christ’s favor in ministry endeavors. Yet at the same time I believe this means the church can count on the Lord to guide them in having ingenuity and being creative! Also, Christ has promised that the gates of hell will not be able to hold back His church. Thus churches should have an offensive rather than defensive mindset when engaging the external culture.
There are eight key characteristics that help define what a local church is as opposed to just any gathering of believers.
Purposes/Functions/Ministries of the Church
While some people differ on the number and specific terminology of the ministries of the church, I believe there are three broad functions of local churches. There is also overlap and correlation among these functions. All of these ministries are to fulfill the broad purpose of loving and glorifying God.
Gifts for Ministry
Our belief regarding the Gifts of the Spirit is that the Spirit is the One Who empowers believers for gifts and sovereignly distributes various gifts to believers as He sees fit (1 Cor. 12:4-7). When the gifts are used properly, the whole body of Christ benefits and the church is strengthened.
One fact regarding church offices is that Scripturally, the terms always have to do more with function than an actual “position.” Nevertheless, for the sake of order and leadership in the church, there is nothing wrong with men being appointed to these roles. Regarding the qualifications for both offices, they are all qualities that every Christian should aspire to, with the exception of “being able to teach.”
IX. The Future
Christ will literally and physically return to the earth to set up His earthly kingdom, bringing those who are His into the glorified state, waging war on His enemies, and eventually judging those enemies and sending them into eternal torment in the lake of fire (Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:51-55; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; Rev. 19:11-20:15).