What We Believe About God
God is Spirit (John 4:24). God exists as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet is One (Matthew 3:16-17, John 10:30, 14:9, 11,16,26; 15:26; 17:3. God is eternal (John 17:5; Revelation 22:13; Romans 1:20; I Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 9:14), immortal, invisible, only wise (I Timothy 1:17). All things were made by Him (Genesis 1:1) and are for Him (Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36). God is omnipotent, omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6), and omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). He actively, sovereignly, governs, rules, upholds, and sustains all things (Colossians 1:17; Psalm 103:19), and were He to withdraw His hand all would certainly die (Psalm 104:27-30; Hebrews 1:3). God has many attributes. He is Holy, true, perfect, righteous, just, merciful, gracious, slow to anger, patient, jealous, wrathful, fearsome, sovereign, terrible, tender, loving, kind, generous, sinless, immutable, faithful, a keeper of promises, caring, compassionate, humble, meek, wise, and peaceful. These are only some of the things that Scripture teaches us about God. God is vast and unsearchable (Psalm 145:3; Romans 11:33), yet He has chosen to reveal Himself to us (Jeremiah 31:34).
The Father is the first person and creator [this through the Son (Colossians 1:16; Genesis 1:1)]. The Father loves and enjoys fellowship with the Son and has from all eternity (John 17:5). The Father is due all glory, thanksgiving and praise from all His creation (Romans 1:18-21). He has, in His providence, divinely ordained all things and He rules everything in total sovereignty (Acts 17:26-27; Romans 9:10-24; Isaiah 46:9-10), “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.’” The Father has chosen all those that He will save. He did not in any way base His choice on the foreknowledge of those who would be saved, but rather on His own good pleasure (Ephesians 1:4; John 17:2; John 1:13). The Father gives the elect to Christ as a gift (John 17:6) and Christ offers them back to the Father to glorify Him (I Corinthians 15:24-28). The Father gives the Holy Spirit (John 15:26), who glorifies the Son (John 16:14), who glorifies the Father (John 17:4), who glorifies the Son (John 17:1 & 5) in a never-ending circle, where each person of the Trinity magnifies the greatness and splendor of the other. God desires for us to behold this spectacle of Divine love and glory forever (John 17:24).
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the second person of the Trinity and is co-equal with the Father and the Spirit (John 1:1-3, 10:30; Colossians 1:15, 19; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3). He was not created by the Father but has always existed with the Father (John 17 and Micah 5:2). He was begotten of the Father, not in that He was created, but in that He took on a human body and was born (Hebrews 1:5; John 3:16). Also, Jesus is begotten of the Father in His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4). Jesus was distinguished and conclusively demonstrated to be the Son by His resurrection from the dead. Jesus has always been the Son of God, even prior to the incarnation (Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 30:4). Jesus Christ, retaining the fullness of His Deity, became a man, taking on a real human body, being born of the virgin, Mary (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; Luke 2:34-35). Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the Father and voluntarily surrendered some of His divine prerogatives of Deity while on earth (Philippians 2:7). Jesus lived perfectly and fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the Law of God (2 Corinthians 5:21) offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10; I Peter 2:24). Jesus was raised from the dead bodily (Luke 24:29-43; Acts 1:3). He ascended into Heaven and will return bodily (Acts 1:11). He will rapture His church to Himself (Revelation 3:10) and then return and reign on this earth for 1,000 literal years (Revelation 20). He returns as the judge of all men.
The Holy Spirit is a distinct person of the Godhead yet one with the Father and the Son (Isaiah 11:2, John 15:26). He was active with the Father and the Son in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2). He uniquely empowered many Old Testament people for the service of the Lord (Exodus 3:1-5, I Samuel 16:13-14, I Samuel 10:6, 11:6, 2 Samuel 23:2, 2 Chronicles 20:14, Isaiah 11:2, Ezekiel 11:5, 37:1, Psalm 51:11). Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit now not only resides with believers or empowers them for a time but dwells with and in believers permanently (John 14:16-18). His purpose in indwelling believers is to cause them to know Him, the Father and the Son, and His Law (Jeremiah 31:33-34, John 14:26-27, John 15:26, John 16:12-15). Jesus predicted the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that would occur (John 14:17, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:6-8) at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21). This indwelling Holy Spirit infers many benefits to believers: testifying to Himself, the Father, and the Son, causing the apostles to remember and record Jesus’ words, bringing understanding of God’s Word, bringing conviction “of sin, righteousness and judgment.” He also empowers believers with boldness to proclaim the Gospel (Acts 4:31), comforts believers (Acts 9:31), sanctifies believers (Romans 15:16), helps our weakness and prays for us (Romans 8:26), and gives gifts to individuals that the whole body of Christ may be built up and strengthened, becoming more like Jesus (I Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:11-13). See the section on Spiritual gifts for more discussion on this topic. The Holy Spirit also uniquely gifted the apostles and some of their close associates with miraculous powers, not for their own sake, nor to glorify the doers of the miracles, but to provide confirmation that their message was true (Hebrews 2:3-4). The Spirit also works with the Father and Son to accomplish salvation. He is the one who brings regeneration to the unbeliever, taking our dead spirits and making them alive to God (Titus 3:4-7, Ephesians 2:1) and the one who seals us after salvation and is the guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).
What We Believe About Man
Man and woman were made perfect, without sin, in the image of God. They sinned by disobeying God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This brought about devastating consequences of physical and spiritual death and separation from Holy God. Because of this, all of Adam’s offspring, the entire human race, are now born sinful and separated from God (Romans 5:12). Mankind does not have the ability to enjoy relationship with God, who is holy. Man cannot commend himself to God through any of his own actions. He is totally depraved. This means that he is totally sinful in his essence and completely unable and unwilling to reconcile himself to God. This does not mean that he always does the worst possible sin at all times. Men are able to follow laws and act morally, but the heart of man is wicked through and through (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3). This is the state of all mankind; lost, sinful, separated from God, deserving only God’s wrath and punishment. Without God’s intervention, the entire human race would have been lost (Romans 5:6).
What We Believe About Salvation
“Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8).” Given man’s depraved and helpless condition and his utter inability to save himself (John 6:44), God must plan, initiate, accomplish, and apply salvation to an individual in order for them to be saved. He chooses out of all mankind men and women on whom He will show mercy (Romans 9:15-16).
He chooses them not on the basis of their own merit, but on the basis of His gracious and loving choice, or election (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; John 15:16; John 1:13; Romans 9:14-24; I Corinthians 1:26-31). All sin is punished by God because it is a direct affront to His holiness. Since God is both just and holy, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished; to allow some sinners to go unpunished would be an affront to His justice. Thus, God Himself provided a substitute. He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect sinless life, fulfilling all God’s requirements and laws, to take the punishment for sin that mankind deserves (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus took our sin on Himself and became the propitiation for our sin (Romans 3:21-26) and God unleashed all His wrath, the wrath that we deserved, on His own Son. Christ died for our sins (I Corinthians 15:1-6). He then rose from the dead, declaring His Deity (Romans 1:4) and showing His triumph over death and Hell. Roman 4:25 also says that He was raised for our justification. Jesus said that those who believe this gospel, or “good news”, will be saved (John 6:28-29; Romans 10:9-13).
Even in believing the gospel, man is passive. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes this clear, as does Romans 3:27-28. A dead man can do nothing to save himself, and we were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1). The Holy Spirit regenerates our spirit, making us alive to understand the gospel by faith (Titus 3:4-6). The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. Faith in this gospel of Jesus Christ ALONE confers salvation. There are no other requirements but to believe this gospel, at which time repentance occurs simultaneously (Acts 20:21). As faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), repentance also is granted by God (2 Timothy 2:25). If anyone tries to add to or take away from this gospel, may they be accursed, says Galatians 1:6-9. Salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone and none other.
We believe that God declares sinful human beings just and makes them acceptable in His holy sight by grace alone through faith alone (Romans 3:28). Those who are justified are also called to continue to grow in holiness (Hebrews 10:10) and through God’s sustaining grace they will remain faithful to the end (Philippians 1:6).
What We Believe About Scripture
II Timothy 3:16-17 encapsulates our beliefs about Scripture most succinctly, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. Believers in Christ can rest in the knowledge that the whole Old Testament is the true and divinely inspired word of God and its purpose is to point to Jesus as the Messiah (Luke 24:44). The veracity of the Old Testament writing is also confirmed in John 5:45, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the One who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.” The New Testament writings were canonized and recognized as authoritative as early as the 2nd century, and Peter recognized Paul’s letters as “scripture” in the first century (II Peter 3:15-16). I Timothy 5:18 marries an Old Testament passage to the newer writings; both as authoritative Scripture (Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7). All of the writings were done in the 1st century, the latest being Revelation in approximately 98 A.D. Most were written by apostles (or by their close associates) who carried the authority to speak on behalf of the Lord because they were directly chosen, taught, and sent by Him to be the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). The New Testament authors unabashedly wrote with authority as well, not shying away from commanding others and speaking definitively on matters of doctrine (I Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:16; Acts 15; I Corinthians 7:10-12, 11:16, 14:37). The Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest extant version of the entire Bible, with all the New Testament books and most of the Old Testament books, and is dated to the mid 4th Century. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote in 367 A.D. listing by name the 27 books of what is now the New Testament.
We believe the Scripture is divinely inspired by God and that He used real human agents, with their unique personalities, literary styles, and backgrounds to communicate His truth. We believe that not merely the thoughts and ideas expressed in the Scripture are inspired, but also the very words of the original are inspired. We believe that the Scriptures are inerrant (free from error, trustworthy), and infallible (not misleading). We believe that the Scripture should then form the basis for all that we believe and practice personally, as families, and as the larger church body. We believe that there is no further divinely-inspired revelation from God in that He has spoken to us now by His Son, the apostles were eyewitnesses and wrote of Him, and no others can authoritatively claim to have new revelation from God. God has given us His perfect Word, His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2) and we are now entrusted to read, learn, obey, preserve, proclaim, and guard this truth, “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).”
What We Believe About The Church
The church is the collective body of all believers in Christ, those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit. We are all made a part of the unified body of Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Not only are all believers members together in one body, we also believe in the local assembly of believers who regularly meet for corporate worship. Many Old Testament saints looked forward to the coming Messiah and were saved, as we are, by faith in Him (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; Psalm 2:12; Psalm 110:1; Job 9:32-35; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Daniel 7:9-14; Micah 5:2; Acts18: 24-25; Luke 2:25-38 and Luke 24:27; Romans 4:3, 23-24). The church formally had its start at Pentecost (Acts 2). The church is built by Christ (Matthew 16:18) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). It is Christ’s for he has bought it with His own blood (Acts 20:28); He is its head (Ephesians 1:22, 5:25; Colossians 1:18) and the church is His body (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:24). The church is subject to Christ’s authority (Ephesians 5:24). His goal for the church is to save it completely, conform all its members to His image (Ephesians 5:27 and Romans 8:29), receive her as His bride (Revelation 21:2-3), and offer her back to the Father as His gift of love (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
The Church (the body of believers in Christ) is God’s house, not any building or location; and the church is the sole possessor and keeper, or “pillar and ground of the truth,” I Timothy 3:15. The Church is called to be pure in doctrine and practice and to love Christ Himself First and foremost (Revelation 2:1-7). The Church must cling to and believe only pure Biblical teaching. Unless they hold to the gospel, the Church is dead and useless, though by external appearance it may appear alive (Revelation 3:1-6). The Church may become infiltrated with self-satisfied unbelievers and become lukewarm. Such a church must repent, have faith (gold), righteousness (white garments) and a clear understanding of the gospel (eyesalve) to remedy their lukewarm state. Christ himself invites them to do this (Revelation 3:14-22). The Church is to remain faithful to Christ and persevere to the end and will be rewarded with eternity in the presence of God (Revelation 3: 7-13). The Church exists to bring glory to God (Romans 11:36).
The Church is made up of all who have been born again, or regenerated (made alive), by the Holy Spirit and are all baptized into one body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). Not only are all believers members of the larger body of Christ throughout the world, but they are also to be a part of smaller local congregations of believers who meet regularly for corporate worship and observance of the ordinances Christ left us, namely the Lord’s Supper and baptism.
What We Believe About Baptism
We believe that baptism is an act instituted by Christ in which one who is a believer in Christ publicly identifies himself with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4), and with the body of Christ, (the Church) as they are immersed under the water (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:41) and raised up from it. In no way does baptism confer salvation nor is it required for salvation. Man is justified by faith alone and not on the basis of works (Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-9). Many teach that baptism is required for one to be saved and this is in direct contradiction to Jesus’ words in John 6:28-29. Note that Christ does not say “believe and be baptized,” “believe and do penance,” or believe and do anything else. There is nothing that anyone can offer as a work to earn or to complete salvation. Many who teach the above cite Acts 2:38 as the proof-text. One could easily conclude on the basis of this text alone that baptism is indeed required, “for the forgiveness of your sins.” This illustrates the danger inherent in building such important doctrines or practices on one text. A basic rule of Biblical interpretation is to view the larger context and to compare Scripture with Scripture, interpreting unclear passages in the light of clear didactic passages. To state that salvation requires belief and baptism is untrue and ignores the larger context of Scripture. In Mark 16:16 belief is stressed as that which saves. John 3:16-18 states that belief is what will keep a man from perishing and from judgment. John 3:36 states that belief in Christ results in eternal life and removes God’s wrath. Review again John 6:28-29. Elsewhere in the book of Acts, Peter and Paul preach other sermons and call the listeners to action. Note that in none of the following references do they mention their need to be baptized in order to achieve salvation, though, in almost all of these passages, those who believed were later baptized in obedience to Christ (Acts 3:19, 10:43, 13:38-39, 48).
We reject the baptizing of infants as teaching not found in the Scriptures and not practiced or taught by Christ or the apostles. The “household” passages used to support infant baptism are inconclusive and in three of five passages it is explicitly stated that the person’s belief preceded baptism (Acts 16:15; Acts 10:48 and 11:13-18; 16:30-34; 18:8 and I Corinthians 1:16). We affirm that children are a blessing from the Lord and that those raised in Christian homes and in the Church are blessed in that they hear the Gospel continuously (I Corinthians 7:14). Yet we deny that the rite of baptism sets them apart as a “covenant child” any more than the child of any believing parent. Infant baptism not only confers no benefit to the child but may be harmful if it is erroneously believed that the physical act of baptism has saving efficacy, thereby giving the person a false assurance of salvation.
What We Believe About The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ for the Church to perpetually remember and meditate on His sacrifice (I Corinthians 11:23-26). It is the fulfillment of the Passover meal; Christ demonstrating that this Old Testament ceremony pointed to Him as does the whole Old Testament (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 24:44). The Lord’s Supper not only commemorates Christ’s death for our sins but also graphically depicts the gospel; Christ’s body broken and His blood poured out for us, and we heartily take in the symbols of His body and blood as we remember Him. Only believers may partake of the Lord’s Supper as it is “in remembrance” of Him. One who has not yet understood the gospel, that Christ dies for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-6), could not call to remembrance what they have not yet understood and believed. It is inappropriate for the unbeliever to participate in the Lord’s Supper as they have denied and scorned that which the elements represent.
The Lord’s Supper is not to be taken by believers in an unworthy manner (I Corinthians 11:31-33; I Corinthians 11:17-22), i.e. being divisive, selfishly indulgent, uncaring, engaging in drunkenness, and the like. In other words, willfully clinging to sin makes a mockery of what is represented by the elements in the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s body broken and His blood poured out for our sin. To make a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice is a grave sin (I Corinthians 11:30). Those who partake of the Lord’s Supper are greatly benefited spiritually as they renounce sin, remember Christ’s body and blood given for their sin, receive assurances of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness of their sin, and commune with Christ spiritually.
We heartily deny transubstantiation, that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, holding it as contrary to other clear biblical teachings. Christ’s physical body is as real as any human body and currently is located in heaven (John 20:27; Luke 24:36-43; I John 1:1 and Acts 1:9-11). Therefore, it is not Christ’s physical body that is consumed at the Lord’s Supper. Instead, the elements are symbols that point us to the greater reality of Christ (Colossians 2:17).
What We Believe About Church Government
We believe that the church is to be governed, or “shepherded,” by elders. The words elder, pastor (shepherd), and overseer (bishop) all refer to the same office (Acts 20:17, 28). I Peter 5:1-4 uses all three terms interchangeably. Also, the church’s needs are to be met by servant-leaders called deacons (Acts 6:1-7). The primary difference between elders and deacons is that elders must be “able to teach.” The qualifications for both elders and deacons are listed in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. There is no New Testament pattern for congregational rule in the church. The first commission that Paul gave to Titus was to set the churches in order and appoint elders (Titus 1:5). Elder-led congregationalism has been established by God for the safety and purity of His church. A plurality of experienced men of tested character, known to be spiritually mature, help and lead the congregation in the decision-making. This does not necessarily mean that the church is now free to act as a democratic body without any established authority, since the elders still are called to lead the decision process. This would be dangerous in that not all members of the congregation are experienced, spiritually mature believers of proven character. Nowhere is it found in the New Testament that any other form of church government existed apart from elder-led.
What We Believe About Preaching
Preaching and teaching the word of God is one of the primary tasks of the elders, the other being prayer (Acts 6:2-4). The content of preaching should be the exposition of the Scripture, not worldly philosophy (I Corinthians 1:20-25 and 2:1-5; and 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Colossians 2:8; I Timothy 4:13-16). During our worship times together, preaching the word of God is the priority and is the pinnacle of the worship service. We plunge deep into the truth of God’s word and soar to heights of praise, exaltation and adoration of our great God as His word is expounded to us. Preaching and teaching the word of God was the priority of the apostles as well (Acts 2:40-42; 4:29; 5:42; 6:2-4; 8:5, 35; 13:5, 12; 17:2-3; 18:11). The biblical exposition should follow the example of Ezra the scribe, setting their heart, “to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances… (Ezra 7:10).” Again, the goal of the pastor/teacher is to read the Scriptures and explain the meaning, or “give the sense so that they [the congregation have] understood the reading (italics added) (Nehemiah 8:8).”
What We Believe About Church Discipline/Restoration
We believe that the church is to be pure, as sin in the church causes harm to its members and brings reproach on the name of Christ. Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17 the manner in which we are to carry out church discipline, the goal of which is the restoration of the brother or sister. The majority of church discipline takes place one on one. Often at this stage, misunderstanding can be cleared up when no sin has actually taken place, or when sin has occurred and is confronted, the person may receive the rebuke and repent. Either way, restoration occurs. If the brother fails to repent, then two to three witnesses are to go to the brother with the person who is offering the correction. If repentance still does not occur, the matter must be brought before the church. If they will not listen to the church’s unified rebuke of the matter, then the person must be removed from the church and is considered as an unbeliever in need of evangelization (I Corinthians 5:11-13). I Corinthians 5:1-8 gives further instruction of the concept of excommunication. Sending the person out of the church is not only designed to bring sorrow and repentance to the sinning brother (I Corinthians 5:5 and 2 Corinthians 2:3-10) but it also serves to protect the flock from their dangerous influence (I Corinthians 5:6). Examples of sins that would warrant excommunication are listed in I Corinthians 5:11. Divisiveness is also a dangerous sin, worthy of excommunication after steps one and two are taken (Titus 3:10). We believe that Christ has ordained church discipline to maintain purity in the church. A pure church is a powerful witness to the world and is blessed by the Lord (Acts 5:11-14).
What We Believe About Spiritual Gifts
God has given spiritual gifts to His children according to His divine providence and prerogative so that the individual’s gift might benefit and edify the entire body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:7, 11; I Corinthians14:12; Ephesians 4:7, 12). As such, each individual must exercise diligence in the use of his or her gift, or the rest of the body will not be edified as it should (Romans 12:6). The following is a fairly comprehensive list of spiritual gifts recorded in the New Testament. Take note which gifts appear in more than one list. Be wary of extra-biblical sources that discuss gifts not mentioned in Scripture, as they are likely to be erroneous.
I Corinthians 12: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles, prophesy, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostles, prophets, teachers, (miracles, tongues, healings repeated), helps and administrations (leadership – literally “to pilot a ship”).
Romans 12: prophecy, ministry, teaching, service, exhortation, giving, leadership and mercy.
Ephesians 4: apostles, prophets, evangelist and pastor/teachers
I Peter 4: speaking and serving
Most of these spiritual gifts are straightforward and not controversial. Others, however, are surrounded by controversy as to whether or not they are operational in the church today, and if so, how they are to be used. We will discuss only the more controversial gifts here.
We assert that the gifts of healings and miracles were both gifts that were only present during the brief time of and the time immediately following Jesus’ ministry on earth. Furthermore, we assert that they were present for the purpose of authenticating the ministry and person of Christ and later the ministry of His apostles and a few others as following in His steps (Hebrews 2:3-4). Therefore, these gifts are no longer present or needed in the church today.
Prophecy was and is for the purpose of communicating and exhorting people to obey the word of God. When Christ came, we had “the Word” Himself and have now no further need of prophecy regarding Him. All that we need for the revealing of God’s word is in the Scripture, and any other “revelation” is not from God. “He has spoken to us in these last days through His Son (Hebrews 1:2).” The gift of prophecy today is best defined in I Corinthians 14:3 and Revelation 19:10. Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.
Probably the most controversial gift is “various kinds of tongues.” This gift, given at Pentecost, was a sign given to believers to authenticate that the Holy Spirit had been given to particular groups of people; Jews (Acts 2:4), Samaritans (Acts 8:17), and Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48). This gift entailed people actually speaking real human languages they had not previously learned (Acts 2:8). As the gospel spread from Jerusalem, the sign of tongues would accompany the conversion of different people groups (Samaritans and Gentiles). The apostles came to understand and teach that the gospel was for all and the church was not limited to Jews only (Acts 15:6-11). We believe that tongues have ceased as a gift based on the following Scripture passages: 1) the purpose of spiritual gifts is for the edification of the body, not the individual (I Corinthians 12:7 & 14:6). Most who speak in tongues today state that it is a private prayer language and that they receive personal spiritual benefit from speaking unintelligible words. This is contrary to the whole purpose of spiritual gifts, which is to edify the body (I Corinthians 14:4). Even if someone were to speak another human language, neither they nor the church would receive any benefit from it if an interpreter were not present. We would do well to heed Philippians 2:3-4 as it regards this gift. 2) We are to worship God in spirit and in truth. Even if someone would pray or sing in gibberish with their spirit, they have not done so with understanding and in truth (I Corinthians 14:15). Again, such “worship” is also not edifying to anyone else (I Corinthians 14:17-19). 3) Tongues is mentioned nowhere else in Scripture, save Acts 5 and has been absent from the mainstream church since.
What We Believe About Evangelism and Missions
Christ has commanded his church to share the gospel with those who do not know it. This is evangelism. We believe that this privilege and responsibility rests with every believer, not a select few clergy or missionaries (Matthew 28:19, Ephesians 4:12). Some have special gifting of the Holy Spirit for evangelism (Ephesians 4:11), but all are to “do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).”
The content of the message is crucial. We are not to preach just any so-called gospel but only that which Christ and His apostles preached (Mark 1:15, I Corinthians 15:1-6). To add to or subtract from the truth of the gospel is damnable (Galatians 1:6-8), because only the true gospel saves (Romans 1:16, 1 Timothy 4:16). The gospel is succinctly set forth in I Corinthians 15:1-6 and this is the gospel we preach as have faithful believers since the time of Christ. The gospel is that Christ, who lived a perfect, holy and sinless life, died for our sins. He took the wrath of God and the punishment that we all deserve on Himself. He was buried and three days later He rose from the dead, declaring victory over sin and death and declaring once for all that He is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Jesus has explicitly instructed us to teach all nations not only the gospel but also the fullness of all He has revealed to us in His word (Matthew 28:20).
Faith comes from hearing the truth, the gospel (Romans 10:17). Thus, it is our responsibility as evangelists to give our hearers this message. God in His sovereignty then uses His word and by His Spirit gives some of those who hear faith. They then believe the gospel, repent of their sin, and are “born again.” Acts 13:48 illustrates this well as Paul proclaims the gospel to all present. This would be termed by some the “external call” of the gospel. Those present who were chosen by God or “appointed to eternal life” believed the gospel. This small group of believers received what some refer to as the “internal call” of the gospel, by which the spirit produces regeneration and faith through the preaching of God’s word (Titus 3:4-7, 1 Corinthians 1:21). This varied response to the preaching of the gospel is to be expected and is also seen elsewhere in Acts 17:32-34, where some sneered, other pondered, and a few believed. Jesus also spoke of this in the parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:18-23). Thanks be to God that our role is simply to scatter the good seed of the gospel and God Himself will see to the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
Regarding missions, we desire to be God’s “fellow-workers” in spreading the gospel, and we as a church desire to personally go and preach the gospel and to send out those whom God has set apart and gifted as missionaries (Romans 10:14-15). We desire for God to raise up missionaries from our local body to go and preach the gospel. We also recognize the tremendous responsibility we have as a church in sending out missionaries. We desire to give generously to supply their financial needs as they go (1Timothy 5:17-18), to diligently pray for them (Colossians 4:3), and to ensure that they are accurately preaching and teaching the gospel by regular communication and accountability. We pray that the Lord would use us to “send out laborers into His harvest (Luke 10:2).” We see our mission of sharing the gospel of Christ as both a local and a worldwide effort, and as such, we desire to aggressively evangelize the lost in our community as well as those around the world (Acts 1:8).
What We Believe About Divorce and Remarriage
Divorce and subsequent remarriage is a source of much contention and debate in many Christian circles. It is our desire to be obedient to Christ in this area as we shepherd His people struggling with these issues. Marriage was designed by God to be one man with one woman for life (Matthew 19:8). Many of the Patriarchs disobeyed in this area and suffered greatly for it. Even Solomon, in his wisdom, failed in this area, and it was his ruin. Marriage is a solemn covenant before God that two people will become one and is to be entered into with the intent that it is permanently binding until death (Matthew 19:10, Romans 7:3). Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His church, and divorce mars that picture and is not God’s plan. However, there are instances when divorce is allowable. The first cause would be for unchastity or adultery in the relationship (Matthew 5:32, 19:9). The only other instance would be in a home where one spouse is a believer, the other is not, and the unbelieving spouse divorces and refuses to stay in the relationship. In this instance, the believing spouse “is not under bondage in such cases (1 Corinthians 7:15).”
Apart from these two causes for divorce, one is not permitted to do so and remarry, for they have divorced without justifiable cause. One who divorces for other reasons and remarries commits adultery (Matthew 5 & 19, Mark 10:11-12). Many in the church have divorced before coming to know Christ. In this instance, they would not be expected to act as a believer, and they would be judged on the basis of their actions only after coming to a belief in Christ (I Corinthians 5:12). Such a one may serve as an elder in the church, as the expression in I Timothy 3:2, “the husband of one wife,” does not mean “married only once” but literally in the Greek he is a “one woman man.”
Statement on Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality
We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God. (Gen 1:26-27.) Rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.
We believe that the term “marriage” has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. (Gen 2:18-25.) We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. (1 Cor 6:18; 7:2-5; Heb 13:4.) We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.
We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God. (Matt 15:18-20; 1 Cor 6:9-10.)
We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of Theta Baptist Church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons employed by Theta Baptist Church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, agree to and abide by this Statement on Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality. (Matt 5:16; Phil 2:14-16; 1 Thess 5:22.)
We believe that God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (Acts 3:19-21; Rom 10:9-10; 1 Cor 6:9-11.)
We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. (Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31.) Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture nor the doctrines of Theta Baptist Church. We believe that every sinner can be forgiven by repentance and faith through God’s grace, and so a call to repentance is right, but it should be done with love and not in arrogance.
Because God has ordained marriage and defined it as the covenant relationship between a man, a woman, and Himself, Theta Baptist Church will only recognize marriages between a biological man and a biological woman. Further, the pastors and staff of Theta Baptist Church shall only participate in weddings and solemnize marriages between one man and one woman. Finally, the facilities and property of Theta Baptist Church shall only host weddings between one man and one woman.
Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life
We believe that all human life is sacred and created by God in His image. Human life is of inestimable worth in all its dimensions, including pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged, and every other stage or condition from conception through natural death. We are therefore called to defend, protect, and value all human life. (Ps 139.)