What Do We Believe ?
For the theologically astute, here’s the short version:
God is: Trinitarian
Man and Salvation: Doctrines of Grace/Calvinism
God’s Word: Verbal/Plenary Inspiration, Sola Scriptura
The Hell, you say…: Traditionalist/Conscious Eternal Punishment
When It All Comes Together, It’s: Covenant Theology (Redemption, Life, Grace – Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, New)
Sacraments: Real Presence (not just a memorial), Paedobaptism
End Times: Premillennial, Futurist
On The Gifts of the Spirit: Non-normative (miraculous and revelatory gifts have not ceased, but are not ‘the norm’ in everyday church life)
For the confessionally astute:
IÂ amÂ in agreement with the Westminister Confession of Faith (1646 edition) with exceptions at 21.7 and 21.8 (which corresponds with the LBC’s 22.8), per Hebrews 3-4 and Col. 2:16-17.
I affirm all of the Canons of Dordt.
I affirm all of the 2006 Together for the Gospel Affirmations and Denials.
Expanded Doctrinal Statement
For those looking above and wondering what all these terms mean , let’s put it in easy english for you:
There is One Being called God who exists completely and simultaneously in three Persons. The Persons are called the Father (throughout the OT), the Son/Word (John 1:1-3,14), and the Spirit/Spirit of God/Spirit of Christ or Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4, 2 Cor. 2:17). The three are eternal (without beginning or ending), omniscient (knowing all events in history and eternity), omnipotent and the totality or entirety of God (all that God is) exists simultaneously, eternally and completely in all three. This is the Biblical Doctrine known as the Trinity or Tri-unity. Another way this has been stated is that God is one ‘WHAT’ (Being) and three ‘WHO’s (Persons). We neither divide the substance or essence of God up nor confuse the Persons of the Godhead. One in Essence and Being, Three in Person and Existence. The Jesus Christ of the Bible is shown, according to scripture, to be fully God (John 1:1-3,14; 5:18-24,8:58, 10:30) as well as fully man. When He took on human nature, He never ceased to be fully God (Phil. 2:5-11).
The Holy Spirit is, according to scripture, fully God. Through Him, creation has life (Psalm 104:30, Job 33:6). The Spirit of God is responsible for the composition of scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21) . He is spoken of as having access to knowledge only God could know ( Isaiah 40:13-15, 1 Cor. 2:9-12), eternal (Hebrews 9:16), able to be grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and commands men to go forth and do the work of the Lord – His work (Acts 13:2, Isaiah 6:1-10, c.f.- Acts 28:25-28).
As such, we follow in agreement with the early church in condemning the heresies known as Arianism (that Jesus Christ is a created being), Modalism/Sabellianism (that Jesus Christ is the Father and Holy Spirit, also called ‘Jesus Only’ teaching). A distorted view of God always leads to a distorted and incorrect view of salvation. Those who hold to either of these views cannot be considered Christian because the God they acknowledge is not the Triune God of scripture.
God has partially revealed Himself in His creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and conscience (Romans 2:14-15) so that man is without excuse for acknowledging Him as God and knowing that He is. He has revealed Himself most fully in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:18, NIV). His special revelation to mankind is His Word (Psalm 19:7-11) which carries His full authority.
We reject the heresy of Open Theism or the ‘Open View’ of God, which teaches that God does not (some say cannot, other say chooses not to) know some or all of the future. (Isaiah 44:6-9)
Man, Sin and Salvation
Scripture declares that all humanity is fallen and in a sinful condition which prevents us from having fellowship or being able to serve and worship God (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 59:1-2). Sin is both an action and a condition which permeates every inch of humanity from birth (Isaiah 58:3). Man is not as bad as he could be due only to the mercy of God in restraining evil. Because of this corruption or depravity, there is naturally no pure desire in the average man or woman to seek God or conform to His rules (Romans 3:10-12, 8:6-9). Acts which violate the revealed law of God are considered sin. They are a personal offense against Him, since He Himself is the standard of goodness, righteousness and justice. God’s perfect justice (Psalm 94) demands that sin must be punished. The penalty for committing sin is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ, the Second Personality of the Triune God, took on human flesh (John 1:1,14) to give Himself as a sacrifice for sinners like you and I (John 3:16) so that whomever will turn to Him in faith, may have salvation. To show that this work was complete, He physically rose from the grave three days after his death (John 2:19-22). Christ lived a perfect life here on earth, fulfilling ALL of the requirements (Matthew 3:15) of the law in perfect obedience. The work of salvation is initiated and completed by God. He chooses the elect from eternity past (Eph. 1:3-11, Romans 8:29-30) according to the counsel of His will, not ours. He renews the heart of this chosen sinner so that this person is now able to hear and obey His laws (Ezekiel 36:25-27). He draws this chosen sinner to Himself (John 6:44,65) – when this person hears the gospel, they will come to Him without fail (John 6:37). Sinners like you and I are declared just (free from sin) by God imputing (counting) Christ’s righteousness on our behalf when we place faith in Him (Phil. 3:8-9). It is by grace (God’s undeserved kindness and favor) alone through faith alone in Christ, apart from works, that a person is declared just (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9,Titus 3:5). The ‘sinner-counted-as-a-saint’ is then considered a child of God (John 1:10-11) and is kept eternally secure by the power of God alone (John 10:28-29)- sealed, as it were, until the day of redemption (Ephesisans 4:30). Since salvation is a work of God from start to finish, it CANNOT be undone by the works of man.
Neither can it be added to by the works of man (Galatians 2:21, 3:6-7). Good works are the fruit of a life changed by God in salvation, not the root of that person’s salvation. A true believer in Christ will produce good works (Eph. 2:10) and cannot help but do otherwise because God’s Spirit indwells Him (1 John 2:1-6). These include a growth in Christ-like behavior, holy living in speech and deeds and the other fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22. Believers struggle daily against sin (Galatians 4:17, Romans 7), but will never fully and finally fall away from God completely. This is called perseverance. Unbelievers will fall away permanently (1 John 2:19).
The Bible is the God-Breathed message from the Creator to mankind (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The original manuscripts are fully inspired- good copies are accurate to preserving the message. The Hebrew Old Testament (the Tanakh) and the Christian New Testament, comprised of 66 books- Genesis through Revelation- comprise the entire written revelation of God to mankind for this age. They are inerrant (free from moral, historical and doctrinal error), infallible (true in all they teach) and constitute the only unerring rule of faith for the believer here on earth. The scriptures self-authenticating – they are God-breathed and carry His authority. They alone are spoken of as being able to fully and thoroughly equip the believer for every good work and all areas of the Christian life.
God speaks and leads today through His word (Hebrews 1:1-3). Just as in times past, He spoke to His prophets in different ways throughout the ages, scripture teaches that in these last days, He speaks through His Word, since it alone is without error and can be trusted.
The Bible is the most well preserved and transmitted ancient document in existence. We have manuscripts that date back to within 10-30 years of their original composition and believe that across the 5,366+ greek manuscripts we have in existence that every single word of the originals has been preserved. Only the original manuscripts were without error – good copies are accurate to preserving and transmitting the message contained in the pages of scripture. And across the spectrum of manuscripts we have, I believe every single reading of the original text of scripture is preserved, if not on one manuscript, then on another. The Bibles we have today, provided they are translated accurately, can still be considered the Word of God due to its’ providential preservation by the Holy Spirit throughout the ages. Conspiracy theories of manuscript tampering, corrupted manuscripts, and other such nonsense should be rejected by believers in search of the truth about modern translations. ‘Comic book scholarship’ is just that.
The scriptures are best understood by what is called the grammatical-historical method of interpretation (literal interpretation). Simply put, when you approach a text, you need to examine (when applicable) the culture of the time period when the text was written, the meaning of the word in the original language it was written and the overall theme of the entire book. Three questions should then guide your interpretation – what does the text SAY, what does it MEAN and then how do I apply that to my life. Too many people start off their Bible reading with ‘what does it mean to me’ and end up with all types of interpretations that the author never intended. At the same time, we also realize that the Bible is a spiritual book. It can only properly be understood (internally and externally) by believers (1 Corinthians 2:14, John 16:13-14) because the Holy Spirit enables them to understand and believe the things written in scripture.
The Destiny of the Unsaved
Those who reject Christ as Savior will spend eternity separated from His love and fellowship, but will be tormented consciously in His presence by His justice and wrath forever and ever (Revelation 20:10-15). Scripture uses three types of language to describe the fate of non-Christians – the language of separation (Matthew 7:21-23), the language of destruction and ruin (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and the language of torment (Revelation 14:9-11, Matthew 25:41-46). All three of these are word-pictures given to us by God to describe how terrible the actual fate of those who reject the gospel will be. To minimize the language of torment in order to make God not look like such a ‘meanie’ is unbiblical. To maximize the language of separation is to be unbiblical and unbalanced. To say that the Bible only teaches the language of destruction is unbiblical.
What Is The Church ?
There is ONE people of God, all of whom are redeemed by the blood of Christ. Even those of national/ethnic Israel are only considered ‘His people’ if they are part of the remnant which now exists according to God’s purpose in election (Romans 11). All who are Israel (physical) are not Abraham’s children (spiritual), but only the children of the promise (Romans 9:8). Ethnic/National Israel will one day come to faith in Christ, albeit after great tribulation… and even then, only a remnant (Zechariah 13:8-9, Romans 11:25-26).
The Church is the invisible body of believers known only to God, comprised of those whom He has saved. In scripture, the church is also called the Bride of Christ. The visible expression of this is the local church assembly, which is composed of both believers and non-believers alike. The church is called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:14-16) in the world around them, helping to preserve the culture from becoming completely wicked and spoiled with iniquity. While it is not the church’s job to run the local government, believers should vote for those who support Biblical principles, encourage those who support Biblical laws and reject those who hold anti-biblical viewpoints.
Membership in the local church is not optional. The New Testament knows no examples of ‘lone ranger’ Christians (Hebrews 10:25, 13:17). Commands in the New Testament given to believers assume local church membership (e.g.- Rom. 12:5,10, 15, 16, 1 Corinthians 12:25, Gal. 5:13, 6:2, Eph. 4:32, 5:21, Col. 3:16, 1 Thess. 5:11, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 4:9 and many more).
God has ordained that as men are the heads of the marriage relationship (Eph. 5:22-33), they are also to lead the local church assemblies via the offices of pastor/elder/overseer and deacon (1 Tim. 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9). Women are called to serve in other ministries in the church, including (but not limited to) instructing younger women how to live godly lives (Titus 2:6-7), but are NEVER called to lead the church.
World history is speeding towards its’ climax – the physical, bodily, visible return of Christ. In the times immediately before this, the ultimate human expression of evil, the one who is simply known as the antichrist or the man of sin, will become known on earth. He will lead the entire world into worship of himself as god (Revelation 13:1-8, 2 Thess. 2:1-12), finding his demise at the return of Christ in the valley of Meggido (Revelation 19:11-21). This time is known as the great tribulation or the tribulation period. It will be a time of almost unrestrained evil among humanity, but also of God’s temporal judgement upon humanity for its’ rejection of Him. God will bring catastrophic judgements upon the earth, each increasing in intensity, but humanity as a whole will still not repent and turn from their sins. The scriptures teach that upon His (Christs’) return, He will crush all rebellion, set up the beginning of His eternal kingdom, which will last 1000 years. At the start of that 1000 years, Satan will be bound in a bottomless pit, no longer able to tempt the nations. Saints alive when Christ returns will live in their mortal bodies through the 1000 year period. It will be an unprecedented time of peace, justice, prosperity and freedom from war. At the end of the 1000 years, Satan shall be released for a short season and stir up rebellion among the remaining mortals who have bowed the knee to Christ only as a formality but inwardly harbor rebellion against Him, only to be consumed by fire as they seek to attack the holy city of Christ’s reign. From here, Satan will be apprehended and thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10) and all these who rebelled as well as the other wicked dead that lived prior to the return of Christ will be resurrected and judged (Rev. 20:11-15).
When the grammatical-historical method of interpretation is consistently applied to all scriptures concerning last things, one automatically comes to the conclusion of premillennialism – meaning that Christ will return before the millennium (1000 years) mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6. We hold, along with our amillennial brothers, that Christ may return at any moment. We believe , along with our postmillennial brothers, that the proclamation of the gospel to all nations is of utmost importance – not “look for an escape from earth”, but “live for Christ NOW”. As such, obsession with end-time prophetic schemes as well as a fixation with attempting to build the perfect kingdom of God on an imperfect earth NOW are both unbalanced and unbiblical views.
Those who hold alternate eschatological opinions (i.e.- postmillennialism, amillennialism) are still brothers and sisters in Christ. Although we believe that our amill and postmill brethren are in error by applying an allegorizing method of interpretation to prophecy, this is a secondary issue that believers should not divide from fellowship over.
Sadly, many in the amillennial and postmillennial camp and some in the dispensational camp have done so, often with vitriolic attacks on each other, to the shame of the Body of Christ.
In holding to a literal, physical, bodily return of Christ, we reject in the strongest possible terms, the heresy of hyper-preterism (also called ‘realized eschatology’ or ‘full preterism’) which allegorizes Christ’s physical return to happening in 70 A.D. and states that all prophecy has been fulfilled already. Those who hold this position are reminiscent of the mockers and scoffers in 2 Peter 3:4. We lean toward believing that holding a full-preterist viewpoint necessarily denies an essential element of the gospel message – that Christ will come again for believers and that they will, as Christ was, be resurrected physically (for 1 Corinthians 15 links the two inseperably). As such, one cannot be considered within the pale of orthodoxy and be a full preterist. To deny Christ’s second coming will be a literal, physical, visible coming (just as His ascension was in Acts 1:9-11) is to deny an essential element of Who Jesus Christ claimed to be and what He has said He will do (John 14:1-3). This, in effect, is teaching ‘another Jesus’ (2 Cor. 11:4) and therefore, ‘another gospel’ (Gal. 1:6-9).
Spiritual Gifts and the Believer
The gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and other passages are given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up the church (Ephesians 4:7-12). They are given as He wills; consequently, not all believers have the same gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11-31).
Some gifts, such as raising the dead, were signs of the apostles only (2 Corinthians 12:12) and those gifts were used to authenticate their authority among the new church. We do not have/need apostles anymore, since the Word of God is complete. They served as the foundation of the church, since it was they whom Jesus directly trained and it was they who taught and appointed the first elders in the church.
The gift of languages (tongues) and the gift of prophecy (foretelling the future and speaking what God had already revealed) were heavily operative in the early church because scripture was incomplete. Wherever the Word of God is not , these gifts would still have a place and function (such as with a missionary meeting a new people in a remote jungle and not knowing their language). We futher know from both New and Old Testament examples, that ‘tongues’ were simply known languages previously unlearned by the speaker.
From the examples in the New Testament, the revelatory gifts (tongues and prophecy) had certain limits set on them from 1 Corinthians 14; the spirits of the prophets (those prophesying) are subject to the spirit of the prophets (scripture). Any revelation (supposedly) that comes forth can NEVER contradict what God has already clearly put forth in His word. Secondly, according to 1 Cor. 14, only one or two folks should prophesy or speak in tongues and then the rest are supposed to be quiet. Finally, an interpreter MUST be present (in the case of tongues), or the use of the gift is not considered valid. These imply order and control over the gifts, not the charismatic “circus” so prevalent in many churches today. On top of all of this, at the end of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul asserts his authority as an apostle and properly ordained messenger of God over and against any so-called ‘prophet’. It is important to note that apostles (and two of their associates) are the writers of all of the New Testament scriptures. Therefore, the authority of the scriptures still take precedence over any so-called revelations.
Tongues were only used in PUBLIC worship in the New Testament- never in private worship and there are no examples of it in the NT. There is no ‘unknown prayer language’ that has been practiced so much in many churches today and this has no basis in scripture unless one wrenches scripture from it’s context. I would say that up to 90% of todays’ so-called ‘charismatic phenomena’ are a result of emotional, physiological and psychological manipulation. Experience is never the final arbiter of what is true – only scripture. Paul pushed this point home in Galatians 1:10-11 when he said that even if an angel appeared to you and told you this (whatever he presented) was the true gospel and truly from God, if it did not match the Biblical record (which is what they had learned), they were to reject it as false.
Does God still heal ? Yes, but only when two criteria are BOTH met: When it is for HIS highest glory AND when it is in the best interests of the person afflicted with sickness. So in John 9 we see a man born blind who God decided to heal because it was for God’s highest glory. Yet, in 2 Cor. 13, God decides not to heal the apostle Paul, but instead tells him ‘my grace is sufficient for you’.