What we Believe
The Holy Bible—consisting of the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament—is the written word of God. The Bible contains God’s purposeful and willing self-disclosure of himself to mankind. It is thus the inherent revelation of God as well as the historical record of God’s revelation to mankind. The Scriptures are infallible, inerrant, and verbally inspired by God the Holy Spirit in their original revelation and autographic production. The Scriptures were divinely authored through men and therefore consist in such a way that they are both fully the words of the apostles and prophets as well as the words of God. The written canon of the Holy Scriptures ceased at the end of the apostolic era and now stands both complete and sufficient for faith and practice and for leading man unto salvation. As the words of God, the Scriptures exist as the authoritative and binding final expression of God’s will to mankind and must be obeyed. The fullest and most accurate understanding of the Scriptures demands that they be interpreted according to their original context, both historically and linguistically. Nevertheless, both the learned and unlearned are capable of understanding them according to each one’s own capacity and the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit.
(Luke 24:27; John 5:39-40; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; John 16:12-13, 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Rev. 22:18)
There is one God: infinite, everlasting, and eternal. He is almighty, immutable, impeccable, perfect in holiness, and free from any vestige of evil and darkness. The one God created all things according to his perfect will and providentially controls and orchestrates his creation for the express and ultimate purpose of being glorified in all that he has done and continues to do. There is one God, existing in three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the triune Godhead is distinct in person and function but united, coexistent, and coequal in deity. The Son and Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father only in function; never in essence or being.
All three members of the triune Godhead were present and active in the creation of the world and continue to uphold the universe in sustenance and providential care. The triune God is indivisible and simple concerning his nature and being. All-wise and all-knowing, he alone gives life to all things, graciously providing for the sustenance of his creation. He is absolute being, all- and self-sufficient, and utterly without contingency. He is worthy of all worship, adoration, and obedience according to the pleasure of his own will as he has graciously provided and revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.
(Gen. 1:1, Deut. 6:4, 1 Tim. 1:17, 1 Ki. 8:27, Ps. 145:3, Prov. 16:4, Isa. 6:3, John 5:26, Rev. 4:11, John 1:1, 14, 18)
God the Father
God is Father. Through his sovereign will all things exist and come into being. He has forever existed, perfect, self-sufficient, and self-sustaining. He is the Father of all living things, but his Fatherhood has its fullest expression in those who have been redeemed and adopted as his sons and daughters through the Person and work of Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God. (Genesis 1:26; 11:7; Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:1- 2, 14, 18; Romans 8; Heb. 1:8-9; 1 Peter 1:2; Revelation 1:5-6; 22:3)
God is Son. Jesus is the second member of the Trinity, eternally begotten from the Father. He took on flesh for our sake without ceasing to be God. He was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, suffered torture and death at the hands of Jewish and Roman persecutors, was buried, and rose again on the third day. He ascended into heaven and will come again to judge the living and the dead. God the Son likewise is worthy of all adoration, worship, and allegiance.
(Matthew 1:21-23, Luke 1:35; John 1:1-3, 14; Heb. 2:17; Col. 2:13-5; Acts 1:9-10; Hebrews 9:24; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:27; 1 John 2:1-2)
The Holy Spirit
God is Spirit. The Holy Spirit achieves all purposes for which he is sent by the Father and fills the lives of all who trust in Christ, sealing them as Christians for all time. He moves within hearts to convict concerning sin, testify to the truth of God's Word, and leads the Christian in righteous living. He progressively sanctifies believers to be able to live more like Jesus everyday, being conformed to his image as a way of life.
(John 16:8-11; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 4:23-24)
The Work of Christ
The righteousness, holiness, and justice of God demand that no sin be found in his presence. The Old Testament sacrificial system points to the necessity of a perfect and righteous atonement for sinners who hope to approach God without being destroyed. The legal system of atoning sacrifices put in place by God in the Mosaic Law foreshadowed the need for a perfect and permanent atonement for God’s people, which finds its culmination in Jesus Christ. Through his perfect active obedience in life and death, he became the perfect substitutionary atonement for all who would receive him by faith. In doing so he appeased the wrath of the just and righteous God and took the punishment for men’s sin upon himself.
Through Christ’s propitiation by his blood, he made righteousness possible for all who repent and believe in him. This righteousness is imputed to the believer thus reckoning to him Christ’s perfect righteousness. In exchange, all the trespasses and sins of the believer are imputed to Christ in his death on the cross. The penal substitution of Christ in the place of sinners was part of the plan of God foreordained before the creation of the world. The blood of Christ purchased the redemption of all who believe in His name; a purchase made by God to God. God the Father in effect satisfied the perfect demand for righteousness for the sake of those whom he ransomed.
(Rom. 3:23-26, John 1:10-12, John 10:11, 2 Cor. 5:18-21, Isa. 53, Heb. 9:25-28, Eph. 1:3-5)
Humanity and Sin
God made man—male and female—in his own image as the pinnacle and most prominent feature of his creation. Man sinned against God willingly in the Garden of Eden thereby federally bringing sin into the human race as well as the curse of God against his creation. As the effect of the sin and curse brought upon the human race by Adam was plenary and replete in scope, so man was rendered incapable of doing absolute good and stands under the wrath of God ever in need of a mediatorial atonement. The ensuing effects of the “Fall” of man extend to his mind, affections, and being, rendering him incapable of turning to God from sin on his own accord without the initiating work of God’s grace. This “Fall” of man was nevertheless not outside the perfect sovereign plan and foreknowledge of God through which he brings glory to himself.
(Gen. 1:27, 3:6-16, 6:5, Ps. 51:5, Matt. 15:19, Rom. 3:23-26, 6:23)
Salvation and Sanctification
Jesus saves. All human beings are, from birth, opposed to God. When Adam sinned, subjecting the entire creation to the curse of sin, he also caused every subsequent generation to be born both alive in the body but dead to God in the spirit. In this state of spiritual death, man can by no means come to God on his own accord. He must be effectually called by God and given new birth (regeneration) in order to see the Kingdom of God and enter it by faith in the Person and Work of Christ, namely his substitutionary death and resurrection. This foreknowledge and calling of God is not reactionary but preemptive on the sinner’s behalf.
Before the foundation of the world, God predestined some to be the recipients of his sovereign grace through faith in Jesus Christ according to the riches of his grace while leaving others in reprobation awaiting the righteous judgment of God. This election of some to salvation is a gift of God to the unrighteous completely apart from works. The natural works of man can merit nothing but condemnation, and thus apart from God’s sovereign electing love no one would be saved. Everyone ordained by God unto eternal life will receive it through faith, as nothing can thwart his will, including man’s obstinate rebellion against him. This sovereign choice of God is complementary to man’s free will. However, the will of man is only set “free” after he is released from the bondage of his own sin and placed in Christ. The freedom of the will to choose God is thus only possible after regeneration has occurred in the life of the sinner.
All who are elected to salvation will endure to the end by God’s grace and preservation but also through willing perseverance of believers. Though the Christian will endure hardship and periods of doubt and rebellion, God will never cast out those who are true regenerate believers in Christ. Throughout the life of the believer, God may bring him through times of suffering and hardship, but he will never forsake him. God’s wrath is never kindled against his saints. Though hardships come, they are for a purpose in the life of the Christian, namely sanctification.
Sanctification is a lifelong process in the life of the believer that is meant to cultivate and produce the fruit of the Spirit and a closer relationship with Christ. When a sinner comes to Christ, he is released from the bondage and penalty for sin, but vestiges of sin still remain in one form or another in the Christian’s life. Sanctification is the process of removing these stains of sin and conforming the Christian to the image of Jesus Christ himself. It is a process of love on God’s part and continual work for the Christian.
Sanctification and justification differ in that the former is a process while the latter is a one-time declaration of righteousness by God on behalf of the sinner. Sanctification is the process of progressively synergistically becoming more like Jesus. Justification is the monergistic imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer forever. Sanctification is effected through repentance, contriteness of heart, the reading of God’s word, fellowship with believers, and any other means deemed necessary by God.
The defeats and struggles with sin in the believer’s life do not condemn him. God has promised that he not only began the work of salvation, but he will also finish it. In one sense, the Christian is saved once-for-all at the time of regeneration. In another sense, he is being saved and will continue to be saved until his death or Christ’s return. Condemnation is not possible for the Christian. His future is secure, not due to his own obedience or lack thereof, but in the perfect substitutionary work of Christ on his behalf.
(Eph. 1, Rom. 9, John 17, Rom. 1:16-17, 1:18-32, 6:18, Phil. 1:6, 2:12-13, Heb. 12:23)
The church is a functioning, living, spiritual organism made up of regenerate believers in Jesus Christ. This group includes believers past, present, and future from all generations throughout history. The church as the body of Christ exists with Jesus Christ covenantally bound to her as head and husband and consists of the elect who have been called out of the world by God to be holy and blameless before him. The church’s function is to bring glory to Christ and to display his love, righteousness, and lordship to the world. Divisions exist in the visible church regarding doctrine and practice, but the eschatological church is undivided and indivisible existing in complete and eternal unity as the body of Christ.
Christ unifies the church and leads it as Head and Lord apart from a regulatory earthly hierarchy. The visible church is best described as local churches with local autonomous leadership working together with other local churches under a common leadership, i.e., Christ himself. All true local church members are regenerate and have been baptized into the body of Christ. The local church is thus a covenant community of believers with common purposes led by men who meet the leadership characteristics described in the New Testament.
“Overseers” are described in the New Testament as those who lead the church by shepherding and instruction and are synonymously called pastors, elders, or bishops. Some of the qualifications for overseers are teaching ability, a well-managed household, not a new convert, self-controlled, doctrinally sound, not arrogant, etc. The New Testament exhibits a preference for a plurality of these overseers within the local church as its primary form of official leadership. These overseers are chosen by the local church congregation and then trusted to lead them, submitting to the overseers’ leadership with joy. Deacons must also share all of the same qualifications as overseers, excluding the gift of teaching. They hold an especially humble and essential office in the local church as those who lead by serving the local body, caring for those with physical or financial needs as determined by the elder and deacon bodies. Both of these offices—overseer and deacon—exist for the service of the church, never lordship.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave two ordinances to the church: baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is an outward identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as well as identification with his body the church. Baptism does not save, convert, or regenerate but is performed in obedience to the command of Jesus Christ and to follow his example. The believer is immersed in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in accordance with the Scriptures. This symbolizes one’s dedication to Christ and his church as well as visibly proclaiming the gospel.
The other ordinance given by Christ to his church is the Lord’s Supper. This ordinance is also only permissible to genuine repentant Christians who are in a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ and his church. The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Jesus Christ given for his church and as a proclamation that points the believer backward to the death of Christ and forward to his Second Coming. There is no physical presence of Jesus in the bread or wine, but the partaker is spiritually nourished by beholding and ingesting in physical representation the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf. The Lord’s Supper also allows the local church body to spiritually share and remember the afflictions of the church universal as well as the sufferings of individuals within the local body.
(Eph. 5:32, 1 Tim. 3, 1 Cor. 1:11, 1 Pet. 5:1-5, Titus 1:5-17, Col. 2:12, Acts 6:3; 8:36-39; 14:23, Matt. 26:26-29, 1 Cor. 11:25, Matt. 28:18-20, Heb. 13:17)