What We Believe
Inspired of God
We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Just as God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7), so too the words of scripture are said to be “God-breathed” (2Timothy 3:16) indicating that they came directly from Him as opposed to the writers whom He used in recording the message. The apostle Peter proclaimed such direct inspiration of the scriptures by God as he stressed the fact that men were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak from God (2 Pet.1:20-21).
Just as the various Old Testament books constitute records of the inspired writings of Moses, David, Solomon and numerous prophets of God, so too such prophets and apostles of Christ wrote down God’s new covenant teachings for our understanding (Hebrews 1:1-2). The New Testament books proclaim not only the words of Jesus but those of His apostles whom he empowered with His authority (John 16:13; Acts 1:1-2, 8; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Galatians 1:11-12).
Old vs. New Covenants
While all the Bible is inspired of God and is valuable for our understanding, teaching, rebuking, correction, and for training in righteousness and thereby equip us for service (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the covenant generally referred to as the Law of Moses was specifically between God and the Israelite nation (Romans 9:3-4). It was a covenant that was conditional upon their obedience (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 28:9). However, the accounts of their rebellious behaviour and God’s resultant punishments serve as valuable warnings to Christians today (1Corinthians 10:1-6f) who are under the new covenant of Christ (Hebrews 9:15). The Law of Moses was done away with upon the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ and his resurrection (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 8:6-9:4).
God, Trinity & the Son Sacrificed
We believe that God is One, yet exists in the form of three Persons, co-creators (Genesis 1:1-2; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17), commonly referred to as the Trinity: God the Father; God the Son who became man in the form of Jesus the Christ so as to be an atoning sacrifice for all mankind because of sin (John 3:16; Philippians 2:6-8; 1Peter 2:21-24; 1John 2:2); and God the Holy Spirit who indwells those who respond to God’s call to salvation (Acts 2:38). We believe that Jesus was crucified, was buried in a tomb for three days and resurrected just as He, Himself had foretold his disciples (Luke 9:22; 18:31-33; 24:1-12), after which He appeared to His disciples for forty days prior to ascending into heaven before many witnesses (Luke 24:13-53; John 20:14-28; Acts 1:1-9).
We believe that all mankind will someday face the wrath of God on a Day of Judgment because of sin (Romans 3:23-24; Rom.1:18; John 3:36; Rom.2:5-8), but that God in His abundant love and merciful grace has provided a way for us to be freed from that just penalty through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (John 3:16; Titus 2:11). It is clear that we cannot earn this grace of God through works of righteousness or good deeds (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; Rom.11:6) as it is God’s free gift to us.
As there is absolutely nothing in this life more important than receiving God’s grace, the most important question of all is: “How do we receive this free gift of God?” The Bible is clear that salvation is only through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Therefore, in obedience to its proclamation, that upon hearing and believing the gospel message of salvation through Him, and consequently confessing Christ as our Lord (Acts 8:36-37; Romans 10:9-10), as well as repenting of our sins and being immersed (baptized) for the forgiveness of our sins (Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:27; Acts 22:16; 1Peter 3:21), we receive His grace to cover our sins. Lastly, we are to live a Christian life in harmony with the teachings of Christ ("Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" - Revelation 2:10 NASB). At the same time, upon our conversion, we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 1Corinthians 3:16; Acts 5:32) and we are joined to our Lord’s body which is His church (1Cor.12:13).
“Believing” in Christ is the foundation upon which all His requirements (confess Him as Lord; repent of our sins; be immersed [baptised]) rests—all for the forgiveness of sins. Synecdoche is a common figure of speech in which a part of something represents the whole, such as one’s expression of beauty toward another’s new car may be, “Nice wheels.” A common expression heard today in reference to soldiers is: ‘boots on the ground’ where ‘boots’ stands for the whole soldier plus equipment in a battle-ready condition. Like most literature, the Bible uses various forms of figures of speech, including synecdoche. Unfortunately, this literary device is lost in the eyes of many in its use with the word ‘believe’ as used in the Bible. Because “belief” is foundational to salvation in that everything else rests on it, (there is no need, nor desire, to confess Christ, repent or be baptised, if one does not believe), ‘belief’ is therefore often used alone where the context does not demand reference to the other essentials given elsewhere.
For example: John 3:16 describes God’s great love seen in His “giving” His son, and how believing in him provides eternal life. The context of “believing” goes back to vs.12 where Jesus rebukes Nicodemus concerning his lack of understanding and not believing his testimony, and then alludes to “heavenly things” concerning his coming sacrifice (because He so loved the world), in verses 14-17, and then expands further concerning belief and it’s connection to the coming judgement (John 3:1-21). He has not died yet, and repentance in the name of Jesus, confessing him as Lord, as well as baptism ‘into Christ’ (Romans 6:3) have not yet been implemented, therefore only belief is here discussed with him. Yet, many will claim this as an example or ‘proof’ of only ‘believing’ being a requirement for salvation. Failing to comprehend the context discussed here, prevents their full comprehension of God’s overall gospel message. Yet, Romans 10:9-10 links “confessing Jesus as Lord” to ‘believing’ (which John 3:16 does not connect). And, in Acts 2:38, Peter responds to the Jews who have obviously believed his gospel message (they were “pierced to the heart” and asked, “What shall we do?” vs.37), by telling them to repent and be immersed (baptised) in Jesus’ name “for the remission of sins” and links this also to their receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Here, he has neither mentioned ‘believing’ nor ‘confessing’ s the context did not warrant it. If their belief is genuine, as vs.37 suggests, they would confess Jesus as Lord, but Peter takes them to the next step, that they need to repent and be baptised—and their sins will be forgiven. Their remorse (and fear), over having contributed to the promised Messiah’s rejection and death would give way to the knowledge of God’s willingness to forgive them if they followed Peter’s plea to repent and be baptised.
When we understand that the word “baptise” means to immerse, dip, submerge, or plunge into a liquid or other penetrable substance, we can better visualise how we are metaphorically said to be “buried” with Christ (Colossians 2:12). While Jesus was buried and resurrected within a tomb, we do so in water as a symbol of our union in His death, burial and resurrection. We are “immersed into His death” and so, just as He died and was buried, we also die to our old self which is also buried. Likewise, as He resurrected unto life, we too come out of the water as a new life: “born again” or “born anew” (Romans 6:3-6; 2Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24). Being immersed in water has nothing to do with a physical cleansing but rather submission to His command, and thereby appealing to God to ‘spiritually’ cleanse us and save us from His judgement. Then, upon this final act of obedience, having already repented of our sins, they are washed away and our conscience is cleared (1Peter 3:21).
Some who attempt to dispute the necessity of baptism in salvation claim the obvious, that it is God’s grace that saves, and water cannot save. They miss the point entirely, for we make no claim that it is anything about the physical water that saves us, though there appears to be a metaphorical cleansing, as Saul was told to be immersed and to “wash away” his sins” (Acts 22:16), and there are similar passages that portray a “washing of regeneration” (1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:25-26), indicating the spiritual aspect of cleansing due to our obedient submission to Christ’s requirement. That is what saves us! Christ could have chosen anything he wished for us to demonstrate our submission in fulfilling His requirement. He chose to provide a means of demonstrating His death, burial and resurrection through a watery grave. Immersion into Christ (Galatians 3:27) is merely our fulfillment in obedience to Him that saves—and only as the final requirement according to scriptural directive following belief, confessing Christ, and repentance, that salvation is complete. While it is only through His grace that our sins are covered, yet He has required us to respond by complying with His commands as discussed above.
The Church—From Unity to Division
We believe that the church that Christ established, built upon the rock-solid confession that He is “The Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16-18), is extremely important to Him and it must be to us also, for scripture makes clear that He died for the church (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27). He of course died for all mankind (John 1:29; 3:16; 1 John 4:14) but many would not receive Him, so He ultimately died for those who would and do respond to the gospel call; those who He adds to His church (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:2; Acts 2:41).
Unity of the church is also extremely important to Him (John 17:20-21). However, such unity has been thwarted with dire consequences, as that which professes Christianity today is divided into hundreds of divisions with multiple opposing teachings in spite of Christ’s plea. Such divisions surfaced early on in the newly formed church and warnings were voiced at that time of further dangers to come (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 20:28-30; Gal.5:7-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). While we have no control over such prevalent extensive division, we can at least do our part to counter such disunity by striving as best we can to discern the scriptural example as to our practice and organisation so as to be the church as it was established in scripture, irrespective of others’ conflicting views. Our goal is not to reform the errors introduced through the centuries, but rather to restore the church to its original organisational structure and worship practice.
Church & Organisation
We believe that the church is the Body of Christ on earth of which He is the all-authoritative Head (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). With each congregation being autonomous, the leadership consists of an eldership where two or more serve together to oversee and shepherd the local church (Acts 14:23). There is no provision made in scripture for a single “Pastor” to be over the church as a one-man head. A good example of what constitutes true, scriptural leadership begins at Acts 20:17 where Paul calls for the elders in Ephesus. He is still talking to this same group of men when he refers to these elders as “overseers” (or “bishops”) in vs.28, and ultimately declares that the Holy Spirit was instrumental in their being thus positioned in the church. Paul continues by admonishing these elders/overseers to “shepherd” (or “pastor”) the church and accentuates the significance of this by emphasizing the church’s importance to Christ by mentioning His having purchased the church at the price of His own blood. Contrary then to what often is seen today, it is not a minister or preacher who is called to “pastor” (shepherd) a congregation, but rather the ones who serve as elders/overseers, and the word is never used in scripture as a ‘title’, but rather is merely descriptive of their service and responsibility (Acts20:28; 1Pet.5:1-2).
Men who meet the qualifications as outlined in scripture concerning this oversight and “pastoring” may serve the local church in this capacity (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These are the only church leaders outlined in scripture for us today. Deacons, who serve under the elders, also need to meet standards set out for them (1Tim.3:8-12). The original church had apostles who had authority over Christ’s universal church as they were all commissioned directly by Christ, (the 12 plus Paul). As well, they all received powers by which their signs and wonders amazed and drew people to Christ (Acts 1:8; 2:1-12, 42-43; 2 Corinthians 12:12), and through inspiration they were enabled to teach God’s truth with authority (John 16:13-15; Acts 22:14-15; 26:15-16).
This occurred at a very important time when the New Testament books were not yet complete. The teachings that they verbally gave to the church and wrote down (or were written about by others along with the teachings of Jesus), became the very words we look to today for guidance and authoritative doctrine—establishing for all time: “...the faith that was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3; 1 Cor.13:8-10). After this completion of the canon* or collection of inspired teachings was established in written form, (since there was no succession of apostleship passed on, once the last of the apostles left this earthly life), church leadership resorted to the established pattern that the apostles had instituted, that of individual churches being left in the hands of their particular elderships. The apostles and prophets had built a foundation for the church or household of God of which Christ was the cornerstone, (Ephesians 2:19-20; Revelation 21:14). They live on in the completed canon which has withstood the test of time through the centuries; the inspired word of God that seeks to save the lost by revealing His message of grace and edify those who obediently comply—His church (2Tim.3:16-17; Ephesians 4:1-16).
*canon: a collection of books accepted as a genuine and authoritative standard