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What We Believe

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What We Believe
 
The Bible
 
The Bible is the Word of God. It does not merely contain God’s Word; it is God’s Word, from beginning to end. Although it was written down by men, God inspired those men to write exactly what they wrote so that every Word they wrote was exactly what God wanted it to be. We call this the Doctrine of Verbal Inspiration.
 
We recognize that through copying and translation, a few errors have become a part of the texts we have today; but through careful study we have found most of these are insignificant and we fully believe that in all the matters that are important for our salvation, we can know the truth that God wants us to know by studying the Bible.
 
We believe that the Bible is to be understood literally unless the Bible itself indicates something is to be understood figuratively or symbolically. As the Apostle Peter wrote in his Epistle: The Scriptures are not a matter of individual interpretation. The Bible is God’s Word, not ours. Our duty in understanding the Bible is not to try to figure out what we think it means, but to study the Bible and compare Scripture with Scripture to learn what God intended to mean.
 
God
 
There is only one real God. All other “gods” are but inventions of human minds. Because we are created by God and are therefore less that God, we cannot fully understand all the details about God, but we can know what he tells us about himself in his Word. He tells us clearly that he is one indivisible God and at the same time three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The human term we use to refer to this mystery to our minds is “Triune” or “Trinity”. The Bible does not use that term; but it clearly teaches that reality.
 
God is not merely a force or a perpetual dichotomy of both good and evil. God is a conscious spirit with a mind and a will that is always perpetually good and holy. God exists both inside and outside our concepts of time and space. He is all-powerful, almighty, all-knowing, and eternal.
 
Creation
 
The Bible teaches that God created the earth and heavens by the sheer power of his Word in six ordinary days, days associated with evening and morning, not long eras. While the Bible record is not complete enough to determine exactly how long ago he created everything, it is complete enough for us to conclude he did so somewhere between six and seven thousand years ago. This belief and teaching is not at all contradictory to true science; but it is diametrically opposed to the religion of naturalism that permeates the so-called secular scientific community in our time.
 
The fact of divine creation establishes a relationship between God and mankind. We are accountable to him. He is the standard of what is right and wrong. When we agree with God, that is good; when we go against God and his commandments, that is sin. As our Creator, God has the right to impose consequences on us for our sins.
 
Evil
 
God did not create evil. Evil came because some of God’s creation rebelled against him. The Bible gives us very few details about this rebellion, but tells us that some of the angels God created – spiritual beings that God created to serve him and help protect mankind – rejected God’s authority over them. Led by the chief of the evil angels, the “Devil” or “Satan”, these evil angels were cast away from God’s presence in heaven, but allowed to be on the earth for a time. The Devil is the one who came in the form of a serpent to tempt Eve and Adam to distrust and disobey God. The Devil and his evil angels continue to exist on earth today and have supernatural powers, but those powers do not equal the power of God, and they will eventually be confined to hell forever.
 
Law
 
When God created our first parents, Adam and Eve, he created them perfect and holy, like everything else he created. He has the right to expect us to be holy, as he made us. But we are not. Since Adam and Eve sinned, everyone on earth has been born sinful. Their sin brought death into the world. Everyone on earth has sinned; therefore, everyone on earth deserves death – not merely the death of the body, but eternal death and damnation of both soul and body in a very real hell. The Bible describes hell as a place fiery torment and outer darkness, but the essence of hell is being forsaken completely and forever by God.
 
If someone could keep God’s law perfectly, he or she could avoid death and have eternal life by his or her own good behavior. But no pure human has ever done so, or ever will. We cannot, because we’re all sinful from our very beginning. But God has provided a way to escape the eternal consequences of sin.
 
Gospel
 
The good news is that God sent his Son, who took humanity into himself as Jesus, the Christ – both God and man in one being. As the God-man Christ he took our place under God’s law and fulfilled both sides of the Law: he obeyed God’s law perfectly as our representative and he suffered what God’s law demands for our sin: being forsaken by God. Because he was human, he could truly be in our place as our substitute; because he was God he could be perfect and make an offering that was valuable enough to pay for everyone’s sins.
We receive the benefit of Christ’s atoning work through faith; that is, through recognizing and repenting of our sins and through confident belief that because of what Christ did, all our sins have been forgiven. This brings us both peace with God and the guarantee that just as Christ rose from death, so too, we will rise from death to live and work with God in his heavenly home in perfect peace and joy. Appreciation for what God has done for us in Christ motivates us to want to serve God with good works – love to God and to our neighbors – not to earn God’s favor, but to thank him for his favor, grace, and blessing.
 
This salvation from sin and death is offered to everyone on earth but it is realized only through faith in Christ Jesus. Faith in Jesus does not make anyone better than those who don’t have faith – we are all equally sinners – but it does make believers in Christ better off. The sad reality for unbelievers is that they could have God’s blessings, too, if only they would repent of their sins and believe in Jesus as their Savior. Out of love for those who do not yet believe in Jesus as their Savior, part of our mission is to share God’s Word with everyone, so that more people can hear God’s Word and be moved by God’s Spirit to come to Christian faith.
 
Sacraments
 
In connection with his Word, God has instituted two sacraments that convey the blessings of the Word in a very personal and tangible way. We define a Sacrament as a rite that was ordained by Jesus, that uses certain visible and tangible materials substance, and that conveys the forgiveness of sins to those who participate in the Sacrament. These Sacraments are not absolutely necessary, but are very valuable, and one cannot reject either of them without also rejecting God’s Word.
 
These two sacraments are Baptism and Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion and Eucharist). Baptism is a ceremonial washing that uses water connected with God’s Word. It was instituted by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20. It washes the soul, not the body, and works faith in the heart, bringing about a new birth – a birth from spiritual death to spiritual life. Baptism is precious for all ages, but especially for babies; for it is the only way we have of bringing God’s Gospel to souls who don’t yet understand spoken words. We trust that babies who have been baptized have real faith in their hearts. But baptism is not a “magic pill”; the new life worked by baptism needs to be nourished with God’s Word so that it can mature and grow strong.
 
Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus on the night he was betrayed. It is a special spiritual meal that uses bread and wine; but because of Christ’s Words, those who eat it receive not only bread and wine but also the very body and blood of Jesus that were being given and shed that very day (the Jewish day started at sunset) for the forgiveness of sins. This meal not only remembers Christ’s death, but also conveys the forgiveness of sins that his body and blood paid for. This meal is not for everyone, but for those who understand what it is and who wish to express their unity in faith and doctrine with the other participants.
 
Thoughts on some of the issues of our time
 
Abortion and Euthanasia – Only God can create life and only God has the right to end life. Once a baby is growing in the womb, it is a living human being given life by God and only God has the right to end that life. We recognize that sometimes there are difficult circumstances when it is impossible to save the lives of both the baby and the mother, and the only choice we have is to save whom we can. But to kill a baby for mere personal convenience or choice is murder. Similarly, to kill someone of any age merely to avoid pain, discomfort, or inconvenience is sin. While it is not necessary to take extra-ordinary measures to prolong death, we advocate preserving life for all ages.
 
Marriage – Marriage was designed by God to be an intimate life-long arrangement between one man and one woman. Regardless what society or government may say, this is the only arrangement recognized by God as marriage. There is no such thing as a “no fault divorce”. Either one, the other, or both are guilty of sin in every divorce. If only one is guilty – of marital unfaithfulness or of deserting the marriage by departing or by physical abuse – the offended partner may procure a legal divorce. While romance in marriage is a blessing, it is not essential. God commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This love is not romance, nor an emotion, but a decision and commitment to sacrifice one’s own self for the good of another.
 
Government – The Bible does not tell us what form human government should take; but it does recognize that governments are supposed to punish evil and promote good. We should obey our own government for, whatever it is, it has been established by God for us as his minister to advance what is good and to execute God’s wrath on those that do evil. The only exception to this rule is if our government tells us to go against what God tells us in his Word. Then we are to obey God rather than men, regardless the consequences the government might try to impose. People in government are accountable to God with respect to how well they fulfill God’s purpose for government.