THE CONDUCT OF THE GOSPEL
God’s instructions to those who have believed in Jesus on how to spread the good news, the gospel.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23).
“I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3b).
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
“I thank my God … for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3a, 5).
Suffer for it
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).
Do not hinder it
“Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12b).
Do not be ashamed of it
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16a).
“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Be empowered by it
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6–8).
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
The Bible is God’s written revelation to humankind. The sixty-six books of the Bible given to us by the Holy Spirit constitute the plenary (inspired equally in all parts) Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:7–14; 2 Peter 1:20–21).
The Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation
(1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13), verbally inspired in every word (2 Timothy 3:16), absolutely inerrant in the original documents, infallible, and God-breathed. The literal, grammatical-historical interpretation of Scripture supports this view of the Bible. For example, this position affirms the belief that the opening chapters of Genesis present creation in six literal days (Genesis 1:31; Exodus 31:17).
The Bible constitutes the only infallible rule of faith and practice (Matthew 5:18; 24:35; John 10:35; 16:12–13; 17:17; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:15–17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20–21).
God spoke in His written Word by a process of dual authorship. The Holy Spirit so superintended the human authors that, through their individual personalities and different styles of writing, they composed and recorded God’s Word to humankind (2 Peter 1:20–21) without error in the whole or in the part (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16).
Whereas there may be several applications of any given passage of Scripture, there is but one true interpretation. The meaning of Scripture is to be found as one diligently applies the literal, grammatical-historical method of interpretation under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 7:17; 16:12–15; 1 Corinthians 2:7–15; 1 John 2:20). It is the responsibility of believers to ascertain carefully the true intent and meaning of Scripture, recognizing that proper application is binding on all generations. Yet the truth of Scripture stands in judgment of people; never do people stand in judgment of Scripture.
THE TRIUNE GOD
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). There is but one living and true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5–7; 1 Corinthians 8:4). God is an infinite, all-knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
Christianity teaches that man doesn’t find God, because God has already found us. He has disclosed Himself through His Word. He spoke to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, and to the prophets (Genesis 1:28; 12:1–3; Exodus 3:4–22; Jeremiah 1:4–10; Ezekiel 2:1; 3:3–4, 10; Zechariah 1:3).
God has revealed Himself to us in two ways: through natural revelation (Romans 1:20) and through special revelation (Jeremiah 9:23–24). Through natural revelation (the created order) God discloses three things about Himself: His power, His sovereignty, His wrath (Romans 1:20–23). Another aspect of natural revelation is found in the human conscience, which also points to God (Romans 1:19). Because of the Fall and the entry of sin into the world, people often deny and resist the evidence of natural revelation (Psalm 14:1).
Special revelation picks up where creation and conscience leave off. This revelation involved God’s communication of His Word to the writers of Scripture, the various miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments, and the ultimate revelation of His own incarnation (Hebrews 1:1–4).
GOD THE FATHER
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14, 15). God the Father, the first person of the Trinity, orders and disposes all things according to His own purpose and grace (Psalm 145:8–9; 1 Corinthians 8:6).
God the Father is the Creator of all things (Genesis 1:1–31; Ephesians 3:9). As the only absolute and omnipotent ruler in the universe, He is sovereign in creation, providence, and redemption (Psalm 103:19; Romans 11:36).
God’s fatherhood involves both His designation within the Trinity and His relationship with humanity. As Creator, He is Father to all
people (Ephesians 4:6), but He is the spiritual Father only to believers (Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 6:18).
God the Father has decreed for His own glory all things that come to pass (Ephesians 1:11). He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events (1 Chronicles 29:11). In His sovereignty, He is neither author nor approver of sin (Habakkuk 1:13), nor does He abridge the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1 Peter 1:17). He has graciously chosen from eternity past those whom He would have as His own (Ephesians 1:4–6). He saves from sin all those who come to Him, and He becomes, upon adoption, Father to His own (John 1:12; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Hebrews 12:5–9).
But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire” (Hebrews 1:6–7).
Angels are created beings and are therefore not to be worshiped (Revelation 19:10; 22:8). Although they are a higher order of creation than humans (Psalm 8:5), they are created to serve God and to worship Him (Luke 2:9–14; Hebrews 1:6–7, 14; 2:6–7; Revelation 5:11–14).
Satan is a created angel and the author of sin. He incurred the judgment of God by rebelling against his Creator (Isaiah 14:12–17; Ezekiel 28:11–19), by taking numerous angels with him in his fall (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:1–14), and by introducing sin into the human race by his temptation of Eve (Genesis 3:1–15).
Satan is the open and declared enemy of God and humanity (Isaiah 14:13–14; Matthew 4:1–11; Revelation 12:9–10), and he is the prince of this world who has been defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 16:20). He shall be eternally punished in the lake of fire (Isaiah 14:12–17; Ezekiel 28:11–19; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
GOD THE SON
“And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him’” (Mark 9:7)!
Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, possesses all the divine excellencies, and in these He is co-equal, co-substantial, and co-eternal with the Father (John 10:10; 14:9). God the Father created “the heavens and the earth and all that is in them” according to His own will, through His Son, Jesus Christ, by whom all things continue in existence and in operation (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15–17; Hebrews 1:2).
In His Incarnation (God becoming man), Christ surrendered only the prerogatives of deity but nothing of the divine essence, either in degree or kind. In His Incarnation, the eternally existing Second Person of the Trinity accepted all the essential characteristics of humanity and so became the God-man, deity and humanity in indivisible oneness (Micah 5:2; John 5:23; 14:9–10; Philippians 2:5–8; Colossians 2:9).
Our Lord Jesus Christ was virgin born (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23, 25; Luke 1:26–35). He was God incarnate (John 1:1, 14), and the purpose of the Incarnation was to reveal God, to redeem people, and to rule over God’s kingdom (Psalm 2:7–9; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:29; Philippians 2:9–11; Hebrews 7:25–26; 1 Peter 1:18–19).
Our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished our redemption through the shedding of His blood and sacrificial death on the cross, and His death was voluntary, vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory, and redemptive (John 10:15; Romans 3:24–25; 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24).
Our justification is made sure by His literal, physical resurrection from the dead. He is now ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He mediates as our Advocate and High Priest (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:38–39; Acts 2:30–31; Romans 4:25; 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1).
In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, God confirmed the deity of His Son and gave proof that God has accepted the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Jesus’ bodily Resurrection is also the guarantee of a future resurrection life for all believers (John 5:26–29; 14:19; Romans 4:25; 6:5–10; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).
Jesus Christ will return to receive the church, which is His body, unto Himself at the Rapture. Returning with His church in glory, He will establish His millennial kingdom on earth (Acts 1:9–11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Revelation 20).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the One through whom God will judge all people (John 5:22–23) 1) believers (1 Corinthians 3:10–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10); 2) living inhabitants of the earth at His glorious return (Matthew 25:31–46); and 3) unbelieving dead at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11–15). As the mediator between God and people (1 Timothy 2:5), the head of His body the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18), and the coming universal King who will reign on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6–7; Ezekiel 37:24–28; Luke 1:31–33), He is the final Judge of all who fail to place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior (Matthew 25:14–46; Acts 17:30–31).
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is a divine person, eternal, underived, possessing all the attributes of personality and deity, including intellect (1 Corinthians 2:10–13), emotions (Ephesians 4:30), will (1 Corinthians 12:11), eternality (Hebrews 9:14), omnipresence (Psalm 139:7–10), omniscience (Isaiah 40:13–14), omnipotence (Romans 15:13), and truthfulness (John 16:13). In all the divine attributes He is co-equal and co-substantial with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3–4; 28:25–26; 1 Corinthians 12:4–6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; and Jeremiah 31:31–34 with Hebrews 10:15–17).
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to execute the divine will with relation to all people. We recognize His sovereign activity in the creation (Genesis 1:2), the Incarnation (Matthew 1:18), the written revelation
(2 Peter 1:20–21), and the work of salvation (John 3:5–7).
A unique work of the Holy Spirit in this age began at Pentecost when He came from the Father as promised by Christ (John 14:16–17; 15:26) to initiate and complete the building of the Body of Christ. His activity includes convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ; and transforming believers into the image of Christ (John 16:7–9; Acts 1:5; 2:4; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:22).
The Holy Spirit is the supernatural and sovereign agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Holy Spirit also indwells believers from the moment of salvation. He sanctifies, instructs, and empowers them for service and seals them unto the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 3:6; Ephesians 1:13). It is the duty of those born and indwelt by the Spirit to be filled with (controlled by) the Spirit (Romans 8:9–11; Ephesians 5:18; 1 John 2:20, 27).
The Holy Spirit is the divine teacher who guided the apostles and prophets into all truth as they committed to writing God’s revelation, the Bible (2 Peter 1:19–21).
The Holy Spirit administers spiritual gifts to the church. The Holy Spirit glorifies neither Himself nor His gifts by ostentatious displays, but He does glorify Christ by implementing His work of redeeming the lost and building up believers in the most holy faith (John 16:13–14; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
God the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the bestowing of all His gifts for the perfecting of the saints today. Speaking in tongues and the working of sign miracles in the beginning days of the church were for the purpose of pointing to and authenticating the apostles as revealers of divine truth, and were never intended to be characteristic of the lives of believers
(1 Corinthians 12:4–11; 13:8–10; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:7–12; Hebrews 2:1–4).
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
But You made him a little lower than the angels,
And crowned him with glory and honor”(Psalm 8:3–5).
Humans were directly and immediately created by God in His image and likeness. They were created free of sin with a rational nature, intelligence, volition, self-determination, and moral responsibility to God (Genesis 2:7, 15–25; James 3:9).
God’s intention in the creation of people was that they should glorify God, enjoy His fellowship, live their lives in the will of God, and by this accomplish God’s purpose for them in the world (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11).
Through Adam’s sin of disobedience to the revealed will and Word of God, people lost their innocence, incurred the penalty of spiritual and physical death; became subject to the wrath of God; and became inherently corrupt and utterly incapable of choosing or doing that which is acceptable to God apart from divine grace. With no recuperative powers to enable them to recover themselves, humans are hopelessly lost. Humanity’s salvation is thereby wholly of God’s grace through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ (Genesis 2:16–17; 3:1–19; John 3:36; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1–3;
1 Timothy 2:13–14; 1 John 1:8).
Because all people were in Adam, a nature corrupted by Adam’s sin has been transmitted to all people of all ages, Jesus Christ being the only exception. All people are thus sinners by nature, by choice, and by divine declaration (Psalm 14:1–3; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:9–18, 23; 5:10–12).
On the basis of the efficacy of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the believing sinner is freed from the punishment, the penalty, the power, and one day the very presence of sin. He or she is declared righteous, given eternal life, and adopted into the family of God (Romans 3:25; 5:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:14–15; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
Every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The struggle nevertheless plagues the believer all through this earthly life and is never completely ended. All claims to complete eradication of sin in this life are unscriptural. The complete absence of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin (Galatians 5:16–25; Ephesians 4:22–24; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 3:9–10; 1 Peter 1:14–16; 1 John 3:5–9).
THE PROCESS OF SALVATION
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Salvation is wholly of God by grace on the basis of the redemption of Jesus Christ, the merit of His shed blood, and not on the basis of human merit or works (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:4–7; 2:8–10; 1 Peter 1:18–19). The following terms describe the process of salvation.
Election is the act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies (Romans 8:28–30; Ephesians 1:4–11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13;
2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 3:4–7; 1 Peter 1:1–2).
Sovereign election does not contradict or negate the responsibility of humanity to repent and trust Christ as Savior and Lord (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 3:18–19, 36; 5:40; 2 Thessalonians 2:10–12; Revelation 22:17). Nevertheless, since sovereign grace includes the means of receiving the gift of salvation, as well as the gift itself, sovereign election will result in what God determines. All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith, and all who come in faith the Father will receive (John 6:37–40, 44; Acts 13:48; James 4:8).
The unmerited favor that God grants to totally depraved sinners is not related to any initiative of their own part nor to God’s anticipation of what they might do by their own will, but is solely of His sovereign grace and mercy (Ephesians 1:4–7; Titus 3:4–7; 1 Peter 1:2).
God is truly sovereign, but He exercises His sovereignty in harmony with his other attributes, especially His omniscience, justice, holiness, wisdom, grace, and love (Romans 9:11–16). This sovereignty will always exalt the will of God in a manner totally consistent with His character as revealed in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:25–28;
2 Timothy 1:9).
Regeneration is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which the divine nature and divine life are given (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). It is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word of God (John 5:24), when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to the divine provision of salvation. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits worthy of repentance, as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. Good works will be the proper evidence and fruit (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; Ephesians 5:17–21; Philippians 2:12b; Colossians 3:12–17;
2 Peter 1:4–11). This obedience causes the believer to be increasingly conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Such a conformity climaxes in the believer’s glorification at Christ’s coming (Romans 8:16–17; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2–3).
Justification before God is an act of God (Romans 8:30, 33) by which He declares righteous those who, through faith in Christ, repent of their sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Isaiah 55:6–7) and confess Him as sovereign Lord (Romans 10:9–10;
1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:11). By this means, God is enabled to “be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Every believer is sanctified (set apart) unto God by justification and is therefore declared to be holy and rightly identified as a saint. This sanctification is positional and instantaneous and should not be confused with progressive sanctification. This sanctification has to do with the believer’s standing, not his present walk or condition (Acts 20:32;
1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 2:11; 3:1; 10:10, 14; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2).
THE RESULTS OF SALVATION
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Salvation is wholly of God by grace on the basis of the redemption of Jesus Christ, the merit of His shed blood, and not on the basis of human merit or works (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:4–7; 2:8–10; 1 Peter 1:18–19). The following three terms describe the results of salvation.
There is a progressive sanctification by which the state of the believer is brought closer to the likeness of Christ through obedience to the Word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The believer is able to live a life of increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:17, 19; Romans 6:1–22; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4; 5:23).
All the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever (John 5:24; 6:37–40; 10:27–30; Romans 5:9–10; 8:1, 31–39; 1 Corinthians 1:4–9; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 7:25; 13:5;
1 Peter 1:4–5; Jude 24).
It is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which, however, clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an excuse for sinful living and carnality (Romans 6:15–22; 13:13–14; Galatians 5:13, 16–17, 25–26; Titus 2:11–14).
Separation from sin is clearly called for throughout the Old and New Testaments, and the Scriptures clearly indicate that in the last days, apostasy and worldliness shall increase (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1;
2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Out of deep gratitude for the undeserved grace of God granted to us and because our glorious God is so worthy of our total consecration, all the saved should live in such a manner as to demonstrate our adoring love to God and so as not to bring reproach upon our Lord and Savior. Separation from any association with religious apostasy and worldly, sinful practices is commanded of us by God (Romans 12:1–2; 1 Corinthians 5:9–13; 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1; 1 John 2:15–17; 2 John 9–11).
Believers should be separated unto our Lord Jesus Christ
(2 Thessalonians 1:11–12; Hebrews 12:1–2) and affirm that the Christian life is a life of obedient righteousness demonstrated by a beatitude attitude (Matthew 5:2–12) and a continual pursuit of holiness (Romans 12:1–2;
2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14; Titus 2:11–14; 1 John 3:1–10).
THE IDENTITY OF THE CHURCH
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). All who place their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the church
(1 Corinthians 12:12–13), the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23–32; Revelation 19:7–8), of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).
The formation of the church, the Body of Christ, began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–21, 38–47) and will be completed at the coming of Christ for His own at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51–52;
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).
The church is thus a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ, made up of all born-again believers in this present age (Ephesians 2:11–3:6). The church is distinct from Israel (1 Corinthians 10:32), a mystery not revealed until this age (Ephesians 3:1–6; 5:32).
The establishment and continuity of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament (Acts 14:23, 27; 20:17, 28; Galatians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). The members of the one scriptural body are directed to associate themselves together in local assemblies (1 Corinthians 11:18–20; Hebrews 10:25).
The one supreme authority for the church is Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18). Church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are all appointed through His sovereignty as found in the Scriptures. The biblically designated officers serving under Christ and over the assembly are elders (males, who are also called bishops, pastors, and pastor-
teachers; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11) and deacons, both of whom must meet biblical qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Peter 5:1–5).
These leaders lead or rule as servants of Christ (1 Timothy 5:17–22) and have His authority in directing the church. The congregation is to submit to their leadership (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
Vitally important to the church are the practices of discipleship (Matthew 28:19–20; 2 Timothy 2:2), the mutual accountability of all believers to each other (Matthew 18:15–17), and the need for discipline of sinning members of the congregation in accord with the standards of Scripture (Matthew 18:15–22; Acts 5:1–11; 1 Corinthians 5:1–13;
2 Thessalonians 3:6–15; 1 Timothy 1:19, 20; Titus 1:10–16).
The local church should be autonomous, free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations (Titus 1:5). It is scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other for the presentation and propagation of the faith. Local churches, however, through their pastor and their interpretation and application of Scripture, should be the sole judges of the measure and method of their cooperation (Acts 15:19–31; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 5:4–7, 13; 1 Peter 5:1–4).
THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH
“To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21). The purpose of the church is to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21) by building itself up in the faith (Ephesians 4:13–16) by instruction of the Word (2 Timothy 2:2, 15; 3:16–17), by fellowship (Acts 2:47; 1 John 1:3), by keeping the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38–42), and by advancing and communicating the gospel in the entire world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).
All saints are called to the work of service (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 4:12; Revelation 22:12).
The church must cooperate with God as he accomplishes His purpose in the world. To that end, He gives the church spiritual gifts. First, He chooses people to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:7–12), and He also gives unique and special spiritual abilities to each member of the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–31; 1 Peter 4:10–11).
There are two kinds of gifts given the early church: miraculous gifts of divine revelation and healing, given temporarily in the apostolic era for the purpose of confirming the authenticity of the apostles’ message (Hebrews 2:3–4; 2 Corinthians 12:12); and ministering gifts, given to equip believers for edifying one another. With the New Testament revelation complete, Scripture becomes the sole test of the authenticity of a person’s message, and confirming gifts of a miraculous nature are no longer necessary (1 Corinthians 13:8–12). Miraculous gifts can even be counterfeited by Satan so as to deceive believers (Matthew 24:24). The only gifts in operation today are those nonrevelatory equipping gifts for edification (Romans 12:6–8).
No one possesses the gift of healing today, but God does hear and answer the prayer of faith and will answer in accordance with His own perfect will for the sick, suffering, and afflicted (Luke 18:1–8; John 5:7–9; 2 Corinthians 12:6–10; James 5:13–16; 1 John 5:14–15).
Two ordinances have been committed to the local church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:38–42). Christian baptism by immersion (Acts 8:36–39) is the solemn and beautiful testimony of believers showing forth their faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, and their union with Him in death to sin and resurrection to a new life (Romans 6:1–11). It is also a sign of fellowship and identification with the visible Body of Christ (Acts 2:41–42).
The Lord’s Supper is the commemoration and proclamation of His death until He comes and should be always preceded by solemn self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:23–32). Whereas the elements of communion are only representative of the flesh and blood of Christ, the Lord’s Supper is nevertheless an actual communion with the risen Christ, who is present in a unique way to fellowship with His people (1 Corinthians 10:16).
THE LAST THINGS (ESCHATOLOGY):
A PERSONAL VIEW
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42–44a).
Physical death involves no loss of our immaterial consciousness (Revelation 6:9–11). There is a separation of soul and body (James 2:26), and the soul of the redeemed passes immediately into the presence of Christ (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). For the redeemed, such separation will continue until the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17), which initiates the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4–6), when our soul and body will be reunited to be glorified forever with our Lord
(1 Corinthians 15:35–44; 50–54; Philippians 3:21). Until that time, the souls of the redeemed in Christ remain in joyful fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8).
All people will experience bodily resurrection—the saved to eternal life (John 6:39; Romans 8:10–11, 19–23; 2 Corinthians 4:14), and the unsaved to judgment and everlasting punishment (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; Revelation 20:13–15).
The souls of the unsaved at death are kept under punishment until the second resurrection (Luke 16:19–26; Revelation 20:13–15), when the soul and the resurrection body will be united (John 5:28–29). This resurrection of the unsaved dead to judgment will be a physical resurrection. They shall then appear at the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11–15) and shall be cast into hell, the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41–46), cut off from the life of God forever (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:41–46;
2 Thessalonians 1:7–9), which involves an eternal conscious punishment.
After the closing of the Millennium, the temporary release of Satan, and the judgment of unbelievers (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:7–15), the saved will enter the eternal state of glory with God, after which the elements of this earth are to be dissolved (2 Peter 3:10) and replaced with a new earth, wherein only righteousness dwells (Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 20:15, 21–22). Following this, the heavenly city will come down out of heaven (Revelation 21:2) and will be the dwelling place of the saints, where they will forever enjoy fellowship with God and one another (John 17:3; Revelation 21–22). Our Lord Jesus Christ, having fulfilled His redemptive mission, will then deliver up the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:23–28) so that in all spheres the triune God may reign forever and ever (1 Corinthians 15:28).
THE LAST THINGS (ESCHATOLOGY):
A PROPHETIC VIEW
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:22–24).
THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
Our Lord Jesus Christ will personally return in bodily form before the seven-year tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Titus 2:13) to translate His church from this earth (John 14:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:51–53;
1 Thessalonians 4:15–5:11), and between this event and His glorious return with His saints, to reward believers according to their works
(1 Corinthians 3:11–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
Immediately following the removal of the church from the earth (John 14:1–3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18), the righteous judgments of God will be poured out upon an unbelieving world (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 9:27; 12:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:7–12; Revelation 16). These judgments will be climaxed by the return of Christ in glory to the earth (Matthew 24:27–31; 25:31–46; 2 Thessalonians 2:7–12). At that time, the Old Testament and tribulation saints will be raised, and the living will be judged (Daniel 9:24–27; 12:2–3; Matthew 24:15–31; 25:31–46; Revelation 20:4–6).
THE SECOND COMING AND
THE MILLENNIAL REIGN
After the tribulation period, Christ will come to earth to occupy the throne of David (Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:32–33; Acts 1:10–11; 2:29–30) and to establish His messianic kingdom for a thousand years on the earth (Revelation 20:1–7). During this time the resurrected saints will reign with Him over Israel and all the nations of the earth (Ezekiel 37:21–28; Daniel 7:17–22; Revelation 19:11–16). This reign will be preceded by the overthrow of the Antichrist and the False Prophet and by the removal of Satan from the world (Daniel 7:17–27; Revelation 20:1–6).
The kingdom itself will be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel (Isaiah 65:17–25; Ezekiel 37:21–28; Zechariah 8:1–17) to restore them to the land that they forfeited through their disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15–68). The result of their disobedience was that Israel was temporarily set aside (Matthew 21:43; Romans 11:1–26) but will again be awakened through repentance to enter into the land of blessing (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:22–32; Romans 11:25–29).
Our Lord’s reign will be characterized by harmony, justice, peace, righteousness, and long life (Isaiah 11; 65:17–25; Ezekiel 36:33–38), and will be brought to an end with the release of Satan (Revelation 20:7).
THE JUDGMENT OF THE LOST
Following the release of Satan after the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:7), Satan will deceive the nations of the earth and gather them to battle against the saints and the beloved city. Satan and his army will be devoured by fire from heaven (Revelation 20:9). Then Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire (Matthew 24:41; Revelation 20:10) whereupon Christ will resurrect and judge the great and small at the Great White Throne judgment (John 5:22; Revelation 20:11–15).