Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Proposed Statement of Faith - Preamble

See also:
Artcles 1-5
Articles 6-11

In our proposed revision to the Statement of Faith, the following paragraphs will appear as a preamble:

Our Confessional Heritage & Supporting Statements of Belief
Throughout the history of Christ’s Church many statements of belief have been written. These were generally called “Confessions of Faith” or “Creeds”. The purpose of these documents was to instruct God’s people about the teachings of Scripture and to defend the Church from false teachings. For centuries the Church was even plunged into massive biblical ignorance and spiritual darkness—even to the point that God’s people were cut-off from being able to read the Scriptures for themselves.. During the Reformation the Bible was once again placed into the hands of believers and a great many Confessions were written to help God’s people reclaim core biblical truth that had been all but forgotten. Responding to centuries of theological and biblical ignorance, these documents were long and detailed out of necessity.

Today the light of the gospel has been significantly dimmed. Living and ministering in the world[1] amidst false teaching and ungodly philosophies[2], it is necessary to preserve the doctrinal integrity of our Church’s beliefs by further definition. History has proven all too often that false teachers easily corrupt those congregations and movements which are not thoroughly grounded in the teachings of Scripture. Much of what calls itself Christianity is nothing other than age-old heresies in modern garb. For these reasons we have combined several Confessions/Creeds in a document titled “Supporting Statements of Belief: Documents Guiding the Theological Beliefs and Practices of Indian River Baptist Church”. In the past decades several documents have been written which call upon churches to once again cling to the historic truths of the faith. One of these statements protects our understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), two of them outline our understanding of the Gospel (The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration and The Cambridge Declaration), and one summarizes the Bible’s teaching on marriage, family, and gender roles (The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). Four other statements from Church history also correctly summarize the truth of Scripture. These are the 1689 London Baptist Confession¸ Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed. We believe these eight documents provide correct interpretations[3] of Scripture and authoritative interpretations of the meaning and implications of our corporate Confession of Faith. They serve as the fullest theological expression of the beliefs of Indian River Baptist Church.

[1] John 15:18-25; 17:11-20; 1 John 2:15-17
[2] Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:20
[3] This should not be taken to imply that Indian River Baptist Church agrees in every detail with the statements includes in the packet. Only Scripture is inerrant. However, we wholeheartedly support the main thrust of these documents as trustworthy in the communication of Biblical truth.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Proposed Statement of Faith: Articles 6-11

See also:
Articles 1-5

6. The Person and Work of Christ
We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. Moved by love for and in obedience to God the Father, Jesus became man without ceasing to be God that He might reveal God and redeem mankind. Jesus was the promised Messiah (Christ) of Israel, who was conceived through the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the virgin Mary. He perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father, lived a sinless life, performed miraculous signs, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven.

We believe He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, exercising in heaven and on earth all of God’s sovereignty, and is our High Priest and righteous Advocate. By His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute. He did this so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God: on the cross He canceled sin, propitiated God, and, by bearing the full penalty of our sins, reconciled to God all those who believe. By His resurrection Christ Jesus was vindicated by his Father, broke the power of death and defeated Satan who once had power over it, and brought everlasting life to all His people; by His ascension He has been forever exalted as Lord and has prepared a place for us to be with Him. We believe that salvation is found in Christ alone (solus Christus), for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.

7. The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, equal with God the Father and with God the Son and of the same nature; that He was active in the creation; that in His relation to the unbelieving world He restrains the evil one until God’s purpose is fulfilled; that He convicts the world of sin and righteousness; and that He seals, guides, teaches, sanctifies and equips the believer. We believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at conversion and is that sovereign act by which the individual is organically and vitally joined into Christ and His body. We believe the filling of the Holy Spirit may occur many times and is essentially a matter of faith and obedience, the fruit of which is listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

8. The Justifying Work of God
We believe that justification is the judicial act of God whereby He declares us to be righteous through faith in Christ Jesus. By His sacrifice on the cross, Christ bore in our stead the punishment due us for our sins, making a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice on our behalf. His perfect obedience and punishment were accepted in place of our own, and therefore this justification includes the pardon of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to all who trust in Christ alone for their acceptance with God. This justification is given solely of God’s free grace (sola gratia) and not in consideration of any thing we have done, and is accessed solely through faith (sola fide) in our Redeemer Jesus Christ, in order that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. We believe that a zeal for personal and public obedience flows from this free justification.

9. The Sanctifying Work of God
We believe that sanctification is the divine setting apart of the believer unto God accomplished in the threefold manner: first, an eternal act of God, based upon redemption in Christ, establishing the believer in a position of holiness at the moment he trusts Christ as Savior: second, a continuing process in the saint as the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to the life; third the final accomplishment of this process at the Lord’s return.

10. The Perseverance of the Saints
We believe the same God whose power justified the believer is also at work in the continued sanctification of that believer. As Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.” Thus, all who are truly born again are kept by God the Father for Jesus Christ, and can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but will persevere in their faith to the end, and be eternally saved. While it is true that at times believers will fall into sin, it is also true that a real believer in Jesus Christ cannot abandon himself to the dominion of sin. Christ tells us that “by their fruit you will know them” (Matt 7:16, 20) and “he that endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). Likewise, 1 John 3:7-9 says “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.” The person who has truly been made righteous in Jesus Christ will live by faith (Romans 1:17). Consequently, the security of believers is inseparable from their perseverance in the faith (Corinthians 15:2; Hebrews 3:14; James 2:14; 21-22, 26; Rom 1:17).

11. Separation from unrighteousness
We believe that there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked. Those who have, through faith, been truly justified and sanctified, are righteous in the eyes of God. Conversely, those who continue in sin and unbelief are wicked in His eyes. Therefore, as children of God whose citizenship is in heaven, we should walk in separation from this present world, abstaining from all worldliness which defiles the mind and body and which brings reproach to the name of Christ.

Proposed Statement of Faith - Articles 1-5

See also:
Articles 6-11

Our church is currently in the final stages of redoing our statement of faith. I want to throw out the "final" version of this statement on the blog in the hopes that my fellow theologically & biblically astute Christian brothers and sisters in Christ can read it over with a discerning eye. Biblical & theological challenges, as well as editorial criticisms, of all kinds are welcome.

1. The Word of God
We believe that God has graciously revealed His existence and power in the created world, and has supremely revealed Himself to fallen human beings in the person of His Son, the incarnate Word. Moreover, this God is a speaking God who, by His Holy Spirit, has inspired the words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. These writings alone constitute the verbally inspired Word of God, which is utterly authoritative and without error in the original writings, complete in its revelation of His will for salvation, sufficient (sola scriptura) for all that God requires us to believe and do, and final in its authority over every domain of knowledge to which it speaks.

The Bible is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. As God’s people hear, believe, and do the Word, they are equipped as disciples of Christ and witnesses to the gospel.

[Original Statement: THE SCRIPTURES : We believe in the verbal (the very words), plenary (all the words) inspiration of the Holy Bible as originally written, that the Scriptures are the product of Holy Spirit controlled men, and therefore is truth without admixture of error for its matter. We believe that it is the true center of Christian union and the only infallible rule of all human conduct, creeds and opinions.
By the “Holy Bible” we mean that collection of sixty-six books from Genesis through Revelation, which, as originally written, is the very Word of God. By “inspiration” we mean that the books of the Bible were written by holy men of old, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, in such a way that their writing was supernaturally controlled and free from error as no other writing has ever been or ever will be (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1: 19-2 1).

We believe that the same Holy Spirit who originally communicated the Truth has presided over the translations and versions so that the written record as found particularly in the King James Version is essentially trustworthy and authoritative.]

2. The Trinity
We believe there is One and only One living and true God, an infinite, sovereign Spirit, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth, inexpressibly glorious in holiness and worthy of all possible honor, confidence and love: that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons: God the Father; God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit. We believe they are equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.

[Original Statement: THE TRUE GOD: We believe there is One and only One living and true God, an infinite, sovereign Spirit, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth, inexpressibly glorious in holiness and worthy of all possible honor, confidence and love: that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons: God the Father; God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit. We believe they are equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption (Exodus 20:2-3; I Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11).]

3. The Creation of the World and Humanity
We believe that God, solely by an act of His sovereign power and grace, and for the manifestation of His glory, brought the universe into existence. The culminating work of His creative activity was the creation of human beings, male and female, which are His own image. Adam and Eve belonged to the created order that God himself declared to be very good, serving as God’s agents to care for, manage, and govern creation, living in holy and devoted fellowship with their Maker.

In God’s wise purposes, men and women are equal to one another yet distinct as they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. The marital relationship, instituted by God and between one man and one woman, establishes the only proper pattern of sexual relations. Within this relationship God has ordained that husband and wife assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. To this end, God commands that the believer only marry another follower of Jesus Christ and that this relationship be life-long. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. While both men and women are to serve the church according to their respective giftedness, God has ordained that the Church be spiritually led by capable, godly men.

[Original Statement: CREATION: We believe the Genesis account of creation as being neither allegory nor myth, but a literal, historical account of the direct, immediate creative act of God without any evolutionary process; that man, spirit, soul and body, was created by a direct work of God not from previously existing forms of life; and that all men are descended from the historical Adam and Eve, first parents of the entire human race (Genesis 1:2; Colossians 1:16-17; John 1:3).]

4. The Fall of Mankind
We believe that although humanity was created in perfection, Adam willfully rebelled and sinned against God. Though made in the image of God, he distorted that image by falling into sin and forfeited his original blessedness, both for himself and all his progeny. As descendants of Adam, all human beings are totally depraved, partakers of Adam’s fallen nature, and are sinners by nature and by choice. As a result, all human beings are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, spiritually) and condemned to eternal death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and restore us to himself.

[Original Statement: THE FALL OF MAN: We believe that man was created in innocence under the law of His Maker; but by voluntary transgression Adam fell from his sinless and happy state, and all men sinned in him, in consequence of which all men are totally depraved and are partakers of Adam’s fallen nature, and are sinners by nature and by conduct; and therefore are under just condemnation without defense or excuse (Genesis 3:1-6, 24; Romans 3:10- 19; 5:12, 19; 1:18, 32).]

5. God’s eternal plan of salvation
We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, whom He foreknew and predestined. We believe that God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace (sola gratia) have faith (sola fide) in Jesus (solus Christus), and that He will one day glorify them—all to the praise of His glory (soli Deo gloria). In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe, having set His saving love on those He has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer.

No original statement.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Do you believe prayer actually changes things?

It always saddens me when I encounter a Christian who has ceased to believe in the power of prayer. Sadly, it is often someone who holds to a distorted and coldly deterministic form of Calvinism. These are the individuals who think God can be explained by a logical syllogism, and in an effort to keep God in control of everything they ignore the very teachings of the Son of God (who, by the way, commanded us to pray). Listen as Piper talks about the amazing power of a Christian in prayer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The fool says in his heart there is no God

Perhaps you will be tempted to laugh at this video, but my heart mourns at the foolishness humanity commits in an effort to close their minds to the truth of God. The lady in the middle makes a profound (and correct) observation about the disturbing situation modern mankind find themselves in. Sadly, her solution does not answer but rather exemplifies the very problem of which she speaks.