This is my proposal for an update to our church’s doctrinal statement about the local church:
We believe that Jesus is the ultimate Head of the Church (Col. 1:12) and that the local church is to be led by qualified pastors/elders/overseers (1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-4) and cared for by qualified deacons (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:8-13). We also believe that the local church should be self-governed (Matt. 18:15-17; Acts 6:5; 15:22) and free from the interference of any external hierarchy or organization. We believe that it can be good for local churches to cooperate with each other (Acts 15; Rom. 15:26) but that every church is the sole judge of the measure and method of its cooperation. On all matters of membership, policy, government, discipline, or benevolence, the will of the local church is final.
Tonight, we look at the third section of our church doctrinal statement that deals with salvation. The proposed statement provides a summary statement, a definition, the means by which it is obtained, and the results of justification according to the Bible.
We believe that, because Jesus bore the punishment for our sins (Isa. 53:10-11), everyone who believes in Him is justified (legally declared to be righteous) by God (Rom. 8:33). This justification is secured by faith (Rom. 4:1-5) and not by obeying the Old Testament Law (Acts 13:39). The results of justification include having peace with God (Rom. 5:1), being saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9) and receiving the sure hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).
What does the new birth have to do with a person’s relationship to God? You are probably familiar with what Jesus said to religious Nicodemus: “You must be born again.” Despite this man’s reputation as a Bible teacher, Jesus said that he still needed to be born again spiritually. This applies to everyone because we are all born sinners. All of us need to be born again. But what exactly does that mean?
In the paragraph below, I have revised a portion of our church’s doctrinal statement about the new birth. As you read through the statement, be careful to read each Bible passage in the parentheses.
We believe (1) that in order to be saved a sinner must be born again (John 1:12-13; 3:3-8), (2) that a believer becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Pet. 1:4), (3) that this is instantaneous and not a process (Acts 16:31), (4) that in the new birth the one dead in sin is made spiritually alive (Eph. 2:1-5; Col. 2:13), (5) that the new birth is not a result of someone’s ancestry, will, or good works (John 1:13; Eph. 2:8-10), but wholly and solely by the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) in connection with divine truth (Rom. 10:17), and (6) that the evidence of the new birth is seen in a believer’s repentance (Acts 3:19), faith (1 John 5:1), and new life (Gal. 5:22-23).
If you read each Bible reference, you know that being born again/experiencing the new birth is necessary for someone to be changed by God. No matter how hard you try, you (a sinner) cannot give birth to yourself spiritually. You can’t give yourself spiritual life; this must come from God. However, when God brings you to repentance (a change of mind about your sin against God) and faith in Jesus (He died in your place to pay for our sins), the immediate result is the new birth (being made alive spiritually to God).
Have you been born again?
We have been working through our church’s doctrinal statement this year. While God’s truth in the Bible has not changed, the way it is presented can be clarified so that we can understand it better. With that in mind, here is a proposed amendment to the doctrinal section about God’s salvation.
“We believe that God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16) and people are inherently sinful (Rom. 3:10-12, 23). Because of that, we are enemies of God and are unable to have a right relationship with God on our own (Isa. 59:2). We believe that God is just (Deut. 32:4) and will punish our sin against Him with death and eventually the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). However, we believe that God is love (1 John 4:16) and has provided a way for sinful people to be forgiven (Eph. 1:7) and reconciled to Himself (Rom. 5:10). He accomplished this by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in our place (Isa. 53:5; 2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus became a man, lived a perfect life, willingly died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-5). We believe that God always keeps His promises and that all who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus (Acts 20:21) will be forgiven by God (Col. 1:14), saved from the coming judgment (John 3:16), and be given a new spiritual life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).”