Sola Scripura. That was the foundational standard of the Protestant Reformation. That lofty concept was also the idealogical launching pad for our involvement in Bible translation. It truly is more than just an inspiring slogan. It represents the starting place for any theological discussion. When we joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1987 Denise and I had to submit a doctrinal statement of what we believe as Christians. Wycliffe understands that saying the words. “I’m a Christian” is no guarantee of that person’s orthodoxy. Before you financially support any Christian ministry, you’ll want to know what that individual or group believes. The following is a statement of what Denise and I believe regarding the major tenets of the faith. There is so much more we could have said on each topic. Whole books are written on even the subpoints mentioned in our statement of faith. Please excuse our not exhausting every point. Please excuse the academic sounding language. Obviously, the great doctrines represented below require and deserve more formal terminology than my golf tips column. Well, read on. These are the beliefs Denise and I hold and live by…
Divine Inspiration and Authority of the Scriptures
We believe that the total Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are fully and equally the inspired Word of God (II Tim. 3:16-17). By inspiration, we mean that the Holy Spirit supernaturally directed the writers of Scripture but without excluding their human intelligence, literary style, personal feelings and individuality. God’s message is secured with perfect accuracy in the original manuscripts and in careful, scholarly translations. The Bible is authoritative to all people, past, present and future, as the only infallible rule for faith, human conduct, thought, and opinion. God’s Word is historically and factually accurate on any issue it specifically addresses. We believe that the Bible is the measure by which any scientific theory, psychological model, or historical thesis must be measured rather than the reverse. Other testimony regarding the nature of the God’s Word includes: the Bible’s origin (II Peter 1:21), complete relevance (Mt. 5:18), absolute authority (Jn.10:35; and enduring nature (Lk. 16:17)
We believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, the term used to describe the unity of three persons in the one God. These three distinct personalities are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). The three persons of the Trinity are co-equal in being, power, glory, and holiness.
We believe that the Bible teaches that there is only one true God (Is. 45:5; Mk. 12:29) but exists in three harmonious capacities. The Father is 100% God (Jn. 6:27; Rm. 1:7) and has all of the divine qualities of Almighty God. We believe that Jesus Christ is 100% God (Jn. 1:1, 20:28, Heb. 1:8, Phil. 2:6, Col. 1:15-17) and is the exact expression of the living God. He was 100% man, born of a virgin, lived among men and died on a Roman cross. We believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Christ and not in a “spiritual” return or appearance. Finally, the Holy Spirit is 100% God and has all the qualities of the most High God (I Cor. 2:11, Acts 5:3, 4). The Holy Spirit is not a vague “force” or reflection of Christ or the Father but a distinct personality within the Godhead.
We believe human beings were created by and in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) but in an act of free choice, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s clear and revealed standards (Gen. 2:16, 17). The consequences of mankind’s willful disobedience against the Lord was death (Gen. 2:17; Rm. 6:23); the entire creation was cursed (Gen. 3:17) and the parent’s of everyone were excluded from the presence of God (Gen. 3:23, 24). In Adam’s fall, all mankind inherited a legacy of sin (Rm.5:17) that accounts for a universal condition of sin for all of humanity (Rm. 3:23). Every individual is responsible for his or her own sin as we all willfully pursue the same rebellion against God. Since mankind is in a fallen state of sin and under the penalty of death, all must either pay the price for his/her sin or accept thefree pardon offered by God in Jesus Christ (Rm.6:23). Our only hope is spiritual rebirth through faith in the risen Lord (Jn.3). God’s Word teaches that belief in Christ is the only way to approach a Holy God; all others are objects of God’s wrath (Jn. 3:35, 36). We believe that every person will be accountable for the revelation he or she has received and how that person responds to what he or she knows; (Rm. 1:18-20) so men cannot plead ignorance for continuing in sin.
The atonement is the means by which God shows mercy to sinners. This reconciliation between fallen mankind and Holy God was accomplished by the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The death of Christ is substitutionary in so much as theLord Jesus took our penalty of death (Rm. 6:23) and completed our responsibility to God. We believe that no other offering could be acceptable to God and redemption is exclusively through faith in the Risen Savior (Acts 4:12). The effects of receiving, by faith, pardon from the consequences of sin is our passage from “death to life” (I Jn. 3:14) and are “new” creations” (II Cor. 5:17) “created in Christ. Jesus to do good works” (Eph. 2:10); and in an eternal sense: we have no fear of condemnation (Rm. 8:1) but will reign with Him (II Tim. 2:12). Prior to the sacrificial death of the Lord people relied on the Levitical system of sacrifices for atonement: salvation remained by faith in God’s revealed truth and provision for our sin (Heb 11).
Justification is that act of God that declares a believing sinner righteous and acceptable. Our grounds for a right standing before God is based solely in Christ (Rm.3:24, I Cor. 1:30). The solution for our fallen condition is justification is based on our acceptance of a free gift (In. 1:12; Eph 2:8, 9) by faith. The saving faith will be accompanied by repentance (II Peter 3:9, I Cor. 20:21), and confession that “Jesus is Lord” (Rm. 10:9). The only scriptural place for “works” in relation to Biblical justification is that our conduct will be ~ evidence of our position in Christ (Eph. 2:10, James 2:18-20).
I believe in the literal bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 24:23-40) and anticipate the same condition for myself at the rapture (“catching up”) of the saints (I Thess. 4:17, I Cor. 15). We believe that, whereas the resurrection of the righteous will take place at the second coming of Christ (I Cor. 15:53); The unsaved will also be resurrected at the Great White Throne judgment following Millennial Rule of Christ on the Earth (Rev. 20:1-15). The central issue of hope that I hold in Christ is that I will be like Him (I Jn. 3:2, 3) and be with Him for eternity.
We believe that every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will participate in “eternal life”; that state of being united and in fellowship with God for eternity.Thisis often referred to in Scripture as our participation in the Glory of God (Col.I:27) when we will enjoy His presence without any impediment (I Cor. 13:12). We believe that Heaven is a real and literal place where the righteous will spend eternity with full consciousness (Jn. 14:1-4, Heb. 11:10).
By contrast, we believe in the literal resurrection of the unjust/unsaved and their eternal designation to a literal Hell (Rev. 20:15). Hell will be a place for eternal torment (Mt.13:42) characterized by eternal separation from God. The state of eternal damnation is the natural consequence of rejecting God’s only provision for salvation (Jn 3:18) so in that sense people choose their eternal state. There is no transitional state such as “purgatory” for believers since we immediately go into the presence of Christ at death. For the nonbeliever, however, Hades (GK.) and/or Sheol (Heb) is the intermediate state of misery, according to the Lord Jesus Himself (Lk. 16:23, Mt 11:23). The eternal state of judgment will be the Lake of Fire reserved for anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:11-15).
The Virgin Birth
We believe that Jesus Christ had no human father and was born of a woman who was a virgin (Is.7:14, Lk. 1:26-35). Christ’s birth by a virgin was indispensable for Him to be the Son of the Most High and the perfect and Holy “Emmanuel” (literally “God with us” see Mt. 1:23). If Joseph or any other man was Jesus’ father,
He would not have been the Holy One of God but just another man who needed a Savior. The virgin conception is the foundation to the sinless nature of Christ and can not be compromised if our salvation is valid. Any limits to Christ’s power and authority as Almighty God in the incarnation was made by choice. The fullness of His deity was still intact and available at His command but He chose to set aside His glory in obedience to the Father’s will (Phil. 2:6-11).
We believe that sanctification is the process and position we are called to in Christ by which we are transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Himself. Biblical sanctification is based on theliteral root word meaning “set apart”. The same meaning is advanced in the terms saint, holy and sanctified. In one sense our position in Jesus Christ makes us sanctified; “set apart” ones (Acts 20:32, I Cor. 1:2, I Cor. 6:11).
In still another sense we are commanded to conduct ourselves in a manner that is consistent with our position in Christ. So, the concept is both positional and practical. This is not to suggest that our sanctification is progressive. The experiential aspect of our sanctification is the result of our regenerate condition and is not the process by which we attain our salvation (Rm. 12:1, 6:1-10). Ultimately our sanctification will be complete at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus (Rm.8:29) when we can be totally conformed to His likeness in the resurrection (I Jn 3:1-3). Until that time we strive to live worthy of the high calling we have in Christ through obedience to God’s revealed truth in Scripture (II Tim. 3:16, 17).
We believe in the ministry and activity of the “third person” of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. God indwells every believer at the moment of conversion (Rm. 8:9) and His presence is necessary for regeneration (Titus 2:5). All believers are filled (Eph. 5:18) with and baptized by the Spirit (ICor.12:13) at the time we are born again. The Holy Spirit is that agent that empowers believers to live a sanctified life.
The Spirit also has given “grace” gifts for the purpose of building up the church (I Cor.14:12, I Peter 4:10) to the praise of God through Jesus Christ (I Peter 4:11). John 14:15-26 offers a powerful statement of the function of the Spirit in the believer’s life. The Spirit’s presence is evidenced by comfort, instruction, empowerment, and discernment. The Spirit of Truth is essential to the believer’s armor in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). The “belt of Truth”, the “sword of the Spirit” and prayer “in the Spirit” must all be in place for effective standing firm in battle.
Nothing can take the place of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer. Through Him we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). We are infinitely richer than all the billionaires of the world put together because what we possess is an eternal inheritance. (John MacArthur Jr, The Ministry of the Holy Spirit, 1988.)
We believe in the eternal security of every born again believer in Jesus Christ. Just as God took the initiative in my salvation by choosing me to be saved (Eph 1:5), He also takes the initiative to insure my continued salvation. Our salvation is guaranteed by the word of God (In 10:28) and is dependant on no works from the recipient (Eph.2:8). That individual who is “born from above” cannot sin oneself into un-rebirth; though persistent sin has various consequences (I Cor. 11:30).
The issue of security is often muddled because of our experience with individuals we have known that have “fallen away” from the faith and seem to have lost their salvation. Ultimately, God will judge the intentions of everyone’s heart and many who appeared to be believers were not saved at all (Mt. 25:31-46). Our responsibility in salvation is to live according to God’s Word and be found obedient to the truth revealed in Scripture. Our sin will not cancel our elect or chosen (Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 5:21; Tit. 1:1; 2 John 1) status or our eternal home with the Father. Ephesians 1:4 states clearly that “He chose us [elected us] in Him before the foundation of the world.” That decision in eternity past was purposeful and based in the Sovereign administration of God and did not/does not depend in any way on our good or bad works. Our conduct as Christians is motivated by our devotion to our Lord and not fear that He will reject us as His own. Our salvation is by grace not works. That includes entering and remaining in our position of justification in Christ.
Finally, we would have to say that if it is possible to fall from salvation back into condemnation, we believe that God’s Word would give clear criteria for the loss of salvation. The Bible carefully spells out the criteria for our state of judgment apart from faith in Christ, and it plainly gives the simple criteria for salvation. However, we can’t find any such clear criteria for losing salvation. There is no answer to the question: How much sin, and for how long, is sufficient to negate a believer’s regeneration. The issue of heaven and hell is important enough that if one could forfeit salvation, a clear statement of how would be expected from a just God. Such a clear criteria does not exist in God’s Word.
The Return of the Lord Jesus Christ
We believe in the literal (resurrected) bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our perspective on this issue is consistent with the theological positions known as Pre-millennialism and Pre-tribulationism. Our perspective is, in very brief terms: Christ will return for the church to close of this present age or “church age” with the event known as the “rapture” or catching up of the saints, past and present. This event is followed by seven years of “Tribulation”, the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week (see Daniel 9:24-27). This will be a time when God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth. At the close of the seven year period Christ will return and set up His Kingdom on the earth for 1000 years. This period of time is often referred to as the “Millennium”. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity with the unsaved of all ages. (Dan.9:25-27; 1Cor.15:42-44, 51-54; I Thes.4:13-18, Rev.4:1, 22:21).
We believe in a literal being known commonly as Satan, the Adversary. We believe that Satan is a created being, formerly of highest angelic rank (Isa.14:12-14) but fell from his esteemed position because of pride. Satan is called “the ruler of this present age” (2 Cor. 4:4) but his activities are still governed and limited by God’s sovereignty. Satan is not simply a force or influence, but an actual spirit being with personality, power, and intent. He is depicted this way in Scripture and our Lord Jesus understood him in these terms (Jn 8:44; Mt.13:19, 39; Mk.4:15). Even though Satan is in opposition to God, he is by no means equal to God. This inequality includes the idea that the Devil’s power is as great in opposite. Satan does not possess the qualities that characterize God, such as omniscience, omnipresence, or omnipotence. Satan’s eventual destiny is to spend eternity in torment in the Lake of Fire at the end of the millennial kingdom.
We believe the true church is in a general sense all those who are “called out” and placed into the body of Christ through spiritual rebirth from above by faith in the Risen Savior. The term ekklesia is also used for believers meeting in a local sense devoting “themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to one fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2: 42). Additionally, these local church assemblies function as the administrators of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper by the directive of the Lord Jesus. Baptism is symbolic of our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ, our identification with Him in His sufferings and triumph over sin. The Lord’s Supper is given by command of our Lord for remembrance of the body and blood of Christ (I Cor. 11:24, 25). The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of His “death until He comes” (I Cor.11:26). The church is to be an agent of discipline among believers (Mt.18:15-20,I Cor. 5:5, II Cor. 13:1-4) and is to be governed by overseers/elders who meet Scriptural qualifications outlined in I Timothy 3:2-6 and Titus 1:6-9.
· We affirm that the above doctrinal statement represents our personal beliefs