Why do we need this?
Christianity is different from every other religion in this way: The Christian isn’t saved by ‘doing’, rather, the Christian is saved by ‘believing’. It is his belief in particular truths taught in the Bible that ultimately saves him, the chief of which is his belief in Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever *believes* in him should not perish but have eternal life…Whoever *believes* in him is not condemned” (John 3:16, 18). In fact, that’s why Christians are oftentimes referred to as ‘believers’. The Bible, more than any other religious text, puts a premium on right belief. But not only are Christians supposed to believe the right things, we’re also supposed to “contend” for these right beliefs: “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
For all of these reasons, throughout church history Christians have found it helpful to summarize the Bible’s teaching on the most crucial topics for salvation and the Christian life and then compile these doctrinal summaries into confessions of faith. In this tradition, Grace Bible Church has agreed on the following confession of faith. These are the doctrines about which we believe the Bible is abundantly clear and which are central to Christianity.
We believe that the sixty-six books of the Bible are the Word of God, meaning our reaction to God’s Word is our reaction to God. The Bible is fully inspired by God, meaning, the human authors wrote the exact words He wanted written, with no exceptions. Therefore, God’s word contains no errors and is the final authority over every domain of knowledge to which it speaks. It should be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it commands and trusted in all that it promises. The Bible is designed by God for his children and is therefore both sufficient and clear for man to carry out all of his responsibilities before the Lord.
The center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, His person and work, and the explanation of how sinful man can be reconciled to God through him. We would not know the way of salvation through Christ except for the Scriptures and so, God’s Word to us is an exceedingly gracious gift. It is the only instrument that God promises will always accomplish his purposes and should therefore be the center of ministry in the individual Christian life and the life of the church.
The Triune God
We believe there is only one true God and that he has existed from all eternity in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. Eternal and unchangeable, God perfectly and completely knows all things, past, present, and future, and sovereignly rules over every detail of the universe, always bringing about his eternal good purposes. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and is therefore worthy to receive all glory and worship.
Being perfectly good, God loves goodness and hates evil and yet, he is gracious, merciful, and patient, a forgiver of sinners and the rewarder of those who seek him. He is infinitely perfect and complete in every regard, without need of anything that comes from outside himself. It is only because of his deep love for sinners and desire for his own glory that he includes sinful humans in his good plans.
The Creation of Man
We believe that God created human beings in his own image, setting mankind apart from every other part of creation. Man and woman were created uniquely to serve as God’s representatives and to care for, manage, and govern His creation, living in devoted fellowship with their Maker. Being the same type of creature—humans—but different kinds of human—male and female—Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes God’s will for sexual relations as between a husband and wife exclusively.
In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather, complement each other in mutually enriching ways. In this way, marriage ultimately serves as a shadow or picture of the union between Christ and his church. The husband is to exercise leadership in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife is to submit to her husband in a way that models the love and trust of the church for her Lord. Adam and Eve belonged to the created order that God himself declared to be very good, meaning that gender is part of the goodness of God’s creation and should never be sidelined for reasons of cultural developments.
The Fall of Man
We believe that man was created in a state of holiness and perfect communion with God, having everything he needed for a full and perfect life, but by voluntary disobedience, he turned his back on God, betraying him and bringing sin into the perfect world God had created. As a result of breaking God’s command, man fell from his holy and happy state into one that is marked by alienation—alienation from God, from other people and from the rest of creation—and which ends in death.
Adam was humanity’s representative and therefore, the consequence of the one man’s sin is that all mankind are now sinners. Beginning at the fall of man in Genesis 3, humans are now corrupted by sin in every part of their nature—physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, and spiritually—and are wholly given to seeking the temporary gratification of the world, Satan, and their own sinful desires. This sinning is not by constraint, but by choice. As a result of all this, humankind is under fair condemnation to eternal judgment without defense or excuse.
The Work of Christ
We believe that, moved by love and in obedience to his Father, the eternal Son who is the second Person of the Trinity became human: the Word became flesh, fully God and fully human, one Person in two natures. The man Jesus was conceived through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the virgin Mary. Although facing every temptation common to man, He lived a completely sinless life, was crucified, arose bodily from the dead, and ascended into heaven.
Salvation is dependent on each of these movements in the life of Christ. In his incarnation, he became one of us—a human—so that that he could be a fitting sacrifice for humans. In his life, he was completely without sin—perfectly loving God and others—so that he could be a spotless sacrifice for humans. In his crucifixion, he bore the full punishment of God’s wrath on our behalf, standing in our place, substituting himself for us. Jesus died the death that we, as sinners, should have died. In his resurrection, not only did he defeat Satan, but God the Father showed the entire universe that Jesus is the innocent Son of God meaning that death could never hold onto him. In his ascension to heaven, he has been forever exalted as Lord, has prepared a place for us to be with him for eternity and is continually interceding for us. Jesus is the only one who has done or can do any of this. Therefore, salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.
The Way of Salvation
We believe that the only way for someone to receive the benefits of Christ’s work is to repent and place faith in Jesus alone. Repentance is the conscious decision from the heart to turn away from sins and renounce the past life lived in rebellion against God and is always accompanied by faith, which is turning toward Christ, truly believing in and relying on His person and work and trusting that He saves those who come to him.
We also believe the Bible teaches that, left alone, man will always refuse to turn from his rebellion against God and will continue to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness. This is why then, to be saved, a sinner must first be given spiritual rebirth, whereby the Holy Spirit softens his heart to see his complete sinfulness and opens his eyes to see the beauty of the Gospel. It’s this rebirth that secures voluntary repentance from sin and trust in Jesus Christ.
We believe that election is God’s gracious choice of specific individuals for everlasting life. This choice took place in eternity past and was not based on any foreseen merit or virtue in those God chooses, but instead, is based completely on His mere mercy and grace. This doctrine, along with justification by faith alone, secures the gracious nature of the gospel and should lead the Christian to marvel at God’s free love and mercy.
The way in which God’s election and man’s responsibility fit together is a mystery not fully revealed in Scripture. However, the doctrine of election in no way lessens our responsibility to pursue Jesus and encourage others to pursue him. In fact, God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation emboldens the Christian in his personal walk and evangelism since he realizes that the results are ultimately in God’s hands.
We believe that justification is God’s recognition and pronouncement of a full and final innocent verdict over someone’s life. Jesus Christ is the only human who has ever been worthy of this verdict from God and so, for sinners, the only way to be justified is by being united to Him. This union with Christ is made possible by the means of faith alone wherein Jesus’ righteousness is credited to the sinner and he is, therefore, pronounced innocent by God. This pronouncement isn’t based on any good works or efforts on the part of the sinner, rather, his justification is based completely on the good works and efforts of Jesus Christ. In fact, to add any requirement, besides faith, for justification is to fall short of justification and thereby, lose the gospel. Justification is the Gospel blessing that secures all others because it is the one that establishes a sinner’s relationship with God.
God’s justification of sinners is instant and permanent, occurring the moment trust in Christ first takes place. It is also complete, covering every particular sin—past, present and future. The innocent verdict pronounced over a sinner at his conversion is the same innocent verdict that will be pronounced over him at God’s throne on the last day.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, fully divine. The Spirit was sent from heaven by the Father and the Son to glorify Jesus by convicting the world of sin and applying salvation to God’s people. The Spirit grants new birth to the dead sinner, leading him to repentance and faith in Christ and baptizes him into union with the Savior.
Further, the Holy Spirit, as the Helper, remains present with and in the Christian, sanctifying, guiding, instructing, equipping, reviving, empowering, and comforting him and distributes particular gifts to him for the building up of the church. The Holy Spirit’s presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will ultimately bring his salvation to completion.
We believe that sanctification is the lifelong process whereby the Holy Spirit transforms the Christian more and more into the image of Jesus Christ in moral and spiritual maturity. Unlike justification, sanctification does require effort from the Christian, in particular, that he would continually use God’s appointed means in this process, namely, reading God’s Word, self-examination, continual faith and repentance, gathering with the church, and prayer.
Even though sanctification requires effort from the Christian, pride is excluded, because even this process is ultimately due to God’s sovereign and gracious work, giving him all the glory. Although sanctification will never reach perfection for any believer in this life, everyone who has truly trusted in Jesus Christ will be sanctified. True faith in Christ is always accompanied by a changed life.
We believe that the Christian will always ultimately persevere in his faith in Jesus Christ which leads to eternal life. The salvation God promises to someone the moment he first trusts in Christ is a full salvation that includes not only justification and sanctification, but also glorification, as a single gracious gift. Therefore, final perseverance in the faith is guaranteed to the Christian and is, therefore, the distinguishing mark between true Christians and those who merely claim to be Christians.
Perseverance is not dependent on any ability in man. It is God’s preserving power that keeps the Christian fixed firmly in his hand.
We believe that, as God saves sinners, he brings them into a spiritual family called “the church”, made up of all Christians everywhere, for all time. This universal church is manifested in local churches that serve as the promoters and defenders of the gospel and the corporate dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. A local church is a group of baptized Christians, under the leadership of elders, who regularly gather together to hear the word proclaimed, take the Lord’s Supper, pray and sing together, give financial offerings to the Lord, give material care to one another, encourage one another in the gospel, and bring others into the church through baptism or transfer of membership. In all these ways, the local church is the venue in which Christians are responsible to oversee one another’s spiritual health, which, in the case of prolonged unrepentant sin, includes walking through the process of corrective church discipline as Jesus outlines in Matthew 18.
There are two biblical offices in the local church—elders and deacons. Elders (or pastors or overseers), are the ones held chiefly responsible for shepherding the church by teaching, praying, leading, and setting a Christian example and are governed by the requirements found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. In the ministry of the local church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ to their full potential, but God has given the distinctive leadership role within the church, the office of elder, to qualified men. Deacons are the ones responsible for executing any tasks that free up the elders for the ministry of the word and prayer and are governed by the requirements found in Acts 6 and 1 Timothy 3.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
We believe that Jesus has given two unique gospel symbols to his church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is the public announcement of a believer’s entrance into the body of Christ. The Lord’s Supper represents the Christian’s ongoing relationship with Jesus and with the local church as he symbolically partakes of the body and blood of the Savior. These two symbols, while not affecting one’s justification, are commanded by Christ and are divinely ordained means of grace in the Christian life.
The Return of Christ
We believe in the future, personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as mankind’s ultimate Judge and his kingdom will be fully and finally established. At this time, which is unknown to all but God, there will be a bodily resurrection of both the Christian and the non-Christian—the non-Christian to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell, as Jesus himself taught, and the Christian to eternal blessing in the presence of the God in the new heaven and the new earth where there will be no sickness, sadness, or death.
On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all her sins purged and the wretched effects of sin forever cast out. God’s people will finally be in his full presence for all eternity, to the praise of his glorious grace.