Where We Stand
- Articles of Faith
- Gift of Tongues
- Leadership in the Church
- The Assurance of the Believer
- Social Issues
- Human Sexuality
Articles of Faith
The Triune God The Bible Mankind
Salvation The Church The Last Things
Articles of Practice
Ordinances Divine Healing The Lord’s Day Christian Stewardship
Dedication of Children Marriage & the Home Divorce
Practices & Conduct Attitude toward Civil Government
Attitude toward Strife & Military Service Oaths
1. The Triune God
a. We believe that the one and only true God is Spirit: self‑existent, infinite, personal, unchangeable, and eternal in His being; perfect in holiness, love, justice, goodness, wisdom, and truth; omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; Creator and Sustainer of all things, visible and invisible; both immanent and transcendent to creation; eternally existent in three persons, one in substance and co‑equal in power and glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Gen.1:1; Ex. 3:14, 34:6; Deut. 6:4, 32:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 90:2, 103:8, 116:5, 147:5; Isa. 6:3, 40:28, 57:15; Jer. 23:23-24; Mal. 3:6; Matt. 28:19; John 4:24, 14:16; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 8:4; 2 Cor. 13:14; Col. 1:17; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 1:2, 12 and 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 4:10‑16
b. We believe that the Father is begotten of none. He is the eternal Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Author of salvation, the Father of all who are born into newness of life through faith in Christ.
Gen. 1:1; Ps. 90:2; John 13:3, 16:28; Eph. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:2-3; 1 John 2:23, 3:1
c. We believe in the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ; in His eternal generation from the Father; in His incarnation by which He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, thus uniting the divine and human natures in their completeness into the one unique person of Jesus Christ; in His sinless life and miraculous works; in His vicarious death to make atonement for the sins of the world; in His bodily resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father; in His sovereign power and lordship; in His present mediatorial ministry as the believer’s Advocate; in His second coming in power and glory.
Isa. 53:6; Matt. 28:18‑20; Luke 1:35; John 1:1,14,18; Acts 2:22, 24‑32; Rom. 1:3-4, 8:34; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Eph. 1:19‑22; Col. 3:4; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:8, 4:15, 7:25; 1 Pet. 1:18, 2:22 and 24, 3:18; 1 John 2:1-2
d. We believe that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God, proceeding from the Father and sent by the Son, is one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternally God. His office and work is to reprove or convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; to regenerate those who repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; to sanctify, empower, teach, guide, and comfort the believer.
The Scriptures reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in the church to be that of uniting believers into the body of Christ, possessing it as the temple of God, equipping it with gifts and graces for service, giving it the body of inspired truth and imparting to it the spirit of illumination and guidance into all truth, and presiding over and guiding the church into the will of God.
Matt. 28:19; Luke 24:49; John 3:5-6, 14:16‑18 and 26, 15:26, 16:7‑14; Acts 1:8, 2:1‑4, 13:2‑4, 15:28; Rom. 12:6‑8; 1 Cor. 2:10‑12, 6:19-20, 12:4‑11, 12:13; 2 Cor. 6:16, 13:14; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 2:21-22; 2 Thess. 2:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:2, 1 John 2:20‑27
2. The Bible
We believe that the Bible, consisting of the sixty‑six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God given by divine inspiration and is inerrant in the original manuscripts. The Bible today remains the unchanging authority in matters of Christian faith and practice. It is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. (See Position Paper IX: “Biblical Inerrancy.”)
Ps. 119:9, 89, 105; Matt. 24:35; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:25; 2 Pet. 1:21
a. Creation. We believe that the first man, Adam, was created by an immediate act of God and not by a process of evolution. Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God, possessing personality and holiness; in their original state Adam and Eve enjoyed sweet fellowship with God, the purpose of their creation being that they might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Because all people have been created in the likeness of God they are self‑conscious personalities capable of free and rational choice.
Gen. 1:27; Eph. 1:5-6
b. The Fall. We believe that our first parents did not remain in the happy state of their original creation, but, being deluded through the subtlety of Satan, voluntarily disobeyed the positive command of God, and thus were alienated from God and incurred upon themselves and their posterity the sentence of death both physical and spiritual. Even the earth was cursed because of Adam’s sin. In consequence of this act of disobedience, the entire human race has become so corrupted that in every heart there is by nature that evil disposition which eventually leads to responsible acts of sin and to just condemnation. Also through the fall of Adam, people have become so completely ruined that they have neither will nor power to turn to God and if left to themselves would remain in their sin forever.
Gen. 3:13, 16-17; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 7:7ff.; 1 John 1:8
c. His Redemption. We believe that God has provided redemption for everyone through the mediatorial work of Christ, who voluntarily offered Himself on Calvary as a perfect sacrifice for sin, the just suffering for the unjust, bearing sin’s curse and tasting death for everyone.
John 10:17-18; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 1:15, 2:5-6; Tit. 2:11-12; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:18
We believe since all people are sinners and guilty before God and are dead in trespasses and sin and therefore are unable to save themselves, God has out of His infinite love given His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to become their Savior.
Matt. 1:21; John 3:14‑17, 6:44; Rom. 3:10‑12, 19, 20, 23; Eph. 2:1‑3, 8-9
a. Repentance. We believe that genuine repentance is a necessary attitude and act of one’s will that makes it possible for a holy and just God to forgive one’s sins. As an attitude it involves a knowledge of, a change of mind toward, and a godly sorrow for sin; a proper reverence for God’s holiness; and a surrender to God. As an act it means confessing and forsaking sin. Repentance is one’s appropriate response to the grace of God in conviction. As a fruit of repentance, insofar as possible where sin has been committed against another, restitution should be made.
Ps. 51:3-4; Prov. 28:13; Isa. 6:1‑5, 55:6-7; Matt. 3:2 and 8, 4:17; Luke 13:3, 15:18, 18:13, 19:8; John 16:8‑11; Acts 11:18; Rom. 2:4, 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; 2 Tim. 2:25
b. Faith. We believe faith must accompany repentance and is the act of the will whereby one embraces the promises of God and appropriates to oneself personally the provisions of God’s grace. It is resting in the completeness and adequacy of the atoning merit of Christ’s sacrifice as the sole ground and hope of salvation. Faith must be active throughout the life of the believer and must manifest itself in obedience and good works.
Acts 13:38-39, 16:31; Rom. 4:3, 5:1; Eph. 2:8‑10; Heb. 11:6; James 2:17
c. Justification and Regeneration. We believe that when the requirements of repentance and faith have been met, God justifies and regenerates the sinner. Justification is a judicial act absolving from guilt and punishment and restoring to divine favor. Justification has to do with the changing of the sinner’s standing before God. Regeneration has to do with the changing of the sinner’s nature through the impartation of divine life. Regeneration is a spiritual quickening, a new birth. This experience is witnessed to by the indwelling Holy Spirit who produces in the heart a desire to do the will of God.
John 3:3 and 5, 5:24; Acts 22:10; Rom. 5:1 and 9, 4:4-5, 8:16 and 33; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:1; 2 Pet. 1:4
d. Sanctification and Filling with the Holy Spirit. We believe that sanctification is the work of God in making people holy. It is the will of God. It is provided in the atonement, and is experienced through faith by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word and the blood. While the divine work of making people holy begins in repentance and regeneration, yet through a subsequent crisis experience the believer is to die to self, to be purified in heart, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that he may be separated wholly unto God to serve Him in righteousness and holiness. After the crisis experience, the believer is to be perfected in holiness in the fear of God and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Ps. 4:3; John 17:17; Acts 15:8-9; Rom. 6:19 and 22, 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 2:20, 6:14; Eph. 5:26; Col. 3:3, 1 Thess. 4:3, 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:2 and 15-16; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 5:6
e. Resurrection and Glorification. We believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, and that because He lives we too shall live. The Scriptures teach that at the return of the Lord the bodies of the righteous dead will be raised and the living believers with them shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and will be changed so that both will have literal, spiritual, and immortal bodies like unto Christ’s own glorious body. Our glorification is God’s final act in our salvation and will be realized when we see Him as He is.
1 Cor. 15:3‑8 and 19‑23; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:14‑17; 1 John 3:2
5. The Church
a. We believe that the invisible and universal church is an organism composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who have been called out from the world, separated from sin, and vitally united by faith to Christ, its living Head and sovereign Lord.
1 Cor. 12:12‑27; Eph. 1:22-23, 4:15-16; Col. 1:18; Heb. 12:23
b. We believe that the visible and local church is an organized body of believers in Christ who are voluntarily joined together, and who meet at regular times for teaching in the Word, fellowship of the saints, observance of the ordinances, administration of discipline, exercise in prayer, and participation in public worship and evangelism.
Matt. 18:15‑17; Acts 2:42, 46, 47 and 20:7; 1 Cor. 5:1‑4, 16:2
c. We believe the characteristic marks of the members of the true church are faith in Jesus as the Son of God, love for God and for those of like faith, obedience to God’s commandments, and victory over the world.
John 13:35; 1 John 3:14, 4:2, 5:1‑5
d. We believe the primary duties of the church consist of glorifying God and exalting the Lord Jesus Christ, of building itself up in the most holy faith, and of preaching the Gospel in all the world as a witness to all men.
Matt. 28:18‑20; Acts 1:8, 20:32; Eph. 1:5-6, 3:21, 4:11‑16; 1 Pet. 4:11; Jude 20-21
6. The Last Things
a. The Return of Christ. We believe that the second coming of Christ is the hope of the church and will be personal, bodily, visible, premillennial, and redemptive. His return, for which we must be constantly prepared, is a source of encouragement and consolation, a motive for pure and holy living, and an inspiration for ministry and mission. Christ will descend into the clouds, where His church, the waiting bride, will be caught up to meet Him. Subsequently, He will return to earth with His church to judge and rule the entire world.
Matt. 24:14, 36-51, 25:1-13; Mark 13:10, 32‑37; Luke 21:27-28; John 14:1‑3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:1-4; 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11; Tit. 2:12-13; Heb. 9:28; James 5:7-8; 1 John 2:28-3:3; Rev. 1:7, 22:12-13.
b. The Tribulation. We believe that in the final years of this present age an unprecedented time of intensified persecution and divine judgments will occur worldwide. This period of “great tribulation” will culminate with the coming of Christ who will triumph at the Battle of Armageddon, subdue evil and fully establish His kingdom on earth.
Matt.24:15-31; 1 Cor.15:24-25; 2 Thess.2:1-10; Rev.6:1-19:21
c. The Millennium. We believe that after Christ returns with His church, He will reign on earth for a thousand years. During this period, Satan will be bound and Christ will demonstrate His sovereign power over evil by ruling the world in righteousness.
Ps.2:7-9, 98:9; Isa.9:3-7, 11:6-9; Dan.7:13-14; Rev. 20:1-6
d. The Judgments. We believe that no condemnation awaits those in Christ who by faith were judged as sinners at the cross and have passed out of death into life. However, as children in the family of God, they are being disciplined and chastened during this lifetime as God conforms them to the image of His Son. Their lives and works will be judged for rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those without faith in Christ will appear before God for final judgment and condemnation at the Great White Throne.
Ps.96:13; Eccl.12:14; Matt.25:14-46; John 5:24; Rom.8:1, 29; 1 Cor.3:8-15, 4:2-5, 11:32; 2 Cor.5:10; 2 Tim.4:8; Heb.9:27, 12:5-8; Rev.20:11-15
e. The Eternal State. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead to one of two eternal destinies—heaven or hell. Ultimately, all unbelievers will be justly sentenced to eternal conscious punishment in hell together with Satan and all his angels. All believers in Christ will live forever, experiencing eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace.
Isa.65:17, 66:22; Dan.12:2; Matt.25:42, 46; Mark 9:42-48; John 5:28-29, 14:1-3; Eph. 1:3-14; Phil. 3:20-21; 2 Thess.1:8-9; 2 Pet.3:13; Rev.14:9-11, 20:10-15, 21:1-22:7
Articles of Practice
The Christian ordinances are two in number, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are the outward rites appointed by Christ to be administered in each local church, not as means of salvation, but as visible signs and seals of its reality.
a. Baptism. We believe that baptism by water is the symbol of one’s union by faith with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection, and constitutes the public confession of these spiritual realities to the world and is the answer of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is therefore to be administered by immersion to those who have been born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who give evidence of the genuineness of their salvation.
Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38‑41, 8:36‑39; Rom. 6:3‑5; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; compare Mark 16:16
b. The Lord’s Supper. We believe the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ Himself on the night of His betrayal. We believe that it is as a memorial of Christ’s death, a center of communion and fellowship, a testimony to saving faith, and a visible seal of Christ’s redemptive covenant. It is to be observed only by the children of God and consists in partaking of the consecrated emblems of bread and the fruit of the vine, which symbolize the death of Christ for the remission of our sins and our continual dependence upon Him for life and sustenance until He comes. While the Lord’s Supper is open to all true believers regardless of denomination, each one is strongly exhorted to “examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
Matt. 26:26‑30; Luke 22:15‑20; 1 Cor. 10:16, 11:23-24
2. Divine Healing
In the redemptive work of Christ provision has been made for man’s physical healing. This benefit may be realized by God’s children on the basis of the conditions set forth in God’s Word.
Gen. 3:16‑19; Job 2:7; Isa. 53:4-5; Matt. 8:16-17; Mark 6:13; Acts 10:38; James 5:13‑16; 1 Pet. 2:24; compare Mark 16:17-18
3. The Lord’s Day
The Lord’s Day is of divine origin. The Jewish Sabbath was obligatory upon those who lived under the Jewish economy. Desecration of this day invoked the wrath and judgment of God. In this present age the first day of the week has been set aside as the Lord’s Day for rest and worship. This observance is commended to the followers of the Lord Jesus in commemoration of His glorious resurrection. The first day of the week has been kept as the Lord’s Day by the church from apostolic times. It is imperative that with great care and godly fear we honor the Lord’s Day.
John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; compare Gen. 2:1‑3; Ex. 20:8‑11; Num. 15:32‑36
4. Christian Stewardship
a. God’s ownership of all things creatively and redemptively is unquestioned in the Scriptures. Since we are saved by grace and the death of Christ provided our ransom, our whole being, body, soul, and spirit should be freely given to God, which is our reasonable service.
b. Not only does God claim our love and devotion, but He has made us stewards of what we have in time, talent, and temporal goods. Since giving of our means to support the Lord’s work is a scriptural injunction and an act of worship received and memorialized by our Lord, and since tithing antedates the Mosaic Law, was confirmed in the Law, and was approved by our Lord Jesus Christ, and since the New Testament clearly indicates that our giving is to be proportionate, believers are encouraged to adopt the system of tithing their income as a minimum expression of their stewardship. Our stewardship in material things is to be motivated by the spirit and example of our Lord who freely gave Himself for us all.
Gen. 14:20, 28:22; Mal. 3:8, 10; Matt. 23:23; Acts 4:32; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:9, 9:6-7
5. Dedication of Children
We believe that the Scriptures teach the divine concern for the well‑being of little children and their commitment to God. We, therefore, heartily encourage the formal dedication of little children in a public service of the church.
1 Sam. 1:24‑28; Matt. 19:13‑15
6. Marriage and the Home
a. Marriage is a sacred institution ordained of God and is an indissoluble union of one husband (born male) and one wife (born female) until parted by death. Marriage, which is the foundation of the family and the Christian home, should only be entered into in the fear and will of God. Accordingly, a believer should not be united in holy matrimony with an unbeliever.
Gen. 2:24; Deut. 7:3; Matt. 19:4‑6; 1 Cor. 7:7, 39; 2 Cor. 6:14‑17
b. Ministers and parents have an obligation to teach the sanctity of marriage and to warn against believers being yoked with unbelievers. Ministers should not knowingly officiate at the marriage of a believer and an unbeliever.
c. Ministers are forbidden from encouraging, blessing, or officiating same sex “marriages” or unions.
Gen. 2:24; Lev. 18:22; Matt. 19:4,5; Rom. 1:26,27; 1 Cor. 6:9,10
d. The home is a divinely ordained institution in which the husband is the head but serves its members by the law of love. Filial obedience is to be rendered by children in the spirit of mutual respect and love. The home is the most important institution in which to nurture children in the faith, and great care is to be exercised by pastors and parents in building homes that are genuinely and consistently Christian.
Deut. 6:4‑9; Ps. 78:4‑6; Eph. 5:22 and 25, 6:1‑4; Col. 3:18‑21
Divorce is viewed in the Scripture as contrary to God’s will. Christians shall seek by forbearance and forgiveness to preserve the marriage bond.
Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:15-16; Matt. 5:31-32, 19:3‑12; Mark 10:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:10‑16
a. Persons divorced and remarried who give evidence of being genuinely born again are eligible to be received into membership of the church.
b. Divorce between members of the church is an occasion of great tragedy. Such conduct brings the teaching and reality of Christian reconciliation under reproach and offenders are to be disciplined.
The church board shall direct the deacons or a special commission to counsel with the offenders and recommend proper disciplinary action to the church board, giving consideration to appropriate aspects of Article XIII.C.3.
Care should be exercised that such action be as redemptive as possible for all parties involved.
c. Ministers are to refrain from performing marriage ceremonies where one or both parties are divorced, except where adultery of the previous marriage partner is involved. Where such persons are recognized as living genuine Christian lives, and where there is good evidence that a true Christian marriage is intended, ministers are permitted at their discretion to solemnize the marriage.
d. See Article XII.E.2.d. on qualifications of ministers.
8. Practices and Conduct
The Scriptures clearly command that believers are not to be conformed to the worldview and lifestyle of the world of which they are a part, but, on the contrary, are to function as salt to prevent the spread of moral corruption and as light to dispel spiritual darkness. It is therefore imperative that they set high standards for their personal and collective life including the following:
a. Their disposition and attitudes be characterized by godliness and the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self‑control;
b. Their social relationships bear witness to Christ, their entire conduct reflecting the spiritual ideals of Christianity rather than the world; they shall not marry unbelievers, shall not hold membership in oath‑bound, secret societies and shall not compromise Christian principles in partnerships; and
c. Their bodies be treated as temples of the Holy Spirit thus making it inconsistent with both Christian testimony and sound principles of health to injure their influence or bodies by the use of tobacco, intoxicating beverages, narcotics and other harmful products.
Isa. 5:22; 1 Cor. 6:12, 19-20; 2 Cor. 6:14‑7:1; Gal. 5:18‑26; 1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:2‑4
9. Attitude Toward Civil Government
We believe that civil government is ordained of God for the welfare of society to promote and protect the good and to restrain and punish evil. Therefore, we consider it the duty of Christians to pray for rulers and for those that are in authority over them and to give due loyalty, respect, and obedience to them. Christians are also encouraged to take an active interest in government at all levels. Where the demands of civil law would militate against the supreme law and will of God, Christians should “obey God rather than men.”
Dan. 4:17; Matt. 22:17‑21; Acts 4:19, 5:29; Rom. 13:1‑4; 1 Tim. 2:1‑4; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14
10. Attitude Toward Strife and Military Service
a. We believe that the teaching of Scripture enjoins believers to love their enemies, to do good to them that hate them, to overcome evil with good, and inasmuch as possible, live peaceably with everyone. Therefore, we conclude that it is not fitting for the Christian to promote strife between nations, classes, groups, or individuals.
b. We recognize that sincere Christians have conscientious differences as to their understanding of the teaching of the Word of God with reference to their responsibility as Christian citizens to human government both in times of war and times of peace. We therefore exercise tolerance and understanding, and respect the individual conscience with regard to participation in war.
c. We further urge upon all the responsibility of searching the Scriptures with open heart and mind that their position may truly be one of Christian conviction and not of expediency.
d. Pastors are advised to instruct their churches and particularly their youth on the teaching of the Scriptures regarding war and its evils, and to seek to give guidance in the Word to those subject to call in the service of their country.
Matt. 5:43-44; Rom. 12:18 and 20-21, 13:1‑14
We believe a Christian’s life should be so transparent in its honesty and integrity that one’s word can be fully trusted without the swearing of a formal oath. A judicial oath may be taken without violation of the Scriptures; however, affirmation is encouraged.
Ex. 20:7; Matt. 5:33‑35, 37; Jas. 5:12; compare Rom. 1:9, 9:1-2; Heb. 6:13‑18
To sanctify is to set apart for holy use, to separate out from the profane for the sacred (Hebrew, qadesh; Greek, hagiazo). As with justification, sanctification is the work of God. It is a work of grace based on the merit of Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Through the work of Christ, God separates the believer from sin for the purpose of holiness, which is accomplished as the believer follows after the Spirit putting to death the misdeeds of the body (See Romans 6:22; 8:1-14).
The entire Christian life depends on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “…from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13,14). Peter also wrote that we are “God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood” (1 Peter 1:1,2). What then is involved in this sanctifying work of the Spirit in the believer? The full breadth of that work includes two dimensions. The first is initial sanctification that is positional in Christ and occurs when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior. The second is the experiential dimension that is expected and commanded of Christians. For example, note Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The moment one accepts Christ as Savior the believer dies to sin and becomes alive to holiness (Romans 6:2-4). Then Paul commands Christians to keep on counting themselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Christians should stop letting this age squeeze them into its mold but should continue permitting themselves to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
I. Initial Sanctification
To understand the full implication of what the work of sanctification includes, we must first appreciate the biblical truth involving our identification with Christ in His death on the cross. He not only died as our Redeemer, but He also died as our substitutionary Representative, paying the price for our sins. In Christ therefore, God sees every believer as being crucified with His Son and hence as a saint positionally sanctified in Him (Romans 6:6,7; 1 Cor. 1:30, 6:11; Galatians 2:20). Paul writes that God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin on behalf of us in order that we ourselves might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). The idea is that the Christian’s position in the mind of God is that of a person who died with Christ and is positionally sanctified. In God’s sight the Christian is viewed as never having sinned. Thus even the carnal Christians in Corinth (1 Cor. 3:1) could be truthfully called saints earlier in Paul’s letter (1 Cor. 1:2). However, one cannot read the New Testament or observe the lives of some Christians without concluding that not every Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit is “filled with the Holy Spirit,” that is, living according to His controlling leadership. It is a fact of the Bible that every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor.6:19,20) but not all are controlled by Him. (See Romans 7:14; Hebrews 5:11-6:12)
II. Experiential Sanctification
Positional sanctification, consequently, must be translated into one’s own personal life experience by the help of the Holy Spirit via the Word of God (John 17:17). This is that to which Paul refers when he writes to the Christians in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” While this experiential dimension of sanctification begins at conversion, substantial progress in holiness occurs when a believer willfully makes a complete commitment to the Lord’s control (Rom. 6:12,13; 12:1). Experiential sanctification involves three aspects.
A. The Decisive Aspect.
The decisive aspect is commanded by Paul of the Roman Christians in Romans 6:12,13 and exhorted in 12:1. He describes this aspect as the presenting of one’s bodily members to God by a determined effort of will. This placing of one’s bodily members at God’s disposal can begin at conversion, as it did for the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46). However, more often than not it begins with a resolute decision subsequent to salvation to make Christ Lord of every area of one’s life. This decision usually follows a period of education and spiritual growth until one comes to realize that there is more to the Christian life than what has been experienced to that point in time. This is what Jesus had in mind when He said in Matthew 16:24 that, if anyone wished to come after Him as a disciple, he would have to deny himself and take up his cross, thus putting himself at God’s disposal. Some call this decision “dedication,” “consecration,” or “a crisis experience.” This is the point when, to the best of one’s ability and with all the light available at the time, a person gives all of one’s self and bodily members over to God’s control and God then “baptizes” or “fills” the individual with His Spirit. (Compare Acts 1:5 and Acts 2:4.)
B. The Progressive Aspect.
From then on, the progressive aspect of sanctification continues at a more rapid pace. In Romans 6:11 Paul commands the Christians to count themselves dead repeatedly to sinning of all kinds and alive unto God every time they are tempted to sin. In Romans 12:2, believers are to stop letting this age conform them into its likeness and they are to continue letting the Lord transform their living by the renewing of their minds. As Jesus stated in Matthew 16:24, they are to continue following and obeying Him and His teachings. The intent is that the longer we live this progressively holy life, the more our lives will become conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, God’s Son (Rom. 8:29). We are to continue being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
The Spirit-filled life is a life lived under the control of the Holy Spirit using the Bible as one’s guide. This does not mean that a Spirit-filled Christian will never yield to temptation and sin. However, if one should sin, confession should be made immediately and personal forgiveness accepted by faith (1 John 1:9-2:2). It is to be remembered that the fruit of the Spirit does not come automatically to people still involved with sin dwelling in their members (Rom. 7:14-25). The fullness of the Spirit does not make obedience to God an automatic thing nor the demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit something easy to exhibit on all occasions. However, this does not mean that the ideal should not be one’s aim. New circumstances may call for renewed dedication of one’s body to God as a living sacrifice when the Spirit leads and as the Christian matures in Christ. All of this involves lifelong growth and development in Christ-likeness through the continual sanctifying work of the Spirit by the truth of His Word (John 17:17).
C. The Completed Aspect.
Finally, the sanctifying work of the Spirit is completed, in one sense, at the time of physical death when the spirit of the Christian enters into the Lord’s presence (Heb. 12:22, 23). However, sanctification will be completed in the final sense, when the Christian’s body is resurrected and glorified (1 Cor. 15:51-54; Phil. 3:20,21; 1 John 3:2). Then the believer will attain complete sanctification for all eternity.
To reiterate, the Holy Spirit enters and indwells the life of an individual at his/her conversion, and sainthood begins positionally (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19,20). The Spirit takes over control in many Christians’ lives in a decisive moment of sanctification when that Christian permits the Spirit total control. From then on, the indwelt and controlled Christian is expected to continue walking according to the Spirit’s leading via God’s Word, the Bible (John 17:17). This filling or controlling is something that is intended to continue in the sanctified Christian’s life (Eph. 5:18; 2 Cor. 7:1) until it is completed, in one sense, at the Christian’s death (Heb. 12:22,23) and, in the final sense, at Christ’s return when the Christian receives a resurrection body (Phil. 3:12-14, 20, 21).
*adopted by the 2003 General Conference
Gift of Tongues
A revival of speaking in tongues influenced North America and other parts of the world in the last century, and the effects of this revival continue today. This movement has had a broad scope geographically, culturally and socially. So it is not surprising that there has also been a wide variation in the experiences and degrees of involvement in this phenomenon, as well as in the acceptance or rejection of the people and groups who espouse this teaching. Some who speak in tongues teach and insist that the gift of tongues is the evidence or sign that one is filled with the Holy Spirit. Some who do not speak in tongues teach and insist that the gift of tongues is not for this age, but was only for the time of the apostles and the birth of the church. Others find themselves somewhere in between.
The Missionary Church believes the entire record of the Bible concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues must be understood against this larger backdrop.
A Spirit-Filled Life Will Be Characterized by Both the Fruit of
the Spirit and Proper Use of the Gifts of the Spirit
We believe that every Christian should be filled with the Spirit. This truth must continue to have strong emphasis in our teaching and preaching. The Spirit-filled life has been a basic tenet of the Missionary Church from its beginning, and our Constitution states what we believe concerning the work of the Spirit in people’s lives: “The divine work of making men holy begins in repentance and regeneration, yet, through a subsequent crisis experience, the believer is to die to self to be purified in heart, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that he may be separated wholly unto God to serve Him in righteousness and holiness. After the crisis experience, the believer is to be perfected in holiness in the fear of God and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Historically, the Missionary Church has stood for a warm-hearted, vital experience of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We have endeavored to hold to a correct interpretation of the Christian life as presented in the Scriptures. We believe there is an experience of the Spirit’s fullness subsequent to the conversion experience. The vitality of this Spirit-filled life is dependent on a continual day-by-day abiding in Christ in complete abandonment to His will. This life will be characterized by both the fruit of the Spirit and a proper use of the gifts of the Spirit. We still maintain this position.
Possessing Spiritual Gifts Is Not Evidence for the Fullness of the Spirit
Gifts can obviously be counterfeited. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 are sobering: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” If some of the greater gifts, such as prophecy, can be exercised so as to be regarded by Jesus as a work of iniquity, we should not be surprised when other gifts also become a counterfeit of Satan.
So while we recognize the gifts of the Holy Spirit as taught in Scripture to be valid gifts for the church today, no particular gift or gifts are the necessary or required evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, nor are they considered as the evidence of Christian maturity.
Although there are several instances in Scripture where people spoke in a tongue following an infilling of the Holy Spirit, this is not normative throughout Scripture. We believe these instances are descriptive of what happened during a unique time of historical transition, chronicled in the book of Acts. However, the absence of explicit commands in the New Testament letters linking the practice of tongues to Spirit-filled living indicates that these instances are not intended to be prescriptive for all Christians in the church era. Furthermore, to insist that speaking in tongues is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fullness invalidates the experience of all those believers whose lives have given abundant evidence of the power of the Spirit but who have never spoken in tongues.
The Gifts of the Spirit Are for “The Common Good” in the Body of Christ
Every Christian has at least one gift. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit “just as He determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Christians should not expect to receive or to exercise any one particular gift, several gifts, or all the gifts. With this fact in mind Paul asked, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). It is clear, grammatically and contextually, that the intended answer to these questions is, “No.” Therefore, Christians need each other.
Gifts are always related to service and are not to be used as a measure of Christian experience. We agree with A.B. Simpson when he said, “…our possession of these gifts does not affect our personal salvation and sanctification, and our standing with God as subjects of His grace.”1 Gifts are not to be exercised selfishly, but are for the profit of the whole body.
The Gift of Tongues Must Be Practiced with Orderliness, Unity and Love
Speaking in tongues is referred to in scripture both in corporate and private worship. The guidelines for speaking in tongues in a corporate setting are found in 1 Corinthians 14 and state 1) that no more than two or, at the most, three may speak in a tongue during a service, and 2) there must be one present who can interpret. Paul says that in the church, he would rather speak five intelligible words than ten thousand in a tongue. Private speaking in tongues refers to a private conversation with God. Paul sees limited value in this, however, since the benefit consists only in the personal edification of the speaker-not the edification of the entire body (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4).
The gift of tongues is not intended to be divisive. However, due to the passion people have for their positions, both the acceptance and the rejection of tongues have often caused division in churches, homes, and other groups. Pride and division in the Corinthian church created problems in the unity of the body. The instruction clearly shows that loveless Christianity, unbiblical judgment of others, rifts in a congregation, and refusal to listen to the teaching of Scripture are not of the Holy Spirit.
Christians Should Be Known by Their Fruit Rather Than by Their Gifts
The Missionary Church considers the biblical distinction between the gifts and the graces of the Spirit important. The gifts of the Spirit are clearly presented in 1 Corinthians 12. The graces of the Spirit are bound together by love (1 Corinthians 13), and the desire for spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1) must be preceded by earnest pursuit of love. The graces of the Spirit are also identified as fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is evident that one may possess a gift or several of the gifts of the Spirit without enjoying the necessary graces of the Spirit. A gift, such as prophecy, can be exercised without the grace of love and thus be little more than noise. (1 Corinthians 13:1).
The graces or fruit of the Spirit make it possible for the Christian to exercise the gifts of the Spirit in a manner that will bring glory to God and will bring His blessing upon and enhance the testimony of the church of Jesus Christ. Since Paul presents love as “the most excellent way,” it suggests that love is the true essence of all the graces of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31b). The truth of 1 Corinthians 13 indicates that this is so. All of the other graces or fruit spring out of love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Christians should be known by their fruit rather than by their gifts. The most visible evidence of the fullness of the Spirit in the life of the Christian is love: love for God, love for the body of Christ, and love for a lost world.
The believer must have a passion for the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Giver of gifts. The Bible clearly teaches that the Christian life is a relationship with a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is made real to us by the Holy Spirit.
The Missionary Church believes that the consuming passion of the Holy Spirit is to present and glorify Christ (John 15:26). Anything that detracts from the central theme, Jesus Christ, lessens the effectiveness of the church. Like Paul, we are “resolved to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Seeking manifestations more than seeking Christ is a danger to be avoided. To quote A.B. Simpson again, “When we seek anything less than God, we are sure to miss His highest blessing and likely to fall into side issues and serious errors.”2
Pastors should teach the Spirit-filled, victorious Christian life-not as an option for the Christian, but as a necessity. Our congregations need to know the deepened experience of the grace of God in their lives. We must not lose sight of what God has already done for us or deny His past blessings. We counsel our people to be “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14) and “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:39).
1A. B. Simpson, Gifts and Grace (Camp Hill, PA:
Christian Publications, 1993), p. 1.
2A. B. Simpson,
*revised by the 2003 General Conference
Leadership in the Church
Leadership is a term with many connotations. When we add the modifier “Christian,” the connotations increase. Some of these meanings come from the culture of which we are a part, and some come from Scripture. It is important that we learn to distinguish between these two sources.
There is a tendency on the part of Christians to want to define an ideal model of leadership by studying leaders in the Bible, but we must recognize that the patriarchal culture of the Old Testament and the Greco-Roman culture of the New Testament were quite different from the culture of the latter 20th century Western world. This is not to say that there are no biblical guidelines for leadership. It is only to say that the result of the biblical principles of leadership applied to our situation may look different than when applied to other cultures at other times.
For example, in the New Testament we find no highly developed church structures as we do today in the West. Organization and leadership within the early church were relatively simple. For that reason, we find no models for the leadership of our large, urban churches with their professional staffs or for denominations with national and international dimensions. To say that we find no models, however, is not to say we find no principles; and it is to those principles that we need to give careful attention as we seek to develop models for our present situation.
The first New Testament principle to be noted is that every church leader demonstrates exemplary Christian character (1Tim. 3, Tit. 1:5-9). In pagan societies even to this day, character is not as important as the pragmatic ability to get results. Whoever can control spiritual power most effectively is looked to as a spiritual leader, regardless of his or her personal character or ethics. In the church, however, what a person is, is more basic than what he can do. A leader is to be a living demonstration of the highest qualities of Christian life and thought and a living proof that biblical ethics work. These qualities and the living proof are not required only of leaders. Every Christian, whether in a leadership role or not, should be marked by them. The ideal is “every man mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). The point is that the basic qualification for leadership is a significant degree of spiritual maturity based on sound doctrine and continuing spiritual growth. A significant factor in this maturing process will be a lifestyle which puts into practice biblical values and which resists the molding pressures of contemporary non-Christian cultural values.
A second principle related to Christian leadership is that service is more important than status. Jesus made it clear that His followers were not to seek position or power for themselves (Matt. 20:20-28; John 13:16). There is one Lord; and the words meaning “rule” (Greek words with the root arch) are never used in the New Testament in reference to relationships among Christians. So the Christian leader is not a ruler; he is a servant, although not primarily a servant of the people he serves. He is primarily a servant of God from whom he receives his guidance and direction.
For the leader to function only on the level of the group is to abdicate the role of the leader. This balance between being a servant and being a leader is demonstrated for us by Jesus Himself. The accounts of the cleansing of the temple and the washing of the disciples’ feet, picture for us the balance which should be found in a leader, as one who exercises authority and yet ministers to the people with the heart of a servant.
A related principle is that leadership is more a matter of function than office, of doing the ministry than of being a minister. Leadership in groups almost always begins as a ministry function and gradually becomes institutionalized into an office. The tendency, then, is to begin to think of holding the office rather than of performing the function of a servant-leader. Seeking an office for personal satisfaction or as the base for exercising authority is contrary to the biblical concept of servant-leadership.
A third principle relates to the existence of various types of leaders, ranging from the prophetic type, characterized by the ability to motivate people to obey the Word of God, to the priestly type, more akin to our modern concept of management. The latter type of leader will organize and run the programs conceived by the former, and some leaders will have varying degrees of these characteristics. The danger is that tension may arise between the two functions or between the people carrying out the functions, or that one function will tend to predominate at the expense of the other. For this reason, some prefer to distinguish between leadership and management.
However we may define the terms, we need to recognize that the body needs all of its members and both types of leadership.
A distinction is also made between professional and lay leaders. The concept of professional church leaders is not as clear in the New Testament as the general concept that leadership is a legitimate function in the church. Professionalism has grown as the church has developed institutional identity. The cultural factors become significant when dealing with this aspect of leadership. The church in a tribe with a subsistence level economy would not have the option of professional leaders although it would certainly need leaders. The house churches in places where there is government suppression of Christianity, as in China, do not have the option of professional leadership as we know it, but the criteria for leaders would still apply.
This does not make professional clergy unbiblical; but it does mean that we need to begin with a concept of leadership in the church which comes from biblical principles and which recognizes that some of our common concepts and patterns of leadership are more a product of 20th century Western society than a project of biblical principles or patterns.
A fourth principle underlying leadership in the church involves the recognition by the leader and by the church that a qualification for leaders is the possession of the appropriate leadership gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is why a leader needs more than just the general qualities of mature Christian character. All members of the body should possess these, and persons who are not in leadership posts are not exempt from the need to reach such standards. Neither are they second class members of the church. It is simply a matter of recognizing that God, in His sovereignty, has given various gifts to the members of His body and that they need to be recognized, not on a hierarchical basis, but on the basis that all gifts are for the building up of the church. A leader, then, is one who has God-given leadership gifts and uses them within the church with the spirit of a servant.
The fifth principle is that Christian leadership involves skills which need to be developed through careful study and practice. Those skills may vary with the cultural expectations of leaders and with the complexity of the organization involved, but diligence, in order to be “a workman who has no need to be ashamed”. applies to leaders as well as to every other member of the church.
These skills will include varying combinations of such things as guiding in the development of purposes, goals and objectives; motivating the church in the pursuit of these ends; instructing the church in God’s Word; helping the members of the church identify and use their gifts for the good of the church and the fulfillment of the person; keeping group and personal need-satisfaction in balance; counseling; encouraging; organizing and managing the activities and ministries of the church; administering discipline; serving musically; and doing evangelism and church planting in unreached areas.
A caution needs to be raised about the tendency to confuse certain personality types with gifts of leadership. Stereotypes of leaders are sometimes formed on less than valid biblical criteria, and anyone who fits the stereotype is thought to be a potential leader. Adherence to the above principles will help to avoid the error.
A second caution relates to the tendency for leaders to seek to avoid the risks involved in leadership by shunning the role entirely or by trying to transfer responsibility to the church or to a committee or board. It is clear from Scripture that God’s people have not always been willing to follow God’s appointed leaders. Jeremiah’s case is an outstanding example of this resistance. This can prove to be a severe test for the servant-leader.
In summary, the criteria for leadership in the church are: (1) spiritual maturity as defined by the Scriptures, (2) a servant spirit committed to the service of the church, (3) a sense of divine call, (4) appropriate spiritual gifts, and (5) developed leadership skills.
The Assurance of the Believer
We recognize there are committed Christians who hold differing views concerning the assurance of the believer. Because of our commitment to the Great Commission and our Purpose Statement, we will not make the differing views of the assurance of the believer an issue of division or disunity. We will proclaim the holiness of God, the love of God for all persons, and the call to holy living, regardless of differing views on the assurance of the believer. Regional and district directors and credentialing committees are to use this position paper in the credentialing process.
The Scriptures teach that the Christian believer may have the blessed assurance of being saved. He need not live in uncertainty as to his relationship with God. He can know beyond doubt that his sins are forgiven and he is a child of God.
Assurance of Acceptance
First, the believer may be assured by the witness of the Spirit, that inward evidence of acceptance with God. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom 8:16). “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us ” (1 John 3:24). The Spirit bears witness after faith has been exercised in the promises of God (Cf. Heb. 11:5-6).
Other evidences are also given by which the believer may be certain about his saved relationship. The first Epistle of John, which centers on knowing, conditions that certainty on such evidences as conforming one’s life to the Word of God (2:35); doing what is right (2:29; 3:710); loving fellow Christians (3:14-15); possessing an uncondemning heart (3:1921); and living victoriously over sin and Satan (5:18).
Assurance of Security
There is another aspect to assurance, the certainty of being kept. We may enjoy assurance of present acceptance, but what about the future? Can we have the assurance of perseverance? Sometimes defeated people are discouraged from beginning the Christian life for fear they will not “hold out.”
There is no question about the gracious purpose and the power of God to keep His own from falling, and to present them before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24). God’s enabling power far exceeds even our asking. He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Eph. 3:20). God is greater than every degree and kind of opposition. Paul therefore asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). No outside enemy or force is strong enough to sever us from the love of God. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37,39).
Condition of Security
We need not worry, therefore, about God’s ability or loving purpose to make us final victors. But this outcome is not automatic or inevitable. Throughout the New Testament it is consistently taught that the keeping power of God becomes effective through the exercise of faith. The elect “through faith are shielded by God’s power” (1 Peter 1:5). The writer to the Hebrews, addressing them as “holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling,” calls for steadfast faith: “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Heb. 3:1, 14).
Let us observe that the scriptural condition for salvation is believing. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). See also John 3:16, 18; 5:24; 6:40, 47. But the word “believes” used in all of these passages is in the present tense, and it means “to believe and to continue to believe.” It is the continuous or progressive present, and implies not only an initial act of faith but a maintained attitude. Assurance of security, therefore, is for the believing one. We are saved by faith and we are kept by faith.
Nowhere in the New Testament is it suggested that a Christian can presume on his saved relationship. Nowhere is the idea conveyed that he has “arrived” and all he needs to do is “coast in” because of an initial act of faith. Nowhere is encouragement given to the backslider that since he was once saved he will always be saved. Nowhere is there any support for the antinomian heresy that a Christian can indulge in sin with impunity. On the contrary, followers of Christ are exhorted to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41); “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the lawless men and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3:17); “be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10); hold “on to faith and a good conscience” in order to avoid shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:18); “be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3:8); “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ” (Heb. 10:23); “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1).
The Christian is warned of mortal dangers through salt losing its saltiness (Lk. 14:34-35); through failing to remain in Christ (John 15:6); in being moved from the hope held out in the gospel (Col. 1:23); in wandering from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10); in escaping from the trap of the devil (2 Tim. 2:24, 26); in ignoring such a great salvation (Heb. 2:3); in turning away (apostatizing) from the living God (Heb. 3:12); in being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb. 3:13); in deliberately keeping on sinning (Heb. 10:2631); in wandering from the truth (James 5:19-20); in being overcome by the world (2 Pet. 2:20,22); in forsaking one’s first love (Rev. 2:4, 5).
This is the clear teaching of the New Testament. God’s sovereign provision is coupled with human responsibility. The declarations of Scripture are always linked with demands, the indicatives with imperatives. Security is for the one who is believing. We are kept by the power of God through faith. The classical passages on God’s keeping power, John 10 and Romans 8, both condition security on human faith evidenced in obedience. The promise of eternal life and protection from enemies is for those who listen to the voice of Christ and follow Him (John 10:27-28). The promises in Romans 8:29,39 are for those who love God (vs. 28), a love which will be demonstrated by keeping the commandments of Christ (See John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:9-10; compare Matt. 28:19-20).
Truth in Balance
These complementary truths, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, have not always been kept in balance. In fact, men, seizing upon one to the exclusion of the other, have tried to erect entire theological systems on only one of them. For example, Calvin, who was preceded by Augustine, erected his system on the principle of the sovereignty of God with five main points: (1) unconditional election; (2) limited atonement; (3) total moral inability and depravity; (4) irresistible grace; and (5) the final perseverance of the saints. Calvin held that God predestinated some, including babies, to be saved; others to be damned. The difference in destinies was found not in any human response to or rejection of the gospel but in the inscrutable will of God. Some of his followers have carried these principles to fatalistic extremes. They have opposed any evangelistic or missionary effort as an affront to God’s sovereignty. Many socalled Calvinists today hold greatly modified views of the system even though they still hold to the capstone of the structure “Once in grace, always in grace” or “Once saved, always saved.”
Arminius, who belonged to the generation following Calvin, attempted to counter the Calvinistic system by insisting upon (1) election conditioned upon God’s foreknowledge of individual response to the gospel; (2) atonement with the world in view; (3) moral good only through regeneration based on the faith of the individual; (4) possibility of resisting grace; (5) perseverance through the help of the Holy Spirit by the response of faith. Historically the Missionary Church has been in agreement on these five points. However, some of those who followed Arminius went much further. They built their system on the principle of human freedom to the exclusion of divine sovereignty and came out with a revised form of the heresy of Pelagianism. They denied human depravity, affirmed man’s inherent goodness, stressed human effort and volition, and ended up with salvation by works.
The final arbiter of truth is the Word of God, to which the Missionary Church is committed. The Word sets forth both the truth of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God in His sovereignty chose to create man a free being to exercise choice within His sovereign purpose.
Admittedly, the operation of both transcends human understanding, but the greatest theologian of all time, the Apostle Paul, holding to both could only bow in praise before the unsearchable wisdom of God. In the 9th chapter of Romans, he sets forth in unrelieved clarity God’s initiative, purpose, and work in saving man by sovereign grace. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.” “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” But in the chapter which follows, man’s responsibility is set forth with such emphasis that the initiative for his salvation seems to rest solely with him: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then the Apostle places still more responsibility on man: ” And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Then in the 11th chapter of Romans, these two great principles are repeatedly joined. The fact is stated, but the method transcends human understanding. The great theologian can only express wonder and praise as he marvels at the transcendent ways of God: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgment, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
To sum up, the Scriptures teach both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. They teach, on the one hand, the adequacy of God’s provision in grace to save us, and on the other hand, the need of exercising and maintaining faith to make the provision of salvation effective. Through faith the believer may enjoy the assurance of both present acceptance and God’s keeping power. But a lapse of vital, operative, obedient faith can lead to tragedy. New Testament Christians are warned that there is no escape from the consequences of persistent backsliding and that the possibility of apostasy is a biblical reality. Throughout the New Testament, Christians are urged to maintain a steadfast faith in and fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
–Revised by the 2011 General Conference
Abortion has been catapulted into the forefront of the ethical problems confronting Christians today. The issue has been nurtured in a general climate of moral relativism, a growing sexual permissiveness, and a threatening population explosion.
The moral issue of abortion is more than a question of the freedom of a woman to control the reproductive functions of her body. It is rather a question of those circumstances under which a human being may be permitted to take the life of another.
We believe that all life is a gift of God, so that neither the life of the unborn child nor the mother may be lightly taken. We believe that, in Scripture ,God Himself has conferred divine blessing upon unborn infants and has provided penalties for actions which result in the death of the unborn.
The Missionary Church believes that abortion, for reasons of personal convenience, social adjustment or economic advantage, is morally wrong. Consequently, we urge our pastors and people to become well informed concerning alternatives to abortion.
At the same time, we recognize certain medical conditions which pose a serious threat to the life of the mother and which may necessitate therapeutic abortion. In these cases, the decision for abortion should be made only after there has been medical, psychological and spiritual counseling of the most sensitive kind.
We also recognize certain traumatic conditions such as rape and incest which may result in pregnancy and which can create a serious threat to the psychological well-being of the mother and any existing family. We do not believe that the scriptural answer is to end the new life which may have resulted from such traumatic circumstances. Rather, we do strongly urge that total and continual Christian understanding and support be shown by the membership of the local church to the mother and any family involved during the pregnancy and following the birth.
Furthermore, the Missionary Church believes that local congregations and individual members must accept responsibility, under God, for the acceptance and loving care of all those born into this world as a result of our strong stand against abortion and that ministries should be offered to such persons within and without the church fellowship.
The Scriptures declare that God created us male and female. Furthermore, the biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of a male-female relationship (Gen. 2:24), and formalized in the institution of marriage. The partner for man was woman. Together they were to be one flesh. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-23). Everywhere in Scripture, the sexual relationship between man and woman within the bonds of marriage is viewed as something natural and beautiful.
Homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures. In Leviticus 18:22, God declares the practice of homosexuality an abomination in His sight. In Romans 1:26-27 the practice of homosexuality is described as a degrading and unnatural passion. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 identifies the practice of homosexuality as a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul, strong in his condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, also testifies that those once engaged in homosexuality were among those who were forgiven and changed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). This declaration offers hope both for forgiveness and for healing. Individual Christians, ministers, and congregations need to maintain the belief that all human beings have sinned, and that all Christians have received God’s mercy while helpless, ungodly, and hostile to God. In the name of Christ we proclaim forgiveness, cleansing, restoration and power for godly living for all who repent and believe the gospel.
We believe that homosexuality is not an inherited condition in the same category as race, gender, or national origin, all of which are free from moral implication. We believe that homosexuality is a deviation from the Creator’s plan for human sexuality. While homosexuals as individuals are entitled to Civil Rights, including equal protection of the law, the Missionary Church opposes legislation which would extend special consideration to such individuals based upon their “sexual orientation.” Such legislation inevitably is perceived as legitimatizing the practice of homosexuality and elevates that practice to so-called “Gay Rights” legislation. Where such legislation has been enacted into law, the Missionary Church strongly urges that churches and organizations be exempted from compliance by amendment to the law. The position and practice of such organizations regarding homosexuality is determined by their religious convictions. This we hold to be a grave matter of religious freedom.
Individual Christians, ministers, and congregations should compassionately proclaim the good news of forgiveness and encourage those involved in homosexual practices to cease those actions, accept forgiveness, and pray for deliverance, as nothing is impossible with God. Further, we should accept them into fellowship upon confession of faith and repentance, as we would any other forgiven sinner (1 Cor. 6:11).
We further call upon pastors and theologians, along with medical and sociological specialists within the Christian community, to expand research on the factors which give rise to homosexuality and to develop therapy, pastoral care and congregational support leading to complete restoration.
Pornography and Obscenity
Pornography: From the Greek words porne (harlot) and graphos (writing). Webster’s Dictionary defines pornography as: (1) originally a description of prostitutes and their trade; (2) writings, pictures, etc. intended to arouse sexual desire.
Obscenity: From the Latin word obscaenus (“ob” means to, “caenum” means filth). Webster’s Dictionary defines obscene as: (1) offensive to modesty or decency, lewd, impure; (2) foul, filthy, repulsive, disgusting.
WHEREAS the multi-billion dollar pornography industry in America has grown and continues to grow in epidemic proportions and is invading and affecting every segment of society; and
WHEREAS the lifestyle advocated by the pornography industry is in direct conflict with the holy living that is taught in the Word of God; and
WHEREAS family, church and community values and relationships are being seriously affected by this industry; and
WHEREAS the Supreme Court in 1973 reaffirmed that a community does have the right to establish and protect its standards; and assaults upon women and children, and the demeaning of persons in direct proportion to the degeneration of biblical moral values;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that members and adherents of the Missionary Church unite their efforts and energies with organizations such as the National Consultation on Pornography, Inc., National Federation of Decency by Law, and other like agencies to defeat all forms of pornography.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge our people to become aware of the magnitude of the problem and become involved in community plans to exercise a positive voice through actions such as the boycotting of products, publications, TV programs and places of business that promote this cancer on our society; and finally
BE IT RESOLVED that our people write to the president of the United States–
1. Thanking him for his own stand against the porno-graphic industry in this country.
2. Requesting him to order the Justice Department to enforce obscenity laws which are already on the books.
3. Assuring him of our prayers and support in this effort.
The Missionary Church reaffirms its opposition to gambling and lotteries, including those run by government. These are socially, morally and economically destructive. They are rooted in covetousness and violate the biblical work ethic.
We believe that gambling in any form is potentially addictive. It is a social evil that feeds upon greed and sells a set of fantasy values that exploit people. It especially harms the poor who can least afford to forfeit their financial resources on the promise of instant wealth. The tragic end result is often deepened poverty and increased welfare rolls, to say nothing of the emotional damage and disillusionment experienced by the vast numbers of planned losers.
Gambling undermines the economic base of a nation in that it reduces the purchasing power of people. Money gambled by wage earners cannot be spent to purchase goods and services of constructive and productive businesses.
Compulsive gambling may cause the individual’s character to be further weakened and to disintegrate. It may lead to indolence and self-delusion, the break up of families, crime, loss of jobs and even suicide.
Since we deplore the exploitation of the weaknesses of humanity, the Missionary Church calls upon all who are in positions of influence and decision-making to seek other means by which to raise revenue. We further call upon the churches and schools to conduct programs that will inform people of the evils of gambling.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a growing epidemic that may surpass the ravages of any plague in human history. In this decade, tens of thousands of North Americans have contracted AIDS and more than a million North Americans are carriers of the AIDS virus. For those who have contracted AIDS, currently there is no known medical cure, and thus the disease is fatal. The evidence is not clear concerning the long-term results of those who are carriers of the AIDS virus.
We extend Christian compassion to all who have acquired this disease by whatever means (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Luke 10:25-31). We urge the provision of spiritual, emotional, and even physical care for them to the same degree that patients with other life-threatening diseases receive. Christians, following the example of Christ, should seek to minister to HIV infected persons. In keeping with our historical precedents (e.g., the furtherance of medical missions, retirement homes, inner city missions, etc.) we urge our local churches to become involved with the development of new ministries to provide compassionate care for persons with AIDS. They need the hope and peace that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can give them.
We are concerned for both the confidentiality of the infected and the protection of the uninfected. Failure by one who is HIV positive to inform any person who may be exposed to the virus is as morally reprehensible as is discrimination against an identified HIV positive person. We believe that the interests of the uninfected (including an uninfected spouse) have priority over the confidentiality of persons who are HIV positive and persist in high risk behavior. Furthermore AIDS is first and foremost a public health concern, not a civil rights issue. Hence, any proposed legislation that would confer special “civil rights” on persons afflicted with AIDS but threatens the health of others is totally unacceptable.
The Missionary Church reaffirms the sanctity of marriage and deplores nonmarital sexual intercourse, homosexual practices, and intravenous drug abuse. While we acknowledge that there are innocent sufferers of the disease, the fact remains that the two primary groups of individuals with AIDS in North America to date are practicing homosexual men and drug addicts who share needles.
Family life teaching and sexual education is a God given responsibility of parents. The church’s task is to assist both parents and youth in understanding their sexuality in the context of biblical values. Sexual education alone, however, will not stop the spread of AIDS. Our society needs to understand and acknowledge that there are compelling emotional, philosophical, medical, sociological, historical and biblical reasons for practicing abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Since God has designed sexual intercourse for monogamous heterosexual marriage alone, and since this form of sexual practice will ultimately help to solve this problem, the Missionary Church calls her people and her world to teach and live by biblical sexual morals.
In conclusion, the Missionary Church recommends the following three responses:
1. Confront the disease as Christ and His disciples dealt directly with the issues of their day (Matt. 8:2-3 and 9:35-36).
2. Care for those stricken, with the love of Christ and the good news of hope, forgiveness and salvation (Mat thew 22:39; Galatians 6:2; Matthew 7:12).3. Promote the biblical lifestyle which minimizes the spread of this infection (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20).
Amos, Williams E., When Aids Comes to Church, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1988.
Dobson, James, “Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions,” Focus on the Family, February 1986, p.5.
Hayner, Stephen A., “AIDS: Ethical and Moral Questions,” May 1, 1987.
“Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome,” A Christian Medical Dental Society Statement. Passed unanimously by the CMDS House of Delegates, April 29, 1988, Seattle, Washington.
“National Association of Evangelicals Resolution on A.I.D.S.” Adopted by the N.A.E. General Session, March 9-10, 1988, Orlando, Florida.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
The intent of this position paper is to address euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is not intended to address every issue of human suffering related to death.
We believe that human life is a gift from God and has absolute, not relative, value. Death is a significant transition that everyone faces. Suffering that may precede death can be very grievous. It also affords the opportunity for personal reflection and reconciliation.
The ultimate test of our life’s priorities may well be how we deal with suffering in the face of death. Such was the case for our Savior in the garden of Gethsemane. He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34) and zealously prayed to be spared from suffering that would only intensify. At the same time, He affirmed His commitment to the larger purpose of the Father, whatever suffering that might involve. The absence of suffering is good, which is why Jesus prayed for it. At the same time, it is not the highest good, which is why He was willing to endure substantial suffering.
The Missionary Church opposes any intervention with the intent to produce death for relief of pain, suffering or economic consideration, or for the convenience of the patient, family or society. We believe that secular arguments for physician-assisted suicide are superseded by a biblical view of a sovereign God who places a limit on human autonomy. We further believe there is a profound moral distinction between allowing a person to die, on the one hand, and taking of a life on the other (Ex. 20:13, Deut. 5:17).
In order to affirm the dignity of human life, the Missionary Church advocates the development and use of adequate pain management to relieve suffering, provide human companionship and encourage spiritual support and intercessory prayer.
While for the believer to die is gain (Phil. 1:21), it is wrong to impose upon God’s prerogative by advancing that day. Rather, we look to our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain us until we meet Him face to face (1 John 3:2).
“Physician-Assisted Suicide”: a position paper of the National Association of Evangelicals, 1997.
“Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Theological Perspectives”: a position paper of Trinity Seminary: The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, n.d.
“Euthanasia”: a position paper of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, approved by the CMDS House of Delegates, May 1, 1992.
A Biblical View of Human Sexuality
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Sexuality and Creation
The Bible begins its discussion of human sexuality in the book of Genesis with the account of Creation. Jesus himself rooted his teaching on marriage and divorce in Genesis 2, citing the creation account as both authoritative and forever binding (Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9). The Apostle Paul reasoned likewise, anchoring his exhortations concerning Christian marriage in the specific language of Genesis 2:24 (Eph. 5:31).
In Genesis 1-2 sexuality figures prominently in a larger conversation concerning God’s original intention for humankind–his crowning creative achievement. God, we are told, created human beings “male and female,” indicating that gender distinctions are part of the created order itself, not mere culturally conditioned artifacts. Gender supplies, then, an important component of what it means to be human.
Furthermore, gender distinctions prove essential for the fulfillment of God’s purposes for humanity. Indeed, the fulfillment of God’s initial mandate requires humankind to be both male and female. We read in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.'” Obedience to this original divine directive would be impossible without God creating and blessing innate gender distinctions.
Gender enables the wonderful mix of likeness and difference that makes sexual intimacy and procreation possible. Gender and sex are both divine gifts, part of a finished creation that God pronounced “very good” (Gen. 1:31). However puzzling and problematic human sexuality may have become–especially in our day–God did not intend it to be this way.
Sexuality is a divine blessing. God created human beings, not only for spiritual intimacy with himself, but also for an extraordinarily rich intimacy within marriage. We read in Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). This same truth we find underscored in the New Testament (Matt. 19:4-6; Eph. 5:31).
The creation account lays the foundation for a consistent and comprehensive theology of sexuality that will be developed throughout the rest of sacred Scripture. We may summarize the biblical understanding in brief: Human sexuality is a divine gift, by which human beings, created male and female, may experience within marriage a deep and multi-faceted union–one that is physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual–and fulfills the divine mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28).
Before we conclude this overview of sexuality and creation, however, we should interject one important observation: while the Bible consistently celebrates the gift of marriage (Gen. 2:18; Gen. 2:24; Pr. 18:22;
Pr. 19:14; 1 Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4), it also celebrates the gift of celibacy (Matt. 19:10-12; 1 Cor. 7:25-38). Both are divine blessings. Both provide a context for human flourishing.
Sexuality and the Fall
God’s initial created order was, indeed, “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but the Fall changed everything. It disrupted, first of all, the spiritual intimacy that God intended human beings to enjoy with Him. It disrupted, secondly, the intimacy that God intended us to enjoy within marriage, including its sexual dimension. In a word, since the Fall, our sexuality is broken. The Fall left no aspect of human nature or human experience uncorrupted. Human nature fell; and human sexuality fell with it.
It should come as no surprise, then, that we find such sexual disorder in the world. God’s original design for sex–that it thrive within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman–has been thwarted in countless ways. Pre-marital sex, co-habitation without marriage, adultery, pornography, and various forms of sexual abuse are rife in contemporary culture.
Sadly, we witness these disorders even in the church. On rare occasions, even some pastors have succumbed to sexual immorality. Sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy is but one of the more egregious signs of the depth and pervasiveness of human sin.
Disordered sexuality is not a uniquely contemporary problem. It was a plight in the biblical world as well. Many biblical passages clearly forbid particular sexual practices (Ex. 20:14; Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18; Lev. 20:10- 21; Deut. 22:13-30; Deut. 23:17-18; Matt. 5:27-30; Mk. 7:21-23; Jn. 7:53-8:11; Acts 15:20; Acts 15:19-20; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11; 1 Cor. 6:13; 1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5-6; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; Rev. 2:20 ). Other texts catalogue the egregious consequences of disordered sexuality (Gen. 19:1-29; Gen. 19:30-38; Num. 25; 2 Sam. 11-12; 2 Sam. 13; 1 Ki. 11; Pr. 2:16-19; Pr. 6:30-35).
From almost the beginning of the human story, God’s gift of sexuality–which He intended for our good– has been misused by us to our own detriment. Even the most illustrious Old Testament heroes– Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon–practiced polygamy, though God originally intended marriage for one woman and one man. David himself was an adulterer. Biblical spirituality, in both its Old and New Testament manifestations, has been threatened with destruction by disordered sexual desire in its myriad forms.
We should not think, then, that our contemporary sexual chaos and confusion are somehow unique. They are evidence of the fallen human condition. Disordered sexuality is a problem both for believers and unbelievers. It is a problem for both men and women. It is a problem for those with both different- sex and same-sex attraction. Clearly disordered sexuality is a universal human problem.
But we currently find ourselves at a cultural crossroads. Two particular expressions of sexual disorder have come to occupy center stage in the contemporary debate on human sexuality, namely homosexuality and transgenderism. These have always been part of the fallen human condition, but the widespread clamor for their acceptance as morally appropriate lifestyle choices is unprecedented. It is incumbent upon the church, then, to think about such disorders–and those who wrestle with them– as deeply, biblically, and compassionately as possible.
Homosexuality has become a hotly-contested topic in recent years. Matters of great import hinge on this debate, including the nature of human sexuality and the nature of biblical authority. So we must think deeply and speak clearly to the issue. We are, however, called as Christians to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). That requires us to carefully navigate the narrow space between two different errors.
On the one hand, we cannot accept the growing cultural consensus regarding homosexuality. More and more people accept homosexual behavior as a valid personal choice, exempt from any kind of moral censure. Same-sex marriage is becoming commonplace. Increasingly, objection to homosexual practice– no matter how charitably expressed–is characterized as hateful and “homophobic.” We cannot simply adjust our theology to accommodate the changing moral climate. We must not exchange conventional “wisdom” for the truth of God’s Word.
On the other hand, we must not overreact. We cannot single out homosexual practice, as if it were uniquely subject to divine denunciation. Indeed, the Scriptures clearly indicate God’s disapproval of homosexual behavior (Gen. 19:1-22; Judges 19:1-21; Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:24-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:10). But the Scriptures are equally clear about God’s disapproval of heterosexual immorality. (See previously cited Scriptures.) Sexual immorality of all kinds contradicts clear biblical teaching, distorts the divine gift of sexuality, and stands under the righteous judgment of a holy God. The Scriptures warn us: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), in whatever form that immorality may take.
While we find ourselves in the midst of a cultural debate on homosexual practice, we also find ourselves debating sexual orientation itself. Some see sexual orientation as a matter of biological determinism. People are prone to same-sex attraction because of genetics, they say. Others think that it is conditioned by initial sexual experiences. Still others think that same-sex attraction is purely voluntary.
At this point, thoughtful Christians may have more questions than answers. Human sexuality is a remarkably complex phenomenon with biological, psychological, emotional, and spiritual components. To explain same-sex attraction over-simplistically–as merely nature, merely nurture, or merely an act of the will–fails to do justice to sexuality’s complexity.
But we do know this: we live in a fallen world in which much is not as it was supposed to be. Disaster, disease, death–none of these accord with God’s original intent. They are part and parcel of a creation in “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). In a fallen, disordered creation, it should come as no surprise that human desires become disordered, that sexual desire–which was designed to blissfully propel us toward sexual intimacy and procreation within marriage–gets bent out of shape. Some people, through no fault of their own, find themselves struggling with same-sex attraction. This fits with what we know about our fallen world and our falleness within it. Creation is broken, waiting to be restored. We are still waiting for Jesus to make “all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
Nonetheless, we do not need to fully understand the origins of same-sex attraction to insist that God both demands and divinely enables obedience to his commands. The Bible clearly prohibits sex beyond the bounds of heterosexual marriage. So even if the Bible has little to say directly about sexual orientation, that is something of a moot point. What the Bible prohibits is sexual immorality. Sexual attraction is not the issue; sexual behavior is.
Though God originally created two distinct and complementary sexes (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4), a distinction evident in the physiological makeup of the human race, one of the effects of the Fall is that some persons experience gender confusion. They perceive their gender to differ psychologically from their gender biologically. This differs from the rare condition of intersexualism or hermaphroditism, conditions in which a person’s sex is biologically ambiguous–that is, a person possesses both male and female primary sexual traits. In the case of transgenderism, an individual’s sex is biologically clear but psychologically unclear. It is an issue, not of physiology, but of self-perception.
Recently, the American medical community has begun providing a range of treatment options for what is technically called “gender dysphoria,” including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Many LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) advocates are seeking to normalize transgenderism, insisting that individuals have a right to define gender according to their self-perception, rather than according to their biological makeup. Furthermore, many public schools are encouraging parents and staff to validate the feelings of those with “gender dysphoria.”
Nonetheless, any understanding of gender as self-defined or self-determined stands in sharp opposition to the created order and to the Word of God. God, in his wisdom, made humankind “male and female” (Gen. 1:27). That order, and each individual’s participation in it, must be valued and affirmed. Gender is an important component of human personhood and cannot be tampered with without individuals suffering untold harm.
How gender roles should be understood and appropriately expressed may vary from culture to culture, but gender itself remains rooted in Creation rather than culture. While gender embraces more than mere biology, it cannot be determined apart from it.
It is indeed tragic that the Fall has introduced biological anomalies like intersexuality into human experience. It is tragic that some individuals suffer from gender identity confusion. We look longingly for the liberation of creation from its current “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21) and the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). In the meantime, we must show love and compassion to those struggling with gender identity confusion and invite them to share in the hope for wholeness held out in the gospel.
While we cannot condone the actions of those who seek to chemically or surgically alter their biologically indicated gender, we must sympathize with the profound “gender dysphoria” that inclines them to do so. Some of those who wrestle with this issue are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must embrace them in the bonds of Christian affection and fellowship, following the example of Jesus, of whom it was said: “A bruised reed he will not break” (Is. 42:3; Matt. 12:20).
As believers, we are called to extend to our neighbors love and compassion. We are called to affirm the worth of every person as an image bearer of God. We are called to invite them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet we also insist that individuals should not seek to alter their biologically indicated gender in order to align it with their gender as self-perceived.
Sexuality and Redemption (Present and Future)
Disordered sexuality remains a deep and pervasive problem, but God has provided a redemptive remedy in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God created us for wholeness as human beings—including sexual wholeness. This wholeness, so tragically distorted by sin, can be restored by God’s grace. Our fallen
sexuality can be redeemed in Christ.
We can be redeemed from the penalty of sin. Jesus bore all of our sins on the cross. Christ died for those with same-sex attraction and gender confusion just as he died for those of us whose lives are sexually broken in other ways (Rom. 3:23). There is no sin, sexual or otherwise, that cannot be forgiven by God for those who trust in Jesus. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) When we are in Christ, sin’s penalty is cancelled. Our true identity, then, is found in Christ, not in sexual attraction.
We can now also be redeemed from the power of sin. God’s moral demands are impossible to meet in our own strength. But Jesus breaks the power of cancelled sin. With the divine aid of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, God’s grace enables those who follow Jesus to live lives of moral purity and holy sexuality. This does not mean that grace necessarily eliminates the desire for sexual expressions God has ruled out of bounds. It does not mean, for example, that God will necessarily eliminate a person’s same-sex attraction or gender confusion. God has clearly forbidden adultery, and yet the Scriptures and Christian experience make clear that Christians still wrestle with adulterous desires. Temptation to sin remains a characteristic feature of the Christian life. But while temptation may be inevitable, succumbing to temptation is not (1 Cor. 10:13). God provides us freedom from sin’s enslavement (Rom. 6:6). But, as followers of Christ, in order to experience this freedom, we must continue to resist the dangerous undertow of our sinful nature (Gal. 5:17, Col. 3:5). We are enabled to resist the power of sin, sexual and otherwise, as we walk in the Spirit sustained by God’s strength (Gal. 5:16, Phil. 4:13).
Those in Christ will ultimately be redeemed from the presence of sin. While we can, by God’s grace, progressively overcome the power of sin during this life, we will not attain complete perfection until our bodies are fully redeemed and glorified (Rom. 8:23). Then we will forever dwell, sin-free, in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-5). While gender distinctions will remain in eternity—we will still be male or female—human sexual expression was designed by God only for the current created order, where it serves as a symbol of the spiritual intimacy between Jesus and his bride, the Church (Eph. 5:31- 32). Once Jesus has been fully united with his bride, marriage and sexual expression, as we now know them, will be replaced with the higher pleasures and the perfect intimacy of the new creation (Matt. 22:23-33).
Human Sexuality: Core Affirmations
Therefore, the Missionary Church, in faithfulness to the Scriptures, and in concert with historic Christian orthodoxy, affirms the following truths:
o We affirm that God’s intention for sex is that it adorn the institution of marriage–a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.
o We affirm that sex is a divine gift, given to seal the marriage covenant, and intended both for pleasure (Pr. 5:18-19) and for procreation (Gen. 1:28).
o We affirm that sex is part of the current order of creation, where it serves as a symbol of that glorious spiritual intimacy by which it will be subsumed in the new creation (Matt. 22:23-33).
o We affirm that God intends heterosexual marriage to serve as a living symbol of the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the Church (Eph. 5:31-32).
o We affirm that God declares all sex outside the boundaries of marriage–whether pre- marital or extramarital, whether heterosexual or homosexual–as sin.
o We affirm that sexual disorder is a universal human problem and that all sexual sin lies under the judgment of God.
o We affirm that God calls and empowers all Christians, whatever the nature of their sexual attraction, to moral purity and “holy sexuality.”1
o We affirm that homosexuality is contrary to God’s original design for human flourishing and that homosexual behavior is clearly forbidden in the Scriptures.
o We affirm that homosexual marriage, even though it may be sanctioned by the State, remains forbidden by God.
o We affirm that gender is a divine gift, essential to both our humanity and personal identity.
o We affirm that God’s design was the creation of two distinct and complementary sexes, male and female, a distinction evident in physiological makeup of the human race.
o We affirm that gender identity is biologically (physiologically) determined, rather than being dependent on self-perception.
o We affirm that sexual sin–in whatever form it manifests itself–cannot efface the image of God. All human beings–whatever the precise nature of their sin–remain worthy of our compassion and respect, just as they remain the object of the lovingkindness of God (Rom. 5:8).
o We affirm that God calls us to love sinners, even as we grieve for their sin.
o We affirm that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and are in need of the redeeming and restorative grace of God.
o We affirm our confidence in the saving power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and the life transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). God intends grace, rather than sin, to have the last word in the lives of his children. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
1 The phrase is Christopher Yuan’s from Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.