Before I begin, I would like to make it patently clear that God remains a God of miracles and His gifts still flow freely among His believers. The point I am making is that He will dispense His gifts by His Will and to whom He chooses. An absence of gifts does not mean an absence of the Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is testified to in ALL believers in the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and they, in and of themselves are the most powerful witness that we can have. Judge for yourselves, is it easier to say "Be healed" or is it easier to manifest love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control in our lives daily? What good are gifts if we do not have the fruits? Christ Himself declares in John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Yes, He gave His disciples the power to heal and perform miracles, but He chose to remind us that it is the fruit of love that identifies us as His disciples. Moreover, 1 Cor 13 makes it patently clear that tongues, prophesy, and even the faith to move mountains are nothing if we do not have love. If we desire to have power in our lives and in our churches, should we not desire the fruits of the Spirit, especially love, above all? Of late, there have been numerous blogs lamenting the loss of power in the church and the absence of power in the life of the Christians, they have spoken of faith, obedience, and righteousness but failed to attend to the what are the "best gifts".
|27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. -- 1 Cor 12:27-31 (NKJV)|
Let us now continue with the Essentials that unite us ...
ONE HOPE From the dawn of time our Hope lies in God and the salvation He offers through His Son Jesus Christ. There is no other! Regardless of denominational stripe or doctrinal leanings "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." -- John 3:16 (NKJV) is the central unifying belief of all Christians! It cannot be simpler than that! Paul reminds us:
|22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. -- Romans 8:22-25 (NKJV)|
|17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. -- Hebrews 6:17-20 (NKJV)|
ONE LORD "Jesus is Lord!" or "Kurios Iesous" in the Greek has been the credal statement of the church and all Christians since the First Century. It is the central declaration of Christians proclaiming the Truth wherein Jesus is acknowledged as fully God and fully man. This simple statement is found in 1 Cor 12:3 and Romans 10:9 and it expresses in the simplest form the Lordship and Godhead of Jesus Christ.
|Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. -- 1 Cor 12:3 (KNJV) |
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. -- Romans 10:8-9 (NKJV)
|8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." -- Acts 4:8-12 (NKJV)|
This Truth has united all Christians from that day forth, echoed through time, repeated by Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth and then again his first letter to Timothy.
|5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. -- 1 Cor 8:5-6 (NKJV) |
5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time -- 1 Tim 2:5-6 (NKJV)
ONE FAITH Two simple words, yet so much confusion. This has been so since the early church. In my series, "Contend For The Faith Given Once For All", I dedicated 4 rather lengthy blogs detailing the essentials of our faith. They are the tenants of faith that bound the early church together regardless of geographic, cultural, economic, or political context. In sum, they are:
- We believe in God the Father Almighty (Mark 12:32) He is the God of Moses and David, the God whom Jesus speaks of and calls Father, there is no other. God did not reveal Himself in any other form or name at any point in history or to any other culture/peoples in history because it has not been revealed in Scripture. Nevertheless, the knowledge of God is revealed to all humanity through the evidence of creation (Romans 1:20). The hand-prints of God can be seen in nature but He is not nature. He can be evidenced in the universe but He is not the universe.
- We believe that He is the Maker of the heavens and the earth, of all things seen and unseen (Gen 1:1 - Gen 2:7) We believe that God is the creator of the universe and all that is contained within it, He is the maker of all that there is in the realm of human perception and all things outside of it ... of things tangible and things intangible ... of things spiritual and things material. Some Christians hold to a literal seven-day creation account (as I do) and others suggest that creation may have occurred over a much longer period of time citing Psalm 90:4. It matters not to the essential because both declare that it is God who is the Creator.
- We believe in the declaration of Scripture that through disobedience man sinned against God and by that sin, corruption came upon the earth. We believe that through sin, evil entered the world and all humanity has been corrupted by that evil and has a sin nature. We believe that all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God and none can escape the just and righteous judgment of God This is the tragedy of humanity. It is attested to in Scripture (Romans 5:12) and witnessed in history. This is what we call "original sin" and our sin nature. Scripture declares that all creation has been corrupted by sin and all nature groans as in the pains of childbirth because of it (Romans 1:18 - 2:16, Romans 8:20-22). Sinful humanity is prone to place the blame on God for the ills and evils of this world. "Did not God create this world?" they declare. The Church is not immune from such arrogance and some have even claimed that God ordained and created evil. The passages of Scripture pointed to here clearly show that evil is the result of corruption by sin and that God gave humanity over to our own sinful acts and desire. Praise God that it does not end here, for a good and loving God full of mercy has intervened!
- We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father; by Whom all things were made
Jesus Christ is the Son of God testified by God's own declaration (Matthew 3:16-17).A fundamental belief of the Christian is the deity of Christ. He who is God took on flesh becoming fully man in fulfillment of promise of God for the salvation of humanity. He was conceived of the Spirit and not by human impregnation, thus His Divine Nature. He was born of the flesh in the womb of a virgin, thus His humanity. As God, Christ is in full possession of all the attributes of God and deserving of all glory, praise, and worship. As man, Christ was subject to all the frailties of humanity. He hungered and thirst, knew joy and sorrow. He laughed and He wept. He knew anger and He felt compassion. He was tempted as we are tempted. Most of all He knew pain. There is nothing that we encounter or experience that is not familiar to Him. His conception by the Spirit testifies of His Godhead and uniquely qualifies Him as Lord and Savior. His birth by the flesh uniquely qualifies Him as our example and standard. Orthodox or right belief MUST hold to both as a fundamental element of our faith, rejecting any teaching or doctrine that denies either one.
Christ, who is the Word, is everlasting and eternal, present at the beginning, present in the now, and present in the end when Scripture is fulfilled. (John 1:1-3)
He now sits at the right hand of the Father, our great High Priest (Hebrews 8:1)
He will return and judge humanity at end when the Kingdom of God will be established forever. (2 Tim 4:1)
Christ is the uncreated One conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. (Luke 1:35)
Christ is fully God and He and the Father are One. (Phil. 2:5-7, John 10:29-31)
Christ is also fully man. (Heb 4:15, John 1:14)
- We believe that Christ, in fulfillment of Scripture, for the salvation of humanity, came down from Heaven and was born of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and became man. We believe that Christ came in the fullness of time in accordance with the prophecies and declaration of Scriptures regarding the Messiah to save humanity from the bondage and consequence of sin. This is the plan of God from the very beginning, prophesied at the Fall in the Garden of Eden, repeated through the revelation of the Prophets in Scripture, and fulfilled on the Cross at Calvary.
- We believe that Christ suffered and was crucified for us upon a Roman Cross by the hand of Pontius Pilate and the scheming and prompting of sinful man. We believe that He suffered and died and was buried. We believe that He rose again on the third day, defeating death in accordance to Scripture. We believe that all this was done so that He would serve as the perfect Lamb of God given, once for all for the forgiveness of Sin. This is the foundation of the Christian Faith. The irreducible TRUTH to which we ascribe. A Holy and Loving God in His Grace and Mercy became for us, sinful and degenerate humanity, the salvation that we cannot hope to gain by works. We hold firm to the declaration of Scripture that this gift of salvation is given freely to all who believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, confessing our sins in repentance. We believe on the promise of Scripture that those who believe and accept this free gift of God given in grace will be given eternal life and will be spared the just judgment of God which we so richly deserve. This is the TRUTH by which we are united in the Body which is His Church, regardless of governance, liturgy, or other doctrinal confession.
- We believe that Christ rose bodily into Heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father as our Great High Priest and mediator. We believe that He will return in Glory as prophesied in Scripture and He will judge the living and the dead. We believe that in that day, He will establish His Kingdom which will have no end. This together with the promise of Salvation and life eternal with Him is our Hope. It is upon this TRUTH that we live and breathe. This is the Good News ... the Gospel proclaimed by Christ and echoed by the Apostles. It is the declaration of Scripture and it stands inviolate at the core of Christiandom. Here, different Christians in good conscience disagree with interpretations regarding the exact sequence and detail of events regarding the end-times. Such differences do not change the fact that He will return, He will judge, and He will establish His Kingdom. They are not central to THE FAITH.
- We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, our Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, and Guide who was also from the beginning, who is present in the now, and will be present in the end when Scripture is fulfilled. The work of the Holy Spirit is testified to in Scripture from the beginning. He was spoken of by the Prophets; His work was testified to in the history of Israel; He was present at the Baptism of Christ; and He was promised by our Lord to be our counselor and comforter. The Holy Spirit continues to the present working in the hearts of humanity, whose testimonies outnumber the stars in the heavenly realms. It continues to teach, to illuminate the Scriptures, to comfort, to heal, and to prophesy. He works daily to empower and to enable each and every Christian who seek diligently after holiness and His work does not cease for it is ever present and ever available to all those who call upon the Name of the Lord. Some within the Body of believers, in their honest interpretation of Scripture believe that the age of the working of miracles through humanity such as healing and prophesy have come to an end. They do this in good conscience and in fervent study of the Bible. On this, we can agree to disagree because the essentials of THE FAITH is in no way diminished. Such things do not alter belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. They do not change belief in Salvation freely offered to all. Moreover, none deny that the Holy Spirit continues to work.
- We believe in the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Admittedly, the doctrine of the Trinity eludes the reasoning mind, especially in the material and empirical mind of the 21st Century, but then so is the concept of God, the deity and humanity of Christ, predestination and free will and so on. By the same token, there are many things in the material and empirical world that defies reason even for the non-Christian. One must always remember, for the Christian, we must ever remember that when reason fails, faith must prevail. Herein lies the promise for believers: the reasoning mind by faith, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can penetrate mystery and end in belief. I exhort us remember this: "For the unbelieving no proof is adequate; for the believer, no proof is necessary."
- We believe in the Holy Scriptures, the divinely inspired Word of God, that it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. This is the declaration of Paul in 2 Tim 3:15-17. One of the major avenues through which Satan attacks The Faith is to attack the reliability of the Bible. Another is to utilize Scripture, distorting it and taking it out of context. This is why diligent and faithful study of God's Word is so important. More schism and division have resulted from prideful and unloving use of God's Word than any external attack of man or Satan!
- We believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which is the Body of all believers regardless of denominational confessions established by Christ in Scripture whom He also calls His Bride. (Catholic as in "universal" as opposed to its denominational reference). In Matthew 16:17-19, Jesus unequivocally declares the creation of the Church. Christians must ever remember this. Being a Christian means being part of the Body of Christ. This is manifest in the fellowship of all believers who truly call upon the name of the Lord, declaring and subjecting themselves to be Christ followers. Scripture also decreed structure with Apostles, elders, teachers, prophets, and deacons. Of this there can be no doubt. Moreover, Scripture is also clear that the Church Universal or catholic manifests herself in local congregations based on geography as with the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessaloniki. Christ also calls the Church His Bride which He will reclaim when He returns to establish His Kingdom. Scripture is also clear on the purpose of the Church, that it is place where believers are taught, where their faith of strengthened, where their walk is held accountable, and where believers work together to evangelize and to serve.
- We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins and the communion of saints, and we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Scripture is clear that those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior are to be baptized, that they should be part of the fellowship of believers (saints) partaking in communion as commanded by Christ at the last supper. We are also to place our hope on the day of Christ's return whereupon the living and the dead shall be resurrected with new bodies to live eternally with the Father and the Son. Different denominational confessions hold different beliefs and liturgies with regards to baptism and communion and though they may be different, all denominations adhere to these in one form or another. These differences have served as a point of contention between Christians since the Reformation. In the end, one must remember that all believing churches ultimately remain obedient to these two injunctions of Scripture.
ONE BAPTISM: to be continued in Part 3
In His Love,