1. The Authority of the Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures – the Hebrew books from Genesis through Malachi and the Greek books from Matthew through Revelation – are the very Word of God. Though these Scriptures have been inscribed by men, nevertheless everything about these men – including such things as their cultural background, their choices in language, and their manner of expression – were formed by God’s providence to be His instruments, and these men were carried along and guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the very words which they wrote were exactly what God had breathed out. As such, these Scriptures are without error in all of their words as they were originally written, including their accounts of historical events, and their predictions of future events, and though they are not written in modern scientific language, nevertheless in what they do teach, they are an infallible guide and framework for scientific study. The authority of these Scriptures is therefore absolute (there is no limitation to their authority), necessary (we have no authority without them), sufficient (we need no authority beside them), sole (there is no other such authority), full (they are completed to their limits and there will be no future authoritative supplement to them), and final (there is no other authority above or beyond them to which we may appeal). The Holy Scriptures are self-authenticating – they rely on no other source of authority than themselves. The Holy Scriptures are a standing miracle: the collected record of God’s progressive revelations. As such, they cannot properly be handled, transmitted, translated, or understood except by their own standards. The only infallible interpreter of the Scriptures is their Author, God the Word, Who speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures to interpret Scripture with Scripture, so that by comparing Scripture with Scripture, we are enabled to discern His message and His meaning. The Holy Scriptures must never be interpreted according to men’s pet fancies, clever imaginations, fond philosophies, or honored traditions, but rather, these things must themselves be evaluated by the Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures alone are the infallible authoritative standard by which we must measure and discern God’s mind, His judgment, and His guidance for determining all matters of doctrinal belief, religious experience, and practical conduct of life. Institutions and traditions are lawful only to the degree that their authority can be properly inferred and therefore legitimately derived from the Holy Scriptures.
2. The Godhead
The one true and living God is invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing, every-where-present, never-changing, self-existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit – distinct in person, while one in indivisible nature and essence, equal in power and glory, identical in perfections and attributes, including truth, holiness, righteousness, love, mercy, grace, and much more which cannot be fully described. The true and living God is not bound by His creation; He is bound only by Himself such that He cannot lie or fail to keep His word; He cannot be of two minds, thoughts, wills, or purposes; He cannot deny or contradict Himself; He cannot change or repent. To the living God is to be ascribed all honor, glory, majesty, blessing, thanksgiving, wisdom, authority, strength, power, and dominion.
In six days God created all things – both visible and invisible, including men and angels – by the direct act of His will expressed in the word of His power, and He continues to sustain their existence and rule over their every circumstance, movement, and relation for His own glory and good pleasure. God exists independently of His creation. All things belong to Him as their Sovereign Creator, and angels and men are directly accountable to Him as His personal moral agents. God created Adam, and all men in him, good and upright, after the image and likeness of God, in truth, holiness, and righteousness, in full fellowship with God, freely serving God and seeking only the pleasure and glory of God, yet He also created Adam, and all men in him, able to fall from this original righteousness.
4. The Fall
All of mankind fell into ruin and guilt in the sin of Adam their representative head, causing their nature to turn in any and all directions except in the direction of truly reflecting the image and glory of God, so that all men, by their fallen nature, are dead in trespasses and sins, they are separated from fellowship with God, they are under the just judgment of God, and they are without hope in themselves. God has subjected all of creation to the curse of vanity for man’s sake. However good a man’s works may appear before other men, nevertheless, in the sight of God, if these works are not done in perfect accord with God’s original image created in Adam, out of a heart, soul, and mind full of love toward God, in perfect obedience to God’s express command, and entirely for God’s glory, then they are works done in the service of sin.
5. The Person and Work of Christ
Jesus Christ is one Person with two distinct natures (divine and human); was conceived by the operation of the Holy Spirit; was born from the womb of a virgin; lived a sinless life; preached and taught the truth of God; performed miracles attesting to His mission from God; voluntarily offered himself as a substitutionary sacrifice to satisfy God’s righteous wrath against the sins of those whom He was ordained to represent; gave up His own bodily life through the humiliation of death on a Roman crucifix; redeemed His people from sin and death; raised Himself bodily from among the dead for the justification of His people; ascended to heaven; was glorified; sits in session on the heavenly throne at the Father’s right hand; intercedes in the heavenly tabernacle on behalf of His people; and will return in final judgment of the world. Christ Jesus is eternal God the Son Who has personally come into created space and time in human flesh, the only Mediator between God and man; there is no other Name under heaven given among men whereby they must be saved.
6. The Gospel
The Gospel is the good news or welcome message that Christ died for the sins of His people and was raised on account of their justification. In the general preaching of the Gospel, every man is called to repent of his sins and to believe the testimony which God has given concerning His Son. Those who genuinely do repent and do believe are called by the Gospel to come to Christ, being promised that everyone shall be saved who sincerely calls upon the name of the Lord, confessing with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in his heart that God did awaken Him from among those dead.
Those who are in Christ have been delivered from the ultimate penalty for sin in Adam – the penalty of eternal death or everlasting separation from God. Those who exercise genuine saving faith in this life have been delivered through Jesus Christ from the temporal power of sin; they have become new spiritual men in the image of God; they have been adopted as sons of God; and they have been renewed to genuine spiritual fellowship with God. The believer’s renewed fellowship with God will be less than perfect throughout this life because of the continued presence of the indwelling sin nature of the old man with its many corrupting influences which the believer must continually put off and put to death as he puts on the new man and walks in newness of life. Perfect fellowship will not be established until the resurrection of glory when the sin nature will have been once and forever removed and the spiritual nature will have been brought forward in full freedom, no longer encumbered by the presence of indwelling sin.
8. Faith and Justification
Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of the believer’s faith. Salvation is by grace alone on the basis of the work, merit, and fulfilled condition of Jesus Christ alone on behalf of the individual; apart from any work, merit, and fulfilled condition performed or possessed by the individual, or by other men on that individual’s behalf. Justification is by grace through faith in Christ’s imputed righteousness alone; and the cleansing power of justification is communicated by the Holy Spirit to the individual conscience through the gifts of repentance and faith in Christ.
9. The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit ministers to God’s people through regenerating them by the true eternal creative word of God; through bringing the word of God’s truth to them and illuminating their minds to receive God’s word of truth; through leading them through the process of conversion by way of repentance from sin and belief in Christ; and through cleansing them from sinful ways of life by the application of the cleansing and enlightening truth of God’s Word to their corrupt and darkened minds. The believer is anointed in his heart with the Holy Spirit as a seal and guarantee of the promise of final redemption and the eternal inheritance.
10. Sanctification and Assurance
Those who are surely saved are also surely sanctified and eventually become fruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone apart from self-generated or meritorious works, yet genuine saving faith is never alone, but is always accompanied by productive or fruitful works. Though works are never a cause of boast or merit before God, yet before man, faith is dead if it is not accompanied by corroborating works. Assurance of salvation comes only in the way of an obedient response to and a continuous walk in the particular call and command of the Gospel – let those who hunger and thirst for righteousness come to Christ and be satisfied. No man can have assurance of his own salvation, and others can have no assurance of that man’s salvation, if that man walks steadily in the way of outward and observable sin and without the Lord’s chastisement and correction.
11. The Kingdom and the Gathered Assembly
The Lord sovereignly calls His people universally – that is, from among all sorts of men out of every tribe, language, people, and nation – delivering them from the power of darkness and conveying them into another realm as spiritual brethren born again into a new family to reign together as kings in His spiritual – that is, His invisible – Kingdom. Men and women who make a credible profession of faith receive water baptism as an ordinance which outwardly and provisionally acknowledges their entrance into this spiritual Kingdom. The Lord builds His gathered assembly by first laying the foundation of the kingdom through the general preaching of the gospel, then by calling gospel believers to gather together as saints in one specific place – that is, locally – as members of His body to serve together as priests in the service of His temple, which is the observable – that is, the visible – manifestation of His one body in that particular location. Through the sharing of the loaf which represents Christ’s body broken for all of the members, and through the sharing of the cup which represents Christ’s blood of the new covenant shed for all of the members, the gathered saints discern or mark out and separate the Lord’s body which He has purchased with His own blood and He has gathered in that particular place. Anyone who defiles the body is to be removed from the sharing of the loaf and the cup – and from all of the fellowship which this sharing represents – until the remainder of the body is fully satisfied of his thorough and sustained repentance such that the body will not be defiled again by his readmission. Water baptism and the sharing of the loaf and cup are permanent ordinances of the Gospel, and though they are not any part of a means for salvation, they are nevertheless proper and orderly acts of obedience when they are administered in the way of salvation through the Gospel of Christ and according to the commandment and orderly administration delivered to us by Christ and His apostles.
Spiritual realities can only be discerned spiritually. The spiritual marks of the true kingdom of God include such things as: genuine repentance from sin; hunger and thirst for righteousness; belief in and dependence upon the truths of the Word of God in general; and trust in and reliance upon the salvation of the gospel in particular. The spiritual marks of a true gathered assembly include such things as: a mutual care of the members for each other through fellowship, assistance, and prayers; a mutual love which edifies the whole body through gifts given by Christ to that particular body for its edification, including teaching and mutual encouragement in the whole counsel of God; and the mutual examination and protection of the body from the entrance of outside defilement and from the spreading of inside defilement. Unlike the kingdoms of this world, which are ruled by the power, control, and domination of men who think of themselves as benefactors of the people whom they rule, the kingdom of God is ruled by the Word of Christ ministered to the conscience, by the love of Christ motivating the heart, through men who are in their means and methods the humble servants and slaves of the people of God. The gathered assembly of Christ is not an institution of men which rules and sustains itself, but is a living spiritual organism which is ruled and sustained by its Head – that is, Christ Jesus.
12. Resurrection and Judgment
There will be a future day of bodily resurrection and of judgment. The righteous dead – those who lived by faith in Christ and who died in Christ – they shall receive an eternal reward of conscious peace, blessedness, and joy in the presence of the Lord, to the praise of His glorious grace. The wicked dead – those who lived in unbelief and who died apart from Christ – they shall receive an eternal retribution of conscious torment from the presence of the Lord, to the praise of His glorious justice.