Doctrines of the Church
At the core of the Christian faith are certain doctrines or teachings that are to be believed. The Scripture refers to this pattern of teaching calling it “the faith” (1 Tim 1:19, 4:1), “the teaching,” (1 Tim 6:1, Titus 2:10) “the doctrine” (1 Tim 1:6), “the way” (Acts 9:2), “the testimony” (1 Tim 2:6), sound (healthy) doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10, 2 Tim 1:13), etc. But this teaching does not come to us in isolated bullet points. It comes to us through the unfolding story of what God is doing in the world. It sums up key parts of God’s working and therefore highlights the greater story of what God is doing in the world.
These key doctrine are what we want to be dogmatic about and proclaim to the world. Theologian Louis Berkhof said, "A church without dogmas would be a silent church, and this is a contradiction in terms. A silent witness would be no witness at all, and would never convince anyone." To maintain the church’s witness we want to be united on the doctrines we believe.
Our mission is to proclaim God’s mission of what he is doing in the world. His mission is the backdrop of all he did, is doing, and will do. It’s the reason for the biblical story line. This story is not just an abstract narrative of events but a series of real actions that has definitive effects and reasons that are to be believed and shared.
Story of Bible. The story of the Bible can be traced out through four main events 1) Creation 2) Fall 3) Redemption 4) Restoration. These four events frame our outline and should also frame the way we understand the world we live in. It gives a biblical worldview that should frame our expectations, hopes, morals, and much more. Understanding the Bible’s story and doctrines will have a tremendous impact on your view of life itself.
“A person’s worldview is a road map to his soul: it shows where he will begin and where he will end up." Greg Thornberry in Wolters
- Exnihilo: God created the world out of nothing, no pre-existing form or material. He was in the beginning and the first cause of all things.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1 ESV)
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Heb 11:3 ESV)
The world did not begin by accident, chance, or random adaptations. Those play a part in the world but are not the cause of the world. God caused and sustained the world.
- Creation is good. The refrain that echoes creation is that God saw what he made and it was good (Gen :1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 2:9, 12). Everything that God made was good.
- Image of God. People were created male and female in the image of God. They were created with dignity and significance and were to look to God in all they do. Their purpose is to shape and influence the world as God commanded and designed.
“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)
“Man was created to be a hearer of the word (of God), and it is in responding to the word that he attains his true dignity. His inner most constitution has been designed for dialogue… Man is the creature with a mystery in his heart that is bigger than himself.” Urs von Balthasar
- God created a good world but it did not remain that way. Evil came into the world and subverted people from God’s intent. The world fell from its pristine state and brought a series of judgements on the world.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." 11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:1-14 ESV)
- Sin is seeking to find life outside of God and it is a missing the mark for which he has created people.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3:23 ESV)
“Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” Wayne Grudem, 490.
- Judgment: Sin, like any act of wrongdoing brings with it judgement and condemnation for the wrong done. Judgement came in the form of a curse on the man and woman and consisted of hardship, frustration, and death (Gen 3:14-19).
- Guilt: In the first sin people became guilty before God. They were no longer innocent or righteous. They broke the law and were deserving of punishment just like guilty criminals (Gen 3:8-10, Rom 3:21, 6:23).
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." (Genesis 3:8-10 NIV)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)
- Corruption. People became corrupt in the nature. Sin corrupted their thoughts, attitudes, and actions and that corruption was passed down to all people.
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5 ESV)
“As it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18 ESV)
“Man is unmade by sin.” Thomas Boston
“There is conflict and disintegration at the very core of his being. He has robbed himself of harmony with his Creator, harmony within himself, and harmony with his fellow human beings. This is the source and explanation of all that is wrong with man and the world he inhabits. It is the sickness unto death from which man in hi fallenness inescapably suffers.” Phillip Hughes
- Distortion. God’s intent and purpose for his creation were distorted by sin. For the man and woman life was made difficult, work painful, labor intense, relationships adversarial, and much more. Sin altered them and distorted all of creation. That distortion is seen in individuals, cultures, and everything within them.
“Anything in creation can be directed toward or away from God-- that is, directed either in obedience or disobedience to his law. This double direction applies not only to individual human beings but also to such cultural phenomena as technology, art, and scholarship, to such societal institutions as labor unions, schools, and corporations, and to such human functions as emotionality, sexuality, and rationality. The nature of God’s creation is distorted and twisted. To the degree that these realities fail to live up to God’s creational design for them they are misdirected, abnormal, and distorted.” Albert Wolters, 59
Hope: Despite the heaviness of the curse God also brought hope to his creation. In the very first curse for sin there is also a hinted promise that an offspring of the women would rise up to destroy the work of Sata (Gen 3:15).
“I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15 ESV)
- A Savior. God did not abandon creation after it fell, but sent a Savior to redeem the world. That Savior who is born of woman is Jesus Christ.
Fully God. Jesus deity is demonstrated in his omniscience (Matthew 9:4); power over nature (Matthew 8:27), conception by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20) evil (Matthew 8:29), sickness (Matthew 8:16-17), ability to give life (Matthew 11:4-6), forgive sin (Matthew 9:2,6). Jesus is the living Word who was in the beginning, who made all things, and who is God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4 ESV)
Fully Man. Jesus full humanity is seen in his birth, life, emotions of joy, suffering, crying; obedience, and that he lived, slept, ate and was touched.
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:17 ESV)
Sinless. Jesus is obedient where all others failed. He never once disobeyed God (2 Cor 5:21, 1 John 3:5, Heb 4:15).
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:22-23 ESV)
- Substitutionary Atonement. Jesus died in our place on the cross. He took the punishment we deserved, so that we might be set free. He suffered in our place as a substitute. His work brought us atonement before God, that is peace with
Atone means to cover or reconcile, to be “at one.” Atonement makes it possible for those who have been separated to be brought back together. Sin separated people from God, but Christ death on the cross brings them back together.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1Pe 2:24 ESV)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Co 5:21 ESV)
“It was requisite that the redeemer of sinners should be himself infinitely holy. None could take away the infinite evil of sin but one that was infinitely far from and contrary to sin himself.” Jonathan Edwards. God Greatly Glorified 142.
- Redemption. The act of purchasing back something that has been lost. Ever since the fall God has been in process of bringing all things back to himself. This redemption culminates in Jesus Christ who is our redeemer.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- (Romans 3:23-25 NIV)
Redemption is powerfully depicted in the Old Testament book of Hosea. The prophet is told to go marry Gomer, an adulterous wife. Hosea marries her and she leaves him. She marries another and is sold into slavery. God demonstrates his love by telling Hosea to go and buy back his adulterous wife. It is a graphic illustration of the love and commitment Christ has for his people. He gives his life to redeem his creation.
- Justification. Justification means to be made right. In Christ all our sin is taken away. The penalty for our guilt is paid in full by Christ. We deserved death and he took it for us that that we might receive his life. Now that Christ paid for our sins it is “just as if I had not sinned” (thats a good way to remember justification).
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1 ESV)
- The Cross. Jesus death on the cross the the crucial point of his work. On the cross he suffered and died in our place (Rom 4:25, 1 Cor 15:3, Gal 1:4, 1 Pet 2:24). It is the reason many church through history of identified themselves with a cross.
“The cross is crucial to the Christian faith because of its absolutely critical nature. One writer plainly stated, “If the student has insufficient time to master the other important sections of the Christian doctrine, let him at least have a firm grasp of this, which is the very heart and core of his faith” Demarest, Cross and Salvation, 166
- King of Kings. Jesus obedient life and death resulted in his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)
1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1Ti 1:17 ESV)
Christ is being worshipped by the church, adored by the angels, and dreaded by the demons.” Donald Macleod, Jesus is Lord, 38.
- Salvation. The deliverance from sin, death, and divine wrath and the bestowal of far-ranging spiritual blessings both temporal and eternal. In Christ we are saved from the consequences and brought into the blessing of God. No person could achieve this but only the God-man Jesus Christ.
“asking a man to save himself is like asking a man to pull himself out of a deep pit, or a prisoner to unlock his own prison cell. Indeed the Bible suggests it is like a asking a corpse to climb out of his own coffin. The problem we cannot solve for ourselves is sin. … The one who is guilty cannot remove his own guilt. The one who is alienated and estranged cannot defeat the devil. The one who suffers cannot ease his pain. And if we can remove all the consequences of our sin we cannot make ourselves immortal.” Phillip Ryken, savation, 51.
- Conditions of Salvation
Trust: One must believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: Lord as the one who reigns over their life with supreme authority, power, allegiance, and adoration; Savior as one who delivers from sin, sickness, death, and evil. Trust involves an intellectual assent, a heartfelt devotion , and a persevering will.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)
“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. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 10:9-11 NIV)
Repentance: In turning to Christ, one must also turn away from a life of sin, whether flagrant rebellion, hidden complacency, or self righteousness. Repentance means turning from a Christless life and to one that seeks to honor him in all things.
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mar 1:15 NIV)
Baptism: We are not saved by baptism but by faith. Baptism was often the first act of new believers in the New Testament. It was closely connected with faith in Christ. In baptism one professes their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and their disassociation with sin, rebellion, and ignorance. Every believer is to follow Christ in baptism.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4 ESV)
“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1Pe 3:21 ESV)
“Baptism is an outward profession of an inner heart change.”
- Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and is sent by God to help us live the Christian life. By the Spirit we are united to Christ and his benefits are applied to our lives.
The Holy Spirit leads people in truth and bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26), convicts of sin and righteousness (John 16:8), empowers for mission (Acts 1:8), manifests spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:8-11), and renews believers (Titus 3:5), and can also be grieved (Eph 4:30), fanned into flame (2 Tim 1:6), and quenched (1 thess 5:19).
“The Spirit brings new life to a person. This life is a liberated life, a foretaste of the freedom of the world to come. Moreover it is a fruitful life as the Spirit reshapes moral character… Further the new life that the Spirit brings is a sanctified life. God’s people are to be holy.” Graham Cole, 225
- Sanctification: The pursuit of God that seeks to grow in likeness and conformity to Christ.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:12-13 ESV)
Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:19 ESV)
“It is seldom that any of our sins can be made to disappear by mental determination or natural extinction. But, what cannot be destroyed may be displaced. One taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection. The heart is so constituted that the only way to dispose of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new affection. It is only by receiving over and over the spirit of adoption that the heart, brought under the mastery of this one great and predominant affection, can be delivered from the tyranny of former desires. Thus, the more received is the doctrine of grace, the more it shall lead to godliness. So then, try every legitimate method of opening your hearts to His extravagant grace.” ” Thomas Chalmers
“Grace loves me just as I am but too much to leave me the way I am.” Chalmers
- New Life “So revolutionary is this new life given by the Spirit that it amounts to more than a new covenant; it is a "new creation.” Luke Timothy Johnson, Writing so NT 318. 2 Cor 5:17.
- Church. A church is a gathering of believers coming together for the purpose of fellowship, prayer, Bible study, preaching, and mission. The church is the primary way God is advancing his kingdom in the world.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
“Thus the very purpose of his self-giving on the cross was not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate their loneliness, but to create a new community whose members would belong to him, love one another and eagerly serve the world. This community of Christ would be nothing less than a renewed and reunited humanity…” Stott, cross of Christ, 255.
- Restoration. Every good story has a good ending.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
An ending that fulfills all the promises and takes care of all the problem. The end of the Bible with the return of Jesus and forming of a new heaven and earth make the ending of God’s story the greatest story ever told.
The Bible ends telling of the completion of God’s purpose in the world that is still to come. The story that began with one man and one woman in a garden and called to subdue the darkness and chaos of an untamed world ends with nations in a glorious city of never ending light and life declaring the glories of the God who created and redeemed them.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV).
Second coming. Jesus died for our sin and was raised to new life. We have that life now, but Jesus work of redemption will not be completed until his second coming. This is when all things will be judged.
Those who have trusted in him will receive eternal life and all who reject him will be condemned. At this time Satan and all evil will be removed from the world. The Bible makes clear this judgment is eternal.
New Cosmos. All the things that have gone wrong in the world are being made right in Christ. He is bringing a new order to heaven and earth, a perfected order that touches every part of the universe
“in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,” (2Co 5:19 ESV). World is kosmos, the kosmos, all of heaven and earth.
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Abraham Kuyper
Bible: The Bible is God’s clear and perfect record of what he has done and will do in the world, containing the events as well as the interpretation and explanation of those events, and what is required to do and believe. It is God’s revelation of himself, of his will, and of his provision of a Savior. We ought to believe the Bible, study the Bible, shape our lives around the Bible and share its message with others.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! (Psa 119:1 ESV)
“I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." (Rev 22:9 ESV)... I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:18-20 ESV)
“Continually hold this law before you as being the will of God; approve of it, obediently subject yourself to it… and keep it in view as a carpenter does his blueprint.” William a’ Brakel
A Story to Tell Others. Through faith we are united to Christ. We are in him, and he is in us. This is a reality now and will consummate at his return. This gives us confidence that as we are in him, the story of our lives is being redeemed by what he has done.
We are to tell others about what Christ has done. It is the great commission given to every believer to go into the world to tell the nations how they can be reconciled, redeemed, forgiven.
“And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
Your Story. How will your story end. Will your story find its ending in the story of God. Will you find God’s design and purpose for you? Will you discover how all the Fall’s brokenness, hardship, disappointment and distortion in your life can be redeemed in Christ? Will you see that the life and reward Christ promises to us in the life to come are far greater than any reward we can experience now.
Knowing this story moves us to tell others about who God is and what he has done and will do. It move us to take great risks and do great things so that others might know this life changing doctrine.
“Expect great things of God and then attempt great things for God.” William Carey
- What doctrines of the church are most important to you? Which do you want to better understand? Which would be helpful for your friends to hear about?
- Do you ever think about your story being wrapped up in God’s greater plan? How does that encourage you?
- What is it important for a church to be clear on its beliefs? What happens if it is not clear on these things?