Statement of Faith

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Lesson

We have been using the Statement of Faith to determine what we talk about in the New Testament. You have now seen every part of the Statement in its Biblical context. To conclude, we walk through the Statement to make sure it's meaning is clear.

Transcription

Course: New Testament, its Structure, Content, and Theology

Lecture: Statement of Faith


Welcome to the 30th, you made it to the end, congratulations. Let me just give you a quick overview of what we are going to do. This is the Statement of Faith, well it’s basically mine, it’s very similar to the church’s except there are a few things added in, like election that didn’t need to be in the church’s Statement of Faith. So if you see a lot of verbiage that sounds familiar to those of you who go to church here that’s why. If you see some things like “Oh, I believe that, not necessarily” and I’ll point out those couple of places. But this was the grid that I used all year long. I knew I needed to cover all of Romans and some of it is just kind of common sense but even in that you want to decide, OK, do I emphasize this paragraph or that paragraph kind of stuff. It was the Statement of Faith that I was using all along to kind of guide me. I wanted to make sure that everything is in here that we have discussed in context. So what we’re going to do tonight is read through it, explain some things and see if there are any questions. But as we work through it if you were here the Wednesday night that we talked about it, you should know in context why we’re saying that and that was the whole idea. So it’s one way to summarize the year but kind of from a different point of view. So that’s all that we’re going to do today. All (chuckle) let’s see if I can get through on time. What I’m going to do is just read straight through each Article and then I’ll go back and I’ll make a few comments here and there and then basically we’ll go as long as you want to so please ask questions. Now is the time to ask the questions if you’re not sure on stuff.

We start with the Article on scripture. Some creeds, most creeds tend to start with the Doctrine of God because in a technical way everything comes out of theology proper, everything comes out of our understanding of God. But if you don’t have some agreed upon base to learn about God in this day in age where there are no absolutes it can get really frustrating. So that’s why we started Article One: Scripture, at least this is going to be what makes up our mind.

Article One: Scripture

The Bible is the infallible word of God, the supreme rule for faith and practice.

The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament came from the very mouth of God and are without error in the originals. Scripture is therefore the unique and supreme guide for all it affirms, including both belief and behavior.

The teachings of the Bible are sufficient for salvation and sanctification. While there are questions of meaning and application over which we may agree to disagree, there is nothing for which we are responsible to God in terms of our salvation and sanctification that is not expressed in Scripture, either in precept or principle.

From these convictions flow the following articles of faith.

OK most of this we discussed in the first 3 lessons back in the fall. I chose the word infallible but later talked about without error, it was my way of trying to get around some of the baggage that people may have with inerrancy. But basically it says that we believe that the Bible is true because it comes from a true God and because it comes from a true God who possesses all authority His words likewise possess all authority and we should listen to them and we should obey them. I added a phrase in the second paragraph that is not in the church’s Statement of Faith, not that the church wouldn’t agree with it but it’s faithfully preserved through the centuries. That’s just that whole lecture on #3. But as I went back through my notes over the year I realized we spent almost the whole talk on why we believe the Bible is faithfully preserved throughout the generations and it wasn’t in here so I just added that up. In the 3rd paragraph I just want to make sure this is clear, this is what we have decided to do as a church and I think it is a good thing to do as an individual and that is, if this is what we believe, and if these are our core beliefs then these are the only things that we should insist on. That we can’t insist obviously if your Statement of Faith you’re not going to insist on something contrary. But the way we do it in the church is we tell the leadership this is what we have agreed to agree on, 1—you cannot teach contrary to what this says, that will get you in hot water faster than almost anything else in this church.

But secondly there’s a lot of things that we’ve agreed to disagree on and it was really important to us that we not become a highly defined cultish kind of church where I control not only your primary beliefs but your secondary and tertiary beliefs. And so, what was fun in writing the Statement of Faith is what is central and what is secondary. Now even secondary stuff is tremendously important but what are those things that we can agree to disagree on. So what we’ve told the leadership is you can believe whatever you want outside the Statement of Faith but you cannot push it. If you want to be a Preterist that’s your business, well that’s contrary to the Statement of Faith, that’s not a good example. If you want to believe that gifts are not for today, if the spiritual gifts are not for today that’s fine and you can talk about it but because it’s outside the Statement of Faith you can’t push it in Sunday School or in small group. That’s what the 3rd paragraph is about saying here’s a well defined unit that we have agreed to agree on, we’re not going to disagree with it and we’re not going to push things outside of it. And it has worked out pretty well so far. You’ll get in certain situations where people say, no if you really want to be a Christian you have to believe this and we said no that’s just not the way it works. {Student: My question is from a practical standpoint if you’re ever a small group leader or such how do you know what they’re doing out there?} In this church? We’re loosely strung together. The leadership has been told this, we don’t have a high degree of accountability and if you hear it, you know if you can get good people to lead that takes care of most of those problems. The whole accountability thing is difficult thing but it can really get blown out of shape so quickly, we just don’t have the personnel to do it even if we wanted to do it.

Article Two: God

Let move on to Article 2. Article 2 is pretty straightforward – no big surprises.

There is one God, monotheism infinitely perfect, without change, the immutability of God creator of all yet not created, distinct from His creation yet everywhere present, the Doctrine of Omnipresence perfectly balanced in all His attributes, in other words He’s just as much a God of love as He is a God of justice. That’s one of the few phrases that we haven’t talked about but that what I mean when I talk about perfectly balanced. It’s not like He’s really a God of justice with a little bit of love, He is pure love, He is pure justice and while you and I may have trouble balancing that He doesn’t omniscient over all time, wholly sovereign. He alone is the sole object of worship.

God exists Doctrine of the Trinity eternally in three persons -- Father, Son, Holy Spirit -- equal in essence and divine perfection, all three uncreated, executing distinct but harmonious offices

Let me say something about the Doctrine of Sovereignty. It can really get bad press in certain circles because some people can use the Doctrine of Sovereignty to say that you have no responsibility and that you are a robot and you either do what you will always do, what God has said to do, either you’ll sin or you’ll do the right thing. That is not the Biblical Doctrine of

Sovereignty. The Biblical Doctrine of Sovereignty is simply that God is Sovereign that God is King, He’s in charge. Nothing happens that is contrary to what He wants to happen. Theologians normally split between the two different wills of God, God doesn’t want you to sin but He allows it to happen. But there is a, I forget the name of it, but there is a part to God’s will that simply always happens. It was God’s will that they betray His son and crucify him on the cross—remember the discussion in Acts about that. So it had to happen there was no two ways around it, it was going to happen. The Doctrine of Sovereignty is a really important Doctrine, so if you have baggage from it I want to encourage you to think through that. I taught at a Wesleyan school for 10 years and their God was very small. What happens is and, I’m not saying all Wesleyans are this way but this place was, and more and more responsibility got placed on you to do the right thing. There was very little talk about God’s empowerment or His control of all situations and that kind of stuff. Without realizing it my God became impotent, I mean He couldn’t do anything. And then we moved up here and the company that was going to sell my software did it and we had two cents in the bank and all of a sudden I had to reevaluate what I understood to be the Sovereignty of God and I did reevaluate it properly.

So there are some people that take the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God and push it to an extreme that I don’t think is Biblical and it’s like my Systematic Professor in seminary, he’s a Doctor Jewett, he’s a really, really good teacher and I really like him. Hyper, hyper Calvinist but he was very clear, most hyper-Calvinist are very clear and we were talking about sovereignty in a night class and I couldn’t believe that anyone believed that before the beginning of time God decreed when you take a breath, it didn’t many any sense to me. So I asked him, in my arrogant way, “Dr. Jewett are you trying to tell me that before the beginning of time God decreed that on such and such a date you would come to class wearing a tie that doesn’t match your coat”? And the whole class, 120, just went dead quiet, it was like 5 seconds and then Jewett just burst out laughing because he knew how much I cared for and respected him so I could get away with that. After the laughter died down he goes, “Yes”. I said, “I can’t believe that, if God wants to control every little thing that’s fine, that’s His business He can do it I just don’t see it in the Bible”.

So the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is a wonderful Doctrine that is a Doctrine of grace and mercy that He is in all circumstances, He’s never out of control and He always working to His good and to your good and to my good. That’s the Doctrine of Sovereignty; it’s something to be hung on to. {Student: Where does the permissive will of God come in} It’s them struggling with passages like God wants all people to be saved and come a knowledge of the truth, well He wants it then how come if an all powerful God wants it He doesn’t get it? So that’s where theologians have split the will, it’s permissive will and I forget the name of the other one. But what they are saying there are some things that God wants but is not going to insist on. In other things he is going to insist, such as the crucifixion as a prime example.

Article Three: God the Son

God the Son is fully God the divinity of Christ and fully human the humanity or the incarnation, without confusion or mixture what that means is people have struggled with the Doctrine of Incarnation. They’ve kind of wanted to make Him part-God, part-man and the creeds said no He’s fully human, He’s fully divine and it’s in a sense they’re not separate in that He’s schizophrenic, it’s not like there’s 2 persons but that’s the word they used they are fully intertwined and yet distinct at the same time. But what they wanted to get away from was some idea of a meshing of the Godly and the divine so it all just kind of becomes one thing where He’s not fully human and He’s not fully divine so they use language like without confusion or mixture to make that point, fully God, fully human, He’s still the same person He’s still Jesus Christ, the unique and only Son no other ways to Heaven. He existed before time the pre-existence of Christ, was conceived by the Holy Spirit He’s the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary a miraculous birth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins this is where I put all the footnotes on the atonement and we talked about the atonement at several different times—what happened on the cross that He was a sacrifice that He bore God’s wrath, that He provided a way for our guilt to be removed all those kinds of things that’s where those footnotes are, was physically raised from the dead as prophesied and the word physically is a little interesting isn’t it. The question can be raised, OK was it a bodily resurrection but it’s not a body like yours and mine and what some people do with Jesus’ resurrection and then especially our resurrection they want to make it all spiritual which is just another way to deny the reality of a full resurrection.

Remember that phrase when they thought He was a ghost after the resurrection and Jesus said, “Give me something to eat, spirits don’t have flesh and bones as I do” isn’t that weird? The God who is spirit has flesh and bones the word physical doesn’t mean that He’s exactly like you and me although there is that rather odd verse and how can Jesus have flesh and bones and be the immutable God of all eternity? Well, someday we’ll find out, don’t even try to figure that one out, I did and it doesn’t work but the word physically is used in the creeds to say it wasn’t just some spiritual thing that it was real, the body is gone and that’s how the word physical—some people struggle with God being physical but that’s what the creeds mean by that language, ascended into heaven, and is now exalted, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for the saints as the sole mediator there’s no one else there’s no other religious character up there. He will return to earth, and ultimately every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We’ve talked a lot about the person of Christ or Christology so that’s why there are so many references there. {Student: So something that’s different than the Apostle’s Creed but a lot of it sounds like the Apostle’s Creed but then it leaves out the descent to hell}. That’s a good point and yes I am following, I mean there’s 4 or 5 creeds that when I first put this together I looked at and it kind of gave me some general guidance. I can remember going to a Lutheran school when I was in the 7th grade, it was a great school, I went to catechism it was a great experience for me but reciting the Apostle’s Creed. There were two point in which I wouldn’t talk, one was he descended into hell, I wouldn’t say that and then I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, I’d go I’m not Catholic or Lutheran, I’m Baptist and I wouldn’t say that. Well, Catholic means universal, it doesn’t mean Roman Catholic. I don’t think we talked about the descent into hell. Actually in the evidence in all of Wayne Grudem’s Systematics it appears that the original Apostle’s Creed never said that, that the descent to hell phrase was added later on and he’s got quite a bit of evidence to support that. So I kind of go to the beginning:

  1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

  2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

  3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

  4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

  5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

  6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

  7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

OK that’s the first half of the Apostle’s Creed. So first of all it didn’t originally say that, it was added and second of all it’s not inspired so I don’t have any trouble disagreeing with it. The reason I don’t believe it is that Jesus said to the thief on the cross, today you’ll be with me in Paradise. I don’t know where it came from, this descent into Hell, I’m sure there’s a good history and an interesting one but there’s nothing in scripture that says that he went down to hell after his death and that was simply added, I don’t know the dates. There is one passage in I Peter 3 that talks about Jesus going to preach or to proclaim to the spirits in prison and then in Chapter 4 it talks about this is why the Gospel was preached even to the dead. My guess is that is the Biblical support for the position but the two main problems are he told the thief on the cross today you’ll be with me on Paradise, I guess it’s theoretically possible that he went to hell and went up right away or something like that but you’ve got to get Jesus in Heaven that day for the thief on the cross. And the word in the I Peter passage doesn’t say he went down to the spirits in prison it says he went to the spirits in prison. It’s an abominable Greek passage, it is so hard to translate it but I think what happened was in, there’s different kinds of ancients which are called cosmologies, their way of looking at the world and how everything is constructed and the most common cosmology didn’t have hell in the center of the earth, that’s Dante’s Inferno kind of stuff. They saw the earth as the center of the universe with series of heaven’s, for lack of a better phrase, emanating out. Paul talks about going to the third heaven or is it the seventh in II Corinthians.

Anyway it’s one of the layers of heaven and I think what happened when Jesus died on the cross his body went into the grave but his spirit ascended to heaven and went through these other secondary heavens, places and in ancient cosmologies that’s where all the evil spirits or that’s where some of the evil spirits are imprisoned. I think what I Peter is talking about is that there was a universal proclamation of Jesus’ victory even to those who were dead but it’s using a view of reality that doesn’t have hell in the center but it goes on and eventually gets to heaven where God is. So I think that’s what happened and then 3 days later the body, just like will happen with us, His spirit came down and His body was resurrected and changed and then that’s what the disciples saw. I think that’s what is happening. {Student: I was the one that actually originally asked that you said then that on the cross He said it is finished} You can’t have Jesus going to hell to suffer because He did say it is finished, I guess you could have Jesus going to hell to proclaim His victory but the problem is you have to get Him in Heaven that day. That was a good question. {Student: Bill, does that mean where it says He made proclamation to the spirits now in prison who were once disobedient that He did preach to people who were disobedient and died prior to His death} The word is translated proclaimed and I don’t think in the I Peter passage he’s preaching. There’s no second chance, it’s a proclamation of victory. {Student: I wouldn’t say second chance but He did proclaim it to those who were spiritually dead, who were in prison} In a spiritual sense yes, I don’t think that’s what’s going on in I Peter 3 though.

Article Four: God the Holy Spirit

God the Spirit is sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He fully indwells every true believer as a guarantee of his inheritance, guides and empowers them, gifts them for ministry, interceding in accordance with the will of God, witnessing to Jesus.

Basically just stringing the fundamental ideas you find about the Holy Spirit. The important word, at least for a previous generation there, is fully indwells and we have talked a little bit about that that in early charismatic theology there was a second work of grace where you were filled and you had more of the Spirit and it’s simply not Biblical and I haven’t heard a charismatic say that for years and I’m thankful for that. So a Christian is defined, Romans 8 as someone who is possessed by the Spirit and there’s no notion that you or I have any more of the Spirit than anyone else, that’s not a good idea. This whole thing of the guarantee of his inheritance which is the verse in Ephesians 1, I was listening to a Spurgeon sermon the other day, it wasn’t Spurgeon but there’s a voice actor who reads Sprugeon’s sermons and tries to read them like Spurgeon read them which I always thought would be really cool to have for all the major people lessons 25:40 that were aware of American Christian or even beyond. And it was a sermon on perseverance and his main point in the sermon was Ephesians 1, Jesus says the Holy Spirit is given to us as our guarantee, if He does not enable us to persevere in obedience to Christ until the day we die not a very good guarantor is He. That hit me pretty hard, I actually hadn’t thought that much about that but if He’s given to us to watch over us and guarantee, the language of Ephesians 1, then it’s safe to say He’s going to be successful and we’re going to make it, true Christians will make it to the end of their lives faithful. Again, the big thing on the Holy Spirit is not so much what’s said but what’s left out and this cessation of the gifts and all that kind of stuff is not on the same level as other stuff I think.

Article Five: Anthropology (doctrine of man)

OK, Article Five is where it starts to get a little testy.

Adam and Eve were both created in the image of God, Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from his side it doesn’t say you have to believe in 6 literal day creation but it does say that we believe it actually happened, that it’s not a metaphor. They disobeyed God and died, spiritually and physically Gensis 3. Therefore this is the doctrine of original sin that we talked about how Adam and Eve were created without the propensity to do evil but when they did allow sin to enter the world they changed what it was to be a human being such that you and I have an inherited tendency toward sin which is tendency is too weak of a word because it’s going to take place in every one of our lives so it’s going to happen but anyway that’s the therefore, all people are objects of wrath language from Romans 9 and mostly from Ephesians 2, sinners by nature and by choice. They are dead in their sins and incapable of pleasing God. Without the direct intervention of God, they will live separated from God, die in their sins, and receive the condemnation that their sin deserves.

I don’t think I’ve done it in this class so let me, if I have just stop me because it will be on the tape somewhere else, I like to think of the cross as right here and John Wesley is right here and John Calvin is right here. They are not that far apart. Now the Wesleyans can be way beyond Wesley and the Calvinist can be way beyond Calvin but when you actually read Wesley and Calvin they’re just not that far apart. They both had an intense desire to see people live out their lives in holiness, both of them. Wesley kind of gets the credit for that but they were both that way. One of the examples is Wesley’s followers taught perfectionism and the eradication of the sin nature, that’s there a second work of grace whereby the Holy Spirit removes your ability to sin and the Nazarenes have taught that for years, the Free Methodist I believe still have it on their books. Wesley preached against it. A guy just came out with a 350 page book trying to prove that John Calvin believed in limited atonement, I’ve not read the book buy my assumption is if you have to spend 350 pages to prove it, he probably doesn’t believe it, because if he believed it he would have said it. So I think you’ve got people moving away. Now here’s why I’m saying this, the thing that separates them, and I don’t know how real of a separation it is, but the thing that separates them is when you come to point of conversion, point of deciding I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior what are the forces at work in that decision? Wesley as I understand him was willing to say you make a choice.

Calvin and I know I’m right on this one, Calvin said, “You’re dead in your trespasses and sin and God enables you to respond positively and gives you the faith to respond positively and so you do”. Now does that sound that different? In Wesleyan theology it’s, I chose Jesus. In Calvin theology it’s God enabled me to make the right choice and I made the right choice. Where Calvinist, I think, get it wrong is when they don’t talk about choice when it comes to conversion and some tend not to do that, they say, “Well, I’m either elect or not” but the Bible doesn’t talk that way. Salvation is always presented as a choice and you make a choice. They’re just a little different in how they describe how you make the choice. This Statement of Faith is on the Calvin side of the cross because it asserts that you’re dead in your trespasses and sin and that means that God has to enable you to respond. Where I’m different from some of my Calvinists buddies is that I absolutely refuse to bring election into a discussion of salvation, of conversion. Conversion is a choice and I’m not going to talk about it any other way. So how can you have a choice and be elected or not elected? I don’t know, I don’t care it doesn’t matter, not really. What matters is we present people with the opportunity to make a choice for Jesus and then we pray that God, John 8 the passage no one comes to the Father unless my Father draws him, we’re praying that that is exactly what is going on because I can’t make you become a Christian, only God can draw you to Himself. That’s where the Calvin and Wesley distinction is and like I say, I’ve talked to Wesleyans that don’t sound really any different than Calvinist I’ve talked to, theologians I’m talking about, they’re just not that far apart, their followers often are.

Article Six: Soteriology  (doctrine of salvation)

''Soteriology'' fancy word for the Doctrine of Salvation and you can see what I’ve been emphasizing over the last 29 weeks by how many footnotes there are. But there are just some things that need more documentation.

Salvation from sin and access to God is available only through the work of Christ on the cross, given by God’s grace, mercy, and love, received solely by faith in Jesus Christ. Here’s just a list of all the different metaphors at least my favorite metaphors that the Bible uses to describe conversion. In conversion, the believer is drawn by God to Himself there’s your John 6:44 and that’s where the Doctrine of Election fits in as well but I’ll talk about that in a bit, repents and turns from his sins, is redeemed, declared wholly righteous, born again, made alive in Christ as a new creature, reconciled to God, becomes a child of God, and is filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit through whom he is empowered for a life of obedience we have already seen. The cross is sufficient to cover the sins of all who believe. This is not in the church’s Statement of Faith; ultimately it is only the elect who believe.

Let me talk about some of these things just to make sure they are clear. How do you describe red to a person born blind? You can’t, it’s impossible. You can’t even describe black to someone born blind. I had a friend at Expo ’72, there I’ll date myself I went to that in Dallas and one of the guys there had been born blind and I tried to do what many people try to do and say what you’re seeing is black. He said, “You don’t understand I have no frame of reference, I can’t understand. People tell me my hair is black and coal is black and I don’t think I like coal for hair”. There just was no way for him to understand what black is. The same thing is true of salvation. There is no analogy, there simply is no analogy for the unique event of what happens when you and I cross the line and become a child of God. So what the Biblical writers do is they say, “Well it’s like this, it’s like this, it’s like this”. I talked to a friend of mine once who is a theologian, I said, “You know, have you ever thought instead of just emphasizing justification by faith as a central tenant of Paul’s theology, or something like that, why don’t you just picture it as a flower and each of these things that we believe; regeneration, new creation, born again, justification, ransom they’re just all different petals of a flower.

None of them are a picture all in and of themselves but they are all parts of a puzzle, each one is fully true but it’s just different ways to help us see this thing that can’t ultimately be described because there’s no analogy to it”. That’s why I did this in this Statement of Faith, I think that’s what the Bible does, I think Jesus has a set of languages, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God. I think that’s one of the petals on the flower that being a follower of Jesus Christ is being poor in spirit of understanding you have nothing to offer God and so you weep and you howl for your miseries, you cry out for His righteousness, remember when we went through the Beatitudes, that’s one way to describe what it is to be a child of God. Paul, because of his historical contents with all the business about works of the law hung onto justification by faith a lot, at least in the books that we have. So they are all different petals and I think that rather than looking for this is the central tenant, this is the main way in which salvation is described it takes all of them I think to understand really the miraculous things that happened in us. So that’s why I’ve laid them all out here. There is something that I didn’t add and I just scribbled a note to myself because I’ll probably put it in later but when it comes to the Doctrine of Soteriology and really Anthropology how you share the Gospel is determined by what you believe here. And it’s that old question I like to ask, “What is the minimum it takes to get to Heaven, you’ve got 2 minutes to tell someone the way to get to Heaven, what are you going to tell them”. Can you do it in two minutes and you need to decide OK do they have to believe in repentance, do they have to repent of their sins? Yes. But the thing that is left out of here is do you have to believe in the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ. I think the answer, well; the answer is yes according to the Bible. That, I John, if you don’t believe in the incarnation that Jesus came in the flesh you can’t go to Heaven.

In I John, you may want to go back and look at it, there is a discussion about there are people who deny that Jesus is come in the flesh and that’s the anti-Christ and John makes it very clear that you have to believe in the full humanity that He is flesh in order to get to Heaven. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that He is raised from the dead you’ll be saved. You also have the full divinity of Christ that He is Lord, that He is God. So in this Doctrine of Soteriology I need to add in these words but you need to decide how you want to share your faith and what’s that minimum amount because the worst thing in the world to do is to share a partial Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone. They respond, they think they are on their way to Heaven and they are still on their way to Hell. That’s the worst thing that you could possible do. So you need to decide where that is minimum. So when I talked about the ABC’s now I enlarge the B, the believe Jesus and I say believe He is who He says He is and He did what He said He was going to do, that He’s fully God, that He’s fully man that He did on the cross for us what we could not do for ourselves, that He died for our sins. And so I put the humanity and divinity in now when I present the Gospel because of the I John passage. So that’s something that you all can think through.

One of the things that helped me the most in theology was a discussion I had with a actually a very well known theologian where I was asking these kind of questions and he said, “Bill, what theology does is it gives us the opportunity to look back on an event and understand with more fullness what was going on”. So that’s the role of theology. You get it in verses like I Thessalonians where Paul says, I know you are one of the elect because you responded in faith. That theologically as he looks at them responding to the Gospel message, he goes, Oh, theologically I now understand something else about this situation, that they are one of the elect. Because if you’re not one of the elect you can’t respond in faith is the logic of the passage. I think and I can’t put them together and I have no desire to put them together at one level because when I preach, when I talk to people, when you all share the Gospel or just talk about Christ the worst thing you can do, I think, is bring the Doctrine of Election into the Doctrine of Conversion. Because scripture just doesn’t do it. Now that I Thessalonians passage is about as close as it gets. The other one is when Jesus is arguing with the Jews in John, it’s either 6 or 8, and He says, you’re followers of Satan anyway, you can’t possible respond to me. That was Jesus saying you’re not one of the elect, I’m not going to waste my time with you. You’re followers of Satan that’s why you can’t respond. I can’t do that, Jesus can do that because He’s Jesus and He evidently had super human knowledge at that point about these people and He’s willing just to write them off. He knew that their father was Satan. I can’t do that because I’m not God, neither can you. So when it comes to the offer of salvation it is always presented as a choice, Acts 2, what must we do to be saved, repent and believe, make a choice. So that’s how the Gospel is to be shared.

Now when I was 7 years old sitting on my bed in my PJ’s my Mom read me a Bible story and said, “Billy, would you like to pray to become a Christian”? And I said, “Yes”. There were so many things I didn’t understand. I think I just wanted to be on God’s side, I can hardly remember anything else other than the event but you know, my Mom and Dad are Christians and I wanted to be like them. There was all this kind of kid stuff I’m sure going on in my head. Did I understand that I dead in my trespasses and sin? No. Did I understand that I was going to be regenerated and made new? No. I’d heard born again language, I’m sure I had some picture of that, but what I understood was miniscule compared to what I understand now about what happened when I was 7 years old. And what theology does is it allows me to look back on that event and understand that unless you have the faith like a child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. God doesn’t require us to understand all this stuff but nevertheless when we respond in the trust that a child had, God does a work that as you theologically look back you go, “Oh my goodness, I had no idea that was going on”. This is a real central thing. Did I make a choice when I became a Christian? Yes. My Mom said to me, “Do you want to”? Sure. It took because it was real in my life. But I made a choice and it’s wrong to devalue that choice and some hyper Calvinist, or cold Calvinist, I’m starting to call them, devalue the choice. So now I made a choice, scripture always presents it as a choice. Now was there more to that choice than I understood? Yes.

As you look at it theologically God chose me not because of anything I was going to do but because of His mercy and grace He elected me before the foundation of the world. That means, there’s a progression in Romans 8:29 or 30 that goes through time and talks about the election and then the calling. God was calling me, He was drawing me to Himself, (Romans 6). I was dead in my trespasses and sin so I wasn’t able to respond to Him and so the Holy Spirit enabled me to respond in faith and I did. Now that’s a fuller picture of what’s happening. This is where the Calvin’s doctrine of irresistible grace comes in and it’s kind of one of those things that if you want to have a consistent system you need to believe in irresistible grace, the I in TULIP. What irresistible grace says is, I was dead in my trespasses and sin and Jesus was drawing me to Himself, He gave me the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) He enabled me to make the right choice and everyone in my position makes the right choice. That the irresistible nature of grace that when you and I are given a choice to go to Heaven or to Hell, even if you’re a 7 year old kid, there’s only one decision you’re going to make and you’re going to choose God. Now we didn’t talk about that because that’s never explicitly stated in scripture but that’s part of the formulation. My guess is it’s probably right but I am trying not to go beyond the text unless I absolutely have to. So that’s a long answer but do you see how it goes together? There’s just no way to put all of these verses together.

So you either believe the Bible contradicts itself or you’re willing to hold stuff in tension and in mystery. I don’t understand how election and choice works but the Doctrine of Election is a wonderful gift of God’s grace that I didn’t have to do anything to earn my favor with God, He loved me and He said, “Bill, you’re mine” and so he chose me. And then at the right time in my life when I was 7 years old He called me, He was drawing me to Himself. He enabled me to respond and when I was sitting on my bed in my flowery PJ’s, I made a choice and I was changed. That’s how I put them together. Where’s the confession of sin? Well, first of all your question is with Paul, not with me, but I think what he would say is if you really understands what it means to say Jesus is Lord it comes with a whole bunch of stuff. It’s a sense, it’s kind of a summation of where He’s been going in Chapter 10 that if you say I believe that Jesus is Yahweh, that means I’m not, I’m not God and it means that I recognize the extreme difference that is between us and that I’m in my sin and He is in His holiness. So I think that would be the argument that He was just trying to find someone to say you have to confess who Jesus is, you have to believe in the resurrection—that’s what it takes, not earning things, not going to church. Did you ask Jesus into your heart? I mean I understand the intent of that, asking Jesus into your heart is saying Jesus is Lord. We are in Christ, He dwells in us but He dwells in us through the Spirit so, one very technical level, it’s not Jesus it’s the Holy Spirit and in a sense it’s in my heart by not my pocketbook. You know the heart is who you are it represents everything. What I like about, it’s not Biblical and that’s why you don’t use the language, what I like about it is there is no idea of a quick confession, see you later Jesus. There’s an abiding, there’s an indwelling, there’s a wholehearted commitment to Christ and I like that as part of the imagery of asking Jesus into your heart. It helps kids I think a lot. I am more and more comfortable saying changed people live changed lives when you have Jesus into your heart he regenerates you, it changes you and you’re going to be living differently, your life is going to be different.

Article Seven: Sanctification (doctrine of holiness)

We’re at Article Seven and this one is, for some people, is the one that they struggle with the most but it’s the one I’ve spent the most time on through the year so this should be at least quite familiar. Article Seven is on Sanctification, the Doctrine of Holiness.

God’s will for every believer is his sanctification. It is the necessary and certain those are the two words that cause the most discussion on this topic, holiness is the necessary and certain fruit of salvation, yet not meritorious; it is God alone who saves. Through the work of the Spirit, saints are called and enabled to live lives of holiness, “in” but not “of” the world, fully dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ I had to get that in there somewhere, persevering to the end there’s your Doctrine of Perseverance. Disciples are declared to be sanctified through the work of Christ and are also called to become sanctified in the experiences of life. The disciple's life will be characterized, among many, by battle with sin, repentance, sexual purity, gracious speech, prayer, suffering, persecution, being different from the world, living for the glory of God. Growth toward holiness brings with it assurance of salvation and a desire to share the gospel with sinners.

The number one question in teaching college for 10 years is what’s God’s will for my life and after a while I just developed a very easy answer, simple, be holy nothing else matters. Well should I do this job or that job? Be holy it doesn’t really matter. A little over simplified but I liked it. The first half of that is such a strong statement It is the necessary and certain fruit of salvation, I just felt the need to say remember though you’re not saved by works of the law, you’re saved by God’s grace and mercy. I’m reaffirming what I said in the previous Article that there’s nothing you can do to earn favor with God. You have life going up to conversion, you’re dead, you have conversion, you’re changed, you have life after conversion, changed people live a changed way and what so often happens that whenever you bring emphasis on that you’re living in a changed way that if you’re not careful, people start to think they are earning favor with God and somehow the works here go back and make you deserved to be saved in the first place. And so I’m just trying to say the Bible is going to emphasize the necessity of a changed life. We’re not talking about how you become saved; we’re talking about how you live as a person who is saved. Again, the phrase necessary and certain the faith that saved you and me was faith without anything else, there was nothing to merit salvation, there was nothing we did to earn it but true faith is always transforming faith.

Changed people will live a changed life because they have been changed, they’re new creatures, they’re born again. They can’t but help behave in a different way. We’ve talked about how that when you have this emphasis it is really easy to get legalistic and judgmental and I don’t think Loretta you’ve changed enough, I’m not really sure you’re a Christian—all of that stuff is just horrid stuff. I’m not your judge, God is. But it is to say that when we respond in faith that faith transforms and changed people live in changed ways. So that’s all that it is trying to get at. This is an emphasis of Wesley, it’s an emphasis of Calvin and I think we’ve seen it with every major Biblical writer we’ve looked at. I think it was in lesson 5 we talked about Discipleship in Mark Chapter 8. We’ve talked about it when it came to all the warning passages in Hebrews, it talked about it in the language in I John those who are born again do not sin. There’s warning passages in Paul. The reason I hit this so hard is one, I really think the Bible hits it hard. I think it’s everywhere you look in the Bible that God expects us to be different that than the world. I’m not going to be Roman Catholic and say that my changed life is meritorious as part as why I was saved in the first place. But on the other hand I can’t ignore it and I’ve been in too many churches that said that a life of a discipleship was optional. They would flat out say it, sometimes normally it was just implied well it really doesn’t matter, you’ve got your get out of Hell free card nothing else matters. This is why I’m so strong when I say worst thing you can do to someone is to say here’s what it is to become a Christian and you’ve milked it down so far that if they respond to it they still go to Hell. I know a pastor whose altar call is, “Do you believe, if you believe stand up”. It’s a huge church, 10,000 people. So people stand up, they get their little packet when they go out of church about what a Christian life is about. But that’s it. They just believe and my response as I shared with you is delicate and sensitive, all the demons are standing up because even the demons believe.

Saying I believe doesn’t mean anything. Not really, not necessarily. It is interesting, I have a friend who stood up one of those times and is a very, very sincere Christian walking with the Lord but even he says, “You know what happened back then, I didn’t even know what that was”. There’s all kinds of conflict now and stuff because that’s not what conversion is, it’s not saying Oh, I believe as if it’s some sort of intellectual ascent. I just want to make sure no one who hears me preach ends up going to Hell because they misunderstood me. An interesting question, is conversion a process? On one hand you have to say absolutely not. There is one point in which you don’t believe and there’s another point in which you do. There’s one point in which you’re only born once there’s another point where you’re born twice. Either you’re a new creation or not. There’s growth, there’s growth in understanding and growth in Christian maturity apart of course, now we’re talking about salvation being a past, present, and future and some of the language talks about that we are in the process of being saved or that we will be saved and that’s handled I think another way. Some people’s point in time is drastic and the day before and the day after is like they are two people. For other people there’s a much more of a gradual, nonabrasive coming up to conversion and then a very slow gradual process beyond it.

The interesting thing is C. S. Lewis’ story of his conversion and he got in the car, was it to go to a zoo, do you know this story, to go to a zoo, and he said when I left the house basically I wasn’t a Christian and when I got to the zoo I was. There’s someone in this church who his conversion was actually much more gradual, at least to him, than that. It was a very slow process where one day he just realized, “I have repented and my life has changed” and he can’t point, like I can that night sitting on my bed, but there still was a point in his life where he wasn’t a Christian and then he crossed a line, he wasn’t as aware of it intellectually as some of us may have been, but there was a point in time when in his heart he said, “I trust this God” and that’s when he crossed the line. People’s conversion experiences are very different, can be very different. I think you still have to say the imagery is so strong of being regenerated and being a new creature, being born again, either you’re born or you’re not. You can be in process but there’s a point at which you are born and at point at which you are not born. The imagery doesn’t allow it I don’t think theology allows it but it is fuzzy for some people. And this guy by the way really struggled, the guy in our church, he struggled and would say you talk about him and you say look at your life. He’s so obviously a Christian you believe, you trust, your life is changed, you go through all the things and I finally told him, “If this is bothering you this much then get on your knees and ask Him/thank Him and then move on”. I don’t know if he did it or not but it was disconcerting to him.

I think the real commitment of this Article is the understanding that we were created for good works, the language in Titus. We were created for good works, God didn’t just save us to get us out of Hell, He saved us so our lives would change and we would glorify Him and image Him to creation and image Him back to Himself. That’s always been His plan; it’s all the way through scripture. On page 8 all the different things, I went through like Thessalonians and some of the passages that are written to obviously young Christians and kind of looked at what were the things that were important to Paul? What were the things he talked about? That’s what’s there, I mean sexual purity and your speech comes up all the times in these kinds of settings. It’s obvious a lot more that could be said but those were the ones that were especially prevalent in new believers in the New Testament. This is also I think, I’m on the last sentence, this is also the healthiest place within the context of sanctification to talk about assurance and evangelism. There’s 3 or 4 different things right that assures us we are a Christian, the veracity of God, the truthfulness of God, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, the fact that my life has changed. Those are your 3 big things that you say do I know for sure that I’m a Christian that my sins are forgiven and I’m going to Heaven.

Those are the 3 we hang on to right? God said if you believe in Him He will forgive you, the Spirit is witnessing with my Spirit that I’m a child of God (Romans 8) and my life has changed and that’s evidence of a changed heart. But that’s the healthy discussion within sanctification because if someone is not growing, if someone is not growing in holiness there can be no assurance at all, that’s my basic position that people who hang on to a childhood experience and then live in sin for 30 years, in other words there’s no holiness. They can’t have any assurance that they are going to Heaven. They can’t have any assurance that they were forgiven apart from what I would deem to be very bad preaching. There’s a person I know, he is a good friend of mine and I can’t get through to him, as a child who had a childhood confession has lived for 30 years completely apart from the church, from God, from everything and my friend says, “Well, she had a conversion experience so it’s OK”. I almost want to take him and shake him and say, “Don’t hang on to bad theology, are you building a relationship with your child?” No. Are you pursuing them, are you talking, no, no, no. The person, my friend, is just hanging on to this theology and there’s no assurance really that his child is going to Heaven. That’s what drives me nuts, that kind of stuff just drives me nuts. Evangelism should be the easiest thing there is, shouldn’t it. Because all that evangelism is is that I am growing towards holiness and I’m inviting you to walk the journey with me. But it’s not is it. Sometimes I think why is it so hard for me to share with my neighbors? It should be the most natural thing and it’s not and I fight it all the time and I don’t know how to do it. But I know that in the theology categories it fits in sanctification I think best as I am growing as I am walking step-by-step with Jesus I should be inviting people to walk with me. That’s why there is that statement the last part of the last sentence is here because in my mind the connection between evangelism and holiness.

Article Eight: Ecclesiology (doctrine of the church)

Article 8 is Ecclesiology the Doctrine of the Church is not very controversial but a couple of very important practical things.

The church consists of all true disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the church, we are the local expression of the church but we are no more the church than Life Center is the church or Garland is the church or Fourth is the church or anything. The church Biblically speaking is a universal church; there are local expressions of it. I wonder if all local expressions of a church understood that how different things would be. All things exist under the supremacy of Christ, and therefore Christ and Christ alone is the head of the church. I am not the head of the church, the elders are not the head of the church and God spank us hard if we ever forget that, Christ is the head of the church. The local expression of the church is comprised of disciples gifted for the work of building up the body of Christ, living in unity, bound together by love. That’s one of the hardest sentences in the Statement of Faith to live out I think. I am learning now that I have been doing this for 4 years, I am learning why traditional churches become traditional because by atrophy that’s where it’s easiest to go. We can’t get lay involvement so we’ll hire a staff. It is very practical at many levels.

The picture I saw is of a circle and over the circle is the cross—is Christ and then in the circle are all the different gifts and there are gifts of leadership, administration, and mercy and giving and care and encouragement, teaching and preaching and all these different, but they are all jumbled together in the circle. If we are going to be a healthy church that has to be who we are, it’s not comprised of the cross and then the elders and paid pastoral staff and then retired people that have nothing better to do than to work at the church and then everyone else. And yet that’s what happens isn’t it. What we fight for here is that truly is a picture of who we are as a church that we are a body of believers, we have a variety of gifts because there is a variety of needs. I told Uncle Bill, came on staff last week, Pastor of Care, I said, “Every hospital visit you make is something that someone else doesn’t do”. There are many people that the only thing they can do is drive to the hospital and visit, their bodies are just giving out. I said, “If you have to go to the hospital fine, if it’s an emergency fine but how much better to develop a structure, and it’s all in place now, to develop a structure where you know there’s going to be an operation, you make a call to the person who is head of care, they know those different people in this circle who are gifted with mercy and they are doing the visitation.

How much healthier and how much more Biblical is that than my friend who I talked to the other day and who just became an associate pastor in a church in North Carolina and the week after he took the position his senior pastor went on medical leave for a month and a half. I said, “Matt, what’d you do this week”? He said, “I visited 42 people”. I said, “Matt, don’t you have elders”? He said, “Bill this is the south in the south pastors visit”. So I said, “So, in the south pastors sue” and he’s one of my best friends so he knew what I was getting at. But we have this natural desire to create hierarchies. It just reads like a simple sentence but it’s really hard to be a Biblical church where we’re all gifted and all doing our stuff and you all give me a stipend, that frees me up so I can do a little more than you can do. That’s fine, I’ll take your money but it is why all the senior pastoral staff here makes almost the same amount of money because I wanted meat to our theology. If I’m paid double Rick Hafner, which often happens in a church with our relative positions, then I don’t really believe the church is this circle of variously gifted people, I believe in a hierarchy and I don’t. So we reflect it in what we’re paid at many, many levels that is dear to our hearts. I’ve not said that much this year, I don’t know if I’ve said it at all but there is hierarchy, there’s hierarchy that God instituted—it’s good but a healthy church is a church where people are involved.

That’s why they have the gifts. Quick story. My Mom’s 84 now she can hardly do anything but one of the things that she can do is that when Robin and I walk by on our walks up from the river and we have our dog she can still fill up the bowl of water and put it out on the deck. She can’t cook any more, there’s just many things she can’t do. I made the mistake once of helping “my mom” and I picked up the bowl to get water. You know what she did to me, she hit me. It didn’t hurt but she hit me. She said, “Don’t take my dignity away from me Bill, there’s almost nothing I can do but I can feed the dog”. You can imagine my mom saying that can’t you, those of you who know here. That means when I told Uncle Bill every time you visit in the hospital you’re taking away someone else’s opportunity to do the only thing they can do. Floyd ? can hardly do anything any longer, his neck is back in a brace you know but they can visit and they love people. So our job should be to have a structure where Floyd and Ila go when they can and honor them and to use their gifts and say we’re not putting you out to pasture there is still something you can do and the joy and dignity that comes from that kind of work. Congregational expectations must be changed if the church is going to make it in this country. It has to be. We’re having to rearrange Joe’s job description now. What’s going to happen with small groups? He put a ton of work into small groups. On one hand I say let’s just find someone who that can be their ministry. But I know that that takes so much work and if it’s a lay person there’s certain things you can and can’t do, like fire. But it’s hard because it’s easier to have a staff person, and there are some jobs that simply take so much time that if you’re working a job you can’t do, it’s just not possible.

Small groups may be one of those things, I don’t know. But this sentence really does mean a lot to us, it’s comprised of disciples gifted for the work of building up the body of Christ, living in unity, bound together by love. When I talk about us becoming a healthier church this is what I’m talking about. While different local expressions may have different emphases, some churches may be a little heavier in evangelism, some a little heavier in discipleship, I think that’s OK all are commanded to basically obey the Great Commandment which is to make disciples, and there’s two halves to making disciples it means making new disciples through evangelism and making deeper disciples through discipleship teaching obedience to all that Jesus taught. So there’s your balance that every church is supposed to have, maybe a little heavier on one end than the other, I don’t think that’s a problem but there’s no place for a church that’s pure evangelism, there’s no place for a church that does pure discipleship. It’s just not Biblical I don’t think. which includes both evangelism and teaching obedience to all that Jesus taught. The church is to be committed to the reading of Scripture, the exhortation to obedience, and teaching of the doctrinal truths of Scripture, I Timothy 1:4 as well as to all that is necessary for the edification of the body, including worship, singing, prayer, and service, all to the glory of God. Actually when the churches merged is when we put in the second paragraph in the Church’s Statement of Faith because the number one question that we got was, “Oh you’re a Baptist church, or that means you believe if someone is baptized they go to Heaven automatically” which is the exact opposite of Baptist policy but it was the number one question we got asked, it was amazing.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances you remember our discussion of ordinances and sacrements to be valued and observed. They are visible signs representing spiritual truths; they do not accomplish salvation. Baptism is the washing of the believer, signifying see I left the mode out, pretty clever uh, dunk, sprinkle that in conversion he has died to his old life and has been raised with Christ into a newness of life in which the power of sin is broken. The Lord’s Supper is the present proclamation of Christ’s atoning death, and looks forward to his return.

Article Nine: Eschatology (doctrine of last things)

Jesus will return I really considered putting a period and leaving it at that, I thought it would be kind of cool, but even at that people would argue and as I shared last time, Eschatology is not my thing but boy I tell you a lot of the problems in the church arise out of Eschatology. It’s amazing and not just Jehovah Witness and Seventh Day Adventists but all kinds of stuff comes out of bad Eschatology — personally, physically, visibly to all, suddenly all those are trying to say it’s really going to be Him, He’s really coming back. You can’t spiritualize this, you can’t “Oh, He’s come back in my heart”, none of that kind of, it’s really, really, really going to be Him. So Preterists who believe that Jesus came back secretly in AD70 cannot agree to this. Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah Witnesses who believed in secret comings back 1880/1890 somewhere around in there can’t agree to this. visibly to all, that’s the trumpets blaring in Mark 13, everyone’s going to see it. suddenly was the only word I could think of that dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists could completely agree on—it’s going to be sudden—when it comes, boom, He’s there. No chance to repent, remember the nations are going to mourn-suddenly that’s where I got that one from — and all disciples living and dead will be bodily caught up to meet Him. The rapture At the final judgment, the unrepentant will be raised to the resurrection of judgment and permanent punishment in hell. I’m just trying to use Biblical language at this point. Believers, while already having passed from darkness to light, we didn’t talk about that in John, but that’s one of his big themes. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ we’re already past this state, it’s called realized Eschatology will be raised to the resurrection of life, and will enjoy the everlasting, personal presence of God in His heavenly kingdom. God’s plan of creation, redemption, and glorification will be complete. (Romans 8:30 verse we talked about earlier)

This is the hope for which we long, which helps to motivate us now toward godly living there is your Eschatology as ethical, and which propels us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world.

So in terms of a statement on Eschatology it’s very irenic and it’s not going to cause a lot of, a whole lot of problems but it does clearly affirm Jesus’ return and the judgment and the eternal state. Actually, do you want to hear something really sad? There is a man and I’ve got to be, this is private information so I need to be a little discreet, you have no idea who he is. He’s a self-made multi-multi-millionaire and has a phenomenal amount of land. That’s enough said. Hyper-dispensational and was trying to get ready for the rapture because he knew in his mind in 7 years later he was coming back and he wanted his million of acres back when he came back. So he hired a Jewish lawyer because the Jews won’t be raptured because they are not Christians and then the Jew had instructions if the owner disappeared all of his property went in to some kind of holding account for 7 years and 1 day. And then the man got really upset because someone else was talking to the Jewish lawyer and he was considering converting which means he’s going to get raptured too and who is going to look after this man’s millions of acres. Oh there are so many weird stories about Eschatology. You all have been faithful. Thank you, it’s always good to see your faces and it’s hard to keep talking when you get a turnover of faces but I hope it has been helpful, I don’t think you would have kept coming back if it wasn’t.

Duration

1 hour 18 min

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