What we believe
This section is not intended to be an exhaustive Bible study on each of these subjects but a summary in plain English of what will be taught in these vital areas. As members of the Southern Baptist Convention, we also affirm the Baptist Faith and Message (2000). What follows is an attempt to fill in some of the gaps.
God desires to spend eternity with us in heaven. The problem is that heaven is a perfect place, and we are not perfect people. So if He were to let us in, we would mess it all up. But God offered a solution. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to pay the price for our sin. Since sin always leads to death, Jesus had to die to satisfy the demands of the sin in our lives. To put it another way, He paid the price for our wickedness. Once that price had been paid, the Father considers all those who accept that gift to be debt free and sin free. Since we are no longer seen as sinful, we are able to spend eternity with God in Heaven.
Eternal life begins at the moment we receive salvation from the Lord. Jesus tells us that eternal life is to know the Father. If we know Him now, we have already entered into eternal life even though we have not yet entered heaven, and we can rest secure in our status of being saved.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It has been graciously given to us by God to tell us about who He is and what He wants. The Bible is God’s chosen method of communication with His children and so when we read it, we are listening to God. This means that everything in the Bible was put there by God, through men whom He directed to write the words that are there. We are not allowed to ignore parts of the Bible or to emphasize one part at the expense of another. We must study God’s word line upon line, precept upon precept, in order to hear what God is telling us through it.
The Bible is perfect and without error in its original form. Men’s translations have yielded errors over time and so it is possible to find a typo in your Bible or differences from one Bible to another. The doctrine of verbal inerrancy simply holds that God’s word as it was originally written is perfect and without blemish.
God is a singular being with a triune nature. When these three aspects of God’s nature are spoken about, we refer to the “the Godhead.” This is a phrase which encompasses the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and refers to them as one God which ours is. The Son proceeds from the Father while being equal to Him and being one with Him. The Spirit proceeds from the Son while being one with Him and equal to Him. Confusing, right?
The Father is spoken in Scripture as the decision-maker of the Godhead. He told Jesus what to say and do; He grants or denies requests made in prayer, and He orchestrates events of history.
The Son is the “boots on the ground” who carries out the Father’s orders. He is the one who created everything. He is the one who came to earth and became a man for the sake of God revealing Himself in the flesh, and He was the one who shed His blood to pay the just penalty for our sin. When the Father ordains that something must happen for His purposes, it is the Son (Jesus) who goes and does it. Jesus is the way to the Father, which is to say that if we are to know the Father (and thus have eternal life), we must be introduced to Jesus. Also, when we pray, we do so in Jesus’ Name because it is by Him that we come to the Father. Jesus is our usher into the throne room of God.
The Holy Spirit plays a more “behind-the-scenes” role. The Spirit does many things. At the moment God saves us, the Spirit “seals” us so that we can never be outside of the family of God even if we try. He indwells the believer and gives guidance to him/her from within. The primary way he does this is by allowing us to understand the Bible when we read it or hear it preached. The Bible is full of spiritual truth that we cannot understand without Spiritual help. Furthermore, our prayers are spiritual utterances which cannot reach God without Spiritual intercession. So the Holy Spirit essentially translates our prayers and carries them to the Father for us, in the Name of the Son.
Sin is when we do what we want rather than what God has said to do. The root of all sin is pride because we think we know better than God. Sin is also rooted in idolatry because we count our desires as more important than God’s commands. Sin is a result of unbelief in that we trust ourselves to accomplish things rather than believing that God is powerful to do them. Mankind was created in the image of God and, therefore, we are supposed to look like Him. When we sin, we fail to look like God and we do dishonor to His reputation. Therefore, death is warranted because the image of God has been defiled. Imagine there were many portraits that were painted of you. If someone took a brush and painted a thick, black stripe directly over your face, that painting would be ruined. It may have once been a beautiful painting, but now you want nothing to do with it. You are a painting of God, and sin is that black stripe. When we deface God’s image with sin, the image has to be destroyed. When an American flag touches the ground, it is to be burned because it has been brought lower that its rightful place. That is why sin leads to death; if God does not destroy the vessel of sin (your body), He would be accepting an attack on His own holiness and would no longer be Holy.
The Church is the institution that Jesus Christ set up on earth to do His work after He left. Jesus is the Head of the Church, and a church is only a legitimate entity as long as it is doing the will of God. The Church is manifested in local expressions. Believers can gather in West Richland or in Thailand and though we are many different local churches, we are all one Church under the same Lord. The Church is made up of those who believe that Christ is the only way to salvation.
When someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ, it was God who began that process. No one can see his own need for God unless he is convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sin. Furthermore, no one can find God by seeking Him; it is God who comes to find us and then saves us. Just as God is the “finisher of our faith,” meaning that He ensures we have eternal life with Him, He is also the “author” of our faith, meaning that He initiates it on our behalf since we are unable. However, once we are convicted of our sin and made aware of the solution in the blood of Jesus, we are held responsible for our response to that conviction from the Lord. There is a great mystery in the interaction between God’s election and our responsibility to respond, and it makes for a very complex issue given the multitude of biblical passages which shed various lights on the doctrine. Variances of position on this issue are acceptable to a point. Here are the absolutes, or the boundaries which we shall not disavow. 1.) God is the boss. However He desires to save us, we must be thankful. Even if His methods seem disagreeable to us at first, He is never wrong, so it is up to us to change and come around to His side of any issue. 2.) Regarding divine election and human responsibility, there are many details the Bible simply does not fill in for us. We are not given the liberty of filling those gaps ourselves. This means no theologian throughout history may be quoted as the final authority on a biblical issue. We may never become dogmatic about something that is not in the text. 3.) We must be dogmatic about those things which are in the text. With those parameters given, Grace and Truth Community will hold fellowship with believers of a wide spectrum of theological backgrounds and show all of them love (grace) while earnestly seeking the Scriptures (truth).
Hell is real, and we do not want to go there. Hell was created as a place for Satan and his angels to be bound in prison. If we do not follow God, we are by default choosing to go the way of Satan. Whoever we choose to follow is who we will spend eternity with.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances of the Christian church. Baptism is to be practiced by immersion upon profession of faith in Jesus Christ and in a public setting. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed periodically by the gathered body of Christ.
Baptism symbolizes the death of the flesh, being buried, and rising again in newness of life to walk in the light of eternity. The Lord’s Supper has two elements. The bread symbolizes the body of Christ broken for our sins, as it happened on the day He was crucified. The cup represents the blood of Christ which was spilled to atone for our wickedness. When we partake of these two elements, we acknowledge it is by Christ’s death we are saved and nourished as Christians. The frequent nature of this ordinance tells us we are in constant need of the Gospel in order to be healthy and properly fed.
When we refer to “missions,” we refer to the outreaching of the Gospel through the work of the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the commands of Christ. This is most commonly summed up in Matthew 28:18-20 in a passage we call “the Great Commission.” “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you even to the end of the age.” This mission is also expressed extensively all throughout the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament. When we engage in missions, we bring the Gospel to people who have not heard it or have not responded to it and teach them to live in accordance with God’s design for their lives. Missions is a non-negotiable part of the Church and in fact of being a Christian.
The family was created by God and, therefore, it is good. God, as the author of the concept, gets to define the concept, and we have no recourse for what He has decided would be the model for the family. When God created the family, He decided that one man would marry one woman and such a partnership would last as long as the lives of the participants. That man and that woman would then multiply greatly, even to the point of filling the earth. Therefore, we like children and want lots of them. We are far less concerned about over-population than we are about following the model that God has put in place. God also commands the adoption of children and that we care for the orphans. When we come to faith in Christ, we are “adopted” by Him. God is in favor of family and only declares His own model as acceptable, productive, good, and healthy.
Jesus is going to return to reform this creation which has fallen under the weight of sin. He will make all things new and, eventually, rule over this creation as was originally intended.