Abstract of Faith
Teachings That Are Prominent in the Scriptures
Note: The following statements are not meant to form a creed, or to be thought of as an exhaustive statement of beliefs upon which the church is built. They are simply an abstract of some of the important and fundamental teachings and principles set forth in the Holy Scriptures, which form an essential part of the church's Rule of Faith.
The Trinity - The Bible teaches that the one eternal God exists in three persons: namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three have distinct identities, yet they form one undivided Godhead subsisting in the same nature (Romans 5:5; 15:16,30; 2 Corinthians 1:20; 5:19; John 3:5; Ephesians 2:18; Titus 3:5). The Father is God (Ephesians 4:6), the Son is God (John1:1-3; 10:1; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 1:8), the Holy Spirit is God (John14:17; 16:13; Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10), yet there are not three gods but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The three persons of the divine Trinity work together in perfect unity for the salvation of man (John 3:5; 6:44; 14:6, 16, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:19).
Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is the "image of the mvisib1e God" (Colossians 1:15), and God's "only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Through Him God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received into glory, and now sits on the right hand of God to make intercession for us (Acts 7: 55; 1 Timothy 3: 16). Through Him alone do men have access unto the heavenly Father. It is through His sacrificia1and atoning death on the cross that we are saved. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4: 12). He is the spotless "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He is also the head of the church and the savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23).
The Kingdom of God - In both Old and New Testaments, the kingdom of God is by definition “the domain of the King.” The phrase “kingdom of God” denotes the sovereignty and royal power of God (Ps. 2:6-12; Dan. 2:44). The broader view of the kingdom signifies God’s rule over all things including the universe and even fallen man (Ps. 47:2; 103:19; Mal. 1:14). But as we pass from the Old Testament to the New the focus of the kingdom narrows on the incarnate Christ and his redemption of man. In particular, the kingdom of God is the rule of Christ in the hearts of men and women who are born again by the Spirit of God (Luke 17:20, 21; Jn. 3:3; Rev. 17:14).
The kingdom of God is mysterious in nature (Mt. 13:11) partly because in this present world it is spiritual in nature and thus invisible. The Bible teaches us that the kingdom “comes not with observation,” and that it is “within you” (Luke 17:20, 21). The kingdom is thus both a reign and a realm. Paul declared that the kingdom “is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” and also that it comes to us “not in word, but in power” (Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20). Thus, the kingdom of God differs from the church in that, in this present dispensation, it is invisible and spiritual while the church is visible and corporate.
The time for the visible reign of Christ has not yet come; however, His spiritual rule has already begun in the hearts of His people (2 Cor. 6:2). The message proclaimed by John the Baptist in preparing the way for Jesus Christ was, “repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2, Lu. 16:16). John was able to preach this message, because the kingdom of God had come with the presence of Christ who is the King of the kingdom (Mt. 2:2). The power and principles of the kingdom were made manifest through His earthly life and ministry (Mt. 5; 6; 7; Lu. 4:18, 19; 7:22). Through His death, burial, and resurrection, the kingdom of God is presently established within believers through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:1, 2, 21; Eph. 3:16-21). When Jesus returns with the saints to set up His millennial reign on earth, the kingdom of God will then be visible to all the world (Zech. 14:4, 5; Rev. 20: 4-6).
The kingdom of God is for “whosoever will,” and thus not forced on anyone (Mt. 10:32, Mk. 8:34; Mt. 10:33; Mk. 8:35-38; Rom. 6:23). Yet, those who do not accept Christ as their Savior and Lord will be under the judgment of God (Mt. 13:40-42; Jn. 3:36; Rev. 20:12-15). Sinners who refuse to repent and believe the Gospel of the kingdom are already condemned and exist under the wrath of God (Jn. 3:18-36). By rejecting Christ as their Redeemer, the unregenerate are deprived of divine love and peace that can be experienced only in His kingdom (Gal. 5:22, 23; Is. 57:20, 21; Deut. 28:15-68). Eternal torment and separation from God will be the final state of those who continue in disobedience (Lu. 16:19-31).
The good news, however, is that through repentance and faith in the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, sinners can now be translated into the kingdom of God (Rom. 5:1, 2, 21; Col. 1:13). Entrance into God’s kingdom is through the new birth by the Spirit of God (Jn. 3:1-8). This new birth experience brings peace and power to those who believe and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior (Jn. 1:12, 13). Spiritual blessings come to those who are born again and continue to walk by faith; and these blessings are given by the King himself through the work of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 2:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 1: 3).
The Bible - The Holy Scriptures - both Old and New Testaments - reveal God and His will for man. They are inspired, inerrant, infallible, and unchangeable (2 Timothy 3:14-16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). The truths of the Scriptures are revealed by prophecy, type, precept, and example, and illuminated through the power of the Holy Spirit. The teachings of the Bible - particularly in the light of the New Testament-are the church's final rule for faith, practice, government., and discipline (Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:1,2). Walking in the light of God's Word is the guiding principle and commitment of Zion Assembly Church of God. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light. unto my path" (Psalm 119: 105).
The Church - The church is a visible body of believers formed and incorporated by covenant with God to keep His commandments (Exodus 19:5-8; 24:3-8; Psalm 119:57; John 14:15; 17:6,8,14; 1 Peter 2:9). It is theocratic in form and function, providing order and government through the Spirit and the Scriptures for God's people (Isaiah2:2-4; 9:7; Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 12:28). The church is presently imperfect, spotted with backsliders and "false brethren" (1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 2:4; Jude 4). It is thus distinguished from the kingdom of God, the latter being the spiritual realm of all born again believers (John 3:3-8; Romans 14: 17; Colossians 1:13). One is "born" into the kingdom, he/she is "added to the church" (John 3:3-8; Acts 2:47). The church will succeed to proclaim the gospel into all the world (Matthew 24:14; 28:18- 20; Mark 16:15, 16); will be perfected "with the washing of water by the word," and will be presented to Christ glorious in holiness (Ephesians 5:26, 27). The General Assembly is the highest tribunal of authority in the church for the interpretation of the Scriptures (Acts 15:16:4, 5). The purpose of the General Assembly is to promote unity and fellowship among the saints, to search the Scriptures for additional light and understanding, and to resolve differences in interpretations which tend to be divisive among the ministers and churches. All matters of faith, government, and discipline are discussed before the entire body of the church assembled, and resolved in one accord with the manifest approval of the Spirit (vv.12, 22, 28), based on the precedent: "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us." All male members in good standing have an active voice in the Assembly. Women are a vital part of the church's life and ministry. In matters dealing with church authority, however, they voice their opinionsthrough their husbands and church elders (1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-9; 14:34-36; 1 Timothy 2:12; 3:1-1.7).
Man - Man is unique in all of God’s creation. Only he was created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27; 5:2; Ecclesiastes 7:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7; Ephesians 4:24), and therefore man has a unique relationship to God. His nature is composed of soul, spirit, and body (Job 32:8; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12), though “soul” and “spirit” may be fully distinguishable only to the Spirit of God (Hebrews 4:12 and compare John 12:27 and 13:21). Of all the living things on earth, only man has God-consciousness and an immortal soul (Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45). He thus has an everlasting destiny in heaven or hell, with eternal life or everlasting death and damnation (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:4-6; 21:7, 8). He was created by divine decree in one day; he did not therefore evolve, nor does he exist by chance. Moreover, the uniqueness of man is seen in that he was given authority in earth over all living things including animal life (Genesis 1:26, 28). This uniqueness is partly why the Psalmist exults, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and why he asks, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (8:3, 4).
Man was created male and female (Genesis 1:27, 2:18, 21-25) in order that the genders might come together under divine institution as husband and wife (2:21-25; Mark 10:6-9) to procreate the race of man — to “be fruitful, and multiply” (v. 28; 9:1) — and to provide comfort and companionship for one another (Proverbs 18:22; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Ephesians 5:22-25, 28-31; 1 Peter 3:7). This is the divine order for man, making fornication (pre-marital sex, homosexuality, incest, bestiality) and adultery (unfaithfulness in marriage, and divorce and remarriage while one’s first companion is still living) vile corruptions of God’s expressed will and design for man (Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:28; Mark 10:7-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11, 39).
Included in man’s God-consciousness is an innate sense of morality — of moral right and wrong — and a sense of accountability for his behavior (Acts 17:28-30; Romans 1:19, 20; John 1:9). Moral responsibility and accountability are predicated on the nature of man’s God-consciousness and free will, that is, his ability to choose and act in obedience or disobedience to God’s revealed will (Joshua 24:15-25; 1 Kings 18:21; Ezekiel 20:39; Luke 13:35; John 3:36; Revelation 22:17).
Man was created holy, in the moral image of God (Genesis 1:27, 31; 5:1,2), but his fall in Eden plunged him into sin and corruption. His fall was predicated on the fact that he has free will. Adam chose, under the influence of Satan’s seductive power, to disobey God. Because man is a race, unlike angels, sin was transmitted to all men through Adam’s transgression (Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21). His redemption and reconciliation to God was made possible by the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 5:15-19).
Christ is the second man Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). He is therefore called the Son of Man as well as the Son of God (Matthew 12:8; 16:13; Luke 1:35; John 1:14; Colossians 1:15, 19; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 1:8). In Him God and man exist in one person (John 1:1-3, 14; Philippians 2:5-8). The first Adam failed and plunged man into sin; the second man Adam, Christ, lived triumphantly over sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15), making it possible for us also to triumph over sin and be saved (Isaiah 53:4-9; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:21-24). He that believes and repents and is born again shall be saved (John 3:3-8, 16; 10:28). Christ is the perfect man, and all men can be made perfect in and through Him, our redeemer and sanctifier (Hebrews 2:11; 10:10, 14; 13:12).
Sin - Sin is a real and expressed evil. It originated in Satan in heaven (Isaiah 14:12-14; John 8:42; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:7-9), and in man in the Garden of Eden when Adam rebelled and transgressed against God’s explicit command and ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6, 17). Sin is thus willful rebellion against the law of God (Exodus 35:19, Psalm 51:3; Hebrews 4:7; 10:26; 13:18; 2 Peter 3:5). It may be defined as lawlessness (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 5:13; Galatians 3:19; 1 Timothy 1:9), transgression (Psalm 119:158; Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 3:4), disobedience (Romans 8:7; Titus 1:16; 3:3; 1 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 2:7-8), and rebellion (Psalm 78:8; Lamentations 1:18; 3:14; Daniel 9:5). Sin exists also in unbelief (John 3:18; Titus 1:15; 1 John 2:22-24; Revelation 21:8).
Unlike the angels, mankind is a race; thus when the first man Adam sinned, sin was transmitted to all men through him (Romans 5;12). All men are therefore born with the sin nature and thus with the propensity to sin (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Ephesians 2:3; 1 John 1:8). None are exempt, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Sin exists in two forms: 1) in the very being of man, in his rebellious nature (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:3); 2) in the actual acts of transgression (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). Sin is conceived in the heart and is expressed in thought (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19), word (Matthew 5:22), and/or deed (Romans 1:32).
Death and everlasting damnation is the penalty that God imposed upon mankind for sin (Romans 6:23). The Good News is that the shedding of Jesus’ blood, His death on the Cross, and His resurrection provided the remedy for sin (Romans 5:15-19; Hebrews 9:22). By grace, through faith in Christ, transgressions are forgiven and the “old man,” the sin nature, is crucified.
In justification, actual transgressions are pardoned and washed away (Romans 3:28-30; 5:1; Ephesians 2:5, 13-18); in sanctification, the very nature of sin rooted in man’s heart is uprooted and removed (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14; Colossians 3:3-10). The sanctified believer is thus made free from sin (John 8:36).
Works of the Flesh - The “works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Galatians 5:19-21). The apostle Paul sets forth three general categories of carnality ["works of the flesh"]: 1) sensual and sexual sins, which include adultery, fornication, immorality, impurity, unfaithfulness, and lewdness of all kinds, which may be committed before and/or during marriage; 2) sins of spiritual deception and demonic seduction through false religion, which include idolatry, witchcraft, sorcery, divination, necromancy, magic, enchantments, palm readings, superstitious rituals of paganism, and new age teachings and practices; 3) sins that stem from a malicious and spiteful spirit, which include hatred, enmities, wrath, strife, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, murders [actual or harbored in the heart], bitter disputes, dissensions, factions, heresies, seditions, envyings, drunkenness, carousing, and ranting and rioting.
The list of the “works of the flesh” given by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5 is not a complete list of sins. There are many more subtle works of the flesh and of the spirit that are not so “manifest” or obvious, including greed, coventousness, stealing, extortion, gossip, slander, whisperings, and evil speaking. The apostle thus adds to his list of sins the words, “and such like.” His point in bringing these sins to the attention of the church, and identifying them in particular, is to make us more conscious of the destructive nature of sin, and to set forth God’s remedy for sin in Christ. Deliverance from the powerful works of the flesh cannot be obtained through the law and practices of religion, but only “through sanctification of the Spirit” and the Word of God (Galatians 5:16-18, 24; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). The sanctifying power of Jesus’ blood received by faith through the Holy Spirit is the remedy! The “old man” must be crucified in order for the believer to be made free from and victorious over sin (John 8:36; Romans 6:6; 8:1-6; Galatians 2:20; 5;24; 6:14; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 2:11-12). Further, the old man is kept crucified by our daily consecration and “walk in the Spirit” according to the Word of God (Galatians 5:16, 25; 2 Timothy 2:21-23).
Salvific Work of Grace
Conviction is a revelation to man by the Holy Ghost of the righteous judgment of God. Through conviction, unregenerated souls see themselves as sinners before God, experience guilt, and realize their separation from Him who is holy, just and good (Isaiah 6: 1; John 6:44; Acts 2:37,38). True repentance can be made only through the work of the Spirit in conviction (John 16:7-15; 1 Corinthians 12:3; see also John 8:32; 14:6).
Repentance is the act of confessing one's sins before God, being willing to forsake them and to turn to Christ with all of one's heart, mind, soul, and strength. True repentance can be made only in the spirit of godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10). Repentance is manifested by certain fruit "meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8; Romans 6:2). The act of repentance should be followed by water baptism [see below] (Mark 1:4, 5, 15; Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 5:30, 31; 1 John 1:9). Repentance is a prerequisite experience for justification.
Justification is the state of being void of offense toward God. It is made possible through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. It is the act of God in forgiving the transgressions of a penitent sinner. Justification is the result of repentance and faith (Romans 8:1, 2; 3:23-26; 1 John 1:7). The genuinely justified person has "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (5: 1, 2). Justification signifies the pardon (forgiveness) aspect of the new birth.
Regeneration is the act of God in creating new life in the heart of the believer through the Holy Ghost. It is a definite and instantaneous experience. Man is dead in sins and trespasses through Adam, and can be quickened or regenerated only through faith in Christ and His atoning sacrifice (Ephesians 2:1,4,5; Colossians 2:13,14; John 5:24). Regeneration is the same as the new birth ("born again" experience).
Born Again is another term for the new birth. The result of this experience is a new creation, in which the believer becomes a child of God. It is through this new birth that one becomes a part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said: "Ye must be born again" (John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23). The new birth is a prerequisite condition for the experience of sanctification.
Fruit of the Spirit is of divine origin. It is the very life of God poured into the heart of the regenerate believer. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22, 23). We are admonished in the Scripture to walk in the Spirit and not to fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:11).
Divine Healing is provided for all in the atonement. Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross provides healing for the whole man, including his body. Divine healing is effected by faith without the aid of medicine or surgical skills. In cases where one is healed through the assistance of physicians, medicine, herbs, etc., God is still to be praised: for it is God who heals in any case. "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all thane iniquities; who health all thy diseases" (Psalm 103:2, 3 Isaiah 53:4, 5; Matt 8:17; 2 Peter 2:24, James 5:14-16).
Sanctification is the second definite work of grace wrought in the regenerated heart by faith. In sanctification, the carnal nature is eradicated ("the old man is crucified") so that the believer no longer has the inclination or propensity to sin; that is, in sanctification the desire to sin is removed (Hebrews 10:10; 13:12,13; Romans 6:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Pet 1 :2). Sanctification enables the believer to bring his/her body under subjection to Christ, and to live a life consistent with the spirit of holiness, and in accordance with the Word of God. Sanctification is a prerequisite condition for the baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Holiness is the result of sanctification. It is a state of grace and purity in which perfect Christ likeness is desired and pursued (Matthew 5:48; 2 Corinthians 7:2). God has called us unto holiness (Thessalonians 4:7). "….Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Pet 1:15, 16). "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14; see also Luke 1:74, 75; 2 Co 7:1; Titus 2:11, 12; Eph 1:4; 4:13, 24). Paul expressed his desire to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28). Christ is returning for a church that is glorious in holiness: "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27; see also Psa1m 45:9-13).
Christian Perfection - The perfection of the believer is the call and aim of the Gospel (Matthew 5:48; John 8:36; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 6:1; James 1:4; Jude 24). Redemption anticipates purification and perfection, and this state of grace is to be attained “in this present world” (Titus 2:11-14). Christ gave His life and shed His blood to make believers perfect in Him (Hebrews 10:1, 14; 13:21), both individually and corporately in the body of Christ (Matthew 5:48; John 17:20-23; 2 Corinthians 13:9; Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 1:10; 2:14-22; 4:11-16; 5:27; Revelation 19:7-8). This glorious experience has therefore been called “Christian perfection,” for it is attained in and through the grace of Christ by the Holy Spirit. The grace of perfection therefore glorifies God, not man.
It is important to understand that Christian perfection is not the same as absolute perfection: for only God is absolutely perfect (Exodus 9:14; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Job 11:7; Mark 10:18). Thus Christian perfection is defined and explained in the Scriptures in ethical terms, rather than in legal terms; that is, Christian perfection is a state of grace attained through a perfect relationship with God. As such, it is rooted in and springs forth from “perfect love” (Matthew 5:44-48; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 John 2:5; 4:12, 17). Love is in fact the “bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:14). Christian perfection is therefore essentially grounded in love and wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit (1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:17; 16:9; 19:9; Romans 5:5; Hebrews 10:22). Accordingly, a believer may err in mental judgments, be forgetful, be sick or afflicted physically, have moments of anguish and perplexity, etc., and yet not be charged with sin or willful rebellion and disobedience against God’s will and law (Romans 8:33; Ephesians 4:26; Hebrews 10:26). The human condition therefore does not necessarily mitigate against the saint’s perfect relationship with God and with his fellow man.
There is, moreover, growth in sanctification and in perfection unto a more glorious state of perfection in Christ. Thus the saint is transformed ever more perfectly by the Spirit of God into the image of Christ “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sanctified believers are admonished to continue to “perfect holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). The Good News is “we know that, when [Christ] shall appear, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2; Ephesians 5:27).
Perseverance - Perseverance reveals the grace imparted to a believer to live in obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in spite of any opposition or hardship that may challenge his Christian faith (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Although the word “perseverance” is used only once in some translations of the Bible (for example, Ephesians 6:18 in the King James Version) there are many other words that are closely related to it, such as abide (John 15:4-5, 7-9), endure (Matthew 10:22), continue (John 8:31-32), steadfast (Hebrews 3:14, 1 Peter 5:8-9, 2 Peter 3:17), patience (Luke 21:19), overcome (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7). In each of these references, the words clearly imply a fight of faith for the follower of Christ. Therefore, perseverance is not an act of God for a believer, but the action of the believer in response to the command of Christ to continue in His Word and grace.
In considering perseverance, two questions immediately present themselves: 1) what is God’s role? 2) what is man’s role? Philippians 2:13 says that God works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. But how is this work accomplished in us? It is by His grace. Paul shows that it is by grace that our walk with Him begins (Ephesians 2:8-9), and in another place that this same grace teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” and to “look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). Further, God’s grace is able to keep us faultless with joy (Jude 24). It is important to understand, however, that man must respond in faith and accept the grace He has provided for him (Romans 10:9-10). It is at the crisis moment of transforming faith that man begins his walk with God; but just as man turns to God for saving grace, he must also seek Him for sustaining grace (Matthew 7:7-11, 21-27; Luke 8:15; 11:28; John 14:15, 23; Jude 24). Man’s perseverance depends on his continued desire to walk with the Lord (John 8:31; Colossians 1:23; Jude 21). This is shown further by the original New Testament word, sozo, that signifies “to save.” This word is expressed in three tenses: “I am saved,” “I am being saved,” “I shall be saved.” Thus, man must be willing to continue to “press” into the kingdom of God, and to persevere at all costs in order to be finally saved (Luke 9:23; 16:16).
The commandment to persevere — endure, abide — in Christ carries eternal consequences. The inheritance of eternal life hinges on the Christian’s decision to continue to seek the grace of God and walk in obedience to His Word. We must be “willing and obedient” (Isaiah 1:19) and “willing to live honestly” (Hebrews 13:18). According to the apostle John, if an individual does not remain in the doctrine of Christ, he does not have God, and he that does not have the Son of God does not have life (2 John 9, 1 John 5:12); therefore the judgment for those who do not persevere is eternal damnation and separation from God (Matthew 25:41-46; Hebrews 10:26-27).
Restitution is the act of restoring something wrongfully taken, or the satisfying of one who otherwise has been wronged (Matthew 3:8; Luke 19:8, 9). This act alone does not save, but it gives evidence of a heart that has truly repented. Restitution glorifies the grace of God and supports the testimony of the believer. It also gives opportunity to reconcile with those who have been wronged. It is the fulfi1ment of the law of love (Romans 13:8). Some restitutions should be made only with great care and with pastoral guidance, in order to avoid further offense or injury.
Sabbath means rest. Observance of the sabbath in the Old Testament (the seventh day) was instituted to point to the believer's spiritual rest in Christ under the New Covenant. The Old Testament requirement to keep the sabbath holy is now superseded by the commandment: "Be ye holy," for in Christ the believer is enabled and required to live holy every day. Sunday is not the sabbath, but is a day set aside by the church to give special attention to the worship of God and the fellowship of the saints (Hosea 2:ll; Colossians 2:16, 17; Romans 14:5, 6 Hebrews 4:1-11).
Meats and Drinks-The prohibitions against certain meats and drinks in the Old Testament were not extended into the New Testament church. These ceremonial aspects of Mosaic legislation were "nailed to the cross" of Christ, and done away with in the covenant of grace (Colossians 2:13-17; Ephesians 2:15; Hebrews 9:8-11). What one eats or drinks (with the exception of intoxicating beverages) is now a matter of conscience, and does not violate the nature and principles of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). However, one should be mindful of the Scriptural injunction: "...whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (see also: Romans 14:2; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Timothy 4:1-5).
Tithing And Giving-Tithing is the giving of one tenth of one's increase to Christ, our High Priest. It began as a voluntary act with Abraham, was required under the Mosaic law, and carried forward by Christ as a discipline for the New Testament church (Matthew 23:23). Tithes are to be brought to the house of God and properly distributed by the ministers having the charge of the treasury (Malachi 3:10). Freewill offerings are to be encouraged and regarded as a gift from the heart. Tithing and giving into the church are part of God's plan to finance His work through the church on earth. We are required in the Scriptures to be good stewards of that which God has entrusted in our care (See also: Genesis 14:18-20; Luke11:42; 1 Co 16:2; 2 Co 9:6-9; Hebrews 7:1-21).
Swearing and Profanity-Taking an oath is contrary to the spirit of the New Testament. "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation" (James 5:12). Jesus said, "But I say unto you, Swear not at a11…But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil" (Matthew 5:34, 37; see also Exodus 20:7). An affirmation of the truth is sufficient; it is acceptable even in secular courts. Similarly, the use of profanity reflects an impure heart and has no place in the life of a child of God (Matthew 15: 18, 19; Philippians 1:27; 3:20; 1 Peter 1:15; 2 Peter 2:7; James 3:8-10).
Intoxicating Beverages and Drugs-"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Proverbs 20: 1). The Scriptures teach against the consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating beverages because God has called us to perfect sobriety (1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Timothy 3:2; Titus 2:2). Believers are admonished not to "...give place to the devil." So-called moderate or social drinking certainly gives place to the adversary and thus believers: should totally abstain (Ephesians 4:27; see also Isaiah 28:7; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:10; Galatians 5:21). Much of what is said about intoxicating beverages is true also of drugs. The use of drugs such as tobacco, marijuana, opium, cocaine, etc., impair the body and is not in keeping with the teachings and principles of Christ and the Scriptures. These things defile the body and are inconsistent with God's call to soberness (2 Corinthians 7:1; Isaiah 55:2; 1 Corinthians 10:31, 32; Ephesians 5:3-8; James 1:21). Drugs used for medical purposes should be taken only under the care and direction of a physician, and then only in good conscience.
Unequal Yoke-The Bible teaches against the children of God being unequally yoked with unbelievers. Binding ourselves with unbelievers in organizations and secret orders with an oath is contrary to the Spirit of Christ and the plain teaching in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 6:14-17). As the espoused bride of Christ, we have covenanted ourselves to give undivided loyalty to Christ. "For I am jealous over you with Godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2; Jeremiah 50:5). Membership in organizations which require an oath of secrecy should be dissolved before becoming a member of the church. "Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing" (John 18:20).
Spirit Baptism and Spiritual Gifts
Baptism with the Holy Ghost is an instantaneous experience wrought in the life of the believer subsequent to entire sanctification. In this baptism, Christ is the agent, the Spirit is the element (Matthew 3:11). The baptism with the Spirit on the sanctified life is accompanied with speaking in tongues: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:2-4; see also:10:44-47; 19:1-6). The baptism with the Spirit is a baptism of spiritual empowerment for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 24:49; John 15:26; Acts 1:8); it also enables one to minister effectively within the church for the self-edification of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-28; Ephesians 4:11-16).
Speaking in Tongues always accompanies the baptism with the Holy Ghost. The believer speaks in "unknown tongues" as "the Spirit gives utterance" (Acts 2:4). "Unknown tongues" is distinguished from speaking by the gift of the Spirit in "divers tongues," that is, in languages that are known to man (Acts 2:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:2). In either case ("unknown tongues" or languages known to man), the manifestation of tongues (and interpretations) is always consistent with the Word of God (1 Corinthians 14:26). The gift of tongues is a sign to un-believers (vv.14:2l-23), but serve also for the self-edification of the believer (v. 4).
Gifts of The Spirit-There are various gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The gifts of the Spirit were in operation in the New Testament church, but thereafter the church began to "fall away," and the manifestation of spiritual gifts began to wane. After the apostasy in the fourth century, and the ensuing "dark ages" of Christian history, the manifestation of spiritual gifts (particularly tongues-speaking) were almost non-existent (manifested on occasion mainly among so-called heretics and unorthodox Christians). In these last days (particularly since early in the twentieth century) God is again pouring out His Spirit "upon all flesh" according to prophecy, in order to fulfill His eternal purpose through the church (Joe1 2:28-32; 3:16-18; Acts 2:38, 39).
Signs Following Believers - Signs in the New Testament were mainly for the purpose of confirming the Word of God and Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. As believers went forth preaching the Word in Jesus' name, the Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word with signs following" (Mark 16:15- 20). Miraculous signs follow believers in order to confirm the proclamation of the Word of God, to convict sinners, and to edify the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12-14).
Water Baptism is the act of being immersed in water by a minister of the gospel, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is commanded by Christ, and represents His death, burial and resurrection, which is experienced in the life of the believer (Romans 6:3-5). This ordinance has no power to wash away sin, but is the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21). Water baptism is valid only when the candidate is actually born again (Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:8-10; 16:15, 16; John 3:22, 23; Acts 10:47, 48; 16:33). Water baptism is identified with spiritual regeneration; it is not the door into the church.
Lord's Supper is a memorial meal, which calls to remembrance the sacrifice of Christ, who shed His blood for our sins. Jesus commanded that this sacred meal be observed "in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:24). The broken, unleavened bread represents His body; the fruit of the vine (unfermented grape juice) represents His blood. This sacred ordinance should be observed with holy reverence, only after careful self-examination (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; 11:23-30). It is the outward sign of Christ's covenant with the church (Luke 22:20).
Feet Washing is an ordinance in the church. Following the institution of the Lord's Supper, Christ girded himself with a towel, washed the disciples feet, and said: "If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). This ordinance is distinguished from the cultural practice of feet washing in the Middle East; it has spiritual significance and is commanded to be observed by believers (1- Timothy 5: 10). The purpose of feet washing is not fulfilled through charity and good works. It is to remind us that we have one Master and Lord, who is the head of the church, and we are all His servants, and servants of one another.
Sanctity of Life - Human life is sacred because it is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Taking of innocent life is thus strictly forbidden in Scripture, including abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, genocide, and suicide (self-murder). "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). Whosoever sheddeth innocent blood will not be held guiltless before God (Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:30, 31; Romans 13:8-10; Revelation 21:8).
Sanctity of Marriage - Jesus said, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:4-6). Accordingly, marriage is between a male and female until death (Mark 10:2-12; Romans 7:2); as such it is a divine institution that should be held in the highest esteem among all men and women (Hebrews 13:4). Adultery, fornication, divorce and remarriage are sinful practices that violate the laws of God, and injure the home and family. Nevertheless, unfaithfulness (sexual relationships outside of marriage) is not grounds for divorce and remarriage, for "whosoever marrieth her which is put away committeth adultery" (Matthew 19:9). Therefore, those who remarry while their first companion is alive are not eligible for membership in the church (see Exodus 20:14, 17; Malachi 2:14-17; Matthew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 6:15-20; 7:2, 3).
Sanctity of the Body-Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are admonished to glorify God in our body (1 Corinthians 6:20-21). "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (1 Cor. 3:16-17). We are also admonished to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Romans 12:1), and "...whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians10:31b). Incest, same-sex unions, and all homosexual and lesbian relationships are strictly forbidden by the Scriptures. These practices are an abomination to God, though they may be sanctioned by a state or religious institution (Romans 1:24-28; Leviticus 18:22, 23; 20:10-21). Practices such as "body piercing," tattooing, mutilating and disfiguring the body, are of pagan origin and contrary to the spirit of holiness and biblical principles. These practices should have no place in the lives of believers (Cf: Timothy 2:8-10; Romans 12:1, 2; Isaiah 3:16-22; 1 John 2:15-17).
Pre-Millennial Second Coming Of Jesus - Christ is coming again in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:27, 28). "The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; see a1so 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52). All who are caught up in the first resurrection will attend the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9). Christ will then return to earth and reign with the saints for a thousand years (vv.4, 6; see also Zechariah 14:4, 5; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Jude 14, 15; Revelation 5:10; 19:11-21).
Resurrection-There will be a resurrection for both the righteous and the wicked. The righteous will be raised at Christ's first appearance in the clouds of glory. The resurrection of the wicked will occur after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. "And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15; see also Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-6; John 5:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:12-23, 41-58).
Eternal Life for the Righteous - The reward of the righteous is everlasting life in the presence of God. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matthew 25:46; Luke 18:29, 30; John 10:28; Romans 6:22; 1 Jn 5:11-13).
Eternal Punishment for the Wicked - Those who reject or disregard the call to repentance and salvation are doomed to eternal damnation (John 3:15-21). In hell there is no escape, no liberation, no annihilation. Hell is the "the second death," and is a place of eternal torment. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8; see also 20:10-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Jude 14:15; Matthew 25:46; Mark 3:29).
Antichrist - Antichrist can signify either “against Christ” or “in the place of Christ,” or a combination of the two meanings. Antichrist is one who opposes Christ or who assumes the prerogatives of Christ as our Lord and Savior.
While only the apostle John uses the word, antichrist, the apostle Paul is apparently speaking of the same spirit and principle when he refers to the “mystery of lawlessness” and the “lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8. John identifies certain “false prophets” and “deceivers” as antichrists (1 John 1-3; 2:18; 2 John 7). The prophet Daniel is in reference to this same spirit in his prophecy of the “beast” in Daniel 7, which corresponds also with John’s vision of the “beast” in Revelation 11; 13; 17; 19.
We may conclude that the spirit of antichrist signifies the deceptive and seductive spirit in the world that seeks to confuse the true identity of Christ and to corrupt His Gospel. Antichrist may take many religious, social, and political forms, but all have the same goal — namely, to compromise and corrupt the true doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ with false doctrines and the pretense of false Christs (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23, 24).
Prophecy predicts that a particular person in the very last days will come on the scene that will embody and personify the spirit of antichrist in the world. This man is variously characterized as the “lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2:8) and the “beast” (Daniel 7:10, 11, 25; Revelation 13:1). Jesus is in reference to this spirit of deception and lawless spirit in Matthew 24:5, 24 and John 5:43. Our concern in the church, however, it not so much with the coming of the particular Lawless One — “the beast” — but with the spirit of antichrist now prevailing in the world: for it seems that the prophetic Lawless One will not be fully revealed until after the rapture of the church (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Until then, the Spirit of God and the church will restrain and prevent his rise to power and his full revelation.
God’s church rests upon the revelation — the “rock” — that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-18), and that He was incarnate in the virgin Mary, died for our sins, and was resurrected on the third day so that man can be redeemed and brought back into fellowship with God our Father (Romans 5:6-10). The Spirit of Christ indwells believers, enabling them to live their lives consistent with the law of God (Romans 8:1-7); whereas the spirit of antichrist opposes the truth of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures, providing substitutions for the saving grace of Christ. The diabolic influence of antichrist is found throughout the world, resisting the true Gospel and substituting in its place myriads of false gospels (Galatians 1:1-9; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4). These are “lying spirits” set to deceive and destroy precious souls (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13-14). John exhorts believers to “try the spirits” — test them, prove them — against the truth of Christ and His teachings revealed in the Scriptures (1 John 4:1-3). The spirit of antichrist, personified in the Lawless One, will be completely destroyed with the brightness of Christ’s second coming and the power of His Word (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Meanwhile the saints are empowered to resist and overcome the spirit of antichrist in the world through faith, the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Principles for Practical Christian Living and Discipline
The following guidelines are explicitly revealed in the Scriptures, or else shown to be consistent with biblical teachings. They are brought to our attention to enhance our relationship with Christ and one another, and to encourage us to live in a way that will bring glory and honor to the nameof Christ, and to support the witness of the church. We are admonished in the Scriptures: " be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim 4:l2b). Jesus instructs us: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see yourgood works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16.
Prayer - Jesus' admonition to "watch and pray" (Matthew 26:41a) has never been more urgent than today. We live in "perilous times," and Christ and the apostles warned that the times will only worsen as we approach our Lord's return. Therefore, daily prayers and family devotions should be a priority in every church home. Maintaining a prayerful attitude is a key to spirituality for every individual and local congregation. Again Jesus said, "...men ought alway to pray, and not to faint" (Luke l8:la), and the apostle encouraged believers to "pray without ceasing"(1 Thessalonians 5: 17). We are also enjoined to "... pray one for another..." (James 5:l6a). Special prayers should be made for those in authority and for those who have given themselves in service to God and to the ministry of the Word (Timothy 2: 1-3). Prayer is so essential to the life of the church that the church is called "the house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13).
Bible Study - Reading and studying the Scriptures are invaluable to the spiritual welfare of the child of God. Every member of the church is encouraged to be a faithful student of God's holy Word. Paul instructs us to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God..." (2 Tim 2:l5a), for "the holy scriptures are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (3:15), Further, he says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"(v. 16). The importance of the Word of God is eloquently expressed by the Psalmist: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." And again, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:105, 11).
Church Attendance and Worship - Worship and fellowship with believers of "like precious faith" is a vital part of the Christian life. Worship should be heartfelt in the Spirit, and in harmony with the Word of God (John 4 23b; Eph 5:19). Each member of the church is apart of the body of Christ, and thus the body will be hindered to the degree that one member fails to actively participate in its life and mission. Accordingly, members should actively support every function of the church, and participate as much as possible. The exhortation of the Hebrew writer is worthy of our careful attention: "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).
Children should be instructed at home, and taught by precept and example to respect the house of God. Ministers and their families should be examples in their lifestyle and conversation. "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane" (Ezekiel 44:23a).
A prayerful attitude creates an atmosphere conducive for worship and the ministry of God's Word. Believers should therefore be prayerful as the minister delivers the message, lest Satan come and steal the Word of God from their hearts (Mark 4:4, 15). God's love "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" should fill the atmosphere of our worship services. Love should govern our every action and be shown to everyone without partiality (1 Corinthians l3). We should take special care to show love to visitors. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
Walking Circumspectly-Children of God should "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time for the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15, 16). Living a consecrated life at home and abroad will give no place for anyone to justly think or speak of you as a hypocrite. Our manner of life and conversation should be holy in word and deed, as becoming to a child of God. As representatives of Christ in this world, and members of the Church of God, we should fashion ourselves with modesty and sobriety (Psalm 1:1-3; Phil 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:15-23).
Entertainment and Worldly Attractions-Christians should never participate in worldly attractions and entertainment where the principles of holiness may be compromised. Believers should participate in activities with unbelievers only with a guarded disposition, lest one becomes entangled or entrapped in the snares of Satan. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8; see also 2 Peter 2:19-22).
Illicit Relationships - Paul admonishes us to "give no place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27). Forming too close an intimacy with the opposite sex, even if they are brothers and sisters in the Lord, creates an environment for temptation and gives opportunity for the "wiles of the devil." Samson is a classic case of this unwise behavior, which led to his fall from grace (Judges 16); whereas Joseph wisely fled from a similar situation (Genesis 39). Paul perhaps had Joseph in mind when he exhorted, "Flee fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:18). The words of James, the Lord's brother, also come to mind: "Lust when it is conceived bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death" (James 1:13-15). In view of these solemn admonitions, great care should be taken to avoid associations and situations which could reflect upon one's character and bring reproach upon Christ and the church.
Outward Adornment- Christians are ambassadors (representatives) for Christ in this present world (2 Corinthians 5:20). As such they should be careful to adorn themselves as befitting their Lord's plainness and purity. Adorning oneself after a worldly fashion with facial paint, gold, pearls, costly apparel, etc. is inconsistent with the testimony of one professing a life separated unto God. "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel...But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3: 1-6; see also 1 Tim 2:8-10; Isaiah 3:16-24; 61:10).
Corporate and Self-Discipline--Self-examinations to evaluate one's own faith and spirituality are healthy (1 Corinthians 11:28). Sincere concern for others is also good and to be encouraged. We are our brother's keeper. Counsel should be given only in the spirit of love and with godly wisdom, and according to the rule of discipline outlined in the gospel (Matthew 18:15-20). (A harsh spirit of criticism is detrimental to the spiritual welfare of both the critic and the one receiving the criticism: Matthew 7:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2: 1-11; Galatians 5:14, 15; Ephesians 4:30-32). Discipline should be administered only as a last resort, and always through prayerful counsel and with the ultimate good of the erring brother/sister in mind (1 Corinthians 5:l-7; Galatians 6:1-5).