The Church

We teach that all who place their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 19:7-8), of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).

We teach that the formation of the church, the body of Christ, began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21, 38-47) and will be completed at the coming of Christ for His own at the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

We teach that the church is thus a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ, made up of all born-again believers in this present age (Ephesians 2:11-3:6), and consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, a mystery not revealed until this age (Ephesians 3:1–6). The church is, however, distinct from the nation of Israel, the old covenant people of God (Romans 9-11).

We teach that the establishment and continuity of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament Scriptures (Acts 14:23, 27; 20:17; Galatians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1) and that the members of the one spiritual body are directed to associate themselves together in local assemblies (Hebrews 10:25).

We teach that the one supreme authority for the church is Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18) and that church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are all appointed through His sovereignty as found in the Scriptures. The Biblically designated officers serving under Christ and over the assembly are elders, also called bishops, pastors, and pastor-teachers (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11); and deacons, both of whom must meet Biblical qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-5).

We teach that these leaders lead or rule as servants of Christ (1 Timothy 5:17-22) and have His authority in directing the church. The congregation is to submit to their leadership (Hebrews 13:17).

We teach the importance of discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2), mutual accountability of all believers to each other (Galatians 6:1-5; Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:13-20), and discipline in appropriate circumstances (Matthew 18:15-22; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 1:19-20).

We teach the autonomy of the local church, free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations. We teach that it is Scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other for the presentation and propagation of the faith. Each local church, however, through its pastors and their interpretation and application of Scripture, should be the sole judge of the measure and method of its cooperation (Matthew 18:15-17; Acts 15:19-31; 1 Corinthians 5:4-7, 13).

We teach that the purpose of the church is to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21), by building itself up in the faith (Ephesians 4:11-16), by instruction in the Word (2 Timothy 2:2, 15; 3:16-17), by fellowship (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3), by keeping the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42), and by advancing and communicating the gospel to the entire world so that the world might be filled with believing image bearers who gladly and gratefully reflect God’s benevolent kingship (Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; 2:47).

We teach the calling of all saints to the work of service (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 4:12; Revelation 22:12).

We teach the need of the church to cooperate with God as He accomplishes His purpose in the world. To that end, He gives the church spiritual gifts. He gives men chosen for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:7-12) and He also gives unique and special spiritual abilities (spiritual gifts) to each member of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

We teach that with the completion of the canon of Scripture, the more manifestly miraculous spiritual gifts (prophecy, tongues, healings) are no longer necessary as testimonies to the truth and power of the apostolic word and ministry (Hebrews 2:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12), and that no one possesses the more manifestly miraculous spiritual gifts today.

While we teach that no one possesses the more manifestly miraculous spiritual gifts today, we also emphatically believe that God still heals (Luke 18:1-6; John 5:7-9; James 5:13-16; 1 John 5:14-15) and performs providential miracles today. There is need for discernment since Satan can counterfeit miracles (Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 13:13-14). And we would understand some of the reports of miraculous happenings today to be gracious and providential acts of God instead of spiritual “gifts” of individual believers that continue in operation after the apostolic era. But we teach that our God is a sovereign and supernatural God who does as He pleases. We should pray for and expect God to continue to work in powerful and conspicuous and miraculous ways for the good of His creatures and the glory of Christ.

We teach that the church is to observe two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:38-42). Baptism by immersion (Acts 8:36-39) is a proclamation of what God has done in Christ, a testimony of a believer’s faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, and a symbol of union with Him in death to sin and resurrection to new life (Romans 6:1-11). It is also a sign of fellowship and identification with the visible body of Christ (Acts 2:41-42), in which all nations and colors and classes are welcome (Galatians 3:27-28). The Lord’s Supper is a commemoration and proclamation of the Lord’s death until He comes, and should be always preceded by self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28-32). The elements of communion are only representative of the flesh and blood of Christ, but the Lord’s Supper is an actual communion with the risen Christ who is present in a unique way, fellowshipping with His people (1 Corinthians 10:16). Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper conforms diverse individual believers into one body (1 Corinthians 10:17).