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We are Christians
This means that we believe the gospel. We believe that the God of the universe, Yahweh, is eternally existent in the persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe the eternal Son was born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless and righteous life, and then offered Himself up as a substitute for our sins on the cross. We believe He rose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent His Spirit to indwell all those who believe. We believe Christ will return bodily to judge the world. The righteous will experience eternal reward, and the unrighteous will experience eternal torment. We believe that we were born in sin, but at the point of repentance and faith, God awakes us from our spiritual death, and imparts eternal life into our souls, and regards Christ’s righteousness as being ours, while charging our sin to Him. Because of His sovereign act, we now love Christ. We believe He is our Saviour from sin and the Lord of our lives.
This means that we affirm the gospel as taught in the Bible, believed through the centuries, and especially recovered during the time of the Reformation. We believe salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God alone.
We are conservatives
This is perhaps the hardest one to explain, because it is so rarely seen today, and so poorly understood. Put simply, we believe that true Christianity must be conserved and protected against beliefs and practices that would harm it. In other words, we want to be as fully Christian as possible. To do this, we work to conserve several things.
First, we conserve the gospel. We believe in loyalty to the gospel, not only in believing its message, but in defending it from those who would demean it. The gospel is the boundary of Christianity; everyone who believes it is a fellow brother or sister, whether Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Charismatic, Reformed or Arminian. With the church, we confess the truths of the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed.
However, the scene becomes more complicated when there are people around who claim the title ‘Christian’, but deny the gospel. If they deny the Trinity, the virgin birth, humanity, deity, substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection of Christ, or any other essential (fundamental) doctrines, then they have denied the gospel. This means they are not Christians. If they merely denied these things without claiming to be Christians, they would simply be unbelievers. However, when they claim to be Christians, they are apostates. The Bible tells us not to extend Christian fellowship to apostates (2 John 1:10), because they preach a different gospel (Gal 1:6-8, 2 Cor 11:4). The whole books of 2 Peter and Jude are written about such people. As Christians, we cannot extend fellowship to those who deny the gospel itself. To do so would be to indirectly deny it ourselves. Not everyone who says he is a Christian is so. This is why we are confessionalists. We subscribe to certain creeds and confessions, not because they are more authoritative than the Bible, but because they summarise biblical teaching, and emphasise the boundary of the Christian faith: the gospel.
We believe in preaching a clear, doctrinally-rich gospel message. We believe in community and worldwide evangelism.
Furthermore, we exercise caution with those who profess the gospel, but are indifferent as to whom they extend Christian fellowship. If a church that professes the gospel is happy to have an apostate preach in their pulpit, or happy to partner with apostates in ministry endeavours, we think such Christians are being disobedient. They are treating the gospel too lightly. This would place a strain and a limit on our fellowship with them.
Second, we conserve biblical doctrine. The gospel is just the boundary of the faith; the whole faith as revealed in Scripture is what we live out. We believe that the Word must have a central place in our lives and give much time to the public exposition of the Word. We encourage theological literacy and education. We believe in one-on-one or small-group discipleship along with the preaching ministry of the church. Again, here we find many Christians committed to conserving this much.
Third, we conserve biblical worship. We believe the chief end of man is to love Christ so as to glorify Him. Therefore we believe our greatest goal as a church is worship. We believe that God has prescribed the pattern for Christian worship in the New Testament. We guard against innovations, additions or omissions from this pattern. Unfortunately, here we part ways with many brethren, who do not see God’s Word as prescriptive for worship, but feel the freedom to introduce all kinds of additions or innovations to corporate worship for pragmatic reasons. We are also different from those Christians who place their ministry emphasis on evangelism, world-wide missions, or ministry programs. As important as these things may be, we see the goal of the church as worship, and all else flowing out from that mountain-top.
Fourth, we conserve ordinate affection. “Affections” refers to our desires, or values or loves. “Ordinate affection” means that there is a right way to desire and love God, and a wrong way. We believe God is to be loved supremely. We believe God must be loved appropriately. We believe there are fitting, appropriate and therefore, ordinate responses to God, and inappropriate and therefore inordinate responses. We believe in the importance of knowing what affections are true and ordinate when it comes to responding to God, the world and our experiences. Here we will seem strange to many people, who are used to thinking about love for God in a very simple “either I do or I don’t” way. Here we will part ways with many Christians who believe that any kind of music, prayer, praise or approach to God is fine, so long as it is sincere. We believe we must think very carefully about how we are to love God and people, and what kind of responses we should have to Him. Because of that, we also try to promote and conserve a fifth thing:
We conserve the examined life. We believe we must examine life to understand it, and the meanings of the things in our lives. Apart from this, we can never understand how to properly love and obey God. All of life has meaning – from the things we wear, to our tone of voice, to the music we listen to, to the technology around us. For us to be fully Christian, we must consider carefully the meaning of the things around us, and particularly the things that shape meaning. We can never properly apply Scriptural principles to life, unless we understand the meaning and significance of things in the world. Unfortunately, many people view this search for meaning as ‘legalism’. We part ways with many of our otherwise-conservative Christian brothers and sisters on the matter of using various things in popular culture for worship and ministry, like certain kinds of music, certain forms of entertainment and so forth. We do not think these things are just ‘styles’. They have meaning, and the meaning must be understood before it is used in ministry or worship. You can see an example of thinking about the meaning of things in the booklet “Why do We Do It That Way?”
Finally, we conserve Christian tradition. For us, tradition is not authoritative, it is simply instructive. The Word of God is our final authority. However, contained in the best of Christian tradition is orthodox theology, ordinate affection, and examples of true piety to Christ. Therefore, we want to remain connected with the evangelical Christian tradition throughout history. We want to build on what we have been handed. Some of our fellow evangelicals or fundamentalists appear to be anti-traditional, and may even suspect that we have sympathies with Roman Catholicism. We abhor what Rome has done to the gospel. Nevertheless, we are happy to own our heritage wherever it is found: in the early Church Fathers, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment or the Modern Era. Our emphasis on conserving ordinate affection, meaning and tradition makes us seem strange to many, for we live in an unreflective age.
Put simply, a conservative says: a true Christian must believe the gospel, believe and obey the Bible, worship God properly, and obey Him responsibly in the culture he is living in. He believes he has been handed Christianity, and is responsible for preserving it and passing it on. That is why a conservative tries to conserve these things.
This is not about a denominational affiliation, it represents several convictions we hold about the nature and practice of the church. We believe that the final authority for the church’s order and practice is the New Testament. Both Testaments are equally authoritative, but we believe the church as a New Testament entity must use the New Testament to order its life. We believe in a pure church: a regenerated membership, immersed upon personal confession, who are included in the local church through membership or excluded through discipline. We hold that believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances (ceremonies) for the church. We reject Campbellite views, which make baptism essential to salvation. We believe pastors/elders/overseers (three titles, one office) and deacons are the two offices of the church. We hold to a congregational model of church organisation: the church makes decisions under the guidance and shepherding of the elders. We believe in a plurality of biblically qualified men to lead the church under Christ’s Lordship. We also believe that each church is autonomous and answers directly to the headship of Jesus Christ. We believe the State must not control or sponsor the church, though we recognise that the church may have an indirect influence on the State. We respect the individual responsibility of believers to read the Word for themselves (soul competence), and pray to God directly (priesthood of the believer).
We affirm the sovereignty of God over all things, including salvation. We affirm human responsibility in salvation, while recognising God’s sovereign election. We believe in the eternal security of the believer, as well as the perseverance of true believers.
We believe that the supernatural gifts of tongues, prophecy, miracles, as well as supernatural forms of divine revelation such as dreams, visions, angelic visitations, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, audible messages from God, ceased by the end of the apostolic era (around A.D. 100). The miraculous gifts were a very particular type of gift, unique to the apostolic era of transitioning Israel to the church. God can do anything at any time, but He has not indicated in Scripture that He intends to grant miraculous gifts to the church throughout the church age. Instead, the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20), that is, the completed Scriptures and matured church is sufficient for us (1 Cor 13:8-13). This means we are different from churches that believe in continuing prophecy and revelation, the gift of tongues, whether publicly or in a ‘private prayer language’. We believe in divine healing, but not in ‘healing crusades’. We believe God casts our demons through the reception of the gospel, not through exorcism ministries. We believe in spiritual warfare by growing in Christlikeness, not through ‘binding Satan’, ‘taking dominion’, ‘breaking generational curses’ or by certain verbal incantations. We reject the out-of-control manifestations of charismatic worship as denials of 1 Corinthians 14, particularly verses 33 and 40. This means we are different from a large percentage of professing Christian churches, who have adopted a charismatic model of revelation and worship.
Having said that, we believe we have a living experiential relationship with the Triune God through Jesus Christ. Because Christ is real and personal, a relationship with Him is real and personal. Therefore, the goal of our lives as a church is ‘to know Christ and to make Him known’.
We reject the health, wealth and prosperity gospel as false and deceitful, as well as other forms of ‘positive confession’ teachings that grow out of the charismatic and Word-Faith movements.
We believe that men and women complement each other, while being different. Men and women are spiritual equals, and in Christ, the war of the sexes is torn down (Gal 3:28). This does not obliterate differences in roles. In the home, God has different roles for husbands and wives (Eph 5:22-33). In the church, God has different roles for men and women (1 Tim 2:8-15). These roles do not come out of some existing cultural issue at the time of the New Testament’s writing, but rather from the created order itself (1 Tim 2:13-14). God has ordained that men function as spiritual heads of their homes, and of the church, by mimicking the servant-leadership of Christ (1 Cor 11:3, Eph 5:25-29). Therefore, we believe pastors and those who serve or officiate as spiritual leaders in the church must be male. We see God even calling for these distinctions in nature and role to be clear in corporate worship (1 Cor 11:4-16). We honour and cherish biblical femininity (Proverbs 31:10-31), and recognise the indispensable role of women ministering to each other (Titus 2:3-5), and to the whole body (1 Cor 12).
We believe that the Genesis account of creation was meant to be understood literally, not symbolically, typologically, or as a ‘literary framework’. We believe God created the universe in the six days He described. We reject models of origins that include Darwinistic evolution, that is, speciation occurring through natural selection over aeons. We believe that theories which seek to combine evolution with special creation may ultimately compromise the integrity of the gospel, by compromising the truths of man’s original innocence and subsequent fall, and the need for a substitutionary Saviour.
We hold that Scripture is entirely sufficient for man’s spiritual needs and problems (2 Tim 3:16-17), and does not need to be supplemented or integrated with insights from secular psychology. Therefore we believe we need to admonish and confront one another with biblical truth to solve our problems. We believe sanctification is a process of increasingly gaining the mind of Christ through Spirit-enabled understanding of the Scriptures, and so putting off the old and putting on the new (Eph 4:22-24). We reject the idea of second-blessing Christianity. We do not hold the revivalist view that spiritual growth is brought about by precipitating a crisis decision every week through an altar-call.
We believe a consistently literal approach to interpreting Scripture reveals that the church is distinct from Israel. We recognise continuity between Israel and the church, but also recognise the discontinuities. We do not think that Israel has been permanently set aside, according to Romans 11. We do not hold to multiple ways of salvation. We exercise some latitude on interpreting the timetable of end-time events. Nevertheless, we believe that there Old Testament promises that are yet to be fulfilled, and will not be fulfilled by the church. We believe Christ will return to earth before He sets up His kingdom, hence we are premillennialists.
This might sound like a bulky list. Whatever happened to plain, simple Christianity? Well, we’re happy to profess the simple gospel with all other Christians. However, we can’t put our heads in the sand, either. The convictions we hold have emerged because of real disputes and conflicts over what Christians ought to believe and practise. Some of these disputes are centuries old. Some of them are relatively recent. Our goal is not to be eccentric, but to navigate the complicated landscape of modern Christianity, trying to be as fully biblical as we can.
We trust this has helped you understand something of the position and practices of One Hope Baptist Church. We hope you see the basis for this, and will join with us in knowing Christ and making Him known!