STATEMENT OF FAITH – BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH FERGUS
6 March 2011
This Statement of Faith is a summary of what we, the members of Bethel Baptist Church Fergus, believe that the Bible teaches concerning the central doctrines of the Christian faith. These doctrines include those which bind us together with all other evangelical believers, as well as those which distinguish us as Baptists. Where we believe the Bible allows liberty to hold different understandings on tertiary doctrines, they are not included in our Statement.
Our only and ultimate authority for faith and practice is the Bible itself. We will amend and update our Statement of Faith as necessary to reflect, as carefully and accurately as possible, what we believe the Bible teaches. This current Statement of Faith replaces that adopted by Bethel Baptist Church on January 1, 1969. It was felt that changes were necessary at this time to ensure that the Statement would be well-understood in these, the early years of the twenty-first century, to include our understanding of what we believe that the Bible teaches with respect to issues not previously addressed but are now important because of what is happening in the culture around us, and to include Biblical references such that it can be seen that what we believe has its foundation in the Word of God.
A. THE BIBLE
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. Throughout history God has revealed Himself in a variety of ways, and God has preserved the substance of this revelation in the Bible. When we say “the Bible,” we mean the sixty-six books of the Old Testament and New Testament. These books were written by divinely chosen authors as they were, consciously or unconsciously, directed by the Spirit of God. Although those writers were genuine authors and in most cases not just secretaries taking dictation, the work of the Spirit was so complete that everything written in the Biblical books teaches the truth without any errors. Every word is God breathed. The Bible is inerrant, infallible and carries the authority of its Eternal Author.
Strictly speaking, this inerrancy of the Bible, applies to the original autographs, which we no longer have, but we can be confident that we have the original text of the Bible in the copies and translations we possess today because God has preserved those writings. In any attempt to define what we ought to believe or how we ought to live, only the Bible can be used as a final authority. Traditional interpretations of the Bible and confessions of faith are useful guides, but they are always open to correction based on further study of the Bible. Any cooperation with others who profess to be Christians must be based on a shared commitment to the unique authority and complete truthfulness of the Bible.
Matthew 5:17-18; John 16:12-15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:20-21
There is one, and only one, God, who created, from nothing, all things visible and invisible. God, who is a God of love and justice, has always existed and will always exist. He is the ultimate authority over all persons and things, and He answers to no higher being or principle. In Biblical terms we affirm that He is “holy,” which means that He is in every way unique and in a category all His own, free from all the limits and imperfections experienced by created things. In both the majesty of His being and the moral purity of His nature and action, He is uniquely perfect. Although God is one in His being, He exists eternally in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The idea of the Trinity is a mystery beyond our full comprehension, but we are compelled by the witness of the Bible to affirm it.
Genesis 1-2; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14; 2 Corinthians 13:14
I. God the Father
God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.
II. God the Son
The supreme revelation of God is found in Jesus Christ, the God-Man. The Son of God is a fully divine person of the Trinity who has existed eternally. In order to save human beings He added to His divinity a full and perfect human nature and became Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was miraculously conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a Jewish virgin, Mary. He lived a sinless life in obedience to God the Father, and His obedience culminated in His death as payment of the penalty for the disobedience of sinful humans. God vindicated Him when He raised him bodily from the dead, and He ascended to heaven where He is free from the limits of this world. He now intercedes for us who believe in Him and preserves us in our relationship with the Father while we await His personal return.
Matthew 1:18-23; John 1:1-18; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
III. God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a fully divine person, not just an impersonal force. The Spirit makes the work of Jesus Christ effective in us by convincing us that we have sinned against God, that we therefore fail to meet God’s standard for human life, that we are subject to God’s judgment for that reason, and that Christ is the answer to our need. Christ gives the Spirit to indwell all those who believe in Him, and the Spirit gives to believers a new spiritual ability to understand God’s Word and live in obedience to it. By indwelling us He sets us apart as God’s children; He gives us “manifestation[s]” or Spiritual gifts for our mutual edification, to enable us to be a living testimony for Him and to bring honour and glory to God. Every believer walking in true fellowship with God by the power of the Holy Spirit should display the “fruit of the Spirit;” “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” The Holy Spirit continues to transform us into faithful followers of Christ; and He will in the end make us fully like Christ.
John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Galatians 5:22-23
Satan (also called the Devil) exists as an evil, personal, spirit-being who opposes the work of God in the world. Although created as a good, angelic being, he originated rebellion against God and continues to use his real but limited power to oppose all that would serve the glory of God and the good of humanity.
Genesis 3:1-15; Job 1:6-12; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 1 Peter 5:8-9
Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. Men and women serve as God’s visible representatives in the exercise of responsible dominion over the created world. Our first parents sinned by disobeying an explicit divine command and thus brought ruin on the human race. The Bible describes this ruin in terms of “death”: spiritual, physical and eternal death. Spiritual death involves corruption at the core of our being, so that human beings are by nature totally incapable of pleasing God. Physical death is the destiny of all humanity. And ultimately eternal death involves permanent separation from God as the destiny of all those who refuse to repent and respond to God’s offer of grace.
Genesis 1:26-27; 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-19; Ephesians 2:1-3
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.
Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favour with God.
Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8- 22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14- 26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.
F. FUTURE THINGS
We believe that Jesus Christ will return personally, bodily, and gloriously, just as He promised and His apostles affirmed. In the end, Christ will raise from the dead all who have ever lived, and He will declare God’s perfect judgment concerning every person. Those who have been saved will live eternally in the perfect, renewed creation, and those who have been unrepentant will exist eternally in the conscious punishment of hell.
Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20-22
G. THE LOCAL CHURCH
The universal church, the community of believers in Christ, is manifested in local churches throughout the world. A properly ordered local church is a loving community of persons who have confessed their faith in Christ, have been immersed in Christian baptism, and have committed themselves to Christ as well as to one another. Together they seek to proclaim the gospel of Christ, to build up each other as growing followers of Christ, to transmit the Christian faith to succeeding generations, and to worship God as His people called to be a distinct society in this world.
Each local church is called to acknowledge Christ as Lord and Head of the church and to use its divinely given gifts, abilities and opportunities to make Christ known. Each church needs to be served by two kinds of leaders: some who carry out a ministry of teaching and spiritual leadership (known in the Bible as elders, overseers, or pastors), and some who lead in the practical implementation of ministry (known in the Bible as deacons). We believe that the Bible restricts eligibility for the office of elder (overseer or pastor) to men who are qualified, gifted and called to the office.
We believe that the mode of church governance that most clearly reflects the practice of New Testament churches is the “Congregational” mode. That is, each local church is independent, and while it may voluntarily associate itself with like-minded churches, “there is no external power that can dictate courses of action to the local church.” Each individual believer in the local church is equally a member of God’s people, His “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession,” (1 Pet 2:9) and equally indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Elders are to be respected and honoured insofar as they remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore our mode of church governance is Elder-led, and Congregationally ruled.
Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1- 30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 5:1-4.
H. EVANGELISM AND MISSIONS
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavour to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 6:1-8; Matthew 9:37-38; 10:5-15; 13:18-30, 37- 43; 16:19; 22:9-10; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 10:1-18; 24:46-53; John 14:11-12; 15:7- 8,16; 17:15; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2; 8:26-40; 10:42-48; 13:2-3; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 3:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 2:1-3; 11:39-12:2; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 22:17.
Among the things commanded by Christ, there are two visible symbols of the gospel, which He instituted for observance by His followers until He returns, one as a sign of Christian initiation and the other as a means of ongoing nurture.
Baptism is the immersion of the believer in water, whereby he obeys Christ’s command and sets forth his identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, with all that this implies about our death to our old life and our spiritual rebirth.
Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 6:3-4
II. The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic meal in which believers together partake of bread and wine as a tangible reminder of the body and blood of Christ, which were offered up for our salvation. By this act of eating and drinking, the whole community of believers proclaims the Lord’s death until he returns.
Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34
J. RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Both church and state have divinely ordained functions to perform in obedience to God, but the two are not to be confused. The state is responsible to seek public justice for the good of all, not to give a special status to any particular community, including communities which hold atheistic or secular humanistic worldviews.
Although God calls all people to believe in Him and to come to Him through Jesus Christ, this profession is to be a genuine personal response and not one imposed by civil law. Therefore, every person should have the civil right to practice and promote his own beliefs.
Matthew 22:21; Romans 14:11-12
K. CIVIL GOVERNMENT
Civil government, in its various forms, is designed by God as a means to protect the welfare and good order of society as a whole. Christians are responsible to pray for those who are given this awesome responsibility and to conscientiously obey the laws imposed by these governing authorities. However, in view of the fact that Jesus Christ is the ultimate Lord of all and the ruler of the earthly authorities, laws which are opposed to the revealed will of Christ must be disobeyed by His followers. This is the exception, not the rule, however, and such civil disobedience must occur only as a last resort when it is absolutely necessary.
Acts 5:29; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17
L. THE LORD’S DAY
We affirm the tradition of the early church, which recognized the special character of the first day of the week, the day on which our Lord arose from the dead. Although every day is to be lived for the glory of God in obedience to Christ, the first day of the week is in a special sense an appropriate day for corporate worship and service.
Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
M. THE FAMILY
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to Biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation. Children, from the moment of conception, are persons given life by God, a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on Biblical truth. Children are to honour and obey their parents.
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.
The statement of belief of Bethel Baptist Church, Fergus, Ontario, is in parallel with What We Believe, the Doctrinal Statement of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada. Internet, accessed on 2 February, 2010. Available at: http://www.fellowship.ca/qry/page.taf?id=40. Additions to the FEBC statement of faith for the purposes of Bethel Baptist Church are intended as expansions and clarifications, as opposed to changes to the FEBC statement. A major resource for these expansions is The Baptist Faith and Message, Doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, 2000. Internet, accessed 2 February 2010. Available at: http://www.sbc.net/BFM/bfm2000.asp.