Staff's ROD

Our 8th point of 11 doctrinal statements reads: "Salvation, the effect of regeneration by the Spirit and the Word, not by works, but by grace through faith".  We draw your attention to regeneration, which is the entrance gate of salvation.  It's very important, especially to the pulpit.

 

Many evangelicals in the broader Christian community will insist salvation is not of works, but by grace through faith – yet dismiss the significance of the preached Word.  Our statement adds two key points: (i) regeneration precedes faith, and (ii) regeneration occurs by the sword of the Sprit, which is the word of God. Why are these important?

 

The doctrines of grace primarily hinge on Total Depravity; for if man in his spirit is dead in sins and trespasses, then he is utterly unable to save himself.  Man is not transcendental, with a spark of the divine, able to respond ever so feebly.  No, salvation is solely a work of God, and that through the living Word.  Does that mean we wait for God to zap someone?  No.  We preach the word, because faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Scriptures reveals an order of salvation: preacher sent, Word preached, regeneration occurs, spiritual ears granted, effectual hearing occurs, faith follows.  Notice the word "after" in Ephesians 1:13, which says in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed °".

 

If this were not the case (i.e., if unsaved man had some tiny ability to believe on Christ), then he could believe without God's help, even without aid of the preached Word.  Preachers would appeal to your will and not rely solely on God's Word.  Then the convert could boast that they were a little bit smarter than the other guy. The Arminian views faith as a non-work work, but Scriptures presents faith as the fruit (not the root) of the Spirit.  Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ ° to believe.  Jesus told some Jews, Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.  In the classic text – for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God – the Greek makes clear that faith is the gift in view. 

 

What then of man's will?  Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.  God first graciously inclines our wills towards Him. In fact, it would be quite unfair for God to depend on a dead man to believe.

Our 7th point of 11 doctrinal statements addresses man's fundamental state of spiritual disposition; namely, "the total depravity of man through the fall".

 

This distinctive is frankly the main point distinguishing true Bible teaching from all other religions across the globe, without exception. As Solomon under inspiration writes, Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? 

 

What do we mean man is totally depraved?  It means that man's entire being, in all his faculties – of the mind, heart, will and nature— is in rebellion against God.  The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  This does not mean all men everywhere are actively committing murders and thefts at all times; as one Pastor put it, "men are not as bad as they could be; there's always room for debasement."  Rather, natural man's obedience to God's revealed will (i.e., the Bible) is not possible, as he is dead in sins and trespasses, whose imagination ° is evil from his youth.  In fact, man's heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, which explains why men love darkness rather than light. There is none that seeketh after God.

 

Does this place the blame on the Creator?  Hardly!  By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. After the 6 days of creation ended, God pronounced it all very good.  Solomon wrote God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Man was created with a mutable righteousness, with free-will ability to throw it all away – which is what Adam and Eve did.  We'd have done the same thing.

 

What about free will?  Duane Edward Spencer, author of TULIP, wrote, "The careful observer will note that the Scriptures selected by the Arminianist in support of 'free will' do not deal with that subject, but rather with man's responsibility to believe God, and his accountability if he does not.  ° [Man] does not possess 'free will', because he is bound to Satan who takes man captive at his will."  This is precisely why we need a Savior! 

MBC has adopted the American Council of Christian Churches' 11-point statement of faith, being an excellent yet succinct summary. The 6th point includes key phrases worthy of further discussion; it reads –

 

  1. His resurrection from among the dead in the same body in which He was crucified, and the second coming of this same Jesus in power and great glory;

 

Notice the emphasis on the same body and this same Jesus.  First, those are Biblical phrases, spoken by the angels at Jesus' ascension, which also said, ° this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11). Jesus Himself declared the entire planet shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:27).

 

There are a couple of common but false teachings about Jesus which, if entertained by the true child of God, would cause reasonable doubt of the basis for their salvation.  For instance, if Judas not Jesus died on the cross, then who came out of the tomb, if anyone? Why would God find that an acceptable sacrifice?  Or, what if Jesus was merely an apparition?  Some claim that Michael the Archangel, not Jesus, returns to earth.  

 

The Bible presents the true account of God concerning His Son. Jesus resurrected in the same body because He whom God raised again saw no corruption, being sinless (Acts 13:37). God required a man to pay for man's sins, for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins (Heb 10:4); and when Jesus arose from the dead, it shows men's sins are fully atoned. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead (1Cor 15:21), and thus our whole spirit and soul and body is preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ(1Thes 5:23). This same Jesus returns in a glorious spiritual body, rarely seen while on earth (Mt 17:1-2). He first came as the suffering Servant; He comes again as the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to Whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen! (1Tim 6:14-16)

Last week we covered our statement of faith's first point, relating to inerrancy and preservation of scriptures. Next, we assure visitors and congregants alike of our belief in (.2) the triune God of the Bible, (3.) Christ's deity and sinless humanity, and (4.) Jesus' virgin birth.  We trust those are well understood here at MBC.  We modified the ACCC's 5thpoint to read as follows:

 

5. His substitutionary, propitiatory death, in that He gave His life "a ransom for many".

 

For the first 300 years, the early church wrestled with points 2-4 above, finally arriving at the doctrine of the triunity of Christ. But church history records that a full explanation of what Jesus actually did at the cross wasn't clearly articulated until 1093 AD when Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, explained 2Cor. 5:19 using "the Satisfaction Theory" of the atonement.  This is succinctly explained in The 100 Most Important Events In Christian History, (Curtis, Lang & Petersen; Christian History Institute, 1991): "In Cur Deus Homo (Why Did God Become Man?), Anselm put forth a theory about how Christ's death on the cross reconciles men to God. God, Anselm said, is Lord of the cosmos, a Being Whose honor is offended by man's sin. Though He Wishes to forgive man, in order to maintain moral order in the universe, He cannot simply 'overlook' sin.  Some satisfaction must be made, something equal to the offense. Since sin is man's, satisfaction must be made by man; yet man cannot offer adequate satisfaction. So God became man, and the one who offers satisfaction is both God and man: Christ." 

 

Many today agree that Jesus Christ is our substitute, but what is not agreed upon is to what extent His death actually paid for sins.  His death was propitiatory, meaning it truly made a full reconciliation between God and all whom Christ represented, and favorably disposed the offended towards the offender.  The Greek word hilasterion relates to a full placation of God's wrath.  Thayer's Lexicon notes its root is "used of the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement ° signifying that the life of the people ° was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated."  Praise Him for a full redemption!

Our first fundamental statement of faith relates to the Bible itself.  Last week, we touched upon the necessity of specifically mentioning the preservation of Scriptures, which reads:

 

1. The verbal, plenary divine inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and, as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life;

 

What's the big deal with preservation? Preservation of scripture is a tangible test of God's covenant faithfulness across the millennia. If God cannot preserve His Word as He promised in Psalm 12:6 and Isaiah 59:21, then God is a liar, and you have no reason to believe He will preserve your soul, or keep any of His great promises. A church weak on the doctrine of preservation of Scripture will be a faith-undermining church. We know!

 

The Far Eastern Bible College of Singapore (febc.edu.sg) nicely summarize the doctrinal impacts: "Our perfect Lord and His perfect Word are the foundation of our faith. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3). It is only when we have a 100% perfect, infallible and inerrant Bible can we say the Bible is our only and final authority, and foundation of faith. If there is no such an infallible and inerrant Bible today, then the so-called 'scholar' becomes the supreme authority, and we have to kowtow to his subjective and speculative judgments on and corrections of the Bible. Some may want to trust the words of men, but we trust only the words of our Lord °"

 

"The Bible itself which is our supreme and final authority of faith and practice clearly teaches its plenary inspiration, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and its verbal preservation, For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matt 5:18), Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matt 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). The doctrine of the 100% inspiration (VPI) and 100% preservation (VPP) of each and every word of the Bible is as old as the Bible itself. It is certainly NOT a new teaching or theory, and definitely NOT a false doctrine."

Last week, we cited the 11 fundamental beliefs of our church, which we adopted from the American Council of Christian Churches, on whose executive board Pas. Joe serves.  Perhaps you noticed there were four slight modifications to the following statements:

 

1. The verbal, plenary divine inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and, as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life;

5. His substitutionary, propitiatory death, in that He gave His life "a ransom for many";

9. The everlasting bliss of the saved, and the everlasting torment of the wicked in hell;

 

In statement 1., we added verbal as well as and preservation. Let's review what the key technical terms mean. 

  • Verbal = God spoke and it was written down. Every word is put exactly as God wanted it.
  • Plenary = All of scripture is the Bible.  All we need is there.  Not one of God's intended Words are missing.
  • Inspiration = The Bible is God-breathed (God-spoken), and divinely authoritative.
  • Preserved = The Bible in its original tongue (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) has been transmitted intact down to the jot and tittle.

 

If we omit verbal, then the unit of communication is no longer the divinely transmitted Word, but could be a dream or a voice from God, which no longer occurs today. Though implied by later phrases, the ancient church often testified to the verbal plenary inspiration of scriptures.  Its absence could raise a flag.

 

The matter of preservation is a hot topic today, and is actively debated between faithful fundamental seminary professors and (sadly) their numerous liberal colleagues in the Reformed camp.  While nearly all claim to hold to inerrancy, what most Pastors and professors mean is that only the parchment on which Paul wrote is inerrant, not what we have today. Why?  Look here next week for more on this hot topic! 

Misison Bible Church's statement of faith is broken into three sections:  a list of our 11 fundamental beliefs (meaning, foundational and never negotiable); a list of 13 emphatic beliefs(meaning, doctrines we particularly emphasize); and a short list of helpful confessions noting the exceptions we take.  Due to space limitations of our bulletin, we only present the first 11 fundamental beliefs. Next week, we will explore the nuances.

 

"Among other equally biblical truths, we believe and maintain the following:

  1. The verbal, plenary divine inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and, as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life;
  2. The Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
  3. The essential, absolute, eternal deity, and the real and proper, but sinless, humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ;
  4. His birth of the Virgin Mary;
  5. His substitutionary, propitiatory death, in that He gave His life "a ransom for many";
  6. His resurrection from among the dead in the same body in which He was crucified, and the second coming of this same Jesus in power and great glory;
  7. The total depravity of man through the Fall;
  8. Salvation, the effect of regeneration by the Spirit and the Word, not by works, but by grace through faith;
  9. The everlasting bliss of the saved, and the everlasting torment of the wicked in hell;
  10. The real spiritual unity in Christ of all redeemed by His precious blood;
  11. The necessity of maintaining, according to the Word of God, the purity of the Church in doctrine and life."

 

Adopted and slightly modified, from the American Council of Christian Churches.