What We Believe (Pillars of Faith Series)

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We become what we believe.  We are formed by what we think is true and good. We might not always be consistent, but our lives follow the trajectory of our beliefs. David wrote in Psalm 115:

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear;
 noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;
 and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them are like them;
 so are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8)

We become like what we believe – and ultimately, what we worship.

So we are going to walk through our statement of faith, which is what we as a church confirm that we believe. Now, we don’t think we are the only church that preaches the gospel. I grew up Mennonite, went to a Baptist college for my bachelor’s degree, and studied Reformed thought for my masters. They all preached the gospel. There are numerous churches just in Traverse City that are faithful to the gospel.

Our statement of faith affirms and is based on the classic Christian creeds. Creed comes from the Latin word ‘credo’, meaning 'I believe'.  When the early church wrestled with differing theological views, they formed formal statements of belief. As time went on, they became more detailed as they more specifically addressed new challenges.

We see the first statements emerging within the New Testament itself.

  • 55 AD: “Yet for us there is one God, the Father,  from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)
  • 55 AD “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)
  • 62 AD “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)
  • 67 AD “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of  our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

Iraneus is the first non-biblical writer to record a creed. He wrote in approximately 180 AD of what he called the Rule of Faith

: “. . . this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race . . .”

Hippolytus (225 AD) wrote this account of a baptismal service:

 When the person being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say: "Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?"  And the person being baptized shall say: "I believe." Then holding his hand on his head, he shall baptize him once.

And then he shall say: "Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and rose again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead?" And when he says: "I believe," he is baptized again. And again he shall say: "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, in the holy church, and the resurrection of the body?" The person being baptized shall say: "I believe," and then he is baptized a third time.

From the foundational statements in the New Testament and the ongoing record of creedal recitations in the early church, two key formalized creeds emerged:  the Nicene Creed (320) and the Apostolic Creed (390). What follows is a combination of the two:

  • I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; 
  • And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us [all] for our salvation, came down from heaven, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary and made man; he suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell (or the dead). The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: from thence he shall come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and whose Kingdom shall have no end;
  • I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
  • I believe in the holy catholic and apostolic church:
  • the communion of saints:
  • The forgiveness of sins:
  • The resurrection of the body (the dead):
  • And the life everlasting in the world to come. Amen.

Around the 1500’s you start to see Confessions of Faith that include statements on the Bible (Belgic Confession of Faith in 1561, Heidelberg Catechism in 1563, London Baptist Confession of Faith in 1689, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in 1978). You also begin to see statements of faith that begin to address more specific areas of life typically as a response to  cultural challenges that were impacting how Christians lived what they believed, such as the Manhattan Declaration published in 2009.

From this foundation, we have built our foundational beliefs at CLG. Our statement of faith is more detailed than the historic creeds (as is the case with most churches), but in the midst of the detail we seek to affirm what the Christian church broadly and historically has affirmed to be true in a way that allows room for differing perspectives on details even as we unite on the fundamentals, and we affirm historic Christian belief on several cultural issues that are increasingly challenging how Christians live their beliefs.   

The Bible: We believe the Holy Bible to be the inspired Word of God, inerrant in its original manuscripts. It is our standard for faith and practice and the measure by which all of life and personal revelation is to be evaluated. (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21)

God (The Father): We believe that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (John 8:54-59). He is Creator, Redeemer and the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. We believe that God is omnipotent (He can do anything that can be done), omniscient (He knows anything that can be known), omnipresent (there is no place or circumstance of which God is unaware or in which he is not active), and unchanging. He is perfect in holiness, infinite in wisdom, and measureless in power.

God (The Son, Jesus Christ): We believe in the historical reality of Jesus Christ as the only incarnation of God. We believe in His deity, His virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-23), His sinless life  (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22), His miracles (Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38), His substitutionary death (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21), His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:4), His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:33; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3), His intercession for the sins of His people (1 Timothy 2:5-6), and His future personal return in power and glory (Acts 1:10-11).

God (the Holy Spirit): We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), confirming their salvation (Romans 8:14-16) and enabling them to bear godly fruit (Galatians 5:22). We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit also empowers believers to have a bold and effective witness (i.e Luke 12:12), so He manifests His gifts in their daily lives for the edification of the church and as a testimony to the world.

The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) is the result of a Spirit-filled life, and evidence of spiritual maturity. True followers of God will be known by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).

The gifts of the Spirit are different manifestations of the Spirit to build up the body (Isaiah 11:5; I Corinthians 12:1-11). They ought always directly point people toward God (John 15:26; John 16:13-14). We are instructed to diligently seek the gifts (I Corinthians 12:31, 14:1), but they must be exercised in an orderly and understandable way (I Corinthians 14:26-33) and used in the context of love (I Corinthians 13:1-13), lest our expression cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8).

We have different gifts given as the Holy Spirit wills, and the gifts must be expressed in love, sincerity, and in a way which honors others above ourselves (Romans 12:1-10).

Sin: We believe that we sin (i.e, “hamartia,” in Romans 3:23, and “chata” in Judges 20:16 and Exodus 20:20) when we disobey the commands of God’s inspired Word and reject His authority All of us have sinned and are therefore, in our natural state, lost and separated from God. We believe men and women were created in the image of God (Genesis 2:26). However, by a voluntary act of the will, Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3:6). As a result, mankind began to die spiritually (Romans 5:12-19). Sin separated humankind from God (Ephesians 2:11-18) and left us in a fallen or sinful condition (Romans 3:23; Genesis 1:26,27; Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12-19).

Salvation: We believe that God the Father showed His love for all people by sending His Son to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. (Luke 18:27; John 3:16,17; Romans 11:33; 1 Peter 1:16; 1 John 4:7-10; Revelation 4:8)

We believe Jesus’ death paid the penalty our sins warranted, and His resurrection grants us the life we could not attain - both of these being necessary to reconcile us to right-standing before God. (Matthew 16:16,17 and 25:31-46; Mark 14:61,62; Luke 1:34,35 and 2:7; John 1:1 and 1:14 and 5:22-30 and 10:30 and 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22-24.)  It is not through our efforts (Acts 4:12;  John 3:3; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 2:8; 
Titus 2:11; Titus 3:5-7).

When we admit our sin, confess that Jesus is Lord, and repent, we become a new creation and are gradually transformed into the image of Christ (Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

Eternal Destiny: We believe in the resurrection of the saved and the lost, and that both will stand before the judgment seat of Christ; the saved will enter into everlasting life in God’s presence, and the lost will be sent into everlasting death, devoid of the presence of God. (Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 9:43-48; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:8).

The Church: We believe that the Church is Christ’s symbolic body in the earth (Colossians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 12:27), and that it should reveal His character, His message, and His love to the world.  We believe that the Church is to go into all the world, preach the gospel, and make disciples. This will lead people to have fellowship with God (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16) and community with others (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Human Life: We believe that all human life is sacred and created by God in His image (Genesis 1:27). Human life is of inestimable worth in all its dimensions, including pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged, and every other stage or condition from conception through natural death. We are therefore called to defend, protect, and value all human life. (Psalm139)

Marriage and Sexuality: We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. Together they reflect the image and nature of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman as delineated in Scripture (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:5-6). It is intended to be a covenant by which they unite themselves for life in a single, exclusive union, ordered toward the well-being of the spouses and designed to be the environment for the procreation and upbringing of children.