What Do We Believe?
At Newtown Evangelical Church, our doctrinal basis is the Bible which we believe to be the inspired and infallible Word of God and is God’s special revelation to mankind and the only rule for faith and conduct. Although we believe in all the Bible, its major doctrines are summarised in the following paragraphs:
God is eternal, unchangeable and unchanging, all-present, all-knowing and all-powerful, perfect in His attributes.* There are three person in the one Godhead, known as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, who are co-equal and co-eternal.
God created the world in six days and created man and woman perfect. Their disobedience brought upon them and upon humanity the wrath of God and the penalty of His Law.
* For the attributes of God it would be difficult to better the long summary in the Westminster confession which refers to many verses, and a copy may be obtained from the Elders.
This disobedience was prompted by Satan who tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God. Satan, who is known in the Bible by other names such as the Devil, is himself an angel of God who was cast out of heaven because of his pride and rebellion against God. He now works to hinder, destroy and damage the Kingdom of God in this world.
The disobedience of Adam and Eve brought about a fall into sin and human nature is now corrupt in all its faculties. All are guilty because they are descendants of Adam and because they express in their own nature mans continuing rebellion towards God.
All that happens in the world is within and because of the eternal plan of God yet without doing away with second causes. God is not the author of sin but even sin comes within His eternal plan and purpose whereby He works everything according to His sovereign Will.
God’s providence is the agency which brings all things to pass and although difficult and mysterious at times to understand it exercises a special care of God’s Church and people.
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
The Lord Jesus Christ is in every respect God and man. He is the eternal God and is also the Word made flesh who was sent by the Father into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary being conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Ghost. Jesus was Prophet, Priest and king. As a Prophet He declared and interpreted the revelation of God to the people. As a Priest He represented mankind to God, presented Himself as a sacrifice for sin and ever lives to intercede for the Church. As king He at present rules the spiritual kingdom in the hearts and lives of people. His kingdom will be fully revealed at His triumphant return.
He was made under the Law and fulfilled it, endured suffering in His body, was crucified and died, was buried and remained under the power of death, yet His body did not decay. On the third day He rose from the dead. With that body He ascended into heaven and there He sits at the right hand of His Father making intercession. He shall return to judge men and angels. By His perfect obedience and sacrifice He has fully satisfied the justice of His Father and has purchased not only reconciliation and forgiveness but an everlasting and glorious inheritance in heaven for all those who the Father has given Him.
God predestined some men to eternal life whilst ordaining others to dishonour and wrath for their sin. Thus the salvation of sinners is not dependent on their own efforts but is due to the unmerited favour of God and the unsearchable counsel of His will. It is equally true that God desires that all be saved and commands the gospel be offered to all.
Those whom God predestines to eternal life are at some point in time actually called by His Word and Spirit out of the state of sin and death in which they are by nature. This involves the process or act by which their minds are enlightened spiritually and savingly to understand God’s Word. He renews their wills and by His almighty power draws them to Jesus Christ yet in such a way that they come most freely being made willing by His Grace.
Those whom God calls He also freely justifies. He pardons their sins and accepts them as righteous not for anything done by them but because He imputes the obedience and satisfaction by Christ of the law to them.
Faith is a gift of God and it is receiving and resting on Christ and His Righteousness. It is not merely believing with the mind but trusting with a whole heart and inspires works of love. Faith can be both weak and strong, can be attacked often and weakened but is always victorious. Faith involves receiving Christ for justification, sanctification and eternal life. This faith is always and only in the Lord Jesus Christ who is both its author and finisher.
Faith is invariably accompanied by another gift of God, namely repentance, which should be preached and pressed upon men at the same time as they are exhorted to have faith. If a person freely repents of sin and believes in, or has faith in, the Lord Jesus Christ he will be saved.
THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and as God is sovereign in His actions. The Holy Spirit was given to the Church of Christ on the day of Pentecost as a result of the finished work of Christ and His ascension to heaven. He is the author or inspirer of the scriptures and is also its interpreter. He makes plain the meaning already in the Word. He mediates Christ to the Church and to the individual. He energises the Church and convicts men of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. He controls the exercise of gifts in the church. He is the Divine Agent in regeneration, calling and the granting of faith. He is the one who grants power in prayer and enables the believer to pray. He is the agent of sanctification in the Christian’s life and the believer should always seek to be filled with the Spirit.
For a fallen sinner to accept the Gospel and repent and believe in God’s way of salvation through Christ requires such a complete change of heart and will that it is necessary for that person to be born again of the Spirit of God . This new birth, as it is called, is the implanting of the life of God in the soul of man and is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.
Although a man is not, nor ever can be, saved by good works or any efforts on his part, due to the imperfections of his ways, yet it is vitally important that every Christian should strive to live a life well pleasing to God and should be a light to the world and a shining example, and he or she should do these good works ordained by God.
SEX SEXUALITY AND MARRIAGE.
God created human beings as male or female. We do not believe that the biological gender that people are born with can be changed. God ordained marriage as the voluntary union of one man with one woman for life in a sexually exclusive relationship. Marriage is not a private arrangement but must be a publicly recognised commitment. Sex is a good gift of God to be enjoyed only within the context of marriage as God ordained it. Sexual intimacy between a man and woman who are not married to each other or between two people of the same gender, regardless of any commitment they have made to each other, is sin.
UNION WITH CHRIST.
The ultimate aim of redemption and salvation is to restore the individual to a position of communion with God and conformity to His image. He should be holy or set apart. There is a separation from sin by identifying with the death of Christ and union with Him in resurrection life.
Sanctification is both complete positionally, as Christ is sanctification to the believer, and also gradual, or progressive, as the Christian fights against sin and is always striving to be like the Lord Jesus Christ and conformed to His image. This will only be perfected in heaven or at His coming.
As there is no failure with God and the Christian is His work so God will persevere with him and perfect and glorify him. If he is a true believer he can never be lost or lose his salvation, but yet he should always be watchful and careful and follow God’s warnings about neglecting his soul and spiritual privileges, lest he find that he has been deluded about his state and profession.
The church is the fellowship of Christians, redeemed men and women who are called together to worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Head, the Bridegroom, the Cornerstone, all of which symbols serve to show the intimacy of His relationship with the Church.
The word “Church” is used in two different ways in the Bible.
(i) It refers to the Church universal, i.e., the whole number of believers throughout all the world, including those who have died and gone to heaven.
(ii) It is also used in the local sense, e.g. “And to the church of God which is at Corinth” and refers to the local body of professing believers who hold fast the true doctrines of the faith, meet together for worship, witness, mutual encouragement, and who endeavour to obey the teachings of the Lord. The Lord has provided gifts for the Church and people to guide, rule and foster its spiritual life. Although certain words are used in the New Testament interchangeably there are two basic divisions: firstly there are Elders who are the spiritual leaders (whether they be ruling Elders or ruling and preaching elders); and secondly Deacons who are those spiritual and godly people who have more practical gifts.
The Church has a very special duty to preach the Gospel to every living person.
THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH.
The life of the Church involves prayer and praise to God, reading the Bible, interpretation and exposition of the Bible, and worship. The Church should observe the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism, which are the symbols of spiritual truths. They are outward signs of an inward grace. Neither of these ordinances make a person a Christian, but require the participant to have already trusted in Christ as Saviour and require faith and worthy reception for them to be of benefit.
THE LAST THINGS.
The Lord Jesus Christ has promised to return and the Christian should pray and look to his coming. This will affect both the dead and the living. He will come to glorify and complete the Church’s triumph and His coming will be when least expected.
It will be to the delight of His people and to the sorrow and horror of those who have rejected and spurned Him and who will be judged according to their knowledge of right and wrong. Whilst no date is given in the counsel of the Father the time is fixed. Yet the Church is called upon to hasten His coming, for example, by taking the Gospel to all nations.
HEAVEN AND HELL.
The spiritual pilgrimage of Christians will finally end in the presence of God in Heaven, there to live and reign eternally as part of the glorified body of Christ. But unbelievers and all who reject salvation will find themselves in the eternal sorrow and torment of hell, where all the bliss, love, joy, hope, peace and eternal comfort which stems from the presence of God Himself will be absent. There hope will be extinguished in the righteous judgement of God.