The gospel is the “good news” of Jesus Christ and His salvation.
God created the world in a perfect way in which mankind lived in perfect fellowship with Him and perfect harmony with one another and the world (Genesis 1-2). Yet, the first man and woman disobeyed God by eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in what appears to be an attempt to gain knowledge apart from God. As a result of this act of rebellion, mankind was separated from God and subjected to the effects of sin manifest in broken relationships, an uncooperative environment, bodies that break down, and death (Genesis 3; Romans 8:19-22; 6:23a). The sinful nature of the first man and woman and their resulting separation from God was inherited by all mankind (Isaiah 59:1-2; 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:9-23; 5:12-14) and results in eternal condemnation (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelation 21:8).
God promised to send a Savior, His own Son, to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), bless all the families and nations of the earth with salvation (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 49:6), serve as a prophet like Moses to whom God’s people are to listen (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), be punished as a substitute for the sins of others (Isaiah 53), and rule as a Priest-King from the lineage of David over the nations forever (Psalm 2; 110; 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:1-7). This Savior is Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1; 3:17; 17:5).
Jesus is able to save because He is fully God and therefore He is holy (Hebrews 4:15) and eternal (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 1:1-4). Since He is holy, He had no penalty for sin of His own and was thereby able to serve as a substitute for others. Since He is an eternal being, He is able to pay an eternal debt for sin.
Jesus is also able to save because He became fully man while retaining His complete divinity so that He could represent mankind in the judgment of God (Matthew 1:18-25; Hebrews 2:14-15). He served as the second Adam who brings salvation, rather than transgression and condemnation, to all who would surrender to Him in faith (Romans 5:14-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Being fully God and fully man, Jesus could make a sacrifice that could eternally atone for sin and fully restore man to God (Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:1-10).
Jesus made provision of salvation by His incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death on the cross, physical resurrection, glorified ascension, and promised return. In order for someone to receive salvation, he must surrender in faith to Jesus as Lord and Savior; trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation (Romans 10:9-10). One cannot earn or merit this salvation in any way, including good works, penance, or religious activity such as sacraments. Instead, God gives salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). Genuine salvation results in a transformed and transforming life in which the believer desires and seeks to obey God as a result of the regeneration, indwelling, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-27; John 3:3; Matthew 12:33-37; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3-6).
Jesus is presently at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 8:1-4). He will return publically (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and imminently (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 22:12). When He returns, He will rescue His people and condemn those who have not surrendered to Himself in faith (Psalm 2:7-12; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 20:11-21:8). Those who have surrendered to Him in faith will live forever, reunited with Him and His people in the new heavens and new earth which will be and remain uncorrupted by sin (Revelation 21-22).
Scripture exists in sixty-six books which are the Word of God and are commonly called the Bible. The canon is closed and therefore no further special revelation from God will be given. The Old Testament was accepted by Jesus as being God’s Word (Matthew 5:17-19; Luke 24:44) and therefore cannot be questioned by His followers. Concerning the New Testament, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to remind the Apostles of what He had said and to guide them into all truth (John 14:25-26; John 16:12-15). This promise is primarily fulfilled in the writings of the Apostles. The Apostles knew that they were writing Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit with authority to direct the church (2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:15-16; Revelation 1:3; 22:18-19).
The church in the patristic era did not decide which books would comprise the New Testament canon, they merely recognized such books based on the following guidelines: Apostolic Authority (Was the book written by an Apostle of Jesus or one closely associated with an Apostle?), Orthodoxy (Does this book contradict the rest of God’s Word?), Usage (Is this book widely received and used by the majority of the churches during the early years?), Inspiration (Does this book show evidence of having been inspired by God?). The last book of the canon was likely written in the AD 90s (Revelation). By AD 367, in his festal letter, Athanasius recognized all of the books of the New Testament by name without any indication of dispute or disagreement within the church. It is likely that the canon was recognized and settled much earlier than Athanasius wrote this letter.
While one may glean some knowledge about God (e.g. His existence, intelligence, and omnipotence) from nature (also known as general revelation; Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-20; Acts 17:24-27) he cannot know about God’s character, intention, will, or plan from nature. God had to reveal Himself in a special way in order for mankind to know about Him. This special revelation is called Scripture. Scripture came about by God’s will as the Holy Spirit moved certain men to write (2 Peter 1:20-21). For the Old Testament, God spoke through prophets (Hebrews 1:1) who wrote down God’s Word. For the New Testament, God spoke “by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2) whose life and teachings were recorded through the Apostles of Jesus whom Jesus had especially appointed to teach with His authority, guided by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:1-8; Acts 1:1-2).
Since God is perfect, His Word is perfect in every matter to which it speaks. It is inerrant (Psalm 19:7) and infallible (Isaiah 55:11) in its original autographs of which thousands of manuscripts exist today giving the church great confidence that the Bible accurately reflects the original writings of the prophets and Apostles. Every single word of Scripture is inspired, correct, and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God’s Word provides wisdom which cannot be attained otherwise (Psalm 119:99-100) and provides everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). The main theme of Scripture is God’s plan to bring salvation to mankind through Jesus Christ (Psalm 19:7; Luke 24:44; 2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:16-19). Scripture is inspired (God-breathed), inerrant, infallible, the primary source of authority and truth, and sufficient for life and godliness.
 Schaff, Philip and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Vol. IV. Second Series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), NFPF 2.4.552.
In nature (substance), God exists as three persons (Matthew 28:19; Galatians 4:6; 1 Peter 1:1-2) yet is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The three persons of the Trinity are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is co-equal and co-eternal (John 1:1-4). No person of the Trinity was created by any other. There was never a time that any one of the three persons did not exist. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same nature and substance—divine.
In relationship, the Father is the father of the Son (Psalm 2; John 1:14; 3:16; Mark 9:7) and the Son is the son of the Father (John 10:22-42; Mark 15:39). Jesus is the “only begotten” and “firstborn” of the Father in that He is the same nature as the Father (as offspring always has the same nature as its parent) and submits to the Father, carrying out the Father’s will (John 5:18-24) yet He was not “begotten” or “firstborn” in the sense of coming into existence. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. He is sent by both the Father and the Son (John 14:26; John 16:7) and submits to the Father and the Son (John 16:12-15).
In function, the three persons of the Trinity have the same will but act in different roles. The Father directs the intention of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 49:5-7; Psalm 2; 110). The Son, as the Word, enacts, represents, and declares that intention (Genesis 1:3; John 1:14-18; 6:35-40; Colossians 1:15-20). The Holy Spirit superintends the results and continuance of the Son’s work in creation and recreation (Genesis 1:2; Ezekiel 36:27; John 3:7-8; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 1:13).
 Augustine said, “nor are we at liberty to say that there are two or three gods. Speaking of each—of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit –we confess that each individually [by “individually” I believe here Augustine means in nature but not in separateness] is God; but we do not say, as the heretical followers of Sabellius say, that the Father is the same as the Son, and that the Holy Spirit is the same as the Father and the Son. Rather, we say that the Father is the Father of the Son, and that the Son is the Son of the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of both the Father and the Son, but is neither Father nor Son.” In The City of God against the Pagans, R.W. Dyson trans., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 425-426.
Mankind was created morally perfect and in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-31). Then, the first man and woman sinned against God before having children (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-24). This caused the imago Dei (image of God) in them to become marred. It also resulted in all their decedents, all mankind, to be born with a sinful nature that desires to rebel against God. Every person lives consistently with that nature and therefore lives in rebellion against God (Romans 5:12).
All mankind is sinful and does not reflect God’s glory and image faithfully (Romans 3:9-23). This sin nature separates mankind from God (Genesis 3:22-24; Isaiah 59:1-2), resulting in death (Genesis 2:15-16), both spiritual and moral (Ephesians 2:1-3) as well as physical (Genesis 3:19; Romans 6:23). Further, all mankind walks according to demonic influence and the lusts of fallen human nature (Ephesians 2:2-3). In this sinful nature, all mankind is helpless, ungodly, and are enemies of God who are awaiting the outpouring of God’s wrath which has been stored up for them (Romans 5:6-11) in an eternal punishment (Mark 9:47-48; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). Therefore, all mankind is in need of a Savior to bring them to reconciliation with God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
The only escape from the wrath of God for sinful nature comes by the grace of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Mankind is not able to save himself or earn favor or reconciliation with God for salvation (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). For someone to be saved from sinful nature, God must bestow grace through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-15) and that person must surrender to Jesus in faith (Romans 10:9-13).
There is a mystery in this process in that God is Sovereign in the entire process in that He foreknew, predestined, calls, justifies, and glorifies those whom He has chosen (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:1-2), yet God desires the salvation of all mankind (Ezekiel 18:21-23; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). God will not save anyone apart from faith in Jesus and repentance of sin (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 11:6). At salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and remakes him in God’s image reversing the effects of sinful nature and causing a desire to obey God (Ezekiel 36:24-29; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17). This spiritual regeneration is necessary to be saved from God’s eternal punishment for sin (John 3:3).
Jesus has always existed as God the Son (John 1:1-13; Colossians 1:15-17; Philippians 2:5-6; Hebrews 4:1-4; 1 Peter 1:20). He is not a creature (not created) but God, the Creator. He is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He is God in His nature and therefore bears all of the attributes of God. He has authority to control nature (Genesis 1; Exodus 9:18-26; Psalm 135:6-7; 147:15-18; Mark 4:35-41), to command angles (Psalm 91:11; Matthew 13:41) and demons (Job 1:6-12; Mark 3:11-12; 5:6-13), over the human body (Exodus 9:8-17; 2 Kings 20:1-7; Mark 3:1-10; 5:25-34), has power over life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39; Mark 5:35-43; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:1-46; Matthew 28:6; John 10:18). Jesus claimed to be God (John 8:24-30; 13:19; 18:5-8) and receives worship as God (Psalm 2:12; Matthew 2:11; 14:32-33; 28:9), an act that would be a grave sin if He were not God (Exodus 20:3-6).
Jesus became a man while retaining His divinity (Matthew 1:18-25; John 1:14; Philippians 2:7-8). As a man, He has a real, physical body both before and after His resurrection (John 20:17; 26-29; 21:9-14). Before the resurrection, His body was susceptible to tiredness, sickness, agony, and death (Isaiah 53:1-5; Matthew 26:36-38; Luke 22:44; John 4:6) as all human bodies are under the corruption which creation experiences by mankind’s Fall into sin (Romans 8:18-21). In His resurrection, His body became glorified, incorruptible, and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). Having a glorified body, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 8:1).
In this hypostatic union, Jesus exists as fully God and fully man. This union of His nature was necessary for Jesus to be able to save mankind from sin. Before Christ came, animals were sacrificed to temporarily atone for sin and bring partial reconciliation with God (Genesis 3:21; Leviticus 1, 3, 4-6; Hebrews 9:13-14, 22). These sacrifices were unable to bring permanent reconciliation between God and man (Hebrews 10:11) since man’s sin is against an eternal God and therefore incurs an eternal punishment. Therefore, a sacrifice of an eternal being was necessary to pay the eternal punishment that mankind incurred. Jesus, as God eternal, was able to pay an eternal debt on mankind’s behalf once for all (Hebrews 10:12-18; Revelation 5:9-10). Similarly, animals were not able to fully represent mankind before God in judgment. Jesus, having become man, was able to perfectly represent mankind as the second Adam (Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) by both making atonement as the High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and by serving as the sacrifice (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:11-14).
 The phrase “I am He” is literally “I am” (ἐγώ εἰμι) in the Greek and is very likely a clear reference to Exodus 3:13-14 in which God tells Moses to refer to Him as “I AM.”
 Athanasius explained the necessity of Jesus’ hypostatic union (nature as God and man) for salvation by stating, “The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent,. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required” in On the Incarnation: With an Introduction by C.S. Lewis (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996), 35.
God is a holy and just God who is the judge of all His creation (Psalm 50:6; Revelation 20:11-15). All mankind is sinful (Romans 3:9-23) and is under the wrath of God (Romans 5:6-11; 6:23) awaiting eternal condemnation (Revelation 20:11-15). Yet, God loved mankind by making a way of salvation through sending His only unique Son (John 3:16-18). God began to reveal His plan of salvation immediately upon the Fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3:15) which, being omniscient and omnipotent, He had already conceived before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
God is both just and merciful. Therefore, His plan of salvation would require that sin would still be punished appropriately yet sinners be forgiven of their sins. This was only possible through an appropriate penal substitutionary atonement in which God’s wrath would be propitiated (Leviticus 16:7-9, 15-19; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:5) and man’s sins would be expiated (Leviticus 16:7-10; 20-22; Psalm 103:12). Since man’s sins are against God eternal (Psalm 51:3-4), the punishment is likewise eternal (Mark 9:47-48; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). Jesus, being an eternal being (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:5-6; Hebrews 1:1-4), was able to make a permanent atonement for sin (Hebrews 10:12-18). However, only man could appropriately represent mankind in the judgment of God. Therefore, Jesus became a man (Matthew 1:18-25; John 1:14; Philippians 2:7-8) in order to represent mankind in the judgment (Hebrews 2:14-18). Jesus is the only way in which man may be saved from the just condemnation of God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Having an unresponsive “heart of stone” (Ezekiel 36:26) toward God and being “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), man is utterly incapable of doing anything to earn or merit God’s favor or to change his own eternal state of condemnation. Salvation is the gracious work of God by which He foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies a person (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-12; 1 Peter 1:1-2). God desires to save all mankind (Ezekiel 18:21-23; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4) but only saves by grace through faith in Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return (Ephesians 2:8-9). In order to receive salvation, one must hear the gospel message (Romans 10:14-15) and respond by placing faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:8-13).
Salvation is the work of God in which the Father sent, directs, and glorifies the Son (John 5:36-37; Philippians 2:8-11), the Son secures salvation through His substitutionary death and victorious resurrection (Isaiah 53:1-6; Romans 5:6-11), and the Holy Spirit regenerates and seals the believer for the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The cause and nature of salvation is regeneration brought on by the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3-15; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Ezekiel 36:25-26). This regeneration affects a transfer of the sinner into the Kingdom of God as a saint (Colossians 1:13), forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25; Acts 2:38; Colossians 1:14), reconciliation with God (Jeremiah 31:34; John 17:3; Romans 5:11; 2 Corinthians 5:18), a desire for and obedience to God (Ezekiel 36:27; Jeremiah 31:33; Matthew 12:33-37; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3-6) the promise of future perfection in the gospel (Philippians 1:5-6; Romans 8:29), and the promise of eternal life with God (John 3:16; 5:24; 14:1-6; Titus 1:1-3) which cannot be lost (John 6:39; 10:27-30).
God desires to make a people for Himself who are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). Old Testament Israel was a partial fulfillment of God’s will in this regard, yet only one tribe would partake in the priesthood (Exodus 20:18-21). God promised that He would bring about a time when all His people would act as part of the priesthood (Jeremiah 31:31-34). On the day of Pentecost, the church began as God’s kingdom of priests and holy nation (1 Peter 2:4-10). Everyone who genuinely surrenders to Christ in faith receives the Holy Spirit, is given citizenship into God’s holy nation, and partakes in the priesthood.
In the New Testament, the term church is the English translation of the Greek word ekklesia which means “those who are called out.” During the New Testament era, the term generally meant an assembly. However, Jesus chose and used the term (Matthew 16:18; 18:17) as the technical term for those who would follow Him in faith.
When speaking of Jesus’ followers, the term is used in two ways: the universal church and the local church. The universal church is composed of all genuine Christians of all time and every location. The church is meta-cultural (Isaiah 49:6; Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9-12) and supranational (Colossians 3:11Hebrews 11:13-16). According to the theologian, John Hammett, the term ekklesia is used one-hundred fourteen times in the New Testament. Ninety of these uses are for the local church, making the local church the main emphasis of the term church. Most of the uses of the term for the universal church are found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church.
A local church is a physical manifestation of the universal church in which those who have trusted in Jesus Christ within a certain geographic location, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, covenant together to follow and obey the Lord by carrying out God’s plan for His people through regular corporate efforts in worship, missions, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship for the glory of God under the headship of Jesus Christ. The New Testament uses metaphors for the local church including the following: the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-10), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), and the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19), and the family of God (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
The ordinances of the church are baptism (the initiatory; Matthew 28:19) and Lord’s Supper (the continual; Luke 22:14-20). The two ongoing offices of the church are overseers (also known as elders and pastors who took on a portion of the ministry of the Apostles) who have a ministry of the Word, prayer, leadership, care, and modeling (John 21:15-17; Acts 6:4; 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17; James 5:14; Hebrews 13:7, 17) and deacons (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1-13) who have a ministry of assisting pastors, providing benevolence, protecting unity, and modeling the Christ-like life (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13). Every local church should have multiple elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5) and deacons (Acts 6:3) which should only be men (1 Timothy 2:12-3:1; Acts 6:3). Local churches are to submit to the headship of Christ, be governed by the congregation, led by elders, and served by deacons.
 John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 31.
 New Testament churches practiced discipline (Mt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5), baptized new believers and added them to their membership (Acts 2:41), selected and ordained deacons (Acts 6:3), appointed and sent missionaries (Acts 13:2-3), and recognized and corrected false teaching (Acts 15:22). A New Testament church is a church who governs herself under the headship of Christ. However, a New Testament church will also submit to the leadership of her appointed elders.
 For more on the polity of the local church, see Jonathan Leeman, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016).
Baptism is the initiatory ordinance of Christ received by a Christian subsequent to his conversion symbolically identifying him with full commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a symbolic act, it has no power to save, but instead points to that which does—fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol of repentance of sin (Matthew 3:11), a way to identify with the Triune God (Matt 3:13-17; 28:18-20), a manifestation or display of genuine saving-faith in Jesus (Acts 2:37-39), a portrayal of conversion and the union of the believer with Christ by which he has died to sin with Christ and risen from the dead to live a new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-7), a representation of a “humble request to God for a conscience cleared of guilt because of Christ’s atoning blood” (1 Peter 3:18-22), and a familial identification with Jesus and the church (Galatians 3:26-29).
To simplify, baptism is not the occasion or a step of salvation. It is a symbolic act representing salvation. Baptism symbolizes three deaths and resurrections: past, present, and future. First, baptism points to the past; to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Second, baptism points to the present; to the moral death to sin and resurrection to new of life of the believer. Third, baptism points to the future; to the physical death and glorified and eternal resurrection of the believer.
Jesus commissioned His apostles to baptize as a part of the work of making disciples (Matthew 28:19). Since the apostles, along with the prophets, are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:19-20) the local church is the only right administrator of baptism. Since baptism represents repentance and conversion and since the New Testament never commands or portrays the baptism of unbelievers of any sort, the only right subject of baptism is one who has surrendered to Jesus Christ in personal faith. Therefore, infant baptism is illegitimate as infants cannot comprehend the gospel nor surrender to Jesus’ Lordship. Those who have received baptism as infants should be baptized legitimately upon placing their faith in Jesus as an act of obedience.
The term for baptism throughout the New Testament, baptizō (βαπτίζω), signifies “immersion.” Immersion is the act of being completely covered in water. The New Testament shows no other mode of baptism than immersion. Therefore, immersion is the only proper mode of baptism while sprinkling (also known as aspersion) and pouring (also known as affusion) are illegitimate modes of baptism. As baptism identifies the believer with Jesus and His church (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:4-6), churches should not extend baptism to any person unwilling to join a local church. As baptism is a command of Christ, the church should not extend Lord’s Supper to a person who lives disobediently by rejecting baptism (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).
 Mark Dever in “The Church” in A Theology for the Church ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 789.
The Lord’s Supper is an ongoing ordinance of the church which Christ instituted as a remembrance of salvation whereby the elements represent His sacrifice and the church celebrates their salvation in unity. Jesus instituted the Supper at Passover the night of His arrest (Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:12-31; Luke 22:1-23; and 1 Corinthians 11:23-34). The Supper represents the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. As the believer receives the bread and cup, he receives them as signs of what Christ has accomplished on his behalf for his salvation.
Further, Lord’s Supper represents the believer’s regeneration through Christ. Jesus revealed that this Supper would commemorate the New Covenant ratified by His blood. In this covenant, God will write His law on His peoples’ hearts, He will be present with His people and know them intimately, and He will forgive their sins (Jeremiah 31:27-40; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Matthew 26:27-28). As the believer partakes of the Supper, he is reminded of His reconciled relationship with God and His new life in Christ.
In addition to being an act of remembrance, the Lord’s Supper is also an act of worship and obedience. Jesus commanded the church to do so “in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). The believer partakes of the Supper in adoration of Jesus. It is also an act of anticipation. Jesus told the disciples He would not drink it again until He did so in the Father’s Kingdom. (Matthew 26:29). Paul said that when believers partake, they “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Further, the Lord’s Supper is an act of unity. It is an ordinance which one must only observe with the gathering of the whole local church recognizing and loving each other as Paul said, “rightly judging the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Finally, the Lord’s Supper serves as an act of examination. One must examine himself before partaking, making sure that he is a true believer who is repenting of sin, baptized, and in good standing with his respective church (1 Corinthians 10:20-22; 1 Corinthians 11:27-34).
Church discipline is a process commanded by Jesus for maintaining purity in the church and the reformation of the disciplined. This process necessitates regenerate church membership which was the exclusive practice of the New Testament church.
The authority to practice church discipline within the local church comes from the headship of Jesus (Colossians 1:15-20; Ephesians 5:22-23). In Matthew 16, after Peter confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), Jesus declared that He would build His church upon Peter, and by extension, the other Apostles. The Apostles serve as the foundation for the church by spreading their eye-witness account of Jesus’ person and work (Ephesians 2:19-22). Jesus told the Apostles that He will give them the keys to the kingdom of heaven and that they will practice binding and loosing in response to the binding and loosing which happens in heaven. This refers to sharing the gospel that people may be bound with Christ and His people (binding) while practicing discipline upon those who give evidence that they have not been genuinely bound to Jesus (loosing). The church submits herself to the headship of Jesus as she continues to be built upon the foundation of the apostles in the act of binding and loosing.
Matthew connects chapter eighteen closely with chapter sixteen in two ways. First, Matthew eighteen contains the only other use of the term church in the gospels. Second, Jesus used the metaphor of binding and loosing in the context of discipline. This shows the headship of Jesus who builds His church on the foundation of the Apostles.
In Matthew eighteen, Jesus revealed a three-step process of dealing with sin in the church. First, one must go to the offender privately and show him his fault. If the offender repents, the process of discipline ends there. However, if he does not repent, the one who noticed the sin must include one or two other members of the church and confront the erring brother again (keeping with the Old Testament practice of Deuteronomy 19:15 whereby two or three witnesses are necessary to convict someone of wrongdoing). If the brother repents, discipline ends there. However, if he still does not listen, the witnesses must present the matter before the church so that the church may warn the offender. If the offender does not listen to the church, the church must excommunicate him, treating him as an unbeliever.
Paul also commanded the Corinthian church to practice discipline upon a man who is having a sexual relationship with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). In First Corinthians 5:2, Paul revealed that mourning over sin should be the attitude of the church who disciplines. Paul also taught that the church practicing discipline should do so in a “spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). In First Corinthians 5:4, Paul taught that the final stage of discipline must happen in the assembly of the church. Then, in First Corinthians 5:5 he revealed the nature of discipline as an act of “deliver[ing] such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.” Church discipline removes the offender from the spiritual protection of church fellowship. However, in 2 Corinthians 2:1-11, Paul exhorts the church to forgive and comfort the sinner they had disciplined since he had repented of his sin.
Paul provided two reasons for church discipline in First Corinthians 5:5-8. First, the church practices discipline “so that [the offender’s] spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Church discipline is Jesus’ means for communicating the need for salvation to someone who shows evidence of being unregenerate. It is, in fact, a ministry of reconciliation in which the goal is to restore the disciplined to fellowship with God and the church. Second, Paul used the metaphor of leaven spreading through a lump of dough to reveal that the church must strive for holiness in Christ. Paul ended his discussion by reminding the people “not to associate with immoral people” who claim Christ (1 Corinthians 5:9) and to “remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:13). After the Corinthian offender repented, Paul encouraged the church to forgive, comfort, and reaffirm their love for him (2 Corinthians 2:6-8). This again displays the goal of reconciliation. In First Timothy 5:19-20, Paul spoke of practicing discipline upon an elder of the church with a public rebuke for continuing in sin. In Titus 3:10-11, Paul exhorted Titus to reject a factious man after two warnings.
Considering these passages, the following guidelines should be exercised in church discipline. First, the church must practice discipline as an act of obedience to Jesus. Second, the church must practice discipline with a three-step process of rebuke: privately, with witnesses, and before the church assembly. Third, the church must practice discipline with an attitude of grief over sin and gentleness toward the offender. Fourth, in the practice of discipline, the church must seek the repentance and restoration to fellowship of the offender. Fifth, the church must use discipline to seek purity and protection of her reputation and therefore should practice discipline in an exclusive assembly of members. Sixth, the church must discipline for sins that are intentionally rebellious, public, and divisive in nature. Seventh, the church must end discipline when the offender repents of his sin.
 See Acts 2:37-42 where those who heard the gospel were commanded to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name and three-thousand were added to their membership upon repentance and a trust in Christ displayed in their baptisms.
 Greg Allison defines church discipline as “a proleptic (or anticipatory) and declarative sign of the divine eschatological judgment, meted out by Jesus Christ through the church against its sinful members and sinful situations.” This recognizes the idea that the church is acting upon what God has already declared and what He will do in His sovereignty and omniscience. See Gregg R. Allison, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 181.
At salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer (Ezekiel 36:24-29) and empowers the believer for Kingdom work (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3; 1 Peter 4:10-11). Each believer is given spiritual gifts so that he may serve for the benefit of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Peter 4:10) with the motivation of loving the church (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13). Paul used the metaphor of a body to teach that the church is like a body and each person is like a different member or part of the body. The members function in complimentary ways for the same purpose (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). There is a great deal of confusion regarding some of the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, tongues, and healing.
Prophecy is the authoritative speaking of God’s Word to those God intends to hear by one whom God has called to do so. Since the canon of Scripture is closed (Revelation 22:18), no new verbal message from God is given. The gift of prophecy is expressed faithfully only through the preaching of the Christian Scriptures.
The spiritual gift of tongues is not speaking in an unknown, angelic, or private prayer language. Rather, it is the spiritual gift which allows the speaker to share the gospel with someone who speaks a language unknown to the speaker (Acts 2:1-41). This gift acts as a sign of God’s power to save for those who hear the gospel spoken in their own language (Acts 2:7-12; 1 Corinthians 14:22). Those who reject the gospel message mock the one who shared it (Acts 2:13; 1 Corinthians 14:23). This spiritual gift was common during the lifetime of the Apostles. If it is still given today, it appears that it would be given for the purpose of evangelism only in pioneer missional contexts where language barriers exist.
The spiritual gift of healing was practiced during the lifetime of the Apostles to function as a sign of the power of the gospel message (Acts 3). One who attempts or portrays the gift of healing in a way that draws attention to himself rather than to Christ is a false-teacher (Acts 3:12-13). The church should seek physical healing by means of prayer and confession (James 5:13-18).
God created everything that exists in heaven and on earth (Genesis 1). Therefore, God owns everything (Psalm 50:10-12) and is the judge of everything (Genesis 1:31; Psalm 7:9-11; 50:1-4; 82:8; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 22:13). God created mankind in His own image so that man might display God’s glory to all of creation. One of the ways in which God intended His glory to be displayed was through stewardship—by subduing and ruling over God’s creation on God’s behalf (Genesis 1:26-31).
Since God made, owns, and judges everything and since God charged mankind to be stewards over His creation, mankind must acknowledge that all their possessions come from God (James 1:17) and are intended to be used according to God’s will and to bring God glory (Psalm 67; Matthew 6:19-33; 2 Corinthians 9:11-14; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). God will require everyone to give an account for the manner in which he uses God’s possessions (Matthew 25:14-30). Therefore, every Christian must be careful to understand how God’s Word directs him to use that which has been entrusted to him. For instance, some resources will be used for caring for one’s own needs (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and one’s family’s needs (1 Timothy 4:8).
Concerning special giving by God’s people for corporate worship and service to the Lord, Abram set an example of sacrificial giving before the Mosaic Law was given. He gave a tenth of his increase (that is a tithe) to Melchizedek, priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). Jesus is the permanent High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17) who even more so than Melchizedek deserves similar sacrificial giving. Abram’s example of giving a tenth of one’s increase was later codified in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). God judged and admonished post-exilic Judah for not giving a tenth of their increase faithfully, accusing them of robbing Him (Malachi 3:8-12). Further, Jesus instructed the Pharisees to continue giving a tenth of all their increase while not neglecting justice and love for God (Luke 11:42).
Paul commended the Macedonians for giving generously to the mission of God in the midst of persecution and poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-6), directing the Corinthian church to see the Macedonians as an example in sacrificial giving. Giving for Kingdom efforts should be Christ-focused (2 Corinthians 8:9), proportional to one’s income (2 Corinthians 8:12-15), regular (1 Corinthians 16:2), given through the local church (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), planned, eager, cheerful, and faith-driven (2 Corinthians 9:6-10). The main Biblical principle concerning giving to the Lord is that God’s people are to set aside a sacrificial proportion of their increase for corporate Kingdom work. A tithe (ten percent) is the example given before the Mosaic Law, required by the Mosaic Law, expected for post-exilic Judah, and commended by Jesus. Since Christians are not under the Law of Moses, the tithe does not exist as a law for Christ-followers. However, the Law does exist to teach Christians about God’s character and as God’s guidance for His people. Therefore, a tithe is a faithful starting place for Christians in sacrificial giving.
God created the world in a perfect way (Genesis 1:31) and created mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Mankind existed in the Garden of Eden in perfect fellowship with God. Yet, once mankind sinned, man was removed from God’s garden, separated from God, and cursed with pain, toil, agony, bodies that break down, relationships that fall apart, and spiritual, physical, and eternal death.
God promised to send a Savior (Genesis 3:15) who would be a suffering substitutionary Savior (Isaiah 53:4-6) and an eternal king and judge (2 Samuel 7:8-17; Psalm 2; 110). In Jesus’ first advent, He made the only effective sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He made known that He was the promised King (John 18:33-37). Concerning His Second Advent, Jesus promised He would return to save those who have trusted in Him and provide for them an eternal home with Him (John 14:1-6) and to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus’ return will be public (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and imminent (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).
The eternal home of Jesus’ followers is pictured as a restored Garden of Eden where mankind is healed, reunited in eternal fellowship with God, and permanently rescued from the curses of sin (Revelation 22:1-5). It is a literal, eternal, holy, incorruptible, physically glorified place (Revelation 21:1-4). Likewise, those who have died without surrendering to Jesus in faith are currently awaiting judgment in Hell. When Christ returns, He will pronounce condemnation on the inhabitants of Hell and cast them into the Eternal Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
When a believer dies, his body waits in the grave while his soul goes to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). When Christ returns, He will bring with Him the souls of those who have died in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14) and He will raise their bodies from the grave (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and glorify their bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44), reuniting soul with glorified, eternal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-57). In this way, Jesus’ followers will have an eternal, heavenly, glorified, imperishable, physical body just as Jesus has (John 20:17; 26-29; 21:9-14; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49).
Concerning end times, doctrines of primary significance that all orthodox Christians confess include the reality of Christ’s Second Advent, the need of all to prepare for His return, the future judgment by which Christians are rescued from the wrath of God and received into God’s eternal kingdom and those who have not surrendered to Christ are condemned to eternal and literal suffering.
Concerning the sequence of end times events, these doctrines are typically considered tertiary in significance so that Christians of differing perspectives can join and serve in the same church without incidence. My personal conviction is that the church will remain on earth throughout the entirety of the Tribulation (1 Peter 1:3-9; 5:10-11) but will be kept safe just as Israel remained and was preserved through the plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7-14). Then, Jesus will return (Revelation 19:11-21) to conquer His enemies, raise the dead in Christ (Revelation 20:4-6), glorify the bodies of all His followers, bring those Christians still living at His return up into the clouds with Him for His great processional as King of kings (1 Thessalonians 4:17) in which all His people will accompany Him as He comes down to the earth again to reign for a literal one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6). Then Satan will be released to make a final effort against God’s people but Christ will condemn Him forever (Revelation 20:7-10). Then, all who did not surrender to Christ will be raised for the final judgment and sentenced to eternal condemnation (Revelation 20:11-15). Finally, Jesus will complete the destruction of the present world (Revelation 21:1) and usher in the New Heavens and New Earth wherein His people will live forever with Him (Revelation 21:1-7). This perspective is typically called Historic Premillennialism. In this regard, I am very willing to work with those of varying perspectives on the ordering of events at Christ’s return (i.e. – Amillennialism, Dispensational Premillennialism, and Post-Millennialism).
Men and women were both created in the image of God and are therefore of equal worth (Genesis 1:26-27). The first woman is called “a helper suitable for him” in relation to the first man (Genesis 2:18). The term “suitable” (נֶגֶד) means “corresponding to” or “parallel with” and conveys similarity and equality. In many ways, men and women reflect God’s glory similarly (i.e. – intelligence, creativity, stewardship, holiness, etc.) and the gospel calls men and women to value each other equally (Galatians 3:27-29). However, in some ways and in some contexts, God intends men and women to reflect His glory differently from each other by filling complimentary gender roles. Men and woman are of equal worth and value while having different gender roles in the church and the family. However, in business (Proverbs 31:16, 24) and government (Judges 4-5), men and women may serve in similar roles as long as these roles do not cause them to neglect the charge God has given to each of them in the family and the church.
When God created the family, He intended for the man of each family to be the head and leader of his own family. God indicated this by creating the first man before the first woman (Genesis 2:7-9, 18-22; 1 Timothy 2:13; Deuteronomy 21:15-17), by giving the command and direction for the family to the man directly (Genesis 2:15-17), by giving the man the task of naming God’s creation, including the naming of the woman (Genesis 2:20-23), by referring to the woman as “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The word “helper” (עֵזֶר) conveys an assisting role rather than a leading role yet it does not convey a lesser worth. A further indication of God’s design for the family (the husband leading and loving sacrificially and the wife submitting respectfully) is the reversal of the gender roles in mankind’s Fall into sin (1 Timothy 2:14): the woman received commands for the family (Genesis 3:1-5), the woman named God’s creation (Genesis 3:6a), and she led her husband in eating the fruit in which he submitted to her leadership (Genesis 3:6b).
The Apostles gave further direction and reason for the different gender roles in marriage. The husband is to love and lead sacrificially as Christ does for His church (Ephesians 5:25-31; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7). The wife is to submit respectfully as the church does for Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6). The reason for this direction is that marriage was created to portray the gospel message (Ephesians 5:32-33). In this way, when Christian parents teach their children about the gospel, the children should be able to understand how Christ leads and loves sacrificially by seeing how their father does so for the family. Likewise, when the children learn that they are to submit to Christ’s leadership with respect, they should have an example of how to do so in the way their mother submits to their father with respect.
One of the main metaphors for the church in the New Testament is the family of God (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:14-15). Since God has conceived of the church as a family, He saw fit to apply the gender roles of a literal family to the church in a similar fashion (1 Timothy 2:12-3:2). Those who lead in the church are those who teach the church as overseers (elders/pastors). Therefore, the overseers serve the church much like the husband and father serves the family—by leading and having the main charge of the instruction of the family (Deuteronomy 6). Women should not seek to serve as overseers (elders/pastors) nor should churches seek to ordain women as such. Instead, the women of the church are to show submission and respect to their own husbands in the church (1 Corinthians 11:1-16) and to learn with a quiet and submissive attitude to the church’s overseers (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Similarly, it is best to understand the office of deacon as only being filled by men since the Jerusalem church did not see a need to have women serving in the office of deacon nor to have a separate office of deaconess. However, if a deacon is married, his wife will assist him in some ways in his diaconal ministry (1 Timothy 3:11; Genesis 2:18).
 Paul used this same term (ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ) in 1 Timothy 2:2 in order to describe how all Christians are to behave. In the context of First Timothy 2, quietness does not refer to physical silence but rather to a peaceable attitude that is free from meddling.
The Sanctity of Life
All life is created, sustained, and owned by God. God is the source of all life (John 1:1-4; 14:6; Colossians 1:15-17). Human life is of greater value than all creaturely life as mankind was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God forbids murder (Exodus 20:13), the act of wrongly taking human life. There are times when human life can be rightly taken without incurring sin and guilt such as through rightful capital punishment (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:4), some instances of self-defense (Exodus 22:2-4), or in just war (Deuteronomy 20).
Human life is the creation of God which begins at conception (Exodus 21:22-24; Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:44). Therefore, the practice known as abortion is considered murder and prohibited under the sixth commandment. Further, earthly human life continues until natural death. Therefore, the practice of euthanasia and the act of suicide are also prohibited by the sixth commandment.
 Augustine said, “For if it is not lawful for a private person on his own authority to slay even a guilty man whose death has not been authorized by any law, certainly he who slays himself is also a murderer; and the more innocent he was of that for which he thought he ought to die, the more guilty is he when he kills himself. We rightly detest what Judas did; but the judgment of truth is that, when he hanged himself, he increased rather than expiated the guilt of that accursed betrayal. For though he was penitent at death, he left himself no room for wholesome repentance when he despaired of the mercy of God” in The City of God against the Pagans, R.W. Dyson, trans.(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 27. This does not mean that suicide is the unforgiveable sin. It does mean, however, that it is a sin against God to take one’s own life.