An Introduction to the Historic Christian Faith
"Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." Westminster Shorter Catechism
Click on the titles below to see terms and definitions.
Anthropology is the study of man – Biblical anthropology deals with the study of the Bible's revelation of the nature of man both before and after the fall and both before and after regeneration.
Depravity is moral corruption, a state of corruption or sinfulness. Total depravity is the teaching that sin has touched all aspects of the human: body, soul, spirit, emotions, mind, etc.
The word Epistemology is taken from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (word/speech) is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin and scope of knowledge. It has historically been one of the most investigated and most debated of all philosophical discourses. Much of this debate has focused on analysing in detail the nature and variety of knowledge, and how it relates to similar notions such as truth and belief. Much of this discussion concerns the justification of knowledge claims.
The Fall is that event in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed the command of God and ate of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2 and 3). Since Adam represented all of mankind, when He sinned, all of mankind fell with Him (Rom. 5:12). Due to the effects of the fall (of Adam) on the mind and will, man's spiritual condition by nature is such that he is dead in trespasses and sins, enslaved to sin, wholly incapable and unwilling to come to God (1 Cor. 2:14, Rom 8:7, John 3:19), and under the wrath of God. (Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:26).
Guilt is being responsible for and accountable for an offense. Biblically, it is the state of being under a present or pending consequence due to a sin against God's Law. It is also an emotional state as well as legal condition. Guilt feelings are used by the Holy Spirit to inform the sinner of broken fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2; John 16:8). Because of our guilt before God, we need reconciliation (Rom. 5:6-9).
Man is the creation of God. It is man alone who reflects God. The first man, Adam, was made in God's image (Gen. 1:2627), and placed in the Garden of Eden for the purpose of enjoying the fellowship of the Lord and fulfilling the purpose of God's creation. He was told, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28).
When Adam and Eve sinned, all of humanity fell with them (Rom. 5:12-21). Adam represented all humanity: "For as in Adam all die..." (1 Cor. 15:22). As a result of Adam's disobedience, condemnation resulted to all men (Rom. 5:18). Therefore we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). We do not seek God (Rom. 3:11) nor can we understand the spiritual things of God (1 Cor. 2:14). Since this is the condition of man in his natural state, salvation is then impossible for us to achieve (Matt. 19:26). That is why we need the Holy Spirit to regenerate us (give us new birth) in order to be saved. Salvation is then a gift (Rom. 6:23) given by God to sinners through faith in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Original Sin is the term used to describe the effect of Adam's sin on his descendants (Rom. 5:12-23). Specifically, it is our inheritance of a sinful nature from Adam. The sinful nature originated with Adam and is passed down from parent to child. We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
Sin is any lack of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.Through sin, guilt is incurred; and according to guilt, punishment is deserved.
Temptation is anything that moves us to sin. God cannot be tempted (James 1:13). But we can be tempted by our lusts (James 1:13-15), through money (1 Tim. 6:9), lack of self examination (Gal. 6:1), and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16), to name a few. We are commanded to pray to be delivered from temptation (Matt. 6:13) for the Lord is capable of delivering us from it (2 Peter 2:9).
A bible is a book or collection of sacred writings. The term "bible" is best known in reference to the Christian Scriptures consisting of 66 books which make up both the Old and New Testaments. The word comes from the Greek, biblios, meaning "book."
God is the supreme being of the universe. He is the creator of all things (Isaiah 44:24). He alone is God (Isaiah 45:21,22; 46:9; 47:8). There have never been any gods before Him nor will there be any after Him (Isaiah 43:10). God is God from all eternity (Psalm 90:2). In Exodus 3:14, God revealed His name to His people. The name commonly known in English is Jehovah. This comes from the four Hebrew consonants that spell the name of God. (YWHW) God is Triune, knows all things (1 John 3:20), can do all things (Jer. 32:17,27 – except those things against His nature such as lie, break His word, cheat, steal, etc.), and is everywhere present at all times (Psalm 119:7-12).
Gospel means "glad tidings" or "good news," from Anglo-Saxon godspell. In Christianity, gospel means "good news". The word gospel derives from the Old English word for "good news", a translation of the Greek word evangelion. Gospel has generally been used in three ways: To denote the proclamation of God's saving activity in Jesus of Nazareth or to denote the message proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth. This is the original New Testament usage (see Romans 1.1 or Mark 1.1).
More popularly to refer to the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), which offer a narrative of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The expression "gospel" was used by Paul before the literary Gospels of the New Testament canon had been produced, when he reminded the men of the church at Corinth "the gospel which I preached to you" (1 Cor. 15:1) through which, they were being saved. He described it in the simplest terms, emphasizing Christ's appearances after the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-8): "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time."
Heaven is the special dwelling place of God, and for those who go there, a place of everlasting bliss. Scripture implies three heavens, since "the third heaven" is revealed to exist (2 Cor. 12:2). It is logical that a third heaven cannot exist without a first and second. Scripture does not describe specifically the first and second heaven. The first, however, apparently refers to the atmospheric heavens of the fowl (Hosea 2:18) and clouds (Dan. 7:13). The second heaven may be the area of the stars and planets (Gen. 1:14-18). It is the abode of all supernatural angelic beings. The third heaven is the abode of the triune God. Its location is unrevealed. (See Matt. 23:34-37; Luke 10:20; and Rev. 22:2, 20-27).
Hell is the place of eternal punishment of the damned including the devil and his fallen angels. There are several words rendered as Hell: Hades – (A Greek word). It is the place of the dead, the location of the person between death and resurrection. (See Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Acts 11:27; 1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:18; 6:8). Gehenna – (A Greek word). It was the place where dead bodies were dumped and burned (2 Kings 23:13-14). Jesus used this word to designate the place of eternal torment (Matt. 5:22,29,30; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5). Sheol – (A Hebrew word). It is the place of the dead, not necessarily the grave, but the place the dead go to. It is used of both the righteous (Psalm 16:10; 30:3; Isaiah 38:10) and the wicked (Num. 16:33; Job. 24:19; Psalm 9:17). Hell is a place of eternal fire (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 19:20). It was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) and will be the abode of the wicked (Rev. 22:8) and the fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4).
Inspiration is the doctrine that the Bible was produced by the Holy Spirit of God. It is therefore without error. It is accurate and it authoritatively communicates God's teachings (2 Tim. 3:16). As such, it is a revelation from God which objectively conveys direct knowledge about God, creation, man, salvation, the future, etc. It provides illumination in that it shows us what we could not know apart from it.
Because the Bible is inspired, its words are unbreakable (John 10:34-36), eternal (Matt. 24:35), trustworthy (Psalm 119:160), and able to pierce the heart of man (Heb. 4:12). Additionally, the inspired Word of God will not go forth without accomplishing what God intends (Isaiah 55:11).
The Law is God's commands revealing His Holy will for all people. The Law is the very reflection of the character of God. Therefore, since God is pure, the Law is pure. Since God is holy, the Law is holy. The moral Law consists of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20). Speaking more broadly, the law refers also to rules for social life (Exodus 21 – 23), and rules for the worship of God (Exodus 25 – 31). The Moral Law reflects the covenant of works between God and man. It is unable to bring us into eternal fellowship with the Lord because of Man's inability to keep it.
The Law is a difficult taskmaster because it requires that we maintain a perfect standard of moral behavior. And then when we fail, the Law condemns us to death. We deserve death even if we fail to keep just one point of the law: "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). The law made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:19). That is why the Law has shown us our need for Jesus and the free gift we receive through Him (Gal. 3:24).
The word Pentecost comes from the Greek which means fifty. So, Pentecost was a celebration on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was a culmination of the feast of weeks (Exodus 34:22,23). Pentecost in the New Testament is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church (Acts 2). At Pentecost the disciples of Jesus were gathered together, when they heard a great wind and tongues of fire settled upon them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke in tongues (languages). The significance of the fire can be found in recognizing it as a symbol of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit of God (Exodus 19:18; 1 Pet. 4:14).
Revelation means the disclosure of something that was unknown. There are two types of revelation: natural and special. Natural revelation is that which is made known about God through creation (Rom. 1:20 ). Through the creation, it is made clear that there is a God, that He is in control, that He has an order, that He is concerned for our welfare, and that He is the moral governor and judge of men. However, through natural revelation, we are not able to discover the plan of salvation. That comes from special revelation.
Special revelation is that which is given to us through the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and ultimately Jesus Christ Himself. The ultimate revelation is the incarnation and work of Jesus Christ, because He came to reveal the Father to us (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; Heb. 1:1-3) and to communicate to us the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4) by which comes salvation.
The Synoptic Gospels are the first three gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They are referred to as the synoptic gospels because of their great similarity.
Major Biblical Doctrines
Ascension is the bodily departure or 'taking up' of Jesus into heaven to the right hand of God the Father. The account of Jesus' ascension is record by Luke in Luke 24 and in Acts 1:4-11.
Atonement means to make amends, to repair a wrong done. Biblically, it means to 'cover' and remove the guilt of sin. The Old Testament atonements offered by the high priest were temporary and foreshadow the real and final atonement made by Jesus. Jesus atoned for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). This atonement is received by faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).
Man is a sinner (Rom. 5:8) and cannot atone for himself. Therefore, it was the love of the Father that sent His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 4:10) to die in our place (1 Pet. 3:18) for our sins (1 Pet. 2:24). Because of the atonement, our fellowship with God is restored (Rom. 5:10). (See Reconciliation)
Covenant Theology is a prominent feature in Protestant theology especially in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches and, in different forms, in Methodism and in some Reformed Baptist churches. This definition primarily concerns Covenant Theology as held by the Reformed churches, which use the covenant concept as an organizing principle for Christian theology and view the history of redemption under the framework of three over-arching theological covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. (These three covenants are called "theological covenants" because, although they are not explicit, they are implicit in the Bible).
In brief, Covenant Theology teaches that God has established two covenants with mankind and one within the Godhead to deal with how the other two relate. The first (in logical order), usually called the Covenant of Redemption, is an agreement within the Godhead, namely, that the Father appointed his Son who willingly agreed to give up his life for mankind to obtain the salvation of His people. The second, called the Covenant of Works, was made in the Garden of Eden between God and Adam. This covenant promised life for obedience and threatened death for disobedience. Adam disobeyed God and broke the covenant. Therefore, in His great mercy, the third covenant was made between God and mankind, who also fell with Adam according to Romans 5:12-21.
This third covenant, the Covenant of Grace, is established with all believers and their children throughout all generations. In it, God promises eternal life and blessing to all who believe in Christ, Who alone secures all the blessings of salvation, including the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work. This covenant is the substantial basis for the various covenants which God revealed to individuals (Noah, Abraham, and David), to the Israelites as a people, and finally, with people of all nations in the New Covenant.
The word Gentile (from the Latin gentilis, a translation of the Hebrew goyim) has several meanings. In the most common modern use it refers to a non-Jew. The word is derived from the Latin term gens (meaning "clan" or a "group of families") and it is often employed in the plural. In late Latin gentilis meant "pagan", and the term gentile has sometimes been used in the past as a synonym for "heathen" or "pagan" (a believer in many gods); It is also sometimes used to describe non-Jewish persons of Christian faith in an opposition to the adherents of Judaism.
The word Israel typically this term has two meanings. The first being a predominately ethnic people descended from Abraham who were called and chosen by God to obey and inherit His promises. The second, refers to the spiritual descendants of Abraham who are characterized by having faith in the one true God of Israel (Romans 2:28-29 – For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.").
This Israel has its true identity in Christ, not in a political nation. The ethnic nation was merely the shadow of the true inheritance in Christ (Romans 9:8 – "That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed." ). As true children of Abraham by faith, and thus children of God through Christ, all Christians possess a spiritual inheritance. All nations, Jew and Gentile alike are joined to the Lord and will reign with Him in that eternal inheritance. It is not a plot of earth in the middle east.
Judgment means condemnation. There are several ways in which judgment is delineated in Scripture: judgment of the believer's sins (John 5:24), judgment of the believer's self (1 Cor. 11:31-32), judgment of the believer's works (2 Cor. 5:10), judgment of the nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and judgment of the wicked (Rev. 20:11-15).
There is no judgment for the Christian in respect to salvation (Rom. 8:1). We were judged in Christ on the cross 2000 years ago. However, as Christians we will be judged according to our works (2 Cor. 5:10) with varying rewards of grace. This does not nullify salvation by grace, but it will magnify Christ and show the greatness of God's grace to His people.
In general terms, salvation refers to deliverance from some undesirable state or condition. Most significantly, it refers to the work of God in delivering his people from bondage to sin and condemnation, resulting in willing slavery to righteousness (Romans 6:18) and eternal life (Romans 6:26). In theology, the study of salvation is called soteriology, from the Greek soteria meaning "salvation."
Christ is a title. It is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament term "messiah" and means "anointed one." It is applied to Jesus as the anointed one who delivers from sin. Jesus alone is the Christ. As the Christ He has a three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, He is the mouthpiece of God (Matt. 5:27-28) and reveals God to man. As Priest, He represents man to God and restores fellowship between them by offering Himself as the sacrifice that removed the sin of those who are saved. As King, He rules over His kingdom. By virtue of Christ creating all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17), and accomplishing His work of redemption (Acts 5:31; Rom.. 14:9), He has the right to rule.
Christ has come to do the will of the Father (John 6:38), to save sinners (Luke 19:10), to fulfill the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17), to destroy the works of Satan (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8), and to give eternal life (John 10:10,28). Christ is holy (Luke 1:35), righteous (Isaiah 53:11), sinless (2 Cor. 5:21), humble (Phil. 2:5-8), and forgiving (Luke 5:20; 7:48; 23:34).
The word "Christian" comes from the Greek word christianos which is derived from the word christos, or Christ, which means "anointed one." A Christian, then, is someone who is a follower of Christ. The first use of the word "Christian" in the Bible is found in Acts 11:26, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." It is found only twice more in Acts 26:28 and 1 Pet. 4:16.
Christology is the study of Christ (Jesus) as revealed in the Bible. Some of the issues studied are: 1) His deity, 2) His incarnation, 3) His offices, 4) His sacrifice, 5) His resurrection, 6) His teaching, 7) His relation to God and man, and 8) His return to earth.
The Bible is about Jesus (Luke 24:27,44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7). The prophets prophesied about Him (Acts 10:43). The Father bore witness of Him (John 5:37, 8:18). The Holy Spirit bore witness of Him (John 15:26). The works Jesus did bore witness of Him (John 5:36; 10:25). The multitudes bore witness of Him (John 12:17). And, Jesus bore witness of Himself (John 14:6, 18:6).
Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1,14). He is fully God and fully man (Col. 2:9) thus, He has two natures: divine and human. He is not half God and half man. He is fully God and fully man. He never lost his divinity. He existed in the form of God and when He became a man, He added human nature to Himself (Phil. 2:5-11). Therefore, there is a "union in one person of a fully human nature and the fully divine nature." Right now in heaven there is "The Man, Christ Jesus", who is Mediator between us and God the Father (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus is our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). He is our Savior (Titus 2:13). He is our Lord (Rom. 10:9-10).
The word Church is used in two senses: the visible and the invisible church. The visible church consists of all the people that profess to be Christians and belong to true Christian churches.The visible church is where the Word and Sacraments are administered and the saints are built up in fellowship together under the form and government that Christ has instituted. The invisible church is the true and complete body of Christians; those who are truly saved. It is not called "invisible" because it is no where to be seen. Rather it is called "invisible" because its fullness and perfection has not yet been manifested.
The true church of God is not confined to any organization on earth, consisting of people and buildings, but is really a supernatural entity comprised of those who are saved by Jesus. It spans the entire time of man's existence on earth as well as all people who are called into it. We become members of the church (body of Christ) by faith (Acts 2:41). We are built up or strengthened by the Word (Eph. 4:15-16), disciplined by God (Matt. 18:15-17), unified in Christ (Gal. 3:28), and sanctified by the Spirit (Eph. 5:26-27).
The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which is often translated servant. The office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men (among them Stephen) to oversee a ministry to material needs in the early church. (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6)
The word Elder is an English translation of the Greek word presbuteros found in various places in the New Testament. As those called to exercise a spiritual government in the church, it is the duty of elders, individually and jointly, to strengthen and nurture the faith and life of the congregation committed to their charge.
Together with the pastor, they should encourage the people in the worship and service of God, equip and renew them for their tasks within the church and for their mission in the world, visit and comfort and care for the people, with special attention to the poor, the sick, the lonely, those who are oppressed, and those in need of the Lord's discipline. They should inform the pastor and Consistory of any needs requiring special attention in the congregation.
Ecclesiology is a term taken from the Greek word ecclesia, is that branch of Christian theology that deals with the doctrine of the Church: its role in salvation, and its origin, its discipline, and its leadership. The terms ecclesiastical means that the thing or action described has to do with the Christian Church. For example, an "ecclesiastical movement" is a movement within the Church.
There is no specific definition for the word fellowship given in the New Testament. But we are called into fellowship with one another (1 John 1:3, with Jesus (1 Cor. 1:9), with the Father (1 John 1:3), and with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). Fellowship implies sharing common interests, desires, and motivations. Fellowship requires that time be spent with another communicating, caring, etc. It carries with it a hint of intimacy. As Christians we fellowship with one another because of our position in Christ, because we are all redeemed and share an intimate personal knowledge of Jesus. We share a common belief (Acts 2:42), hope (Heb. 11:39-40), and need (2 Cor. 8:1-15).
The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. This word is also translated communion in 1 Cor. 10:16 in the KJV. This is where we get the term "communion supper."
A Pastor is ordinarily a title used for the minister of a Christian church. Pastor comes from the Greek word poimen meaning shepherd, as used in Ephesians 4:11: "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." From a New Testament perspective, these last two designations identify the permanent "gifts" of Christ to a local church. The pastoral/teaching ministry is designed to help and support all members of the congregation on the road of life. Therefore, in a modern context, the term, pastor is often used to denote one who gives spiritual guidance and counsel.
It should be noted that in the Bible there is no evidence that individual churches had a single person "in charge", unlike most churches today. The underlying life of the minister is what the Apostle Paul presents in the text above and the associate internal commitment to the fundamental values of personal piety, prayer, proclaiming God's Word, and interaction with others both within and outside the church.
Worship is the obligation of God's creation to give to Him all honor, praise, adoration, and glory due Him because He is the holy and divine creator and the giver of all good things. Worship is to be given to God only (Exodus 20:3; Matt. 4:10). Jesus, being God in flesh (John 1:1,14 ; Col. 2:9), is also to be worshipped (Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6), as is the Holy Spirit.
Doctrines of Grace (Reformed Theology)
Total depravity is the teaching that sin has touched all aspects of the human: body, soul, spirit, emotions, mind, etc. This includes the teaching of man's total inability, meaning that people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, as he requires, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God, and thus are of themselves incapable of seeking God. Even religion and philanthropy are utterly corrupted by sin, insofar as they are performed according to human imagination, passions, and will.
Total depravity does not mean, however, that people are as bad as possible. Rather, it means that even the good which a person may intend is faulty in its premise, false in its motive, and weak in its implementation; and there is no mere refinement of natural capacities that can correct this condition. Although total depravity is easily confused with philosophical cynicism, the doctrine teaches optimism concerning God's love for what he has made and God's ability to accomplish the ultimate good that he intends for his creation. In particular, in the process of saving His people, God overcomes their inability with his divine grace and them to freely choose to follow him.
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:14), He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through thier own fault from the original state of uprightness into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation.
Limited or Particular Atonement
Limited atonement is the doctrine of definite atonement (or more commonly, limited atonement) addresses the purpose of the atoning death of Christ. It maintains that God's design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death (especially as an atonement) were designed for and accrue only to believers.
This doctrine stands in contradistinction to the theory of universal atonement which maintains that whatever Christ accomplished on the cross, he accomplished for all alike – both those who are finally saved and those who are eternally condemned.
Irresistible grace (or efficacious grace) teaches that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect), whereby in God's timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ. Those who obtain salvation do so, not by their own "free" will, but because of the sovereign discriminating grace of God. That is, men yield to grace, not finally because their consciences were more tender or their faith more tenacious than that of other men.
Rather, the willingness and ability to do God's will are evidence of God's own faithfulness to save men from the power and the penalty of sin, and since man is so corrupt that he will not decide and cannot be wooed to follow after God, sovereign efficacious grace is required to convert him. This is done by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit whereby fallen man is made willing and necessarily turns to Christ in "God-given" faith.
Perseverance (of the saints)
Perseverance means to endure to the end. Theologically, the term "perseverance of the saints" is the teaching that salvation cannot be lost, that the saints will persevere to the end. For as the apostle Paul states in Philippians 1:6, "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
A disciple is a pupil or follower of a religion, a person, or a movement. As Christians we are to be disciples of Jesus (Luke 14:26,27). We follow in the teaching and example of what He said and did. A disciple is a true convert but not all professing converts are disciples. As disciples we are to bear our cross daily (Matt. 16:24). This means to live and die for Him if necessary (Matt. 16:25).
Edify means to build up. In the Christian context it means to strengthen someone, or be strengthened, in relationship to God, the Christian walk, and holiness. Its New Testament meaning is especially associated with the teaching and fellowship of the church. As Christians, we are to "let all things be done for edification" (1 Cor. 14:26). We are edified by the Word of God (Acts 20:32) and by love (1 Cor. 8:1). (See also Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:29 and 1 Cor. 3:1-4; James 4:1-6).
Faith is belief, trust, and loyalty to a person or thing. Christians find their security and hope in God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and say "amen" to that unique relationship to God in the Holy Spirit through love and obedience as expressed in lives of discipleship and service. The promise of salvation through Jesus Christ alone is the special focus of that faith whereby sinners are saved, as opposed to salvation through works.
Agnosticism is the philosophical view that the truth values of certain claims-particularly theological claims regarding the existence of God, gods, or deities-are unknown, inherently unknowable, or incoherent, and therefore, (some agnostics may go as far to say) irrelevant to life.
Atheism, in its broadest sense, is characterized by an absence of belief in the existence of gods, thus contrasting with theism. This definition includes both those who assert that there are no gods and those who have no beliefs at all regarding the existence of gods. However, narrower definitions often only qualify the former as atheism, the latter falling under the more general term nontheism.
The Bible teaches that all men know there is a God (Rom. 2:14-15). Therefore, they will be without excuse (Rom. 1:20 ) on the Day of Judgment. In fact, atheists willingly suppress the knowledge of God by their unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-19).
Dispensationalism is a system of biblical interpretation associated with J. N. Darby (1800-1882) and his followers and popularized through the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. It builds on the idea of God's administration of or plan for the world describing the unfolding of that program in various dispensations, or stewardship arrangements, throughout the history of the world. The world is seen as a household administered by God in connection with several stages of revelation that mark off the different economies in the outworking of his total program.
Scofield says there are seven dispensations: of innocence, of conscience, of civil government, of promise, of law, of grace, and of the kingdom. Dispensationalists interpret the scriptures in light of these (or other perceived) dispensations. Two of the most problematic views of dispensational teachings are its radical division between the Old and New Testament, and between Israel and the Church. (Compare to Covenant Theology).
An idol is a representation of something in the heavens or on the earth. It is used in worship and is often worshiped. It is an abomination to God (Exodus 20:4). Idolatry is bowing down before such an idol in adoration, prayer, or worship. In a loose sense, idolatry does not necessitate a material image or a religious system. It can be anything that takes the place of God: a car, a job, money, a person, a desire, etc. Idolatry is denounced by God at the beginning of the Ten Commandments and is considered a form of spiritual adultery.
Pantheism is an identification of the universe with God. With this view there is a blurring of the distinction between the Creator and the creation as well as an attack upon the personality and nature of God. Pantheism tends to equate God with the process of the universe and states that the universe is God and God is the universe. This is not true because God is the creator of the universe (Isaiah 44:24) and therefore separate from it.
Pelagianism is the teaching of a monk named Pelagius in the fifth Century. He taught that man's will was and still is free to choose good or evil and there is no inherited sin (through Adam). Every infant born into the world is in the same condition as Adam before the fall and only becomes a sinner because he sins. This is opposed to the Biblical teaching that we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and that we sin because we are sinners. Pelagius said that we are able to keep the commandments of God because God has given us that ability. Therefore, there is no need of redemption and the crucifixion of Jesus is merely a supreme example of love, humility, obedience, and sacrifice.
Polytheism is belief in, or worship of, multiple gods or divinities. The word comes from the Greek words poly and theoi, literally "many gods." Most ancient religions were polytheistic, holding to pantheons of traditional deities, often accumulated over centuries of cultural interchange and experience. Present-day polytheistic religions include Hinduism, Shinto, some forms of Wicca, Vodun, and Asatru. Buddhism is regarded by some non-practitioners as polytheistic although this view of the religion is rejected by most adherents. Some Jewish and Islamic scholars regard the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as bordering on polytheism, a view that Christians strongly reject.
God's holiness refers to His transcendent greatness and distinction from all creatureliness and imperfection. It is also a quality of moral perfection, sinlessness, and inability to sin that is possessed by God alone. As Christians we are called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). This is only possible through the renewal of our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit. God's demand for holiness extends to our practice and thought. We are to be holy in obedience (1 Pet. 1:14). God has also made us holy, in the sense that He has set us apart for Himself through His Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 2:9).
In general, justice means meeting out the due reward or punishment for an act. Justice is getting what is deserved. God's Justice (Righteousness) pertains to His perfect uprightness in judgment and in all His ways and works. God is merciful but He is also just (Deut. 32:4 – righteous) and must punish sin. In the grace of God, justice fell upon His Son so that mercy would fall upon us. (See also Prov. 8:15; Gen. 18:19; Heb. 10:38). Because of this, God's justice is revealed in Scripture as being in favor of believers.
God is Merciful. He has pity and compassion on the miserable and undeserving. Mercy is the act of not administering justice when that justice is punitive. Because of our sinfulness we deserve death and eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Isaiah 59:2), but in His great mercy, God provided an atonement for sin. For this reason, Jesus became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21) and bore the punishment due to us (Isaiah 5345). Therefore God does not deliver the Christian over to the just consequence of his sin, which is damnation.
Righteousness is an attribute of moral integrity and uprightness belonging to God alone (John 17:25 ). It is He alone who is truly righteous. In themselves, no one in the world is righteous in the eyes of the Lord. But Christian are counted righteous in the eyes of God when we receive Jesus by faith (Phil. 3:9). Our righteousness is based on the perfect obedience of Christ throughout His life, and on what He did on the cross. This righteousness of Christ's active and passive obedience is counted to us. We, then, are seen as righteous in the eyes of God. Though we are actually worthy of damnation, we are constituted righteous (Isaiah 61:10) by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
There are seven words in Scripture that denote the idea of forgiveness: three in Hebrew and four in Greek. No book of religion except Christianity teaches that God completely forgives sins. God remembers our sins no more (Heb. 10:17). God is the initiator of forgiveness (Col. 2:13).
For the holy God to extend forgiveness, the shedding of blood is necessary (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). Forgiveness is based upon the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. For man to receive forgiveness, repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ is necessary (Luke 17:3-4).
The word "grace" in biblical language can, like forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation, mean something as broad as describing the whole of God's saving activity toward certain men or as narrow as describing one segment of that activity. Grace is unmerited favor. It is God's free action for the benefit of His people. It is different than Justice and Mercy. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve. But because of God's love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption.
Reconciliation is changing for the better a relationship between two or more persons. It is a restoration of peace and friendship, where there was alienations. Theologically it refers to the change of relationship between God and man. We are naturally children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and are at enmity with God (Eph. 2:11-15); but, "...we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son..." (Rom. 5:10).
Because of the death of Jesus, the Christian's relationship with God is changed for the better. We are now able to have fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3) whereas before we could not. So, we are reconciled to Him (Rom. 5:10-11). The problem of sin that separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) has been addressed and removed in the cross. It was accomplished by God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:18).
Redemption means to free someone from bondage. It often involves the paying of a ransom, a price that makes redemption possible. The Israelites were redeemed from Egypt. We were redeemed from the power of sin and the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13) through Jesus (Rom. 3:24; Col. 1:14). We were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23).
To be "born again" is another name for "regeneration." It is a work of the Holy Spirit within the heart, leading to faith in Christ and Him crucified (John 3:3-5). It is sovereignly and freely given to sinners, thus bringing about their conversion. As the result of being born again, a person is no longer dead in sins (Eph. 2:1), no longer spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14), but is now a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17).
Conversion is turning from evil to God. God converts the unsaved into the saved. It is normally produced through the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10:14; 1 Cor. 15:1-4) and involves repentance and faith. (Acts 26:20). A converted person is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). The fruits of conversion are listed in Gal. 5:22-23.
Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit where a person is able to see himself as God sees him: guilty, defiled, and totally unable to save himself (John 16:8). Conviction of the Holy Spirit of an unbeliever reveals sinfulness and guilt and brings fear. Conviction of the Holy Spirit of the believer brings an awareness of sin and results in confession and cleansing. This conviction is produced by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8),the preaching of the Law (James 2:9), the Gospel (Acts 2:37),and the conscience (Rom. 2:15). Conviction of our sins brings us to the cross. It shows us our need for forgiveness.
Regeneration is the spiritual change begun and sustained in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It is an inner re-creating of fallen human nature by the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8). This change is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. It originates not with man but with God (John 1:12, 13; 1 John 2:29; 5:1, 4). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature.
Prayer is the privilege and obligation of the Christian by which we communicate with God. By prayer we convey our confession (1 John 1:9), our requests (1 Tim. 2:1-3), our intercessions (James 5:15), thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6), etc., to our holy God. Christians are commanded and encouraged to pray on a regular basis. (1 Thess. 5:17). Some personal requirements of prayer are a pure heart (Psalm 66:18), belief in Christ (John 14:13), and that the prayer be according to God's will (1 John 5:13). We can pray standing (Neh. 9:5), kneeling (Ezra 9:5), sitting (1 Chron. 17:16-27), bowing (Exodus 34:8), and with lifted hands (1 Tim. 2:8).
To repent means to turn. Specifically, according to the Bible, repentance means to turn from sin.This includes both the attitude toward sin (of sorrow and revulsion), and the action of forsaking sin. We were called by God to turn from sin. In fact, all men everywhere are commanded by God to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30). God's long suffering leads us to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9) as does His kindness (Rom. 2:4).
There is true and false repentance, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Cor. 7:10).
Baptism is the immersion, pouring, or sprinkling of water that signifies the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins (Titus 3:5;Acts 22:16). Under the new covenant, it is done in the name and authority (Acts 4:7) of Christ according to the baptismal formula of "The Name of the Father, of The Son, and of The Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Baptism does not save us (1 Pet. 3:21). However, it is our obligation and great privilege, as members of Christs' body, to receive it as a sign and seal of the promise of salvation, for the strengthening of our faith.
The Lord's Supper is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ as a memorial of His death wherein, under the symbols of bread and wine, His body as broken and His blood as shed for the remission of sins are signified and, by the power of the Holy Ghost, sealed and applied to believers. Thereby their union with Christ and their mutual fellowship are set forth and confirmed; their faith strengthened, and their souls nourished unto eternal life.
In this sacrament Christ is present not bodily, but spiritually – not in the sense of local nearness, but of efficacious operation. His people receive Him not with the mouth, but by faith; they do not receive His flesh and blood as material particles, but His body as broken and His blood as shed. The union thus signified and effected is not a corporeal union, not a mixture of substances, but a spiritual and mystical union due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The efficacy of this sacrament as a means of grace is not in the signs, nor in the service, nor in the minister, nor in the word, but in the attending influence of the Holy Ghost.
The scriptural evidence, in support of the position that the infants of believing parents are to be baptized, consists chiefly in the fact that, in the whole history of our race, God's covenanted dealings with His people, with respect to spiritual blessings, have had regard to their children as well as to themselves; so that the children as well as the parents have been admitted to the spiritual blessings of God's covenants, and to the outward signs and seals.
Means of Grace
A means of grace is a God-appointed method whereby the Lord imparts His grace. Generally, the means of grace are considered to be primarily the preaching of the Gospel, and also baptism, and the Lord's Supper.
Sacraments involve a visible manifestation of the word. They are instituted by Christ for the sake of strengthening the faith of believers. God, in the Old Testament, used visible signs along with His spoken word. These visible signs had great significance for the faith of God's people. Among the Old Testament sacraments the rites of circumcision and the Passover were prominent. The New Testament counterparts of these are baptism (Col. 1:10-12) and the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 5:7).
The bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, and the water of baptism visibly signify the body and blood of Christ given for our life and nourishment, and for the cleansing of our sins and renewal of the Holy Spirit. They visibly proclaim to us the covenant promise of our Lord ("In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'," Luke 22:20).
Theologically, assurance is the state of being confident in a condition or outcome. Usually it is applied to one's assurance of salvation. Texts often used to support assurance of salvation are John 10:28 "and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand," and 1 John 5:13, This assurance is given by the Holy Spirit. The first Epistle of John, in particular, was written to establish believers in the assurance of salvation: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."
Cessationism is the position within Christianity that the Charismatic Spiritual gifts (speaking in tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, interpretation of tongues, etc.) ceased with the closing of the Canon of scripture and/or the death of the last apostle.
Humility is the attitude of the Christian that teaches us "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly..." (Rom. 12:3). It teaches us to prefer others over ourselves (Rom. 12:10). It is knowing our true position before God. It is not self-abasement or demeaning one's self. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Humility is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 18:3-4).
The humility of Jesus is described in Philippians 2:5-8, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!".
A prophet is someone who is the mouthpiece of God. He stands between God and man to communicate to man the word of God. When the prophet spoke as the mouthpiece he was inspired and without error. The prophet, though, is not a puppet or a mindless repeater of what he hears. Instead, he retains his own will, mind, and thoughts as he speaks for God. God would put His words in their mouths (Deut. 18:18; Jer. 1:9).
A prophet was God's servant (Zech. 1:6) and messenger (2 Chron. 36:15). The prophecies fell into three categories: concerning the destiny of Israel, the messianic prophecies, and eschatological prophecies. The term Law and Prophets refers to the writings of the Old Testament divided into two categories. The Law is the Pentateuch, or Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Prophets are all the rest of the Old Testament books.
Active obedience is distinguished from passive obedience in Reformed Theology. Active obedience is Jesus' actively fulfilling all the law of God. This active obedience is imputed to the believer when he believes; that is, God reckons to the believer the righteousness of Christ when the believer trusts in Christ and His work.
Common grace is the grace of God manifested toward the creation as a whole. God still allows the sun to shine upon the unsaved. He feeds them, allows them to work, and have joy. It is by common grace that God restrains the sin of man, and withholds His wrath until a later time. God's special, saving grace is given only to the elect.
The word doctrine comes from the Latin doctrina, (compare doctor), and means "a body of teachings" or "instructions," taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system. The Greek analogy is the etymology of catechism.
Eschatology is traditionally defined as the doctrine of the "last things," in relation to human individuals (comprising death, resurrection, judgment, and the afterlife) or to the world. Eschatology denotes the consummation of God's purpose whether it coincides with the end of the world (or of history) or not.
The word imputation is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., He assumed our "law-place," undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same (Rom. 5:12-19; comp. Philemon 1:18, 19)."
To be justified is to be constituted righteous. Justification is a divine act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his sins, and righteous before Him. It is not that the sinner is now sinless, but that he is "declared" sinless, and thus reckoned as sinless in the sight of God. This justification is based on Christ's perfect obedience to God's law, culminating in the shedding of His blood for us, "...having now been justified by His blood..." (Rom. 5:9). When God sees the Christian, He sees him through the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus, and thus "sees" him without sin, and positively righteous in Christ.
This declaration of innocence is not without cost for it required the satisfaction of God's Law, "...without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). It is through the sacrifice of Jesus, that the "one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). In justification, the justice of God fell upon Himself--Jesus. We receive mercy--we are not judged according to our sins. And grace is shed upon us--we receive eternal life. This justification is a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24), by faith (Rom. 3:28) because Jesus bore our guilt (Isaiah 53:12).
A mediator is someone who intervenes, someone who conveys and conciliates. The word "mediator" is not found in the Old Testament, but its principle is. God gave the Law to the people through a mediator, Moses (Gal. 3:19), who was a type of the true mediator, Jesus. The word occurs only a few times in the New Testament: 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24. It is in the New Testament that the true nature of mediation is understood in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of a better covenant (Heb. 8:6). He was able to become our mediator by becoming man (John 1:1,14) and dying as our substitute (1 Pet. 1:18,19; 2:24). He reconciled us to God (Eph. 2:16).
Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God in all places at all times. There were none before God and there will be none after Him. Monotheism is the teaching of the Bible (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; 45:5,14,18,21,22; 46:9; 47:8; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:5-6; Gal. 4:89).
Propitiation means the pacifying and turning away of wrath by an offering. It is similar to expiation but expiation does not carry the nuances involving appeasement of wrath, by the satisfaction of justice. For the Christian, the propitiation was the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It turned away the wrath of God so that He could pass "over the sins previously committed" (Rom. 3:25). It was the Father who sent the Son to be the propitiation (1 John 4:10) for all (1 John 2:2).
Sanctification, or its verb, sanctify, literally means "to set apart" for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred. Therefore, sanctification refers to the state or process of being set apart, i.e. made holy. This term can be used to refer to objects which are set apart for special purposes, but the most common use within Christian theology is in reference to the change brought about by God with respect to believers. Believers are both "set apart" for God by their holy status and calling in Christ, and also progressively transformed and made holy throughout their lives by the working of the Spirit within them.
Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. It is derived from the Greek word soterious which means salvation. Some of the subjects of soteriology are the atonement, imputation, and regeneration.
Theism is the teaching that there is a God and that He is actively involved in the affairs of the world. This does not necessitate the Christian concept of God, but includes it.
The Father is the first person of the Godhead. Jesus called him "Abba," a familiar term in Aramaic which can be translated as "father" in modern English. He is the initiator of each covenant with mankind and the elector of our souls unto salvation.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. He is fully God. He is the renewer and sanctifier of man's heart and mind as well as the giver of spiritual gifts.
The assumption of human nature by the second Person of the Trinity, whereby "God became man," not by becoming less than He was, but by taking upon (or adding to) Himself what He was not. (John 1:1,14; Phil. 2:5-8). It was the voluntary act of the Son of God to humble Himself so that He might die for our sins (1 Pet. 3:18). Thus, Jesus has two natures: Divine and human. This is known as the Hypostatic Union.
This doctrine is of vital importance to the Christian. By it we receive the true revelation of God, the atonement, forgiveness, grace, etc. It is only God who could pay for sins. Therefore, God became man (John 1:1,14) to die for our sins (1 Pet. 2:24) which is the atonement. Through Jesus we have forgiveness of sins. Since we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) it is essential that our object of faith be accurate. The doctrine of the incarnation ensures accuracy, the knowledge that God died on the cross to atone for sin and that the God-man (Jesus) is now in heaven as a mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) between us and God.
The Son is the second person of the Godhead. He was appointed before the beginning of time to serve as mankind's Mediator by taking on the flesh of a man, actively fulfilling the demands of the Law, and receiving the punishment due for the sins of those whom the Father elected; thereby effectively procuring their salvation.