Statement of Faith and Belief of David V. Emery

(Prepared for his Council of Ordination)

 

God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit (The Trinity)

My belief in the one Triune God is without doubt, as evidenced in my willingness to declare this on numerous occasions, some more forcibly than others. I believe the doctrine of the Trinity can be defined as: "God eternally exists as three definable and yet inseparable Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and each person is fully God, and there is one God." A concept that is beyond human understanding, but not unobtainable through the heart of faith.

It is both the concept and the reality of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, always together and always definable) that is at the heart of the Christian view of God. On reflection of history to the present day, we find that it is a departure from a Trinitarian doctrine that has been, and still is, one of the major sources of heresy in the Physical Church.

Although the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, the inspiration represented by the word is evident throughout. 'Trinity," from the Latin trinitas, means "tri-unity" or "three-in-oneness." A total understanding of the Trinity is beyond our finite minds, but that should be no barrier to our continued inquiry concerning the Person and the nature of God. Not as a continual life-consuming quest, but as a deliberate intellectual pilgrimage whereby we can use the freshness of revelation and a renewed mind to ponder the reality of the truth of God.

God is One in His essential being, and His 'divine essence' exists in three modes or forms, each constituting a Person (a word derived from the Latin Persona ) yet in such a way that the divine essence is wholly in each Person. Therefore, God is one Being, and He lives and has chosen to reveal Himself to our finite minds distinctly in three Personas and distinctive ways as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For generations, the greatest of theologians have been discussing, writing, and preaching about the subject of the Trinity. To date, none have been able to adequately describe the collectiveness of the Godhead. And so, as yet, no-one has been able to fully understand the Blessed Trinity. But that in no way should deter anyone from believing in the One true living God.

The Bible inspiration of the Trinity is not contrary to human reason; it is merely beyond it (Isaiah 55: 8, 9). The mystery of the Triune Godhead is exactly that, a mystery, and the more we try to characterize God through vision, diagram, and the human senses, the deeper we get. On many occasions our intellectual minds with their, seeking and probing, find it hard to accept the call to be believers and not understanders. But we are called to believe without understanding.

Scriptural Evidence

The Old Testament is primarily concerned with the work and Person of God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity interacting with the world through His people. The four Gospels are primarily concerned with the work and ministry of God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. The Book of Acts and the Epistles are concerned primarily with the work of God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.

A theme of the Old Testament is God the Father "For" His people; despite their lack of obedience. The theme of the four Gospels is God the Son "With" His people (Immanuel); and the theme of the book of Acts and the Epistles is God the Holy Spirit "In" His people.

To truly believe that God the Father is for you produces a God-fearing life. To truly believe that Christ is with you produces a disciple's life. Knowing and believing that God the Holy Spirit is in you to equip you for godly living, produces a holy and Christ-like life, (Heb. 13:20,21).

The first evidence concerning the Trinity is taken from the story of creation. God created by means of the Word and the Spirit (Gen.1:1-3). The Word, as a Personal creative power, and the Spirit as the bringer of life and order to the creation, becomes evident.

From the beginning, God is revealed to us a "threefold centre of activity." God, as Creator, thought out the Universe, expressed His thought in a Word, and made the power of His Spirit its animating Principle. The strong plural inference towards God's revelation of the Trinity in Gen.1:26 "Let Us make man in Our image" should not be overlooked.

Other references for evidence in Old Testament Scripture are found in Genesis 48:15,16; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:25; Judges 3:10; Proverbs 8:22-31 (The Word, Personified as Wisdom is the case here); and Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 62:1. Here the Holy Spirit is seen as the source of blessing, power, and strength.

Before embarking into the New Testament evidence, it should again be clearly stated that the Bible's emphasis throughout is on the fact that God is ONE. "Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut.6:4). "But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not for I have redeemed you ... For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israelyour Saviour" (Isaiah 43:1,3).

We find that in the New Testament, the distinctness of the Persons of the Godhead are more clearly defined. Our Lord teaches His Disciples to baptize in the name, singular but simultaneously, and consecutively, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus the heavens opened and the Spirit like a dove descended upon Him. And there came a voice from heaven saying "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1: 10, 11). To the "seeing" eye this is a clear manifestation of the Trinity.

Jesus went on to speak of the Father and the Spirit as being distinct from Himself (John 14:16). Luke records further evidence (1:35), with the words of the angel's visit to Mary. She was told that her child would be the Son of God conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Salvation itself also portrays evidence of the Triune God. The Father sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption. The Son sent the Spirit to bring conviction and apply to mankind just what Christ had accomplished and promised.

Further evidence from the New Testament declares each Person of the Trinity is fully and truly God Himself. Paul wrote of "God our Father" (Rom.1:7), and spoke of Christ as the "dear Son, Who is the image of the invisible God" (Col.1:13,15) and as "God our Saviour" (Tit. 3:4).

The Deity of the Holy Spirit is made clear when we read of Peter's confrontation with Ananias, telling him that in lying to the Holy Spirit, he had "not lied to men, but to God" (Acts5:3,4). And in the benediction, simply known as the "Grace" we have another clear example of apostolic teaching on the Trinity. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" 2Cor.13:14).

These examples do not exhaust the evidences from the Bible; they do in fact, scarcely scratch the surface of an unfathomable subject.

The Vital Nature of this Doctrine

The importance of the belief in the full deity of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is of paramount significance to me. It is, for me, the heartbeat of the faith called "Christian." If it were not so, then the atonement itself is at stake. If Jesus is just another created being, and not fully God, then one cannot see how He would have been able to bear the wrath of God against all of our sins. Without the truth of the full deity of the Triune Godhead, not only Atonement, but, Justification by faith alone cannot be appropriated.

The Bible teaches us that God and God alone is to be worshipped; therefore our worship of Jesus would be nothing more than idolatry if he were not God. But the New Testament does command us to worship Jesus (Phil.2: 9-11; Rev.5: 12-14). If I or anyone else were to teach that Christ was a created being but still One who saved, then I would be wrongly attributing credit for the salvation experience to a creation rather than God Himself. That is something the Bible never allows us to do.

Athanasius (c 297 - 373) wrote, "In the confession of the Trinity throbs the heartbeat of the Christian religion: every error results from or is traced to, a wrong view of this doctrine."

In our personal relationship with the Triune God, we find that we too are triune people, - first by Creation, secondly by Redemption, and thirdly by Possession.

Creeds and Declaration of Faith

Creeds came into being at various times throughout history in order to put down and dissuade the followers of heresies. Although as Baptists, we incline more to statements of faith, many of the hymns we sing amount to creeds of faith and witness. In such a way, a declaration is made similar to that of Martin Luther, "This is where I stand, I can do no other."

However, as important as creeds have been to the life of the church, the important emphasis concerning faith should always be upon the actions of faith that are in accordance with the "Fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23), rather than just a verbalized declaration. 

It was a part of a course on the history of the Church; we received an assignment to formulate a creed or statement of faith using only the Gospels as reference.

Here follows my own contribution which I still own and lay claim to:

I believe in the triune Godhead, each separate but inseparable, and that all things in Heaven and earth are under the dominion of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

That I by my waywardness and sinful nature followed the way that perpetuated the already existing alienation of mankind from the God of Heaven. Such was His affection for mankind that He perfected a plan to bestow full rights of Sonship upon all who adhere to His commands and statutes.

I believe that this Sonship brings with it, rewards, not only in the here and now, but in the life to come. That this life to come has been made a reality through the instigation of the plan and that it will be an everlasting life, living in harmony and communion with God and all of His family.

I believe that in order to bring about the reconciling of mankind into a right relationship with Himself, He sent His Son into the world, and that Jesus of Nazareth is that Son. It was while still being a part of the triune Godhead that He proceeded to manifest Himself, by the power of Holy Spirit, with human flesh in the form of a baby inside the womb of an untouched maiden.

This maiden and her future husband were subject to visits by proclaiming angels from Heaven, who played the rolls of proclaimers and guardians.

I believe that following a time of tempting by an adversary of the Godhead, Jesus the Christ began making known the Kingdom of God through preaching, teaching, and miraculous signs and wonders.

I believe that in order to complete the ministry He had begun, Christ Jesus suffered persecution, physical torture and trial by self righteous leaders. He was delivered to Pontius Pilate for torture and suffered crucifixion at the hands of the occupying forces.

On being found dead, He was removed from the cross and placed in a tomb as yet unused.

But on the third day following, His body received life anew by the power of God and that over a period of forty days appeared to many who had been pre-ordained by God the Father to be witnesses of the fact.

He then returned to His Father in Heaven, having given instructions to His followers to remain together and await the arrival of His Father's gift. This gift, I believe to be the Holy Spirit, the administrator of the power for the ministry of Jesus Christ to continue on earth.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is the third member of the triune Godhead and that it is the Holy Spirit actively working in the lives of men and women in order to produce a "Christlike" nature in His people.

I believe that as He promised, Jesus Christ will again appear in person to collect all those who have previously recognized Him and, by faith, made Him Lord over their lives, both the living and the dead, and take them to be with Him in His Father's house.

Until that time, His people, known as the Church of Jesus Christ, must follow His commands as laid down in the Scriptures that have been faithfully recorded at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Scriptures - The Word of God

The Scriptures are God's authoritative word, written by human hand under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They bear witness to God's commands, directions and forgiveness. Throughout, we can see God's redemptive plan to restore His Creation to a relationship with Him. Therefore all Scripture, points to Christ.

The Scriptures challenge, confront, and console us. They are good for our encouragement, reflection and assurance of God's eternal presence. Paul reminds us of their worth in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, in order that every person of God may be "thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Two clear statements from the New Testament give indication as to how the Bible came to be written. "Knowing this first and foremost; no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2Peter 1:20,21). And "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2Tim. 3:16).

Without God, we cannot safely navigate ourselves through this world in which we live. We are surrounded by distractions and are subject to the tempting wiles of the devil. The Word of God, however, gives us the standard for living within the way of truth. Without its application in our life, the forces of evil would be rampant and unchecked.

The prophet Jeremiah writes: "I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own, it is not for man to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). Godly people have always acknowledged, "The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way" (Psalm 37:23).

We can never achieve a level that will put us beyond the necessity of Divine guidance. The Word of God highlights the existence of and our need of remission, intercession, prayer, and hope. Life without God would, and for so many does, confirm this to be the case.

If any person, any person, was able to direct his own path, there would be no need of God, a Saviour, or Scripture. The Scripture confirms this through the Psalmist, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God" (Ps. 14:1).

Inspiration

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord; "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: "Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you" (Jeremiah 30:1, 2).

The Scriptures originated in the mind of God and were given to human writers by way of inspiration. Therefore, inspiration in the biblical sense means that God has supervised the writers of the Scriptures, so as to keep them from error. Inspiration is applicable to both the end result (the Scripture itself) and to those whom God chose to write them.

Strictly speaking, within the Scriptures there are examples of words that are not God's. Some of the words recorded are words of evil and foolish men and even of Satan himself. These are not to be considered revelation as such, nor are they the words of God, yet they have been faithfully recorded in Scripture by God's intention and inspiration for our own encouragement and awareness of evil thoughts and ways of temptation.

Questions as to the extent to which inspiration can be taken as the only authority on matters of religion and practice have been around for centuries. Three have proved to be more prominent. Firstly there is what is known as Tradition, to which the Roman Church prescribes. Secondly there is Human reason the adoption of which has been attributed to the liberal thinkers.

The third, and the one to which I personally adhere to, is the Bible itself. To take the third position is not to deny the value of tradition or human reason, but it does mean that they both have to stand in harmony with and to the authority of the Scripture, especially in the practice of faith and the areas of conflict.

Under the Lordship of Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Scriptures are worthy of this attributation because they are the authoritative Word of Almighty God. The word "inspired" as used in 2Tim. 3:16, actually means "outbreathed."

It is appropriate therefore, to use the phrase "Authority of Scripture" in the areas of faith and practice. This is because I believe they are the ultimate standard of truth. In John 17 we read "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (Jn17:17). The word Truth in this text is not in the adjective forms alethinos or alethes ("true"), but is the noun aletheia, to emphasize that God's Word is not simply true, but that it is "truth" itself.

However, the words of a so-called "non-believer" show this truth in a powerful light that my own words can all but equal. When the country of Indiawas under the control of British Imperialism, the Maha-Rajah of Travencore, when seeing the powerful witness of devotion and adherance to the commands of the Scriptures, gave this testimony:

"Where do the English get their knowledge, intelligence, cleverness and power? It is their Bible which gives it to them; and now they have translated it into our language, bring it to us and say, 'Take it, read it, examine it and see if it is not good.' Of one thing I am convinced, do what we will, oppose it as we may, it is the Christian Bible that will sooner or later work out the regeneration of our land."

It is, in the light of such a testimony, that I use the phrase, "The Scriptures are not just to give us an understanding of God, but are given that we might be changed."

Humanity and Sin

"What is man that you are mindful of him....." (Psalm 8:4).

Who am I? This is the question of identity that we all, at some time or other, have to ask. The answer we give has enormous influence upon our thinking, our actions, our outlook, and our living.

To a believing Christian, the Bible gives a firm foundation to build upon, as we continue to live in a world of speculation. Scripture constantly teaches that neither the universe nor mankind itself are products of blind chance. Mankind is the result of careful and deliberate action on the part of the triune Godhead ("So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" Gen.1:27).

This imparted image is not an external image, or bodily form. God is Spirit, and therefore does not have a corporal form. The Father is described as "invisible" (Col. 1:15; 1Tim.1:17; Heb. 11:27). The image of God which has been given to man has to do with personality. Man has a free, self-conscious, rational and moral personality, like that of God. He has a nature which is capable of distinguishing between right and wrong.

The Bible doesn't claim to tell us how God actually created the universe or mankind, but it does quite emphatically assert that God brought them into being. Our Lord spoke about the creation of man, confirming the Genesis account (Mt. 19:4).

Man was created unique and distinct from the rest of creation. He was to subdue and have dominion over all of God's creation. Man's self-consciousness and capacity for intelligent reasoning, alongside the senses (moral and spiritual) made for a creation above all others.

God created us for His own glory. This is the answer to the question "What is our purpose in life?" We are to glorify and enjoy God and take delight in Him, and in our relationship with Him. Jesus said "I have came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). As we glorify God and enjoy Him, Scripture says that He rejoices in us. We read, "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5). Zephania 3:17 paints a wonderful picture of God taking delight in His children.

Sin

It has been said, "In order to see your need of a Saviour, you must understand you are a sinner." When we say that we believe Christ died for our sins, we are admitting that we are sinners and that we are in need of His precious atonement in our behalf. If we are to confess our sins in order to be a Christian we need to ask the question "What is sin?"

Firstly, we know that sin is disobedience to God's law (1John 3:4). Secondly we know from Romans 14:23 that sin is the violating of one's conscience. When my conscience tells me that something someone wants me to do is not right for me and I go ahead and do it, God calls it sin. Therefore, thirdly, sin is failing to do what is right. Fourthly, sin is a failure to glorify God "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). And fifthly, anything that breaks the personal relationship with God or perpetuates an already existing alienation can be categorized as sin.

Where does sin come from? God has no sin (1John 1:5). God cannot sin (Heb.6:18). God doesn't tempt (James 1:13-15). SO WHAT IS THE CAUSE?

Satan is the tempter. The cause is the devil himself. The Bible teaches that Satan is the tempter, that he is the father of lies. That as evidence indicates both origin and source and Scripture affirms that he sinned from the beginning. God did not cause sin. The cause of sin is of satanic origin. God made him with the ability to sin or not to sin. God made man with that same ability. If Adam had never sinned, or yielded to temptation, then he would have stayed in a perfect state and enjoyed eternal life.

Sin entered the world through the disobedience of one man, Adam (Romans 5:12). Some find it hard to believe that because one man sinned, we all have the "sinner's" label. I find no difficulty when I bring Jesus Christ into the picture. If we are to believe that His atoning sacrifice at Calvary, the shedding of His blood that we celebrate at every communion, was and is for the remission of all sin, once and for all (1Peter 3:18), then it is not too difficult to understand that sinners are just that, all through one man, "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1Cor. 15:22), "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2Cor. 5:17).

The new creation is renewed in the image of God in righteousness (Eph. 4:23,24; Col.3:10). The implication of 'renewed' is that man once had a moral likeness to God, but that it was lost. Originally man was holy and the basic inclination of his nature was toward God. But from the beginning, he had the freedom to choose evil, and so to sin. It is important to see that as he was free to sin, he was just as free not to sin. Again, by bringing Christ into the picture, I believe a clearer understanding of Adam's position can be seen. When we talk of true freedom, for the one who is said to be "in Christ," it means having the strength and wisdom to say NO, when our human nature wants to say YES.

When sin entered the world, weakness and ignorance entered with it. By "weakness" I mean a tendency to physical and spiritual deterioration. By "ignorance" I mean spiritual blindness, or the inability to perceive the reality of one's condition. This condition makes us subject to the delusions of the devil, who "deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9).

We desperately needed and need a Saviour, a mediator, and a shepherd. The burden that is evident when we look at the requirements of the Law convinces us of that fact. The good news of the Gospel enlightens us to the God given resolution for our sin-caused dilemma, and that is Jesus Christ Himself.

Salvation

"What must I do to be saved?" "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." The words of Paul to the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31) sum up one simple point of view concerning salvation. God's salvation is a necessity and Jesus is the Way to receive it.

While being simple, it is also profound because of the impact it has on the life of the one who experiences it. The full extent of our salvation will only be revealed when we see our Lord face to face. However, the exercise of deeper study of God's Word and trying to understand more fully the truth of our salvation certainly enriches us spiritually here.

Salvation is a gift from God that He longs to bestow upon all people (Titus 2:11). The gift is there and available to all, but demands that we recognize and claim it. On the Day of Pentecost Peter preached and was asked "What shall we do?" His reply was "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2: 37-39).

Human beings do not earn, merit or deserve salvation, in their own right. It is a relationship with Christ Jesus which offers redemption from bondage, forgiveness for sin, freedom from guilt, and reconciliation for the estrangement between them and God. As mankind was created in God's image, salvation brings about a renewal for the image of God within mankind that had been marred by Adam's own waywardness in the Garden of Eden.

Evidence of the received salvation will be manifest in our lives by the faithful obedient life and the fruit we bear, in accordance with the "Fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5: 22,23). This constitutes the image of Christ Himself which He produces in us by way of the Holy Spirit.

This regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, both seals us into union with Christ and the fruit of the Spirit is the tangible evidence. We are saved by grace and are "raised up and seated" with Him in heavenly realms. Therefore the purpose of salvation is to join us to the Lord, making us "one spirit" with Him (1Cor. 6:17). It is in that capacity that we become "workers together with God" (1Cor. 3:9) in the fulfillment of His "eternal purpose" (Eph.3:11).

The grace of God, His kindness, unmerited favour and forgiving love, affords us salvation from God's wrath, which we all incurred by inheritance and our own sinfulness. But by faith in the redemptive work and atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we are saved. No longer "the children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1,2), but as "sons of God" (Rom. 8:17; Gal 4:7) "IN CHRIST".

The Kingdom

"Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Mt. 4:17). "If I by God's finger cast out demons then the Kingdom of God is come" (Lk 11:20).

These are the words spoken by Jesus as recorded by Matthew and Luke that give us focus towards the eternal Kingdom. Scripture describes the Kingdom in a redemptive light, as opposition to the rule of Satan and in an eschatological way of declaring the Holy Spirit as the dynamic of the Kingdom.

Many at the time, saw this to be an earthly Kingdom. Their minds were unaccustomed to the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God. In the courses of national decline and Babylonian exile, the prophets announce the time when God will manifest Himself as King - "See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him..." (Isaiah 40:10). This wonderful future would be realized through the ministry of the Messiah (see Isaiah ch's 11 and 49). With this ministry, the world, as well as the nation Israel, will know salvation and blessing (Isaiah 2:1-4; 49:7; Micah 4:1-5).

While our living hope looks towards the time of dwelling in the presence of God in the new Jerusalem, we are here and now "In Christ," very much a part of God's Kingdom. It was inaugurated by Jesus, it is a spiritual Kingdom, it is real, it is governed not by oppression, dictatorial or totalitarianism, but by love, compassion and tenderness.

Citizenship is offered to anyone and everyone who recognizes the Lord Jesus as the glorified Son of God and allows Him entry into their lives as such. This is the reality of the presence of the Kingdom. It is in the hearts and lives of the peoples of the earth, who are brought together to become the Body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are at present living in the "Church-age" of the Kingdom on earth. This came into being following earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Kingdom of God is an everlasting Kingdom that has known various stages of existence within the work of God's redemptive plan. It is where the messianic work of Jesus started, is present today, and will continue for eternity.

Eschatology

While speaking of the stages of the Kingdom, it is not possible to ignore the subject of eschatology (the doctrine of the last days). The Old Testament gives us insights into the area of messianic prophecy. One is the picture of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah 53. Another is the picture of Him as a reigning King (Isaiah 9:6). The first, as the Suffering Servant, was in answer to the hope for God to come and redeem His people. The second coming of Christ will bring consummation of that hope when He returns as reigning King.

Whatever one's point of view concerning the second coming and the events and sequences of the so-called 'end times,' of which there are a few, all agree on the incontestable fact that Jesus is coming again. The details of His next appearing may be open for study and debate, but any differences in the interpreting of these details should not deter us from the most important fact, Jesus is coming again.

My own position is the one which has the label "Pre-Tribulationist." Meaning the period in time known as "The Tribulation" will be preceded by an event known as "The Rapture" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is when Christ will take His Body (the Church) from the face of the earth, to be with Him "in the air." It will be a sudden happening, "like a thief in the night." Thus the Church will be spared the predicted traumas of the tribulation period.

Biblical Support

(Taken from Revelation, here is some of the material I have used in debates on the subject)

There are marked changes in points of reference during God's Revelation to John. The book of Revelation is clearly divided into three sections, "Write therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later" (Rev. 1:19).

Obviously, the things which John had seen were in the past. These observations are found primarily in the first chapter of Revelation. The things which are, concern basically, the Church Age. The Church existed in John's day (hence the present tense at the time of the setting down of Revelation) and would continue until the day of the rapture (which of course includes the day in which we are now living). Chapters 2 and 3 cover this age.

The third part of Revelation concerns itself with the things which shall be hereafter. After what? After the rapture! Chapters 4 through 22 address themselves to the events coming after the rapture of the Church.

We can therefore see how the book of Revelation is divided into three phases. The final part of chapter 3 says " He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says (or has said) to the churches." This statement, in other words, concludes the second phase of the book, and its general coverage of prophecy referring to the Church Age.

Chapter 4 begins by stating "After this....." After what? After the Church Age! And what marks the end of the Church Age? It is the removal of the Church by means of the rapture. I do, therefore, conclude that everything given in Revelation after the end of chapter 3 refers to the period after the rapture of the Church (the end of the Church Age).

Between the rapture of the Church (taken out of the earth, to meet Him in the air) and the second coming of our Lord and Saviour, there will be the period known as the Tribulation. It was Jesus Himself who spoke of this period which will be experienced by all who are left behind after the rapture.

Chapters 4&5 of Revelation record the raptured saints (pictured symbolically as the twenty four Elders) as being with God in Heaven during this period. A period, described by Jesus as a time of "great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again" (Matthew 24:21).

It is a period in time which has come under close scrutiny by those who study Bible prophecy. But for me, a time which can and will be avoided because of Jesus Christ. And because it will be an event that comes like "a thief in the night" there needs to be a sense of urgency in the way we live our lives until He comes.

The Christian Life-style

The Christian life is one lived by faith in the One God who loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Living the Christian life is rewarding, and on reflection, is the most thrilling and happy life that can be experienced this side of Heaven. Christian living is a life of continued worship because it is constantly bringing glory to God.

As worship is our response to the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, so our life is to be seen as constant acts of faith and worship.

It shows our commitment to Jesus Christ and demonstrates to those around us, that to enter into the Christian life, one needs to have "met" Christ and, by faith, accepted His atoning sacrifice and committed the rest of one's life to Him.

Commitment to Christ, the Person and means of our salvation, is the essence of the Christian life. As well as a walk of faith, it is a walk in love, reflecting the love that God has for us, and has placed within us. The love of Christ identifies our life, and true love is to be the distinguishing mark in our relationships within the church and outside of the church family environment.  "By this all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:35).

Jesus, the Light of the World, changes and rearranges our character, and as Christians this character becomes a reflection of His. Making His love for the ungodly, the unclean and the unapproachable, the yardstick for our way of living in relation to the world around us. "Walk in love, as Christ has also loved us."  (Eph: 5:2)

As Jesus came to serve and not to be served, so our attitude is that of the servant. With the attitude of the 'foot-washing' servant we rise to the heights and challenges of Christ. To humble ourselves, even as He humbled Himself that we all might be served.  (Phil:  2:4)

Offering ourselves up to Christ, He, by the Holy Spirit, dwells in us and we in Him, in response to His own prayer (John 17). Christian life involves surrender and forsaking all else for the benefit of and the furtherance of the Kingdom here on earth.

Living the Christian lifestyle involves being devoted to the reading of the Scriptures and allowing God to direct our paths (Ps. 119:105). It is through His written Word that we are made aware of the words of Jesus and His example when He went out of His way and ministered to the least and the lost. It is the style of life and ministry we are to be aware of and one we are all called to at various times (Mt. 25:40). To neglect it, is to neglect Christ's call on one's life.

Christian Ministry

Christian ministry is one of edification, building up, caring and equipping the saints for the works of ministry, it is a ministry of reconciliation, that all are called to be a part of. In a Baptist church it is clearly understood that every member has a ministry to perform. Therefore, it would be correct to say that a Baptist church carries out its mandate to minister by way of "shared ministry".

One who is called out and gifted to practice equipping ministry realizes that without the active participation of the Holy Spirit we can expect no fruit in our ministry. But in realizing our human weakness, we become strong, "When I am weak, then I am strong, (2 Cor: 2:10-11) the motive for ministry born out of a love for Christ (2 Cor: 5:12-14)

Jesus is our model and through the power of the Holy Spirit He is our enabler. Our acts of ministry become His continued ministry, by proclaiming The Kingdom, freedom for prisoners of darkness and helping to recover sight for the blind.  As Jesus enables us, so we enable others to share in the work and as Christ reached out to the world so we do likewise.

Jesus' priority was doing the will of the Father who sent Him, so His first priority was listening to and obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In this light and with example of Jesus, our first priority must be an active relationship with God through prayer and meditation on His Word.  This is the foundation for the assurance of a ministry with impeccable credentials that display integrity and honesty, honoured both by God and man.

The examples of this ministry we have in the Scriptures show the occasional but inevitable times of solitude. This makes an ongoing relationship with God of paramount importance for me.

The example of Jesus declares that our ministry is not one of master and servant but one of servant and served.  Christian leadership is one of a downward motion.  The deeper we are involved in the role of leadership, the greater the need to be aware of the responsibility we carry.  Jesus demonstrated this attitude with the washing and drying of the feet of the Disciples. 

His, like ours, is a leadership of example, demonstrating and teaching others to follow in our footsteps. Only in this way can a church be adequately served with the demanding and all embracing pastoral ministry which involves: nurturing, training, encouraging, healing, strengthening, watching, praying, evangelizing and leading.

The Church

Christ is the Head of the Church body through the indwelling empowerment of the Holy Spirit. "From Him the whole body, joined and held together by support ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Eph: 4:6). Remembering that Jesus said "I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail" (Mt. 16:18b).

The Church is known by various names:  the Church of Jesus Christ, the Body of Christ the Bride of Christ, the Community of Believers. 

Paul develops the picture of the body in his letter to the Romans "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."  (Rom. 12:4-5) The people of the Church are those who have been made new by regeneration from above, after confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.  We are called and empowered to bear witness to this truth (Acts 1:8), and therefore become a part of the living body of Christ in this world.

To carry out its ministering role, the Church is blessed with "spiritual gifts" which are for the edification and building up of the church. The gifts are given at the discretion of the Holy Spirit, and are for service not privilege. Those who receive them are the ones who receive them with humility rather than pride, not spiritually proud, but spiritually obedient. Lists for such gifts are to be found in the letters to the Romans, Corinthians, and the Ephesians. By way of these gifts; the bearer is able to grow spiritually, and the recipient or recipients of the ministry are brought into a closer relationship with God.

Whilst free to be used by the Holy Spirit and to use one's own giftedness and personality, to the glory of God, the Christian is able to "test" the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit within them by humble submission and trusting faith, to the discipline and love of the whole Body.  This is what we see Peter doing in Acts 11 - he is submitting his calling or action to the judgment of the whole Church. Also, Paul did not arbitrarily decide to go off as a missionary, he was commissioned by the whole Church (Acts 13) and when he returned, he and his companions reported back to the whole Church (Acts 15:4-6).

The New Testament Church is often referred to as "The Body of Christ" and certainly this is one of the Apostle Paul's favourite titles: 1 Corinthians 12:12 and 27; Ephesians 1:23; & 4:12 and other well-known passages such as those found in Romans, Colossians, etc. But in reality this is a description rather than a title. Realistically the Church is the Body of Christ. It is not a "club" or a benevolent society for social work. As the Body of Christ, under His headship, it is a living breathing organism.

All Church Members need to be very much aware of this vitally important fact. To turn our back upon the ministry and mandate of the Church is to deny Jesus "Lordship" over His Body. God has baptized every true Believer into the Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), and furthermore, He expects every Christian to be a functioning part of that Body (1 Corinthians 12:31 - Chapter 13).

Through membership in the local Church, which comes about by way of Baptism, Letter of Transfer, or Experience, the Christian becomes a member of the world-wide Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). Just as in the same way that a soldier joining a regiment becomes a soldier of the whole army. As far as the Army is concerned there can be no exceptions to this - a man or woman must join a regiment first and in so doing becomes part of the whole army, so it is with God's army, the Church. The regiments of Jesus Christ are as many as the number of local churches and by joining, the Christian becomes a soldier in Christ's greater army.

Because the local church structure of a Baptist church can consist of a very few in number, (as the Lord Jesus Himself has said) "Wherever two or more are gathered, there am I"), there is a need for a network of like minded churches. This is achieved at local and national levels by way of Associations and Conventions. These do not constitute an external structure that imposes itself upon the local congregation, (this allows the church to retain its self governing status) but they do give the local church opportunity for shared ministry and outreach into the community at large. This larger structure enables the local churches to take part in larger programs of mutual interest.

With regard to church polity, Baptists have traditionally rejected creeds and hierarchical government.  Instead we have followed more closely a model of the earliest Christian communities which recognizes the autonomy of the individual congregation with respect to government and structure (Acts 6:3; Heb.13:17; 1 Cor.7:17). Within this model, Baptists find Christ alone as the focus of faith and look to him through the record of the scriptures and the witness of God's Spirit working among us.

Ordinances

The Ordinances, or as some prefer, Sacraments, to the Baptist are the acts of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Baptism is an act of obedience in which we respond to God's previous action in our lives, (an outward sign of an inner grace). As with the memorial feast of the Lord's Supper where the Lord has left us with the bread and the wine as symbols of His Body and His Blood so the waters of baptism are viewed as the grave of Christ. 

Through our baptism we are identifying ourselves in the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Through the method of immersion we can also identify the effect of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit concerning the total effect and cleansing we have received on the inside.

In the act of baptism we are responding to God's act of grace in our lives. As in the case of adults, we are declaring to the world the new birth which has taken place and through the Lordship of Christ we now walk in newness of life. Baptism not only signifies God's claim on us as individuals but the entry into the Body of Christ.  Unlike the disciples in those first days of the Church's birth we tend to see the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as sealing us into Christ and Christ into us and the visible water baptism as a means of entry into the visible Body, His Church.

Baptism has been described as "an outward sign of an inward faith".  This is a simple but helpful definition. Faith is an invisible, intangible thing and needs to be expressed in action.  We can therefore, show people what they cannot see, and we can declare what they may not have already guessed, that our faith and trust is in Jesus Christ.

Baptism is God's gift and the importance is not so much what we do but what God does.  "For there is one body, one Spirit ....... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father, who is above all, through and in all" (Eph: 4:4-6).

As baptism is a once and for all time event that marks a new entry into the life of Christ, the Lord's Supper is intended to be repeated often, to declare His truth, His presence (spiritual) and His coming again (physically).

To eat a meal together has always been a sign of fellowship and acceptance, but the term here means more than simply sharing an ordinary meal.  It refers to the Lord's Supper or the Communion Service.

These two elements of bread and wine already had great significance attached to them in the life, feasts and festivals of Israel and by way of the Seder Feast, celebrating the Passover in Egypt, and Jesus Christ took them and used them as symbolic of His body and blood as the perfect sacrifice described by John the Baptist as: "The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."  By breaking bread together, His disciples are doing what Jesus Christ has asked.  He instituted and requested this before He died, as a perpetual reminder of His person and work. 

Through this memorial meal we recall the gift of His life, the suffering He endured and the redemption offered through His willingness to die, and the reality of His future coming again.  Through these symbols, Christ meets us, challenges us, convicts us and reminds us of the offer of forgiveness and what it cost Him that we might receive. In our communion with one another, we are called to share sweet fellowship with Him and to be fed by Him, so that in faith, we might remain as His Body in the world.

The Lord's Supper gives each of us a fresh opportunity to examine our personal relationship with God and how it works in our relationships with each other ( 1Cor. 11:28). We who participate can ponder afresh the pardon we have received from God because of His love through the Lord Jesus, and rejoice in the reality of our new birth, made effective and sealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

As we remind ourselves of the words of Jesus to Paul "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" ( 1Cor. 11:26), so we affirm our belief in His second advent and what it means to us: "I will come again, and take you unto myself, that where I am, there you will be also" (John 14:3).

The Priesthood of All Believers

I believe and hold to the concept of the priesthood of all believers. And as such, all true believers have direct access to the Throne of Grace by way of the Holy Spirit and faith and trust in our Great High Priest, Jesus Himself. It is He who mediates before the Father on behalf of all who have put their faith and trust in Him. (1Peter 2:5,9; Ephesians 2:18; Heb 2:17). This means that our confession is made directly to God as He has the sole right and ability to forgive sins.

Along with the concept of the "priesthood" there is also a need for the realization of the ministry which goes along with the position of priest. Just as Jesus is our intermediary priest before the Father, so believers, as a part of the "Royal Priesthood" have a heavy responsibility towards one another and the world about us. We are to intercede on behalf of others who are in need of having a "bridge" across the gap between them and Almighty God.