Not long ago, I argued for the need of a doctrinal statement and the importance of forming a personal or organizational confession. (If you have not read that, you may find it here.) I have also made a personal confession available on this website for the past three years. Now I am pleased to share the doctrinal statement written by Jared Jenkins and me after lengthy discussions between the two of us as well as Robert Marshall and Kevin Lund.
Rather than starting entirely from scratch, we looked at the confessions of believers who came before before us. One in particular, from The Gospel Coalition, became our starting document. From here, we read each article and discussed, first we asked if the article or doctrine was something we must make a biblical stand on, and second, if it needed an adjustment in some way. It was a wonderful process and I am pleased with how it turned out.
For both Jared and me, this process was a part of our journey toward ordination at Risen Life. Not only had we both completed our MDiv studies, we read additional books as well as wrote a paper. In addition, it was great working with Jared on the project.
Here is the doctrinal statement of Risen Life Church:
God's Word, The Bible
God has graciously disclosed his existence and power in the created order, and has supremely revealed himself to fallen human beings in the person of his Son, the incarnate Word. Moreover, God is a speaking God, who by his Spirit has graciously disclosed himself in human words: we believe that God has inspired the words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are both record and means of his saving work in the world. These writings alone constitute the inspired Word of God, which is utterly authoritative and without error in the original writings, complete in its revelation of his will for salvation, sufficient for all that God requires us to believe and do, and final in its authority over every domain of knowledge to which it speaks. We confess that both our finitude and our sinfulness preclude the possibility of knowing God’s truth exhaustively, but we affirm that, enlightened by the Spirit of God, we can know God’s revealed truth truly. The Bible is to be believed as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed as God’s command, in all that it requires; and trusted as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. As God’s people hear, believe, and do the Word, they are equipped as disciples of Christ and witnesses to the gospel.
We believe in one God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. This one true and living God is infinitely perfect both in his love, in his holiness, and in any other attribute we could name of him. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and is therefore worthy to receive all glory and adoration. Immortal and eternal, he perfectly and exhaustively knows the end from the beginning, sustains and sovereignly rules over all things, and providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.
We believe that God created human beings, male and female, in his own image. The purpose of man being to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Adam and Eve belonged to the created order that God himself declared to be “very good," serving as God’s agents to care for, subdue, manage, and govern creation, living in holy and devoted fellowship with their Maker. Men and women, equally made in the image of God yet imbibing different roles, enjoy equal access to God by faith in Christ Jesus and are both called to move beyond passive self-indulgence to significant private and public engagement in family, church, and civic life; proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church. We believe the home is the first vehicle through which God desires ministry to be expressed. With complete equality between husband and wife, we believe the husband, as the designated spiritual head of the home, is the defacto pastor of the family. As such, the husband is the first to sacrifice for the needs of the family for the purpose of bringing spiritual maturity to those under his responsibility. The Church is to aide and equip the home to proclaim Christ to both the family in particular and society in general. In an effort to maintain consistency of expression from the home to the church, we desire the leadership of the church to mirror that of the home by exhibiting equality with a strong male tone.
We believe that Adam, made in the image of God, distorted that image and forfeited his original blessedness from God and allegiance to God—for himself and all his progeny—by falling into sin through Satan’s temptation and his own desire. This fall from grace is recorded in the account of Satan tempting Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and Eve’s compliance in sin, as well as Adam’s complacent participation in the sin event, relinquishing his God-given role of ruler-ship. As a result, all human beings are alienated from God, subjected to the rule of Satan, corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, spiritually), no longer able to carry out God’s original purposes for mankind, and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and restore us to himself.
We believe that the plan of God is to justify and sanctify those who by grace have faith alone in Jesus, and that he will one day glorify them--all to the praise of his glorious grace. Furthermore, all of God's activity is for the purpose of glorifying himself. In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe, having set his saving love on those he has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer.
We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is entirely centered on Christ. The gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central. This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).
We believe that, moved by love and in obedience to his Father, the eternal Son became human: the Word became flesh, fully God and fully human being, one Person in two natures. The man Jesus, the promised Messiah of Israel, was conceived through the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the virgin Mary. He perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father, lived a sinless life, performed miraculous signs, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. As the mediatorial King, he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, exercising in heaven and on earth all of God’s sovereignty, and is our High Priest and righteous Advocate. We believe that by his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ is our representative and substitute. He did this so that in him we might become the righteousness of God: on the cross he canceled sin, propitiated God, and, by bearing the full penalty of our sins, reconciled to God all those who believe. By his resurrection Christ Jesus was vindicated by his Father, broke the power of death and defeated Satan who once had power over it, and brought everlasting life to all his people; by his ascension he has been forever exalted as Lord and has prepared a place for us to be with him. We believe that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. Because God chose the lowly things of this world, the despised things, the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, no human being can ever boast before him—Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
We believe that Christ, by his obedience and death, fully discharged the debt of all those who are justified in him. By his sacrifice, he bore in our stead the punishment due us for our sins, making a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice on our behalf. He took our sins; we received his righteousness. By faith alone the perfect obedience of Christ is credited to all who trust in Christ alone for their acceptance with God. Inasmuch as Christ was given by the Father for us in love, and his obedience and punishment were accepted in place of our own, freely and not for anything in us, this justification is solely by grace, in order that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. The result of being justified by Christ is engagement in the sanctification process including: a zeal for personal and public holiness, obedience to the commands of Christ, and participation in evangelism.
We believe that salvation, attested in all Scripture and secured by Jesus Christ, is applied to his people by the Holy Spirit. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, and is present with and in believers. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and by his powerful and mysterious work regenerates spiritually dead sinners, awakening them to repentance and faith, and in him they are baptized into union with the Lord Jesus, such that they are justified before God by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The Holy Spirit is himself the down payment of the promised inheritance, and in this age indwells, guides, instructs, equips, revives, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service. By the Spirit's agency, believers are renewed, sanctified, and adopted into God's family; they participate in the divine nature and receive his sovereignly distributed gifts. We believe in the full range of spiritual gifts, exercised under the careful guidance of Scripture and the oversight of pastoral leadership.
We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. God’s new covenant people have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God. This community may be seen in the universal church and is manifest in local churches of which Christ is the only Head; thus each 'local church' is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye, graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever. The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world. Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world.
We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordained by the Lord Jesus himself. Baptism, which should occur soon after initial conversion, is symbolic of the believer’s entrance into the new covenant community and whose normative means is by immersion. In Baptism the believer is buried in the water symbolizing their death and raised from the water symbolizing their new life in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is symbolic of ongoing covenant renewal found in Christ through repentance and belief. The bread is taken as a symbol of Christ as the bread of life, and the wine or juice representing Christ’s cleansing blood that was poured out for us on the cross. Both elements are to be taken after examining oneself against the Body of Christ. Together, the ordinances represent the following: God’s pledge to us, divinely ordained means of grace whereby we as believers participate spiritually with Christ, our public vows of submission and unity to the once crucified and now resurrected Christ and his body the Church, and anticipations of his return and of the consummation of all things. Finally, participation in these ordinances does not ensure salvation, but participation must be coupled with ongoing repentance and belief in Christ.
We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell, as our Lord himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. We believe that both of these eternal realms, hell and the new heavens and the new earth, are physical and real and not just ethereal spiritual states. In the new heavens and the new earth the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace. Humanity will return to the perfect blessedness and communion with God that it had in the garden; yet a blessed that has far surpassed our original state because of the work of Christ. It will be very good.
* This confessional statement was produced through discussion between Risen Life pastors and the editing of a variety of other confessions and doctrinal statements. Other than the Bible, the Gospel Coalition provided the primary document from which we started.