A Very In Depth look into my doctrinal beliefs and opinions
1. There is one God, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
a. Attributes of God (five communicable and five non-communicable attributes):
· Beauty – God possesses “everything that is desirable” (Grudem 219) and therefore is climax of all things beautiful. Everything that exhibits beauty or represents good and pure desire is simply a reflection of this attribute of God and exists to elicit our desire for Him (Revelation 22:4). “One thing have I asked…to behold the beauty of the Lord.” Psalm 27:4
· Jealousy – God ultimately acts for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7) and therefore His jealousy is derivative of His desire to protect his own honor (Grudem 205). Furthermore, God demonstrates jealousy over those whom He calls His own and seeks to set them apart for Himself. “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Exodus 20:5
· Justice – Within the scope of God’s own Deity as Creator, He alone ultimately defines what is wrong and what is right (Isaiah 45:19). But as a just God, He never alters from this course and chooses to act in accordance with it (Grudem 204). This attribute becomes the narrative of Scripture as He consistently renders justice by punishing sin and providing methods of atonement. “All his ways are justice.” Deuteronomy 32:4
· Compassion – God is full of compassion (Psalm 116:5) for His creation. Though they have wronged Him, He continually demonstrates His love toward humanity as He actively engages in their plight and responds in love and care. “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Psalm 145:8
· Wisdom – God demonstrates His wisdom by constantly choosing the best goals and the methodology to accomplish them (Grudem 193). His wisdom is on constant display throughout creation, His plan of redemption, and in our individual lives. “To the only wise God be glory forever.” Romans 16:27
· Immutability – God remains unchanged “in His being, perfections, purposes, and promises” (Grudem 163) and is consistently “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). This attribute provides the groundwork for all Theology.
· Independence – Unlike humans, God does not need anyone else for any reason whatsoever. He can sustain Himself without us, but chooses to engage with us solely for His own glory (Grudem 160). “…nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:25
· Perfection – God is complete and not lacking in any way of qualities that one could desire (Grudem 218). He acts with intentionality and makes no mistakes. “…be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
· Infinity – God always was and always will be; He is without beginning or end (Revelation 1:8) and is outside of our understanding of time (2 Peter 3:8). Yet, God sees all events and acts in time (Grudem 168) and is not limited by time in engaging in each of them.
· Omnipresence – God is unlimited by space and is therefore everywhere at all times. He cannot be contained by space, but is capable of being present in different spaces in different ways; choosing to bless, curse, sustain, or punish (Grudem 175). “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you.” 1 Kings 8:27
b. My understanding of “one God” and “existing eternally in three persons”:
Scripture clearly affirms that there is only one God (Exodus 15:11, 1 Tim 2:5) and that He exists in three unique persons. They are not separate people or gods, but together they form one united essence (Grudem 238). Each person in the Trinity is fully God, not merely a portion of God, and possesses all the rights and powers of God. Yet, each person in the Trinity is unique; meaning, each person occupies a specific role in the way they relate to one another and the way they relate to creation (Grudem 254). Though the reality of the Trinity is a mystery to mankind, it is important to remember that “What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke18:27).”
2. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He died upon the cross, the just for the unjust, as a substitutionary sacrifice, and all who believe in Him are justified on the ground of His shed blood. He arose from the dead according to the Scriptures. He is now at the right hand of the Majesty on high as our High Priest. He will come again to establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace.
a. My understanding of the phrase “true God and true man” to be as applied to Jesus:
“Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. (Grudem 562)” Jesus has always been fully God, but in taking on human flesh, he also took on another nature. Because Jesus was “true God,” (“The Father and I are one.” John 10:30) though being a human, he was still worthy of worship and altogether unable to sin. And because Jesus was “true human,” (“The Word became flesh and took up residence among us.” John 1:14) he was capable of experiencing the full realm of human feelings and experiences, he was able to suffer and die, and he was able to be a substitutionary sacrifice for humanity (Grudem 563).
b. The concept of atonement for sin and my understanding of “substitutionary sacrifice”:
God set in place early in the Old Testament that a sacrifice of blood was required in order to make right, or atone, for an individual’s sin. Throughout the Old Testament, this practice is exhibited by those who worship God (Leviticus 17:11). However, imperfect offerings could not fully atone for the whole of man’s sin, once and for all (Hebrews 10:4). It is for this reason that Jesus took on flesh and lived an unblotted life, so he could become the propitiation for our sin (Hebrews 2:17; 9:23-26). This act was motivated by love for humanity, but also by the justice of God to receive payment for sin (Grudem 568).
c. The nature of the resurrection of Jesus and its theological meaning:
Jesus’ resurrection was not merely a man coming back to life, which does occur elsewhere in Scripture, but is “the ‘first fruits’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23) of a new kind of human life” (Grudem 609). This new life is characterized by a similar, but perfected physical body (in that it evidences no repercussions of sin) that is not subject to pain, suffering, or future death. This physical body functioned like our own as Jesus eats, drinks, and is touched while physically present with His disciples and others.
The impact of the nature of Christ’s bodily resurrection is felt in many ways. First, it affirms the significance of God declaring His creation “very good” in Genesis (1:31) and that this obviously carries over into the resurrection for His followers as He redeems all things in the New Earth. We too can anticipate renewed and perfected bodies with which to interact with a perfect creation as sin is eliminated.
Second, his resurrection signifies the defeat of the power of sin and death. Though sin and death still exist in our world, we are no longer held under their power and our spirits have been regenerated by the power of the resurrection (Ephesians 2:5-6). We no longer live under fear of death because we know that the death of this body is, as it was with Christ, simply the birth of our perfected body.
Third, we no longer bear the hopelessness of sin, because the resurrection assures us that God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ and sin can no longer separate those who belong to him from relationship with God. Therefore, we have been justified with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 4:25) because the penalty for sin has been completely paid. God saw Jesus’ act in the cross as complete and therefore released him from the bonds of death. I can now hold firmly to my confidence in Christ because “God’s declaration of approval in Christ is also his declaration of approval in us” (Grudem 615).
3. The Holy Spirit is a divine person, sent to indwell, guide, teach, empower the believer, and convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
a. My understanding of the Holy Spirit as a “divine person”:
As previously affirmed (see question 1b), God exists as one being composed of three unique persons. The Holy Spirit’s place in one of the persons of this being is confirmed throughout multiple moments in Scripture. He is hovering above the waters as an initial actor in the creation of Earth (Genesis 1:2) and is the expressly named as a person in the Trinity through Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to “baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). He is clearly shown as an equal actor in the Trinity.
b. The ministry of the Holy Spirit to the believer and to the unbeliever:
The Holy Spirit works as God’s presence to the believer in several unique ways. First, as Acts 1:8a promises, he empowers the believer: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” He does so by giving life to all things through creation (Job 34:14-15) but more specifically by bringing spiritual life to the believer (Romans 8:11). He also does this by equipping his followers for service. This enables them to boldly be witnesses of Jesus, as indicated in Acts 1:8b, and to preach his Word with power to the unbeliever. The believer is also empowered with gifts given supernaturally to them by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4) to encourage and equip the church. He empowers their prayers and enables them to pray effectively (Romans 8:26) (Grudem 639). And he empowers the believer to overcome all kinds of spiritual opposition through the offensive power of the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
Second, he acts as a purifying force within the life of the believer as the primary ongoing driver of sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11). His purification is “symbolized by the metaphor of fire” (Grudem 640) as seen in Matthew 3:11. It is evidenced through fruits and are borne in the life of the believer as they abide in Christ (Galatians 5:22-23). It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are able to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and “grow in personal holiness” (Grudem 640).
Third, the Holy Spirit reveals God and His will to mankind. He did this throughout the Old Testament to the prophets (2 Peter 1:21) and revealed His truth the New Testament writers (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He also reveals the presence of God to humanity as exhibited at Jesus’ baptism when he descended upon him in the form of a dove (John 1:32) or through the sound of the rushing wind and flames of tongues as seen at Pentecost in Acts 2 (Grudem 641). He reveals how to live (Galatians 5:16-26) and provides direction for the believer by disclosing God’s will to them (Acts20:22-23). This revelation provides assurance to the believer (Grudem 644) by affirming that they belong to him (1 John 4:13).
But his revelation also acts equally in the lives of the unbeliever to open spiritual “eyes” and illuminate truth. While the believer may request this in ongoing ways (Psalm 119:18), it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal God to the unbeliever as seen in Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:17). His role is to reveal the truth of the Gospel to the unbeliever, transforming its foolishness to truth (1 Corinthians 1:18) and allows the Father to draw people unto himself (John 6:44).
Finally, the Holy Spirit ministers to the believers by creating unity amongst one another. His work at Pentecost culminated in the body of believers coming together as one (Acts 2:44-47). Paul instructs believers to maintain this unity through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:3), thereby equipping the church’s witness to unbelievers (John 13:35). Paul also sees the Holy Spirit’s gifts as a unifying force for the church, as “differing gifts draw us together, because we are forced to depend on one another” (Grudem 646) (1 Corinthians 12:21).
4. The Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice.
a. My understanding of the meaning of the following words in the above statement:
Grudem defines inerrancy as “Scripture in its original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (91). Everything that Scripture asserts as truth is in fact true; it is without error (Proverbs 30:15). That does not mean that Scripture conveys itself with exact precision at all times, as it allows for the writer to tell things from their perspective or with approximation, but rather that all things are conveyed through truthfulness (Numbers 23:19).
ii. “verbally inspired”
All Scripture is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) or theopeustos and are to be seen as a metaphor for God speaking the words of Scripture first to the writer (Grudem 74). It asserts, as is found in 2 Peter 1:21-22, that Scripture does not begin with a man’s interpretation or his own will, but rather that Scripture begins from God’s mouth and man writes according to those words through the Holy Spirit. The human writers are less authors and more vessels for the voice of God (Acts 1:16).
iii. “only rule”
I believe the term eludes to the Latin phrase sola scriptura which states that Scripture alone is sufficient for all be need as a guide for faith and godliness. It supplies us with God’s full revelation of himself and equips the believer “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16b). No extra-biblical work or source should govern the Christian’s life or faith practice, the whole of God’s work in the Bible is already sufficient for this.
iv. “faith and practice”
The system of beliefs and actions that are based off of what is plainly written in Scripture becomes the foundation that governs our view of God and from which we generate our response to him. What we believe and what we do with that belief, if grounded in Scripture alone, ensures that the believer is not “tossed by the waves and blown about by every wind of doctrine” but rather “grow in every way into him who is the head – Christ” (Ephesians 4:14).
b. What role does the Bible play in God's plan?
The Bible is the primary method through which God conveys His character to us and communicates the knowledge of the Gospel. In John 14:6 Jesus tells us that “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Since God’s plan of salvation is only accomplished through Christ, it is essential that this plan is revealed plainly to all of humanity. Though humanity can perceive the existence of God (Romans 1:19-21), since this alone is insufficient for salvation, the Bible plays a vital role in the communication of this truth.
For those who already belong to Jesus, the Bible becomes God’s plan for growth in our spiritual formation as we become reliant on it for “bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). As we learn to meditate on God’s law “day and night” (Psalm 1:2) we will grow in this knowledge and begin to discern the will of God (Grudem 119). It lights our way (Psalm 119:105) and provides a clear hope, not only in light of what God has already done in Christ, but also in what He still plans to do (Revelation 1:3)
5. Man was originally created in the image and likeness of God; he fell through disobedience, incurring thereby both physical and spiritual death. All men are born with a sinful nature, are separated from the life of God, and can be saved only through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The portion of the impenitent and unbelieving is existence forever in conscious torment; and that of the believer in everlasting joy and bliss.
a. My understanding of the meaning of the following phrases in the above statement:
i. “created in the image and likeness of God”
· Humanity bears the image of God in that we possess a sense of right and wrong from within (Jeremiah 31:33) and are able to operate on a set of morals that the remainder of creation does not (Grudem 446).
· Humanity bears the image of God in that we are both physical bodies and immaterial spirits (Grudem 446) (Hebrews 4:12). We can therefore impact both the physical and spiritual realm with our actions.
· Humanity bears the image of God in that our spiritual life affords us immortality (Romans 8:10). Though the human body may die, the spirit lives on into eternity (Grudem 446).
· Humanity bears the image of God in that we express creativity (Grudem 447). Humans invent, design, and create through the arts and sciences and demonstrate the nature of God that lead his actions in creation (Colossians 3:23).
ii. “born with a sinful nature”
All of humanity shares in a natural state of sinfulness due to the original transgression of Adam, which is now passed along to all of us (Romans 5:12-21). Essentially, Adam’s sin polluted a perfect world, as the nature of sin infects all things. In Psalm 51:5 David declares that he was “brought forth” in iniquity from his conception (Grudem 496). And so, it is now for all humanity since Adam, as we all share in the inheritance of sinfulness (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
iii. “separated from the life of God”
God’s holiness demands that he is separated from sinfulness (Grudem 202) (Leviticus 11:44a) and due to man’s sinful condition, he is now separated from fellowship with God (490) (Isaiah 59:2). This was evidenced in the garden as Adam and Eve’s sin lead to immediate expulsion from the garden (Genesis 3:23) and moreover, from the personal presence of God. This bodily separation from God is only a small part of the complete spiritual separation that we share with Adam. Without atonement for sin, man will remain physically and spiritually separated from God forever (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
iv. “existence forever in conscious torment”
Scripture describes a place known as hell that is reserved for Satan, his angels, and all who are found guilty of sin without the covering of Christ. Jesus himself describes this place as one of “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46) and contexts it with torment through the imagery of an “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). In the story which Jesus tells in Luke 16:22-24, Jesus describes the tormented man as being in a fully conscious state and aware of his agony as he requests water from the finger of Lazarus to cool his tongue. Therefore, we can conclude that hell is a real place of judgement that God sends those who are his enemies to reside “for ever and ever” (Revelation 19:3) in conscious eternal punishment (Grudem 1149).
v. “everlasting joy and bliss”
In contrast to the eternal punishment of hell, Scripture also clearly outlines another reality in which man continues to exist beyond this life and calls it heaven (John 3:13). In this place, which Jesus promised to go and prepare for us (John 14:2), the believer will “enter into the full enjoyment of life in the presence of God forever” (Grudem 1158). Our joy and bliss will be realized not only in that this place is devoid of sin (Romans 8:19-21) but also that we will finally be with our Savior “now face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12) to experience his goodness and love firsthand.
b. Is there salvation without personal faith in Jesus Christ?
Jesus is described explicitly in Acts 4:11-12 as the cornerstone of our faith and the only hope for salvation to humanity: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” The Scripture here clearly affirms what Grudem expresses when he states, “Eternal salvation comes one through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way” (117). Just alone stands as the mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5-6) and without him, we cannot stand righteous before God. Even those who attained salvation before Christ’s sacrifice only did so by faith in the promise of his coming one day (1 Peter 1:10-12).
c. What of those who have not heard the Gospel?
The knowledge of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and faith in him alone are essential for salvation as previously mentioned in Acts 4:11-12. It is for this very reason that Jesus commissions his disciples to take his Gospel to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) so that all may hear of him and be given the opportunity to repent and trust in him. Without this opportunity, they are not afforded the hope of Christ (Romans 10:13-15).
6. Salvation has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men; and those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, receive the gift of eternal life, and become children of God.
a. My understanding of the following terms:
Salvation implies a rescue from danger or destruction. In Scripture this destruction is eternal separation and punishment from God (Matthew 25:41). But Jesus offers rescue from this separation (Matthew 1:21b) immediately through his death as payment on our behalf to satisfy God.
Repentance (Matthew 4:17) involves a recognition of one’s sin, sorrow for it, a clear decision to turn from that sin (Luke 5:32), and a commitment to obediently follow Christ (Acts 3:19) (Grudem 713). It is a process of engaging our intellect and emotions in choosing to recognize our wrongdoing and choose to turn away from it and toward Jesus.
Belief, as addressed in Scripture (such as in John 3:16 where it states that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life”), derives from a different understanding that is often used in our modern context. Whereas in our language today belief may simply represent a mental ascent to a concept or general acceptance, Scripture contexts the belief that is required for salvation to represent “trust” (Grudem 711) (Proverbs 3:5). As Grudem points out, this passage could more accurately be translated as “belief into him” and represents that “believe” means to trust so deeply in all that Jesus says that it alters to course of one’s life (Hebrews 11:6). I believe that faith is the essential component in a person receiving salvation.
Regeneration is “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us” (Grudem 699). Scripture informs us that inherited sin has left each of us spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 4) and that we are in need of new life through the process of being “born again” (John 3:3). Through the mystery of God, he acts on our behalf doing what we cannot and brings us from death to life spiritually. This is the process we know as regeneration. This is a one-time act that precedes the act of saving faith on our own accord. In other words, regeneration is the moment that God first acts to bring about salvation (Colossians 2:13). I believe that the Calvinist viewpoint provides the greatest insight into how this act of regeneration occurs by identifying clearly God as the first actor in our salvation.
Justification is the process of being made legally right before God in relation to our debt to him in light of our sin against him (Romans 5:1). Though we are unable to satisfy this debt, Jesus has met the qualifications required by God: perfect, righteous sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Justification then occurs not because of what we have done, but rather as God credits Jesus’ righteousness to us through our trust in him (Romans 4:1-8; Galatians 2:15-16). Because of Jesus, we made right and declared righteous in the sight of God and his justice is satisfied (Grudem 723).
b. In what sense is salvation provided “for all men?”
Jesus’ death is was given “as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) and represents the heart of God for humanity as unwilling that “any should perish and that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, the righteousness of Jesus has been made available to all men (humanity) indiscriminately (Romans 3:22). There is no limitation to the ability of God to credit the righteousness of Jesus to all men. Therefore, God makes salvation available to all (2 Peter 3:9), but not all will engage in the process of regeneration through which saving faith will occur (Luke 13:24).
c. The divine and human aspects of salvation in statement six:
In relation to salvation, God is the actor who makes it available to all of mankind through his willingness to credit Jesus’ righteous sacrifice to all humanity. He chooses those whom he regenerates (Romans 9:18) and brings them back to life by spiritually re-birthing them through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3) and providing them the opportunity to respond to him in faith. He grants those who respond to him adoption as sons and daughters and equips them with the inheritance of every right that comes with this position (2 Corinthians 6:18). He freely gives them the gift of eternal life with him (Ephesians 2:8-9).
In relation to salvation, man responds to God’s work of regeneration by recognizing their sin and repenting of it, choosing to engage him in obedience by trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
7. It is the will of God that each believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sanctified wholly, being separated from sin and the world and fully dedicated to the will of God, thereby receiving power for the holy living and effective service. This is both a crisis and a progressive experience wrought in the life of the believer subsequent to conversion.
a. The sanctification process in the life of the believer:
The process of sanctification begins in the life of the believer at the point of regeneration (Grudem 747), as evidenced through Paul’s reference to Christians as “all those who are sanctified” in Acts 20:32. The Holy Spirit immediately indwells the new believer and begins the process of transforming us as we are now free from the grip of sin (Romans 6:14). God works the process in the believer throughout the course of their life (Philippians 2:13), continually setting them apart for himself (Psalm 4:3). However, it remains the responsibility of the believer to submit, or “yield”, themselves to the work of sanctification by God (Romans 6:13). Sanctification then remains a consistent norm in the life of the believer and is never truly completed in this life (Grudem 749), but reaches completion only at the point in which the Lord returns and we are granted our perfected bodies at the resurrection of the saints (Matthew 27:51-53).
b. My understanding of:
i. “filled with the Holy Spirit”
The filling of the Holy Spirit occurs many times within the lives of the apostles and believers (Acts2:4). It is seen as a continuous experience for the believer and not merely a one-time event, as demonstrated in the life of Peter who is continually being filled by the Spirit (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8) as well as in Steven’s life (Acts 6:3-5, Acts 7:55). In each case, the filling of the Holy Spirit indicates power and equipping for a specific ministry, while simultaneously being used as an adjective to describe the individual (Grudem 782). Grudem uses the analogy of a balloon to describe what this means. In each stage of the balloon once it is filled with oxygen, it can be described as filled with oxygen and yet may expand to be further filled by additional oxygen. So it is with the believer, who can be equipped by the filling of the Holy Spirit over and over again (Acts 13:52).
ii. “sanctified wholly”
The sanctification God works in us affects and engages every aspect of our being holistically. It engages our intellect through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). It engages our emotions through we find that our love changes from “the world or the things of the world” (1 John 2:15) to the things of Christ. It engages our will as it aligns us to God’s will and pleasure (Philippians 2:13). It engages our spirit as we learn “how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:34). And it engages our physical bodies as we recognize the implication that they are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) (Grudem 756-757).
iii. “separated from sin”
Separation from sin is the process of joining in God’s holiness. “God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor” (Grudem 202). We are instructed in Scripture to be holy just as God is holy (1 Peter 1:6). Therefore, we separate ourselves from sin in order to not only be without sin like God, but also to bring honor to God (John 8:11).
iv. “fully dedicated”
To be dedicated is to be set apart solely for God’s service (Romans 8:30). We see Old Testament references to dedication through the tabernacle, altar, and the instruction to Aaron and his sons to set themselves apart for God’s service (Leviticus 8) (Grudem 202). Likewise, we as believers are to be fully committed to the service of God and surrendered for his use however he wills (2 Timothy 2:15). I believe this is evidenced in the life of someone who fully understands the implication that Christ lays out when informing them to “take up their cross” and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26).
c. What are the evidences of a sanctified life?
Sanctification occurs as we abide in Christ and our lives begin to the bear the fruit of his work in us. It “comes by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Grudem 640) and his fruits manifest as increased and supernatural “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control” (Galatians 5:22). Ultimately, the evidence of sanctification is that we grow in taking on the character of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
d. How can sanctification be described as both positional and progressive?
Positional sanctification refers to the moment of salvation, where through the justification of Christ, the believer is declared perfect in relation to the penalty of sin (Ephesians 2:8). As their spirit is regenerated, they are found blameless before God and their sin is no longer held against them (Hebrews 10:17). This does not imply that their actions no longer offend God, rather that all of their choices and actions have been atoned for through Christ’s sacrifice (1 John 3:5). Therefore, the believer now engages sanctification as a process for the remainder of their life. They are both declared holy in a new reality, but also actively progressing in becoming holy by allowing their lives to be transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:2). They both are the new reality and they are becoming the new reality all at once. I believe that for a believer to be found in the faith, they must continue to progress in their sanctification.
8. Provision is made in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the healing of the mortal body. Prayer for the sick and anointing with oil are taught in the Scriptures and are privileges for the Church in this present age.
a. In regard to the biblical basis for healing:
i. What is the scriptural basis for anointing with oil and prayer for the sick?
James instructs this practice for the church in James 5:14-15, informing the practice to be performed as those who are sick are brought before the elders of the church, anointed with oil in “the name of the Lord”, and prayed over in faith for healing. The anointing represents the coming of the Holy Spirit’s power (Grudem 1065) and falls in line with the practice of Jesus’ disciples when they performed healings (Mark 6:13). I believe this practice should still be executed by church leaders today when praying for the healing of another believer.
b. Do you believe divine healing is the privilege of the believer today?
I do believe that divine healing is a privilege given to the believer today. However, I do not believe that it is a right given to the believer that is somehow contingent entirely on their faith in order to become so. Paul describes a thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 that would not heal despite his pleas to God to do so. His lack of healing did not come as a consequence of a lack of faith, but rather God chose to not heal him so his power would be demonstrated in the midst of Paul’s weakness. Yet, the privilege of divine healing is clearly something Paul believed was afforded to himself and other believers. There is no Scriptural basis for indicating that this privilege has somehow been revoked for us today.
d. Does divine healing fit into the modern scene of medical science?
First, God is the maker of all things in creation and declared them to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Since modern medicines incorporate the healing properties that God designed into his creation, they shouldn’t be seen as unspiritual in nature and should be embraced as God’s hand in healing (Grudem 1064). Furthermore, human development through the learning of God’s science of the operation of the human body is an act inspired of God and should be embraced whole-heartedly by the believer as yet another reflection of the glory of God and the goodness (and intricacy) of his creation.
However, modern science and medicine, though conduits of the healing work of God, are still man’s efforts and often fall short of the desired outcome without divine intervention. Therefore, I believe that prayer and anointing should still be followed according to the instruction in James to multiply the effectiveness of medicine (Grudem 1064) or to miraculously cure that which modern medicine cannot for the glory of God to both the believer and the unbeliever who witnesses the power of God. God desires for us to receive healing and instructs us to ask for it (Matthew 6:13) and so we should.
9. The Church consists of all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, and are born again of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the Head of the Body, the Church, which has been commissioned by Him to go into all the world as a witness, preaching the Gospel to all nations.
a. What is the relationship of the local church to the universal church?
The local church is individual bodies of believers who gather together to form a church within a particular demographic or may even be described as the sum of individual churches within a particular city or region (Grudem 857). However, while the leadership of these churches may be autonomous in many regards, each local church across the world makes up the universal church. Therefore, the local church is inseparable from the work of God to build his church (Matthew 16:18) and should always demonstrate care and active connection to the universal church. I believe that the connection of the local church to the universal church is one of the greatest needs in American church culture today as it is largely inwardly focused and lacking in awareness of the work of God throughout the church in the rest of the world.
b. What are the essentials for a local church?
In order for a local church to function in the health and within Jesus’ design, they must practice eleven essentials (Grudem 951). They must accurately teach God’s Word because it is given to the church as instruction for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). They must practice Jesus’ command to baptize followers (Matthew 28:19). They must partake in the ordnance of the Lord’s Supper together as instructed by Christ in Luke 22:14-20. We see the early church observing this essential in Acts 2:42 while also practicing other essentials of fellowshipping deeply with one another and committing themselves to the discipline of prayer together. This was often accompanied by the essentials of worship and fasting, as we see the early church dedicated to in Acts 13:2.
The church must also practice discipline against sin (1 Timothy 5:20) while also practicing personal ministry to the needs of individuals in order “to bring back ‘a sinner from the error of his way’ (James 5:20)” (Grudem 959). This aspect of discipline is one that I have rarely seen exercised well and I believe may be the greatest challenge for a church to accomplish well.
The church should be characterized by giving, as seen in Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8:5. And finally, the church should minister to the needs of one another through the practice of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:16) and minister to the needs of the lost through the practice of evangelism (Acts 4:8-12). I believe that a church must possess each of these character traits in order to view themselves as functioning in a “healthy” and effective role.
c. What is the role of the church in the proclamation of the Gospel and edification of the believer?
The church is the primary arm of the proclamation of the Gospel as it both evangelizes corporately, through campaigns and preaching, and equips the believer to evangelize individually through the filling of the Holy Spirit. This individual encouragement that equips the believer and spurs them on toward love and good works (Hebrews 10:24) is the process of edification. The church edifies one another through love (1 Corinthians 4:11-12), unselfishness (Romans 15:2), and speaking truth (Ephesians 4:15-16). Jesus tells us that this is how we, as the church, we will be known as Jesus’ disciples; by loving one another (John 13:35) and in my opinion is the greatest call on the church as his witness.
d. Why is it important to establish local churches?
It is the Lord’s job to build his church (Matthew 16:18), but the gathering of those whom he calls into the formulation of a local body was set forth by the work of the Apostles. They established clear rules for leadership and governance (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13) and Paul devoted the bulk of his letters to instructing church practice. This is primarily because he and the other Apostles devoted themselves to the establishment of local churches for the furtherance of the Gospel. Scripture makes it clear that this is God’s primary methodology for spreading His Gospel. Therefore, the continued establishment of local churches throughout the world works to unify local believers to carry out the commission of Jesus (Hebrews 10:25).
e. What is the Scriptural mode of baptism? Why?
The model of Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1 indicates that Jesus was baptized through the mode of immersion, as “he came up out of the water” (vs. 10) (Grudem 968). This language is mirrored exactly when describing the mode of baptism shared by the eunuch in Acts 8:38-39. Perhaps most significantly though, the mode of full immersion represents deep symbolism in connecting the at of baptism with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12); all of which represent the key foundational elements of our faith and salvation. I believe this mode is the true meaning of baptism as designed by Scripture and provides the groundwork why infant baptism is not according to Scriptural design.
f. What is the purpose and meaning of the Lord's Supper?
Jesus instructs us to partake in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as a way of remembering him and what he did for us through his sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:25). For us, this serves as a sign of our continuous fellowship with Christ and an ordinance that we look forward to participating in person with Christ in eternity. The meaning of the Lord’s Supper is multifaceted and Grudem outlines seven specific meanings that can be drawn from it (990-991). First, it reminds us of the death of Christ for us (1 Corinthians 11:26) and then invites us to participate in the benefits of his death (Matthew 26:26). Third, just as food supplies physical nourishment, the taking of elements in the Lord’s Supper serves to nourish our spirit (John 6:53-57). Fourth, the community of Christ is encouraged to partake in communion in community as a reminder of our unity (1 Corinthians 10:17). Fifth, the process affirms the love of Jesus for us as we remember his personal invitation to come. Sixth, it affirms that all of the blessings of salvation are reserved for me as I have now become a member of the family of God. And finally, as we partake in the elements, we are affirming our continued faith and utter reliance on Christ.
10. There shall be a bodily resurrection of the just and of the unjust; for the former, a resurrection unto life; for the latter, a resurrection unto judgment.
a. What does the term “bodily resurrection” mean?
The bodily resurrection refers to the new bodies that are given to us by Christ at the resurrection of the dead upon his return. According to 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 and verse 49, our new bodies will be very similar to the ones we have now (in the image of man) but will be imperishable and raised in glory and power. The idea of our bodies being imperishable means that they will not wear out or be subject to any kind of sickness or disease (Grudem 831). The concept of being raised in glory demonstrates that our bodies will be free of the repercussions of sin and will be a perfect reflection of Imago Dei. The concept of being raised in power demonstrates that all weakness in our bodies will be gone and they will be youthful and strong. Finally, 1 Corinthians 15 speaks to the nature of these bodies being both physical and spiritual, like ours now, but in spiritual perfection. In the resurrection our bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body for “When he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2) (Grudem 833). This doctrine serves as one of my greatest sources of joy and anticipation in conjunction with my faith in Christ as I long for the day my body will be renewed without the effect of sin to live in a world free from the implications of sin.
11. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent and will be personal, visible, and premillennial. This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth which is an incentive to holy living and faithful service.
a. In connection with the return of Christ, there are the following views:
In this view of the end times, the millennium is viewed as a time when Christ returns to earth and rules and reigns with all believers, those whom he raises from the dead and those who are already alive. Prior to this, there will be a time of tribulation where much suffering and turmoil comes on the world. There are conflicting beliefs about whether the believers will be present for this time of tribulation or removed prior to, in the midst of it, or upon its conclusion.
During the millennial reign of Christ and the believers on earth, Satan will be restrained to the bottomless pit and many will come to follow Jesus. However, not all will choose to do so and at the end of the thousand years, Satan will be loosed and collect those who belong to him. They will be decisively defeated and Jesus will raise and judge all non-believers, the earth will be restored, and all humanity will enter their eternal state (Grudem 1112).
In this view of the end times, the millennium is viewed as a time when Christians who have died are reigning with Christ in heaven and Satan’s influence is reduced on earth, allowing many to come to Christ. At the end of this reign (whether a literal thousand years or just a long period of time), Jesus returns to earth and all believers and unbelievers are raised, judged, and appropriated to their eternal state (Grudem 1110).
In this view of the end times, the millennium occurs as the result of Christianity growing in influence to the point of ushering in a thousand years (or extended period of time) of peace and righteousness on earth. The world is seen having largely overcome evil and suffering. At the end of this period, Jesus returns to earth and all believers and unbelievers are raised, judged, and appropriated to their eternal state (Grudem 1111).
b. The position I most accept:
While I remain hopeful that the amillennial view is true, I find that it tends to overlook much of the content of Revelation. Postmillennialism appears disconnected from Revelation, the bulk of Scripture, and overall reality to me and I don’t have much hope that the world will enter into this state of peace prior to Christ’s return. Therefore, I believe that premillennialism is most plausible and holds most to the narrative that I read when examining Revelation. However, I do not find myself to be a particularly optimistic premillennialist and believe that the believer should prepare themselves to endure some, if not all, of the tribulation.
c. In what sense is the Second Coming of Christ imminent?
The term imminent simply refers to the fact that Christ’s coming could happen at any time. He could return at any day or hour (Grudem 1097). That is not to say that imminent means that it is soon, or within this or a coming generation. Rather, it emphasizes our need to be “ready” for Christ’s return as it is promised to be “unexpected” (Luke 12:40). Since we “do not know the day or hour of his coming”, we are to “watch” (Matthew 25:13) with expectation and be personally ready with our faith firmly grounded in him as our hope at his return. For me, this serves to remind me that I should work out my faith with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) as I anticipate that Jesus’ return could come at any day or moment and I want to be prepared to stand before him in confidence that I was found in the faith.
Grudem, Wayne A. (1994). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.