The worship of our triune God and the righteous joy of His people depend on properly receiving sound doctrine. Therefore, our aim is not to discover how little can be believed, but rather to embrace and teach "the whole counsel of God."1 Our aim is to encourage a hearty adherence to the Bible, the fullness of its truth,2 and the glory of its Author. We believe biblical doctrine stabilizes saints in the winds of confusion3 and strengthens the church in her mission to proclaim the gospel to sinners trapped in the worldly systems of false religion and secularism.
We believe that the supreme virtue of love is nourished by the strong meat of God-centered doctrine.4 Likewise, we believe that the cause of unity in the church5 is best served, not by finding the lowest common denominator of doctrine, around which all can gather, but by elevating the value of truth, stating the doctrinal parameters of church or school or mission or ministry, seeking the unity that comes from the truth, and then demonstrating to the world how Christians can love each other6 across boundaries rather than by removing boundaries. In this way, the importance of truth is served by the existence of doctrinal borders, and unity is served by the way we lovingly relate to one another across those borders. While this tension is supremely difficult to hold, we believe it is also supremely worthwhile.
With this pursuit in mind, we do not believe that all things in this affirmation of faith are of equal weight, some being more essential, some less. We do not believe that every part of this affirmation must be believed in order for one to be saved, nor to fellowship with this local church.
We, the elders of Trinity Evangel Church, do not claim infallibility for this affirmation and are open to refinement and correction from Scripture.7 Yet we do hold firmly to these truths as we see them and call on others to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.8 As conversation and debate take place, it may be that we will learn from each other, and the boundaries will be adjusted, even possibly folding formerly disagreeing groups into closer fellowship.
The Trinity Evangel Church doctrinal statement was adapted from the "Elder Affirmation of Faith" of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, and is used by permission.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- 1. Scripture, the Word of God Written
- 2. The Trinity, One God as Three Persons
- 3. God's Eternal Purpose and Election
- 4. God's Creation of the Universe and Man
- 5. Man's Sin and Fall from Fellowship with God
- 6. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God
- 7. The Saving Work of Christ
- 8. The Saving Work of the Holy Spirit
- 9. The Justifying Act of God
- 10. God's Work in Faith and Sanctification
- 11. Living God's Word by Meditation and Prayer
- 12. Christ's Church and Her Ordinances
- 13. Christ's Commission to Make Disciples of All Nations
- 14. Death, Resurrection, and the Coming of the Lord
1.1 We believe that the Bible, consisting of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the infallible Word of God, verbally inspired by God,9 and without error10 in the original manuscripts.
1.2 We believe that God's intentions, revealed in the Bible, are the supreme, sufficient, and final authority in testing all claims about what is true and what is right. In matters not addressed by the Bible, determining what is true and right requires wise assessment by criteria consistent with the teachings of Scripture.11
1.3 We believe God's intentions are revealed through the intentions of the human authors, even when the authors' intention was to express divine meaning of which they were not fully aware, as, for example, in the case of some Old Testament prophecies. Thus the meaning of Biblical texts is an objective, fixed historical reality, rooted in the historical, unchangeable intentions of its divine and human authors. However, while meaning does not change, the application of that meaning may change in various situations. Nevertheless it is not legitimate to infer a meaning from a Biblical text that is not demonstrably carried by the words which God inspired.12
1.4 Therefore, the process of discovering the intention of God in the Bible (which is its fullest meaning) is a humble and careful effort to find in the language and context of Scripture what the human authors intended to communicate. Limited abilities, traditional biases, personal sin, and cultural assumptions often obscure Biblical texts. Therefore the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit is essential for right understanding of the Bible,13 and prayer for His assistance belongs to a proper effort to understand and apply God's Word.14
2.1 We believe in one15 living,16 sovereign,17 and all-glorious18 God, eternally existing in three19 infinitely excellent and admirable Persons: God the Father,20 fountain of all being;21 God the Son,22 eternally begotten,23 not made, without beginning,24 being of one essence25 with the Father; and God the Holy Spirit, proceeding in the full, divine essence,26 as a Person, 27 eternally from the Father and the Son. Thus each Person in the Godhead is fully, completely, and simultaneously God.
2.2 We believe that God is supremely joyful28 as He relates in the fellowship of the Trinity, each Person beholding and expressing His eternal and unsurpassed delight in the all-satisfying perfections of the triune God.
3.1 We believe that God, from all eternity,29 in order to display the full extent of His glory30 for the eternal and ever-increasing enjoyment31 of all who love Him,32 did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His will,33 freely and unchangeably34 foreknow35 and predestine36 whatever comes to pass.
3.2 We believe that God upholds and governs all things - from galaxies37 to subatomic particles,38 from the forces of nature39 to the movements of nations,40 from evil to good41, and from the public plans of politicians42 to the secret acts of solitary persons43 - all in accord with His eternal, all-wise44 purposes to glorify Himself, yet in such a way that He never sins,45 nor ever condemns a person unjustly;46 but that His ordaining and governing all things is compatible with the moral accountability47 of all persons created in His image.
3.3 We believe that God's election is an unconditional48 act of free grace49 which was given through His Son Christ Jesus before the world began.50 By this act God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin51 and brought to repentance52 and saving faith53 in His Son Christ Jesus.
4.1 We believe that God created the universe,54 and everything in it,55 out of nothing,56 in six literal, 24-hour days57 by the Word of His power. Having no deficiency in Himself, nor moved by any incompleteness in His joyful self-sufficiency, God was pleased in creation to display His glory58 for the everlasting joy59 of the redeemed, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.60
4.2 We believe that God directly created Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from his side. We believe that Adam and Eve were the historical parents of the entire human race;61 that they were created male and female equally in the image of God,62 without sin,63 to multiply and take dominion over the earth;64 that they were created to glorify65 their Maker, Ruler, Provider, and Friend by trusting His all-sufficient goodness, enjoying His personal fellowship, and obeying His all-wise counsel; and that, in God's love and wisdom, they were appointed differing and complementary roles in marriage as a type of Christ and the church.66 God instituted marriage as the covenant commitment between one man and one woman.67
4.3 We believe that God created angels to serve and worship Him.68 We believe that Satan is an angel who, though created good, soon rebelled against God and took a third of the angels with him in his fall.69 We believe that Satan introduced sin into the human race by his temptation of Eve70 and that he currently controls the world system, blinds the minds of all unbelievers, and seeks the destruction of humankind through constant warfare.71 We believe that Satan and all the fallen angels were decisively, though not yet finally, conquered through the death and resurrection of Jesus,72 and that they will be eternally judged in the lake of fire.73
5.1 We believe that, although God created the first man morally upright, he was led astray from God's Word and wisdom by the subtlety of Satan's deceit,74 chose to take what was forbidden,75 and thus declared his independence from, distrust for, and disobedience toward his all-good and gracious Creator. Thus, our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original innocence and communion with God.76
5.2 We believe that, as the head of the human race, Adam's fall became the fall of all his posterity, in such a way that corruption, guilt, death, and condemnation belong properly to every person.77 All persons are thus corrupt by nature,78 enslaved to sin,79 blind to spiritual truth, and morally unable80 to delight in God and overcome their own proud preference for the fleeting pleasures of self-rule.
5.3 We believe that God subjected the creation to futility,81 and that the entire human family is made justly liable to untold miseries of sickness,82 decay,83 calamity,84 and loss.85 Thus all the adversity, suffering, and death in the world is an echo and a witness of the exceedingly great evil of moral depravity in the heart of mankind; and every new day of life is a God-given, merciful reprieve from imminent judgment, pointing to repentance.86
6.1 We believe that in the fullness of time87 God sent forth His eternal Son as Jesus the Messiah,88 conceived by the Holy Spirit,89 born of the virgin Mary.90 We believe that, when the eternal Son became flesh,91 He took on a fully human nature,92 so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one Person, without confusion or mixture. Thus the Person, Jesus Christ, was and is truly God93 and truly man,94 yet one Christ and the only Mediator between God and man.95
6.2 We believe that Jesus Christ was born and lived without sin, though He endured the common infirmities and temptations of human life.96 He preached and taught with truth and authority unparalleled in human history.97 He worked miracles, demonstrating His divine right and power over all creation: dispatching demons,98 healing the sick,99 raising the dead,100 stilling storms,101 walking on water,102 multiplying loaves,103 and foreknowing what would befall Him and His disciples,104 including the betrayal of Judas105 and the denial, restoration, and eventual martyrdom of Peter.106
6.3 We believe that His life was governed by His Father's providence with a view to fulfilling all Old Testament prophecies concerning the One who was to come,107 such as the Seed of the woman,108 the Prophet like Moses,109 the Priest after the order of Melchizedek,110 the Son of David,111 and the Suffering Servant.112
6.4 We believe that Jesus Christ suffered voluntarily113 in fulfillment of God's redemptive plan,114 that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate,115 that He died,116 was buried117 and on the third day rose from the dead118 to vindicate the saving work of His life and death119 and to take His place as the invincible, everlasting Lord of glory.120 During the forty days after His resurrection, He gave many compelling evidences of His bodily resurrection121 and then ascended bodily into heaven,122 where He is seated at the right hand of the Father,123 interceding for His people124 on the basis of His all- sufficient sacrifice for sin, and reigning until He puts all His enemies under His feet.125
7.1 We believe that by His perfect obedience to God126 and by His suffering and death127 as the immaculate Lamb of God,128 Jesus Christ obtained forgiveness of sins129 and the gift of perfect righteousness130 for all who trusted in God prior to the cross131 and all who would trust in Christ thereafter.132 Through living a perfect life and dying in our place, the just for the unjust, Christ absorbed our punishment,133 appeased the wrath of God against us,134 vindicated the righteousness of God in our justification,135 and removed the condemnation of the law against us.136
7.2 We believe that the gospel should be proclaimed to all nations and that to every person it may be truly said, "God gave his only son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."137 Whosoever will may come138 and, whoever does come, Jesus will not cast out.139
7.3 We believe that the death and resurrection of Christ obtained the omnipotent New Covenant140 mercy of repentance141 and faith142 for God's elect. In His death, Christ expressed a special covenant love to His friends,143 His sheep,144 His bride.145 For them He secured salvation and obtained the infallible and effectual working of the Spirit to triumph over their resistance and bring them to saving faith.146
8.1 We believe that the Holy Spirit has always been at work in the world, sharing in the work of creation,147 performing signs and wonders,148 giving triumphs in battle,149 empowering the preaching of prophets150 and inspiring the writing of Scripture.151 Yet, after Christ had made atonement for sin and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He inaugurated a new era of the Spirit by pouring out the promise of the Father on His Church.152
8.2 We believe that the newness of this era is marked by the unprecedented mission of the Spirit to glorify the crucified and risen Christ.153 This He does by giving the disciples of Jesus greater power to preach the gospel of the glory of Christ,154 by confirming the authority of His Word,155 by opening the hearts of hearers that they might see Christ and believe,156 by transforming His people from glory to glory,157 by manifesting Himself in spiritual gifts for the upbuilding of the body of Christ,158 by calling all the nations to repentance and faith in Christ,159 and, in all this, thus fulfilling the New Covenant promise to create and preserve a purified people160 for the everlasting habitation of God.161
8.3 We believe that, apart from the effectual work of the Spirit, no one would come to faith,162 because all men are dead in trespasses and sins,163 hostile to God, unable to understand spiritual things,164 and morally unable to submit to God or please Him165 because the pleasures of sin appear greater than the pleasures of God.166 Thus, for God's elect, the Spirit triumphs over all resistance,167 wakens the dead,168 removes blindness,169 and manifests Christ in such a compellingly beautiful way through the Gospel that He becomes irresistibly attractive to the regenerate heart. The Spirit indwells every believer and guarantees that saints will persevere to the end.170
8.4 We believe the Holy Spirit does this saving work in connection with the presentation of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.171 Thus neither the work of the Father in election, nor the work of the Son in atonement, nor the work of the Spirit in regeneration is a hindrance or discouragement to the proclamation of the gospel to all peoples and persons everywhere. On the contrary, this divine saving work of the Trinity is the warrant and the ground of our hope that our evangelization is not in vain in the Lord. The Spirit binds His saving work to the gospel of Christ, because His aim is to glorify the Christ of the Gospel.172
9.1 We believe that in a free act of righteous grace God justifies the ungodly by faith alone apart from works,173 pardoning their sins,174 and reckoning them as righteous and acceptable in His presence.175 Faith is thus the sole instrument176 by which we, as sinners, are united to Christ, whose perfect righteousness and satisfaction for sins is alone the ground of our acceptance with God.177 This acceptance happens fully and permanently at the first instant of justification.178 Thus the righteousness by which we come into right standing with God is not anything worked in us by God, neither imparted to us at baptism nor over time, but rather is accomplished for us, outside ourselves, and is imputed to us.
9.2 We believe, nevertheless, that the faith, which alone receives the gift of justification, does not remain alone in the person so justified, but produces, by the Holy Spirit,179 the fruit of love180 and leads necessarily to sanctification.181 This necessary relation between justifying faith and the fruit of good works gives rise to some biblical expressions which seem to make works the ground or means of justification,182 but in fact simply express the crucial truth that faith that does not yield the fruit of good works is dead, being no true faith.183
10.1 We believe that justification and sanctification are both brought about by God through faith,184 but not in the same way. Justification is an act of God's imputing and reckoning;185 sanctification is an act of God's imparting and transforming.186 Thus the function of faith in regard to each is different. In regard to justification, faith is not the channel through which power or transformation flows to the soul of the believer, but rather faith is the occasion of God's forgiving, acquitting, and reckoning as righteous.187 But in regard to sanctification, faith is indeed the channel through which divine power and transformation flow to the soul,188 and the sanctifying work of God through faith does indeed gradually change the soul more and more into the likeness of Christ.
10.2 We believe that the reason justifying faith necessarily sanctifies in this way is fourfold:
First, justifying faith is a persevering, that is, continuing, kind of faith.189 Even though we are justified at the first instant of saving faith,190 yet this faith justifies only because it is a living faith that will surely persevere. The extension of this faith into the future is, as it were, contained in the first seed of faith, as the oak in the acorn. Thus the moral effects191 of persevering faith may be rightly described as the effects of justifying faith.
Second, we believe that justifying faith trusts in Christ not only for the gift of imputed righteousness and the forgiveness of sins,192 but also for the fulfillment of all His promises to us based on that reconciliation.193 Justifying faith magnifies the finished work of Christ's atonement by resting securely in all the promises of God obtained and guaranteed by that all-sufficient work.194
Third, we believe that justifying faith embraces Christ in all His roles:195 Creator,196 Sustainer,197 Savior,198 Teacher,199 Guide,200 Comforter,201 Helper,202 Friend,203 Advocate,204 Protector,205 and Lord.206 Justifying faith does not divide Christ, accepting part of Him and rejecting the rest. All of Christ is embraced by justifying faith, even before we are fully aware of, or fully understand, all that He will be for us. As more of Christ is truly revealed to us in His Word, genuine faith recognizes Christ and embraces Him more fully.207
Fourth, we believe that this embracing of all of Christ is not a mere intellectual assent, or a mere decision of the will, but is also a heartfelt, Spirit-given (yet imperfect) satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus.208 Therefore, the change of mind and heart that turns from the moral ugliness and danger of sin, and is sometimes called "repentance,"209 is included in the very nature of saving faith.
10.3 We believe that this persevering, future-oriented, Christ-embracing, heart-satisfying faith is life-transforming,210 and therefore renders intelligible the teaching of the Scripture that final salvation in the age to come depends on the transformation of life,211 and yet does not contradict justification by faith alone. The faith which alone justifies, cannot remain alone, but works through love.212
10.4 We believe that this simple, powerful reality of justifying faith is God's gift213 which He gives unconditionally in accord with God's electing love214 so that no one can boast in himself215 but only give all glory to God for every part of salvation.216 We believe that the Holy Spirit is the decisive agent in this life-transformation, but that He is supplied to us and works holiness in us though our daily faith in the Son of God217 whose trustworthiness He loves to glorify.218
10.5 We believe that the sanctification, which comes by the Spirit through faith,219 is imperfect and incomplete in this life.220 Although ultimate slavery to sin is broken,221 yet there remain remnants of corruption in every heart that give rise to irreconcilable war.222 In sanctification, sinful desires are progressively223 weakened by the power of a superior satisfaction in the glory of Christ and believers are called to vigilance in the lifelong fight of faith.224
10.6 We believe that all who are justified will win this fight. They will persevere in faith and not ultimately surrender to the enemy of their souls.225 This perseverance is the promise of the New Covenant,226 obtained by the blood of Christ,227 and worked in us by God Himself,228 yet not so as to diminish, but only to empower and encourage, our vigilance;229 so that we may say in the end, I have fought the good fight,230 but it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me.231
11.1 We believe that personal faith is granted and sustained by God's Spirit232 through His Word233 and prayer.234 The good fight of faith is fought mainly by meditating on the Scriptures235 and praying236 that God would apply them to our souls.
11.2 We believe that the promises of God recorded in the Scriptures are suited to save us from the deception of sin by displaying for us, and holding out to us, superior pleasures in the protection, provision, and presence of God.237 Therefore, reading,238 understanding,239 pondering,240 memorizing,241 and savoring242 the promises of all that God will be for us in Jesus are primary means of the Holy Spirit to break the power of sin's deceitful promises in our lives. Therefore it is needful that we give ourselves to such meditation day and night.243
11.3 We believe that God has ordained to bless244 and use245 His people for His glory through the means of prayer, offered in Jesus'246 name by faith.247 All prayer should seek ultimately that God's name be hallowed, that His kingdom come, and that His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.248 God's sovereignty over all things is not a hindrance to prayer, but a reason for hope that our prayers will succeed.249
11.4 We believe that prayer is the indispensable handmaid of meditation as we cry out to God for the inclination to turn from the world to the Word,250 and for the spiritual ability to see the glory of God in His testimonies,251 and for a soul-satisfying sight of the love of God,252 and for strength in the inner man to do the will of God.253 By prayer God sanctifies His people,254 sends gospel laborers into the world,255 and causes the Word of God to spread and triumph over Satan and unbelief.256
12.1 We believe in the one universal Church composed of all those who are chosen in Christ and united to Him through faith by the Spirit in one Body, with Christ Himself as the all-supplying, all-sustaining, all-supreme, and all-authoritative Head.257 We believe that the ultimate purpose of the Church is to glorify God258 in the everlasting and ever-increasing gladness of worship.259 We believe that the Church has not replaced Israel, but that God will fulfill all of His specific promises to Israel and use the Church to draw His chosen nation back to Himself.260
12.2 We believe it is God's will that the universal Church find expression in local churches261 in which believers agree together to hear the Word of God proclaimed,262 to engage in corporate worship, to practice the ordinances of baptism263 and the Lord's Supper,264 to build each other's faith through the manifold ministries of love,265 to hold each other accountable in the obedience of faith through Biblical discipline,266 and to train disciples to make more disciples of Christ.267 The Church is a body in which each member should find a suitable ministry for His giftedness;268 it is the household of God in which the Spirit dwells;269 it is the pillar and bulwark of God's truth in a truth-denying world;270 and it is a city set on a hill so that men may see the light of its good deeds - including ministry to the poor, orphans, and widows271 - and give glory to the Father in heaven.272
12.3 We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith273 express their union with Christ274 in His death and resurrection,275 by being immersed in water276 in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.277 It is a symbol of burial278 and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief, and purification from the pollution of sin.279
12.4 We believe that the Lord's Supper is an ordinance of the Lord280 in which gathered believers281 eat bread, signifying Christ's body given for His people, and drink the cup of the Lord, signifying the New Covenant in Christ's blood.282 We do this in remembrance of the Lord, and thus proclaim His death until He comes. Those who eat and drink in a worthy manner partake of Christ's body and blood, not physically, but spiritually, in that, by faith, they are united with each other and nourished with the benefits He obtained through His death, and thus grow in grace.283
12.5 We believe that each local church should recognize and affirm the divine calling of spiritually qualified men to give leadership to the church through the role of elder (also called pastor, overseer, and shepherd) in the ministry of the Word and prayer. Women are not to fill the role of elder in the local church, but are encouraged to use their gifts in appropriate roles that edify the body of Christ and spread the gospel.284
13.1 We believe that the commission given by the Lord Jesus to make disciples of all nations is binding on His Church to the end of the age.285 This task is to proclaim the Gospel to every tribe and tongue and people and nation,286 baptizing them, teaching them the words and ways of the Lord,287 and gathering them into churches288 able to fulfill their Christian calling among their own people. The ultimate aim of disciple-making is that God would create, by His Word, worshippers who glorify His name through glad-hearted faith and obedience.289 This mission exists because worship doesn't. When the time of ingathering is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, this assignment will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and the goal of our charge.
14.1 We believe that when Christians die they are made perfect in holiness,290 are received into paradise,291 and are taken consciously into the presence of Christ, which is more glorious and more satisfying than any experience on earth.292
14.2 We believe in the blessed hope293 that at the end of the age Jesus Christ will return to this earth personally,294 visibly,295 physically,296 and suddenly297 in power and great glory;298 and that He will gather His elect,299 raise the dead,300 judge the nations, and establish His millennial kingdom.301 After Christ's thousand-year reign, we believe that He will create a new heaven and new earth,302 that the righteous will enter into the everlasting joy of their Master,303 and that those who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness304 will be consigned to everlasting conscious misery.305
14.3 We believe that the end of all things in this age will be the beginning of a never-ending, ever-increasing happiness in the hearts of the redeemed, as God displays more and more of His infinite and inexhaustible greatness and glory for the enjoyment of His people.306