– ESSENTIAL & NON ESSENTIAL –
We believe that doctrine and beliefs are important to the life of the believer and the health of the church. Scripture clearly lays out certain doctrines that hold significance, both historically and practically. We also believe there are other doctrinal beliefs that are less clear and have resulted in disagreements among sincere Christians throughout history. Consequently, the eldership has adopted a philosophy called essential and non-essential doctrines. These can be explained as follows:
– ESSENTIAL DOCTRINE DEFINED –
Essential Doctrines help us understand who God is, the nature of the salvation He has provided for us, and His will for the structure of the Christian Church. These issues and positions are of paramount importance and, therefore, non-negotiable. They are clearly laid out in the Scriptures and establish the historical foundations of Christianity and the structure of the church. Prospective members of Richwoods Christian Church must embrace these positions to be members.
– NON ESSENTIAL DOCTRINE DEFINED –
Non-Essential Doctrines involve matters of the faith that are commonly disputed and not clear-cut in Scripture. We believe there is room in these matters for liberty and differences of opinion. Even though we hold a position on these issues, we do not require that all church members share our interpretation and understanding of them. Therefore, there is room for differences of opinion in these non-essential doctrines as long as their expression does not undermine the leadership of the church or threaten the church’s unity.
– ESSENTIAL DOCTRINES –
– TRINITY –
The term “Trinity” designates one God in three “Persons.” While the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, it is a convenient way to speak of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in their essential unity. While each of these three is individually God from all eternity, God is not a plurality. The divine nature is single and unique. Throughout the Bible we find that the Father is referred to as God; Jesus is referred to as God, and the Holy Spirit is referred to as God. Yet the mystery of the Trinity is that these three separate “Persons” are referred to as “one God.” We find evidence of the Trinity in the Old Testament where it is written, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” In this passage the word “Lord” is plural, but the words “God” and “one” are singular. In the New Testament we find that when Jesus was baptized, He was physically present while at the same moment the Holy Spirit visibly descended upon Him and the Father audibly spoke from heaven. All three were present at the same time. Likewise, Jesus commanded His followers to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Once again we find that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate “Persons” referred to as one “name.”
– HUMANITY & DIVINITY –
We believe Jesus Christ is the eternal divine Son of God who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of Mary while she remained a virgin. The Bible teaches that God the Son “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” through His incarnation as Jesus Christ and “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man.” During His life here among us, Jesus experienced all the realities of life that we experience, including temptation. The Bible teaches that because of this incarnation, the “fullness of God” lives in Jesus and that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the exact representation of His being. In other words, we believe Jesus is both fully God and fully man in His nature and being. He identified with us so that we might have a new identity through Him and His accomplishment of our salvation.
– RESURRECTION –
The belief in the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a basic tenet of the Christian faith and an absolutely essential belief in our church. All four gospels describe Jesus’ resurrection. The apostle Paul writes that the risen Jesus appeared to more than 500 believers at one time. Even a cynical witness, Thomas, saw the risen Jesus and was convinced. The resurrection of Jesus fulfills biblical prophecy, fulfills Jesus’ promise to rise in three days, and reveals His divinity by His victory over death.
Jesus’ resurrection impacts our lives both now and in the future. Everyone who is united to Jesus Christ by faith is already sharing in the power of the resurrection because it is the energy that drives our new life in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection also guarantees that the time is coming when all who trust in Him will share in the fullness of His victory over death through their own resurrection.
– SCRIPTURE –
We were created to know and love God. God has been revealing Himself so we can know and love Him as He is. He has used different ways at different times, according to mankind’s capacity to receive His truth. This process culminated with the entry of the God-man, Jesus Christ, into our world.
The story of everything God did to bring Jesus into our world is given to us in God’s written Word, the Bible. All along the way, God appointed, equipped, and inspired different witnesses
by the Holy Spirit to record His interactions with us and His instructions to us. The end result is that, even though they wrote as men of their times, their words recorded God’s timeless truth. Yet as important as that is, the ultimate purpose of the Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Living Word. Jesus Christ, being the God-man, is the perfect revelation of the Triune God and His will for us. The result of all this is that by knowing the written Word and being united by faith to Jesus, the Living Word, we can know God personally and receive His guidance for our lives in order to deal with the issues that confront us on a daily basis.
– CREATION –
We believe the Bible teaches that God is the Creator of all things. Creation is attributed to each of the members of the Trinity: to God the Father, to God the Son, and to God the Holy Spirit. They created the vast universe, the heaven and earth, and all of mankind. We believe that God’s creation is good in intention, design, and essence. Due to man’s sin, it is fallen, but due to God’s grace, it is redeemable. Not only did God create mankind, but He also did so in His own image and for His own purpose. As a result, we hold to the following statements: First, the origin of man is in the mind of God. Mankind is no accident but was created according to the purpose, plan, and pleasure of God. Second, humans have a unique place as the pinnacle of creation, reflecting the image of God. Both women and men together reflect the image of God—nothing else in creation is made in His image. Thus, we are both privileged and responsible. Third, we bear a special relationship to God and have a specific role in creation. God created us to be His children and to rule and have dominion over creation.
– SALVATION –
The story of our lives reveals that we need salvation. There are times in our lives that bring great joy and satisfaction—when it feels incredible to be alive. Then there are times when we realize life is short, and, eventually, whatever has brought us joy and satisfaction will fail us. Pain is inescapable, and we see the ultimate futility of all our accomplishments. In addition, we experience guilt from failing to live up to our own standards of right and wrong. In the midst of this, we believe that turning to God might help. However, if we have a clear picture of what God is really like, we find we are estranged from Him because we choose to sin. Each of us has chosen to break with God’s expectations, and we cannot turn off our desire to have things our way instead of His.
Jesus Christ brings us salvation by His life, death, and resurrection when we turn to Him in faith. Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross to secure forgiveness for our failure to live up to God’s will for us. Jesus was raised from the dead and now lives in us by the Holy Spirit to transform us in order to make us like Him. Thus our hearts are progressively changed. Knowing Jesus is not a ticket to a trouble-free life, we find that doing God’s will increasingly becomes our joy and satisfaction. Best of all, we are promised this satisfaction will continue and we will experience unending joy because we are destined to live forever beyond this life with our God, loving Him and being loved by Him for all eternity.
– GRACE, FAITH, & WORKS –
What is perhaps the best known Bible verse, John 3:16, lays the foundation for salvation through faith: “…whoever believes in him shall not perish but has eternal life.” Such belief is effective because of God’s love for us—a love we do not deserve (grace). The apostle Paul expands upon this idea in his letters to the various churches. For example, Romans 3:21-26 clearly states that righteousness comes by grace through faith and that no one deserves and/or earns it, but attains it only by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-10 provides a clear and concise statement of the doctrine of salvation by grace evidenced by good works, which are ordained by God. All of the fullness of our salvation, starting with forgiveness on through our eternal destiny, is granted to us by grace through faith.
Good works are important and expected by God. Our works cannot earn salvation, but they are the result of it. These works are a primary means by which we return God’s love to Him. Furthermore, the Bible clearly states that good works are the evidence of a genuine saving faith in God.
– BAPTISM –
Becoming a Christian is a process that begins by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, with baptism as our response to Christ’s offer of forgiveness and new life. Baptism is the public acknowledgement of our faith in Jesus’ laying down His life and taking it up again for our sake. In baptism we embrace our new identity in Christ by coming forward and essentially saying, “Count me in. I’m done with my old life; I’m here to do God’s will.”
The New Testament clearly instructs us that baptism is not optional and should immediately follow an understanding of God’s plan and a willingness to believe and follow it. Yet baptism is not something we do that earns God’s favor or places Him in our debt; instead, it is simply the climax of placing our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Though many church traditions practice infant baptism, there is no precedent for it in the Bible. Every specific example of baptism in the New Testament was done by immersion after a person’s decision to follow Christ. Believers who were “sprinkled” as children or adults should still be immersed into Christ since the act of immersion most fully captures the reality of our identification with Jesus in His death and our transformation in being raised up to new life in Him by His resurrection. This doesn’t invalidate their past experience or standing as Christians; instead, it is an act of obedience based on a fuller understanding of God’s will.
– THE CHURCH –
The word “church” can have many different meanings depending on its use; however, its most important definition is the biblical one. When the New Testament refers to the Church, it means a “called out assembly.” This doesn’t mean that everyone who attends worship services or is a member of a local congregation is a Christian; instead, this “called out assembly” is made up of all those united to Jesus Christ by their ongoing faith. The Church is central to God’s plan because in Christ we have been chosen to be God’s people. Because we are now God’s people, we are called out together to serve Him, build each other up, be His agents in the world, and live in holiness.
Our Father started the Church fifty days after Easter when He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who had trusted in Christ. Ever since, the Holy Spirit has been present in the members of the Church. His presence in us binds us to each other and makes us one as He makes us like Christ. He provides every member with special gifts to contribute to the ongoing work of the Church. Our service through the Spirit is worship because service is a spiritual sacrifice.
– ROLE OF ELDERS –
The story of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments includes the stories of those He set apart to lead and care for His people. In the New Testament, elders are set apart to serve God and His people in this way. Elders at Richwoods Christian Church must take responsibility for 1) personal growth, 2) prayer, 3) purpose (issues of mission and vision), 4) principles (developing policy to govern the church), 5) protection (evaluating issues of doctrinal purity and discipline), 6) pastoral care (care-giving and personal issues within the body), and 7) problem solving.
There are various types of leaders in the church, but the elders hold the ultimate responsibility for overseeing the congregation. Their ultimate goal is to present everyone they serve complete in Christ in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
– NON ESSENTIAL DOCTRINES –
– COMMUNION –
The night Jesus was betrayed He gave specific instructions for a celebration which was to continue down through the ages in His church. As He served His disciples bread and wine as a part of the Jewish Passover ceremony, He directed them to gather together and eat and drink those elements from that point forward in remembrance of Him.
This act of remembering is a special kind of remembering. It is not simply calling to mind a memory from someone else’s past. This kind of remembering means Jesus is making Himself present and offering Himself to us. If we participate, in faith, our relationship with Him is renewed in a manner which makes Jesus sacrifice and resurrection a living reality in our present and not a dead event in the past.
– ESCHATOLOGY –
The Bible clearly teaches that Christ shall return, that only God knows the time of His return, and that we are living in the “last days” or “end times.” We are waiting for Christ’s return. The Bible also clearly states that the main priority concerning the end times is not to be infatuated with times, dates, and seasons, but simply to be “on guard” and “ready” for that day and hour. Beyond those basics, there are many schools of thought concerning the specific aspects of the “last days” or “end times,” none of which can be conclusively proven by scripture. As we approach the book of Revelation we need to take into account its historical and literary context so that we do not interpret what is meant to be symbolic and make it literal. The book of Revelation was written to encourage persecuted Christians in the first century, describing events that took place in the first century and it does not depict current events. Thus, we believe all “messianic” prophecies found in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ revealed in the New Testament. We believe the concept of a “Rapture” preceding the “second coming” of Christ and a literal thousand year reign of Christ, are in all likelihood incorrect (while these views are very popular today they were never articulated until the late 1800’s). While we firmly take these positions, we do so in a spirit of humility, for we strongly believe that differing eschatological “end times” theology should not become divisive between Christians.
– SPIRITUAL GIFTS –
We believe that God gives spiritual gifts to every believer. These gifts vary in number, function, and purpose. We believe that God still imparts and enhances these gifts into the lives of believers, where they serve to glorify Him and to build up the church body. Of all the gifts the most controversial and potentially divisive is the supernatural gift of tongues and interpretation. We believe that God can still use this gift in the lives of believers, but we do not practice it in our services for the following reasons: It is for personal edification more than the whole church, we are to focus on building up others, not ourselves, it can confuse unbelievers in the service, and ideally it is not meant to be used in the worship service. Therefore, we do not forbid or deny this gift but we do not practice it in group settings and we encourage those who believe they have this gift to use it only in private prayer and meditation to God. Another controversial gift is the gift of supernatural healing. This gift was used by Jesus and the apostles to prove that their authority was from God. The use of this gift is still documented, although rarely, and usually in the same sort of circumstances. We believe that God works through the miracles of modern medicine today just as surely as He is capable of supernatural healing. Therefore, anyone who requires extended medical attention and/or is not miraculously healed of any or every ailment should not be considered to be lacking or deficient in faith or the presence of the Holy Spirit.
– CONDITIONAL SECURITY –
The concept of eternal security is the belief that once a person has been “saved” through a redeeming faith in Christ, that person cannot lose the gift of salvation. Another description of this belief is the term “once saved, always saved.” Accepting or rejecting this concept is not generally regarded as an essential doctrine in our church because the essential beliefs in the divinity of Christ, his resurrection redeeming grace are not questioned. In addition, the matter of eternal security is not directly discussed in the Bible, even though the Bible does encourage us to be secure in our faith and not walking in fear. Yet, the Apostle Paul consistently reminds us that a Christian’s earthly life is comparable to a long marathon and not to a quick sprint. With these admonishments, Paul appears to warn believers that continuing to sin or starting to sin again, without repentance, can cause a believer to fall away. Paul laments that even he could be “disqualified for the prize.” Furthermore, some biblical verses caution us that a sinful believer is considered worse in God’s eyes than a sinful unbeliever. As a result, we believe in what we call “Conditional Security”, which simply states that a person can choose to walk away from a saving faith in Christ, but they should be secure in their faith and not be afraid of losing their salvation with every stumble. Ultimately God alone is the gracious and righteous judge. The bottom line is that the Bible is filled with warnings about “falling away” and we believe those warnings are there for a reason. Some Biblical references for Conditional Security are as follows; Mat 12:31-32, Luke 8:13-14, John 15:1-8, Acts 5:11, 20:30, Romans 8:12-13, 14:15-20, 1 Cor 9:27, 10:12, 2 Cor 13:5, 1 Tim 1:19-20, 4:1, Heb 2:1-4, 6:4-6, 10:19-39, 12:14-17, Jas 5:19-20, 2 Pet 2:1,20-21, Rev 2:1-7. Verses used to support the view of Eternal Security are; John 3:36, 10:27-30, Romans 8:29-30, 37-39, 11:29, Eph 4:30, 2 Tim 1:12, 4:18, Heb 7:25, 1 Pet 1:3-5, 2 Pet 1:10-11, 1 John 2:19, 3:9, Jude 24.
– POLITICAL OPINIONS –
A person’s political beliefs are not essential to a saving faith in Christ and are not essential doctrine in our church. However, because governments are only in power through God’s plan and approval, the bible does say that a believer should submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1). Political systems come and go through history and are of earthly importance not eternal importance. This doesn’t mean that some of these beliefs and systems are moral or that they follow the Bible’s teaching of fair treatment to others. Jesus himself, however, accepted people who held views that were politically unacceptable in his day. Without hesitation, Jesus embraced slave owners, a tax collector, Samaritans, and a Roman occupation soldier.
– WOMEN IN MINISTRY –
The church encourages any person male or female to exercise his or her spiritual gifts, to be involved in corporate prayer, leadership, and teaching. They must demonstrate submission to the Lord Jesus Christ and the attitude of a servant toward others. In regard to the position of deacons (ministry and small group leaders) in the church, we believe that women may serve along with men. The biblical support for women serving as deacons is seen in Romans 16:1, 3, 7 where Paul specifically names Phoebe and other women who are hard at work for the Lord. As a result at RCC we have women present communion meditations and serve communion, as well as women who serve in leadership positions. On the other hand, in regards to the position of elders in the church, only men should serve as elders. Two passages that support this view are: 1Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9. Women can hold any position in the church they desire, except the position of elder. We respect that others choose to interpret these verses differently and it is not our intent to be biased, but our understanding of these passages lead us to stand on this conviction.