These are the foundational ideas that drive how we operate as a church.
Sola Scriptura – The foundational principle that guides our every practice as a church (and as families) is the sufficiency of Scripture for everything pertaining to life (salvation) and godliness (sanctification)– 2 Pet.1:3-4 (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Lord Jesus is the grand theme of both the New and Old Testament Scriptures, which unifies all of the Bible (Luke 24: 27, Eph 1:9-10).
- The doctrine of the Trinity: In the One Creator are three distinct testifiers: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who each equally and uniquely possesses full deity. We further hold to the Complementarian form, ie., the Son and Holy Spirit are eternally subordinate in rank to the Father.
- The identity of Jesus Christ: His divinity (John 1:1-18), virgin birth (Luke 1:26-37, 2:6-7), sinless life (2 Cor 5:21), miracles (Acts 2:22), atoning death (Rom 5:8), resurrection (1 Cor 15:3-4), ascension and future return (Acts 1:9-11)
- Salvation is God’s gift to those who put faith in Christ. (Acts 15:11, Eph 2:8-9, John 14:6, Acts 4:12)
- The resurrection of the dead. For those who trusted in God, this is a resurrection to glorified undying bodies, and for the wicked, this is a resurrection to a permanent judgement (1 Thes 4:14, Dan 12:2, Matt 25:31-46)
- GCF holds to this maxim:
- Unity on the essentials
- Freedom on the non-essentials
- Charity/love in all things (Love restrains our freedom – Romans 14:15).
- Since this view is based on Romans chapter 14 we say we are a ‘Romans 14’ church.
- We regard these as essentials (a subset of the things listed in Hebrews 6:1,2):
- Jesus is the Christ (King, High Priest, Prophet)
- All subjects of our King, Jesus, must repent from the serious sins listed in the Bible (eg.: 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:8,27; 22:15).
- All believers put full faith in God as creator and promise-keeper (Hebrews 11)
- The resurrection – the dead will live again
- There will be an everlasting, permanent Judgement for those judged as wicked
- Although other issues may be foundational, even important, they are not essential for salvation. They are non-essentials. Among these are such things as:
- The process of salvation (Calvinism vs. Arminianism),
- Creation of the universe (Young-earth creation vs. Old-earth creation vs. Young Life),
- Involvement in politics (Republican vs. Democrat vs. neutral),
- Involvement in the military (pacifism vs. defense-only vs. ‘Just War Theory’),
- Preferred translations (King James vs. modern)
- We hold that Romans 14 implies that if a fellow believer holds to the essentials, then even though that person may also hold to diverse or minority views (the non-essentials), we will welcome that person in love as long as their views have some biblical support and their fellowship is peaceful. More than welcoming someone as a guest, we are to welcome such believers as servants of God who are acceptable to both God and man (Romans 14:18). Romans 14 grants everyone the freedom to follow one’s Bible-trained conscience, yet love for others in Christ restrains one’s actions so that we do not do things that make fellow Christians feel unwelcome in the congregation. Being a ‘Romans 14’ body does not mean that we avoid discussing controversial topics nor does this mean we ask our brothers and sisters to hold their views lightly. Rather we believe that Romans 14:5,22 implies we should all seek to be informed and committed to following our conscience without being inflammatory in our relationships. Any combative or divisive thoughts are to be kept between us and God alone. Our ‘vertical’ relationship with God encompasses all our personal beliefs but our ‘horizontal’ relationships with fellow believers are regulated by love.
- For a more in-depth explanation, see the following pdf: Loving Others Without Judging
The Local Church is a Gathering of Believers and the Household of God – The church is the household of God and the pillar and foundation of truth on the earth (1Tim 3:15). The plethora of “one anothers” (encourage, serve, love, exhort, admonish, etc.) and the other New Testament illustrations of a church–a flock and a body–indicate intimate relationships of mutual support. The gathering of the local church for edification, fellowship and worship is an essential activity of the church (Heb 10:25), but church life is more than superficial relationships and is not contained to a once-a-week activity. A local church is intended to be a family of families.
The Local Church is Strengthened, Led, and Guarded by Multiple Elders – The necessity for accountability and order within the body of Christ is clear in scripture. An important step in establishing and strengthening churches is the appointment of “elders” (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). Clear qualifications for these elders are given in scripture (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim 3:1-7) as well as standards for disciplining an elder (1 Tim 5:19-20) and submission to the elders’ authority in matters pertaining to the church (Heb 13:17). Elders should be able to teach, though some may be more gifted in this regard than others (1 Tim 5:17). Their main responsibility is protection and provision (shepherding) of the flock. The main thing they are to provide is “help for the weak” and instruction in the word (Titus 1:9) while protecting from false doctrines of men and evil influences that would draw people away from Christ (Acts 20:28, Rom 16:17-18, Heb 13:17, etc.). Although Scripture requires the flock to submit to elders, it discourages assertion of control/power by the elders and limits the jurisdiction of their authority. Submission of the flock is voluntary, not forced, as elders are to lead by example (1 Pet 5:1-4).
Both Men and Women are Called to Participate, Each in an Honorable, Orderly Way – 1 Cor. 14 clearly demonstrates that both men and women contribute when the church is gathered together. All can share in singing, praying and speaking at appropriate times as long as it builds up the congregation and does not disrupt (1 Timothy 6:3-5; Romans 16:17). Authoritative instruction is reserved for those men who have received the laying-on-of hands for teaching responsibilities (elders and teachers). Our understanding of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is that women must not act like Eve who pulled her husband off of his original godly course (Genesis 3:3). Thus when women speak during the gathering, whether in the time of edification or the prayer time, they must not do so in a way that impugns or undermines their husband (1 Corinthians 11:3) or the elders in the congregation (1 Timothy 3:11; 1 Corinthians 14:40; Hebrews 13:17). Likewise the men in authority should communicate and lead in a way that honors the men and women of the households they are addressing (Matt 20:25-26, 1 Peter 5:1-4). God wants us to guard healthy relationships where Christ-like love and honor is evident at all times to both the believers and any non-believers who may be watching.