by Matt Slick
Over the years, I've been asked to take a look at various websites of churches and/or religious organizations. I invariably gravitate towards the statement of faith. Unfortunately, not all websites have statements of faith. Of those that do, I find most are sufficient. However, occasionally I will find a statement of faith that is rather generic and woefully insufficient. So, how should we write a good statement of faith? I'd like to offer the following suggestions.
Of course, when delving into spiritual matters and seeking to accurately represent the word of God, prayer should be a part of the process. In fact, it should be the first thing we do. After all, we are asking for guidance.
Know what you believe
You can't write about what you don't know - though some try. You should know exactly what it is you believe so you can articulate it. Along this line of thought, I would recommend that people learn such terms as Trinity, hypostatic union, justification, sanctification, imputation, salvation, atonement, etc. Such words are theological as well as biblical. So, it helps to know what words to use. After all, words are the tools of theology.
Decide what areas are important
In order to do this, it helps to know what the essentials of the Christian faith are and are not. For example, the Trinity is an essential doctrine that defines the God of Christianity, but worshiping on Saturday or Sunday is not an essential doctrine since worshiping on either day does not make someone a Christian or not. This is important because the essential doctrines should be clearly defined, and the nonessentials should be approached with grace so that a variety of opinions are allowed.
Whenever possible, it is best to document your statement of faith with Scriptures. It is the word of God to which we must appeal in order to validate our faith. If your position cannot be found in Scripture, perhaps it should not be included in a statement of faith, unless, however, it is stated that such a position is not explicitly declared in Scripture but as an opinion.
Affirm and Deny
For clarity purposes it is best to affirm a doctrine and deny a heresy. In other words, declare what you affirm and also deny what you disagree with. So, an example would be in the doctrine of the Trinity. Here is a quote from the CARM Statement of Faith. Notice how it affirms and denies as well as provides Scripture.
"There is one God in whom are three eternal, distinct, simultaneous persons--the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. All three are the one God, coeternal, coequal, etc., yet there is only one God--not three gods--and not one person who took three modes, offices, or forms. (Isaiah 44:6, 8; 45:5; Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; Matt. 3:17; 28:19; Luke 9:35; 2 Cor. 13:14)."
Examples of poorly written statements
"We believe in God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit."
This statement is not clear at all. It does not affirm or deny the Trinity. In fact, Oneness Pentecostal people could affirm it, as well as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, yet they deny the Trinity. They do, however, use the same words but they have different meanings. Oneness Pentecostal theology says there is one person in the Godhead who took three different manifestations. Some of them say that the Father became Jesus who then became the Holy Spirit. The Mormons teach that God is only one of many gods and that there is a God the Father, another God who is called Jesus, and another God who is the Holy Spirit. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe in God the Father, but say that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, and the Holy Spirit is a force like radar. So, without clarification the statement is completely insufficient.
"We believe in salvation by grace."
The term salvation would need to be defined. In Mormonism salvation is universal resurrection. In Roman Catholicism salvation is by grace, but they mean that grace enables them to do good works by which they are then saved. It is not clear. Here is the CARM statement of faith on salvation:
"Salvation is being saved from the righteous judgment of God upon the sinner. Salvation is obtained by grace alone, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone (John 3:16) and not by our good works (Rom. 3:20; Eph. 2:8-9). We are chosen for salvation by God (2 Thess. 2:13)."
Please notice how salvation is defined and affirmed. Also, there is a denial so as to further clarify what the doctrinal statement means.
"We believe in the resurrection of Christ."
What kind of resurrection is intended? Is the resurrection physical, spiritual, or both? The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ is resurrected, but not physically. They say it was a spiritual resurrection. So, in order to exclude them from the statement of faith, precision is necessary. Please consider again the CARM statement of faith on this topic.
"Jesus Christ rose from the dead in the same body He died in after being in the grave for three days. He was raised in a glorified, physical body (still retaining his crucifixion wounds). He ascended bodily into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and rules heaven and earth. (John 2:19; 1 Cor. 15; Luke 24:39). Likewise, we Christians will be raised bodily from the dead and spend eternity with the Lord."
Advocate The Holy Bible. Decide and state that the Holy Bible is the only accurate Bible and authoritative Word of God. It alone is the final authority in determining all doctrinal truths (for example: not traditions or other writings). In its original writing, it is inspired, infallible and inerrant (See: II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21; Proverbs 30:5; Romans 16:25-26).
Explain the Trinity. Outline that God is eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit. These three are coequal and co-eternal (See: I John 5:7; Genesis 1:26; Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; Luke 1:35; Isaiah 9:6; Hebrews 3:7-11).
Lift-up Jesus Christ. Believe and present Jesus Christ as God the Son (the second person of the Trinity). On earth, Jesus was both 100% God and 100% man. Filled with The Holy Spirit beyond limit, He is the only man ever to have lived a sinless life. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, performed miracles, died on the cross for mankind and thus, took the punishment for our sins through the shedding of His blood. He rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and will return again in power and glory. (See: John 1:1,14, 20:28; I Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 9:6; Philippians 2:5-6; I Timothy 2:5).
Proclaim the Virgin Birth. Proclaim that Jesus Christ was conceived by God the Father, through the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) in the virgin Mary's womb; therefore, He is the Son of God (See: Matthew 1:18, 25; Luke 1:35; Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:27-35).
Explain redemption through faith in Christ. Realize that man was created good and upright, but by voluntary transgression he fell from grace (and each of us have sinned) so that: ones only hope of redemption is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (See: Genesis 1:26-31, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-21).
Tell about regeneration. Knowing God by being regenerated by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential (See: John 6:44, 65; Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5).
Proclaim salvation by receiving Jesus. Be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by His death, burial, and resurrection, as salvation is a gift from God, not a result of any of your good works or of any other human efforts, but so that you then "do work preordained that you should do" (Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 2:16, 3:8; Titus 3:5; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 9:22).
Declare the necessity of repentance. Make your own commitment to change your mind, being willing to turn around, in all areas of life, to follow Christ, which allows anyone, who will repent, to receive His redemption, and be regenerated by receiving His Holy Spirit. Thus, through true repentance we receive forgiveness of sin and appropriate salvation (See: Acts 2:21, 3:19; I John 1:9).
Present sanctification (being one of Christ's saints). Continue in the ongoing process of yielding to God’s Word and His Spirit in order to complete the development of Christ's character in you. It is through the present ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that the Christian is enabled to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus (See: I Thessalonians 4:3, 5:23; II Corinthians 3:18, 6:14-18, II Thessalonians 2:1-3, Romans 8:29, 12:1-2, Hebrews 2:11).
Explain the importance of Jesus' Blood. Accept and know that the sinless blood that Jesus Christ shed on the Cross of Calvary was in payment, for redemption, for all time -- for all who receive Him -- able to end all use of blood sacrifice, as it is 100% sufficient to cleanse all mankind of all sin. Jesus allowed Himself to be punished for both your sinfulness and your sins, enabling all those who believe to be free from the penalty of unforgiven sin, which is death (See: I John 1:7; Revelation 1:5, 5:9; Colossians 1:20; Romans 3:10-12, 23, 5:9; John 1:29).
Teach the indwelling of Jesus Christ. Realize that Christians are people who have invited the Lord Jesus Christ to come and live inside them or 'dwell' within them by His Holy Spirit so that each believer will: relinquish the sovereign authority of ones life over to Him in truth thus making Jesus the Lord (King and Leader) of ones life as well as Savior. Each believer puts ones trust in what Jesus accomplished for each of them when He died, was buried, and rose again from the dead (See: John 1:12; John 14:17, 23; John 15:4; Romans 8:11; Revelation 3:20).
Show the importance of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.Receive the promise of Pentecost; it is the promise of the Father, sent by Jesus after His Ascension, to abide with each and all believers, forever, to empower the Church to preach the Gospel throughout the whole earth (See: Joel 2:28-29; Matthew 3:11; Mark 16:17; Acts 1:5,2:1-4, 17, 38-39, 8:14-17, 10:38, 44-47, 11:15-17, 19:1-6).
Present the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.Desire The Holy Spirit being manifested in your daily life through a variety of spiritual gifts to build and to sanctify the church, to demonstrate the validity of the resurrection, to be able to conform to God's plan, and confirm the power of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The Bible lists of these gifts are not necessarily exhaustive, and the gifts may occur in various combinations. All believers are commanded to earnestly desire the manifestation of the gifts in their lives. These gifts always operate in harmony with the Scriptures and should never be used in violation of Biblical parameters. (See: Hebrews 2:4; Romans 1:11, 12 :4-8; Ephesians 4:16; I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6-7; I Corinthians 12:1-31, 14:1-40; I Peter 4:10).
Expound The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Agree with believers that The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through His Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of Jesus' Great Commission. Every person who is born of the Spirit is an integral part of the church as a member of the body of believers. There is a spiritual unity of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. (See: Ephesians 1:22, 2:19-22; Hebrews 12:23; John 17:11, 20-23).
- Follow Jesus in "Water Baptism": Profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the new convert is commanded by the Word of God to be baptized in water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (See: Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12, 36-38; 10:47-48).
- Take "The Lord's Supper": Partake as a believer in a unique time of communion in the presence of God when the elements of bread and grape juice (the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ) are taken in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross (See: Matthew 26:26-29; I Corinthians 10:16, 11:23-25).
- General prayer requests
- Salvation for yourself
- Salvation for a loved one
- Emotions/Concerns/Sexual problems/Disorders
- Pray for healing of the sick, thanking God that He has already provided it, giving Him the praise: expect to see examples of His healing power, as were illustrated in the life and ministry of Jesus, and included in the commission of Jesus to all His disciples, to as many as He shall call. This blessing of divine healing is given as a sign, which is to "follow believers". It is also a part of Jesus' completed work on the Cross and is one of the gifts of the Spirit. (See: Psalm 103:2-3; Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 16:17-18; Acts 8:6-7; James 5:14-16; I Corinthians 12:9, 28; Romans 11:29).
- Spiritual (John 3:3-11; II Corinthians 5:17-21; Romans 10:9-10).
- Mental and Emotional (II Timothy 1:7, 2:11; Philippians 4:7-8; Romans 12:2; Isaiah 26:3).
- Physical (Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:17; I Peter 2:24).
- Financial (Joshua 1:8; Malachi 3:10-11; Luke 6:38; II Corinthians 9:6-10; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 34:10, 84:11; Philippians 4:19).
Teach The Resurrection. Realize and receive Jesus Christ as physically resurrected from the dead in a glorified body three days after His death on the cross. In addition, both the saved and the lost will be resurrected; they that are saved to the resurrection of life, and they that are lost to the resurrection of eternal damnation (See: Luke 24:16, 36, 39; John 2:19-21, 20:26-28, 21:4; Acts 24:15; I Corinthians 15:42, 44; Philippians 1:21-23, 3:21).
Expect Heaven. The eternal dwelling place for all believers after passing from death in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is called Heaven.(See: Matthew 5:3, 12, 20, 6:20, 19:21, 25:34; John 17:24; II Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 11:16; I Peter 1:4).
Avoid Hell. Live your one life on earth for God in Christ, because the unbelievers will receive supreme justice, judged by the one merciful Judge, God, and sent to Hell, if they have not received and proclaimed His will on Earth, to then receive just punishment with the Devil and his Fallen Angels by eternal separation in darkness (See: Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 14:9-11, 20:12-15, 21:8).
Await the Second Coming, working as is preordained for each believer to do, being of service, until that day. Proclaim that Jesus Christ will physically and visibly return to earth for the second time to establish His Kingdom. This will occur at a date undisclosed by the Scriptures (See: Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 24:30, 26:63-64; Acts 1:9-11; I Thessalonians 4:15-17; II Thessalonians 1:7-8; Revelation 1:7).