What is the Gospel?
The gospel is the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ invading the darkness of this world to rescue humanity and restore creation. It is the grand narrative of creation, fall, redemption and consummation ordained by God and orchestrated through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Christ’s crucifixion is the heart of the gospel. His resurrection is the power of the gospel. His ascension is the glory of the gospel.
Christ’s death is a substitutionary and propitiatory sacrifice to God for our sins. It satisfies the demands of God’s holy justice and appeases His holy wrath. It also demonstrates the profound riches of His sacrificial love and reveals His amazing grace. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. There is no other name by which men can be saved. At the heart of all sound doctrine is the cross of Jesus Christ and the infinite privilege that redeemed sinners have in glorifying God because of what He has accomplished. Therefore, we want all that takes place in our hearts, in our church and in our ministries to proceed from and be related to the gospel.
Our Basic Beliefs represent the most simple and foundational beliefs of Christian orthodoxy. They capture the basic contours of Christian theology. Anyone pursuing covenantal membership and baptism at RiverLife Chapel must agree with these beliefs.
- the Scriptures are true, authoritative and sufficient.
- there is only one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, who eternally exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- all things exist for the glory of God.
- all humanity—Christ excluded—is sinful by both birth and action.
- the deserved penalty for sin is physical and spiritual death.
- Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, was born of a virgin and is both fully God and fully human.
- Jesus Christ died as the sacrificial substitute to pay the penalty for sin.
- Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and will one day physically return.
- there will be a future physical resurrection of the dead. Only those who turn from sin and to Jesus in faith and repentance will be raised to eternal reward. Those who do not turn from sin and to Jesus will be raised to eternal punishment.
- only through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and repentance from sin can one be reconciled to God and experience true life and joy.
Our Theological Distinctives mark our convictions on areas that are debated even among Bible-believing, gospel-centered churches. Though agreement with these distinctives isn’t necessary for membership, we will preach, teach, govern and counsel on the basis of them.
Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom
God is sovereign over all things such that there is no aspect of reality outside of His ultimate rule. God is also a relational being with true love for every person. Therefore, although God has sovereignly initiated the salvation of mankind, He has not infringed upon human freedom to relationally respond to Him. We believe it is exceedingly good news that God desires the salvation of all, graciously offers salvation to all, and gives grace-enabled freedom to all. The cross is intended for all, sufficient for all, and offered to all. God graciously enables every human to freely accept or reject His saving grace. Through the Gospel, God invites everyone to receive His free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (Psalm 115:3, 135:6; Ephesians 1:3-14; See Thomas C. Oden quote below1).
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit empowers believers for Christian witness and service. The promise of the Father is freely available to all who believe in Jesus Christ, enabling them to exercise the gifts He sovereignly bestows for ministry and mission. The Holy Spirit desires to continually fill each believer with power to bear witness to the gospel and imparts His gifts for the edification of the body and the work of ministry in the world. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that we see exercised in the Scriptures have not ceased with the death of the last Apostle or the closing of the New Testament canon. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the first-century church, including miraculous gifts, are available today and are to be earnestly desired and practiced in an orderly manner and in submission to the authority of the Spirit speaking through the Scripture and manifesting through church leadership. The gifts of the Spirit are to flow from maturity of character and be expressed with the fruit of the Spirit. The healthy and orderly exercising of diverse gifts within a unified body is essential to the mission of the Church in the world today. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:1-16).
Deliverance from sickness is central to the redemptive work of Christ and is a blessing to be ardently sought with faith by all believers in conjunction with wise, practical care for one’s health. We humbly recognize that both the means of healing and the cause of sickness can be varied and complex, and that Scripture promises healing and yet records periods of illness without rebuke (John 11:4; John 9:3; 2 Timothy 4:20; 1 Timothy 5:23; Philippians 2:25-30). We understand that sickness is a type of suffering. We also acknowledge that the Bible abundantly affirms that God will allow periods of suffering in His people for the purposes of trying our faith, maturing our character, and bringing glory to His Name, as part of the common trials endured by people in a fallen world. We uphold that biblical faith is never a strenuous effort to merit something from God or an attempt to place Him under obligation to our will. Faith is rather a sincere admission of human weakness and utter submission to the will and grace of God. In contrast to emphasizing one's spiritual achievement, genuine faith emphasizes both the power of God and our abundant need for mercy. We affirm that great faith, as humble trust in God, may be demonstrated either by receiving divine relief from suffering, or divine strength for the patient endurance of it (Psalm 103:3; Isa. 53:4,5; Matt. 4:23, 8:16,17, 9:35; Mark 16:18; John 5:14).
The Complementary Roles of Men and Women
Men and women are joyously equal in essence, dignity and value, but are also different by divine design. Along with these differences we celebrate the countless similarities shared by men and women. We firmly uphold that both men and women are to develop every gift, talent and leadership role that is suitable to God’s general design and individual call. As part of God’s good created order, men and women are to have certain roles and responsibilities in the home and church that are different yet complementary, especially as it relates to teaching and authority. These role distinctions are God’s grace to man and woman and are to be equally valued, as well as protected, preserved and practiced for His glory and our joy. Although great diversity in ministry roles, gifts and leadership by both men and women is described throughout Scripture, the primary governing and teaching position of elder (or pastor/overseer) is consistently the prescriptive responsibility of men. Though church governance and public teaching remain the primary responsibilities of men, under the direction of the elders, the diverse leadership and teaching gifts of women provide an essential contribution in making disciples of Jesus Christ and are to be fully affirmed and joyously celebrated. We uphold The Danvers Statement (Genesis 5:2; I Timothy 2:11-13, 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 18:26; I Corinthians 11; Colossians 3:18-19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 5:12; Acts 2:17; I Corinthians 14:31).
Believer's Baptism by Immersion
Baptism is intended only for those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ and can give sufficient testimony to the basics of Christian beliefs. Also, we baptize by immersion because it is not only the original significance of the word, but also best symbolizes the reality to which baptism points—our death and resurrection in Christ (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 8:36).
We believe the Bible emphasizes God’s steadfast love, gracious empowerment and covenantal faithfulness. God will never abandon his people or fail to keep his salvation promises to those who genuinely trust in Christ. The Bible also calls all believers into a persevering relationship with God by remaining receptive to grace. Believers still struggle against the sinful nature and by periodic disobedience a believer can hinder his fellowship with God, lose his joy, mar his testimony and incur the Father’s loving discipline. However, every penitent believer who, through the empowerment of grace, perseveres in faith is kept secure by the power of God (see I. Howard Marshall quote below2; John 6:37-39, 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:13; Romans 11:22; Matthew 13:20-21; John 15:2; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Hebrews 3:6,12,14, 10:26-31; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:3,9-11, 3:14-17).
Jesus Models Our True Humanity
We believe that man’s greatest joy is found only in faithful obedience to God and that our enjoyment of Him is one of the chief means by which He is glorified. The Holy Spirit aims to convince believers of the joy of being conformed to the image of Christ. Although living like Jesus is the will and joyful blessing of God for all believers, through periodic disobedience a believer can hinder God's blessing. A loving obedience to God’s Word accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit is the genuine evidence of spiritual maturity and relational intimacy with Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 3:2).
― Thomas C. Oden, The Transforming Power of Grace, p. 135