A sound Statement of Beliefs addresses the questions of “which faith?”, “which beliefs?”, and “what understanding of Jesus”, thus providing the basis for unity in the body of Christ. Read our Statement of Beliefs.
You may have heard the question raised, “Why bother with a Statement of Beliefs” in the first place?” Won’t God sort it all out in the end anyway? “Why create the potential for division? These are good questions, and deserve good answers. Jesus said, “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 7:21). People who claim to be Christians understand themselves to be one in Jesus. But a question that emerged early on in the establishment of the church has been “which ‘Jesus’ are you following?” The Apostle Paul’s entire ministry was centered on the critical importance of understanding who Jesus was – and wasn’t. In Jesus’ own teachings, he asked his disciples first “who do other people say that I am”, and followed up by asking “who do you say that I am?” (Mat 16:13-20). A Statement of Beliefs defines the position of the body on this all-important question by looking at what is claimed about the authority of the Bible, the nature of man, the work of Jesus Christ, and the nature of God. To understand these things differently is to divide. While some differences can occur without division in the body, others cut at the core of who we claim to have unity in, and undermine the source of truth regarding these questions.
We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. To this day, there are so many notions of who Jesus is – a good teacher, a prophet, crucified, not crucified, resurrected, not resurrected, etc It isn’t faith in just any Jesus that saves; it’s faith in the true Jesus that saves.
If you are interested in having unity in Jesus, you first have to have a common understanding of who he is – and isn’t. It was important to Paul, it was important to Jesus, and it is of paramount importance to unity in the body of Christ today.
Doctrine isn’t something that we need to dwell on, but it should be in place to support our unity. By virtual of this fact, necessarily brings division; that is as it should be. Jesus himself said “Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51). He also said. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30). While the invitation of the Gospel is open to all mankind, many do not receive Jesus as Christ. Bear in mind, Christ is a title – not a last name. That title alluded to the messiah, prophesied throughout the pages of the Old Testament scriptures. Whatever we may believe about Jesus, if some know him as the Messiah and some don’t, we don’t have a single body. If some believe him to be God incarnate and some don’t, we don’t have a single body. We have the body of Christ along with others who may or may not be on a path to discovering the true Jesus, may or may not be on a path to discovering spirit in truth, and thus may or may not be on a path to having unity with the body of Christ.
So it is sound doctrine, the importance of which Paul emphasizes so plainly, that points us to a saving faith and unity in Christ. The account of Jesus’ warning in Mark 13:5-6 suggests a careful examination of who we believe him to be. Jesus expands on this again with a caution about false prophets and false christs. (Mark 13:21-23 and Matthew 24:24). And they are everywhere today. A Statement of Beliefs is a truth claim in response to these warnings.
“Theology (“doctrine” or “dogma”) is like the foundation of a house. A good foundation doesn’t guarantee that what you build on it will be good or will last; but a bad foundation almost guarantees future problems with whatever you build upon it. Good theology doesn’t guarantee a successful house church any more than a good foundation guarantees a successful house. But bad theology jeopardizes everything you and your house church seek to build on that foundation. The success of your (or any) house church will be determined by what you & I build on the good foundation we lay. And most of what is built will be “non-theological” in any technical sense.” – Neil Cole