What We Believe

CEFC's Theological Distinctives

Our denomination's twelve point doctrinal statement is available at the bottom of this page. It covers the "basics" on which most evangelical Christians agree. But the points here describe some important distinctives of our Elverson congregation.

The Grandeur and Glory of God
 
God is infinitely above us, his thoughts beyond ours, "his paths beyond all tracing out." He is by far the most important person in the universe. We exist for him, not vice versa. Worship is not primarily to comfort us but to magnify him. Yet amazingly, God has arranged that what glorifies him benefits us. Only as we lose ourselves in admiring and serving him do we discover true life, and stumble upon real joy. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen" (Rom 11:36).

The Absolute Sovereignty of God Over All Things
Some people view God and Satan as equally matched in an arm-wrestling contest. At times Satan wins and bad things happen; on other days God wins, and good things occur. But the Bible teaches that nothing ever takes place apart from God's holy plan. Sorrow, pain, joy, pleasure -- all are ordained by God for our good and his glory. "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?" (Lam 3:38). "...I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isa 45:7). "The Lord works out everything for his own ends, even the wicked..." (Prov 16:4). Yet amazingly, because he is infinitely powerful and good, God accomplishes his own ends in a manner totally without sin and without forcing his creatures to act against their wills.

Jesus Christ as the Theme of the Entire Bible
The Old Testament (the first half of the Bible) largely tells of creation, mankind's fall into sin, and God's dealings with the nation of Israel. But these are told to lay the foundation for the New Testament story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, the Old Testament is a book about Jesus. A faithful handling of any Old Testament passage will always point in some way to him. True, God loves the Jewish people and hints at future plans for them as a race. But Jews are saved -- and always have been -- only as they are "grafted into" Christ, and Gentiles are included in the promise that "all those who believe are children of Abraham" (Rom 11:24; Gal 3:7).

The Five "Solas" of the Reformation
For centuries following the earliest years of Christianity, the church seriously drifted from core biblical doctrines. By the Medieval period, Europe languished in deep spiritual darkness. Biblical knowledge decreased even as pomp in public worship increased. As in our day, "spirituality" was high, but knowledge of God's Word was low. But a remarkable return to scriptural roots was born in the sixteenth century under Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others. This return came to be called the Reformation. The Reformation's major scriptural re-discoveries were summarized by five Latin phrases which capture well the message of salvation:

Sola Scriptura
"Scripture alone" teaches us God's way of salvation. The Bible's every word is God-breathed. It alone (as opposed to any man or any church) is the final authority on all matters it addresses. Only there can we learn what God requires of us for salvation.

Solus Christus
"Christ alone" as God's unique Son could bear our sins as our substitute. Only through him can anyone approach God acceptably.

Sola Fide
"Faith alone" is how we receive this salvation -- not through faith plus any shred of human merit. We must abandon every other plan of self-salvation in favor of totally depending on Christ's work on the cross.

Sola Gratia
God's "grace alone" provides salvation from start to finish, both Christ's accomplishment of salvation and the Holy Spirit's applying it to us. Nothing in ourselves can commend us to him.

Soli Deo Gloria
"Glory to God alone" for our salvation -- for we contribute nothing.

These and other important doctrinal positions are more fully developed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) and the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742). These two confessions are nearly identical except that Westminster holds to infant baptism, and Philadelphia to believer's baptism -- both of which are practiced by our church (according to the conscience of the parents). All CEFC pastors and elders must affirm one of these confessions. Copies are available from the church office.


Our Denomination's Doctrinal Statement

Below is the twelve-point Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America. It was framed to promote "unity in essentials and liberty in non-essentials" -- that is, to affirm the Bible's core doctrines while allowing freedom of conscience on important but secondary doctrines. We have footnoted some of the statements to give further clarity to our understanding of that particular statement.

1. We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men, and the divine and final authority for Christian faith and life. (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21)

2. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (1 John 5:7; 2 Cor. 13:14; Matt. 28:19-20; Heb. 4:14; 1 John 2:1)

3. We believe that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is our High Priest and Advocate. (John 1:1, 14; Is. 7:14; Luke 1:35; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Matt 28:5,6; Heb. 4:14; 1 John 2:1)

4. We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and during this age to convict men, regenerate the believing sinner*, and indwell, guide, instruct and empower the believer for godly living and service. (John 13:14, 16:7-8,17; Titus 3:5; Eph. 1:13; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:11-14; Rom. 12:4-8) 
* This is not to be taken as addressing the question of the order in which saving faith and regeneration occur.

5. We believe that man was created in the image of God, but fell into sin and is therefore lost, and only through regeneration by the Holy Spirit can salvation and spiritual life be obtained. (Gen. 1:26-27, 3:6; Rom. 5:12, 6:23)

6. We believe that the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and such as receive Jesus are born of the Holy Spirit*, and thus become children of God. (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Col. 1:20; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:25; John 14:6; Eph. 2:8-9; John 3:3)
*This is not to be taken as addressing the question of the order in which saving faith and regeneration occur.

7. We believe that water baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances to be observed by the Church during the present age. They are not, however, to be regarded as means of salvation.*
*This statement allows individual freedom of conscience to be baptized in our public services by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. It also allows individual freedom of conscience to adhere either to "believer’s baptism" or to "covenant infant baptism." Accordingly, in the public services of our church we will provide for both practices.

8. We believe that the true Church is composed of all persons who, through saving faith in Jesus Christ, have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit* and are united together in the body of Christ, of which He is the head. (Eph. 1:22-23, 2:20-22; Col. 1:18)
*This is not to be taken as addressing the question of the order in which saving faith and regeneration occur.

9. We believe that only those who are members of the true Church shall be eligible for membership in the local church.* (Acts 6:1-5; Rev. 20:11-15)
*This is not to be taken as assuming that a church can infallibly determine the spiritual state of an applicant for membership. Rather, acceptance into membership is based upon a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and a lifestyle that does not blatantly contradict that profession.

10. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head of the Church, and that every local church has the right under Christ to decide and govern its own affairs. (Eph. 1:22-23)

11. We believe in the personal, premillenial and imminent* coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that this "Blessed Hope" has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer. (Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:16-18; Titus 2:13; Matt. 24:44)
*While strongly affirming our Savior's bodily return, we do not require adherence to a "premillenial" or "imminent" (that is, possible at any moment) return. Community Evangelical Free Church's historical practice as far back as its founding fathers has been to allow freedom on this point for both members and leaders.

12. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord; of the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment. (Rev. 20:6; Luke 4:14; John 5:28-29)

Although such is not the case for the general membership, we require that all pastors and elders be able to affirm either the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.