What We Believe
CEFC's Theological Distinctives
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:
"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.
"Christ alone" as God's unique Son could bear our sins as our substitute. Only through him can anyone approach God acceptably.
"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.
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.
Statement of Doctrinal Beliefs
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises,
The Human Condition
We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God's saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus-Israel's promised Messiah-was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
The Work of Christ
We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His perfect life, atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone.' They are united by the Holy Spirit In the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
We believe that God's justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God's Word, the Spirit's power, and fervent prayer in Christ's name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ's commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
We believe in the personal and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
Response and Eternal Destiny
We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.