Understanding the Bible

Chapter 6- Major Bible Doctrines (in brief)
The list of Bible Doctrines (teachings) included here is just a sampling of the subjects upon which the Bible speaks. Some of these topics will clarify things that were discussed in previous lessons (on certain 'Bible Themes'). However, most topics have not been discussed previously in these lessons. These doctrines are further developed, where appropriate, in the various Book Notes studies. For additional topical studies on these and other Bible doctrines, see Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth and 12 Bottles of Milk for New Believers.
[The doctrinal summaries below are adapted from the ''Articles of Faith'' of the Bible Fellowship Church (dated 1981).]
First things--Grace things--Church things--Last things--
The ScripturesElectionThe ChurchResurrection
God the FatherSalvationEvangelistic MissionChrist's Second Coming
God the SonRepentanceThe Ordinances-The Judgments
God the Holy SpiritRegeneration- - BaptismThe Millennium
CreationJustification- - The Lord's SupperThe Eternal State of Man
SatanSanctificationFinal Authority
SinPerseverance of Saints
Human Responsibility
The Scriptures (a brief summary of Lesson 1 and Lesson 2)-
The Holy Bible, as originally written, was inspired by God, both verbally (in its words) and plenarily (in its entirety). Because it was written by men who were under the Holy Spirit's control, the Bible consists of truth without any mixture of error for its matter. The sixty-six books of the Bible, with no additional revelation, are the true center of Christian union and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions shall be tried. 2Timothy 3:16,17; 2Peter 1:19-21
     God has supernaturally preserved His Word, down through the centuries, through a multitude of copies and translations of the inspired autographs. However, no single translation of the Scripture can claim inspiration.
     For several reasons, the King James Version is the primary translation referenced in these studies. While we regard the KJV as a dependable and trustworthy version of the Bible, we recognize that no translation is absolutely transparent, and that other translations may be helpful for understanding the text as given in the original languages. We also recognize that some translations are more reliable than others. Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Psalm 12:6,7; Psalm 119:89
God -
In Lesson 3, we learned that God is Triune. The One True God has revealed Himself to us in three Persons. Here we will look briefly at each of the Persons of the Godhead individually. However, in doing so, let us not forget that the three Persons are inseparable in essence.
The Triune God, according to His sovereign will, created out of nothing and out of things that He had made, by immediate and mediate action, the universe and worlds and all that is in therein (Gen 1:1,2; see also 1:3-2:3; Heb 11:3). He is the Governor and Upholder of the creation, by His wisdom and by the word of His mighty power (Col 1:16,17).
Satan is a created angelic being who fell from his first estate (Isa 14:12-17; Jude 1:6). He is the god of this age, ruling by the permissive will of God (Eph 2:2; 2Cor 4:4). He exercises authority over the unsaved, tempts the believer to sin and continually accuses the brethren (believers) before the throne of God (1The 3:5; Rev 12:10b).
Satan has been defeated by the finished work of Christ on Calvary. During the Millennial Reign of Christ, Satan will be confined to the abyss (Rev 20:2,3) to be released at the end of that period to lead the armies of evil against God. He will be finally judged and doomed to the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
Sin is any lack of conformity to the will of God (1Joh 5:17a; Jam 4:17), or transgression of the Law of God (1Joh 3:4; Jam 2:10). Sin separates man from God incurring His wrath and judgment; and it is manifest in the selfishness, rebellion and the total depravity of man's conduct and behavior before God and man. Sin is the cause of the curse and defilement of the created universe (Rom 8:22; Gen 3:17,18).
Human Ability and Responsibility-
In his original creation, man was endowed with ability to will and to do good or evil, and was accountable for his willing and doing (Gen 2:16,17).
But by the fall of Adam, man lost his ability (apart from God's grace, Eph 2:1-3) to will and to do those things necessary to a right relationship to God (Rom 3:11; 8:8); however, he is still accountable to God for obedience to all His commands (Rom 2:6-10; Acts 17:30). Man has not lost his ability to make decisions (Deu 30:11,19), but left to himself man acts only in accordance with his fallen sinful nature (Rom 3:10,12; Jer 13:23; Eph 2:1-3).
Only by God's infinite grace can man will or do anything necessary to his salvation (Rom 9:16). God, by that grace, saves men (Jam 1:18) whom He causes to will and to do good: however, He does this without nullifying man's ability to act responsibly (Php 2:12,13).
Election is a free act of the sovereign God in which from eternity (Eph 1:4; 1Pet 1:2), and for reasons known only to Himself (Mat 11:27), and apart from any goodness in man (2Tim 1:9), He graciously chose from among the fallen mankind a people unto salvation, that they might be conformed to Christ's image (Eph 4:13). Those so chosen He redeemed by His Son (2The 2:13) and seals by His Spirit (Eph 1:13). Yet, God's election does not void a man's free will and responsibility in regard to salvation (see next topic).
In the Gospel of Christ, salvation is offered to all men (Joh 3:16) and is received by grace through faith, and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit (Joh 16:8), apart from human works or merit (Eph 2:8,9). Salvation centers in a person, Jesus Christ, and receiving Him (Joh 1:12) includes the remission of sins on the ground of His shed blood (Eph 1:7), the imputation of His perfect righteousness (1Cor 1:30), the reception of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9b), and the impartation of eternal life (1Joh 5:11,12).
[For more on Salvation (including Election, Regeneration, Justification and Sanctification) see chapters 6-10 in Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
Repentance unto life is a voluntary act of man (Luk 24:47; Acts 17:30), accomplished by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God. Repentance consists of a knowledge of sin (Joh 16:8), a sense of guilt and corruption which results in the confession and forsaking of sin, and a turning to God (1The 1:9).
Regeneration, or the New Birth (Joh 3:3,6,7; 1Pet 1:23), is an instantaneous creative act of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), whereby divine life is imparted to those who are dead in sin, making them members of the family of God (Joh 1:11-13; 2Cor 5:17; Jam 1:18).
Justification is the act of God's grace whereby the sinner is declared righteous solely through faith (Rom 5:1,2; Acts 13:39) in the redemptive work of Christ (Rom 8:33,34); by this action, the righteousness of Christ is imputed (Rom 5:18; 2Cor 5:21), sin is pardoned and the sinner is restored to divine favor (Isa 55:7).
Sanctification is a progressive work of the Holy Spirit in the believer (2Cor 3:18) which purifies the life (1The 4:3) and conforms the whole man to the image of Christ as the Word of God is believed and obeyed (Joh 17:17). It begins at regeneration (1Cor 6:11), continues throughout the individual's life on earth (Eph 4:24,26,27) and reaches its completion at the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ (1The 5:23).
In the NT, believers are frequently referred to as 'saints' because they are the 'sanctified' ones.
Perseverance of the Saints-
Salvation is the work of God, from its commencement to its consummation (Rom 8:29,30). Those who have been regenerated by the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit become partakers of the divine nature (2Pet 1:4). They are preserved by the power of God (Php 1:6; 1Pet 1:5) so that they shall never totally or finally fall away (Joh 10:27-29; 1Cor 1:8; 1Joh 2:19), but shall persevere unto the end (2The 3:3,4).
     Note: The terms "Election" and "Predestination" are often confused. However, a careful reading of scripture shows that Election concerns the process by which lost sinners are 'chosen' and brought into God's family through regeneration by faith in Christ. Predestination describes the incontrovertible purposes that God has for His born-again children. Nothing can remove His children from His family (they will Persevere by His Grace). Nothing can prevent His children from reaching mature 'sonship,' which is the promised inheritance (their Sanctification is certain). Observe that wherever the word 'predestination' occurs, the context relates to those who are already among the 'elect' (Rom 8:29,30; Eph 1:5,11; also see 1Cor 2:7 where 'ordained before' is the same Greek word).
The Church-
The Church is the body of which Christ is the Head (Col 1:18a). All those redeemed by His blood (1Pet 1:18,19) and born of His Spirit are members of that body and are in mystical union and communion with Christ (Rom 6:5,6) and fellow believers (1Cor 1:10). The Church is universal and local, visible and invisible. The visible Church consists of all those professing faith in Christ. The invisible Church is composed of all those born of the Spirit (1Cor 12:13).
The purpose of the Church is to edify {ie., build up} the saints (1Cor 12:7,11) and to evangelize the world (Mat 28:19,20).
The Head of the Church administers the affairs of His body through overseers chosen by Himself and selected by the people (Eph 4:11,12).
A properly constituted local Church must include the ministry of God's Word, the observance of the ordinances, the oversight by officers (1Pet 5:2,3,5), and the exercise of discipline (Mat 18:17). The overseers of the Church are to be prayed for, obeyed and honored (Heb 13:7,17,24a).
[It is important to distinguish between God's promises & purposes for the Church, and His promises & purposes for Israel. See 'The Jew, the Gentile & the Church,' chapter 1 of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
The Evangelistic Mission of the Church-
The Church has been commissioned by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to all nations (Mat 28:19,20; Acts 1:8). Each local church and every believer bear responsibility to this commission (1Pet 3:15).
In the Gospel, God has clearly revealed the only way of salvation, which is sufficient for and applicable to the whole lost race of mankind (1Joh 2:2). Based on His infinite and perfect love, and His expressed desire that all men be saved (Joh 3:16; 1Tim 2:3,4), He bids the Church that with urgency, compassion and persuasion, it proclaim the gospel to all people and invite them to believe (2Cor 5:18-20).
It is the duty and privilege of everyone who hears the gospel to repent and receive its merciful provisions (Acts 17:30; Rom 10:13). Those who do are saved (Acts 16:31; Joh 5:24), and those who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault (Joh 3:36; Luk 13:3; Rom 2:5).
The Ordinances- Ordinances are to be differentiated from ''sacraments.''
We participate in Baptism and the Lord's Supper because the Lord has 'ordained' {ie., appointed} that we do so. These symbolic practices remind us of spiritual truths, which have been completely fulfilled for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Participation in these ceremonies conveys neither grace nor merit to the participant. Rather, such participation provides opportunity to reflect upon, and testify to what He has done for us...
The Final Authority for the Church-
As we have seen, Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His Body (Eph 1:22,23). Therefore, He is the only true Authority over it (Col 1:18). It is He who gives each believer a place of service within the body and who equips each member for the work that He has given them to do. He has given some men responsibility to lead, teach and prepare others for the work which He desires the Body to fulfill (Eph 4:4-13). Such leaders are instructed to serve humbly, in conscious submission to the Lord, taking care not to usurp authority that does not belong to them (1Pet 5:1-5; Mat 20:25-28). Nevertheless, we are warned that false leaders will gather followers to themselves, with their perverse teachings (Acts 20:28-31).
     Although we anticipate the Lord to return to earth at any time, the One who holds all authority is not physically present with us today. By what means can the Church be kept separate from false teaching and perverse living? By what authority can we discern truth from error? Through the Bible, the written Word of God (Joh 17:12-17), which contains "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), and "the Faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3,4). God has given us this Book as a foundation for the Faith, which rests upon Christ, in whom the Church is framed, and who is Himself the capstone of God's purposes (Eph 2:19-22).
     The person and work of Christ is the primary focus of the Bible (Psa 40:7; Joh 5:39; Luk 24:27). He Himself is referred to as the Word of God (Joh 1:1-3). In Him, the message of the prophets finds completion. He Himself is the final Word to mankind (Heb 1:1-3; 2Cor 1:20).
     Through the pages of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit opens to us the things concerning Christ, guides the believer "into all truth" (Joh 16:13), and applies it to every area of life (2Tim 3:15-17).
     Whereas Christ (who is the subject and essence of the Word of God) personally sealed the canon of Scripture, there is nothing more that could or should be written (Rev 22:18-21). Therefore, for all questions of doctrine and conduct, the Bible is the final authority, on earth, for the Church of Christ (Isa 8:20; Psa 19:7,8; 2Tim 3:15-17). Furthermore, the Lord Himself works actively in the hearts and lives of His people as they assimilate His Word (1The 2:13; Heb 4:12; 1Pet 1:23).
The bodily resurrection of Christ is the basis for the resurrection of man (Joh 11:25). At the return of the Lord, the bodies of the righteous dead will be raised, and the living believers will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air (1The 4:14-17). Believers will, at the resurrection, receive spiritual and immortal bodies like unto Christ's own glorious body (Php 3:20,21; Job 19:25-27).
The event of the resurrection is divided into two stages, separated by a period of a thousand years and differing both in respect to their subjects and their issues (Dan 12:2; Joh 5:28,29). The first resurrection includes only the righteous dead (Rev 20:5,6). The second resurrection is universal and occurs at the close of the millennium, when all the unregenerate dead are raised to be brought before the Great White Throne for judgment (Rev 20:13).
[For more on Resurrection, see 'The Two Resurrections of Dead Men', and 'The Five Judgments,' chapters 4 and 5 of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
The Second Coming of Christ-
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the personal visible, bodily return of our Lord to this earth (Joh 14:2,3; Acts 1:11) to conform believers to His image and to establish His millennial Kingdom. In connection with Christ's return, there will be the resurrection of the righteous dead (1Joh 3:2; 1Cor 15:51,52), the rapture of the saints (1The 4:13-18), the great tribulation (Mat 24:21), the salvation of Israel (Rom 11:25,26), and the inauguration of the millennial reign (Rev 20:6). Following the millennium there will be the resurrection and judgment of the unrighteous. The righteous will be eternally glorified with Him, the unrighteous will be eternally punished.
It is the believer's source of encouragement and comfort inspiring him to active service for Christ, and is a motive for purification and holy living (1Joh 3:3).
[For more on Christ's second coming, see 'The Two Advents of Christ', 'The Two Resurrections of Dead Men', and 'The Five Judgments,' chapters 3, 4 and 5 of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
The Judgments-
The Scriptures enumerate several judgments which differ as to the time, place, subjects and results. All judgment has been committed to the Son by the Father (Joh 5:22).
Through the death of Christ on the cross, the believer's sins have been judged and he has passed from death unto life (Joh 5:24). In no case do the redeemed come again into judgment concerning their eternal destiny. Each saint, however, will be required to give an account before the judgment seat of Christ regarding his works and conduct (Rom 8:1; 2Cor 5:10).
The unregenerate will be judged, condemned and banished to eternal damnation in the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15).
[For more on the Judgments, see 'The Five Judgments,' chapter 5 of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
The Millennium-
The Millennium is that aspect of the Kingdom of God that will be ushered in when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth to rule in righteousness. The, as yet unfulfilled, Messianic prophecies will then be completed (Jer 23:5-8; Isa 9:6,7). During this period, Satan will be bound, thus restricting his deceitful activities (Rev 20:1-3). The created universe will undergo a transformation (Isa 11:6-9; Rom 8:19-23) with universal prosperity and peace prevailing on earth (Isa 2:4; 35:1,2,7). The saints will reign with Christ (Rev 5:10) and the earth will be full of the knowledge and glory of the Lord (Isa 11:9; 45:22,23).
[For more on the Millennium, see 'The Seven Dispensations,' chapter 2 of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
The Eternal State-
There are two final eternal destinies for man, heaven for the righteous and penitent, and hell for the unrighteous and impenitent (Mat 25:46). At the Great White Throne judgment, all the enemies of God will be consigned to the place of eternal conscious punishment from which there is no escape (Rev 20:11-15). The new heavens and the new earth 'wherein dwelleth righteousness' shall be created (2Pet 3:10-13) as the final state in which the righteous shall dwell forever in the presence of God (Rev 21:3).

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