god created all things through christ.
The good news is that God created all things through Jesus Christ, in an overflow of divine love, and thus created them all very good. All the vast universe is the theatre of God’s glory. The heavens declare this glory, and human beings were created to glorify the Creator in word and deed: by delighting in communion with God and with one another, by rejoicing in creation and the blessings of life on earth, and by loving and serving God and one another. This remains God’s purpose for humankind and is the reason why we exist. But humankind has fallen into sin, and sin brings us all under divine judgement. The good news is also that in Jesus Christ God has acted to redeem and sanctify us, and so restore us to the purpose of our being. Christ is thus our only hope and comfort, in life and in death. He reveals God’s nature, grace, will and promise of final victory over sin and suffering.
1. The Human Predicament
1.1 Human beings were created in the image of God, as creatures little lower than the angels. As the story of Adam and Eve portrays, however, the tragic paradox is that humankind has from the beginning yielded to temptation and turned away from God. Instead of trusting and obeying God we have rebelled against God’s holy will. In pride we have aspired to be like God, self-sufficient and autonomous, choosing our own moral laws. Instead of living with and for God, and so also for others, as human beings we have come to live primarily for ourselves.
1.2 Sin darkens our minds and perverts our very wills. All human beings are in bondage to sin, unable to rescue themselves and unable of themselves to turn to God to be rescued. The worst state is to believe in our own righteousness or moral superiority, as though we were not in radical need of grace and forgiveness.
1.3 Sin empties life of meaning and issues in despair. It makes us enemies of God, of one another, of our natural environment and even of ourselves. It grievously offends God, brings us all under God’s righteous wrath and just judgement, and threatens final alienation from God
2. God the Son, Revealer and Reconciler
2.1 The good news is that God does not abandon us to the judgement we deserve, but, in sovereign and free grace, breaks through our alienation and our blindness.
2.2 God alone can make God known. God did so in the history of Israel and does so above all in and through Jesus Christ. For Christ is God’s own eternal Wisdom and Word, by whom God made all things. As the Word he, alone, is the revelation of God become flesh, God’s self-communication, the visible representation of the invisible God, the human face of God in history. As such he is himself God and alone reveals God as God truly is. God is always transcendent, infinite, mysterious, beyond human comprehension, yet no other than what Christ reveals. As the Word, Christ is the Truth, and as the Truth he is the Way and the Life.
2.3 Jesus crowned his work for God’s coming rule by giving his life as a sin offering for the world. Because God condones no sin or evil, the guilt of sin demanded the death of the guilty. But, as one with the Father and in obedience to the Father’s own loving purpose, Christ suffered and died on the cross in our place as a sinless human being for sinful human beings, the righteous for the unrighteous, the Judge in place of the judged. As one with the human race, he took upon himself its sin and guilt and bore God’s judgement and wrath against it for our sakes. In him all were judged. In this way he exchanged his righteousness for our unrighteousness. Thus Jesus Christ became our High Priest, offering himself to God as an unblemished sacrifice for our sins. His blood atoned, once and for all, for all sin; no other sacrifice is needed, sufficient or acceptable to God. In this way God’s love triumphs over judgement.
2.4 Jesus not only suffered death for us but by his glorious resurrection overcame death for us. God raised him bodily, in time and space, as the first-fruits of those who have died and will rise again. Thus the victim of sin and death became for us the Victor over sin, death, Satan and all evil powers, inaugurated the new creation and brought us the free gift of eternal life.
3.God the Holy Spirit, Life giver & Sanctifier
3.1 The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and is one with God as a human spirit is one with a human being. The Spirit is the living, creative, personal and immediate presence and power of the transcendent God that extends into the world and is at work in it and in us. The Spirit is thus fully God in basic contrast to every other existing or supposed spirit, whether ancestral or supernatural.
3.2 The Holy Spirit is likewise the Spirit of Christ, his living presence and power. Through Christ God poured out the Spirit at Pentecost.
3.3 The Spirit was active in creation and is active in the new creation. The Spirit is the Giver of life and of new life. God comes to us and works in us always by the Spirit.
3.4 The Spirit resides in everyone who has faith in Christ, and Scripture calls us to be constantly filled with the Spirit.
3.5 The Spirit helps us to pray, moves us to worship and obey God, gives us faith and hope, pours the love of God into our hearts and brings forth the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit equips us with an abundance of gifts and talents to build up the Body of Christ and empowers us to serve and witness to Christ in the world. In all these ways the Spirit brings life and revival to, and through, the Church.
3.6 Through the Spirit God also guides us in our daily lives. But every claimed experience or guidance of the Spirit must be tested by the Word of God in Scripture.
4. Revelation, Scripture, Preaching & Personal Witness
4.1 In their own power human beings are unable to find and know God. No human intellectual or moral endeavours or spiritual or religious practices of any kind are able to bridge the abyss between God and humankind. For God reigns in infinite and transcendent majesty, and we are but finite creatures; God reigns in impregnable holiness, and we are sinners. We do not even have ears that can hear God speak to us.
4.2 By grace alone, however, God’s Word breaks through our spiritual deafness in the power of the Holy Spirit, convicts us of sin and moves us to repent and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
4.3 The Word of God is always God’s living Word that addresses us in real life, in the power of the Spirit, and points, or witnesses, to Jesus Christ. That Word in the most exact sense is thus the living and present Lord Jesus Christ himself addressing us. In his life, teaching, death, resurrection and exaltation God has spoken conclusively, so that the test of sound teaching is its accord with the gospel.
5.1 Baptism is preceded by repentance and confession of faith in Christ as the crucified and risen Lord (in the case of small children by confession by their parents or those actually raising them).
5.2 Baptism is with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It may be either by pouring on water (signifying spiritual cleansing) or by immersion (signifying dying to the old life of sin and being raised to new life). Baptism into God’s name signifies that we are called to be God’s people, in the world but no longer of it.
5.3 The risen Lord Jesus is our baptizer. Along with preaching or personal witness he uses baptism in water to call us by name, baptize us with the Spirit, unite us to himself, initiate us into the covenant of grace, wash away all our guilt, clothe us with his righteousness and give us new birth. Thus by baptism through faith we die and are buried with Christ, to die to sin and live as new people in him. By it Christ commissions us to take up our cross, follow him and witness to him. As the sacrament of renewal, baptism points forward to the cosmic renewal to come and seals us for the day of redemption.
6. The Lord’s Supper
6.1 The Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, as a fourfold act of taking, giving thanks, breaking, and sharing bread and wine that signify his body and blood. Just as baptism is normally in the face of the congregation, so the Lord’s Supper is normally a communal meal.
6.2 The exalted and living Lord Jesus Christ himself presides as the host at the Lord’s Supper. In that it succeeds the Passover meal, the Supper commemorates the Exodus as a liberation from oppression. It also reminds us of Jesus’ fellowship at table with sinners and outcasts. But above all other past events it commemorates and proclaims his death and resurrection as the ground of our salvation. Through the Spirit Christ himself is truly present in the power of his crucifixion and resurrection and feeds us with his very body and blood in the act of Holy Communion. Thus the bread and wine are not empty but sacramental signs that exhibit the real presence of Christ, who by the Spirit conveys to the believer what they promise.
6.3 Only those who know they are unworthy of the Supper, grieve for their sins, humbly trust in God’s promise of grace and are at peace with one another are ready to come to the Table. Those who eat and drink in unbelief dishonour the death of Christ to their own condemnation.
7. Election and Covenant
7.1 Already before creating the world God elected a particular people in Christ, predestining them to be adopted as children of God. God elected Abraham, Sarah and their descendants with the promise, “I will bless you, so that in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Thus of all the people on earth God covenanted with Israel to be their God and called them to be a holy and faithful people and obey the commandments. But Israel was elected to be a blessing to others: to be a light to all the nations. The election of this particular people was for the sake of God’s mission to the whole world, to make God’s grace and salvation known to all people in the face of sin and judgement.
7.2 This election and covenant anticipated the coming of the Messiah and the final uniting together of all beings in heaven and on earth under one head, Jesus Christ.
7.3 God’s covenant is an everlasting covenant. Although the people of Israel were disobedient, God did not cast them away for ever, but instead in grace renewed the covenant with them. For God remains faithful even when we are faithless.
7.4 The new covenant is sealed with the blood of the Messiah, entered by baptism through faith and written on people’s hearts by the Holy Spirit. Gentiles who are accounted righteous through faith, as Abraham was, are thereby made children of Abraham and Sarah within the covenant and so equal to the Jews and heirs of salvation.
7.5 Thus God, although hidden from human eyes, by grace comes to be known by some human beings. For God elects in Christ, purely out of grace, not because the elect merit it in any way or are better than other people.
7.6 Election assures the weakest of believers of their security in the grace of God. For God is faithful. Even though we may grow spiritually cold or wander away and fall into grave sin, God does not abandon us. God’s Spirit draws us to repent and be restored and enables us to persevere to the end. Nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. God who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion.
7.7 The elect are called to make God known to the whole world and seek its salvation. We are called to bear witness that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour and that all who truly seek shall find God.
7.8 Thus the goal of election is to liberate humankind from all hostile powers that threaten it, even death itself, so that human beings may be reconciled with God, with one another, with nature and with themselves, in true community under God’s loving rule.
7.9 Scripture’s witness to Christ and to his atonement for the sins of the whole world excludes the notion that, by an eternal decree, God predestined any particular individuals or people to final rejection.
8. Grace, Justification, Regeneration & Faith
8.1 God justifies us as ungodly sinners, that is, declares us righteous and sets us right with God, purely out of grace. Grace is not a power given to us in order that we may achieve our own righteousness and so merit salvation; it is God’s free love and mercy that we utterly fail to deserve. For before God no one can boast of any goodness or merit. All our own righteousness fails; all our efforts leave us worthy only of death. But when we despair of ourselves, then we find comfort in God. In our failure and need God’s sovereign, free grace comes to us.
8.2 The Spirit strips us of all our self-deception and supposed righteousness and convicts us of the enormity of our own sin. The Spirit brings home to us how God has dealt with that sin in Christ and unites us to Christ by moving us to repent, surrender to him as Lord and trust in him as Saviour.
8.3 Through our union with Christ God freely acquits us of all our guilt and accounts us righteous on the sole ground of Christ’s perfect human obedience and atonement. Thus God imputes to us a righteousness that is not our own but Christ’s. This frees us from all condemnation, and the Spirit assures us of the forgiveness of all our sins. For no sin or guilt is so great that Christ’s atonement does not cover it. At the same time as God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, the Spirit, by uniting us with Christ, sanctifies us, cleansing us of all our sins with the blood of Christ.
8.4 With our justification the Spirit gives us new birth as God’s children in Christ, inseparable from God, because of our union with Christ. Regeneration then manifests itself in genuine conversion (whether conversion is experienced as sudden or not).
8.5 We receive grace through faith alone. Faith comes through hearing the good news and is confirmed by the sacraments. Much more than belief in right doctrine, it is accepting the living Christ as Lord and trusting in him alone as the Saviour who fulfils all God’s promises of mercy and grace. Faith is our acceptance, in humility and gratitude, of God’s surprising acceptance of us.
8.6 Thus faith hungers and thirsts for Christ and lays hold of him who has first laid hold of us, even if at times we struggle to cling to him. Faith does not mean the absence of all doubt but continuing to stand in the face of doubt. For though faith cannot sustain itself, the Word and the Spirit continually uphold faith in the face of doubt.
8.7 Faith consists in believing with the heart, but it bears witness with the mouth and by the way we live. No faith is firm that does not bear witness.
9. Vocation, Money and Rest
9.1 We should each seek our true vocation according to the abilities given to us. Work may be for wages or profit but should also serve God and people, no matter how humbly. We should promote mutual respect in the workplace and oppose exploitation and unfair working conditions.
9.2 In a world of appalling poverty alongside excessive wealth we need to heed the call to strive for a just and more equal society. Our money is not our own. God calls us to live as though everyone’s poverty were our own and our resources were everyone’s. We are to live simply and be faithful stewards of our abilities, time and money and other material resources to be a community of mutual sharing, to support the Church in its mission, and to do all we can for the poor as well as our own families. God’s economy provides enough for all.
9.3 God does not promise worldly prosperity to the faithful.
9.4 God ordained regular rest from work for time to worship together, to build family relations and for recreation
10. Marriage, Sex and Children
10.1 God made man and woman for each other, so that they could help each other, delight in each other in intimate physical and spiritual union, and receive the gift of children together. God ordained marriage as a life-long union and partnership. Marriage is thus constituted by a solemn public covenant to be faithful to each other, in a rite recognized by society. Christians should marry in the Lord and by Christian rites.
10.2 Marriage is the foundation of the family, for the nurture and training of children. As such it is the basis of a sound society. Married couples should love, respect, forgive, support and comfort each other, provide for each other and for their families as they are able, and be faithful to each other all their days.
10.3 In a hedonistic and licentious world, made more blatantly so by abuse of modern communications media, God calls us to be holy and so to be chaste before marriage and faithful in marriage. Human sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed only within marriage, as binding people together in love. We are to master our own bodies, honour one another’s, and desist from sexual intimacy outside marriage. We are also to shun pornography.
10.4 God calls some people to be celibate for the sake of their calling in life.
10.5 Every child has a right to a secure and loving home. Couples should conceive only children whom they will together love and cherish and can care for adequately. Couples with means should also consider fostering or adopting orphans, irrespective of race or class.
10.6 It is the duty of parents to set an example of modesty and faithfulness to their children. They should instruct them in the faith and its values. This includes frank instruction in the virtues of chastity and faithfulness and the consequences of sexual licence.
10.7 Children are to respect their parents. Parents have the responsibility to discipline their children in love, but have no right to abuse or oppress them.