The doctrine of the church

1. The Nature of the Church

WE BELIEVE that the Universal Church is the innumerable company of God’s elect in every age, who have been, are, or will be called out of the power of Satan to God, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and redeemed from sin through the blood of Christ. This Church will endure to the end, and will be complete and perfect in the day of Christ.

Mat. 16:18; John 17:24; Eph. 3:14-15; Acts 2:47; 26:18 Eph. 5:25-27; Phil. 1:6; Col. 1:12-14; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 7:9-17.

It is the duty of all believers, walking in the fear of the Lord, to unite with local churches, for their own sanctification, and the maintenance of gospel witness.

Such churches, having the presence of Christ as head, are responsible to him for their own administration, and in this respect are independent of every other form of control, whether of Church or State. They have the fulness of God, and to them is committed the  stewardship of the Gospel, the defence of the truth, the discipline of disorderly members, the appointment of officers, and the administration of the ordinances.

Mat. 18:15-20; Eph. 1 :22-23; Acts 13:1-4; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Thes 3:6; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 2 and 3.

Christ is the appointed head of the church, his authority never being delegated to men, but communicated to the church by his Holy Spirit. The church seeks, not merely to discover the opinion of the majority of the members, but rather through prayer and fellowship to know the mind of the Lord.

Mat. 28:18-20; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1 :22-23; Acts 2:1-4 and 41-47; 13:1-4; 15:28-31; 1 Cor. 5:4-5; Eph. 4:8-13.

The Church of Christ has been put in trust with the Gospel of the grace of God, and it is its solemn responsibility to go into all the world and proclaim that Gospel to every creature.

Mat. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; 1 Thess. 2:4.

2. The Local Church and its Worship

The church is maintained and increased as the Lord adds to its number those who are being saved. The local church should be composed of those who are subjects of divine grace, exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, and hold the apostles’ doctrine.

Acts 2:47; Rom. 14:1; 1 Thess. 1 :5-6.

We believe that all men should serve and fear God, but that true worship, springing from the hearts of the redeemed, must be with understanding, reverence, humility, faith, love and submission, through Christ the only mediator, and by the Spirit, to the Father. It is the duty of the church to provide for the united worship of the Lord’s people in praise, prayer, edification and the proclamation of the Gospel in the locality of the church, in the country and throughout the world. Failure to fulfil these duties brings the Lord’s displeasure, but obedience is encouraged by the promise of the Lord’s presence and blessing.

Ex. 20:4-6; Psa. 95:1-7; Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33; Mat. 4:9-10; John 4:23-24; 14:6; Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 14:15-17; Eph. 2:18; 4:15-16; 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:1-5; 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2; Mat. 28:19-20; Rev. 2:5.

3. The Ordinances

We recognise two ordinances, so called because ordained or established by Christ’s authority, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

These ordinances are to be administered by those appointed by the church, and are to continue until the end of the world.

Mat. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-26.

The ordinance of Baptism is to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The candidates in this ordinance express their separation from the world, and their identity with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, and their devotion henceforth to him.

The ordinance is to be administered only to those who have exhibited repentance for sin and made a profession of their faith in Christ.

The ordinance is rightly administered by the total immersion of the candidate in water, this mode alone being scriptural and having reference to the burial and resurrection of Christ.

This ordinance is essential, not to salvation, but for obedience to the commandments of Christ, and for a full and complete profession of faith.

Rom. 6:4-6; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:5; Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:41; Mat. 3:15, 16; Acts 8:38-39; Rom. 6:4; Mat. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 10:44-48.

The Lord’s Supper
The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is regularly to be observed as a memorial of the sufferings and death of Christ, and an expression of the inherent unity of the Church as one body in Christ, and as a means strengthening the faith of the believer. It is in no sense a sacrifice, nor the continuation of the sacrifice of Calvary.

The administration of the ordinance involves the sharing of bread and wine, both of which are to be received by the communicants, and are symbols of the body and blood of Christ. At no time during the course of the administration, or because of the administration, does any change of nature take place in the bread or the wine, which the communicants are themselves to take and to eat or drink.

This ordinance is a means of grace through the spiritual presence of Christ, apprehended by faith in the heart of the believer. Those worthily taking part feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being spiritually present to the faith of the believer, as the elements themselves are to the outward senses.

Those who partake unworthily sin against Christ and are guilty of offence against the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

We believe the administration of this ordinance is to be restricted to baptised believers in the New Testament sense of those words, and such restriction is signified by the term “Strict Communion”. Each local church applies this principle as it deems right and consistent in its administration of the Lord’s Supper.

1 Cor. 11 :26; Heb. 10:12; 1 Cor. 11 :27-30 and 23-25; Luke 22:19-20; Mat. 26:26-27; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:29; Acts 2:41-46; Compare Acts 18:8 with 1 Cor. 10:16-17.

4. The Responsibilities of Church Members

Members of churches are required first to give themselves to the Lord and then to one another by the will of God. They are not to forsake the assembling of the church for public worship, fellowship in prayer and the Lord’s Table, but are to seek the spiritual prosperity of other members, and to provide for the material relief of needy members. Members are also required to support and to contribute regularly and sacrificially to the Lord’s work at home and overseas through the funds of the church.

Acts 11 :29-30; 1 Cor. 12; 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:1-5; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 5:14; Gal. 6:10; Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24-25; 1 John 3:17-18.

5. Church Officers and their Appointment

We believe that the ascended Lord bestows gifts upon men for the maintenance of his work on earth, and that the administration of local churches is to be by elders and deacons. Among the elders are those whom we call pastors, and these are set apart for prayer and the study of the Word, and should, so far as is possible, be adequately maintained in material necessities, so as to be disentangled from the cares of a secular calling.

Elders are responsible for the spiritual ministrations of the church, watching over the souls of the members as those who must give account. It is the duty of the members to support their elders by prayer, and to submit to their admonitions in the Lord.

Deacons are responsible for the business and secular affairs of the church, which are to be administered with spiritual grace.

Acts 20:17; Phil. 1:1; Eph. 4:7-12; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 9:6-14; Gal. 6:6-7; 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

The appointment of elders (including pastors) and deacons, for office within the local church, and of preachers and missionaries for the work of evangelism is the responsibility of the local church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s ordination is recognised both by the experience of the inward conviction, and by the approval of the church observing the possession of those gifts and graces required by Scripture for the office concerned. The one so called should be set apart by the prayer of the whole church.

Acts 6:3-6; 14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 4:10-11; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Acts 13:1-4.

6. The Discipline of the Local Church

Believers are admitted through baptism into all the privileges of the local church and also into its discipline, being bound by prayer and endeavour to maintain unity and peace. Members who persist in denial of fundamental doctrine or who, by their ungodly conduct, bring dishonour on the church ought to be disciplined. In matters of personal offence members should first seek reconciliation with one another privately, if this fails the elders of the church should be consulted, and if need be the matter should be submitted to the judgment of the church itself. Believers should not take brothers in Christ to the civil law, nor should they disturb the peace of the church over personal disputes.

All discipline in the church should be exercised with love and patience, as well as in accordance with the teaching and examples of the Word, and the end in view must always be the repentance and reconciliation of the offender, and the purity and blessing of the church.

Mat. 18:15-20; 2 Cor. 2:1-11; Eph. 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 6:1-7; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; Acts 2:41;  9:18-25; Gal 6:1, 2.

7. Inter-Church Relationships

Churches, likeminded in biblical faith and practice, have a responsibility to manifest their oneness in Christ in mutual fellowship and conference.

Acts 15:1-31; Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 6:14-16; 8 and 9; 1 Cor 16:1-3.

We believe that the division of the professing Church on earth into sections results largely from the departure of many from the truth of the Gospel, and in part from differences of biblical interpretation, temperament and culture. Those who are born again are bound together in an unbreakable spiritual unity in Christ.

Schisms arising from tradition and prejudice grieve the Holy Spirit and are not to be tolerated. Visible unity is desirable, but cannot be achieved by amalgamation of denominations, by joining true believers with those who are unregenerate, or by any means that compromises the evangelical faith.

Mat. 15:1-9; John 10:16; 17:20-23; Acts 15:36-41; 20:29-30; 1 Cor. 3:1-4; 2 Cor. 2:17; 11:1-5; Eph. 4:1-16 and 19-22; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.