What we teach
The Bible is the inspired word of God; that is, both the Old and New Testaments were revealed directly from heaven, written by men whom God chose, and preserved intact through the centuries. Our authority for this belief is found in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 as well as other passages.
The Bible is not outdated or irrelevant to the needs of modern society. The New Testament, the covenant we live under today, contains divine commands and timeless truths that govern our lives, from the principles of forgiveness of sin to how to worship acceptably, to how to build a lasting marriage.
The Bible teaches us who God is and what He expects from us. We cannot honor God without also respecting His word (Luke 6:46).
As a divine being, Jesus’ death provided the basis of forgiveness for the sins of all mankind (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-10). The resurrection of Jesus from the dead provides hope for existence beyond this earthly life (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:50-57). Jesus is now exalted in heaven and has all authority over heaven and earth (1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 1:20-23). As our Savior and King, Jesus is to be honored and obeyed.
In honor of our Savior, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20), we use the name he gave us in his word: "Christian" (Acts 11:26) and refer to ourselves as a church of Christ (Rom. 16:16). His death established His church of saved people, and we consider ourselves to be part of that church, nothing more and nothing less.
Faith is the attitude toward God that leads to our salvation. Faith is obedient trust, the eager willingness to conform to God’s will out of reverence and gratitude.
The New Testament also teaches that immersion is an essential and culminating act in obtaining salvation. Other steps such as repentance and the confession of Christ are required as well, but submission to the command of baptism is the point at which the blood of Jesus is applied to the soul, thus forgiving sin.
The language is clear:
- Jesus (to His apostles): “He who believes and is baptized will be saved. ...” (Mark 16:16)
- Peter (to the Jews responsible for Jesus’ death): “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. ...” (Acts 2:38)
- Ananias (to Saul of Tarsus): “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)
- Paul (to those already Christians): “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4)
- Peter (to Christians needing a reminder): “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. ...” (1 Pet. 3:21)
A Spiritual Kingdom
The essence of the message of both John the Baptist and Jesus was that the kingdom of heaven was near during the time they lived:
- John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2)
- Jesus: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' ... Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom. ...” (Matt. 4:17, 23)
Jesus taught about the character of those who would be in His kingdom (Matt. 5:3-10). He taught parables that described various features of the kingdom (Matthew 13). He reiterated its nearness when He said, “There are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” (Mark 9:1)
In the moments before His death, Jesus told the disciples, “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me.” (Luke 22:29) Finally, before Pontius Pilate, Jesus affirmed: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. ... You rightly say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:36-37)
Jesus came to establish a kingdom, to be anointed and enthroned as King, to gather all authority unto Himself in the heavens and on earth, and that is exactly what He did. (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-22; Col. 1:16-18) Confusion comes from those who do not understand the nature of this kingdom, and it leads them to deny that any kingdom was established.
Pilate and the Jewish leaders were confused by their own presuppositions and expectations. Jesus did not come to raise a literal army, drive the Romans out of Palestine, establish Himself in a fortified palace and secure a few decades of reign. His kingdom is far more powerful, glorious and enduring than some earthly kingdom.
When sinners respond to God in faith and obedience, they become part of a special group belonging unto God. The New Testament calls the saved members of the body (1 Cor. 12:27), living stones in the temple (1 Pet. 2:4-5), saints in the church (1 Cor. 1:2) and citizens in the kingdom (Eph. 2:19; Col. 1:13; Philip. 3:20). These terms are synonymous -- body, temple, church, kingdom. They are collective nouns describing those who belong to God, who have been redeemed from their sins and now live in fellowship with Him.
The time will come when we will leave this physical world behind and enjoy the fullness of the heavenly kingdom, but for now we are living on earth as foreigners or sojourners. Christ is our King; we are His citizens; He rules the universe on behalf of His kingdom.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28-29)