Objective Principles not Pet Doctrines:
Rather than holding any particular doctrine as unquestionable, axiomatic, or a "sacred cow," we instead hold to a set of objective principles which drive our pursuit of Truth and are used to measure all of our interpretations of the Scriptures. These principles are similar to the principles used in law enforcement investigations, the legal system, and scientific investigations. Paul wrote that we must "test all things, hold fast to that which is good." That can only be done honestly when we are completely unbiased. The 8 principles that drive our interpretations of Scripture are outlined on the Bereans Bible Institute homepage. The consistent application of these principles has gradually led us away from what is considered "mainstream" Evangelicalism (which carries a great deal of theological baggage from Roman Catholicism) towards a more pristine form of Christianity. Our goal is to hold tightly to what Jesus and His Apostles actually taught, and to live our lives accordingly. Because we have embarked on a "path less travelled" in our dogged pursuit of Truth, we are usually rejected by most "mainstream" Christians. But we take comfort in knowing that Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Christians were also rejected by "mainstream" religion in the Temple and in the synagogues. So we follow Paul's exhortation: "Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14 NKJV). Our goal in the pursuit of Truth above all else is to be a people prepared for our returning King. The following points of doctrine are the current results of the application of our progressive search for Truth over several years, following interpretive principles that are intentionally designed to remove subjectivity, presuppositions, and bias, and just let the text speak for itself. We are always open to challenge and being proven wrong. Following these principles has led us to the following positions on important biblical doctrines.
There is one Almighty God, the Father, eternal, unbegotten, uncreated, self-sufficient, creator of everything that exists, the giver of all life, and the absolute supreme authority over nature and humanity. His name is "YHVH" (Yehoveh / Jehovah). God should not be perceived as being confined within this universe. Since He created it and He existed before it, He is necessarily greater than the whole universe and transcends the creation. Solomon said of God: "The heaven of heavens cannot contain You, how much less this Temple that I have built." Thus God is infinitely bigger, more powerful, and more complex than His creation. He cannot be confined to a "place" within the creation. He is not bound by the laws of physics which He created. God dwells in unapproachable light. "God is SPIRIT" (lit. Breath or Wind), not consisting of physical substance. He is invisible, having never been seen by mortal men nor interacted face to face with mortal man. His non-personal interactions within the creation have always been through limited manifestations of His Person and Power which Scripture refers to as the Spirit/Breath of God. His personal interactions with humanity have always been through the "one mediator between God and Man," the Son of God, God's personal agent. God is called "Father" because He begat a "Son." Thus, "Father" is a reference to His relationship to His Son. Concerning His character and motives, God is just and righteous. He is both good and severe. He is the epitome of "love," being gracious, merciful, and forgiving. Yet He is to be feared. Everything good originates with Him. He always acts in accord with His character which cannot change. Thus God is very predictable. "He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations." God's past faithfulness is the guarantee of His future faithfulness. More Info.
The Son of God:
The Father brought forth (begat) a Son from His own essence of Spirit/Breath. The Son of God is "The Beginning" of God's acts in time. The Son's "begetting" out of God marks the start of measured time (creation week). The Son "came forth out of God" as a distinct, conscious, begotten, Person of the same "kind" as God. He was called "Logos" (which means "word") because of His unique role in communicating God's message to man, being the one Mediator between God and man. The Son of God was "in the beginning with God," and was the agent of creation ("all things were made through Him"). Being of the God "kind," He was also able to assume the appearance of a man in order to interact directly with man on God's behalf. The Son of God is the One who has always appeared in the form (image) of God (YHVH) within the creation, walking in the garden with Adam, speaking face to face with Abraham, wrestling with Jacob, and speaking with Moses in the burning bush and at the Tabernacle. The Old Testament often referred to Him as "the Messenger (Angel) of the LORD (YHVH)," also as "Wisdom," and the "Son" of God. Being both "Breath" and "Power" of God, Logos "came upon" and "overshadowed" the virgin Mary. In the process He willingly "emptied Himself" of His uniquely divine attributes of equality with His Father. In the incarnation, the Son of God became the Son of Man. Logos (Word) "became flesh" in the womb of Mary, becoming the "Seed of the woman" through Mary, who was of the seed of David, of the seed of Abraham. As Son of Man, the Son of God was personally instructed by His Father from childhood, and therefore He always "refused the evil to choose the good." At the appointed time, He was baptized by John and was immediately anointed with the full measure of the holy Spirit/Breath of God (the fullness of God of which humans are capable). This empowered Him to do miracles and accomplish the work the Father had appointed for Him in His new role as the Son of Man. He was then tempted by the Devil for 40 days, being tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. As the "second Adam," Jesus was not under the sentence of death that was passed down through the male to all of Adam's descendants, since Jesus was the "Seed of the Woman" and did not have a human father. Despite this, Jesus willingly took upon Himself the sentence of death that was passed upon all who were fathered by Adam. The sins of all mankind were borne by Him on the cross, as "sin" and the "curse" were put to death through His death. This act satisfied the condition which God had established at the beginning necessary for Him to forgive sin: that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." This condition which Jesus met was intended to demonstrat the vileness of sin in God's sight, and the extremely high cost or our forgiveness to God Himself - giving His only begotten Son. Having experienced death as a Man, having illustrated God's repulsion for sin, and as the second Adam having satisfied the condition for our pardon, Jesus defeated "death," being raised by the Father bodily. We will share in His bodily resurrection when He returns in the flesh. Jesus ascended bodily into heaven where He now sits on the right hand of the Father interceding for believers, awaiting His Kingdom to be established over all the earth at His second coming in the flesh. More Info.
The Holy Breath of God:
The holy Breath (Spirit) is a limited manifestation of God's power and presence within the creation, observing and hearing everything and extending God's ability to manipulate nature. God's Breath is the "Anointing" which we have received from Christ within the local assembly, through which the Father and Son have a presence both in and among God's people. The holy Breath is given to comfort, instruct, convict of sin, correct, and sustain the local assembly and its members, and is the shared deposit guaranteeing the future "redemption of our body" (resurrection) and our future inheritance in the Kingdom of God. More Info.
The Helpless State of Mankind:
Infants are born innocent, in the image of God. However, all have been given a free will, and soon rebel against God -- first out of ignorance, and then willfully. Once someone has willfully sinned, God's justice requires the condemnation of death. Man is totally incapable on his own of pleasing God or securing his own salvation. Unless God rescues him he is in a hopeless, helpless predicament, awaiting God's judgement which is death and permanent destruction.
God alone possesses immortality. All creatures are continuously dependent on Him for life itself. Man does not have an "immortal soul"; he IS "a living soul" -- a body animated by the breath of God -- a physical creature. Death is not the departure of an immaterial ghost from the body, but God's receiving back the "breath of life" which He has loaned to every person. Death is sleep, not a conscious existence in another realm. Therefore, punishment or reward can only be realized through resurrection of the body. Resurrection to eternal life is a gift of God granted only to those whom God declares righteous.
God is ready, willing, and able to save and declare righteous anyone who obeys the Gospel. God actively draws all people by His holy Breath to repentance because "God is not willing that any should perish." Everyone has been given a free will. God does not choose who will be saved and who will be lost regardless of the individual's choice. The Bible is absolutely clear regarding whom God bestows His grace upon, and whom He resists. "God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble." Therefore, those who humble themselves and receive His offer of salvation receive His grace. However, most refuse to humble themselves, resist Him, and will perish. Obeying the Gospel means hearing and understanding the Gospel, believing the message of the Gospel, turning away from sin (repentance) to Christ to become His follower, and being baptized unto Christ upon one's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. When someone meets these conditions, God forgives and sets them free from sins, adopts them into His family, begins the process of renovating the mind and heart, and places them as members in the local assembly to be co-partakers of the holy Breath within that assembly. Continuing on the "difficult path" (that is, continuing the process of renovation of the heart and mind to conform to the will of God) until the end of this life is necessary for our salvation to be completed. Completion will take place at the resurrection to eternal life "at His coming."
The Law of Moses vs. the Law of Christ:
The Law of God given through Moses was a covenant (contract) between God and the nation of Israel, which that nation willingly entered into at Mt. Sinai after being rescued from Egypt. It was their national legal system, and contained the conditions under which God would allow them to live as tenants in the Land that He promised give Abraham unconditionally as a permanent inheritance. The sons of God from Adam to Jacob (Israel) were not part of the Mt. Sinai covenant (Deut. 5:3). Neither did God make this covenant with any other nations (Eph. 2:12). God has dealt with other ethnic peoples on completely different terms apart from the Law of Moses (Jonah 3:1-10; Acts 17:22-31; Rom. 1:18-32; Rom. 2:1-16). Jesus the Messiah is the new Lawgiver whom Moses prophesied about (Deut. 18:15,18; Acts 3:19-23). He established the "New Covenant," which is "the Law of Christ" (Isa. 42:1-4; Gal. 6:2). Israelites who are baptized into Christ, partaking of the New Covenant, are immediately released entirely from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses (Rom. 3:19-26; 2 Cor. 3:14-17; Gal. 3:23-25; Gal. 5:18; Eph. 2:14-22; Heb. 8:1-13). One is either of the "household of Moses" or the "household of Christ," not both (Heb. 3:1-6). Gentiles who receive the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Messiah become co-participants in the "covenants of promise," which are the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New covenants (Eph. 2:12-13). But the Mosaic Covenant was not "of promise" (Gal. 3:16-29). Gentiles, therefore, do not partake in that covenant in Christ. The "Household of Christ" consists of both Jew and Gentile united together under the priesthood of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:1,4; Heb. 7:1 - 8:6) and a new Temple -- the local assembly (Eph. 2:19-22), which necessitates a new Law (Heb. 7:12-14). Therefore, neither Jewish nor gentile Christians are part of the Mosaic Covenant, and those who seek to place themselves under obligation to the Law of Moses are placing themselves in bondage and are under "the curse of the Law" if they do not keep it perfectly (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10; Gal. 4:9,21-31; James 2:10). The Law of Moses was not abolished for the unbelieving nation of Israel, nor were they released from the curse of the Law (Matt. 5:17-18; Gal. 3:10). They remain under it's curse and prophesied exile from the Land until the time of national repentance, one of the provisions of the Law of Moses (Deut. 30:1-20; Mal. 4:4-6; Rom. 11:13-32). There is no righteousness or special blessing gained by Christians observing commands of the Law of Moses that are not specifically part of the New Covenant and the Law of Christ (Acts 15:22-31). We are therefore opposed to the Hebrew Roots Movement which places "a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Act 15:10; cf. Gal. 5:1) and causes believers to become "estranged from Christ" and "fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
The Universal Assembly:
The Greek word 'ekklesia' (translated "church") means an assembly of people gathered in one location. It describes an event, not a mystical body. All who are God's sons and daughters will be resurrected and gathered by the angels and assembled for the first time at His return (and not before). All who are baptized into Jesus Christ are "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise," co-heirs with Jesus Christ. The gathering of "the elect" is the first time the "universal assembly" will convene for the "marriage of the Lamb."
The Local Assembly:
Formal, local gatherings (assemblies) in the name of Jesus are the limited expression of "the body of Christ" in one locality -- the only expression of the "Temple of God" in this age. Local assemblies are organized for the purpose of worship, fellowship, instruction, discipleship, and practicing obedience to the commandments of the Law of Christ thus producing good works. There is no structure ordained by God for His assemblies beyond the local level. Elders and deacons are the only offices of the local assembly. "Pastor" means "shepherd" and is how the elders are to oversee the local flock of Christ. New Testament assemblies are to be led by the elders alone under Christ serving as overseers and teachers of Jesus' local flock. The number of elders or deacons is not established in the New Testament and should depend on the needs of the congregation and the availability of qualified and tested men. The early Christians under the leadership of the Apostles met in homes for a reason because this is the ideal atmosphere for becoming a place where God chooses to dwell and it is conducive to the working out of Jesus' commandments in our relationships with one another as brothers and sisters.
The Reward of Faithful Believers:
We believe in the bodily resurrection of sleeping saints and the gathering of all resurrected and living saints at Jesus' second coming to earth to reign as King. All faithful believers will be judged and rewarded individually according to their works. Yet the common reward for all of God's faithful sons and daughters is immortality (everlasting life) received through continuous access to the Tree of Life in the coming Kingdom and an eternal inheritance in that Kingdom upon the restored earth in fulfilment of the covenants God made with Abraham and David.
The Total Destruction of the Wicked:
The wicked and disbelieving will be completely destroyed "... when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe." The wicked and disbelieving who have died prior to Christ's coming will be raised from the dead at the end of the Millennium and judged according to their works. "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." "This is the second death." The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is "set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," and "an example to those who afterward would live ungodly." This is the biblical prototype for the "Lake of Fire."
The Fate of the Ignorant:
The Bible only absolutely condemns to utter destruction the wicked who have rejected the knowledge of God which they have received, or flatly rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ which they have heard and understood. God is just, yet also merciful and gracious. He "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked," nor does He reckon "sin" where there is no law. While those who receive Jesus Christ and remain in Him are promised immortality, this does not limit God from showing mercy on little children, those with mental disabilities, those who have never heard the message of salvation, or other special circumstances. We have authority to speak only where God has clearly spoken. God is able to apply the atonement of Christ and give immortality to whomever He chooses. We therefore leave such people in God's hands, trusting His nature and His good character to deal with them with both justice and mercy.
Races & Racism:
All humans are descended from Adam, who was created in the image of God. Thus there is one race -- the "human" race. Differences in skin color and other physical characteristics are the result of gradual adaptation to different climates, environments, diets, and cultural pressures over many generations after God confounded the languages at the Tower of Babel, after the different language groups segregated themselves (and thus did not mix) in different locations. The physical traits that became dominant in any given location were those best suited to that location since the healthiest people tend to find mates and reproduce more and healthier children. Since the various groups were separated by distance and language, physical differences eventually became very pronounced. The Bible is clear that there is no favoritism with God. Therefore, no people group is of greater or lesser value to God. While the Bible mostly traces God's interactions with Israel, and most prophecy is related to Israel, that nation was merely the conduit through which God chose to bring about His ultimate goal of perfecting a remnant from all nations and ethnic people groups among whom He will one day live forever. Therefore, it is a sin for Christians to discriminate or show partiality based on racial biases. Every person should be judged by the content of his character and especially his conformity to the will of God and commandments of Jesus Christ. All baptized sons and daughters of God are part of the same family -- the family of God, and are reckoned by God as sons and daughters of Abraham, and thus 'heirs' of God, and co-heirs with God's only-begotten Son. Thus, so-called "interracial" marriages are blessed by God the same as any other Christian marriage. Discrimination based on so-called "race" is an abomination to God.
We believe the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments were inspired by God and free from all errors in their original manuscripts. The Bible is the sole source of infallible truth today (until the arrival of the two prophets during the last seven years of this age) and is sufficient to fully equip the people of God. It is the final authority in all matters for both individual Christians and for Christian assemblies, above all human law. No single manuscript or translation of the Scriptures is perfect. We are free to compare all of the extant copies of God's Word when seeking to understand and harmonize Scripture. Thus, we compare both the Hebrew and Greek (LXX) versions of the Old Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls. We also take into consideration the variant readings in the New Testament manuscripts. Depending on one version only is misguided and unwise in our opinion.
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