FOLLOWING JESUS AND FEARLESSLY MAKING HIM KNOWN
What we believe about:
Jesus Christ is the eternal second person of the Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was united with a true human nature by a miraculous conception and virgin birth. He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father and voluntarily made amends for the sins of people, making possible a right relationship with God. He died on the cross as a substitute for sinful mankind, thus satisfying divine justice and accomplishing salvation for all who trust in Him alone.
Jesus rose from the dead in the same body, now glorified, in which He lived and died. He ascended into heaven, where He, as mediator, continually intercedes with God the Father for His own—those who have received salvation. Because Jesus is alive believers are able to have a personal, interactive relationship with him at any moment. Jesus shall come again to earth, personally and visibly, to bring history and the eternal plan of God to completion. (Matt 1:18-25; 24:30-31; 28:20; John 1:1-18; 3:16; 8:57-58; 14:6; 20:26-27; Acts 1:9-11; Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 15:14, 20; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 4:4-5; Phil 2:5-11; 1 Thes 4:14, 16-17; 1 Tim 2:5-6; Titus 2:13-15; Heb 1:3; 7:24-25; 8:1; 10:5-10; Rev 19:11-16).
The sole basis of our belief is the Bible, composed of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament. We believe that Scripture originated entirely from God and that it was given through writers inspired by God. Scripture speaks with the authority of God, and yet at the same time, reflects the backgrounds, styles and vocabularies of the human authors. The Scriptures are presented exactly as God intended and without error in the original manuscripts. They are the unique, full, and final authority on all matters of faith and practice and there are no other writings similarly given by God. (Ps 19:7-11; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:20-21; Rev 22:18-19)
We believe that there is only one true, holy God, eternally existing in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—each of whom possesses equally all the attributes of deity and the characteristics of personality. In the beginning, God created the world and all things therein out of nothing, thus manifesting the glory of His power, wisdom, and goodness. By His sovereign power He continues to sustain His creation. By His providence—His loving and caring guidance—God operates throughout time to fulfill His redemptive purposes. (Gen 1-2; 45:4-8; 50:19-20; Deut 6:4; 1 Chron 29:10-12; John 1:1-3; 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; Rom 8:28; Col 1:15-20)
The central purpose of God’s plan in history is to break people from Satan’s grasp and call them into fellowship with Him. The human race was originally created to have fellowship with God but through Adam and Eve, humanity defied God, choosing to be independent, and was thus alienated from Him. The consequence of this rebellion from God is the corruption of human nature, so that people are not acceptable to Him. Such separation from God produces people who are self-centered, without purpose and who ultimately will be separated from Him for eternity. This separation and its consequences impact all individuals and means all are in need of the saving grace of God. The salvation of any person is wholly a work of God’s free grace.
Salvation is never the result, in whole or in part, of human works or goodness. Salvation is personally realized when one repents from sin and accepts, through faith alone, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When God begins a saving work in the heart of any person, He gives assurance in His Word that He will continue performing it until the day of its full consummation. Therefore, once someone is saved he cannot lose his salvation. (Gen 3:1-24; Luke 24:25-27; John 6:37, 39, 44, 65; 10:27-29; 11:25-26; Acts 2:38; 13:48; Rom 1:18-32; 3:10-18, 22-24, 28; 26:23; 8:28-30; 10:9-10; Eph 1:4-5, 11; 2:1-10; Phil 1:6; 2:13; Heb 13:5-6; James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:3-5).
The Holy Spirit was sent into the world by the Father and the Son. A genuine saving relationship with Jesus Christ is evidenced by a life impacted by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Before salvation, the Holy Spirit enlightens the minds of sinners and awakens in them recognition of their need for a Savior. At the point of salvation, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells all believers, seals them into the family of God and gives them specific endowments, called the gifts of the Spirit, to build up the church and help it pursue its mission. Further, when believers yield to the control of the Holy Spirit they will gain an assurance in their relationship with Christ, a desire for fellowship with other Christians, a new value system that aligns them with God’s moral statutes, wisdom to discern what God wants them to do, and strength to do it. (John 3:5-8; 14:16-17; 16:8-11, 13-15; Acts 1:8; Rom 5:5; 8:9-11; 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12; 2 Cor 1:21-22; 3:18; Eph 1:13; 4:4-6, 11-13, 30; Gal 5:16-22; 1 John 3:22-24; Titus 3:5-7).
After death, or when Jesus returns, all people will experience a resurrection of the body and a judgment that will determine their fate. All who have personally accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will be received into eternal communion with God. He will establish a New Heaven and New Earth where believers will be with God forever. All who have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be separated from God in hell. (Matt 10:28; Matt 25:31-46; John 6:40; Rom 8:1-3; 1 Cor. 15; Phil 3:20-21; Heb 9:27; 2 Pet 2:4-9; Rev 20:11-15; Rev 21-22).
The result of union with Jesus Christ is that all believers become members of His body, the church. The one true church is composed of all those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Wherever God’s people meet regularly, there is the local expression of the church. Under the watchful care of elders, pastors and other supportive leadership, its members are to work together in love and unity, intent on the ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ and spreading His Kingdom. The Scripture commands believers to gather in order to worship, pray, fellowship, teach, give, observe baptism and communion, serve within the body, and to reach out to the world through social justice, cultural impact and evangelism. (Matt 16:16-19; 25:14-30; 31-46; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 13:34-35; 17:20-21; Acts 1:8; 2:42-47; 20:28; 1 Cor 11:23-28; 12:4-6, 12-13; Col 1:18-20; Eph 4:11-13; Phil 2:1-4; 1 Pet 2:4-10; 5:1-4; Heb 10:23-25; Rev 7:9-12)
Faith & Practice
Scripture is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. The church recognizes that it cannot bind the conscience of individual members in an area where Scripture is silent. Rather, in these areas each believer should seek the wise counsel of others in the church and then be led by the Lord, to whom he or she is ultimately responsible. (Rom 8:1-4; Gal 5:1; Phil 2:12)
As our society becomes more secular and post-Christian we will have people coming into our church with progressively greater non-biblical perspectives and lifestyles. Many of these people will accept Jesus and be saved and the question comes up, when will they qualify for believer’s baptism? For that matter, what is believer’s baptism all about?
In short, believer’s baptism represents conversion (or justification) and not Christian maturity (or sanctification). As soon as someone is saved he or she is a candidate to be baptized. Just as there is no moral bar to get over to accepting Jesus, there is no moral bar for being baptized. Therefore, it is proper to baptize any person who genuinely accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior regardless of their current sins or sinful lifestyle. This means any “sinner” that accepts Jesus is saved and can be baptized at Ridge Point or any church that follows the New Testament teaching on this.
What is the biblical support for this position?
When Peter stood up and gave the first post-resurrection message of salvation recorded in Scripture we note the response of the people. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38) With that, three thousand people accepted the message, were baptized and the church was launched.
We learn a lot about believer’s baptism with this first example of baptism in the church. For instance, this is the first of many baptisms in Acts. In fact, a pattern of conversion followed immediately by baptism is common.
- The Samaritans, Simon (Acts 8)
- Saul (Acts 9)
- Cornelius and his household (Acts 10)
- Lydia and her household; the Philippian jailor and his household (Acts 16)
- Crispus and his household (Acts 18)
- The disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19)
Why does believer’s baptism follow conversion? Baptism is a symbol of conversion. Literally, it mimics Jesus’s death and resurrection. First we go under the water (death to the old life of living independently from God), and then come out of the water (resurrection to a new life of living with God in his Kingdom).
Romans 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
It is interesting to ask the question why Jesus was baptized. He certainly did not need to repent or be cleansed. He didn’t need to die to his old way of life. Jesus was baptized, at least in part to identify with humanity – the people he was going to save. Another reason was that he was modeling to us the importance of baptism. But not only does Jesus identify with us through his baptism, we identify with him. For instance when Jesus is baptized, which is recorded in all four of the Gospels, what the Father tells Jesus is also something that is applicable to those of us who are saved. In Mark’s account we read…
Mark 1:9-11 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
N.T. Wright says of this passage, “The whole Christian gospel could be summed up in this point: that when the living God looks at us, at every baptized and believing Christian, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day. He sees us, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ. It sometimes seems impossible, especially to people who have never had this kind of support from their earthly parents, but it’s true: God looks at us, and says, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you.’ Try reading that sentence slowly, with your own name at the start, and reflect quietly on God saying that to you, both at your baptism and every day since.”
Believer’s baptism also symbolizes that we have become part of God’s community.
Galatians 3:27-28 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
“From very early on, Christian baptism was seen as the mode of entry into the Christian family, and it was associated with the idea of being born again.” (Tom Wright, Simply Christian, p. 183). Because we are a family of adopted children, family members come from every conceivable ethnicity, social status, moral standing, lifestyle and religious background. Also, as in every family, there may be those who live more in the spirit and behavior of the family and those who don’t, but they are none-the-less family members. As brothers and sisters, we enter into a journey as a family giving support, encouragement and accountability to each other and, most importantly, striving for unity (John 17:20-23).
We see in Acts 2:38 that repentance is to precede baptism. How does repentance tie into baptism? This is actually a very important question. Does repentance have to do primarily with repenting from specific sin and, if so, what sins need to be acknowledged and repented from before being baptized?
The Greek word for “repent” is metanoia. It literally means a change of mind or a change of direction. The context of the passage determines what the change of mind or direction refers to. For instance, there are times it clearly refers to moral actions (Acts 8:2, 2 Corinthians 7:9, Revelation 2:5). However, in passages when salvation is in view, it is equivalent to believe or trust in and involves a change of mind about any form of self-trust in human works, good deeds, religious tradition, etc. followed by a trust in the finished work of Christ which alone has the power to save us. It means a turning from self-trust to trust in Christ.
Repentance, meaning change of belief, is the intent of Acts 2:38. Peter has just finished a sermon explaining how Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s plan, and how “Israel” crucified him. In other words, you have not believed in Jesus and you need to repent (change your mind) and believe in him. In this context, believe and repent are synonymous. In fact, there are several other examples of baptism in Acts where the word “believe” is used instead of the word “repent” (Acts 8:12; 16:15, 31-33; 18:8).
Why is this important? Ultimately it comes down to the question of whether people need to morally make a change in their lives before they accept Jesus and are saved. Let’s say someone is living with his girlfriend, or cheating in business, or living with bitterness and hears the message of salvation. Does that person have to stop their sinful behavior before being eligible for conversion? The answer is no.
-Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
-Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
-See also Romans 4:24-25; 5:8-9, 23-24, Galatians 3:10-14
Salvation is a matter of faith/belief/trust in Christ and not, in anyway, the reward of a work. This means that repentance, in the context of conversion, has to do with the inward change to have faith in Christ… this change of heart and new life in Christ is expected to lead to a change of behavior (Luke 3:8) There is no moral cleaning up that is necessary for conversion.
But what about baptism? Does baptism require getting over some moral bar? Here, too, the answer is no. In every example in Acts (and actually in all the New Testament), conversion is immediately followed by baptism. There are no NT examples of people who have genuinely converted needing to be vetted, taught or to mature in their walk between conversion and baptism. “In baptism,” writes Will Willimon, “the recipient of baptism is just that—recipient. You cannot very well do your own baptism. It is done to you, for you.” It’s an adoption, not an interview. First comes conversion and baptism (the symbol of conversion) and then comes a lifetime of learning to obey Jesus.
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
While there is no moral bar for conversion or baptism there is an expectation, once saved, to move in a direction of becoming more Christ-like. What about a person who accepts Jesus with no intent to follow him? This is not possible because Jesus invites us into a relationship with him as both Savior (save us from sins) and Lord (the leader of our life). In fact, baptism is a pledge of allegiance to Jesus as King. The New Testament does not give us the option to accept Jesus as Savior alone; we are only offered a full relationship with Jesus Christ.
At conversion, God the Father has adopted us into his family, given us the Holy Spirit, changed our identity and given us a position of righteousness. That is all based on Christ’s work. We now join God in his work of changing us on the inside to become more like Jesus and to work through us to bring God’s truth and love into the world. Admittedly, we do this imperfectly and on different schedules (it is dangerous for us to judge other’s commitment to Christ based on what we see outwardly), none-the-less, this partnership with Jesus as Savior and Lord is at the foundation of conversion.
Romans 10:9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For is it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
While there is no vetting for particular sins or sinful lifestyles at conversion or baptism, people accepting Jesus do so with the understanding that Jesus now is their Lord and has a right to their lives and obedience.
Finally, What if I was baptized before I could believe in Jesus? We know that a lot of people in our area and church were baptized as infants. Should they be baptized as a believer? First, it is not required for salvation, but it seems to be the symbol God has installed for conversation and it can be a very meaningful experience as a believer. Second, nowhere in the NT does it say you can only be baptized once. While it shouldn’t be a regularly repeated sacrament like communion, many Christ followers have been baptized more than once. We welcome anyone who has been baptized as infant or child and has since accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord to be baptized.