God exists in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – each possessing all the attributes of deity and the characteristics of personality. In the beginning, by His power, wisdom and goodness, God created the world and everything in it. He continues to sustain His creation and He is operating throughout history to fulfil His redemptive purposes.
God’s desire is to call all people into fellowship with Himself. By defying God and going his own way, man became alienated from God. This “fall” happened at the beginning of human history and all people since then have suffered the consequences of the fall and are in need of God’s saving grace. The salvation of mankind is a work of God’s free grace, rather than the result of human works or goodness. Each person can receive salvation through repentance and faith. God assures us that He will then continue His saving work in us forever.
When people consider the topic of baptism, two categories of questions are often asked. The first is a very basic one:
“What is the spiritual significance of baptism?” The second has to do with traditions from the past-specifically, pre-conversion baptism. “Why be baptised as an adult believer when I was baptised as a baby?”
Biblical Passages Concerning Baptism
At New Life, the Scriptures are the source of our beliefs, including our views on baptism. A few key passages can help us see what purpose baptism plays in the life of a believer.
In Matthew 28:19–20 Jesus commands his followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” Baptism is the means by which disciples of Christ are identified. And because Christ himself commanded it, Christ followers willingly submit to it.
In passages such as Acts 2:41, 8:12, and 10:47–48 it is evident that the act of baptism came after an individual’s decision to trust Christ for salvation. It was an outward sign of something that had occurred in the person’s life (usually quite recently). No one would dream of being baptised unless they had made a decision to identify with Christ. And no one could make that decision for them. The New Testament records the baptisms of adults who are believers, but never of infants. Baptism can’t give a person anything, spiritually speaking. It can only signify something that has already happened. In Romans 6:1–11, the apostle Paul explains how the immersion mode of baptism identifies the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Going under water depicts Christ’s death. Coming out of the water illustrates his resurrection. The immersion mode of baptism best illustrates the work of Christ.
The Wedding Illustration
One way to grasp the meaning of baptism—and what it doesn’t mean—is to imagine a wedding. The bride and groom stand side-by-side in the front of the church. They take turns promising “till death do us part.” These two young lovers don’t look any different on the outside, but in just a few moments they will be married – united for life by invisible cords. In order to signify that unseen union, the bride and groom exchange rings. These bands tell the world they are now married—that a permanent change has happened to them.
Now imagine that an unmarried couple is watching. They decide that they want to be married too. So they give each other rings right there where they sit. No commitments, no vows made, just the symbols of union exchanged. As they walk out of church, their hands, like those of the bride and groom, bear the accepted token of lifetime love. But only the couple that has made the commitment to each other is really married.
The point is obvious. Symbol is not substance. Marriage depends on a commitment, not on bands of gold. The same is true of becoming a Christian. What may outwardly identify you as a believer does not make you one. The wedding rings do not marry the couple. They are fitting symbols, but without the reality of commitment, a ring—like baptism—is void of meaning. Therefore, you must choose Christ, and you must choose baptism for the sacrament to have the meaning intended by Scripture.
Of course, you do not have to be baptised to have Christ, any more than you must exchange rings to be pronounced man and wife. But if the inner commitment to trust Christ alone for salvation has been made, then the outward symbol of baptism should be as valued and as visible as the gold ring on a newlywed’s finger.
If the purpose of baptism is to publicly identify a new believer in Jesus Christ, the question may be asked, “Why are so many people baptised as babies?” In the Bible, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them, prayed for them, and told his disciples to welcome them. But he did not baptise them, and he did not tell anyone else to baptise them. Baptism is appropriate only for those who have made a personal decision to trust Christ alone for their salvation.
If you were baptised as a child, it was no doubt the intent of your parents that you would one day be a follower of Christ. Your baptism as an adult can be viewed as the fulfilment of your parents’ wishes. It in no way repudiates the baptism you received as a child. While recognising for other churches the right to practice infant baptism if it conforms to their theologies, the congregation of New Life Church understands the Scripture to teach that only professing believers qualify for baptism.
Scriptural teaching on baptism may be summarised as follows:
1. Baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Christ, fulfilled by individuals who have subjected themselves to His sovereignty.
2. Baptism symbolises the spiritual cleansing through divine forgiveness and newness of life experienced by believers by virtue of their identification with Christ in His death and Resurrection.
3. Baptism provides an opportunity for believers to make a formal profession of their faith before the church.
Although the old covenant practice of infant circumcision is sometimes adduced as a rationale for infant baptism, the biblical definition of the function of circumcision and of baptism shows that those two actions fulfilled different purposes in their respective covenants. The equation is never made in the Bible between the circumcision of male infants in the old covenant and the baptism of born-again believers, much less of infants, in the new covenant.
However, New Life Church encourages Christian parents to present their children for the ceremony of dedication, whereby God’s blessing is formally invoked upon the children, and the parents publicly commit themselves to raise the children in accordance with the teachings of Scripture.
It is the request of the elders that children wait until they are twelve years old to be baptised.
New Life Church offers water baptism by immersion as demonstrated by Jesus and practiced in the New Testament Church. The fruit of the believer’s change of mind and heart is seen in their submission to water baptism which is always treated as a necessity in becoming a Christ follower.
The second Person of the Trinity is Jesus Christ who, following a miraculous conception and birth, lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father. Jesus voluntarily paid the price for the sins of all humans by dying on the Cross as our substitute. After His death, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is the only Mediator between God and humans. He has promised that He will come to earth again to complete God’s eternal plan.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Following the example of Jesus, Christians are called to a life of obedience by submitting to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit applies the saving work of Christ by indwelling every believer at the point of salvation, giving each gifts to build up the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit guides believers in understanding and applying the scripture. His power and control are appropriated by faith, making it possible for the believer to lead a life of Christ like character and to bear fruit to the glory of the Father.
When we die, believers will be received into eternal communion with God. Having rejected God, unbelievers will suffer His judgment in eternal condemnation.
When we die, believers will be received into eternal communion with God. Having rejected God, unbelievers will suffer His judgment in eternal condemnation.
THE ROLE OF ELDERS
“For this reason I left you in Crete that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” Titus 1:5
The ministry role of the Board of Elders is to be the primary governance group of the church responsible to provide spiritual oversight and to ensure the ongoing health and growth of the church and its ministries. The specific role of the Board of Elders is to ensure the implementation of its primary and occasional responsibilities, which include but are not limited to the following:
THE BOARD OF ELDERS SHALL:
– Pray for the congregation, the church staff, and themselves.
– Be custodians of the Core Values of the church and ensure that its Mission and Vision are being pursued.
– Produce and authorize overall written church policy in three areas:
a. Policies governing the Board of Elders itself.
b. Policies governing the Senior Pastor.
c. Policies governing the Board of Elders’ relationship to the Senior Pastor.
– Ensure the accountability of the Senior Pastor as well as providing him or her with support and advice.
– Be responsible for ensuring that any church discipline is carried out appropriately.
– Hold the Senior Pastor responsible for ensuring that the statement of faith of the church is adhered to and provide any further doctrinal clarification.
– Oversee the selection process of the Senior Pastor.
– Serve as an arbitrator in any unresolved disputes between any individual (staff or congregation member) and the Senior Pastor.
– Continually work on its own development, including orientation of new Board members in the Board’s governance process, periodic discussion of process improvement, and continuous education of Board members.
1 Peter 5:1–4 / Acts 20:28–31/ Titus 1:9 / James 5:14
BIBLICAL QUALIFICATION FOR ELDERS
Elder qualifications are summarised in 1Timothy 3:2–7and Titus 1:6–9:
– Be reliable (trustworthy) and teachable persons (2 Tim. 2:2) who meet the spiritual leadership qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
– Be members of the church who are involved in its ministry, meeting the qualifications of a leader within the church.
– Have been in the church long enough (a minimum of three years) to have proved themselves to be mature and developing followers of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 5:22).
– Agree by means of signed acceptance with the statement of faith, core values, . Be loyal to the Senior Pastor and his or her leadership whilst maintaining an appropriate level of objectivity and independent thought.
– If married, ensure that their spouses are supportive of their service on the Board of Elders.
THE ROLE OF SENIOR LEADER & TEACHER
Consistent with the New Testament concept of spiritual gifts, the Senior Leader and Teacher, like any member of the church, is uniquely gifted and should seek to minister primarily within his or her gift area. In addition to their pastoral role as an elder, the Senior Leader is primarily responsible to be a teacher of the Word of God and to provide strategic leadership and vision to the ministry. Their goal is to help mature believers through insightful and accurate presentation of biblical truth, equipping them to be the true “ministers” in the body. They must strive to teach and lead by word and example, and highlight both the understanding and the application of God’s truth.
The Senior Leader and Teacher is not responsible to constantly minister in areas unrelated to their primary function and giftedness. To burden them with other roles (administration, counselling, visitation, etc.) is to rob them of planning time, study time, and devotion to the Word. This can lead to watered down, inaccurate teaching or ineffective leadership, both of which in turn weaken the church.
As shepherds of the church, the Senior Leader and senior staff leadership are responsible to appoint other leaders with complementary gifts to undertake areas and aspects of the ministry that cannot be filled by the senior leader. The New Testament emphasises the need for teaching elders and/or the utilisation of other members who are gifted in this area, thereby providing a variety of input and role models.
WOMEN & MEN IN MINISTRY
We believe the Bible teaches that men and women were created by God and equally bear His image (Gen. 1:27). God’s intention was for them to share oneness and community (Gen.2:23–24), even as the Godhead experiences oneness within the Trinity. Each had a direct relationship with God and together they shared the responsibilities of rearing children and having dominion over the created order (Gen. 1:26–28). However, human oneness was shattered by the Fall. The struggle for power and the desire to “rule over” another is part of the result of human sin. Genesis 3:16 is a prediction of the effects of the Fall rather than a prescription of God’s ideal order.
However, through Christ, God redeemed the human race, and offered all people the opportunity to be part of the New Community, His church. It is God’s intention for his children to experience the oneness that exists between the Father and the Son (John 17:11, 20–23). This means that old divisions and hierarchies between genders and races are not to be tolerated in the church, where all are “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
In the formation of the church at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on women and men alike, as had been predicted long before the coming of Christ (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:18). In the New Testament, women as well as men exercise prophetic and priestly functions (Acts 2:17–18, 1 Cor. 11:4–5, 1 Peter 2:9–10). Further, the Spirit bestows gifts on all believers, without preferential treatment based on gender (Acts 2:1–21, 1 Cor. 12:7, 11). Every believer is to offer his or her gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:4–8; 1 Peter 4:10–11). To prevent believers from exercising their spiritual gifts is to quench the work of the Spirit. In all attempts to understand and put into practice appropriate relationships between genders in the body of Christ, our sole authority is the will of God as expressed in Scripture.
A few isolated scriptural texts appear to restrict the full ministry freedom of women. The interpretation of those passages must take into account their relation to the broader teaching of Scripture and their specific contexts. We believe that, when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunity for ministry.
Therefore, in our attempts to live together as a biblically functioning community, we are committed to the following values:
To provide opportunity for ministry based on giftedness and character, without regard to gender.
To pursue the kind of purity and loyalty in relationships between genders that led New Testament writers to describe them in terms of family: “brothers and sisters.”
To use sensitivity in language that reflects the honour and value God desires for maleness and femaleness and to encourage the use of translations of Scripture that accurately portray God’s will that His church be an inclusive community.
To be intentional where appropriate in overcoming sexist elements of our culture and to offer encouragement to women in areas where their giftedness has been traditionally discouraged.
To teach and model these values to members of our community, to the church and to the world at large.
DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE
Because marriage has been established by God as an indissoluble union and since it is an earthly copy of the relationship between God and His people, it is to be kept inviolate. However, because of the fall of human nature, the Scriptures permit divorce in the following cases as an accommodation to human sin for the protection of the innocent party:
1. Divorce for the cause of immorality—with the understanding that the obligation to maintain or reinstate the marriage may not be imposed upon the innocent spouse.
2. Divorce for desertion—desertion being defined as behaviour equivalent to the abandonment of the marriage relationship. In such cases, the innocent spouse is not bound. He or she is free to remarry in the Lord (though the seeking of repentance and reconciliation should always be the first recourse).
The remarriage of believers may not be approved when:
1. Divorce is being used as a vehicle to seek a different mate, since such pre-intent makes the divorce adulterous.
2. There is no evidence of repentance and brokenness over the circumstances that caused the divorce.
3. Restoration of the original marriage remains a viable option.
It is understood that the concerns above do not apply to divorces that have occurred before conversion. Each case of divorce or remarriage has to be dealt with on an individual basis from the perspective of God’s inexhaustible capacity to forgive human sin and to restore broken lives.
In Old Testament times, God’s people were required to contribute at least a tenth of their income to God’s work (the tithe). Although the New Testament is not explicit about the continued validity of the standard, it may be assumed that it endorses the practice of tithing as a minimum guideline or a starting point for Christian giving.
The New Testament lays demands upon believers that exceed the giving of the tithe. According to the New Testament, the totality of one’s possessions belongs to God—not just the tithe (Matthew 6:19–34, 19:16–30, 25:14–30; Luke 9:23–25, 12:13–34, 16:1–13, 18:18–30, 21:1–4; Acts 2:44–45, 4:32–37).
The New Testament allows Christians to keep the portion of their income which is necessary to provide for them and their dependents so that they do not become a burden on society (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12; 1 Timothy 5:8; 6:6– 10). But the balance of their income is to be used for God’s work and for deeds of charity (2 Corinthians 9:6–15; Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:17–19; James 2:15– 16; 1 John 3:16–18).
Thus, whereas the Old Testament required the contribution of only a tenth of one’s income to God’s work, the New Testament requires the total disposition of one’s possessions for God’s work, except for that portion which is to be kept to provide for oneself and one’s relatives with reasonable safeguards for the future. On this basis, if a tenth of one’s income is sufficient to provide for one’s own and family needs, the remaining ninety percent belongs to God’s work. This approach to giving reflects the radical transformation of pagan materialistic values that takes place under the impact of the Gospel as the quest for personal advantage gives way to the desire to worship God through total disposition of oneself to His service and to the service of others (Romans 12:1).
The expansion of the old covenant standard of tithing into the principle of total giving provides an explanation for the relative silence on this issue of tithing in the New Testament. The implications of the New Testament principle of total disposition reduces tithing to a beginner’s exercise, a minimum reference that is to be increased in proportion to one’s income and one’s growth in Christ.
For Christians whose limited income is only sufficient for subsistence, the tithe provides a goal to attain. For more affluent Christians whose income exceeds their needs, the tithe becomes restrictive. It is to be surpassed in the same measure that God prospers them.
To ensure the proper functioning of the ministries of the local church, it is appropriate for a body of believers to expect that, apart from other giving, at least a tenth of their constituents’ income be contributed to the local church that serves them. Both the Old and New Testament offer warrant to uphold such a standard (Leviticus 27:30–32; Malachi 3:10; Matthew 23:23). The New Testament enjoins believers to support generously the ministry of their local church (1 Corinthians 9:11–14; Galatians 6:6).
According to the New Testament, the responsibility for the proper apportionment of a believer’s giving is a matter of individual conscience rather than a function of the body. However, the church is to exercise watch care over its constituency to protect it from the sin of greed which is cause for church discipline and excommunication (1 Corinthians 5:10–11; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5).
When Christians learn to regard the totality of “their” possessions as belonging not to themselves but to God, they develop a joyful sense of freedom from the instinct of possessiveness. They view their possessions as divine entrustments placed in their care for the purpose of ministry. As a result, their giving is not based on legalistic calculations of grudgingly accepted impositions. It becomes the spontaneous heart response of grateful spirits answering cheerfully and generously to God’s love. The biblical measure for giving is to be found in a grateful heart, not in the devices of an electronic calculator (Acts 20:35).