Distinctives of Grace Bible Church
We believe God has graciously given elders to serve His church. The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of qualified, male pastors/elders. The elders are set aside by God to lead the church, to equip the saints, to preach the Word, and to pray (Ephesians 4:11–12; 1 Timothy 3:1–7, 5:17–18). Their leading, equipping, preaching, and praying are to be done humbly in service to God and to His church. Leaders are to shepherd the flock willingly, not under compulsion or for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in their charge, but serving as examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2–3). In response, believers are exhorted to submit and to obey their leadership (Hebrews 13:17) The Biblical qualifications for an elder of a church is men who are able to teach God’s Word and who’s character is above reproach (matching the qualifications in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1) The relationship of the elders and members is not one of dominance and submission, but rather of mutual love and respect
Expository preaching is a method of teaching that focuses on and “exposes” a specific passage of Scripture. When we say that teaching is “expositional” we mean that it is focused on explaining a particular passage of Scripture. It uses historical grammatical interpretation of the original Biblical languages to carefully draw out the meaning of the passage in its original context to its original audience. We do not discount the use of “topical preaching” at times, but believe that expositional preaching is the most valuable method in the weekly preaching to the church for a variety of reasons. The two most significant of these reasons is 1. It allows Scripture to speak for itself and causes preachers to teach the whole counsel of God (including the difficult parts) 2. It helps teach the church membership how to read and study Scripture for themselves by following the same methods. Because of these reasons, the primary method of teaching at Grace is preaching through books of the Bible in a verse-by-verse manner.
We believe Jesus commanded every believer to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18–20). Baptism serves as a symbol of being buried with Christ and being raised to walk in new life and as such is to be performed only on professing believers (Romans 6:4–6). Baptism is a matter of obedience, not salvation. It does not confer favor from God beyond the blessings that come from obedience to God. (Luke 23:43; 1 Corinthians 1:13–17). While the age of baptism is not directly addressed in the Scripture, the Elders of Grace hold a personal conviction that children must be of an age of maturity where they have demonstrated a personal faith apart from their parents and are able to confess that faith publicly before the church. This type of maturity in faith rarely happens before the teenage years. Should a young person desire to pursue baptism, we will examine each person on a case-by-case basis and look for the credibility of conversion and the understanding of the Gospel.
Sufficiency of Scripture
We believe Scripture, or the Bible, is the Word of God written to man. The Bible consists of the 66 books of Genesis to Revelation. God inspired human authors who, using their own unique gifts, passions, and communication style, wrote His Word (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20–21). The Scriptures are inerrant in everything they address, including matters of faith, science, and history (Proverbs 30:5). The Scriptures are infallible and achieve the ends for which God intended them (Isaiah 55:11). The Scriptures are clear, “making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). The Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice, and “are useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
Jesus instituted church discipline (Matthew 18) for the purpose of preserving the church’s witness to the lost world by preserving its holiness (1 Cor. 5). Churches that allow professing believers to live in unrepentant sin without warning, correction, rebuke, and finally excommunication are not acting in love and are rendering impotent their gospel witness. We see in 1 Cor. 5 the reasons why church discipline is so important. We see in Matthew 18 the process that is to be followed in calling someone to repentance. And we see in Matt 18:15, 1 Cor. 5:5 and Gal 6:1 that the purpose of discipline is not to punish anyone, but to help a brother or sister be restored to God and to the Church. For these reasons we believe that following the Biblical commands regarding a member of the church in unrepentant sin much be obeyed. (A more detailed teaching of this can be found in our Membership Series)
Distinctives of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network
We are passionate about Gospel centrality.
We believe the gospel is the good news of what God has graciously accomplished for sinners through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, namely our forgiveness from sin and complete justification before God; this gospel is also the foundation for our confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom, and the consummation of his purpose for all creation in the new heavens and new earth. This gospel is centered in Christ, is the foundation for the life of the Church, and is our only hope for eternal life; this gospel is not proclaimed if Christ’s penal substitutionary death and bodily resurrection are not central to our message. This Gospel is not only the means by which people are saved, but also the truth and power by which people are sanctified; it is the truth of the Gospel that enables us to genuinely and joyfully do what is pleasing to God and to grow in progressive conformity to the image of Christ. The salvation offered in this gospel message is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; no ordinance, ritual, work, or any other activity on the part of man is required in order to be saved. (Mark 1:1; Luke 24:46-47; John 3:16-18; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; 9:13; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 1: 7-10; Colossians 1: 19-20; 2 Timothy 1:8-14; 2 Peter 3: 11-13 Jude 3-4; Revelation 21-22)
We enthusiastically embrace the sovereignty of God’s grace in saving sinners.
We affirm that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, not on the basis of foreseen faith but unconditionally, according to his sovereign good pleasure and will. We believe that through the work of the Holy Spirit, God will draw the elect to faith in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, graciously and effectually overcoming their stubborn resistance to the gospel so that they will most assuredly and willingly believe. We also believe that these, the elect of God whom he gave to the Son, will persevere in belief and godly behavior and be kept secure in their salvation by grace through faith. We believe that God’s sovereignty in this salvation neither diminishes the responsibility of people to believe in Christ nor marginalizes the necessity and power of prayer and evangelism, but rather reinforces and establishes them as the ordained means by which God accomplishes his ordained ends. (John 1:12-13; 6:37-44; 10:25-30; Acts 13:48; 16:30-31; Romans 3-4; 8:1-17,31-39; 9:1-23; 10:8-10; Ephesians 1:4-5; 2:8-10; Philippians 2:12-13; Titus 3:3-7; 1 John 1:7,9)
We recognize and rest upon the necessity of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit for all of life and ministry.
The Holy Spirit is fully God, equal with the Father and Son, whose primary ministry is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ; he also convicts unbelievers of their need for Christ and imparts spiritual life through regeneration (the new birth). The Spirit permanently indwells, graciously sanctifies, lovingly leads, and empowers all who are brought to faith in Christ so that they might live in obedience to the inerrant Scriptures. The model for our reliance upon the Spirit and our experience of his indwelling and empowering presence is the Lord Jesus Christ himself who was filled with the Spirit and entirely dependent upon his power for the performance of miracles, the preaching of the kingdom of God, and all other dimensions of his earthly ministry. The Holy Spirit who indwelt and empowered Christ in like manner indwells and empowers us through spiritual gifts he has bestowed for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. Although there are different understandings in our network of the nature and function of these gifts, we all recognize that they are divine provisions central to spiritual growth and effective ministry and are to be eagerly desired, faithfully developed, and lovingly exercised according to Biblical guidelines. (Matthew 3:11; 12:28; Luke 4:1, 14; 5:17; 10:21; John 1:12-13; 3:1-15, 34; 14:12; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Acts 2:14-21; 4:29-30; 10:38; Romans 8:9; 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-13; 12:28-31; 14:1-33; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 3:1-5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 5:18)
We are deeply committed to the fundamental spiritual and moral equality of male and female and to men as responsible servant-leaders in the home and church.
Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ. Men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. Therefore, women are to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to utilise their gifting in ministry, in service to the body of Christ, and through teaching in ways that are consistent with the Word of God. Both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality in the home, but God has given to the man primary responsibility to lead his wife and family in accordance with the servant-leadership and sacrificial love characterised by Jesus Christ. This principle of male headship should not be confused with, nor give any hint of, domineering control. Rather, it is to be the loving, tender and nurturing care of a godly man who is himself under the kind and gentle authority of Jesus Christ. The Elders/Pastors of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight and to teach/preach the Word of God in corporate assembly for the building up of the body. The office of Elder/Pastor is restricted to men. (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
Acts 29 embraces a missionary understanding of the local church and its role as the primary means by which God chooses to establish his kingdom on earth.
The church has a clear Biblical mandate to look beyond its own community to the neighborhood, the nation, and the world as a whole; thus mission is not an optional program in the church but an essential element in the identity of the church. We are called to make Christ known through the gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring his lordship to bear on every dimension of life. The primary way we fulfill this mission is through the planting of churches that plant churches and the training of their leaders. Our aim is that Jesus Christ would be more fully formed in each person through the ministry of those churches God enables us to plant around the world. We also believe we are responsible neither to retreat from our culture nor to conform to it, but with humility, through the Spirit and the truth of the gospel, to engage it boldly as we seek its transformation and submission to the lordship of Christ. (Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 10:5-25; 28:18-20; Luke 4:18-19; 24:46-47; Acts 28:31; Romans 10:14-15; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Galatians 2:10; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 10:23-25; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10)