Statement of Faith & Practice

Statement of Faith & Practice

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.
(Unity in the essential matters, liberty in the unclear, charity in all.)

In the essentials of Christian faith and conduct, we are in complete union and agreement with our fellow Protestants; in the non-essentials and in cases where Scripture is open to different interpretation, we lean toward a more conservative reading of the Word but relish our academic arguments with our Christian Brothers and Sisters; in our disagreements in matters of practice, we defer to love and charity.

In the matter of church practice, we seek unity rather than uniformity, asking that we might be spared until we are better informed, “as it is too great an arrogance for any man or church to think that he or they have so sounded the Word of God to the bottom as precisely to set down the Church’s discipline without error in substance or circumstance.”

Statement of Faith

This Statement of Faith serves as the spiritual and practical foundation of our Christian Assembly.

Section 1:  God
We believe in one God, Creator of the universe, who has revealed Himself in three distinct persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Section 2:  The Revelation of God
We believe that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His creation and through Scripture.

Section 3:  The Word of God
We believe that the Word of God, fully and solely contained in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

Section 4:  Interpretation of the Word
We believe that, for the mature Christian, the Holy Spirit is the best and all-sufficient teacher; we acknowledge that He does not always teach when we desire, but that we may have to entreat Him again and again with prayer while patiently waiting for the explanation He is sure to give us.

Section 5:  Salvation by Faith Rather than by Works
We believe that salvation is received by grace alone and through faith alone and that no man comes to the Father but by the Son.  At the same time, we believe that, while good works are not a requirement for salvation, good works and right behavior are the inevitable result of that salvation and are the visible manifestation of the effectual call of the Holy Spirit.

Section 6:  The Last Things
We believe that our Heavenly Father will bring an end to the world in His own time and that the resurrected Christ will personally and visibly return to the earth in wrath and glory.  We believe that, in the last day, the bodies of all the dead, both just and unjust, will rise for judgment, and that the Elect will receive eternal reward while the many will suffer eternal damnation.

Section 7:  The Sovereignty of God
Fully acknowledging that God foreordained His Elect before the foundation of the world and that many of even our loved ones will not be called to believe and will thus suffer eternal damnation, and fully acknowledging that no event transpires outside the decretive or permissive will of God, we acknowledge that God is the sovereign creator of all things and submit ourselves to the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will.

Guiding Principles of Behavior

Section 8:  The Chief and Highest End of Man
We believe that the chief and highest end of each man and woman is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever (The Westminster Larger Catechism, number 1).

Section 9:  The Duty which God Requireth
We believe that the duty which God requireth of each man and woman is obedience to His revealed will (The Westminster Larger Catechism, number 91).

Section 10:  The Law of God
We believe that the Will of God is outlined in His Ten Commandments, whose meanings and effects are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in our study of Scripture and which are given to us as a yardstick of measurement so that we might appreciate His great gift of salvation in spite of our flawed and fallen nature.

Section 11:  The Law of Man
As these have been appointed by God, we believe that we are bound to obey our secular authorities; nevertheless, we are commanded to obey our secular authorities only until such time as the Law of Man conflicts with the Law of God.

Section 12:  Equality of the Man & the Woman
We believe that man and woman, although assigned different duties and authorities, are created as equals in the image of God.

Section 13:  The Sanctity of Life
We believe in the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death and in the obligation to preserve life:  our own, the unborn, the lives of those in peril, and the lives of those who are drawn toward death.

Section 14:  Sex
We believe that sex is a gift of God, good and pleasurable and meant to be thoroughly enjoyed beyond its necessary role in procreation, but a gift to be enjoyed solely within the confines of marriage.

Section 15:  Marriage
Based on the clear and consistent message given in both the Old and New Testaments (Romans 1:18-32), we believe that the Marriage Covenant was ordained by God to be a union of one man and one woman and that any other union is an abomination to our Creator.  Such covenant is an institution to serve as the model for Christ’s relationship with His Church, as the model for love and forgiveness, as the model for loyalty and permanence, and as the model for the consensual hierarchy established by our Creator.  Once joined in covenant, we believe that man and woman are inseparable save for the death or adultery of the spouse and that, once joined in covenant, the primary responsibility of each is to help the beloved die in a state of grace.

Section 16:  The Great Commission
Fully acknowledging that not all will be called to salvation, we believe that fulfilling the Great Commission is the bounden duty of every man and woman called to Christ, and that it is the bounden duty of all believers to witness the Truth of God’s Word either by our active evangelism or by our support of the evangelic work of those more suited and able.

Section 17:  The Tithe
It is expected that members of the Assembly, as commanded by God, tithe of their income to support the work of the Church.

Guiding Principles of Church Practice

Section 18:  The Continuity of the Assembly
Although many of the Puritans embraced the teachings and reforms of the Genevan John Calvin and traveled to the New World as Separatists from the Church of England, we recognize that there was never a full agreement on what defined a “Puritan-Calvinist.”

We, at First Puritan, believe that the Separatist movement—while it may have been necessary at the time—was largely nationalistic and, at times, went too far in moving away from profitable customs and traditions that had been established by godly men and church practice over many centuries.  As John Calvin himself observed, the true task before us is to become a “Christian” rather than an adherent to a “denomination” in which many now seem to be more concerned with adoring and idolizing themselves rather than Christ.

Therefore, in essential matters of faith, we rely on the Word of God and its interpretation given to us by the Holy Spirit; in non-essential matters of practice, we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we engage in spirit-led debate.

Section 19:  The Independence of the Assembly
We believe that matters of church practice unrelated to faith and right conduct are matters of the particular Assembly.  Whether the ordinance of baptism is to be administered by immersion or affusion and whether it is to be administered to the newborn or to the adult or to all or to only those covenanted to the Assembly; whether the invitation to the Lord’s Table is to be extended in a closed, close, or open communion; the degree of the minister’s participation in wedding ceremonies and prayers for the dead at burial services; likewise the order of worship, the selection of Elders and officers, the acceptance to membership and the manner of church discipline; likewise the oversight of finances and relations to the civil community—these are matters to be decided by the individual Assembly.

Section 20:  The Independence of Pulpit & Pew
To preserve the institutional separation of pulpit and pew, the minister, upon considering the advice of the Elders, will have full authority in matters of teaching, application, and pastoral care whereas the Council of Elders, upon considering the advice of the minister, will have authority in matters of church practice and administration.

Section 21:  The Separation of Church & State
To preserve the institutional separation of church and state, no member of the Assembly may concurrently serve as a civil magistrate and ruling Elder.