To develop devoted followers of Jesus Christ who celebrate, grow, and serve for the glory of God.
Remembering the good news of what Jesus has accomplished—the gospel—fuels our joy in God, focuses our eyes on God, shapes our hearts like God’s, and moves our feet for God. The gospel is essential and at the heart of everything we do at First Family. It’s worth celebrating! You’ll see this evidenced at all our gatherings, but especially at our Sunday services. Each message preached at FFC comes back to Christ and the gospel. You’ll find that the gospel is not just the ABCs of Christianity, it’s the whole alphabet.
Connecting with the local community of believers in Christ sustains life change, fosters accountability, and is essential to spiritual growth. Small Groups are the family in First Family Church. This is the primary avenue for a deeper connection to this local body. It is in a small group that you form the meaningful relationships needed during times of celebration and crisis, as well as the accountability necessary for sustained life change. In addition, participating in a Small Group is one of the best tools for outreach and evangelism. Truly, the community of First Family is best seen and felt in a Small Group.
Using the gifts God gives us to further his mission builds our spiritual muscles, broadens our outreach, and molds us into the image of Christ. That’s why First Family encourages everyone to use his or her spiritual gift each week for the good of the body of Christ. From the front door greeter and the tech team member to the elementary class teacher and the youth leader, every area of serving is valuable.
- We believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, and the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- We believe in the Genesis account of creation (Genesis 1:1).
- We believe in one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
- We believe in Jesus Christ, His deity, virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious death, burial and bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father and His personal future return in power and glory (John 1:1; Matthew 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:3–4; Acts 1:9, 11).
- We believe in the sinfulness of man and the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ who shed His blood. This makes believers eternally secure in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23–25; 8:38–39).
- We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells and enables the Christian to live a godly life (John 14:26–27).
- We believe in the resurrection of the dead: the believer to life everlasting and the unbeliever to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28–29).
- We believe in the church as the body of Christ, which is composed of all believers who have accepted Christ as Savior (1 Corinthians 12:12–13).
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
A. God the Father
God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.
B. God the Son
Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.
Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; 53; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1- 3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13- 14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.
C. God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring
the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.
Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.
Genesis 1:26-30; 2:5,7,18-22; 3; 9:6; Psalms 1; 8:3-6; 32:1-5; 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 17:5; Matthew 16:26; Acts 17:26- 31; Romans 1:19-32; 3:10-18,23; 5:6,12,19; 6:6; 7:14-25; 8:14-18,29; 1 Corinthians 1:21-31; 15:19,21-22; Ephesians 2:1- 22; Colossians 1:21-22; 3:9-11.
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.
B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11- 14,29; 3:3- 21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16- 18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23- 24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.
V. God’s Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.
VI. The Church
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are elders/pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of elder/pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.
Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9- 14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3.
VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead.
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby believers, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.
Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.
VIII. The Kingdom
The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.
Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 3:2; 4:8-10,23; 12:25-28; 13:1-52; 25:31-46; 26:29; Mark 1:14-15; 9:1; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2; 12:31-32; 17:20-21; 23:42; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:6-7; 17:22-31; Romans 5:17; 8:19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 11:10,16; 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 4:13; Revelation 1:6,9; 5:10; 11:15; 21- 22.
IX. Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.
X. Evangelism and Missions
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 6:1-8; Matthew 9:37-38; 10:5-15; 13:18-30, 37-43; 16:19; 22:9-10; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 10:1-18; 24:46-53; John 14:11-12; 15:7-8,16; 17:15; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2; 8:26-40; 10:42-48; 13:2-3; Romans 10:13- 15; Ephesians 3:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 2:1-3; 11:39-12:2; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 22:17.
Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.
In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.
Deuteronomy 4:1,5,9,14; 6:1-10; 31:12-13; Nehemiah 8:1-8; Job 28:28; Psalms 19:7ff.; 119:11; Proverbs 3:13ff.; 4:1-10; 8:1-7,11; 15:14; Ecclesiastes 7:19; Matthew 5:2; 7:24ff.; 28:19-20; Luke 2:40; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 2:3,8-9; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17; Hebrews 5:12-6:3; James 1:5; 3:17.
God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.
Genesis 14:20; Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 8:18; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 6:1-4,19-21; 19:21; 23:23; 25:14-29; Luke 12:16-21,42; 16:1-13; Acts 2:44-47; 5:1-11; 17:24-25; 20:35; Romans 6:6-22; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 6:19-20; 12; 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 12:15; Philippians 4:10-19; 1 Peter 1:18-19.
Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.
Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19- 20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2- 3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18.
XIV. The Christian and the Social Order
All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.
Exodus 20:3-17; Leviticus 6:2-5; Deuteronomy 10:12; 27:17; Psalm 101:5; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 8:16; Matthew 5:13-16,43-48; 22:36- 40; 25:35; Mark 1:29-34; 2:3ff.; 10:21; Luke 4:18-21; 10:27-37; 20:25; John 15:12; 17:15; Romans 12–14; 1Corinthians 5:9-10; 6:1-7; 7:20- 24; 10:23-11:1; Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Philemon; James 1:27; 2:8.
XV. Peace and War
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.
The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7; 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2.
XVII. Religious Liberty
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.
Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11- 17; 4:12-19.
XVIII. The Family
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.
Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.
The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.
Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1- 16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3- 5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.
(1 Peter 5:1-3) The New Testament does not distinguish between pastors and elders. They are simply different words that describe the different functions of the overseer. Moreover, there is strong evidence that in each church, elders (plural) were appointed to oversee, shepherd, and guard the church of God which Jesus purchased with his own blood. The elders are to be men of indisputable character, integrity, and authenticity (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Prayer and the ministry of the Word are the primary duties of the elders (Acts 6:4). As the Spirit called overseers (Acts 20:28), they were given the responsibility of teaching and equipping the flock for the work of the ministry and to ground them in sound doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-13). Still today, in summary, the elders guide, lead, shepherd, teach, and direct the body of believers under the authority of the Holy Spirit and in mutual submission to each other, and by focusing their ministry on the spiritual health of the church through prayer and the ministry of the Word.
At First Family, that is primarily done by overseeing our individual Small Groups. How? Each elder is assigned a specific number of Small Groups to shepherd, and they meet with those Small Groups at least twice annually in what we call FFC’s Fireside Chats. FFC’s Elders also meet together at least monthly for church updates, prayer, and training. The Elders are authorized to make the final decisions concerning the church.
All believers are instructed to use the gifts they have to serve the body of Christ (Romans 12:6-8). The New Testament designates, however, a certain group of people called to mobilize the church for more effective service, especially when the church’s mission is in danger of a detour. The people are referred to as deacons. Like elders, deacons are to be of indisputable character, integrity, and authenticity (1 Timothy 3:8-13) who lead through service and ensure that the unity of the body is maintained through the proper physical care of the church’s members and the church’s business (Acts 6:1-7).
(2 Timothy 3:16-17) We believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and is necessary for spiritual growth and equipping for life. It is our “soul food” and our “user friendly” manual for living. It is the timeless and timely foundation for all of our ministries. The expository preaching and teaching of Christ’s message is fundamental to all our weekend services, and the systematic study of it is central to our small groups. Though we strive to deliver His Word in a relevant, passionate manner, we in no way and by no means will ever stray from guarding the “sound doctrine” given through the apostles as recorded in the Bible.
(Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8) At First Family Church, our eyes are always on “the fields that are ready for harvest,” and we are constantly praying for God to “send forth workers into His field.” This means we are constantly seeking better ways to reach the people in our community and around the world.
(Ephesians 4:11-13) We desire to be a community of God’s people who are in the right places for the right reasons – everyone is serving in their area of giftedness according to their talents, skills and passions. Because equipping and empowering believers are high values at First Family Church, expanding and developing a staff team of quality equippers is a constant priority at First Family Church. Furthermore, input and evaluation is an environmental “constant” at First Family Church, and leadership meetings and training sessions are considered necessary, required and fun!
(Acts 5:12, 16; Nehemiah 8) There is great value and motivation in celebrating spiritual life together. Even while the early church was dispersed into smaller groups, thousands gathered together to hear the Scriptures proclaimed and watch people take steps of commitment to Christ by believing and being baptized. Additionally, God’s Old Testament people – the Israelites – were a people of celebrations. God encouraged joyful music and anthems throughout the Old Testament period and relished the praises they would lift up to Him in large worship gatherings. We believe there is a biblical aspect of joyful worship that can only be experienced when God’s people gather together in a corporate fashion for the express purpose of celebrating God, His Word and His work.
(Acts 2:42-47) We believe every person needs a small group. In fact, we think every person already has a small group. The question is – is it the right small group? The right small group can make a big difference in a person’s life. Jesus himself was part of a small group (the 12 disciples), and the book of Acts records the impact and vitality of small groups by showing how the early followers of Jesus drew together in small groups to grow in the Word, for prayer and fellowship, and for outreach to the community.
Most Churches are governed in one of two basic ways: congregationally or representatively. First Family Church uses the representative form of government by entrusting the spiritual leadership of the church to godly men called Elders. We feel this is most biblical and adheres to the scriptural mandate of plurality with accountability.
What is the meaning of the term ‘elder?’
The word elder is of Old Testament Jewish origin (Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 27:1). It refers to a category of men who were set apart for leadership (Deuteronomy 1:9-18). Their function was decision making – applying wisdom to the lives of the people in resolving conflicts, giving direction, and generally overseeing the details of an orderly society (1 Samuel 11:3; 16:4; 30:26).
The Hebrews word sab is also used for elders. In the book of Ezra sab refers to the Jewish leaders in charge of rebuilding the temple after the Exile. The Greek word for elder, presbuteros, is used some seventy times in the New Testament. It has reference to mature age, much like the Jewish words for elders (Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 5:5).
In Jesus’ day, presbuteros referred to a group of ex officio spiritual leaders of Israel (Matthew 27:3; 27:41; Luke 22:52; Acts 4:8). In the 28 times presbuteros is used in the New Testament for spiritual leaders, in each usage it refers to recognized spiritual leaders in Israel who aren’t defined as priests of any kind.
How is the term ‘elder’ used in reference to the church?
The New Testament church was initially Jewish, so it would be natural that the concept of Elder rule was adopted for use in the early church. Presbuteros is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the Epistles in reference to a unique group of leaders in the church. From the earliest days of the church it was clear that a group of mature spiritual leaders were identified to have responsibility for the church. The church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul to the Elders at Jerusalem with a gift to be distributed to the needy brethren in Judea (Acts 11:29-30). That demonstrates that Elders existed in the church at that very early date, and that the believers at Antioch recognized their authority.
In Acts 14 we see that one of the key steps in establishing a new church was to identify and appoint Elders for church leadership (Acts 14:23). Nearly every church in the New Testament is specifically said to have had Elders (Acts 20:17; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
How is ‘elder’ related to bishop and pastor?
Bishops and Pastors are not distinct from Elders. The terms are different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for Bishop, listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an Elder, in Titus 1:6-9, are almost identical. In 1 Peter 5:1-2 all three are mentioned:
“Therefore, I exhort the elders (presbuteros) among you, as your fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (poimaino=pastor) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (episkopeo=bishop) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.”
The word for bishops, episkopos, means “overseer” or “guardian.” The New Testament Bishop, or Overseer, is specifically responsible for teaching (1 Timothy 3:2), feeding, protecting, and generally nurturing the flock (Acts 20:28). Biblically, there is no difference in the role of Elder and that of a Bishop. Episkopos emphasizes the function, and the presbuteros, emphasizes the character of the same group of leaders.
Poimen, the word for Pastor, or Shepherd, is used several times in the New Testament, but Ephesians 4:11 is the only place in the King James Version where it is translated “pastor”. Every other time it appears in the Greek text, it is translated “shepherd” in the English version.
Poimen emphasizes the pastoral role of caring and feeding. The focus of the term is on the man’s attitude. To be qualified as a pastor, a man must have a shepherd’s caring heart.
So the term of elder emphasizes who the man is. Bishop speaks of what he does. Pastor deals with how he feels about the work.
What is the role of an elder?
In the New Testament the elders were charged with the care, spiritual guidance, oversight of affairs, and the teaching and preaching in the local church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The elders are to be a source for those seeking partnership in prayer (James 5:14).
What are the qualifications of an elder?
Biblical qualifications for spiritual leaders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. They are as follows:
- Above reproach – Cannot be accused of anything sinful (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).
- Husband of one wife – A man who is utterly single-minded in his devotion to his wife. If he is not married, he is not to be flirtatious (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).
- Temperate – A balanced, moderate perspective on life (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Prudent – Wise (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Respectable – Has the dignity and respect of his peers (1 Timothy 3:2).
- Hospitable – Ministers to other members of the body of Christ as well as and especially to non-Christians (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Able to teach – Able to communicate the Word of God to others in a non-argumentative manner (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9).
- Not addicted to wine – To have no addiction to anything that is controlling one’s life (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Not pugnacious – Does not pick fights or physically abuse (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Gentle – Mild-mannered (1 Timothy 3:3).
- Uncontentious – Does not take the opposite point of view to stir up arguments and destroy the unity in a group (1 Timothy 3:3).
- Free from the love of money – Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Ruling his household well – A demonstration of all the other qualities first in his own house (1 Timothy 3:4).
- Having children under control with dignity – Leading in a godly way the lives of his children (1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6).
- Not a new convert – One who is in the process of continual growth in disciplined Christian living (1 Timothy 3:6).
- Of good reputation with those outside the church – Having the respect of unbelievers even if they disagree with your point of view (1 Timothy 3:7).
- Not self-willed – Practicing submission (Titus 1:7).
- Not quick-tempered – Practicing patience (Titus 1:7).
- Loving what is good- Desiring to associate oneself with truth, honor and integrity (Titus 1:8).
- Just – Able to make objective decisions and be honest in relationships (Titus 1:8).
- Devout – Devoted to God (Titus 1:8).
In addition, an Elder must demonstrate skill in handling the Word of God, so that he can both “exhort in sound doctrine” and “refute those who contradict” it.
What about women as elders?
No provision is made in Scripture for women to serve as Elders (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Corinthians 14:33-40).
Specifically at First Family Church
- Oversee all Small Groups personally
- Shepherd the church spiritually
- Direct the church structurally
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