We teach that all who place their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united spiritual body, the church (1 Corinthians 12:12–13), the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23–32; Revelation 19:7–8) of which Christ is the Head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18). We teach that the formation of the church, the body of Christ, began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–21, 38–47) and will be completed at the coming of Christ for His own at the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). We teach that the church is thus a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ, made up of all born-again believers in this present age (Ephesians 2:11–3:6). The church is distinct from Israel (1 Corinthians 10:32), a mystery not revealed until this age (Ephesians 3:1–6; 5:32). We teach that the establishment and continuity of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament Scriptures (Acts 14:23, 27; 20:17, 28; Galatians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1) and that the members of the one spiritual body are directed to associate themselves together in local assemblies (1 Corinthians 11:18–20; Hebrews 10:25).
We teach that the one, supreme authority for the church is Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18) and that church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are all appointed through His sovereignty as found in the Scriptures. The biblically designated officers serving under Christ and over the assembly are elders and deacons, both of whom must meet biblical qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9). Elders are also referred to as overseers, pastors, and pastor-teachers (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:1–2). We teach that these leaders lead or rule as servants of Christ (1 Timothy 5:17–22) and have His authority in directing the church. The congregation is to submit to their leadership (Hebrews 13:7, 17). We teach the importance of discipleship (Matthew 28:19–20; 2 Timothy 2:2), mutual accountability of all believers to each other (Matthew 18:5–14), as well as the need for discipline of sinning members of the congregation in accord with the standards of Scripture (Matthew 18:15–22; 1 Corinthians 5:1–13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15; 1 Timothy 1:19–20; Titus 1:10–16). We teach the autonomy of the local church, free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations (Titus 1:5). We teach that it is scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other for the presentation and propagation of the faith. Each local church, however, through its elders and their interpretation and application of Scripture, should be the sole judge of the measure and method of its cooperation. The elders should determine all other matters of membership, policy, discipline, benevolence, and government as well (Acts 15:19–31, 20:28; 1 Corinthians 5:4–7, 13; 1 Peter 5:1–4).
We teach that the purpose of the church is to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21) by building itself up in the faith (Ephesians 4:13–16), by instruction of the Word (2 Timothy 2:2, 15; 3:16–17), by fellowship (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3), by keeping the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38–42), and by advancing and communicating the gospel to the entire world (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8; 2:42). We teach the calling of all saints to the work of service (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 4:12; Revelation 22:12). We teach the need of the church to cooperate with God as He accomplishes His purpose in the world. To that end, He gives the church spiritual gifts. First, He gives men chosen for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:7–12) and He also gives unique and special spiritual abilities to each member of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5–8; 1 Peter 4:10–11). We teach that there were two kinds of gifts given the early church: (1) miraculous gifts of divine revelation and healing, given temporarily in the apostolic era for the purpose of confirming the authenticity of the Apostles’ message (Hebrews 2:3–4; 2 Corinthians 12:12), and (2) ministering gifts, given to equip believers for edifying one another. With the New Testament revelation now complete, Scripture becomes the sole test of the authenticity of a man’s message (1 Corinthians 13:8–12; Revelation 13:13–14). The only gifts in operation today are those non-revelatory equipping gifts given for edification (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Peter 4:10–11). We teach that no one possesses the gift of healing today but that God does hear and answer the prayer of faith, and will answer in accordance with His own perfect will for the sick, suffering, and afflicted (2 Corinthians 12:6–10; James 5:13–16; 1 John 5:14–15).
We teach that two ordinances have been committed to the local church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:38–42). Christian baptism by immersion (Acts 8:36–39) is the testimony of a believer showing forth his faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, and his union with Him in death to sin and resurrection to a new life (Romans 6:1–11). It is also a sign of fellowship and identification with the visible body of Christ (Acts 2:41–42) and should be a voluntary act of obedience and faith. Believers are exhorted to give this testimony soon after their conversion as an initial step of discipleship (Acts 8:26–39; 16:25–33). We teach that the Lord’s Supper is the commemoration and proclamation of His death until He comes, and should be always preceded by solemn self-examination to ensure that one is walking in fellowship with Christ and other believers (1 Corinthians 11:17–34). We also teach that whereas the elements of communion are only representative of the flesh and blood of Christ, participation in the Lord’s Supper is nevertheless an actual communion with the risen Christ, who indwells every believer, and so is present fellowshipping with His people (1 Corinthians 10:16).