a) Three-in-one Spirit - God is Spirit: self-existent, infinite, personal, unchangeable and eternal in His being; perfect in holiness, love, justice, goodness, wisdom, and truth; all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present; Creator and Sustainer of all things, both visible and invisible; both within and outside of creation; eternally existing in three persons Who are one in substance and equal in power and glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Jn. 4:24 Dt. 6:4; 1 Co. 8:4-6 Mt. 28:19; 2 Co. 13:14)
b) Father - The Father is born of none, but is eternal; Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; the Author of salvation; the Father of all who are born into new life through faith in Christ. (Ge. 1:1 Ps. 90:2 Jn. 13:3; Ep. 1:3-4 Ep. 1:2-3; 1 Pe. 1:2-4)
c) Son - The Lord Jesus Christ is God; is the only Son of the Father; incarnate since He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, thus uniting the divine and human natures in their completeness into the one unique person Jesus Christ; is sinless in His life and miraculous works; made atonement through His death for the sins of the world; is bodily resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father, having sovereign power and lordship; acts in His present mediating ministry as the believer’s Advocate; awaits His coming in power and glory. (Jn. 1:1,14 Lu. 1:35; Jn. 1:14, 18 2 Co. 5:21 Jo. 3:16 Ac. 1:11; 6Ti. 2:13-14)
d) Holy Spirit - The Holy Spirit is from the Father and was sent by the Son after His ascension. He gives new birth to those who put their faith in Christ, and lives in every believer—a guarantee of our inheritance. His work is to convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment6; to regenerate those who repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; to lead into truth, sanctify, empower, teach, guide and comfort the believer; and to fill the believer. He works in the church to unite believers; to indwell them as temples of God; to equip them with gifts and graces for service; to give them the body of inspired truth; and to guide the church into the will of God. Believers are to not grieve or quench the Spirit, but rather to walk in dependence by the direction of the Spirit.
(Jn. 14:26 Jn. 16:7; Ac. 2:1-4 John 3:3-7 Ep. 1:13-14 Jn. 16:7-14 Ti. 3:5-6 Jn. 4:16-17 Ep. 5:18 1 Co. 12:7-11
Ep. 4:30; 1 Th. 5:19; Ga. 5:16)
2. The Bible
The Bible, consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God given by divine inspiration, and is inerrant in the original manuscripts. It remains the unchanging authority in matters of Christian faith and practice, and is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. (2 Pe. 1:20-21 Ps. 119:9;
1 Pe. 1:25 2 Ti. 3:16; He. 4:12 Ps. 119:105)
a) Our Creation - Humankind was created by God, in the image and likeness of God, possessing personality and holiness. Enjoying close fellowship with God in our original state, we were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Having been created in God’s likeness we are self-conscious personalities capable of free and rational choice. Human life has inherent worth from conception. (Ge. 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; Ja. 3:9 Ep. 1:4-6)
b) Our Fall - Through the sin of Adam, humankind is fallen from original righteousness, suffers under sin’s curse, apart from the grace of God is entirely destitute of holiness and inclined continually to evil, and unless born again, “cannot see the kingdom of God.” In our own strength, without divine grace, we cannot do good works pleasing and acceptable to God. We are each free moral agents responsible for our eternal destiny, under the influence and empowering of the Holy Spirit. By the grace of God, we are enabled to exercise our wills to accept God’s will and gift. (Ge. 6:5 Ro. 3:10, 18, 23; Ep. 2:1-3 Jn. 3:3-7 Ro. 2:4)
c) Our Redemption - God has provided redemption for all people through the mediating work of Christ, Who voluntarily offered Himself on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for sin, the just suffering for the unjust, bearing sin’s curse and dying for every person. (Ac. 4:12; 1 Ti. 2:5-6 Jo. 10:17-18 Ti. 2:11-14; He. 2:9)
We are all sinners, guilty before God, and dead in sins. Therefore, we are unable to save ourselves, but God has, out of His infinite love, given His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to become our Saviour. (Jn. 14:6 Jn. 3:14-17
Ro. 3:20-26; Ep. 2:4-5, 8-9)
a) Repentance - Genuine repentance is a necessary attitude and act of people which a holy and just God requires before He forgives our sins. As an attitude it involves a knowledge of, a change of mind toward, and a godly sorrow for sin; a proper reverence for God’s holiness; and a surrender to God. As an act it means confessing and forsaking sin. Repentance is our appropriate response to the grace of God in conviction. As a fruit of repentance, in so far as possible where sin has been committed, restitution should be made. (Ps. 51:3-4 2 Co. 7:8-11 Pr. 28:13; Is. 6:1-5 Jn. 16:8-11)
b) Faith - Faith, which accompanies repentance, is God’s gift where, by an act of the will, we embrace His promises and appropriate per-sonally the provisions of His grace. By faith, believers rest in the completeness and adequacy of the atoning merit of Christ’s sacrifice as the only ground and hope of salvation. Scripture teaches that good works are evidence of a regenerated life, springing from a true and living faith, and pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ. (Ro. 5:1-2; Ep. 2:8-9 Ep. 2:10 He. 11:6; Ja. 2:17)
c) Justification and Regeneration - God justifies and regenerates sinners when they personally believe and repent. Justification is a act which absolves us of the guilt and punishment for sin and restores us to divine favour. Justification has to do with the changing of the sinner’s standing before God. Regeneration has to do with the changing of the sinner’s nature through the imparting of divine life. Regeneration is a spiritual birthing, a new birth. This experience is witnessed to by the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who produces in the heart a desire to do the will of God. (Ro. 8:33 Ep. 2:1-3 Ro. 5:9-12 Jn. 3:5-6 Ro. 8:16; Ep. 1:13-14)
d) Sanctification and Filling with the Holy Spirit - Sanctification is the work of God in making believers holy and renewing them in His image. It is the will of God that each believer should be cleansed from sin, filled with the Holy Spirit and sanctified. Sanctification involves separation from sin and full dedication to the will of God. God in turn gives power for holy living and effective service. Sanctification is both a moment, as the regenerated believer initially surrenders to the will of God and appropriates the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and a progressive journey of continual consecration and growth in character and Christ-likeness.
The filling of a believer with the Holy Spirit is unmistakable, and is evidenced by love out of a pure heart and by the fruit of the Spirit. It is the believer’s privilege to live, by faith, a Spirit-filled, Spirit-gifted, and Spirit-led life of victory over sin and fear, and of ministry. (Ac. 15:8-9; Ro. 6:19, 22 Ro. 8:5-11 Ro. 12:1-2 Ro. 8:1-4, 9-11; Jn. 17:17-19; He. 12:14 Ro. 5:5 2 Co. 7:1, Ga. 5:22-23)
e) Security of the Believer - Because God gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ, the believer is secure in that salvation. We are adopted into God’s family and the gift of the Holy Spirit is the “deposit” which guarantees our salvation. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian. It is the grace and keeping power of God that gives us this security. The true believer will bear the fruit of the Christian life. While a person cannot “lose” his or her salvation, it is possible to wilfully turn away from the salvation which had been wilfully accepted. (Jn. 10:29; 2 Ti. 1:12; He. 7:25; 10:10, 14; 1 Pe. 1:3-5 He. 6:4-6)
f) Resurrection and Glorification - Christ was bodily resurrected and because He lives we too will live. At the return of the Lord, the bodies of the righteous dead will be raised and, together with the living believers, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. We will all be changed so as to have literal, spiritual and immortal bodies like Christ’s own glorious body. This is God’s final act in our salvation and will be realized when we see Him as He is. (1 Co. 15:19-23 1 Th. 4:14-17 1 Jn. 3:2-3)
5. The Church
a) The church is an organism composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, called out from the world, separated from sin, and vitally united by faith to Christ, its living Head and sovereign Lord. (Ac. 15:12-18; 1 Co. 12:12-27 Ep. 5:25-26 Ep. 2:11-12)
b) The local church is an organized body of believers in Christ who are voluntarily joined together for public worship, prayer, fellowship, discipling, service, evangelism and observance of the ordinances, and who are given the responsibility to administer discipline. (Ep. 1:5-6, 3:20-21 1 Th. 5:11 Mt. 28:18‑20; Ac. 1:8)
c) The characteristic marks of the members of the true church are faith in Jesus as the Son of God, love for God and for those of like faith, obedience to God’s commandments, and victory over sin. (1 Jn. 3:21-24 1 Jn. 5:1‑5)
6. The Last Things
a) The Return of Christ - The second coming of Christ is the hope of the church and will be personal, bodily, visible, sudden, pre-millennial, and redemptive. It is a source of encouragement and hope, a motive for holiness, and an inspiration for service. (Mt. 24:3-25 Re. 19:7-8 Th. 4:16-18; Re. 20:4-6 1 Ti. 6:12-14; 1 Jn. 3:3; Re. 5:9-10)
b) The Millennium - The millennium, or thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, will be ushered in by His return with the saints. During this period Satan will be bound, the curse will be lifted, evils such as war, poverty, and injustice will vanish from the earth, and Christ will reign in righteousness. (Is. 2:1‑4; 11:6‑9; Re. 20:1‑6)
c) The Judgment and Future State - There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. All persons stand under the righteous judgement of God, both now and in that day. People were created to exist forever. We will either exist eternally separated from God by sin, or eternally with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is Hell. To be eternally in union with Him is eternal life. Heaven and Hell are real places of eternal existence. (Jn. 5:28-29 Ac. 17:31)
Since the vital importance of the teaching of the Bible is central to our identity as a church, our unique church distinctives emerge directly from our understanding of the Bible. So perhaps it is not surprising that our first distinctive is how we approach reading and interpreting the Bible.
Hermeneutics is the study of “how to study the Bible”. At VMC we believe that there are three valid ways of approaching the Bible for the purpose of learning it’s truths. However, these three approaches are not equal in value, and have very specific purposes and applications. We understand them in a hierarchical order: The first approach is more important than the second, the second more important than the third, and the third never supersedes the prior two in terms of understanding the meaning of the Bible.
These are the three approaches:
1) Biblical Theology: trying to discern the original author’s intent to the original audience.
2) Systematic Theology: discovering and constructing various doctrines based on themes or topics found in the text.
3) Personal Readings: when the Holy Spirit gives insight to a person testimonially, without consideration of context, for a specific purpose (usually in times of doubt or grief).
At VMC, we continually strive to read the Bible using the first approach. Systematic theologies are always secondary to the messages of the Biblical text itself, and thus are held more loosely than the teachings found explicitly within the scriptures. For more information on this, we regularly study Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics at our Adult Bible Class which takes place Sunday evenings at 7pm.
b) Tradition vs. Biblical theology
While we value our heritage, we are taught in the Bible that we should not submit to hollow human traditions (Colossians 2:4-23). For this reason, it is very important to us at VMC that we are not simply “doing what we have always done, simply because we have always done it”.
Traditions help us connect with our heritage, allow us to feel stable in the routine of our christian lives, but they can also distract us if we begin to think that adhering to them is more important than the teachings of the Bible itself.
For this reason, at VMC, we are continually vigilant to balance our understanding of tradition with a stronger understanding of the Bible. We don’t have dress codes, but we do expect modesty. We don’t draw up personal standards on issues that the Bible explicitly states are a matter of our own consciences (like drinking alcohol). We want to focus on obedience to the commands of Jesus, without adding our own rules based solely on our church customs or traditions.
c) Being Holy in a Corrupt World
Throughout the Bible we are told to be a Holy people, set apart from the world, yet attempting to reach the world with the love of Jesus. And though we are inviting, and though we aren’t restricted by tradition, we do strongly adhere to the moral, practical and spiritual teachings of the Bible. And so, like our pietist forebears, we strive to live in obedience to the Bible as much as we can.
Because of this, we have firm convictions on particular contemporary cultural issues that make us distinctive. Three issues that seem prevalent today on which we have a particular stand are the following:
1) Homosexuality: We believe that homosexuality is a sin, yet our emphasis is on bringing all sinners to repentance and a life of following Jesus. We likewise believe that adultery and promiscuity are sins in much the same way as homosexuality.
2) Gender Roles in Church leadership positions: We believe that the role of Elder in the church can only be occupied by a man, yet women are encouraged to serve in all other capacities as the Holy Spirit leads them. (For more information on this distinctive, you can listen to a sermon dedicated to this subject on our website entitled “Questions: Women and Leadership Roles in the Church” http://www.vmchurch.com/listen-online.html)
3) Seven (24 hour) Day Creation History: We believe that Genesis chapters 1 through 3 introduces us to God who created everything. And while the means of creation is not the main intent of those passages, a literal seven day creation account is assumed by the author as the basis of the rest of his teaching. We do not believe that evolution, or even theistic evolution, reflects what is taught in the Bible.
d) Disciple Making: Even more important than taking a particular stand on current social and cultural issues is our desire to be faithful and obedient to the commands of Jesus in our daily lives. We emphasize two of the commands of Jesus that we focus on:
1) Disciples loving disciples (so that the world will know that we belong to Jesus). While we strive to love everyone, we are especially commanded to love those in our local church (John 13:34-35, Galatians 6:10).
2) Disciples making disciples. This comes from the final command of Jesus (the Great Commission), to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to obey all of the commands of Jesus. This is not simply a call to discipleship (being a disciple who embarks in the daily disciplines of the faith: prayer, Bible reading, serving, etc.), but rather a call to actually invest time in weekly one-on-one meetings with another person, making them a disciple of Jesus. Fulfilling this command of Jesus is easily seen in our lives: how many people are we currently making into disciples? If the answer is zero, then we are disobedient to this command of Jesus.