What We Believe
THE INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
We believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God; that it is in fact the only rule of faith for our lives. With that, we believe that we have a most sacred responsibility as a church to preach and teach this Word and only this Word to God’s people. We believe what the apostle Paul said in Colossians 1 that “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God; the firstborn over all creation… (that) all things were made by Him and for Him.” That is to say, not only is Jesus the Son of God, but that Jesus is God—the God who came down to the earth and became man. We believe, as the John 10 scripture says, that Jesus took the authority he had to lay down His life and take it back up again; that people simply didn’t just crucify Him, but that He chose to die because He loved us. We believe what Jesus said to his disciple John in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father expect through Me.”
THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST
With respect to the person of Christ, we believe Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. God became man—fully God, fully man, united in one person, and lived among us. Jesus Christ performed in a way that God alone can perform: from his declaration to others that their sins were forgiven, his future judgment of the world he foretold in his story of the separation of the sheep and the goats, to his pronouncement of his pre-existence in John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Christ’s deity is proof that we have intimate knowledge of God Himself. When we view the walk of Jesus on this earth we view the Father also because Christ only did what the Father told him to do. Christ’s deity is also the evidence that his death is the definitive and sufficient act for all humanity because it was the sinless God who gave His life. Only God has the power to reconcile us to Him for all eternity. And because he was fully man his atoning death is on our behalf—because man sinned, man must pay for sin in the face of a just God. We believe that our salvation depends upon the unity of God and man within Christ. This person of Christ, because he is fully man, can as well sympathize with our plight. He is in fact the truest example of the fullness of humanity. His person on earth is our model. It is his person that informs us of the work he actually did.
The work of Jesus was performed in two stages: humiliation and exaltation. His humiliation is described in Philippians 2:6-7: “He (Christ) did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of a man.” He was born under the law and was subjected to it though it was he who authored it. By being under the law, Jesus was able to redeem those who are under the law. As well, by becoming human Christ chose to become subject to the death. And his death was most humiliating: it was torturous, they spat on him and the crowd mocked him endlessly. He endured a horrendously humiliating murder.
The second stage of Christ’s work, exaltation, begins with his resurrection—his overcoming of death. The fact that death was incapable of keeping him is the great symbol of the fullness of his victory. When evil cannot contain someone it has killed, then evil has been dealt its biggest blow. Christ’s resurrection was His victory over sin and death.
His exaltation leads us to his ascension and session—that is, his leaving the earth and taking his position at the right hand of the Father. He left to prepare a place for us and so that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, would come. The Holy Spirit would work in us in contrast to Jesus who worked with the disciples. In this, Jesus himself declared that we as disciples would do even greater works than he. His seat at the Father’s right hand signifies his authority and rule and the place where he performs intercessions with the Father for us.
The second coming is the final piece of Christ’s work of exaltation. He will return one day but no one knows the day or the hour. He will return as the conquering Lord and judge of all humanity. Jesus, who subjected himself to humiliation, is to come back and be fully exalted.
The fifth major view is the satisfaction or penal substitution theory that claims the atonement was compensation to the Father. Its main premise is that Jesus died to satisfy a principle in the very nature of God the Father—lying in stark contrast to the previous theory that Jesus died to exact a payment to Satan. This view says that sin is failure to give God what we owe him, what he deserves. The sinner must therefore give back to God what we have taken from him. It was Christ who died to satisfy God’s justice. By substituting himself for us, Jesus took on the punishment for our sins, appeased the Father and caused a reconciliation between God and man. Whereas the Old Testament sacrifices had to be offered repeatedly, Christ’s death is a “once and for all” atonement for the sins of all humankind. Christ died for our sake, in our behalf. He was our substitute. Jesus bore our sins, they were laid on him. This theory affirms the biblical lesson of the total depravity of mankind—that we are completely unable to meet our need; and so it was absolutely necessary that God send his Son to die for us save us.
THE PERSON & WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We believe the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal, and is the Comforter that the Father sent us. He, the Holy Spirit, is the guide for us on this earth; He moves, directs and empowers us to do the will of God. More specifically, the Holy Spirit intimately involves Himself with us in converting, regenerating, teaching, testifying, interceding, searching, speaking, commanding, illuminating and revealing truth. In this way, the Trinity becomes most personal to the Christian today with the Holy Spirit; for it is through the Holy Spirit’s work that we interact with the presence of God. So in order to be in touch with God in this present day, we must be familiar with the ways of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Holy Spirit works both within and among us and that He has planted in us the desire to follow Christ.
Jesus himself acutely depicts the Holy Spirit as his replacement that will carry on the same role. Christ utilizes the same name used to describe himself to describe the Holy Spirit when in John 14:16 he says that he will pray to the Father, who will give “another counselor/advocate”—with “another” meaning “of the same kind.” In fact, the purpose of the Holy Spirit in the world is to glorify and declare Christ. The Son states in John 16:14 that the Spirit “will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, declares and glorifies the second Person, the Son, just as the Son declares and glorifies the first Person, the Father. A more categorical view of the work of the Trinity is that the Father is highlighted in the work of creation and providence, the Son has resulted redemption for a sinful world, and the Spirit applies this redemption work to humanity, making salvation, regeneration, conviction, truth and the like continuously tangible.
It is with this that we affirm our dependency upon the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish the work and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ. In Romans 8:5 Paul tells us that our objective here is to set our mind on what the Holy Spirit desires. Our goal as a church is to literally have our minds be controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit is described by Paul as the Spirit of life. The Spirit of God brings with Him the life God meant for us to have. And so living by the Spirit, being led around by the Spirit, having our mind controlled by the Spirit brings about the life God meant for us to have.
The Holy Spirit gives us each spiritual gifts as believers to edify the body of Christ. No one individual has all the spiritual gifts, nor is any one of the gifts given to every person within the fellowship believers. As a result, every person within the church needs each other. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to perform the ministry and mission of the church. We are, therefore, again dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do the work of God both in the church and in the world. The apostle Paul himself said that his successes in ministry were the result of the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:19).
BAPTISM & COMMUNION
The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are representative of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Grace is active and victory is testified to when communion is shared. We take the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians to heart that a person should examine himself and his relationship with the congregation before he partakes of the communion table. This is something you will hear constantly repeated as we administer the sacrament of communion because division in the church is, quite poignantly, the enemy of the communion table. That’s why Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 uses communion as the example to confront divisiveness within the church. The Lord’s Supper is “the sacrament of continuation”—to be partaken of until the Second Coming.
Baptism is “the sacrament of initiation”—that being baptized is an event for the Christian, testifying to their new life in Christ. Baptism, according to Romans 6, is a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection: the water symbolizing the Jesus’ burial as well as the burial of my old self, and the coming out of the water symbolizing His resurrection and my new self and life in Christ.
THE NATURE & MISSION OF THE CHURCH
The church is a fellowship of believers called together to present Christ to the world; his love, compassion, justice and salvation. We all are called to take active part in the mission of Christ in the world, that we all share in the ministry of Church. Because the church is a calling together of believers, it must not be understood primarily as a societal construction, but as a divinely established institution. God created the church, humanity did not. Therefore, the core of what the church is must be determined by the Scriptures versus an analysis of its experiential function. While the church is a divine creation, it is made up of imperfect human beings. The church will not reach its perfection until the return of Christ.
The church is the continuation of the Lord’s presence and ministry in the world. With this, the most profound image of the church is its representation as the body of Christ. This image speaks to the church as the focus of Christ’s activity in the world, paralleling the work of his physical body when he was in the world. The image of the body of Christ is used biblically to depict both the local and universal church.
This image of the church as the body of Christ emphasizes for us the interconnectivity of its members. Meaning, there ought not be any such thing as a lonely Christian life. Each member of the body of Christ is to depend upon the other and connect to each other by way of the varying gifts the Holy Spirit gives to its members. In fact, the very health of the body of Christ is dependent upon its body parts (its members) utilizing their God-given gifts to edify it.
The church exists because of its relationship to the Trinity. It exists to carry out the Lord’s will by the power of the Holy Spirit. With this, the Holy Spirit dwells not just within believers but as well within the church, imparting His nature to the church. His nature found in the church is described by the apostle Paul as the fruit of the Spirit—more specifically, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The church is the church, as it were, when the fruit of the Spirit is present.
We are a theocracy—God is in charge!
We are not a secular organization, we are the Body of Christ!
The apostle Peter stated in 1 Peter 2:9 the following: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
The Evangelical Covenant Church’s (ECC) commitment in regards to church governance is that the local church itself retains authority and delegates responsibility. And this is how we have modeled our leadership at New York Covenant. We believe it takes the people of God together in the church as a body politic to move the church toward the will of God.
And so it is with much of our leadership practice--- we seek people to be involved and invested in the process of the moving of the church. Just as the Covenant was a movement of people, our leadership practice continues this history into the present day.
New York Covenant has a leadership team, comprised of pastors, ministry leaders and deacons. Yet even in this leadership team lies our most primary push—and that is the empowerment of the congregation. We view leadership as both the opportunity and the responsibility to empower the people to be the royal priesthood God called them to be.
We are a movement…not an institution.