The Core: The Holy Spirit and the Church
We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
There is one God and He eternally exists in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Cor 12:4-6; 1 Pe 1:2). Thus, the Holy Spirit is fully God (Acts 5:3-4; Heb 9:14). He demonstrates His personhood through His emotions (Eph 4:30), His mind (Acts 15:28; 1 Cor 2:10-11), and His will (1 Cor 12:11).
The Holy Spirit glorified the Son in every aspect of the Incarnation: Jesus’ birth (Lk 1:35), His anointing (Isa 11:1-5; 42:1-4; 61:1-3; Lk 4:14, 17-21; Acts 10:38), His baptism (Lk 3:21-22), each step of His life (Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1), and His resurrection (Rm 1:4; 8:11). The Holy Spirit’s work in the Church Age now glorifies Christ (Jn 16:14) by continuing the trajectory of Jesus’ ministry (Jn 14:15-17, 26; 16:6-14), and by Him Jesus will continue His own ministry to humanity (Jn 7:37-39; 14:15-26). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the power behind the Church’s ministry done in Jesus’ name (Jn 16:7-11; Act 1:8; 2:33-36; Rm 15:14-19). He is the power of regeneration (Jn 3:4-8; Titus 3:4-7; Rm 8:11), bringing people into union with Christ (Rm 8:9-10) and with each other (Eph 4:3; Php 2:1-2). The Spirit enables the penitent to be adopted into the family of God (Rm 8:15-17; Titus 3:5-7) to gain the equivalent of sonship with an abundant inheritance (cf. Gal 3:26-4:7; Eph 1:5; 3:6). He gives them life (Rom 8:11), empowers them (Eph 3:16-17), and seals them for eternal life serving as a down payment (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:13-14).
The Spirit baptizes (“immerses”) believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27) and are also baptized in the Spirit (Mk 1:8; Jn 1:33; Act 1:5; 11:15-18) who permanently indwells them (Jn 14:17, 20; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Rm 8:9-12; Gal 4:6; 1 Jn 4:13) and makes them collectively into His own temple (Eph 2:19-22; 1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:4-5).
Baptism by the Spirit happens once in a believer’s life, but being filled with the Spirit can be repeated (Acts 11:24; 13:52). Being filled is yielding to the influence of the Spirit not unlike yielding to the influence of excess alcohol (Eph 5:18). He continually influences believers toward obedience to Christ (Jn 14:16-21; Rm 8:4, 12-14; Gal 5:16-26). Filling is not part of a two-stage, selective distribution of the Spirit, but something we are commanded to pursue (Eph 5:18).
The Spirit inspired Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pe 1:21) and then illuminates it for those He indwells (1 Cor 2:12; 2 Cor 3:15-17; Eph 1:17-19) so they can know truth (Jn 16:13; 1 Jn 2:20). He also guides them toward His missional agenda (Jn 3:6-8; Acts 8:29; 13:2; 20:22-23) and then equips each believer to collaborate on that mission by giving them gifts (1 Cor 12:7; Ro 12:3-8; Eph 4:7-16; 1 Pet 4:10-11) by His own prerogative (Heb 2:4; 1 Cor 12:11, 18), permitting Him to give any gift in any era. These gifts are divinely empowered capacities for building up the church and accomplishing her mission (Acts 1:8; 2:1-33; 4:8; 6:3-8; 7:55; 1 Cor 12:4-11, 28; 14:12, 26; 1 Pet 4:10-11) from a love motive (1 Cor 13:1-3; Rm 12:9-10; Eph 4:15; 1 Pet 4:8-9). No one person has all the gifts (1 Cor 12:29-30) and no one gift is a definitive mark of salvation. Believers should desire them (1 Cor 12:31; 14:1, 5, 13), but only with earnestness (Act 8:18-22), and they can nurture them (1 Tim 4:14). God expects believers to use their gifts (Rom 12:6-8) until Jesus returns (1 Cor 13:10). The Spirit adequately gifts the Church to accomplish His purpose (1 Cor 1:5-7).
More than helping believers perform, He transforms them into Christlikeness (2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:26-30). Jesus calls Him "Paraklete,” describing His perpetual advocacy, championing, and assistance to believers (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). He presently teaches them (Jn 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor 2:13) and intercedes on their behalf (Rom 8:26-27). The “fruit of the Spirit” is a set of Christlike characteristics that are produced by God and cultivated by believers (Gal 5:22-23).
We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
The Church is composed of all who have been justified by grace through faith (Rom 3:21-26; 5:1; Eph 2:8-9). The perfectly just God declares righteous (justifies) those who believe in Christ (Rm 5:1; 8:1). Although we desire to justify ourselves (Lk 10:29; 16:15sa), justification comes only by faith (Jn 3:16; Acts 13:39; 16:31; Rm 3:21-30; 5:1; 10:4) in Jesus’ work on the Cross (1 Cor 15:3-4; Heb 10:14). This justification is unassailable (Rm 8:33-34). Since we cannot justify ourselves or even deserve to be justified (Acts 13:38; Rm 3:20-28; 4:2-3; Gal 2:16), our right standing before God is a gift of grace (Psa 103:12; Rm 3:24; 2 Cor 5:21; Php 3:9). Thus, the “true Church” is ultimately defined by Jesus (2 Tim 2:19) and is comprised exclusively (Eph 4:4-6) of the justified who trust alone in Christ and are thereby “enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:23).
This Church is called the body with Christ as her head (1 Cor 12:13; Eph 1:22-23). His headship includes His lone roles as: representative and savior of the body (Rm 5:12-23); leader of the church in all things (Eph 1:22-23); builder of the Church (Mt 16:18); source for the church’s growth (Jn 15:1-9; Eph 4:15-16; Col 2:19); and first in all things (Col 1:18).
Like a human body, the Body of Christ is a unity of diverse parts with various capacities to serve the whole (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12-27). The body is Spirit-indwelt (1 Cor 3:16-17) and tangibly present in the world for Christ’s mission (Mt 28:18-20; Eph 1:22-23).
Jesus gave His church two practices of regular obedience to perpetuate understanding and belief in the core of the Gospel (ordinances), but they are not intrinsically salvific (Lk 23:43). By practicing these ordinances, a gathering of people is claiming to be a church (per Luther and Calvin). These ordinances also foster unity and identity (Jn 10:16; 1 Cor 10:17; Eph 4:5).
One of the ordinances is baptism, which this author believes should be practiced once in the life of every believer in Jesus (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 10:44-48) through full immersion in water (Mk 1:10; Jn 3:23, allowing for other modes if immersion is not practical), accompanied by a confession of that faith (Acts 22:16, 41; 8:35-38; 10:44-48). The practice was commanded by Christ Himself (Mt 28:18-20) and emulates the spiritual reality of dying with Christ to the old self and being raised with Him to new life in the new self (Rm 6:3-4; Col 2:12). Baptism is also a celebration of being placed into the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13) as affirmed by the church (Gal 3:26-29) and also pictures the washing away of sin (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pe 3:21; Titus 3:5).
The Lord’s Supper is the other ordinance — the corporate consumption of bread and wine (or substitute) as Jesus shared with His disciples (Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-26; Lk 22:15-20). Scripture instructs the Church to frequently practice this to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as with His pending return (Jn 6:53-55; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23-26). It is possible to practice the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner with selfish motives (1 Cor 11:17-22, 27, 33-34), and so self-examination is also part of the practice (1 Cor 11:28, 31).
The Church is manifest in local churches (Acts 9:31; Rm 16:5; 1 Cor 1:2; 16:19; 2 Cor 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1) to conduct their own affairs in submission to Christ, with elders facilitating the congregation’s self-governance (Acts 15:1-21; 20:28-30; Eph 4:7-16; 1 Pe 5:1-4). Hence, the EFCA is committed to “autonomous but interdependent congregations of like faith and congregational government.” The congregation appoints spiritually mature leaders to provide functional leadership (Heb 13:17; 1 Pe 5:5; cf. Acts 6:1-6), but the congregation is responsible to determine the Spirit’s leading (Acts 15:1-21; 1 Pe 2:5, 9-10) to advance the Gospel mission (Mt 28:18-20). This interpretation is important to the EFCA because of its genesis in escaping a hierarchical form of church that was overly influenced by the state.