What We Believe
At a time when spiritual confusion abounds and many people have no religious certainty, the PCEA seeks to maintain a clear testimony to the truths of the Bible. Many of these truths or doctrines have been undermined by liberal and modernist teaching, but through adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith the PCEA maintains the historic Christian faith. This Confession provides a useful guide to the understanding of Bible teaching for all Church members, and sets forth the doctrine which ministers and other office bearers are pledged to maintain, assert and defend. The Confession can be viewed in full by clicking on 'Confession of Faith' on the menu on the left of this page.
We believe all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired, authoritative and infallible, and constitute the only God-given rule of faith and duty. The Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, is the supreme standard of the PCEA. The books of the Apocrypha are not divinely inspired and so not part of the canon of Scripture. The Bible is the living and powerful word of God (Hebrews 4:12), to be read, understood and obeyed by all believers.
There is only one God, the living and true God, the God of creation and the God of redemption (Deut 6:4). There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are the same in substance, equal in power and glory (John 5:18, 10:30, 15:26). The Three are One, and the One is Three. While this truth is not easy to understand it is clearly taught in the Bible. We must humbly remember that the eternal God is infinite and we are finite, created beings. The important thing is to believe in him as he has made himself known to us in the Bible.
Thus with orthodox Christians everywhere we believe
God the Father is the uncreated Creator and Sustainer of heaven, earth and of all things visible and invisible. He is sovereign, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, the God of love, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, is begotten of the Father, not made; who became man, being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary at Bethlehem; who was and continues to be God and Man in two distinct natures and one person. Those who reject the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are rejected by God (John 8:27), as are those who reject his humanity (1 John 4:3).
God the Father sent God the Son into this world to die on the Cross for the sin of the world (John 1:29). He died that those who believe in him shall not suffer eternal death but have eternal life. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day after he was crucified, just as the Scriptures promised, and he ascended into heaven where he makes intercession for his people.
God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God and is the Spirit of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus poured out upon the Church as the gift of the Father. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates men by his grace and convicts them of sin, and bestows the graces of repentance and saving faith. He unites all believers to Christ, dwells in them as Comforter and Sanctifier, gives them the spirit of adoption and prayer, and seals them unto the day of redemption.
We believe God created all things by his great power, wisdom, and goodness. The created order came into being without pre-existent materials, at the command of God’s word, and originally was all very good (Genesis 1, Hebrews 3:11)
Even the marred creation which we see today at macroscopic, microscopic and telescopic levels is a powerful witness to the majesty of God (and there is still so much not seen or understood!). The created order did not arise by chance, as the evolutionary hypothesis promotes, but by the deliberate and purposeful act of the Triune God. We believe that the Genesis record is God-given history, including the creation of the world in six days, the subsequent entrance of sin and the fall of man, together with the judgments at the fall and the catastrophic flood due to man’s sin.
The first man and woman were created upright and altogether very good. Adam and Eve were put on probation but fell from the state of innocence when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Sin came into this perfect world and everything was cursed (the Fall of mankind). This original sin affected all humanity – we have all gone astray like lost sheep and are by nature sinners alienated from God. Every baby born into this world (Jesus Christ alone excepted) comes with a sinful bias against God.
Because God is altogether righteous and just, it would be a denial of his very being for him simply to ignore man's rebellion. He is rightly aggrieved by the ingratitude and opposition of his creatures. Here is mankind's plight. People go against God and are justly deserving of condemnation and Hell. Because this rebellion or sin is in the very nature of man, we are unable to help ourselves (Ephesians 2).
God has graciously acted in our favour. In his mercy and justice he has planned a way to justify the guilty (Romans 3:28). He sent his Son into this world to pay the penalty of our rebellion - death - and cover us with his righteousness, making us acceptable to the Father. This is the Good News of the gospel - Christ Jesus came and died, and is risen from the dead, that sinners might be made right with God and have life eternal!
God has promised salvation to all men and women who will come humbly to the Lord Jesus and believe in him as their Lord and Saviour. The Bible declares: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).
THE UNIQUENESS OF CHRIST
We live in a time when it is widely held that there are many roads which lead to ‘God’ (‘pluralism’), and that it is unkind and intolerant to ever tell anyone that they are wrong. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way to God. Jesus said ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). ‘He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him’ (John 5:23).
The uniqueness of Christ as the Son of God and as the only Saviour of men was upheld by the Apostles as shown for example in Acts 4:12: ‘nor is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’.
THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
The PCEA is an evangelical church, believing the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant word of God. Furthermore we hold to the doctrines of grace, believing that God is sovereign in the election and preservation of his chosen ones- also called Reformed doctrine. We believe that God is truly sovereign and personally reigns over his creation, ordering and governing all things, so that his perfect will is done (Daniel 4:35; Acts 15:18; 17:25-28; Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:11).
What holds true of God's rule over creation, applies equally in the particular matter of redemption. God must be sovereign in the salvation of people whom the Bible describes as ‘dead in trespasses and sin’ (Ephesians 2:1). If such are to be saved, God must take the initiative and secure what we cannot secure for ourselves. In other words, we believe salvation is altogether of grace (Ephesians 2:4-10). We reject the idea that people have anything to contribute to their salvation, or that it might be earned or merited by us in part or whole (John 1: 12,13; Romans 3:19,20,23; Galatians 2:16).
When we come to ask how sinners might be made right with God, the Reformed faith answers from the Bible: ‘Salvation belongs to the Lord’ (Psalm 3:8). God has taken the initiative in every stage of redemption and it is solely his accomplishment (Romans 8:28-30). Is it not clear that all people ought to repent and believe on Christ? Yet man, left to himself, will not come to God. Therefore, the Lord chose, freely and unconditionally, a people for himself, even before the foundation of the world (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14).
A COVENANT GOD
The Bible teaches us that God relates to his people by covenant (a binding commitment initiated by God), by which he promises to be the God of those whom he calls and makes his people (Genesis 17:7). After the Fall of man, and in face of man's total inability to save himself, God enacted what is termed the Covenant of Grace, freely offering life and salvation to all who would believe in him and his promises. This covenant underwent different administrations – the covenant with Abraham, with Israel at Mt. Sinai (Mosaic), and with David- but its essential promise remained the same throughout. ‘I will be your God and you shall be my people’ (Jeremiah 31:33). It was fulfilled in the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20). The Covenant of Grace is the unifying theme which runs through both Old and New Testaments.
As covenant Head of his people, Christ lived and died to fulfill Scripture and make the only once-for-all sacrifice sufficient to merit life everlasting (Luke 22:20, Hebrews 9:15-28). He fulfilled all righteousness to save those given to him by the Father, and to secure, not merely make possible, their salvation (John 6:37-40, 44; 17:9, 10, 24). We come to Christ empty-handed and undeserving of the free gift of everlasting life, but happily owning that:
Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another's life, another's death,
I stake my whole eternity.
Belief in God must be accompanied by obedience to his word and holy living. ‘For this is the will of God even your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Most of the letters of the New Testament begin with teaching or doctrine and then turn to practical aspects of Christian living. Romans 12 is a classic passage outlining many duties required of the believer- ‘I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God’.
As God's children, Christians are called to be different in their attitudes and standards from the prevailing ethos of a secular society. Love, gentleness, mercy, and all the fruits of the Spirit, are distinguishing marks of Christ's disciples (Galatians 5:22-26). Jesus calls us to holiness of life (1 Peter 1:13-16). The Holy Spirit is given, as Christ promised, so that we may be sanctified (i.e. 'made holy'), through his purifying application to our hearts of that Word which is truth (John 17:17; cf. 14:26, 16:13,14). We are to be subject to the authority of this truth in all spheres of life (Matthew 7:24-27; 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Without the fruits of good works, our faith is not true but dead. Faith and obedience are inextricably linked together (James 2:14-16)
GOD’S MORAL STANDARDS- the Ten Commandments
The Bible teaches universal moral duties and principles as summarised in the Ten Commandments- further summarised by Jesus in the two ‘love’ commandments (Mathew 22:40). This is not an ethic restricted to any particular time or culture. It is binding upon all humanity because it is the righteous standard of the God who made us, even though no one is able to obey all this holy law.
The law cannot save us and we may never hope to be made right with God through observing the law (Galatians 2:16). Rather, it points us to Christ, who came and died to save his people from the curse of law-breaking (Galatians 3:13, 24). It is by the law that we know sin, for sin is ‘the transgression of the law’ (1 John 3:4). Being saved and united to Christ, the Christian is under no condemnation from the law because the Son's righteousness is accounted ours (Romans 8:1).
The new relationship we have with God means we have a new standing with respect to his law, so that it may truly be said, ‘You are not under the law, but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). But this does not mean that the Christian repudiates the law, for those who are saved from its condemnation will view the righteous law of God in a way which is not possible for those who are still under sentence as law-breakers. With the Apostle Paul, believers find themselves ‘delighting in the law of God’ (Romans 7:22).
The Moral Law is not simply a personal standard for Christians, but sets the standard which God as Creator and Judge requires of all mankind. It is the only foundation upon which true justice and righteousness can be built. It is the standard by which national life, in every aspect, ought to be regulated. We want to preserve what is pure and good in all spheres of life. The family needs to be protected from the ravages of marital breakdown, violence, and the polluting influences of pornography and sexual perversion. The selfish and unnecessary killing of the unborn is a national disgrace. The effects of alcohol and drug abuse are evident to all. Our children need protection from those who exploit the young and weak. Honesty and integrity in government and business urgently need to be promoted.
What is to be done? It is only right that we do what we can to help the victims of man's inhumanity to man. But we also need to address the underlying causes and promote a lifestyle which will preserve purity and truth. Our nation needs to return to the Lord and to the only sure guide which is God's Moral Law (Proverbs 13:24). Love demands that society be shown a better way - the way which agrees with our Maker's righteous standard.
THE LORD'S DAY
As a memorial of his creation work God has always required of man that he keep one day in seven as a Sabbath (day of rest) to the Lord (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:8-11; Isaiah 56:2). This principle is enshrined in the Ten Commandments: ‘Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God’. The Lord Jesus upheld and reiterated this commandment, declaring himself to be ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27, 28 cf. Luke 4:16; Matthew 5:17, 18).
Since our Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week this day has been observed by Christians as the Lord's Day or Christian Sabbath (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Revelation 1:10). Not all the particulars of the old Mosaic code relating to the Sabbath are binding upon believers today, but we are bound to keep this day as a special day to the Lord and to refrain from unnecessary work and worldly entanglements.
What a privilege it is to have one whole day each week in which we may especially remember that Christ is risen and is coming again, meet in worship, refresh both body and soul and leave aside the worries and cares of the past week! Those who use the Lord's Day as God intends will soon find themselves calling ‘the Sabbath a delight’ (Isaiah 58:13).