ASCC Blog

Filter By:

Doctrine Illuminated: The Church

main image

[9 Minute Read]


In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.


 
Section 12. The Church
“We believe that there is one holy, universal, and apostolic Church. The Church is united spiritually now and will one day be gathered together for the praise and glory of God and Jesus Christ. The local church is a gathered congregation of baptized believers, united by their faith in the gospel, led by elders and deacons, and observing the ordinances of Christ—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a sign of the new covenant and a public display of our faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a communal remembrance and proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes again”

I have found it quite common for my Chicagoan friends or neighbors to speak of spirituality with ease, perhaps even giving brief positive acknowledgment of Jesus. But, as soon as one mentions “church”, faces darken and accusations against “organized religion” are hurled. How then are we to think of the Church? Is it an archaic remnant of a previous time? At Addison Street Community Church we believe that the Church is something which believers should not be ashamed of, for no matter the shortcomings, She remains Christ’s Bride. This article will discuss the nature (that is, “what is it?”) and the duties (that is, “what does it do?”) of Christ’s Church.

“We believe that there is one holy, universal, and apostolic Church.”

These four adjectives were introduced in the 4th century Nicene Creed, and have come to be known as the “Four Marks of the Church”. First, we believe that there is “one… Church”. That seems impossible in a day where there are thousands of different denominations, all with their own quirks and beliefs. However, what the Creed proclaims (and what we echo here at Addison Street Community Church) is that the true Church—those who are Christ’s followers regardless of location or time—are unified in the essentials of the Gospel, though they may differ elsewhere (Ephesians 4:5-6; John 17:20-23).

Additionally, the Church is “holy”. This does not mean that the members of the Church cannot sin, or are devoid of sin, but that they, along with the Church as a whole, have been “set apart” (the literal meaning of ‘holy’). God sees the Church as holy and blameless because of Christ’s work on their behalf. Therefore, all Christians are called “saints”, which means “holy ones” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

As hinted at under “one”, the Church is also “universal”. This means that true believers in Christ are a part of the Church regardless of their location or time. The Church as the Body of Christ is not limited to an era, place, race, or culture (Matthew 28:18-20).

The final mark which the Creed mentions is that the Church is “Apostolic”. This means we believe the Church to be founded on the doctrine and preaching of the Apostles (those who physically saw the risen Lord Jesus and were specifically sent by him). We believe this is evident in Scripture (see, for e.g., Ephesians 2:20; Acts 2:42; Jude 3), and therefore normative for the Church throughout the ages.

“The Church is united spiritually now and will one day be gathered together for the praise and glory of God and Jesus Christ.”

This is the truth we recognized under the statement “we believe there is one… Church.” Currently, that unity is only known spiritually, but we long for the day when the many millions of the redeemed will join together before the Throne of God and proclaim, “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-12).

“The local church is a gathered congregation of baptized believers, united by their faith in the gospel.”

It is at this point in the doctrinal statement that we move from discussing the universal Church (that which all true believers are a part of), to address the local expressions of the Church. The members of these “lower-case c” churches are to be baptized, as a public profession of their commitment to Christ (Acts 2:38-41). These believers gather together because of their faith in the Gospel, and for the sake of encouraging that faith in one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).
 

“[The local church is] led by elders and deacons.”

The clear scriptural instruction for local expressions of the Body of Christ is that they have qualified leaders for their spiritual and physical safeguarding and growth. The elders have the responsibility to minister the Word, to teach and preach biblically (Acts 6; Titus 2:1), while the deacons are to serve the physical needs of the church (also Acts 6). Both offices are to be men of godly conduct, leading not only by teaching and serving but also by being models of Christian character (1 Timothy 3:1-13). The role of both elders and deacons is not to exclude other members of the church from responsibilities, but rather to train them for ministry and toward greater godliness (Ephesians 4-11-16).  
 

“[The church observes] the ordinances of Christ—baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

An “ordinance” is a practice, instituted by Jesus and commanded for his Church to repeatedly observe, which is associated with visible, physical elements (water, bread, wine) to signify an invisible and spiritual reality (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 22:14-20). These will both be explained in the following paragraphs.

“Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a sign of the new covenant and a public display of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

As Jesus states in Matthew 28:18-20, those who are to be baptized are to be disciples, that is, believers who have committed to following and submitting to Christ. In their baptism, they are in essence “going public” with their faith, identifying themselves with the Triune God before the witness of the gathered Church. This is to be done by immersion for it signifies joining Jesus in his death and burial, and, when the baptized individual emerges from the waters, His resurrection as well (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). 

“The Lord’s Supper is a communal remembrance and proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes again.”

Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper with his disciples at their last meal, taking the bread to symbolize his body, and the cup of wine to symbolize his poured-out blood (Matthew 26:26-30). In eating and drinking of these elements, a believer does not eat of the physical body or blood of Christ; rather, it is an opportunity to obey Christ’s command, as well as to recall his sacrifice for us, his present care which surrounds us, and the certainty of his return to gather the Church (1 Corinthians 11:24-28).

Further Reading

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church  |  by Mark Dever
What is the Church?  |  by R.C. Sproul

Posted by Elisha Walker with

Doctrine Illuminated: Marriage

main image

[9 minute  read]


In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.


 
Section 13.  Marriage.  
“We believe that God created both male and female in His image for His own glory as an inseparable, one-flesh marriage to love, enjoy, procreate and unify. This earthly union embodies the complementary roles within the Trinity and glorifies the eternal reality of Christ and His bride, the Church.” 

God gives us valuable images to help us understand who he is. He identifies himself as a Father, helping us to understand the pure love that he has for us by using a relationship that we can easily understand. He identifies himself as a faithful Friend, again allowing us to easily understand an aspect of his character. But the most shocking image he uses to help humans understand his love and character is that of a marriage. God declares himself to be the husband of his people. “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called” (Isaiah 54:5). Therefore, a precise and accurate understanding of marriage is vitally important to not just knowing God but to know how God expects his bride—his people—to live. 


“We believe that God created both male and female in His image for His own glory.”

You may be tempted to glaze over these words if you’ve heard them before, but the loss in doing so belongs to you. Look at how the creation of humanity is described in the first book of the Bible. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). There couldn’t be a better way to dignify humans and the institution of marriage than by modeling them after himself. Up to this point in creation, everything God created was said to be “good.” But when he completes the pinnacle of creation, human beings, he says that it’s “very good” (Genesis 1:31). In a peculiar way compared to the rest of creation, humans were created male and female as sheer goodness. The work of God’s hands brought him much joy. And that which brings God much joy brings him much glory. The secret to true, biblical self-esteem as well as a life that glorifies God is recognizing how prized you are that God made you in his very image. 

“[God created them] as an inseparable, one-flesh marriage to love, enjoy, procreate and unify.”

In this same account, God established the first marriage between Adam and Eve, the standard pattern for all marriages throughout the rest of time. God’s original establishment of marriage is in the fabric of the world we inhabit. It’s simply the way he created it to be. And this structure was put in place for permanence—that Adam and Eve would never be lonely. It was put in place for this couple to experience an overflow of God’s chief characteristic: love. It was solidified so that more little images of God would be perpetuated through procreation. The first command to this married couple is to, “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God had joined them together. They were “the one” for each other because God brought them together. And, “what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). Marriage—whether you’re married or not—is a gift of God for humanity’s joy and prosperity. Therefore, the sage writes, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18).  And you, too, ought to rejoice in this great life-giving gift called marriage.

“This earthly union embodies the complementary roles within the Trinity.”

In our previous Doctrine Illuminated, articles we have explored the complementary and distinct roles that exist with each person of the Trinity. So, too, in marriage, though man and woman were created equal, God has graciously assigned them complementary roles. The man is called to be the leader—or to use biblical language, “the head” (Ephesians 5:23)—in marriage. As leader, he leads and loves by laying down his life for the benefit of his wife. The wife, in turn, lovingly submits to her husband. She magnifies the precious submission that Christ exemplified when he submitted to his Father’s will on Calvary’s hill. Both roles in marriage are saturated with a divine mission—to be a glorious stage for the steadfast love of God as seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Here’s the best marriage advice you could receive: grow in a holy obsession with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (and all its benefits) since it’s the precise event that shows perfect headship and submission in marriage. 

“[Marriage] glorifies the eternal reality of Christ and His bride, the Church.”

In case God hadn’t made it clear that marriage is bigger than the two people involved, he makes it unmistakable at the end of Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus. He writes, “ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32). From the beginning of time, God instituted what we call marriage to help you get a better grasp of his faithful, committed, loving relationship with his people. You, whether married or not, ought to belong to the most significant marriage ever—the marriage of Christ to his church. Do you belong to a local congregation on which Christ has set his affection?


Pastor-Theologian Jonathan Gibson points out that, “The Bible begins with God’s kingdom in a new creation under his son and bride awaiting a Sabbath rest. The Bible ends with God’s kingdom in a new creation under his Son and bride enjoying a Sabbath rest. In between, there is the drama of God’s redemptive acts in history to restore his kingdom in a new creation under his Son and bride so that his people may enjoy a Sabbath rest.” There are worse things you can do than meditating on that paradigm-shifting quotation. For starters, what remarkable unity we have in the entire Biblical story. Also, what astonishing honor that this framework gives to God’s institution of marriage. We hold up the glory of marriage because God does. 


“For your Maker is your husband…” (Isaiah 54:5). Do you love the great Bridegroom of the church?

 

12345678910 ... 3132