Article VI-The Holy Spirit-His Relation to the Church

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶107 The Holy Spirit-His Relation to the Church

The Holy Spirit is poured out upon the church by the Father and the Son. He is the church’s life and witnessing power. He bestows the love of God and makes real the lordship of Jesus Christ in the believer so that both His gifts of words and service may achieve the common good and build and increase the church. In relation to the world He is the Spirit of truth, and His instrument is the Word of God.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Acts 5:3-4; Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 2 Peter 1:21.

This Article reminds us that it is only by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we do anything, either individually or together as the Church. Many human organizations can do lots of good in the world and even effect major change in actions and behaviors, yet it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Church can be something more than simply another charitable organization that does good.

Because the Holy Spirit enlivens the Church, the body of believers together become more than they are apart from one another. The Holy Spirit not only creates individual people who are living in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, He also creates a community that is the very presence of God on earth. This may sound way too self-aggrandizing, yet it is what we believe because it is what we have experienced in history. This does not mean that every congregation that calls itself Christian is the presence of God on earth. It is believers who are committed to having Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that fall into this category together.

As well, there is a check and balance to this whole idea. I know pastors who speak as if they are the mouthpiece of God and that in them, personally, dwells the direct connection to God that the congregation needs to acknowledge, follow, and unify around. Yet the last sentence of this Article gives us the balance needed to combat such spiritual narcissism. The Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture to the whole Church. As such, for something to be obviously from God, it has to be understood through Scripture and it has to be the same message to all of the Church. This means that for the narcissistic pastor, if the decisions are not confirmed in the congregation, the idea is the pastor’s, not God’s. The same Spirit does not speak radically different ideas to different people in the same congregation. This is because the Spirit “makes real the lordship of Jesus Christ”–a lordship that is followed by pastors and laity alike–and He speaks for “the common good” and to “build and increase the church.”

unnamedOne last item from those phrases. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to “build and increase the Church.” Too many times we think it is our job to grow the Church. We try new programs (although we don’t call them programs because we give lip-service to the idea that programs don’t grow the Church), new worship styles, new times, new logos, new advertising, new bulletins, new projectors, new pastors, all in the attempt to “build and increase the church.” Jesus was adamant. Our job is to make disciples. God will grow the church when we are faithful in making disciples. Any time you see a congregation more concerned with growing the church rather than making disciples, you can know that its priorities are misplaced.

Article V-The Holy Spirit-His Work in Salvation

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶106 The Holy Spirit-His Work in Salvation

The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the salvation planned by the Father and provided by the Son’s death, resurrection and ascension. He is the effective agent in our conviction, regeneration, sanctification and glorification. He is our Lord’s ever-present self, indwelling, assuring and enabling the believer.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. John 16:7-8; Acts 15:8-9; Romans 8:9, 14-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 4:6.

5-17-12holy-spirit-dove-e1337277838903The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives, if we allow God to be at work in our lives. In fact, we use the word grace as a shorthand term for what we describe in this Article. Grace is nothing short of the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit active in our lives. We say that by grace we are saved, by grace we are born again, by grace we are sanctified. This is all the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

We have access to the Father through the Incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son (another shorthand term for all of this is the Christ event). And we have a relationship with the Son through the Holy Spirit. So it is through the Holy Spirit that we encounter Christ, and it is through Christ that we are brought into relationship with the Father. All three persons of the Trinity are at work in our encounter with God.

Of course, all of this is predicated upon belief. If someone does not believe this is true, there will be no way that person can understand it. All of the language we use about the Trinity and how God is at work in us and in the world is the best language we have to explain the reality we experience in Christ. It will make absolutely no sense to someone who does not believe. This may sound like a way to justify an irrational belief, but in actuality all of our facts are based upon prior beliefs. Why do we trust physics? Because we believe there are certain physical laws in the way the universe exists. Why do we trust biology? Because we believe certain things about life.

A wonderful example of this in the realm of biology is when a person who does not believe in a creator looks at a whale’s fin, a bat’s wing, and a human hand. Because of the similar structure of each of these appendages, something called homologous structures, the conclusion will be that the facts point to a common ancestor in the evolutionary process. When a person who does believe in a creator looks at the same fin, wing, and hand, the conclusion will be that the facts point to a single creator common to all life.

If we believe in the Christian God because of our experience of Him in our lives, Trinity, and how Trinity works, will be the best way we have to describe the facts of the reality of God. If we do not believe, it will sound like nonsense. Although he was writing about a different issue, this is the same sentiment when Paul wrote

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Article IV-The Holy Spirit-His Person

Holy-Spirit-DescendsContinuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶105 The Holy Spirit-His Person

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Proceeding from the Father and the Son, He is one with them, the eternal Godhead, equal in deity, majesty and power. He is God effective in Creation, in life and in the church. The Incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ were accomplished by the Holy Spirit. He continues to reveal, interpret and glorify the Son.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Matthew 28:19; John 4:24; 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15.

This is probably one of the more difficult articles we have seen yet. It is not because we are talking about God, but because we are talking specifically about the Holy Spirit. Father, ok–that sounds like a person. Son, ok–that sounds like a person. The Holy Spirit–sounds like a title of some kind of force, especially since it begins with the.

Another difficulty is in dealing with a pronoun for this person of the Trinity. Since the Son literally became a human man, it is easy to use he as a pronoun. Father, if using this title, is easy, too. (There are lots of people for whom the masculine idea for God is a horrible issue, but that is a different post for a different day). Yet why do we use a masculine pronoun for the Holy Spirit? Actually, most people will bend over backwards doing verbal gymnastics to try and avoid using a pronoun at all for the Spirit. The Hebrew and Greek words (the languages of the Old Testament and the New Testament, respectively) for spirit are both feminine, so in the Bible the pronouns (if they are used) would be feminine. In Syriac Christianity there is a very, very long tradition of referring to the Holy Spirit with feminine pronouns. Since God is neither male nor female, either are appropriate.

Just don’t refer to the Holy Spirit as it.

The Spirit is not a force. The Spirit is not love between the Father and the Son. The Spirit is not the power of God in the world. The Spirit is a person. This person connects us to God. Technically, this person connects us to the Godhead, which is theological language for the three persons of the Holy Trinity together. Below is a funny video trying to explain the Trinity.

Article III-The Son-His Resurrection and Exaltation

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

Empty_Tomb¶104 The Son-His Resurrection and Exaltation

Jesus Christ is risen victorious from the dead. His resurrected body became more glorious, not hindered by ordinary human limitations. Thus He ascended into heaven. There He sits as our exalted Lord at the right hand of God the Father, where He intercedes for us until all His enemies shall be brought into complete subjection. He will return to judge all people. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Matthew 25:31-32; Luke 24:1-7; 24:39; John 20:19; Acts 1:9-11; 2:24; Romans 8:33-34; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:1-4.

Free Methodists believe that Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead. This means that the tomb was truly empty and when he had his encounters with the apostles and disciples for the next forty days, it was with that physical body. This was the same body he had when he was born from Mary, grew, and traveled around Galilee and Judea preaching and teaching. Of course there were some differences–the biggest being that he is no longer dead!

This doctrine of a bodily resurrection has profound implications for us. First of all, we remember that not only did God create us as physical beings (we are not spiritual beings having a physical experience), he cared enough for us in our physicality that he took it on as well. He became a physical being like us. But wait, there’s more! God still valued the physical body enough that he re-created it in a glorified state in the resurrection.

Think about this for a minute. If all we needed was a sacrifice for our sins, then Jesus could have shed his physical body after the crucifixion and just been God once again. He could have been done with the human body and left it to rot in the grave. That is not what happened, though. God is profoundly interested in not only our souls, but also our bodies. The resurrection proves that he is still interested in our physical being. If God is that concerned about our physical bodies, ought we not be as well?

The other point that seems to stand out in this article is the language about enemies and judgment. Read out of context of the entire Christian experience, this could sound like any other call for an us/them outlook on the world that has the potential of becoming justification for holy wars. Yet we have to look at this article more closely. First of all, enemies and people are two different categories. People are not usually enemies of Christ. Why? Because all human beings are created in his image and he wants to have a relationship with them all. The enemies are the intelligent beings in the universe who are in rebellion against him–fallen angels, or demons. Now it is true that people can choose to be in rebellion against Christ and side with the demons in this cosmic war, but human beings are not now, nor are they ever, intrinsically enemies of Jesus.

Because of the reality of sin and fallenness and rebellion in the world, however, there will be a time when there will be an accounting for all that we do. This is actually good news. It means that there will be justice for us. It means that all of the hurt and horrors that people endure in this world will be made right. It means that children who are abused, even if no one ever finds out it happened, will have justice. It means that displaced refugees will find justice. It means that elderly people who are scammed out of their livelihoods will find justice. It means that racism and murder and even revenge will meet justice. Jesus Christ as judge is good news. It means there is a right and a wrong in the world and someone will hold us accountable for it.

When we are in some of our most introspective times, or even our most frustrated times looking at the evil in the world today, the doctrine of the last judgment of Christ is good news because it says that evil will not ultimately triumph and the guilty will not escape justice.

Article II-The Son-His Incarnation

Spas_vsederzhitel_sinayContinuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶103 The Son-His Incarnation

God was himself in Jesus Christ to reconcile people to God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, He joined together the deity of God and the humanity of humankind. Jesus of Nazareth was God in flesh, truly God and truly human. He came to save us. For us the Son of God suffered, was crucified, dead and buried. He poured out His life as a blameless sacrifice for our sin and transgressions. We gratefully acknowledge that He is our Savior, the one perfect mediator between God and us.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Matthew 1:21; 20:28; 26:27-28; Luke 1:35; 19:10; John 1:1, 10, 14; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:17; 9:14-15.

One of the first things to recognize when reading this Article is that we link a lot of titles and names together and use them as synonyms for the same person. The Son, Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Savior. All of these names, and there will be others in other Articles, refer to the one Jesus. For Free Methodists, there is no distinction between the human Jesus of Nazareth and the divine Son of God. They are one and the same being. Some theologians in the twentieth century tried to separate the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” We do not believe in such a separation. We worship God who became human.

In theological terms, Jesus was something utterly unique and yet also utterly the same in creation. He is God. Divinity was not assumed by a human being. A Jewish man did not attain to a higher state of being or consciousness. If we were to draw a line between creator and created, he would be completely on the side of creator. He is man. God did not appear to be a human being, sending a kind of avatar into creation. He was fully and completely human. The same as God, the same as man. Yet this existence is completely new and unique. It is so radical that theologians had to come up with a new term for it. Jesus is theanthropos. This is a combination of two Greek words (theos and anthropos) that mean God and man. In English, it would be that Jesus is God-man. Completely God and completely man. Not semi-divine like a demigod. Not an enlightened man. Both God and man.

How this works, being fully God and fully man, is really beyond much of our understanding. The Church struggled to explain exactly what this means for centuries, and we still have a hard time with the concept. Some people say that just proves that we are wrong, since it just doesn’t make sense. Yet how do we explain love? How do we explain thought? How do we explain imagination, poetry, music, and hope? Some things in this life with which we are intimately aware still defy explanation. It should come as no surprise, then, that trying to describe and define God can fall short on verbiage, as well.

Another point to recognize in this Article is that the God-man came to save us. We are stated as having sin and transgression from which we need to be saved, and Jesus does this by becoming the mediator between us and God. This means that we have a problem that we cannot eliminate on our own. Later Articles delve into the human condition more fully, but the stage is set to understand that our problem of sin and transgression cannot be solved on our own.

This is a major point! This means that our problem is not a lack of education, or inequitable distribution of wealth, or exploitation of the 99%, or racism, or sexism, or discrimination of any kind. Those things may be results of our problem, but they are not the problem. They are not the problem because we could fix those problems ourselves. It may be painful and it may take time, but all of those problems can be solved by more education, or better laws, or sensitivity training. No, our problem cannot be solved on our own. We need someone who can redeem us from our sins and transgressions.

As we continue through the Articles, we will see a more full picture of the human condition and how Jesus is the only one who can solve our problem for us; he is the only one who can bridge the gap between God and us.

This is what we believe about Jesus.

Article 1-The Holy Trinity

As we begin this series on the Articles of Religion for the Free Methodist Church, let me give a little background information. First, these doctrinal statements are called Articles of Religion because when Methodism first began as an independent Church in 1784, John Wesley took an abridged version of the Church of England’s doctrinal statements for that new Church. In the Church of England today, they still have their Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Also, in our official denominational book, the Book of Discipline, these are designated by paragraph numbers, so this first Article is actually ¶101. Finally, at the end of our Articles is one final section that gives Scriptural references for each Article.

For this series, I will give the Article, the Scriptural references, and then some brief commentary.

¶101 The Holy Trinity

There is but one living and true God, the maker and preserver of all things. And in the unity of this Godhead there are three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one in eternity, deity and purpose; everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Genesis 1:1-2; Exodus 3:13-15; Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; John 1:1-3; 5:19-23; 14:9-11; 15:26; 16:13-15; 2 Corinthians 13:14.

Shield of the Holy Trinity

Shield of the Holy Trinity

By affirming that we believe in the Trinity, we say that we stand in the historic flow of the Church. The doctrine of the Trinity is how the Church, through history, has explained the reality of God’s action in the world and in our lives. This belief sets us apart from Judaism and Islam in our basic and fundamental understanding of who God is. This also distinguishes us from Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses in our belief in God.

The reason why this doctrine must come first in our list is quite simply because Christianity is a relationship with the Living God, and we need to make sure we are talking about the right God. Belief in the Trinity also forms our beliefs in the ultimate reality of the universe. This is because, from before all time and unto the end of all things and beyond, there is a relationship. Our God is not a solitary, lonely being. We claim, with the Bible, that God is love. We can do this because the Father, Son, and Spirit are ever and always in relationship with each other. Before time began there was love. Even in the midst of the world today, there is love. When everything comes crashing down, there will be love. For all eternity, we have the potential to be with love.

Free Methodist Beliefs

CCC-Primary-Logo-DistressedHello everyone! It has been quite a while since I have posted a blog. We were in a transition time in our family. I am now happy to report that we have moved to Kansas, and I am the new Chair of the Ministry and Theology Department at Central Christian College in McPherson.

Now that the transition time is over, I plan on blogging once again.

I will be starting a new series on Free Methodist Beliefs. Once a week I will post a new article on one of the Free Methodist Articles of Religion. These are doctrinal statements that help shape and guide this particular branch of the Christian family. For many people who are not Free Methodist but come from another denomination in the Methodist family (United Methodist, Wesleyan, etc.) many of the articles will be familiar.

Look for a new post each Monday morning.

God bless you all!