Curriculum for New Members
The following outline is intended to acquaint new or prospective members with the doctrinal positions of Grace Bible Church. Some of these positions are non-negotiable. The meetings are informal and discussion is encouraged. You will need to either purchase the books mentioned or check them out from the library.
I. The Scriptures
A. Inspiration and authority
Read: Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter I Section IX and X. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. In the RCC, the Fathers and the magesterium are authoritative.
II. The Person of God
Read: The Attributes of God by Pink, Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 4-7 and 21-22.
A. First Adam (imputation of guilt)
B. Second Adam (imputation of guilt and righteousness)
Read: Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 13-22, Romans 5:16-21, Ephesians 2:1-3.
Read: Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray, Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 33, 35, 38, and 87-88.
V. The Theology of the Protestant Reformation
A. Sola Scriptura
B. Sola Gratia
C. Solus Christus
D. Sola Fide
E. Soli Deo Gloria
Read: The Cambridge Declaration
VI. The Five Points of Calvinism
Read: The Five Points of Calvinism by Edwin Palmer and Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 13-20, 29-31, and the Westminster Confession Chapter XVII.
VII. The Sacraments
A. Introduction: The Roman & Eastern Churches have seven, and grace is conveyed in the sacrament. There is one denomination that practices foot washing as a sacrament based upon its placement in the Gospel of John which does not contain the institution of the Lord’s Table. In the Reformed Church, there are only two sacraments.
B. Baptism (Baptistic, Covenantal) [RCC/EO washes pre-baptismal sin]
C. The Lord’s Table (Tran/Consubstantiation, Memorial, Spiritual Presence)
Read: Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 92, 94, 96-97, Romans 6:3-6, Acts 2:42, I Corinthians 10:16, 11:23-27, Galatians 3:7-9, 27-29)
A. Introduction: There are three major issues at play here. The first is the unity or disunity of the people of God. The second and third involve the nature and timing of the tribulation and the kingdom. There are also two major systems: the covenantal and the dispensational. The key to eschatology is that we persevere and remain vigilant and watchful. See Matthew 24:42 (N.B. eschatology is more of an ethical issue that “prophetic).
B. The four major systems
C. The Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment
Read: Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 37-38, Confession of Faith Chapters XXXII –XXXIII, Mark 1:14-15, Acts 28:23, 2 Timothy 3:12, Revelation 1:6-9, 20:1-6, Matthew 12:29, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (cf. Matthew 24).
IX. Ecclesiology (definition, purpose)
A. The Different Systems (Bishop Rule, Congregational Rule, Elder Rule [plurality]). I do hold to the distinction of teaching and ruling elders without any distinction of authority.
B. Church Discipline
C. Philosophy of Ministry and Structure
- Three marks of a Church: biblical exposition, the sacraments, and discipline. We see God in Scripture and Sacrament. He uses the word to call and equip his people.
- Triangle with Christ as head followed by under shepherds and deacons and then gifted men and women. We are all believer priests and should use our gifts and talents to minister horizontally and vertically in the Church. See Matthew 20:26-28.
- Church in our culture is a private affair; for us it is a public one. We are the temple of God and are to expand his kingdom through our worship and service.
- In Acts, Paul appointed elders as they were raised up by the Spirit. I believe that in an ideal setting they should come from within the Congregation; however, this is not exclusive. I also see the elders as a perpetual body ruling until disqualification or resignation.
D. The Inevitable Problem(s) and Resolution
A word of wisdom: Take a long term view and major on the majors! You are not the customer. God is. I think the long term effects of looking for Churches to meet our needs is futile and deleterious to the faith. It is not about our needs. It is about the glory of God. This is the world’s greatest need. What prevails in some Churches is individualism. What should prevail is the unity of the people of God. See Ephesians 5:25. If a problem develops, seek peace and make reconciliation the abiding issue. The model is Christ reconciling us to the Father. We have to live this on a daily basis. God is honored in this and the Church is blessed. We should seek the latter versus our needs. On the other hand, if the Church deviates from its calling and theology, you should seek to be released. Please remember my philosophy. We are going to have problems; the issue is how we solve them.
Read: Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XXV, I Timothy 3, Titus 1 (I see a distinction between office and gifts [i.e. elder and pastor].), Matthew 18:15ff, Ephesians 4:12-16 and 2:21-22, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Acts 19:20, 20:27, and Hebrews 10:25, 13:17.
Read: Life in the Father’s House by Mack & Swavely
X. Church’s Constitution
Read Church’s Constitution and Covenant.
XI. Introduce Programs
A. Secondary: prayer breakfast, fellowship dinners
1. Evangelism (Christianity Explained)
a. 2 Timothy 2:2, Matthew 28:19-20, 8:22, 10:32-34 & 38-39
b. Practical (assess need and design curriculum)
3. Formal Membership
C. Opportunities for service on Sunday mornings.
1. Sunday School
2. Worship hour
A. Set in motion a formal membership for the purpose of definition and accountability. See Hebrews 13:17.
B. Declare the signal doctrines that define me to you so as to prevent surprises. This is my attempt at transparency.
C. Establish for you the historic continuity of the Church within the Reformed community. NB: The Reformed faith is not monolithic and neither are we within our own Church. If you are not from within this community, I will try to point you there, but this class is not my attempt to get you there.
D. Set the basis for the essentials of our faith; namely, unanimity in all matters is not a prerequisite for membership.
1. Person of God and Trinity
2. Person and Work of Christ
3. Justification by grace through faith
4. The inspiration and authority of Scripture
6. Commitment to the collective life of the Church
NB: Membership is tied to those issues that would establish you as a member in the universal Church and disagreements are seen as a “family” disputes. Augustine: in essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things love.
E. Encourage and affirm personal discipleship.
F. Establish your responsibilities to the Church with an end state of formal commitment.
G. Establish a pastoral relationship (Colossians 1:28, Ephesians 4:11-14). This is not my attempt to bring you to my theological commitments.
A. Survey (Theology proper, application of redemption, ecclesiology)
B. Systemic Approach (atheism/theism continuum)
A. Prerequisite (submission to the Scriptures)