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Alliance Perspectives

Throughout its 100-plus year history, the C&MA has always been known for its distinctive, scripturally grounded views on a number of topics held within the Christian faith.

Listed below are several of these points that have been approved by the Board of Directors and General Council of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. These articles present the official stand of The Alliance on these topics.

Jesus introduced water baptism in connection with His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). He said that new disciples were to be baptized in the Name of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Alliance believes Jesus meant this to be a permanent practice, called an ordinance. Our churches encourage water baptism.

Baptism for Believers

In New Testament times, baptism followed repentance and faith. Peter invited his listeners on the day of Pentecost to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Three thousand people responded to the invitation, and “those who accepted his message were baptized” (Acts 2:41).

When the apostles took the gospel across the Roman Empire from Jerusalem, new churches were planted, and believers were baptized soon after they turned away from sin and put their trust in Christ for salvation. Acts 18:8 says, “Many of the Corinthians who heard [Paul] believed and were baptized.”

Alliance churches follow the same practice of baptism subsequent to conversion to Christ. Those who have repented of sin and put their faith in Jesus for eternal life are encouraged to take this step of obedience.

What Does Baptism Mean?

In early times baptisms were held in public places where family and friends could gather. This public witness marked the believer as a follower of Christ. Today, baptisms often take place in church buildings for the sake of convenience, but a public statement still is a part of the meaning. The person who is baptized identifies with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

The apostle Paul explained that baptism also symbolizes the believer’s union with Christ: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3–4).

Immersion in the baptismal waters symbolizes the end of the old way of life. Coming up out of the baptismal waters pictures the new life found in Christ. The person who was previously dead in sin has been made spiritually alive by the same power that raised up Jesus from the grave. United with Him, the believer is released from the power of sin in order to obey God. Paul portrays this life change as putting on new clothes: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Water baptism identifies a person as a disciple of Christ and celebrates the passage from an old life into a new life in Christ. Simply stated, it is an outward sign of an inward change.

How Should You Be Baptized?

The Bible word for “baptize” means to “immerse, douse, or saturate.” In the two full descriptions of baptism found in the New Testament, individuals were immersed in water. Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River to identify Himself as God’s Son: “As soon as He was baptized, [He] went up out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).

The apostle Philip baptized the Ethiopian by going down into a body of water and coming up with him (Acts 8:38–39). In both of these examples, a large enough quantity of water was required to immerse the person.

Because of the meaning of the word baptize and the mode of the first baptisms, Alliance churches practice baptism by immersion.

Practical Advice

Though the Bible does not state a minimum age at which a person may be baptized, a believer should be old enough to understand the significance of baptism. Baptism is not required to receive God’s salvation. However, The Alliance encourages all who have trusted in Christ for eternal life to be baptized as a step of obedience.

Those who were baptized as believers before affiliating with an Alliance church do not need to be rebaptized.

In cases where immersion is impossible due to physical limitations, an alternate mode is acceptable.

As a fellowship of Great Commission Christians, The Alliance is all about bringing back the King. As believers in Jesus Christ, we know peace, hope, and forgiveness of sins—and we share His message of redemption with others, in our neighborhoods, our cities, and to the ends of the earth Acts 1:8.

The Great Commission is the command given by Jesus to all His followers in every generation: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded You” Matthew 28:19,20.

This mandate to all believers is not some legal obligation. It flows out of the very heart of God to His people, for He “so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.

A church with a vision for a lost world is close to the heart of God. Through reaching the lost worldwide, the local church—however small or large—has a unique opportunity to make an eternal difference in the lives of countless people on planet earth. And by being part of a denomination that has missions at the forefront, the congregation’s impact on the world is multiplied in strength many times over.

By making God’s heartfelt concern for the lost their own, local Alliance churches become part of the most glorious quest given to mankind: to seek and to save what is lost Luke 19:10.

God’s Intent

God created us to reflect His image individually and together in community, expressing our unity in diversity (Genesis 1:26–27). As a result, we flourish in intimate relationship with God and one another (Genesis 1:27–31; 2:25).

Singleness is a good gift from God as seen in the life of Jesus. It is an opportunity for focused communion with God, community with others, and service for God’s purposes (Genesis 2:15; Matthew 12:46–50; 1 Corinthians 7:25–35).

Marriage is also a good gift from God for companionship, sexual intimacy, and procreation (Genesis 1:28, 2:24) where one man and one woman are joined together in a lifelong and exclusive holy covenant before God (Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 19:4–6; Hebrews 13:4). Marriage mirrors the unique relationship between God and his people (Ezekiel 16:8; Malachi 2:14–16; Ephesians 5:22–33). The best foundation, and God’s intent, is that married individuals be united in their faith (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Whether we are single or married, Jesus empowers us by His grace to live fulfilled lives in relational intimacy with God and others (John 10:10; Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:10–13; Hebrews 4:15–16; 1 Peter 2:21).

Our Fallenness

Sin separates us from God and distorts intimacy (Genesis 3:8). Instead of serving others in covenantal relationship, we may use others for selfish ends. Any sexual activity outside the marriage covenant between a man and a woman violates God’s boundaries and carries sober warnings and consequences (Romans 1:21–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Thess. 4:3–4). Failure to embrace God’s intent for singleness and marriage may lead to apathy, discontent, sexual sin, or hasty divorce.

Within the faith community, we have also devalued singleness and treated divorced individuals with less respect. We repent where we have failed in these ways and grieve with those we have hurt by our actions. As ambassadors for Christ, we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16–21). Christ has unbounded love toward us, no matter our past, and such love becomes the force behind our ministry.

We are committed to upholding and living out God’s intent for relationships and supporting those who desire to pursue holiness.

Divorce and Remarriage

The redemptive power of Jesus can heal hurting people, strained relationships, and damaged marriages. Since God holds marriage in high regard, we seek to protect and nurture these relationships (Hebrews 13:4). Divorce causes significant pain and fails to reflect God’s design; it should not be considered until reasonable efforts, with the help of the church and trusted Christian leaders, prove unsuccessful (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:4–8).

At times relationships can become so broken that divorce becomes an option, such as when a spouse is guilty of sexual unfaithfulness, abandonment, or significant abuse (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15; cf. Exodus 21:10–11). In such cases, singleness or remarriage can provide newfound hope and community. Remarriage is also permitted after the death of a spouse (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39) or when the parties made no profession of faith prior to the time of the divorce (1 Corinthians 7:15).

The complexity of divorce and remarriage has touched many lives today. Whether we were wounded by a trusted spouse or our own sin, God’s grace brings us together on a journey toward healing, forgiveness, and freedom. Together we cling to the promise that any sin can be forgiven (1 John 1:9).

Our Hope

In the new heaven and new earth, people will neither be married nor given in marriage (Matthew 22:30) but will exist in perfect community together with God (John 14:1–3; Revelation 21:1–4). Ultimately, marriage foreshadows the glory of heaven when there is but one Bride, the Church, and one groom, the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 5:31–32; Revelation 19:7–9).

Until then we are led by God’s Word, forgiven by God’s Son, and empowered by God’s Spirit as we reflect His image together in community.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear (fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people). Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:7–9).

* Note: this statement is meant to be read in tandem with the Statement on Sexuality.

There are no two ways about it. Without Jesus, people are hopelessly lost.

And because lost people matter to God, they matter to us. It’s why we’ve sent missionaries to the steppes of Mongolia, the slums of Peru, and to Europe’s glittering metropolises. Whether they live in indigence or opulence, those outside of Christ need good news. They need to know that they can experience new life in Him.

Jesus came to set sin’s captives free from eternal darkness and death. And He calls us to join Him in His mission of evangelism and discipleship. Both involve intentional processes. Evangelism begins as a relationship. It is initiated and cultivated for the purpose of communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new life He offers. This life is available for now and for all eternity to anyone who repents and receives God’s grace. Grace is made possible only through Christ’s sacrificial death and Resurrection.

The process of discipleship is life long and involves the work of God’s Holy Spirit. Its focus is on making Christ Lord in every category of life. Discipleship will result in the carrying out of God’s mission: to bring about the entrance of mankind into the eternal Kingdom that He has prepared for us. For The Alliance, this worldwide missionary passion was born in the heart of founder A. B. Simpson as he was captured by the truth of Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Jesus, our Savior

The Name of Jesus has permeated every culture for more than 2,000 years. In the Name of Jesus, people have experienced great miracles as well as horrific persecution. Jesus made clear His purpose on earth; only through Him is salvation available.

Jesus’ death on a cross was the fulfillment of Old Testament law, which required blood atonement for sin. By His death and resurrection, we are redeemed from eternal separation from God, justified, made righteous, and accepted in His Name.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Jesus, our Sanctifier

Salvation for the believer happens in three tenses. First, in the past tense—we have been justified. Second, in the present tense, we are being sanctified, made over in the image of Jesus, as described in Romans 8:29. Finally, in the future tense, we will be glorified, according to 1 John 3:2, a process made possible by Christ, our Sanctifier.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3).

<h3″>Jesus, our Healer

A great portion of Christ’s earthly ministry was dedicated to healing the sick. We find no record in the gospels of Jesus turning away anyone who came to him for healing, nor do we find that any disease was too difficult for him to heal. He even raised the dead. Miraculous healings continue today—evidence that Christ still is our Healer.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up (James 5:15).

Jesus, our Coming King

Clearly, the entire New Testament tells us of the Second Coming of Christ. The Alliance is committed to doing its part to complete Jesus’ Great Commission before His glorious return.

You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).

Completing Christ’s Commission

The Lord urged His followers as He sent them to spread the Good News throughout the land. That appeal will continue until the gospel, through the efforts of His Church, has reached all peoples, and He comes again.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

While this Statement on Sexuality seeks to express the truth of Scripture, this truth must always be expressed with the spirit of grace found in Jesus Christ, who came to us full of grace and truth (John 1:16–17). Similarly, we ought to approach others with that same spirit of grace and truth.

God’s Intention: Creation

Sexuality is created by God and is good. We are created and embodied as male and female. In community we reflect God’s image and accomplish His purpose in the world (Genesis 1:26–28). We are created for committed, intimate community, free from shame (Genesis 2:24–25). For a man and a woman, this intimacy may be expressed and consummated sexually when they are united as one flesh in marriage (Genesis 2:24). The pleasure of sexual union is intended to express not only a bodily intimacy but also an intimacy of heart, soul, and mind. The divine purpose for sexual union is to reproduce children who represent God and extend God’s rule to the ends of the earth (Genesis 1:26–28).* Our created sex and sexuality are gifts from the Creator to be embraced with gratitude and worship.

Our Distortion: The Fall

Any rebellion against God’s perfect design is sin. It separates us from God and distorts intimacy. All of us have experienced sexual brokenness in some fashion. No longer naked and without shame, Adam and Eve clothed themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 2:25; 3:7). Differences between sexes meant to complement have led to dysfunctional, domineering, neglected, and even abusive relationships (physically, emotionally, and sexually [e.g., rape and incest]) (Genesis 3:16). Some seek to redefine the created nature of our sexuality in rebellion (Romans 1:24–27). They desire the intimacy or pleasure of sex without the commitment of marriage between a man and woman (1 Corinthians 6:16; cf. Genesis 2:24), such as homosexual or extra-marital sexual activity. Others seek an illusion of intimacy through actively indulging in lust, fantasizing, and/or pornography. All of these are indicators of our rebellion against God.

In all the brokenness of our sexuality, the church has often failed to recognize, understand, or show compassion to those wrestling with these realities. Particularly, the church has struggled to walk in a redemptive manner with those who experience same-sex attraction and/or question their created and gendered identity. Because of the Fall, our struggles with sexuality cannot simply be reduced to our choices or environmental background, but our choices remain significant.

Our Redemption: Jesus

God loves us in our brokenness with a love so boundless that He sent Jesus to redeem what sin had distorted. Even Christians who had previously embraced many sexual sins are now described in this way: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11). These realities can be true for us today. There is nothing out of reach from the power of Jesus to cleanse and forgive when we turn to Him in humble repentance and submission. God floods our sexually broken world with grace and mercy to wash our sinful natures clean and makes us new creations in Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Out of forgiveness rather than condemnation, we are empowered to pursue sexual wholeness and freedom from the distortions of the Fall (John 8:11). God is restoring His creation, including His purposes for sexuality, through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15–20).

As the Body of Christ, we walk together in our sexual brokenness toward maturity in Christ. We do so by speaking the truth with understanding, love, and compassion (Ephesians 4:15). While Jesus inaugurates the restoration of all creation, its full restoration is not yet realized. However, because of Christ’s provision, it is our privilege to choose to “walk by the Spirit” and by so doing “not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16). We can experience the promised blessing that God desires to who will “fill [us] with all joy and peace as [we] trust in him, so that [we] may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Therefore, we are freed from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and can overcome the power of sin (Romans 5:17) and Satan (Revelation 12:11) by the power of the cross of Jesus Christ!

Our Hope: Fulfillment

While Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from the penalty and power of sin, only His Second Coming will free us completely from the presence of sin. On that day, we will see him face to face (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12), enjoying a true intimacy without shame. The battle for purity will be won (Revelation 19:8), and we will be presented blameless in His presence with great joy (Jude 24).

* While not explicitly included in the Genesis creation account, sexual union is for pleasure (Song of Songs). Furthermore, reproduction of people who represent God and extend God’s rule to the ends of the earth is not limited to physical reproduction but also occurs through discipleship multiplication; the creation language of being fruitful and multiplying greatly is used in the New Testament for how the Word of God bears fruit to multiply disciples (e.g., Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20; Colossians 1:6, 10).

Following is an excerpt from a positional paper authored by former Alliance president Louis L. King, who led the denomination with cutting-edge initiatives of establishing self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating national churches that have become the hallmark of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

The Source of Our Knowledge of Mankind’s Lostness

Our knowledge of people’s lostness if they are outside of Christ is derived exclusively from the Bible. Philosophy does not help us. This knowledge cannot be learned by reasoning or by research. It cannot be established inductively or deductively. God Himself reveals the fact in His Word. It is an article of faith. We perceive it only by divine enlightenment.

People’s lostness is a Spirit-taught truth that those without the Spirit cannot receive (1 Corinthians 2:14). Their darkened understanding is not capable of this awareness by their own reasoning powers (Ephesians 4:18). This knowledge comes only through revelation by the Spirit. Indeed, everything of a spiritual nature depends upon the Supreme Revelator, Jesus Christ. What we believe about Him, who He is, and what He teaches will ultimately determine how we regard our fellow beings who do not share in our knowledge of Jesus.

Who, then, is Jesus Christ? The apostle John writes: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, author’s translation). Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17b). Jesus Himself declared: “I am the way—and the truth and the life” (John 14:6a, NIV). From these three texts we learn that Jesus Christ is the truth, that He is full of truth, and that He brings truth to us.

The King of Truth, Jesus Christ, taught the Bible’s divine inspiration, its impregnable truth and its complete authority. He declared of the Old Testament Law, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matthew 5:18). Later He rebuked two of His followers for not believing “all that the prophets [had] spoken” (Luke 24:25). In a confrontation with some of His fellow Jews, Jesus emphasized that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Kenneth B. Kantzer, former editor of Christianity Today, writing in The Church’s Worldwide Mission, has said of those statements:

This testimony of Jesus Christ validates directly the Old Testament, but indirectly it includes the New Testament as well. Our Lord constituted His disciples as His witnesses who should follow Him. He promised to guide them into all truth (John 16:13). He assured them of confirming signs of their apostolic authority in predictive prophecy and miracles. After His death and resurrection, His apostles claimed to represent their Lord and to have the right to speak with authority in the Church of Christ (Galatians 1:2). Their claims were confirmed by diverse miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:4).

Since the question of people’s lostness outside of Christ is an article of biblical faith, we go back to the basic question: “What do we think about Christ?” Do we accept Him as the King of Truth? Do we accept His position on the inspiration and authority of Scripture?

If we do accept Jesus as Truth, to be consistent we must accept and submit to His teachings and those of the fully attested Word on this so-important subject of mankind’s lostness. If we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Truth, we must accept the Scriptures He enjoined upon us. They are the means we have of learning the Lord’s will. Furthermore, His teachings have complete, final, and binding authority over us as His disciples.

Conversely, to ostensibly accept Christ as sovereign Lord and Supreme Teacher and at the same time reject what He says about the Bible and mankind’s lost condition is grossly inconsistent.

Indeed, to quote William G. T. Shed:

The strongest support of the doctrine of endless punishment is the teaching of Christ, the Redeemer of Man…. Jesus is the person who is responsible for the doctrine of eternal perdition. He is the Being with whom all opponents of this theological tenet are in conflict.

We must accept, therefore, the Bible’s presentation of man’s condition without reservation. We must require no other validation. On the basis that Jesus is Lord and Truth, we must accept the Bible as our only but completely authoritative and trustworthy source of knowledge about people’s spiritual condition.

The Present State of People without Christ

Jesus likened lost people to a lost sheep for which the shepherd searches in the thorny wilderness. The sheep has severed itself from the one who was its guide; it has removed itself from the fold, gone its own way and become lost. It is devoid of any bearings and without homing instinct (see Luke 15:4–7).

At other times, Jesus pictured lost people as patients on whom the doctor gives up (Luke 5:31); worse, like criminals on whom the sentence of death is carried out (Matthew 13:40–42). He compares their lostness to death (Luke 15:24), to destruction (Mark 12:9), to damnation (John 5:28–29). Jesus thus presents lost people as going astray and being condemned, lost in such a way that it requires more than that they simply be found—they must be awakened to eternal life and saved.

The whole of Jesus’ mission was to find lost people, to rectify their sinful acts, to place them in the right path. He came for this purpose. Jesus, King of Truth, taught that His mission to earth was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Indeed, His mission cannot be defined without speaking of people as being lost.

The heart of The Alliance is the Fourfold Gospel, which focuses on Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. As part of our C&MA DNA, sanctification relates to our position in Christ and is the process by which we can live a Spirit-filled life.

Two Realities–Two Experiences

Jesus is “the one who is taking away the sin of the world” and “the one who is baptizing with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:29–33). All Christians understand first the first reality: that Christ’s blood has atoned for their sins and they no longer need to fear eternal separation from God. But most Christians do not understand or experience the second reality—the fullness of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Because many Christians have been badly taught, or because they have chosen to disregard the clear teaching of the New Testament regarding sanctification, they are missing out on much of what God has made available to every believer in Christ.

Two Kinds of Christians

The New Testament clearly teaches that there are two kinds of Christians. In 1 Corinthians 3:1–4, Paul talks about Christians who are “spiritual” and contrasts them with those who are “worldly,” or “carnal.” In Romans 7 and 8, the comparison is between those believers who are self-propelled and those who are Spirit driven. In Ephesians 5:18, he implies that some are “filled” and some are “not filled.”

Steps to A Spirit-Filled Life

The opportunity to experience the two realities of sanctification is available to every believer. The path to the Spirit-filled life requires taking faith-filled risks, which always involves change.

  1. Surrender We can’t make ourselves holy any more than we can make ourselves saved—we become holy only by realizing that we haven’t got what it takes to be holy (Romans 6:11Romans 12:1–2).
  2. Accept Christ is our Sanctifier in the same way that He is our Savior (Colossians 2:6Galatians 2:20).
  3. Abide We maintain a continuous relationship with Jesus through obedience to His Word (John 15:1–11).

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do so few Christians experience the second reality of sanctification?
    • IgnoranceActs 19:3
    • SinEphesians 4:30
    • Fear1 Thessalonians 5:19
    • Lack of desireMatthew 5:6
  2. Is there a difference between the baptism and filling? The major problem here is that the New Testament does not clearly distinguish between several different words used to describe the dealings of the Holy Spirit with God’s people. Some of these include “baptized,” “filled,” “anointed,” and “sealed.” While the language the Bible uses to describe the experience may be ambiguous, the possibility of living a spirit-filled life is a clear reality.
  3. Is this a one-time experience? While the initial filling of the Holy Spirit usually comes as an experience subsequent to conversion, it is important to understand that sanctification is also a “progressive” experience (Philippians 2:12–13Philippians 3:12–14Colossians 2:6). It is also important to recognize that we need to be filled again and again because we leak!

Two Great Errors

  1. Avoiding the Holy Spirit out of fear: Many Christians run from God because of sin or preconceived feelings of unworthiness. When we remember to live Jesus’ words from John 15, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” we realize that our daily sanctification depends on our willingness to surrender to Him.
  2. Seeking an experience or an emotion as the evidence that we have been filled: Experiences are temporary, and feelings are fleeting. God’s Word is true and everlasting. We can’t put our faith in an experience or a feeling, but only in His eternal Word.

You Gotta Wanna!

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

The Word of God teaches that each individual is known by God from before the foundation of the world. Since all life exists for God’s purposes and all human lives are equally sacred, it is our belief that human life is blessed of God and must be preserved and nurtured.

God’s Intention: Creation

Human life is created by God and is good. Since we are uniquely created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and formed by God (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 139:13–16), we hold to the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 6:26). As best as we understand, human life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13–16; Jeremiah 1:4–5). It also lasts beyond death into eternity (John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 2 Corinthians 5:8–10). God gives life and breath to everyone (Acts 17:25), calling us to value equally the dignity of every individual life in its entirety, which compels us to love and have compassion for all peoples of the world (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).

Our Distortion: Fall

Sin affects every aspect of human life (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:12) and devalues life (Amos 2:6–7; James 2:1–4; Galatians 5:14–15). God exposes and condemns these distortions through the life-affirming nature of the Law, as seen in the Ten Commandments that prohibit life-denying practices (Exodus 20:1–17). This degrading of human life leads to dehumanizing practices (e.g., abortion, racism, injustice, abuse, suicide, human trafficking, genocide, murder, and euthanasia). Since each person is made in the image of God, we grieve such practices.

Our Redemption: Jesus

Our life-giving mission is to proclaim Jesus in word and deed to the whole world (2 Corinthians 5:20; James 1:27). As our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King, Jesus brings new and abundant life (John 3:3, 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17), which transforms our distorted view of human life (2 Corinthians 5:16; Romans 12:2). We affirm the dignity of all people, especially the vulnerable and overlooked (e.g., the unborn, foreigners, the mentally ill, the poor, the elderly, widows, orphans, and the incarcerated (Exodus 23:9; Matthew 25:36, 40; James 1:27, 2:1–4; Hebrews 13:3). As the Church, we proclaim Christ by making disciples, and we express His love by caring for people (e.g., disaster relief, refugee care, assistance for individuals with disabilities, foster care and adoption, community development, and elder care). At every opportunity, we seek to be peacemakers in our world (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18).

We advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8–9; Matthew 25:45), protecting and honoring all human life. We affirm the value of every person from the womb to the end of earthly life, without exception. Therefore, the gift of life should be cherished and not taken prematurely. For the terminally ill, the ability to extend life artificially does not create a moral imperative to extend it indefinitely. Such decisions call for discernment as well as trust in the providence of our God.

Ultimately, God is the giver of life and numbers our days (Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 139:16; Acts 17:25–26).

Our Hope: Consummation

Our hope for final victory over death is Jesus! Since Jesus rose from the dead and will return to restore all righteousness (Matthew 24:30; Titus 2:13–14), all will rise bodily from the dead and those who trust in Christ will live with Him forever (John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:20–24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Life, not death, will ultimately prevail, and Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4), fully vindicating the sanctity of life (Revelation 22:1–5).

In 2008, the Board of Directors assigned a committee who was tasked with providing a statement on how to lead church members out of secret societies and provide teaching on the dangers of secret societies. The committee’s report, which follows, was adopted in February 2009.

An important contributing document to the discussion was the “Committee on Freemasonry Report,” which was adopted by the Board of Directors (BOD) March 1, 2007, and follows this report below. After several pages of insightful review and analysis, the report concludes as follows:

The Committee’s opinion is that Masons need to be told that they cannot be at once members of the Lodge (which ignores Christ) and members of the Church (which confesses Him as Lord). At the same time, our responsibility is to do everything we can to win Masons to an undivided commitment to Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church.

Having considered the report, the BOD resolved that any official statement on this matter should be inclusive of all “secret societies” and not limited only to Masonry. The BOD adopted the position “that it is biblically inconsistent for any member of the C&MA to maintain an active membership in any secret society that is deistical, antagonistic to Christianity, and tends to loosen moral ties.” Furthermore, the BOD recommended the development of a pastoral statement that provides counsel as to:

  1. The most appropriate ways to walk local church members out of membership in secret societies as called for by General Council 2007, and
  2. The best way to inform local church members about secret societies in the area so that they are not taken in as members of these societies.

It was the desire of the Board that any such statement be brief and convey sensitivity and a caring attitude in addressing these issues. We want to encourage pastors to shepherd these members and lead them into the deeper walk of a Spirit-filled life. We encourage pastors to exhibit grace and truth and to disciple these members. We suggest that the church provide teaching on the dangers of secret societies. To this end, the following Pastoral Statement is provided:

Pastoral Statement

It is the position of the C&MA that membership in a “secret society” is not compatible with confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. First, the very nature of such membership (i.e. the secrecy of the allegiance) conflicts with the practice of the Lord Himself, who did all things openly and in the full view of others. Second, our entire devotion must be to Christ Jesus and to Him alone, so much so that we are called “slaves” of Christ. Third, such societies invariably require loyalties to earthly entities that rival our loyalty to the Lord above.

In many instances, of course, membership in such societies is a matter of ignorance or innocence rather than overt disobedience to God’s Word or rebellion against divine authority. Indeed, members often cite the good works of such groups as a reason for belonging, and fail to discern the elements of membership that are inconsistent with Christian faith and practice. For this reason, sensitivity must be shown when leading local church members out of such allegiances.

It is recommended that the church acquire a few resources (books or other materials) that can be provided to individuals who are members of secret societies. When it is known that a local fellowship has a mature believer who once belonged to a secret society, that person might be made available to speak of his or her exodus from that group. Where a member of the local church is not inclined to forsake membership in a secret society, it is recommended that the church membership be preserved but that the person be informed that they will not be considered for elected or appointed office in the church unless or until they leave the secret society. This must be conveyed in gentleness and love. Such a person should be challenged to consider how much greater their service to the Lord would be if they would make devotion to Him their chief and sole priority.

Secret societies constitute an open menace to the health and advance of the local church when loyalties to each clash, or when members of the secret society seek to insinuate that society’s governance style or philosophies into church life. This is a greater danger in some regions than in others. In those communities where the influence of a secret society is stronger, the local church might find it necessary to take a more aggressive approach in teaching on these matters, exposing the non-scriptural and sometimes occultic roots of that society’s practices and warning believers to have nothing to do with such organizations. Even in such instances, it is necessary to exhibit Christian charity and to exercise patience with those who do not immediately perceive the danger.

Without question, this is an area in which it is challenging to do anything, and dangerous to do nothing. Pastors and church leaders are advised to be sensitive and caring in their treatment of those who are involved in secret societies, but not to be deterred from teaching and modeling the evidences of a deeper life relationship with Christ Jesus which will of itself stand in contrast to the errant teachings and practices of the secret society. In all things, grace and truth must be championed and must operate as guiding principles in the exercise of appropriate church leadership.

Addendum

The Board offers the following addendum to the Pastoral Statement. These are some suggested questions to be considered in counseling individuals involved in secret societies. This list of questions is not to be considered exhaustive in nature.

  1. Does loyalty to the secret society in any way take precedence over the bond of fellowship in the Body of Christ?
  2. Have you thoroughly investigated the teachings and practices of the secret society? Are they in any way inconsistent with biblical doctrine?
  3. Is the teaching of the secret society consistent with the biblical view of the one true God? (Isaiah 45:22)
  4. Is the teaching consistent with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity?
  5. Does the society teach that the Holy Spirit is actually a person or is He presented as some kind of impersonal force?
  6. Does the society teach that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God in the flesh? (1 John 4:2–3)
  7. Does the society teach that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father? (Philippians 2:11)
  8. Does the society teach that Jesus Christ alone is the light of the world? (John 7:14)
  9. Does the society teach that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus Christ? (Colossians 2:3)
  10. Does the society teach that salvation can be found in anyone other than Christ? (Acts 4:12)
  11. Does the society teach the lostness and depravity of man, or that human beings are innately good? (Romans 3:9–10)
  12. Does the society teach the necessity of the New Birth? (John 3:3)
  13. Is the teaching of this society a different gospel than the one revealed in Scripture? (Galatians 1:8–9)

Freemasonry Report

As noted above, the following report was adopted by the Board on March 1, 2007.

Freemasonry goes by many names (Masonry [the name that will be used often in this overview], the Scottish Rite, Blue Lodge, Eastern Star [for women], and Shriners). Many people, even those who belong to the organization, incorrectly believe that freemasonry is merely a fraternal order, like the Rotary, Elks Club, or Lions Club. It is not. Masons deny that what they belong to is a religion. It is.

Christian leaders who have spoken against Masonry include Dwight L. Moody, Charles Finney, Jonathan Blanchard, Charles Blanchard, John Ankerberg, and Walter Martin. Among the Christian denominations that have statements opposing and/or condemning Masonry are:

  • Assemblies of God
  • Church of the Nazarene
  • Grace Brethren
  • Wesleyan Methodist
  • Evangelical Mennonite
  • Orthodox Presbyterian
  • Christian Reformed Church
  • Reformed Presbyterian
  • Evangelical Lutheran
  • Missouri Synod Lutheran
  • Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
  • Presbyterian Church in America
  • Methodist Church of England
  • Church of Scotland
  • Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Roman Catholic Church
  • General Association of Regular Baptist
  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • Independent Fundamentalist Churches of America

In 1992 James Holly, a Southern Baptist medical doctor, requested that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) conduct a study of Freemasonry. It was agreed, and Dr. Holly wrote a 70+ page article that summarized his investigation: “Freemasonry Watch: The Southern Baptist Convention and Freemasonry.” Setting aside the study that was done, the SBC published its report on Freemasonry in 1993, noting SBC leaders who were also Masons, points of agreement between Freemasonry and Christianity, and areas of disagreement between the two. At that Convention the following recommendation was approved:

In light of the fact that many tenets and teachings of Freemasonry are not compatible with Christianity and Southern Baptist doctrine, while others are compatible with Christianity and Southern Baptist doctrine, we therefore recommend that consistent with our denomination’s deep convictions regarding the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, membership in a Masonic Order be a matter of personal conscience. Therefore, we exhort Southern Baptists to prayerfully and carefully evaluate Freemasonry in the light of the Lordship of Christ, the teachings of the Scripture, and the findings of this report, as led by the Holy Spirit of God.

The Masons responded by publishing the following:

Because of your support, the vote of the Southern Baptist Convention is a historic and positive turning point for Freemasonry. Basically, it is a vitalization of our Fraternity by America’s largest Protestant denomination after nearly a year of thorough, scholarly study. At the same time, it is a call to renewed effort on the part of all Freemasons today to re-energize our Fraternity and move forward to fulfilling its mission as the world’s foremost proponent of Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God (The Scottish Rite Journal, Aug. 1993).

How should you and I respond to these seemingly contradictory views? The beliefs and practices of the Masons are difficult to evaluate. Numerous books and articles have been written on the subject. In addition to the study done by James Holly, an article published in The Master’s Seminary Journal (5/2, Fall 1994) by Eddy D. Field II and Eddy D. Field III, and “The Masonic Lodge and the Christian Conscience,” an article written by John Weldon and published by Christian Research Institute (founded by Walter Martin), is a book jointly authored by John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge (1990 copyright). Using those resources plus Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry?, written by Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris defending the Masons, we would like to present the results of our study. The work done and assistance given by David Janssen, pastor of the Alliance Church in State College Pennsylvania, contributed to our conclusions.

A summary statement of his findings is made by John Weldon in the article mentioned above:

The Masonic Lodge in America is a highly influential organization claiming some four million members. Masonic leaders argue the lodge is not a religion but merely a fraternal body that seeks to better society and also assist the Christian church. It does this, they claim, by helping Christians become better members of their own faith.

The truth is that Masonry is a distinct religion that espouses teachings incompatible with Christian faith in the areas of God, salvation, and other important doctrines. It is therefore inconsistent for any Christian to swear the oaths of Masonry to uphold and support the Lodge when Masonry’s own ritual, doctrines, and impact in history have denied and opposed biblical teaching.

This is so despite the 1993 recommendation of the Southern Baptists at their annual convention that membership in the Lodge can be left to the Christian’s individual conscience.

What theological positions are held by Freemasonry?

All who join the Masons affirm their belief in a deity, but upon investigation it is discovered that a Mason can believe in any deity, whether it be the God of the Bible, Buddha, Allah, or any other god. This means that the Lodge includes Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and followers of other religions.

There are thirty-three degrees to Freemasonry. A majority of those who join never proceed beyond the third degree. When a person applies for membership in the Masons he becomes an “initiate.” He then must participate in three secret initiation ceremonies, called “degrees.” After completing the First Degree the candidate becomes an “Entered Apprentice Mason.” After completion of the Second Degree, he is a “Fellow Craft Mason.” With completion of the third degree, he is a “Master Mason.” This makes him a full member worldwide.

The First Degree includes the prospective member receiving “The Lambskin Apron,” the most important emblem in Freemasonry. Concerning the apron, The Monitor and Officer’s Manual (the official textbook of the Lodge) says (p. 5):

The lamb in all ages has been deemed an emblem of innocence. He, therefore, who wears the lambskin as the badge of a Mason, is continually reminded of that purity of life and conduct so essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.

Note from that description, as Weldon points out, that the “Celestial Lodge above” refers to heaven, and “the Supreme Architect of the Universe” is one of the names Masonry has for its god. The statement speaks of “gaining” admission into the Celestial Lodge. By the use of the word “gaining,” the Lodge teaches that one earns or merits entrance into heaven on his own. That is, it is a matter of human effort. The statement also says that a person gains entrance into heaven by “purity of life and conduct,” teaching the achievement of salvation on the basis of human good works.

Scripture contradicts that teaching. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, we read, “It is not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” In Ephesians 2:8-9 we’re told, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not of works, so that no one can boast.”

In Masonic lore the chief character is “the Grand Master Hiram Abiff.” According to The Monitor (pp. 35-36), from the Third Degree one finds:

Hence, my brother, how important it is that we should endeavor to imitate Grand Master Hiram Abiff in his truly exalted and exemplary character, in his unfeigned piety to God, and in his inflexible fidelity to his trust, that we may be prepared to welcome death, not as a grim tyrant, but as a kind of messenger sent to translate us from this imperfect to that all perfect, glorious, and celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Grand Master of the Universe forever presides.

Again, as in the previous quotation, the teaching seems to be that one attains entrance into heaven by living a virtuous life. On the other hand, the apostle Paul wrote that God has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:9-10).

When writing to the Christians in Galatia Paul made it clear that even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned (Galatians 1:8). It appears to us that the Masons are preaching another gospel with regard to salvation!

It also needs to be pointed out that oaths are taken by the Masons. In the First, Second, and Third Degrees, a Mason swears oaths to God, under penalty of death, to fulfill certain obligations. He swears to this oath on a book considered by his Grand Lodge to be sacred. The book varies depending on the dominant religion of the area. It may be the Bible, the Koran, or the Bhagavad Gita, depending on where it occurs. Also, candidates take their oaths at the altar of the Masonic god, the same altar at which they all kneel, regardless of their religious persuasions.

At the end of each oath (according to The Monitor, pp. 23, 83, 138), the Worshipful master (the local Lodge head) informs the Mason that he is bound to all Masons. After the First Degree, the worshipful Master says, “Brother Senior Warden, release the candidate from the cable-tow, his being now bound to us by a stronger tie.” After the Second Degree, the Worshipful Master says, “Brother Senior Warden, release the candidate from the cable-tow, it being twice around his naked right arm, is to signify to him that he is now bound to the fraternity by a twofold tie.” After the Third Degree, the Worshipful Master says, “Brother Senior Warden, release the candidate from the cable-tow, it being thrice around his naked body, is to signify to him that he is now bound to the fraternity by a threefold tie.” These three statements illustrate the serious bond between Masons. Thus, by solemn oath the mason binds himself as a brother to every other mason, regardless of his god or religion.

Beyond that, in the Second Degree, the candidate bows in reverence to the god of Freemasonry, called “G.A.O.T.U.” (Great Architect of the Universe). He does this after the Worshipful Master utters the following call:

I will again call your attention to the letter G for a more important purpose [at that point the Worshipful Master raps a gavel three times; the raps instruct all present to rise]. It is the initial of the name of the Supreme Being, before whom all Masons, from the youngest Entered Apprentice in the northeast corner of the Lodge to the Worshipful Master in the east, should with reverence bow [all bow as the gavel is rapped a fourth time].

After this, all present bow toward the letter “G” suspended above the Worshipful Master in the East. Masons thereby pay homage to the false god of the Masonic Lodge. For a Christian to conceive that he is bowing to the true God does not mitigate this act of homage to a false god, because he is bowing to god as defined by the Lodge.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Paul discussed the relationship of believers to unbelievers. In verses 14-16a of that passage it says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?”

Second Corinthians 6:14 prohibits believers from joining in any activity that forms a covenant-like bond with pagans and their idols. Paul’s counsel in such a situation was to abandon the relationship. A believer must not join himself to any unbeliever so as to associate himself with the unbeliever’s idolatry.

In The Masonic Lodge and the Christian Conscience (p. 39), John Weldon wrote:

The Lodge teaches clearly that one may earn admittance into heaven on the basis of works, regardless of religion. This is a false gospel, which places those who advocate such a doctrine under Paul’s imprecation. If this is not enough to convince a Christian not to involve himself in Masonry, it should be enough that a Christian Mason binds himself by oath to all other Masons in a way that associates him with their idolatry. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul forbids such a relationship. The activity of a Christian Mason is even more unbiblical, though, when he kneels at the altar of the false god of the Lodge and pays homage to its deity. These facts demonstrate that Christian participation in the Lodge is more than a matter of individual Christian conscience. It is imperative that Christians not participate in this organization.

After a lengthy study on Freemasonry, the Christian Reformed Church concluded:

There is an irreconcilable conflict between the teachings and practices of the lodge and those of biblical Christianity and therefore simultaneous membership in the lodge and in the Church of Jesus Christ is incompatible with and contrary to Scripture.

Paul Bretscher summarized an appropriate response to Christian Masons:

[The church can] make painstaking efforts when dealing with lodge members to have them realize the incompatibility of membership in a society which ignores or even denies Jesus Christ and in a society which confesses and worships Him as the Savior of lost mankind and as the King of kings and Lord of lords. (The Masonic Apostasy from Christ, Concordia Theological Monthly 26 [February 1955], p. 97).

John Weldon said, “Masonry…claims to be a friend of Christianity, and yet it contains doctrines that are contrary to biblical teaching. As unpleasant as it may be, it is the obligation of the discerning Christian to point this out, both for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of Christian Masons and for those who might yet become Masons” (The Masonic Lodge and the Christian Conscience, p. 1).

What does all this mean for The Christian and Missionary Alliance?

The Committee’s opinion is that Masons need to be told that they cannot be at once members of the Lodge (which ignores Christ) and members of the church (which confesses him as Lord). At the same time, our responsibility is to do everything we can to win Masons to an undivided commitment to Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church.

Spiritual gifts are supernatural empowerments given by the Holy Spirit to the followers of Christ so that they can do the work of building up the body of Christ, that is, the church, and extend the Kingdom of God throughout the world.

Spiritual gifts are not innate, natural talents, like an ear for music or the ability to draw, but rather they are empowerments that the Holy Spirit gives to a believer to minister to the body in ways that were not possible by mere natural effort apart from the Holy Spirit. In the ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts, we see that they performed miracles, healed people, preached, and spoke in tongues, which they had not been able to do apart from Christ.

Spiritual gifts are empowerments for building up the church and extending the Kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 14, the Apostle Paul instructs this congregation on the function of spiritual gifts. He repeats several times that they are to strengthen or build up the church.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3).

…try to excel in gifts that build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).

…All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Of course, it must also be noted that Paul suggests that spiritual gifts can have a witnessing function to non-believers.

But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:24–25).

Who can have spiritual gifts?

The Holy Spirit is the owner and dispenser of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7,11). As believers, we are stewards of the gifts of God (1 Peter 4:10). Every believer can expect the Holy Spirit to minister through him or her with spiritual gifts. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… (1 Corinthians 12:7emphasis added). This protects us from a static view of spiritual gifts and leads into a more dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit where we can expect Him to move through us in multiple ways for His Glory as He sees fit.

Spiritual gifts can be experienced immediately following conversion, but are often received at various moments subsequent to conversion. Paul encourages Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14). It is not clear exactly when this happened in Timothy’s spiritual journey, but it was probably when he was commissioned by the church to begin his ministry. This also suggests that gifts can come by impartation from spiritual leadership. This is not some kind of “magical” touch, but instead the culmination of a relationship of discipleship accountability and submission to authority. It is also clear from Scripture that spiritual gifts can be received when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44–48; 19:6).

How do spiritual gifts work?

As we read the book of Acts, we see that spiritual gifts were very much a part of the ministry of the New Testament church. We also see them in operation in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus did His miraculous deeds in His Spirit empowered humanity (Acts 10:38). He asked his disciples to do the things that he had been doing (Luke 9:1). Since his ministry was a demonstration of spiritual gifts through a fully surrendered man, then he could with confidence say to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21). Our founder, A. B. Simpson said,

When Christ healed the sick while he was on the earth, it was not by the Deity that dwelt in his humanity. He said, If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come upon you (Matthew 12:28). Jesus healed by the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18). The Holy Spirit is the agent, then, by which this great power is wrought. We should especially expect to see his working in these days because they are the days in which it has been prophesied that there shall be signs and wonders (The Fourfold Gospel, p. 48).

A.W. Tozer recognized this dynamic when he said, “While our Lord Jesus was on earth, he did not accomplish his great deeds of power in the strength of his deity. I believe he did them all in the strength and authority of his Spirit-anointed humanity” (Jesus, Our Man in Glory, chapter 6). Though the focus of Acts is on the ministry of the Apostles, we also see that lay people exercised spiritual gifts (Acts 6:8; 8:6–7; 9:17–19; 10:44–46; 19:6–7). Thus, every believer can expect God to work through him or her with spiritual gifts.

Various passages in the New Testament mention a variety of gifts, principally 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 29–30Romans 12:4–8Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Peter 4:10–11. It is not easy to define or describe each of these gifts. Some seem to be quite evident in their nature. The Scriptures do not indicate that the list of spiritual gifts is exhaustive. The number of spiritual gifts is not important, but rather the understanding of what they are and how they are to be used.

Spiritual gifts should work together, complementing each other. There is a need for them to be active in the church. Paul exhorts the Corinthian congregation to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). This does not mean, however, that gifts should be used to exalt the individual or to feed an immature desire for attention. He repeats in v. 12 that they should try to excel in gifts that build up the church. Spiritual gifts must be used in love (1 Corinthians 13Romans 12:9Ephesians 4:151 Peter 4:8). If they are not used in love they will be abused and cause trouble in the body, rather than blessing (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). Love, when used with spiritual gifts is like oil in a machine. It makes all the parts work well together. We must also remember that our “comfort zone” is not the same as spiritual discernment, and at times even a gift manifested in love may make those ignorant of it uncomfortable. Therefore, patient teaching on the gifts and their manifestations is a necessity (1 Corinthians 12:12–27Romans 12:4, 5Ephesians 4:12,15,16).

Is one spiritual gift more important than another?

All the gifts are needed in the body of Christ. All the gifts are equally valid. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–26, the Apostle Paul instructs the church that no one should despise his/her own gift by comparing it to the gifts of others. And he also says that no one should despise someone else’s gift as being less than his/her gift. Some gifts are more apparent than others, but each gift is important.

Paul indicates that the gift of prophecy is an important gift, one to be desired (1 Corinthians 14:1). First Corinthians 14:1–25 compares the gift of prophecy and the gift of speaking in tongues in the context of public worship. The clear indication is that the gift of prophecy is more profitable for building up the body of Christ than the gift of speaking in tongues is, unless the tongues are interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:5, 27–28). The context of the ministry is what determines the value of a particular gift. Speaking in tongues is a valid gift for today. However, in the public ministry setting, the gift of tongues must have someone to interpret for it to be profitable for strengthening the body. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God (1 Corinthians 14:27–28emphasis added). This would indicate that if there is no interpreter present, tongues should be used in a personal prayer to God for which no interpretation is necessary. This, of course, is also of value to the individual believer’s edification and ultimately for the edification of the church and must not be considered a lesser gift.

What is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

There are some who believe that the gift of tongues is the “initial, physical evidence” of being filled with the Spirit. Again, we affirm tongues as a valid gift for today. But we do not believe that the Scripture supports tongues as the only evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Paul, as he writes to the believers in the Ephesian church, commands them to…be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). “Filled with the Spirit” is a frequent expression in the Book of Acts describing the source of the mighty power of God working in believers in Christ. This expression implies being under the control of the Holy Spirit. We believe this is still a valid command for today, and every believer should seek to be filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, what is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

Though there is a record of people receiving spiritual gifts when they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44–48; 19:6), there are other instances of people being filled with the Holy Spirit where there is no mention of spiritual gifts (Acts 4:8, 31; 8:15–17; 9:17–18; 13:9, 52). Though some may speak in tongues when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, others do not. While rejecting the “initial evidence doctrine” we must be careful to say there “should be” and “will be” evidence that a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit. As Tozer strongly notes, “no one ever received the Holy Spirit’s power without knowing it” (Keys to the Deeper Life, p. 57). A creed of power without the experience of power is worthless. One phrase that could describe our posture in this encounter with God is “Expectation without Agenda.” It would seem to be a dangerous thing to try and convince someone they have been filled with the Spirit if there is no manifest evidence in their lives. Our expectancy should be that God will meet His people in a powerful way. However, it would be equally dangerous to demand a specific agenda or manifestation in that moment. Again, we should come to the Lord with great expectation, while seeking to free ourselves from human agendas or motives.

Regardless of the gifts or manifestations a believer may experience, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22–23 is the primary evidence of the Spirit-filled life. These qualities are produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The fruit of the Spirit shows that the Holy Spirit is in control of the believer’s life.

Another strong evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is a fruitful ministry. In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give power to be His witnesses. We often mention the scope of our ministry–Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, but we also need to focus on the source of power for our ministry–the Holy Spirit, who wants to fill us for a holy life and effective service.

Finally, 1 Corinthians 12 lists a variety of manifestations that occur when the Holy Spirit is ministering. We have no reason to believe this is an all-inclusive list of manifestations or evidences. Weeping, for instance, is not mentioned. Yet many believers have experienced tears as a manifestation of the Spirit’s work and power. Others may experience a manifestation of “joy unspeakable” and God’s love, but never shed a tear. Rather than demanding a single gift or manifestation as the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit, we ought to gratefully embrace all the gifts, manifestations and fruit that the Lord desires to bring into our lives.

Have some spiritual gifts ceased to exist?

No. Because spiritual gifts were given to build up the church, the body of Christ, as long as the church is under construction, spiritual gifts are needed. A day will come when spiritual gifts will no longer be needed (1 Corinthians 13:8). However, we do not believe that this day has yet come. It will come when perfection comes (1 Corinthians 13:10). Some interpret this “perfection” to be the completion of the canon of Scripture (the Apostolic Age). However, this is not a good rendering of the Greek text. We believe that this refers to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the church, the bride of Christ is complete and perfect, that is when spiritual gifts will no longer be necessary.

How can I discover my spiritual gift(s)?

It is possible for a person to neglect a spiritual gift. Paul warns Timothy not to neglect his gift (1 Timothy 4:14), and he also encourages him to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hand” (2 Timothy 1:6). Therefore, it is a biblical necessity that believers discover and move in the arena of spiritual gifts. It has been said that Christians are not primarily natural beings having temporary spiritual experiences. Rather, we are spiritual beings having a temporary natural experience. We live in a spiritual, Kingdom reality.

If the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts, then their discovery must by nature be a spiritual experience. When we walk in obedience, we must trust that the Holy Spirit will respond with the revelation of His gifts in our lives. Having said this, there are some diagnostic instruments that may help us uncover what God has given.

What kind of ministry do you enjoy the most and shows the most fruitfulness? That probably indicates where there are spiritual gifts operating in your life. If you enjoy teaching and find that people are edified through your teaching ministry, it is likely that the Holy Spirit has given you a gift of teaching. If you find that the Lord puts people in your path who are ready to surrender their life to Christ, you probably have a spiritual gift of evangelism. If you enjoy inviting people to your home, either for a meal or to stay, you probably have a gift of hospitality.

There are “tests” available that might indicate your spiritual gifting. However, some of them measure more what a person’s natural talents and preferences are, rather than truly identifying one’s spiritual gifts. These inventories also focus on past experience and are not always a good indicator of what the Holy Spirit might lead us into in our future ministry.

A better way of confirming a person’s spiritual gifting is through the local congregation and its leadership. What do the leaders and the local body think that you do best that contributes to the welfare of the congregation? That is probably your spiritual gift. A person does not need to announce or advertise his/her spiritual gift. The local congregation will recognize and validate genuine spiritual gifts as the gifted person’s ministry contributes to the building up of the local church body. Of course, this requires the individual believer to step out in faith and obedience to God’s Word. The gifts of the Holy Spirit operate through obedient and faith-filled disciples.

Conclusion

We, in The Christian and Missionary Alliance, believe that spiritual gifts are supernatural empowerments given by the Holy Spirit to believers in Christ to build up the church and extend the Kingdom of God. Our standard as we approach God for the release of His empowerment in our lives and the lives of the people to whom we minister should be “Expectation without Agenda.” Jesus is our focus and completing His mission is our mandate. The gifts of the Spirit are to serve His purposes in the church and in our world. With the guidelines we have been given in God’s Word, believers everywhere should embrace the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and move out to fulfill our Lord’s Commission.

The person and work of Jesus Christ are summed up in a name given to Him before birth: Immanuel, which means “God with us” Matthew 1:23. As God, Jesus has “life in Himself,” eternally the same, with all power and authority over heaven and earth Matthew 28:18. Revealed to us as God’s Son, He is everything the Father is, without exception or limitation.

It is written of Him: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1). As “God with us,” Jesus became the full revelation of God expressed fully in human form, losing none of His divine characteristics. In the words of Scripture:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14.

The heart of The Alliance is the Fourfold Gospel, which focuses on Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King.

Jesus Our Savior

The Scriptures tell us, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Luke 19:10Acts 16:31). Because Jesus is our Savior, we have been justified or made righteous in God’s eyes. We are forgiven (Acts 2:38), our guilt is gone (Romans 8:1), and we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). We also have eternal life—an inheritance that can never fade (John 3:161 Peter 1:4). When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we become “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38–39). That truth, that promise, is at the core of who we are as The Alliance.

As our Savior, Jesus is not just one of many paths to God; He is the only way to know the Father and to experience eternal life. We read in Acts 4:12 that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus Our Sanctifier

Jesus also is our Sanctifier. According to John 1:29–33, Jesus is the one who takes away the sin of the world and who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Through Christ’s death on the cross, He not only delivers us from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin. Therefore, we have freedom from death as well as freedom to live for Him. Jesus tells us in John 15 that He is the Vine and we are the branches. Because of our relationship with Him, we will “bear much fruit…and our joy will be complete.” This happens only through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us; we can’t make ourselves holy any more than we can make ourselves saved. The Holy Spirit is given by the Father so that Christ will be glorified in the believer: “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16: 13,14).

The steps to a Spirit-filled life include surrendering fully to Christ (Rom. 6:11Rom. 12:1–2), accepting Him as our Sanctifier (Col. 2:6Gal. 2:20), and maintaining a continuous relationship with Him by abiding in Him and obeying His Word (John 15:1–11). This opens the way for God to equip the believer with power to serve Him effectively, leading others to Jesus.

Jesus Our Healer

Our founder, A. B. Simpson, knew from experience that Jesus is our Healer. Jesus’ wonderful, compassionate willingness to reach out and touch people’s physical needs demonstrates that salvation is not just future tense but present tense. Salvation starts now. Jesus heals in this life, in this moment, in anticipation of something much more complete as eternity rolls on. Disease is a result of a fallen world and therefore can be overcome only through Christ’s victory over sin by His death on the cross: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In the gospel accounts, Christ’s power to heal proved that He had invaded Satan’s territory, shackled him, and snatched from his grip those who were trapped by sin and its consequences.

Healings did not end with Jesus. He told his disciples they would do greater things than He did (John 14:12). The power to heal in Jesus’ Name was passed on to His followers. The first recorded miracle after Pentecost was the healing of a paralytic by Peter, when he said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). Christ continues to heal the sick because He is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The power to heal comes from Jesus, and the purpose is to bring Him glory. It is not to meet our needs, to make us feel better, or relieve us of pain—though those are nice side benefits. When the disciples with Jesus encountered a blind man, one of them asked, “Who sinned—the man or his parents?” Jesus explained that neither the man nor his parents had sinned but “this had happened so that the work of God would be displayed in his life” (John 9). Healing is all about glorifying Jesus. It’s not about us—it’s all about Him!

Divine healing is a blessing not to be taken for granted or automatically assumed. Like all other aspects of Christ’s perfect salvation, it is a mystery wrapped in the loving ways of a wise and good God, whose thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. Jesus performed many signs and wonders during His earthly ministry, but the greatest miracle He does is in the hearts of those who have been transformed through a relationship with Him. Jesus longs to see us restored—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. At times, our prayers for healing may not be answered exactly the way we expect. In those instances, Jesus often gives us deeper understanding into His character and person—all to His glory and praise.

Jesus Our Coming King

The final pillar of the Fourfold Gospel is “Jesus Christ, Our Coming King.” That expression captures the same passion exemplified by the apostles and millions of other devoted followers of our Lord throughout the centuries. It is, to use the words of the Apostle Paul, “our blessed hope.”

Belief in the Second Coming of Christ is rooted in the experience of Jesus’ followers who, a few days before Pentecost, gathered on a mountain to listen to the last teaching of the resurrected Christ. He commissioned them to be His “witnesses” to the entire world, and then, as they watched breathlessly, He ascended into heaven. While they stood gazing at the sky, two angels appeared and delivered this message: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b).

Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting for that moment in time when He will come again. When will that happen? No one knows the day or the hour, but because Christ is coming, we need to be ready—living lives that are pure, steadfast, prayerful, holy, and reverent. We also need to finish the task He has given us: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Taken from the writings of John Soper, former vice president for Church Ministries.

From its earliest days to the present, The Alliance has been blessed by the faithful and fruitful ministries of women both in the United States and around the world.

Today, women serve with distinction in The Alliance on local church ministry staffs; as international workers, chaplains, and professors in our educational institutions; and on leadership teams in local churches, district executive committees, and the Board of Directors.

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon believers in a new way — both men and women. Peter explained the Pentecost experience in this way: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). The Holy Spirit has been poured out on women and men in the same way and for the same purpose: so that we will all be empowered to live in a manner that demonstrates the character of Christ and fulfill our roles in the mission Jesus has assigned to His Church. The gifts the Spirit gives that equip believers for ministry in and through the local church are distributed to both women and men. The completion of Jesus’ Great Commission calls on all believers, male and female, to be released and mobilized to put those gifts into action. While desiring both genders to be mobilized to exercise their gifts in a variety of ministries and leadership roles, The Alliance continues to affirm its understanding of Scripture that elders are male members of the local church. This includes the elected elders of the local church and the senior/lead pastor.

The Alliance has a consecration track for female licensed official workers that provides a pathway for their ministry callings and giftings to be confirmed by the church. Current policies delineate the types of ministries that a consecrated official worker may engage in, indicating they are empowered “to serve in church and other related ministries which include preaching and teaching the Word of God and administering the ordinances under the oversight of elders and/or an ordained official worker, and providing leadership to the church and its ministries. In addition to local church ministries, such service may include national and district evangelists, workers in educational institutions, [and] federal and institutional chaplains…” An Alliance statement on women in ministry states the following: “Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Policy for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.”

Alliance leaders at every level continue to discuss the role of women in ministry and leadership in the church, seeking to formulate and implement policies and procedures that encourage women in their call to ministry and that are based in Scripture.

—Terry Smith, Vice President for Church Ministries, May 2018