Welcome to Grace

What we believe about the Bible

We start with what we believe about the Bible, not because we put it above God or worship it, but because we believe that it is the one yardstick that is completely reliable by which to test everything else. We believe that the Bible is Godís infallible Word. We believe that it is the complete revelation of the Christian message. We do not believe that the Church has the right to teach people what to believe or how they ought to live unless that teaching comes from the Bible. At the same time, we believe that the Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church in her understanding of what the Bible means and how to apply it: we are committed to the historic Christian Faith. We donít believe that Christians have always correctly understood the Holy Spiritís guidance ó thatís because we are fallible ó but we do find the historic, doctrinal expressions of Christians down through the ages, useful tools in understanding and applying the Bible today.

What we believe about God

We believe that there is more to God than we can ever comprehend or put into human words, but God has revealed himself in human words in the Bible. That book reveals a Being who is without limitations, eternal and unchangeable, all powerful and all knowing. The Bible makes it clear that there is only one God, yet it teaches that Jesus is God, his Father is God and the Holy Spirit is God ó three distinct persons, one divine Being.

What we believe about Jesus

We believe that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Without ceasing to be God, he became a human being, just like us, except he never sinned. We believe that he died for our sins. That is, he took the guilt and consequences of our sins and was punished in our place. He came back to life, walked the earth in his resurrected, physical body and then went to be with his Father in heaven. He is going to return to earth again.

What we believe about the Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit comes from God through his Son. We believe that he is a real person and that he comes to take up permanent residence in every one who believes. He helps believers understand the Bible, gives each of us gifts for effective ministry, and motivates us to live in a way that pleases God.

What we believe about Grace

We believe that grace is something that God freely gives, something we do not deserve and can never earn. Not only are we right with God by grace, but by grace the Holy Spirit motivates us to live the kind of life that pleases God. Grace should characterize the life of the Christian from beginning to end. That is why we named this church Grace. It points to the freedom that we have in Jesus ó freedom from man-made rules and condemnation.

What we believe about Salvation

We believe that salvation is a free gift. When we put our trust in the Lord Jesus, God declares us right with him. The Bible refers to that as justification by faith: our sins were put to Jesusí account; his good deeds were credited to ours. We do not believe that good works are the basis of our salvation in any way, but we do believe that if we have come to know Jesus, we will show him our gratitude by how we live. We believe that the Holy Spirit keeps all those who have been born again so that they will never fully or finally turn away from the Lord Jesus.

What we believe about the Sovereignty of God

We believe that God has planned all that happens and that his plan is being carried out. Even though Godís plan uses evil events and people, God is neither the author of sin, nor does he violate the human will. Just as the human mind cannot fathom how God can be one and yet three, or how Jesus can be truly divine and truly human at the same time, so we must confess that how God can be absolutely Sovereign while humans are fully responsible for their own actions is a mystery beyond our ability to comprehend. That is why we should beware of teachings that put everything in a nice, neat box. Some things in the Bible are very simple to explain; some things can never be explained fully in this life. What God wants of us is simple acceptance of his word even where it points to something beyond our rational comprehension.

We believe that nothing is outside of Godís sovereignty ó not even salvation. Here, too, we need to remember that there is a paradox. Someone has said that as we approach the gate to heaven, the sign reads: ďWhosoever will may come.Ē But having entered the gate and looking back, we find that it says: ďYou have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.Ē God never reveals the basis of this choice; it is not foreseen faith, nor is it foreseen good works. It is Godís loving choice.

What we believe about Life after Death and the Future

We believe that the moment a believer dies, his spirit goes to be with Jesus in heaven. We believe that when Jesus comes again, those who have died in him will return to their bodies and be raised physically from the dead. We who are alive will experience a transformation of our physical bodies, and we will join them to meet the Lord in the air.

We believe that those who do not repent of their sins will continue to experience separation from God after death. When the Lord Jesus returns to earth, the evil dead will also re-inhabit their bodies and be judged by God. They will then be sentenced to the lake of fire for eternity.

What we believe about Worship

We believe that worship under the New Testament is not spelled out in minute detail as it is in the Old Testament. The emphasis is on the presence of the Holy Spirit who produces a genuine response in the human heart. Two things should characterize New Testament worship: an emphasis on Godís awesome greatness and joyful celebration of our victory in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What we believe about the Children of Believers

We believe that everyone needs to come to the Lord Jesus. We do not believe that the children of Christian parents are automatically saved. Each individual must choose for himself to follow Jesus. Yet we believe that God has given promises to believers about their children: ďBelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved ó you and your family.Ē (Acts 16:31) We believe that God deals with families in covenantal relationships.

As an expression of these promises and our commitment to raise our children for God, we believe that it is biblical not only to baptize adults but their children as well. We donít trust in their baptism but in God, looking to him to draw them to personal faith in Jesus through the preaching of the gospel. We do not require you to believe in infant baptism in order to be a member of this church.

What we believe about Baptism

Baptism is an outward sign of Godís ownership, separating us from the world. It depicts the cleansing of our hearts from the guilt of sin by the sprinkling of Jesusí blood, and it is a picture of receiving the Holy Spirit who was poured out on the Church on the day of Pentecost. Baptism symbolizes our union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. It is neither the formula that is said when a person is baptized nor the method that is used that is important. What is important is that a person experiences the spiritual reality to which baptism points. All who trust in Jesus will go to heaven, even if they have not been baptized.

What we believe about the Lordís Supper

We believe that the Lordís Supper looks back to the work that Jesus completed on the cross when he secured our salvation. We believe that Jesus has promised to meet with us in this meal, and there is a special opportunity to commune with Jesus whenever we receive the Supper. The Lordís Supper is also a picture of the unity that should exist between all those who love Jesus. That is why we welcome believers from other denominations and local churches to join us whenever we do this. You do not have to be a member of our church in order to participate with us.

What we believe about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work in peopleís lives today, that the gifts of the Spirit are still given to equip believers to minister to a needy world. We have seen the extremes ó where people have been intimidated and made to think that unless God worked in their lives exactly as he had in others, their experience was not genuine. And we have seen the other extreme where people sought to quench the move of the Holy Spirit. We donít want to put people in a box, but we donít want to put God there, either. We believe in the Sovereignty of God, that he is free to do what he chooses.

What we believe about Healing and the Supernatural World

We believe in praying for the sick and anointing them with oil, and we have seen God supernaturally heal.  However, the Bible indicates that it is not Godís will physically to heal everyone all the time. When healing does not occur, it is important that we not make people feel guilty or treat them as if they did not have enough faith.

We believe that every believer is engaged in spiritual warfare and that the Lord Jesus has given each of us the authority to use his name to overcome the power of Satan and the spiritual forces of wickedness under his dominion.

What we believe about Money

We do not believe that tithing is required under the New Testament, even though we believe that it is a useful guide in giving. We believe that what you give is between you and God. We believe that it is important for you to give as the Holy Spirit leads you, without human pressure or manipulation, so we do not use pledge cards or similar devices. As a church, we believe that if we are seeking to do Godís will and praying for our needs to be met, he will cause the money to be there when we need it. We do believe that both the Old and New Testaments point to financial blessing when we give sacrificially through faith.

What we believe about the Government of the Church

The New Testament indicates that each local church should have both elders and deacons (Philippians 1:1). We believe that the sixth chapter of Acts points to the basic function of deacons: they oversee the material needs of the local church. At Grace, the congregation meets once a year and decides on a budget. The deacons see to it that the decisions of the congregation are carried out by monitoring all income and expenses. They also have the responsibility for making sure that the needs of the poor are met.

In addition to electing deacons, the congregation chooses other people to make the day to day decisions that affect the over all direction and spiritual welfare of the church. Their responsibility is to teach the Bible and to pray with and for people. We call these people elders ó the word for elder in the Greek New Testament is presbyteros. So a church that is governed by elders has presbyterian government.

This rule by elders expresses itself in a couple of ways. First, each individual church is overseen by a group rather than by one individual. We find this pattern throughout the New Testament (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5). Another thing we notice about church government in the New Testament is that there is some kind of connection and mutual accountability between the individual churches. Not only do we find churches giving talent and money to help other churches (Romans 15:25-27), but we find them consulting the Bible together in an organized way to reach decisions (Acts 15:2, 3, 15-23).

We believe that local churches should be accountable to each other, but we donít believe that there should be a denominational hierarchy or church bureaucracy which is over the local church. A church can call anyone it chooses to be its pastor. They can even call someone from another denomination. The pastor can stay at that local church as long as both he and the congregation choose. But before the person actually becomes the pastor of that church, he must be examined by the elders of the other local churches in the area. This helps to insure that pastors are men who know the Bible and are committed to its teachings.

We call the elders of the local church the session; the elders from the local churches in the surrounding area are what we call the presbytery; and we refer to the elders as the General Assembly when these same elders meet nationally. The terms may be unfamiliar, but the idea is an attempt to reflect New Testament church government.

How to join our church

It is very easy to join our church. Simply speak to the pastor. He and an elder will meet with you. Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and express your willingness to be his disciple. This confession has been made historically by Presbyterians by saying ďYesĒ to the following five questions:

1) Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God and without hope for your salvation except in His sovereign mercy?

2) Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, and do you receive and depend upon Him alone for your salvation as he is offered in the Gospel?

3) Do you now promise and resolve, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

4) Do you promise to serve Christ in his Church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your ability?

5) Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and to the spiritual oversight of this Church Session, and do you promise to promote the unity, purity and peace of the Church?

While the language is old fashioned and not altogether familiar to Twentieth Century ears, the meaning cannot be missed.

In agreeing with the first two questions you confess that you cannot earn your way to heaven, but that your trust is in Jesus Christ alone.

The third question recognizes a basic longing in the heart of everyone who knows Jesus: the desire to be more like him.

The fourth and fifth questions reflect the truth that the best way to fulfill the yearning for a changed life is in the Church. It reflects the Biblical truth that we all need to be accountable to others. We need to be taught the Bible. We need a place to serve Jesus by serving others, and we need other people to help us, too. Every believer needs to be part of a local church that attempts to exalt Jesus, preach the Bible and lovingly shepherd the Lordís people.

That is all there is to it. You donít have to agree with everything that Presbyterians have believed to be a member of the Presbyterian Church. But if you are looking to Jesus as your Savior and want to learn to live for him, you are welcome to join our church.

We would be happy to share with you the Scriptures that are the basis of the things that we have shared in this pamphlet.

Grace . . .

Committed to

the freedom of Christian people

to be led by the Spirit

to be all that we can be

in Christ

without guilt or manipulation

Grace

4900 Jackson Street

Alexandria, Louisiana

71303-2509

(318) 445-7271

Bob Vincent, Pastor