Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
For…Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now…the church submits to Christ…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore…the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:22-32)
The Gospel is why we gather and our fundamental message. It is not merely the doorway into Christianity, but instead its heartbeat. It is the most basic filter for our teaching, worship, obedience, and prayer. Any teaching, worship, obedience, or prayer that is incompatible with the Gospel is mistaken.
The Scriptures are our rule and standard for doctrine and for the knowledge and experience of God. All claims, teachings, revelations, and experiences must be weighed by the Scriptures. In them we are given instruction in both what to believe and how to worship, because in them, God reveals himself to us. They are most ably understood not by one person, reading in isolation, but instead by the universal Church, and thus we read them in concert with the Church of all ages.
The Church is not simply the gathering of individual Christians, but instead the body of Christ. This metaphor is not merely a symbol, but instead reality. The Church itself is the physical presence and embodiment of Jesus Christ on earth, and is made one and given its life by the presence of the Spirit of God. There is only one Church, which has existed in all ages, as there is only one body of Christ. The Church is also Christ’s bride, and is therefore not merely a means of bringing individuals to salvation, but instead God’s purpose from the beginning.
Without the Spirit, a church is merely a gathering of people. The life of God is given through the presence of the Spirit, who is the seal and promise of what is to come. The Spirit guards the Church and guides it into truth, working through the proclamation of the Scriptures and the participation in the Sacraments to create and strengthen our faith.
INCARNATION, CRUCIFIXION, RESURRECTION
All of Scripture is illuminated and explained by the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Although we cannot ever fully understand what it means that God became man, died, and was raised from the dead, these realities nevertheless are the key to all of our theology as well as our understanding of our place in God’s story. The incarnation, death and resurrection reveal the unknowable God, and because they were his eternal purpose, they enable us to see creation and God’s activity rightly.