Beliefs and Practices
The following is derived from the International Association of Bible Fellowship Centers' Guide to Faith and Practice, Revised and Amended, 2006. The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, which may be found at www.nazarene.org, was consulted where necessary.
Links to Subsections
A Question of Propriety
Guide to Faith, Part One: Articles of Belief Guide to Faith, Part Two: The Church
Guide to Practice, Part One: Scriptural Ethics Guide to Practice, Part Two: Special Considerations
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A Question of Propriety
It will become evident to many that the following Statements of Belief and the General Rules are largely taken from the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, where most of the original pastors and laymen of this Association served a number of years. If this seems improper to the reader, let it be said that there is little new in church doctrine and polity. The informed reader will know that the above-mentioned Church likewise drew largely from early Methodism in their statements of doctrine and practice. Further, the purpose of the Association of Bible Fellowship Centers is to proclaim and preserve, not only the doctrine, but also the practice of this blessed Holiness heritage.
Guide to Faith, Part One: Articles of Belief
The Triune God
We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign of all the universe; that He only is God, creative and administrative, holy in nature, attributes, and purpose; that He, as God, is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; that He was eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say the Godhead and manhood, are thus united in one Person very God and very man, the God-man.
We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He truly arose from the dead and took again His body, together with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us.
The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, that He is ever present and efficiently active in and with the Church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers, and guiding into all truth as it is in Jesus.
The Holy Scriptures
We believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments in the original autographs, given by Divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.
Original Sin, or Depravity
We believe that original sin, or depravity, is that corruption of the nature of all the offspring of Adam by reason of which everyone is very far gone from original righteousness or the pure state of our first parents at the time of their creation, is averse to God, is without spiritual life, and inclined to evil, and that continually. We further believe that original sin continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate, until eradicated by the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the experience of entire sanctification.
We believe that Jesus Christ, by His sufferings, by the shedding of His own blood, and by His meritorious death on the Cross, made a full atonement for all human sin, and that this Atonement is the only ground of salvation, and that it is sufficient for every individual of Adam's race. The Atonement is graciously efficacious for the salvation of the irresponsible and for children in innocency, and is efficacious for the salvation of those who reach the age of responsibility when they repent and believe.
We believe that man's creation in Godlikeness included ability to choose between right and wrong, and that thus he was made morally responsible; that through the fall of Adam he became depraved so that he cannot now turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all men, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight.
We believe that man, though in the possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless he repents of his sin, be hopelessly and eternally lost.
We believe that repentance, which is a sincere and thorough change of the mind in regard to sin, involving an awareness of personal guilt and a voluntary turning away from sin, is commanded of all who have by act or purpose become sinners against God. The Spirit of God gives to all who will repent the gracious help of penitence of heart and hope of mercy, that they may believe unto pardon and spiritual life.
Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption
We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.
We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is declared a son of God.
We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.
We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, a second work of grace, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect.
It is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service.
Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.
This experience is also known by various terms representing its different phases, such as "Christian perfection," "perfect love," "heart purity," "the baptism with the Holy Spirit," "the fullness of the blessing," and "Christian holiness."
The Association of Bible Fellowship Centers believes that the experience of entire sanctification as God's gracious work of inward purity will manifest in the outward life by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24), as well as an evident separation from the world, and that this glorious work of God's grace is our distinguishing doctrine and message.
Gifts of the Spirit
We believe the following sets forth the Bible teaching on this subject:
The gifts of the Spirit are known in Scripture as charismata, or gifts of grace. Hence, there is an internal connection between graces and gifts in the administration of the Spirit. A summary of the teachings of the Scriptures concerning spiritual gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, which reads:
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal."
From the above statements of the Scriptures, along with others equally clear, the following principles are manifest:
The gifts of the Spirit are supernatural endowments of service, and are determined by the character of the ministry to be fulfilled in the work of the Church.
Paul's rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 make clear that there are diversity of gifts in the church—not all members are similarly endowed.
The gifts of the Spirit are exercised in conjunction with, and not apart from, the harmony of the body of Christ.
Since the Spirit divides "to every man severally as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:11), believers will do best to allow the sovereignty of the Spirit to work in the bestowment of the gifts, and rather seek that "more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31) of love made perfect, found in 1 Corinthians 13.
We hold without equivocation that the doctrine of speaking in an unknown tongue as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is error. The obvious teachings of Scripture regarding speaking in tongues emphasizes the proper use of Divinely-given or humanly-acquired known languages. We hold that so-called "unknown" tongues are not a gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4-11; 1 Corinthians 14).
Second Coming of Christ
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again; that we who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus; but that, if we are abiding in Him, we shall be caught up (raptured) with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air, so that we shall ever be with the Lord.
Resurrection, Judgment, and Destiny
We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that the bodies both of the just and of the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits—"… they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29).
We believe in future judgment in which every man shall appear before God to be judged according to his deeds in this life.
We believe that glorious and everlasting life is assured to all who savingly believe in, and obediently follow, Jesus Christ our Lord; and that the finally impenitent shall suffer eternally in hell.
We believe that Christian baptism is a sacrament signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ, to be administered to believers as declarative of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and full purpose of obedience in holiness and righteousness. Baptism is not to be viewed as essential to the experience of saving faith, but does comply with the Scriptural mandate of discipleship. Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.
A Baptism of Dedication for children may be requested by parents or guardians who shall give assurance of necessary Christian training.
The Lord's Supper
We believe that the Memorial and Communion Supper instituted by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essentially a New Testament sacrament, declarative of His sacrificial death, through the merits of which believers have life and salvation and promise of all spiritual blessings in Christ. It is distinctively for those who are prepared for reverent application of its significance, and by it they show forth the Lord's death till He come again. It being the Communion feast, only those who have faith in Christ and love for the saints should be called to participate therein.
We believe in the Bible doctrine of divine healing and urge our people to seek to offer the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick. Providential means and agencies, when deemed necessary, should not be refused.
The Apostles' Creed
Recognizing the Apostles' Creed is the earliest expression of doctrine of the New Testament Church, we include it as a part of our statement of doctrine:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead."
"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Church of Jesus Christ, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."
Guide to Faith, Part Two: The Church
The Church in General
We believe that the true Church of Jesus Christ is composed of all spiritually regenerate persons, whose names are written in heaven; and that each local Fellowship should be composed of such regenerate persons as by providential permission, and by the leadings of the Holy Spirit, become associated together for holy fellowship and ministries.
The Fellowships who are a part of the International Association of Bible Fellowship Centers are to be composed of such persons who have voluntarily joined themselves together according to the doctrines and polity of the Association, and who seek holy Christian fellowship, the conversion of sinners, the entire sanctification of believers, and their upbuilding in holiness.
Every Fellowship in the Association is an autonomous body and, where possible, holds sole title to all properties.
Each Fellowship will make its own bylaws, call its own pastor, and have sole jurisdiction over the local organization. It is recommended that the local Fellowship (Church) Board seek the counsel and guidance of the National or International Coordinator in the calling of a pastor.
Each Fellowship shall subscribe to the Statement of Doctrine and its ethical implications.
Workers are those desiring to join with the local Fellowship in advancing the Kingdom of God, who show evidence of being saved from their sins, who are seeking or have the experience of entire sanctification, who live to the ethical obligations of the Guide to Faith and Practice, and are approved by the local Fellowship Board.
Licensed workers (local preachers, deacons, deaconesses, youth workers, Sunday School workers, DVBS workers, etc.) are a special category of workers who are pursuing a course of education or self-development to enhance their Christian stewardship. Training requirements and qualifications for such shall be the concern of the local Fellowship Board under the tutelage of the pastor.
From the standpoint of continuity on all levels of the Association of Bible Fellowship Centers, it is recommended that the standards in the Guide to Faith and Practice be vested in the requirements for workers. It is further recommended that, wherever it is deemed feasible, this concept of workers be accepted in lieu of membership.
Each Fellowship shall agree to abide in full harmony with the applicable portions of the Articles of Incorporation. Fellowships outside the North America Association will be subject to the incorporation and laws of their respective countries or states.
Failure on the part of a local congregation to live in harmony with the Articles of Belief, Part One may occasion the International Association Board withdrawing the privileges of the affiliate association and the use of the name Association of Bible Fellowship Centers.
Guide to Practice, Part One: Scriptural Ethics
Christian workers (members) of the Association of Bible Fellowship Centers will show evidence of salvation from their sins by a Godly walk and conformity to the ethical obligations of the Scripture and who are, or earnestly desire to be, cleansed from all indwelling sin by:
FIRST. Avoiding evil of every kind, including:
Taking the name of God in vain.
Profaning of the Lord's Day either by unnecessary labor or business, or by engaging in any activity that would draw the heart or mind away from the spirit of the Holy Sabbath.
The use or selling of tobacco, alcohol, or other abusive substances which do harm to the person, who is "the temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Quarreling, returning evil for evil, gossiping, slandering, spreading surmises injurious to the good names of others (Ephesians 5:29).
Dishonesty, taking advantage in buying and selling, bearing false witness, and like works of darkness.
The indulging of pride in dress or behavior. Our people are to dress with the Christian modesty that becomes holiness (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).
Music, art, literature, entertainment, and association not to God's glory (1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:31; James 4:4; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
SECOND. Doing that which is enjoined in the Word of God, which is our rule of both faith and practice, including:
Being courteous to all men.
Contributing to the support of the ministry and the work of the Fellowship through storehouse tithes and offerings according to the ability which God giveth.
Being helpful to those who are of the household of faith, in love forbearing one another.
Loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Attending faithfully all the ordinances of God, and the means of grace, including the public worship of God, the ministry of the Word, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; searching the Scriptures and meditating thereon; family and private devotions.
Seeking to do good to the bodies and souls of men; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and ministering to the needy, as opportunity and ability are given.
Pressing upon the attention of the unsaved the claims of the gospel, inviting them to the place of worship, and trying to compass their salvation.
Pursuing discipleship training to prepare for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
THIRD. Abiding in hearty fellowship with the Association, not inveighing against its doctrines and usages, but being in full sympathy and conformity therewith.
Guide to Practice, Part Two: Special Considerations
Divorce and Remarriage
The Association of Bible Fellowship Centers hold with high regard the traditional Holiness position regarding the permanence of marriage. The sacred union is "until death us do part." However, in keeping with the teachings of the New Testament, the message of the Church today must be redemptive to fulfill the commission Christ gave. Jesus forgave the woman of Samaria who had five husbands and we, too, must forgive, knowing that only sin against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable. Those involved in divorce and remarriage can be saved, sanctified, and find a place of service in the advancement of God's Kingdom.
Our Fellowships, however, are urged to exercise the utmost caution in selecting Christian workers or those who are to serve in places of leadership. The Association of Bible Fellowship Centers is committed to a compassionate ministry to all people of present-day society. Recognizing there are few family circles that are not touched with the tragedy of divorce, any position and closes the door of salvation and Christian service to those unfortunately involved in divorce and remarriage, we believe, is out of harmony with the provision of Christ's Atonement.
The Association of Bible Fellowship Centers believes that many new inventions and innovations can be utilized for enlightenment and good in our day. God's people must have spiritual discernment enough to determine what is evil and yet use what is good.
Since an "evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit," the origin and influence of each innovation must be considered in drawing a line of demarcation between what is rejected and what can be accepted.
Those within the Fellowship should abstain from viewing media entertainment of an ungodly nature, and ministers are commissioned with the responsibility to bring before their hearers the dangers of such. Let the following passage be the guide for evaluation of what we see, what we read, and what we hear.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8)
Morality, Culture, Chastity
The invasion of perversion, accompanied by homosexuality, pornography, and premarital sex, affecting our culture and lowering the moral tone of all nations must be resisted with all wisdom and determination.
We recognize the depths of depravity that lead to homosexual and other perverse acts, and affirm the Biblical position that such acts are sinful and subject to the wrath of God. We believe the grace of God is sufficient to overcome the practice of homosexuality and deplore any action or statement that would seem to imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality. Therefore, no person that is a known homosexual or lesbian may be accepted as a worker or hold office at the Local, National, or International level of our Fellowships.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
We believe induced abortion to be permissible only on the basis of sound medical reasons affecting the life of the fetus and that of the mother. We oppose induced abortion for personal convenience or population control.
We also oppose liberalizing of the laws which allow induced abortion on demand. There may be pregnancies that require deliberate termination by therapeutic abortion, but such a decision should be made only on the basis of adequate medical and spiritual counseling.