“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have all fallen short of the glory of God; we are all sinners in need of justification. This is what happened on the cross. We have been made saints through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. For the rest of our life, we are on the journey of sanctification, where we become more like Jesus.
WE ARE WORSHIPERS Jesus is a worshiper (Psalm 22:22; 1 Cor. 15:28), and he said that the Father is looking for true worshippers—those who will worship him in spirit and in truth--through our voices and bodies, in our thoughts and prayers, and in all of life (John 4:22; Psalm 95:1-6, Romans 12:1). This is the reason we were created--to glorify and enjoy God forever (Isaiah 56:7). So the gospel calls us to turn away from our idols and functional saviors and turn to God as the ultimate center of our lives (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Through the death and resurrection of Christ we have been given the Holy Spirit so that we might personally experience God's love, presence, and power--which enables us to fulfill the first and greatest Commandment: to worship God by loving “the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind" (Matt. 22:37). God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him (Psalm 16:11).
WE ARE FAMILY Jesus has an incredible relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, he has reconciled us to the Father, who places the Holy Spirit within us—the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15-17). We now have a massive extended family (all Christians from all times) and an immediate family (our local church). For the rest of our time on earth, we will be learning to live out the second commandment: to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) by fulfilling the “one another’s” of the New Testament. These “one-another’s” call us to form deep, committed friendships. We pursue this through covenanting together, through worshipping together, and through living out the regular rhythms of life with one another—opening up our homes to one another, eating and celebrating with one another, helping one another, serving one another, having fun with one another, proclaiming the gospel with one another, etc.
WE ARE DISCIPLES Jesus was first a disciple (Luke 2:52), then he made disciples (Mark 3:13-19). Just before returning to heaven, Jesus commissioned all of his followers to make disciples who in turn made disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). As disciples, we seek to "be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22). Our obedience to Jesus is the surest sign that we truly love and know him (John 14:15, 1 John 2:3). We know that we are mature disciples when we make disciples who in turn make disciples (2 Tim. 2:2).
WE ARE MISSIONARIES Jesus was a missionary sent by the Father, and he sends us out as missionaries who share the gospel and make disciples (John 20:21, Matthew 28:19). Every Christian has been given this ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). The call to make disciples is not for a special class of super-Christians; it is for every single follower of Christ. Every Christian is a missionary.
WE ARE SERVANTS Jesus came as a servant (Isaiah 52:13, John 20:28, Philippians 2:7), and he calls us to become servants (Matthew 20:26-28). We seek to be servants of all--our family members, our friends, others in our church, our neighbors, and especially those in need. Being servants is the clearest way that we seek the good of our city (Jeremiah 29:7). Everyone is encouraged to serve within the church to the full extent of his or her giftings. We also volunteer regularly in the community through mentoring kids, visiting prisoners, taking food to the disabled, etc.
BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
We believe the need for the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in a believer’s life is as critical today as it was in the day of the Apostles. We hold the position, supported by Scripture, that the Holy Spirit’s presence and power are for every believer until Jesus returns.
We recognize that the families and individuals of The Rock Fellowship Church come from varied and diverse backgrounds. As such, we extend the opportunity for people to grow in their understanding of the person and power of the Holy Spirit as well as their understanding of His work in their lives. Everyone at The Rock Fellowship is encouraged to seek the power, presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit for themselves in a manner with which they are comfortable.
No one will ever be forced to receive the Holy Spirit or any of His gifts, but all are taught the work of the Holy Spirit from Scripture and encouraged to grow in Christ.
As we minister to individuals, we will use all the gifts available to us from God to see healing, deliverance and freedom developed in a person’s life. Expression of a gift of the Holy Spirit in a corporate worship setting should always be in an orderly and appropriate manner so that it can be received by all which also includes submission to pastoral authority.
Jesus promised His Church that they would receive a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ own death and resurrection. It is our view that God desires every Christian to experience this same encounter with the Holy Spirit’s power. In Luke 11:13, Jesus explains that it is our Heavenly Father’s pleasure to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Just like salvation, the Holy Spirit is a free gift from the Father which is received by faith.
Issues of Concern and Practice
Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, God extends His power and the blessing of His presence to all believers. Our role is to receive and operate under His direction and authority. This baptism is marked by an initial act of receiving and continues as a daily response of receiving what God has made available for our service and relationship with Him. Through this process of receiving, we choose to accept His good gifts and all His provision for our lives. While we acknowledge that emotionalism has been associated with expressions of the Holy Spirit and at times there has been failure in the worldwide church to properly administrate the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, we do not think these are sufficient reasons to limit the work or expression of the Holy Spirit at The Rock Fellowship. The Pastors and Elders of The Rock Fellowship are committed to teach biblical truth and uphold a biblical standard of order in our corporate worship while at the same time allowing and encouraging an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit’s work among us. We believe this is a better solution to past abuses and excesses in the church related to the Holy Spirit and His gifts.
At The Rock Fellowship, there are opportunities to experience the different ways that God manifests His power as we draw closer to Him. We encourage individuals to seek the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. These gifts are not a reflection of spiritual maturity; they are a response of openness and faith to God. Spiritual maturity combines obedience, faith and character in a process that molds us into the likeness of God.
We believe the gift of tongues has a dual purpose as outlined in the Scriptures. When coupled with the gift of interpretation, it provides encouragement, comfort and exhortation to the congregation of believers. When used in prayer, it also provides personal edification for the believer and allows for prayer concerns that we lack words to adequately express to be sent toward heaven(1 Corinthians 14). As a prayer force, it adds a new dimension to our partnership with God.
We believe a person receives the Holy Spirit when they receive Christ according to Ephesians 1:13. However, as demonstrated in numerous accounts throughout the New Testament, a believer must receive the Holy Spirit in a manner that accepts the full measure of His work in order for it to be activated in his life. Many believers have been taught that the Holy Spirit’s role in our day and time is to function as the seal of the promise of salvation. This teaching is true and right according to Scriptures, but it is only one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer’s life. Receiving the Holy Spirit after conversion is based on a dawning awareness that His role is more than was understood or explained at conversion. This act of receiving is accepting the broadened biblical role of the Holy Spirit by faith.
Major Points and Scriptural References
The following scriptures refer specifically to the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and are the basis from which we draw our position:
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
How Do You Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
You receive the Holy Spirit by faith based on the truth of Scripture and the desire of your heart to accept the promise of God for yourself. The acceptance of the promise of God’s power is by faith—the same faith used to receive Christ as Savior. To receive the Holy Spirit, you simply approach God in an attitude of faith, because according to Luke 11:13, it is His good pleasure to give His Spirit to those who ask.
What Can You Expect?
You can expect things to be different in your life. As demonstrated in Scripture, when a person receives the Holy Spirit, there may be a manifestation associated with the encounter. Some become emotional or express a gift of the Holy Spirit such as tongues, while others notice a change in their insight on Scripture or boldness to witness. While manifestations are not required to receive the Holy Spirit, they are common.
What About the Gifts of the Spirit?
The Holy Spirit brings the experience of the life of Jesus into our lives. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are divided into three categories (1Corinthians 12:7-11):
Vocal Gifts—tongues, prophecy and the interpretation of tongues
Knowledge Gifts—word of knowledge, word of wisdom and the discerning of spirits
Power Gifts—healing, faith and miracles
The Apostle Paul encouraged us to earnestly desire spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14:1. Although the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to every person who receives the Holy Spirit, they are only activated by faith. If you do not want to demonstrate a gift, God will not make you. If you desire His gifts but don’t understand them completely, He may bypass your mind and give you a gift, but it will always be based on your desire.
God’s purpose is for every one of His children to be filled with the same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus’ own life. We cannot reduce this experience to a simple formula. In fact, we are talking about the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. To receive, we simply go to our Heavenly Father in an attitude of faith and ask. Jesus is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and He wants to fill His children. Through experiencing the nine gifts and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, we can effectively share the love and power of Jesus Christ to many people. We can also find the power to overcome many temptations, trials and tests in this life.
Both Old and New Testaments are the only written Word of God. Inspired by God and written by human authors under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Bible reveals all that is necessary for knowing God’s will, salvation and Christian growth. Each book is to be interpreted according to its context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through it in living power. All believers are exhorted to study the Scriptures and diligently apply them to their lives. The Scriptures are the authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice and doctrine. They are totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or worldly wisdom. Every doctrinal formulation, whether of creed, confession or theology, must be tested by the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture.
We seek unity within the body of Christ. We believe two things: (1) there is room for a spectrum of theological belief among all who put their faith in Jesus’ atoning death, are born by the Spirit, and who submit to the Bible’s authority; and (2) Christians should work together as closely as possible. We consciously choose to be gracious, to resist division, and to promote healthy dialogue and partnerships. Theological discussion is very important because it can result in greater clarity in our understanding of the Bible, which always leads to greater glory for God and greater joy for us.
Water baptism is only intended for the individual who has received the saving benefits of Christ’s atoning work and become His disciple. In obedience to Christ’s command and as a testimony to God, the Church, oneself and the world, a believer should be baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Water baptism is a visual and symbolic demonstration of a person’s union with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection. It signifies that a former way of life has been put to death and vividly depicts a person’s release from the mastery of sin. Our preferred method of baptism is immersion, but we recognize and will baptize using pouring and sprinkling.
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament that symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body and the shedding of His blood on our behalf and is to be observed repeatedly throughout the Christian life as a sign of continued participation in the atoning benefits of Christ’s death. As we come to the table with an attitude of faith and self-examination, we remember and proclaim the death of Christ, receive spiritual nourishment for our souls and signify our unity with other members of Christ’s body. (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
We praise God for sending the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to lead us, teach us, and empower us for mission. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that we see exercised in the Scriptures have not ceased with the death of the last Apostle or the closing of the New Testament canon. The term "continualist" could be used to describe this stance. We believe that all the spiritual gifts (such as tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, healing, etc.) are still available, and that they should be sought after and practiced according to the guidelines set out in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
A Culture of Honor & Peacemaking and Perseverance in Conflicts
We strive to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10). We commit to persevere through conflict without gossip, instead talking directly to the person with whom we have conflict. From the outset we will seek to first get right with God and remove any sin from our lives (Matt. 7:5) and maintain a loving attitude (Jn. 13:34). After that we will approach one another with a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1), and follow the process that Jesus suggested in Matthew 18:15-17. We also agree to mediation of conflicts before reverting to lawsuits (1 Cor. 6:1-11). As soon as a person repents, we will respond by forgiving them and comforting them so that they will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7-8). We also seek to honor other churches, their leaders, and the larger body of Christ in all of our speech and actions.
Marriage, Sexuality, and Divorce
We are traditionalists. Marriage is a God-ordained institution that involves a lifelong vow between a man and a woman (e.g. Gen. 2:24; Mic. 2:14). Sex is prohibited outside of this bond (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:15-7:5; Rom. 1:26-27). While scripture permits divorce in rare cases (e.g. Mt. 5:31-32, 19:3-9; 1 Cor. 7:15), we strongly encourage reconciliation and help couples learn to rely upon God's readiness to forgive sin and restore families (e.g. Mt. 19:3-9; 1 Cor. 7:10-16).
We practice moderation. Scripture includes many instances where alcohol is moderately consumed, and it doesn’t prohibit drinking alcohol (e.g. Deut. 14:26; Jn. 2:6-10; 1 Tim. 5:23). Therefore, we are free to drink in moderation. Scripture also commands us to be disciplined in order to avoid the sins of: drunkenness, alcoholism, violating governmental laws (such as under-age drinking) and becoming a stumbling block to the weak by refusing to love them well by abstaining in appropriate circumstances (e.g. Ecc. 10:17; Eph. 5:18; Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 10:23-33; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). While some Christians have defined any alcohol consumption as a sin, we believe that it is detrimental to the Kingdom when Christians begin to define righteous behavior by extra-biblical standards—especially standards that would exclude Jesus.
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
We at the Rock Church believe in the basic statement of Christian Faith, the Apostle’s Creed (200-750 AD).
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.1
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic2 church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Making Our Finances Reflect Our Faith by Kent Weber
In the Old Testament, we find that in addition to their voluntary giving, the Israelites were expected to pay three periodic tithes, which averaged 23 percent of their annual income. Yet, Christianity Today reports that per capita giving among Church membership in America is a mere 2.55%. A disturbing statistic, with only one of two implications: either God changed the rules somewhere between Sinai and the Cross; or something has gone terribly wrong!
Herein, we want to explore together what the Word of God (as a whole) says to us about tithes and offerings. It’s pretty basic, really. His guidance is strong. The consequences of withholding are clear and the promises of personal faith, spiritual growth and multiple blessing are assured when we cheerfully obey. In short, if our tithes and offerings hover anywhere near the mark of 2.5% must we not be robbing God of His glory and cheating ourselves of rightful blessing? As Christians we are committed to discovering and applying the truth of God’s Word to our lives, and we believe the Scriptures supply us with some very specific principles by which we are to approach the responsibilities and privileges of giving.
“A tithe of everything…belongs to the Lord; it is Holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30). Literally, of course, a tithe is “a tenth,” one of ten parts. In this light, some modern churches speak loosely when they refer to all giving as tithing. You can give 2.5% of your income, but you cannot tithe it any more easily than you can paint a bluebird red. By definition, a tithe is 10%.
Of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, three tithes were required: an annual tithe for the priests and Levites (Num. 18:21, 24); A second annual “festival” tithe (Deut. 12:17-18); and every third year, a tithe for the poor- all together, an annual average of about 23%. While tithing was specifically affirmed by the Mosaic Law, it did not originate there. The high priest Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham (Gen. 28:22). Thus, it cannot be seen as exclusively belonging to the ceremonial law abolished by Christ. Further, the purpose of the tithe, Moses clearly tells us, was “that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always” (Deut. 14:23). It is no wonder then, that the prophet Malachi issued such emphatic pleas not to delay or withhold but “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10). The tithe was not “given” but “paid.” For God’s people in the Old Testament, it was no more optional than paying taxes. And if we read the New Testament carefully, the tithe remains every bit as relevant today.
While the New Testament does not address the issue of tithing as explicitly as the Old, the continuity of expectation remains clear, almost assumed. In Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, we see that while Jesus chastises the Pharisees for neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness, he nonetheless carefully affirms their tithes and exhorts them to continue. Further, we must note that nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus incur the charge of failing to render tithes. This is significant, in that the Pharisees accused him of violating virtually every other Jewish expectation. Similarly, while the Talmud forbade the good Jew from even sitting at the same table with someone who did not tithe, the Pharisees dined willingly and often with Jesus. Apparently, they were satisfied that he was tithing. And finally, never once in the New Testament is the Old Testament requirement of tithing specifically recalled, revoked or replaced.
Even as clear as these points seem to be, we still wish that someone had asked Jesus point plank whether or not we are still expected to pay tithes. The thought naturally occurs to us: why did no one ever put this question to Jesus? Only three possible explanations commend themselves to us. (I) Perhaps it was asked, but never got recorded. Unlikely. (II) Perhaps everyone just assumed that tithing was no longer relevant. (Possible I suppose, though I can’t imagine what this assumption could be based upon). Or (III) perhaps tithing was so obviously a responsibility before God that questioning its continued relevance simply never occurred to anyone. This by far, the most plausible explanation. Even culturally, the historical record confirms as much. The Egyptians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and most of the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Arabians all tithed to their gods. Even outside the Bible’s teaching, the tithe has always been par for the religious course.
In sum, the Scriptures show us several things: the tithe was a full 10%; it was required of all believers; and it was clearly affirmed and never revoked in the New Testament- not for an attachment to the Law, or for any other reason. In short, I believe it is as relevant for us today as it ever has been. It’s based in relationship. It’s symbolic. It’s purposive. It’s a commandment!
The Principle of “firstfruits” runs parallel to and overlaps with the “tithe.” While the tithe emphasized the exact amount, as representing the whole, “firstfruits” emphasized quality and primacy. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” (Prov. 3:9). For the Israelites, this meant yielding the first and best production of the vineyard (Lev. 19:23-25), the pick of the grain, wine, olive oil and wood (Ex. 23:16, 34:22), the first of the honey and all the produce of the land (II Chron. 31:5)-and most of the first fruits went directly to the religious leaders for use in ministry (Num. 18:12). In our body, we may not have firstfruits and crops to yield, but the principle is certainly transferable. Firstfruits is a way to show God that we love Him, that we trust Him, that we wish to honor him with the first and the best that we have. We return to Him “off the top”- as soon as the harvest is made-as soon as the payment is received. Taken in this light, squabbling over whether we must submit our tithes before or after taxes becomes a moot point. If God is first, and the tithe represents the whole, first fruits commits us to God before the government.
It is here where the term giving is most appropriately used. The Old Testament specifically refers to this giving as over and above the tithe or firstfruits (Lev. 22:18-23; Num. 15:3; Deut. 12:6,17). The tithe represents a floor. It is not a ceiling. And it is only after the tithe that the concept of “give as you are led” becomes appropriate. As believers, we are encouraged to participate in this, when we notice a particular need or grasp onto a special vision. One of many examples can be found in Exodus 35and 36. The excitement and vision of building God’s tabernacle swept the Israelites into a real spirit of generosity. They gave and gave to see it built. And we must note the tabernacle was not built form tithes! These gifts were received above and beyond the Israelites periodic duties, and independent of circumstances. Similarly in II Corinthians 8:2-3, Paul testifies that the believers gave when help was needed-and completely without regard to their own dire circumstances! “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Obey…And Watch the Floodgates Open!
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ’How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Mal. 3:8-10)
In three short verses, the prophet Malachi encapsulates the double principle which represents all of scripture on the topic. When we do not tithe, we rob God. Our relationship with him incurs a setback. We express doubt, and show Him disrespect. Conversely, when we do obey with our finances, our relationship with Him flourishes. Our faith bolsters. And he literally pleads for our obedience so that he can heap the blessings upon us! The blessings may or may not be financial ones, but in some form they are promises to us. And we should claim that promise!
Just as the Ten Commandments are simultaneously prohibitions and invitations, so our tithes and offerings represent both responsibility and privilege. Accompanying the blessing and privilege of relationship with the Saviour is the responsibility (and pleasure) of submitting our whole lives. So don’t procrastinate. Consult His Word. Obey. Respond with joy. And take the faithful leap into the personally transforming, kingdom impacting adventure of tithing and giving. It will change your life.