In the EFCA, we strongly affirm the infallibility, inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. We also affirm unequivocally the essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ is grounded in the Scriptures, God’s Word, which is living and active. Consider what our commitment to this gospel means, according to God’s Word.
- We are not ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16).
- We affirm the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16).
- We testify to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
- We affirm the gospel is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:1-3).
- We live a life worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).
- We experience (and proclaim) the gospel in Word and power (1 Thess. 1:5).
- We have been entrusted with the gospel (1 Thess. 2:4).
This unwavering commitment to God’s Word, the Scriptures, and God’s gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, also has significant implications in how we live life together with other believers. Grounded in the essentials of the gospel, we are willing and eager to partner with other like-minded and like-hearted believers, and grant liberty and charity on some of the non-essentials.
In the Free Church, this has been referred to as “the significance of silence.” What this means is that we will discuss and debate an issue, but we will not divide over it. We believe our unity in the gospel of Jesus Christ, both a doctrinal purity and a practical unity, enables us to live life together with others in the local church, and to partner with other gospel-committed ministries outside our local church and denomination (consider Ephesians). In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ allows us not only to survive in such a setting, it enables and empowers us to thrive and flourish. And we believe this practical unity grounded in doctrinal purity manifests the gospel in practice which we preach and teach in doctrine. This is rightly referred to as evangelical unity.
The Spiritual Heritage Committee is working on a new book, Evangelical Unity, which will address these issues, and which will serve as a companion to the book that spells out our understanding of the essentials, Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America (2011). In the past, these two works were This We Believe: The Background and Exposition of the Doctrinal Statement of The Evangelical Free Church of America (1961) and The Significance of Silence (Vol. 2 Heritage Series) (1981).
There are historical precedents of those who have been committed to a similar gospel-centeredness in doctrine and practice. Richard Baxter (1615-1691), one of those from the past, delineates what Christian unity means, cf. Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 5 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 155.
Baxter writes “there must be an union among all churches and Christians in these following particulars.”
- They have all but one God.
- And one Head and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
- And one Sanctifier, the Holy Ghost.
- And one ultimate end and hope, even the fruition of God in heaven.
- And one Gospel to teach them the knowledge of Christ, and contain the promise of their salvation.
- And one kind of faith that is wrought hereby.
- And one and the same covenant (of which baptism is the seal) in which they are engaged to God.
- And the same instrumental founders of our faith, under Jesus Christ, even the prophets and apostles.
- And all members of the same universal body.
- And all have the same new nature and holy disposition, and the same holy affections, in loving God and holiness, and hating sin.
- They all own, as to the essential parts, the same law of God, as the rule of their faith and life, even the sacred canonical Scriptures.
- Every member hath a love to the whole, and to each other, especially to the more excellent and useful members; and an inclination to holy communion with each other.
- They have all a propensity to the same holy means and employment, as prayer, learning the Word of God, and doing good to others.
Some questions to ponder:
- What would you add to the list? What would you delete? What would you edit?
- Where do we come short in our understanding and in our living out of this unity – created by the gospel of Jesus Christ and expressed by our unity with others in Jesus Christ?