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Marriage

Greg Strand – August 10, 2015 Leave a comment

How does the EFCA understand and define marriage?

This Statement, drawn from Scripture as our ultimate authority, sets forth a Christian vision of human sexuality as a good gift of God. The divine design for sexual expression within the commitment of marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the well-ordering of human society and is integral to human flourishing. We desire to articulate this ethic as moral truth binding on us all while recognizing our need of God’s grace and forgiveness in the ways that we all fall short of this divine ideal.

God created human beings as male and female (Gen. 1:27). The complementary, relational nature of the human race as “male and female” reflects the created order given by God when He created human beings “in His image” (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1, 3; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; Jms. 3:9; cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10). It is with joy in our finitude that we are to receive the gift of being either male or female.

Scripture grants two life-enhancing options for sexual behavior: monogamous marital relations between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18, 21-24; Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:5-8; cf. Heb. 13:4) or sexual celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7; Matt. 19:12). Either is a gift from God, given as He wills for His glory and the good of those who receive and rejoice in His gift to them.

In Scripture monogamous heterosexual marriage bears a significance which goes beyond the regulation of sexual behavior, the bearing and raising of children, the formation of families, and the recognition of certain economic and legal rights, all of which are important. Marriage between a woman and a man is emphatically declared in Scripture to create a “one flesh” union (Gen. 2:23-24; Matt. 19:5), which in turn signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and His body, the Church (Eph. 5:22- 33). This means that the foundational understanding of marriage is as a covenant grounded in promises between a man and a woman which finds its divinely intended expression in the “one flesh” union of husband and wife, and between the “one flesh” union of husband and wife and God (cf. Prov. 2:16-17; Mal. 2:14; Eph. 5:31-32).

We regard marriage as a good creation of God, and marriage within the Church as a rite and institution tied directly to our foundational belief of God as creator who made us male and female. We also regard marriage as a sacred institution which images the mysterious and wonderful bond between Christ and His Church. To us, then, marriage is much more than merely a contract between two persons (a secular notion). It is a covenant grounded in promises between a man and a woman which finds its divinely intended expression in the “one flesh” union of husband and wife, and between the “one flesh” union of husband and wife and God (the divine design). We therefore will only authorize and recognize heterosexual marriages.

We define marriage in the following way: “Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.”

This is an excerpt from the document written by the Spiritual Heritage Committee: A Church Statement on Human Sexuality: Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage” – A Resource for EFCA Churches.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

Greg Strand – August 6, 2015 Leave a comment

Does the EFCA have a position on the judgment seat of Christ?

The EFCA is premillennial, but allows liberty on the nuances of premillennialism (Dispensational, Progressive, Historic) and the tribulation (pretribulation, midtribulation, pre-wrath, posttribulation.).

This means the EFCA does not take an official position on the bema seat or the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), and whether or not it is the same or separate from the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). For some, there is also a separate judgment of the nations (Matt. 25:31-46). The differences of understanding would be related to one’s premillennial view. 

 

Replacement Theology

Greg Strand – August 5, 2015 2 Comments

How does the EFCA relate to replacement theology?

Because the EFCA premillennial position embraces the breadth of premillennialism, including the various understandings of it, there are some in the Free Church that would say those covenantal promises will be fulfilled with the nation of Israel (Dispensational Premillennialism), while others would claim that those promises have been fulfilled by Christ, are being fulfilled in the Church and will be fulfilled when Christ returns (Historic Premillennialism).  Both of these positions are acceptable within the EFCA, as is the more mediating position known as Progressive Dispensationalism.

Those in the EFCA who embrace an Historic Premillennial position would say that the promises have been fulfilled in Jesus, the church and the new heavens and new earth, thus affirming a fulfillment theology, not a replacement theology. The “replacement theology” expression is a term generally used by Dispensational Premillennialists against Historic Premillennialists and/or Amillennialists regarding their view of the nation of Israel. (It is important to acknowledge that historically there are some who affirm replacement theology who have no place or role for the nation of Israel.)

Premillennialism

Greg Strand – July 30, 2015 1 Comment

How is premillennialism understood in the EFCA?

The EFCA affirms the premillennial view of Christ’s return (cf. Article 9, Christ’s Return). In affirming premillennialism, we affirm the breadth of the premillennial view including Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism and Historic Premillennialism.

The specific answer to this question is found in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America (pp.221-222). Here is what it means minimally to affirm premillennialism, along with a statement of what our affirmation does not mean.

In summary, our affirmation of the premillennial return of Christ in this Statement entails the following:

1. The kingdom of God will not reach its culmination and fulfillment on earth before Jesus Christ comes in glory.

2. God’s purposes include the public vindication of Christ. He will be seen to be the King of kings and Lord of lords by all, and he will establish his reign on this earth.

3. God’s people will be vindicated with Christ in a public and visible way.

4. The coming of Christ will not simply usher in some spiritual heaven divorced from this created order. In an intermediate stage, Jesus must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet, before he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, ushering in the new heaven and the new earth in the eternal state.

5. Evil will not be overcome fully and completely when Christ returns in glory, but only after an intermediate kingdom which must precede that final victory of God. There will be one more uprising of the evil one at the end of the millennium, before the dawning of the new heaven and the new earth.

Further, we can also say what this Statement affirming premillennialism does not mean:

1. It does not require a specific position on when Christ will come in relation to a time of great tribulation.

2. It does not require a certain way of reading the Bible regarding the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, whether that fulfillment is found in the nation of Israel, in Christ, in the church, in the millennium or in the new heaven and the new earth.

3. It does not entail a particular understanding of Israel and the church or of the current nation-state of Israel.

4. It does not necessarily mean that Christ’s earthly reign must be a period of precisely one thousand years.

Perseverance and Apostasy

Greg Strand – July 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Does the EFCA believe in “once saved, always saved” or that one can “lose their salvation”?

The EFCA as a denomination attempts to focus on the essentials of the gospel which means we have a parameter on some doctrinal issues. One of those issues is whether or not one affirms eternal security (perseverance of the saints) or apostasy (one can fall away and lose one’s salvation). The former view is generally held by those who would be more Calvinist/Reformed in their leanings while the latter would be held by those more Arminian/Wesleyan and Lutheran.

Because the EFCA is a place for both Arminians/Wesleyans (including Lutherans) and Calvinists/Reformed, there is no official position either mandating or prohibiting either position. Rather, our formal, official position is that we are a place where both are allowed and proponents of either position can serve and minister together. It is not to be a doctrine that causes division in the EFCA

It is true that local EFC churches would lean in one theological direction more so than another on this doctrine. But whichever way the church leans, the church ought to be welcoming to the person who leans in the other theological direction. This means this issue is local church specific and a local church distinctive.

In the EFCA it falls into the category of the “significance of silence,” or that area in which we affirm “unity in the essentials, dialogue in the differences,” and without division.