This is the Statement of Faith of Vineyard Trailblazers.
A provision marked Stance is a current stance taken by the church which is backed by biblical arguments but is still under consideration.
The Bible is the infallible Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it is without error in the original manuscripts. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Excellent translations include the NASB, NIV, ESV, and NKJV.
Paraphrases, such as The Message, are not the Bible.
The “Authorized” King James Version (KJV), updated many times, is not superior to other translations. “King James Only” church/cult groups teach lies.
The distance in time, culture, language, and geography between us and the Bible is significant. Bible translators seek to close this gap. The historical context is helpful if the history is accurate.
Proper interpretation means finding the meaning God intended to communicate. It is usually best to understand the Bible as it would have appeared to an ordinary person at the time it was written. If a verse doesn’t make sense, seek an explanation that fits with the whole context.
The Bible is always right. Sometimes the Bible disagrees with today’s science, culture, or opinion. When it does, the Bible is correct, and the other is incorrect. While correct, the Bible is not always precise; numbers, for example, may be rounded or symbolic. Sometimes Bible authors reference non-Bible sources; the reference is inerrant in Scripture, but the source is not.
There is one God, existing eternally in three persons: the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (John 10:30; John 14:26; Philippians 2:5-7)
God is Trinity (tri + unity), three in one.
God is Love and He loves all people. It is His desire to reach out to those who are poor, oppressed, widowed or orphaned, and to heal the brokenhearted. (Psalm 68:5-6)
God is Life and Light, in Him there is neither death nor darkness. (John 14:6; 1 John 1:5)
God is Joy and Hope. God is Good and the definition of Goodness. All good and perfect things come from Him. (Galatians 5:22-23; James 1:17; 1 John 4:16)
God is omnipresent (everywhere), but He is not pantheistic and all-encompassing. He is a separate entity from His creation.
God is omniscient (all-knowing), but knowing the future no more controls or causes the future than a person knowing the ending of a book makes him the author.
God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and sovereign: He is always in control and has authority over everything, but this does not make Him controlling. He can freely choose to act or not to act, nor must He do anything. He always acts according to His own character.
God the Father
God is Father, not mother. Though He is described in motherly ways, the Bible universally calls Him Father and uses exclusively male pronouns for all persons of the Trinity. He is Father in that He creates rather than births. Christians are adopted by the Father. It is the Father to whom Jesus prayed and instructed His disciples to pray. The Father is greater than Jesus, but they are both God. The Father is Spirit, incorporeal (having no physical body).
God the Son: Jesus Christ
Jesus is God’s Logos (Grk.), analogous to the “voice inside your head” which is “you,” lacking nothing of you, but yet distinct and not all of you. This is how Jesus says, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
Jesus is God, and from eternity He has been and is the Son of God, His Logos. He is begotten, having the same essence as God, neither adopted nor made.
He was born into the world through the virgin Mary, thus 100% God and 100% man. He lived in all ways as we do, but without sin. He taught the very words of God. He sacrificed Himself on the cross, taking upon Himself the sins of all the world, dying that we may live. He died, was buried, and rose from the dead alive on the third day. Jesus is Life, and Death could not hold Him. Resurrected, triumphant over sin and death, Jesus brings life to all who trust Him.
God the Holy Spirit
God the Holy Spirit is God’s Ruach (Heb.) or Pneuma (Grk.), meaning breath, wind, or spirit. If Jesus is God’s speech, the Holy Spirit is the breath on which it is carried.
The Holy Spirit is the Helper sent by Jesus to Christians. The whole Trinity resides in every Christian. The Holy Spirit guides, empowers, and fills the Christian, being not of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). It is through the Holy Spirit that Christians experience miraculous, supernatural healing, gifts of the Spirit, growth in the fruits of the Spirit, and an abundance of other spiritual blessings today.
Sin is any act, thought, or attitude which is contrary to the character of God. In other words, to sin is to choose not-God, and so to sin is to choose to separate from God. Separation from God is necessarily separation from love, life, light, goodness, joy, hope, peace, healing, pleasure, and all other good things, because all of these come only from God. All that is left is not-God: hatred, death, darkness, evil, misery, hopelessness, enmity, brokenness, suffering, and all bad things.
Sin is purely derivative. Sin is always the taking of something good that God created and turning it into something evil by separating it from God, often by taking it to an extreme that God did not desire. This is why sin often feels good: God intended pleasure to accompany the good things that sin is distorting.
On earth, God allows both righteous and wicked people to experience His character. This is how an evil person can enjoy life. But in eternity, each person is either with God or not with God. There is no in-between. For the evil person, even the pleasure attached to sin is gone. Hell is the eternal place, the lake of fire and brimstone, the Second Death, where evil humans and evil angels are eternally separated from God. (Revelation 20:14-15)
The Bible describes hell as a real place. It is a place of suffering and a place of permanent separation from God for those who die without accepting Christ. God’s desire is that no one be separated from Him for eternity, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:12-15; John 3:16-18)
At the Great/Last Judgment, all people, including Christians, are judged according to their works. All works and secrets, good and bad, will be laid bare for all to see. After the judgment by works, the Book of Life will be opened which contains the names of all those who chose to worship Jesus with their lives, and all these will enter heaven, where they will live eternally with God in His kingdom. Everyone else, having chosen to worship themselves, will enter hell.
Creation, Creatures, and the Environment
God created the earth in six earth-days, as described in Genesis 1. Humanity was designed to take care of creation and help it thrive, not exploit, abuse, destroy, or kill it. God gave plants to mankind for food at creation, and gave animals after the Flood; killing an animal for food is biblically permitted, but it is sin to mistreat or abuse an animal or kill it for one’s entertainment. All life is sacred, with God as its Source. Human and animal death came to creation through Adam’s sin. It is humanity’s role to rule over creation and subdue evil, acting in all ways in accordance with God’s character.
Mankind is created in the image and likeness of God, sharing every aspect of His personality and character, especially filled with love. God desires deep, intimate friendship with humanity, and so He gave them free will, the opportunity for each person to chart his or her own path, in the hope that they would choose to love Him and be like Him.
The first humans, Adam and Eve, chose not to be like God. When presented with the opportunity to gain the knowledge of good and evil, they chose to gain it through evil rather than good. They broke their relationship with God, bringing death and brokenness, both physical and spiritual, upon all people and all creation. Following their example, all people have freely chosen to sin rather than follow God.
Grace is a free gift of unmerited, unrepayable favor which comes with clear obligations, creating a powerful, positive, dynamic, lifelong relationship in which the giver protects the recipient’s interests and the recipient is forever obligated to perform public acts of gratitude, enhance the giver’s honor, do whatever the giver asks, and always act in the giver’s best interests.
God’s grace toward us forgives us our sins, adopts us into His family, gives us eternal life with Him, indwells us with God the Holy Spirit, and promises an abundance of other promises. In response, we must offer up our whole selves to God’s service, to do what is righteous in God’s sight (Romans 12:1; Romans 6:13-14), not only honoring God, but also living in love, generosity, and loyal service toward fellow believers (Galatians 5:13-14; Galatians 6:2; Romans 13:9-10). God becomes our King, and we become His loyal servants.
Faith is the confident, grateful, energetic, living belief that the grace-giver always keeps his promises. Faith is not knowledge or agreement but relying. Like a person trusting a ladder, the President the Secret Service, or a feudal village their lord knight against barbarian hordes, faith in Jesus is putting your life in His hands, giving your total allegiance and obedience to Jesus Christ your Lord and King.
Faith always results in faithfulness. Everyone who has faith will demonstrate that faith by actions befitting God’s character. Every believer will grow increasingly like Jesus, bearing fruit through the Holy Spirit. A person is not saved who claims to have faith or claims to be a Christian but whose life is not characterized by increasingly godly actions and Christ-like character. All Christians not yet in heaven are still prone to sin and may be trapped in serious sin for a long time. Life has ups and downs. But the Christian life trends toward Jesus, whereas the non-Christian life does not.
God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to Earth, taking the form of a man. The Holy Spirit caused the virgin, Mary, to conceive and bear a son, Jesus, making Him fully God and fully man. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and demonstrated through word and deed how mankind should live. Then Jesus, the Christ/Messiah/Savior, submitted Himself to death, the consequence of sin, even though having Himself never sinned, taking upon Himself the sins of all the world. Three days later, having fulfilled the death-requirement of all others’ sins, He rose from the dead. In His resurrection, He conquered sin and death and brought the gift of life to all people.
The gift of salvation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God, is graciously offered to all. This grace is accepted by repenting of your sins and believing/putting your faith in Jesus. Thus God reconciles us who believe to Himself that we may live with Him forever. Salvation begins a new life immediately with God on Earth which continues for all eternity.
Forgiveness is the choice to no longer hold an act against someone but instead seek reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the restoration of a broken relationship.
Reconciliation of All Things
Mankind is uniquely physical and spiritual; animals, plants, and the visible world are only physical, while angels, demons, and the invisible world are only spiritual, but mankind is both. Jesus came as a man to restore all creation. Resurrected, Jesus brings reconciliation and restoration to all of creation, physical and spiritual.
God sacrificed Himself to rescue people from spiritual fatherlessness and adopt all who believe in Him into His heavenly family; so, too, should every Christian who is able sacrifice of his or her own to rescue orphans and adopt them into his or her earthly family.
Sin can only be overcome through experience of relationship with God. Awareness of sin is only one step in the process. Victory is found when the sinner meets God personally, experiencing awareness, repentance, God’s forgiveness, and reconciliation through His abundant, miraculous, amazing love. True victory over sin happens when the sinner discovers and embraces his or her new, true identity as a beloved child of the Father.
Every person was created for a deep, personal relationship with God Himself. Earthly relationships serve as images of spiritual relationships. God is the perfect Father who speaks identity and life into His children. Jesus is the perfect Son, demonstrating the perfect relationship between parent and child, Father and Son. Jesus and the Holy Spirit both demonstrate perfect friendship to believers.
Each human being needs these healthy relationships to live a healthy life. Each one can only thrive if he or she experiences the identity in relationship that God has for him or her.
Transgenderism, Gender Confusion, Homosexuality, etc.
Transgenderism, gender confusion, homosexuality, and other sexual variants are all the result of broken identity and broken relationship, the lack of godly fathers, brothers, and friends, and especially the lack of a complete relationship with the Father. Practicing and promoting these things is sin. Correcting them is not through condemnation but through connection to the Father.
Every person is born either male or female. Some people have sex chromosome abnormalities. Anyone with a Y chromosome is male, and anyone without a Y chromosome is female. It is sinful to change the gender God gave you, for He “wove [you] together in [your] mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Instead, He has a plan for your life, and He wants a deep and loving relationship with you.
All lust and sexuality outside of marriage is sin, regardless of who or what it is oriented toward. No person is born sexually deviant; rather, homosexuality, promiscuity, adultery, and all other broken sexuality is learned and practiced sin. A person can fall into any sin if he puts effort and attention to it, including changing his apparent sexuality. Likewise, every such person can find healing and restoration in Jesus, including fixing broken sexuality.
People need friends. Healthy friendships are vital to a healthy life. Every Christian should seek Christian friends to promote mutual growth in Christ. Though Christians can and should build friendships with non-Christians, hoping to lead them to Jesus, a non-Christian cannot provide the spiritual fellowship that a Christian needs to thrive.
Same-gender friendship is something that can continue to grow for a lifetime, whereas other-gender friendship is limited to singleness. There is no reason celibate, same-gendered friends cannot share life together.
Singleness is a prized position that allows undivided attention to God. It should not be given up lightly. The one who burns with passion, however, should marry.
Marriage is the opportunity to help one person, your spouse, fulfill God’s full vision, mission, and calling for his or her life. Marriage is also the opportunity to conceive and raise children filled with godly identity and to fulfill God’s full vision, mission, and calling for their lives. Marriage is a unique opportunity to live out the image and likeness of God in unity like the Trinity.
After faith in Jesus, a healthy marriage is best founded on friendship. Other than family, your spouse must be your only close other-gender friends. You and your spouse can and should grow to be the closest and deepest of friends.
God created mankind in His image. He created two genders, male and female, and marriage between one man and one woman united as one flesh to reflect the unity within the Trinity. The Bible commands husbands to love their wives as Jesus Christ loves the Church. Husbands and wives are to be in mutual submission to each other. Husbands are given a place of honor, not power, in marriage, and wives are commanded to respect their husbands. (Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16)
Adam was the first man, and Jesus is compared to him (1 Corinthians 13:45, Romans 5:12-21). Eve was the first woman, “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18), and the Holy Spirit is likewise described as “the Helper” (John 14:26). Here is a Trinity in marriage: God, the husband, and the wife. May all couples strive to live up to the example of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit!
Marriage is for life. Jesus allows divorce only in the case of sexual immorality. (Matthew 19:3-9)
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12).
Jesus says that the person who does not view marriage as permanent should become a eunuch. (Matthew 19:10-12)
Widows and widowers may remarry. (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Victims of wrongful divorce may remarry.
Those who have committed adultery may not remarry. (Matthew 19:10-12)
If a spouse leaves, he or she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to his or her spouse. Remarriage to another is adultery. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)
Anyone who remarries after being wrongfully divorced was defiled by his or her first spouse and may not remarry the defiler if widowed or divorced again. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)
Life begins at conception.
Abortion is the intentional killing of an otherwise living, unborn person. Abortion is murder. It is wrong to punish a baby for the sins, crimes, or inconveniences of others.
When a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, one should seek to save both baby and mother; if the baby cannot be saved, save the mother.
All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus Christ, and He has deputized the Church with the same under Him. There is no part of creation nor human experience to which the Church should not bring the gospel of Jesus and His kingdom. It is a sin to abdicate this authority and responsibility as Adam and Eve first did.
Every believer must be baptized in water, the way for believers to identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Infants cannot be baptized; baptism is an expression of faith which infants cannot make. Thus, “infant baptism” is not baptism. A believer who was “baptized” as an infant must still be baptized as a believer.
Every believer is qualified to baptize others.
How to Baptize: “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if you don’t have running water, baptize in some other water, and if you can’t not baptize in cold, in warm water; but if you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (The Didache, 7:1-3)
Baptize with the local church, if possible. Baptism is an opportunity for the new believer to publicly confess his or her allegiance to Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10).
Baptize promptly. Do not wait a week. Require nothing except a public proclamation of repentance, submission, salvation, and allegiance to Jesus Christ the Saving King.
Baptism and Salvation
Salvation begins the moment you first accept God’s grace and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation continues throughout your life as you experience and obey Him. Salvation requires public confession of faith in and allegiance to Jesus, and it requires baptism. Intentional postponement of baptism is open rebellion against God, and no one who stays in open rebellion against God can be saved. For this reason, baptism is required for salvation, as are many other things, but sudden death before baptism can happen by no means invalidates salvation. (1 Peter 3:21; Note: John 3 does not talk about baptism.)
The Holy Spirit at Salvation
The Holy Spirit indwells/”lives in” every Christian from the moment of salvation, and He stays in the Christian as a seal of his or her salvation. The Holy Spirit never leaves; no force can remove Him. He is God Almighty. He is always there to help the Christian in every situation.
Coming upon/Filling with/Baptism of the Holy Spirit
The Bible speaks not only of the Holy Spirit “living in” believers but also “coming upon” believers. The “coming upon” of the Holy Spirit is a special, supernatural experience in which a Christian experiences the Holy Spirit’s power manifested through miraculous spiritual gifts in a particularly profound, often physical, way. (Acts 2:4)
A Christian is said to be “filled with” the Holy Spirit when he or she experiences the Holy Spirit’s direct divine leading. This can be the same as “coming upon” but is often less extravagant. (Acts 4:31)
The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” or “baptism of fire” generally refers to the first time a Christian experiences the Holy Spirit “coming upon” him or her. (Matthew 3:11)
The Church is the group of all believers past, present, and future. The Church is called the body of Christ and the bride of Christ. Each believer is one member of the body, each with a unique purpose given by God and specially tailored talents and spiritual gifts to achieve that purpose and help all believers grow together toward maturity in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 4)
Sociologically, groups have emergent dynamics that transcend the individual members of those groups. The Church is a unique organization in that it exists both as the whole collection of believers in all of time and space and in the gathering together of two or three in Jesus’ name. Consequently, the Church has the ability to interact at every sociological level, not only with individuals but also with groups, organizations, businesses, towns, cities, states, nations, governments, and even the whole world in ways only others of similar type ordinarily could.
The Church exists to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation, not just of individuals but of all these and more. This involves not only teaching and baptizing but also the working of miracles and healing, bringing the Trinitarian fullness of power, of love, and of soundness of mind.
The Church gathers regularly to worship God, dwell in His presence, and have fellowship with one another. The Church experiences God together in ways distinct from those experienced by individual Christians.
Believers are warned not only against forsaking the habit of meeting together, but also to be even more vigilant to meet together as the last days come, when trials and tribulations will grow extremely intense and meeting together will be very difficult and dangerous.
The Mission of the Church
Among other things, the mission of the Church is, like Jesus: “to bring good news to the poor, . . . to proclaim release to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, [and] to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:1-2).
God has predestined the course of salvation, but He has not picked whether each individual will be saved or not saved. God predestined that anyone who is a part of the Church is saved and has eternal life, and anyone who is not a part of the Church is not saved and does not have eternal life. He has predestined that all those who are saved will be adopted into His family.
Every person has free will and may freely choose or reject God. Even when God hardens someone’s heart, it is always in accordance with that person’s previously expressed free will and/or is temporary to fulfill His plan. Free will is a crucial piece of the image and likeness of God that He put in every human being. Though humans have a tendency to sin, and all do, nevertheless God draws all people to Himself, offers forgiveness to all, and enables all to seek and find Him.
The chief spiritual gift given to all believers is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God Himself. Of the many individual gifts listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, most are available to every believer, because it is the Holy Spirit who acts through the believer to perform the gifts, and all have the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul writes, “earnestly desire the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31, NKJV), “especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Nevertheless, most believers will experience one or a few gifts to a greater degree than the others, as the Holy Spirit works uniquely in every believer.
All of the miraculous gifts are present throughout the Bible and are still present and active. The same Holy Spirit who filled the Apostles fills Christians today. “Cessationism,” the belief taught by most Reformed teachers that the miraculous gifts ceased after the time of the Apostles or after the canonization of the Bible, is false.
Love is the core of all Christian action. A Christian must love God with all of his or her heart, mind, soul, and strength, which is to say, whole being. Likewise, a Christian must love him- or herself, and must love all others as he or she loves him- or herself.
Love is action, not feeling. Love often begins with a heart moved with compassion toward someone, and we see throughout the gospels that frequently Jesus’ actions are motivated by compassion. For this reason, spiritual gifts are to be used entirely out of love and compassion for others; this is why the famous “love chapter” of the Bible 1 Corinthians 13, is in the middle of Paul’s larger discourse on spiritual gifts and their use in church. Power is to be used wisely, with soundness of mind, and only by means of love. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Love is greater than all spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13, 14:1) and love is the greatest of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Love is the focus of the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31), and “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Sanctification is the ongoing process of allowing God’s character to be developed in us. (Romans 6:19; Galatians 5:22-25)
Divine healing is active in the lives of people today through the Holy Spirit. Healing includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual restoration. (Luke 9:11; Matthew 9:35; Acts 10:38; Matthew 10:1)
The Second Coming
Jesus will return and take all those who have accepted Him as Savior to be with Him for eternity. (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Hebrews 9:28)
The End Times
A number of not-yet-fulfilled prophecies in the Bible are set to take place shortly before Jesus’ return. The biggest, overarching event will be the Great Tribulation, a period of seven years during which many miraculous, cataclysmic events will happen worldwide.
In the midst of this global suffering, a man will rise to worldwide political and religious power, solidified halfway through; this man, known as the Antichrist, will offer peace and eventually claim to be God, will appear to work miracles, and will be indwelt by Satan. He will make war against the saints, there will be great persecution, and it will be very tempting to follow him. Christians will still be on earth during this time.
At the end of the seven years, Jesus will return in the sky, simultaneously seen by every single person on earth. All who believe in Him will rise to meet Him in the air (the Rapture) and join His army; He will defeat the Antichrist, bind Satan, and reign as king on earth for one thousand years. After this, Satan will be released for a short time, will bring an army against Jesus, and will be defeated forever, at which point the Last Judgment/Great White Throne Judgment will occur, the old heaven and earth will pass away, and the new heaven and earth will be revealed, and all who follow Jesus will live there for eternity.
Tithing and Giving
Every Christian should give at least 10% of his or her pre-tax income to the church.
Stance. Every Christian should also save at least 10% for festivities, and give at least 3.3% to the downtrodden.
In the New Testament, we are told that we are not obligated to follow the Law. Instead, Jesus raises the bar. When it comes to giving, we are told to give cheerfully and generously. (Matthew 5:21-48, 2 Corinthians 9:7) Therefore, we should expect to give more than the Law required. The Law required the giving of tithes. The word “tithe” means a tenth, 10%. In addition to taxes imposed by kings (1 Kings 4:7-19), there are three tithes in the Old Testament, totaling 23.3% of all annual pre-tax increase:
- The Levitical, or sacred tithe, provided for the needs of the religious workers (the equivalent of the church today), who in turn were required to tithe to the priests. In those days the tithe was of agriculture, not money, because labor and wealth were tied to agricultural products. Today, labor and wealth are tied to many other careers, the product of which is money. (Numbers 18:21, 24, 26)
- The tithe of the feasts provided for the tither to be able to participate in the feasts in Jerusalem. Today’s equivalent would be taking a vacation or participating in major church celebrations, and trips, etc. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27)
- The tithe for the poor was given every third year for the benefit of the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. Today, one would give this money to bless the church and help the needy. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
How does this work out for Christians today?
First, what is income? Income would include any money intended or expected to pay for the daily living expenses of the Christian and his or her family, including entertainment and savings. This includes income from employment, wages, tips, bonuses, investment, government benefits, retirement savings, trust, inheritance, gift, grant, or loan, etc. Not included are incidental gifts such as birthday presents, though the generous Christian will likely give from these as well!
Second, what about taxes? Just as tithing was done off of the total increase alongside taxes, so too should the Christian tithe on pre-tax income.
Finally, these guidelines set minimums for Christian generosity:
- Give 10% of income to the church for its work.
- Spend 10% of income on family vacations, holidays, and participation in big church events such as mission trips and conferences.
- Spend/give 3.3% of income to bless church workers, visitors, the poor, the exploited, and the needy.