What are the fundamental beliefs of the COG? What should they be? What is the Biblical answer?
There is no doubt that overall the COG is pretty unique in many of its doctrines. Most have codified the basic doctrines in some manner, whether as a booklet or as a page on a web page, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What I am not going to do is try to compare 300 fundamental belief documents. What I am going to do is to point you to Scriptures about fundamental beliefs and challenge you to look at those for your particular organization to see if they include them.
I want to state right off that your organization may have more than what I list, or they may be worded somewhat different, or they may mush 2 of them into one statement and split others. Obviously, how they are organized are not nearly as important as whether or not all of them exist within the fundamental beliefs of an organization. I wouldn’t get too excited if some others are included that are not here, as well, as long as they are overall Biblical. These are different times, so some of our distinctive doctrines may be more important than others to some people. However, I do think it is an issue if any are completely missing.
As well, I don’t intend on including in one blog article all of the distinctive doctrines of the COG. There’s an entire blog out there, and I’m sure that sooner or later we will touch on most of these doctrines, if not all of them. However, what are the “fundamental” doctrines?
When it comes to distinctive doctrines, perhaps none stands out as much as the teaching that the Law has not been done away. When Jesus was questioned about the Greatest Commandment, He listed not one but two: 1. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 2. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. He then added, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40). The core of the Law, of course, is the Ten Commandments. The COG teaches you must keep them all, and that includes keeping the 7th day Sabbath. Jesus taught, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Mt 5:17-18). I don’t want to get too bogged down in this, as this is a large topic, but it really is at the core of our distinctiveness.
Law and grace are both emphasized throughout the Bible. In reality, you cannot have one without the other. Both are mentioned in numerous and different ways, both in the OT and the NT. Aside from this, though, is there somewhere in the Bible that summarizes the basic doctrines of Christianity? You bet!
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
~ Heb 6:1-2 (NIV)
Paul, or whoever wrote Hebrews, is saying, “Let’s leave off talking about the fundamentals” and then lists them. Make no mistake about it, these should be the bedrock upon which any other doctrine is built! So, let’s take a brief look at these and how the COG traditionally understands them.
1. Christ. Christ is the chief cornerstone of the Church (Lk 20:17; Ac 4:11). If we do not have Christ in view, then the “elementary teachings about Christ” don’t make any sense! It is through Christ we are saved. It is Christ Who will return and begin to establish His Father’s Kingdom.
2. Repentance from acts that lead to death. The wages of sin is death. We must stop sinning and turn to God for strength to stop. However, most translations render this “dead works”, which covers a much larger territory. Our works cannot save us! We must point back to #1! However, we also know that we are saved not by good works but for good works (Ep 2:10).
3. Faith in God. I really hope that this one is obvious. Paul believed that faith was in an continuing circle (“faith to faith”), and that we are to live by faith (Ro 1:17). We are justified by faith (Ro 3:28). Faith must be put into action, as “faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:26).
4. Baptisms. Yes, that is plural. We are baptized, dunked, dipped, made soaking wet with water as an outward sign of repentance. We are commanded to repent and be baptized (Ac 2:38). We are to be baptized by the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:5; Ac 1:5). There is also a baptism of fire (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16). For those who do not make it into the Kingdom, they will be immersed into a Lake of Fire to be burned up.
5. Laying on of hands. At minimum, members have hands laid upon them after baptism as a symbol of receiving the Holy Spirit. However, this topic is larger than this, and we should not be limiting it. Ordinations are also done by the laying on of hands, which symbolizes the blessing of God and a boost of His Spirit to enable the job to be carried out. The laying on of hands is also done during an anointing for an illness for the same reasons (Cf. Jas 5:14).
6. Resurrection of the dead. Another one of the most distinctive doctrines of the COG is that we do not have an immortal soul, the saved do not go to heaven upon death, but all people “sleep” in the ground until Christ’s return. It is Christ Who will call everyone, in their own time and in their own order, out of their graves. The first resurrection happens when He returns, and that is the resurrection of the saints into spirit beings who will rule with Him for 1,000 years. After the 1,000 years have finished, there will be a second resurrection of flesh and blood. These people will have the “books”, the “biblios”, the Bible, opened to them for the first time. They will be judged from the Bible according to “their works”. There are indications that this judgment may be for 100 years. See Isa 65 and Rev 20 for details.
7. Eternal judgment. In the end, if anyone has not accepted the free gift of eternal life, then they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Finally, even the grave and death itself will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is called the “second death” (Rev 20:14-15). This will be the final death, lasting an eternity. There are no more opportunities beyond this point.
These are the “principle”, the “elementary” or “fundamental” beliefs of the NT Church. In some way, the COG organization you belong to should have these beliefs within their fundamental belief documents.