Well, I’m going to take a crack at a divisive topic. It might be more accurate to say “a set of divisive topics”. These are the things that church splits are made of. I’m going to mark this one as an “Editorial” because these are my opinions. The interesting thing about lists is not only what makes it on a list but what is omitted from a list. Now, it could be because I’ve overlooked something. Or, it could be that it makes the other list, of What is Disputable? I fully expect that some will disagree with me. However, please look over Heb 6:1-2 if you doubt any of the below, as all but the first few flow from that passage. This is a similar list that is in my previous article “What Are the Fundamentals?” These articles complement each other, but emphasize different things. On the whole, these doctrines are the non-negotiable. Does that make the others unimportant? No, of course not. However, it means that these are the ones that directly affect salvation.
I am going to mark the “required” doctrines with a capital ‘R’ and then a number. Some items will be required, not because they are explicitly stated, but rather than they are corollaries of a given requirement. These items will the marked with a capital ‘C’ and the corresponding requirement number. If there is more than one corollary, they will be marked with lowercased ‘a’, ‘b’, etc.
R1: “God” is “One”.
Now, there may or may not be room for disagreement with what “one” truly means, but all COGs teach that the divine Godhead is somehow “One”. The standard answer in the COG, of course, is that the God Family, Elohim, is one even as the Smith family is one.
R2: The Law has not been done away.
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.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
~ Mt 5:17-19
The Ten Commandments have not been done away. The 4th Commandment means just what it says. The Sabbath day, the Christian day of worship, is on the 7th day, not the “8th” (Sunday). God’s Holy Days have not been done away, only to be replaced with holidays of pagan origins. The laws of clean and unclean meats have not been done away, as is evident when Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Ac 10:14) even years after Jesus had rose from the dead!
Technically, the only law that has been “done away” (if you really want to call it that) is that of animal sacrifices. Those laws were added to the original Covenant law (See article on “The Ten Commandments” for clarification on this). Even then, there are 2 things to keep in mind: 1. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, making all other sacrifices of null effect. 2. We ourselves are to be a “living sacrifice” (Ro 12:1). So, even this “added” law was replaced by something else, even as the symbols of Passover were replaced by unleavened bread and wine.
Imagine there once was a man who was speeding at 100 mph in a 65 mph zone. He faced a hefty fine if found guilty. He had to go to court because of the amount over the speed limit he was going. He goes before the judge, he breaks down and cries to the judge that he is sorry and won’t do it again. Now, imagine a judge who had compassion on the offender. The judge says, “I have to find you guilty. That’s the law, and that’s justice. However, since you are so broken over this transgression, I’ll pay the fine for you. I know you have no money and cannot pay it yourself, so I’ll pay the fine in your stead.” What would the judge then think if the man went out and reasoned, “I’m free! I no longer have to obey the law because the penalty has been paid for!”? That’s the type of twisting that is being done to justify that the “Law has been nailed to the cross.”
R3: Jesus Christ is the living Son of God, the prophesied Messiah, who lived a sinless life, died for our sins, rose again, is sitting at the right hand of God the Father and will return to earth one day to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.
No matter how you view the “oneness” of God, Jesus is now part of the God Family, the firstborn of God, not only in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. If you deny Jesus came in the flesh, you will not be saved (1Ti 3:16; 1Jn 4:2-3; 2Jn 1:7; Jude 4). If you deny He has risen, you are likewise deceived (1Pe 3:21-22; Ac 2:36; 13:27-41). Over and over again, Jesus talked about when He would return. Even as He ascended into Heaven, the that witnessed the event angels said, “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Ac 1:10-11).
R4: The Gospel is about the coming Kingdom of God.
There are 98 verses that contain the word “gospel”. 5 of those are by Jesus Himself, and they say, “gospel of the kingdom” (Mt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mk 1:14, 15). Paul, when in Rome, was “preaching the kingdom of God” (Ac 28:31).
The world’s “gospel” only tells half of the story. Jesus came the 1st time to save men from their sins. He will come a 2nd time to save the world from destruction. At that time, the saints will receive the ultimate in salvation: the gift of eternal life. Jesus will establish God’s government over mankind and prepare for the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy: God’s Kingdom on earth (the New Jerusalem).
C4a: The Gospel, therefore, is about God’s government that will be established on earth.
C4b: The Bible is silent on how that should effect the organization of the Church. See Part 2.
R5: Repentance is necessary for salvation.
The message Jesus preached was, “repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Surely, I don’t need to elaborate on this point.
R6: We are justified by the blood of Christ and through faith.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
~ Ro 5:9
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
~ Ro 3:26-28
Note that Paul is not here saying that keeping the Law is unnecessary. Once justified, we must still become sanctified and grow in holiness every day. The only way that is possible is by keeping the Law to the best of our ability and asking God to intervene and help us in following through on it.
R7: Baptism is required for salvation.
Now when they heard [how Jesus died for their sins and was resurrected to the right hand of God], they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
~ Ac 2:37-39
The Bible is quite clear that repentance and baptism must be performed to save someone. The mainstream doctrines of the immortal soul and this is the only day of salvation water this down. Furthermore, in order to repent, one must be of an age of accountability. The COG has usually looked to the legal definition of age of accountability, 18 in the US, for determining this matter. While the actual age might be a disputable item, it is evident that establishing an age of accountability is not. Infants cannot repent.
R8: Laying on of hands.
Hebrews identifies this as a fundamental belief, but it really is a set of beliefs. Laying on of hands takes place after baptism. It signifies the imparting of the Holy Spirit upon a person. That person is “set aside”. Laying on of hands is done for anointings for sickness. That person is set aside for a special healing. Laying on of hands is done for ordinations. That person is set aside for special service. All of these indicate the imparting of some additional portion of God’s Spirit to do a work in that person’s life.
R9: Today is not the only day of salvation.
God is love. God is mercy. How many times have you heard these things? Yet, for many who profess Christianity, God is a Being Who would create human beings with immortal souls, knowing that the majority of them would reject His message, and send the majority of them to an ever burning torment in Hell for all eternity to punish them for their unbelief. That’s the lunacy that passes for “Christianity” in the world today. God is omnipotent, but in the common view He cannot save over 2/3rds of human beings. God is omniscient, but either He didn’t know beforehand that most would reject Him, or He doesn’t know how to save them, or He doesn’t care. The modern “Christian” view of God is too small, and Satan is winning the “soul saving” contest.
C9a: Heaven is not the reward of the saved; the earth is.
C9b: “Hell” is just the grave. Everyone goes to “hell” eventually.
C9c: There are at least 2 resurrections.
The 1st resurrection is the resurrection of the saints at Christ’s return. They will rule with Christ for 1,000 years on the earth (typically called “The Millennium”).
The 2nd resurrection is the general physical resurrection of the unsaved. This is the Great White Throne Judgment, where the Bible is opened to people for the first time. This is not a second chance because they never understood to begin with. Many who profess to be Christians will be shocked to wake up as a physical human being.
For more resurrections, see Part 2.
C9d: No one is eternally tortured in a Lake of Fire. There will be those physical human beings who have rejected God’s way of love and selflessness. They will burn up.
C9e: To preach different than this is to diminish the mercy and justice of God and create an idol.
Since the resurrection and eternal judgment are in the fundamental Christian doctrines listed in Heb 6, this is non-negotiable.
So, while I welcome feedback, if you think a required doctrine was left out, please provide Scriptural support. Next part will cover “What Is Disputable?”