Latrobe First Church of God
We Believe: Humanity
Week 4 of We Believe series: This week we look at Humanity
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  • Latrobe First Church of God
    616 Princeton St, Latrobe, PA 15650, USA
    Sunday 8:45 AM, Sunday 11:00 AM
We believe that God made humanity in his image.
“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image….in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27) Genesis 1:27 affirms that humanity is both male and female, and that the fullness of the image of God is seen in male and female.

We believe that all people are created with equal value by God.
Galatians 3:26-29 (along with Genesis and much of Jesus’ ministry) makes it clear that in Jesus Christ ALL people are made equal in value, standing and personhood. God desires that all people have the opportunity to be in relationship with him (John 3:16). In both Old Testament and New – God can call anyone into service and ministry with him. And his call is not limited by sex, race, nationality, social station, or economic standing (Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:10; 4:10-16).

We believe that being human is both physical and spiritual in nature.
Humanity is like the rest of creation, which is made of material “stuff” that has been animated[i] by the power and Spirit of God. And like the rest of creation our physical bodies will wear out and we may die (Genesis 2:7). Humanity is the only creature made in the image of God, endowed with characteristics of God, but we are not God, nor do we have the potential to be God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Psalm 8; Psalm 113:5; Job 40-42:6).
In order to have God’s characteristics we must also be spiritual beings.

Humanity is often described as having heart, mind, body, spirit, and soul[ii] (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12-13). These physical and spiritual components are interwoven as a part of our unique design, and are expressed in our capacity for thought, will, and emotions.

The human soul is an eternal spiritual component (Matthew 10:28) of our nature that is designed for communion with God (Ezekiel 18:4). Our soul is designed to love and long for God (Psalm 42:1), and is restored by God (Psalm 23:3). Our soul can experience the brokenness of our existence and drift from our God-centered design (Psalm 42). Our soul can praise God (Psalm 103:1) and find fulfillment of longings (Psalm 37:4). Our souls find rest in living according to God’s purposes and plans (Matthew 11:25-30).

To be human is to be both physical and spiritual beings. Our eternal experience with God, after life here, will also involve material and spiritual existence. Our bodies will be made new when Christ returns to wrap up God’s plans for this world (Isaiah 26:19; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

We Believe humanity is a unique creation.
We believe that humankind is distinctly and uniquely made. Our design was in addition to and beyond what God did for the rest of creation. Although there are similarities among living things and our DNA[iii] structures, there is a designed complexity to humanity that was not intended for the rest of created things (Genesis 1; Psalm 8).

We believe that humanity was made to display God’s character in life and work.
God intended humanity to be a reflection of him and for our work to resemble his work (Genesis 1:26). Part of humanity’s reflection of God’s character is the ability to create and multiply. We were given the ability to multiply physically and spiritually. Procreation[iv] is one aspect of physical multiplication (Genesis 1:28). Add to this the unique abilities to create music, art, feats of engineering, etc. and we see that every aspect of human life and design was meant to reflect the image of God through the things we do (Ephesians 2:10). This responsibility to create physically comes through the authority God gave us to be stewards[v] of and workers in creation (Genesis 2:15). Men and women share in this responsibility individually and together (Genesis 2:21-23).

We see the spiritual responsibility to multiply in Jesus’ command to make disciples – “as we are going” into all the world (Matthew 28:19). In every facet, moment, and season of life, multiplication is both an individual and a community responsibility as we reflect God’s creative nature. This could be called our great co-mission with God, and is not possible apart from God. Personal discipleship of others and the planting of new churches are two significant ways we see this being applied in the church.

God’s plan for those who follow Jesus is to conform them to the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Jesus’ sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension restores humanity to a right relationship with God (John 14:23-26; 16:15; 17:20-26). This relationship transforms/conforms every aspect of our life and work to be like Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Humanity has a spiritual and physical connection with God since Jesus was resurrected and ascended to sit at the right hand of God with his physical body intact and renewed (John 20:24-30; Acts 1:9; Ephesians 2:6-7). It means our spiritual and physical lives will be transformed in relationship with God.

Through active belief in and relationship with Christ, humanity has the presence of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and empowers us to carry out God’s purposes (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 12:7).
Through active faith relationship with Christ, humanity is intimately connected to God, and is empowered to live out the fullness of the image of God. This is what it means to be God’s witnesses as the Church, literally his reflection and living representatives in and for the world and for the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10-12).

We believe that humanity is broken and separated from God by sin.[vi]
Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree God had commanded them not to. They chose to know good and evil, and be like God. The opportunity to choose was an issue of relationship, the choice to take matters into their own hands was an act of self-will or disobedience to God’s will. This selfish act by Adam and Eve brought a separation from the intimate relationship God had intended to have with them. Since humanity was charged with ruling over creation, their separation from God led to the separation of all creation from God. This is what we call “the Fall” (Genesis 3).

To sin is to “miss the mark.” When we choose to go our own way apart from God we are sinning, missing God’s plans/design for us, and it will lead us to death and destruction instead of the life God intended (Proverbs 14:12, Ephesians 2:10, Romans 2:13).

Every human being was designed to be in relationship with God and to have his guidance. All human beings are accountable for their choices. Apart from God, humanity’s natural course is one of selfish desire and destruction (Romans 1:18-32). Unless we choose to let God intervene and lead our lives through Jesus Christ, we will continue to choose our own paths and be in sin and separation from God (Psalm 51:7-13; Romans 3:21-24; James 4:17). This leads not only to destructive consequences in our lifetimes, but also to eternal separation from God – a second and eternal death (Revelation 21:8).

We believe humanity is given the freedom to choose.
Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden (Genesis 3). The issue of choice is always one of relationship, it’s not that God was surprised by their choice, but rather the only way to have relationship was to have the choice not to have it. God indicates Adam and Eve could listen to the serpent[vii] over and against God (Genesis 3:17).

We are free to live and think and act according to our own wills (Joshua 24:15; John 1:12; John 6:67). We have freedom to accept or reject God, to obey or disobey. However, God does set boundaries on human behavior. Freedom has always come in some framework of restrictions. One of those restrictions comes in the inability to nullify[viii] the consequence of our negative decisions. Another would be when our freedom of choice would nullify a sovereign choice of God. We are not free to be God (Genesis 3:1-6). We are creature, not creator.

All persons experience inner tension between the desire to do right and the pressure to do wrong (Mark 10:17-22; Romans 14:12). We believe by God’s grace[ix] that people are free to choose to walk with Christ or not walk with Christ. Throughout their lifetimes, persons are free moral agents[x] with choice to walk or not walk with God by faith. What God does in regard to our salvation is God’s decision in regard to our hearts (I Samuel 16:7; Colossians 1:22-23; 2 Timothy 2:19). Grace remains the active power in providing salvation for God’s people. Faith serves as the vehicle of delivery for that grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Believers are assured of their position with Christ. Relationship with God is not broken every time the Christian fails (1 John 2:1). Christians who confess their sin have the promise that God will forgive, restore, and cleanse them (1 John 1:9). God provides power for living a victorious life following Jesus. As Christians remain in Christ, he remains in them (Psalm 100:5; Matthew 28:20; John 15:4; Hebrews 13:5). We may forsake God. God will not forsake us. God will provide a way for freedom from sin, and work in us to live according to his will (1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 2:13). God’s people can approach life with a sense of victory.

Our choices of who/what to trust or have faith in will affect our eternal destiny (Habakkuk 2:4; Josh 22:15-20; Matt 5:17-21; John 3:16-18, John 15:5-6, Romans 3:21-24; Ephesians 2:8-10). The issue of choice and relationship with Jesus does not limit God’s sovereignty and authority over creation, but speaks to his justice and his desire to love him freely – not by force.

We believe God’s plan for humanity includes healing for the whole person.
With the power that raised Jesus from the dead, God transforms us from within (Romans 8:11, 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17). As we are conformed to the image of Christ, we discover more and more that in him is the only place we find peace (Ephesians 2:14). He urges us to grow ever deeper in our trust and understanding of him, and in the living out of our faith (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Jesus stated that his purpose was to come so that we “may have life and life to the full” (John 10:10). From scripture we have pictures that show us that a “full” life is both celebration and mourning, laughter and tears (Ecclesiastes 3). As Jesus works in us to heal, restore, and free us from our fallen and willful nature, he redeems every experience and puts them in the perspective of God’s grace (Romans 8). This healing work of Jesus in us, progresses until it is completed for all eternity. (Revelation 7:17; 21:4)

[i] Animated – given life; put into motion.
[ii] Soul – the spiritual nature (essence) of individual human life created by God.
[iii] DNA – basic material in human beings which contains the genetic code and transmits hereditary patterns.
[iv] Procreation – the production of offspring.
[v] Stewards – persons entrusted with managing resources for which they are accountable to God
[vi] Sin – the universal state of alienation from God which results in disobedience and wrongdoing.
[vii] Serpent – another term for Satan who appears in the Garden of Eden as a snake-like creature.
[viii] Nullify – to void or cancel out.
[ix] Grace – the undeserved and free favor of God toward humanity.
[x] Free moral agent – a person able to think and act according to one’s own will and free to choose between good and evil in relationship to God and others.
REGENERATION:
We believe in the new birth, or regeneration.
The doctrine of regeneration, or the new birth, is an essential teaching of the Churches of God. Jesus declared to Nicodemus that being born again (regenerated) is the basis for seeing and entering the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5, 7).

Regeneration is the radical transformation of an individual life from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Christ speaks in Matthew of the necessity of becoming like children (Matthew 18:1-4).

Christ teaches the necessity of entering a new way of life. Through regeneration a new life is made possible by Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:6). It involves a new relationship to God, a new relationship to others, and a new attitude toward the world.

We believe we must respond to God’s offer.
This new life is a supernatural[i] change. It comes to the individual not by human efforts, but by the power and influence of God. This truth is expressed by the Evangelist John (John 1:12, 13). God does not give new life to someone who is not willing to be changed. God offers salvation, but does not force any person to receive it. God does not destroy or alter our choice to accept or reject this offer.

To experience regeneration, we must recognize our need for a new life, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to receive it (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). This involves recognizing one’s sinfulness, both sins we commit and sins of omission[ii] (Romans 3:23; James 4:17) and turning to Jesus in true repentance and confession (Romans 10:9-13). All who do so will find new life in Christ (Romans 6:23).

Those who have matured to the point that they are capable of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are in a state of accountability before God and need regeneration. They are able both to understand their own personal sinfulness and to respond to God independently. Although often occurring in later childhood, this may vary according to the spiritual perceptiveness[iii] and mental capacity of the person.

We must recognize that our sin is separating us from God, and must be willing to repent. Repentance means willingness to confess sinfulness and to turn from a sinful life. With repentance comes God’s forgiveness (Acts 3:19). Through a sincere response to the marvelous forgiving love of God, Christ comes into our lives and makes us new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are truly born again.

[i] Supernatural – that which is outside the normal human experience; not explainable by human science.
[ii] Sins of omission – failure to do what is right due to ignorance or negligence.
[iii] Perceptiveness – ability to comprehend.

JUSTIFICATION
We believe that justification[i] comes by faith in Christ and His atoning work, and not by works of the law, or merits of the individual.
We believe that a person is brought into a right relationship with God by the mediating work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Jesus restores the relationship between the believing sinner and God (1 Timothy 2:5). God declares the sinner righteous because of the sacrifice of Christ.

The teaching of justification by faith alone, separates biblical Christianity from all other religions. All other religions teach some type of justification before God based on the deeds and merits of the individual.

The Bible presents justification by faith in the person of Christ alone, and in His sacrificial work on the cross. Justification is a legal declaration that though guilty[ii], a person is not held responsible because he has placed his or her faith in the atoning death of Christ, not his or her own righteousness. (Romans 4:5).

Justification is an act of God whereby He makes and declares the sinner righteous based on the shed blood of Christ. Justification occurs simultaneously[iii] with regeneration (the giving of new life) and puts a sinner in right relation to God. The repentant and believing sinner is cleansed from sin, released from its penalty and is viewed as righteous before God. (Philippians 3:9).

This act of Justification is not based on human effort. (Galatians 2:16). It is a free gift and is given by the grace of God in response to the faith of the individual. All of the demands of the law are met in Christ (Romans 5:19).

We believe that Scripture reveals the following essential results which occur at Justification:
Remission” means that the justified believer is freed from the demands of the law, because those demands have been satisfied in Christ. A person justified by grace is “set free,” or redeemed, by Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24). This is not just a pardon,[iv] but a declaration that the sinner’s guilt is erased by God. The believer is forgiven and set free.

Restoration” means that a person is now represented by Christ. His righteousness is now yours. Faith in Christ restores a person to perfection in the sight of God. It is as if the person never sinned. (Romans 5:1). God now accepts the justified believer as “righteous.”

God given righteousness” means believers are made right with God because of Christ’s work and presence in the believer. (I Corinthians 1:30). Righteousness from Christ was “put to our account.” We were in sin and now God considers us righteous because of the sacrificial death of Christ. Because of this righteousness, a justified believer is considered a child of God (John 1:12, Galatians 4:4-5).

This “new relationship” is based on an exchange of position. Christ took the place of the sinner. Judgment was pronounced at the Cross. Christ was crucified on our behalf. When a person believes in Jesus, he or she now stands in the righteousness of Christ, there is an exchange of position (2 Corinthians 5:21). At justification the believer is adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15). All of the blessings God has for His children culminating[v] in the resurrection of the body, now belong to the believer (Galatians 4:5, Romans 8:23).

[i] Justification – the act of being made acceptable; being freed from blame and guilt.
[ii] Guilty – deserving blame and punishment.
[iii] Simultaneously – happening or existing at the same time.
[iv] Pardon – to cancel punishment; forgiveness.
[v] Culminating – resulting; reaching the highest point.
SANCTIFICATION

We believe sanctification is the shared work of God and the believer, bringing the whole of one’s life in line with the will of God.
To sanctify anything is to declare that it is holy and belongs completely to God. The God-given ability to make one’s lifestyle more Christ-like occurs through the relationship between the believer and the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Galatians 5:22-23) and not through human effort (Galatians 3:3). Sanctification is a lifelong process, daily appropriated[i]through surrender of life to God. While sanctification is not complete in any given act, there may be experiences in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit that lead to greater yielding to God and holiness. Sanctification is not complete short of the life to come (1 John 3:2). Glorification[ii] is the end of the process of sanctification (1 Corinthians 15:42-57, Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 3:1-17).

In the Old Testament, sanctification was primarily used to set apart places, days, seasons and objects of worship (Genesis 2:3; Leviticus 27:14; Exodus 19:23; 39:32-34). However, New Testament usage portrays a Savior who was so completely set apart to God that those who believe in him can also be sanctified (John 17:17-22). Sanctification then refers to the process of consecrating the regenerate persons that are called to be set apart (Romans 1:7).

Sanctification happens instantaneously[iii] and simultaneously with regeneration (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 John 4:17). Sanctification is also progressive[iv] as it is a continuing growth in grace, truth, and relationship with God (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:5-7). Sanctification is also complete in that all who have the indwelling Holy Spirit will be delivered completely from sin at glorification (see Last Things) as sons and daughters of God (Galatians 3:26-4:6).

Justification is God’s imputed[v] work on us; sanctification is God’s imparted[vi] work in us. While justification refers to a change in status before God, sanctification refers to a change within one’s being because of the relationship believers enjoy with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). This change in being begins at the time of regeneration when believers receive the Holy Spirit and is realized in a continual growth toward Christ-likeness (Romans 8:29-30). It could be said that sanctification is to regeneration what growth is to birth.

We believe it is the privilege and responsibility of believers to live holy lives.
Holiness is a characteristic of God and should mark the Christian walk (1 Peter 1:15-16). This is a command, but also implies that believers are to choose to be holy. We continue to be free moral agents throughout the process of sanctification. Holiness does not mean sinless perfection, or that at some point our fallen nature is eradicated.[vii] Sin and our fallen nature continue to be present with us throughout this life (Romans 7:17; Galatians 5:17). Yet God wants holy people and believers must deliberately decide to yield their lives to the Holy Spirit to be holy. Therefore, sanctification in the life of the believer is a life-long process of choosing to be controlled by the new nature through the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Holy living is possible only as the believer experiences a moment-by-moment yielding to the Holy Spirit. It is not that the believer gets more of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is always completely available to all believers. It is just that yielding allows the believer to experience more of the Holy Spirit already living in relationship with him (Ephesians 5:18).
Followers of Christ depend on the power and help of the Holy Spirit to produce Christ’s life in us (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:22-26). Holy living is the believer’s privilege and responsibility because it will bring honor and glory to God.

[i] Appropriated – taken for one’s own.
[ii] Glorification – the final stage in salvation when believers attain complete conformity to the image and likeness of the glorified Christ and are freed from both physical and spiritual defect.
[iii] Instantaneously – happening all at once, in a single moment.
[iv] Progressive – moving forward, ongoing.
[v] Imputed – credited or assigned a quality to someone; a change in status before God because of what He has done for us.
[vi] Imparted – given a share or portion of; an internal change in being which comes through receiving a portion of God’s righteousness.
[vii] Eradicated – uprooted, wiped out, or destroyed.