Central Doctrines of Theology
People ask me continuously which major doctrinal beliefs shaped my theology. There are three central doctrines that have helped to shape my theology, and all three play a significant role in the life of every believer: the cross, faith, and the Holy Spirit.
The cross is the center of all theology, the foundation upon which all doctrine is built. The story of the Bible is the story of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and my theology flows from that viewpoint. Everything I believe stems from this core teaching, for the only thing standing between humanity and eternal hell is the cross of Christ.
Faith is the simple act of believing that allows us access to what God has in store for us as His children. Also, being a Pentecostal, the stream in which I flow comes from the river of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the triune Godhead. We will take a look at what makes my theology work while viewing several themes that have either solidified or challenged my view of my theology.
The first aspect of my theology is justification by faith. Justification is the greatest gift that God has given to humanity, and nothing else comes close to its importance. Myer Pearlman states, “the word ‘justify’ is a judicial term meaning to acquit, to declare righteous, to pronounce sentence of acceptance.”
Man owed a tremendous debt to God, a debt that he could not pay. Therefore, in eternity past, God saw through foreknowledge that He would create man and that man would fall. However, the Godhead did not leave humanity in this fallen condition. God would become man (the incarnation), to do for humankind what they could not do for themselves. God’s love for man was on full display as Jesus Christ became the ultimate sacrifice, laying down His life for His highest creation. The work that Christ accomplished at Calvary was a legal work, where God accepted the finished work of Christ as payment, and the result was justification for all who would exhibit faith in that tremendous work. Through Calvary, God’s verdict against us has been changed from condemnation to righteousness, all through the simple act of faith and grace alone.
Through faith in what Christ has done, the believing sinner is baptized into Christ, where the old man is crucified, and a new man is risen (Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 6:15; II Cor. 5:14-17). This experience is called the born-again experience. Salvation does not and cannot find its source in our works (Eph. 2:8-9), for God will never be able to accept our righteousness as payment for sin. God cannot accept anything less than perfection, and the only perfect person to ever live was Christ. Therefore, justification can only come through the act of faith in Christ on the part of the believing sinner. Through this same faith, that person is declared righteous, or in right standing with God. Justification is more than just a pardon; it is a transformation from a sinner to a saint.
The second stream of my theological mindset comes from the experience of glossolalia, or speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance. Being raised in a Pentecostal home and church, I believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with other tongues is a separate work of grace apart from salvation. I believe that at redemption, the Holy Spirit comes in to dwell in the individual’s life for the purpose of regeneration (John 3:1-8; 16:7-15). However, at Spirit baptism, Jesus Christ, the baptizer, baptizes the believer into the person of the Holy Spirit, which is always accompanied with speaking with other tongues and is primarily for service, and it gives the Holy Spirit access to the believer and the believer access to the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8, 2:4; John 14:16-18, 16:13-15).
There are traditional views regarding the infilling of the Holy Spirit that differ from denominations and religious sects. First, there is the viewpoint that is held by most evangelical circles that believe the Holy Spirit is received at salvation with no need for a second experience. The Oneness group declares that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is received at salvation and is accompanied by speaking with other tongues. The third group is the Holiness/Wesleyan tradition that believes the baptism with the Holy Spirit is given after salvation but not accompanied by speaking with other tongues. The last position taught by Pentecostals states that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is a separate work of grace and is always accompanied with tongues.
The third stream that has shaped my theology is the notion of sanctification by faith alone. Just as we are justified by faith alone, we are sanctified by faith alone. Sanctification comes through faith in Christ and the cross, which allows the Holy Spirit to work in our lives to bring about Christlikeness. One of the most important works of the Holy Spirit is sanctifying the believer, which means that He purifies, cleanses, and prunes God’s people. This work begins at salvation and continues throughout our everyday life and living, which points to the belief that sanctification is instantaneous and progressive. It is instantaneous in that this work was done once and for all (Heb. 10:14), and progressive in that the individual believer must follow after holiness (Heb. 12:14).
We maintain that the work of sanctification can only come about through our faith anchored in Christ and the cross. Upon faith in Christ and Him crucified, we are set apart from the world and unto Christ. Once a person expresses faith in Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit places that person into Christ, which means that he is placed in a position of perfection. However, once that individual begins walking in his Christian faith, he realizes that his condition is constantly up and down. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring our condition up to our position, which lends to the idea of sanctification being both instant and progressive. I posit that there is nothing that a Christian can do to earn his sanctification. One does not arrive at the fullness of sanctification by doing good deeds, but it is the Holy Spirit alone who can bring about this work. But for the Holy Spirit to work correctly, our faith must be in Christ and the cross exclusively (Rom. 8:2). The cross is where Christ purchased our salvation, and our victory over sin was won (1 Cor. 1:17-18; Eph. 2:13-18), and through faith, the Holy Spirit can begin the work of bringing our condition up to our position.
Throughout these views, one can see these three essential aspects of Christianity: the cross, faith, and the Holy Spirit. The cross is the central foundation of all doctrine; faith is the key that unlocks the door for us to experience all that God has in store for us; and the Holy Spirit is the one who oversees everything.
I tend to believe that if a person believes that what Christ did is the answer for all of life’s problems, then the Holy Spirit can go to work to take out the bad and put in the good. I also believe that God has given everything for life and godliness through Christ. We access those good things through faith in what Christ has done for us, and we receive what we need by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
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