As a church, we are committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Good News that Jesus died and rose again is our reason for existing. So, we want Jesus to be at the heart of everything we do. However, there are some things that make us distinct from other faithful local churches. On this page, we would like to outline some of the key theological distinctives of Grace Bible Churches.
Whether expressly stated or not, all churches and Christians do not hold all doctrines to be of equal importance or clarity. We find it helpful to divide doctrines into three categories – essentials, distinctives and differences:
These delineate true churches and true Christians.
All biblical Christians and churches must hold to a number of theological essentials – the doctrines necessary for salvation. These define Christian from non-Christian and are taught by all true churches. To deny any of these essentials means they are not Christians or are a false church. These include doctrines such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, salvation by grace alone through faith alone because of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ alone. While our doctrinal statement goes beyond the essentials of salvation, essentials necessary for salvation are contained in our doctrinal statement.
These delineate churches who are part of the GBC Network and GBC Elders within the Network.
Amidst the vast array of churches and convictions, these theological distinctives – while not essential to salvation – are what GBC holds to be of great practical significance to church life, unity and culture. We recognise there are other biblical churches with different distinctives, but these distinctives are the basis of what makes a church a ‘Grace Bible Church.’
All of our elders and pastors hold to these distinctives and to our doctrinal statement. Complete agreement with these distinctives is not required for membership, but members must be satisfied that we will preach, teach and counsel in accordance with these theological distinctives. If any member holds to a theological distinctive that is different from that held by Grace Bible Church, we ask that members not make this a point of contention.
While not exhaustive, we deem that the key theological distinctives of Grace Bible Church are:
- Baptism of Believers Only
- Elder Led
- Expository Preaching
- Cautious Regarding Miraculous Gifts
The absolute sovereignty of God in salvation.
We affirm the truth that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We hold to the Reformed view that God’s glory is exalted when we recognise His sovereignty over all things, such that there is no aspect of heaven or earth outside of His ultimate control. Though God’s rule extends to all things, it is particularly His sovereign work in salvation that we note as a theological distinctive. We believe that it is exceedingly good and glorious news that salvation is dependent on God’s initiative, and not on the desires and deeds of men and women. God’s eternal decree of election, which adopts us into His family, is ultimately grounded in His love and purposes. God is responsible for drawing to Himself those He would save, overcoming their natural resistance to the gospel so that they can repent and believe. This understanding of God’s sovereignty does not negate humanity’s responsibility to turn from our sin and trust in the saving work of Christ. However, those holding a different view of God’s sovereign work in salvation are welcome in membership.
Supporting verses: Psalm 115:3; 135:6; John 1:13; 6:37, 44; 15:11; 17:1-3; Romans 8:26-9:23; 11:33-36; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-5; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9.
Baptism of Believers Only
Baptising disciples after a personal profession of faith.
Baptism is intended only for those who have already professed faith in Jesus Christ and can give sufficient testimony to their saving faith in Christ. We also baptise by immersion because it best pictures the gospel reality to which baptism points: our union with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Baptism is where we declare our commitment to Christ and His church. While believer’s baptism by immersion is the conviction and practice of our church, this does not necessarily exclude membership for those with a different conviction.
Supporting verses: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-41; Romans 6:1-11.
The expectation of Christians being formal members of a local church.
Scripture is clear that salvation makes a believer a member of the universal body of Christ. However, we believe there is also a clear Scriptural expectation for believers to formally associate with and commit themselves to the accountability and fellowship of a local church. This process of formal association is generally called membership. Membership is an ongoing expression of our union with Christ and His people. The Bible indicates that this choice to join a local church is intimately tied to baptism. Believers were baptised, joined a local church and the church recorded those who were part of their number. Elders are called to give an account for the souls under their care, which means they must know who are a part of their flock. Membership indicates you will receive the care, teaching, admonition and if necessary discipline of the local church. It is the relationship where the one-another’s of Scripture are to function. We expect those who wish to make this church their spiritual home to affirm that decision through formal membership. We do understand that some in our church community may not be able to undertake formal membership but we wish to affirm their part in our community and our love for them.
Supporting verses: Matthew 16:18-19; 18:17-18; Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Corinthians 12:25-27; Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2-3.
God has given elders the responsibility to shepherd the local church.
Scripture gives the governing authority of each local church to men occupying an office known as overseers or elders. This authority is designed to be exercised by a plurality of men, each of whom meet the biblical criteria for the office. The members of the church are commanded to submit to the godly, loving leadership of these elders who are, in turn, accountable to the Lord, to each other and also to the members.
Supporting verses: Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-8; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5.
Teaching Scripture book by book and doctrine by doctrine.
The entire counsel of God (the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting and for training in righteousness that the people of God may be complete and equipped for every good work. Since the word of God is given for our spiritual nourishment, it is a central focus of the times our church gathers. We believe expository preaching involves presenting the meaning, intent and application of the biblical text. Our regular practice is to preach through entire books of the Old and New Testaments, but from time to time we also address doctrines by preaching topically.
Supporting verses: Acts 20:27; 1 Timothy 4:13; 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-2.
God’s good design includes distinctive roles for men and women in the home and in the church.
Men and women are absolutely equal in dignity, value and worth. As part of God’s good created order, they have different yet complementary roles and responsibilities in the home and church. These differences are particularly evident in the areas of teaching and authority. These role distinctions are God’s grace to men and women, and are therefore to be protected, preserved and practiced for His glory and our benefit. Our understanding of complementarianism affirms that there are important roles for women serving in the local church. We affirm it is not necessary to be married to express these roles, and those who remain single should be greatly used for the kingdom. Our understanding of Scripture is that any practice which blurs the binary gender roles such as homosexuality, transgenderism or genderlessness is unbiblical, which means marriage is only to be between a man and a woman. This also means that Christlike male leadership is to be loving and serving, and any abusive leadership is unbiblical. We wish to be clear that areas of gender struggle such as those who experience same sex attraction yet strive to think and live biblically are welcome in membership.
Supporting verses: Genesis 2:18-24; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:33-35; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Peter 3:1-7.
Cautious Regarding Miraculous Gifts
We are cautious about the continuation of miraculous sign gifts today.
Spiritual gifts are gracious blessings sovereignly bestowed by the Spirit for the exaltation of Christ and the building up and expanding of His church. It is also clear that there is no particular spiritual gift required to evidence true salvation. Scripture teaches Apostles and Prophets were given as foundational to establish the first century church, and that miraculous gifts such as speaking in tongues and healing were typically associated with the Apostles and Prophets. Considering Scripture, history and experience together, it is difficult to maintain that these gifts are still bestowed today. Therefore, regarding the miraculous gifts, while we cannot definitively point to a Scripture that says those gifts have ceased, our leaders are sufficiently concerned about both the misuse and mislabeling of these gifts in the church today that we are functionally cessationist. In our network we have both cessationists and those who are functionally cessationists but theologically open to the possibility that the gifts may continue. This means that unless the network leadership are convinced that a gift corresponds to the use and parameters of those recorded in Scripture in all respects, we will not allow its use in the public ministries of our churches. However, we seek not to make this an area of contention and will not necessarily exclude from membership those with a different conviction.
Supporting verses: Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 2:20, 4:1-16.
GBC Churches and members can hold a variety of secondary doctrines in love and unity.
Theological differences are areas that do not shape the local church in the same ways as distinctives. Differences in these areas should not disrupt the unity amongst members or Grace Bible Churches. While these doctrines will be taught on by the leadership of the church, we acknowledge differing personal convictions in these areas.
More significant differences might include teachings such as eschatology, Bible translations, views of the Sabbath, methods of schooling and frequency of the Lord’s Supper.
More speculative differences extend to areas in which the Lord has chosen not to give definitive clarity and it should be noted that no important doctrine or practice rests here. Examples of speculations include such teachings as the timing of the return of the Lord or the author of the book of Hebrews.
We encourage all members to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), examining the Scriptures and forming their own opinions in these areas of theological difference. Should their convictions preclude united fellowship – we ask them to consider joining a church more in line with their personal theological convictions.
Understanding theological distinctives and differences are important for maintaining unity in a local church. It is important to reflect on our church’s positions before joining.