God is the Ruler of the universe. (Psalm 24:1 & 115:16a) He has revealed Himself in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are one (co-equal) and equally free from the time constraints of past and future (co-eternal), concepts beyond human logic which must be accepted by faith. (The eternal Father: Genesis 1:1 & 12:33; Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalms 90:2 & 102:27; 1 Timothy 1:17. The eternal Son: John 1:1-2; John 8:58; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 1:2; Micah 5:2; Revelation 1:8. The eternal Spirit: Hebrews 9:14. The eternal Godhead: Romans 1:20)
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, co-equal with the Father and the Creator of the universe, for by Him the worlds were made. He existed before the creation of the universe and was miraculously born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. He lived a sinless human life in fulfillment of numerous prophecies and offered Himself to be crucified as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people of all time. After three days in the tomb, He arose physically to demonstrate His power over sin and its penalty, death. He ascended physically to Heaven forty days later, currently sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for those who belong to Him, and will return again physically to claim His followers, banish all sin and evil, and restore the universe to purity and glory. We acknowledge His absolute Lordship over all things. (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:1-5 & 14:10-30; Acts 1:9-11; Romans 1:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Colossians 1:16-18; 1 Timothy 6:14-15; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 4:14-15& 11:3; Revelation 19:11 - 22:21; Romans 8:31-34; Philippians 2:9-11)
THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son of God. He participated in the act of creation (Genesis 1:2), was active during Old Testament times, and guided those who wrote down the books of the Bible. (2 Peter 1:19-21; John 14:16-17; Acts 1:8; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:12 & 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 1:13 & 5:18) His mission of convicting people of truth is twofold: to help people who do not yet know Jesus to recognize their own sin and their need for Him as their Savior (John 16:5-11), and to help saved believers understand and apply Scripture to their lives, making it possible for them to live a life directed by God that fulfills His purpose through the church. (Romans 8:1-17)
The 66 books of the Old and New Testaments contain God’s message of love to mankind. Written down by human authors under the supernatural guidance (inspiration) of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is the final and only written authority for Christian faith and living, totally true and without error in its original form. From the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, the message of the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and absolute truth. Where it speaks, God’s people must listen and obey. (Psalm 12:6; Psalm 119:105 & 160; Proverbs 30:5; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
Salvation is God’s gift to us, but we must accept it on God’s terms. We can never make up for our sin by self-improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ can anyone be saved from sin’s penalty – the unending torment of eternal separation from God, the only Source of anything good. Accepting God’s gift of salvation is a process by which one turns from his or her self-ruled life and learns to trust Jesus and follow Him in faith and obedience. (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 4:10-12; Romans 3:23; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 3:8-12; 2 Timothy 2:19)
- The salvation process brings justification, whereby God declares a person “not guilty” and removes the requirement to pay the penalty of sin because Jesus already paid sin’s penalty by dying on the cross. The steps of this process include:
- hearing and understanding the Gospel message, which leads to recognition of one’s personal sin and need for a Savior (John 14:6; Acts 17:30; Romans 6:16 & 23),
- belief (faith in action) that Christ is God’s Son and that only He can save (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 11:6),
- repentance, a change of mind and will leading to personal acceptance of God’s instructions and adopting His ways of living (Ephesians 4:17-5:23),
- confession that one is a sinner in need of a Savior, and that Jesus Christ is the only One who can save; He alone is Savior and Lord (Matthew 10:32; Acts 4:12), and
- baptism by complete immersion in water, picturing one’s identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27)
Those who follow God’s instructions on how to be saved are justified by Him and will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is their guarantee of eternal life. Justification is the first step of sanctification, the ongoing process of purification evidenced by continuing and increasing obedience to Christ’s commands. As we obey, we experience a renewal of the mind, which results in an increasingly Christ-like character and purity of lifestyle that pleases God. (Romans 12:1-2; John 1:12, 14:16; Acts 2:32; Romans 5:1 & 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:13-14)
THE LORD’S SUPPER (COMMUNION)
Communion was instituted by Christ, as the apostle Paul relates in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
This ceremony is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice to purchase our salvation, a proclamation of personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and a sacred event for those who have a vital, biblical relationship with Jesus. It is not meant for anyone else, child or adult, and a strong warning is issued to all who participate:
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:26-29)
THE PRIESTHOOD OF EVERY BELIEVER
“[Christ] loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be... priests to serve God.” (Revelation 1:6) “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God....” (1 Peter 2:9) The Bible teaches that every Christian is called to “full-time” Christian service, regardless of his or her vocation. We practice the truth that every believer is a minister by encouraging every member to find a place of service and ministry. Every believer has direct access to God through Bible reading/study, prayer, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Growing Christians will develop relationships in which they may share their faith, through word and action, with those around them.
LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH
The Bible states that the local church is to be Elder-governed. (Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 5:17) The Elders of a local congregation are the only ones with biblical authority to conduct the affairs of that congregation, approve ministry tasks, and delegate management to qualified church members. (Acts 6:1-7; 2 Timothy 5:17)
HUMANITY AND SIN
Mankind was created in the image of God, to be like Him in character. (Genesis 1:26-27) Although every person has tremendous potential for good, each one of us is marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” This attitude separates people from God and causes many problems in life. (Genesis 3:1-19; Psalm 8:3-6; Isaiah 53:6a & 59:1-2; Matthew 5:22; Romans 3:23)
While all people develop this attitude of disobedience, it is clear from Scripture that Jesus considered young children to be innocent. (Matthew 18:1-6) God says each person is responsible for his own actions. (Ezekiel 18:20, 30) Based on these scriptures, we believe a child is innocent of sin at birth and does not become guilty of sin until he understands he has chosen to break God’s law and is in need of a Savior. At that time, we say the child has reached the “age of accountability,” a point of spiritual and emotional development that is different for each person.
MARRIAGE AND SEXUALITY
We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. (Genesis 1:27 & 2:20-24) These two distinct, complimentary genders together reflect the image and nature of God. Jesus taught that in the beginning, God instituted monogamous marriage between one man and one woman. (Matthew 19:4)
Marriage is the foundation of the family, the basic structure of human society. To protect the family, God established marriage between one man and one woman as the only relationship in which sexual intimacy is acceptable. (Hebrews 13:4)
In light of biblical teaching, we assert that all other forms of sexual behavior – cohabitation, extramarital affairs, polygamy and polyandry, homosexuality, sexual abuse and molestation, use of pornography, bestiality, attempts to alter, disguise, or reject one’s birth gender, and any other sexual activities, preferences or orientations – are impure and unacceptable to God (Leviticus 18:7-24; Romans 1:18-27; Revelation 21:8), even if experienced only in the imagination (Matthew 5:27-28).
Any ACC Covenant member found to be practicing such behaviors may be placed under church discipline as described in Article 12 of these Bylaws. Nonmember attenders who actively practice one or more of these unacceptable behaviors will be limited in their participation at the discretion of the Elders and will not be allowed to become members of ACC until after such behavior ceases. In keeping with our conviction on this subject, under no circumstances will ACC’s property or buildings be used for any form of marriage ceremony or celebration unless the couple follows God’s pattern for a one man, one woman marriage bond.
We believe that all people are greatly loved by God, regardless of their choices, and all have the same opportunity to repent (turn away from their sinful life in order to follow Christ) and receive forgiveness. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Peter 3:18)
THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE
We believe that all human life is sacred and created by God in His image. Human life is of inestimable worth in all its dimensions, including pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged, and every other stage or condition from conception through natural death. We are therefore called to defend, protect, and value all human life. (Psalm 139)
God designed His church to function as a body, with Jesus Christ as the Head. Each part of the physical body serves the whole with unique abilities that are necessary for full and abundant life in the church. Similarly, God gives each of His children unique and special abilities called “spiritual gifts” to serve the church, which New Testament writers call the “Body of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) These spiritual gifts are not to be used for personal benefit or glory but to encourage, strengthen, and enable the church to experience full, abundant life, and ultimately to bring glory to God. (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
In the human body, each cell, organ, limb and system must function as God has designed it to function, or the body suffers and becomes ill. So it is with the Body of Christ. Neglecting or misusing a spiritual gift weakens the entire church. And just as physical body parts cannot live apart from the body, no one part of the church can survive or be effective apart from working in harmony with the others. (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-27)
Unfortunately, division can occur over the use of speaking in “tongues” (languages foreign to the speaker) in a public gathering. In the Bible, God gave His followers this spiritual gift to get the attention of, and proclaim His truth to, unbelievers who didn’t understand the native language of the speaker (Acts 2:1-12; 1 Corinthians 14:22). In contrast, today certain groups identify “speaking in tongues” as a “personal prayer language” for individual benefit rather than for evangelism. The Bible gives clear instructions for the proper use of this spiritual gift during a Christian gathering.
Only two or three people may speak in tongues at any meeting, one at a time, and each message must be interpreted so all present may be edified. (1 Corinthians 14:27) If no interpreter is present, the speakers must remain quiet. (1 Corinthians 14:28) When the interpreter is finished, those present with the spiritual gift of discernment must determine whether the message actually came from God. (1 John 4:1)
Church discipline is necessary when a Christian practices behavior that is/are not acceptable to God and/or produce disharmony and confusion within the Church. The purpose of such discipline is to bring the offender to repentance and to protect the Church from the effects of unrepentant sin. The steps of discipline are based on Matthew 18:15-17 and are discussed in detail in Article 12 of these Bylaws. Each step of discipline will be taken with the sincere hope that the errant one will repent and return to full relationship with God and His people.
THE ENEMY (SATAN)
Satan, the Devil, is a very real, though defeated, enemy. His desire is to prevent as many people as possible from knowing Christ as Savior and Lord. (Ephesians 6:11) His main strategy among Christians is to deceive, keeping them unaware of their true power and standing with God by tempting them to listen to his lies instead of trusting in God’s truth. When Christ returns, Satan and his followers will be banished to a place of eternal torment and separation from God and His people. (Revelation 20:7-15)