There are two main subsections in this portion of our website. The first major portion describes what it means to be a Christian. Basically, a Christian is a person who has accepted and follows the "Gospel." Gospel is a Greek word which means "good news," and in fact it is the best news in the world! The second section of this page is describing what it means to be a Free Will Baptist. First Church is proud to be a part of this great denomination, and we are proud to outline the beliefs of this body.
At First Church, we believe that the whole Bible is the inspired word of God. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul describes the Bible by saying that it is "God-breathed." (2 Timothy 3:16) As a Protestant denomination, we believe that salvation is only found in the Bible, not in any church tradition or creed. It is a perfect book, and is correct in everything it claims to be correct. So the question is: What answers does the Bible have for man's problems?
Before the solution can make sense, we have to understand the problem. The Bible says our problem is sin. "Sin" is any act of disobedience to God's standard. The first two human beings, Adam and Eve, brought sin into the world when they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) Before sin, there was no death, no disease, no sickness, and no suffering. When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought all of those things into the human experience.
But the biggest problem that entered the world with sin is that it separated mankind from God. In his letter to the Romans, Paul said that "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) Paul wasn't just talking about a physical death. When we die, we will either spend an eternity with God in Heaven, or an eternity apart from God in hell. The fact is, God hates sin. Sin is against His very nature, and He cannot and will not allow sin to be in His presence in Heaven.
But it is not enough to say that all people have sinned, and that all people deserve God's wrath. The question remains: Have you sinned? Do you deserve God's wrath? To find out, you have to personally measure yourself up by God's standard. God's standard is succinctly stated in the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20)
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
If you have ever broken even one of these commandments, then you have sinned against God, and you are under His wrath. But just in case these ten weren't impossible enough, Jesus elaborates in the New Testament that if you even look at a person with lust in your heart, it is the same as committing adultery with them. (Matthew 5:28) He also says that if you hate your brother, it is just as bad as murdering him. (Matthew 5:21, 22) You see, while man may focus on appearances, God focuses on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) And when a person has sinned, their heart is very dirty in God's eyes.
And, you see, God does not judge us on some great cosmic scale. He does not place all of our good deeds on one side and all of our bad deeds on the other side to see if we're better or worse than most. There is no amount of good you can do, karma you can build up, or penance you can pay to balance the scales in your favor. On our own, we are entirely helpless before His mighty throne.
So now you see the problem. Thankfully, God saw the problem too, and He did something about it. One of the most famous passages in the Bible is "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18)
Even though we are completely unworthy of God's grace, He provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins. The path of salvation is laid out clearly in the Bible. God sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin. Remember, the "wages of sin is death." When Jesus died on the cross, He was making the statement that His death could pay the price for our sin. But to show that the power of sin was completely defeated, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, on Easter morning. And in the same way, the power of sin can be defeated in our lives as well.
Jesus told Nicodemus that to be saved, he must be born again. What does it mean to be born again? To be born again means that we are made into a new creature in Christ. Yes, that means that our lifestyles begin to change. The old things that we loved so much won't matter as much anymore. Jesus commanded us to take up our crosses and follow Him. This sober statement reminded His disciples that the Christian life would not be easy. Jesus also told His disciples that the world would hate them because they hate Jesus. Jesus goes on to say that people who desire to build a tower need to sit down and decide if they have enough resources to finish the task. That same should be said about anyone considering becoming a Christian. The Christian life is not always easy, but we here at First Church have discovered that it is always worth whatever cost there might be.
If you have any questions about the radical decision to follow Christ, we invite you to email or call our pastor. But the best way to discover first-hand what it means to follow Christ is to join us in our services.
Free Will Baptist Beliefs
First Free Will Baptist Church is a member of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. This denomination has a proud heritage that stretches back more than 250 years, and now includes nearly 4,000 churches worldwide. Free Will Baptists are Protestant in how we view the Bible, Baptist in how we view the local church and Arminian in how we view the Sovereignty of God and the work of Christ.
Protestantism has its roots in the 1500s, when men such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and Balthazar Hubmaier "protested" against the Catholic Church. They concluded that the Roman Catholic Church cared more about man-made tradition than they did about the Bible. So they left the church, and founded new groups on the foundation that salvation is by "faith alone" through "grace alone" in "Christ alone," and that salvation is found in "Scripture alone." To these sentiments Free Will Baptists give their full agreement. We believe, as stated above, that salvation is only possible through the grace of God, and not earned in any way, shape, or form. Because we are a descendent of the work these men started, we are considered Protestants.
About 100 years later, Baptists took the Reformation even further by saying that baptism was not meant for infants but was only meant for people who had trusted in Christ. Even men like Luther and Calvin believed it was correct to baptize little babies into the faith, even though they knew nothing about God. Baptists believed that this was completely against the message of the Bible. So they were called "Baptist" because they only practiced believer's baptism. Another distinctive of Baptist life is that we believe the local church is completely autonomous. This means that our churches do not have Presbyters or Bishops that rule over us. All major church decisions are handled on a democratic basis, and we are led by an elected Pastor.
What sets Free Will Baptists apart from most Baptists is that we are Arminian. To understand Arminianism, you have to first understand Calvinism. Calvinism (started by John Calvin), teaches that God has already decided who would become Christians and who would not, and His decision is final. So in the end, a person only comes to Christ because God compelled him to. Because of this, Calvinists believe that Jesus died only for Christians, and not for non-Christians. This is what is known as "Limited Atonement." Another tenet of Calvinism is the belief in "eternal security." If a person believes that only the people God has chosen become Christians, it is only logical to believe that they will always be Christians regardless of what they say or do.
The Arminian response to these teachings is that all men have a "free will" to choose Christ or reject Him. This is not to imply that God is not all-powerful. We believe that God can do whatever He pleases, and we believe that He saw fit to give us free will. Because all men and women can come to Christ, we believe that Christ died for all people. This is known as "General Atonement." Also, we believe in the possibility of apostasy, as discussed in the book of Hebrews. "Apostasy" refers to a Christian's choice to forsake his faith in Christ. While we believe this is a rare occurrence, we acknowledge that it is a grim possibility for any Christian to give up his or her faith in Christ.
At First Church, we are very proud of our rich theological heritage. But at all times, we strive to keep the simple message of the gospel at the very center of everything we do. The message that Jesus Christ has come to set the captive free and make the sinner clean shapes every aspect of our church. While we are Protestant, Baptist, and Arminian; above all we are Christians seeking to glorify God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. That is what it means to be a part of First Free Will Baptist Church.