Jacob’s Well stands among a long line of Christian people dating back to Jesus Christ and the teaching of his apostles. In articulating our beliefs we want to both clarify where we stand on certain teaching issues, but also define areas we consider open for robust theological discussion. As Christians we are connected to the faith once for all entrusted to the saints, preserved in Scripture, and handed down faithfully by the churches throughout time. As with all followers of Jesus we hold to the core convictions as represented in the ancient Apostles and Nicene Creeds.
We are also confessional Christians in that we hold firmly that the only inspired and fully authoritative word from God is comprised of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. This is therefore the highest authority in our lives and we submit joyfully to its teaching for we believe them to be the very words of God. The Bible is to be interpreted by both believers, the community and trained, responsible leaders. We desire to teach and live faithfully in accord with the truth of the Word of God.
Additionally, we believe in discussion and formation of our theology over time. We also believe some things are settled doctrine, without which one would not be considered to be a follower of Christ. On these pages we have two primary goals. First, to declare fully things which we do not consider up for debate, things that we treasure together, foundational truth from which we will not depart. These things we hold tightly in a closed hand – protecting, teaching, finding our identity and joy in the precious revealed truths of our faith. Second, we also want to say what we believe about those issues and their biblical moorings.
We also desire to state openly which issues are areas of intramural debate in our church. We encourage, engage in, and wrestle deeply with these issues to arrive at personal convictions on these matters. However, we hold them in an open hand, with a diversity of viewpoints welcomed in the congregation, even amongst our leadership. Finally, we want to acknowledge the depth and mystery of the revealed truths of Scripture. Not that these things cannot be known, but that they cannot be domesticated and known exhaustively. The truths we hold dear proceed to depths beyond our grasp whereby we stand in awe and worship, humbly submitting ourselves to God revealed in Jesus Christ. It is in Him that we find our deepest trust and confidence.
Closed Handed Issues
The Trustworthiness and Authority of the Scriptures
- We hold that the Scriptures, the 66 books of the Old and New Testament to be the only inspired writings/words of God (2 Tim 3:16) which are the result of a divine confluence between human authors (their style, grammar, vocabulary) and the primary author which is the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:19-21). The Scriptures, as the word of God, are wholly true and never false when properly understood. They are the very words of God by which we are to feed our souls, be encouraged, rebuked, instructed, and trained in righteousness. They are the primary way which God speaks to us and the final and supreme authority on all matters of faith and practice. In the Scriptures we see and enter the story of God, we find the narrative soil for truth, and receive a mirror by which God convicts us of sin and helps us to change.
- For more on the canonization of the 66 Books of the Old and New Testaments see our essay - One Bible Many Books (pdf).
THE Nature of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- The Scriptures are clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6), who is the creator of all things (Genesis 1). God is eternal (Psalm 41:13), holy (Isaiah 6:3, Rev 4:8), sovereign (Isaiah 43:13), all-knowing (Psalm 139:1-4), all-powerful (Matthew 19:26), personal (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2), loving (John 3:16, 1 John 4:8), completely self-sufficient (Isaiah 40:12-17) and transcendent (Deuteronomy 29:29, Isaiah 55:8-9). This God is revealed to us in Scripture, through nature and conscience, and fully in the person of Jesus Christ. He is a unity existing in diversity, a triune community of divine persons (Matthew 28:19), mysteriously one God, Father (Matthew 6:9), Son (John 1:34), and Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
- Our Gracious Father - We recognize God the Father as the initiator in creation, the author of life, and the one whose purposes for the world are being accomplished. He decreed to make all things world, permit the fall, and send the Son into the world for its redemption. He is fully pleased with God the Son, with the Son in joyful submission to the will of his Father. The Spirit is sent forth from the Father and the Son into the world to accomplish the purposes of the Triune God. As Scripture teaches - from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever (Romans 11:36).
- The Full Divinity and Full Humanity of Jesus of Nazareth - The person of Jesus of Nazareth is the most fascinating, complex and unique being in the history of the world. The Scriptures reveal him to be fully human and fully divine. His divinity was exhibited by his names he was called, his attributes (eternal, unchanging, all powerful and all knowing), the works he did that only God can do (forgive sin, grant eternal life), and the worship he received from his followers. His friends and enemies alike acknowledged that he claimed to be God incarnate, God become flesh (John 1:1-14). In addition, Scripture is clear that Jesus was a real human being sharing in our weakness and struggle (Philippians 2:1-8, Hebrews 4:14-16). He was born a baby into humble circumstances (Matthew 1-2, Luke 2), lived an exemplary life without sin, and died a human death on a cross of execution. After being dead for three days, God raised Jesus from the dead, after which he ascended to the right hand of God, ruling and reigning as our great covenant King.
- The Holy Spirit - The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is not an impersonal force or a spirit in which all things share their being. He is fully God sharing essence and attributes with the Father and the Son. He was sent into the world by the Father and Son to bring people to salvation (John 16:7-11, Titus 3:4-7), gift the church to continue the work of Jesus on the earth (1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:1-16, Romans 12:1-8), empower us for gospel ministry (Acts 1:8) and transform our lives to become increasingly more like God (Galatians 5:16-26, 1 Thessalonians 1).
THE Beauty and Depravity of Human Beings
- Various confessions and Christian communities throughout history have acknowledged that God created the world and human beings for the purpose of revealing himself to them. Our chief purpose is to bring honor and praise to God and to enjoy relationship with him forever. In fact, in the enjoyment of God we reflect his glory and goodness to the world around us. This is why we exist - we were created by God and for God.
- Human beings are endowed with intrinsic worth, value and dignity by virtue of their being created male and female in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26,27). The Imago Dei, the image of God in us, is found in our makeup we have a mind, emotions and will. This image also reflects our relational nature in that we are made to be in community with God and others. Finally, the image of God in us is also functional, in that we have been entrusted by God with stewardship and rule of this world (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8). As such creatures we are more "like God" than any other being vested with beauty and worth distinct within the natural order.
- While human beings are vested with this dignity and value, we are also comprehensively fallen in our nature. Our first parents sinned and the created order was thereby cursed by God, people were relationally separated from God and discord was sown in our relationships with one another (Genesis 3). By nature we choose rebellion and independence from God and one another with our lives being in a state of fracture and depravity. The Scriptures clearly teach than we are sinful by nature and by choice and receive the due consequences from a just and holy God.
- As such human beings are capable of both the most atrocious and the most wonderful actions. The love of human communities, creative works of art and beauty, technological and intellectual rigor producing wonderful things that ease suffering are all reflective of our creation in the Imago Dei. At the same time we have created and fostered injustice, racism, genocide, insidious ways of maiming and destroying one another, let alone the billions of hurtful and intolerant acts inflicted on each other daily during the course of time.
- We believe that the gospel, the view of humanity in the Scriptures, holds both of these truths in tension. The beauty and depravity, man's glory and his fallenness, are twin truths of reality. We will not cut off the leg that says all people are valuable, nor will we forfeit the evident truth that we are in great need of redemption and reconciliation to God and one another other. Human beings are valuable enough to be worth redeeming; and sinful enough to desperately need the fundamental change of heart that comes by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
THE Salvation of God in Jesus Christ
- As sinners, human beings are in need of both the forgiveness of God and reconciliation to him. The Scriptures use the term salvation to refer to the multifaceted work of God by which he rescues sinners from his wrath (Romans 5:6-9), forgives them (Ephesians 1:7), brings them back into relationship with himself (2 Corinthians 5:20), transforms their lives (2 Corinthians 3:18), and ultimately conforms them to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29).
- God's purpose from the foundation of the world was to redeem a people for himself who would declare his excellencies on the earth and to be made holy (1 Peter 2:9-10). God saves such a people by calling them to himself (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Romans 8:28-30), extending grace to them in the gospel, the good news of the saving work of Jesus Christ on an executioner's cross.
- God sent his own Son into the world, to die the death we deserved, the death for sin and to live the life we could not live, a life without sin. God then raised Jesus from the dead declaring his work to be triumphant over sin, death and hell. In doing so the just penalty for our sins was taken by Jesus as our substitute and we receive new life (Romans 6:4) and his righteousness by faith (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is by God's grace, his kindness and goodness towards us, that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Our lives are united with Christ and we continue to live in him while he continues to mold and change us, making us ever more like him in increasing ways. This process continues throughout our lives and moves forward as we exercise spiritual disciplines and put to death sin by those same means (Romans 8:13). We hold on to the hope of the promise that one day we will be glorified, fully changed and finally made perfect by God in the kingdom to come.
- All of these things - forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, and a changed life are free gifts and the work of God. They are not rewards for our own self-righteousness, nor are they earned by keeping religious or moral rules. The good news is that God accepts rebels home, loves them fully, adds them to his church and sends them in mission into their world. Only those who acknowledge their sin and great need can come to God in Christ - and all who come to him he will in no way cast out.
One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
There are many ways that the Church of Jesus Christ has been described over the years. A wonderful description is found in the formulation of the Nicene Creed where the church is described in the following way: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
- This confession is significant. First, we believe the church to be one, a unified body, representing all people who have been saved by grace through faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ. This one church exists spread through various faithful denominations and traditions today. Second, the church is holy - a people set apart for God. Her holiness is not simply a moral description but a comment that she is God's own bride and possession, sanctified (set apart) for his purposes in the world. Third, the church is catholic, or universal. The church is not for one ethno linguistic group or nation state. No, the church is universal and in its final form will include people from every tribe and language and people and nation. Finally, the church is apostolic in that it is founded on the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles found in the Scriptures of the New Testament. This church is a people under a new covenant which has been called to assemble together locally for the teaching of the Bible, the practice of the ordinances, under the authority of Jesus Christ the head of the church.
- Jesus gave two sacraments/ordinances to the church-baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism serves as the identifying entry sign of the church where his people align publically with Jesus Christ, marking them as members of the church. The Lord's Supper is the continuing sign of the new covenant where believers remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), proclaim the gospel visibly (1 Corinthians 11:26), receive a foretaste of the coming kingdom (Luke 22:16, 18) and fellowship with Christ and one another (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Luke 24:30-31; Revelation 3:20; John 6:35-58)
- We believe the church is led by Jesus Christ, the chief shepherd of the church (1 Peter 5:4), through a plurality of biblically qualified men called elders (Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-5) who are assisted by men and women who serve the church as deacons (Acts 6, Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13).
The Reality of Divine Judgement
- Jesus spoke of both the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven and the terrible reality of the final judgment of God upon sin and evil (Matthew 25:46). Upon Jesus' return all people will be raised and will be justly judged by God. Those who took refuge in Jesus Christ will be raised to everlasting life and glory while those who persisted in autonomy, rebellion and the denial of God will be separated from him in hell, forever conscious of their state and choices. The reality of hell is a vindication of the belittling of God's name and a cause for prayer and deep concern. The urgency of this truth must cause us to care for the lives of our neighbors by sharing the good news of the grace of God which rescues us from the wrath to come.
Open Handed Issues
Eschatology - Issues involving the end of the age
- There are many scenarios Christians have held regarding the Scriptural teaching of the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of history. We believe this event includes the essentials of Jesus' visible, physical return to earth, God's final judgment and the establishment of an eternal Kingdom on the earth. Jesus' promised return is our blessed hope which helps us to be faithful in our work, joyful in trials, and holy in our lives. It is not an inconsequential teaching in Scripture, yet many of the precise details will remain a mystery to us. We will not require members to hold a certain view on end times and do not wish to be divisive on these matters.
The Perpetuity of Certain Spiritual Gifts
- We believe every Christian has been gifted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill ministries and service in and through the church. (1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:7-13) All gifts of service are embraced by Jacob's Well and should be exercised by each and every member. There is a diversity of opinion among Christians regarding the so called "Sign gifts" (i.e. tongues and prophecy) so we will remain open on this issue. Those who believe in the continuance of the gifts may practice them in private and for the good of the church when the gifts are practiced in obedience with 1 Corinthians 12-14. We do not desire divisiveness about either the perpetuity or manner of practice of these gifts.
Science and the Precise Age of the Universe
- The Scriptures clearly teach that the universe and all that it contains was created by and is sustained by Jesus Christ (Genesis 1-2, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17). We do not make the precise dating of the creation event, nor the exact means by which God created all things an issue of primary doctrine. There is much to be said about these matters from both Scripture and proper scientific study. We rejoice in faith seeking understanding and will not divide on issues such as the age of the universe and particular schools of thought relating science and creation.
Our Convictions on Christian baptism
- At Jacob's Well we perform and teach baptism by immersion for believers who profess personal faith in Jesus Christ. We believe that water baptism is symbolic of many biblical truths. First, it is an outward profession that we have turned from sin (repentance) to Jesus. It demonstrates that God has cleansed of our sins, has forgiven us in Jesus, that our old life is buried with Christ with his death and we have risen with Him to walk in newness of life (Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:36-38; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Acts 10:47). Additionally, baptism is the sign and seal which marks a person's entry into the new covenant community of the church. It is a visible sign of God's faithfulness to his promises in the gospel.
- This is our only practice of baptism, though we will allow people into membership who have been baptized in other traditions by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion as long as it was performed by a biblical local church, the person evidences conversion and where the baptism was performed in the name of the triune God.
- If someone is a believer in Christ and has not been baptized, this is the path we take as all Christians, in all eras of history have practiced baptism as an act of joyful obedience to identify with Christ and his people. We do not believe that water baptism itself saves a person, rather it is the sign and seal of God's saving work in a person's life and in adding new people to his covenant family. As such it is both an individual and a communal rite given to the church. We express this reality by celebrating the baptism of new believers as a community stoked about the goodness of God to us in Jesus Christ.