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To cooperate as Christians who hold biblical convictions and seek a clear conscience, we must have and do 3 things, as Mark Dever has said, “Clear fences, low fences, and shake hands often.” Here are the clear fences that we hold to for our ministry of connecting and resourcing “likeminded” pastors.

Together for the Gospel Affirmations and Denials:

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Article I

We affirm that the sole authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible, and totally sufficient and trustworthy.

We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation, or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or the effects of human sinfulness.

Article II

We affirm that the authority and sufficiency of Scripture extends to the entire Bible, and therefore that the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice.

We deny that any portion of the Bible is to be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or, for example, to set the words of Jesus against the writings of Paul.

Article III

We affirm that truth ever remains a central issue for the Church, and that the Church must resist the allure of pragmatism and postmodern conceptions of truth as substitutes for obedience to the comprehensive truth claims of Scripture.

We deny that truth is merely a product of social construction or that the truth of the Gospel can be expressed or grounded in anything less than total confidence in the veracity of the Bible, the historicity of biblical events, and the ability of language to convey understandable truth in sentence form. We further deny that the Church can establish its ministry on a foundation of pragmatism, current marketing techniques, or contemporary cultural fashions.

Article IV

We affirm the centrality of expository preaching in the Church and the urgent need for a recovery of biblical exposition and the public reading of Scripture in worship.

We deny that God-honoring worship can marginalize or neglect the ministry of the Word as manifested through exposition and public reading. We further deny that a Church devoid of true biblical preaching can survive as a Gospel Church.

Article V

We affirm that the Bible reveals God to be infinite in all his perfections, and thus truly omniscient, omnipotent, timeless, and self-existent. We further affirm that God possesses perfect knowledge of all things, past, present, and future, including all human thoughts, acts, and decisions.

We deny that the God of the Bible is in any way limited in terms of knowledge or power or any other perfection or attribute, or that God has in any way limited his own perfections.

Article VI

We affirm that the doctrine of the Trinity is a Christian essential, bearing witness to the ontological reality of the one true God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of the same substance and perfections.

We deny the claim that the Trinity is not an essential doctrine, or that the Trinity can be understood in merely economic or functional categories.

Article VII

We affirm that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man, in perfect, undiluted, and unconfused union throughout his incarnation and now eternally. We also affirm that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, as a sacrifice for sin, and as a propitiation of the wrath of God toward sinners. We affirm the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ as essential to the Gospel. We further affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord over His Church, and that Christ will reign over the entire cosmos in fulfillment of the Father’s gracious purpose.

We deny that the substitutionary character of Christ’s atonement for sin can be compromised without serious injury to the Gospel or denied without repudiating the Gospel. We further deny that Jesus Christ is visible only in weakness, rather than in power, Lordship, or royal reign, or, conversely, that Christ is visible only in power, and never in weakness.

Article VIII

We affirm that salvation is all of grace, and that the Gospel is revealed to us in doctrines that most faithfully exalt God’s sovereign purpose to save sinners and in His determination to save his redeemed people by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to His glory alone.

We deny that any teaching, theological system, or means of presenting the Gospel that denies the centrality of God’s grace as His gift of unmerited favor to sinners in Christ can be considered true doctrine.

Article IX

We affirm that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s means of bringing salvation to His people, that sinners are commanded to believe the Gospel, and that the Church is commissioned to preach and teach the Gospel to all nations.

We deny that evangelism can be reduced to any program, technique, or marketing approach. We further deny that salvation can be separated from repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Article X

We affirm that salvation comes to those who truly believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We deny that there is salvation in any other name, or that saving faith can take any form other than conscious belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving acts.

Article XI

We affirm the continuity of God’s saving purpose and the Christological unity of the covenants. We further affirm a basic distinction between law and grace, and that the true Gospel exalts Christ’s atoning work as the consummate and perfect fulfillment of the law.

We deny that the Bible presents any other means of salvation than God’s gracious acceptance of sinners in Christ.

Article XII

We affirm that sinners are justified only through faith in Christ, and that justification by faith alone is both essential and central to the Gospel.

We deny that any teaching that minimizes, denies, or confuses justification by faith alone can be considered true to the Gospel. We further deny that any teaching that separates regeneration and faith is a true rendering of the Gospel.

Article XIII

We affirm that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers by God’s decree alone, and that this righteousness, imputed to the believer through faith alone, is the only righteousness that justifies.

We deny that such righteousness is earned or deserved in any manner, is infused within the believer to any degree, or is realized in the believer through anything other than faith alone.

Article XIV

We affirm that the shape of Christian discipleship is congregational, and that God’s purpose is evident in faithful Gospel congregations, each displaying God’s glory in the marks of authentic ecclesiology.

We deny that any Christian can truly be a faithful disciple apart from the teaching, discipline, fellowship, and accountability of a congregation of fellow disciples, organized as a Gospel Church. We further deny that the Lord’s Supper can faithfully be administered apart from the right practice of Church discipline.

Article XV

We affirm that evangelical congregations are to work together in humble and voluntary cooperation and that the spiritual fellowship of Gospel congregations bears witness to the unity of the Church and the glory of God.

We deny that loyalty to any denomination or fellowship of Churches can take precedence over the claims of truth and faithfulness to the Gospel.

Article XVI

We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the Church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the Church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ’s kingdom. We further deny that any Church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.

Article XVII

We affirm that God calls his people to display his glory in the reconciliation of the nations within the Church, and that God’s pleasure in this reconciliation is evident in the gathering of believers from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. We acknowledge that the staggering magnitude of injustice against African-Americans in the name of the Gospel presents a special opportunity for displaying the repentance, forgiveness, and restoration promised in the Gospel. We further affirm that evangelical Christianity in America bears a unique responsibility to demonstrate this reconciliation with our African-American brothers and sisters.

We deny that any Church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or division without betraying the Gospel.

Article XVIII

We affirm that our only sure and confident hope is in the sure and certain promises of God. Thus, our hope is an eschatological hope, grounded in our confidence that God will bring all things to consummation in a manner that will bring greatest glory to his own name, greatest preeminence to his Son, and greatest joy for his redeemed people.

We deny that we are to find ultimate fulfillment or happiness in this world, or that God’s ultimate purpose is for us to find merely a more meaningful and fulfilling life in this fallen world. We further deny that any teaching that offers health and wealth as God’s assured promises in this life can be considered a true gospel.

Statement on 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (from 9marks.org):

9Marks

1. Preaching

What is it?

An expositional sermon makes words and goal of the biblical text(s) control the words and goal of the sermon, and applies it to life today. (this one modifying the 9marks original statement)

Where is it in the Bible?

  • According to Scripture, God accomplishes what he wants to accomplish through speaking (see Gen. 1:3, Isa. 55:10-11, Acts 12:24). This means that if preachers want their sermons to be filled with God’s power, they must preach what God says.
  • The Bible has many examples of this kind of preaching and teaching: Levitical priests taught the law (Deut. 33:10), Ezra and the Levites read from the law and gave the sense of it (Neh. 8:8), and Peter and the apostles expounded Scripture and urged their hearers to respond with repentance and faith (Acts 2:14-41, 13:16-47).
  • On the other hand, God condemns those who “speak of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. 23:16, 18, 21-22). 

Why is it important?

Expositional preaching is important because God’s Word is what convicts, converts, builds up, and sanctifies God’s people (Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:13; Jn. 17:17). Preaching that makes the main point of the text the main point of the sermon makes God’s agenda rule the church, not the preacher’s.

2. Biblical Theology 

What is it?

Biblical theology is sound doctrine; it is right thoughts about God; it is belief that accords with Scripture.

Where is it in the Bible?

  1. The entire Bible teaches sound doctrine.
  2. Many New Testament books, such as Paul’s epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, are stuffed to the brim with rich doctrinal teaching (see Rom. 1-11 and Eph. 1-3).
  3. The authors of the New Testament frequently argue that sound doctrine is essential for healthy Christians and healthy churches (see 1 Tim. 1:5, 2 John 1-6, and Titus 2:1-10).

Why is it important?

Biblical theology is essential for

  1. Evangelism. The gospel is doctrine. Therefore, sound doctrine is necessary for evangelism.
  2. Discipleship. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Christians grow by learning and living in light of the truth—in other words, by sound doctrine.
  3. Unity. According to the New Testament, the only true unity is unity in the truth (1 Jn. 1:1-4; 2 Jn. 10-11).
  4. Worship. To worship God is to declare his excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9-10) and to exalt him because of who he is (Ps. 29:2). True worship is a response to sound doctrine.

 

3. The Gospel

What is it?

The good news is that:

  • The one and only God who is holy made us in his image to know him (Gen. 1:26-28).
  • But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:23).
  • In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn from their sin and trust in him (John 1:14; Heb. 7:26; Rom. 3:21-26, 5:12-21).
  • He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted (Acts 2:24, Rom. 4:25).
  • He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness (Acts 17:30, John 1:12). If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God (John 3:16).
  • He is gathering one new people to himself among all those who submit to Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:15-19; Eph. 2:11-19). 

Where is it in the Bible?

Romans 1-4 contains one of the fullest expositions of the gospel in all of Scripture, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 contains a succinct summary of the gospel.

Why is it important?

  • A biblical understanding of the gospel is important because the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, and it is the only way for sinful people to be reconciled to a holy God.
  • Not only that, but everything in a church flows from its understanding of the gospel, whether preaching, counseling, discipleship, music, evangelism, missions, and on.

4. Conversion

What is it?

A biblical understanding of conversion recognizes both what God does and what people do in salvation. In conversion, God

  • gives life to the dead (Eph. 2:5)
  • gives sight to the blind (2 Cor. 4:3-6)
  • and gives the gifts of faith and repentance (Phil. 1:29; Acts 11:18).

And in conversion, people

  • repent of sin (Mk. 1:15; Acts 3:19)
  • and believe in Jesus (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 3:21-26).

A biblical understanding of conversion recognizes that only God can save, and that he saves individuals by enabling them to respond to the gospel message through repenting of sin and trusting in Christ.

Where is it in the Bible?

  • Jesus called people to repent and believe in him (Mk. 1:15). He said that unless someone is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:1-8).
  • Throughout the book of Acts, the apostles call people to turn from their sin and trust in Christ (Acts 2:38, 3:19-20, 10:43, 13:38-39, 16:31, 17:30).
  • Many of the epistles describe both our need to repent and believe in Christ and God’s supernatural work to accomplish this (Rom. 6:1-23; 1 Cor. 2:14-15; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 2:25-26). 

Why is it important?

A biblical understanding of conversion is important for churches because

  1. It clarifies how churches should exhort non-Christians—they should call non-Christians to repent of sin and trust in Christ.
  2. It reminds churches that they must rely upon God in all of their evangelistic efforts; only he can give new spiritual life.
  3. It teaches churches to maintain a sharp distinction between themselves and the world.
    • Church members’ lives should be marked by the fruit of conversion,
    • Churches should admit to membership (often via baptism) and the Lord’s Supper only those who show evidence of conversion.

Churches should evangelize and teach about the Christian life in such a way that the radical nature of conversion is continually emphasized.

5. Evangelism 

What is it?

Evangelism is simply telling non-Christians the good news about what Jesus Christ has done to save sinners and urging them to repent and believe. In order to biblically evangelize you must:

  1. Preach the whole gospel, even the hard news about God’s wrath against our sin.
  2. Call people to repent of their sins and trust in Christ.
  3. Make it clear that believing in Christ is costly, but worth it.

Where is it in the Bible?

Scripture contains both teaching on evangelism (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Pet. 3:15-16) and examples of evangelistic preaching (see Acts 2:14-41, 3:12-26, 13:16-49, 17:22-31). Moreover, any time Scripture speaks of the gospel, it is teaching us what we are to share in evangelism (see, for example, Romans 1-4 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Why is it important?

  • When a church has an unbiblical understanding of the gospel, they don’t evangelize, they evangelize in misleading or manipulative ways, or they share a message that’s not the gospel.
  • On the other hand, a biblical understanding of evangelism clarifies our role in the mission God has given to the church: we are to preach the good news about what Christ has done and pray that God would bring people to believe it.

 

6. Membership 

What is it?

According to the Bible, church membership is a commitment every Christian should make to attend, love, serve, and submit to a local church.

Where is it in the Bible?

  • Throughout Old Testament history, God made a clear distinction between his people and the world (see Lev. 13:46, Num. 5:3, Deut. 7:3).
  • Christ says that entering the kingdom of God means being bound to the church “on earth” (Matt. 16:16-19; 18:17-19). Where do we see the church on earth? The local church.
  • The New Testament explicitly refers to some people being inside the church and some people being outside (1 Cor. 5:12-13). This is much more than a casual association.
  • The church in Corinth consisted of a definite number of believers, such that Paul could speak of a punishment inflicted by the majority (2 Cor. 2:6).
  • Not only does the New Testament speak of the reality of church membership, but its dozens of “one anothers” are written to local churches, which fill out our understanding of what church membership should practically look like.

Why is it important?

Biblical church membership is important because the church presents God’s witness to himself in the world. It displays his glory. In the church’s membership, then, non-Christians should see in the lives of God’s changed people that God is holy and gracious and that his gospel is powerful for saving and transforming sinners.

 

7. Discipline

What is it?

  • In the broadest sense, church discipline is everything the church does to help its members pursue holiness and fight sin. Preaching, teaching, prayer, corporate worship, accountability relationships, and godly oversight by pastors and elders are all forms of discipline.
  • In a narrower sense, church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin (see Matt. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-13).

Where is it in the Bible?

  • The New Testament commands corrective discipline (excluding unrepentant sinners from the fellowship of the church) in passages like Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Corinthians 2:6, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.
  • The New Testament speaks about formative discipline (our efforts to grow in holiness together) in countless passages about pursuing holiness and building one another up in the faith, such as Ephesians 4:11-32 and Philippians 2:1-18.

Why is it important?

Think of discipline as the stake that helps the tree grow upright, the extra set of wheels on the bicycle, or the musician’s endless hours of practice. Without discipline, we won’t grow as God wants us to. With discipline, we will, by God’s grace, bear peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:5-11).

8. Discipleship

What is it?

Scripture teaches that a live Christian is a growing Christian (2 Pet. 1:8-10). Scripture also teaches that we grow not only by instruction, but by imitation (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). Therefore churches should exhort their members to both grow in holiness and help others do the same.

Where is it in the Bible?

  • Peter exhorted his readers to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18)
  • Paul exhorted the Ephesians to grow by speaking the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15).
  • Many passages in Scripture instruct us to imitate godly leaders (Phil. 4:9; Heb. 13:7).

The point is that, according to Scripture, all Christians should grow in Christ, imitate other godly Christians, and encourage others in their growth in Christlikeness.

Why is it important?

  1. Promoting biblical discipleship and growth is important because none of us are finished products. Until we die, all Christians will struggle against sin, and we need all the help we can get in this fight.
  2. If a church neglects discipleship and growth, or teaches a skewed, unbiblical version of it, it will discourage genuine Christians and wrongly assure false Christians. On the other hand, if a church fosters a culture of Christian discipleship and growth, it will multiply believers’ efforts to grow in holiness.
  3. A church that is not growing in the faith will ultimately yield an unhealthy witness to the world.

 

9. Leadership 

What is it?

The Bible teaches that each local church should be led by a plurality of godly, qualified men called elders.

Where is it in the Bible?

Paul lays out the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Passages that evidence a plurality of elders in one local church include Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17, 1 Timothy 4:14, 1 Timothy 5:17, and James 5:14.

Why is it important?

God gifts churches with elders to

  • feed God’s sheep God’s word (Jn. 21:15-17),
  • guide the sheep (1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 5:3, Heb. 13:7),
  • and protect the sheep from attackers (Acts 20:27-29; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Tit. 1:9),
  • while protecting both themselves and the church through the wisdom of their plurality (Prov. 11:14; 24:6).

The bottom line? Biblical church leadership is important because without it, God’s people are like sheep without shepherds.


Other statements of general agreement:

1. The Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement,

2. The Cambridge Declaration, and

3. The Reforming Catholic Confession.