Part 1 of 5
THINGS MOST SURELY BELIEVED, is
a book that everyone should read. It is a book written by an
exceptional man, a man who is inspired of God. Many books have
been written on many different subjects, but this is a book
that deals with these subjects in a very simple and direct
way. Dr. Heffren is one of God's gifts to the Church of God
today. Under his sound biblically oriented writing of many
books and now this, his latest, God is giving the Church clear
teachings concerning the doctrines of the Church. It was my
privilege and honor to read the original manuscript of this
book, and as I was reading, I was thrilled that we now have a
sound book that can be used in Sunday-School classes, midweek
Bible study, and many other areas of teaching and learning.
Knowing Brother Heffren as his friend and pastor, I can say
that this book was written for one purpose--to advance the
Kingdom of God here on earth by becoming more knowledgeable
about the teachings of God's Word. I have great hope that this
book will help many as they study its pages right along side
the Bible. I truly recommend this book to all.
Delmar D. Holbrook, Chairman of
the General Assembly of Western Canada Pastor, Camrose Church
Camrose, Alberta, Canada
The title of this book is taken
from Luke 1: 1, "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set
forth in order a declaration of those things which are most
surely believed among us." The gospel is the testimony of
eyewitnesses, who attest the certainty of the events of the
life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke 1:1-4, 1 John 1:1-4.
Peter says, "For we have not followed cunningly devised
fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of
the Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses to His Majesty."
2 Peter 1:16. The gospel rests upon the uniform testimony of
unimpeachable witnesses who gave a firsthand account of what
they knew to be 'infallible proofs." Acts 1:3. Basically, no
guide to religious doctrine can be termed "simple" for
doctrine itself is most profound. This does not mean that such
an attempt is not worth trying.
One of the methods by which
Christian doctrine is taught is by a catechism. For the most
part, Evangelical Christians frown on the use of a catechism
for there is a tendency to substitute knowledge of the
Catechism for the experience of regeneration. The older
established churches all use their Catechisms for instruction
in the teachings of their churches. (The word, "Orthodox"
means "customary or approved by convention, the accepted
belief." The word Evangelical" on the other hand means,
"Having to do with the Protestant churches that emphasize
Christ's atonement and salvation by faith as the most
important part of Christianity." A new word has been
introduced in recent years with an endeavor to get Christians
together in basic faith. It is called "Ecumenical," meaning
"universal" or "representing the entire church.")
The dictionary describes a
catechism as "a book of questions and answers about religion,
used for teaching religious doctrine." In view of the fact
that we are besieged on every hand through television, radio,
mass media and an avalanche of books and papers advocating
various interpretations of the gospel, surely it is obvious
that a simple presentation of instruction of fundamental
beliefs is imperative. We cannot take faith for granted. A
custom is never as important as a principle. Customs often
change, but principles never change. The Bible emphasizes
adherence to principles.
HOW THE FIRST CREEDS
Creeds were first introduced
into the church during the first and second century after
Christ. They get their name from the first word in the
Apostles' Creed, which is "Creda" meaning, "I believe." It was
not long after the death of Christ that various doctrines were
advocated by different ministers. Gnosticism arose, a doctrine
imported from Greek Paganism based on knowing. It was an
amalgamation of Judaism, Persian and Greek philosophy blended
with Christianity. It was the opposite of Agnosticism, which
boasted of not knowing. It was strongly refuted by Paul. Soon
the teachings of Pelagius were having an influence. He taught
that man could save himself, and that there was no original
sin. The Nestorians originated in Constantinople. They taught
that the body and spirit of Christ were separate entities and
not a unified Being. To this was added Arianism, founded by
Arias who claimed that Christ did not have full equality with
God. As these and other doctrines arose, the Bishops convened
a Council in Nicaea and formulated the Nicene Creed in the
year 325. This was subsequent to the Apostles' Creed. Creeds
have been with the church ever since.
All the errors in the Christian
church are related to a wrong interpretation of the Person of
Christ and the Atonement. Christ asked the Pharisees one
critical question, "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?"
Matthew 22:41-46. Their answer indicated their mistaken view.
The doctrine of the Person of Christ and His Atonement is the
most important teaching in the New Testament.
In Hebrews 11:6 we read, "But
without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that
cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a
rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Faith is not a
blind hope or a presumptuous wish. "Faith is the substance of
things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews
11: 1. Faith is supported by history, (not philosophy). The
long list of men from Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses
were men of history who believed God and were justified by the
results of their faith. They were the Magellans of the mind
and spirit who anchored their faith and believed (that is,
'by-lived") in God. Without this kind of faith it is
impossible to please God, because it is automatically
impossible to trust a God you don't believe in. Belief leads
to trust and trust is followed by action.
Most Westerners think of the
Church which was founded by Christ, Matthew 16:16-20, as a
spiritual democracy. As far as possible their ministers
receive a call from God and each congregation is autonomous.
Their unity is voluntary, and those who fill executive or
administrative positions receive their mandate by popular
consent. But it was not always thus. The history of church
government is that it was generally patterned after the
political government of the time of its origin. Thus the Roman
Catholic Church is patterned after Imperial Rome. The word
"hierarchy" means "sacred ruler," and is operated by higher
and lower ranks of officials, such as pope, card 'inals,
archbishops, bishops and priests. The Lutheran and Anglican
churches were originally State Churches, and were closely
affiliated with the government. The ruler of Britain is
crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican
Church. In America, church and State were separated. Democracy
was achieved and churches such as the Baptists and a multitude
of smaller sects were organized. The idea of autonomy
characterized all these groups, the pattern for such freedom
being set by the government of which they were a part. The
Kingdom of God is, strictly speaking, not a democracy, but is
under the rule of Christ, the Benign Dictator. Offices, are
filled by men whose gifts qualify them for responsibility in
which they only rank as brothers and sisters. Christ is the
Head and all the rest are brethren. The Bible church Christ
designed is a brotherhood with Christ as Head and His redeemed
followers defined as His body doing His bidding. Christianity
has had to endure many types of political governments from
stark cruel pagan Rome, the Papacy and its Inquisitions, and
Communism. It has endured and survived them all "Through the
Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony." What
causes the church to endure such tribulation? Anyone honestly
seeking the truth about Jesus Christ will discover that He is
the truth, John 14:6. It is far more important to know Him as
your Saviour and Lord, than merely to be acquainted with a lot
of information about Him. When the church first began, there
were no creeds. In response to Peter's first sermon on the Day
of Pentecost, the people asked, "Men and brethren, what shall
we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of
you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and
ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:37,38. In
verse 42 we read, "And they continued steadfastly in the
apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread,
and in prayers." The apostles' doctrine, or teaching, was all
that was required of believers when the church first began.
When the apostles died and their work was carried on by their
successors, known as the Church Fathers, a number of false
teachers proclaimed different doctrines. To combat the spread
of error, the early Church Fathers, known as bishops, meaning
overseers, met and drew up a statement of faith. The result
was known as the Apostles' Creed. It wasn't composed by the
apostles, but it is the earliest creed known and its content
is attributed to the teachings of the apostles. This is what
it contained. "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of
heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.
He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the
dead, He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge
the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy
Catholic Church; the Communion of saints; the forgiveness of
sins; the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting.
Amen." During the next one hundred years or more, the gospel
message was confronted with new advocates of spurious
teachings and in order to prevent the original teachings of
Christ from being further dissipated and diluted, a further
council of Bishops convened in Nicaea where they drew up the
Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed is as follows: "I
believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and
earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in our
Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of
His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very
God of very God, begotten, not made. Being of one substance
with the Father, by Whom all things were made; who for us men,
and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate
by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and
was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and the third
day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended
into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And
He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the
dead; whose kingdom shall have no end."
"And I believe in the Holy
Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the
Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets. And I
believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I
acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look
for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to
These two creeds were regarded
with such veneration that they, especially the Apostles'
Creed, are commonly used in churches even to the present time.
Many change the word, "Catholic" Church to 'Christian" Church.
Rightly understood it makes little difference for the word
"Catholic" means universal. In this connection we
differentiate between the Holy Catholic Church and the "Roman"
Catholic Church, which came to power much later, according to
history. While many Evangelicals do not have a catechism, most
of them do have a Statement of Faith comprehending the most
vital things believed by them. A sample is as follows:
We offer this as a proposed
Statement of Faith. The basic principles for rule and
discipline of the church as well as for its articles of faith,
are recorded in the Word of God. Any statement of faith or
operating policy should be in harmony with those principles.
Based on this premise: WE BELIEVE:
1. The Scriptures, both Old and
New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, the complete
revelation of His Will for the salvation of men, and the
Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life.
2. In One God, creator of all
things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in Three
Persons; Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
3. That Jesus Christ is the Son
of God, truly God and truly Man, conceived of the Holy Ghost,
and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the cross, a sacrifice
for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was resurrected
bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven where at the right
hand of the Majesty on High, He now is our High Priest and
4. That the ministry of the
Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He is working
in the regeneration of sinners, the sanctification of
believers, to indwell, instruct and empower for godly living
and Christian service.
5. That man was created in the
image of God, but through disobedience he became a lost
sinner, and only through regeneration can salvation and
reconciliation with God be obtained through the Atonement of
- 6. That the true Church is
composed of all redeemed persons who through saving faith in
Jesus Christ are united together in the one body of Christ of
which He is the Head. We believe in the royal priesthood of
believers and in the exercise of spiritual gifts in the
7. That water baptism by
immersion and the Lord's Supper are ordinances to be observed
by the church. They are, however, not to be regarded as the
means of salvation. The washing of feet is observed as
enjoined by our Lord.
8. We believe in the Kingdom of
God as proclaimed and established by our Lord Jesus Christ
during His earthly ministry, and as perpetuated by His
9. We believe in the Personal
Second Coming of Christ. We believe in the resurrection of the
dead, the final judgment of all mankind, the eternal reward
and everlasting life of the believers and the eternal
punishment of the unbelievers.
QUESTIONS MOST FREQUENTLY
ASKED ABOUT THE GODHEAD
Q. Can you describe who God,
the Father Almighty is?
A. Not fully. Many of the
things about God are transcendent, which means beyond human
experience or knowledge. God surpasses human knowledge. This
is expressed by Isaiah 55:8,9, "For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For
as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways; and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The apostle Paul has stated this truth in these words of
worship, 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His
ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the
Lord? Who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first given to
Him and it shall be recompensed to him again. For of Him, and
through Him, and to Him, are all things; to Whom be glory
forever and ever. Amen." Romans 11:33-36. We may not know ALL
that God is, but we know that He is Creator, Sustainer and our
Redeemer. Our main objective is to know: 1. Who God is. 2.
What are we? That is the study of Man. 3. What God has done
for us. That is His plan of redemption. 4. Lastly how we ought
to love and serve Him. This is summed up in Ecel. I 1: 13 "Let
us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear God and keep
His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man."
Q. Again we ask the question,
who is God?
A. God is the Almighty Father
who made and controls all things according to His holy, wise
and good purpose.
Q. What are the works of God?
A. The works of God are
creation of all things, providence and redemption. God is not
the Father in a paternal sense, but as originator and First
Cause of all things. The universe with its flawless obedience
to law must have had a Law-giver. To say it came by Chance
requires more credulity than to go back to the First Cause,
God. The same with life in all its multiform varieties. Where
did it all come from? The only valid answer is God. As Paul
said, "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things:
to Whom be glory forever, Amen." Romans 11:36.
Q. What is the work of
A. Actually Providence is
another name referring to God,-but it contains the idea of God
as upholding and sustaining all creation. Everything in the
creation is subject to Law, and operates according to some
good purpose and constancy. Providence is not Fate or Luck,
although many happenings are attributed to them for lack of
the correct name, Providence. God is watching over us and
caring for us in many unseen ways. God's good purpose is
hindered by sin. Sin has marred our fellowship with God. Sin
has not changed God's love for man but it has estranged man
from God. The dreadful fact of sin brings to our hearts
sorrow, fear, and a heavy sense of guilt.
Q. What is the work of
A. The work of redemption is
God saving men from sin and death and renewing their lives by
what God does for them through Jesus Christ and His Holy
Spirit. Salvation from sin is the promise of renewal of a life
in conformity with the Law of God. Jesus called this the more
abundant life. John IO: 10. The apostle Paul summed it up well
in Eph. 2:1, "And you hath He quickened who were dead in
trespasses and sins." In Romans 6:23 Paul says, "For the wages
of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord." Sin is the rejection of and rebellion
against God, resulting in spiritual and eternal death.
Salvation is deliverance and redemption affected through faith
in the finished work of Christ. We are not saved by subsequent
works we may do, but by believing on His all-sufficient work
of dying in our stead, thus reconciling us to God. To be
"quickened" is to be made alive. So we are changed from a
state of spiritual death, to spiritual life, and harmony and
fellowship between God and the believer is restored.
Thenceforward we joyfully serve Christ not from fear of
retribution, but out of love for Him Who is our Deliverer from
bondage, Emancipator from sinful habits, Redeemer from sin and
the Captain of our salvation.
Q. Who is Jesus Christ?
A. Jesus Christ is the Second
Person in the Divine Trinity. He is the Son of God, Who became
man and lived a life wholly devoted to the will of God and the
service of man, Who was crucified, raised from the dead and
exalted, so that He is our ever living Saviour and Lord.
Q. Are not all people sons of
God? How is Christ the only begotten Son of God?
A. All people are sons of God
by creation. Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son in that His
miraculous Virgin birth resulted from the Divine Conception of
Mary by the operation of God through the Holy Ghost. Thus
Jesus became the God-Man. God became man through the
Incarnation, God taking on flesh, yet wholly Man in that He
was born of the Virgin Mary. Christ remains unique in history.
Jesus Christ revealed His
Divinity through having power over sickness, disease and even
death. He was supreme in nature by calming the waters of
stormy Galilee. Yet He grew weary and tired, thirsty and
hungry like anyone else. But He was the only one in history in
Whom was no sin. He was tempted in all points as we are but
without sin. But although He, Himself was sinless, yet He bore
the sin of the world. Although the record of Christ is one of
doing good, healing all that were oppressed, and preaching the
good news of the Kingdom of God, yet He was arrested. On
trial, he was accused by many false witnesses but the only
valid charge against Him was that He claimed to be the Son of
God. Christ was not condemned to death for anything He said or
did, but because of Who He was. The highest Jewish Council,
the Sanhedrin, condemned Him to death. The Roman governor
concurred reluctantly in pronouncing His execution on a cross
between two thieves. And yet Christ said, "I lay down my life
that I might take it up again. No man taketh it from Me, but I
lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have
power to take it again." John 10: 17,18. The claims of Christ,
as Son of God, were vindicated when God reversed the
condemnation of man and declared Him to be "The Son of God
with power by the Resurrection from the dead." Romans 1:4. He
was received up to glory and sitteth on the right hand of God
with power, which means "All power is given unto me in heaven
and in earth." Matt. 28:ib. Before He left the earth He
promised His disciples, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto
the end of the world." Matt. 28:20. He is now our only
Mediator between God and man. I Timothy 2:5. "Now He ever
liveth to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25.
Q. Who is the Holy Spirit?
A. The Holy Spirit is the Third
Person in the Divine Trinity working in our minds and hearts,
freeing us from sin and making us more Christ-like. We read in
Acts 2 how the Holy Spirit came to the church at Pentecost
with great power, at which time three thousand people repented
and were baptized. We are told in Scripture to pray in the
Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to receive the Spirit, to be
filled with the Spirit, not to resist the Spirit, not to
grieve the Spirit and not to quench the Spirit.
Q. What is the work of the Holy
A. The Holy Spirit helps our
infirmities, leads us, and makes intercessions for us. He
endows those seeking to render service to God with gifts, such
as prophecy, governments, wisdom, healing, and all necessary
aids to equip us to represent God in the work of witnessing
for Him. Christ has promised that the Holy Spirit will be
available to lead us into all truth, and to give strong
conviction in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. Jesus
gave us instructions in John chapters 14 and 15. Jesus Christ
is the Son of God but through the Holy Spirit we become heirs
of God and joint heirs, thus by His grace we are adopted into
his family as sons and daughters in the family of God! Romans
8:16,17 says "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit
that we are God's children. Now if we are children then we are
heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we
share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His
glory." (New lnt'l Version)
Q. What do we mean when we
speak of the Trinity?
A. Trinity means a "tri-unity,"
which is three Persons in One Godhead. At first this seems a
perplexing paradox to our understanding. The Jews maintain
that there is only one God, Jehovah. The Mohammedans likewise
affirm faith in but one God. The Unitarians believe in God but
reject Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Christians, too believe
in but one God, but in three persons, Father, Son and Holy
Spirit comprising but one God. At first glance this seems
impossible but there are many illustrations that make it not
only feasible but essential to a true understanding of God. In
mathematics we speak of I plus I plus I, which equals three.
But we also know that I times I times I equals 1. God is not
three separate Gods, but one God expressed in three different
functions. We look at the heavens and behold the sun. It is
"one." But from the sun comes light and heat. They are not
identical phenomena but they can neither be separated from
each other nor from their source. Which is greatest? We know
the sun is source, and in that sense it is greatest, but the
light and the heat come simultaneously and they are equal in
every sense to the power of the sun.
Or take an object like a box.
It has length, breadth and height. If we take away the height,
we automatically have nothing left. In a very real sense, each
dimension is the whole, for if we leave one out there is
nothing left. It takes all three dimensions simultaneously to
make one whole. Time likewise is threefold, being past,
present and future. The future is constantly tunneling into
the present where it immediately becomes the past. Apart from
these phenomena time would cease to exist. So God is one God
but He is revealed to us by threefold means, namely Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. God's oneness is similar to the Sun, its
Light and Heat being one inseparable phenomena co-existent and
The God whom Jesus declared and
manifested is the true proclamation of God. As Jesus was in
time, so is God in eternity. Philip longed for a manifestation
of God and requested it in John 14:8. Jesus said, 'He that
hath seen Me hath seen the Father." John 14:9. We can
rightfully worship the Father and the Holy Spirit, but the
only God we can KNOW is the one manifested through Jesus
Christ. In like manner Jesus manifests God to us. He is the
tangible evidence that declares God to us--@'God manifest in
the flesh and justified in the Spirit ... received up into
Glory." I Timothy 3:16. The benediction Paul used in his
letter to the Corinthians is appropriate insofar as it has
become almost a universal closing prayer. It says, "The grace
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the
communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all," 2 Cor. 13:14.
Here we have the use of and the relationship of the Trinity.
The name of Christ is first which is vitally Christian, for in
Christ we have our most rewarding experience of the reality of
Clod, also the only personal experience in God.
Q. What is revelation?
A. Revelation is God making
Himself known to man, so that man may live according to His
high purpose for him. Man could never discover God by his own
ingenuity. "The world by wisdom knew not God." I Cor. 1:21.
History tells how men worshipped the sun, the moon and the
stars, and all creatures as well as inanimate things such as
trees, rocks and rivers, but that only led to abasement and
darkness. The record is that when men lose or refuse to
worship the true God, they always resort to making gods after
their own imagination and devices. The first chapter of Romans
gives a vivid picture of the abysmal depths to which the human
mind can sink unaided by the Spirit of God and the power of
the Son of God. The truth is that regeneration came because of
God seeking man rather than man seeking God.
The true revelation of God is
described in Hebrews 1: 1, "God, Who at sundry times and in
divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the
prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son,
Whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He
made the worlds." The revelation of God came by the prophets
at various times and in a multitude of different ways. While
it was all true it was not all complete. The full revelation
of God has come through Jesus Christ. In Christ God draws the
veil aside and discloses His full purpose and plan for man.
Christ is the supreme revelation of God to man. It is through
Christ that God makes Himself known clearly, and thus he
teaches us to live according to His high purpose for us.
TEACHINGS ABOUT MAN
Q. What is man?
A. The Bible gives five names
to describe man. The first is Adam, which means "separate from
and lower than God." The second name given is anthropos,
meaning "separate from and higher than the beasts." The third
name is found in Genesis 6:3 where it is recorded, "My Spirit
shall not always strive with man, for that he is also
flesh..." In this instance "man" is translated from enosh,
meaning mortal, or subject to death. A common usage is ish and
isha, which simply differentiates between man and woman. In
Luke 4:4 after Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, Satan
tempted Him to turn stones into bread, Jesus replied, "That
'man' shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of
God." Man in this instance means separate from and higher than
the beasts. Man alone was created to look up. Thus man was
created separate from and less than God, higher than the
beasts, subject to mortality and created to look up.