A Simple Guide To Religious Doctrine
by H.C.Heffren D.D.

 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 of God
Camrose, Alberta, Canada
July, 1977


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.


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 come. Amen."

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 Advocate.

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 Jesus Christ.

- 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 church.

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 apostles.

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.


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 Providence?

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 redemption?

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 Spirit?

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 co-equal.

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.

Part 2


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.