THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRISTis a Church of
the Lord Jesus Christ in which the word of God is preached, ordinances are administered and the doctrine of sanctification
or holiness is emphasized, as being essential to the salvation of mankind.
Our Church is commonly known as being Holiness or Pentecostal in nature
because of the importance ascribed to the events which occurred on the Day of Pentecost, the 50th day after the Passover,
or Easter as being necessary for all believers in Christ Jesus to experience.
On the Day of Pentecost, the first day of the week, the Lord's Day,
Supernatural Manifestations descended in marvelous copiousness and power. The gift of the spirit in the fulfillment
of the promise of Jesus to clothe those who would wait in Jerusalem with power from on high, was accompanied by three supernatural
The sudden appearance of the Holy Ghost appealed first to the ear. The
disciples heard a "sound" from heaven which rushed with a mighty force into the house and filled it--even
as a storm rushes--but there was no wind. It was the sound that filled the house and not a wind, an invisible cause producing
Next, the eye was arrested by the appearance of tongues of fire which
rested on each of the gathered COMPANY. Finally, there was the impartation of a new strange power to speak in languages they
had never learned "as the Spirit gave them Utterance."
Our Church is also considered to be a member of the great Protestant
body though it did not directly evolve from the European or English Reformation but had its origin within the General Association
to the Baptist Church.
Elder Charles Harrison Mason, who later became the founder and organizer
of the Church of God in Christ, was born on the Prior Farm near Memphis, Tennessee. His father and mother, Jerry and
Eliza Mason, were members of a Missionary Baptist Church, having been converted during the dark crises of American Slavery.
BISHOP C.H. MASON
One of the most significant
figures in the rise and spread of the modern Pentecostal movement, Charles Harrison Mason was born September 8, 1866.
When Mason was just twelve
years old, a Yellow Fever epidemic forced his family to leave the Memphis area
for Plumerville, Arkansas, where they lived on John Watson’s
plantation as tenant farmers.The epidemic claimed his father’s life in
In 1880 just before his fourteenth
birthday, Mason fell ill with chills and fever.In a surprising turn of events
on the first Sunday in September 1880, he was miraculously healed.Along with
his mother he attended the Mt.OliveBaptistChurch near Plumerville where the pastor, Mason’s half-brother, the Reverend
I.S. Nelson, baptized him in an atmosphere of praise and thankgiving.From that
point in his life, Mason went throughout the area of southern Arkansas as a
lay preacher, giving his testimony and working with souls on the mourners’ bench, especially during the summer camp
Mason was licensed and ordained
in 1891 at Preston, Arkansas, but held back from full-time
ministry to marry Alice Saxton, the beautiful daughter of his mother’s closest friend.To his greatest disappointment and distress, his wife bitterly opposed his ministerial plans.She divorced him after two years of marriage and later remarried.However, Mason refused to marry as long as Mrs. Alice Saxton-Mason lived.
to get an education was a crucial turning point after his divorce.On November 1, 1893, Mason entered ArkansasBaptistCollege, founded by Dr. E.C. Morris, pastor
at Helena, Arkansas, and president of the Arkansas Baptist
State Convention.Mason was deeply disturbed by the criticism that Dr. C.L. Fisher,
a top graduate of Morgan Park Seminary (now the University of Chicago Divinity School) had brought to ArkansasBaptistCollege.Mason had both hermeneutical and cultural suspicions of the methods, philosophy, and curriculum set forth at the college.Thus, Mason left the school in January 1894.
In 1895 Mason met with Charles
Price Jones, the newly elected pastor of the Mt.HelmsBaptistChurch at Jackson,
Mississippi.They became close friends.Jones was a graduate of ArkansasBaptistCollege.Like Mason, Jones had come
under the influence of the Holiness movement and in 1894 claimed the experience of sanctification while pasturing TabernacleBaptistChurch at Selma,
Arkansas.By preaching sanctification, the
second definite work of grace subsequent to conversion, Mason and Jones caused small stir amongst black Baptists.From 1896-99, the Holiness conventions, revivals, and periodicals inspired by Mason and Jones split the
Baptists and, in a few cases, the Methodist churches, birthing the development of independent “sanctified” or
“holiness” congregations and associations.Mason, Jones, and their
colleagues were vehemently opposed and eventually expelled from Baptist churches via the National Baptist Convention.
Mason, while walking along a street in Little Rock, Arkansas, received the
revelation of the name, Church Of God In Christ (COGIC) (1 Thess 2:14; 2 Thess 1:1).Thus in 1897, a major new black denomination was born.From the seventeenth
century through the nineteenth century, most blacks had encountered Christianity under the aegis of Baptist or Methodist churches.Mason and Jones, however, emphatically changed the religious landscape in the black
community as well as broadened the black religious experience.Through the dynamic
preaching of Mason and the prolific writings and hymnology of Jones, Sanctified or Holiness churches sprang up throughout
the South and Southwest.
During the latter half of 1906, he received reports of the Pentecostal revival
in Los Angeles.He traveled to California,
and under the ministry of W.J. Seymour, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. After some five weeks in Los Angeles, Mason returned to municipalities
of Memphis and Jackson, eager to share
his additional experience of the Lord with his brethren.However, when he presented
his Pentecostal message to the local churches, he and his message were rejected.After
days and nights of intensive debating over the Baptism of the Holy Ghost with initial evidence of speaking in tongues, Mason
and Jones separated, and the church split.Those who agreed with Mason met in
September 1907 to legally organize the COGIC.They elected C.H. Mason as general
overseer and appointed D.J. Young, Mason’s constant companion, as editor of the new periodical, The Whole Truth.
By ordaining ministers of all races, Mason performed an unusually important
service to the early twentieth-century Pentecostal movement.He appears to have
been the only early convert who came from a legally incorporated church body and who could thus ordain persons whose status
as clergymen was recognized by civil authorities.This recognition allowed clergy
to perform marriages, to carry out other ministerial functions having legal consequences, and thus entitling them to certain
economic advantages such as the right to obtain reduced clergy rates on railroads.As
a result, scores of white ministers’ south ordination at the hand of Mason.Large
numbers obtained credentials carrying the name COGIC.
In the years 1909-14, there were as
many white Church Of God In Christ ministers
as there were black ministers, all carrying Mason’s credentials and incorporation.Ironically, Mason, who viewed his lifelong task as one of the simple preserving the “spiritual essence”
and the “prayer tradition” of the black religious experience, found himself in a unique and pivotal historical
By 1913 it had become increasingly clear that as Pentecostals moved toward
denominationalism, they would follow the segregating practices of American culture.The color lien that had been washed away in the blood of Jesus at the Azusa Street
On December 20, 1913, elders E.N. Bell and H.A. Goss issued a call to convene
a general council of “all Pentecostal saints and Church Of God In Christ followers,” to meet the following April
at Hot Springs, Arkansas.This invitation went only to the white saints.
On the first week of April 1914, Mason
traveled to the Hot Springs convention to invoke God’s blessings on the
newly formed General Council of the Assemblies of god.He preached to more than
four hundred white Pentecostal preachers.
Despite this new racial separation, Mason maintained a warm fellowship with
the white Pentecostals.He preached in their conventions and maintained a strong
fellowship with two prominent white Pentecostal leaders:A.J. Thomlinson of the
Church of God (CG, Cleveland,
Tennessee) and J.H. King of the PentecostalHolinessChurch (PHC, FranklinSprings,
1952, Mason was the elder statesman attending the Pentecostal world Conference at London,
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBE) developed a file on C.H. Mason because
of his pacifism and interracialism.In 1918 some white followers of Mason in
Los Angeles were identified as being of German extraction.Mason was jailed at Lexington, Mississippi,
for allegedly preaching against the war, although he sold bonds to help the war efforts.William B. Holt, one of the white brethren targeted by the FBI for suspicion, was a lawyer and former Nazarene preacher.He traveled to Lexington to post a two-thousand
dollar cash bond for Mason’s release.
A reference from the 1918 FBI report reveals Mason’s historical perspectives.After quoting from one of Masons’ tracts, it comments:“It is clear that Mason and his followers felt it to be of far reaching significance that one of
the great religious movements of the twentieth century was founded by a member of the African race.”
Later scholars have echoed the same conclusion as the FBI report.Dr. Gayraud Wilmore, a most careful and respected scholar, says, “This movement, begun by C.H. Mason
and W.J. Seymour at the turn of the century, has been one of the most powerful expressions of Black religion in the world”.
Wilmore’s assessment is supported
by Yale historian supported by Yale historian Sidney Ahlstrom, who observed that the lives of W.J. Seymour and C.H. Mason
personified a process by which black piety exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history.
Mason led the Church Of God
In Christ until his death in 1961.Under his leadership
the church experienced phenomenal growth.Thousands of Mason’s followers,
migrating from south to north and southwest to far west, carried his teachings and evangelistic spirit to virtually every
major city in America.Upon his death in 1961, the Church Of God In Christ,
which had begun in a gin house in Lexington, Mississippi,
claimed some 5,500 congregations and 482,679 members.At least ten other church
bodies owed their origins to Mason’s church.
Since his death the Church
Of God In Christ has continued its rapid growth.Mason stamped his personality on his church far more emphatically than any other Holiness leader.He lived to see the Church Of God In Christ
become a major denomination and one of the largest Pentecostal bodies in the world.Bishop Mason died at age ninety-five in Harper’s Hospital, Detroit, Michigan,
on November 17, 1961.His
remains are entombed in the Mason Temple, headquarters of the Church Of God
In Christ at Memphis, Tennessee.
CHURCH OF GOD IN
CHRIST — TILL NOW
A story that
Memory is one of humanity’s
supreme endowments.Each of us acts today and hopes for tomorrow in the light
of experiences woven into a life-story.When we want to know someone else, we
ask that person to tell us something about the story of his or her life.For
in this way, personal identity is revealed.To be a “self” is to
have a personal history.This is what defines one’s uniqueness.
In a larger sense, this is true of
the Church Of God in Christ.We often find expressions in remembrance of events that have produced a sense of identity and destiny.To be a member of the Church Of God
In Christ is to share a Pentecostal history – the events of which are retold and relived
from the miracle of Azusa till now.
Although the Church
Of God In Christ is called a Pentecostal denomination or fellowship, Pentecost
is not a denomination.The first hurdle to clear in understanding Pentecostals
is to see the term “Pentecostalism” as referring to a family of related churches rather than a denomination.The Holy Ghost anointing came on the particular feast day of the Jews called Pentecost.Consequently, Pentecost has since then been associated with the blessed experience
of the baptism of the Holy Spirit which was first manifested on that day. The world did not understand the baptism of the
Holy Ghost then, and it does not understand it now.Frankly, we are not Pentecostals.We are “a holy people to the Lord” (Deut. 7:6).
Standards of holiness have varied
in the opinion of many congregations.Then the theologians being:“Holiness” is defined as an attribute of God or the perfection of Christ’s nature or
the justified believer’s position in Christ or the sanctified believer’s manner of living.We all would do well to stick to Bible standards and not be judged in trivial matters.The Scriptures teach us to “Follow…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”
(Hebrews ).Some tend to think
of holiness as an external characteristic, an organ-like tone of speech or a certain style of dress.The problem with this is that we often tend to feel intimidated or disqualified because we feel we do not
have the needed external traits of holiness to earn God’s pleasure.But
simply stated, holiness is shown in the Bible as something relating to God’s completeness.Nothing is lacking in this person; therefore, nothing needs to be added to make Him “enough”.This insight to God’s holiness holds a promise.That is, because His holiness is a resource for our completion, God is ready to pour Himself into us, and to complete
those areas of our lives that are lacking or unholy.The truth is reflected in
the command, “You must be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus ).
In 1906 an earthquake almost leveled
San Francisco.That same year a Pentecostal
revival shook Los Angeles, California and the rumblings
from Azusa Street are still reverberating through the Church
Of God In Christ TILL NOW.In referring
to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the early 1900s (Azusa Street Revival “1906-1909”), we acknowledge this
background as an embryonic stage for the Church Of God In Christ.However, the inception of the Church dates back to 1897, but it was not officially
organized until 1907.
The Church Of God In Christ began in the Spirit and has kept Christ as the
center.Bishop Charles Harrison Mason strongly advocated the Christ-centered
philosophy.C.P. Jones and Charles Harrison Mason were rejected by Baptist groups
in Arkansas for what was considered overemphasis on holiness.They founded what
was then called Church Of God in 1897.Nevertheless, the name Church Of God In
Christ, was divinely revealed to Bishop Mason, who stressed entire sanctification and had received in a revival of baptism
of the Holy Ghost, together with “signs of speaking with tongues.”His
ardent preaching on these gifts and subjects aroused resentment among his followers, leading later to the founding of the
Church Of God In Christ in 1907 in Memphis, Tennessee.
The name of the denomination tells us much about it.A composite of the names of many denominations within a single religion can provide much information about
that religion.Since the appearance of the name, Church Of God In Christ (COGIC)
is inevitable in any discussion of Pentecostal diversity, its meaning demands early attention.The story behind the COGIC name is best understood in the context of biblical teachings by the “Holiness-Pentecostal”
bodies, contrasting the “Baptistic” or “Unitarian” Pentecostal bodies.
“Baptistic-Pentecostal” denominations are those that teach a two-stage
theory, i.e., conversion and baptism of the Holy Ghost.“Unitarian-Pentecostal”
bodies deny the traditional concepts of the Trinity and teach that Jesus Christ alone is God.In contrast, the “Holiness-Pentecostal” bodies provide us with considerable insight into the experience,
i.e., conversion, sanctification, and baptism of the Holy Ghost.The doctrine
is basically Trinitarian, stressing repentance, regeneration, justification, sanctification, gift of healing, and speaking
in tongues as initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.Salvation is
a prerequisite to baptism.COGIC ordinances include baptism by immersion, the
Lord’s Supper, and feet washing.
Bishop Mason personally carried the holiness doctrine far beyond the mid-south.In 1907, for example, he traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, holding a three-week revival
that planted the seed of Pentecost on the east coast.Thus, when blacks began
their migration north during the first World War, Church Of God In Christ evangelists would travel with them, preaching holiness,
telling the simple stories of the Bible, and offering religious joy and warmth not found in the established northern churches.
By 1917 Church Of God In Christ congregations were organized in Pittsburgh,
Philadelphia, and Brooklyn.Evangelists were also at work in Harlem.In 1935 a storefront church was opened at 137th and Lenox Avenue, placing Bishop Mason’s
message before the largest urban black population in America.
Worldwide, there are thousands of congregations of Church Of God In Christ,
totaling several million members.There are small congregations, consisting of
just a few members – and large ones made up of several thousand members, like West Angeles Church Of God In Christ,
characterized as a multi-cultural church with more than 15,000 members.While
many churches are moving to the suburbs, the pastor, Bishop Charles E. Blake, is transforming the heart of Los Angeles, California.Bishop Charles Harrison Mason encouraged interracial cooperation, like West Angeles
Church, as early as the 1900’s.Mason was jailed more than once for preaching
on the streets with a white minister.The FBI created a file on him during World
War I because of his personal view and interracial cooperation.
The Church Of God In Christ has grown rapidly.Growth in the Church Of God In Christ is also credited to many of its leaders since the death of Bishop Mason in 1961.In the early sixties, Bishop O.T. Jones, Sr. served as Senior Bishop.In 1968 Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr. was elected the Presiding Bishop.He was followed by Bishop L.H. ford in 1989.Contributions of these leaders
are legendary in every respect.They earned this respect by doing, not being,
and that is a big difference!
With the death of Bishop
L.H. Ford in March 1995, Bishop Chandler David Owens was elevated to the position of Presiding Bishop.Elected to the Office of Presiding Bishop in 2000, Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson has a legendary place
in the Church Of God In Christ.His leadership encompasses the centrality of
Christ, the rediscovery of gospel preaching, and the renewal of biblical, evangelistic thinking which is a continual process,
and which is permanently relevant.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
The Greek translation for the word
“doctrine” is didaskaleia.It means “teaching.”Probably, this word indicates Christian doctrine, which is binding on the Christian
community as faith’s divinely communicated content.
The Pentecostal-holiness doctrine
is based on the Bible.What is the purpose of the Bible? Of course, salvation
is the first purpose (2 Timothy 3:15).The doctrine also includes holy living.The word is profitable for teaching (doctrine), conviction (reproof), setting right
(correction), and discipline (instruction).It enables a child of God to become
a man or woman of God, matured in the things of the Lord.
True preaching or teaching is the
explanation and application of Bible doctrine.Anything else is just religious
speechmaking.The following pages contain doctrinal guidelines concerning the
Church Of God In Christ.All the information may not be covered during new member
orientation.The information may also be used as a self-study guide.
Scriptures are profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) for doctrine (what is right), for reproof (what is not right), for correction (how
to get right), and for instruction in righteousness (how to stay right).The
student who studies the Bible and applies what he learns will grow in holiness and avoid many pitfalls in this world.
The Word of God
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments,
are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by
the Holy Spirit.In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary
for salvation.The Holy Scriptures are the standards of character, the test of
experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.
of the Scriptures:The Bible’s authority for faith and practice rises
from its origin.Its writers viewed the Bible as distinct from other literature.They referred to it as “Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2), “sacred writing”
(2 Timothy 3:15, RSV), and the “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12).
The uniqueness of the Scriptures is
based on their origin and source.The Bible writers claimed they did not originate
their messages, but received them from divine sources.It was through divine
revelation that they were able “to see” the truths they passed on (Isaiah 1:1; Amos 1:1; Micah 1:1; Habbakuk 1:1;
The New Testament recognized the role
of the Holy Spirit in the production of the Old Testament.Jesus said that David
was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36).Paul believed that the Holy Spirit
spoke “through Isaiah” (Acts 28:25).Peter revealed that the Holy
Spirit guided all the prophets, not just a few (I Peter 1:10, 11; 2 Peter 1:21).At
times the writer faded completely into the background, and only the real author—the Holy Spirit—was acknowledged:“The Holy Spirit says” … (Hebrews 3:7 RSV) “By this the Holy
Spirit indicates” (Hebrews 9:8 RSV).
Inspiration of the Scriptures:“All Scriptures,” Paul says, “is given by inspiration of God”
(2 Timothy 3:16).The Greek word theopneustos, translated as “inspiration,”
literally means “God-breathed.”God “breathed” truth
into men’s minds.They, in turn, expressed it in the words found in the
Scriptures.Inspiration therefore, is the process through which God communicates
His eternal truth.
The one true God has revealed himself
in three personalities:Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.Scripture attests both to the oneness of God and to His revelation in three persons.Romans 1:7 speaks of God as Father.Hebrews 1:3 speaks of
God’s redemptive purpose accomplished through the Son.Finally, Acts 5:32
indicates that God works through the Spirit.
These are just a few of the references
that could be summoned to support the doctrine of the Trinity.Others might include
the baptismal formula given by Jesus (Matthew 28:19) or some of Paul’s writings, such as 2 Corinthians 13:14.
The doctrine of the Trinity requires
delicate balance to be understood properly.For example, without the manifestation
of Jesus, neither the Father nor the Spirit would be properly understood.Also,
without the invisible Father, the incarnate Son would have no purpose; neither would the Spirit have motive.Finally, without the Spirit, the Father and the Son would lose effectiveness in the world today.Therefore, in truth, God in One and is inseparable.When we
worship, may we keep these facts in mind.
fierce Trinitarian debates have raged in the past, the doctrine of the Trinity is the one area in which Christians are most
united.Conversely, one could say that the doctrine of the Trinity is where cult
groups most often deviate from Christian belief.
Salvation and Baptism in the Holy Ghost
All persons need
salvation to restore their relationship with God.Persons are separated/alienated
from God because of their sin.Sin has affected all persons, but there is nothing
one can do to overcome it or to merit salvation.An important teaching here is
that persons are hopeless until they realize their need for redemption.
a process with three stages.The first stage is repentance and salvation.In essence, this is the experience of new birth Jesus referred to in his conversation
with Nicodemus (St. John 3).The new birth occurs when a person realizes his
sinfulness, repents of his sin, and accepts Jesus Christ as Savior.According
to Romans 10:9-10, the person must trust Christ as Savior, and publicly confess Christ has the initial requirement of salvation.When a person has met this requirement, he is a born-again child of God.
The next state
of salvation is Christian sanctity, or the second blessing of the Holy Spirit.This
stage involves the responsibility of the converted person to live a Christian life.God’s standard is a life of holiness (Leviticus 19:2).In the later
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the evidence of a holy life were often seen to be a person’s ability to give
up the habits of alcohol and tobacco.If God expects a life of holiness from
the Christian, it follows that he provides the power for such living through the Holy Spirit.
The third and
crowning step in the process of salvation is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.This
is considered the third blessing of the Spirit and is evidenced by speaking in tongues.Pentecostals look to such passages as Acts 2:1, 4; 10:44-48; and 19:1-6 as a basis for their belief in the doctrine
of tongues.They contend that these passages, and also others, indicate that
the anointing of the Spirit occurs after both the new birth and the experience of sanctification.
The pattern of
receiving the baptism of the Spirit is the same as they experienced in the New Testament church.First, the believer must yean for a deeper experience with God.Next,
the Book of Acts records two ways by which the Spirit comes upon persons.At
Samaria, Damacus, and Ephesus, persons experienced the baptism of the Spirit when the apostles laid hands on them.In Jerusalem and Caesarea, the Holy Spirit fell upon worshipers during a worship service.
The baptism of the Spirit, however, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.Early leaders in the Pentecostal movement were often heard to say that believers should always seek the
giver of the gift of tongues and not merely the gift itself.The fact that many
persons have gone from this experience into error or fanaticism does not deter Pentecostals from teaching the validity of
the gift.When properly understood, the baptism of the Spirit enables the believer
to be an effective witness for Christ.Spirit baptism gives a person the nature
of a witness.This means that the person is completely motivated by the will
of God.In addition, this experience is considered to bring a depth of joy and
spirituality otherwise unattainable.
is a vital part of the salvation experience, but a person is not saved through water baptism.Jesus commissioned the disciples to baptize new converts (Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16); therefore, water baptism is
a sacred ordinance to be obeyed.
In line with
biblical authority, Church Of God In Christ teaches that the only biblical mode of water baptism is by immersion, and we practice
this symbolic ordinance accordingly.Persons are baptized with the Trinitarian
formula (in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost).
The Church Of God In Christ does not practice infant baptism since believers’ baptism is taught.In addition, we do not feel that the child has willfully entered into sin, nor do
we find scriptural basis for infant baptism.However, we do believe in and practice
the dedication of infants to God.This practice is seen to be in keeping with
Jesus’ treatment of and statements about children (Mark 10:14-16).
The Lord’s Supper and Foot Washing
The Church Of
God In Christ accepts the Lord’s Supper as a command of Christ to be obeyed.The
Supper is taken in remembrance of Christ’s death and sacrifice on the cross.The
elements are considered symbolic of the spilled blood and broken body of Christ.
The Lord’s Supper is also a time for individual examination.A
service of dedication before the Supper may be observed to emphasize the need for commitment to Christ’s commands.Observance of the Supper varies among churches.Sometimes the practice of foot-washing accompanies the observance of the Supper.This ancient practice is also an ordinance or command of Christ that symbolizes Christian humility.
We are God’s
stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its
resource.We are responsible to Him for their proper use.We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellowmen, and by returning tithes
and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church.Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and
covetousness.The steward rejoices in the blessing that come to others because
of his faithfulness.
What is stewardship?Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit … and you are not your own?For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit,
which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).At a high cost, we were purchased
and redeemed.We belong to God.But
such was mere reclaiming, for He made us;we have belonged to Him from the beginning
because “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1).The
Scriptures clearly state that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein”
(Psalm 24:1).In its larger dimensions, stewardship “involves the wise
and unselfish use of life.” Life can be divided into four basic areas, each a gift from God.He gave us a body, abilities, time and material possessions.In
addition, we must care for the world around us, over which we were given dominion.
Marriage and the Family
Stewardship of the Body:God’s people are stewards of themselves.We are to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind (Luke
10:27).Christians are privileged and develop their physical and mental powers
to the best of their ability and opportunities.In doing so, they bring honor
to God and can prove a greater blessing to others.
Stewardship of Abilities:Each person has special aptitudes.One
may be talented in the musical realm, another in manual trades such as sewing or auto mechanics.Some may make friends easily and mingle well with others, while others may naturally tend toward solitary
pursuits.We ought to cultivate the gifts the Holy Spirit gives each of us in
order to multiply these gifts (Matthew 25).Good stewards use their gifts liberally
to bring fuller benefit to their Master.
Stewardship of Time:As faithful stewards, we glorify God by a wise use of time. “Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for me, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from
the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians
3:23, 24, NIV).The Bible admonishes us not to behave “as fools but as
wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16).Like
Jesus, we must be our Father’s business (Luke 2:49).Because time is God’s
gift, each moment is precious.It is given to form character for eternal life.Faithful stewardship of our time means using it to get to know our Lord, to help our
fellowmen, and to share the gospel.
Stewardship of Material
Possessions:God gave us first parents the responsibility of subduing the
earth, governing the animal kingdom, and caring for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28, 2:15).All this was theirs not only to enjoy, but to manage.
To remind us that He is the source of every blessing, God began
a system of tithes and offerings.
1.Tithes.One tenth of all material things we get belongs to God.Scripture tells us that the tithe is “holy to the Lord,” symbolizing God’s ownership
of everything (Leviticus 27:30, 32; Malachi 3:8-10).It is to be returned to
Him as his own.
2.Offerings.Grateful Christians cannot limit their contributions to
the church to tithe.In Israel the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was built
from “free will offerings” — offerings given from willing hearts (Exodus 36:2-7; I Chronicles 29:14).Special offerings covered the maintenance expenses of these places of worship (Exodus
30:12-16; II Kings 12:4, 5; II Chronicles 24:4-13; Nehemia 10:32, 33).The Israelites
probably contributed as much as one-fourth to one-third of their income to religious and charitable purposes.Did such heavy contributions lead to poverty?On the contrary,
God promised to bless them in their faithfulness (Malachi 3:10-12).
Marriage and the Family
Marriage was divinely established
in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship.For the Christian, a marriage commitment is to God, as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into
only between partners who share a common faith.Mutual love, honor, respect,
and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect love, sanctity, closeness, andpermanence of the relationship between Christ and His Church.Regarding
divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.Although some family relationships may fall short of ideal marriage partners, who
fully commit themselves to each other in Christ, loving unity may still be achieved through the guidance of the Spirit and
the nurture of the church.
The home is a primary setting
for the restoration of the image of God in men and women.Within the family,
father, mother, and the children can express themselves fully, meeting each other’s needs for belonging, love and intimacy.Here, identity is established and feelings of personal worth is developed.The home is also the place where, by God’s grace, the principles of real Christianity are put into
practice, and its values transmitted from one generation to the next.
The family can be a place of
great happiness.It can also be the scene of terrible hurt.Harmonious family life demonstrates the principles of Christianity truly lived out, revealing the character
of God.In forming the first family, Jesus established the basic social unity
for humanity, giving them a sense of belonging and providing them with an opportunity to develop as well-rounded persons in
service to God and others.
MARRIAGE:From the diversity of male and female, God brought order and oneness.That first Friday, He performed the first marriage, joining these two, the epitome of His image, to make
them one.Marriage has been the foundation of the family and society itself,
ever since its inception.Scripture describes marriage as a decisive act of both
detachment and attachment:One shall “leave his father and mother, and
shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
1. Leaving.Vital to the marriage relationship is a leaving behind of the former primary relationships.The marriage relationship is to supersede that of the parent and child.In this sense, “leaving” one’s parents for a single relationship allows one to “cleave”
to another.Without this process, there is no firm foundation for marriage.
2. Cleaving.The Hebrew term translated “cleave” comes from a word that means “to stick to, to fasten,
to join, to hold onto.”As a noun, it can even be used for brazing and
soldering (Isaiah 14:7).The closeness and strength of this bond illustrate the
nature of the bond of marriage.Any attempt to break up this union would injure
individuals bound this closely together.That this human bond is a close one
is also emphasized by the fact that the same word, “cleave” is used to convey the bond between God and His people:
“Him shall thou serve, and to Him shall thou cleave, and swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 10:20).
3. Covenanting.In Scripture this pledge, this promise by which married couples are bound together,
is spoken of as a “covenant,” a term used for the most solemn and binding agreement known in God’s Word
(Malachi 2:14, Proverb 2:16, 17).The relationship between husband and wife is
to be patterned after God’s everlasting covenant with His people, the Church (Ephesians 5:21-33).Their commitment to each other is to take on the faithfulness and endurance that characterize God’s
covenant (Psalm 89:34, Lamentations 3:23).
Becoming one flesh.The leaving and covenanting to cleave results in a
union that is a mystery.In the full sense of oneness, the married couple walks
together, stands together, and shares a deep intimacy.At the outset, this oneness
refers to the physical union of marriage.But beyond that, it also refers to
the intimate bond of mind and emotions that undergirds the physical side of the relationship.