The best place to start is right where we are; with what we know; with the reality of the world around us. This reality sets for us a myriad questions.
We believe that God alone gives the only full and satisfactory answer to all the questions we come across in our life experience.
God as Creator is the best starting point, and we believe that Genesis chapters 1-3 are fundamental and foundational to understanding the great story of redemption that is the central theme developed through the Bible.
This theme leads us to see God as Saviour, the final answer to all our questions, the fulfilment to our reality.
We live in a world of communication – thought and expression being at the very root of our humanity. Why is this?
In Genesis 1, we find an oft-repeated phrase “and God said”. John commences his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
We communicate because our Creator communicates. Hebrews 1: “God … spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son”.
What did the prophets of the Old Testament speak about?
In general, they spoke of two things: coming judgment because of sin, and a coming Saviour, the Messiah.
The first part of this prophetic message speaks clearly to the reality that we live in a world where sin, evil and suffering abound on every hand.
How do we make sense of it?
Without God we cannot. Without an objective morality that stands apart and superior to our humanity, we have no basis for calling anything evil; for bringing any condemnation upon the perpetrators of such evil; or for providing hope to those who suffer as a result of a fallen world.
Yes, we do believe in ‘original sin’ as well as personal sins. Romans 5:12 “wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Many mistakenly cry injustice, assuming that God is going to judge them because of Adam’s sin. This is untrue – Revelation 20:13 “they were judged every man according to their works”. More could be said on this, but for now we’ll leave it at this: we have all individually sinned, and God is going to hold us accountable for our own sin.
But where is the hope? Well, that is the second part of the prophetic message – a coming Saviour, a Messiah or Christ (same term in different languages).
Jesus then comes upon the scene working the very miracles prophesied as the signs of the Messiah/Christ, accepting the acclamation and worship of those who followed Him, clearing staking His claim to be the eternal Son of God, and Saviour of the world.
In a day of ‘fake news’, Jesus Christ was clear that He communicated the truth of God. John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me”. Later, in prayer, He is heard to say: “Thy Word is truth”, identifying Himself as the true Word of God personified. John summarises this in ch1:14 “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.
This was too much for the religious people, and still is a source of contention to this day with many willing to accept the teachings of Jesus as a man, but will not accept that in Jesus we see “God manifest in flesh”, 1 Timothy 3:16.
For this reason, he was “taken, and by wicked hands crucified and slain”, Acts 2:23, but in doing so they were fulfilling that “which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets”, Acts 3:18. The death of Jesus Christ was no accident, but the fulfilment of the purpose of God, the climax of the plan of redemption.
Jesus Christ could say: “I am come that they might have life … I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep”, John 10:10.
All this could be just the bluster of a show man, and though Christ’s miraculous works ought to be enough evidence to verify His claims, many were still sceptical, even among ‘the twelve’. That is until they came face to face with the reality of the resurrection – a risen, living Saviour!
Proving beyond doubt that God’s Word is true; that He, Jesus, is God; that He is the author of life, and able to save. This is the evidence upon which our faith is based.
1 Corinthians 15: “Christ died for our sins … was buried … rose again the third day … and was seen … if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain … ye are yet in your sins … But now is Christ risen from the dead.”
This is all well and good for those alive at the time, but how can we, 2000 years later, be persuaded by the same evidence?
The answer is two-fold.
First of all, we have the testimony of these eye-witnesses looking back (New Testament), which when allied with the previous prophetic messages looking forward (Old Testament), give us a collective body of evidence that points convincingly to one verdict – this is truth!
Paul concludes: “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable”.
Perhaps you agree, but wonder whether the Bible we have today can still be considered the inspired Word of God. Another page will detail how this is so, but for now you will have to be satisfied with the straight forward declaration of Scripture, further described by Peter.
2 Peter 1:16- “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty.
For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation …” (See note at bottom)
The second part of our answer flows out of the first, and depends on our response to the first. Peter encourages us to “take heed” to the truth of God’s Word; to Jesus Christ himself.
As we acknowledge the truth of who Jesus Christ is, and why He came; as we acknowledge our sin, and our need of a Saviour; as we acknowledge the love of God seen in the death of Christ at the cross, and the power of God at work in the resurrection, and the grace of God reaching out to us; and as we respond in repentance and faith, perhaps hesitatingly at first, we come to know Jesus Christ, the living Saviour in a personal way.
As we have seen, Peter says it is like “the day star” arising in our hearts, a light shining into the darkness, and the more we put our trust in the Lord, the more we come to know Him in a personal way, the more our faith is strengthened, the more we are assured – Jesus Christ is the truth!
And His presence with us, through the Holy Spirit, is our guarantee of a glorious hope – a hope that cannot be found elsewhere; a hope that brightens the darkest day; a hope that we all have, and we’d love you to have. May God bless you.
To Him be glory both now and forever, Amen.
(A note on ‘private interpretation’. This is one reason why Christ had his followers to fellowship together in churches, so that any personal interpretations may be challenged and refined by the company. Sadly, history is replete with lone rangers establishing their own doctrine outside of a church and then gathering a following around themselves, rather than the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is also the case that, at times, a church leadership can depart from the truth of Scripture, and if they will not repent and return to the truth, it may be necessary for faithful believers to disassociate themselves and gather separately, being obedient unto the Lord and the truth of His Word.
This is seen in the reformation, 500 years ago, which returned to the Bible as our sole authority in response to the development of egregious, man-made practices. This was taken a further step following the spiritual revivals of the 19th century, when many sought to return to simple New Testament practices without the added human structures and hierarchy. It was out of this movement that the assembly meeting at Hope Chapel came into existence around 1921. Further detail concerning our history will gradually be added to the history page)