Open and Closed-Handed Beliefs
— What we Believe
What is the Church?
The church exists for the display of the glory of God because all things exist for His glory. Those of us who trust in and follow Jesus are caught up in something much bigger than ourselves. We have graciously been invited into God’s redemptive purposes in the world.
Since the beginning, God has been creating and calling forth His people for the display of His glory in a grand narrative of redemption and reconciliation. Though creation now suffers the curse of Genesis 3, the gospel is the means by which the world is being made right. The gospel also carries with it the promise of ultimate renewal, a restoration even more glorious than Eden, and thus believers eagerly anticipate the return of Christ.
The Church universal (i.e., all believers, everywhere) is the means by which God is fulfilling His purposes in the world (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). The Church universal is being used to write God’s beautiful and dramatic story of redemption and reconciliation. In light of this reality, the opportunity to join a local church body (i.e., a particular group of believers in a particular locale) is much more than a commitment to consistent attendance or active involvement in community. It is also a sacred call to be involved in the redemptive work of our sovereign God, to push back the darkness of a fallen world through the power of the Holy Spirit with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The church is the gathering of the redeemed, the household of God (Ephesians 2:19), the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9) and the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of many members within the same body. Just as a human body relies upon mutual dependence of individual members for proper functioning, so the body of Christ requires sacrificial and responsible service by its individual members. As the Scriptures say, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Likewise, a member of the church cannot say to another member that he or she is unnecessary. We all have gifts that differ according to the gracious provision of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3-8). Contrary to the beliefs of our culture, we need each other.
Partnership at The Compass Church is participation in a family, a microcosm of the universal household of God. All partners are united to Christ and thus to each other. Unity within the church is expressed in love for God and a love for others, both those within the family and those who are not. Because of the identification of Christ with His church, Christians are expected to display His gospel in a manner which is worthy of Him (Ephesians 4:1).
Open and Closed Handed Beliefs
What I mean by this is that there are some things, such as core doctrines of our faith, that we cannot compromise on or allow to be left up to interpretation.
These are doctrines and truths we must hold with a “closed hand” and fight for. These doctrines are the foundation to our faith! Close handed beliefs are those things that we believe are critically distinctive of a Christian Church. We believe that these things are objectively revealed in the Bible, and the truth of these beliefs is clearly attested to.
Close handed beliefs are those that we consider to be necessary components of authentic Christian community. Jesus prayed in John 17 (the high priestly prayer) that we would all be one, but He also prayed that this unity would be founded in Truth.
At The Compass Church, our closed-handed issues are very easy to identify. Every time you see the name of The Compass Church, you see our icon, made up of nine dots. Each dot represents one of our closed-handed beliefs. Each one is so rich with meaning.
Statement of Basic Beliefs (Closed-Handed Beliefs)
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible, and God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12-13).
We believe God exists eternally in trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14). We believe the trinity is co-eternal in being, co-eternal in nature, co-equal in power and glory, having the same attributes and perfections (Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
The Person and Work of Christ
We believe Jesus Christ is the eternal God-man who became a man (John 1:14), lived a sinless life (1 Peter 2:21-22), died on a cross, was buried, and physically rose from the grave to redeem sinful humanity (Acts 4:10; Philippians 2:7-11; Luke 23:26-24:53). We believe Jesus is returning to earth to judge all people and to rule and reign with His saints forever (Revelation 22:12; 2 Timothy 4:1).
The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
We believe the Holy Spirit is the supernatural agent in salvation, baptizing all Christians into the universal church at conversion, indwelling and sealing them until the day of Christ’s return (John 16:8-11; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 5:18).
The Total Depravity of Man
We believe God created all humans in his image. He has created them uniquely female and male. (Genesis 1:26-27) We believe all humans are sinful and in need of salvation. Salvation is the gift of God brought to humans by grace alone, and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A true Christian will be kept by God’s power forever. (John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 1 Peter 1:5).
Eternal Security and Assurance of Believers
We believe that all the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever (John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 1 Peter 1:5). We believe it is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an occasion for the flesh (Romans 13:13-14; Galatians 5:13; Titus 2:11-15).
We believe the church is a spiritual organism made up of all believers everywhere for all time (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; 2 Corinthians 11:2). We believe the establishment of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament (Acts 14:27; 18:22; 1 Timothy 3:1-3; Titus 1:5-11). We believe in the autonomy of the local churches and recognize believers’ baptism and the Lord’s supper as scriptural means of testimony for the church (Acts 13:1-4; 15:19-31; Romans 16:14; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-36).
The Ministry and Spiritual Gifts
We believe God is sovereign in the bestowing of spiritual gifts to each believer. We also believe that particular spiritual gift(s) are neither essential, nor prove the presence of the Holy Spirit, nor are an indication of deep spiritual experience (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, 13; Ephesians 4:7-8). We believe God does hear and answer the prayer of faith, in accordance with His own will, for the sick and afflicted (John 15:7; 1 John 5:14-15). We believe that it is the privilege and responsibility of every believer to minister according to the gift(s) and grace of God that is given to him (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
The City of Regina
We believe that the City of Regina is the place God has led us to begin this new work. We love our city and are "in the city, for the city." We believe Regina is full of souls that are far from God and that God wants to use the local church in Regina to make a difference for the Kingdom of God and the glory of God. Regina is not just the place we live, but the mission field God has called us to, as a church.
But there are some issues that are “open-handed”, ones that are not necessarily foundational to our faith that we can allow compromise and disagreement on while still being believers in Christ. Open-handed beliefs are those that we do not require uniformity on. We are not saying these things do not matter, or that they are not significant. Varying opinions or interpretations on these matters will not divide us as the body.
Examples of this would be Bible translations, style of worship music, and denominations. These are issues that don’t determine your faith in Christ, but are issues the Bible may not speak directly to, so we use the wisdom and discernment given to us by God to make personal preference choices.
“Open-handed” issues are simply preferences, and we cause damage to other Christians when we take something that is a preference and make it a doctrine or Biblical truth. Make sure you know what things are major and what things are minor. This will help you decided how to change your methods, but not the message.
Closed-handed issues are timeless! Methods are timely.
For example, worship is a closed handed issue. We are called to worship God. The method is how we do that with a church gathering, song styles, instruments used, hymns or choruses, etc.
It is important to distinguish between the principles of closed-handed issues and the methods.
We have to keep the principle, and often change the method, so we can be fruitful. Timeless principles and timely methods.
Humility says I need to submit to the principles, and I need to be teachable on the methods.
Sometimes the principle is lost and the method is rigidly maintained. You do things a certain way for so long you have forgotten why you do them. This in turn becomes this weird idea that if you don’t do it like us or look like us, you are somehow unbiblical. The method morphs into the principle. The minor becomes the major.
Open-Handed: i.e. Eschatology (when Jesus is coming back), gifts of the Spirit (are they still alive or were they given by God only to the early church).
Spiritual Gifts: Did the more miraculous gifts cease with the last of the apostles, or are they still in effect today? Issues such as “speaking in tongues” or a private “prayer language”, as well as miraculous works of healing are involved in this discussion. We allow latitude on this issue while requiring Biblical parameters to govern us.
Second-Coming of Christ: Closed handed we know Jesus is going to return again. Open-handed is how that will exactly look. While we believe the Bible is the authority on this subject, we admit that there is enough difficulty in interpretation, so that it is unprofitable to demand rigorous adherence to one mode of interpretation over another, on which we should not divide over.
Open and Closed-Handed Issues
What about Paul? Is this issue in Galatians 2:1-10 a closed-handed issue? Or an open-handed issue? He’s talking about circumcision, but the heart of the issue is really not about the act of circumcision.
This is a hugely important closed handed issue for Paul and there was much at stake here.
Tim Keller articulates the magnitude of what was at stake here:
Paul was not afraid that he didn’t have the true gospel or that the Jerusalem apostles didn’t have the true gospel. What did he fear (v.2)? Since the apostles were sinful human beings, there was a possibility they might not be true to the gospel they had received from Christ. They might not stand up to the false teachers, but would let them make the claims they did because of their own cultural prejudices.
This would have split the church in two, with neither side accepting the other fully, questioning if the others were saved! Think of it. Paul’s Gentile churches would doubt the Jewish churches really had faith in Christ, and the Jewish churches would also doubt the salvation of the Gentiles.
That’s why Paul says that the very “truth of the gospel” was at stake (v.5) and in particular “the freedom that we have in Christ” (v.4).
John Stott, in his commentary on Galatians, says that what was at stake was “the freedom of the gospel from legalism and cultural accretion.” In his Acts commentary, Stott says:
It was one thing for the Jerusalem leaders to give their approval to the conversion of the Gentiles, but could they approve of... commitment to the Messiah without inclusion in Judaism? Was their vision big enough to see the gospel of Christ not as a reform movement within Judaism but as good news for the whole world, and the church of Christ... as the international family of God? These were the revolutionary questions... (Stott, p.241)
In other words, Paul’s opponents were saying, “Not all Jewish persons are Christians, but all Christians must also be Jewish.” Paul was saying that the gospel is for every culture. It was a brilliant move by Paul to come to Jerusalem, though frightening and risky. That is why Paul was afraid and why it took a revelation from God to get him to do it. If the Jerusalem apostles had not had the courage and clear-headedness that they had that day, the unity of the church would have been split, and at such an early stage that two virtually different religions would have emerged.
Had this split occurred, the false teachers would have hijacked much of the church into a legalistic religion that was alien to the gospel. No wonder Paul was scared. We should read this passage with great fear and gratitude — think of what was at stake! Yet God protected you and me on that day. “We did not give in to them... so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (2:5).
In closed-hand beliefs, we have unity.
In open-hand beliefs, we have diversity.
Sadly, doctrine too often becomes divisive and a catalyst for arguments so people wrongly respond by neglecting it all together and claiming ‘it doesn’t matter, just love God.’ You get Syncretism.
These people are correct in saying that not all things are worth a fight or argument, but wrong that doctrine doesn’t matter.
Sectarians are on the other end of this spectrum and are better known as fundamentalists who impose man made rules on people in the name or achieving holiness by avoiding sinners and hiding out in Christian culture.
We hold tight to closed-handed issues and have unity in them. Galatians 2:9, “... gave the right hand of fellowship.” We have diversity in the open hand. Paul rightly combines these things with life. We use the terminology ‘close handed’ and ‘open handed’ to separate the beliefs that are foundational for us and those that are open for discussion.
Statement of Theological Distinctives
While the doctrines expressed in the Statement of Basic Beliefs (closed-handed beliefs) are recognized to be universal and primary within the Church, there are a number of secondary beliefs that we are passionate to proclaim. Not all Christians hold these beliefs, but they are nonetheless important and true as we understand the Scriptures. Agreement is not required for the sake of partnership, but it should be known that we will preach, teach and counsel in accordance with these convictions.
These distinctives represent four areas of doctrine and practice:
- Divine sovereignty
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit
- The complementary roles of men and women
- The relationship of God’s glory to man’s joy