The Apostle Paul summarizes the Gospel in this way: "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" (I Corinthians 15:1-5).
All religions purport to offer some message of "good news"! There are those who would tell you the "good news" comes through penance and confession. For others, the "good news" comes through trying to be a good person, keeping certain commandments, and/or following the 'golden rule'. Still others think of the "good news" as a message of socio-economic freedom from political oppression. Unfortunately, all of these attempts to offer "good news" turn out to be "bad news", precisely because these 'gospels' are all offered on the basis of our good works.
But the truly "good news" of the Gospel that we find presented in the Bible is different. The Apostle Paul highlights a number of in these few short verses that set this 'Gospel' message apart.
Church is a community of believers and their children, where Christ is the Head and King.
The church community is founded upon and united by the common confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16).
This community is not just a random gathering of believers. God takes care of His church through Christ's under-shepherds (pastors and elders along with deacons) to provide protection, oversight and discipline.
Those, who belong to this community, submit themselves to the biblical oversight of Christ's under-shepherds.
The under-shepherds are accountable to God and His word and are not free from oversight and church discipline themselves.
A succinct way for us to remember what the Bible teaches about the Church comes from Dr. Derke Bergsma, who summarized the Church as the Christ Confessing Covenant Community.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. — I Cor. 3:11
...You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself. — Eph. 2:19-20
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. — I Tim. 6:12
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. — Heb. 4:14
And this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins. — Rom 11:27
Our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" — II Cor. 3:5-6
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." — Heb. 10:24-25
New Life Presbyterian Church of La Jolla is a catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Reformed church of the Lord Jesus Christ
'catholic' in that we identify with the whole of Christ's church as summarized in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.
'Protestant' in that we stand with Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others of the Reformation era in their recovery of the Gospel.
'Evangelical' in that we believe the Gospel (Greek: 'evangel') is the message we proclaim in the Church, to the world.
....'Reformed' in that we subscribe as a church to the Reformed doctrinal standards of the Westminster Confession of Faith (with its Larger and Shorter Catechisms).
We also believe that the Bible is not a doctrinal textbook, but an unfolding history of God's redemption and kingdom. Therefore, our teaching and preaching aims to demonstrate how the Bible, from beginning to end, points us to Jesus Christ and the heavenly kingdom of God inaugurated through His death and resurrection.
Many people have questions about denominational affiliations. If the church is suppose to be one (Ephesians 4), then why are there so many different divisions? If the church truly is Christ's church (and not simply our church), then why do we insist on using labels like 'Presbyterian' to describe our church?
On the question of who governs the church, there can be only one answer -- Jesus Christ. It was Jesus that said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matt. 28:18). "Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior" (Eph. 5:23). "And he is the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18). The New Testament is crystal clear that ultimately Christ is the one who runs things -- it is His church, not our church. Individuals church members are ultimately subject to Him, to His Word, and to the Holy Spirit.
All evangelical churches agree that Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the Church, but Presbyterians specifically believe that Christ as Head has also appointed 'elders' to preside over and govern matters in His church. In fact, the word "Presbyterian" is derived from the Greek work, presbuteros, which is often translated as 'elder' in our English New Testaments.
So while we are absolutely resolute in commitment to Christ's rule through his Word and Spirit, we also believe that "he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12). Paul is not distinguishing between "saints" and "super-saints" but rather he's outlining two different offices at work in Christ's body: a general office of all believers and a special office of those called to govern the church.
All believers have been given the Spirit (Rom. 8:15-16) and have been made an heirs with God and with Christ (Rom. 8:17). And yet we still read that Paul and Barnabas "appointed elders for them in every church" (Acts 14:23). We also witness Paul pleading with the elders at Ephesus, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
So the list of the so-called 'elder qualifications' that we find in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are there for the purpose of helping each Church body evaluate the qualifications of men to govern her as servants of Christ. This is precisely the kind of thing we see at work in Acts 6:1-7, when seven men were recognized and chose by the church to serve as elders over the church. The New Testament makes clear that the ministerial offices are not man-made structures but were designed by God to help.
We realize that many people with a strongly-'individualist' mindset have difficulty with such authority or hierarchical structures. We are sensitive to the fact that many come from church backgrounds where the church leadership and elders acted more like ecclesiastical bullies than servants of Christ. We deeply regret that some people calling themselves 'elders' treat the flock of God in such an unChrist-like manner; this is clearly not the picture that the New Testament presents for the reason and rationale of ordaining elders.
Because of these Scriptural reasons, we consider ourselves a Presbyterian church and have chosen to join with like-minded churches in the Presbyterian Church in America.