Earthen Vessel Journal
A division of
Earthen Vessel Publishing
Bob Burns, David Clark, Timothy Cross, David Hoyt, Kathleen Morgan, Katie Philpott, Kent Philpott, Saul Plotkin, Michelle Shelfer
Brian Bailey, Larry Rosenbaum
Katie Philpott, Michelle Shelfer
This is an online journal for the serious Christian reader, published for the purpose of glorifying our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are Jesus-centered and biblically-focused. Our work is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers and teach the Scripture to believers. Each feature is designed to encourage the preaching of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the growing up of believers into the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Earthen Vessel Journal, a project of Earthen Vessel Publishing, most often reflects a moderate Reformed tradition—reforming as God gives us grace. We identify, however, with all Christians of whatever theological tradition in the gracious sense which Paul expressed in Philippians 1:15-18. You will find a strong evangelical and biblical emphasis among our authors, along with some challenging points of view.
Earthen Vessel Journal takes its name from the King James Version of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (Maggie Bates suggested this name originally.)
Earthen vessels or jars of clay—these both express our sense of who we are. We are a collection of people who have been broken at one time or another and remain fragile like a clay pot. Broken and fragile, yes indeed, but God does not throw away the clay. Our desire is that the excellence of Christ be published, first and foremost.
Who We Are
Earthen Vessel Journal is published for the purpose of glorifying our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To that end, we hope to encourage the preaching of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the growing up of believers into the fullness of the stature of Christ. Each column and each feature is designed to accomplish these two great goals.
Earthen Vessel Journal most often reflects a moderate Reformed tradition—reforming as God gives us grace. We identify, however, with all Christians of whatever theological tradition in the gracious sense which Paul expressed in Philippians 1:15-18.
We hope to encourage the preaching of the Gospel, the building up of the Body of Christ, and the glorifying and honoring of the Triune God. In accordance with this we hope to produce a monthly online journal that will reach globally to as wide an audience as possible. As quickly as we can we intend to present the journal in a number of languages, which will include but not be limited to Spanish, French, Italian, German, Russian, Arabic, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese.
A statement of the essentials of the Gospel
Over the course of 47 years I have stated the core message of the Gospel in dozens of different ways and probably no two of these have been identical. The following employs a simple but graphic way of explaining the Good News. Gospel is an old English word that combines the word “God” and word, in this case, “spell”. It is very close to meaning, God’s Message, or Good Message.
LAW + GRACE = GOSPEL
Law is not good news, rather it is bad news. The “Law” here comprises the Ten Commandments, the laws regulating sacrifices, dietary laws—really all of the Levitical Law. It is bad news because we are law breakers. And because we have broken the law of God we are separated from God. The Scripture uses the term sinner to describe a law breaker. It simply means we cannot be in fellowship with God unless the sin has been forgiven. The Scripture teaches that sin, when it is finished, causes death. Also, the Bible declares that the person who sins will die. And the dying is not physical death but eternal death; an eternity lived apart from God in hell.
This is not good news. It is the worst message anyone could ever receive. We are made to be in fellowship with God forever but since God is holy, and no sin can be in His presence, no one with sin attached to him or her can be in heaven, which is the dwelling place of God Almighty.
The story line of the Bible is captured in one word—grace. It is where God rescues us from the consequences of our sin. But there is nothing a human being can do to remove the sin, which is something only God Himself can do. His plan was that His own and only Son, Jesus the Messiah, would become the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Jesus, the Son of God, one with God, the God-man, would die in our place. And He did die, and on a Roman cross nearly two thousand years ago. This death, this sacrifice, was announced long centuries before the event occurred, in about A.D. 33. Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God without sin, perfect, received all of our sin upon Himself while dying on that cross. All of the believers sin was placed upon Jesus our Messiah, our Christ, and as Jesus was buried, our sin was forever buried with Him. And it was all of our sin, all past, present, and future sin—it was entirely removed, forever and ever.
This is why we speak of grace. Grace is God rescuing us from death and hell, and doing so because we are utterly unable to rid ourselves of even one sin no matter what we might try to do so.
Grace is based upon the love God has for us. He created us for himself and His will is fulfilled in Jesus. God acted for our eternal benefit by providing the way we can come into His presence and enjoy fellowship with Him forever.
Law plus grace equals Gospel. What started out to be the very worst news turns out to be the very best news. This is the purpose of God. It is quite simple to see that humans would never come up with such an idea. The religions of the world provide something for people to do, or attain to, or achieve. The Gospel is completely different. Humans can do nothing. God, in Christ, has done it all.
Statement of Faith
We adhere to The Apostles’ Creed. The only variation is that we use “Christian” in place of “Catholic.”
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power
of the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the
living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
The following statements of faith will follow the outline of the Apostles’ Creed, with some additional doctrines interspersed in the process where appropriate.
Our doctrines are derived from the material we find in the Bible. Our Bible is Genesis to Revelation, excluding the Apocrypha. We believe the entire Bible is inspired by God. No specific translation is inspired over and against any other; however, the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts produced by the biblical authors are the documents to be considered especially and wholly inspired. We accept and use any translation of the Bible excluding those that have been developed by groups that are designed to support and protect cultic viewpoints.
Approved doctrines are those that are simply and clearly evident in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (these three sections that comprise the Hebrew Old Testament), the Gospels (in the words and deeds of Jesus), and in the testimony of the early church (Acts, the letters of Paul, John, Peter, James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation).
The Doctrine of God
God, without beginning and end, sovereign Lord of all, creator of all that exists, created out of nothing all that is. He is at once above or transcendent over the creation but also intimately involved with it. We have no view as to dates and methods of the creating and are tolerant of various views.
God is absolutely holy and righteous. No unrighteousness can come into His presence; rather He exists apart from all sin and iniquity.
He is all knowing (omniscient), where the past, present, and future are always before Him. He exists outside of time and space and is all-powerful (omnipotent) over it. He is all present (omni-present) throughout His creation, but distinct from it.
God is a trinity; He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which is His essential nature. This is a great mystery, yet the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same nature.
God created humankind, both male and female, in His image. There is therefore in the completeness of God all that is male and female.
The Doctrine of Jesus Christ
Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, is fully God and fully man simultaneously. He is the great I Am. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God, who was sent forth from the Father to suffer and to die. Jesus is Emmanuel, God in the flesh, the one prophesied to bear upon Himself, as the perfect Passover lamb or sacrifice, the sin of all who are called to trust in the only Savior.
Jesus died for sin in accordance with the Scripture, was buried, and on the third day, Sunday, rose bodily from the grave. He appeared over a period of forty days to His disciples and others, showing He indeed had risen from the dead. In the course of the appearances, He commissioned His followers to wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit so that they might bear witness to Him to the whole world, beginning in Jerusalem.
Jesus completely satisfied the just demands of the Father. Unforgiven sin results in eternal death; but Jesus took all of the believer’s sin—past, present and future—upon Himself, died in our place and for us, shed His own blood, and thus provided the means for the forgiveness of our sin. His own life was paid as the ransom price for our redemption. He experienced the separation and resulting hell that the believer would have experienced forever. He was buried on Friday, and rose from the dead Sunday morning.
Forty days after the resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, that place of power and authority. He is the Mediator between God and man.
Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, Lord of all, will one day personally and visibly return to earth to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will be eternal and complete.
We adhere to no specific viewpoint as to the timing of the end of the age. We believe Jesus could return at any time. We are to watch and wait with joyful anticipation for His second advent. The Church in the world is to carry on with the commission to evangelize the world and practice holiness for His glory.
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God and is personal, as the use of the personal masculine pronoun “He” indicates. He is eternal, working in both the believer and the Church to glorify Jesus Christ and to accomplish the purpose of the Father.
It is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin and who also reveals Jesus Christ to those who seek Him. The Holy Spirit accomplishes conversion, makes effectual the cleansing blood of Jesus in the life of the repentant sinner, and indwells the believer so that the believer actually becomes a temple of God. The Holy Spirit “seals” the believer, imputes righteousness into the believer, and produces the “fruit of the Spirit” in the believer.
The Holy Spirit empowers the witness for Jesus and empowers the message to the hearers. The Holy Spirit may give gifts to believers and to a church, thus empowering their ministry. The Holy Spirit prays for the believer in a way that is beyond ordinary human capacity.
The Doctrine of Humankind
All humans are created in the image of God, are responsible to Him, and will be judged by Him. All humans have a sinful nature and are condemned by virtue of their own sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; none are righteous. Creation is real and tangible, not illusionary. Humans are actual, corporeal beings, are born once, and will physically die once.
Humans, individual and unique, are loved by the Creator God. God does not need humans, their existence, or their worship, but each human is loved by God and not for anything the human has or can do. God desires to be reconciled with His creation and has, in His son, provided the means to accomplish this. Each human is commanded to repent of sin and trust in Jesus for salvation.
The Doctrine of Conversion
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith. No human being can do anything to secure salvation; rather, it is a complete gift in every way. Therefore, there is no cause for boasting on the part of the believer. The Holy Spirit works to generate repentance from sin and produce faith in Jesus Christ. A sinner repents and believes—these are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Conversion is based on God’s sovereign election, which was in place before the foundation of the world. Though the individual Christian is yet growing in sanctification—that is, he or she is yet a sinner and not perfect—the believer is secure in salvation, and nothing is able to change that. The believer is simultaneously secure by God’s power and continuing in obedience to the Lord Jesus.
The Doctrine of Death and Resurrection
Unless the believer is alive at the second coming of Jesus at the end of the age, he or she will die. Those who have been born again by the Spirit of God will be raised from the dead and will be forever in the presence of God. At the moment of death, the believer is with the Lord in heaven. Because of the forgiveness of all sin and the assurance of life everlasting, death does not horrify the believer.
There is no second chance after death. Death and hell for the non-believer are permanent. There is no reincarnation or absorption into any divine consciousness or entity. The grave is not the end for anyone; rather, all will be raised from the dead, believer in Jesus and non-believer alike. The believer will not fear judgment, because Jesus has already taken that judgment upon Himself on the cross. The non-believer will stand empty and without hope before the judgment of God.
The believer will enjoy God forever.
The Work of the Church
The Church is composed of all the redeemed of the Lord—an invisible, living organism, not to be identified with any earthly institution. This is the universal Church, yet there are individual, local churches that consist of two or more believers and are identified by their worship of the Triune God, by the apostles’ teaching, by fellowship, by the breaking of bread, and by the prayers (see Acts 2:42). Other distinguishing marks of the local church are baptism, good works, love of neighbor, honor to those who have authority over us in the secular world, and especially by being faithful to engage in global evangelistic outreach through whatever means available.
The preaching of the Good News of Jesus—the Gospel—will be at the forefront of the work of a church and will have primacy in the economy of that church. Based on Romans 1:16 and other passages, we believe the Gospel is to be preached to the Jew first and also to the Gentile—absolutely inclusive. This pattern is observed with Jesus and Paul.
A church has spiritual leadership from one or more pastors/teachers, and there may also be apostles (missionaries), prophets, evangelists, deacons, and elders. The style of leadership may vary or be mixed in terms of its structure and authority.
The great work of a church is to bring praise and glory to our Father in heaven and to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
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