Open and Closed Handed Issues

Open-handed issues are those issues which Bible-believing Christians can debate over, disagree over, even discuss over, but not divide over. The closed-handed issues are those issues we really have to remain committed to, to remain Christian, and draw lines in the sand. So there are issues in the Bible, like eschatology issues surrounding Jesus’ return, speaking in tongues, some things like that where you can love Jesus, and believe the Bible, and disagree on and still be a faithful Christian. There are other issues, like the Trinity or the resurrection of Jesus, you have to be very clear on to remain Christian.

IN THE CLOSED HAND

In order for a church like ours to be in unity we must rally around a few fundamental beliefs. While we desire to be inclusive and accepting of others and their scriptural beliefs – at some point there has to be a line in the sand that we will not cross.

The Inerrancy of Scripture

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection

Jesus sinlessness

There is ONLY one true God

The Virgin Birth

The Trinity: The father, son and the holy spirit

The existence of an eternal Hell

All sex outside of heterosexual monogamous marriage is sinful

The necessity of belief in Jesus Christ ONLY as savior for salvation,Jesus + Nothing= Salvation

THE BIBLE: The Holy Scriptures, as originally given by God, are divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy, and constitute the only supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.

THE TRINITY: There is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

A. God the Father

God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.

B. God the Son

Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.

C. God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.

Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17

SALVATION BY FAITH THROUGH GRACE: The salvation of lost and sinful humanity is possible only through the merits of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, received by faith apart from works, and is characterized by regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:8(HCSB)For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–

THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit enables believers to live a holy life, to witness and work for the Lord Jesus Christ.First, the Holy Spirit does many things in the lives of believers. He is the believers’ Helper (John 14:26). He indwells believers and seals them until the day of redemption—this indicates that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is irreversible. He guards and guarantees the salvation of the ones He indwells (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer (Jude 1:20) and “intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).

The Holy Spirit regenerates and renews the believer (Titus 3:5). At the moment of salvation, the Spirit baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ (Romans 6:3). Believers receive the new birth by the power of the Spirit (John 3:5–8). The Spirit comforts believers with fellowship and joy as they go through a hostile world (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The Spirit, in His mighty power, fills believers with “all joy and peace” as they trust the Lord, causing believers to “overflow with hope” (Romans 15:13).

Sanctification is another work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The Spirit sets Himself against the desires of the flesh and leads the believer into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18). The works of the flesh become less evident, and the fruit of the Spirit becomes more evident (Galatians 5:19–26). Believers are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:8), which means they are to yield themselves to the Spirit’s full control.

The Holy Spirit is also a gift-giver. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4). The spiritual gifts that believers possess are given by the Holy Spirit as He determines in His wisdom (verse 11)

The Holy Spirit also does work among unbelievers. Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, ESV). The Spirit testifies of Christ (John 15:26), pointing people to the Lord. Currently, the Holy Spirit is also restraining sin and combatting “the secret power of lawlessness” in the world. This action keeps the rise of the Antichrist at bay (2 Thessalonians 2:6–10).

THE GLOBAL CHURCH: The Church, the body of Christ, consists of all true believers.

ETERNITY: Ultimately God will judge the living and the dead, those who are saved unto the resurrection of life, those who are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. There is an eternal heaven and an eternal hell.

IN THE OPEN HAND:

When we speak about open handed issues we are not saying they are unimportant issues. What we are saying is that they are not worth fighting and dividing over. There are certain beliefs that we can simply agree to disagree on.

2 Timothy 2:23(HCSB)23 But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels.

There must be some breathing room for people to search, explore and discover the rich depths of scripture without running into formal church policy on every subject.

Open Handed issues are issues that are either not explicitly clear in scripture or the church, or are not mentioned in the bible at all. Many of these issues are not explicitly mentioned so that we have freedom to discover how we want to apply them for our ministries and lives. Others are unclear due to translation or interpretive issues. We should be encouraged to search the scriptures and come to our own conclusions about them. We should not divide over them as the church and God’s people. These issues include:

Child baptism and communion

Method of baptism

Women Pastors and Elders

Method of Church

Technology

Alcohol consumption

Cigarettes

End times eschatology

Political party affiliation

Gifts of the spirit (Speaking in Tongues etc.)Unless it is for salvation

And many more…

Open handed issues, although important, should not be divisive. Here are a few things to remember when we think about open and close handed issues:

1. We should be identified by what we are for, not what we are against.

Jesus was more “pro-something” than he was “anti-something”. One key to pursuing Christ-likeness is to remember how Jesus operated in a culture that hated him. He was for everlasting life. He was pro-salvation. He was pro-delivering from sin. Most thankfully, he was pro-evangelism.

Do we remember the great commission that Jesus gave us when he said to go forth and make disciples of many nations? Do we remember that Jesus sent the holy spirit as the authority from heaven? Christians should seek to be known by humbly obeying God, and calling others to His purpose. We should spend more time on spreading the good news of the gospel, and less time arguing about secondary issues.

2. Search the scriptures for your answers, not men and women

Too many people begin sentences with, “… Martin Luther says that”, or “…Augustine says that”, you can insert anyone you want into that name (i.e. Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, Mark Driscoll, John Wimber, John Piper, Francis Chan, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, William Webb or Wayne Grudem).

Men and women are great resources for thinking, but they shouldn’t be our authority on any matter, nor should their interpretation of the bible. We should read scripture for ourselves and hear what God has to say.

3. Not being unified over these open handed issues is stupid and a waste of time

A helpful discussion or debate is one thing, division and arguments are another. I have had several people approach me in ministry about secondary issues looking for a fight. I know Armenians have their opinions on predestination, but I won’t go to war with them, and, perhaps they were predestined to be wrong (Just kidding).

Form your opinions, be open to other opinions and seek to find the truth. Forming entire ministries or churches based on social issues is most unhelpful and rarely yields any fruit. They are most unhelpful when these social issues are disguised as the primary mission of God.

4. Everything is about JESUS!

The person and work of Jesus Christ and his mission to save the world is central. That is it. God will bless us if we do His will, and not our own.

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