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WHAT DO
UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE?

by Dr. William Bouknight


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT JESUS?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that Jesus was the Son of God, the child of the virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit, truly God and truly Man, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us and by him all persons will be judged.

Article II, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As ministering servant he lived, suffered and died on the cross. He was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by him all persons are to be judged."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE CROSS?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that sin separated all persons from God. Jesus' death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice, making possible our forgiveness and reconciliation with God. To repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ are the only requirements for one to receive that forgiveness and reconciliation made possible by Jesus' death.

The Nicene Creed: "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. . ."

Article II, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: ". . Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original sin, but also for the actual sins of people."

Article XX, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. . ."

Article VI, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: ". . everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and Man."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT SIN?

The official United Methodist doctrine is this: because of rebellion against God going all the way back to Adam, all persons are inclined toward sin and selfishness. Sin means missing the mark of God's righteousness; it means to be in rebellion against God, to disobey his laws.

A person by strength of will power alone cannot forsake sin and please God. Only through an intervention of God's grace can a person overcome sin and become part of the Kingdom of God.

Article VII, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: ". . man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually."

Article VII, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and inclined toward evil. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. In his own strength, without divine grace, man cannot do good works pleasing and acceptable to God..."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT JUSTIFICATION?

The official United Methodist doctrine is this: when a person repents of sin and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, that person is forgiven of sin and receives the gift of eternal life (right relationship with God). The Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person, teaching and equipping him or her to he a disciple of Christ, and confirming that the person is indeed a child of God.

Article IX, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."

Article IX, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. "We believe regeneration is the renewal of man in righteousness through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, whereby we are made partakers of the divine nature and experience newness of life. By this new birth the believer becomes reconciled to God and is enabled to serve him with the will and the affections. "We believe, although we have experienced regeneration, it is possible to depart from grace and fall into sin; and we may even then, by the grace of God, be renewed in righteousness."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that Jesus' physical body became alive again after three days in the grave.

The Apostles Creed: ". . .the third day her rose from the dead."

Article III, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature. . ."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE TRINITY?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Apostles Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty . . . And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord . . . I believe in the Holy Spirit . . ."

Article I, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power and eternity - - - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Article I, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe in the one true, holy, and living God, Eternal Spirit, who is Creator, Sovereign and Preserver of all things visible and invisible. He is infinite in power, wisdom, justice, goodness and love, and rules with gracious regard for the well-being and salvation of men, to the glory of his name. We believe the one God reveals himself as the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct but inseparable, eternally one in essence and power."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE BIBLE?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that the Bible was inspired by God and contains all things necessary for salvation. When read under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is our true rule and guide for faith and practice.

Article V, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "The Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any person that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. . ."

Article VI, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ . . . Although the law given from God by Moses concerning ceremonies and rites does not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral."

Article IV, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT HEAVEN AND HELL?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Those who have not accepted Jesus' offer of forgiveness and new life are at risk of living apart from him for all eternity. Jesus Christ alone is empowered to judge one's eternal destiny.

The Nicene Creed: "He (Jesus) will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."

Article XII, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe all persons stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ, both now and in the last day. We believe in the resurrection of the dead; the righteous to life eternal and the wicked to endless condemnation."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE SECOND COMING?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that Jesus Christ will return again in glory, bringing human history to a close, and inaugurating his Kingdom in all its fullness.

The Nicene Creed: "He (Jesus) will come again in glory . . ."

Article III, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: ". . .he (Christ) ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all persons at the last day."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that the Holy Spirit is of one substance with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin, and leads persons to a response in faith to the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the Christian's primary teacher, comforter, and source of power.

The Nicene Creed: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets."

Article IV, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God."

Article III, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: "We believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from and is one in being with the Father and the Son. He convinces the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He leads persons through faithful response to the gospel into the fellowship of the Church. He comforts, sustains, and empowers the faithful and guides them into all truth."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT BAPTISM?

The official United Methodist doctrine is that the baptism of believers signifies repentance and forgiveness of sin, new birth, and the entry into Christian discipleship.

Young children, with or without baptism, are under the atonement of Christ and as heirs of the Kingdom of God are acceptable subjects for Christian baptism. For them baptism is a symbol of God taking the initiative toward them. Their baptism should be followed by Christian nurture within the church. Hopefully, they will be led at a later time to receive the gift of salvation through profession of faith in Christ.

The Nicene Creed: "We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."

Article XVII, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth. The Baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church."

Article VI, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: ". . .We believe Baptism signifies entrance into the household of faith, and is a symbol of repentance and inner cleansing from sin, a representation of the new birth in Christ Jesus and a mark of Christian discipleship. "We believe children are under the atonement of Christ and as heirs of the Kingdom of God are acceptable subjects for Christian Baptism. Children of believing parents through Baptism become the special responsibility of the Church. They should be nurtured and led to personal acceptance of Christ, and by profession of faith confirm their Baptism. . ."


WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT HOLY COMMUNION?

Holy Communion (or the Lord' s Supper) is a faithful remembrance of the suffering and death of Christ and a celebration of love within the Church. Those who in faith eat the broken bread and drink the blessed cup partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until He comes in glory.

Article XVIII, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. "Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Scripture, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthrows the nature of a sacrament, and has given occasion to many superstitions. "The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith. "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped."

Article VI, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline: ". . .We believe the Lord's Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the sufferings and death of Christ, and a token of love and union which Christians have with Christ and with one another. Those who rightly, worthily and in faith eat the broken bread and drink the blessed cup partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until he comes."


William Bouknight is:
  • currently Senior Minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis, Tennessee
  • graduated from Duke University, A.B. Degree; Duke Divinity School and the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Masters Degree in Theology; Yale Divinity School, Sacred Theology Masters; Wofford College, D. D. Degree
  • Vice-President, Board of the Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church
  • Elected delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church, 1988 and 1992
  • Chaplain (Brigadier General -Ret.) in Army National Guard of South Carolina, 1967 - 1994

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