Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Christian?
A Christian is a follower of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. (Acts 11:26). Just as a Muslim accepts and promotes the teachings of Mohammed or a Buddhist accepts and promotes the teachings of Buddha, a Christian consciously decides to accept and promote the teachings of Jesus (Acts 26:28).
If I’ve done something really wrong, will God forgive me?
Yes! The good news from God is that everyone can have a fresh start with God (2 Peter 3:9). The only requirement is a sincere desire and intention to turn away from what is wrong and to follow God (2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 55:6-7; Mark 1:14-15; Acts 3:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). In the Bible, God forgave cheaters (see the story of Jacob in Genesis 27 and 32), murderers (David in 2 Samuel 12), adulterers (an unnamed woman in John 8:1-11), and even those who had turned away from God earlier (Samson in Judges 16 and 17). Today every person is offered forgiveness in Christ with the opportunity for a fresh start (Jeremiah 3:12-14; 2 Corinthians 7:8-11).
What is the purpose of my life?
There are two answers to this question. First, God invites us to experience a personal relationship with Him. That invitation is offered to every human on earth. Second, God wants each of us to use our abilities and opportunities to help others. These purposes are different for each of us.
As part of traditional Christianity, Nazarenes understand that God created all people with the same intention: Each one should have a loving relationship with God that will last for eternity (John 3:16; 1 John 1:3). When we have such a relationship, God intends for us to become more loving, patient, and self-disciplined; in short, we are on a journey toward a God-shaped life (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 3:2).
In addition, God gives each person special abilities designed to help others. For example, some are able to teach others about God, some are able to help with physical needs, and some are especially effective in counseling or leadership (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
What do Nazarenes believe about God?
As part of the Christian community, Nazarenes understand that there is one God, who has always existed and will always exist (Deuteronomy 6:4). We believe that He is creative (Genesis 1; Isaiah 40:25-26) and holy (Leviticus 19:2; Isaiah 5:16, 6:1-7) and that His purposes are carried out in this world (Jeremiah 29:11; Acts 1:6-7).
We also understand that God’s nature is “three-fold”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14). This concept of God’s three-fold nature, the Trinity, was understood by the early Christian Church as the best way to explain what they had experienced. They knew from their Jewish roots that there is only one God, but they also knew that Jesus acted as if He were God. In addition, the Holy Spirit, empowering the church as promised by Jesus and the Old Testament, seemed to have all of God’s power as well. Thus they understood that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are parts of the one God who has always existed. Nazarenes embrace this belief borne out by God’s Word.
Who is Jesus Christ?
The New Testament writings state that Jesus of Nazareth was born to a Jewish family during the early days of the Roman Empire. He was killed by the Roman occupation forces and truly rose from the dead. Then He joined God the Father in heaven.
While those of different faiths consider Him a great religious teacher, the followers of Jesus understood that He was more than just a teacher. He forgave sins (Mark 2:1-12; John 8:1-11); He spoke as if He had always existed (John 8:58); and one of His followers addressed Him as God (John 20:28). His death was more than a simple execution; His death makes it possible for humans to have a restored relationship with God (Colossians 1:21-23). In His continued life with the Father, He still cares for us humans (1 John 2:1-2).
The Church of the Nazarene agrees with other Christians that Jesus is God. He is distinct from God the Father, known to the Jewish nation at the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 1:31; Proverbs 3:12). He is also distinct from the Holy Spirit, who has empowered Christians since the earliest days of the Church (Acts 2:4, 33). The Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus through His followers today (John 16:13-15).
While He is God, He is also human. Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon her (Luke 1:26-35). In Him, the nature of God and the nature of humanity are united in one Person (Colossians 1:19-20).
What do Nazarenes believe about the Holy Spirit?
Before Jesus died, He told His followers that He would leave them. He also promised that they would receive “another Counselor” who would be with them forever (John 7:37-39, 14:16). After His death and resurrection He told His followers that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). He then left His followers (Acts 1:9).
Days later, Jesus’ followers did receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 18, 32-33). The Church immediately recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit as being equivalent to God’s presence (Acts 15:8-9; Ephesians 3:14-19; 1 John 3:24).
What do Nazarenes mean by “salvation”?
Nazarenes, like other Christians, use the term “salvation” to mean turning from wrong actions, receiving God’s forgiveness, committing ourselves to God, and living as God directs.
Salvation is from the word “save.” Jesus declared that He came to “save the lost” (Luke 19:10). When a pagan Roman jailer wanted to become a Christian, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). When talking to a religious leader, Jesus said that God intended to “save the world” through His life (John 3:17).
What are we saved from?
Some scriptures promise salvation from other people and their evil intentions (Psalm 18:3). More often, God’s Word promises salvation from the evil that is widespread throughout the world (Isaiah 45:22; Acts 4:12). Many times in the scriptures God offers to save us when this world is destroyed (Joel 2:31-32; 1 Peter 4:18). However, the most common use of the word may be “saved from the punishment we deserve” (Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Timothy 2:4).
What does the Church of the Nazarene believe about living a holy life?
Nazarenes, with other Wesleyans, believe in entire sanctification, when God’s transforming work is complete and God’s divine love that inhabits the Christian cleanses all sin from the heart (Romans 6:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
After we are born anew, we need the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts (Romans 8:6-8). When we make a complete commitment to Him, He cleanses our spirit, fills us with His perfect love, and gives us the power to live a holy life in obedience to Him (Romans 8:5, 9-11).
Sanctification is God’s will for all believers (1 Peter 1:15-16). Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, God enables believers to live a holy life and empowers them for life and service (Acts 1:8).
Nazarenes distinguish between a pure heart that is obtained in an instant through the infilling of the Holy Spirit and a mature character that is the result of growth in grace.
What is baptism?
Baptism has been a Christian symbol since the time of Jesus (Matthew 3:1-6). It involves applying water to Christians to symbolize their death to the old way of life (Romans 6:3-4) and their new life God provides (Galatians 3:26-27). Baptism, a sacramental “means of grace,” seals one’s intention to follow God (Acts 2:37-41, 8:35-39, 10:44-48). The Bible never defines how much water was applied or how. Therefore, the Church of the Nazarene considers immersion, sprinkling, and pouring all to be acceptable methods of baptism.
Nazarenes also understand baptism to be a symbol of the new relationship God establishes with His people. Because of this, some Nazarenes choose to have their young children baptized as a symbol of their intention to raise their children in God’s Church and their hope to see that their children choose God’s ways when they are older.
What is the Lord’s Supper?
On the last night Jesus spent with His disciples, He shared bread and wine with them as part of the Passover meal (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This sharing of the bread and wine is known as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper.
When Jesus shared the bread and wine with His disciples, the bread symbolized His body, and the wine symbolized His blood (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20). The disciples understood this to mean that He was giving up His life (body and blood) for their benefit. The earliest records of the Church show that His followers regularly shared bread and wine together, reminding themselves that Jesus had died for them (1 Corinthians 10:14-16) and will come again.
When Nazarene churches offer the Lord’s Supper today, all believers are invited to participate regardless of membership in the church. The Lord’s Supper is not appropriate for those who have not yet accepted the new life God offers (I Corinthians 11:28-29).
Do Nazarenes take official positions on social or political issues?
The Church of the Nazarene understands that Christians are expected to oppose evil and promote good. In our complex world, we also understand that few issues are completely evil or completely good.
We express our opposition to underlying evils such as dishonesty (Leviticus 19:11; Romans 12:17), slander and vengeance (2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:15; Ephesians 4:30-32; James 3:5-18; 1 Peter 3:9-10), and sexual immorality (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).
We also affirm our support for good actions, such as helping those in need (Matthew 25:35-36; 2 Corinthians 9:8-10; Galatians 2:10; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17-18), being courteous and helpful (Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:2, 10; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-14; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 3:18), and honoring God (Exodus 20:3-6; Deuteronomy 5:7-10, 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-31).
“The Covenant of Christian Conduct” in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene provides guidelines concerning Christian conduct on some specific matters. Rather than taking official stands, on most issues the Church of the Nazarene encourages its members to apply God’s principles and act accordingly. All Christians are promised God’s guidance when we truly seek it (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:16; James 1:5).
Abortion: The Challenge and the Response of the Church of the Nazarene
The 20th century gave rise to numerous events on the landscape of human history that serve as stark reminders of the ubiquitous presence of Original Sin. In a century that took human experience from the boundaries of the Earth to the frontiers of Space, technology eclipsed society’s moral development. Such development is so essential to the creation of a human community where “peace on earth, and good will to all” might exist. Global wars, nuclear annihilation, genocide on heretofore unimaginable scales, and the legally sanctioned murder of the unborn eliminated millions upon millions of people who were indeed created in the image of God. The horrors of human suffering cannot be adequately chronicled by the historian because of the immensity of scale on which such sufferings have occurred. The tragedy that has stalked the earth seems to tower over even the most apocalyptic descriptions of divine judgment. In sum, we are simply at a loss of words to describe such horrors.
Since the inception of the practice of medical abortion, the Church of the Nazarene has expressed both its sorrow and its strongest condemnation of the practice of aborting the unborn for the sake of convenience, ending unwanted pregnancies, or population control. As a denomination, our resolve has been strong in our struggle against this moral blight on the conscience of America. Our Manual statement is detailed, broad in scope, and uncompromising in purpose.
The outrage over tragedy is all too often lost in the cacophony of ensuing voices that combines with the numbing effect of time’s passage. Add to this the crushing weight of interminable, seemingly insoluble problems, and the nation’s capacity to assimilate continuing grievances is exhausted. The frontal assault by the forces and ideologies of appeasement appear to have taken their toll on many Americans as many of our citizens exhibit fatigue in their continuing resistance and opposition to the social evils that seem to engulf our society.
The voices of protest are often perceived to provide the strongest expressions of opposition to moral aberration. For many individuals, organized strategies that are highly visible in their protestation are the preferred mechanisms of resistance to such evils. Clearly, the Church of the Nazarene respects the efforts of resistance to moral evil and applauds those who work to create changes that will erase such moral turpitude. Among those who protest most vigorously, however, are those whose extravagant behaviors broach illegality and create problems for justice-minded believers. Because this is sadly true, the Church of the Nazarene has adopted a proactive stance that is clearly modeled on the teachings of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The outrage we all feel must not paralyze our initiative to be Christ’s representatives in this world. The Kingdom needs men and women who still feel the outrage but are committed to proactive, intentional response in the name of Christ to express the true meaning of the gospel even to those whose moral compass seems broken and inoperative.
The outrage of the Church of the Nazarene is being channeled into missional behaviors that go beyond mere protestation. From our Manual statement we read:
Responsible opposition to abortion requires our commitment to the initiation and support of programs designed to provide care for mothers and children. The crisis of an unwanted pregnancy calls for the community of believers (represented only by those for whom knowledge of the crisis is appropriate) to provide a context of love, prayer, and counsel. In such instances, support can take the form of counseling centers, homes for expectant mothers, and the creation or utilization of Christian adoption services. (from The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, The Covenant of Christian Conduct, C. Sanctity of Human Life, Para. 36)
We concur with you that America needs an awakening from the lethargy of complacency. We would also remind you that multitudes of Nazarene ministries and congregations are on the front lines providing ministries and interventions of “responsible opposition to abortion.” It is this proactive engagement on the moral landscape that transforms mere outrage to redemptive ministry in the name of Christ.
Jesus once told His followers that they must be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We are being sent out into hostile environments with the message of salvation, transformation, and holiness of heart and life. Our strategy is to boldly proclaim the gospel, preach Scriptural holiness, and manifest the character and mission of Christ in this world.
How does being a Nazarene affect people’s actions?
It is difficult to say that all the people in any group “always” or “never” act in certain ways. Within a church body, this is especially difficult, because God works with each believer a little differently. Some people have lived through extremely difficult circumstances, so we cannot say that all Nazarenes are always happy. Some people have naturally shy natures, so we cannot say that all Nazarenes are outgoing in a crowd. However, those who are Nazarenes have decided to follow God as best they can, and they intend to be more like God tomorrow than they were yesterday.
Nazarenes actively encourage each other to become more like Jesus. We donate time, money, and energy to causes that will show God’s love to the world (Matthew 25:31-40; Acts 2:45). We tell others about the ways God has worked in our lives, giving Him credit for the positive changes that the Holy Spirit has made (Acts 1:8). Nazarenes invite others to attend church services because we believe that God works through such gatherings to teach us more about himself (Acts 2:46; Hebrews 10:25). In short, we live our lives to show how God has made a difference (Matthew 5:13-16; Philippians 4:4-5).
How does the Nazarene understanding of God make a difference in the lives of Nazarene members?
Nazarenes understand that God intends to make us like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2). This means that we are to become holy and Christlike (Leviticus 11:44; Matthew 5:48). After we have received our new spiritual lives (John 3:5-7), we experience the Holy Spirit teaching us how to live in a way that will please God (Galatians 5:22-23).
This means that Nazarenes are not content with knowing that God has met them once. They actively seek to learn more about Him and His plans by reading the Bible, by gathering with other believers, and by spending time communicating with God in prayer.
How can I learn more about the Church of the Nazarene?
By following the links on these web pages, a person can learn about Nazarene practices and beliefs. Nazarene Publishing House offers further materials in English and Spanish.
The best way to learn about any person or group is personal interaction. Come join us or you may contact us for more information.