Our Positional Papers
As a body of Believers, Harvest Church feels that it is appropriate for the borders of the United States to be secure, in order for immigration to conform to the laws of the United States. As people of faith, we support comprehensive immigration reform that reflects human dignity, compassion, and justice, integral to a "nation under God". We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to minister to all who live or work within our country.
+ Government and Political Parties
Harvest Church does not endorse any particular systems of government or political parties. We believe that civil government is ordained by God and should be supported by all citizens, including Christians (Romans 13:1-7). The Christian is instructed to pray for rulers and government officials, in order to maintain peace and civility (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Harvest Church encourages believers to vote for political candidates within the Will of God. Paul discusses this responsibility in Romans 13 when he explains that all authorities have been established by God. Since we as Americans have a participatory form of government, it is the Christian’s spiritual duty to participate as a citizen in that system.
Government and church each serve different functions. Christ himself recognized that difference. During His earthly ministry, Jesus was careful to acknowledge the authority of the Roman empire and instructed the people to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God, the things that are God’s" (Mark 12:17). In other words, we are to differentiate between the roles of church and the government, but to be supportive of each as an institution of God. This does not mean that the laws and moral values of God are not to touch or impact government. To the contrary, when God’s moral laws are observed and applied within government, society benefits. This occurs at two levels – individually and collectively.
While Harvest Church recognizes government as God’s provision and is not opposed to political parties as a part of the American political process, we refrain from becoming embroiled in party politics or promoting a particular system of government for many reasons. The essence of the church is not earthly and temporal, but spiritual and eternal (John 18:36). The priority of the church is to preach Christ exclusively (1 Corinthians 2:2). The mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel (Matthew 28:19).
Historically, when the Church has become involved in partisan politics, the outcome has been disastrous for both the Kingdom of God and the system of government it promoted or attacked.
Today, many Christians are members of different political parties in America. Certainly, Christian involvement is appropriate and needed, but political affiliation, by its very nature, divides people into competing groups. There is no room for such division in the Church, therefore, the Church must never promote any party or system that would be divisive to the Body of Christ, but rather contend for the Faith that unites every tribe, tongue, people, and nation into one glorious Church.
To understand Harvest Church’s view of gambling, we must first define what we mean by gambling. Simply put, gambling is the activity of staking something of value on a game of chance, hoping to acquire gain.
Why is it wrong? These five principles will help us understand the sinfulness of gambling:
First, it violates the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). Jesus tells us that we should treat our neighbor as we would want them to treat us. However, in gambling, our goal is to take all we can from our neighbor.
Second, gambling is stealing by consent, just as dueling was murder by consent and was outlawed in our country. In gambling, all parties agree that if the game of chance ends in a certain way, one party will take from another. Ephesians 4:28
Third, gambling encourages covetousness instead of hard work. The Bible plainly teaches us to work hard, providing for ourselves and for others. If we do not, we should not enjoy the priveleges of eating and being cared for. 2 Thessalonians 3
Fourth, although some try to make a direct parallel between gambling and investing, these are not the same. When you make an investment in the stock market, you are giving to a company who produces a product or a service. Both you and the company have a chance to profit (or lose) based on the performance of the company. If you do not like its performance or have made what you believe to be a reasonable profit, you have options to no longer use that company's products or services.
Finally, we must consider God's attitude toward gambling. The Bible does not mention God's people being tempted with gambling in the early days. This vice manifested itself only when Israel was dominated by heathen nations. When gambling did occur, God was clear in his attitude concerning it. The sin for which some of the Israelites were condemned was trusting in luck rather than God. Isaiah made it clear that trust in God and trust in luck cannot coexist. If people rely on chance it is evident they do not rely on God. Isaiah described those who trusted in gambling as "they that forsake the Lord" (Isaiah 65:11).
Harvest Church believes pornography violates the sexual and moral integrity of human beings. God created human beings as male and female to consummate their sexual union within the security of marriage for the purposes of procreation and mutual intimacy. Pornography encourages sexually immoral thoughts (Matthew 5:28) and actions (1 Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 5:19), and is destructive to marital and family relationships.
Though some defenders of pornography dispute the claim, there is no question that pornography is linked with such immoral behavior as promiscuity, sexual abuse, adultery, rape, violence, child abuse, degrading human dignity, sexual dominance, and discrimination. The devastation of families and marriages is a high price to pay for this vice, which fills the pockets of unprincipled members of organized crime. Pornography is now available at local movie theaters, neighborhood video shops, and on home televisions and computers. Harvest Church is particularly disturbed by the availability of this material to children and young adults.
The portrayal of nudity which does not involve force, coercion, sexual activity, violence, or degradation is defended by some as having no relation to pornography. Classical paintings of past centuries are presented as evidence along with medical depictions of unclad human bodies, which are essential for life-sustaining professions. However, blanket approval of "mere" nudity has its dangers. When does "mere" nudity begin to take on clear suggestions of sexual activity? The impact of such material on children, on attitudes about women, and on the relationship between the sexes must be seriously considered.
+ Secret Societies
The nature of secret societies is completely contrary to Christian belief. The Bible is an open book inviting all who will, to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:17). Anyone inquiring into membership in the family of God can investigate, ask questions, read the inspired handbook (the Bible), and make a decision for Christ fully knowing what the cost and consequences of the action will be.
In stark contrast, a secret society welcomes only a restricted number into membership, into the secret oaths and ceremonies, and into the activities of the society. Members of secret orders often compare their organization with the fellowship of believers in a local church, but a secret society is quite different from a church in that it is elitist and exclusive, rather than inclusive. Unlike a church, it does not extend its fellowship to any and all persons desiring to identify with the organization.
For the following four reasons, Harvest Church is opposed to its members belonging to secret orders and societies:
The activities of secret orders demand time and energy that divert the servant of the Lord from efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.
The binding loyalty to fellow members of the secret society - many of whom are not fellow believers in Jesus Christ and His saving work — is an unequal joining together of believers with unbelievers.
The spirit, philosophy, and general influence of secret orders channel activities toward improving only the natural part of humankind instead of changing the heart of the spiritual being.
Commitment to secret orders and their teachings leads one to a wrong emphasis on salvation through good works and improving society, instead of salvation through grace and faith in Jesus.
Secret societies are in conflict with the teachings of Holy Scripture. A Christian must never affiliate with any organization that
- yokes together believers with unbelievers in unholy alliances (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
- requires a pledge to unscriptural oaths, which are sealed by using the name of God improperly or in vain (Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 5:4-6, Matthew 5:34-37, James 5:12)
- represents itself as providing teaching in harmony with the Bible when, in fact, it does not (2 Peter 3:16)
- represents itself as being religious and offers a false hope of salvation through works, yet dishonors the only true God and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, Colossians 2:8-10, Ephesians 2:8,9)
The Christian should "be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody" (Romans 12:17). Meeting behind closed doors where activities are carried on behind a cloak of secrecy, instead of among fellow members, usually for economic, social, or political advantage, hardly describes doing what is right in the eyes of everybody. "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord" (2 Corinthians 6:17). This is God’s advice for Christians and is certainly applicable in regard to secret societies.
+ Wars and Conscientious Objectors
Harvest Church affirms our loyalty to the government of the United States in war or peace. We will continue to insist, as we have historically, on the right of each member to choose for himself whether to declare his position as a combatant (one who willingly serves in positions of violence), a noncombatant (one who serves only in nonviolent ways), or a conscientious objector (one who refuses to participate in any form of military service because of personal convictions regarding war).
What are the biblical principles which support this position?
- The Scriptures call for civic loyalty: "Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established" (Romans 13:1).
- On occasion, those authorities must bear arms: "He does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:4).
- The Scriptures call for the employment of personal conscience in all matters: "Each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).
In light of this, how are we to understand the sixth commandment: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13)? The Hebrew word used here (raisach) in the ancient manuscripts is descriptive of an act of willful and personal vengeance. While the outcome may be similar to the killings of war, the motive and driving force are quite different. The language of Exodus 20:13 does not suggest that we are to disallow participation in war, even if that participation involves killing. The preservation of peace and tranquility sometimes makes this response imperative.
As apart of the Body of Christ, Harvest Church deplores war. Therefore we are committed to its avoidance as much as accountability, sensibility, and responsibility allow. This will be the necessary posture, until the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, establishes His reign over a world that is now characterized by violence, wickedness, and war.
Harvest Church believes strongly that God has declared great displeasure and opposition toward homosexual conduct. However, He yearns to restore and forgive all who come to Him, including homosexuals. Unfortunately, many today mislabel those who speak out against the sin of homosexuality as hate-mongers and prejudiced people seeking to oppress and take away the rights of homosexuals. But these people view homosexuality from a skewed social perspective devoid of true Biblical morality. The Church, however, is called to be faithful to God’s Word in all things. For this reason, Harvest Church opposes homosexuality and the gay lifestyle, recognizing such as sin, but we encourage all members to reach out in love to homosexuals, extending to them the grace that leads us all to Christ’s forgiveness.
Homosexuality is both a sin against God and mankind. It runs contrary to the divine plan, purpose, and Will of God, who created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and redeemed us so that this image, marred because of sin, might be renewed (Colossians 3:10).
Most fundamentally, homosexuality is sin because it perverts the created order of human sexuality, the heterosexual fulfillment of both man and woman (1 Corinthians 7:2-5). In creating the first man and woman, God ultimately established the family, consisting of a father, a mother, and oftentimes children. Society is founded on this social unit, which propagates the human race. In total contrast, the lifestyle and practice of homosexual couples establishes a social unit that thwarts that process and the creative purposes of God for humanity.
Clearly, the Bible states homosexual practice is sin. Scriptures which denounce homosexuality are found in both the Old and New Testaments. Advocates of homosexuality often attempt to rationalize, reinterpret, and explain away key Biblical truths to justify their acts. Such abuse of inspired Scripture is wrong. Along with the passages that clearly describe homosexual conduct as sin, the Bible speaks repeatedly about God’s divinely ordained plan of heterosexual relationships and marriage.
Scriptures that discuss this topic: Genesis 19 2 Peter 2:6-7 Jude 7 Leviticus 18:22 Romans 1:26-27 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
An important thing to remember is that some Old Testament laws were ceremonial, and some were moral. Breaking ceremonial laws resulted in temporary uncleanliness. Breaking moral laws resulted in severe punishment and sometimes even death. God's moral laws never change and are still applicable today.
Some pro-homosexual advocates try to refute the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality by saying the Bible speaks against homosexual promiscuity and prostitution, not against loving, committed gay relationships. Some unfaithful spouses of heterosexual marriages have tried to justify adultery on the same grounds, but nowhere does Scripture suggest that loving, committed relationships of any kind can turn sin into righteousness. God does not permit mankind to reinterpret the clear teaching of Scripture to justify their sinful desires.
Because of recent political and legislative actions, Harvest Church affirms the Biblical teaching of one man to one woman, and is in opposition to same sex marriages. Historically, American society has recognized the sanctity of marriage between man and woman as central to the stability of our nation and its moral posture. Harvest Church, from its beginning, has understood the Biblical model of marriage to be a sacred union between man and woman.
God’s original intention for marriage is His final decision (Genesis 1:27, 2:18-25). When God created a partner for Adam He created Eve, not another Adam. This means that perfect partnership requires some level of difference, as well as a level of similarity so great that Adam could cry out loudly, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh". Sexual intimacy between a man and a woman is the normal method of male/female bonding (emotionally and physically), because it corresponds to the design of our bodies, and because it is the normal means by which offspring are created.
If God had intended the human race to be fulfilled through both heterosexual and homosexual marriage, He would have designed our bodies to allow reproduction through both means, and would have made both means of sexual intercourse healthy and natural.
When Jesus was asked questions about marriage, he went straight to the defining passages in Genesis that say that marriage is between a man and a woman and is meant to be lifelong. He saw the creation accounts in Genesis as authoritative in His day. What is authoritative for Jesus is also authoritative for Christians. While Jesus did not specifically teach on homosexuality, His establishment of the Genesis passages as the fundamental passages on marriage (even more fundamental than the Law) leaves no doubt as to the outcome.
Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 indicate that homosexual passions and acts are unnatural, shameful, contrary to sound doctrine, and deny entrance to the Kingdom of God. This being so, they cannot be the basis of a Christian marriage sanctioned by God's Church. No marriage can be sanctioned by the Church if the very basis of the marriage involves acts that put the couple outside of eternal salvation.
+ Falling or Being Slain in the Spirit
The experience of being "slain in the Spirit" has been noted in church history for centuries, including some early church martyrdoms, and in the preaching of John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Finney. Although the exact phrase "slain in the Spirit" is not found in the Bible, there are some Biblical texts that point to this experience as individuals encountered the power of God:
- Genesis 15:12-21 - Abraham falls into a deep sleep when he encounters God.
- Numbers 24:4 - Balaam falls into a trance but has his eyes open.
- 1 Samuel 19:23-24 - Saul lays down all day and night as he prophecies before Samuel.
- Ezekiel 1:28 - The prophet falls down before the Lord.
- Matthew 17:6 - The disciples fall down in the presence of the transfiguration of Jesus.
- Acts 9:4, 26:14 - Paul (Saul) falls down when encountering the risen Jesus on the Damascus road.
- Revelation 1:10, 17 - John is described as "in the Spirit" and falls down at the feet of Jesus as if he were dead.
Like all physical manifestations of spiritual experiences, this experience can be abused and even imitated by Satan. The following may serve as a guideline for determining the legitimacy of when someone experiences this phenomenon:
- Was Jesus Christ acknowledged as Lord and Savior in the service?
- Was someone "pushed down" or did they fall in response to prayer (including laying of hands in prayer)?
- Did the person fall in order to do what everyone else was doing, or did he/she fall as an act of surrender of self and pride to the Holy Spirit?
While Harvest Church believes this is a legitimate spiritual experience, it should not be used to determine the quality of a person's walk with Jesus Christ or to determine which speaker or minister is more anointed.
+ Birth Control
The command of God to mankind first mentioned in the Bible is found in Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." This was a command of God to procreate. God created human sexuality as the means of filling the earth and having stewardship over the earth. In Bible days, marriage and children were considered normal life experiences (Genesis 2:23,24). Barrenness was seen as a curse from God (Genesis 29:31, 1 Samuel 1:3-11, 2:5). A large family was viewed as a sign of God’s blessing (Psalm 127:3-5). Then, as is still true in many societies around the world today, children provided the social security system for the parents.
Harvest Church believes there are valid reasons for delaying, limiting, or not having children. There are those who realize they may need more time to mature before trying to raise children. There may be those who should never be a parent. Financial matters must also be considered. Some couples decide to wait until they have finished their schooling before having children. Living in a country in which the lives of the parents and children are in constant danger due to religious persecution might be reason to use birth control to await a safer time for starting or expanding a family.
The use of chemically induced or surgical abortion as a means of birth control is flatly rejected. Harvest Church has an official position opposing abortion. Any birth control method that functions to destroy a fertilized egg, rather than actually preventing conception, is considered unacceptable. Every couple should take this into account when selecting methods of birth control.
Having children requires that parents make a commitment to raising their children to be competent, committed members of their society. This requires sacrifice of time and money that could have been used by the parents for themselves. Unfortunately, there are too many parents in our materialistic, self-centered society who are having children, but are unwilling to commit themselves to the sacrifices required to raise children well.
This is also an issue for Christian couples. While we in the church recognize the legitimacy of good family planning and the use of birth control, we need to strike a balance. We must look beyond our ambitions and seek God in making these personal decisions. This is not to say every Christian couple must have children. It is simply to recognize that God’s plan for our lives may or may not include children. Regardless of circumstances, whether planned or unplanned, wanted or unwanted, children are a gift of God to be cherished. As Psalm 139:13-16 makes clear, the Lord is concerned about each person from the womb. Any decision to have or not to have children should be made carefully and prayerfully.
+ Alcohol, Illegal Drugs, and Tobacco
The Scriptures speak often of the destructive power of alcohol. Noah’s drunkenness brought shame to his family (Genesis 9:20-27). Lot’s drunkenness resulted in an incestuous relationship with his two daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). An inebriated Xerxes sought to humiliate Queen Vashti publicly (Esther 1:9-22). The consumption of alcohol impairs judgment, inflames passions, and invites violence (Leviticus 10:8-11, Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-35, 31:4,5).
There are 637 references to wine, drink, and drinking in the King James Version of the Bible. Most people think in today’s terms, believing that when wine is mentioned it refers to alcoholic wine, when that is not necessarily true. Thirteen different words are translated "wine" in the King James Version of the Bible. The word wine has a wide range of meaning in the Bible, covering everything from grape juice, to concentrated grape syrup, to alcoholic wine.
Old Testament Hebrew Words for Wine
- Yayin - This general term for grape beverages includes all classes of wine - non-alcoholic or alcoholic, unfermented, in the process of fermentation, and completely fermented (Proverbs 31:4). The context will show whether it is alcoholic wine or not. Yayin, when used properly, was always diluted with water.
- Shekar - This word refers to strong drink or unmixed wine.
- Yakin - This refers to Shekar diluted with water (Numbers 28:7).
- Tirosh - This word refers to fresh grape juice. It is referred to often as new wine or sweet wine (Proverbs 3:10, Deuteronomy 7:13).
New Testament Greek Words for Wine
- Oinos - This is the counterpart to the Old Testament word yayin. It is a general term for grape beverages and includes all classes of wine - non-alcoholic or alcoholic, fermented or unfermented. The context has to be understood in order to determine whether the drink was intoxicating or not (Luke 10:34, Ephesians 5:18). Oinos, when used properly, was always diluted with water.
- Sikera - This is the counterpart to the Old Testament word shekar. It is the word for strong drink or unmixed wine (Luke 1:15).
- Gleukos - This is the counterpart to the Old Testament word tirosh. This refers to fresh wine, a new wine, or freshly squeezed grape juice.
Why Believers Should Abstain from Drinking Alcohol
- Drinking leads to drunkenness. Drunkenness is condemned in the Bible (Isaiah 5:11, Proverbs 23:20, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:18).
- Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
- The Bible condemns strong drink (Proverbs 20:1, Isaiah 5:11, Proverbs 23:29-31). Strong drink in Bible times was unmixed wine from three per cent to eleven per cent alcohol. Thus, Christians should definitely not drink hard liquor at all. What Christians drank in Bible times was sub-alcoholic (purified water). Whether or not the wine was fermented, at least three parts of water (usually more) were always mixed with each part of wine. All alcoholic beverages used in our culture fall under the Biblical classification of strong drink and are forbidden.
- It will cause others to stumble (Romans 14:21). Drinking often causes some to stumble, others to be offended, and many to be weakened. And as a warning to parents, you must remember that whatever you do in moderation, your children are likely to do in excess.
- It harms our bodies, which are the Lords (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Alcohol affects the brain, esophagus, stomach, intestines, blood, pancreas, liver, heart, bladder, kidneys, and glands.
- Alcohol is addictive, and we are not to be "brought under the power" or controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:12).
- Believers are kings and priests, separate unto God, meant to abstain from alcohol (Proverbs 31:4-5, Leviticus 10:9).
Even social drinking cannot be legitimately supported by the Bible. Drinking socially may have caused more Christians to be accepted by society, but it has not furthered the Kingdom of God.
Though drug use is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, its impact on the user and on society far exceeds the results of alcohol abuse. The addictive nature of certain drugs is so powerful that a single use can claim an individual for life. Furthermore, the irreversible physical damage to one’s organs and mental capacities makes drugs extremely dangerous. The greatest danger is the all-consuming control of one’s life, constantly interrupting one’s focus, and destroying personal relationships and spiritual well-being. Beyond the personal toll of drug addiction is the disastrous burden placed on families and society.
Alcohol and illegal drug use are well-documented factors in domestic violence, road and work rage, child abuse, suicide, and a variety of other destructive behaviors. Alcoholism and drug addiction present a national crisis threatening to destroy the fabric of our society.
While smoking and chewing tobacco does not impair one’s judgment, nor carry many of the relational side effects of alcohol and illegal drugs, tobacco has now proven to be a primary health concern. Still, young people, year after year, are becoming hooked on the habit through effective marking that deceptively associates smoking with maturity and popularity.
For many years, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned of the dangers of smoking, but it wasn't until the casualties of mouth and lung cancer began to increase that people started to take the warning seriously. When it became evident that non-smokers were becoming victims of diseases caused by inhaling second-hand tobacco smoke, society began mounting major opposition to the use of tobacco. While medical studies in recent years have shown conclusively that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, the Church has opposed the use of tobacco because it is a habit that is harmful to a Christian’s testimony, as well as their body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
With these realities regarding alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, the argument for abstinence is well established. The Christian is called to a higher standard of self-control and self-denial concerning those things not beneficial to his physical and spiritual well-being. To argue for any level of the use of alcohol, narcotics, or tobacco is to be insensitive to the weight of Scripture and the present perils of our society. Christians should realize the pressing need for a pure testimony before our world. As the apostle Paul said, "I urge you, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:1-2).
Harvest Church views the practice of abortion as morally unacceptable, whether used as an alternative for birth control, population control, sex selection, elimination of the physically and mentally handicapped, or otherwise. We do not support any type or form of abortion in any stage of pregnancy for any reason.
Sexual Responsibility Contemporary demands for abortion often flow from the practice of sexual freedom without corresponding responsibility. The Scriptures speak definitively against pre-marital and extra-marital sexual intercourse and declare such activity to be sinful (Exodus 22:16, Acts 15:20, 1 Corinthians 6:9-18, Galatians 5:19). To add abortion as an after-the-fact birth control device is to deepen and compound the sin with resultant guilt and emotional distress. Harvest Church affirms the Biblical mandate for sexual purity and responsibility, that, when obeyed, will eliminate many, if not all, situations where abortion is considered necessary or desirable.
The Personhood of the Unborn
The Scriptures regularly treat the unborn child as a person under the care of God.
The Bible recognizes that a woman is with child even in the first stages of pregnancy. When the virgin Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, an angel made this announcement to her: "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son" (Luke 1:31). The angel then informed Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a son in her old age" (Luke 1:36). Scripture makes it clear that in the prenatal phase, both Jesus and John the Baptist were recognized as males well before the time of delivery. Moreover, John, before birth is recognized as a “baby" (Luke 1:41, 44). This translates from a Greek word used for children both before and after birth (Acts 7:19). The Bible always recognizes the prenatal phase of life as that of a child, and not a mere appendage to the mother’s body to be aborted at will.
Even when pregnancy in Bible times was due to an illicit relationship, the sanctity and value of that life was not questioned. The daughters of Lot willfully became pregnant by incestuous relationships (Genesis 19:36), and Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon after an adulterous relationship initiated by King David (2 Samuel 11:5). In none of these cases are the lives of the unborn considered to be unworthy or requiring an abortion.
The Bible recognizes that God is active in the creative process of forming new life. Concerning Leah, the wife of Jacob, Scripture says, "When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb…. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son" (Genesis 29:31-32). When Job compared himself to his servants, he asked, "Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?" (Job 31:15). God spoke through Isaiah: "This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant" (Isaiah 44:2). And again, "This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things" (Isaiah 44:24). David summed it up: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13-16).
The Bible recognizes that God has plans for the unborn child. Only He knows the potential of this new life. When God called Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry, He indicated the ordination was prenatal when He said: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). When Zechariah the priest was ministering at the altar of incense, an angel announced that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son who should be called John. Then it was revealed that God had definite plans for this child. He was to be a forerunner of Jesus (Luke 1:11-17).
The Bible recognizes that God is sovereign in all things, including the quality of life of the unborn child. When people reject God, they cheapen human life and make it relative. Some are considered worthy to live, while others are considered expendable. When people set themselves up as gods to determine if a life is worth living – whether before or after birth – they are usurping the sovereignty of the Creator. There are also things finite humans cannot understand. God’s ways are above human ways. While today’s medical technology frequently makes it possible to know when impairment exists in unborn children, it is important to remember they are still in God’s love and care (Matthew 19:14-15).
The Killing of Innocent Persons
God’s Word is very explicit concerning the taking of innocent human life. "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13) is not only one of the Ten Commandments, but also a moral imperative that recurs throughout Scripture (Matthew 19:18, Romans 13:9). God inspired Moses to include in the Scriptures a law that brings the sanctity of the lives of unborn children into focus. "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Exodus 21:22-24).
It should be noted that the value of the life of both the mother and the child is such that even if there is no critical and lasting harm to either, the responsible party must be fined. However, if either the mother or the premature child is seriously injured or dies, then the severe penalties of the law are to be applied, possibly in this case, those having to do with manslaughter (Exodus 21:13, Numbers 35:22-25). It is clear that the life of the unborn child is precious, and even a non-premeditated injury inflicted on the unborn is a serious crime.
God’s attitude toward the killing of innocents is clear. No one is guiltless who takes the life of another, with the possible scriptural exceptions of capital punishment administered by a system of justice (Genesis 9:6, Numbers 35:12), unintended killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2), or deaths occasioned by duly constituted police and war powers (Romans 13:4-5).
Danger to the Life of the Mother
Those situations in which pregnancy seriously threatens the life of the mother raise a particular ethical dilemma for Christians who value the lives of both mother and child. I f responsible diagnoses confirm that childbirth is likely to result in the death of the mother, historic Christian faith usually has favored the life of the mother above that of the unborn child, since the mother is a mature person with established family and societal relationships and responsibilities. However, vague threats to the mother’s physical or emotional health must not become an excuse to place the child at risk. Any intervention required must have the intent of saving the mother’s life, not the prior intent of causing death to the child. As in any emergency, in such times, God’s children ought to fervently and earnestly pray for divine intervention. In doing so, the persons involved must prayerfully evaluate the medical diagnoses with the assistance of humane physicians and godly leaders and make what will most likely be a painful decision with responsibility and a clear conscience.
The Emotional and Spiritual Toll
The abortion industry rarely advises pregnant women of the potential impact of abortion on their spiritual and mental health. Desperate women who find themselves in an acutely embarrassing or inconvenient position because of an illicit affair or an unplanned pregnancy, and who are often coerced by selfish lovers and/or embarrassed families, are led to see abortion as a "quick fix." Nothing could be further from the truth. Women are usually unaware of the depression, guilt, and shame that may plague them for a lifetime. While God can and does forgive and heal the broken hearts of repentant sinners who come to Him for forgiveness, the actual deed can never be undone and will always be remembered with pain and regret.
+ Capital Punishment
Christians have mixed opinions on capital punishment. Some Christians believe capital punishment is mandated, while others believe it is merely permitted. In contrast, there are Christians who feel it is Biblically prohibited. Those who believe it is prohibited base their argument on an assumption that the New Testament reverses the mandate of the Old Testament prophecy, which deals with habitual criminals: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Genesis 9:6). However, Romans 13:1-7 implies capital punishment is still permitted under the new covenant. Those who believe capital punishment is permitted, but not necessarily required, point to the fact that even the Old Testament contains examples of criminal acts that were not punished by death: Cain, Moses, and David all took another man's life, but were not put to death for the killings.
Even though the Bible permits capital punishment, it lays down strict guidelines to keep judgment from being unfair or excessive.
Punishment must be commensurate with the crime (Exodus 21:23-25).
- It must be based on certainty of guilt (Deuteronomy 17:6).
- It must result from premeditated intent (Numbers 35:22-24).
- There must be due process, and cities of refuge were provided to protect the accused until trial (Numbers 35).
- Fairness and justice must prevail regardless of wealth or reputation (Exodus 23:6,7).
- Restraint should be exercised in imposing the death penalty (Ezekiel 33:11).
Deuteronomy 19:21 is sometimes noted as Old Testament support for capital punishment: "Show no pity, life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." But the context in which this statement appears deals with the treatment of proven false witnesses. Under Jewish law, the accusation of two or three witness was all that was needed to convict the accused. The defendant had to prove himself innocent. False witnesses would make a mockery of the system of justice. Once guilt was established, the punishment had to fit the crime, neither exceeding the injury done nor handing down some inconsequential punishment for a serious crime (Exodus 21:12-36, Leviticus 24:17-22).
Both the Old and New Testaments indicate that personal retaliation is not appropriate (Leviticus 19:18, Romans 12:19-13:7). Punishment should be the prerogative of the government/community, not of the individual. No matter how heinous the crime, retaliation just to settle a personal vendetta is contrary to Biblical principles.
Proponents of capital punishment give three possible reasons to mandate the ultimate sentence:
- Deterrence of potential offenders who might be inclined to commit a major crime
- Deterrence of a criminal who, if free, might repeat the same offense
- Retribution or repayment to victims or society for losses sustained because of the crime.
+ Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
Harvest Church condemns as immoral the killing of the weak, the physically challenged, the mentally ill, or the aged, whether by a deliberate act or by coercing or assisting a person to commit suicide. God is both the giver of life and the arbiter of life. Fully informed and freely chosen suicide is the final usurpation of the divine prerogative. Humans are not empowered to rightfully take their own lives or the lives of others. The sick and the weak must not be made to feel that they are a burden and have a moral obligation to relieve society of that burden. Their depression and illnesses often bring severe emotional and physical pain and raise serious questions about their ability to freely choose suicide. It should be remembered that many suicides occur in times of deep depression and great physical pain, when personal judgment and responsibility are seriously impaired. Harvest Church does not assume that all such persons are eternally lost.
+ Stem Cell Research and Genetic Intervention
Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research shows great promise for the cure of numerous diseases and should proceed under appropriate ethical guidelines regularly reviewed and revised. There are stem cells available for research from legitimate sources that do not compromise the sanctity of human life. The practice of cultivating stem cells from the tissue of aborted fetuses perpetuates the evil of abortion and should be prohibited. Likewise, the cultivation of stem cells from the "left-over" embryos from fertility clinics raises serious ethical concerns for human life. Great care must always be exercised in the cultivation of stem cells to insure that the sanctity and dignity of human life are not compromised.
Harvest Church is supportive of morally responsible genetic research and therapies. Genetic research conducted with reverence for life appears to have great potential for the health of human beings through the identification of and intervention in the genetic roots of hundreds of diseases. By the same token, used for proud and selfish ends, genetic screening and intervention also have the potential to bring great harm to the entire human race. In addition, Harvest Church believes legislation is necessary to prevent intrusive genetic screening and resultant discrimination, as well as misguided experimentation and termination of life.
+ Environmental Protection
Harvest Church believes everyone needs to be good a steward of all God’s creation, including the earth. As clearly indicated in Scripture, we believe the earth was created by God (Genesis 1:1-31, Isaiah 37:16). We also believe it serves as the temporary home for all members of the human race, God’s highest life form, made in His own image (Genesis 1:27), until eternity.
Scripture indicates the earth will one day be consumed by fire and cease to exist (Zephaniah 1:18, Isaiah 51:6). We believe that before this occurs, Christ will return to earth for His church (those who have accepted and believe in Him). At that time, Christians will enjoy a new earth presently unknown to mankind (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13).
In spite of these future events, we feel Christians must act responsibly in their use of God’s earth as we rightly harvest its resources. As stated in Genesis 1:27-30, we believe God has given mankind alone complete dominion (authority) over the earth’s resources. These resources include the land, the water, the vegetation, and the earth’s minerals, as well as the animals, fish, and fowl. Like the earth, we acknowledge these to be gifts from God to mankind, and as gifts, they are to be appreciated and cherished. As Christians, we believe dominion requires good stewardship of our temporary home.
Today in our American culture, many people have turned their adoration from the Creator to the creation. They have gone to the extreme and are now worshiping the earth. We believe worship of the land, the sea, the oceans, and other attributes of the earth is an abomination to God, the Creator.
A major concern for Christians is the overemphasis of the environment at the expense of spiritual issues affecting life and eternity. The Bible’s message declares that spiritual matters (those affecting the hearts of mankind) are the priority issues with God. These, and not the environment, are the reason He sent His own Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to save people. For God did not send His Son to save the earth in a physical sense, but to save the people who inhabit it. We believe this must be the main focus and concern for all Christians today. At Harvest Church, we respect and are thankful for the earth, but our greatest thanks and worship is directed upward to God, the Creator and giver of life.
+ Demon Possession of a Christian
In the issue of demon possession, the question arises of whether or not demons can posses a Christian. Can the Holy Spirit dwell in the same space as a demon?
Many Christians have had God-given deliverances from problems and believed they were delivered from demon possession. But we must search the Scriptures to see if their interpretation of what happened is really in line with what the Bible teaches. Some, for example, teach that since the Bible speaks of a spirit of cowardly fear, any deliverance from fear must be by the casting out of an evil spirit or demon of fear. But an examination of the same passage (2 Timothy 1:7) shows that it speaks also of a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind. If people interpret fear to be an evil spirit needing to be cast out, to be consistent, they would need to beseech three good spirits to come in. The fallacy of this reasoning is obvious. Love and self-control are fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives. A “spirit of love and of self-control” refers to the attitudes that result from our cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
Actually, the word “spirit”, in many cases, means an attitude or a disposition. David spoke of a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17). Solomon spoke of a humble spirit (Proverbs 16:19). Paul wanted to come to Corinth, not with a rod, but with love and a meek or gentle spirit (1 Corinthians 4:21). Peter spoke of the adorning of the heart with the imperishable gift of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), actually meaning a quiet disposition. This is in line with the frequent use of the word spirit for one’s own spirit and its expressions (Haggai 1:14, Acts 17:16, 1 Corinthians 2:11).
Thus, unless the context shows that an independent spirit-being is meant, it seems best to take most phrases such as a “haughty spirit”, a “hasty spirit”, a “spirit of slumber”, “a spirit of jealousy”, etc., to be sins of the disposition or lusts of the flesh (Galatians 6), and not demons. A serious danger in considering all these sins of the disposition to be demons is that the individual may feel no responsibility for personal actions and feel that the necessity for repentance is removed. Actually, the Bible calls people to repent of these things and to put off these attitudes. The great conflict within us is not between the Holy Spirit and demons, but between the indwelling Holy Spirit and the flesh (that is, all the sensory apparatus that tends toward sin).
When the word spirit is used of demons, the Bible may speak of an evil or unclean spirit. Sometimes the words are used together. For example: ”a spirit of an unclean devil" (Luke 4:33). In many cases, these demons caused sickness. But the New Testament does not ascribe all sickness to demons or evil spirits. In fact, many passages make a clear distinction between sicknesses and diseases not caused by demons, and those caused by demons (Matthew 4:24, 8:16, 9:32-33, 10:1, Mark 1:32, 3:15, Luke 6:17-18, 9:1). In none of these examples is there any indication that any of these sicknesses caused by demons were of people in right relation with God. We must remember also that all of these examples took place before Pentecost.
The word “daimonizomai”, to be possessed of a demon, or, as some put it, to be demonized, is not as common. It is used as a verb only once, and that was of a Canaanite girl who was "badly demonized," or cruelly tormented by a demon. Everywhere else, it is found as a participle which should be translated, "the demoniac(s)" (Matthew 8:28-33, 9:32, 12:22, Mark 5:15—18, Luke 8:35). Again, in no case is there any indication that any of these "demoniacs" or demonized persons was right with God, and in most cases, they suffered severe torment and a dramatic change of personality. Another great problem with the idea that demons may possess Christians is a concept that erodes faith and waters down our concept of God and the salvation He provides. God is our Father. He has "rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" (Colossians1:13). In "this darkness we used to live when [we] followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (Ephesians 2:2). But now God, by His love, has saved us and made us "fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household" (Ephesians 2:19). It would seem contradictory for demons to indwell our bodies now that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
We were once servants of sin (Romans 6:17), but now we are free to live for Christ. It is still possible to sin, but if a believer sins, it is because of having become willing to do so, not because of having been invaded by a demon. For a Christian to have a demon would bring a division that Jesus refused to admit. The Pharisees tried to say that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24). They supposed the kingdom of Satan might be divided against itself. Jesus rejected this. Luke 11:21-22 further implies that Jesus has bound Satan as far as Satan’s power to enslave a believer is concerned. Only when a demon returns and finds the house empty is he able to re-enter (Luke 11:24—26).
The idea of a true believer being inhabited by a demon also erodes the Biblical concept of salvation and peace. It may produce terrible fear as Christians begin to wonder what demon will invade them next. This is certainly not in line with the freedom the Bible assures us we have. Early Christians had no such fear, nor did the Church of the second century.
It seems evident that the term “possessed” should not be applied to true believers. What the Bible does show is that Satan and his cohorts are external foes. We are in warfare against Satan’s forces, and they are looking for opportunities to attack us (Ephesians 6:12). The Biblical emphasis is on what we must face in the very atmosphere around us. The call is never for us to get someone to cast the demons out of us. They are on the outside, testing and attacking us, but not possessing us. The call is to be vigilant and to put our armor on and take our stand (2 Corinthians 10:3—6, Ephesians 6:10—18, 1 Peter 5:8-9).
Jesus defeated Satan by quoting the Word of God (Matthew 4). We, too, must take our stand on God’s Word and resist Satan and his demons, in faith (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8-9). Then the shield of faith will quench every fiery dart of the enemy (Ephesians 6:16).
That the attack is external is seen in the case of Job, and also in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, which he called a messenger (or angel) of Satan sent to beat and strike him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul besought the Lord three times that it (the messenger of Satan) might be removed (more literally, "keep away from him"), but God refused and said His grace was sufficient. The result was that Paul learned to depend on God in his weakness, reproach, or distress. Whether the messenger of Satan was a demon, a sickness, or a person, the Bible does not say. Just what it was, however, is beside the point here. The attack was from the outside, and Paul sought for it to be kept away, not cast out. We note also that Paul sees in himself and in us the living presence of Christ as the only hope (Colossians 1:2, 29). Christ’s enemies accused Him of having a demon. It is a subtle trick of the devil that makes sincere people accuse Christians today of having a demon. Clearly, there are deliverances, but calling them deliverances from demon possession is unscriptural.