Most noteworthy during this time, though, is certainly the God Who was working within and through all of these human efforts to mercifully save HIs people. The stories of those who He brought to true and lasting repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are both numerous and encouraging--a beautiful testament to His gracious power through the gospel. None of us over the years, from the most dynamic leader to the most kindly grandmother to the most sincere child, has ever personally deserved, accomplished, or maintained the adoption into God's family and citizenship in Heaven that are to be displayed and lived out in a church's activity and relationships. Therefore, we wholeheartedly and joyfully give Him all honor and glory for any good that has been accomplished in and through this one local embassy of His great kingdom.
As the years went by, First Baptist began to fall on more meager times. In some cases, people who had been key instruments in God's hands were moved on from here to new fields of service. In other instances, sin that had previously been overlooked or ignored finally had to be dealt with, often bringing division and departures. Further, God was also raising up other gospel works in the greater Rochester area, leaving a progressively smaller void for this one church to fill. Through it all, though, He remained faithful, patiently teaching those who remained or were added that one's dependance must always ultimately rest only on Him--that yesterday's blessings must never take the place of the One Who gave them.
The last few years have again brought a new season in the life of this church. As familiar faces have departed and new have come along, what had not so long ago been a primarily older congregation hoping for youth has now become a generally young body of believers praying for more seasoned saints. With this, while neither God, His gospel, His prescription for faithful worship, nor His mission for us have changed, many *aspects of our life together have taken new shape as careful thought has been given to how we can best "love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind," "love our neighbors as ourselves," and "keep in step with the Spirit" (Matthew 22:37-39, Galatians 5:25) considering the varied personalities and gifts of grace that have been placed among us. We pray that our faithfulness to Him in the years ahead will be fitting of the One Who will surely bring to completion the good work He has begun in each of us. (Philippians 1:6)
*A Word Regarding Our Name Change, and Being "Baptist"...
One of the more outwardly obvious transitions we have undergone has been our name change to Redemption Hill Church. While our Baptist beliefs and practices remain firm, we have found it helpful to step away from some of the additional assumptions that often go along with the label. The following is a list of essential Baptist distinctives, along with quotations from (or summary statements of) our Confession of Faith that tie us to each distinctive. (They can be easily remembered by using the acronym "B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S.") Formally, and by our constitution, our full name is Redemption Hill Baptist Church.
Biblical Authority - "The Bible is a perfectly sufficient and solely authoritative wealth of divine wisdom that must not be added to, superseded or changed by any later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or worldly idea; and, every doctrinal formulation—creed, confession or theology—must be put to the test of this full counsel of God." - 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21
Autonomy of the Local Church - "While partnership between faithful congregations is healthy,...each church is also both free and responsible to live firstly under the lordship of Jesus Christ, apart from...religious hierarchy." - Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1-8, 19, 23
Priesthood of the Believer - Because of Jesus' past atoning sacrifice and present work of intercession for His people, no other mediator between man and God is necessary. Every believer can personally approach the throne of grace in prayer, accurately understand scripture by the illuminating aid of the Holy Spirit, and otherwise go before God in worship without the specific involvement of clergy. - 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10; Revelation 5:9-10
Two Ordinances: Baptism and the Lord's Table - "Each church must...be committed to...the careful observance of the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper... All who come to Him [Christ] in repentance and faith are then to be immersed in water as a sign of the remission of their sins, of their union with His death and resurrection, and of their commitment to walk in newness of life... The Lord’s Supper is designated by Christ for believers for their mutual encouragement and growth, and is to be repeatedly celebrated by churches using bread and the fruit of the vine until His return." - Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Individual Soul Liberty - "Nothing prevents such forgiveness [justification by faith] of even the vilest sinner on earth but his own inherent depravity and failure to repent and believe; therefore, the gospel must be sincerely and urgently proclaimed to all people of all nations, seeking to secure their voluntary obedience to it... Local church discipleship must never replace or supersede any individual’s personal walk with God; rather, it should serve to encourage and guide personal devotion, which will in turn aid the growth of the church." - Romans 14:5, 10-13; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Peter 3:13-17
Saved (Converted, Regenerate) and Baptized Local Church Membership - "Upon their conversion and subsequent baptism, redeemed men and women are then [and only then] to be added to the membership of a local church, visibly and vitally associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel. In this context, instituted by and ordered under Christ, they walk through life together as children of God and citizens of Heaven, demonstrating the reality of His kingdom and anticipating its fulfillment." - Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27; 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1; Ephesians 4:1-6
Two Offices: Pastors (Elders, Overseers) and Deacons - "Each church must...be committed to the regular preaching and teaching of scripture, the diligent exercise of prayer and spiritual gifts, the loving administration of discipline, and the careful observance of the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All of this is to take place under the oversight of pastors (elders, bishops)—exemplary, competent men appointed to serve and care for that church in cooperation with well-qualified deacons, who work to free them for devotion to prayer and the ministry of the Word." - 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Acts 20:17-38; Philippians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4
Separation of Church and State - "While partnership between faithful congregations is healthy, and while believers are to conscientiously honor all civil authorities unless commanded to sin, each church is also both free and responsible to live firstly under the lordship of Jesus Christ, apart from official state sanction or religious hierarchy." - Matthew 22:15-22; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 5:17-32; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-17