The Nazarene Church began in about 1908 in the Wesleyan tradition.
Two Nazarene beliefs set this Christian denomination apart from other evangelicals:
- the belief that a person can experience entire sanctification, or personal holiness, in this life,
- and the belief that a saved person can lose their salvation through sin.
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
We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that the bodies both of the just and of the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits—“they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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)
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).
Understanding Nazarene principles
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.
Nazarene Church Origins
Jesus was a Nazarene in that he came from Nazareth. In more recent history, the Nazarenes broke off from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 1800s over disputes relative to the call and demands of the Holiness Movement. The Holiness movement taught that one should strive, through the grace of God, to attain Entire Sanctification in this life. Attainment of Entire Sanctification entailed an outward expression of good works, and this outward expression — according to the founders of the Church of the Nazarene — had particular implications for ministry with the poor, homeless, and those of other religious backgrounds. Many Methodist clergy were opposed to the particulars of Holiness Doctrine where they differed from the the denominational leadership’s teaching on the subject, and hence those who supported Holiness doctrines were “forced out.” This resulted in the formation of the Church of the Nazarene in 1895, although several other Holiness branches had previously formed as much at 7 years earlier.
The Church of the Nazarene is now the largest denomination in the classical Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. The doctrine that distinguishes the Church of the Nazarene and other Wesleyan denominations from most other Christian denominations is that of entire sanctification. Nazarenes believe that God calls Christians to a life of holy living that is marked by an act of God, cleansing the heart from original sin and filling the individual with love for God and humankind. This experience is marked by entire consecration of the believer to do God’s will and is followed by a life of seeking to serve God through service to others. Like salvation, entire sanctification is an act of God’s grace, not of works. Our pursuant service to God is an act of love whereby we show our appreciation for the grace that has been extended to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.