A Reformed Church
WHAT IS A REFORMED CHURCH?
In the broadest sense of the term, “reformed” refers to any church that finds itself in the historical tradition of the Protestant Reformation. Following the lead of Martin Luther (1483-1546) in Germany, Christians all over Europe rose up in protest against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. When the cry for reform fell on deaf ears, the Protestants separated themselves into their own denominations, attempting to regain the pure simplicity of the Apostolic faith, as expressed in the New Testament, unadulterated by centuries of man-made traditions.
THE REFORMED BAPTIST TRADITION
The Reformation spread like wildfire, leaping across the Channel, and gave rise to the Anglican Church in England. Under the direction of King Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547) the Church of England separated from Rome. Henry was succeeded by his son, the boy-king Edward (r. 1547-1553), who reigned a short while, followed by his sister Elizabeth (r. 1558-1603). Under the direction of these three monarchs, the Anglican Church took the form that it still retains centuries later. However, there were many who felt that the English reforms did not go far enough; the church needed to be further purified of it’s Catholic elements. These Puritans met with strong opposition from the British Crown, eventually leading to the English Civil War (1642-1651).
But others were convinced that the English Church was far too corrupt to succumb to reform, and so they separated themselves into their own unique denominations. Among these Separatists arose a group of men and women strongly committed to the doctrines of the Reformation, as expounded by the Swiss reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) a century earlier. Also, these Particular Baptists, as they were so-called, were of the persuasion that the Bible taught that only those who evidenced saving grace in their life were suitable for baptism. In 1644, seven of these Particular Baptist congregations came together in the city of London to draft a defense of their faith. The First London Baptist Confession of Faith witnessed the birth of the Reformed Baptist tradition in England. Meeting again in 1689, the Reformed Baptists, in an effort to demonstrate solidarity amongst the Reformed churches of various denominations, adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith, a Presbyterian Confession, as their own. With significant changes to the doctrine of the church, baptism, and religious liberty, The Second London Baptist Confession became the standard amongst Reformed Baptists, as it is to this day.
Many saints lent their efforts to develop and give form to this tradition; John Bunyan, Isaac Backus, John Gill, William Carey, and C.H. Spurgeon, just to name a few.
THE FIVE SOLAS
As a reformed church, Grace Baptist holds to the five solas of the Protestant Reformation. Sola is a Latin term meaning, "only," or, "alone." These were articulated in light of the various errors of the Roman Church.
Sola Scriptura. The Bible alone is the final authority for all faith and practice. While creeds and confessions are useful in articulating what the Bible teaches, these are subservient to the Word of God itself. — 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21
Sola Gratia. Salvation is by grace alone. It is all of grace. There is nothing that mankind can do to earn salvation. “It is the gift of God, not of works.” Even the faith to believe and the repentance to turn from sin are a gift from God. — Ephesians 2:8-9
Solus Christus. Our salvation was accomplished by Christ in his dying for our sins, and His rising again for our justification. It is a finished work to which no one can add and from which no one can subtract. It is complete and perfect. — Hebrews 10:1-14
Sola Fide. This salvation, earned by Christ, is made ours when we receive it by faith, and by faith alone. While good works are a natural overflow from the new life found in Jesus, they are not the means by which we are justified in God’s sight. — John 3:16; Romans 3:21-31
Soli Deo Gloria. All we are and all we do is to be lived out for the glory of God alone. By His will we were created and we exist, and by his tender mercies are we spared the wrath that we deserve for our sin, and by his loving grace our path on the “straight-and-narrow” is safeguarded. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” — 1 Corinthians 10:31
THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
Commonly called “Calvinism,” named after the reformer John Calvin whose classic work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, gave structure to the Reformed faith. These truths are summarized using the acrostic TULIP.
Total Depravity. Sin is so pervasive, that it infects every aspect of the individual; his mind, his heart, his will, his emotions, even the “good” deeds that he does are like filthy rags in God’s sight. Man is dead in his sin. His will is enslaved to his own lusts and passions. “There is none righteous, no not one.” — Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18
Unconditional Election. God chooses to save, out of wicked humanity, those whom He desires to save, and that apart from any good or merit on their behalf. God has ordained, before the foundation of the world, those who will be saved. Those who are chosen are chosen simply because it pleased God to do so. — Romans 8:29-30;9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12
Limited Atonement. All those that God chose to save are all those for whom Christ died. Christ’s death actually secured the salvation of the elect, purchasing them as His own possession with His own blood. There are no saving benefits to be had in Christ by those who will ultimately perish. — Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25
Irresistible Grace. Those whom God draws to Himself will come to Him. God cannot fail in saving those whom He has elected — the blood of Christ shed for them will not be shed in vain. It is through the preaching of the Word that God draws sinners to Himself. — John 6:37, 44; 10:16
Perseverance of the Saints. Those whom God draws to Himself will come to Him and He will raise them up at the last day. God has not called us to a lifeless faith, but a faith that demonstrates itself in good works. The elect will continue steadfastly in the faith until the very end, for it is God who works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. — John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 1:6
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.
- C. H. Spurgeon
The Protestant Reformation
The Reformed Baptist Tradition
The Five Solas
The Doctrines of Grace