What we mean by "Reformed", "Evangelical" and "Church"...
- Created on Wednesday, 09 July 2008 20:25
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 August 2012 21:50
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What we mean by "Reformed"
Reformed theology gets its name from the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. Believers in the Reformed tradition regard highly the specific contributions of such people as Martin Luther, John Knox, and particularly John Calvin. However, Reformed theology was not "invented" in the sixteenth century. The stream of orthodoxy reaches back through the ages, ultimately finding its source in the headwaters of all truth, the Scriptures themselves.
Reformed theology places great emphasis on the doctrine of God, this doctrine being central to the whole of its theology. The chief and most distinctive article of our theology is God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty means "rule" and the sovereignty of God means that God rules over His creation with absolute power and authority. He determines what is going to happen, and it does happen. God is not alarmed, frustrated, or defeated by circumstances, by sin, or by the rebellion of His creatures.
His sovereignty also oversees the salvation of man as manifested in the doctrines of grace. The doctrines of grace have historically been represented by the acrostic TULIP. In short, this doctrine biblically describes God’s role in man’s salvation.
Total depravity (T) declares that man is dead in sin and incapable of exercising faith without first being regenerated by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Unconditional election (U) refers to God’s gracious work of election whereby according to His good pleasure and not based on anything man has done, the elect are brought to saving faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. Limited atonement (L) means that Christ’s death, though sufficient to save all, was efficient to save the elect. In this sense, all for whom the atonement was designed to save, will be saved. Irresistible grace (I) refers to God’s effectual calling being "operative," not "cooperative," whereby the regenerate are made willing to come to Christ and cling to Him for their redemption. Perseverance of the saints (P) means that those who are truly regenerate come to saving faith will never lose their salvation. God preserves them and will complete the work He has begun.
We do not believe Reformed theology is a sect or branch of Christianity, we believe as the great London preacher Charles H. Spurgeon said, reformed theology is a synonym for biblical Christianity.
What we mean by "Evangelical"
The word "evangelical" comes from the Greek word meaning "good news." For years, it identified those believers who held to the basic Christian doctrines (i.e., the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Resurrection & the Judgment of all men, etc.).
In the course of history, however words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past, it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. That is, it affirmed historic Christian orthodoxy as those defined by the Apostles’ Creed and the great ecumenical councils of the first millennium of Christian history such as the Councils of Nicea, Chalcedon, Constantinople, and others.
Historic evangelicalism also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. The "solas" (Latin for "only") affirmed the following: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Soli Deo Gloria (To God be the Glory alone).
In short, the "solas" were the rallying cry of the reformers. Scripture is the sole source of divine revelation. Christ is the sole source of our salvation via His sinless life and His substitutionary atonement. Grace is the sole source of our justification and reconciliation to the Father. Faith is the sole means by which Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. And lastly, that God’s Glory is to be pursued as man’s chief end and purpose for living.
Today, however, the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, His gospel, and His Church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
What we mean by "Church"
The biblical word for church means "those who are called out." The church, therefore, is the assembly or gathering of the elect, those whom God calls out of the world, away from sin and into a state of grace. Each Lord's Day, the church gathers to worship God. The question "How does God want to be worshipped?" is of utmost importance. Regrettably, the question has too often become "How do we want to worship God?" The result is a man-centered service as opposed to a God-centered one.
The loss of God's centrality in the life of today's church is common and lamentable. It is this loss of God centeredness that has led the church to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, holiness into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.
But God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God's kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.
It is with this understanding that we approach Sunday morning with a carefully considered order of worship. We worship with fear and trembling but we also worship with joy and confidence. After all, there is no other earthly exercise more important than the worship of the Most High God.
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