What is a Reformed Church?
A Reformed church is one that follows in the footsteps of the Protestant Reformation, teaching the sovereignty of God over all things including our salvation, the forgiveness of sins by God’s free grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the centrality of the work of the Spirit through the church in God’s plan for the salvation of the human race, and the supremacy of the Bible as our only infallible guide and authority.
Because we believe that the Scriptures are the only infallible authority for faith and life, we make the teaching of those Scriptures the center of our worship and the life of our church. We do not preach the opinions of men. The worship of God is not a time for a comedy show, a motivational speech, or a college lecture; it is the public announcement of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the training up of disciples to Christ.
Because we believe in God’s sovereignty over all things, we teach that God elected His people to salvation before the world began. God sends His Spirit to His elect to work faith in them at His appointed time, so that our conversion is the result of His first working in us.
Because we believe that the church is central to the Spirit’s work of propagating the saving faith of Christ throughout the world, we follow the Scriptures’ teaching closely in how a church is to function and what it is to do. We believe in the importance of healthy church government, so that our leaders and our people are accountable to one another, and because we believe that the church of Christ is to be unified, we belong to an association of churches, so that we can work together with other Christians in other places as much as possible, while remaining true to our convictions.
We teach covenant theology, the belief that God works with the human race through covenant. God instituted the covenant of grace with His people after the race fell into sin through Adam. In that covenant God promised a savior who would free His people from the ruin and destructiveness of sin, and this He has done through Jesus Christ. God has always had a visible people on earth that are known as His “covenant people”, because God preserves the knowledge of His covenant in that people. Before Christ that people was the nation of Israel; after Christ, it is the church, as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost transforms Israel into the spiritual body it was always intended to be; that body being composed of both Jew and Gentile believers in Christ alike.
We baptize babies as well as adults, since the Scriptures teach that baptism is the sign of membership in the covenant people of God, and children are members of the covenant people just as their parents are. But salvation only comes by true faith, not merely outward membership in church or by the administration of sacraments. The sacraments are visible teachings of the grace of God and promises to us, that if we truly believe in the gospel, the blessings which the sacraments display to us will truly be ours. This is in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church who, while they also baptize babies, do so for completely different reasons, believing that the sacrament itself, without the presence of faith, takes away the sins of the infant.
We believe that the Spirit of God works through the church to accomplish what the church was created for, which is the spreading of the gospel throughout the world, and the training of disciples. The Scriptures teach that repentance from sin is an essential aspect of conversion. Therefore we promote and teach the application of Scriptural principles to every area of our lives, including our families, our vocational lives, our duties as citizens, our entertainment, and our care for our bodies. God created Adam to be in dominion- to be a wise steward of all of creation. Though Adam failed in that task, Christ came to restore us to it, and therefore the gospel has application to all we do in our lives. The Scriptures teach us that this task is best accomplished through the establishment of a Christ-centered community which seeks to build real fellowship with one another, lovingly building each other up in the truth and holding each other accountable when we need it.
Reformed churches today follow in the footsteps of these believers who were blessed by God to preserve true doctrine in the face of severe opposition and persecution by the corrupt medieval church. We believe that the Scriptures are our only infallible guide and authority for all that we do in the church and in our lives. We seek to be faithful to Christ’s command to preach the gospel and to make disciples of all the nations.
Reformed theology is a body of doctrine that is taught by many different churches, including Presbyterian and some Baptist churches. This body of doctrine reflects the teachings of the Protestant reformers Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin and is also referred to as Calvinism.
The Synod of Dort (1618) was called to answer the teachings of Arminianism and summarized Calvinist doctrine in five points: 1) Total Depravity of Man, 2) Unconditional Election, 3) Limited Atonement, 4) Irresistible Grace, 5) Perseverance of the Saints.
These five points are often referred to by the acronym “TULIP.” Reformed theologians have added a great deal of knowledge to the church at large and are generally respected for their solid scholarship.