What is a Reformed Church?
The term “Reformed” has its origins in the 16th century. During this period a work of restoration was undertaken by God after many centuries of spiritual decline in the medieval church. Through men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and others, priority was given to the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. Scripture once again became the regulating principle of doctrine and practice rather than superstition or church tradition. These men have become known as ‘The Reformers’ and the result of their labours ‘The Reformation’.
It is often asked what it is that constitutes a Reformed church. The following points provide a brief summary.
Belief in a sovereign God
By sovereignty we mean that God controls every detail of the universe; He has a purpose in all things in order to bring glory to Himself. The sovereignty of God by no means violates the free choice of human beings nor does it diminish human responsibility.
Sufficiency of scripture
God communicates to us through His Word, the Bible. We do not rely on extra-Biblical revelation such as dreams, visions or words of knowledge to guide us. God has in time past used such means and could continue to do so, however He has chosen to reveal Himself and His purposes through scripture. By the enabling of the Holy Spirit the scriptures are a light to our path and a lamp for our feet.
The doctrine of salvation
The Bible teaches that God has appointed whom He will save and the method He will use. His people were elected to salvation before the foundation of the world and He calls them to Himself through the preaching of the Gospel. The Reformed view of salvation is often referred to as Covenant Theology. The various steps involved in salvation are outlined in the so called Doctrines of Grace:
- Total depravity
- Unconditional election
- Limited atonement
- Irresistible grace
- Perseverance of the saints
Most Reformed churches approach corporate worship according to God’s holy character. As such He is worshiped in a way that is reverent and orderly (this however does not mean joyless!). It is popular today to equate worship with creativity and self-expression, the Bible however doesn’t describe worship in these terms. The aim of our worship is to bring honour to God and to do this we are to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
Creeds and confessions
While we maintain that the Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and practice we also acknowledge the importance of confessions and creeds. Many Christians find the use of these documents unnecessary and even uncharitable. This is unfortunate because they provide an excellent means of studying the Bible and clarifying doctrinal beliefs. The concept of confessional statements is actually found in scripture itself (see 1 Tim 3:16 as an example).
SDRBC uses the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith as a summary of belief.