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What is a Reformed Church? (11 essays)

by Pastor Lars Larson, PhD line

          Definition is the effort to make something understandable, distinct, or clear.  Definition describes a matter so that it may be understood as precise or definite.  To define something separates it and distinguishes it from other things.  To define something excludes other things from it.  Today’s world disdains that which is exclusionary.  We exist in what many would consider a compassionate, caring world, but one which is suspicious of definition and labels.  And so, generally speaking, people decry definition.  Knowing this, some Christian and church leaders, in their desire to make the broadest appeal to the world, refuse to define themselves.  They remove from their documents long standing titles and tenants.  They abandon their former names lest they be viewed as too narrow or precise.  They want to be known in broad terms, for they want to “connect” with as many as possible.  But we do not think that this is the way that we should think or act as Christians.  There is the need for precision and clarity in thought and message.  And so, we see the need and importance for definition and explanation. This is a major reason that I thought that it would be good to rehearse what it is and why it is that we are a reformed Baptist Church.  For that is how I would define us, a reformed Baptist Church.  We are Baptist, which reveals our beliefs regarding the mode of baptism and the nature of the local church.  And we are reformed, which describes what we believe about a number of points, which we delineate below.  And so, in the essays that follow we seek to expound on that which we hold to be true, and we will point out how it excludes beliefs and practices of others who are called Christian.
           By way of introduction we may make several points about the term “reformed.”  First, more broadly speaking, the term, “reformed”, speaks to the general principles and beliefs that were held by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th and 17th century.  These foundational principles are five in number.  They are commonly identified by five Latin phrases or slogans that emerged during the Protestant Reformation, each containing the word “sola”, being translated in English as “alone” or “only.”  They are as follows: Sola scriptura, Sola fide, Sola gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria.  These five expressions are translated as the following: by Scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, Christ alone, and glory to God alone.  These are the main tenants and principles that were espoused through the Protestant Reformation. 
           But second, the word “reformed” also speaks to a subgroup of the Protestant reformation.  There were a number of groups of Christians who were all Protestant, but each differed in some important ways from one another.  There were the Lutherans in Germany and later in Scandinavia, the Anabaptists of the Netherlands (and elsewhere), the Dutch Reformed Church, the Huguenots of France, and the Reformed Christians of Switzerland.  When we say that we are reformed, we are identifying ourselves principally with the reformed movement that took place in Switzerland under the leadership of John Calvin.  Another name for reformed Christianity is Calvinism.  When we say that we are reformed, we are affirming five doctrines which the Bible teaches regarding God bringing salvation to us.  They are frequently referred to as the doctrines of grace.  These are (1) the total depravity of man, (2) God’s unconditional election of the lost to be saved, (3) the definite atonement of Jesus’ death for His people, (4) the irresistible grace of God in His calling to salvation, and (5) the final perseverance of the true believers unto their full and final salvation.  And so, in summary, when we say that we are reformed, we are affirming our understanding of the Christian faith with the five “solas” as well as the five doctrines of grace. The following links will take you to eleven essays, which were sermons delivered in our church about the topics mentioned above--what it is to be a reformed church.
           In addition to being a reformed church, we are a Baptist church. We affirm the biblical truths stated above, but we also affirm other truths of importance, which distinguish us as Baptists. These include the biblical teaching of baptism of disciples only by immersion only, a regenerate church membership, and the spiritual nature of the kingdom of God. There are three essays under a different heading to which we refer you: What is a Reformed Baptist Church?

           Below are the links to the 11 essays on what it is to be a reformed church.

What is a Reformed Church?
(1) Sola Scriptura -- Scripture Alone

What is a Reformed Church?
(2) Solus Christus -- Christ Alone

What is a Reformed Church?
(3) Sola Gratia -- By Grace Alone

What is a Reformed Church?
(4) Sola Fide -- By Faith Alone

What is a Reformed Church?
(5) Soli Deo Gloria -- To the Glory of God Alone

What is a Reformed Church?
(6) The Doctrines of Grace (Introduction to TULIP)

What is a Reformed Church?
(7) “T” -- Total Depravity

What is a Reformed Church?
(8) “U” --  Unconditional Election

What is a Reformed Church?
(9) “L” --  Limited Atonement, or Particular Redemption

“What is a Reformed Church?”
(10) “I” -- Irresistible Grace, or Effectual Calling

What is a Reformed Church?
(11)  “P” -- The Perseverance of the Saints