What Does it Mean to be Reformed?
Westminster Presbyterian Church is a Reformed church. You may be wondering what it means to be Reformed.
The basics of the Reformed faith is that it is Calvinist, Covenantal, Confessional, and Committed to the 5 Solas of the Reformation:
- Commitment to the 5 Solas.
The Reformation is generally considered to have begun when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. But it was John Wycliffe and William Tyndale who lit the fuse for the explosion of the Reformed faith with their work in translating the Bible. The commitment to make the Bible the sole authority on matters of faith was the transforming idea that led later reformers to break from the Roman Catholic Church.
- By Grace Alone
- Through Faith Alone
- In Christ Alone
- On the Authority of Scripture Alone
- To the Glory of God Alone
- The five solas of the reformation reflect the foundational theme of Scripture Alone as the highest authority. A reformed church holds to the five solas which primarily deals with how we are justified. Justification before God is:
Reformed churches are Calvinistic which means that we believe that salvation is a miraculous work of God that transforms a heart completely in rebellion against him. Calvinism is often summed up in the acronym TULIP:
- T - Total Depravity. Man is dead in his sins, and his mind is always hostile to God and will never seek God (Ephesians 2:1-6, Romans 8:7)
- U - Unconditional Election. Unconditional election means that God is impartial and chooses whom he will save apart from anything we may do. Since man's thoughts are only evil continually, there was nothing lovable about us to make God choose to save us, yet he died for us anyway. (John 15:16, Romans 9:11-21)
- L - Limited Atonement. Christ did not die to make men savable, but fulfilled his purpose on the cross in saving the elect. Though his death was sufficient to save all men, his death was effective to save all the elect. (Acts 20:28, John 10:11)
- I - Irresistible Grace. Though man can and do resist the grace of God offered to the world, at the moment God's timing is perfected, his grace overcomes our stubborn resistance to take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh that now desires him. (John 6:37, Ezekiel 11:19)
- P - Perseverance of the Saints. Far from the sinful doctrine that once you are saved you can live however you want and never lose your salvation, the doctrine of perseverance of the saints teaches the biblical truth that when God has begun the good work of salvation in you, he will continue working to complete it until the day of Christ's return. Those who are saved, though they may stumble, will always return to living for God and showing the fruit of repentance in their godly living. (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:37-39)
Covenental theology understands that God has always related to his people according to a covenant. When the original covenant of works was made in the Garden of Eden, man was required to perfectly obey God's law in order to remain in right relationship with God. When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, that relationship was broken.
God then inaugurated the Covenant of Grace by which his people could be saved through faith in Christ. For Adam and Eve that faith was forward looking, believing in the promise of Genesis 3 that God would send the seed of the woman to crush the serpent's head. Throughout the Old Testament this promise was made clearer in that the seed would come through Abraham, be a descendant of Israel, and eventually be revealed to be of the house of David.
Throughout this Covenant, God has had laws for how his people should live, including the eternal moral law contained in the 10 Commandments. Those who were the true heirs of the faith were those who lived according to God's Law because of their faith in God, no one was ever made acceptable to God through the keeping of God's Law. The Law, in fact, was given to show our sinfulness, and to point to Christ who would fulfill the Law of God perfectly and give his people a heart to keep his Law as well.
Confessional refers to substantial agreement with one of the major, historic confessions of the Christian faith. These confessions include the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Confession, the Three Forms of Unity, and the London Baptist Confession of Faith. These Confessions do not replace the authority of the Bible, but rather establish it and seek to declare the proper interpretation of the Bible as it relates to what man is to believe about God and what duties God requires of man. While all of these confessions are worth study, Westminster Presbyterian Church, PCA, holds largely to the Westminster Standards which includes the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Longer and Shorter Catechisms.