What does it mean to be Reformed?
When we say we are “Reformed,” we are proclaiming that we hold to the principles of the Protestant Reformation in our personal lives and in the life of the church. Over time, these Reformation principles became succinctly summarized in the Five Solas:
- Sola Scriptura – our only final authority is “Scripture alone,” not the pope, not man, not tradition
- Sola Gratia – we are saved by “Grace alone,” not because we have earned or are worthy of salvation
- Sola Fide – we are saved through “Faith alone,” not faith plus works
- Solus Christus – we are saved in “Christ alone,” not by some other intercessor such as Mary, and
- Soli Deo Gloria – all is “to the Glory of God alone;” Glory is due unto no other!
Furthermore, we hold to other Biblical principles that the reformers’ efforts helped to guide our practice back to what God prescribes in Holy writ, such as the regulative principle of worship, the principle of a plurality of elders, and the Biblical principles of church government. When we say we are “Reformed,” we stand on the shoulders of those who had come before us to stand for the proclamation and propagation of Biblical Truth.
The Protestant Reformation did not begin on Oct. 31st, 1517. Rather that date marked the beginning of the culmination of a storm that had long been brewing between the desires of wicked men in the Roman Catholic Church and the unchained Word of God. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church, he took a stand to fight for Biblical Truth. In doing so, Luther was not standing alone. He was standing on the shoulders of men of valor, of the saints of old, of the reformers who had gone before him.
Luther stood on the shoulders of John Hus, a man who came a century before him and whose last name in English means “goose.” In opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, Hus made a stand for Biblical Truth so that people could read scripture in their own language. When given the opportunity to recant, Hus replied “I would not for a chapel of gold retreat from the truth.” As Hus was burning at the stake, he uttered his famous last words, “In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” One Hundred and two years later, Luther would stand on the shoulders of this “goose” who had been “cooked.”
While Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, Hus stood on the shoulders of John Wycliffe. Hus, while he was burning at the stake, stood on Bibles used as kindling for the flames that would eventually consume him. These Bibles had been translated into English by Wycliffe, who had translated by hand the Latin Vulgate into English just a few decades before Hus was burned at the stake.
Wycliffe believed that every Christian should read the Bible for themselves. He believed that The Bible alone is the ultimate authority, not the pope, not councils, not tradition of men. For his efforts, Wycliffe became known as the “Morning Star” of the Reformation, as he offered the first real glimmer of light after a time of darkness (Post Tenebras Lux eventually became the battle cry of the Reformation and means, “After Darkness, Light!). Though Wycliffe died of natural causes, 44 years after his death the Roman Catholic Church, which had deemed Wycliffe’s efforts a great offense and threat, had his bones exhumed, burned to ashes, and then cast the ashes into the River Swift.
Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, Hus stood on the shoulders of Wycliffe, and Wycliffe stood on the shoulders of men who came before him, like the apostle Paul, who called for reform for the church at Corinth. Paul rebuked the church at Corinth for such problems as division over church leaders, tolerance of sexual sin, abuse of The Lord’s Supper, and others. Paul called for the church to re-form to Biblical Truths in their personal lives and in the life of the church. For each rebuke of the church’s abuse, Paul re-forms their attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1-…well, read the whole book!).
Wycliffe also stood on the shoulders of Christ, who called for reform for churches that were in Asia. Ephesus had lost its first love, Pergamum had become worldly, Thyatira had tolerated sin, Sardis had become a dead church, and Laodicea had become lukewarm! For each rebuke of the church’s sin, Christ re-forms their attention to repentance in obedience to The Word of God (Revelation chs.1-3).
When Martin Luther took his stand on Oct.31st, 1517, he did not stand alone and he did not say something new. He stood on the shoulders of these men, saying what they had been saying: that The Word of God is the rule and authority in our lives and in the life of the Church! Luther stood next to men who would, in time, come alongside him to also stand on these mens’ shoulders and say what these men had been saying. Erasmus, Tyndale, Coverdale, Rogers, Cranmer, Lattimer, Ridley, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Knox, and other reformers stood alongside Luther in standing on the shoulders of the men of valor who had come before them to proclaim and propagate The Truth of the Bible. They were not saying anything new; they were reforming the church to that which is true: The Inspired, God-breathed Word of God. They willfully accepted persecution, even unto death, so that they could guide the practice of the church and its living stones (church members) back to what God prescribes in Scripture, because “Scripture alone” is the final authority. Sola Scriptura!
Just as Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, and Hus stood on the shoulders of Wycliffe, and Wycliffe stood on the shoulders of Paul and the shoulders of Christ, we, at The Remnant Reformed Baptist Church, stand on the shoulders of Christ, of Paul, of the reformers, and of the Puritans who came after them. These, along with all of us here at The Remnant Reformed Baptist Church, attempted and are attempting to uphold in highest regard The Word of God and its application to our personal lives and to the life of the church. We will be the first to admit that we do not have it all figured out, and that there is always a change we can make to align us more consistently with Scripture. Alignment with Scripture to Glorify God – That is our aim!
The Reformation is far from over! That is why we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us and proclaim what they proclaimed, “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda,” meaning “the church reformed, always reforming.” THIS is why we call ourselves REFORMED!
We do it with our only, final authority as Scripture alone.
And we do it for the Glory of God alone!
Soli Deo Gloria!
For further discussion on what it means to be “Reformed,” please see this article by our dear brother Jim Savastio of Louisville Reformed Baptist Church: What is a Reformed Baptist?
What does it mean to be Confessional?
When we say we are Confessional, we proclaim that we hold to a historic confession in the life and practice of the church and its living stones (its members). To “confess” means to state truth in unity with others, and without controversy amongst or between those who confess that truth. Paul communicates this principle in scripture in 1 Timothy 3:16 with use of the phrase, “by common confession…”
A confession is simply an organized summation of what a unified body together believes about what The Bible teaches. It is an overview of the main distinctive theological doctrines of Holy Scripture. A confession draws from the whole of Holy Scripture to summarize what The Bible says about major topics such as the fall of man, the nature of man, the salvation of man, Justification, Adoption, Sanctification, The Law of God, The Gospel, Christ The Mediator, The Church, Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, to name just a few. A confession is, therefore, helpful to ground, explain, and give quick reference to what we, as a unified body of believers, believe God’s word says about those main doctrines.
A confession does not usurp the authority of God’s Word in the life and practice of the church or its members, nor does it claim to do so. In fact, our confession of faith, the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, bows the knee to the authority of The Word of God right out of the gate, in its very first chapter, with these words:
1.1 The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of saving knowledge, faith, and obedience…
1.3 The authority of the Holy Scriptures obligates belief in them.
1.6 The whole counsel of God concerning everything essential for His own glory and man’s salvation, faith, and life is either explicitly stated or by necessary inference contained in the Holy Scriptures. Nothing is ever to be added to the Scriptures, either by new revelation of the Spirit or by human traditions.
1.9 The infallible rule for interpreting Scripture is the Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full meaning of any part of Scripture (and each passage has only one meaning, not many), it must be understood in light of other passages that speak more clearly.
1.10 The supreme judge for deciding all religious controversies and for evaluating all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, human teachings, and individual interpretations, and in whose judgment we are to rest, is nothing but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit. In this Scripture our faith finds its final word.
The “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, offers an appropriate summary of the usefulness and proper place of the doctrinal confession used in his church, our confession, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith:
This little volume is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith,
whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy,
a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness. Here
the younger members of our church will have a body of divinity in small
compass, and by means of the scriptural proofs, will be ready to give a
reason for the hope that is in them.
Let your lives adorn your faith, let your example adorn your creed. Above
all live in Christ Jesus, and walk in Him, giving credence to no teaching but
that which is manifestly approved of Him, and owned by the Holy Spirit.
Cleave fast to the Word of God which is here (in this confession) mapped
out for you.
When we say we are CONFESSIONAL, we fully acknowledge that no man-made document is inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative, or sufficient; only The Word of God meets that criteria. Thus, Scripture, not our confession, is our final word! The confession simply unites our body of believers under the Truth and application of Holy Scripture in our personal lives and in the life of The Remnant Reformed Baptist Church.
For more information on the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith see The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith?
What does it mean to be Enslaved to Christ?
When we say we are “enslaved to Christ,” we proclaim the following seven truths as they are revealed in the authority of Scripture:
- That we once were enslaved to sin –
John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
Gal. 3:22, “But the scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”
- That we were once dead in our sin –
Eph. 2:1-3, “ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
Rom.8:5-8, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
- That we have been regenerated by God The Holy Spirit –
Ezekiel 36:25-28, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Ezekiel 37:14, “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.”
John 3:5-8, “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.”
Titus 3:5-6, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”
- That we have been saved by Grace alone (Sola Gratia) –
Eph. 2:4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Eph. 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
Rom. 11:5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”
- That we have been saved through Faith alone (Sola Fide) –
Eph.2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Gal.2:16, “Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
Gal. 3:20-26, “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…”
- That we are saved in Christ alone (Solus Christus) –
Acts 4:11-12, “This Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
- That, having been saved and freed from our bondage to sin, we are not our own, but have been purchased by the blood of Christ, and thus are slaves to Christ and His righteousness. Christ is not only our Savior, but he is also our Lord!
Romans 6:6, “…we are no longer slaves to sin…”
Romans 6:18, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
1 Cor.6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
1 Cor.7:21-23, “ Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.”
Gal.5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
1 Peter 2:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”
Rom. 1:1, “…a slave of Jesus Christ…”
Titus 1:1, “…a slave of God…”
James 1:1, “…a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”
When we say we are unapologetically “enslaved to Christ,” we are essentially proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation, and of which we are not ashamed (Romans 1:16-17). We proclaim that we were once enslaved to sin, but then God The Holy Spirit performed the monergistic work of regeneration unto salvation, applying the righteous blood of Christ to us, so that we are saved by God’s glorious grace through faith in Christ. Now, as regenerated and adopted children of God, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we belong to Christ, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. So, we are joyfully enslaved to Him and His righteousness and committed to doing all things FOR HIS GLORY!
For His Glory
In the summation of all these, we do humbly acknowledge the purpose for which we were created (Isaiah 43:7), which is to glorify God in all that we are and in all that we do (1 Cor.10:31), for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to Him be the glory (Romans 11:33-36)! So:
- We are REFORMED,…FOR HIS GLORY!
- We are CONFESSIONAL,…FOR HIS GLORY!
- We are ENSLAVED TO CHRIST,…FOR HIS GLORY!
Therefore, we do hereby solemnly and joyfully resolve to live FOR HIS GLORY!
Soli Deo Gloria!