Loving God and our neighbor involves teaching His word to His people with clarity and precision. The hallmark of the Reformed tradition has been its teachings. These are divided into Christian Essentials and Reformed Distinctives.
1. Bible—God’s word to man
- The Bible is God’s perfect and powerful word to human beings (2 Tim. 3:16; Ps. 119:160; Heb. 4:12).
- It is the ultimate standard for faith and life (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Jn. 4:1).
2. God—who He is
- The Bible describes God as infinite (Job 11:7), unchangeable (Mal. 3:6), eternal (Ps. 90:1-2), everywhere (Jer. 23:24), all-knowing (Ps. 139:4), all-powerful (Jer. 32:17), holy (Isa. 6:3-5), righteous (Ps. 50:6), merciful (1 Pet. 1:3), loving (1 Jn. 4:8).
- The one, true God (Deut. 6:4) exists in three persons: Father (Eph. 4:6), Son (Col. 2:9), and Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).
3. Man—who he was
- The first human beings were made in God’s image—reflecting his qualities and ruling over the earth (Gen. 1:26).
- They were created with the ability to earn eternal life by keeping God’s law and passing the test in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9, 16-17; 3:22).
4. Sin—what man has done
- The first human beings chose to break God’s law and failed to earn eternal life (Gen. 3:22; Heb. 4:4-5).
- This original sin led to the guilt and corruption of all humanity (Rom 5:12-21; Job 14:1,4).
- The consequences of sin also include suffering (Gen. 3:16-18), death (Gen 3:19; Eph. 2:1), and eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46; Lk. 12:4-5).
5. Christ—what God has done
- God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to rescue his sinful people (Jn. 3:16). This work of God is called the gospel (Rom 1:16).
- Christ is fully God (Jn. 1:1; Heb. 1:3) and fully man (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 4:15).
- Christ obeyed the law perfectly in the place of his people (Rom. 5:19).
- Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of his people (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:5-10).
- God the Father accepted the sacrifice by raising His Son from the dead. This assures His people that they will be made perfect (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:20-23).
6. Spirit—what God is doing
God the Holy Spirit applies the blessings of salvation which include:
- New life – This change in nature grants spiritual life and enables God’s people to believe the gospel (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:6).
- Saving faith – This change in perspective is the means by which God’s people receive the gospel, trusting in Christ for their salvation (Jn. 1:12; Eph. 2:8; Heb. 11:1).
- The act of justification – This change in status involves God forgiving the sins of his people (Eph. 1:7) and declaring them to be righteous based upon the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 4:4-5). It is received by faith alone (Gal. 2:16).
- The work of sanctification – This ongoing change in nature restores the image of God (Eph. 4:13-14) and urges God’s people to obey the law out of gratitude (2 Cor. 7:1).
- The hope of glorification – This future expectation involves sinless perfection and everlasting glory (1 Cor. 15:42; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Jn. 3:2).
- Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-10).
- Covenants are legal relationships (Deut. 28; Mal. 2:14).
- In the beginning, God entered into a covenant of works with the first man (Hos. 6:7), requiring perfect obedience and offering a reward of eternal life (Gen 2:9; 3:22).
- The first man failed to keep the covenant of works (Gen. 3:22; Heb. 4:4-5) which brought guilt, corruption, and death into the world (Rom 5:12-21; Job 14:1,4).
- So God entered into a second covenant with our first parents. This covenant of grace required faith in the covenant mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) who would obey the requirements of the covenant and make payment for the sin (Gen. 3:15, 20-21).
- The covenant mediator kept the covenant of grace by living a sinless life (Rom. 5:19; Heb. 4:15) and by dying on the cross for the sins of his people (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:5-10).
2. Doctrines of Grace (TULIP)
- Total depravity – This describes the totality of sin (Rom. 3:12). Corruption has penetrated every part of humanity to the extent that mankind cannot choose God (Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14).
- Unconditional election – God the Father chose a people out of sinful humanity to be saved (Rom 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5).
- Limited atonement – God the Son died on the cross for the sins of these people (John 10:14-15, 17:9).
- Irresistible grace – God the Holy Spirit enables these people to believe the gospel (Rom. 8:30; Acts 16:14).
- Perseverance of the saints – God preserves these people, perfecting them at death and especially at the second coming of Christ (Rom. 8:30; Phil. 1:6)
Other Reformed distinctives such as Biblical worship and Presbyterian government are discussed elsewhere on the website.