10 Doctrines of the Reformed Faith
as Outlined in the Book of Order F-2.03-F-2.05
The two beliefs shared with the Church catholic (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant)
01 I God is Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Since the beginning of the early church, believers have been attempting to articulate the relationship between God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. One way the church has traditionally described the inter-relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is by the word "Trinity", or "three-in-one". We acknowledge with the catholic church down through the ages the mystery of the Trinity - that there is one God alone, infinite, loving, eternal and good. God is one in essence and yet exists in the plurality of three distinct persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
—Genesis 1:2,26; 18:1-8; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Mark 2:7; Luke10:21-22; John 8:58; 14:6-31; I Corinthians 2:6-16; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews. 1:1-14
02 I The Incarnation of Jesus Christ
We uphold the belief that in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the eternal Word entered human history and became flesh and lived among us in real space and time. We affirm that Jesus is the true Word of God - the visible image of the invisible God. The person of Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully human. With the early church, we confess Jesus is God's only mediator between God and humanity and that Jesus is God's unique means for the salvation for the world. In complete obedience to God, Jesus lived, died, rose again and will come again to establish God's kingdom in fullness and completion.
—Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1-18; 5:19-30; 7:16; 8:26; 12:49-50; 14:10,24; 17:4,7-8; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20
The two beliefs shared with the Protestant Reformation
03 I Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone
We embrace the great Reformed belief that we are saved, not by our works, or by the church, or even by the sacraments, but solely by the grace of God freely given to us in the person of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge there is a broken relationship between humanity and God. We cannot save ourselves and restore the relationship. However, God is a God of love. In grace, God gave God's Son Jesus to restore that relationship. We are the receivers/responders of grace. We can only accept God's free gift of grace through faith in Christ. Even our faith in God is a gift of grace. What is central is the importance of what Christ has done "for me" to bring me into a personal relationship with God.
Since all of us are saved by grace alone, there is no spiritual hierarchy within the church; there are not those more saved or important than others. We are all equally sinners and equally given grace. And we are all equally called into serving Christ in ministry as we encourage the priesthood of all believers. We affirm the Holy Spirit's work in each of us to gift, empower and direct us in God's mission.
—Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 53:11; John 3:16-18; Romans 3:9-5:11; Ephesians 2:1-10; James 2:14-26
04 I Scripture Alone as the Authority for Our Lives & The Church
We are a church built on scripture. We believe the Bible bears the true and faithful witness to the Living Word, Jesus Christ. We uphold the scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be God's uniquely revealed and written Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit. We differ from some Christian churches who believe that the Bible was written by "the finger of God." Rather, God used and inspired people within the parameters of time, culture, geography and language, to reveal divine truth to people. Yet we believe that the Bible speaks to us today and we seek to understand, love, follow, and submit to God's Word. The Bible is placed at the center of our teaching and preaching and our Christian practice. It is the church's first and final authority in all areas of faith and life. One of the great beliefs of the Protestant Reformation is that the One who inspired the scriptures is also the One who resides in us to interpret and apply the written word.
—Psalm 118:105; Isaiah 55:8-11; Matthew 4:1-11; 5:17-20; I Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21
The Six Focal beliefs of the Reformed Tradition
05 I The Sovereignty of God
Those in the Reformed tradition emphasize God as the sovereign ruler of all creation. We believe God created the universe and everything in it is ordered according to God's will and purposes. In God's sovereignty, God accommodates free will, resulting in the presence of both good and evil. God is not the author of evil or sin but continues to govern and rule in such a way as to cause all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose. God opposes evil and the consequences of sin. As a church, we affirm the in-breaking of God's kingdom with the coming of Jesus Christ, and therefore corporately seek to exhibit this Kingdom to the world. Therefore we pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We trust that God will triumph completely over evil and bring all creation to a glorious consummation.
—Genesis 1:1; 50:20; Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 6:4; Job 38; Psalm 8; 46; 47, 94:9; 139:1-16 (and many other psalms); Proverbs 16:33; Isaiah 44:6-8; 46:8-11; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 6:10; 10:30; Acts 1:6-7; Romans 8:28-39; Revelation 1:7-8
06 I The Election of People for Salvation and for Service
Our understanding of salvation is based entirely on God's grace and initiative. It is about God's choice, not our choice. God has chosen us in Christ, for both salvation and for service. We are elected for a definite purpose - to glorify God with our redeemed life. Our faith in Christ and our good works are evidence and confirmation of our election.
Election is also the assurance of the security of one's salvation and the steadfast love of God for us. We have the confidence, based on the promises of God in scripture, that we can trust Christ for our salvation for all eternity.
—Genesis 12:1-3: Exodus 19:1-7; Psalm 139:13-16; John 15:5,8,16; Romans 8:28-30; 9-11; Galatians 1:15-16; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:10; Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; I Peter 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:10
07 I Covenant Life
Covenant, in the cultural context of the Bible, describes the strongest relationship of love and loyalty between two people. It is a solemn bond, often with oaths and obligations, and often sealed with the blood of sacrifice. A covenant was entered into faith as a relationship of trust and promise. It was held together by faithfulness. Keeping covenants led to blessing and life while breaking covenants led to curse and death. God made covenants in different forms and in different times with people like Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. But each one was initiated by God and sustained by God's faithfulness despite humankind's unfaithfulness.
In Jesus, the promised Messiah, we personally encounter God's perfect and everlasting covenant. Jesus has fulfilled the obligations of the covenant for us through his death and resurrection. Those who put their faith in Christ are spiritually united with him and enter the new covenant and become members of the covenant community called "the church." Every believer is called to be a participating member of a particular community of faith where together they can publicly demonstrate the covenant love and grace of Jesus Christ. Within the Reformed tradition, we emphasize our covenant with God through two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The sacraments are both signs and seals of the promises of the gospel. Both point to and remind us of the sacrifice of Christ for us. The Holy Spirit uses the common signs of water, bread and wine to convey grace, salvation and the real presence of our Lord.
—Genesis 9:8-17; 17:1-22; Exodus 34:27-28; Psalm 89:3-4; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 22:20; Acts 2:37-47; 8:26-9:20; 10:34-48; 16:11-40; Romans 6:1-14; I Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-26; 12:13; Colossians 2:8-12
08 I Faithful Stewardship
God has given us all that we have and all that we are. From the beginning of creation, we have been charged with the responsibility of using all our abilities and gifts in God's faithful service to bring glory to God. The basic concept that Jesus Christ is Lord carries into all areas of our lives - our spiritual, physical, social, political, intellectual, economic and recreational life. We are called to be stewards of our bodies, our possessions, our resources, and our money as an extension of our faith and as a testimony to God's goodness.
—Genesis 1-2; Exodus 25:1-2; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; 2 Samuel 24:24; Psalm 24:1; Ecclesiastes 5:10-15; Malachi 3:6-12; Matthew 6:19-24; 25:14-30; Mark 12:41-44; John 3:16; Romans 12:1-8; I Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 8, 9; I Timothy 6:6-10
09 I Humanity and Sin
Human beings were created by God in God's own image - in true and right relationship with God - to know and love God. Our earliest forebears became disobedient and prideful and broke their relationship with God and brought sin and death upon all creation.
As Reformed people, we believe in the reality of sin, the radical brokenness and corruption in human nature. Sin is basically a turning away, or rebellion, against God. As a result, human beings are sinful by nature, influence, choice and action. They remain in bondage and are subject to God's holy judgment. Without God's grace and action, they are lost.
Jesus' death on the cross was the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Although Christians are marred by sin and imperfect until Christ returns, the Holy Spirit is at work transforming us more and more into the image of Christ. Two particular sins with which we have historically been concerned are idolatry and tyranny. Idolatry is anything to which we look for our protection, provision, guidance or fulfillment. Tyranny is when a person sets themselves up as god over others.
The emphasis here is to recognize our dependence on God's grace and on the Holy Spirit's work to bring about in us the saving power of Jesus Christ.
—Genesis 1:26-27,31; Psalm 51:1-17; 103:10,12; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19-20; Luke 18:9-14; John 8:34; Romans 3:10-24; 5:6-21; 7:18-25; 8:5-8; Galatians 3:22; Ephesians 2:1-3; Hebrews 10:22; I John 1:8-2:2
10 I Working for the Transformation of Society
Reformed people believe that obedience to the will of God is the central aspect of our spiritual existence. We believe God calls the church into being and that we, as believers, are to follow and obey God's word and mission. The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven in the world. The church is to commit itself fully to this mission, waiting for and hastening the Lord's coming again.
—Isaiah 58:6-12; 61; Micah 6:8; Matthew 9:35-38, 28:18-20; Luke 4:14-21; John 15:1-17; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:13-15; 12:2; Ephesians 3:20-21; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-7
*The Presbyterian Church USA is guided by Scripture first and foremost. In addition to Scripture, our denomination is guided theologically by our Book of Confessions and guided ecclesiastically by our Book of Order.