Back in July I posted a brief defense for Why I Call Myself a Reformed Baptist. In that article I also mentioned a poll I had conducted in 2007-2008 that revealed some significant diversity among those who would call themselves Reformed Baptists. I have also previously cited a paper by Jim Savastio entitled What is a Reformed Baptist Church?, in which he summarized well the (sometimes frustrating) diversity in the usage of the term Reformed Baptist.
Today I would like to inform the blog’s readers of yet another attempt to define what it means to be a Reformed Baptist. This paper is also entitled What is a Reformed Baptist Church?, and it was written back in 1999 by Andrew Kerkham, the pastor of Tauranga Reformed Baptist Church in Papamoa, Tauranga, New Zealand.
Here is the the complete text for your consideration:
WHAT IS A REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCH?
1. IT HOLDS TO HISTORIC CHRISTIANITY
It holds to the essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith as set out in creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed.
1.1 The Bible: The Bible in its original writings is fully inspired by God, and is therefore the supreme and final authority for belief and practice.
1.2 God: God is one in essence, eternally existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
1.3 Jesus Christ: Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, and is therefore truly God and truly human; he lived a holy and sinless life, died on the cross bearing our guilt as our vicarious substitute, rose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return personally, visibly, and in power and glory.
1.4 The Human Race: God created human beings in his own image, but Adam the first human being sinned, and through this transgression every one of us inherits a sinful nature which results in personal transgression and guilt, incurring the penalty
of death, both physical and spiritual.
1.5 Salvation: Salvation is through regeneration by the Holy Spirit (the new birth), justification by faith alone without works of righteousness, and sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit which produces the fruits of righteousness including good works.
1.6 The Future: There is a future bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust, the just to eternal blessedness in heaven and the unjust to eternal banishment in hell.
2. IT HOLDS TO REFORMATION DISTINCTIVES
Sola scriptura – Sola gratia – Sola fide
Scripture alone – Grace alone – Faith alone
2.1 Sola Scriptura:
The Bible in its original writings is verbally and fully inspired by God and therefore the inerrant Word of God to the human race; it is therefore the
supreme and final authority for belief and practice. (For a modern statement see
the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978
). Neither human reason, experience nor the Church can be our final authority. Therefore liberal theology (which exalts the authority of human reason), the charismatic movement (which exalts the authority of human experience) and Roman Catholicism (which exalts the authority of the church) are all viewed as inadequate systems of belief.
2.2 Sola Gratia: Salvation is entirely by the grace of God. The implications of this statement are summed up in the so-called “Five Points” (TULIP):
2.2.1 Total inability (or, total depravity): Sin has affected human beings to the extent that every part of our beings—body and soul, mind will and emotions—have been contaminated by sin, so that no one is able to do anything to gain salvation. We are therefore all under the condemnation of God.
2.2.2 Unconditional election: Since we are incapable of effecting our own salvation, God in his grace has chosen to call out specific individuals from the condemned human race to be his people. This election is unconditional in that is it based entirely on God’s grace and good pleasure, not on any merit, neither intrinsic nor foreseen, in us.
2.2.3 Limited atonement (or, particular redemption): If election is particular (individual) and Christ’s death is a vicarious and substitutionary sacrifice, then the atonement is limited in its design or purpose to the elect.
2.2.4 Irresistible grace (or, efficacious calling): If the Father has elected specific individuals for salvation, and the Son has died a substitutionary death for them, then the Holy Spirit in time calls them irresistibly and efficaciously to salvation.
2.2.5 Perseverance (or, security) of the saints: If the Father has specifically elected us, and the Son has died specifically in our place, and the Holy Spirit has irresistibly called us to eternal life, then our salvation is secure, for (by God’s grace) we shall persevere in holiness to the end and be assured of heaven.
2.3 Sola Fide: In salvation we are justified by faith alone.
2.3.1 Justification: Justification is God’s forensic (legal) declaration
that a sinner is not guilty. This declaration is based entirely on the
righteousness of Christ, who himself bore the sinner’s penalty of death in
his substitutionary death on the cross. Since we have no righteousness of
our own, in justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed (reckoned, accounted) to the sinner.2.3.2 Faith: Justification is effected through the instrument of faith. This faith involves various aspects, in particular, knowledge, assent and trust.
2.3.3 Faith alone: Justification is by faith alone. Justification is not on the basis of our own merit or righteousness, nor is it on the basis of baptism or penance.
3. IT HOLDS TO BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES
It holds to Baptist distinctives that distinguish it from non-Baptist churches, namely:
3.1 The Church: The Church is the whole company of those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The local church, as a manifestation of the universal church, is a community of believers in a particular place where the Word of God is preached, the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are observed, and scriptural discipline is exercised. It is fully autonomous, and remains so notwithstanding responsibilities it may accept through voluntary
3.2 Congregational Church Government: A constituted church meeting, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and through the guidance of the Scriptures, is the highest court of authority for the local church. Elders and deacons are chosen and lead through the common consent of the church itself. Each individual member has a right and responsibility to participate fully in the life and government of the church, particularly in the appointment of its leaders.
3.3 Believer’s Baptism: Baptism is an outward sign of an individual’s union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, and is a confession of personal regeneration, repentance and faith. Its scriptural mode is immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3.4 The Priesthood of Believers: Each believer has direct access to God through
Christ our High Priest, and shares with him in the work of reconciliation through intercession, worship and faithful service.
3.5 Liberty of Conscience: Each believer has the right to private conscience, and has an obligation to interpret the Scriptures responsibly and to act in the light of
his/her conscience, and should not be coerced by any State, secular, ecclesiastical or religious group in matters of faith. Nevertheless, it is right and proper that like-minded believers should express their fellowship in voluntarily submitting to confessions, creeds and statements of faith.
4. THE EFFECTS OF THESE DISTINCTIVES ON PRACTICE
The effects of these historic, reformed and baptist distinctives should be seen in the life and practice of the church as follows:
4.1 Preaching: Preaching of the Word of God is the method that God has ordained for proclaiming the name of Christ and building up the body of Christ. No other methods (e.g. music, films and other art forms; debate, discussion, broadcasting or other communication forms) should detract from or replace the faithful and public exposition of the Scriptures and the preaching (proclamation) of the gospel of Christ.
4.2 Evangelism: While God knows who the elect are, we do not, so God has ordained that his church should preach the gospel (the good news) of his salvation to all people throughout the world. Evangelism is conducted with confidence, knowing that it does not depend on human persuasiveness, but on the irresistible working of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is based on the preaching of the Word of God, and both
the message and the method of evangelism must be founded on Scriptural principles.
4.3 Worship: Worship is viewed as a serious and reverent approach to God, who is majestic, glorious and holy. Worship therefore should be free from all superficiality, frivolity and irreverence. Although worship is conducted in a serious and reverent manner, it is also joyful as we rejoice in the God of our salvation.
4.4 Godly Living: Individual believers are expected, on the grounds of Scripture and as proof of their salvation, to live godly lives in obedience to the Law of God, to seek to be holy even as God is holy, to love one another as Christ has loved them, and to do good works as an expression of the love of Christ within them.
© 1999 by Andrew Kerkham
kerkham at gmail dot com
I am in essential agreement with Pastor Kerkham, as I would imagine most Reformed Baptists are. For those who are interested, he has also penned a modern English version of the Baptist Confession of 1689.