We live in an age when many professing Christians believe that “doctrine” is divisive and should therefore be kept at a safe distance. Yet one cannot read the N.T. without recognizing that teaching lies at the heart of the Church’s task on earth. Take for example the Great Commission of Christ to His Apostles (who were Christ’s appointed representatives to ground the N.T. Church).
Without question, Christ intends for His people to know what to believe and how to live. This is what doctrine is: Biblical Teaching.
We are a church whose doctrinal commitments are rooted in Reformation history. The word “reformed” refers to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. By describing our church as being Reformed in its doctrines, we are stating that we share the doctrinal emphases that were at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. You might hastily conclude (please don’t) at this point that we are a church that is stuck in some out of date movement or that we are trying to keep our church in the “dark ages”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Biblical doctrines emphasized (or actually rediscovered) at the time of the Protestant Reformation lie at the very core of Biblical Teaching which gives life to the Church in any age. Read on and I think you will agree.
1. ‘Sola et tota Scriptura’ or Scripture Alone and Entire
We join the Old Testament prophets, Christ and the Apostles in their high view of God’s Word. Notice these texts:
These texts underscore the critical place of the Bible in the life of the Church. We receive God’s Word as inspired (“God-breathed”) and therefore authoritative (it is the only rule of faith and life), inerrant (it is true and cannot have any errors), and infallible (it is completely trustworthy and can be relied upon totally). Our goal is to understand all of it and allow the proper understanding of it to shape, fashion and otherwise ground our lives. The Protestant reformers sought to get the Bible into the hands of every believer. Martin Luther quickly began translated the Bible into German. For too long the Roman Catholic Church kept the Bible out of the hands of the common man. It was then possible to craft the doctrines of the Church after the traditions of men. Indulgences, purgatory, praying to Mary, earning merit, doing penance, are just a few doctrines not found in the Bible. Yet all these had been built into the daily lives of believers. The reformers proclaimed that the Bible alone should serve as the sole authority for the Church.
This means that God rules over all and that His purposes are the ones being worked out in the big picture of history (His-story). The Bible is a record of what God has done, and what He is doing. This record does not reveal a God who has His hands tied or is “doing as best as He can considering…”. Rather, God reveals Himself as the One who is in complete control of all things. Indeed, according to Ephesians 1:11, He has ordained whatever comes to pass. Now admittedly this is a mystery that we will not fully understand in this life for many things that happen in the world don’t seem to come from a good God. However, the plain teaching of Scripture is that the earth is the Lord’s and all of its fullness and that He takes care of it all; that all things were created for His own glory; and that the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of His Christ. Consider this simple yet profound statement in Romans 11.
You and I fit into the unfolding plan of a Great and Majestic God who is the central Being of all that is. He occupies center stage and will continue to do so forever and ever. Because of our sinfulness, we are most often consumed with ourselves as though we were the center of the universe. Simply reading Scripture will reveal otherwise. Read Isaiah 6 which gives the record of Isaiah’s vision of God in the Temple. Isaiah’s “undone-ness” speaks volumes of what an encounter between God and man reveals. Take comfort, God is greater and more powerful than your most imaginative conception of Him.
This is only consistent with what has been said above, but more importantly, it is entirely Biblical. God’s grace is that aspect of His disposition which is mercifully focused on delivering undeserving and rebellious people from sin and death and reconciling them to Himself that they might enjoy Him and before conformed to His character. He accomplished this reconciliation on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus. To describe this grace as invincible is to declare that God’s purpose to save sinners can’t be thwarted by Satan or man. Now this truth is greatly objected to today by countless professing believers, but once again, a study of the scriptures on this subject is absolutely conclusive. It is established by the following Biblical doctrines:
a) Sinful man is dead in His trespasses and sins and not only will he not seek God, but He can’t. Read Romans 3:10ff and then consider the following:
b) Being born again is the work of the Holy Spirit, not of ourselves. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t regenerate (give us life) us, it won’t happen. Consider the following:
c) The Scripture teaches that the mission of Jesus would be successful not on the basis of our complying, but on the basis of His accomplishing. Consider the following:
In short, God’s grace must be invincible because, no one will be saved if left to themselves. Dead men don’t reach for anything. It is the invincible power of God that raises the dead. When God said, ‘Let there be light, there was light’. When God commanded to Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones, those bones stood up and became a mighty nation. This is God’s work and it is beautiful in our eyes.
This statement coming out of the Protestant Reformation underscores the Biblical teaching that we are saved through faith in Christ, not on the basis of our own merits. Salvation can’t be earned by us in any way. Here again, read this statement from Ephesians 2:
Church history is full of examples of people who have run amok with regard to the nature and character of the Christian life. More deceptive “offers” are made each week in terms of what you can expect God to do in your life than can be counted. However, the Bible has clear and straightforward teaching on how we are to live. During the time of the Protestant Reformation the following Biblical teachings were heralded everywhere the Reformation extended:
Many people think today that the Christian life is a private and personal one. The Bible, if read, will lead a believer to embrace his role in Christ’s church on the earth. There are a number of important matters to be considered regarding the Biblical teaching on the Church. The matter of the sacraments or ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Church Government: does the Bible give us any pattern (presbyterians believe so)? The relationship of believers to the office bearers in the church on the earth: Elders and Deacons. The nature of Church Discipline; The believer’s duty to his brother in Christ.
These are a few of the many doctrines that we seek to build our lives upon here at ARPC. Obviously, we are all growing through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and that work leads us to repentance and change. We realize how fast life moves and how quickly today’s opportunities to please God in a fallen world are gone. We trust that you will continue to reflect upon your own relationship with Christ and His Church and how this plays out in your life. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Pastor Dolby, at (941)485-3551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.