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).
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
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 You might hastily conclude (please don’t) at this point that we are a church that is stuck in some out of date movement or that we are trying to keep our church in the “dark ages”.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:
Isaiah 8:19-22 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 21 They will pass through it hard pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. 22 Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.
Mat 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Acts 20:26-27 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
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.
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
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 be 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:
Ephesians 2:1-6 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
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:
John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
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:
Matthew 1:19-21 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Hebrews 9: 11-12 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
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.
4. ‘Sola Fide’ or By Faith Alone.
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:
Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
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:
(1) The Christian must live in the world yet not be oriented to the same standards as the world. Christ never ordained for man to be a monk or live in a commune cut off from the world.
(2) The Christian must fulfill the duties and responsibilities God prescribes in all our relationships: family, employment, church. “Loving Jesus” is no substitute for paying our bills, obeying and respecting our parents, being industrious and dependable employees.
(3) The Christian is not called to a private mystical relationship with God based upon feelings and emotions, but is to join in with the visible body of Christ and submit to Christ’s governmental design for His people on the earth by taking his or her place in the Church.
(4) The Christian must live constantly aware that he or she is always “coram Deo” in the presence of God.
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.