LESSON 9: What Does It Mean To Be Reformed?
BIBLE READING: John 3:1-21
The Free Reformed Churches want to be reformed in their doctrine and practice; that is, to be confessionally balanced and Scripturally sound. This is what we considered in the previous chapters. It may be useful to dwell somewhat further on what it means to be reformed. It is to be feared that there are churches which call themselves reformed but in practice are not truly reformed. What does it mean to be “reformed”?
GOD SAVES SINNERS
To be reformed it is important to emphasize the saving work of God. In Matthew 1:21 we read: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
This saving work of Christ is the heart of the Word of God. We can summarize this by means of the following little sentence with equal emphasis on each word: God saves sinners.
God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
Saves – God does everything -from beginning to end- that is involved in bringing man from deadness in sin to his life in glory: God plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
Sinners – man as God sees him is guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or improve his spiritual condition.
God saves sinners.
The fact is that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but salvation—from beginning to end—is wholly and entirely, past, present and future, of the Lord, to whom alone be glory for ever.
This is emphasized in churches of Reformed persuasion. They emphasize, in agreement with the Canons of Dort, free and sovereign grace. God saves a totally depraved sinner through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the effectual power of the Holy Spirit.
This is essential for Reformed faith. Some people call this “Calvinistic” faith or “Calvinism”. But this is not the best term. John Calvin himself would have loathed having Biblical beliefs being called after him. He was very modest. What he found in Scripture is not his system or his theology. It is simply Biblical theology. When we want to distinguish these doctrines of sovereign grace from other protestant views then we call them “reformed”.
We wish to be reformed. We call ourselves Free Reformed but we basically want to be Reformed in our persuasions.
SEVEN REFORMED PRINCIPLES
Maybe you the wonder: What is reformed? What does it mean to be reformed? That is an important question. There are basically 7 issues which characterize the Reformed view. These are:
1. The Authority of the Word of God
“We receive all these books and these only as canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; without any doubt, all things contained in them.” (Belgic Confession, Article 5)
2. The Total Depravity of man
“Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness? Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 8)
3. The Sovereignty of God
“That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree.” (Canons of Dort 1:6)
4. The full Sufficiency of Christ’s Suffering
“The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin and is abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.” (Canons of Dort 2:3)
5. Justification by Faith Alone and Not of Works.
“Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith; but only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God, which is received by faith only.” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 61)
6. The Lordship of Christ over the Church.
“Grant that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey Thy will, which is only good.” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 124)
7. The Glory of God as the Purpose of life.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
These are the seven vital issues which summarize what it means to be reformed. It is good to remember these 7 points. We also notice that there are many churches which in principle say that they are reformed but are not truly reformed because in practice they deny the authority of Scripture or undermine the sovereignty of God. It is good to realize why we are reformed.
Which doctrines does the Lord Jesus explain here?
Could Nicodemus have known about the necessity of regeneration from the Old Testament?
What teaching is the heart of God’s Word?
Is it important to be reformed?
Why can a denial of reformed doctrines easily lead to other errors?
This Bible Study was produced by the Youth & Education Committee of the Free Reformed Churches,1997, under the title, “Church History.” It is aimed at a Senior Young Peoples level.
Click on the tag “Bible Study: Free Reformed Church History” below for more lessons in this study.