What is a Christian? One who, by the grace of God, can declare that he justly deserves the wrath of God, save for the mercy of Jesus Christ alone. He casts aside all hope in his self-righteousness and puts away all pride in his own goodness. One who is glad to be regarded as spiritually bankrupt, a poor sinner, saved by the free grace and righteousness of Christ and, by the sheer mercy of God, has been granted a grateful heart which yields in allegiance to Him alone as LORD and sovereign. In a word, one who "glories in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3)
There is one God, eternally existent in the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is Creator of all things seen and unseen, infinitely perfect in love, power, and knowledge. These persons are the same in substance, equal in power and glory (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14). God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and all of human history according to his sovereign purposes.
We can only know God as He makes Himself known to us. God has communicated Himself in person, words and propositions which have been recorded for us in Scripture. He is not silent but has accommodated Himself to our lowly capacity that we might apprehend His purpose. Our faith is not based in any speculation or man-made philosophy but is based on the historic Christian faith which is recorded in the completed canon of Scripture. The Scriptures are without error (inerrant and infallible) in the original manuscripts, and represent the supreme and final authority for our faith and practice. The Bible is our guide in all matters regarding doctrine, church practice, counseling and individual behavior. We should, therefore, always be reforming our thoughts of God in order to be more God-honoring & consistent with the Word of God. The Scriptures were written by divinely inspired humans and are God's revelation of Himself to everyone. (Exodus 24:4;Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21)
I believe God, the creator of all things both seen and unseen (Col 1:16; Gen 1:1; Eph 3:9; Rev 4:11). Created man in his own image (Gen 1:27; Gen 5:1) in righteousness and dignity with the freedom and power to do that which is good (Ecl 7:29, Gen 1:26-31) and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of his will. By their sin mankind fell from intimacy with God and since Adam & Eve were the root of mankind this sin was imputed to all their descendants. Due to the effects of the fall (of Adam) on the mind and will, man's spiritual condition by nature is such that he is dead in trespasses and sins, enslaved to sin, wholly incapable and unwilling to come to God (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:7, John 3:19), and under the wrath of God. (Eph.2:1-3; Titus 3:3; 2 Tim.2:26). As such, man is utterly incapable of saving himself, or even to cooperate with God in his salvation. He does not possess the inclination, desire or ability to turn himself to God since he loves & prefers the darkness. Since man is depraved by nature, and will thus inevitably make choices in accordance with that nature, his "free will" will always choose to reject God, apart from God's grace.
In spite of humanity's rebellion against God, His great love was revealed in His purpose to bless humanity, which was made known in His post-fall redemptive promise to crush the head of the the serpent with the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). God then began to implement this plan of redemption, through the means of covenants, in order to mercifully bring humanity back into the fellowship of the the divine life and glory that He originally intended for us. The essence of the covenant between God and man is "I will be your God, and you will be My people." The progressive unfolding nature of the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David laid the covenantal groundwork for the culmination of God's redemptive work in His new covenant in Christ. These successive covenants of Scripture form a unity. The probationary covenant of life by which man was to keep God's commandments perfectly was ultimately and consummately fulfilled by Christ, God in the flesh. That covenant of grace is where God's elect are attributed Christ's satisfaction by faith. Thus, the nation of Israel shares a primary role in God's self-revelation in redemptive history. It is the revelation unfolding through the Old Testament that provides the crucial framework for understanding God's complete self-revelation through Jesus Christ.
I believe in the deity, humanity, virgin birth, sinless life, penal substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection; and the visible, bodily, and glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1; Is. 7:14; 1 Cor. 15:3-5; Acts 1:11). God the Father sent the Son to redeem lost humanity by uniting fallen humanity to Himself through Jesus' complete solidarity with Adam (John 1:1, 14; Rom. 8:3). The last Adam-Jesus (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15:45) shared in Adam's flesh in order to wage war against evil, fulfill God's covenant stipulations from our side, and ultimately, to receive in Himself the full penalty and consequences of Adam's fall through His death on the cross (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22; Col. 2:13-15). Christ having made a New Covenant with His blood, now reconciles humanity to God creating the bond of peace in our union with Him. All that was destroyed and lost in the fall Jesus comes to restore and redeem humanity and all creation from its breach with God. Having died a substitutionary death on the cross, he made a complete and sufficient atonement for the sins of His people according to the Scriptures. Three days later, He arose bodily from the dead.
"...the prism through which all light concerning God is reflected is Jesus Christ. This means that Christology is the beginning and the end, better, the starting point and summary, of all Christian thought. Christology is Paul's theme when he writes, "For it is the very God who said. 'Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4:6)... Christology is the subject of theology. More precisely put, Jesus Christ is the subject of theology.
We Understand that God in any sense differentiated from Jesus Christ is unknowable. This needs to be affirmed from the start. John writes in the prologue to his Gospel, "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (1:18). John repeats this idea forcefully in his first letter: "No one has ever seen God" (4:12)...Bible religion knows nothing about a God who can be found or made out from our side of things ... Theology is unable to start in those places [first cause, ground of our being] because the picture of God that emerges from such beginnings is speculative ... ... A theology that is Christology before it is anything else is a theology from the bottom up. It begins with the ministry of Jesus in his own time and space, and it states that it is entirely agnostic concerning anything other than what he has given us to know of the essential attributes of God ... we begin, therefore, christologically, with a concrete historic figure who appeared on the stage of human history ..." - Paul F.M. Zahl
Union between Christ and his people was planned already in eternity, in the sovereign pretemporal decision whereby God the Father selected certain sinners as His own. Christ himself was chosen to be our Savior before the creation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20); When the Father chose Christ, he also chose us (Ephesians 1:4). We are initially united with Christ in regeneration; next we appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith. Third, we are justified in union with Christ. Fourth, we are sanctified through union with Christ. Fifth, we persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ. Finally, we shall be eternally glorified with Christ.
This pretemporal choice was not based on the fact that God knew which persons would believe of their own free will, for there is no person which fits that description. This decision was based upon God's sovereign good pleasure alone. It is God's gracious decision, from eternity past, to save fallen souls of His own choosing. Therefore, God will infallibly bring all of His elect to final perseverance and eternal life (Phil 1:6; John 10:29; Rom 8:30; John 6:37, 39). The Persons of the Trinity work in harmony to accomplish and apply salvation. The Father, from eternity, elects a particular people for Himself (Ephesians 1:4, 5; Rom 8:29, 30) Christ redeems those the Father has "given Him" (John 6:37, 39; 10:29) and the Holy Spirit likewise applies the redemptive benefits of the atonement to the same. (John 1:13; 6:63; James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23,25).
I believe there is one requirement we must fulfill if a holy God is to look favorably upon us: This requirement is perfect righteousness; an unblemished resume, which has never once broken any Law of God. Unless we can produce this we are without hope. Unless we fulfill this one requirement, we are guilty before God and will be condemned. But God looked upon His people with great mercy by sending Jesus Christ, His Son, to save those given to Him by the Father (John 6:37-39, 17:9). After living a sinless life (fulfilling God's Covenant from our side), He bore the full wrath of God against the sin of His people as a penal substitution on the cross. This sacrifice is efficient for all who believe the Gospel and will infallibly result in their eternal salvation (Mt. 1:21; John 10:15; Acts 20:28; 1Pet.1:18-21). Our just and holy God is satisfied To look on Jesus and pardon us. He is our perfect, spotless, Righteousness.
I believe there is nothing in and of the sinner that prompts God to act kindly towards him (Romans 1:16; Galatians 3:26 ff). Why, then, does a sinner, an unrighteous hell-deserving rebel, receive eternal life and escape eternal punishment? It is solely by God's grace, alone. The grace of God in the gospel is first and foremost the good news that God himself has rescued us from His own wrath and that He adopts its recipients as sons into an eternal relationship with Himself. In the gospel the love of God is revealed. God is fiercely opposed to our unrighteousness and our suppression and distortion of the truth to justify ourselves (Rom 1:18). But in spite of our rebellion, Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." The love of God had to deal with both man's unrighteousness and God's wrath. How does this gospel do this? The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes because "in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." (Rom 1:17)
How can this be good news, however, when the righteousness of God is our problem and men are never found naturally willing to submit in faith to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? (Rom 3:11; John 6:64,65; 2 Thessalonians 3:2) Because God gives to us freely, what he demands from us. In it God reveals the same righteousness for us that God demands from us. What we had to have, but could not create or perform or supply (faith and holiness), God grants us freely, namely, his own righteousness and the gift of faith. He reveals, as a gift in Christ Jesus, the faith and righteousness that was once only a demand. God saves us by grace alone, through faith alone, and this faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
Our union with Christ has its roots in divine election, its basis in the redemptive work of Christ, and its actual establishment with God's people by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. All of God's elect will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit during their life, at a time of God's choosing. This regeneration is a spiritual resurrection given to sinners who are spiritually dead. It infallibly results in faith, repentance and obedience. This regeneration is accomplished by the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit (Jn.6:37,44; Eph.2:4-5; Ps.110:3).
Regeneration, Repentance and Faith:
How does faith and repentance take place since the natural man is incapable of creating a right thought, generating a right affection, or originating a right volition (Rom. 3:11, 8:7; John 3:3, 6)?
When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God has the power to graciously open people's eyes, unplug their uncircumcised ears, change the disposition of their hearts, draw them to faith, and save them (James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23, 25). The word of God does not work "ex opere operato," rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening the heart through the word to bring forth life. So the written word is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its means or medium. "The word is not the begetting principle itself, but only that by which it works: the vehicle of the mysterious germinating power" [ALFORD]. It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the word carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to us through the word.
The gospel declares that repentance and faith (commands of God) are themselves God's working in us both to will and to do (2 Tim 2:25, Eph 2:5, 8) and not something that the sinner himself contributes towards the price of His salvation. Repentance and faith can only be exercised by a soul after, and in immediate consequence of, its regeneration by the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:1; Acts 16:14b; Acts 13:48; John 10:24-26; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 6:37; John 1:13; 1 Cor. 4:7; 1 Cor. 15:10; Jas. 1:17; John 3:27). God regenerates, and we, in the exercise of the new gracious ability given, repent. God disarms the opposition of the human heart, subduing the hostility of the carnal mind, and with irresistible power (John 6:37), draws His chosen ones to Christ. The gospel confesses "We love him because He first loved us." Whereas before we had no desire for God, God's regenerating grace gives us desire, willingness and delight in His person and commands. Faith and works are the evidence of new birth, not the cause of it.
In essential agreement with the teachings of the Bible as understood by Protestant Reformers, the Westminster Confession of Faith, The Cannons of the Synod of Dort and in the evangelical tradition of men such as Paul, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Knox, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I believe in a salvation that is given by the sovereign grace of God (monergistic). Our justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. Due to God's divine initiative in embracing fallen humanity through Christ (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:4-7) and no merits on the believer's part, salvation is the free and full participation in God's saving work in Christ, uniting us through His Spirit. It is knowing and being known by God through Christ (Gal. 4:9; 1 Cor. 13:12). A restoration to God's original intent for us, the end for which we were created.
We teach that all those who believe are justified and are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise unto the ultimate day of redemption. Therefore, if a person has been effectually called and drawn to Christ, he will never lose that salvation since it was based wholly on the finished work of Christ and God's election, not on the strength of the believers commitment or obedience. (Jn.10:27-30;Rom.8:28-30). The person whose affections and dispositions have been changed by the Holy Spirit in regeneration will not reject eternal life once they are saved because they do not want to reject eternal life. God causes His people to continue wanting to believe in Him once we are saved (Jeremiah 32:40; Ezekiel 36:27). This is not based on how perfect we are, but solely on the promise and finished work of Christ (John 3:16; John 10:29).
All those who are drawn to Christ are sanctified by the Holy Spirit. This sanctification is a work of God in which the believer participates by confession of sin, repentance, and submission to the will of God (1Thess.4:3-8; Rom.8:29).
At the end of the age we expect the personal, bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures. We find that the amillennial view has the most biblical evidence, and therefore, this is the view we affirm . But we do not teach with surety any of the major millennial views, but encourage each person to study the Scriptures and come to their own conclusion. In preparation for His coming we are called to live holy lives. Through years of study we personally favor the amillennial understanding of the eschaton.
The universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, which were purchased for God with Christ's blood from [Dan 3:4; 5:19; Rev 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15] every tribe and tongue and people and nation. That have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all. Paul says, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). Here the term "the church" is used to apply to all those whom Christ died to redeem, all those who are saved by the death of Christ. This includes all true believers for all time, both believers in the New Testament age and believers in the Old Testament age as well. The local church joins together to form local communities. Here we worship the LORD, serve and encourage one another, grow together in His likeness, and take great joy in serving Him together. We personally affirm the Presbyterian form of church government, which includes a covenantal understanding of word and sacrament.
*** Further, we believe the various confessional formulations that grew out of the Reformation represent a significant advancement of a sound, scriptural, God-honoring understanding of the historic faith: