What Does It Mean to Be Reformed?

In my years of being involved in Christian discussion and debate online (nearly 30 years), I’ve noticed that many Reformed Presbyterians seem to look down on us Reformed Baptists (aka Particular Baptists) and say we aren’t “Really Reformed” or we’re not “Truly Reformed”.

I maintain that infant baptism is not the sine qua non of Reformed theology. One can disagree with infant baptism and still be Reformed.

What markers or distinctive make a Christian Reformed? I’d argue for the following:

Affirm the great “Sola’s” (Latin for “only”) of the Reformation.

  • Sola Gratia…Grace Alone
  • Sola Fide…Faith Alone
  • Solus Christus…Christ Alone
  • Sola Scriptura…Scripture Alone
  • Soli Deo Gloria…To the Glory of God Alone

To summarize, salvation by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone, according to the Scriptures Alone, to the Glory of God Alone.

Affirm and promote a profoundly high view of the supremacy and sovereignty of God in all things and sees God as actively involved in His creation, governing and overseeing all the affairs of men. cf. Psalm 115:3; Job 34:14-15; 37:6-13; Daniel 4:35.

Affirm the utter dependence of sinful man, upon God, in all things, especially concerning salvation.

Affirm the Doctrines of Grace (commonly referred to as Calvinism), which display God as the author of salvation from beginning to end.

The acrostic TULIP (which is a summation of the Canons of Dort) is the most familiar way of delineating the doctrines of Grace. TULIP is made up of 5 points that define Calvinism, which are:

  • T – Total Depravity
  • U – Unconditional Election
  • L – Limited Atonement
  • I – Irresistible Grace
  • P – Perseverance, and Preservation, of the Saints

Creedal – To affirm the great creeds of the historic, orthodox church.

  • The Apostles’ Creed
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Definition of Chalcedon

Confessional – To affirm one, or more, of the great confessions of the historic orthodox church.

The Westminster Standards:

  • The Westminster Confession of Faith
  • The Westminster Longer Catechism
  • The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Reformed Baptist Standards:

  • 1644 London Baptist Confession of Faith
  • 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
  • The Baptist Catechism
  • Orthodox Catechism

The Three Forms of Unity:

  • The Belgic Confession of Faith
  • The Heidelberg Catechism
  • The Canons of Dortrecht

A high view of Scripture, in its necessity, infallibility, sufficiency, and internal consistency, and our dependence upon it to learn what God has revealed about Himself, His commands, and His way of salvation.

A high view of the church, in preaching (the exposition and application of God’s Word), the ordinances, discipline, prayer, worship, fellowship, and evangelism, all encompassed in the keeping of the Christian Sabbath, commonly called the Lord’s Day (Sunday).

A distinctly Biblical, Christian worldview that permeates all of life, a life lived in the world, but at the same time, a life not oriented to the world and its standards, but oriented to God’s Word.

A clear understanding of the distinction between, and relationship of, Law and Gospel.

The Law has Three Uses:

  • The civil use. The law serves the commonwealth or body politic as a force to restrain sin. The law restrains evil through punishment. Though the law cannot change the heart, it can inhibit sin by threats of judgment, especially when backed by a civil code that administers punishment for proven offenses.
  • The pedagogical use. The law also shows people the perfect righteousness of God, and their sinfulness which deserves punishment, and points them to mercy and grace outside of themselves, found in the Gospel alone.
  • The moral, normative, sanctifying use. The moral standards of the law provide guidance for believers as they seek to live in humble gratitude for the grace God has shown us. This use of the law is for those who trust in Christ and have been justified by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from works.

The 2nd use of the Law and its perfect requirement points us to the Gospel (good news) of the purchased redemption and free grace of the Son, for God’s people, and the Gospel, once applied by the Holy Spirit, then points us back to the third use of the Law in delight to obey its commands to the glory of God as a new creation in Christ Jesus.

If one affirms all this, they are truly Reformed, regardless of what some Reformed Presbyterians may assert. We must not tolerate unwarranted theological bigotry under the ruse of being “biblical”. It is a haughty and smug spirit that such Presbyterians have, one which makes them feel superior to Reformed Baptists. We must not be afraid to challenge and confront this bigotry when we encounter it. It has no place in the Body of Christ!

By the way, you may be interested in reading the other two blog posts I’ve written which are related to the idea of Reformed identity. They are linked below:

Many thanks to Joseph Trost Jr. for contributing content to this post.

One response to “What Does It Mean to Be Reformed?”

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