First Reformed is a biblical, evangelical, presbyterian, and confessional church.
A Biblical Church
We believe the Bible, in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the word of God. It is holy, inspired, inerrant, infallible, sufficient, and authoritative (see Ps. 19:7–11; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:20–21).
Since the Bible is the word of God, it is the only standard for what we believe (faith), how we live (practice), who and how we worship (regulative principle), what we are commissioned to do (ministry and mission), and why we believe, live, worship, and serve (doxology). In short, we believe that God’s word grows God’s people for God’s glory.
An Evangelical Church
We believe that God is uniquely glorified when we come together as a church for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ (Jn. 17:1–5; Rom. 15:4–7). Our goal in worship, discipleship, missions, and fellowship is to declare the glory of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ for the delight of all peoples locally, regionally, and globally (Ps. 96:3; 2 Cor. 4:5–6).
For a concise presentation of the gospel, see Two Ways to Live.
A Presbyterian Church
We believe the presbyterian form of church government best promotes healthy churches. The term presbyterian may sound a bit stuffy. But the word is based on a sturdy biblical term in Greek, presbyteros, that simply means “elder.”
A presbyterian church therefore is a gathering of Christians who are led by a plurality of elders locally (by the session), regionally (by the presbytery), and nationally (by the general assembly). As a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, we are joined together by a common belief that God’s word governs not only our theology and worship but also our church government and ministry practices. Since Jesus is head of the church, he directs how his church is to be run (Col. 1:18).
In the New Testament, we have clear guidelines about how the church is to be structured (1 Tim. 3:15). Christ has given two types of leaders to serve his church: elders and deacons (see Acts 6:1–7; 1 Tim. 3). Elders are entrusted with the teaching ministry of the church as well as provide spiritual care and overall leadership for the flock. Deacons are entrusted with the mercy ministry of the church, oversee the maintenance of the property, and provide physical care for members in the congregation. Together they equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Phil. 1:1; Eph. 4:12).
Our denomination’s Book of Church Order provides a summary of our beliefs and practices regarding church government, discipline, and worship.
A Confessional Church
We believe the historic Christian truths expressed in the ancient creeds (Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed) and rediscovered in the Protestant Reformation best summarize the Bible. Following the Reformers, we gladly confess that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Bible alone, for the glory of God alone. But how can we claim to be a biblical church when we subscribe to man-made creeds and confessions?
The short answer is that we believe that the confessional documents we’ve adopted (called the “Westminster Standards”) accurately encapsulate the teaching of the Bible. We do not believe that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms are Scripture. Rather, we believe they correctly and concisely summarize Scripture. As followers of Christ, there should be no doubt about what we believe the Bible to teach. We’re not a cult where we hide our beliefs from others. We’re a church, so we proclaim our faith to the world. A good confession helps us to do that. It says, “Here’s what we believe. You can study it, question it, reject it, or embrace it.”
For those wanting to study our theological commitments in more depth, an electronic copy of the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith, Shorter Catechism, and Larger Catechism) may be found on the website of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America.
Summary of Beliefs
Here is a brief summary of what we believe concerning the central tenants of the Christian faith.
We believe that the Bible is the written word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error in the original manuscripts. The Bible is the revelation of God’s truth and is infallible and authoritative in all matters of faith and practice.
We believe in the Holy Trinity. There is one God, infinite and unchanging, who exists eternally in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Man and Sin
We believe that all people are sinners by nature, are guilty in God’s sight, and are totally unable to save themselves from God’s displeasure. His free grace alone provides a way of salvation.
We believe that this salvation is the work of God alone. He sovereignly chooses whom He will save. We believe that His choice is based solely on His grace, not on any merit found in his people, their foreseen faith, or their religious activity.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, who through His perfect obedience and sacrificial death as the representative and substitute of his people, atoned for the sins of all who would trust in Him alone for salvation.
We believe that the only way to acceptance with God is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
God’s Covenant Promises
We believe that God is gracious and faithful to His people not simply as individuals but as families in successive generations according to His covenant promises.
We believe that the church is the covenant community of God and the sphere within which the grace of God is available to all, through the preaching and teaching of the Bible, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Outside the church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells God’s people and enables them to trust Christ and follow Him. Faith is the gracious gift of God.
Perseverance of the Saints
We believe that having come to saving faith in Christ, believers can never be lost, but persevere to the end, being kept by the power of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This perseverance is both the responsibility of every believer, and the infallible promise of God to all his people.
The Return of Christ
We believe that Jesus will return at the last day, bodily and visibly, to judge all mankind and to receive His people to Himself.
Living the Christian Life
We believe that all aspects of our lives are to be lived to the glory of God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as we wait for the day of his glorious appearing.