What We Believe

A Confessional Church

Christ Reformed Baptist Church (CRBC) is a confessional congregation. As such, we adhere to a written confession of faith that we believe contains carefully worded summaries of the contents of sacred Scripture. Our confessional standard is the Second London Baptist Confession (also known as the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith), which Baptist historian, W. J. McGlothlin, rightly described as “the most influential and important of all Baptist Confessions.”1 Acceptance of every confessional distinctive is not required for membership at CRBC. We believe a confession should function as a guardrail, not as a straitjacket. This approach allows for a great deal of doctrinal diversity together with robust doctrinal confession. Nevertheless, the officers of CRBC must adhere to the system of Reformed doctrine taught by the Second London Baptist Confession standards.

The confession adopts a theology that may be defined as catholic, evangelical, and reformed.

  • This theology is catholic (meaning “universal”) in that it reaffirms the doctrines of historic Christian orthodoxy such as those defined by the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. These catholic doctrines include such affirmations as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the atonement of Christ, and other doctrines that are integral to historic Christianity.2

  • This theology is evangelical in that, along with historic Protestantism, it affirms such vital doctrines as sola Scriptura and sola fide. Sola Scriptura means the Bible, as the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God, is the sole written revelation that rules the faith and practice of the Christian community and alone can bind the conscience. Sola fide refers to the doctrine of justification by faith alone whereby the believer is justified before God as He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believer. The sole ground of our justification is the merit of Jesus, which is imputed to all who put their trust in Him (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:18-19). Though good works flow necessarily and immediately from all justified persons, these works are not the meritorious grounds of our justification (Eph. 2:8-10).3

  • This theology is reformed in that the distinctive doctrines of the Protestant Reformers, as well as their successors in the Puritan tradition, are embraced in a way that distinguishes the Reformed tradition from other Protestant bodies. Reformed theology places great emphasis on the doctrine of God, which is central to the whole of its theology. In a word, Reformed theology is God-centered.4 The structure of the biblical Covenant of Grace is the framework for this theology.5 The concept of God’s grace supplies the core of this theology.

The Solas of the Protestant Reformation

  • Sola Scriptura — The Bible is the sole written divine revelation and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely.

  • Sola Fide — Justification is by faith alone. The merit of Christ, imputed to us by faith, is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are remitted and imputed to Christ.

  • Solus Christus — Jesus Christ is the only mediator through whose work we are redeemed.

  • Sola Gratia — Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace for us.

  • Soli Deo Gloria — To God alone belongs the glory.

The Marks of the Church

The Church consists of all those individuals whom God has saved throughout history. The essential marks of the Church in her individual congregations are …

  • the right preaching of God’s Word and the faithful declaration of the Gospel,

  • the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,

  • the discipline of her members,6 and

  • her submission to Christ as her only true and rightful head.7

The Doctrines of Grace

The doctrines of grace distinguish Reformed theology at the key points of issue, but in no way exhaust the content of Reformed theology. These five doctrines are as follows:

  • Radical corruption declares that all men are corrupted by the Fall to the extent that sin penetrates the whole person, leaving them in a state by which they are now by nature spiritually dead and at enmity with God. This results in the bondage of the will to sin by which the sinner is morally unable to incline himself to God, or to convert himself, or to exercise faith without first being spiritually reborn by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:11, 18, 5:12, 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1, 4:18; Col. 1:13, 2:13; Titus 1:15-16; John 3:5-7, 19-20, 8:34, etc).

  • Sovereign election refers to God’s sovereign and gracious work of election by which, from all eternity, God determines to exercise saving grace to a particular group of people chosen from out of the mass of fallen humanity. God gives this saving grace according to the good pleasure of His will, and not according to some foreseen actions, responses, or conditions met by men. God’s election is based purely on His sovereign grace and not upon anything done by humans. (Deut. 7:6, 7; Rom. 8:28-30, 9:14-16; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; Eph. 1:1-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; 1 Peter 2:8, 9; John 1:12-13; 6:44, 65, etc).

  • Definite atonement means that Christ died for a definite number of people. In other words, though the value and merit of Christ’s atonement are unlimited and sufficient to save the whole world and are offered to all who repent and believe, the efficacy of the atonement is applied only to the elect, and that, by God’s design. This means that in God’s eternal plan of salvation the atonement was designed to accomplish redemption for the elect and that God’s plan of redemption is not frustrated by the refusal of the impenitent to avail themselves of its benefits. In this sense all for whom the atonement was designed to save, will be saved (Isa. 53:12; Rom. 8:34; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:12, 28; Rev. 5:9; Matt. 1:21, 26:28; Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17:6, 9, 19, 11:50-52, 15:13, etc).

  • Effectual calling refers to the grace of regeneration by which God effectually calls His elect inwardly, converting them to Himself, and quickening them from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration is the sovereign and immediate work of the Holy Spirit. This grace is operative, not cooperative, meaning that those who are regenerate always come to saving faith, as they are made willing to come to Christ to whom they most certainly flee and cling for redemption (Deut. 30:6; Ez. 11:19-20, 36:26-27; Jer. 32:39; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:1-10, Jude 1, etc). For this reason, some refer to this doctrine as “overcoming grace” since God’s love and mercy overcome our rebellious resistance.

  • Preservation of the saints means that those who are truly regenerate and truly come to saving faith will never lose their salvation. They may fall into manifold temptations and spiritual weakness, even into radical sin; but they will never fully and finally fall away because God, by His grace, preserves them. The intercession of Christ for the elect is efficacious unto eternity (Rom. 8:35-39; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 7:5; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1, 24; 1 Jn. 5:13; Luke 22:31-32; John 3:16, 6:37, 39-40, 44, 10:27-30, 17:11b, etc).

Church Polity

In continuity with our Baptist heritage, we seek to maintain a regenerate church membership; that is, we believe the church is to be made up of those who have been born again (or regenerated) by the Holy Spirit and who have been baptized upon their profession of faith in Christ.8 We believe the Scriptures teach that Christ has given only two offices to the Church: elder (or pastor/overseer) and deacon. An elder is a biblically qualified man who has been nominated, trained, examined, and ordained to oversee the affairs of the church. The Bible gives explicit qualifications for such men (1 Tim. 3:1-7). The words for “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poimen) are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament and thus refer to one office (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-2). A deacon is a biblically qualified man who has been nominated, trained, examined, and ordained to minister to the physical needs of the church. The word for “deacon” means “one who waits on tables.” The first deacons were appointed by the church so that the Apostles could better attend to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:1-7). The Bible also gives explicit qualifications for deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13).

Our polity is known as plural elder-led congregationalism, which simply means that we are:

  • Christ-ruled,

  • elder-led

  • deacon-served, and

  • congregationally-governed.

The Ordinances

We believe the Scriptures teach that Christ has given only two ordinances (or sacraments) to the Church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Second London Baptist Confession (29.1-2) states,

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ. To those baptized it is a sign of their fellowship with him in his death and resurrection, of their being grafted into him,1 of remission of sins,2 and of submitting themselves to God through Jesus Christ to live and walk in newness of life.3 Those who personally profess repentance toward God and faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.4

1Romans 6:3–5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27. 2Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16. 3Romans 6:4. 4Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8.

While baptism is a sign of entrance into the visible church, the Lord’s Supper is a rite of fellowship. Bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus. Worthy receivers of this meal are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:26-30). By faith in Christ alone, believers spiritually feed on Christ, show forth His death, and receive nourishment as they partake of the elements (John 6:35, 53; 1 Cor. 11:26). The Second London Baptist Confession (30.1, 7) states,

The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night he was betrayed. It is to be observed in his churches to the end of the age as a perpetual remembrance and display of the sacrifice of himself in his death.1 It is given for the confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits of Christ’s death, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, and their further engagement in and to all the duties they owe him. The supper is to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Christ and each other.2

11 Corinthians 11:23–26. 21 Corinthians 10:16, 17, 21.

Worthy recipients who outwardly partake of the visible elements in this ordinance also by faith inwardly receive and feed on Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death. They do so really and truly, yet not physically and bodily but spiritually. The body and blood of Christ are not present bodily or physically in the ordinance but spiritually to the faith of believers, just as the elements themselves are present to their outward senses.1

11 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23–26.

1 W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), p.219.

2 R. C. Sproul writes, “Reformed theology is … catholic, sharing much in common with other communions that are part of historic Christianity. The sixteenth-century Reformers were not interested in creating a new religion. They were interested, not in innovation, but in renovation. They were reformers, not revolutionaries. Just as the Old Testament prophets did not repudiate the original covenant God had made with Israel, seeking instead to correct the departures from revealed faith, so the Reformers called the church back to its apostolic and biblical roots. Though the Reformers rejected church tradition as a source of divine revelation, they did not thereby despise the entire scope of Christian tradition. John Calvin and Martin Luther frequently quoted the Church Fathers, especially Augustine. They believed the church had learned much in her history, and they wished to conserve what was true in that tradition” (R. C. Sproul, What Is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics [Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 1997], 28).

3 According to Sproul, “The twin slogans sola Scriptura and sola fide became the battle cries of the Reformation. … The term evangelical was the broader term applied to many groups that, despite their separation into different denominations, agreed on these two basic issues over against the Roman Catholic church. When we declare that Reformed theology is evangelical, we mean that Reformed theology shares with other Protestant groups a commitment to the historic doctrines of sola Scriptura and sola fide. Since the sixteenth century the term evangelical has undergone a significant development, so that today it is difficult to define. [Today] both the concept of biblical authority and the nature and significance of justification by faith alone have been challenged from within the community of confessing evangelicals. It is no longer safe to assume that if a person calls himself an evangelical that he is committed to either sola Scriptura or sola fide. … The Reformers called themselves evangelicals because they believed the doctrine of justification by faith alone is central and essential to the gospel. Since the biblical word for gospel is evangel, they used the term evangelical to assert their conviction that sola fide is the gospel” (Ibid.,  30-31).

4 Sproul contends, “Perhaps no doctrine has greater bearing on all other doctrines than the doctrine of God. How we understand the nature and character of God himself influences how we understand the nature of man, who bears God’s image; the nature of Christ, who works to satisfy the Father; the nature of salvation, which is effected by God; the nature of ethics, the norms of which are based on God’s character; and a myriad of other theological considerations, all drawing on our understanding of God. Reformed theology is first and foremost theocentric rather than anthropocentric. That is, it is God-centered rather than man-centered. … Though the Reformed doctrine of God is not all that different from that of other confessional bodies, the way this doctrine functions in Reformed theology is unique. Reformed theology applies the doctrine of God relentlessly to all other doctrines, making it the chief control factor in all theology” (Ibid., 25-26).

5 Earl Blackburn explains that “Covenant Theology … can be reduced to three basic divisions: the first division is the Covenant of Redemption, which refers to the intratrinitarian agreement made before the world began in heaven among the members of the Godhead (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to save elect sinners by grace alone. … Although it is not mentioned first in Bible chronology, it is inferred and taught throughout the OT and NT as being foundational for all that takes place in redemptive history. The Covenant of Redemption is the chief and greatest of all God’s covenants. The second division is the Covenant of Works, which teaches the universal sinfulness and guilt of humanity and the urgent need for redemption. It necessarily connects and segues into the next section. Finally, the third division is the Covenant of Grace, which is the revelation and outworking of the Covenant of Redemption on earth in time and history. It, too, is based upon free grace alone and flows from the Covenant of Redemption. It is an overarching covenant, worked out in time through a series of subordinate covenants (administrations), starting with Adam (Genesis 3:15; 21), finding its pinnacle with the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), and culminating in eternal glory in heaven” (Earl M. Blackburn, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, ed. Earl M. Blackburn [Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013], 25-26). The Second London Baptist Confession addresses the Covenant of Grace in chapter 7.

6 We are fully aware that the vast majority of Baptist churches in America today do not practice church discipline and that many professing Christians believe it is “outdated” and “impractical.” To the contrary, we believe it is (first and foremost!) biblical and absolutely necessary for preserving a regenerate church membership (see end note 8 below).

7 In 1589 Henry Barrow defined the Church as such: “This church as it is universally understood, containeth in it all the elect of God that have been, are, and shall be. But being considered more particularly, as it is seen in this present world, it consisteth of a company and fellowship of faithful and holy people gathered together in the name of Christ Jesus, their only king, priest, and prophet, worshipping him aright, being peaceably and quietly governed by his officers and laws, keeping the unity of faith in the bond of peace and love unfeigned” (Henry Barrow, “A True Description of the Visible Church,” reprinted in Ian Murray, ed., The Reformation of the Church: A Collection of Reformed and Puritan Documents on Church Issues [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965], 196).

8 According to Justice Anderson, “The cardinal principle of Baptist ecclesiology, and logically, the point of departure for church polity, is the insistence on a regenerate church membership in the local congregation” (Justice C. Anderson, “Old Baptist Principles Reset,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 31 [Spring 1989], 5-12). John Hammett affirms, “Central to the Baptist vision of the church is the insistence that the church must be composed of believers only. … Regenerate church membership is meaningful church membership, involving only those with a genuine commitment to Christ and the congregation of Christ’s people” (John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2005], 81-82). Baptists who affirm this principle are not so naive to imagine that there aren’t any unregenerate members in such congregations. Hammett acknowledges, “It seems as if the New Testament anticipates the possibility that local churches will inadvertently allow false members to creep in, and provides for it. That provision is church discipline, which is applied to ‘anyone who calls himself a brother’ but denies that claim by his life (see 1 Cor. 5:11). He is put out of the church, both in the hope that he will repent and in order to keep the church pure. If the church is not intended to be a pure body of genuine believers, what is the point of 1 Corinthians 5 and other New Testament teaching on church discipline (Ibid, 84)?” Moreover, church discipline is absolutely necessary for preserving a regenerate church membership. Hammett continues, “Church discipline and regenerate church membership are related in that the former can be effectively practiced only by a congregation composed of the latter, and that the former is necessary to maintain the genuineness of the latter. This commitment to the practice of church discipline and with it, a commitment to genuinely regenerate church membership, continued well into the nineteenth century among Baptists in America … because discipline was directly related to regenerate church membership, which was central to the Baptist vision of the church. However, in the latter part of the nineteenth and throughout the twentieth centuries, church discipline declined almost to the point of disappearance among Baptists, with predictable results to regenerate church membership” (Ibid, 106-107). It is our prayer at CRBC that Baptist churches in America would recover this biblical practice.