What is a Reformed Baptist?

The Four C’s of the Reformed Baptist Faith

The Reformed strongly believed in working out theology with as many in the church as possible, rather than doing it in isolation. In fact, they suspected that those who refused to understand Scripture in light of what others have contributed were on the path to heresy (Pro. 18:1). These theological articulations were formulated and expressed in public confessions of faith. Today, while almost every church or Christian organization has some sort of statement of faith, we believe that the church should openly and seriously confess one of the time-tested, historically-held confessions of faith. A common question among people not familiar with confessionalism is: “Isn’t the Bible sufficient? Why, then, do we need a confession of faith?” The answer is that the confessions of faith do not replace the Bible, but rather help in accurately interpreting the Bible. While, the Bible is the absolute authority for the church’s faith and practice, it is sometimes a difficult book to interpret and is often misinterpreted. We see this from the many different denominations and views that are represented today. Many genuine Christians disagree in a number of areas. However, there is only one right interpretation of the Bible, and if the Bible is the absolute authority for the church, then it is very important that we interpret it correctly so that we may glorify God the best we can. How can we best do this? The best way is not by isolating ourselves from the rest of church history and trying to figure it out on our own (Pro. 18:1), but by coming into contact with as many of the most faithful of Christians throughout the church’s entire history (Pro. 15:22). Thankfully, instead of having to spend a lifetime reading all of church history, we have the church’s long-held faith summarized in the well-known historic creeds and confessions. JVBC subscribes to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). This confession of faith was officially formulated by Baptists in 1677, but formally published in 1689 after religious persecution had subsided. They copied word-for-word the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) and the Savoy Declaration (1658), except in certain areas of disagreement. The reason they did this is because they did not want to separate themselves from the church’s faith. The WCF and Savoy were confessions put together by large groups of leading Christians who based their material on creeds and confessions. Our confession of faith, then, is historically-based and time-tested. Thousands upon thousands of Christians have subscribed to this confession for over 300 years. This gives us more confidence that our interpretation of the Bible is accurate.
The Reformed organized their understanding of the Bible around the various covenants articulated in Scripture, since God’s dealings with all people in general and his special people are within the context of certain covenants. Covenant theology, therefore, serves as the theological framework of the Reformed faith. Today, Baptists by and large hold to Dispensationalism – a theological framework of Scripture based upon at least seven perceived dispensations in which God has managed history. What many Baptists do not realize, however, is that there is a distinctly Baptist covenant theology, which served as the basis for credo-baptist convictions (believer’s baptism instead of infant baptism). The system of theology articulated in the Baptist’s Second London Confession of Faith is thoroughly covenantal.
Calvinism is the belief that because of original sin (being born a sinner because of Adam’s sin) the will of man is enslaved to sin and cannot turn from sin and believe in Christ unless God first acts in his sovereign grace in drawing the sinner to himself. Calvinism believes that God elected or chose a particular people before the foundation of world, completely apart from anything in them or any foreseen action of them. It is only the elect for whom Christ died and whom God draws to himself by his effectual saving grace. All the elect and only the elect will be saved. Calvinism is often seen as the polar opposite of Arminianism. Arminianism believes that man is able to choose God (in some views, by prevenient grace) and that Christ generally died for all men to make salvation possible. This view is named after a theologian from the late 16th century named Jacob Arminius. While Calvinism is named after the early Reformer, John Calvin, he did not construct “Calvinism,” nor was he the first to articulate its beliefs. We believe that the Bible clearly teaches Calvinism (Romans 9, Ephesians 1, Revelation 5:9) and it was articulated by theologians such as Augustine (AD 354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274). As of the 19th century, Calvinism has often been articulated by using the acronym T.U.L.I.P. T – Total depravity/inability – man is wholly affected by sin’s corruption and is unable to seek God or do anything intrinsically pleasing to God U – Unconditional election – man is chosen by God based solely on his free, sovereign grace and not for anything in or done by him or her L – Limited/particular atonement – Christ did not die for all men generally in order to make salvation possible, but rather he died for a particular people, the elect, and fully secured their entire salvation I – Irresistible grace – God’s special grace that changes man’s heart and causes him to believe cannot be ultimately resisted P – Perseverance of the saints – those who have been elected will not ultimately fall away, but will most definitely persevere in their faith until the end by God’s grace communicated through the ordinary means God has established for his church
The single most important distinction between the Reformed and modern-day evangelical churches (even those who hold to “TULIP”) is the way church (public worship) is conducted. The Reformed strongly believed and held to the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW). Very simply, this principle teaches that we should only do in public worship (church on Sundays) what is commanded in Scripture. This is in contrast to the Normative Principle of Worship (NPW), which says that we are free to worship God on the Lord’s Day however we want, just as long as it is not forbidden in Scripture. So, the RPW focuses on what is positively commanded in Scripture, while the NPW focuses on what is negatively forbidden in Scripture (it is also true that the RPW also teaches that we need to avoid in our worship what is forbidden in Scripture). The Reformed pointed to Nadab and Abihu who were burned to death for making a slight change in their worshipful practices in the tabernacle and to verses such as Jeremiah 19:5: “and have built the high places of Baalto burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal,which I did not command or decree.” The RPW is also based on the logical implications of the Lordship of Christ. Because Jesus Christ is the only Lord, only he can command his people what they both can and cannot do. If certain worship practices are left up to man, then man essentially becomes lord over God’s people in the worship of God. Not only is this a serious and egregious sin, it may also force a dearly beloved saint of Christ to do something in worship that violates their conscience. With regards to the RPW, the Reformers made a distinction between an element of worship and a circumstance of worship. An element of worship are things that must be done and cannot be changed. These are things like the reading of God’s word, corporate prayer, singing, and the preaching of God’s word. Circumstances of worship are things that are not essential to worship and can be changed. These are things like the start time of the service (9am, 10am, etc.), how long the service is, and the use of amplification (a microphone).