Characteristics that are Common to all Reformed Churches

Preface

We live in a time when distinctions of all sorts have become blurred. Part of this phenomenon is due to a post modern insistence on total subjectivity when it comes to determining the truth. For many, words and terms take on meanings that are entirely at the discretion of the user without any regard to their historical usage. One of the most exasperating things about this for me as a reformed protestant Christian is the way in which the term “reformed” is often used today.

What this writer has noticed over the course of the last twenty-five years or so in American church culture, is the tendency for anyone who has some level of agreement with Calvinism to call themselves reformed. The term “Calvinism” is often used simply in referrence to the doctrines of God’s free grace, or, what is better known as the five points of Calvinism. But there is much more than just five specific things comprehended in the word Calvinism, just as there is more definition needed in the word “reformed” than most people assign to it. I agree then that the two terms, “reformed” and “Calvinism” is synonymous with each other. The problem is that language has become so abused today that even among many who assume the title “Calvinist,” they actually define it in a way that falls far short of even the “five points.”

An in depth study of the five points of God’s free grace is a subject well worth looking into all on its own merit. The present purpose of this paper however, is not concerned with that issue per se, but rather with the much larger issue of what constitutes a true reformed church identity. What we mean to say here is that the term “reformed” is a word that is well established from a historical point of view. Because of this, no one has the right to define it in any other way than it has been defined by history. And even more to the point, what does the Bible have to say about the reformed church, is it truly biblical or not? We admit that there are a variety of differences that exist among the various historic reformed church traditions. And to say as some people do that only one of these traditions is legitimately reformed in exclusion to all others would be to display a certain amount of arrogance. There is a general definition of the term “reformed” which is well established by its historical usage that we can look to in the matter.

Certainly, adherence to a system of doctrine in salvation such as the five points of Calvinism is one important element of what constitutes a reformed church, but that in itself does not rise to the level of a complete definition. There are many other things which have historically been true of such churches that are named by that name. Therefore, I have put together a brief outline of at least ten things which I believe have characterized a true biblical reformed church since the days of the protestant reformation. Other things could be added to this outline, and I would like to expand upon each point in more detail over time. But for now, I put this out there as it is for consideration.

Introduction

The protestant reformation was a broad movement in sixteenth century Europe. Most people have heard of the two prominent figures associated with the movement, Martin Luther and John Calvin, but most people know little about the movement itself. Yet, every protestant church today owes its history to this movement in one way or the other.

There were three main protestant church movements in Europe at the time of the reformation, the Anabaptists, the Lutherans, and the Calvinists. All three modern day versions of these three church movements claim their heritage as reformed. Yet, only one of the three movements ever truly came to define the meaning of the term “reformed,” those are the churches whose traditions are traceable to Geneva, Switzerland and John Calvin. And these churches today, having stood the test of time concerning their commitment to reformation principles have now become the legitimate heirs to that title.

There were many differences between the various protestants. The Anabaptists were a collection of independent churches that arose in protest of the Roman Catholic church, particularly its practice of infant baptism. These churches all shared the view that believer’s baptism was the only legitimate expression of this sacrament. The term “Anabaptist” means rebaptism, they were dubbed by this name according to their position that infant baptism was void because it was unbiblical. Hence, the Anabaptist’s baptized their new converts to the Christian faith claiming that it was the first legitimate baptism.

Other than the sacrament of baptism, there was a diversity of theological opinion held among the various Anabaptist leaders, making it hard to analyze them as a single movement. Some of the leaders in this sect were biblically orthodox, but many were extremely unorthodox in many areas of doctrine. For one thing, the Anabaptists tended to be extreme about everything to do with their faith. One example of this was a view that many held that direct revelation from God was ongoing, and that the canon of Scripture was not closed. This led to many fantastic millenarian teachings among them. There was also a foreshadowing of the charismatic movement in this which led to ecstatic occurrences attributable to the Holy Spirit.

The Anabaptists also did share many of the basic views of the Christian faith held by the larger protestant church. This was especially true of their insistence that Christianity required a new birth with a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the Anabaptists detested the state mandated, ritualistic religion of the Roman Catholics. But their zeal for purity in the church also led them down the path of separation. Believing in absolute freedom of conscience and the church to be the only legitimate government on earth, the Anabaptists became anarchic concerning the civil authorities. They believed in absolute pacifism and refused to cooperate with the governing authorities concerning military service. For this as well as many other reasons, Anabaptism was rejected by most of the larger protestant movement.

The heirs to the Anabaptist tradition today are those such as the Mennonites, the Hutterian Brethren, and the Amish sects. Of the three, the Mennonites are the closest to mainstream evangelicalism as a church. All of these churches hold to an extreme high view of mans free will, and hence, they all to one degree or another tend to be very legalistic in their piety. Most people are familiar with the oddities of the Amish people, especially their separatism from society. The Mennonites are a little less in this way, but still very much a very closed community and very legalistic as well. As a reformed protestant church the Anabaptist movement failed in large part to reestablish the New Testament ideal of a church.

The Lutheran movement was quite different, yet, in many respects it too, fell far short of the model the apostles set forth in the New Testament. Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk who believed in the sovereign grace of God in salvation just as his monastic namesake Augustine did. But the degree of reformation that the Lutherans brought their church away from Roman Catholicism was extremely stunted and failed to reach the level that New Testament Christianity requires. Luther recognized that the Roman church had fallen back toward the heresy known as Pelagianism which had been condemned by the church in Augustine’s day. Pelagius (390-418), was an English monk who developed a theology that stripped God of His sovereignty and gave it to man. Pelagius even denied original sin and believed man was capable of his own strength of obtaining salvation, albeit through the death of Jesus Christ. Augustine waged a Scriptural battle against Pelagius that culminated in his condemnation as a heretic by the Council of Carthage in 418, and reaffirmed in the Canons of the Council of Orange in 529. Unfortunately, after Martin Luther died, his close associate in the Lutheran movement, Philip Melancthon, steered it away from Augustinian sovereign grace back toward the same sort of semi-pelagian thinking as Rome. But that was just one issue among many.

The battle cry of the reformation was a return to the Scriptures and most notably to its teaching of justification by faith. But Luther and his followers failed to extricate themselves from Augustine’s false notion of baptismal regeneration. They also maintained the same Episcopal priesthood that the Roman church did, albeit minus the Popes headship. In the area of the Lord’s supper, Lutherans objected to the Roman view of transubstantiation, which meant the Eucharist (bread and wine), was changed into the literal body and blood of Christ, and re sacrificed. Thankfully, Luther jettisoned this part of their blasphemy, but still held to a view of the sacrament that was mystical in nature just like the Romanists, calling it instead consubstantiation. This term meant that the literal presence of Christ was necessarily tied to the Eucharist in more of a way than He was otherwise in the worship, making it almost an object of veneration too. There was an attempt at one point to unite all of the Lutheran and Calvinistic congregations together in Europe under one associational agreement. But this effort was derailed due to Luther’s insistence that the elements of the Eucharist were consubstantial rather than natural as the Calvinists maintained. The Calvinists rightfully pointed to the language of the apostle who quoted Christ saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (I Cor. 11:25b). This makes the Lord’s supper a figure of spiritual truth to be performed as a memorial service rather than a sacrifice or even a mystical experience.

The Lutheran view of Scripture was deficient too. While they insisted, and rightfully so, that the Scripture is normative in matters of faith such as the relationship between law and grace in justification, they also held that it was not as much so in other areas such as worship. Because of Lutheran insistence on maintaining the same pomp and ceremony in its “Mass” as the Roman Catholics did, it easily fell into spiritual deadness and eventually, liberalism.

The Calvinistic reformers in Europe did most to bring the church the farthest away from Rome toward a true definition of New Testament Christianity. For one, they took what was best from Augustine in terms of his view of sovereign grace, and rejected many of his other errors such as baptismal regeneration, which Rome embraced. But it was not Augustine, but Christ and the apostles in the Scripture that Calvin and others associated with that movement looked too. **

Both Luther and Calvin were prolific writers, but Calvin was far more the theologian. This fact is attested to in his four volumes of systematic theology called “The Institutes of the Christian Religion.” The first two volumes especially are the clearest rejection of Romanism, and consequently Thomism and Aristotelianism, and provided the reformation church with a sound theological treatment of the Christian faith. Romanism was built upon Greek philosophy mixed with Christian truth. This made the Roman Catholic religion nothing more than natural religion. Calvin, and subsequently those who followed immediately after came back to Scripture as their first principle in all matters of faith and practice. The huge difference which separated the Lutherans from the Calvinists was their view of Scripture and its authority in the church. Except for law and grace where it relates to salvation, the Lutherans viewed the Scripture as largely descriptive of God’s will. In every other area the church was free to decide for itself how it was to conduct its affairs in matters of government and worship, so long as there is no direct, literal prohibition against it. The Calvinists on the other hand, recognizing that apostolic authority is found in Scripture, not in men, determined that it was to be interpreted as prescriptive in all matters of faith and practice rather than descriptive.

This difference of view on the nature of revelation and its authority, provide an explanation for the direction these two churches took. Luther was not interested in schism from Rome, but rather in reforming it within from some of its grossest doctrinal errors in regard to salvation. This naturally involved a protest against the Pope and his supposed claim to being Christ’s representative on earth. Calvin saw little to retain in the Roman Catholic church and insisted that reformation meant separation from that body which he saw as utterly apostate. The fact that Luther separated anyway was out of necessity due to the fact that he and his followers were condemned as heretics by the Pope. In other words, it was a forced separation. No such thing was true of the Calvinists. With them there was a clear insistence on a complete reformation, a return to the purity of the New Testament church based on the word of God.

Those protestant churches which followed the Lutheran model for the next five hundred years all tended to fall into the same pitfalls that they did, and for pretty much the same reasons. The two main churches that followed suit after the Lutherans were the Anglican, and the Methodist churches. Each church gave birth the next in succession. These two, along with the Lutherans had many other offshoots that were patterned after them in their view of Scripture, Episcopal priesthood, and semi-catholic worship. Today, virtually all of these types of churches have become liberal with very little exception.

Those churches which followed the Calvinistic model concerning Scripture, government, and worship has been quite different as history will attest. A reformed Calvinistic church identity arose in continental Europe which spread to the British Isles, and eventually to North America. The offshoots of this type of protestant identity were as follows: the various Dutch reformed churches of Holland, South Africa and North America, the Swiss reformed church, the French Huguenots, the Scottish and English Presbyterian churches, the Puritan Congregationalists and Baptists of England and North America, and the Welsh Methodists who are Calvinistic and Presbyterian. From the sixteenth through the twentieth century, these churches dominated and defined the protestant church of the reformation, and it might be added, of New Testament Christianity itself.

Evidence of the Lord’s favor upon these churches for the above reasons is generally speaking, so large, it would require another essay just to begin to present the story. Here, we will outline just a few examples. The Puritan movement of the late sixteenth through the seventeenth century is the first and greatest testimony to the spiritual life and vitality of Calvinistic reformed Protestantism. It was the Puritans who were responsible for ending state enforced, Anglo-Catholic religion in England. It was the Puritans that came to this land and founded it as a colony committed to reformed, protestant Christianity. The Puritans established Harvard as the first university in this land whose purpose it was to train men for the ministry. The Puritans were the first Protestants to take an interest in overseas missions at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards was used of God in starting the great awakening revivals in mid eighteenth century America. Edwards also joined with others in starting what became Princeton University whose purpose it was to train men for the ministry. Edwards own son-in-law, David Brainerd started the first frontier mission in colonial America to the Indians. The great nineteenth century English preacher Charles Spurgeon, came from a Dutch Calvinistic family and pastored a church whose heritage spanned more than two hundred years back to its Puritan founder, John Gill.

These examples and many more underscore the strength of reformed Calvinistic Protestantism. And it was not because the Puritans were without differences in their convictions on the finer points of some doctrines. Because of these differences, three different church identities emerged from the movement. But in spite of this, there was still a certain consistent uniformity of thought shared by them on all of the essential elements of biblical Christianity. The particular confessional standards that all these churches produced showed this through a unified commitment to a high view of Scripture, especially in worship, to a sound orthodox Trinitarian view of God and Christ, and to sovereign free grace in salvation.

Unfortunately, the continuous downward slide of Liberalism and neo orthodoxy in the west have taken its toll on these as well as the other protestant churches. Liberalism is apostasy from Christian orthodoxy. It has come into some of the Calvinistic churches too, over time. But where this has happened, it has been in opposition to sound theological underpinnings by apostates within them, not because of its absence.

Those characteristics that all reformed churches have shared for the last five hundred years are what give the term “reformed” its definition. As such, they represent the clearest expression of biblical Christianity that has been around during that period of time. The fact that many churches today say they are reformed, and yet, have no regard for some or all of these things is a denial of the claim.

Marks of a true Christian church

The reformed church has historically taken the position that there is a threefold identifying mark which distinguishes it as a Christian church. These three identifying marks are:

I. Doctrine

What is meant by doctrine, is a particular theological system which is preached and taught from Scripture, by which the membership is required to hold substantial agreement too, in order to have Christian identity and fellowship.

II. Sacraments

By Sacraments, what is meant is a defined commitment to practice the two sacraments spelled out in Scripture, which identify someone as a Christian in association with a Christian church.

III. Order

Church order includes a particular government that the members submit too in their visible association, as well as a specific standard of discipline that is overseen by the church officers in which all members are required to keep.

The threefold mark of a true church as I have outlined it here has always been agreed on by every section of the protestant church since the reformation. But there are many more things which identify a church as reformed. The three marks are found in the ten things which are listed below

This list of ten things which all reformed protestant churches shares are as follows:

I. The Five Solas

These are the five fundamental principles upon which the protestant reformation stands on. A list of the five Solas (Latin) and what they represent is as follows:

a. Sola Scriptura, or, Scripture alone is the standard for all faith and practice (Duet. 8:3; Is. 8:20; II Tim. 3:15-17; Rev. 22:18,19).

b. Sola Gratia, or, grace alone is the only way salvation is obtained from God (Rom. 3:24, 4:4, 5:2; Eph. 2:8,9; Tit. 3:7).

c. Sola Fide, or, faith alone is the only means God ordains for justification (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 1:16,17, 3:21,22, 4:5; Gal. 2:16; Heb. 11:1,2).

d. Sola Christos, or, Christ’s work alone is sufficient to save (Is. 53:10,11; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 3:25).

e. Sola Deo Gloria, or, to God is the glory alone in all things (John 17:1-5; Rom. 11:36, 16:27; Eph. 3:21; I Tim. 6:16).

II. The doctrines of grace

These doctrines are often referred to as the five points of Calvinism, with special emphasis on the particularity of Christ’s satisfaction. These five principal doctrines are the framework upon which all other theology depends. They are as follows:

a. Total depravity, which means that every faculty of mans nature has been corrupted by sin, making him unfit for God and unable to save himself (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 1:21-23; 3:10-18, 23; Eph. 4:18,19; Col. 1:21).

b. Unconditional election, which means that God has predestined some for salvation from eternity (Rom. 8:28-30, 9:11-18; Eph. 1:3-6,11; I Thess 1:4; Tit. 1:1; I Pet. 1:2).

c. Limited atonement, which means that the sufficiency and extent of Christ’s death are limited by God to the elect only (John 17:24; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25,26, 5:9; I Cor. 6:20, 7:23; Eph. 1:7,14; Heb. 2:17; I Pet. 1:18; I John 2:2, 4:10).

d. Effectual calling, which means that though men are unable to save themselves, God undertakes to do everything necessary to effect the salvation of the elect (Jer. 31:3; Matt. 20:16, 22:14; John 6:44, 10:27-29; Acts 2:39; Rom. 1:6,7, 8:28,30, 9:11,24, 11:29; Gal. 1:15; II Tim. 1:9)

e. Perseverance of the saints, which means that every soul that Christ died for and God effectually calls, will continue in their faith unto eternal life (Matt. 10:22, 24:13,22; John 17:6,9,11,12,20,24; I Cor. 3:15, 15:2; Heb. 6:9-12; I Pet. 1:3-5).

III. The Ordo Salutis

There is a specific theological order (Lat. Ordo Salutis) in the scheme of salvation to all of the various doctrines put forth in Scripture related to it. The reformed church views this order as follows:

a. Election
b. Predestination
c. Gospel call
d. Inward call
e. Regeneration
f. Conversion (faith & repentance)
g. Justification
h. Sanctification
i. Glorification

(I Thess. 1:4; Eph. 1:11; Mark 16:15; Rom 1:6,7; Tit. 3:5; Acts 3:19, 20:21; Rom. 3:28; I Thess. 4:3; Rom. 8:28-30)

This order is distinguished from Arminianism and Amyrauldianism which place conversion before regeneration. The ramifications of this make the difference between a man centered, or, God centered view of salvation which comes through in preaching, evangelism and worship.

IV. Covenant Theology

There is a specific overall scheme to Bible history related to God’s kingdom, the fall, redemption through Christ, and His eventual return to consummate the eschatological new heaven and new earth.

All reformed churches, whether they are Baptist or Pedobaptist, whether they are Premillenial, Postmillenial, or Amillenial subscribes to covenant theology.

God’s covenant is seen as one main purpose eternally decreed by Him, and is referred to in Scripture as the everlasting covenant (Gen. 9:16; 17:7; II Sam. 23:5; Ps. 105:10; Is. 24:5; Jer. 32:40; Ez. 37:26; Heb. 13:20).

Covenant theology is generally divided into three parts which when put together comprise an organic unity. These are as follows:

a. The covenant of redemption, which means that God covenanted with His Son in eternity past to save those whom He predestined to eternal life (Ps. 2:7,8; Is. 42:1-9, 49:5-8; John 17:4-9,24-26).

b. The covenant of works, which means the relationship we had with God in Adam at creation before his fall (Gen. 2:9,15-17; Hos. 6:7; Rom. 2:5-10, 7:10; Gal. 3:10).

c. The covenant of grace, which means the relationship we now have in Christ, the second Adam, after the fall (Gen. 3:15; Rom 5:14-21, 6:23; Gal. 3:13,14; Eph 1:3-14).

The various covenant promises made by God to people in Scripture are all part and parcel of the one overall covenant scheme, depending on the specific promise that was made.

V. The Priesthood of the believer

Just as Christ fulfills the threefold office of Prophet, Priest and King in God’s kingdom, so too, do His people who are in Him (Rev. 1:6, 5:10; Acts 1:8, 8:4,5).

All reformed churches hold to the individual priesthood of the believer, which means that in Christ, we have the right to approach God in His name, because of what He has done for us offering our spiritual sacrifices of praise to Him (Rom. 12:1; I Pet. 2:5,9; Heb. 2:11-13; Rev. 8:4, 20:6).

All reformed churches see the individual priesthood of the believer as the chief principle which is foundational to individual liberty of conscience (Rom. 14:4,22; II Cor. 3:17; Heb. 13:18; I Pet. 2:19, 3:16).

All reformed churches believe that the spiritual competency to call and discharge its officers and members is based on the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. But far from it being a matter of individual power, this competence is exercised only in the context of the assembled church, led by duly elected officers (Matt. 18:15-20; I Cor. 5:4,5).

VI. The regulative principle in Scripture

The reformed church of every branch determined that Scripture is regulative of every area of its faith and practice, especially in worship (Ex. 20:4,5; Lev. 10:1-3, John 4:22-24; I Tim. 3:15).

What this means, is that where Scripture commands us to act in a certain manner, God requires it of us, and where it doesn’t God forbids it (Matt. 28:18-20; I Cor. 11:2; II Thess. 2:15).

Scripture prescribes the following elements to be essential to New Testament worship:

a. Doctrine

b. Fellowship

c. Breaking of bread

d. Prayer

e. Praise

f. Baptism

(Acts 2:41,42; I Cor. 11:23-26; Gal. 2:9; I Tim. 2:1; II Tim. 4:1,2,5; Heb. 2:12, 13:15; I Pet. 2:7}

Circumstances of nature that do not violate the regulative principle such as when and where to meet, disposing of church property, etc., are governed by the Scripture principle of order and decency (I Cor. 14:40; Phil. 4:8,9).

VII. Sabbath observance

Every branch of the reformed church for five hundred years has recognized the biblical injunction to keep the Sabbath day holy as an essential element of the regulative principle (Ex. 20:8-11).

The Sabbath is a high holy day that is to be observed one day in seven, and is a creation ordinance sanctified by God which preceded the Mosaic law (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 16:23,25,26,29).

The day in which the Sabbath is observed was changed from Saturday to Sunday by Apostolic command due to the resurrection of Christ falling on that day (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).

Matt. 28:1 But after the sabbaths, at the dawning of the first of the sabbaths, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the grave (LITV, Green Ed.). The word Sabbath is used twice in this verse in the Greek though rendered only once in English. The words, after the sabbaths being Saturdays, denote the end of its pre resurrection observance. The words, first of the sabbaths being Monday, denote the beginning of the new resurrection observance (ref. Mark 16:1,2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

Sabbath observance for the church is not governed by theocratic restriction such Mosaic law mandates, but is governed by the three primary principles which Christ teaches. Cessation of ordinary labor implies the practice of certain other duties such as:

a. Acts of piety

b. Acts of mercy

c. Acts of necessity

(Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:9-13; Matt. 12:1-4)

VIII. Morning and evening worship on the Sabbath

Until more recently, all reformed protestant churches held morning and evening worship services which in effect bound the intervening time between them as part of the Sabbath day observance.

Use of the term evening and morning in Genesis to denote time in reference to a literal day carries significance when considering the Sabbath day rest of God that followed creation. God set apart a day for Sabbath observance.

Use of the term “Lord’s day” to denote the Christian Sabbath is based on the concept of a day of religious observance.

The rationale for morning and evening worship on the Sabbath by the Christian church is based on the Mosaic institution of the same (Ex. 29:38-46).

The Lord pledges to meet with His people who are assembled before Him on the Lords Day, filling His sanctuary with His presence and speaking to them through His word (verses 42,43).

Christ fulfilled the type intended in the temple worship with its sacrifices, but the principle, or, essence of worship did not change in the New Covenant (Spurgeons well-known title, “Morning and Evening Devotion” is based on this principle taken from Exodus 29).

IX. Regular family worship

All reformed church’s consider regular family worship to be required, and an extension of its witness before the world. It is based on the concept that worship and instruction is a way of life, not just a duty performed once a week in a public setting (Deut. 4:9,10, 6:6-9; Eph. 6:1-4; II Tim. 1:5, 3:14,15).

The family unit is a microcosm of the church which is made up of mostly families. Children are accountable to parents first before anyone else in the world, and they act as God’s representative in this capacity (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20).

Family worship is connected to the churches worship in that it contributes to the maintenance of its communion standard and discipline. Lack of family worship and instruction has no doubt, contributed in no small way to an entire generation of children brought up in the church who have departed from it for the world (Prov. 4:1, 5:7, 7:24, 8:32, 22:6).

Family worship was the daily staple of the Puritan movement which shaped the British isles and North America for more than two hundred years (Most of Matthew Henry’s commentary was prepared from notes taken from his Puritan fathers regular family worship}.

X. Confessional subscription

Every reformed protestant church believes in a subscription by its ministers and members to a defined theological system and church polity defined by a confession, a catechism, and a church order.

a. A confession is a concise summary with Scripture proofs of every doctrine which is essential for the church’s faith, worship and practice (Matt. 28:19,20; Rom. 6:17, 10:10; II Cor. 9:13; I Tim. 6:12,13; II Tim. 1:3: Tit. 2:7; Heb. 3:1, 4:14, 10:23).

b. A catechism is a form of religious instruction (question and answer) based upon a church confessional standard (Is. 28:10,13; II Tim. 3:16,17).

c. A church order is a document which defines its polity (government), and is based upon a church confessional standard (I Tim. 3:1-13,15).

A creed or confession is not a replacement for Scripture, but rather a definition of it. There is a necessity placed in Scripture by the Lord for the compilation of a creed or confession for the maintenance of orthodoxy against heresy (I Tim. 6:1,3; II Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9, 2:1; Heb. 13:9; II John 1:9,10; Jude 1:3,4; Rev. 2:14,15,24).

The slogan “no creed but the Bible” is a fraud for God does not invest the totality of His knowledge in any one person, but instead, He spreads this knowledge out among many men in the church. A collective witness of orthodoxy over the last two thousand years is the method Christ uses to save, sanctify, and preserve His church until He comes (Eph. 4:11-16).

Doctrine divides the true from the false, so there is no such thing as church unity and discipline without a confessional subscription (Matt. 10:34, 19:29; Rom. 15:6; I Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-6; I Tim. 1:15, 3:1, 4:9; II Tim. 2:2,11; Tit. 3:8; Heb. 6:1,2; I John 4:1; Rev. 2:2,3).

A church without a confessional standard of necessity makes the word of its Pastor their confession. This is what led to Roman Catholic Prelacy. For this reason, Episcopalianism was rejected by the reformers and Puritans for it is based upon the word of man rather than Scripture. The word Protestant means protest of the Popes Episcopalian authority.

There are four main confessional heritages which reflect true reformed protestant Christianity which is:

a. The Belgic Confession, which along with the canons of Dordt and the Helvetic consensus form the confessional unity of the Continental reformed churches of Europe (presbyterian, denominational, and pedobaptist).

b. The Westminster Confession, which is the first of a family of three English Puritan reformed documents (presbyterian, denominational, and pedobaptist).

c. The Savoy Declaration, which is the second English Puritan reformed document based on the Westminster with minor modification (presbyterian, congregational, and pedobaptist).

d. The 1689 London Baptist Confession, which is the third English Puritan reformed document based on both previous confessions with minor modification (presbyterian, Congregational, and Credobaptist).

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