What we mean by “Reformed”, “Evangelical” and “Church”…
What we mean by “Reformed”Reformed theology gets its name from the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Believers in the Reformed tradition regard highly the specific contributions of such people like Martin Luther, John Knox, and particularly John Calvin. However, Reformed theology was not“invented” in the sixteenth century. The stream of orthodoxy reaches back through the ages, ultimately finding its source in the headwaters of all truth, the Scriptures themselves. Reformed theology places great emphasis on the doctrine of God, this doctrine being central to the whole of its theology. The chief and most distinctive article of our theology is God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty means “rule” and the sovereignty of God means that God rules over His creation with absolute power and authority. He determines what is going to happen, and it does happen. God is not alarmed, frustrated, or defeated by circumstances, by sin, or by the rebellion of His creatures. His sovereignty also oversees the salvation of man as manifested in the doctrines of grace. The doctrines of grace have historically been represented by the acrostic TULIP. In short, this doctrine biblically describes God’s role in man’s salvation. Total depravity (T) declares that man is dead in sin and incapable of exercising faith without first being regenerated by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Unconditional election (U) refers to God’s gracious work of election whereby according to His good pleasure and not based on anything man has done, the elect are brought to saving faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. Limited atonement (L) means that Christ’s death, though sufficient to save all, was efficient to save the elect. In this sense, all for whom the atonement was designed to save, will be saved. Irresistible grace (I) refers to God’s effectual calling being “operative,” not “cooperative,” whereby the regenerate are made willing to come to Christ and cling to Him for their redemption. Perseverance of the saints (P) means that those who are truly regenerate come to saving faith will never lose their salvation. God preserves them and will complete the work He has begun. We do not believe Reformed theology is a sect or branch of Christianity, we believe as the great London preacher Charles H. Spurgeon said, reformed theology is a synonym for biblical Christianity.
What we mean by “Evangelical”The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word meaning “good news.” For years, it identified those believers who held to the basic Christian doctrines (i.e., the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Resurrection & the Judgment of all men, etc.). In the course of history, however, words change. In our day this has happened to the word “evangelical.” In the past, it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. That is, it affirmed historic Christian orthodoxy as those defined by the Apostles’ Creed and the great ecumenical councils of the first millennium of Christian history such as the Councils of Nicea, Chalcedon, Constantinople, and others. Historic evangelicalism also shared a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. The “solas” (Latin for “only”) affirmed the following: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Soli Deo Gloria (To God be the Glory alone). In short, the “solas” were the rallying cry of the reformers. Scripture is the sole source of divine revelation. Christ is the sole source of our salvation via His sinless life and His substitutionary atonement. Grace is the sole source of our justification and reconciliation to the Father. Faith is the sole means by which Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. And lastly, that God’s Glory is to be pursued as man’s chief end and purpose for living. Today, however, the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, His gospel, and His Church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
What we mean by “Church”The biblical word for church means “those who are called out.” The church, therefore, is the assembly or gathering of the elect, those whom God calls out of the world, away from sin and into a state of grace. Each Lord’s Day, the church gathers to worship God. The question “How does God want to be worshiped?” is of utmost importance. Regrettably, the question has too often become “How do we want to worship God?” The result is a man-centered service as opposed to a God-centered one. The loss of God’s centrality in the life of today’s church is common and lamentable. It is this loss of God-centeredness that has led the church to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing in technique, holiness into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ, and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us. But God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God’s kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success. It is with this understanding that we approach Sunday morning with a carefully considered order of worship. We worship with fear and trembling but we also worship with joy and confidence. After all, there is no other earthly exercise more important than the worship of the Most High God. Since we are not called to worship God in isolation from each other, we do require that you in general adhere to one of the Reformed standards (though there is room for disagreement in minor issues). While these are not infallible standards, they are useful in helping people understand where you’re coming from, and are part of the Reformed tradition.
What we mean by “TULIP”
Reformed theology emphasizes the Doctrines of Grace, best known by the acronym TULIP.
T stands for Total Depravity. This does not mean that all persons are as bad as they could possibly be. It means rather that all human beings are affected by sin in every area of thought and conduct so that nothing that comes out of anyone apart from the regenerating grace of God can please God. As far as our relationships to God are concerned, we are all so ruined by sin that no one can properly understand either God or God’s ways. Nor do we seek God, unless He is first at work within us to lead us to do so
U stands for Unconditional Election. An emphasis on election bothers many people, but the problem they feel is not actually with election; it is with depravity. If sinners are as helpless in their depravity as the Bible says they are, unable to know and unwilling to seek God, then the only way they could possibly be saved is for God to take the initiative to change and save them. This is what election means. It is God choosing to save those who, apart from His sovereign choice and subsequent action, certainly would perish.
L stands for Limited Atonement. The name is potentially misleading, for it seems to suggest that reformed people want somehow to restrict the value of Christ’s death. This is not the case. The value of Jesus’ death is infinite. The question rather is what is the purpose of Christ’s death, and what He accomplished in it. Did Christ intend to make salvation no more than possible? Or did He actually save those for whom He died? Reformed theology stresses that Jesus actually atoned for the sins of those the Father had chosen. He actually propitiated the wrath of God toward His people by taking their judgment upon Himself, actually redeemed them, and actually reconciled those specific persons to God. A better name for “limited” atonement would be “particular” or “specific” redemption.
I stands for Irresistible Grace. Left to ourselves we resist the grace of God. But when God works in our hearts, regenerating us and creating a renewed will within, then what was undesirable before becomes highly desirable, and we run to Jesus just as previously we ran away from Him. Fallen sinners do resist God’s grace, but His regenerating grace is effectual. It overcomes sin and accomplishes God’s purpose.
P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. A better name might be “the perseverance of God with the saints,” but both ideas are actually involved. God perseveres with us, keeping us from falling away, as we would certainly do if He were not with us. But because He perseveres we also persevere. In fact, perseverance is the ultimate proof of election. We persevere because God preserves us from full and final falling away from Him.
These TULIP doctrines are doctrines held by Reformed Singles and Singles who believe in TULIP are the ones Sovereign Grace Singles is exclusively made for.