The scripture of the Old and New Testaments is the final authority for our beliefs and practices. It is without error, breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.
Our scriptural beliefs are expressed in the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms written by the Westminster Assembly in London in 1647. These doctrinal standards do not compete with the scriptures for authority in the church. Rather, they accurately summarize and coherently express the teaching of the scriptures.
Our understanding of scripture is sometimes called “Reformed.” That is, we teach the full sovereignty and undeserved grace of God. These biblical doctrines were recovered by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, including John Calvin. We do not teach Reformed doctrine as an addition to the gospel, but as the deepest and most accurate form of the gospel.
Our doctrine also focuses on God’s covenants. A covenant is a living yet formalized relationship that includes vows, symbols, and obligations. (Marriage is one example of a covenant.) When God saves his people, he enters into just such a relationship with them.
All of the people of God since the days of Genesis have been parties to a single, over-arching covenant of grace mediated by Jesus Christ, the “second Adam.” As God unfolded this covenant in various stages throughout history, the ministry of Jesus was foreshadowed by earthly mediators like Abraham, Moses, and David.
The covenant of grace has many implications for doctrine and practice:
Worship is an encounter between two covenant parties, God and the church, with all the dialogue happening through Jesus Christ the mediator.
Scripture is a covenant document; it is unified by a single plan of redemption for a single covenanted people of God.
The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are covenant signs and seals; that is, they symbolize and confirm God’s covenant promises for believers.
The Christian family is a covenant institution, with parents training their children after the pattern of Deuteronomy, because ever since Abraham, the children of believers are parties to the covenant with its promises and obligations.