Scripture is the final authority for our beliefs and practices. The sixty-six books of the Bible are breathed out by God, free of errors, and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.
Our biblical beliefs are expressed in the time-tested Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. These doctrinal standards do not compete with Scripture for authority in the church. Rather, they accurately summarize and coherently state the teaching of Scripture, and we affirm them gladly.
Sometimes our doctrine is called “Reformed.” That is, we emphasize the total sovereignty and undeserved grace of God—because the Bible does too. These 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 message of Scripture, but as the deepest and most accurate expression of that 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 the redeemed people of God since Genesis have been parties to the same essential relationship with him – a single Covenant of Grace – mediated by Jesus Christ, whom the Bible calls the “second Adam.” Yet God unfolded this covenant in various stages throughout history, in which the ministry of Jesus was foreshadowed by earthly mediators like Abraham, Moses, and David.
The Covenant of Grace has many implications for our doctrine and practice:
- Worship is a conversation 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 way of salvation for a single covenant 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. For ever since God established his covenant with Abraham in Genesis, the children of believers as well as believers themselves have been included in the covenant’s promises and obligations.