This is the last part in the series on “labels” and will address the “Reformed” label. This is a polarizing label so I want to be clear. By reformed I’m not referring to ex-cons or recovering alcoholics but those who are reformed in doctrine and practice as it concerns the local church (particularly in contrast to the theology of the Roman Catholic church). The label “Reformed” has been so misused and misunderstood that I’ve grown more reluctant to use the label. At its most basic level the “Reformed” label refers to three emphases: 1) An emphasis on the “five solas” of the Protestant Reformation; 2) An emphasis on the regulative principle for worship and church life; and 3) An emphasis on a high view of God’s sovereignty through a high view of the ministry of the Word in worship and church life. These statements beg unpacking.
To be “Reformed” in the proper sense one must at least affirm the “five solas” which are the conviction that 1) Scripture alone as the final and infallible authority for the church in matters of life and practice; 2) Justification from God is by faith alone without any mixture of works; 3) Salvation and the ability to have faith in Christ is a gift of grace alone from God; 4) Christ alone is the mediator between a holy God and sinful man; and 5) The miracle of a sinner’s conversion and adoption is to the glory of God alone. This miracle is helpfully explained in what is known as the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. These points are a systematic method to explain what Scripture teaches regarding God’s saving work. Those who are “Reformed” also hold (in some degree) to the “regulative principle of worship”- meaning, since Scripture alone is our authority Scripture alone regulates what we do in worship and church life. Those who are “Reformed” follow in the tradition of the 16th century Protestant Reformers in placing a renewed emphasis on the ministry of the Word- particularly through the pulpit which is carried out by Biblically qualified and set apart men (pastors/ elders).
That is a “nutshell” version of the “Reformed” label but there’s more to the story. The “Reformed” label like most labels carries so much variety that like most labels it does not fairly describe the one being labeled. Does one have to affirm everything in the Second London Confession of 1689 to be “Reformed”? Does one have to sing only Puritan-era hymns in a Puritan-era style to be “Reformed”? Does one have to be Amillennial in their eschatology to be “Reformed”? Some might argue that being “Reformed” means you are a Paedobaptist! Can you have an invitational hymn after the sermon and still be “Reformed”? Can you have Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, guitar accompaniment, preach from some Biblical translation other than the KJV or ESV, and aghast… hold anything other than a full Cessationist view of the miraculous gifts and still be “Reformed”? My hope is that Memorial Baptist Church would be distinguished as being “Reformed” in its convictions and its aims but we must be carefully with becoming legalistic in some of the applications.
When I say that I want our church to be “Reformed” what do I mean? Very simply I want my flock to embrace a high view of God’s sovereignty, of God’s Word, and of God’s church. To that end: 1) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical theology in the life and practice of the church; 2) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical leadership in the life and practice of the church; 3) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical evangelism in the life and practice of the church; 4) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical worship in the life and practice of the church; and 5) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical hospitality in the life and practice of the church. The old Latin phrase semper reformanda or “always reforming” is true. We should always be submitting ourselves to the authority of Scripture and be conformed to its content.