In the Christian faith, there are essential beliefs which every Christian must hold in order to be considered a Christian. Sadly, sincerity and "good" deeds are not enough. We must have faith, trusting in all that God has done and taught us through the person of Jesus Christ. Then there are non-essential beliefs which make us distinct from other churches who hold to the essentials. However, these non-essential differences do not divide us from one another as the body of Christ:
As a Reformed church in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we hold to the historic doctrines of the Reformation:
- the absolute sovereignty of God,
- the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures as the revealed Word of God,
- and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (These beliefs are summed up in the Five Solas.)
Yet these doctrinal distinctives do not separate us from other Christians who hold to the essential beliefs below.
THE ESSENTIALS WE BELIEVE
The Bible is God’s Word to us. In it he reveals everything we need to know about himself and what he requires of us. It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for all Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is the truth without mixture of error.
2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21; 2 Timothy 1:13; Psalm 119:105,160, 12:6; Proverbs 30:52
God is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, the only living and true God. He is “triune”, that is, he has eternally existed in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal, co-eternal, and are one God. The Father elects, the Son redeems, and the Spirit applies salvation to his people.
Genesis 1:1,26,27, 3:22; Psalm 90:2; Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14
God the Father
God the Father is a spirit and, as such, does not have a body or passions like man. Likewise, he does not change, and is holy and good in all his ways. He elects His people before the foundation of the world, and out of his abundant love, sends His only Son to save His people.
John 4:24, I Tim 1:17, Malachi 3:6, Isaiah 6:3, Ephesians 1:4, John 3:16
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, in whom the whole fullness of God dwelt bodily (Col 1:19, 2:19). He is co-equal with the Father. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless human life and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people by dying on a cross. He rose from the dead after three days to demonstrate His power over sin and death. He ascended to Heaven’s glory where he intercedes on our behalf before the Father, and will return again someday to bring us into glory in the new heaven and new earth. (Also see the Ligonier Statement on Christology). Matthew 1:22,23; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-5; 14:10-30; Hebrews 4:14,15; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 6:14,15; Titus 2:13, Revelation 21
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son. He is present in the world to make men aware of their need for Jesus Christ. He also lives in every Christian from the moment of salvation. He provides the Christian with power for living, understanding of spiritual truth, and guidance in doing what is right. He gives every believer spiritual gifts to accomplish God’s work while we are on earth. As Christians, we seek to live under His control daily.
2 Corinthians 3:17; John 16:7-13, 14:16,17; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 3:16; Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:18
People are made in the spiritual image of God to be like Him in character. People are the supreme object of God’s creation. Although man was originally created good, he fell because of his disobedience, and all mankind with him. Now, all of us are marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” This attitude separates people from God and causes many problems in life. This is why we need Jesus Christ! Without the work of God to to rescue us from our total depravity, no one would be saved.
Genesis 1:27; Psalm 8:3-6; Isaiah 53:6a; Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:1,2
Salvation is God’s free gift to us. We can never make up for our sin by self-improvement or good works; it is by grace alone. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can anyone be saved form sin’s penalty. When we turn from our self-ruled life and turn to Jesus in faith we are saved. In conjunction with the “5 Solas” we affirm that the Scriptures alone are our source of truth, and reveal that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.
Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8,9; John 14:6; 1:12; Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26; Romans 5:1
Because God gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ, the true believer is secure in that salvation for eternity. If you have been genuinely saved, you cannot “lose” it. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian. It is the grace and keeping power of God that gives us this security.
John 10:29; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25, 10:10,14; 1 Peter 1:3-5
People were created to exist forever. We will either exist eternally separated from God by sin, or eternally with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is Hell. To be eternally in union with Him is eternal life. Heaven and Hell are real places of eternal existence.
John 3:16; John 14:17; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:17-18; Revelation 20:15; 1 Corinthians 2:7-9
These are things that believers trusting in Christ alone for their salvation may disagree on. Our mutual faith makes us part of God's family, while our differing practices and interpretation of certain doctrines cause us to live in different homes. But we are still family!
These include issues like mode of baptism, infant vs. believer's baptism, and certain views of creation and end-times theology. There are views all across the spectrum on these issues which do not cause us to break fellowship. Obviously, there are some views which cannot be supported biblically, which we must deny.
Below are links to other resources and Statements of Faith with which we agree:
- Presbyterian Church in America’s General Beliefs
- Ligonier Statement on Christology
- Historic Documents of the Church (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Canons of Dordt, and more)
- B.B. Warfield's summary of the Westminster Confession, which gives a distinct Reformed position on the essential positions above
- The Gospel Coalition’s Confessional