We are often asked what we mean by Reformed Baptist. This is an important question and one
often misunderstood. Many think "reformed" simply refers to believing Calvinistic doctrine. It is far
more. When asking what we mean by "Reformed Baptist" there are actually two questions being
asked. What is a Baptist and what does it mean to be Reformed.
First of all what does it mean to be a Baptist? To be a Baptist means we believe that Biblical
baptism demands a proper subject, a proper mode, and a proper meaning. The only proper
subjects of baptism are those who have made a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is
referred to as "believers baptism" or credo-baptism, in contrast to paedo-baptism (infant baptism).
Baptists believe in a regenerate church membership. The Biblical mode of baptism is immersion or
the complete submersion of the person under the water. And the meaning of baptism is our union
with Christ in His death and resurrection. We have died to sin and are raised to walk in newness of
life. The London Baptist Confession of Faith reads:
(LBC - 29:1) - "Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto
the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him in his death and resurrection; of his being
engrafted into him;1 of remission of sins;2 and of giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live
and walk in newness of life.3
(1Romans 6:3 5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; 2Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; 3Romans 6:4)
In addition, Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church; meaning, there is no power
beyond the local church that has any ecclesiastical authority over the doctrines and practices of
the local church. This is in contrast to more hierarchically-structured denominations such as
Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, or to a lesser degree, Presbyterians. The church should be
congregational in polity, but governed by a plurality of elders. While we hold to church autonomy
our Confession stresses the importance of association with other like-minded churches.
What does it mean to be Reformed? In a general sense, it means we hold to the doctrines clarified
during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. We hold to the absolute sovereignty of God
over all of creation, but the Reformed faith places a particular emphasis upon God's sovereignty in
the salvation of sinners. We believe that in eternity God graciously chose to save a multitude from
among the fallen race of humanity, to send His Son to redeem these elect people, and to effectually
save them by His Spirit through the Gospel. This salvation is completely apart from human action,
but accomplished in a way that maintains human responsibility for faith in the Gospel, which is
freely offered to all.
Rather than tradition, the opinions of men, sentiment, or pragmatism, Reformed churches maintain
the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. Rather than singing, drama, or dance, preaching
is prominent in worship and expository preaching is the best form, with Christ crucified as the chief
subject. Simply speaking, expository preaching develops the sermon from the Biblical text--a
further demonstration of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
Being a Reformed church, however, is much more than just holding to what has been coined, "the
Five Points of Calvinism." There has been a great resurgence of interest in these doctrines of
God's sovereign grace. Often well-meaning churches holding to these doctrines refer to
themselves as "Reformed" while not truly understanding the meaning behind this label. Being a
Reformed church or holding to the Reformed faith is an all-encompassing principle that is founded
upon a solid heritage. The Reformed faith maintains a high view of the local church; that the local
church is central to the purposes of God on earth and that every believer must commit himself or
herself to a particular church. Reformed churches take church membership seriously. The
Reformed faith maintains God-centered worship with Scripture as the rule in how worship is
conducted. We call this the "regulative principle of worship." Rather than leaving worship to the
imaginations of men, God determines how He is to be worshipped.
The Reformed faith maintains a high view of God's law as expressed in the Ten Commandments;
God's law is His standard of holiness. The law is not contrary to grace but is in sweet harmony with
the grace of the Gospel. The 1689 Confession states (19:7): "Neither are the aforementioned uses
of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ
subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God,
revealed in the law, requireth to be done." Sadly, most churches today reject the rule of the Fourth
Commandment. There are few doctrines as universally despised and disputed as the Sabbath,
even among many who call themselves Reformed. It should be noted that the Synod of Dort
(Dordecht) that affirmed what we refer to as the "Five Points of Calvinism" also affirmed the
perpetuity of the Sabbath.
The Reformed faith has held to a robust covenantalism best known by the term, "covenant
theology." Simply speaking, God deals with sinful man by way of covenant. All of the Biblical
covenants are revealed progressively until fulfilled by Christ in the New Covenant.
The Reformed faith has a long history of great confessions and creeds such as the Savoy
Declaration, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of Faith. From these
historic statements the London Baptist Confession was written. Most Baptists today fall into the
camp of Fundamentalism which maintains a short list of doctrines and practices that they consider
the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Lacking a uniform statement of faith, however, their
interpretation of the Scriptures has not been consistent. Reformed Baptists hold to a robust
confessionalism which is based on an absolute commitment to the Scriptures and a written
statement of interpretation on the full range of Christian doctrine. The London Baptist Confession
of 1689 has served the church for over three centuries and serves as a basis of doctrinal stability
"What is a Reformed Baptist?"