1. We do not believe that all things in this confession of faith are of equal weight, some being more essential, some less. We do not believe that every part of this confession must be believed in order for one to be saved.
2. Our aim is not to discover how little can be believed, but rather to embrace and teach ―the whole counsel of God.(a) Our aim is to encourage a hearty adherence to the Bible, the fullness of its truth,(b) and the glory of its Author. We believe Biblical doctrine stabilizes saints in the winds of confusion(c) and strengthens the church in her mission to meet the great systems of false religion and secularism. We believe that the supreme virtue of love is nourished by the strong meat of God-centered doctrine.(d) And we believe that a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ is sustained in an atmosphere of deep and joyful knowledge of God and His wonderful works.(e)
3. We believe that the cause of unity in the church(f) is best served, not by finding the lowest common denominator of doctrine, around which all can gather, but by elevating the value of truth, stating the doctrinal parameters of church or school or mission or ministry, seeking the unity that comes from the truth, and then demonstrating to the world how Christians can love each other(g) across boundaries rather than by removing boundaries. In this way, the importance of truth is served by the existence of doctrinal borders, and unity is served by the way we love others across those borders.
4. We do not claim infallibility for this confession and are open to refinement and correction from Scripture.(h) Yet we do hold firmly to these truths as we see them and call on others to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.(i) As conversation and debate take place, it may be that we will learn from each other, and the boundaries will be adjusted, even possibly folding formerly disagreeing groups into closer fellowship.
1. The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.(a) The light of nature and the works of creation and providence so clearly demonstrate the goodness, wisdom, and power of God that people are left without excuse; however, these demonstrations are not sufficient to give the knowledge of God and his will that is necessary for salvation.(b) Therefore, the Lord was pleased at different times and in various ways to reveal himself and to declare his will to his church.(c) To preserve and propagate the truth better and to establish and comfort the church with greater certainty against the corruption of the flesh and the malice of Satan and the world, the Lord put this revelation completely in writing.(d)
2. The Holy Scriptures, or the Word of God written, consist of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. All of these are given by the inspiration of God to be the standard of faith and life.(e)
3. The Holy Scriptures are self-authenticating. Their authority does not depend on the testimony of any person or church but on God alone, the author. Therefore, the Scriptures are to be received because they are the Word of God.(f)
4. The testimony of the church of God may stir and persuade us to adopt a high and reverent respect for the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, the heavenliness of the contents, the power of the system of truth, the majesty of the style, the harmony of all the parts, the central focus on giving all glory to God, the full revelation of the only way of salvation, and many other incomparable qualities and complete perfections, all provide abundant evidence that the Scriptures are the Word of God. At the same time, however, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scriptures results from the internal work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.(g)
5. The whole counsel of God concerning everything essential for his own glory and man’s salvation, faith, and life is either explicitly stated or by necessary inference contained in the Holy Scriptures. Nothing is ever to be added to the Scriptures, either by a supposed new revelation of the Spirit or by human traditions.(h)
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the inward illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary for a saving understanding of what is revealed in the Word.(i)
6. Some things in Scripture are clearer than others, and some people understand the teachings more clearly than others.(j) However, the things that must be known, believed, and obeyed for salvation are so clearly set forth and explained in one part of Scripture or another that both the educated and uneducated may achieve a sufficient understanding of them by properly using ordinary measures.(k)
7. The Old Testament was written almost entirely in Hebrew, the native language of the ancient people of God.(l) However, a few Old Testament passages were written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek, which at the time it was written was most widely known to the nations. These Testaments were inspired directly by God and by his unique care and providence were kept pure down through the ages.They are therefore true and authoritative, so that in all religious controversies the church must make their ultimate appeal to them.(m) All God’s people have a right to and a claim on the Scriptures and are commanded in the fear of God to read(n) and search them.(o) Not all of God’s people know these original languages, so the Scriptures are to be translated into the common language of every nation to which they come.(p) In this way the Word of God may dwell richly in all, so that they may worship him in an acceptable manner and through patience and the comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.(q)
8. The infallible rule for interpreting Scripture is the Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full meaning of any part of Scripture, it must be understood in light of other passages that speak more clearly.(r)
9. The supreme judge for deciding all religious controversies and for evaluating all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, and human teachings, and in whose judgment we are to rest, is nothing but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit. In this Scripture our faith finds its final word.(s)
1. The Lord our God is one, the only living and true God.(a) He is self-existent(b) and infinite in being and perfection. His essence cannot be completely understood by anyone but him.(c) He is a perfectly pure spirit.(d) He alone has immortality, dwelling in light that no one can approach.(e) He is unchangeable,(f) immense,(g) eternal,(h) incomprehensible, almighty,(i) in every way infinite, absolutely holy,(j) perfectly wise, wholly free, completely absolute. He works all things according to the counsel of his own unchangeable and completely righteous will(k) for his own glory.(l) He is most loving, gracious, merciful, and patient. He overflows with goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. He rewards those who seek him diligently.(m) At the same time, he is perfectly just and terrifying in his judgments.(n) He hates all sin(o) and will certainly not clear the guilty.(p)
2. God has all life,(q) glory,(r) goodness,(s) and blessedness in and of himself; he alone is all-sufficient in himself. He does not need any creature he has made nor does he derive any glory from them.(t) Instead, he demonstrates his own glory in them, by them, to them, and upon them. He alone is the source of all being, and everything is from him, through him, and to him.(u) He has absolute sovereign rule over all creatures, to act through them, for them, or upon them as he pleases.(v) In his sight everything is open and visible.(w) His knowledge is infinite and infallible. It does not depend upon any creature, so for him nothing is contingent or uncertain.(x) He is absolutely holy in all his plans, in all his works,(y) and in all his commands. Angels and human beings owe to him all the worship,(z) service, or obedience that creatures owe to the Creator and whatever else he is pleased to require of them.
3. This divine and infinite Being consists of three real persons,c the Father, the Word or Son, and the Holy Spirit.(aa) These three have the same substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence without this essence being divided.(bb) The Father is not derived from anyone, neither begotten nor proceeding. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father.(cc) The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.(dd) All three are infinite and without beginning and are therefore only one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being. Yet these three are distinguished by several distinctive characteristics and personal relations. This truth of the Trinity is the foundation of all of our fellowship with God and of our comforting dependence on him.
1. From all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself.(a) He did this by the perfectly wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably. Yet God did this in such a way that he is neither the author of sin nor has fellowship with any in their sin.(b) This decree does not violate the will of the creature or take away the free working or contingency of second causes. On the contrary, these are established by God’s decree.(c) In this decree God’s wisdom is displayed in directing all things, and his power and faithfulness are demonstrated in accomplishing his decree.(d)
2. God knows everything that could happen under any given conditions.(e) However, his decree of anything is not based on foreseeing it in the future or foreseeing that it would occur under such conditions.(f)
3. By God’s decree, and for the demonstration of his glory, some human beings and angels are predestined (or foreordained) to eternal life through Jesus Christ,(g) to the praise of his glorious grace.(h) Others are left to live in their sin, leading to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.(i)
4. These predestined and foreordained angels and people are individually and unchangeably designated, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or decreased.(j)
5. Those people who are predestined to life were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, according to his eternal and unchangeable purpose and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will. He chose them in Christ for eternal glory, purely as a result of his free grace and love,(k) without anything else about them serving as a condition or cause moving him to do so.(l)
6. Just as God has appointed the elect to glory, so he has by the eternal and completely free purpose of his will foreordained all the means.(m) Therefore, those who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ(n) and effectually called to faith in Christ by his Spirit working at the appropriate time. They are justified, adopted, sanctified,(o) and kept by his power through faith to salvation.(p) No one but the elect are redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved.(q)
7. The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care so that those heeding the will of God revealed in his Word and obeying him may be assured of their eternal election by the certainty of their effectual calling.(r) In this way this doctrine will give reasons for praise,(s) reverence, and admiration of God, as well as humility,(t) diligence and rich comfort to all who sincerely obey the gospel.(u)
1. In the beginning God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit(a) was pleased to create or make the world and all things in it, both visible and invisible, in a six-day period, and all very good.(b) He did this to manifest the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness.(c)
2. After God had made all the other creatures, he created humanity. He made them male and female,(d) therefore the gift of gender is part of the goodness of God’s creation. He gave them rational and immortal souls,(e) thereby making them suited to that life lived unto God for which they were created. They were made in the image of God, being endowed with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness,(f) therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love. They had the law of God written in their hearts(g) and the power to fulfill it. Even so, they could still transgress the law, because they were left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.(h)
3. In addition to the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.(i) As long as they obeyed this command, they were happy in their communion with God and had dominion over the creatures.(j)
1. God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, arranges, and governs all creatures and things,(a) from the greatest to the least,(b) by his perfectly wise and holy providence, to the purpose for which they were created. He governs according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchangeable counsel of his own will. His providence leads to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.(c)
2. All things come to pass unchangeably and certainly in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God,(d) who is the first cause. Thus, nothing happens to anyone by chance or outside of God’s providence.(e) Yet by the same providence God arranges all things to occur according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or in response to other causes.(f)
3. In his ordinary providence, God makes use of normal means,(g) though he is free to work apart from them,(h) beyond them,(i) and contrary to them(j) at his pleasure.
4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God are so thoroughly demonstrated in his providence, that his sovereign plan includes even the first fall and every other sinful action both of angels and humans.(k) God’s providence over sinful actions does not occur by simple permission. Instead, God most wisely and powerfully limits and in other ways arranges and governs sinful actions,(l) in order to accomplish his perfectly holy purposes.(m) Yet he does this in such a way that the sinfulness of their acts arises only from the creatures and not from God. Because God is altogether holy and righteous, he can neither originate nor approve of sin.(n)
5. The perfectly wise, righteous, and gracious God often allows his own children for a time to experience a variety of temptations and the sinfulness of their own hearts. He does this to discipline them for their sins or to make them aware of the hidden strength of the corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts so that they may be humbled. He also does this to lead them to a closer and more constant dependence on him to sustain them, to make them more cautious about all future circumstances that may lead to sin, and for other just and holy purposes.(o) So whatever happens to any of his elect happens by his appointment, for his glory, and for their good.(p)
6. God, as the righteous judge, sometimes blinds and hardens wicked and ungodly people because of their sins.(q) He withholds his grace from them, by which they could have been enlightened in their understanding and had their hearts renewed.(r) Not only that, but sometimes he also takes away the gifts they already had(s) and exposes them to situations that their corrupt natures turn into opportunities for sin.(t) Moreover, he gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,(u) so that they harden themselves in response to the same influences that God uses to soften others.(v)
7. The providence of God in a general way includes all creatures, but in a special way it takes care of his church and arranges all things to its good. (w)
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