We are a Reformed Church. So, what does that mean? And what does that look like at Christ Our Hope? To be more specific, we are a Christ-centered, Law & Gospel, Word & Sacrament, Covenantal, Catechetical, Biblical & Historic, Reformed Church. Well, what does all THAT mean?

 

We are a…

 

  • CHRIST-CENTERED... Many churches identify themselves as “Christ-centered.” That’s a good thing for a Christian church to be. But how does a church show that commitment? At Christ Our Hope, we show that commitment in our public worship and preaching. Jesus Himself said the whole Bible is about Him and His saving work for us (see John 5:39 and Luke 24:44-47). The Church is to proclaim Christ in order to present everyone perfect in Him (Colossians 1:28-29). So preaching which is truly “Christian” will preach Christ, who He is and what’s done for us, from all of Scripture. That is our commitment at Christ Our Hope.

  • LAW & GOSPEL... God’s holy, just, and good Law shows us our sin, and drives us to our Savior. The Law reveals God’s perfect moral will. It commands us to love Him with the entirety of our being, and love our neighbor as ourselves. And the Law reveals His just condemnation of our sin as we fail to love Him and others as He commands. The Law reveals there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:9-20). The Gospel, on the other hand, reveals God’s gift of the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life through faith in His crucified and risen Son. The Law commands us to DO or be DOOMED – the Gospel declares it is DONE by Christ – He DID all the Law for us, DIED for our sins, and DEFEATED death through His resurrection (Romans 3:21-31, 1 Corinthians 15, etc). The risen Jesus commissioned the apostolic church to preach repentance (Law) and the forgiveness of sins (Gospel) in His Name to all nations (Luke 24:47). Such preaching is not merely for “outreach,” but is the very lifeblood of the Word ministry of His Church. Jesus has ordained Law & Gospel preaching to save us and to sanctify us, to deepen our repentance, strengthen our faith, and increase our love for Him and our neighbor. So we demonstrate our gratitude for His grace as He grows us in a faith which works through love (Romans 12:1-2, Colossians 3:17, Galatians 5:6, etc). To this end, our preaching aims to proclaim the Law in all its holy perfection and the Gospel in all its gracious provision.

  • WORD & SACRAMENT... So how does God strengthen our faith, which then works through love? He does so through the Gospel. The Gospel is given to us by His Word & Sacraments (Mt 28:18-20, Rom 10:17, Titus 3:4-8, 1 Cor 10:16, 11:17-34, Eph 4:11-16, etc). God’s Word & Sacraments are what we call the “means of grace” – the means by which He conveys Christ and His saving benefits to us. The Word comes to us through the reading and preaching of the Scriptures. The Sacraments are the “visible Word” of the Gospel. Through baptism, God exhibits and confers His Gospel promise to save us by washing us from our sins, clothing us with Christ, giving us His Spirit, etc. These promises are applied by His Spirit to all His elect in His appointed time. Through the Lord’s Supper, Christ by His Spirit grants us a spiritual communion with His body and His blood, given for the forgiveness of our sins, by which we are strengthened in faith. At Christ Our Hope, we administer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, as we believe the ministry of Word & Sacrament belong together, as gifts given by Christ for the upbuilding of His Church.

  • COVENANTAL... We believe that our God is a promise-keeping God, and that all of His promises are Yes and Amen in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). These promises come to us in Scripture through the historic covenants God made with His people. God made a covenant with Adam, which we call the covenant of works, or covenant of creation. The basis of this covenant is the Law of God, which binds all of us to personal, perpetual, and perfect obedience to God our Maker. Adam broke this covenant, and we are all covenant-breakers in him. God then initiated what we call covenant of grace, promising to redeem His elect through the ages by His Son made flesh, the Seed of the Woman. All of the covenants of the Old Testament anticipated and are now fulfilled in the New Covenant, sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Gal 3:10-14, Heb 8, etc). All of these covenants are connected to this one plan of God, to save sinners graciously chosen in His Son, to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:3-14). In all of the biblical covenants, God deals not only with individuals, but with families. In the Old Testament, He commanded His Gospel promise to be signified and sealed with circumcision not only to adult believers, but to their children (Gen 17 with Rom 4:11). This is because He promises to be a God not only to us, but to our children. He reaffirms this promise in the New Testament, and so we apply the New Covenant sign and seal of baptism to our children, as well (Acts 2:39, Lk 18:15-17, Mt 28:19).

  • CATECHETICAL... We believe Jesus’ command to baptize and to teach all nations includes not only adults, but our children – and so we use biblically faithful and historic catechisms to systematically teach all the disciples of Christ to observe everything that Christ commanded. (Deut 6, Eph 6, Mt 28)

  • BIBLICAL & HISTORIC... Why would we identify ourselves as a “Biblical & historic” Reformed church? In the Reformation, biblical Reformed theology produced a distinctively Reformed worship. God is holy and sovereign, and has revealed His mercy and grace to us in Christ. So in His worship, God takes the initiative to speak to us by His Law & Gospel, in Word & Sacrament, to which we respond with repentance, faith, and gratitude. And so, the Reformed applied, the Reformation slogan, sola scriptura (Scripture alone), to the public worship of the church. What we do as the Church in the worship of our great God and Savior must have scriptural warrant. This results in worship which is simple, spiritual, and substantial. New Testament worship is not characterized by ornate ritual or complex ceremonies, as it was under the Old Testament. The instructive, symbolic ritual of the OT has found its fulfillment in Christ. As a result, the worship of the Church is to be characterized by the simplicity and spirituality of God’s Word read, preached, prayed, sung, and conveyed visibly in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Because worship is a “covenant dialogue” with our great and merciful God, all is to be done with reverence and awe. Reformed worship is historically rooted, as well, in the ancient liturgy of the Church. In the 16th century, the Genevan reformer John Calvin reformed the historic Western liturgy in accord with God’s Word, retaining its scriptural elements. He discarded the man-made superstitions and the ornate ceremonies that had accrued through the centuries. Our order of worship is based on this reformed historic liturgy. This is “biblical & historic” Reformed worship, which is worship reformed according to the Scriptures.

  • REFORMED... We are a “Reformed” church, that is, a congregation which adheres to the historic confessions of the Reformed Faith. Our pastor and elders subscribe to the Westminster Standards – vowing to teach and govern the church according to this biblically faithful summary of faith. We also appreciate and utilize the historic creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian) and the Dutch Reformed Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort) in our worship and catechesis. We are Reformed in our church government, that is, “Presbyterian.” That word means we are governed by elders (presbyters). The pastor as a “teaching elder” together with “ruling elders” are all elected by the congregation. They are examined, approved, and ordained by other presbyters. The pastor & elders together comprise the “session” of this local church. They “shepherd” the church, providing spiritual care for its members.

  • CHURCH... Lastly, we are a “church” – not an entertainment venue, self-help center, or political action committee! We believe that Christ has appointed His Church, His body animated by His Word and Spirit, as the means by which He gathers and grows His elect people in this world – through the faithful ministry of His Word and Sacraments. And His Church is larger than us. We recognize our connection not only to the historic, catholic Church. But also as Presbyterians, we tangibly express our actual & organic connection to the larger church. In our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, this connection is expressed at the regional level with the Southern New England Presbytery, and at the national level with the General Assembly.