Names are words or groups of words which identify people, places or things because they have meaning. As such, the name of a church helps to define the doctrine and practice of that particular congregation. Today, with an expressed desire for greater unity, many churches consciously adopt names which lack specificity and, as a result, they stand for little to nothing. Instead, our congregation is called “Hope Reformed Baptist Church” and each of those words define us…our history, our theology, our life and our practice. By clearly identifying ourselves, however, it is not our intention to stir up a debate, nor to imply that this is the only true church. We admit that we are not a perfect church and that the body of Christ is greater than any one local church. We pray, in fact, that God’s “grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Eph. 6:24). Instead, our desire is that others would have a better understanding who we are as Reformed Baptists, so that they will be encouraged to join with us to serve the Lord together.
So what is a Reformed Baptist church? Simply put, a Reformed Baptist church fully subscribes to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (1689 BCF) as its confessional standard. Those who adopt a modified, revised or partial form of the confession are not Reformed Baptists. In other words, to say that we are “confessional” Reformed Baptist is redundant, though necessary in these days. An historical, theological, and practical understanding of “Reformed Baptist” is defined by the 1689 BCF, without which, we have no identity.
Furthermore, we are self-consciously confessional, which means the 1689 BCF, not only defines our doctrine, but also shapes our piety and practice. We don’t just post it on the website and then forget about it or treat it with indifference. In a true Reformed Baptist church the 1689 BCF is taught, known, held, and lived out in the church. This doesn’t mean that we put the confession above Scripture; on the contrary, to be confessional requires submission to God’s Word as our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
So by the adjective “Reformed” we identify ourselves with the theology commonly expressed in the confessions of the 16th and 17th century as a result of the Protestant Reformation. Together, these confessions teach a full-orbed Reformed faith which includes: the sufficiency of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, a covenant theology, the doctrines of grace, the relationship of law and gospel, a consecrated life of holiness, the centrality of the local church, and a high view of worship on the Lord’s Day with an emphasis on the preaching. By the term “Baptist” we are simply referring to our convictions that only professing believers should be baptized and become members of the local church. In the first place, we believe, without reservation, that baptism is for believers only because of the progress of the covenants, the commands of Christ and the examples of the early church. Consequently, we seek a regenerate church membership, only admitting into this local church those who have been baptized upon a credible profession of faith.
Finally, by taking the name of “Church” we identify ourselves as a assembly of believers, called out of the world by the grace of God, organized into a visible independent body according to the Holy Scriptures, and blessed under the rule and authority of our Head, Jesus Christ, for the purpose of public worship, mutual edification and gospel witness. Today, this word may sound dull and irrelevant, however, we assert that God dwells in the mist of the church and it is central to His plan in redemptive history.
So here we stand as a confessional Reformed Baptist church to the glory of God. Thankfully, others are joining us, as more people return to the Scriptures as their “only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving, knowledge, faith and obedience” (I.1). If you would like to learn more, search for the teaching series “Reformed Baptist Distincitves” on the sermon page, or these articles on the resource page: “What is a Reformed Baptist Church?” by William E. Payne; and “What is a Reformed Baptist Church?” by Jim Savastio.