Reformed Theology

From the Archives: What Does "Reformed" Mean?

From time to time Baptist (and other) friends ask me, “What does ‘Reformed’ mean, anyway?” They have come across a Baptist or Bible church that now styles itself “Reformed” or have heard someone describe a leader as having “gone Reformed,” and they’re finidng the term a bit confusing. The question doesn’t come to me from seminary graduates or church history majors. So here I offer an answer for the layman—especially the layman who grew up in some variant of independent Baptist.

What it is not

It may be helpful to begin with what “Reformed” is not. It is not one thing. Nowadays, even well informed people mean different things by the term. Still, because the last several decades have witnessed a revival of theological seriousness in parts of American Christianity, and because that revival has had much Reformed influence running through it, many have taken to using the term to mean nothing more than “theologically serious.” Some even seem to be claiming the label just because it’s trendy.

There is a more or less correct definition of “Reformed,” to be sure. But if your goal is to know what people mean, you’ll have to accept the reality that there is no single, clear intent.

5372 reads

Book Review – China’s Reforming Churches

Image of China's Reforming Churches
by Bruce P. Baugus
Reformation Heritage Books 2014
Paperback 320

It is no secret that Christianity in China is growing. In a country that has been historically hostile to religious diversity, Christianity has been growing and making a mark on the whole of Chinese life. One of the factors that accounts for this growth is the infusion of Protestant missionaries from various denominational affiliations. What might come as a surprise to many is the growing and well documented influence of conservative Reformed missionary influence in various ways throughout China.

1850 reads

What Does "Reformed" Mean?

From time to time Baptist (and other) friends ask me, “What does ‘Reformed’ mean, anyway?” They have come across a Baptist or Bible church that now styles itself “Reformed” or have heard someone describe a leader as having “gone Reformed,” and they’re finidng the term a bit confusing. The question doesn’t come to me from seminary graduates or church history majors. So here I offer an answer for the layman—especially the layman who grew up in some variant of independent Baptist.

What it is not

It may be helpful to begin with what “Reformed” is not. It is not one thing. Nowadays, even well informed people mean different things by the term. Still, because the last several decades have witnessed a revival of theological seriousness in parts of American Christianity, and because that revival has had much Reformed influence running through it, many have taken to using the term to mean nothing more than “theologically serious.” Some even seem to be claiming the label just because it’s trendy.

There is a more or less correct definition of “Reformed,” to be sure. But if your goal is to know what people mean, you’ll have to accept the reality that there is no single, clear intent.

11331 reads

Distinguishing Law, Gospel and Grace

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Jul-Sep, 2011).

“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’” (Matt. 19:16, 17).

If someone asked you how to obtain eternal life, what would your answer be? We know1 that eternal life comes by believing in God’s Son, as John 3:14-18 tells us, rather than by keeping the commandments. We know this is true because we were saved by believing in Christ, not by trying to keep God’s commands. So how are we to understand the words of Christ to this person? This passage is one in which acquiring the skill of identifying and distinguishing law, gospel, and grace is crucial to its understanding.

What are they?

Romans 3:20 teaches us two truths about God’s law: (1) by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight, and (2) the law brings an awareness of sin. Law always refers to some demand by God which brings condemnation and death (cf. 2 Car. 3:7-9). Now we understand that the words of our Lord about keeping the commandments and obtaining eternal life were actually an attempt to show the young man his sin and need of a Savior.

On the other hand, gospel does not make demands but rather refers to what God has done by sending His Son to die for our sins and to be raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The law says “do” while the gospel says “done.” Trusting in Christ is not a demand but a response to the gospel.

3005 reads

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