We Presbyterians call our Christian convictions the Reformed faith. What do we mean by that name? And from where did the name come? We call our faith “Reformed” because of the Protestant Reformation. During the medieval era, the Christian church became more and more distorted. Truths taught in the Bible were obscured. Ideas and practices without biblical warrant came to prominence. This led to a movement by Christians to reform the faith and practice of the medieval church. It is from this effort at reform that our name comes: the Reformed faith.
The Reformed faith is, first of all, a turning away from all forms of self-help salvation in order to find God’s true salvation in Jesus Christ alone. As Reformed Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only and all-sufficient Savior of God’s people. Christians do not need to add their good works, their religious efforts, or anything else to the work of Jesus Christ. Rather, Christ by his death and resurrection has provided a full and complete salvation for the people of God.
Therefore, we enter into God’s salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. It is through believing the good news of his death and resurrection and trusting in him that our sins are forgiven and we are regarded as the beloved children of God. His sacrifice cancels all our sins. His resurrection brings eternal life to us. By faith we receive Christ and all that he has accomplished for us. In him our salvation is complete, even though we have yet to experience that salvation completely. Yet we have assurance that we are now saved, are being saved, and will be saved on the last day.
As the Reformed faith is a rejection of all human efforts to achieve salvation, it is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit alone joins and unites us to Christ in heaven. It is by the Spirit of God (not our own efforts) that we are born anew. The Spirit of God renews our minds and remolds our wills, enabling us to believe in Jesus Christ and keeping us in that faith all our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper effective in our lives.
The Spirit of God leads us away from sin and into obedience to God. He is the source of our desire to do what pleases the Lord. The Spirit of God works in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure. Our good works are not the means by which we are saved. They are the fruit of salvation freely received. The Spirit of God works in and through God’s Word, the Bible. Indeed, it was the Spirit of God who inspired the writers of the Bible so that what they wrote was what God wanted to be written. As the very Word of God, the Bible is the sole authority from God for what to believe and how to live. The Reformed faith is a return to the Bible as the standard for the faith and practice of the church. By the Bible we test what is good in the practices of the church. By the Bible we judge what to believe and what not to believe.
- Excerpted from the article “What Is the Reformed Faith” by Jack D. Kinneer, published in the February, 1999 issue of our denominational magazine, New Horizons.