We are Christian because we believe the ecumenical creeds of the early church, namely the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon, and, since the time of Protestant Reformation, we believe the doctrines of justification by faith alone and that the Scriptures (i.e. the sixty-six books of the Old and New testaments) are our only infallible rule of faith and practice. We understand that the ancient creeds were never meant to take the place of Scripture. Instead, they serve as accurate summaries of some of the central teachings of Scripture.
We are Presbyterian because we believe the Bible teaches that the church should be governed by a plurality of elders (presbuteros) at local, regional, and national levels that are elected by the congregations and submitted to one another in the Lord. This Presbyterian system of government is more fully explained in our Book of Church Order and The Westminster Confession of Faith ch. 31.
We are Reformed because we believe the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith along with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms is a faithful summary of the teaching of the Scriptures. These documents form one of the most important doctrinal statements to come out of the Protestant Reformation. We understand that the Confession and Catechisms were never meant to take the place of Scripture as the church’s only infallible rule for faith and practice. Instead, like the ecumenical creeds and building upon them, they serve to further summarize the Scriptures’ teaching in addressing the challenges facing the late medieval church, especially Roman Catholicism’s rejection of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which became official at the Council of Trent in 1563.
Here is a brief summary of what we believe from the OPC website:
- The Bible, having been inspired by God, is entirely trustworthy and without error. Therefore, we are to believe and obey its teachings. The Bible is the only source of special revelation for the church today.
- The one true God is personal, yet beyond our comprehension. He is an invisible spirit, completely self-sufficient and unbounded by space or time, perfectly holy and just, and loving and merciful. In the unity of the Godhead there are three “persons”: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- God created the heavens and the earth, and all they contain. He upholds and governs them in accordance with his eternal will. God is sovereign (in complete control) yet this does not diminish human responsibility.
- Because of the sin of the first man, Adam, all mankind is corrupt by nature, dead in sin, and subject to the wrath of God. But God determined, by a covenant of grace, that sinners may receive forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ has always been the only way of salvation, in both Old Testament and New Testament times.
- The Son of God took upon himself a human nature in the womb of the virgin Mary, so that in her son Jesus the divine and human natures were united in one person. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on a cross, bearing the sins of, and receiving God’s wrath for, all those who trust in him for salvation (his chosen ones). He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, where he sits as Lord and rules over his kingdom (the church). He will return to judge the living and the dead, bringing his people (with glorious, resurrected bodies) into eternal life, and consigning the wicked to eternal punishment.
- Those whom God has predestined unto life are effectually drawn to Christ by the inner working of the Spirit as they hear the gospel. When they believe in Christ, God declares them righteous (justifies them), pardoning their sins and accepting them as righteous, not because of any righteousness of their own, but by imputing Christ’s merits to them. They are adopted as the children of God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies them, enabling them increasingly to stop sinning and act righteously. They repent of their sins (both at their conversion and thereafter), produce good works as the fruit of their faith, and persevere to the end in communion with Christ, with assurance of their salvation.
- Believers strive to keep God’s moral law, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, not to earn salvation, but because they love their Savior and want to obey him. God is the Lord of the conscience, so that men are not required to believe or do anything contrary to, or in addition to, the Word of God in matters of faith or worship.
- Christ has established his church, and particular churches, to gather and perfect his people, by means of the ministry of the Word, the sacraments of baptism (which is to be administered to the children of believers, as well as believers) and the Lord’s Supper (in which the body and blood of Christ are spiritually present to the faith of believers), and the disciplining of members found delinquent in doctrine or life. Christians assemble on the Lord’s Day to worship God by praying, hearing the Word of God read and preached, singing psalms and hymns, and receiving the sacraments.