What We Believe,
or Better Yet: Who We Know!
from Pastor Mark Tankersley
Before giving you a list of things that we believe in, I want to tell you more about who we know! So many times we put our categories down on paper, and are content with people giving a kind of mental assent to those statements of faith. As I get older, I find that I am no longer content just to have an itemized list of theological statements (although I do not want to be without them either). I want to talk more about the One we know, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and Savior of sinners like me, like us.
Of first importance is the reality that there is only one way to be saved from sin, judgment, and eternal separation from God. That one way is in fact, one person … Jesus, the Son of God who came miraculously to this earth by being conceived in the womb of Mary by virtue of a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit of God. This incarnation of the Son of God should still stun us today … stirring our imagination and causing us to pause in adoration of the glory and grace of God.
Secondly, we know that the only way to know this Savior and Lord, is to receive Him by faith. That is, we acknowledge our sinfulness puts us in a helpless and miserable state before a holy and majestic God. We acknowledge that in our sinfulness we have no bargaining power with God. In our sinfulness we have forfeited any right to standing with a sinless God. We have nothing, nothing at all, to bring to Him that should enable us to gain favor with God. We are in a hopeless reality. And yet, God did look on favor to His Son, and He says that all who look upon His Son with faith, God will have mercy, for His Son came to this earth to pay the penalty for your sin and mine. It was His main mission, and He accomplished the mission on the cross. If you look to Him with a repentant heart and a true faith, He will have mercy and favor upon you. If you reject the Son, the only one given to man through whom we may be saved, if you reject Him, you will perish. But if you believe upon Him, you shall not perish, but you will have life everlasting. Have you trusted the Lord Jesus with all your heart? If not, then I urge you today … believe upon Him.
Thirdly, the only way we have access to God is through God’s amazing grace. It is not as if God reaches down to those who are reaching up to Him. It is more like God is invading enemy territory and rescuing people who were once His enemies. People who want to be gods exchange that futile way of life by surrendering to the One true God and the plan of salvation He is offering. It is not that we are trying to work our way to heaven, because our best deeds without His grace, are just, well as He says, “filthy rags.” We are not as noble as we think. Usually our works of righteousness have as their ultimate goal our own glory. It is God’s grace, rescuing undeserving and self-centered sinners through the completed work of the death of His Son on the cross, that enables us to receive salvation. We cannot work our way back to heaven. Heaven had to come to us. Our righteousness is not true righteousness at all. By grace, God exchanges our sin with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We can claim no works, no self-effort, no special privilege, no exceptions to the rule, and no right to the bargaining table. Salvation is a gracious work of God, and if you have been saved, He has chosen to save you. If you want to be saved, then believe and receive this grace of loving forgiveness from God. He will not cast you away if you sincerely come to Him in faith.
Fourthly, the way that you can know all these truths is through one source … the Bible. We truly believe that the writings of the Old Testament prophets and the writings of the New Testament apostles is what we call “the Word of God.” We believe these men were called out by God and given the responsibility to document for posterity what is true about what God is doing in creation and in history. We believe that the Spirit of God enabled these men to hear and know God’s message, His plan of working out redemption for human beings. We believe the Bible (OT and NT) are the words of God communicating the works of God, and there is no need for any new revelation from God. He has spoken, and the Spirit of God applies those truths to our hearts and minds, demonstrated truly, though not perfectly, in the lives of those who have trusted God and show their love by obeying His Word. An obedience demontrated in loving God and in loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Fifthly, as you can see, all of these four realities mentioned above, can lead to only one conclusion … God gets all the deserved glory for our salvation. We offer nothing to our salvation. We only receive them as a divine work of the irresistible grace of God. The God who died for us, has also been raised from the dead. He has risen, and promises a bodily resurrection to all who know Him and have been known by Him. To God alone do we give glory and honor and praise for saving us. We love Him, because He first loved us. Do you want to know the love of God?
Well, this is who we know … The Lord God Himself! This then, is what we believe, and it is a belief that has a certainty about it, a conviction about it. We know what we know, and we know Whom we have believed.
If you have a sense of history, particularly the history of the reformation, you will notice that the five things enumerated above are what church historians have often referred to as the five “solas” of the reformation (“sola” is a Latin word meaning “only” or “alone”): In Christ alone (solus Christus); by faith alone (sola fide); through grace alone (sola gratia); by the Scriptures alone (sola Scriptura); to God alone be the glory (soli deo gloria). That my friends, is what we believe, and all of this is based upon the teaching of the Bible. We add nothing to that!
If you want more understanding of the Word of God, then come worship with us and receive the teaching. Further, we encouraged you to read the Word for yourself. If you are not a believer, we challenge you to read that Word, pray as you read, reflect on what your read … and believe!
We hope all of this has helped. Our goal in teaching the Bible is not to fall in love with the Word of God as an end in itself, but to know and love the God who has spoken, and continues to speak in that sacred message to a world that like us, desperately needs Him!
You can get some helps from this website as well: http://www.arpsynod.org
Our foundational doctrinal statements are found in The Standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which we hold to be "the system of doctrine which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone" (Associate Reformed Synod, May 31, 1799).