Doctrinal Standards and Worship
Heritage Reformed congregations, office-bearers, and members affirm the three Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian) and the three Reformed Forms of Unity as Biblically sound doctrinal standards:
- The Belgic Confession of Faith (1561; written primarily by Guido DeBrès),
- The Heidelberg Catechism (1563; written primarily by Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus), and
- The Canons of Dort (1618-19; written by the Reformed Synod convened at Dordrecht, the Netherlands).
At the March 27, 2009 HRC Synod, also the Westminster Standards were adopted as formal doctrinal standards of the Heritage Reformed Congregations. These standards are:
- The Westminster Confession of Faith,
- The Larger Catechism, and
- The Shorter Catechism.
Most congregations periodically read the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort at worship services, and offer weekly preaching based on the Heidelberg Catechism except on special occasions, such as church feast days or on a Communion Sabbath. The ministers follow an ecclesiastical calendar, which includes preaching messages that relate to the great redemptive-historical acts of salvation, from Advent to Pentecost, while the congregants are admonished to avoid all commercialization of these “feast days.” For most of their sermons, however, most ministers proclaim God’s Word in an expository fashion, preaching their way through various Bible books or sections of Scripture.
The HRC places a premium on expository preaching because it explains and applies a particular portion of God’s Word in its context. A commitment to expositional preaching is important because it gives authority to the preacher since he is bringing God’s Word and because such preaching is best suited to moving a church to hear and obey God’s Word.
Our English word worship is derived from the word worth. Worship is really “worthship” and reminds us that God is worthy of receiving our praise and honor. Consequently, godly sobriety dominates worship in the HRC out of deep reverence for God and His holy congregation. We see ourselves as guests in His house, praying that we will worship and exalt Him in a pure, unalloyed manner, supremely for His glory, and will remember that true worship is what God enjoys and commands and has a right to expect. Our worship must be corporate, Christ-exalting, and celebrative; above all else, it must be thoroughly Biblical. This “regulative principle of worship,” requiring that every part of worship must be grounded in Scripture, is assiduously adhered to as the only principle that can withstand today’s sweeping tide of false forms of unbiblical, shallow, worldly, informal, and innovative human worship. Everything in divine worship must be warranted by Scripture. We believe that in worship we enter into a dialogue with God whereby we humbly bring our adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications to Him. We do that through prayers, congregational singing of the Psalms, offerings, and benedictions, which take up half of a typical worship service. The other half of our service is devoted to the reading of Scripture and preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word—both law and gospel, both death in Adam and life in Christ, both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Through the reading and preaching of His Word, God speaks to us, instructing, strengthening, equipping, chastising, and warning us for our good. We strive to ensure that all the Biblical aspects of worship are included in our services: proclamation and learning of truth, adoration, repentance, intercession, dedication and thanksgiving.
We believe that it is critical for the preacher to conduct the service with the consciousness that he is in the presence of Almighty God. All self- or man-centeredness, casual demeanor, chatty and superfluous comments must be avoided in public worship when in the presence of the King of kings. Reflective of the church’s calling, preaching must be Biblical, doctrinal, experiential and practical. Let us now take a closer look at these four emphases, then consider the HRC’s ecclesiastical emphases and denominational ministries.