A Doctrinal Summary of the Six Major Divisions of Reformed Theology
Rev. Bartel Elshout
THE DOCTRINE OF GOD
The Bible is, in the first place, God’s revelation of Himself and of His will. It reveals that the Creator of the Universe, who is the primary Author of the Bible, is a Triune God and eternally exists in three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory (John 1:1; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 1 John 5:7; 2 Cor. 13:14). It is especially in the Person of the Son, who is the Living Word of God (John 1:1), that the Father has revealed Himself to man (John 1:18; Heb. 1:1-3), and it is the explicit work of the Holy Spirit to glorify the Son (John 16:14).
THE DOCTRINE OF MAN
The Bible provides us with God’s view of man. It reveals to us that, at the beginning of time, God created man in the image of His eternal Son (Rom. 8:29), namely, with perfect knowledge, righteousness and holiness. The chief purpose of man’s creation and existence was to give glory to God with his entire being. Tragically, however, man rebelled against God and became a sinner, no longer answering the purpose for which he was created. Ever since man turned away from God, he is separated from God (spiritually dead), has a will entirely opposed to God, is the object of the wrath of God, and is unwilling and unable to be saved and restored to a right relationship with God (Gen. 1:27; Isa. 43:7b, 21; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 8:7; 3:10, 11).
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST
The Bible reveals God’s remedy to bring about reconciliation between an offended God and sinful man. He gave His only begotten and eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Being very God and very man, Jesus Christ possesses the perfect qualities to be the supreme Mediator between God and man. By His perfect obedience to the law of God as well as His total surrender to the punishment due to sin, He quenched the wrath of God and met all the requirements of God’s justice by His death on Calvary’s cross. As evidence of His Father’s approval of His work as Mediator, Jesus arose from the dead and returned to the presence of His Father in heaven as the victorious and exalted Mediator. He has thereby fully opened the way for the relationship between God and man, broken by sin, to be completely restored (2 Cor. 5:17–21; 1 Tim. 2:5; Gal. 4:4–5; Rom. 5:1).
THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION
The Bible teaches that the will of sinful man is entirely opposed to God’s will and that therefore man of his own volition will never seek reconciliation with God. That is why the work of the Holy Spirit is indispensable in the salvation of sinners. He alone can convince man of his sin and his need of Christ; He alone can cause man to surrender to God and work faith in Christ for salvation; He alone can preserve this salvation by dwelling in sinners. Since the salvation of sinners is the result of God’s eternal initiative, God, by His Spirit, will effectively conquer the hearts of sinners and thus save His people from their sins (John 1:12, 13; 6:63a; 16:7-15; Gal. 1:15, 16a; Phil. 1:6; 2:13).
THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit, being a God of order, unites all those whom He saves into a body of believers called the church. It is within the context of the church that He causes His Word to be preached by men whom He has specifically called and qualified for this task. By means of the preaching of His Word, God is pleased to regenerate spiritually dead sinners and bestow upon them the gift of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He also uses the preaching of the Word to strengthen the faith of His people, causing them to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the church is the place where God dwells in the midst of His people by means of His Word and Spirit. It is where His people worship God, receive spiritual nourishment from His Word, serve Him, and have fellowship with Him (Psalm 122; 132:13–18; Psalm 133; Acts 2:47; Heb. 10:24-25).
THE DOCTRINE OF THE LAST THINGS
The Bible teaches us that this age will come to an end and that the Lord Jesus Christ will return personally, visibly and bodily to judge all mankind. Those who by God’s grace believe in Him and have served Him will be ushered into His everlasting presence to rejoice in His glory with unspeakable joy. All all who have rejected God’s Son in unbelief and preferred a life of sin over the service of God, however, will be separated from God’s favor forever in hell. There they will suffer unspeakable and eternal agony, being the object of God’s just wrath upon sin (Matt. 25:31–46; Mark 13:26, 27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:8–10; 2 Tim. 4:1, Rev. 20:11–12).