Preaching and worship services stress the vertical line of the gospel; a right relationship with God is indispensable for God-glorifying relationships with others.
Consequently, the focus of most preaching in the HRC is the Triune God, together with our need to be saved in and through His Son. Jesus Christ is the center and heartbeat of every message. God’s being, names, attributes, divine Persons and work -the electing love of the Father, the redeeming love of the Son, and the applying love of the Holy Spirit- are emphasized. Preaching underscores the Biblical balance between God’s justice and His love; divine love is preached without the relinquishment of divine justice. The Lord is too holy and righteous to forgive sin through any means other than the substitutionary sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son.
Christ and His salvation are freely offered to all sinners without exception. By the Spirit’s grace, this gospel offer is the warrant for all sinners to receive and rely on Christ alone for salvation. Whoever truly repents of sin, and believes in and looks to Christ alone for salvation receives the forgiveness of sin and a title to eternal life in the blessedness of heaven.
Doctrinally, the HRC is thoroughly Protestant and Reformed. All significant doctrines of the Scriptures that fall under the six major divisions of Protestant theology are proclaimed in an unequivocally Reformed manner. These include:
- Theology proper: doctrines about God, such as His being, names, attributes, triune character and decrees;
- Anthropology: doctrines about man, such as our creation, our bearing of God’s image, the covenant of works, our fall in Adam, and our sin and punishment;
- Christology: doctrines about Christ, such as His names, offices, natures, states and benefits, as well as the covenant of grace;
- Soteriology: doctrines about salvation, such as effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, repentance, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, assurance and perseverance;
- Ecclesiology: doctrines about the church, such as its essence and marks, and the means of grace-especially preaching and the sacraments;
- Eschatology: doctrines about the last things, such as death, the intermediate state, immortality of the soul, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, final judgment, heaven and hell.
The churches also promote the five Reformation watchwords or battle cries, centered around the Latin word solus, meaning “alone”. These watchwords capsulate Protestant teaching in contrast to Roman Catholicism in the following ways:
|Scripture alone (sola Scriptura)||Scripture and tradition|
|Faith alone (sola fide)||Faith and works|
|Grace alone (sola gratia)||Grace and merits|
|Christ alone (solus Christus)||Christ, Mary, & intercession of saints|
|Glory to God alone (soli Deo gloria)||God, saints, & church hierarchy|
Briefly, this is what these five watchwords mean for us today:
- Scripture only: The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God, and it is the only rule and authority for faith and practice. This means that we endeavor to submit unconditionally to everything the Bible teaches (2 Tim. 3:16).
- Grace only: We can only be saved from sin and its consequences by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit. This manifestation of God’s sovereign goodness to sinners, which excludes all human merit, the Bible calls the grace of God (Eph. 2:8). Our salvation is altogether of God; from beginning to end, it is only by God’s free mercy and grace.
- Faith only: Salvation is not the result of our own accomplishments or works, but is obtained only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atonement accomplished on Calvary’s cross. By faith in the perfect obedience of Christ we become righteous before God, trusting only in the finished work of Christ (Heb. 4:2).
- Christ only: The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), who has made an effective, complete and final atonement for sin. Therefore He is the only One through whom we can be reconciled with our Creator, whom we have offended by our sins. Only Christ’s perfect sacrifice and righteousness are acceptable to God (John 14:6), and through Him we have direct access to God.
- Glory to God only: The primary purpose of our existence is to live to God’s glory, which therefore is the primary purpose of our salvation. This means that all honor and glory for our salvation must be given to God alone (Rev. 7:12).
The HRC stresses the sovereignty of God’s grace in salvation, which is powerfully illustrated by the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” as formulated by the Synod of Dort, now commonly known by their acronym, TULIP. These five points can be succinctly summarized as follows:
- Total depravity (sovereign grace needed): man is so depraved and corrupted by sin in every part of his being that he is by nature incapable of doing any spiritual good and cannot effect any part of his salvation (Gen. 6:5);
- Unconditional election (sovereign grace conceived): from eternity past, God chose to save certain individuals irrevocably to everlasting life and glory in Christ Jesus without seeing any intrinsic goodness in them, and He ordained the means by which they would be saved (Rom. 9:15-16);
- Limited atonement (sovereign grace merited): while the death of Christ is sufficient to cover the sins of the world, its saving efficacy is intentionally limited to His elect sheep whose sins He bore and for whom He fully satisfied the justice of God (John 17:9);
- Irresistible grace (sovereign grace applied): God irresistibly calls the elect to saving faith and salvation in Christ with such sovereign power that they can no longer resist His grace, but are made willing in the day of His power (Ps. 110:3; John 6:44-45); and,
- Perseverance (sovereign grace preserved): those whom God saves, He graciously preserves in the state of grace so that they will never be lost. They may be troubled by infirmities as they seek to make their calling and election sure, but they will persevere until the end, fighting the good fight of faith until the final victory shall be realized in the coming again of their Savior and Lord as Judge (John 10:28).
Though the five solas summarize major dimensions of doctrinal Calvinism and the five points summarize soteriological Calvinism, these ten teachings do not summarize all of Calvinism. That would leave us with a truncated view of the Reformed faith. To mention only a few additional areas, we believe that Calvinism also involves:
- A Reformed view of worship in general and the sacraments in particular,
- A comprehensive embracing of the lordship of Christ over every sphere of life,
- A Biblical view of marriage and family,
- A providential conviction about one’s vocation,
- A strong impetus to evangelism and piety,
- A Biblical and realistic view of the covenant and of covenant children,
- In most cases, a Presbyterian or Reformed form of church government.
In short, the Reformed faith is passionately committed to bring every thought and area of life into captivity to the service of Christ. We believe that all these doctrines of grace give glory to God, are pastorally encouraging, strengthen believers, and earnestly and lovingly call unbelievers to come to Christ without delay.