HOME  MINISTRIES     STAFF    CONTACT  
 


Our Beliefs
 

What Do Presbyterians Believe?

What Makes Presbyterians Different?

What is the Purpose of the Presbyterian Church?

Key Concepts for Presbyterians
 



What Do Presbyterians Believe?

The Presbyterian Church is known as a "confessional" church.

"This means…that we have undertaken in various times and situations to confess or state our beliefs in systematic form for the rest of the world to see. From Geneva, from France, from the Netherlands, from Scotland, from Puritan England, from twentieth century America the Reformed tradition has produced its statements of faith."

The eleven statements of faith which outline Presbyterian beliefs can be found in the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. A brief summary of those beliefs is summarized below:

• God - God, the Creator of the heaven and the earth is sovereign Lord of the universe. He has revealed himself partially through nature and fully in the Bible God's supreme revelation of himself is in Jesus Christ. God is righteous in all his ways, loving in all his dealings.

• Human Beings - Human beings are sinners, unable to save themselves, and therefore in need of a Savior.

• Christ - God, out of his great love, provided a Savior. This one and only Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ, God's own Son, born of a woman, and is therefore God and human, and as such is able to make reconciliation between God and human beings.

• Salvation - For our sin Christ died on the cross, taking upon himself our guilt and the penalty of sin that we might be forgiven and set free.

• Faith - Salvation comes to us only through our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

• Repentance - Repentance from sin, which is more than sorrow for sin, is a turning away from sin unto newness of life in Christ.

• The Holy Spirit - The Holy Spirit leads to conviction of sin, to repentance and faith, and to a desire for a new life. The Holy Spirit brings about the new birth without which no person can enter into the kingdom of heaven. The Holy Spirit enables us to die more and more unto sin and to live more and more unto righteousness.

• The Bible - The Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God.

• The Organized Church - The organized church is a divine institution for the worship of God, the propagation of the faith, and the mutual comfort and strength of those who believe.

• The Sacraments - There are only two of these holy events instituted by Christ. They are outward signs with inward spiritual meanings and graces which are conveyed to sincere participants. Baptism - Water baptism, a symbol of spiritual baptism, is the rite of entrance into the church. It is to be administered to all who believe in Christ and to their children as a token that they are members of the household of God. The Lord's Supper - This is a memorial of Christ's life and death and coming again.

• A Public Confession of Christ as Savior - A public confession of Christ as Savior is required of all who join the church.

• The Lord's Day - The first day of the week is the Christian Sabbath for public worship. After the resurrection of Christ the disciples met for prayer and worship on the first day of the week.

• The Christian Responsibility for Witnessing for Christ - A Christian has the responsibility of witnessing for Christ, and so helping to build up a human society permeated by the spirit of Christ.

• The Bodily Resurrection of Christ - The resurrection of Christ was a bodily resurrection. There will also be a bodily resurrection of all human beings and recognition in life to come.

• The Second Coming of Christ - The second coming of Christ will be personal and glorious. It is ours to watch and work and be ready when He comes.

• The Final Judgment - There will be a final judgment with Christ as the Judge. There will be eternal blessedness for all those who in this life accept Jesus Christ as Savior and seek to follow Him as their Lord.


What Makes Presbyterians Different?
 

Although Presbyterians have a great respect for other Christian churches and often work cooperatively with other Christian groups, they have certain doctrines and understandings that make them distinct. Here are some of the beliefs that distinguish Presbyterians from other Christian groups:

• Presbyterians are different from Roman Catholics because Presbyterians believe that people are justified by faith in Jesus Christ through the immediate work of the Holy Spirit.
• Presbyterians are different from Episcopalians because Presbyterians believe in the priesthood of all believers. Presbyterians also believe that ordination is by the Holy Spirit and not by any power grant in human succession.
• Presbyterians are different from Methodists because Presbyterians believe in a prior work of God's grace in the human heart leading to salvation, and the predestination of all things according to God's sovereignty.
• Presbyterians are different from Baptists because Presbyterians believe that baptism represents the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believer, and that the promise is to believers and to their children who are also heirs to the covenant. commercial property inspection
• Presbyterians are different from Congregationalists because Presbyterians believe a representative form of government is best suited for the church rather than a purely democratic from of government.
• Presbyterians are different from Quakers because we believe in the sacraments and the Word of God as means of grace.
• Presbyterians are different from Unitarians because Presbyterians believe in the Trinity and in the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.


What is the Purpose of the Presbyterian Church?


The Presbyterian Church exists to:
1. Proclaim the gospel for the salvation of humankind.
2. To provide shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship for the children of God.
3. To maintain divine worship.
4. To preserve the truth.
5. To promote social righteousness.
6. To exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven to the world


Key Concepts for Presbyterians


1. The Sovereignty of God. "When we say that God is "sovereign", we mean that he is in absolute control of the universe, and that he is absolutely independent of any other power or will. When we try to amplify or explain this idea of sovereignty, we sometimes find ourselves reduced to the repetition of superlatives. God is the most, the best, the greatest---in every area of our comprehension. As Presbyterians we are not so much concerned with the vision of God as we are with our experience of his purposeful activity in our lives and in the life of the world. Simply put, we believe that we know God more certainly in his deeds than we do in his attributes.

2. Predestination. In the Presbyterian understanding, one of the most important and distinctive corollaries to the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is the idea of predestination. In it's plainest terms, the nucleus of this doctrine is the simple fact, witnessed in common experience as well as in the Biblical narrative, that God calls some, but not all, human beings to a special relationship and destiny. In response to God's call, these human beings respond in devotion to God and in commitment to his will for their lives. If one asks why or how God chooses some people and not others, the only answer we have found to be adequate is an affirmation of the sheer mystery of it all. God chooses to choose "of his mere good pleasure," without any reference to considerations that we might like to offer on our own behalf.

3. The Nature of Humanity. Another corollary to the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is the way Presbyterians view human beings and our status in life as God's creatures. There are two aspects of this view which need to be held in balance.

On the one hand, Presbyterians affirm that God's creation is essentially good, and every bit of it came into being because God intended it to be good. Moreover, we take seriously the biblical assertion that God has made humanity "after his own image", so that we have the possibility of communion with him. Our "chief end" as the Shorter Catechism so beautifully and simply describes it, "Is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever."

On the other hand, we have not cooperated with the plan God has established. Our human problem is that we have fallen into a sort of self-idolatry which entices us to glorify and enjoy ourselves instead of God. Presbyterians believe that there is no aspect of our life which is exempt from the distortion of God's image which takes place in our self-centered lives. We call that distortion "sin".

The worst part of our sinfulness (the distorted way we've shaped our lives) is that there is no way - humanly speaking - in which this situation can be reversed. Our consciences are too marred to know goodness completely, and our wills are too marred to do the good, even if we knew it. Thus the cycle of selfishness is self-perpetuating.

If the cycle of human sinfulness is to be broken, then the initiative must come not from human beings, but from God. God begins the process of breaking the power of sin by his act of election and continues in his "effectual calling" of men and women into renewed communion with him. By God's act we are both justified (made righteous) and sanctified (set apart for spiritual growth). This is another basic emphasis of Presbyterian theology, and a central component of our understanding of the Christian life.

4. The Christian Life. When God reaches into the lives of the people he has chosen, their behavior changes. A primary evidence of God's election, according to Calvin and his successors, is a sincere and thorough attitude of repentance. Not only are believers sorry for actions which are against God's purposes for life, they also establish firm and permanent intentions to make changes for the better. In humility and gratitude, Christians determine to strive toward the fulfillment of God's will in day-to-day terms. This ongoing process we call "sanctification". In contrast to other religious traditions, Presbyterians believe that sanctification is not a process that can be brought to completion in the present life. Thus we are not perfectionists. We believe that sanctification is a process of growth which, once begun by God's grace, will not be undone, either by God or by any other power. Once God has chosen a person, he will not forsake his choice, but will continue to work out that person's salvation.

5. The Community of Faith. To a considerable degree, the faith of the individual is dependent upon the faith of the community. It would be a very difficult thing for a Presbyterian to say that it is possible for people to be Christians by themselves. The evidence, or "marks" of the existence of a Christian community can be found wherever the Word of God is properly preached and heard and the sacraments are properly administered. Wherever these things are happening, the church exists; and it is incumbent upon those who God has chosen to be part of that community.