ARTICLE I – HOLY SCRIPTURE IS THE ONLY INFALLIBLE DIVINE AUTHORITY
Grace Reformed Baptist Church affirms that the Holy Scripture is the only God-breathed, inerrant, infallible, sufficient, reliably transmitted and preserved divine authority in all matters upon which it touches. Grace Reformed Baptist Church agrees with The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:
- God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.
- Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.
- The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
- Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.
- The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church1.
ARTICLE II – CREEDS, COVENANTS, CONFESSIONS AND CATECHISMS
Grace Reformed Baptist Church acknowledges biblical precedent for credal statements (Deuteronomy 6:4, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16), as well as lawful oaths and covenants (Hebrews 6:16, 2 Corinthians 1:23, Nehemiah 13:25). It is a duty of a local church to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3, 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 2 Peter 2:1). Written Creeds, Covenants, Confessions and Catechisms provide a framework for safeguarding against false teaching, while unwritten articles of faith are less subject to scrutiny, more subject to change, and often fail to protect the church from false teaching.
ARTICLE III – SUBSCRIPTION TO THE 1689 BAPTIST CONFESSION
Grace Reformed Baptist Church shall substantially subscribe to the 1677/1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (herein known as “The 1689 Baptist Confession”). This document is widely available online2. A print version can be provided upon request.
The 1689 Baptist Confession itself affirms “the Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience”3. Grace Reformed Baptist Church therefore subscribes to the 1689 Baptist Confession because it reflects biblical teaching and insofar as it reflects biblical teaching.
Grace Reformed Baptist Church elders and deacons shall be in agreement with all the doctrine contained in the 1689 Baptist Confession, with liberty and charity over minor matters of wording, application and nuance not essential to the doctrines expressed as whole5. Elders and deacons shall clearly state any reservations (“scruples”) with respect to the confession whenever such reservations exist or arise.
For example, section 26.4 asserts that Christ is the only head of the church, which we affirm. While we also agree that the Pope of Roman Catholicism cannot in any sense be head of the church, so that the Pope is an antichrist, yet we would not insist that the Pope is the antichrist.
Similarly, section 22.8 puts forward a very strict Sabbatarian practice. We concur that the Christian Sabbath points to present rest in Christ’s completed work for salvation and points forward to glory. We consider gathered worship to be the primary consideration in the ordering of the week. However, our practice would be to consider it a matter of conscience to participate in casual leisure activities that do not form a pattern of detracting from worship and fellowship.
We consider these to be examples of holding to the doctrine of a statement, while allowing for differences in matters of wording, application, and nuance.
SUBSCRIPTION OF UNITY
Grace Reformed Baptist Church encourages a “subscription of unity” among its members (Romans 16:17). While the goal is that all church members would agree with the confession, members shall refrain from causing division and strife, seek to maintain a teachable spirit, and abstain from actively and knowingly teaching or distributing material that is contrary to the 1689 Baptist Confession6. Questions and doubts shall be welcome for honest discussion, with the goal of building Christian unity based on biblical fidelity.
To help imagine what “subscription of unity” would look like, here are a couple hypothetical situations or examples.
A person has attended a few times and would like to become a member. He is aware of the 1689 Baptist confession of faith, but is not clear on all the doctrines expressed. In the course of learning, he asks a lot of questions and has respectfully challenged the extent of mankind’s depravity to seek biblical clarification and refine his own understanding. This is not a sign of disunity.
A member may have points of potential disagreement with the confession, but does not take offense or chafe with the teaching from the pulpit or allow such disagreements to impair fellowship. This is an example of seeking to hold a “subscription of unity”.
On the other hand, a situation could be imagined in which a person seeks to undermine and teach against the confession, choosing to share pamphlets, videos, or other material that is subversive to the unity of the fellowship. The friction of fighting against the settled interpretation of scripture as summarized in the confession and the attempt to win others to the same position would be an example of seeking to cause division and strife.
ARTICLE IV – USE OF THE 1689 BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH
The sound pattern of words expressed in the 1689 Baptist Confession ought to drive a sound pattern of practice, which in turn ought to form a sound pattern of affection. These three concepts (orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy) are not independent of each other: you cannot love rightly if you do not know correctly and experience properly7.
Grace Reformed Baptist Church shall use the 1689 Baptist Confession as an affirmation and defense of the truth, a guide for teaching and discipleship in the local church, an aide to maturity in understanding biblical doctrine and practice, a basis for evaluation of preaching, a support for planting churches, as a help to identify unity with other Christians and churches, and as a means of declaring our continuity with historic Christianity8.
The following quotation is a good summary of why many churches choose to subscribe to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith:
- It is a repository of the great doctrines of Christian orthodoxy regarding the Scriptures, the Trinity, and the Person of Christ. Its distinctives are biblical.
- Its Reformed approach to God, His decree, the work of Christ, the application of salvation, the law of God, and Christian worship is biblical.
- Its Baptist approach to the covenants, the ordinances, and the local church are all deeply and substantially biblical. It identifies them with their historical origins. There are great and important historical differences between Anabaptists, General Baptists, and Particular Baptists. It provides both an adequate standard of church membership and a wonderful goal for instruction.9
1 “International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.” International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978, library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf.
2 https://founders.org/library/1689-confession, https://chapellibrary.com, http://www.the1689confession.com, https://1689.com
4 Gonzales, Robert. “Confessional Subscription: Strict vs. Substantial.” Reformed Baptist Blog, 13 Oct. 2016, reformedbaptistblog.com/2016/10/03/confessional-subscription-strict-vs-substantial/.
5 “Statement on Substantial Subscription.” Confessional Subscription for Full Membership, Reformed Baptist Network (RBNet), 2016, reformedbaptistnetwork.com/documents/.
6 Hicks, Tom. “How to Subscribe to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.” Founders Ministries, 29 Nov. 2017, founders.org/2017/11/29/how-to-subscribe-to-the-second-london-baptist-confession-of-faith/.
7 David De Bruyn. (2016). The conservative church. Religious Affections Ministries.
8 Robinson, Jeff. “Six Ways a Church Should Use a Confession of Faith.” Founders Ministries, 20 July 2016, founders.org/2016/07/20/six-ways-a-church-should-use-a-confession-of-faith/.
9 Waldron, Sam. “The Proper Holding of the Baptist Confession of 1689.” Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, 6 Jan. 2017, cbtseminary.org/the-proper-holding-of-1689/.