What We Believe

Our confession of faith points to the heart of the Christian faith, but it also points to some of our distinctives as a particular body of believers. As such, this confession does not necessarily define the boundaries of our fellowship. Some Christians will certainly differ with some of what is set forth below. Such Christians are nevertheless welcome to worship the Lord together with us. Our basis for unity and communion is a biblical confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the absence of a scandalous lifestyle. 

This confession of faith does represent the doctrinal understanding of the eldership of Heritage Reformed Christian Fellowship, and it is our intention that the teaching and preaching at Heritage Reformed Christian Fellowship reflect this understanding also. Procedural standards for our church government can be found in our Constitution. 

As a body of reformational believers, we seek to display our unity in truth with other faithful churches, not only in the present, but also with the historic Christian church throughout the centuries. Together with the historic church, we confess the following:

The Apostles’ Creed (AD 2nd century) Nicene Creed Constantinople (AD 381), and the Definition of Chalcedon (AD 451).  Also we are in essential agreement with the historic confessions of the Reformation.  Our own confessions of faith are: The Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort), and the Westminster Confession (1646). HRCFM refers to the WCF in matters pertaining to doctrinal specificity. We hold to these confessions, with the following exceptions to the WCF:

Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant with Man - Para 2. (cf. Chp. 19, para. 1, 6). While we agree with the original intent of the Westminster Divines, we believe the usage of the phrase "covenant of works" is open to misinterpretation by modern Christians. By way of clarification, we deny that any covenant can be kept without faith, and we affirm that good works flow out of faith in God, and not vice versa. 

Chapter 21: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Para. 8. We believe that along with works of piety, necessity, and mercy, the command also calls us to rest physically on the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 16:30; 31:15-17).   We do not believe the intention of Scripture was to exclude recreation, especially in the context of the fellowship of God’s people.

Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate - Para. 3. Delete the last phrase, beginning with "and to provide that whatsoever..." 

Chapter 24: Of Marriage and Divorce - Para 4. Delete the last sentence, which reads, "The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred, nearer in blood than he may of his own: nor the woman of her husband's kindred, nearer in blood than of her own."

We believe that God has ordained various governments among men. The three basic governments are civil government, church government, and family government as foundational to the first two. To fulfill their proper function, all of these governments are dependent on the grace of God, common or special, working in individuals to bring about self-government. Without proper self-government, no other government can function according to the Word of God.

We deny that the authority of these governments should be set against one another. God has ordained them all, and assigned them differing responsibilities. We further deny that any form of human government can be considered absolute.

We believe that a man is saved in truth when in an effectual call the Holy Spirit regenerates him and he consequently submits, in faith, to the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:5). As a follower of Jesus Christ, he seeks to live in submission to His Word. 

We deny that Christ can be received as Savior and rejected as Lord (Matt. 7:21).

We believe that the elect were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to live holy and blameless lives (Eph. 1:4). 

We deny that holiness can be defined on the authority of the word of man. Our only standard of holiness is the law of God, found in the Old and New Testaments (2 Tim. 3:16). 

We believe that God will always complete any saving work He has begun. A regenerated man will not fall away from God's work of salvation (Rom. 8:29-31). The basis for this is God's faithfulness and not the faithfulness of the believer (1 Cor. 1:8-9). 

We deny that faith in God's sustaining faithfulness is in any way a cushion for sin. A life characterized by sin is inconsistent with assurance of salvation (Rom. 6:1-6; 1 John). 

We believe that a follower of Christ has an obligation to regularly and honestly confess his sins before God (1 Jn. 1:9; Prov. 28:13). In honest confession, the quality of a man's relationship with God is maintained and protected. 

We deny that confession of sin is the foundation of the believer's relationship to God. Salvation does not depend on ongoing confession of sin; the joy of salvation does (Ps. 51:10-13).

We believe that God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. All unregenerate men therefore have a true obligation to do so (Acts 17:30; 2 Thess. 1:8).

We deny that unregenerate men are unjustly excluded from grace. Because they are dead in their sins, they have no desire for God's grace apart from the quickening influence of that grace (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:6-8; 1 Cor. 2:14). They are therefore responsible for remaining in sin.

We believe that at regeneration God creates each true believer a new man, created to grow in love and good works (Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:17). 

We deny that this new man exists alongside the old man inherited from Adam. The old man was crucified in Christ (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:20). We deny that the crucifixion of the old man eliminates an ongoing struggle against the flesh (Gal. 5:17)

We believe that God has given to each individual various gifts of varying worth (1 Cor. 12:7-24). Each believer has an obligation to understand accurately what his gifts are, and to put them to work in the worship of God ( Eph. 4:11-16). 

We deny that equality in Christ (Col. 3:10,11) nullifies God-assigned roles and stations (Col. 3:12-22; Phil. 2:3).

We believe that men are responsible to protect their families and to provide for them (1 Tim. 5:8), loving their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Wives are responsible to minister to their husbands and children (Tit. 2:4), to be homemakers, keeping their homes well-managed and clean (Tit. 2:5). 

We deny that reversal or rejection of God's assigned roles to husbands and wives can occur without serious damage to the family and, consequently, to the society and church (Tit. 2:5).

We believe the prosperity of a household is a gift from God (2 Cor. 9:10-11). 

We deny that godly living is an automatic means to wealth and prosperity (Heb. 11:35-38).

We believe that God blesses in a material way when men honor Him through hard work over a long time, when they are generous with the blessings God has already given, and when they provide for their families and dependents (2 Thess. 3:7-10).

We deny that covetousness and greed can be a means to obtain the blessings God bestows (1 Tim. 6:5). 

We believe that believing parents have an obligation before God to provide their children with a godly understanding of the world in which they are growing up. To this end, Christian education, however administered, is essential (Dt. 6:1-6). 

We deny that the civil authority or the church has the obligation to educate our children for their vocational callings. That responsibility belongs to the parents (Eph. 6:4).

We believe that marriage is ordained by God, and that man has no authority to sever what God has joined together. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). In certain circumstances, divorce and remarriage are permissible, but must be governed in all respects according to the Word of God (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:12-13). 

We deny that compassion for the divorced requires any softening of the biblical teaching on the subject.

We believe that each local gathering of the visible church is to be governed by a plurality of men called elders, each of whom must meet the requirements for church leadership (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). 

We deny that someone can be called by God to such leadership when his life or family is not in order. Seminary training, long experience, and gifts of leadership or communication are no substitute for obedience (1 Sam. 15:22).

We believe that each local gathering of the visible church is to be served by a plurality of deacons, each of whom must meet the requirements for church service (1 Tim. 3:8-13). 

We deny that such service can be rendered properly when a deacon's life does not meet the criteria set by Scripture.

We believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to be the sole ultimate and infallible authority for faith and practice in the church. The laws of the Old Testament, including the Mosaic code, are normative for Christians today, provided they are understood and applied according to the teaching of the New Testament (Rom. 13:8-10). 

We deny that the grace of God in Christ has changed in any way the definition of right and wrong. Rather, the Spirit works love in us to accomplish the righteous requirements of the law (Rom. 8:4).

We believe a great commission has been given to disciple the nations to Christ. The means for accomplishing this are the preaching of the gospel, baptism, and the teaching of obedience to the commandments of Christ, prior to His return (Matt. 28:18-20). 

We deny that the church should work as though we are living in the last generation (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

We believe the Lord commissioned His church to undertake the discipleship of the world (Matt. 28:18-20). The Lord has commanded baptism with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism with water is therefore a sacrament (or ordinance) of the Christian church, and the elders of the church are responsible to ensure that baptisms are administered in a scriptural fashion, and the proper signification of water baptism preserved and maintained. We affirm that water baptism signifies union with Christ (Rom. 6:3-7), the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), the washing away of sin (Acts 22:16), the washing of regeneration (Tit. 3:5), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:6; Acts 10:44,47), and the circumcision of the heart (Col. 2:11-12).

We deny that water baptism imparts grace by means of water. God imparts grace to His saints to enable them to obey Him (2 Cor. 9:8), and strengthens them further by grace in that obedience (Heb. 12:14-15). The faithful observance of water baptism constitutes one part of that obedience, and is therefore a means of grace.

We believe the Lord's Supper to be a participation by faith in the body and blood of Christ. Christians should regularly eat at this table, as long as they are not under the discipline of God, or God's people (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It is a participation in Christ (1 Cor. 10:14-17), and God blesses faithful participation in the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 10:16-17), and disciplines faithlessness in it (1 Cor. 11:30). 

We deny that the Lord's Supper imparts grace by means of the bread and cup. It is, however, a participation in Christ (1 Cor. 10:14-17). God imparts grace to His saints to enable them to obey Him (2 Cor. 9:8), and strengthens them further by grace in that obedience (Heb. 12:14-15). The faithful observance of the Lord's Supper constitutes one part of that obedience, and is therefore a means of grace. 

We believe baptism in water and the Lord's Supper to be external signs and seals of covenantal, historical, and spiritual realities.

We deny that these sacraments are an automatic means of grace, ex opere operato, grace being through faith alone. Any biblical means to build biblical faith is therefore a means of blessing and grace - especially including water baptism and the Lord's Supper.

We believe that legitimate modes of water baptism include immersion, pouring, or sprinkling in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:4: Acts 10:44-48; Heb. 9:9-10).

We deny that the scriptural significance of water baptism can be nullified by the mode of application.

We believe the sign gifts which were apparent in the first-century church were not given as a normative pattern for subsequent generations (1 Cor. 13:8-13), and have now ceased (2 Cor. 12:12). 

We deny that a church must manifest such gifts in order to please God in worship (1 Cor. 14:20-22). 

We believe that Christians must fellowship in unity with all true Christians, and that we have no right to judge the hearts of fellow servants. If God has accepted someone, we must gladly do the same. 

We deny that such fellowship requires joint ministry with those Christians who teach or practice that which is unbiblical. We may hold someone to be a Christian, and yet believe them to be unqualified for leadership. The qualifications for leadership differ from those for fellowship (Rom. 14:1-8; 1 Tim. 3:1-7).

We believe that Christians are to live quiet and peaceful lives, in true submission to the constitutions, laws, and civil magistrates as ordained by God to be His servants (Rom. 13:1-7). 

We deny that this submission is absolute. When civil authorities require something forbidden by God, or forbid something required by God, the duty of Christians is to humbly, respectfully, and submissively disobey (Acts 4:19-20). 

We believe that Christians are to pray for those authorities that God has placed above them (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

We deny that this prayer should be limited to blessings (Ps. 139:19-24).

We believe that Christians should be involved in the political process. Christ required His followers to be salt and light in the world, and He did not exclude civil government from that Christian influence (Matt. 5:13-16). 

We deny that the power of the gospel is to be found in political involvement. We do not believe civil government to be a savior (2 Cor. 10:3-6), and deny that the church is a political organization. 

We believe that in the prohibition of stealing, God has ordained the institution of private property. We believe that the Christian church should teach against theft in all its forms (Ex. 20:15).

We deny that the institution of private property is a human invention. Rather, it is the result of a biblical understanding of God's ordination of private property. But because man is fallen, the institution of private property, like all God-ordained institutions, has been much abused (Eph. 5:5).

We believe that the root cause of political disregard for the institution of private property is envy and covetousness (Matt. 20:1-16). 

We deny that theft can be sanctified, even if it is done in the name of civil justice (Is. 5:20). If the civil magistrate oversteps the boundaries established for him in Scripture, one result can be various forms of theft, including oppressive taxation.

We believe that the church is to be constituted or incorporated by the Lord Jesus Christ alone, the only head of the Church (Eph. 5:23).

We deny that an unbelieving civil magistrate has the spiritual authority to establish a Christian church, or to prohibit the free exercise of the Christian religion in any way. While the doctrine of the church establishments in a genuinely Christian nation may be defended, we deny that a pluralistic and humanistic civil magistrate may establish or restrict true religion.

We believe acceptance of civil incorporation would be an acknowledgment that the civil magistrate has the authority to bring a Christian church into existence, and testifies falsely that the church is a creature of the state. Consequently, we believe that the church must maintain a status as an unincorporated church as a matter of conscience.

We deny that the civil magistrate has no authority in religious matters. We recognize that while the civil magistrate has no authority in sacris, in sacred things, he nevertheless has a measure of authority circa sacra, around sacred things. It is therefore lawful for a church, under the authority and headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, to form an association of natural persons, recognized as such by the civil magistrate.

We believe that churches should accept various burdens and entanglements of civil regulation and taxation only under protest, acknowledging the weight of such tyrannies as a judgment from God upon a disobedient church.

We deny that to receive this chastisement is compromise. The justice of such chastisement is received from the hand of God, but not acknowledged as just or right in the hand of the magistrate.

This Statement of Faith was approved and adopted on November 13, 2001.  It is not intended to be a final statement, and will be amended or revised from time to time, as needed.