The Basic Beliefs of Biblical Christianity
Based on the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism, adopted in England in 1647
As men and women, boys and girls, our chief purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36; Ps. 73:25-28).
The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him (2 Tim. 3:16; Eph. 2:20; 1 John 1:3-4). The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man (2 Tim. 1:13; 3:16).
God is a Spirit--infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth (John 4:24; Job 11:7-9; Ps. 90:2; Jas. 1:17; Exod. 3:14; Ps. 117:5; Rev. 4:8; 15:4; Exod. 34:6-7). There is only one God, the living and true God (Deut. 6:4; Jer. 10:10). There are three persons in the Godhead--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory (1 John 5:7; Matt. 28:9).
The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory He has foreordained whatever comes to pass (Eph. 1:4, 11; Rom. 9:22-23).
God executes His decrees in the works of creation and providence. The work of creation is God's making all things of nothing by the word of His power in the space of six days and all very good (Gen. 1; Heb. 11:3). God created man male and female, after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, possessing dominion over the creatures (Gen. 1:26-28; Co.. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). God's works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions (Ps. 145:17; Ps. 104:24; Isa. 28:29; Heb. 1:3; Ps. 103:19; Matt. 10:29-31).
When God had created man, He entered into a covenant of life with him, upon the condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest he be subjected to the pain of death (Gal. 3:12; Gen. 2:17). Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state in which they were created by sinning against God (Gen. 3:6-8, 13; Eccl. 7:29).
Sin is any lack of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God (1 John 3:4). The sin by which our first parents fell from the state in which they were created was their eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6). The covenant, having been made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his descendants; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary birth, sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression (Gen. 2:16-17; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery (Rom. 5:12). The sinfulness of this state into which man fell consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the lack of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called Original Sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it (Rom. 5:12, 19; Rom. 5:10-20; Eph. 2:1-3; Jas. 1:14-15; Matt. 15:19). All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever (Gen. 3:8, 10, 24; Eph. 2:2-3; Gal. 3:10; Lam. 3:39; Rom. 6:23; Matt. 25:41, 46).
God having, out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 3:20-22; Gal. 3:21-22). The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man and so was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever (1 Tim. 2:5-6; John 1:14; Rom. 9:5; Luke 1:35; Col. 2:9; Heb. 7:24-25). Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable [rational] soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born of her yet without sin (Heb. 2:14, 16; 10:5; Matt. 26:38; Luke 1:27, 31, 35, 42; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 4:15; 7:26).
Christ, as our Redeemer, executes the offices of a prophet, priest, and king, both in His state of humiliation and exaltation (Acts 3:21-22; Heb. 12:25; 2 Cor. 13:3; Heb. 5:5-7; 7:25; Ps. 2:6; Isa. 9:6-7; Matt. 21:5; Ps. 2:8-11). Christ executes the office of a prophet in revealing to us by His word and Spirit the will of God for our salvation (John 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; John 15:15; 20:31). Christ executes the office of a priest in His once offering up of Himself, a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us (Heb. 9:14, 28; 2:17; 7:24-25). Christ executes the office of a king in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies (Acts 15:14-16; Isa. 32:22; 32:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:25; Ps. 110).
Christ's humiliation consisted in His being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time (Luke 2:7; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 12:2-3; Isa. 53:2-3; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46; Phil. 2:8; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Acts 2:24-27, 31). Christ's exaltation consisted in His rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day (1 Cor. 15:4; Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20; Acts 1:11; 17:31).
We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of it to us by His Holy Spirit (John 1:11-12; Tit. 3:5-6). The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ by working faith in us and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling (Eph. 3:17; 1 Cor. 1:9). Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, by which, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He does both persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, who is freely offered to us in the gospel (2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Acts 2:37; 26:18; Ezek. 36:26-27; John 6:44-45; Phil. 2:13). They who are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; 1 Cor. 1:26, 30).
Justification is an act of God's free grace, in which He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight only because of the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to us and received by faith alone (Rom. 3:24-25; 4:6-8; 2 Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 5:17-19; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).
Adoption is an act of God's free grace, by which we are received into the number of God's children and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (1 John 3:1; John 1:12; Rom. 8:17).
Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, by which we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness (2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:23-24; Rom. 6:4, 6; 8:1).
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification are assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance in these to the end (Rom. 5:1-2, 5; 14:17; Prov. 4:18; 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 1:5).
The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection at the last day (Heb. 12:23; 2 Cor. 5:1, 6, 8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 23:43; 1 Thess. 4:14; Isa. 57:2; Job 19:26-27). At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity (1 Cor. 15:43; Matt. 25:23; 10:32; 1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 4:17-18).
The duty which God requires of man is obedience to His revealed will (Mic. 6:8; 1 Sam. 15:22). The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law (Rom. 2:14-15; 10:5). The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments (Deut. 10:4; Matt. 19:17). The sum of the Ten Commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).
The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exod. 20:2). The preface to the Ten Commandments teaches us that because God is the Lord and our God and Redeemer, we are therefore bound to keep all His commandments (Luke 1:74-75; 1 Pet. 1:15-18).
The first commandments is: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exod. 20:3). The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the holy true God and our God and to worship and glorify Him accordingly (1 Chron. 28:9; Deut. 26:17; Matt. 4:10; Ps. 29:2). The first commandment forbids the denying or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God and our God, and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to Him alone (Ps. 14:1; Rom. 1:21; Ps. 81:10-11; Rom. 1:25-26). The words before Me in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees all things, takes notice of and is much displeased with the sin of having any other God (Ezek. 8:5-6; Ps. 46:20-21).
The second commandment is: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exod. 20:4-6). The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in His Word (Deut. 32:46; Matt. 28:20; Acts 2:42). The second commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images or any other way not appointed in His Word (Deut. 4:15-19; Exod. 32:5, 8; Deut. 11:31-32). The reasons attached to the second commandment are God's sovereignty over us, His interest in our purity, and the zeal He has to His own worship (Ps. 95:2-3; 45:11; Exod. 34:13-14).
The third commandment is: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exod. 20:7). The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works (Matt. 6:9; Deut. 28:58; Ps. 68:4; Rev. 15:3-4; Mal. 1:11, 14; Ps. 138:1-2; Job 26:24). The third commandment forbids all profaning and abusing of anything by which God makes Himself known (Mal. 1:6-7, 12; 2:2; 3:14). The reason attached to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandments may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not allow them to escape His righteous judgment (1 Sam. 2:12, 17, 22, 29; 3:13; Deut. 28:58-59).
The fourth commandment is: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exod. 20:8-11). The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as He has appointed in His Word--expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself (Deut. 5:12-14). From the beginning of the world until the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week [Saturday] to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week [Sunday] ever since, to continue until the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7). The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy (Exod. 20:8, 10; 16:25-29; Neh. 13:15-19; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7; Ps. 92; Isa. 66:23; Matt. 12:1-31). The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works about our worldly employments or recreations (Ezek. 22:26; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13; Acts 20:7, 9; Ezek. 23:38; Jer. 17:24-26; Isa. 58:13). The reasons attached to the fourth commandment are God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, His challenging a special honor in the seventh, His own example, and His blessing the Sabbath day (Exod. 20:9, 11).
The fifth commandment is: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you" (Exod. 20:12). The fifth commandment requires preserving the honor and performing the duties belonging to every one in their several places and relationships, as superiors, inferiors, or equals (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:17; Rom. 12:10). The fifth commandment forbids the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belong to every person in their several places and relationships (Matt. 15:4-6; Ezek. 34:2-4; Rom. 13:8). The reason attached to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good) to all those who keep this commandment (Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3).
The sixth commandment is: "You shall not murder" (Exod. 20:13). The sixth commandment requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life and the life of others (Eph. 5:28-29; 1 Kings 13:4). The sixth commandment forbids the taking away of our own life [suicide], or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatever leads to the premature death of ourselves or others (Acts 16:28; Gen. 9:6).
The seventh commandment is: "You shall not commit adultery" (Exod. 20:14). The seventh commandment requires the preservation of our own and our neighbor's sexual purity, in heart, speech, and behavior (1 Cor. 7:2-3, 5, 34, 36; Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:2). The seventh commandment forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions (Matt. 15:19; 5:28).
The eighth commandment is: "You shall not steal" (Exod. 20:15). The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others (Gen. 30:30; 1 Tim. 5:8; Lev. 25:35; Deut. 22:1-5; Exod. 23:4-5; Gen. 47:14, 20). The eighth commandment forbids whatever does or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor's wealth or outward estate (Prov. 21:17; 23:20-21; 28:19; Eph. 4:28).
The ninth commandment is: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exod. 20:16). The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between people and of our own and our neighbor's good name, especially in witness-bearing (Zech. 8:16; 3 John 12; Prov. 14:5, 25). The ninth commandment forbids whatever is prejudicial to truth or injurious to our own or our neighbor's good name (1 Sam. 17:28; Lev. 19:16; Ps. 15:3).
The tenth commandment is: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's" (Exod. 20:17). The tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor and all that is his (Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6; Job 31:29; Rom. 12:15; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). The tenth commandment forbids all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections [desires] to anything that is his (1 Kings 21:4; Esther 5:13; 1 Cor. 10:10; Gal. 5:26; Jas. 3:14, 16; Rom. 7:7-8; 13:9; Deut. 5:21).
Is any person able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? No mere man since the fall is able in this life to keep the commandments of God perfectly; we all daily break them in thought, word, and deed (Eccl. 7:20; 1 John 1:8, 10; Gal. 5:17; Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:9-21; Jas. 3:2-13).
Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous? Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others (Ezek. 8:6, 13, 15; 1 John 5:16; Ps. 78:17, 32, 56).
Every sin deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and in the life which is to come (Eph. 5:6; Gal. 3:10; Lam. 3:39; Matt. 25:41). In order to escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ and repentance unto life, together with the diligent use of all the outward means by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption (Acts 20:21; Prov. 2:1-5; 8:33-36; Isa. 55:3).
Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, by which we receive and rest on Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel (Heb. 10:39; John 1:12; Isa. 26:3-4; Phil. 3:9; Gal. 2:16).
Repentance unto life is a saving grace, by which a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension [understanding] of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience (Acts 11:18; 2:37-38; Joel 2:12; Jer. 3:22; 31:18-19; Ezek. 36:31; 2 Cor. 7:11; Isa. 1:16-17).
The outward and ordinary means by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances--especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer, all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:42, 46-47). The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching [proclaiming] of the Word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation (Neh. 8:8; 1 Cor. 14:24-25; Acts 26:18; Ps. 19:8; Acts 20:32; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Rom. 10:13-17; 1:16). That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend to it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives (Prov. 8:34; 1 Pet. 2:1-2; Ps. 119:18; Heb. 4:2; 2 Thess. 2:10; Ps. 119:11; Luke 8:15; Jas. 1:25).
The sacraments [holy ordinances] become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that does administer them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in those who by faith receive them (1 Pet. 3:21; Matt. 3:11; 1 Cor. 3:6-7). A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in which, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers (1 Cor. 12:13; Gen. 17:7, 10; Exod. 12; 1 Cor. 11:23, 26). The sacraments of the New Testament are Baptism and the Lord's Supper (Matt. 28:19; 26:26-28).
Baptism is a sacrament in which the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace and our engagement to be the Lord's (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:4; Gal. 3:27). Baptism is not to be administered to any who are out of the visible church until they profess their faith in Christ and obedience to Him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized (Acts 8:36-38; 2:38-39; Gen. 17:10; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:14).
The Lord's Supper is a sacrament in which by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment, His death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal [physical] and carnal [fleshly] manner, but by faith, made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It is required of those who would worthily partake of the Lord's Supper that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed on Him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience, lest coming unworthily they eat and drink judgment to themselves (1 Cor. 11:28-29; 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 11:31; 10:16-17; 5:7-8).
Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to His will [which is revealed to us in Scripture], in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies (Ps. 62:8; 1 John 5:14; John 16:23; Ps. 32:5-6; Phil. 4:6). The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught His disciples, commonly called The Lord's prayer (1 John 5:14; Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).
The preface of the Lord's prayer, which is, "Our Father in heaven," teaches us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others (Matt. 6:9; Rom. 8:15; Luke 11:13; Acts 12:5; 1 Tim. 2:1-2).
In the first petition, which is, "hallowed be Your name," we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify Him in all that by which He makes Himself known and that He would dispose all things to His own glory (Matt. 6:9; Ps. 67:2-3; Ps. 83).
In the second petition, which is, "Your kingdom come," we pray that Satan's kingdom may be destroyed and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it and kept in it, and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened (Matt. 6:10; Ps. 68:1, 18; Rev. 12:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:1; Rom. 10:1; John 17:9, 20; Rev. 22:20).
In the third petition, which is, "Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," we pray that God by His grace would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to His will in all things, as the angels do in heaven (Matt. 6:10; Ps. 67; Ps. 119:36; Matt. 26:39; 2 Sam. 15:25; Job. 1:21; Ps. 103:20-21).
In the fourth petition, which is, "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray that of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life and enjoy His blessing with them (Matt. 6:11; Prov. 30:8-9; Gen. 28:23; 1 Tim. 4:4-5).
In the fifth petition, which is, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," we pray that God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon all our sins, which we are encouraged to ask because by His grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others (Matt. 6:12; Ps. 51:1-2, 7, 9; Dan. 9:17-19; Luke 11:4; Matt. 13:35).
In the sixth petition, which is, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin or support and deliver us when we are tempted (Matt. 6:13; 26:41; 2 Cor. 12:7-8).
The conclusion of the Lord's prayer, which is, "For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen," teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only and in our prayers to praise Him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to Him. And, in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen (Matt. 6:13; Dan. 9:4, 7-9, 16-19; 1 Chron. 29:10-13; 1 Cor. 14:16; Rev. 22:20-21).
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