The Basic Beliefs of
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;
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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;
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;
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;
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