What We Teach

Who we are and what we believe

As a church, we are committed to building a community of believers that are passionate about knowing God and walking in obedience to him. We seek to accomplish this by preaching the Bible in an expository fashion with passion and clarity, and by making disciples of Jesus Christ through small group communities. We are also devoted to engaging and impacting our neighborhood through evangelism, social justice and cultural renewal. We believe the Christian faith is best articulated by the historic reformed creeds and confessions, but we also believe in teaching these truths in a way that is authentic and understood in the language of the people we are ministering to.

A Confessional Church

RCLA is a church that adheres to several written confessions of faith that we believe to be a good and accurate summary of the Bible's teaching. Our confessional standards consist of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Canons of Dort and the Belgic confession. We believe these standards contain carefully worded summaries of the contents of Scripture. However, acceptance of every confessional distinctive is not required for membership at RCLA. One may be a participating member of RCLA by affirming the evangelical distinctive that salvation is accomplished by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. Nevertheless, the officers of RCLA must adhere to the system of doctrine taught by the Reformed Creeds and Confessions.

“Catholic”, Not Roman Catholic

RCLA’s theology is "catholic" in the sense that it holds to the doctrines of historic Christian orthodoxy such as those taught by the Apostles Creed and the great ecumenical councils of the first millennium of Christian history such as the Councils of Nicea, Chalcedon, Constantinople, among others. This is not to be confused with Roman Catholicism. We have no affiliation with the pope or the church in Rome. The word catholic to us just means universal. We believe in one church made of different gatherings around the globe. These catholic doctrines include such affirmations as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the atonement of Christ, and other doctrines that are integral to historic Christianity, those doctrines which we would deem “essentials”.

Evangelical

The word evangelical can mean different things to different people. Briefly, by evangelical we mean that we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This theology is "evangelical" in that it affirms with historic Protestantism such vital doctrines as the Five Solas of the protestant reformation. Among those are Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. Sola Scriptura refers to the fact that the Bible, as the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God, is the sole written revelation that rules the faith and practice of the Christian community and alone can bind the conscience. Sola Fide refers to the doctrine of justification by faith alone whereby the believer is justified before God by the free grace of God by which He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believer (Rom. 5:18-19). The sole ground of our justification is the merit of Jesus, which is imputed to all who put their trust in Him. Though good works flow necessarily and immediately from all justified persons, these works are not the meritorious grounds of our justification (Eph. 2:8-10).

Reformed

By reformed we mean that we hold the reformed creeds and confessions and we seek to prove those truths taught in them from the teachings of sacred scripture. The theology is "reformed" in that the distinctive doctrines of the magisterial Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox are also embraced in a way that distinguishes the Reformed tradition from other Protestant bodies. Reformed theology places great emphasis on the doctrine of God, which doctrine is central to the whole of its theology. In short, Reformed theology is God-centered and not man-centered. The structure of the biblical Covenant of Grace is the framework for this theology. The concept of God's grace supplies the core of this theology.

The 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation

Sola Scriptura means the Bible is the sole written divine revelation, our only infallible rule for faith and life, and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely (Matt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired. Word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible and God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12-13).

Sola Fide Justification is by faith alone. By God’s free grace, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to us by faith and is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are pardoned (Rom. 5:1; Gal 2:16).

Solus Christus Jesus Christ is the only mediator through whose work we are saved (John 14:6; John 3:16).

Sola Gratia Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace for us (Rom. 2:4; Eph. 2:8-10).

Soli Deo Gloria Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, therefore to God alone belongs the glory (Isa. 42:8; Col. 3:17).

Calvinism

The historic five points of Calvinism, simplified in the acronym TULIP, distinguish Reformed theology at the key points of issue, but in no way exhaust the content of Reformed theology. These five points include:

T-total depravity
U-unconditional election
L-limited atonement
I-irresistible grace
P- perseverance of the saints

Unconditional election

In the Canons of Dort:

The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For "all his works are known to God from eternity" (Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act--unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just--of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words. (Divine Election and Reprobation, Article 6)

In the Westminster Confession:

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. (Chapter 3 Paragraph 3)

These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (Chapter 3 Paragraph 4)

Limited atonement

In the Canons of Dort:

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit's other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle. (Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through It, Article 8)

In the Westminster Confession:

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. (Chapter 11 Paragraph 4)

Irresistible grace

In the Canons of Dort:

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture. (Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs, Article 10)

In the Westminster Confession:

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Chapter 10 Paragraph 1)

Perseverance of the saints

In the Canons of Dort:

Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end. (The Perseverance of the Saints, Article 3)

In the Westminster Confession:

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. (Chapter 17 Paragraph 1)

Marks of a true Church

Briefly, a true church must be Christ-Centered, Biblical and Missional. The church is not a building, but instead the men and women who have put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. The Church consists of all those individuals whom God has saved throughout the world. Many disagree on what makes a true church. We believe that there several marks needed to identify a gathering of people as a church. The marks of the Church in her individual congregations are those defining characteristics of the body of Christ throughout history. These marks are, especially, the right preaching of God's Word and the faithful declaration of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the discipline of her members, and her submission to Christ as her only true and rightful head (1 Tim. 3:13; Matt. 28:19;  1 Cor. 11:24-26). In addition to this, we believe the church is called to be missional. That is, we are called to do ministry outside the four walls of the church building to reach the lost and demonstrate the love of Christ.

Covenantal

In brief, Covenant Theology teaches that God has established two great covenants with mankind and a covenant within the Godhead to deal with how the other two relate. The first covenant in logical order, usually called the Covenant of Redemption, is the agreement within the Godhead that the Father would appoint his son Jesus to give up his life for mankind and that Jesus would do so (cf. Titus 1:1-3).

The second, called the Covenant of Works, was made in the Garden of Eden between God and Adam and promised life for obedience and death for disobedience. Adam disobeyed God and broke the covenant, and so the third covenant was made between God and all of mankind, who also fell with Adam according to Romans 5:12-21.

This third covenant, the Covenant of Grace, promised eternal blessing for belief in Christ and obedience to God's word. It is thus seen as the basis for all biblical covenants that God made individually with Noah, Abraham, and David, nationally with O.T. Israel as a people, and universally with man in the New Covenant. These individual covenants are called the "biblical covenants" because they are explicitly described as such in the Bible.

The Sacraments

In the sacraments, Christ is present to us in a special way. In baptism, he is present and we are able to look back to this event for confirmation that we are united to him. At the table, his presence is there in a unique way. These two are means of grace, and therefore we are strengthened in our most holy faith as we partake of the bread and wine. Sacraments are defined as holy ordinances instituted by Christ Jesus which function as signs and seals of the New Covenant, and, thus, they are given for the benefit of God's people to strengthen us. They signify spiritual realities while also confirming participation in what they represent.

There are two sacraments in Scripture: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is a rite of initiation which replaces circumcision (Col. 2:11-12), a sign of the Old Covenant with Israel, as the unique mark placed upon God's people and their children (Acts 2:39). Baptism is a sign and seal of the New Covenant given in Christ Jesus and also of entrance into the visible church. The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, is a rite of fellowship.  The Jewish Passover, as an Old Covenant meal, corresponds to the Lord’s Supper, as is made clear in the Gospel accounts of its institution (Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22).  Bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus. Worthy receivers of this meal are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:26-30). By faith in Christ alone, believers spiritually feed on Christ, show forth His death, and receive nourishment as they partake of the elements (John 6:35, 53; 1 Cor. 11:26).

Amillennial

Amillennialism teaches that the thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6 is symbolic of the current church age, rather than a literal future 1000 year reign. It contends that the period described in Revelation 20 was inaugurated (i.e. began) at Christ's resurrection and will continue until His Second Coming. Amillennialism holds that while Christ's reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent physical reign. Also taught by amillennialism is that the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3 has already occurred, and means that "he might not deceive the nations any longer" (Revelation 20:3) by preventing the spread of the gospel.

Pastors/Elders

Our form of government is elder ruled; or, in other words, our church is governed by elders. An elder is a biblically qualified man who has been nominated, trained, examined, and ordained to oversee the affairs of the church. The Bible gives explicit qualifications for such men (1 Tim. 3:1-7).

Deacons

A deacon is a biblically qualified man or woman who has been nominated, trained, examined, and ordained to minister to the physical needs of the church. Deacon means, literally, "one who waits on tables." The Apostles appointed the first deacons so that the Apostles could better attend to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6). The Bible gives explicit qualifications for deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13).