Subscribe to our Compelling Mail Newsletter:

Reformed Theology – What is it?

Subscribe to our Compelling Mail Newsletter:

Reformed theology traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. It is based on the historic Westminster Confession. Reformed theology affirms that salvation is based on what is known as the five solas: sola fide, by faith alone; sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone; solus Christus, through Christ alone; sola gratia, by grace alone; and soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

In addition to affirming the five solas, Reformed theology promotes a high view of the sovereignty of God, the Doctrines of Grace (also known as Calvinism), and the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. It is sometimes associated with Covenant theology because of its emphasis on the covenant God made with Adam and the new covenant which came through Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20).

Reformed theology teaches that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, sufficient in all matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In contrast to Roman Catholic doctrine, the Reformers believed that the Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. The Reformers also taught that the Bible, interpreted and applied by the indwelling Holy Spirit, is all that is necessary for the Christian life.

Reformed theology teaches that God is sovereign and rules with absolute control over all creation. He has foreordained all events and is therefore never frustrated by circumstances. God works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (Isaiah 46:11), and nothing takes Him by surprise.

In regard to salvation, Reformed theology teaches that God in His grace and mercy has chosen to redeem a people to Himself, delivering them from sin and death. The Reformed doctrine of salvation is also known as the five points of Calvinism, or the Doctrines of Grace. They are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of Calvinism or Reformed doctrine, but an exposition of the sovereignty of God in salvation to address the particular points raised by the followers of Jacob Arminius, a theologian of that day. The doctrines are represented by the acrostic TULIP:

T - Total depravity. Man is completely spiritually helpless in his unredeemed state, is under the wrath of God for his sin, and can in no way please God or choose Him. Total depravity also means that man will not naturally seek to know God, until God graciously prompts him to do so (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).

U - Unconditional election. God, from eternity past, has chosen to save a great multitude of sinners (the elect), not based upon any merit shown by the objects of His grace and not based upon foreseen faith (Romans 8:29-30; 9:11-15; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12).

L - Limited atonement, also called "particular redemption." Christ took the judgment for the sin of the elect upon Himself and thereby paid for their lives with His death. In other words, He did not simply make salvation possible – He actually obtained it for those whom the Father had chosen (Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25). While His death was certainly able to save all mankind, it is efficacious (applied) only to the elect.

I - Irresistible grace. In his fallen state, man resists God's love, but the grace of God working in his heart makes him desire what he had previously resisted. People come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the Spirit of God leads God's elect to repentance (Romans 8:14). God's grace will not fail to accomplish its saving work in the elect (John 6:37, 44; 10:16).

P - Perseverance of the saints. Christ assures the elect that He will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the "last day" (John 6:39). Those called and justified will certainly be glorified (Romans 8:28–39). God protects His saints from falling away; thus, salvation is eternal (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:3-14).

Reformed theology emphasizes the necessity of fulfilling the Great Commission by going into all the world to preach and teach in order that the elect will respond to the call of the Spirit upon their hearts. Christians are in the world to make a difference, spiritually through evangelism and socially through holy living and humanitarianism. Other Reformed distinctives include the observance of the two sacraments of baptism and communion, a cessationist view of the sign gifts (based on 1 Corinthians 13:8-10), and a non-dispensational view of Scripture.

Reformed churches hold in high esteem the writings of John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, and Martin Luther. Modern churches in the Reformed tradition include some Presbyterian, such as the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), Congregationalist, and some Baptist.

Related Truth:

Calvinism – What is it? Is Calvinism biblical?

In the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, which side is correct?

Sovereign grace – What is it? What is irresistible grace?

What is the doctrine of predestination?

Is unlimited atonement biblical? Is the atonement provided by Jesus Christ unlimited?

Return to:
Truth about Theology

Compelling Truth HOME