These characteristics have helped to define and to establish The Rock Presbyterian
Church from its inception; most are listed in the founding purpose and mission statements
of The Rock. They continue to help to define our church today.
A Biblical Church
The Rock is a Biblical church. The Bible, God’s living Word, is the foundation for
all that we do. It is the infallible, inerrant, all-sufficient guide and authority
for our faith and practice. The preaching and teaching and proclamation of God’s
Word is the means whereby the non-Christian comes to faith in Christ and Christians
mature in Christ. The Bible is and must be at the center of all that we do as a
church and as a congregation.
An Evangelical Church
An evangelical church proclaims
the gospel as the only and the necessary means of salvation. The Greek word for
gospel is evangelion; it is the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection,
the good news about God’s mercy and grace found in the completed work of Jesus Christ
on the cross. The good news preached by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:3-5 is a good example.
A true evangelical church must stand firm for the sovereignty of God, Jesus Christ
as the only Savior and mediator between God and man, and the imputation of His righteousness,
by grace through faith, to the believer as our only merit before God. Traditionally,
evangelical churches have also been confessional, embracing the great essential
truths of Christianity and sharing a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth
century Protestant Reformation, which can be summarized as follows:
- Sola Scriptura:
Scripture alone. The Bible is the sole authority and source for all matters of faith
and practice. Neither churches, counsels, creeds, confessions, bishops, popes, nor
any other authority is equal to or above Scripture. Nothing but Scripture is infallible
- Solus Christus: Christ alone. The work of Christ on the cross is
the only and sufficient means of redemption. Salvation is by Christ’s work alone;
we can add nothing to His completed work on the cross.
- Sola gratia: Grace alone.
Man is dead in sin, and is not capable of earning salvation or even seeking God.
Salvation is by God’s grace alone, and man can contribute nothing to his salvation.
- Sola fide: Faith alone. Faith is the sole means of justification, not any works
man can do. Salvation comes by faith alone in Christ’s gracious atonement.
Deo Gloria: To God alone be the glory. The supreme purpose for everything is the
glory of God alone, that He alone receives all honor, glory, and praise.
the term “evangelical” has come to be so inclusive that it has for practical purposes
lost its meaning and its distinctiveness, and churches that define themselves as
confessional, reformed churches need to further define their distinctives and doctrine
beyond the term evangelical.
A Reformed Church
The Rock is also a reformed church.
We believe that the best summary of Biblical doctrine can be found in the theology
and doctrine of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Specifically,
reformed theology refers to the Protestant theology developed by Zwingli, Calvin,
and others, which has had a profound influence on Western Europe, the British Isles,
and America. Reformed theology is also sometimes called Calvinism since John Calvin
was so influential in his effort to systematically define biblical doctrine. It
is also sometimes called covenant theology, because it stresses the fact that salvation
has always been by grace through faith, that God has always had one plan of salvation
based on Christ’s work alone, and therefore there is a unified theme through all
of Scripture and of time in God’s redemptive plan. This theology was not new, of
course; reformed theology is Biblical theology, and can be traced through Augustine
and other early church fathers straight back to the apostles, to Biblical teaching.
It was new in the sense that the church in the Middle Ages had moved away from certain
core biblical doctrines, and the Reformation was a move back to biblical teaching.
Reformed theology has been at the core of the development of Christ’s church in
Western Europe and America, and has been and is influencing Christianity worldwide.
Reformed theologians have included John Knox, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards,
Abraham Kuyper, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, and
in the modern era Martin Lloyd-Jones, J. Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til, J.I.
Packer, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, James Montgomery Boice, and R.C. Sproul.
True Presbyterians have always been reformed or Calvinistic, but some Baptists,
Episcopalians, and Congregationalists have also been reformed. Reformed theology
emphasizes several points:
- The authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency
- The absolute sovereignty of God, as taught in Scripture
- The complete
and total grace of God, as clearly taught in Scripture. Man contributes nothing
to his salvation and merits no favor from God and is justified by faith alone, which
was the central issue in the start of the Protestant Reformation by Luther. In the
1600’s the Arminian movement drafted five statements on how man’s work contributes
to his justification. This was in sharp contrast to the Protestant doctrine of justification
by faith alone. Reformed theologians developed five statements in response (Synod
of Dort, 1618-1619), which have been called the doctrines of grace or the five points
of Calvinism (this is an unfortunate term because it is not a complete summary of
Calvinism or of reformed theology; it is really the five things the Arminians did
not like about Calvinistic (biblical, God-centered) theology). The five points are
often remembered with the TULIP acrostic:
- Total depravity of man: Man is completely
incapable, within himself, to reach out towards God. Sin pervades every aspect of
man, and nothing man does is completely free from sin. Man is incapable of seeking
God or responding to the gospel without the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.
Unconditional election: Salvation of any person is by the pleasure of God and by
His grace, determined by His sovereign will. Salvation is determined entirely by
God and is not based on the condition or work of any person.
- Limited (or particular)
atonement: God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to
die a sacrificial death to atone for the sins of those whom God has determined to
- Irresistible grace: God’s inward work by the Holy Spirit in those He has
chosen to save is always effectual according to God’s supreme and sovereign will.
- Perseverance of the saints: God’s gracious work is complete and permanent, and
He holds those who are His for all eternity. Reformed theology stresses that God
is sovereign and gracious in all things, including the redemption and salvation
of sinful man. From beginning to end, all of salvation is of God and of His grace.
Reformed theology not only provides tremendous assurance and confidence to the Christian
believer, but it also inspires great Christian ministry because it is done not in
dependence upon man but in the assurance that God does indeed save sinners and transform
lives through the means of grace He has given to His church. Ultimately, Reformed
theology is a God-centered theology, with all the glory going to God alone, which
is as it should be.
A Presbyterian Church
A Presbyterian church is a church that is ruled by elders, which we believe to be
the most Biblical form of church government. Historically, modern Presbyterianism
developed as the expression of reformed theology in Scotland and Ireland (it was
Puritanism in England), and later moved to the Americas. The expression of reformed
theology in the British Isles was summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith
and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1643-1649). We continue to hold to these
as the confessional standards of our church, as summaries of Biblical doctrine,
and are Presbyterian in our church government and structure.
A PCA Church
Presbyterian Church belongs to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and specifically
the Metro Atlanta Presbytery.
The PCA was formed in 1973 to stand for Biblical,
reformed doctrine, including the inerrancy and authority of Scripture and the deity
of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the PCA church is to be “faithful to the Scriptures,
true to the reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.” We partner with
the PCA church in part to provide accountability and guidance to our elders and
pastor. We also partner with them in order to better accomplish the work of God
in our community, region, country, and world. For more information,
see our page on the PCA.