What we believe in brief view

Our faith and practice are based entirely on the teachings of the Bible. We affirm the historic statement of these truths expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647-8), which our church officers are required to uphold.
We are called Presbyterian because we believe that Christ commits the government of his Church to councils of ordained men (Greek: presbuterion = a council of elders).
The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms are the most widely-accepted standards for English-speaking Presbyterian churches throughout the world, and are compatible with continental Reformed standards such as the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) and the Canons of the Synod of Dort (1619).
The following is a concise overview of our beliefs expressed in words from our standards:

  • The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added.
  • There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
  • There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
  • The work of creationis God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
  • Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate in which they were created by sinning against God, and brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
  • It pleased God to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, to be the mediator between God and man: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified and glorified.
  • The Son of God, being very and eternal God, took upon himself man’s nature, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
  • This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; he was made under the law and did perfectly fulfil it; he endured most grievous torments, was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he rose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.
  • The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance.
  • God was pleased to make a covenantin which he freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, the only mediator of the covenant; requiring faith of them in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give to all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
  • As an act of God’s free grace to sinners, only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ imputed to them and received by faith alone, he pardons all their sins and accounts their persons righteous in his sight.
  • True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God and his decree and covenant, are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; are renewed in their whole man after the image of God; are joined to Christ as their Head; and are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.
  • God requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with diligent use of all the outward meanswhereby Christ communicates the benefits of redemption, especially the Word, sacraments and prayer.
  • The Lord’s supperis a sacrament in which, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace, and have their union and communion with him confirmed.
  • Baptismis a sacrament, rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water, that signifies and seals ingrafting into Christ, partaking of the covenant, and engagement to be the Lord’s, whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church. Infants descending from parents professing faith in Christ are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
  • The visible Church, which is catholic or universal, consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, and of their children, and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
  • At the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, and the general and final judgment. Believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity.

Baptism

“The ministers, therefore, on their part administer the sacrament and that which is visible, but our Lord gives that which is signified by the sacrament, namely, the gifts and invisible grace; washing, cleansing, and purging our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving unto us a true assurance of His fatherly goodness; putting on us the new man, and putting off the old man with all his deeds. For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it– for we can-not be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.”— 

Belgic Confession, article 34 Baptism

Good Hymns..training for heaven

Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the Church.

~ J.C. Ryle

Controversy

A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied as follows:

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

Consider Your Opponent

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

Consider the Public

By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

Consider Yourself

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.


Excerpt from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.”

Praise for Grace and Peace (OPC)

I have visited and worshiped at G&P several times over the last two months or so.  I must offer praise and thanks to be able to participate in a worship service with a Body that understands completely that corporate worship is His service, not ours.

Your classic liturgical order of worship that honor’s holy scripture across the board, would not be unique in an earlier day.  What you practice is now precious indeed.  Gratitude to the Lord for His redemptive work came across with clarity in every Service.

I have been with you occasionally due to transitioning from Maryland to Arizona where my wife (who’s been out there several months) & I are worshiping at Prescott Presbyterian OPC.

While my time of worshipping in Maryland is now past, I pray that the Body at G&P continues to thrive confessing our faith and worshiping our Triune God.

In Christ Holy name

Geoffrey Parker Col, USAF (Ret)

March 18 Word and Sacrament

Vespers Service March 11, 2012

The Lord’s Service March 11, 2012

Worship Folder March 4, 2012

March 4, 2012

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

A few comments about this…

Link to worship folder for February 5, 2012 (pdf)