Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). This means that wherever the true church of Jesus Christ is found, there is no mere human organization, but the supernatural work of the Son of God. With gratitude to God we believe that Immanuel's Reformed Church is part of this church building work of Jesus Christ. This page is derived from a booklet that was written to provide an introduction to who we are and what we believe. We invite you to give it careful consideration. We hope that comparing our testimony with what the Bible teaches about the church will lead you to recognize the work of Jesus Christ among us.
We are deeply grateful to the pioneering work done by the consistory of The Orthodox Reformed Church of Edmonton, Alberta. They graciously gave us permission to adapt their original booklet to our needs.
1. Our History
1.1 Recent Beginnings
The first service of Immanuel's Reformed Church was held on December 22, 1991. Seventy-five souls attended this initial worship service with much praise and thanksgiving to our God for his faithful care. Families from a wide geographic region around Salem have and still attend our services. They are drawn by the true preaching of the Word, a balanced emphasis on God's law and His grace, joyful singing of historic psalms and hymns and fellowship with other Christians.
1.2 Deep Roots
Immanuel's Reformed Church was not formed in order to start something new, however, but to maintain loyalty to what was old, reliable and unchanging: the Word of God. The truth of the unchanging Word has been confessed and lived by the Christian church down through the centuries. It is our solemn desire and purpose to confess and live that same truth and to stand with all others who share this commitment. What follows is a further explanation of what this commitment means to us.
2. Our Beliefs
2.1 Official Standards
The true Christian church has always stated clearly what it believed the Bible to teach. It did so through creeds and confessions. Creeds such as The Apostles, The Nicene and The Athanasian date back to the first centuries after Christ’s Ascension and are especially devoted to stating the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. God is one God, subsisting in three Persons: God the Father our Creator, God the Son our Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit our Renewer. We along with other Christian churches receive these as our official church standards. In addition, we hold to four more detailed confessions dating back to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. They are the Heidelberg Catechism (HC; 1563), the Belgic Confession (BC; 1561), the Canons of Dort (CD; 1618‑19) and the Westminster Confession (WC; 1646). We regard them as faithful summaries of the teaching of the Bible. We require our church leaders to teach and defend them, and to promise to teach nothing that conflicts with them. We will gladly make them available to you as a complete statement of our faith. However, as an introduction to our beliefs, let us now identify some major themes which these confessions emphasize, and then give a more concise explanation of some specific teachings on which they elaborate.
2.2 Foundational Themes
As indicated above, we have historical roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The Reformation of the church that then took place involved a recovery of biblical teaching that had been denied or obscured by the man‑made traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The following themes express such teachings which were again seen to be of such critical importance that they formed mottoes or slogans capturing the foundational and essential faith commitments of the ‘Reformed’ church. These themes which we whole‑heartedly believe are:“The Bible Alone”
The Bible is God’s Word, giving us a unified, perfect and complete revelation of God and all that pertains to our salvation. It is without any error and is the final authority for what we are to believe and how we are to live. Therefore we must reject the teachings of tradition, psychology, science, church pronouncements and anything else whenever such teachings conflict with this infallible Word. Furthermore, since God’s revelation in the Bible is complete, we deny that any claims of receiving dreams or visions, hearing voices, speaking in tongues or prophesying involve continuing revelation by God. (See Luke 16:17, II Timothy 3:15‑17, Isaiah 8:20.)“Grace Alone”
The grace of God is His unmerited or undeserved favor towards the sinful and miserable. Our natural condition as sinners who have fallen from the perfection in which we were created in Adam is so depraved and desperate that the only way anyone is ever saved is by God’s grace alone. No one is either willing or able to do anything to truly contribute to their salvation and so escape eternal destruction and misery in hell unless God intervenes. All people are spiritually dead unless the Holy Spirit imparts new life and gives ‘new birth.’ For this reason Christians take no credit for their faith or good works but confess that it is God’s grace alone that makes them different from those who are unbelieving and ungodly. This biblical teaching is explained fully in our Canons of Dort. (See Romans 9:15‑16, John 3:5‑7, I Corinthians 2:14; 4:7.)“Faith Alone”
When God gives His saving grace to sinners, they come to trust in the wonderful person and saving work of Jesus Christ as the only basis for the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God. Although God’s grace includes the renewing work of the Holy Spirit compelling them to turn from sin and begin to do good works, such repentance and good works contribute nothing toward a right standing with God. It is this trust, or faith, and faith alone which joins them to the merits of Jesus Christ. Good works are the result of their acceptance with God, and not the basis for that acceptance. (See Ephesians 2:8, Galatians 3:10‑11, Romans 3:28.)“Christ Alone ”
Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, is true God and at the same time, true and perfectly righteous man. He lived a sinless life. He then died as a sacrifice for sin. He conquered death by His resurrection. He now rules from heaven, where He also intercedes for His church until He comes again as Judge of the world. He is a perfect and complete Savior and Mediator. Therefore there is no need to seek assistance and grace through any supposed mediation of angels, saints, priests or through Mary, the mother of Jesus. To do so is to follow man‑made superstitions and to deny Jesus Christ. Furthermore, since salvation is through Christ alone, there is no salvation for those of other religions or forms of spirituality until they turn to the only Savior and become Christians. (See Matthew 1:21, John 14:6, Acts 4:10‑12.)“To God be the Glory Alone”
The Triune God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. He is the sovereign Creator, Ruler, Lawgiver, Redeemer and Judge. All things were made by Him and for Him. He works all things according to His purpose. None of His purposes fail and they all serve to bring honor and glory to His Name alone. Exclusive devotion to this infinitely glorious God is our supreme calling and ultimate happiness. The desire of the Christian is expressed in the words: “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory. “ (Psalm 115:1). (See also Isaiah 45:22-23, Romans 11:36,I Corinthians 1:26‑31).
2.3 Specific Teachings
For a complete study of our doctrine, we refer you to the official standards mentioned above. There you will also find abundant references to passages of Scripture upon which our teaching is based. Yet for the sake of an introduction we will highlight some of our more prominent teachings, and explain some matters in which we differ from other churches. (Notice the abbreviated references to the three standards mentioned above.)
In accord with our theme “To God alone be glory,” worship is the most important part of a believing response to God. Likewise, if God is to be truly honored by our worship, that worship must conform to the rule of His Word. We do not consider ourselves free to invent forms of worship which may simply appeal to us. Rather, we seek to worship only in the way which we know is acceptable to God. We therefore cling to the simplicity of Biblical worship. Essentially this means that the preaching of God’s Word is given a central place, and we respond to God with our prayers, songs and gifts. Although believers must worship God privately as well as in their families, God promises His special presence among His people, the church, when they gather for worship in the Name of Christ. God has set aside one day of the week, Sunday, or The Lord’s Day, as a day of rest from daily work to be devoted in a special way to His worship. (See HC, Lord’s Day (LD) 25 & 38; BC, Article 7).
In addition to the preaching of the Word, God has given the church two sacraments, instituted by Christ. These are baptism and the Lord’s supper. They are signs and seals of God’s grace for the strengthening of faith. Baptism assures believers of the forgiveness of sins and their union with Christ. It belongs to all believers and their children. Since children of believers are included in the covenant relationship which God makes with His people, and are also members of the church, they too receive baptism as infants. We believe that sprinkling with ordinary clean water in the Name of the Triune God is the biblical mode of baptism. The Lord’s supper is the partaking of bread and wine in remembrance of the death of Christ on the cross. It is not a re-sacrifice of Christ, nor does it automatically benefit those who partake. The Lord’s supper is only for true believers who are members of the church and who have reached such maturity that they are able to examine themselves and properly understand the meaning of this holy supper. Therefore, unlike baptism, infants and children are not admitted to this sacrament. The elders of the church have a responsibility given to them by Christ to actively oversee who is admitted to partake of the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s supper is typically observed every two months among us during our Sunday morning worship service. (See HC, LDs 2530; BC Articles 33‑35.)
Jesus Christ is the only Head of the church, which He rules by His Word and Spirit. There is therefore no earthly representative, such as a pope, to take His place as a supreme leader over the church. However, the church of Christ is not a democracy, but Christ exercises His rule in particular congregations through elders. These are men, chosen from and by the congregation to teach and to lead them in agreement with the Bible. They are to be chosen on the basis of mature Christian character and wisdom, their knowledge of the Bible and our Confessions, and their ability to teach (I Timothy 3). Submitting to the biblical leadership of elders in the church is the way believers submit to the rule of Christ over the church (Hebrews 13:17). One of the ways in which the elders exercise the care of Christ over His church is by visiting all the families of the congregation each year to instruct, encourage and guide the members in their Christian lives. Along with elders, Christ also instituted the office of deacon to exercise and supervise works of Christian mercy in the congregation and elsewhere. They, like the elders, are chosen from the congregation on the basis of biblical qualification. Except for the minister, who is an elder with the additional task and calling of preaching the gospel, our elders and deacons are chosen to their office for as long as they are members of our church. They serve actively for specifically defined terms, usually three years at a time, but can be called upon for special matters even if they are inactive at the time. (See BC, Articles 30‑31.)
There is a difference between attending a church and being a member. Membership involves commitment and belonging to the body of Christ. According to the Bible, such membership is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian. Membership is necessary for participating in the privileges of the body of Christ such as partaking of the sacraments and being under the leadership and care of Christ exercised through pastors, elders and deacons. Membership means agreement with the teaching of the church with a commitment to strive to live according to that teaching. To become a member of Immanuel's Reformed Church therefore requires a sincere and informed profession of the faith taught in this church. It means voluntarily giving of one’s spiritual gifts, time, energy and material resources toward the well‑being of this church and the promotion of its witness. It means promising submission to the spiritual leadership of the church as unto Christ. It means doing all this, not out of constraint or fear, but out of love, in glad response to the grace of God. We gladly offer classes on what we believe if you desire to learn more about our church in preparation for membership. (See HC, LD 21; BC Articles 28‑29).
Among the privileges of membership in the church is that of being under the discipline of Christ. Since believers are yet prone to sin and error, they are all in need of encouragement, warning and help so that they may be true to their profession of faith. Therefore, church discipline is not a negative thing, but a precious privilege of belonging to Christ. All believers are under the discipline of the Word of God. This is exercised first of all through preaching. It is also exercised through the mutual care that members of Christ’s body have for one another. Sometimes this requires that we counsel and warn each other in love. If a member of the church, after repeated instruction and warning, should persist in denying their profession by false doctrine or unchristian living, Christ requires that they be excluded or “excommunicated” from the church and no longer be considered Christian. He has given elders the responsibility to implement this discipline for the honor of His Name, the recovery of those who turn from their profession, and the purity of the church. (See HC, LDs 30‑31; BC, Article 32).
The Church’s Missionary Calling
Christ has given to the church the commission to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and to “go...make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18‑20). Christianity is therefore not a private matter. At its very center there is a message which the Sovereign King sends out to be proclaimed to all people. The church obeys the King by sending and supporting missionaries, by making the message heard in the local community, and by the godly conduct and witness which each member is called to present before others in their daily lives. (See HC, LD 21 & 32, CD, 3rd & 4th Head, Articles 6‑11, 17.)
3. Our Stand On Contemporary Issues
3.1 The Whole Counsel of God
Issues change with the day, and the great themes that call for the church’s attention are not drawn from the newspaper but from the Word of God. We do not wish to concern ourselves with any issue that will distract our attention from the whole counsel of God. However, the Bible speaks with authority in every area of life. Where its teaching clashes with the lie of Satan in its current forms, the church must make its unchanging witness heard. For this reason we wish to briefly state where allegiance to our divine King and Redeemer requires us to take a stand on a few issues of our day.
3.2 Specific Concerns:
The Bible clearly teaches that “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth” (Exodus 20:11). We take these words literally. The opening chapters of the Bible do not express myths which developed out of man’s religious reflection. They reveal God’s altogether miraculous work of creating the world out of nothing. They disclose to us the origin of mankind and the beginnings of history. They are foundational for understanding man’s original relationship to God, his fallen condition, the relationship between man and woman, the relationship between mankind and the rest of the creation, the meaning of work, and the whole subsequent development of God’s plan, including the coming of Christ His Son into the world. Therefore we consider evolutionary theory to be a lie of Satan aimed at destroying the church. It is driven by anti‑Christian religious assumptions, which we believe also lead to bad science.
Contrary to evolutionary thinking, the Bible teaches that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). The Christian faith has a sure starting point to oppose racism based on the unity of the human race as it originated from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The Christian faith has the explanation for racism based on the fall into sin which has resulted in the selfishness, pride and hatred expressed in racism. The Christian faith also proclaims the only remedy for racism. This is the Gospel (Good News) which comes to all sinners with the same message, and elevates all believers into the same family by the grace of God. God’s saving grace to all races of the earth, with the resulting Christian love among those who believe is the only answer to racism.
Our society is pre‑occupied with the idea and language of self esteem. Where the Creator is rejected in favor of evolutionary theory, this interest may well be interpreted as a quest for personal significance and meaning. It is for the most part futile and misguided. It is futile for any who think that solid and satisfying answers to questions of personal significance and meaning can be found apart from one’s relationship to the true and personal God. It is misguided whenever self‑esteem or a sense of self‑worth is sought without the Bible’s answers to the real problems of guilt and bad behavior. The real concern ought not to be with self esteem at all, but with true self‑knowledge. This involves a knowledge of our sin, not the least of which is an excessive and misdirected self‑love. Christians, being saved from the guilt and controlling power of sin, are learning to deny their selfishness and live by Jesus’ command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind....and love your neighbor as yourself “ (Matthew 22:37‑37). Becoming right with God, and loving others is the Christian answer to our world’s obsession with self‑esteem.
Abortion and Euthanasia
Life begins at the instant of conception. God alone determines when we enter the world and when we must leave the world. Therefore, people are not free to choose to take the life of another. This includes the unborn: “You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13‑14). It likewise applies to suicide of every form and to euthanasia: “From the hand of every man ‘s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man “ (Genesis 9:5‑6).
Marriage was designed by God to last a lifetime. The marriage covenant and union, established by God, ought not to be broken by man. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
Man and woman are equal in the sight of God, and yet God has made them different, each with a distinct function and calling. This applies to roles in marriage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Husbands love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:22, 25).
This also applies to roles within the church: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man“ (I Timothy 2:12).
Man and woman are to find sexual fulfillment within the bonds of marriage alone. Premarital sex, homosexuality and any other deviation from God’s plan is therefore sin. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
Gambling and Lotteries
The typical motivation for any form of gambling is the desire to get rich. In addition to the 10th commandment, which forbids covetousness, the Bible says that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition “ (I Timothy 6:9). There are also other considerations besides motivation which make gambling displeasing to God. Whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, we are required to use our material resources as stewards of God’s gifts. Gambling involves an irresponsible use of God’s gifts for which we must give an account to Him. It also involves taking advantage of the ignorance and irresponsibility of others who, though unable to afford it, are also willing to throw their money away. In the middle of our gambling society, Christians are called to honest work with contentment and dependence upon God for His blessings.
The Lord ’s Day
As stated in the 4th commandment, God set apart one day in seven to be “kept” as a holy day (Exodus 20:8‑11). Based upon His resurrection on Sunday, Christ as the “Lord of the Sabbath” changed the day from the seventh to the first. However, the moral substance of the law remains unchanged. The fact that the Lord’s Day is no longer respected in our society as it once was may not rob Christians of the privilege, nor does it exempt them from the duty of devoting the day to rest and worship. Granted that works of necessity and mercy are permissible on the Lord’s Day, diligent attendance at morning and evening worship services, devotion to Christian fellowship, and physical rest from work are the essential things that must occupy the day. Obedience to this law of God may limit Christians’ job opportunities and cause hardships, but it is a most important point where the Christian witness must be heard and Christian liberation from enslavement to materialism must be demonstrated.
3.3 Christian Liberty
With the many ways in which the views and practices of the world clash with those of the church, there is a temptation to multiply rules that go beyond the Word of God. Thus there are churches with “no smoking, no drinking, no dancing, no television” policies. The list could go on to include rules of diet and dress. In this connection, we conclude this section with a word about Christian liberty. We make no such rules for membership. This does not mean that the above mentioned areas have nothing to do with Christian living. The fact is that the law of God is much richer and much more spiritual than any such petty prohibitions. It is the Law of God in its entirety, as taught in the Old and New Testament, which we recognize as the only rule for thankful Christian living. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is sufficient to direct Christians in lives of godliness without the addition of man‑made rules. Such rules create false standards of righteousness and violate the true Christian liberty of submitting to God’s law alone.
4. Our Commitment To Christian Giving
The support of the gospel ministry locally, the extension of God's kingdom through mission work, and ministering to the needy both near and far require material resources. According to the Bible, giving of our money for the kingdom of God is no small part of the Christian life. It is also part of the commitment belonging to church membership. When we worship according to God's Word, we "bring an offering, and come into His courts" (Psalm 96:8). At Immanuel's Reformed Church we have an annual budget which is submitted to and approved by the congregation. We seek to maintain the distinctly Christian principles of giving rather than operate like a business. Christian giving is ultimately giving to the Lord, not to the church. It is properly an expression of gratitude rather than a grudging obligation: "The Lord loves a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:7). The Old Testament law for Israel required a tithe (ten percent) of one's "income" to be given to the Lord. We do not enforce this as a law among us, but regard it as a guide for Christian giving. Indeed, Christians motivated by the knowledge of the grace of Christ may well consider this to be merely a starting point, or minimum for their giving. Those who have been blessed richly in material things will of course be able to give more than those who have less, but in every case, the Bible's command to "Honor the Lord with your possessions" (Proverbs 3:9) is observed among us.
5. Our Broader Church Affiliation
5.1 Our Confession of Broader Church Unity
Immanuel's Reformed Church makes no claim of being the only true church. In fact to do so would be to deny one of our cherished beliefs that the true church “is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world, and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same Spirit” (BC, Article 27). Neither do we claim to be a “one of‑a‑kind” church. We rejoice in the fact that there are hundreds of actual churches which we can identify by name which confess the same truth we have received. There are certainly thousands of such churches in the world of which we know nothing or very little. We do know of several denominations who have the same official doctrinal standards as ourselves. It is our desire and serious effort to grow in our knowledge of these churches and in the expression of the spiritual unity which we possess in Christ.
5.2 Our Practice of Broader Church Unity
We not only confess the broader unity of the true Christian Church, we want to practice it. This means exercising real cooperation and mutual accountability with other churches. We do this formally through our membership in a federation of churches called The United Reformed Churches in North America. Made up of churches in the U.S. and Canada, we are united in faith and practice. We are committed to assisting one another and cooperating together in such things as mission work, examining ministers for ordination, addressing common concerns, and giving mutual oversight so that purity of doctrine and faithfulness may be maintained in the churches. This cooperative work is partly exercised through annual meetings of smaller groupings of churches (classis), as well as regular but less frequent meetings of the entire federation (synod). Ministers and elders are delegated by the churches to represent them at such meetings. The United Reformed Churches have adopted a “Church Order” which spells out the way in which we have agreed to express our mutual commitments as churches of Jesus Christ. This Church Order will be made available to you also upon your request.
For more information about the United Reformed Churches, visit URC Homepage
As a church, we realize that we are far from reaching the high calling which our Lord has given to us. Much of the above presents our goals and endeavors rather than our attainments. We depend upon the grace of God for both our existence and our growth toward the high ideals of His Word. We can only rely upon God’s faithfulness.
It is likewise true that for an accurate assessment of who we are, you would have to attend our services and get to know our members. However, we hope that this introduction is sufficient to give you a basic knowledge of Immanuel's Reformed Church. We trust also that enough has been said to assist you in evaluating your own beliefs in comparison to those we have set forth. We are convinced that our beliefs are indeed based on God’s Word, and that they therefore have divine authority over your life and conscience as well. We urge you to carefully examine yourself in this connection. Are you a true Christian believer? If not, and you wish to receive further instruction and help, contact the person who gave you this booklet or speak to our Pastor.
If you are a Christian, we wish to pose another most important question for your consideration. Are you a member of a true Church? Not every group that claims to be a Christian church is so in fact. Is the Word of God faithfully preached? Are the sacraments administered purely according to the Bible? Is church discipline faithfully exercised? These are the primary marks by which the true church may be known. If these things do not clearly characterize the church where you attend or where your present membership is, we invite you to further investigate Immanuel's Reformed Church . Prayerfully consider whether the Lord’s will is that you seek membership with us.
If you are a member of a true church, we hope that this booklet has blessed you by increasing your knowledge and awareness of that ongoing work of Jesus Christ building His church. May we increase in faithfulness, love, and unity until that day in which the one body, the bride of Christ is perfected, and He “present[s] it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. “ (Ephesians 5:27).
If you need help or would like further information contact:Immanuel's Reformed Church
4653 Sunnyview Rd. NE
Salem, OR 97305
Sunday Worship: 11 AM; 6:30 PMWhat is Reformed?
- R emaining with the Bible where God makes Himself known to us and tells us everything we most need to know.
- E njoying freedom from man‑made religions.
- F inding Life, Salvation from sin, and Peace with God, not by our own works, but by believing in Jesus, who died and arose from the dead.
- O rdering our lives by God’s laws out of love and thankfulness to Him
- R ejoicing in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, rules over all things from heaven, working all things for our benefit.
- M eeting together to seek and worship God in the way He has taught us in His Word, the Bible.
- E xpecting that God, the Holy Spirit, will powerfully save sinners through the faithful preaching of His Word.
- D esiring that other sinners like ourselves would turn to God in response to His command and invitation.