The word “reformed” helps theologically minded people understand something about us, but the term means little to others, so they ask, “What is a Reformed Baptist church?”
First things first: we are Baptists in the historical sense. While we officially use the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as informed by the Abstract of Principles (1858) of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we find our beliefs more explicitly stated in what is known as the Second London Baptist Confession, or the Baptist Confession of 1689. Early Baptists typically identified as either Particular Baptists or General Baptists, and the distinction was primarily over the extent of Christ’s atonement. Because Particular Baptists believed in the doctrines of grace (we’ll get to those doctrines in a bit), they believed that Christ died effectually for those who would believe upon him (particular atonement), not potentially for everyone in the world (general atonement). Consequently, Cornerstone is in the tradition of Particular Baptists.
Particular Baptists arose out of the settled dust of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther and John Calvin notably defended the New Testament doctrine of the sovereignty of God in all things generally and in individual salvation specifically. Particular Baptists would primarily differ from the earlier Protestants over the subjects of salvation. Baptism was an ordinance reserved for believers in Christ only, not for infants.
Cornerstone holds to the five solas of the Reformation to summarize our beliefs and practices: 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.
As mentioned above, Reformed Baptists hold to the doctrines of grace: total depravity, unconditional election, limited or particular atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. We believe in the total depravity of man, that all humans are corrupted by sin. Total depravity does not mean that we are as evil as we could be, but all of us are corrupted with evil (Romans 3:10-12). If God did not work in our hearts, none of us would ever seek him because we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
We believe that God has chosen his people unto salvation unconditionally (Ephesians 1:3-11). God does not base his choice of us before the foundation of the world on a decision to follow him that he sees will occur in the future. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, so we have nothing in ourselves about which to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We believe that the atoning death of Christ is expressly for those who believe upon him, not for each and every person who has ever been conceived, regardless of their belief in Christ. Jesus said that he gave his life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15). But is not Christ “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the world” (1 John 2:2)? He is indeed, having died not just for certain believers but for believers throughout the world, regardless of ethnicity, language, social status, gender, or any other way groups of people are set against others.
We believe that God’s grace is irresistible. God regenerates the unbelieving heart to desire to repent of sin and trust in Christ: “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), and he later said, “No one can come to me unless it has been granted him by the Father” (John 6:65).
We believe that all those who truly come to Christ will persevere in their faith throughout their lives. Those in the church who turn aside from Christ “went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19).
In addition to the doctrines of grace, we believe in the centrality of preaching the Scriptures, the Word of God, in the gathered worship of the church. The Bible alone reveals who Jesus is and what God requires. Everything flows from the Scriptures, whether the subject is who God is, what salvation requires, how Christians are to live, how worship should be order, how a local church should be organized, whatever it may be. “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). A Reformed Baptist church is guided not by whatever will “work” but by what the Scriptures say.
Cornerstone is established as a Reformed Baptist fellowship, and we want always to be reforming our understanding of the church and our lives in light of the Scriptures. Unto God alone be the glory.