Some Essential Tenets of the Reformed faith, as Expressed in the Confessions

The Centrality of Jesus Christ

Another tenet of Reformed theology is that Jesus Christ stands at the center of all things. As the one who is fully divine as well as fully human, Jesus Christ participates in the divine triune life. He is “… eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light …” (BOC, Nicene Creed, 1.2; cf. Apostles’ Creed, 2.2). He, with the Father, sends the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us (BOC, Nicene, 1.3). As the one who is fully human as well as fully divine, Jesus Christ participates in creaturely existence, showing us who God created us to be and what God is redeeming us for.

The confessions hold that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ, and that salvation in Jesus Christ is more than just “fire insurance”—it includes living with a perception “of our being in him” that nurtures abundant life and compels grateful service. Calvin emphasizes that Christ saves us as the “prophet” who shows us the way of God, as the “priest” who sacrifices his life for us, and as the “king” (or “victor”) who includes us as full participants in God’s redemptive work (cf. BOC, The Shorter Catechism 7.023).[1]

Jesus Christ also stands at the center of all our interpretive and discerning work.

… When controversy arises about the right understanding of any passage or sentence of Scripture, or for the reformation of any abuse within the Kirk of God, we ought not so much to ask what [our forebears] have said or done before us, as what the Holy Ghost uniformly speaks within the body of the Scriptures and what Christ Jesus himself did and commanded. … (BOC, The Scots Confession, 3.18)

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. (BOC, The Theological Declaration of Barmen, 8.11)

When we call this one who stands at the center “Lord,” the Reformed tradition argues, we are able to identify the “lordless powers” of the world and take a prophetic stand against them. As Jacqueline Grant writes, “to claim Jesus as Lord is to say the white slaveholder isn’t.”[2]

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Editor John T. McNeill. Louisville: Westminster Press, 1960, I.15.

[2] Jacqueline Grant, White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response, Volume 64, American Academy of Religion Academy Series (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989).