The Pastor's Study
What's In A Name?
It has been some fifteen years since the name of the assembly that presently meets as the Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Pine Bush, New York adopted that long and ponderous title for its official name. The Church did not receive the name Grace Reformed Baptist at its birth. In fact it was for the first ten years of its life known as the Good Shepherd Bible Church. The change of names was the result of the conviction that a name should tell you something about the thing so named. In the Bible that was the way that names were given. Even the name of Jesus tells the whole story of who he is and what he came to do. The angel said to His father Joseph "You shall call His name Jesus for he shall save His people from their sins". Matthew 1:21. The name Jesus means Jehovah our Salvation. His name revealed him.
While the name Good Shepherd Bible Church did say something about our assembly it was wondered if it said enough. It said after all that we were a church that stood for the Bible and that we looked to one who we trust as the Good Shepherd who layed down His life for the sheep. Yet it didn't somehow seem to say enough about our identity and beliefs as a Church. It was thought that since we were a church that was Baptistic in practice, Reformed in Doctrine and a church that self consciously proclaimed the doctrines of Grace that a name like Grace Reformed Baptist said it all.
In retrospect however it must be asked whether this name that has so much meaning and significance to those who regularly attend our services, says anything at all to the average man on the street. Does a person who rides past our building in Pine Bush and reads the sign out front of the church that says Grace Reformed Baptist have any idea what those words mean? How can we invest those words with the meaning they possess in the hearts of the members of this church to those who drive by? I don't really have a good answer. But for those who drive by this web site we can provide a clear and concise explanation. So if you are visiting our site and have an interest in knowing, here is our attempt to say to you there really is something in a name.
Grace is a word that literally means favor. It is used in the Bible to express the fact that God deals with his people in Jesus Christ in terms of favor. When I do a favor for someone it is by definition not something that I am obliged to do. If I am obligated to do a thing it is not a favor but a debt that I owe. The Gospel makes it clear that the only thing almighty God owes to any sinner is the penalty that a broken law deserves. That penalty is death. "The wages of sin is death" is the way Paul expresses this truth in Romans 3:23. Grace then is God's free unmerited favor that comes to us in spite of what our sins deserve. In fact in Jesus Christ God gives to every believer not only not what our sins deserve but the very opposite. In the place of death He gives life. Instead of wrath, He shows favor. Rather then send us to Hell, He will receive us into Heaven. This is Grace. God's favor to the Hell deserving, in which He gives us the very opposite of what our sins deserve. Someone has made the matter simple and memorable in saying that grace is:
This church is a ministry commited to the teaching and preaching of that message of Grace contained in the Biblical Gospel.
Reformed is a term that comes from the great revival that God gave the church in the sixteenth century of the church's history. That gracious movement of His Spirit is known as the Protestant Reformation. In short the Reformation was a call to recover the Biblical gospel from centuries in which the traditions of men reigned over the hearts and lives of men. It was through the Reformation that the church was called back to what have been called the 5 solas. Sola was a Latin term that meant "alone". The Reformation had as its rallying cry the need to hold to "Scripture alone" as the basis of authority for what we believe about God and what things God requires of us. The Reformation was if it was anything a great revival of Bible learning and Bible loving among men.
In addition to its call to scripture alone, the Reformation called the church back to a gospel that proclaimed "Christ alone" as the way to God. The great need of sinners is a personal knowledge of and commitment to Jesus Christ. A Christian is not made by adherence to a church or by attendance at sacrements or by ascribing to creeds. A Christian is a person who is in vital life union with Jesus Christ who is the only mediator between God and man. It is Christ alone who saves. He is the only name given among men by which we must be saved. Of Jesus Christ alone it can be said that He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:7. The Reformation if it was anything was a return to the Christ of Holy Scripture and a giving to Him the place of preeminance in all things in the church.
Then the Reformation called the church back to a message of "Grace alone". "It is by grace that you have been saved" said the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:8. The free unmerited favor of God to the Hell deserving had central place in the proclamation of the Reformation church cancelling out all the efforts of men to become their own saviors or to contribute in any way to the salvation of God. Salvation is by grace from first to last. This salvation by grace alone is through "faith alone" in Christ alone. That is faith is the empty hand that receives the offered Christ. By faith alone we come to Jesus, trusting Him and His great work of salvation for us. It is by "faith alone" that we are justified and accepted before God.
This Reformation emphasis upon the Scripture Alone as our authority, upon grace alone as the reason for salvation, upon Christ Alone as our confidence, upon faith alone as the way to Christ is all for the glory of God Alone. The Reformation Church did not seeing itself as existing for its own ends or its own glory but for the glory of the God who is our maker, our provider, our redeemer, our all in all.
This church is a ministry committed to being Reformed in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation. This means we are not only following a tradition that blazed a path of rich doctrinal and spiritual reality, but that we have a continuing responsibility to be always reforming our teaching and life in the light of the scriptures that the gospel may be proclaimed by us in its purity and that the glory of God may be a reality in our midst.
Baptist is a word that like Reformed has a long history and makes us a very special type of Reformed Church. The Protestant Reformation while having a notable impact upon the life of the churches of Europe in bringing back the Bible and the true gospel revealed in its pages, in some ways failed to go far enough. Although the Reformers and the Reformed Churches cast off a great deal that was not faithful to the scriptures they still held on to some traditions not founded upon Biblical authority. In particular they continued the tradition of Infant Baptism and of incorporating into the life of the churches those who did not give clear evidence of having received the salvation of God. To witness against these unbiblical practices, God raised up those who at the time of the Reformation were called Anabaptists (meaning rebaptizers or those who were baptized again) and later came to call themselves Baptists (understanding that they were not being baptized again but were submitting to the baptism scripture speaks of). These witnesses sought to show from scripture and church history that the practice of Infant Baptism and including unbelievers into church membership was wrong.
Baptists believe that the ordinance of Baptism that we find in the Bible is a confessors ordinance that shows a believer's union with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. Only those in union with Christ by a living faith are in any way qualified to be baptized. The only people the Bible commands us to baptize or that we are ever told were baptized in New Testament times were disciples of Jesus Christ.
Baptists also believe that the church is to be comprised of believers in Jesus alone. The church that Jesus said he would build is built on the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is those who make that confession who alone are to be added to the membership of the church.
This church is a ministry committed to these Baptist distinctives of the ordinance of Baptism being exclusively for confessed disciples and of church membership being exclusively reserved for those who have personal faith in Jesus Christ.
While we acknowledge our union with the churches of Jesus Christ who hold fast the Biblical gospel while disagreeing with our Baptistic and Reformed distinctives we believe that God has raised us up to testify that these distinctives are the clear and necessary beliefs that arise out of careful and unprejudiced study of His word the Bible. We believe that insofar as the teaching of scripture leads to an emphasis upon Grace as well as upon those emphases which are Reformed and Baptistic that there is something about a name that is worth preserving, explaining and defending.
I would invite all who visit our churches website (or who happen to be driving past our building) and see the name that this church has chosen would feel free to ask any further questions they might have about it. We would love the opportunity to discuss with you the distinctives we hold to as well as to answer any questions you may have about the God we worship, the truths we believe, the message we proclaim.