Reformed is a descriptive word that you may hear in church circles. The word is taken from the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. But not every Protestant Church or denomination is Reformed. So, what is the essence of Reformed Theology or as Spurgeon said, Biblical Theology? The answer, God's sovereignty is the foundation of Reformed Theology, Doctrine, and Faith.
Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, thought he was a god. At the height of his power, God drove him insane. God restored him exactly as prophesied by Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was brought to his knees by the sovereign God! Daniel recorded the words of the restored king.
"[God's] dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have You done?"' (Daniel 4:34-35) This is an expression of Reformed Theology!
As a pastor of a church in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), claiming to be reformed, I am often asked to define Reformed Theology. Why are we so adamant in describing ourselves as reformed? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology recovered by the Protestant Reformers. Reformed Theology is grounded in the absolute sovereignty of God in every aspect of life and salvation. We are adamant about being reformed because we are adamant about the revealed truth of God's sovereignty.
Nebuchadnezzar learned this truth the hard way. God humbled this man who was full of pride. God caused him to live like a wild animal. Even his appearance was changed. The Prophet Daniel described the king with these words, "He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws." (Daniel 4:33)
We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our minds. God has revealed himself to be sovereign. Sovereignty means rule. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are referring to his absolute rule of his creation.
Doesn't every church believe that God is sovereign? Yes. Every church that professes belief in the risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what's this "Reformed Theology" all about? Reformed believers see every aspect of life through the lens of the sovereignty of God.
For example, our salvation depends upon a sovereign God. The Bible teaches that men are incapable of turning to God. All men are born spiritually dead. Only a sovereign God can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. Men are unable to believe in God's only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only a sovereign God can ensure that nothing will ever separate us from his love. (Romans 8:38- 39)
Everything in life depends upon the sovereignty of God. As Jeremiah mourned over the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" (Lamentations 3:37- 38) God ordains everything that happens!
I can hear the skeptics, "If God ordains everything then what's the point of doing anything?" God did not create robots. God's sovereignty does not contradict man's will. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But God's will stands above man's will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever he wills is done.
God's rule is absolute and inclusive. The fact that all men do not submit to God's rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God's sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to him. Until then the visible rule of God is to be seen in the church. Reformed theology affirms that the church is the visible kingdom of God.
So then, Reformed Theology is fundamentally what the Bible teaches. The God who has revealed himself is sovereign in and over everything. Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the church.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.