The word Presbyterian comes from the Greek word presbyteros, which means “elder” or “senior.” To be Presbyterian means that we hold to a particular form of church government. This is a government that is made up of Teaching and Ruling Elders who meet in representative assemblies called Church Courts. These Church Courts in their ascending order are the Session, the Presbytery, and the General Assembly. The Session is responsible for the rule and care of the local church as elected officials of the congregation. The Presbytery provides guidance and oversight to the local Session and is made up of Teaching and Ruling Elders from each of the area (regional) congregations. These regional bodies are then represented at a broader national gathering known as the General Assembly. Each church may also choose to elect Deacons, but the Board of Deacons is not considered a Church Court and has no ruling power. The office of Deacon is to be primarily one of service and compassion, and therefore, not one of rule. The history of Presbyterianism traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation and owes a great deal of its development to Reformers like John Calvin, John Knox, and even the English Puritans. Although we believe that the Presbyterian form of government represents the Biblical record (Acts 15), and best establishes the Church with both authority and freedom, we do not believe that it is essential for the existence of the true Church.
WE ARE PROTESTANT
The word “Protestant” comes from a Latin word which means to bear witness or testify. In the 16th century, a monk by the name of Martin Luther began to “protest” against the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. It would become known around the world as the Protestant Reformation. Thus, to be Protestant means to adhere to the theological views that emerged out of this movement. Coming out of the Reformation were the “5 Solas” which we still embrace today.
Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) – Scripture alone is the highest authority for the church, not any ecclesiastical traditions or human opinions.
Sola Fide (faith alone) – We are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ, not by any good works.
Sola Gratia (grace alone) – We are saved only by God’s grace, not by any human achievement.
Solus Christo (Christ alone) – We are saved only by the mediatorial work of Christ and his substitutionary atonement.
Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone) – We live our entire lives for the glory of God alone.
WE ARE CONFESSIONAL
Every church has a list of things that they believe, but not all of them write them down. To be a confessional church means that we hold to a formal (codified) doctrinal statement of faith. Many of the churches growing out of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century began adopting Confessions of Faith in order to provide a definition of their main theological and doctrinal points. At GPC, we hold to the standard known as the Westminster Confession of Faith.
In 1643, a group of Divines were assembled at Westminster Abbey and were asked to recommend a series of theological reforms to the ecclesiastical bodies in the Church of England. The Assembly represented a strong attachment to Reformed (Calvinistic) theology and would take four years to complete. It is a remarkably thorough and theologically clear document which is one of the reasons for its longevity. Thus, it has been widely accepted as the standard of faith for Presbyterian churches for centuries and has even been influential in other denominational bodies.
We believe that this document provides a clear summary of what the bible teaches about everything from the authority of God’s word to the final judgement. The Bible alone, being fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority upon all matters in which it speaks. Therefore, though this document provides a summary of what we believe the Bible teaches, it remains subordinate to Scripture. For information click here
WE ARE CALVINISTIC
Calvinism (Reformed Theology) is a system of doctrine that was developed by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). Though Calvin systematized and defended the doctrine, it did not originate with him. As Charles Spurgeon said, “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel and nothing else.” This doctrinal system emphasizes a high view of scripture and the absolute sovereignty of God over His creation and the plan of redemption. Calvinism is best known by the acronym, (T.U.L.I.P.) which is defined in detail in the Westminster Confession.
Total Depravity (also known as Radical Depravity, Total Inability, and Original Sin)
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Redemption)