In its battle against the errors of the Federal Vision schemeâ€””in by grace, stay in by faith and works”â€”the just-concluded Synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America clarified its doctrines regarding election, justification, sanctification and sacraments in publishing the 15 points below. The references are from the Belgic Confession of Faith, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort.
1. In Godâ€™s unchangeable purpose, He elects His chosen ones to salvation and effectively draws them into fellowship with Christ through His Word and Spirit, granting them true faith in Christ, justifying, sanctifying and preserving them in Christâ€™s fellowship until He glorifies them (Canons of Dort, 1.7).
2. The election of God is of one kind only, and is to everlasting life, and not to a mutable relationship dependent on the good work of man, which can be forfeited (Canons of Dort, 1.8). Those who finally fall away have not forfeited their election, but demonstrate they never were elect, though members of the covenant community (Canons of Dort, 5.7).
3. Some members of the church or covenant community â€œare not of the Church, though externally in itâ€ (Belgic Confession, Article 29).
4. Those who are truly â€œof the Churchâ€ may be known by the â€œmarks of Christians; namely, by faith, and when, having received Jesus Christ the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereofâ€ (Belgic Confession, Article 29).
5. Adam was obligated to obey â€œthe commandment of lifeâ€ in order to live in fellowship with God and enjoy His favor eternally (Belgic Confession, Article 14; Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Day 3).
6. All human beings have fallen in Adam, are subject to condemnation and death, and are wholly incapable of finding favor with God on the basis of obedience to the law of God (Belgic Confession, Article 14; Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Days 3, 24).
7. The work of Christ as Mediator of the covenant of grace fully accords with Godâ€™s truth and justice, satisfies all the demands of Godâ€™s holy law, and thereby properly â€œmeritsâ€ the believerâ€™s righteousness and eternal life (Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Days 5-7, 15, 23-24; Belgic Confession, Article 22; Canons of Dort, Rejection of Errors, 2:3).
8. The entire obedience of Christ â€œunder the law,â€ both active and passive, constitutes the righteousness that is granted and imputed to believers for their justification (Belgic Confession, Article 22; Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Day 23).
9. Faith is the sole instrument of the believerâ€™s justification, so that believers may be said to be justified â€œeven before [they] do good worksâ€ (Belgic Confession, Article 24).
10. The good works of believers, though necessary fruits of thankfulness, contribute nothing to their justification before God since they proceed from true faith, are themselves the fruits of the renewing work of Christâ€™s Spirit, are imperfect and corrupted by sin, and are performed out of gratitude for Godâ€™s grace in Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Days 3, 24, 32, 33; Belgic Confession, Article 24).
11. The justification of true believers is a definitive and irrevocable blessing of Christâ€™s saving work, and therefore cannot be increased by the good works that proceed from true faith or be lost through apostasy. (Canons of Dort, 1:9; Rejection of Errors 1:2, 2:8, 5:7; Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Days 20, 21)
12. The sacrament of baptism does not effect the believerâ€™s union with Christ or justification but is a confirmation and assurance of the benefits of Christâ€™s saving work to those who respond to the sacrament in the way of faith (Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Days 25, 27).
13. The sacrament of the Lordâ€™s Supper is a means to strengthen and nourish the believer in Christ when it is received by the â€œmouth of faithâ€ and therefore the children of believing parents shall make public profession of are obligated to attest the presence of such faith before receiving the sacrament (Belgic Confession, Article 35; Heidelberg Catechism, Lordâ€™s Days 28-30).
14.Â The assurance of salvation is an ordinary fruit of true faith, which looksÂ primarily to the gospel promise and the testimony of the Holy Spirit as the basisÂ for confidence before God. Though good works may confirm the genuineness ofÂ faith, they are not the primary basis for such assurance of salvation. (HeidelbergÂ Catechism, Lordâ€˜s Days 7, 23, 32; Belgic Confession, Article 22-23; Canons ofÂ Dort, 5:8-13)
15. According to Godâ€™s electing purpose and grace revealed in the gospel, true believers may be confident that God will preserve them in the way of salvation and keep them from losing their salvation through apostasy (Canons of Dort, 1:12, 5:8-10)