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What We Believe

First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, GA is part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country with approximately 1.5 million members. As a congregation rooted in the Reformed tradition of the church, we hold what follows to be a concise summary of the essential tenets of our faith as taught in scripture and summarized in the confessions:

The Authority of Scripture

We affirm that the Scriptures, consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, are given by the inspiration of God to be the final rule of faith and life. (6.002) All things necessary for God’s glory, human salvation, faith, and life are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. (6.006) The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written. (9.27) The Holy Spirit illumines our minds to understand the Scriptures. (6.006) “Scripture alone” is our ultimate authority (“sola scriptura”).

We deny any doctrine which asserts that there can be revelations from the Holy Spirit that contradict or supersede Scripture. We deny any doctrine which elevates the authority of human scholarship or reason, or the authority of church councils, above the authority of Scripture. We deny any doctrine which seeks to follow a “Jesus Christ” apart from the person, work and will of Jesus Christ revealed in Scripture.

Scripture: Matthew 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Luke 24:44-45

Confessions: The Westminster Confession (6.002 – 6.010), The Scots Confession (3.18-3.20), The Second Helvetic Confession (5.001-5.002, 5.010, 5.013, 5.080), The Theological Declaration of Barmen (8.04), The Confession of 1967 (9.27)

The Trinity and the Attributes of God

We affirm that there is only one living and true God, whom alone we must serve, worship, and trust. (3.01, 6.011) God is infinite in being and perfection, a spirit who is invisible, immutable, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, all-wise, completely holy, completely free, completely loving. (6.011) He works all things in accordance with his unchangeable and righteous will, for his own glory. (6.011) God is gracious, merciful and patient. He forgives sin and rewards those who diligently seek him. (6.011) He is just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and will by no means clear the guilty. (6.011) God has all life, glory, and blessedness in and of himself and is alone all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he has made. (6.012) He is the creator of all things and has sovereign dominion over them. (6.012) Yet God is not the author of sin and does no violence to the will of the creatures. (6.014) We believe in the trinity, that there is one God who has eternally existed in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. (1.1-1.3, 6.013, 7.006)

We deny any doctrine that denies God’s triune nature or refuses to confess the trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We deny the deistic notion that God created the cosmos, but is no longer personally involved in its operation or unfolding.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 45:5, Genesis 1:1, Revelation 4:11, Matthew 28:19, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20
Confessions: The Nicene Creed (1.1-1.3), The Westminster Confession (6.011-6.014), The Scots Confession (3.01, 3.18), The Second Helvetic Confession (5.015- 5.019), The Shorter Catechism (7.004-7.006), The Larger Catechism (7.116- 7.121)

The Creation and Fall of Humanity

We affirm that God created humanity, male and female, in his own image and likeness, in true righteousness and holiness, so that humans might rightly know God their Creator, love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness. (3.02,4.006, 7.010) God gave humanity free will and dominion over the creatures. (3.02, 7.010) Because of the disobedience of our first parents, they fell from the state in which they were created (7.013) and brought sin and death upon themselves and upon all who descended from Adam (7.132). The fall brought all humanity into a state of sin and misery. (7.017) Human nature became corrupted so that we are altogether unable to do good and wholly inclined to evil. (4.008, 6.034) Every aspect of our humanity—our personality, intellect, emotions, will, motives—is distorted by sin. (6.032 – 6.035) As a result, human beings are in bondage to sin and subject to God’s holy and righteous judgment. (7.019, 7.137 – 7.139) Without God’s intervening grace and salvation, all of humanity is lost and condemned. (4.010, 9.13)

We deny the assertion that human nature is basically good. We deny the assertion that human nature is redeemable through good efforts, discipline, or anything else apart from Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 5:18-19, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 143:2
Confessions: The Westminster Confession (6.022-6.023, 6.031-6.036), The Scots Confession (3.02-3.03), The Heidelberg Catechism (4.006-4.008), The Second Helvetic Confession 5.036-5.042). The Shorter Catechism (7.010-7.019), The Larger Catechism (7.127-7.139)

The Person and Atoning Work of Jesus Christ

We affirm that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human. (1.2, 3.06, 6.044) He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary (2.2) and was without sin. (6.044) Jesus lived a sinless life of perfect righteousness and obedience to God—teaching, performing miracles, ministering as a servant, and declaring that the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus willingly sacrificed himself, dying on the cross as our substitute and thereby making atonement for our sin. (6.047, 3.09) His death provided expiation of our sin (covering, putting away, or rubbing out of sin) and propitiation (covering, putting away, or rubbing out of sin and pacifying the wrath of God against us thereby). (6.162, 3.09, 4.010, 5.105, 5.076) In the atonement, Christ took upon himself and bore the sins of the world, and his perfect righteousness is imputed to all who repent of sin and put their trust in him (5.108, 4.060, 6.081-6.086). Jesus’ same physical body was resurrected from the dead and Jesus ascended into heaven. (6.046, 3.11) He will come again to earth and will judge all of humanity, the living and the dead. (6.046, 2.2) Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. (5.077)

We deny any doctrine that discounts or discredits as untrue any portion of the New Testament record concerning Jesus. We deny any doctrine which asserts that Christ’s atoning work is universally applied to all, so that all persons are saved. We deny any doctrine which asserts that there is salvation by any means other than through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Scripture: Romans 3:21-26, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:1-2, 1 John 4:8-10, Luke 1:31-35, John 14:6, Hebrews 1:1-3, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, Romans 5:18- 19, 1 John 4:2-3, Hebrews 9:11-12, 1 Peter 3:18, Matthew 2:21, Ephesians 1:19- 23

Confessions: The Westminster Confession (6.043-6.050), The Apostles Creed (2.2), The Scots Confession (3.06, 3.09-3.11), The Nicene Creed (1.1-1.3), The Second Helvetic Confession (5.077)

Salvation by Grace Alone

We affirm that in the gospel, God declares his love for the world and reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation. (6.056) He promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ and he invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy. (6.056) The Holy Spirit regenerates people by his grace, convicts them of sin, moves them to repentance, and persuades and enables them to embrace Jesus Christ by faith. (6.053) Justification is an act of God’s free grace in which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone. (7.033) Justification does not come through any of our works. (5.109) We cannot by our best works merit pardon for sin or eternal life. (6.091) Even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin. (4.062)

The Holy Spirit unites all believers to Christ and dwells in them as their Comforter and Sanctifier. (6.053) Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole person after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness. (7.035) In justification, sin is pardoned; in sanctification, it is subdued. (7.187) As soon as the Holy Spirit takes possession of the heart of any person, there begins a continual battle between the flesh and the Spirit in God’s children, who fight against sin. (3.13) In time, God’s people are redeemed, called, justified, sanctified and glorified. (6.043)

Scripture: Romans 3:19-23, Romans 5:1, Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16, Acts 4:12, Hebrews 5:8-9, Romans 12:2, Philippians 2:14-16

Confessions: The Westminster Confession (6.043, 6.053, 6.055-6.056, 6.091), The Scots Confession (3.12-3.13), The Heidelberg Catechism (4.062), The Second Helvetic Confession (5.109), The Shorter Catechism (7.033-7.036), The Larger Catechism (7.187)

The Church

We affirm that the catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head. (6.140) The visible Church consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children. (6.141) By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, all believers, being vitally united to Christ who is the Head, are thus united to one another in the Church, which is his body. (6.054) The Church is the temple of the living God, the bride of Christ, and the body of Christ. (5.130) The true church is distinguished by three marks: the true preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ, and church discipline uprightly administered, as God’s Word prescribes. (3.18) To the visible Church, Christ has given the ministry and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints. (6.142) Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, Christ has commissioned his Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. (6.058) All believers are, therefore to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth. (6.058)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:4-7, Ephesians 1:11-12, John 15:5,8,16, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Peter 2:9-12, Galatians 3:28, Titus 2:14, Romans 12:1, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Psalm 82:3-4, 2 Peter 3:10-13, Matthew 25:34-40, Luke 10:36-37

Confessions: The Westminster Confession (6.053-6.054, 6.058, 6.140-6.142), The Scots Confession (3.18), The Second Helvetic Confession (5.130)

The Sacraments

We affirm that sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace immediately instituted by God to represent Christ and his benefits. (6.149) The sacraments of the New Testament are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (7.093)

Baptism is a sacrament in which the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is a sign and seal of our ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of our giving up to God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. (7.094, 6.154) Infants are also by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be incorporated into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the Old Covenant by circumcision. In the New Covenant, baptism has been instituted to take its place. (4.074)

Our Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood called the Lord’s Supper to be observed in his Church to the end of the world for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing of all benefits of that to true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe to him, and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body. (6.161) Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements of bread and wine in this sacrament do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, really but spiritually present to the faith of believers as the elements themselves are to their outward senses. (6.167)

The sacraments are not merely symbols. (3.21) Instead, there is a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified. (6.150).The sacraments were instituted by God not only to make a visible distinction between his people and those who were without the Covenant, but also to seal in the hearts of his children the assurance of his promise and of the most blessed union and fellowship which the chosen have with their Head, Jesus Christ. (3.21) Soli Deo gloria.

Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 11:23- 26, 1 Corinthians 10:16

Confessions: The Scots Confession (3.21), The Heidelberg Catechism (4.074), The Westminster Confession (6.149-6.150, 6.154, 6.161, 6.167), The Shorter Catechism (7.093-7.094)

Scripture references cited: All quotations are from NIV unless otherwise specified.