The Doctrinal Basis of the Christian Faith


The Berea Bible Class on Internet accepts and proclaims the historic truths of Christian faith and conduct, including the following:


a)    God and Mankind


We believe that the Lord our God is eternally One: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and fulfilling the sovereign purposes of His providence in creation, revelation, redemption, judgement, and the coming of His kingdom.


We acknowledge that though God made man and woman in His own likeness and image, conferring on us dignity and worth, and enabling us to respond to Himself, we are now members of a fallen race, who have sinned and come short of His glory.


We believe that the Father’s everlasting love is shown first of all in that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, for us when, through our sinfulness and guilt, we were subject to His wrath and condemnation; and that His grace is shown completely by His putting sinners right with Himself when they place their personal faith and confidence in His Son.


We confess Jesus Christ as Lord and God, the everlasting Son of the Father; as truly human, born of the virgin Mary; as the Servant of the servants, sinless, full of grace and truth; as the only Mediator and Saviour of the whole world, dying in our place on the cross, representing us to God, redeeming us from the grip, guilt and punishment of sin; as the Second Adam, the head of a new humanity, living a life of perfect obedience, overcoming death and decay, rising from the dead with a glorious body, being taken up to the Father in heaven, one day returning personally in majesty and judgment to bring eternal life to the redeemed and eternal death to the lost, to establish a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness, where there will be no more evil, suffering or death; and Victorious over Satan and all his forces, rescuing us from the dominion of darkness, and bringing us into His own kingdom; as the Word who makes God known.


We believe in the Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son is worthy of our worship, who convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment, who makes the death of Christ on the cross effective to sinners, enabling them to turn to God in repentance and directing their trust towards the Lord Jesus Christ; who through the new birth unites us with Christ, who is present within all believers; and makes us partake in Christ’s risen life,  focussing us to Jesus, freeing us from slavery to sin, producing in us His fruit, granting to us His gifts, and empowering us for service in the world.


b) The Holy Scriptures


We believe that the Old and New Testament Scriptures are God-inspired since their writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; therefore, they are fully trustworthy in all their affirmations; and as the written Word of God they are our only authority for faith and conduct.


We acknowledge the absolute need for the Holy Scriptures to be correctly interpreted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and using the gifts of understanding and scholarship that God has given to His people.


c) The Church and its Mission


We recognise the Church as the body of Christ, of which He is the head, held together and growing up in Him through the Holy Spirit; both as a total fellowship throughout the world, and as local congregations in which believers gather to worship God, growing in grace through the Word, prayer and sacrament.


We acknowledge the command of Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all people, making them disciples, baptising them, and teaching them to obey Him.


We acknowledge the command of Christ to love our neighbours, resulting in unattached service to the Church and to society, in seeking until He comes again reconciliation for all with God and their fellows, in proclaiming liberty from every kind of domination; and in spreading Christ’s justice in an unjust word.








Zwingli /



Only infallible authority for faith and salvation. Scriptures point to Christ.

Bible, not church is final authority. First scientific interpreter.

Z: Infallible authority – must determine all practice. Scripture will be fulfilled. Common people can understand.


All events ordained by God. Taught double predestination.

Predestination necessary because of man’s depravity.

Predestination based on providence of God.


In Lord’s Supper, human nature takes on His divine characteristics such as omnipresence.

Orthodox view; one Person with two natures, with no intermingling.

Orthodox view; one Person with two natures, with no intermingling.

Man and sin

Man is depraved and unable to free himself. Grace necessary because of sin.

Man is depraved and unable to free himself. Grace necessary because of sin.

Man is depraved and unable to free himself. Grace necessary because of sin.


Christ died a substitutionary death for all.

Christ died a substitutionary death for all.

Christ died a substitutionary death for all.


Justification by faith alone, not works.

Justification by faith as legal act of God, imputing righteousness to the believer. Unconditional election is basis.

Christ died a substitutionary death; paid for original and actual sins. Dependent on eternal election.


Priesthood of all believers composed of all believers on earth.

Salvation is possible outside of church. Church is visible and invisible.

A: Church composed only of believers; infants not involved. Church and state separate. Believers are pacifists.


Communicates grace. Produces forgiveness of sin; necessary for salvation. Infants baptised.

Only for believers, but children baptised to show they are in covenant.

Z: infants baptised.

A: Believers only; infant baptism rejected.

Lord’s Supper

Christ present in real sense. Unbelievers may profit.

Communicates grace. Believer partakes of Christ through faith.

Z: Memorial only. Bread is symbol of Christ, not His literal body.







Lord’s Supper


All believers on earth constitute the one invisible church. Visible church observed through ministry of Word and sacraments.

Necessary for salvation. Effects salvation. Infant baptism necessary; God works faith in them.

“Consubstantiation” – Christ is bodily present “in, with, under” the elements.


Universal church completed at Christ’s return. Salvation possible outside the church.

Sign of believer’s faith. Infant baptism necessary and sign of covenant.

Christ is spiritually present and mediates grace to participant.


Church composed only of believers (infants not part of the church). Emphasised church purity through discipline.

Baptism only for believers. Infant baptism rejected.

Memoriam only. Bread and cup symbolises Christ and His death. No grace is mediated.




The following will affirm the major tenets of Calvinism as it is generally taught today. John Calvin did not author the so-called “five points of Calvinism.” They originated at the Synod of Dort (1619), and are also a result of affirming the distinctives of Calvinism over the centuries since. God as sovereign was central in the theology of Calvin and that is reflected in the five points. The five points emphasise God in His sovereignty and grace but also man in his depravity and sin. The five concepts are arranged logically and are contingent upon one another. If man is totally depraved, then he is unable to make an initial response to God; God must call man to salvation through unconditional election; God also makes provision for those whom He calls to salvation by the death of Christ; He secures their salvation by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit and keeps them secure in order that they might receive the eternal life He has promised them. The accompanying table gives a more detailed explanation.




Total depravity

As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sin. Man is unable to save himself.



Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response.



Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect. All whom God has elected and Christ died for will be saved.

Irresistible Grace

Those whom God elected and Christ died for, God draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds.


of the Saints

The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure.


The Sacraments or Ordinances of the Church


Two Sacraments or Ordinances


The Reformers have historically recognised two sacraments or ordinances, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, whereas Roman Catholics have held to seven sacraments: Baptism, the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), Confirmation, Penance, Extreme unction, Holy Orders and Marriage. There is a difference of opinion regarding terminology. Catholics and some Protestants as Calvinists prefer the term sacrament, which comes from the Latin sacramentum, meaning “a thing set apart as sacred.” The term sacramentum in the Latin Vulgate was also used to translate the Greek word musterion (Ephesians 5: 32) and “came to be used for anything that had a secret or mysterious significance. The church-father Augustine called it ‘the visible form of an invisible grace’.” ‘Sacrament’ was later defined as an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”  By the sacraments or ordinances, we mean those outward rites which the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed to be administered in His church as visible signs of the saving truth of the Gospel. They are signs, in that they vividly express this truth and confirm it to the believer.




Meaning. New Testament baptism had its origin in the command of Jesus Christ to make disciples and baptise them (Matthew 28: 19). In the origination of the ordinance or sacrament there is a particular order established; the first act was to make disciples, then those disciples were to be baptised. This is the pattern that is carried out in the book of Acts. The apostle Peter commanded that his hearers should first repent, and then be baptised (Acts 2: 38). Only those who heard the gospel understood and responded to it through faith and repentance, could be baptised. The result was that the people received the Word, and then were baptised (Act 2: 41). Those who responded to Philip’s message first believed, then were baptised (Acts 8: 12), similarly with the Ethiopian (Acts 8: 38), with Paul (Acts 9: 18), the Caesarean Gentiles (Acts 10: 48), Lydia (Acts 16: 14-15), the Philippian jailers (Acts 16: 32-33), and Crispus (Acts 18: 8). All of these references indicate that baptism follows belief; repentance and faith precede the ordinance of baptism.


Baptism means identification. In the New Testament, baptism involves identification with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. Being baptised in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2: 38) stresses association with Him in the rite. Romans 6: 04-05 illustrates the meaning of water baptism. It is a public declaration that the believer has been united to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith in His death and resurrection.


According to the view of Reformed and Presbyterian churches, baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are “signs and seals of an inward and invisible thing by means whereof God works in us by the power of the Holy Spirit … Like circumcision in the Old Testament, baptism makes us sure of God’s promises… The act of baptism is both the means of initiation into the covenant and a sign of salvation.”


Other views of baptism


(1)   Means of saving grace (baptismal regeneration). In this view baptism “is a means by which God imparts saving grace; it results in the remission of sins. By either awakening or strengthening faith, baptism affects the washing of regeneration.” The Roman Catholic view is that faith is not necessary; the rite itself, properly performed, is sufficient. The Lutheran view is that faith is a prerequisite. Infants should be baptised and may possess unconscious faith or faith of the parents.

(2)   Symbol of our salvation. The view of Baptists and others is that baptism is only an outward sign of an inward change. It serves as a public testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. “It does not produce any spiritual change in the one baptised … Baptism conveys no direct spiritual benefit or blessing.” Moreover, it is to be conducted only with believers. Therefore, this second view is the only view that holds only believers should be baptised. The other views state that, along with adult converts, children (infants) should or may be baptised.




There are differences of long standing concerning the mode of baptism. Part of the problem is that the word baptism is actually an untranslated word, having been incorporated into English or any other language through transliteration of the Greek word baptisma (verb, baptizo). There are three modes of baptism being practiced today: sprinkling, pouring or effusion, and immersion.


Infant baptism


Infant baptism, which is practiced in the Reformed Church and Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and by Roman Catholics, is defended on several grounds. It is related to covenant theology. As infants in the nation Israel infant baptism is the counterpart of circumcision, which brings the infants into the Christian community. It is related to household salvation (compare Acts 16: 15, 31, 33-34; 18: 08). Some understand the statement, “when she and her household had been baptised” (Acts 16: 15) to mean infants were baptised.


The Lord’s Supper


The Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the eve of His crucifixion, commanding that His followers continue to observe it until His return (Matthew 26: 26-29; Mark 14; 22-25; Luke 22: 14-23). This was a new covenant or testament in contrast with the old Mosaic covenant. To enact the covenant, death was necessary because death provided forgiveness of sins. The apostle Paul also rehearsed the ordinance for the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 11: 23-32). Of course, the issue at hand is, what is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper? There have been four distinct views in Christianity concerning its meaning.


The Reformed view is also called the Calvinist view because its members are from the Reformed churches (and others) who follow Calvin’s teaching on the subject. Adherents to this view reject the notion of the literal presence of Christ in any sense and in this are similar to adherents of the memorial view. This view, however, does emphasise the “present spiritual work of Christ.” John Calvin[1] taught that Christ is “present and enjoyed in His entire person, both body and blood.” He emphasises the mystical communion of believers with the entire person of the Redeemer … the body and blood of Christ, though absent and locally present only in heaven, communicate a life-giving influence to the believer. Because of the mystical presence of Jesus Christ in the elements, grace is communicated to the participant in the elements; moreover, it is a grace that is similar to that received through the Word of God and in fact, it adds to the effectiveness of the Sacred Word.




Christ and the Elements



(Roman Catholic)

Bread and wine literally change to body and blood of Christ.

Believer partakes of Christ, who is being sacrificed in the Mass to atone for sins.



Bread and wine contain the body and blood of Christ but do not literally change. Christ is actually present “in, with, and under” the elements.

Believer receives forgiveness of sins and confirmation of one’s faith through partaking on the elements, but they must be received through faith.





Christ is not literally present in the elements but there is a spiritual presence of Christ.

Believer receives grace through partaking of the elements.


(Baptist, Mennonite)

Christ is not present physically or spiritually.

Believer commemorates the death of Christ.


Recommended reading:


“Systematic Theology” by Augustus H. Strong (Three Volumes in One) (Pickering & Inglis)




[1]  John Calvin (1509-1564), the respected and influential theologian of the Reformation, was born in Noyon, Picardy, sixty miles northeast of Paris, France in 1509. He began his studies for the priesthood at the University of Paris where he came under the influence of the humanists. (Because of a conflict with the bishop he eventually left to study law.) Later, Calvin studied law at Orleans, with further studies at Bourges. In 1534 he identified himself through conversion with Protestantism and was forced to leave France. John Calvin rejected the “superstitions of the Papacy.’ He was persecuted for his faith, imprisoned, but subsequently freed. Calvin came to Basel, Switzerland, where at the young age of twenty-six he completed his magnum opus, “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” (Institutio Religionis Christianae), an apologetic that defended Protestantism to the king of France. The work eventually underwent several revisions until it consisted of eighty chapters in four volumes. After a brief interlude in Strasbourg, John Calvin returned to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1541, to remain there the rest of his life. There, as pastor, Calvin spent his time preaching and lecturing daily. He also wrote commentaries on twenty-seven books of the Old Testament and on all the New Testament books except Revelation. Calvin’s authority in Geneva was both ecclesiastical and political. John Calvin was called the first scientific interpreter of the Bible.  He built a theology on the sovereignty of God that directed the Reformed Church in Europe and Scotland. He affirmed the Bible, not the church, as the final authority in religious matters. It was seen as the binding authority upon all people at all times. His adherence to inspiration was affirmed when he stated that it was the duty of people to accept “without any exception all that is delivered in the sacred Scriptures.” John Calvin has been referred to as the “king of commentators,” “the greatest exegete of the sixteenth century,” and the “creator of genuine exegesis.”  Others have referred to John Calvin as the first of the scientific interpreters. He produced sound exegetical commentaries on nearly all the books of Scripture, as well as an exposition of his theology in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, as briefly described above. He enunciated the following important principles for biblical interpretation. (1) The illumination of the Holy Spirit is necessary to prepare the interpretator of Scripture. (2) Allegorical interpretation is satanic, leading people away from the truth of Scripture, and therefore is to be rejected. (3) Scripture interprets Scripture.  This involved a number of things for John Calvin. It meant literal interpretation; it meant listening to Scripture and letting the author say what he will; it meant a study of the grammar of Scripture – meaning of  words, the context, and comparing Scripture with Scripture on common subjects.  Calvin’s influence was felt throughout Europe as his doctrinal teachings spread quickly. The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563 by friends of Calvin, influenced the Reformed churches in Belgium, Holland, Germany and America. The Belgian Confession, written in 1561 by Guy de Bray, became the standard of belief in the Dutch Reformed church. The Synod of Dort met in 1618-1619, condemned Arminianism and the Remonstrants, and reaffirmed Calvinistic doctrine as expressed in the Heidelberg and Belgian Confessions.