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THE ESSENTIALS OF OUR FAITH
All Scripture is self-attesting and being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The infallible Word of God, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is a complete and unified witness to God’s redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks. On this sure foundation we affirm these Essentials:
1. We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To Him be all honor, glory and praise forever!
2. Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth. He who is true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died on the cross a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now is our High Priest and Mediator.
3. The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to our hearts. He convicts us of sin and draws us to the Savior. Indwelling our hearts, He gives new life to us, empowers and imparts gifts to us for service. He instructs and guides us into all truth, and seals us for the day of redemption.
4. Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifies them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.
5. The true Church is composed of all persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are united together in the body of Christ. The Church finds her visible, yet imperfect, expression in local congregations where the Word of God is preached in its purity and the sacraments are administered in their integrity; where scriptural discipline is practiced, and where loving fellowship is maintained. For her perfecting, she awaits the return of her Lord.
6. Jesus Christ will come again to the earth—personally, visibly, and bodily—to judge the living and the dead, and to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
7. The Lord Jesus Christ commands all believers to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and to make disciples of all nations. Obedience to the Great Commission requires total commitment to “Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.” He calls us to a life of self-denying love and service. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
These Essentials are set forth in greater detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT TO “THE ESSENTIALS OF OUR FAITH”
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a confessional statement of orthodox Presbyterianism. The Westminster Confession of Faith is our standard of doctrine as found in Scripture. It is a positive statement of the Reformed Faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith constitutes a system of biblical truth that an officer of the EPC is required to believe, acknowledging that each individual court has the freedom to allow exceptions that do not infringe upon the system of doctrine in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The “Essentials of Our Faith” is a conciliatory statement of historic evangelicalism. The purpose of the “Essentials of Our Faith” is to define core beliefs of the Christian Faith. It expresses historic Christian teaching common to all true believers and churches throughout the world. The “Essentials of Our Faith” is not intended to be the exclusive test of orthodoxy for ordination. It is not intended to be used as an explicit standard for minimal core beliefs for candidates, ordination or ministerial examinations. It is not to be construed as a substitute for the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The Westminster Confession of Faith and the “Essentials of Our Faith” are important documents in the EPC. They are not alternative statements of truth, nor are they competitive statements of truth. They both serve important and harmonious purposes within the EPC. The Westminster Confession of Faith preserves our commitment to the historic orthodoxy of the Reformed Faith, while the “Essentials of Our Faith” preserves our commitment to historic evangelicalism.
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms has been our doctrinal foundation since our beginnings in 1981. Two versions are available for use in the EPC.
The traditional version with EPC-approved amendments is available for download. This version is, in main, the American version of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter 24 (Of Marriage and Divorce) is the PCUS version as amended by the EPC. The EPC adopted chapters 34 (Of the Holy Spirit) and 35 (Of the Gospel of the Love of God and Missions), which are 1903 additions of the PCUSA.
The EPC adopted the modern English version in 1984. Two formats are available, both with Scripture references in the text:
EPC ministers, Ruling Elders, and Deacons take a vow on their ordination saying that they “receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures.” The 22nd General Assembly in 2002 commended the paper “What It Means to Receive and Adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith” as a resource to understand this topic.
LARGER AND SHORTER CATECHISM
The Larger Catechism, along with the Shorter Catechism, is a summary or exposition of Reformed doctrine as contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith, and are part of the Constitution and confessional standard of the EPC. Two versions of both are available for use in the EPC.
Click here to download a traditional-language version in pdf format, which includes those portions amended by action of the General Assembly of the EPC.
Click here to download a modern English version of the Larger Catechism (including Scripture references in the text).
Click here to download a traditional-language version, as amended by the EPC, in pdf format.
Click here to order a modern English version as adopted by the EPC—including Scripture references in the text—as part of The Westminster Confession and Catechisms in Modern English, which is available at www.epcresources.org. Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to make the Modern English version available as a pdf download.
A Position Paper identifies the positions of the EPC to the world. Each is intended to set forth the "mind" of the General Assembly on some particular issue or subject. It is not intended to be a thorough theological statement, nor a complete exegetical biblical study. The purpose of such a Position Paper is to enable the EPC to make a statement to itself, the Christian community, and the world in general on a subject of recurring interest, or one on which there is current compelling interest. Position Papers are neither part of the EPC Constitution nor represent in-and-of-themselves "essentials" of the church.
A Position Paper is approved through several steps. It is first introduced in a preliminary form and approved by the General Assembly. Next, it is circulated among the presbyteries for comment for a minimum of one year. Finally, it requires approval by a second General Assembly.
The following Position Papers have been authorized by the EPC and are available in pdf format:
A Pastoral Letter is intended to shine the light of God's Word broadly on an area of general concern to the Church. It is not as definitive as a Position Paper, and requires the approval of only one General Assembly. The primary purpose of a Pastoral Letter is to guide churches within the EPC, rather than to identify our positions to the world. Nine Pastoral Letters have been authorized for use within the EPC:
• Children and the Lord's Supper.
• Civil Disobedience.
• Criteria for Evaluating Membership in Secret Fraternal Organizations.
• Domestic Abuse.
• Human Sexuality.
• Open Theism.
• Organ Donation and Transplantation.
• The Use of Catechisms in the EPC.
To request one or more of these approved Letters, please complete the form below.