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  • Writer's pictureVic Bernales

The Origin of Reformed Churches

Some of my friends are asking about the Reformed Church and the Reformed tradition. Sometime ago, I've posted a short summary of what it means to be Reformed.

I am aware of the diversity within this Christian tradition. The Reformed community is as diverse as any groups within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

In terms of its history or origin though, the designation *Reformed* is a term that goes back to the 16th century Reformation. This century was a period when the Western (Latin) Church underwent radical changes in attempting to return Christianity to the authority and teachings of Scripture.

The desire of the Reformation was not to start a new denomination or to change God's Word or to add to its teachings. Rather the men of the Reformation made an urgent call to bring the Church back to the Bible, to reform the Church, making its doctrines and practices rooted in and conformed to the holy Scripture.

The people used by the Lord to cause the Reformation were first of all men and women of the Word. They also loved the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were concerned of the darkness and ignorance that prevailed over it. They were saddened that the Church they love has departed from the teachings of the Bible and started to believe in superstitions and invented practices not rooted in and in line with the Scripture.

Led by Martin Luther (1483-1546), Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), Martin Bucer (1491-1551), John Calvin (1509-1564), Heinrich Bullinger (1505-1575), and many others, the Reformation churches split off from the errors of the medieval Roman Catholic Church and began what we know today as Protestantism.

The Protestant Reformation was sparked by Luther’s posting of his "Ninety-Five Theses" or "Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" on October 31, 1517. He did the posting on the castle church’s door at Wittenburg (now Lutherstadt), Germany.

Although Luther's viral post helped spread the Reformation movement all over Europe, Zwingli's Swiss reformation in Zurich and Calvin's reformatory work in Geneva played an important part in establishing Reformed churches not only in Europe but eventually in other continents as well.

The first Reformed churches were established around 1519 in the Swiss region and in Germany. It then spread in France, the Netherlands, Scotland, and some parts of continental Europe and the British isles, and were part of the Reformation movement. Eventually Reformed congregations were started in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean.

The Reformed faith believes in the supreme and final authority of the Holy Scripture in matters of doctrine and conduct. Reformed churches subscribe to the essential doctrines of Scripture summarized in the ancient creeds of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church – the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

In the Reformed churches, these basic doctrines contained in the ancient creeds are carefully expressed and explained in the Reformed confessions.

Some examples of these confessions include the French Confession (1559), the Scots Confession (1560), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1571), the Canons of Dort (1618-1619), the Westminster Standards (1646-1647), and a few more standards.

These confessions were written by devout Christian men serving as ministers in the church of Jesus Christ. These men were led to write such confessions in response to the call of the time when biblical doctrines must be clarified, defended, and stated carefully avoiding errors and renouncing heresies.

These confessions are not infallible. Their subordinate authority is derived from the supreme authority of the Holy Scripture. These seek to express and summarize clearly essential doctrines of Scripture for the unity of the church in the truth and for purity and integrity in its practice.


Posted with permission from Ptr Vic Bernales, Pastor, Davao Covenant Reformed Church

Original from a Facebook post here.


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