Discovering The Reformed Confession (Part 5): Old, Rested, and Reformed

A question I have been asked many times over the past year is, “What was the moment the penny dropped for you regarding becoming confessionally Reformed?” Unfortunately, I am not sure I know the answer. Upon reflecting on my time in ministry over the last twenty-three years, this is the best way for me to summarize it: the more I studied, read, and interacted with other men, the more my convictions developed. One day, I discovered I was here. I had reached this point. I did come to realize, though, that much of my story can be told through a short selection of the men who shaped me.

A few years after planting Sovereign Grace, the granddaughter of Dr. Robert Strimple (Westminster Seminary California President Emeritus) was seeking membership in our church. She was a godly young woman who was raised in a faithful Reformed church, where she was baptized in infancy as the child of believing parents and was convicted that her baptism was biblical. We were happy to receive her as a member.

I was sitting at home studying when I received a phone call from Westminster Seminary California. I answered the phone, assuming the call was related to fundraising. To my surprise, I heard the distinctive voice of Dr. Robert Strimple, who wanted to ask me questions about our church—he was keen to know the nature of the church his granddaughter was attending. At one point he asked me, “Will you require my granddaughter to be rebaptized to be a member?” I replied, “Do you mean to be baptized for the first time, as infant baptism is not really baptism?” From there we began a discussion about baptism and church membership. I explained to him that our elders were not of one mind on the issue, but our practice is to receive those as members who were baptized as infants without requiring rebaptism. I will never forget the exchange that followed.

Dr. Strimple: “Does your church require baptism for its members?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dr. Strimple: “Does your church receive people like my granddaughter, who were baptized as infants, as members?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dr. Strimple: “Oh, so your church believes in the baptism of infants!”
Me: “Wait, umm, no. Well. . .”

I walked away from that conversation sensing the significant disconnect between my stated view of baptism and our church’s practice.1 This was the first time that I realized that our church needed to find its way to an ecclesiology. I did not know which direction we would go, how we would get there, or when we could make a change, but I knew something was had to give.

Enter Dr. R. Scott Clark: he regularly ticked me off on the Heidelblog as he wrote that men like me were not Reformed. What right did he have to define the term Reformed? Based on the popular use of the term among my friends, pastors I respected, and conferences I attended, I was Reformed. The arguments I found on the blog were compelling, but his paradigm for thinking about these matters was foreign to me. I decided to comment on one of his posts. Dr. Clark replied and offered to speak offline, and we began talking on the phone on a semi-regular basis. Through these conversations, I began to understand what he meant by Reformed doctrine, piety, and practice.

For all of his online polemics against the notion of Reformed Baptists or non-confessional evangelicals calling themselves “Reformed,” R. Scott Clark was far more catholic and charitable in person than I imagined he would be. He never accused me of being anything other than a faithful young pastor wrestling with what a faithful church and ministry practice looks like. He certainly has a view of proper confessional direction (Three Forms of Unity and Westminster Standards). He vigorously argued that Reformed was not a label that rightly belonged to men like me. He pointed me to books and articles to read. I did not entirely understand what he meant, but I continued reading. It was during this time that I also read several articles he, and others, wrote on the topics of covenant theology, law and gospel, baptism, church polity, and confessional standards.

Along the way, I also became friends with Dr. Richard Barcellos, who graciously and consistently showed me what confessional faithfulness looks like for Reformed Baptists. Rich Barcellos pressed me toward understanding what the men who wrote these confessions meant in their historical context. Rich encouraged me to read The Creedal Imperative by Dr. Carl Trueman. Rich helped me to take seriously the classical theism expressly taught in the Second London Baptist Confession.2 Rich also continually exhorted me to avoid looking down at men who are presently where I once was. It was due to Rich that I began to study more historic Reformed Baptist covenant theology. I began reading the works of Pascal Denault, Sam Renihan, and Nehemiah Coxe. The more covenant theology I read from the authors who held to 1689 covenant theology, the more I recognized my theological divergence from them. I simply was not seeing the continuity of the biblical covenants in the same way these men did.3

I became increasingly cognizant of the fact that I was an unmoored evangelical attempting to swim in Reformed waters. I read Reformed systematic theology with great delight. I found deep and broad agreement with Reformed Biblical commentaries. I had a growing desire to see Sovereign Grace tethered to a solid Reformed confessional tradition. I knew that the only other option was that our church continued following the doctrinal proclivities and pronouncements that emerged from the pulpit. I was still wrestling with what all this meant for Sovereign Grace. I had elders who were already convinced that baptizing the children of believers is a necessary implication of our covenant theology. I agreed with them that Reformed covenant theology is biblical.4 I knew that the baptism of the children of believers was a good consequence. The problem was that I was still unconvinced that it was a necessary consequence. To be fair, I do not know how much my blindness was driven by fears about the cost of seeing the necessity of infant baptism—should I attempt to press the church into an association of Confessional Reformed Baptists? Should I encourage us to begin to practice the sacraments in a manner more consistent with our own stated covenant theology? Was I fully convinced in such a way that I was willing to pay the cost of my conviction?

As I wrestled with these questions over the course of several years, it was ultimately the elders and members of my church who shaped me. Our church members asked incisive questions about our inconsistencies, questions which the elders were happy to receive. Some of them even arrived at confessionally Reformed answers before me—these men shaped me more than anyone else. I was not, however, shaped by them via poignant moments. Rather, it was by the daily interactions I had with these men. It was the weekly sermon study and prayer. It was the attempting to answer the questions of our members together. It was the reading, researching, and teaching we did together that led us here. We finally reached the point together where we were ready to settle—to end our restless journey—and to become confessionally Reformed. We were now becoming “Old, Rested, and Reformed.”


1. In fairness, there are Reformed Baptists who have received those baptized in infancy as members. Their practice, however, typically has more to do with caring for people without a good Presbyterian and Reformed church available than it does a conviction that those baptized as infants were validly baptized.
2. The doctrine of God and Christ is substantially the same in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Also, the work of Liam Goligher, Carl Trueman, James Dolezal, and Sam Renihan was helpful to me coming to understand a more classical doctrine of God.
3. There are variations within the 1689 Federalist camp regarding covenant theology. What they all hold in common is that the New Covenant is substantially distinct from the covenants of the Old Testament. They all believe that while Abraham, Moses, David et al., reveal the Covenant of Grace, it is only the New Covenant that is the Covenant of Grace.
4. By “Reformed covenant theology” I am referencing that school of thought summed up in the 7th chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

You can view the whole series here.

Note: This series was also translated into Spanish. You can find this whole series in Spanish here.


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Posted by Chad Vegas | Tuesday, June 27, 2023 | Categorized Discovering The Reformed Confession | Tagged , Bookmark the permalink.

About Chad Vegas

Chad is the founding pastor of Sovereign Grace Church. After completing his M.A. in Theology at Talbot, and being the high school pastor at RiverLakes Community Church, Chad was called to plant a church in Bakersfield. He is also the founding board chairman of Radius International, an organization that trains people to plant churches among unreached language groups. His passion is to know Christ and to make him known. He has been married to Teresa since 1994, and they have 2 children and one daughter-in-law.


  1. Thank you so very much for this article series! It is helping me far more than you know. I am a member of an RCUS church located near an Air Force base where we have a steady rotation of professing Reformed Baptists who attend. We have unsuccessfully tried to speak with these people in the past, as it seems there’s a barrier between us which we seem incapable of surmounting. I have a deep desire to reach these people, but I don’t know where to even begin, as the topic seems almost “taboo”. Do you have any advice on how I might begin?

  2. I remember reading “God Has Spoken” by J.I. Packer and wanting to throw the book against the wall when he said being Biblically consistent demanded infant baptism! I now believe in covenant baptism wholeheartedly. The challenge is that many people have secret a priori biases and assumptions preventing them from seeing the dots connect. Oftentimes in my limited experience, they think they know what Reformed infant baptism is. But they actually don’t. And 99% of the time they have never heard it articulated. Showcasing the exegetical foundations is very important.

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