LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 111

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. 23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. This will be my personal reflections on this beloved written codification of the Christian Faith which is according to a Baptist flavor.




Section 11, paragraph 2a: “Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification…”


Faith is God’s “instrument of justification.” This is a well-crafted statement. It’s another reason why I cherish this document so much. Faith (unless it be a dead faith, see James 2:17) is not something we can produce and bring to God. It’s supernatural. That’s why it’s a miracle. It’s something that God gives to us. Its immediate cause is the Spirit of God himself calling us to life from death through the Gospel. It is life itself and nothing short of it. When he brings us life we will can then reciprocate it. God makes us alive…and we learn that he’s done so by the willing and active faith we see at work in our lives. This is the summation of what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-10. As we obey all that Jesus commanded the Apostles and prophets in our lives, we learn of that free grace more and more.

Faith is received. We must receive it. We must receive it willingly. No one goes to heaven who doesn’t desire to. Faith in Jesus as Christ is a gift. Matthew 16:17. But it’s not merely some external thing like a birthday present set next to a sinner that needs to be opened to be enjoyed. Faith is literally spiritual life itself. It’s the life that enables the arms of the now-living corpse to reach out. John 20:31; Philippians 1:29. If we have been born again, then and only then can we truly have faith. John 3:7-8; 1 Corinthians 12:3. We miss this so easily. Faith is our saving relationship with Jesus. It is the life he came to give his elect. The false idea of faith today by many beginners in grace is that it’s something God sort of just sets next to us like a Christmas gift. That it’s inactive, innate, and only an external option made available that sinners then need to open to have. God never opens it, he just lays it down they say. That modern oddity does not fit the consistent description of faith in Scripture. If God were just setting presents down next to corpses they’d never be opened anyway. He has to give life itself for there to be life. “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” Romans 6:17. Thanks be to God, not us. If I believe in Jesus then it’s something I did, but my receipt of Jesus did not come from me. Cf. John 1:12-13.

Justification always involves its recipients. We are regenerated without our invitation, but we are never justified without repentance and faith. Since it only follows regeneration, and would never or could never cancel it, it too is a work of grace alone, but it is never accomplished without the faith created in the mind and heart of a person being saved. Faith is received. Our justification is in our response to God having given us life in Jesus. Regeneration is the giving of the heart that believes and the eyes that see. With that new heart alone can a man believe and confess Jesus. Romans 10:9-10. That’s what the evangelist calls men to do. The evangelist calls men to repent and believe. He knows only regenerate men can do so. He knows only regenerate men desire to do so. Acts 13:48; Acts 16:14; Matthew 13:10-17. Justification is that place when faith is given back to God and God illuminates what the Cross is to that person’s salvation. It is God declaring us his adopted. When we have faith it’s because of what Jesus bought on the Cross. Hebrews 9:12. Because of what Jesus bought, we can receive the faith that’s been implanted in us.

Thus, though faith is a gift, Christians can be truly said to be able to rest in, trust in, and wholeheartedly believe the good news. We have been given life in Christ and so we are justified by the faith that both caused it and results from it. Do you trust in Christ? If you do, it’s because God freed your heart from its sinful nature to be able to do so. He was only doing so, throughout the history of the world, because of what Jesus did on the Cross. Those before the Cross were saved on credit. We today who are saved after the Cross are saved by debt. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10.

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