devotional

24NOV
2018

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 128

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.

 

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Section 14.3a: “This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong, yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers…”

 

Faith is not blind. Faith is not, “Well, I’ll live my live by this ideology and if it’s true then I’m good; if it’s not true I’ve still lived a life of virtue.” None of that Pascalian wager nonsense. Faith is nothing but knowing God and his ways intimately and growing in that knowledge to produce the kind of worshipful living that makes sense of why the fallen world still spins in this manner. I have no problem saying that God “wanted a fallen world.” I use that term in the sense I must in that nothing is an accident, and that he is always working out all that he does according to the counsel of his own perfect will, Ephesians 1:11. What the Bible demands I do in light of such a God is an attempt to reason out why?

In this pursuit (which I will not venture an answer to today as such is not the intent of this part of the confession), I can say that the faith God gives, every single solitary time he gives it, is active, breaking, cutting, enduring, passionate, purging, building, testing, pervasive and growing in the lives of its recipients and all such is done evidentially rooted in Scriptural appropriation. Romans 8:29-30 shows me the certainty of faith as I define it today in Jesus. This is how you can recognize my faith, and I yours. We’ve both been given it. That rooting and grounding that we will all grow in, at times, is not any of those wonderful descriptors. Study is about knowledge sometimes. Pure book knowledge. God has made himself known in a book. Those who know God best therefore know his book in consistent depth. That will produce emotion and worship. That logos (word) will work itself out in a passionate pursuit of Christ and his word.

 

What the confession addresses here aids us in that weekly struggle we’ll all face as we consider why the church is ever the way it is? Why are there so few men and women who seem to be rooted in the Faith? Able to defend it? We can relax. It’s not always about passion and the ability to teach. Not everyone, not most or even many, are called to preach. Yet God saves all by the same granting of faith. One theologian spoke well of what I’m thinking of here when he said, “If one of two men on a plane from Ohio to Florida is in full doubt as to his safety and fears crashing, and the other is fully confident, if they both arrive in Florida, they both still arrive in Florida. It’s not the confidence of either passenger, but that they have boarded the plane that gets them there.” This is no Pascalian wager. Now I’ll add that confidence should come with experienced flight, but it is not confidence in, but participation with Christ that we can rejoice in in the lives of anyone responding to the Gospel. This faith may seem “weak or strong” at times, but it is still exactly what it is—saving faith. We may not see everyone as a Paul, but if they are in his Jesus they are just as justified as he. We can rejoice whenever anyone believes, John 3:16. There is, however, a false faith. This is what they’re distinguishing the true faith from here. A true faith may not always show itself as we’d expect, but it will not ever fall away. A false faith will throw in the towel if it suits. It will die, Mark 4:1-20. Even if it is only at the final judgment that the death of this false faith is shown, it will still not be eternal and so by definition was never saving faith.

 

Common grace is a term some don’t like. I like it. Simply (and perhaps crassly) put, common grace is that grace that may still end in hell in one’s life. All “saving graces.” Things like Bible study, song, fellowship, prayer, fasting, evangelism, discipline, marriage (yes), singleness, etc., are altogether each and together to a different end at work in the lives of any true disciple from the non-believer. Non-believers may engage in one or all of the “saving graces” outwardly but they are not to them a part of saving graces. They are still to them only more of the common graces in the end.

 

The “faith” they speak of here is that which God gives. It is different than the false faith we see so often displayed in Scripture. James speaks of it, James 2:18-24. Jesus speaks of it, Matthew 7:21. Paul speaks of it, Galatians 2:4. Moses dealt with it, Exodus 32:19. David too dealt with it and speaks of it. On and on and on.

 

There is a false faith that appears to fall away from true faith. There has always been this. True faith never does this! The God who saves is the God who keeps. He never does half-jobs. Moses asked God, “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people,” Exodus 32:12. He knew God had promised something else to Abraham. Even when God said he’d start over with Moses as the continuation from Abraham, vs. 10, Moses knew there was more than just Levi’s tribe at work. God knew it full well and used this to teach us all. The answer is the same except clearer today. In eternity, no one will say to God that he saved anyone to then leave them undone in the mountains. The faith God gives is eternal life. By Christian definition it can never therefore die. It is eternal life.

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