LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 143

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. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Section 16, “Of Good Works.” 16.7: “Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner according to the word, nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, nor make a man meet to receive grace from God, and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God.”


Long ago, Todd Friel helped me with an analogy. He spoke of a woman wanting to cheat on her husband the moment he leaves for work rubbing his shoulders over breakfast. Let’s say he knew of his wife’s planned infidelity as she served him his eggs, toast and coffee. How then would her “kind gesture” of a back rub over breakfast to usher him off to work feel to her husband? It would be offensive. It would be uncomfortable. Unwelcome. Perverse. Her works would be entirely unacceptable in her hypocrisy. It’s the same when people who don’t love God perform things in false motives.

What the confession means here by the phrase, “although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others” is that non-believers can often have varying convictions about things like being honest, remaining faithful to a spouse, not murdering someone, not stealing, etc., but that the motivation God is looking for is one of immediate spiritual love that’s to last into eternity. These are actions today done in faith meant to return to God (the true God) love and praise for the honors he’s rendered us. They are not possibly works done as an end in themselves. Not even Satan lies every time. See, you cannot obey the Golden Rule of Jesus, “do to others as you’d have them do unto you,” on your own strength. Doing so for societal benefits may have certain communal/mutual benefits in a town, but such is not the motivations of the Gospel. Works must be done in the Spirit to be works pleasing in his sight. The heart must be right by faith or else it’s like playing a perhaps otherwise beautiful tune, even by a well-trained player, on a horribly out of tune violin. You need to be first saved to be able to truly love God or others at all. 1 John 4:19. The Lord makes our hearts right before God in regeneration. Our minds are always to catch up (in Romans 12:2 sorts) but our hearts are made alive by grace from day one of our salvation. In this we can then act well…or not. Old hearts must be made able to love God by the gift of a new one. Otherwise we’re nothing more than a criminal wiping up some accidentally spilled milk on the way out of a house we’ve just robbed when we outwardly obey some form of good behavior. The profitability of our sincere obedience to the commandment to love others, what Jesus said is the second of the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:39) is only based on obedience to the commandment that he said is even greater: “To love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Matthew 22:37-38. Loving God above all and first matters most. Jesus said (NASB) that this, “is the great and foremost commandment.” Doing commandment number two (unto others) must be in light of commandment one (unto God) for commandment number two’s obedience to possibly be anything to God other than an unfaithful woman’s backrubs to a spouse she’s dishonoring in her heart.

Why do we say this? Well, there are many reasons. There are two categories of humanity tonight, dear reader. Just two and not even one more. Among those currently alive there are those dead to sin and those dead in sin. There are children of God and children of Satan. Of light or darkness. Jesus or Adam. Those of Satan, darkness or Adam, etc., have a categorical problem that only Jesus can fix. That he must first fix. None of their works can be accepted by God until he fixes their wills. He won’t accept them until they’re in a quite literal sense purified. Like a customs agent refuses a soiled container at the port, no foul thing will enter God’s kingdom. Until a person is pardoned by the Lord’s perfect payment for sin, works done to God are like a criminal paying back his debtor with someone else’s stolen cash. Nothing a non-believer does can please God, even when the obey, at least the few times they do, the written commandments. Scripture says, “…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8. “Hostile” we say. “Cannot please God.” But works done by those not in the flesh, do please God. Colossians 1:9-12; 1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:4, etc. Of Jesus it was said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:17. In John 8:29 Jesus said, “He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” That’s what we want. Those in Jesus are seeking his honor. Matthew 12:30.

He came to forgive the sins of men and empower them to be able to please God. He fixes wills so that men stop only willing to do wrong. Those forgiven are then pleased to do the works they’ve been given to do. It is in fact their greatest joy to bring honor to their redeemer and blessing into the lives of others in every possible way. Such works done in the Faith are profitable to us who are not in the flesh any longer. Titus 3:8. They profit nothing when done only in the flesh. John 6:63.

This last part is very helpful. They write, “and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God.” Not doing good things by the power of a Holy Spirit-filled life is still culpable in the life of the unbeliever. Unbelievers are damned for not doing what they should have done, and also damned for doing what they did. Despite the fact that they cannot please God who are unregenerate, pharaoh’s army was still crushed in the sea. No one resists his will, and yet, those who do will die. Romans 9:19, etc.

Have you called out to Jesus from a pure heart? You’ve only done so by the gift of faith. Have you never done so? Pray that you might. If you’re not willing to pray that you might, you’ll be damned in your unpurified heart for sin. The Gospel is for the repentant, and the wages of sin is death. Look to Christ and you will know not just new things to do, but a delightfully new motive to ever do them.


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