devotional

12MAY
2019

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 147

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.

 

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Section 17, “Of the Perseverance of the Saints.” 17.1d: “… and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.”

 

It may unsettle some of us to speak of salvation in light of eternity. And I can understand why by personal experience. For some of us, we’re just barely coming to understand our salvation or identity in Jesus. Some of us have been taught things that, when someone begins to speak of God’s eternal plan of salvation in ways foreign to us, we react in shall we say, “Less than a Berean spirit.” Acts 17:10-11. But the Bible is full of wonderfully complex lessons. Some of them lift us up to the very heights of heaven. Others cover us in dirt. Others dangle us over the flames of hell. And at various times in one’s life, the same topics can actually do all three. In every case, however, the living word is transferring us as God wishes to holiness. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, wished all his officers could hang over hell for twenty-four hours prior to their commissioning. This he felt would motivate them well. That’d be a lesson!

 

The writers here speak of a “Book of life from all eternity.” In a previous section, they spoke of Jesus’ actual intercession for his elect. The Father electing, the Son redeeming and the Spirit regenerating is essential to a wonderful and robust triune doctrine of salvation. This, when understood, effectively removes universal atonement. Last week, I wrote a reflection on this confession about perseverance. How God keeps us in faith. How our relationship is based on his grasp, not ours. When Paul in Romans 8:35 asks, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” we are to hear this in the humbling reality that not even our sins and choices could. Paul doesn’t mention sin there, but they too aren’t able to separate us from Christ. Nothing can. Some believers would call what I said just now heresy, but they’re the same ones falsely assuming I’m teaching a “Once saved always saved” sort of perversion, and also likely those who seek to find their only true assurance of salvation in the mirror instead of in Christ. Neither of those ideas are appealing to me. And we’re always to test ourselves when asking if we’re saved by our present affections and religious disciplines.

 

But if we’re truly born again, we can’t truly die again. What then, are we to be born again again if we come again to Jesus? The Bible teaches no such thing.

 

So, when Paul says in Romans 8:28-30: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” he means to say that your salvation, yours and mine, are bigger than us. He means to give us an assurance beyond our mirrors in this. That our names were written in a book long before us. That we were predestined and so will be glorified if we today (presently) truly love and obey Jesus.

When were the “names written” in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Revelation 13:8 shows us this “Book of life” that was populated from the “Foundation of the world.” And please don’t turn God’s promise of *not* blotting out names into a threat he might. God doesn’t do that. He uses the example of not erasing out names from the book to show he’s not like those who’d do such a thing. Even my erring Arminian family wrote in 1610: “That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son before the foundation of the world, has determined that out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on this his son Jesus.” Even they knew it was fixed from before the foundation of the world. See my letter on this subject here: “The Logical Sovereignty of God.” (Five Articles of The Remonstrants. Article 1). Even the classical Arminian understands from a plain reading of Scripture that the Bible is clear that salvation was fixed for each and every one of us, whether to heaven or hell, before the foundation of the world. The Arminian simply cannot, in my theology, abandon themselves to grace by their beliefs.

Even though God entered into his creation through Mary, the Bible speaks of all of God’s works being done from before the foundation of the world. Hebrews 4:3. Jesus, before he even went to the Cross and rose again, his main purpose for coming, spoke as if he’d already “finished” the work he’d come to do. John 17:4 (10 minute sermon here). What else can account for such talk than a God who when he plans something will never ever once fail in it? And so much so that if he’s decided to do it, it’s literally as good as done insofar as its certainty is concerned.

The names of God’s elect were written in eternity past. Predestined. Jesus came to save his own. He will not fail. Never has. Never will. We do not know this secret will regarding anyone. We only have what’s written and that will be our judgment. If we obey, we’ll assure our hearts before him in love. And we’ll want to more and more. And we’ll want to see others do so more and more.

And please, as always, if you want to follow up on what the confession is on about, check out their citation references. You can copy/paste them as cited below each paragraph into something like Biblegateway.com and the engine will display each verse separately due to the “;” between them.

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