devotional

21JAN
2020

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 173

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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Chapter 19. “Of the Law of God.” Paragraph 6d: “…The promises of it likewise shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.”

 

Even under the Law a Hebrew’s only true boast was the free grace of God. We see this today in Christ even more clearly than perhaps most of them could by a clearer exposition of that same grace. Salvation is based on God’s choosing, not performance. But then what should we say of performance? Martin Luther saw some in his own day in Germany casting off all commanded obediences by his clear Augustinianism and retracted from long talks on election as a result. Grace makes only devils lazy I say. Several have made errors by tossing out all obedience to the Law or to any commandments. We call this anti-nomianism which means to be “against law.” We don’t want to do that. With grace as our guide we don’t have to. Freedom in Christ actually means freedom to obey. We are free slaves. The Law has a positive message too for us today. 

 

Here then is shown another aspect of God’s holy laws. God rewards his own for obedience. We should know this. Hebrews 11:6 reads, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” This was always the case throughout redemptive history. In the first days outside Eden long before Noah, Abraham or Moses, God presents Cain with sin and obedience as a choice between what’s good and what’s evil. As reward or punishment based upon what he did. God says, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7. The Law functions like this in a thousand ways. It shows good and evil to men. Don’t forget that it shows the good too. 

 

Christ amplified the use of the Law on the Sermon on the Mount more than anyone by showing its illumination in us as a torch in his hand. The Law today is both a rebuke and an invite depending on one’s standing with God. Sometimes we lose track of this today in our pursuit for a solid view of justification, and the in true affirmation that we cannot in any way merit Christ, but in this we may inadvertently lose sight of God’s full counsel and rob ourselves of the depth of the Bible in describing God’s blessings on obedience. Obey God and you’ll be blessed. Simple. That’s a message we can’t be afraid to shout out. Obedience and resultant blessing, like disobedience and discipline, is part of sanctification. To illustrate this, consider Paul’s use of the Law to kids: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3.

 

The Law shows us both what God punishes, and, as the confession here reminds us, also what God rewards. Seeing this by the Law does not mean one is under the Law as a means of righteousness. 

 

The Law showed the Israelites a God who rewards obedience and punishes disobedience. It shows the Christian the same today. If the Hebrew obeyed, they were blessed. If they disobeyed, they were punished. Deuteronomy 28 is full of the blessings and curses in the Law. What I want to highlight here is that the Law also shows rewards for obedience. The New Covenant affirms this positive use of the Law everywhere. The Law is not therefore against the promises of God at all. It instead affirms them in multiple ways, dear reader, by affirming Christ. Jesus gives commandments in the New Covenant too. In not one shade less, his commandments do the same as the commandments we have with Moses. They show reward for obedience and threatenings for disobedience…even among God’s covenant people. Today, God’s covenant people are all those born again. In Christ, we must work to understand how we can be informed by, but yet not under, Law.

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