devotional

26JAN
2020

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 174

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 7: “Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.”

 

Having Jesus as Savior, Lord and friend means having a God as master, “…subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.” This kind of willingness is more than just what one chooses to do on a given day. It includes that, but it’s also more than that.

 

There is a grand promise (among all the promises) of God in the Old Covenant (OC) that embodies, quite literally, the heart of the promise of the New Covenant (NC). It’s found in Jeremiah. We read this passage today in the NC and God teaches the saints about why it is that they believe. They believe because God has saved them from their sin and miraculously granted them new hearts. Because God has granted us new hearts, we believe in him literally “from the heart.” Old hearts don’t believe; these new ones do. Here’s the promise in Jeremiah. God says:

 

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34. (See Hebrews citations below to see this clearly linked from OC to NC).

 

The heart, the very center of all that’s us, is miraculously changed when God first saves someone. They then grow up in it as they live out their lives. Regeneration is the Spirit, or life, being breathed into a dead sinner making them alive together with Christ. Like the first Adam, Christians have breathed into them the life of the last Adam. It’s simple. In all its complexity, it’s simple: the heart of the covenant promised by God there in Jeremiah, believes. Not perfectly, but soundly and increasingly unto perfection. In the life of the believer, that new heart is transplanted and replaces the old. Hebrews 8:10; 10:16; 10:22; 2 Corinthians 3:3, etc. Consider the following as an imperfect metaphor. Like in a natural transplant, a body must “accept” a new organ. In the believer’s life, the mind wars against this new heart as it’s grafted in. The work of growth (or sanctification) is the new heart controlling the rest as all of a person is transformed into the image of Christ. Romans 8:29. The body would reject this new heart if it could, but it can’t when the surgery is done. The heart wins over the rest itself moving life. It’s an imperfect metaphor.

 

In the believer, sin dwells and this new life dwells. There are several analogies of this reality given in the Bible. One is that of the “old man” and the “new man.” Both the Law and the Gospel speak to the old and the new man as needed. Focusing on the Law at times can be as helpful as focusing on the Gospel for the believer. For instance, even though the Law was a matter of blessing and cursing for God’s nation, it showed them both God’s judgement and his grace toward them. The true Israelite ultimately trusted in the God of the covenant for their grace. Their works were not able to save them from the full weight of their sin. They knew that.  How could they not, right? The mercies of God showed them the depths of this splendid hope. In Christ today, when I look to the Law, just like the Hebrew, I know that my works, though commanded, cannot ultimately atone for my sin too. This is where the Gospel comes in. And back and forth I go to see God’s splendid mercy by the Cross. So, I can actually now look to both the Law and Gospel for the depth of my blessings.

 

The Gospel is an announcement. A proclamation. It tells us to do nothing. Nothing at all. The Gospel is instead the announcement of what God has done. God the Son died and rose again. Proclaiming that is the Gospel. It means: the forgiveness of sin. It means: reconciliation with God. It means: adoption, etc. It means: hope. But we are then commanded, because of it, to repent and believe. That we must do. We must place our faith in Jesus, etc. Both the Law and the Gospel teaches us this. The Law is not the Gospel, but, for Christians, it is in no way contrary to the Gospel. The new heart begins to understand this more and more being sanctified by the truth, by the Spirit, by God’s word. John 17:17-19.

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