devotional

15MAR
2020

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 180

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 20. “Of the Gospel, and the Extent of the Grace Thereof.” Paragraph 3c: “…and therefore in all ages, the preaching of the gospel has been granted unto persons and nations, as to the extent or straitening of it, in great variety, according to the counsel of the will of God.”

 

What they’re on about here in this paragraph, that I’d like to begin with, is what God says in Hebrews 1:1-2a: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…” The Bible’s 66 books all show one story of God’s works to mankind. These inspired words are the seed of the Spirit’s work in every generation since God closed the book in the first century. It is my established opinion that God has never once, not even once, missed a nation or a person he intended to save. If that’s true, then he does not now, and never did, intend to save all. I know this, in part, because he saved just one nation—Israel, in the old days. They alone, by God’s direction, built an altar capable of honoring God. No one else ever did. See Deuteronomy 4:7; 2 Samuel 7:23. I wrote a very short article on this well over a decade ago called, “Not One Nation.” You can see it at the link just provided, or in the “articles” section of the website. The message of the Lord, as the confession says here that’s, “in all ages,” in its varying means of communication, has gone out everywhere God’s been pleased to have it go.

 

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11.

This is never not true. Whether for blessing or judgment.

 

In the New Covenant, which is now by the church going out to all nations and not just Israel and those few neighbors who shared in her promises, the promises of God in Christ are indeed even more so, “…granted unto persons and nations” as they say here. The song of Revelation 5:9 sings to God the Son: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Cf. Acts 20:28 as to whose blood that was. But God’s covenants have always overflowed their intended audiences by design. The Old Covenant, as I’ll discuss further here in two paragraphs, was always exclusive to one bloodline since the first Hebrew (Genesis 14:13) but as to personal election, there were many, by God alone, that were made partakers of his covenant graces outside that bloodline, even saving graces.

The universal church of Jesus today with its ~9,000 denominations (here’s another article I wrote years ago here called, “God’s Design in Denominations and Their Benefits in a Unified Body of Jesus Christ”) is the light and salt of any nation in which it exists. When they write here about “…the extent or straitening of it,” I believe it speaks of how the Gospel’s effect can better nations even like the U.S. that today, by and large, are under God’s wrath. Whole societies are improved where the Gospel takes root even if most of the members of it are condemned in the end. The biblical principles that underlie American values and justice systems, when humbly administered, form the model for the world. They improve cultures in every area. Unfortunately, cultures thus “improved” can still become the most blasphemous in forgetting the God who made them.

 

God’s covenant promises to Abraham were not formalized as a covenant to the seed of Israel until Moses. Abraham lived around 2000 BC. Moses and the Exodus occurred around 1450 BC. In Deuteronomy (literally the second Law giving) Moses writes explicitly that, “The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.” Deuteronomy 5:3. The promise 1) to the man Jacob who became Israel (cf. Genesis 35:10) and 2) to Israel as a nation (Genesis 17:17); that endured through Israel’s prophesied captivity in Egypt (cf. Genesis 15:13); that even endured through their forty years of wilderness wandering despite their rebellion (Numbers 14:33) was dedicated by blood just after they left Egypt. It was not the blood of circumcision with Abraham that dedicated it. Not in a formal sense anyway. Moses speaks of the covenant God made with the nation, as cited already here in Deuteronomy 5:3, as one he did not make with their fathers. That means all or any of them. The Mosaic Covenant was a continuation of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So much so that Paul speaks of the Law being “added” to the promises, but the covenant was still only formalized with Moses. “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions…until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.” Galatians 3:19. Circumcision was continued or upheld through Moses. The Ten Commandments, after the Exodus, establish a national covenant in its Mosaic sense. This, technically speaking, is the “Old Covenant.” The one that God in Hebrews is zealous to show as antiquated by the “New Covenant” in Jesus’ Cross and subsequent Resurrection from the dead. “He [Jesus] said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second.” Hebrews 10:9. The Old Covenant with Moses gave way to the New Covenant of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. This was always the intent. From the start to now, there has always been continuity between the two covenants, which are indeed in many ways all part of the same covenant of grace: Adam (post the Fall)-Noah-Abraham-Moses-David—Jesus.

 

Every epoch in God’s progressive revelation plays its part to reveal the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And they all do so in him with an unmistakably clear consistency for the educated. (Cf. Colossians 2:16-23). The Mosaic covenant included slaves purchased and the sojourners in the land as well. There has been great variety in how God’s done his works, but it’s all been done, “…according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” We know this since we’ve been told that, “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” (Ephesians 1:11, Acts 15:18 respectively).

 

God’s words and God’s works are never done or spoken in vain. This part of the confession reminds us of this throughout all of history.

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