devotional

27APR
2020

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 184

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.

 

NEXT-

 

Chapter 21. Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience. Paragraph 1c: “All which were common also to believers under the law for the substance of them; but under the New Testament the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of a ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected, and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.”

 

This section could be summarized well by many verses. I could summarize it just with Romans 5:1-2. If someone understood Romans 5:1-2 they’d have a base from which to see this section.

 

Imagine if again for you and your people’s sins this year you were preparing to travel to a city perhaps far away to offer to God an animal’s life as a blood sacrifice. If instead of looking to a finished sacrifice never to be repeated (or re-presented) on Calvary you had to prepare for another sacrifice this spring. And then another. And then for generations to come for your children. In this, in part, we see our freedom in Christ made evident. A greater liberty in remembrance of our liberator’s now and evermore vacant Cross. He made an end to altars and blood sacrifices for God’s people. The spiritual realities underlying this make this what it is.

 

When they speak of “ceremonial law” here, if you’re not sure, think priestly Levitical law given with Moses.

 

Paul goes to great lengths in his letters to honor God by showing the vast superiority of the New Covenant (NC) to the Old Covenant (OC). The OC is AKA the Mosaic Law. Paul summarizes such teaching in Galatians 3:31 saying, “So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.” His intentions are clear in presenting the two covenants in this way. Paul calls the Mosaic Law that he loved things like death, bondage, dead letter, a bad spouse, etc., only to make a juxtaposing point. He’s not against the Law. No way no how. Paul speaks in these ways against those who by some perversion of the OC denigrate the NC it gave way to. Jesus, and the NC in him, is better than the OC. Paul, like all NC writers, is zealous to be clear on that. It’s the NC that honors the OC. To deny Jesus is to deny not just the NC, but the OC as well.

 

Christians (believers) have a NC with God in Christ. It’s settled. This covenant is open to all who believe. NC members then, on any given day, have a kind of “boldness” where they can approach God and not be killed. Cf. Hebrews 12:18-24. An invited boldness to God’s grace as sons and daughters. Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 3:1. A boldness only possible because of the realities behind one of the main points in all of Hebrews and all of the Bible—that the glorified Jesus (the Messiah, the Christ) is now personally at the head of all of what God’s people have in him. See carefully Hebrews 8:1. The NC has replaced the OC (Hebrews 8 alone is more than sufficient for this point). God’s people today dare not cast off the OC, but we are also not at all under it. Amen. This change, made alone by the unchanging triune God, happened at a specific point in time in history and continues today in these so-called “last days.” This was always God’s purpose. In Jesus’ life and completed works, the OC was always to give way to the NC. And it did.

 

Despite the clear evidence of a short and unique overlapping period of time we often call the “Apostolic Era” from about AD 30-70 or as late as AD 90, this glorious NC became “open for business” in Acts 2 with the official birth of the NC church. Acts 2:33 declares the NC church’s opening day plainly and shows the necessary actions that gave rise to it in Jesus. Jesus’ blood had to be shed for God the Holy Spirit to enact the NC as it is. Hebrews 9:15-16. That’s all been done. The confession here speaks of things like “greater access” and a “fuller communication” between the NC and the OC. This is true in many ways if we don’t devalue Pentecost and hence practice Sola Scriptura. Its fullest truth I think is in the way Scripture speaks of the very presence of the Holy Spirit in each believer. Temples. God the Spirit, given to each child of God in this NC manner revealing Christ by the word, in both what he’s done and who he is, is the very promise of the NC fulfilled (Cf. John 7:39; 16:7; Galatians 3:14, etc.). Hearts of flesh, raised up to experiential life in Christ, bound in love and all taught by God, etc. NC members have all this unlike the OC believer…even on their best days…because we now have an Ascended Jesus. He’s come. He’s done it all. We needed Jesus, post his glorification, to have the prayer in John 17:22 even made answerable. He accomplished it all. His prayer was answered. It started, for certain, in Acts 2.

 

Abraham and Moses were born again (selecting just two figure heads in my faith’s history). I too, like them, have been born again. I must confess this. I must also confess that what they had with God was much less than what I have. We both have the same inheritance, but the covenant I have is far different than what either of them had. “But Abraham talked face to face with God” some might say. Genesis 15:5. I know. So did Moses. Deuteronomy 34:10. I’ve never done that. I have never heard God’s audible voice once. The visions I’ve seen of him weren’t like the prophets of old. Moses saw miraculous pillars of fire at night and clouds shielding the sun overhead by day for decades. Abraham saw a wicked city destroyed after conversing with the Most High. Manna appeared from heaven and water flowed from rocks with Moses. I’ve seen nothing with my eyes so fantastic as God’s manifest presence. I’ve not passed through a visible Red Sea. And on so much can go. So how can I say, as is said here in the confession, that I today have something in faith “further enlarged” than them? How can anyone say that? It’s simple. It’s all based on what Christ has done, not on what we have seen.

 

Immediately to mind come two things in one truth to teach me this:

1) Listen to Jesus speak of John the Witness: “…what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My Messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:9-11. Now remember, John the Witness was an OC prophet. Jesus had not yet died. John’s role came from God. He’s here given tribute among all the prophets being called even “…more than a prophet.” He was a prophesied messenger. So crucial was John, and so close to Jesus was he that when Jesus began to teach he knew, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. Who else could say that? Consider this: John literally baptized God in the Jordan River in Bethany. Yikes! Talk about a part to play! John’s role in Mark 1:1-8 actually shows his public ministry to be the start of the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself. And it seems to go even further out in scope than that when Jesus says, “…of those born of women there is none greater” than him. After Eve, all were made through women. Yep. And John’s the greatest of them all. Now, Jesus brought a kingdom to earth. And said of it that one “least” in that kingdom is greater than John himself- who was the greatest of all. The least partaker of that NC is greater even than John. Wow! That’s humbling! This NC is to be explored partly just by exploring how such amazing things could ever be true. Cf. Ephesians 1:3 to see. Again I say: It’s all based on what Christ has done, not on what we have seen.

2) If in Christ, I am in this kingdom. A citizen. A logged member. A legal alien. A partaker of a new eternal identity. It’s the land to which Abraham figuratively looked, and before which, figuratively speaking, even Moses was not allowed to enter. The New Birth I have in Christ is a bona-fide miracle (book coming someday) that literally, in reality, drew me closer to God than even passing through the Red Sea on dry land ever could. Dear reader, do you recognize the fact that people saw even Jesus’ miracles and died remaining dead in their sins?! They’re in hell as I write this. Salvation is the greatest miracle we can have and it is a true miracle. Seeing other miracles does not necessarily convert anyone. Partaking of the greatest of all miracles always does. So, the greatest of miracles—salvation—is something I rise and sleep in every day, and get to tell people about every day. You too. Greater works indeed do I get to do when I seek the best gifts. I have an impeccable and eternal mediator, having already passed through death, who’s fulfilled every promise made to the fathers I can trace, Ascended into heaven, and on the basis of his once-for-all-time shed blood today is mediating the benefits of the NC for me. Studying out each of these truths is its own lifetime in Scripture.

This is, of course, a short examination of what it means to say that I have more in Christ in the NC than anyone did in the OC.

Born again are all God’s people, but in the NC, Jesus’ finished work makes this a far superior reality. If nothing else, please see this today as a chronologically certain necessity. Moses once asked God what he should call him. I have the name above every name. Simeon died contented just knowing that Jesus was born. I’ll die having known him Ascended. Simeon was born again. He was in love with my God. I am born from above too, but I know how far better than he, and I have a residence he simply could not have. My ordinary day, if I can but apprehend it, shows me in a far higher and safer cleft than even Moses was on that “un-ordinary” day when he saw God from behind. Exodus 33. Moses put a veil on in his life. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. We who obey God live in this abundance of life. John 10:10.

If you don’t know God, I pray you will come to. Repent of your sin. Repent and believe the good news. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

 

 

Here’s an audio message on John the Witness (AKA John the Baptist) I gave many years ago that I thought might be a blessing to some of you:

“The Sovereign Promise of John The Baptist.”

One response to “LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 184”

  1. Michael D. says:

    Correct. 100% correct!

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