devotional

03MAY
2020

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 185

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 2: “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or not contained in it. So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.

 

Christians get their religion by the direct teaching of God the Holy Spirit in and by the word of God by all the means that he has ordained. I hope you agree with that. That’s not a Bible quote though. We do not believe such statements blindly. Scripture is the test. Some act like the Bible can’t communicate clearly without help. They’re usually trying to sell you something. It can. It does. Sometimes we just actually do need to read it!

 

No solid Christian I know is against creeds or confessions. Heck I’ve been going through one with you here nearly every week since 2014 because I enjoy this one over them all. I just wanted to talk about it for a while. I’m at liberty to do it. I am not against them in general. Confessions of faith help shape those involved with them as well as those who stand theologically downstream from them, and they have not ceased in their use. And they need not be 500 pages in length to make a huge difference. In just the past ten years, for example, a great many churches have added clear paragraphs in their statements of faith against homosexuality as some today are trying to claim that it’s in any way compatible with Christianity. Clear biblically deduced statements designed to let people know exactly what Scripture says on a matter are part of what we’ve always had against the wolves. Acts 20:28-32.

 

Disputes have arisen in history, my friends. I doubt that surprises anyone reading this. For God so loved the world he did NOT send a committee! Disputes arise. And there were often many sides to them. The same God over believers today was at work in believers throughout the church’s history to open up to them the divine mysteries of God’s word. Satan attacks—the church responds in Spirit and truth—repeat. When done well, this very often led to doctrinal codification. As Christians in the fourth century were met with the heresies of the Arians for example, they went to the text of Scripture to formulate answers. They were simply contending (fighting) for the Faith. Jude 3. They went to the Bible. Their answers led to the succinct statement we call the Apostles Creed affirming the triune nature of God and the true Deity of the Christ. This pinned the Arians down with language designed to be weasel proof. “Homoousios.” Man did this matter! Christians can still recite this creed today because it’s biblical. It’s a mirror not the actual thing it’s reflecting. Beliefs about God that can take perhaps years to mine and see throughout the text are made accessible in sentence format when a confession is done well. Songs have also done the same. If what’s made into sentence format is in fact true it will be seen throughout the biblical text exegetically.

 

Consider Acts 15:1-32 and the Jerusalem Council briefly. Now, this is in Scripture as an example of how this should work. The Apostles discussed a matter, heard differing positions, and then issued a succinct statement of faith on the facts of the matter in accord with their doctrine of the NC as they were experiencing it. They did all this in light of their Bibles, the Old Covenant Scriptures. Their statement shows thought soaked in Torah. They were the Apostles. Names figured on stones as foundations of all we believe. No one past them operates exactly like them, but insomuch as we accurately reflect God’s written revelation on a matter, Christians ever since have had a vested authority to explain what seems plain in the text.

 

Like in Nicaea, when the 450 year-old heresies of a devolved Romanism came to the fore by the sixteenth century the Reformers went to the same Scriptures, by the guidance of the same Spirit, to combat those papists on their synergistic, semi-Pelagian, semi-Augustinian, sacramental, works-based false and falsifying views on justification. They rightly helped us throw out bread worship and much holy hocus pocus, purgatorial foolishness, indulgences, etc. They did this exegetically. Then their books, sermons, creeds, catechisms, confessions, etc., helped those with eyes see the truth better.

 

However, confessions of faith are all without exception only our traditions. We don’t all have the same ones and they’re always subject to scrutiny. We test tradition by Scripture. We shouldn’t care one iota what James White says unless we see what he’s saying in Scripture. If we see what he’s saying in the word of God, then we should thank God for where James White helps. Depending on the volume of biblical data on a matter, confessions of faith can be more closely scrutinized, but no traditions are ever equal to Scripture. This is obvious by the very nature of Scripture as a unique collection of writings we alone call “inspired.” 2 Timothy 3:16.

 

God’s word alone then actually binds the conscience. And what a wonderful truth this is! What grace does this bring the heart to simply be able to test all that we believe by the same standard. Back in chapter 1.7 of this confession (dealt with in this series on 3 November 2014 in part ten) reads, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.” Our writings help summarize a solid church’s (or person’s) views on one matter or another to help the faithful in every step of their walk with Christ. Scripture sometimes takes work to grasp. God is pretty far beyond us in his genius. But our pastors and elders, etc., are here to help us in this great work in our own lifetimes.

 

To this end it’s certain that God’s people have rightly made great use of extra-biblical writings. And we should still do so today. Extra-biblical writings don’t “bind” our consciences, but they can help to guide our consciences.

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