LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 192

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.




Chapter 22. Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day. Paragraph 4: “Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.”

Last time, we talked about how praying “in Jesus’ name” has far more to do with the spiritual condition of the one praying than with any words used. One can pray saying “…in Jesus’ name” and not be “in Jesus” at all. Their prayers would be profitless, therefore. Cf. perhaps that most terrifying of statements from Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 as evidence for this.

We’re still looking at prayer today. One of the only direct questions about what to do the disciples ever asked Jesus was when they asked him how to pray. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” in Luke 11:1. He gave them a great formula that we can even pray verbatim unto God at times that we call the “Lord’s prayer.”

The confession speaks of “lawful” things to pray for. There are apparently then unlawful things that they say we shouldn’t pray for. An unlawful prayer would be anything not of God’s will, but since we can’t always know what the will of God is, I think they intend us to be a bit more specific. I should not pray that someone’s brakes give out on their car if we’re both going in for the same job interview. That would be an example of unlawful prayer. If I see someone having a phone and I need one, stealing it saying, “The Lord has provided, amen” would obviously be an unlawful prayer of thanksgiving. I should not pray for my baby to die in my girlfriend’s womb as its life would just be too much for us to bear. God would hate such a prayer. One kind of unlawful prayer I abused all the time back when I was a cult member in the Word of Faith movement were prayers for fast cars and luxurious houses for me to “Glorify God” by. Selfish prayers for things of the flesh are unlawful. “Lawful prayers” are really just prayers for the kinds of things God invites his children to pray for or about. It’s growing in the knowledge of what to pray for and how that makes our prayers lawful, and that makes them acceptable to God. Many people are upset with God for not doing things he never promised them he’d do in the first place. We don’t want to be there in life. The mature believer doesn’t pray with a shotgun, he prays with an arrow.

We pray for the living. We pray for future generations. We pray as members of the church today in the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11; 12:1) of the saints who’ve gone before us, remembering who they were in their lives, and what God did with them. We pray for the church in the next generation, and for our kids in days to come. We pray for our leaders in government and should seek to bend over backwards to submit to them as leaders knowing that God himself put them there. All of this is lawful and shown acceptable or even modeled in Scripture. We don’t turn even something blessed like the Lord’s (or disciple’s) prayer into a “…meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” -Jesus. Matthew 6:7. We must know better. We don’t pray in gibberish tongues either. That would be unlawful or vain babbling.

The Roman Catholic church, as was and is still fitting, was to be distanced from in the days of the authors of this confession. Rome still offers its masses for the living and the dead. Christians should not do this! The Council of Florence, for example, declared in 1439:

“[We define] likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from those pains they are benefited by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice of the Church”

There is no purgatory, of course. It’s the safety net of a manmade system that can promise no perfection to its people like the one Jesus offers his own on the Cross. Hebrews 10:14. No one dead needs prayers in a place that does not exist, therefore. This is another type of prayer that would be unlawful. The confession’s writers wrote to remind people being saved from Rome’s thorn bush to pray only as is lawful, as Scripture shows or prescribes—for the living.

Sinning the “sin unto death” is a much more delicate matter as they speak of it here. What is this sin exactly, for example? Is this the unpardonable sin that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:32? In the case with Jesus there it’s rather clear what this sin is. But I’ll mention soon why I don’t think that this is what’s in view. There’s another passage that I think can help us here with what they’re talking about in the confession. John writes, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.” 1 John 5:16. The unpardonable sin Jesus spoke directly of in Matthew 12, without beating up any bushes, was that of the religious teachers, leaders who likely trimmed the wick of the very lampstand in the temple of God who, in Jesus’ earthly ministry days said that Jesus’ supernatural power was Satan’s. They said that the work of God the Holy Spirit was Satan’s work. And they meant it. Jesus healed a blind and mute man and in vs. 24 they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” It showed them so far hardened by God to say such a thing that it received the strongest rebuke from Jesus and an emphatic warning about its penalty. Can anyone commit this specific sin after Jesus’ Ascension? I say no. I don’t believe so. This specific sin was something Israel’s leaders were guilty of as they stood next to God incarnate and saw his miracle power at work. Their sin was unique. Like no one today could commit the sin of Uzzah (cf. 2 Samuel 6:6-7) I don’t think anyone commits this sin today. In other words, you have to have Jesus present like Uzzah needed the ark present to commit such a thing. It was something for that day and hour. And so, I move to John’s words cited already for help. And I’m trying to be brief. Pardon me.

The only surely “unpardonable sin” I’m aware of is to die without Jesus. Without repenting and trusting in him. What John writes about in 1 John 5, I believe implies a fruit demonstrating such callousness before God that a person’s sin will surely lead to hell. To the second death. There’s no confusion about it that unless they repent they’ll die in their sin. Their sin leads them. Some will die in hell whose sins are hidden to all. People will be saddened and surprised by the loss of some. Their sins do not lead them to judgment. The sins of others aren’t hidden. They’re wide open. Their sin is about a condition of sin more than a specific act of it. We’ll all die once. Those who were not born again, however, will die twice. Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8. If a person demonstrates a “dog” or “pig like” mentality toward God (not my words, take it up with Jesus (Matthew 7:6)) or is perhaps even excommunicated (Matthew 18:17) and shows no signs of repentance before God, to pray for their salvation may be unlawful. We are not to be naïve, even if it’s our own kids. We must again be very delicate here. We are not God. We should always perhaps even hope we’re wrong in such things. We only measure each other and judge each other as we’d have others do to us if we love like Jesus tells us to. We must not pull up wheat in an attempt to get the tares. We judge in great love, patience, humility and self-awareness.

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