devotional

25OCT
2021

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 212

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 26. Of the Church. Paragraph 1: “The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”

The church is both invisible and visible everywhere.

Here’s a picture of the church: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10.

Here’s another one: “In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:14-16.

One may be in the shadow of the triune God himself and the other in the shadows of a large oak tree on the corner of 1st Avenue and Maple St. in your hometown, but they’re both the church singing her glorious church songs of joyous victory over death in Christ. The church has only one form of leadership required. Anything added is superfluous. What’s required is a couple of qualified elder males which may start as one, as many deacons as needed, and its served worshippers. I am not one to say that the church is just the individuals. No, each individual is called as a member of larger bodies…all things equal. 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 3:6, etc. The body has a local populace. Might be a few, might be thousands, but the church is not an individual calling. It’s a collection of individual callings. Any one person does not constitute a church. A believer, yes, but not a church. The church is an administration of offices. It gives duties to each other. It has needs only fillable by multiple hands. The life of the believer is each of us in a race to win (1 Corinthians 9:24) but the church is a group thing. The church is therefore present in every place where God by the Gospel has granted life to his elect.

The church is invisible because the moment we’re born again (John 3) we are baptized into it. We’re baptized into the church when God calls us to life. We’re baptized into the body and are made members of the church. Local visible church activities then (like water baptism and the Lord’s Supper) naturally should follow. And I hope they do for everyone reading this.

Let me inject that the church is full of redeemed sinners. If you’ve been legitimately hurt by a church like I have been, and maybe they didn’t rebuke or kick you out for good reasons, please don’t measure them all by your experiences. Repent if you must, but also forgive where you must. Obey God and be known in a church. It’s not at all normally an option if you want to be a disciple of Christ. Look to Christ for what a church should be and find one that is. There are many doing it wonderfully I promise you. If you need help finding one in your area, write to me and I’ll try to help you find one. I’d humbly suggest starting any church search with Reformed Baptist first, then in no certain order, Reformed, then Baptist, then whatever. There are options even outside this, of course. It is in a true church (of whatever Protestant confession) where we truly get life right. If that church believes in and can be literally said to hold to Sola Scriptura then you’re almost certainly in a visible part of the invisible whole.

I see the church as a lush banquet table crossing both time and continents. It stretches back beyond sight for millennia from the very start of fallen man to now. It’s a huge and glorious motley crew that needs no interpreters. But I also view the church as my local assembly here in my current city. We have four pastors/elders. We have as many deacons. We have other duly qualified ministry leaders. Our goal is to worship our triune God together. We are a part of the sheep of his fold. We sing, we observe the ordinances, we give financially, we fellowship. If we’re disciplined for thinking errantly or sinning, we listen. We submit as unto God himself. We work to equip each other to bring the Gospel message out to a hostile world.

Christ is the head of the invisible worldwide and heavenly catholic church, and all local churches as well that make it up on earth therefore. I said to my daughters this week in our church how peaceful it is that in this life, our God has left us to be accountable to each other in his mitigated authorities and not directly to him as if he himself were visible to each of us daily. This is his mercy. One day, we’ll see him face to face. For now, I know he’s kept his distance for our sake. He’s not far from any one of us, but his rebuke comes not from clouds of fire, but from the pulpit. How wonderful and patient of him to keep me next to him in such intimate but protective ways!

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is not the church of Jesus. It as a body is not a member of it. It is not to be read as the “catholic” we see here. These authors knew that. Today, in fact, while I trust there’s enough Gospel lingering in the RCC’s smoke that God uses it despite it to save, it is not a lawfully constituted church. Its priests are defunct, its sacraments sad, void and vain. It’s welcome to the table of the Lord’s church should it ever repent, but it has no claim above itself. The local church on 1st and Maple that upholds God and Gospel has a claim at the table higher than any pontiff’s scattered club.

So, if you’re a part of the invisible, you should be a part of the visible. The church is militant. It is built on doctrine and endures by grace. I hope you’re known in a local church. If you’re not something is off. Seek it. Don’t wait. It’s in our local churches that God has ordained for the normal glorious transformations of the soul to occur.

 

 

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