devotional

01NOV
2021

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 213

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 2: “All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.”

(Happy 504th Reformation Day, reader! For yesterday).

Every single true Christian on earth is a bona fide saint. A saint is one dressed in Christ’s imputed righteousness. Paul wrote his letters to churches that he knew were filled with them for this reason. Just look at their opening greetings.

The Gospel of the triune God is that Jesus by his impeccable life and sacrificial death provides atonement for the sins of all who repent and believe in him. Jesus’ Resurrection guarantees the work as more than just words (cue Extreme song). He did what no one else could. God didn’t forget to leave behind enough evidence. Evidence saves no one. God saves. If you, reader, won’t hear Moses and the prophets, then God’s not calling you. Luke 16:31. It is the Spirit through the message who gathers his predestined, and that without fail. Romans 8:29-30. If you believe in what Christ has done, then the promise of eternal life in him is yours.

Our common confession in the church is that “we believe.” We must not look at faith, however, as mere intellectual assent. It’s not just the data or our amen. Remember, even demons have the data of “faith.” James 2:19. Faith for the Christian is not just an affirmation of the truth. It’s not without such affirmation, but faith is the very life of Christ in the saint. Faith is a synonym for life. We have a new life when we’re born from above. This isn’t metaphor. It’s spiritual reality and this is the church. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4. Faith is life. See also Galatians 2:20; 1 John 5:11-13; John 20:31; John 10:10; Colossians 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:1, etc. Those without faith are dead. They are, “…excluded from the life of God…” Ephesians 4:18. Faith isn’t a belief in the maybe. It’s not blind. It has its substance and evidence and comes with Christian life in God himself. Faith is like the oxygen in the room. It brings life with it, beloved. We’re saved by it from God. Without it there is no life, and we believe nothing. Belief doesn’t bring it, it brings belief. Faith is a gift. It’s more than just what we believe; it’s how we believe. When to the Ephesians Paul says, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” it is life he’s referring to. Faith is raising us from dead. Faith is not just assent to words on a scroll. It’s the regenerate heart that comes with believing. He gives it to his elect in his time. With faith the elect believe. Their confession is made unto salvation.

That life then has its accompanying fruit. This is to be centered or made most evident in the visible church. The fruit varies in quantity, not type. If the tree is good, it bears its fruit. “The earth produced vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, according to their kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:12. Those born of the holy seed bear fruit according to that kind. God also says later with a voice box, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:17. He’s referring to saints. “No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:9.

Saints bear fruit. Always. John 15:1-11. The fruit of repentance. The fruit of sound theology. All the fruit. It’s truth (words on pages) that constitutes the visible church because it’s truth (spiritual reality) that constitutes the invisible church. How any of us then live shows whether or not our statements of faith, which may of themselves show a whole church to be nothing more than a synagogue of Satan, are true of us. Unrepentant sin can show men hypocrites and not true believers. God uses the warnings against turning back in the lives of his people. The Psalmist says, “One who walks with integrity, practices righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” Psalm 15:2. As a Christian, John says it as: “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him.” 1 John 2:29. Being born of him means he’ll show up in us. Tests of faith in the church aren’t a terror to the saint. “But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.” John 3:21. I think of people professing godliness like people who say their light bulb’s been fixed in a world of clearly broken filaments. How do you know for sure that it’s fixed? Plug it in to the power source and flip the switch. If it lights up it’s fixed. If not it’s not. Truths are like that in the life of the church as we examine them. If you say God’s saved you from your sin and yet you’re afraid to plug it in to see if it’s fixed, repent. Be blessed. If you’re not afraid or believe you wouldn’t shrink back if Christ came back today, don’t let it become a snare, but rejoice. The visible church is made of people who pass and fail the test. Time tells and assurance should grow under the teaching of God’s word. Lights should shine. God lights them and does so to illumine his house. Luke 8:16. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. Doing this as a duly doctrinally constituted church leads to what we see later there: “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice, mend your ways, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.” There’s the church! This is what constitutes us. This is life lived together in grace. When we recognize it theologically, we can affirm this kind of love and life among us and it’ll make our table time sweeter in every way.

The invisible church of the world is made up of visible saints. Among them, in the visible church (that’s your church in your city) of course there’ll be non-believers. We must be gentle and not seek to separate quickly. Matthew 13:29. But, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His;” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to keep away from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19.

 

Here’s an audio link to a recent message I gave called, “The Essentials of the Christian Faith.”

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