devotional

05DEC
2021

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 215

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 3b: “…and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan…”

The confession writers are here speaking of any church (or group of them) on earth. Please note that they would want themselves judged by the same standards with which they judge. This appears to many to be too harsh a statement though. After all, they write here of normal gathered people in both a “high” or “low” church setting. They write of everyday people who just come together to pray and enjoy each other’s company—old, young, middle-aged, singles, college and career-aged, etc., as members of “synagogues of Satan”? Really? I can almost hear my progressive opponents (who have an excuse for everything) ask: “Isn’t that a bit dramatic? Everyone has their own truth.” Couldn’t you find a better, kinder phrase to use, preachers?! As Christians, we’re in this for the end game. It’s all or nothing with God. No, they shouldn’t look for a nicer phrase. In our pagan politically correct cultural religion where too few people spend any time in church, we’re told not to “demonize” anyone. We’re taught that all opinions are equal. Demons teach this to us, however, through many people. Lying spirits say this.

Demon possessed people aren’t relegated to floating above their beds, projectile vomiting, or that ubiquitous spinning head syndrome in someone in dire need of chapstick. The serpent is much more cunning most often. Possession isn’t necessarily manifested physically at all. It’s manifested very often in ideas in law, religion, politics, science, or philosophy. That’s why God through Paul writes that our weapons against it all are truthful ideas. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Anyone not born again in Christ is under the sway of Satan. Jesus said so of crowds in John 8:44. They are possessed. They may be the nicest people you’ve ever met but let the light of God shine on them and unless God changes them their external glow will quickly give way to hate. See Matthew 27:25 for the best example.

Can we know that any group is a church of Satan? Meaning aside from the pagans who are willingly members of a named church of Satan. Jesus himself, as the confession cites, says of a Jewish group persecuting the Smyrnian Christians that they, “…say they are Jews, and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Revelation 2:9. That’s his “opinion” of the everyday people there, so it’s obviously possible that a group can be called Satanic who may even intend to be godly. John writes that we can ask any preacher, philosopher, wise man or wise woman the following question: “Do you confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh?” and that if they say “no” in any way as the Gnostic did, that they’re an antichrist. 1 John 4:1-6. An anti-christ is someone who speaks for or is under Satan. Truth tests souls like acids test metals. John says you can know that a person’s god is not God, and you can know it by a simple propositional truth claim question about Jesus’ incarnation. Vv. 1-6 show us that we don’t need to be God to know definitively “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Vs. 6. Several truths work like this today as well. In history, literally even just one word or even letter in a language might illustrate the gulf between total truth and total error. Consider also the following: “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” Acts 8:18-21. By the words on his lips, Peter diagnosed his heart and soul. Peter’s not God, but the fact that a man thought God’s gift of the Holy Spirit could be purchased (sorry Rome) with money showed him that his very heart had never been regenerated. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, and none of us are infallible, but we must speak today what’s true so long as it’s called “today.”

Many churches, seminaries or denominations have sadly swerved away from the Faith. Many Baptist churches and Baptist groups, the PCUSA, the United Methodists, the Lutheran Church (Wisconsin Synod), numerous “celebrity preachers” with followers, even schools like Calvin College, Union Theological Seminary, Yale or Harvard Divinity school, et al, etc., have gone astray. It’s a slow fade most times, but the moment you stop believing and practicing Sola Scriptura it’s inevitable.

To be under Satan is to not be under God. To be under God is to not be under Satan. What a person or group says and does will manifest what’s what in time. 1 John 3:7. Christianity allows for massive areas of difference in theology. I say God designed it this way to teach lessons of love and forbearance that nothing else could. Some opposing statements are like ice floats that may melt away quickly nearing the Son. No big deal. Certain opposing statements, however, are iceberg statements of the unregenerate that reveal something under the surface that may be larger than the Chrysler Building. If someone believes that Jesus is not truly God, for example, they show the iceberg under the surface that is a still-darkened soul that’s never stood in God’s light. They can’t see because there’s no light in them. If someone says homosexuals can be Christians, it similarly shows an iceberg. Churches have icebergs; people have icebergs. Churches have ice floats; people have ice floats.

The Bible gives us truth. Truth repeated back then is what identifies us as good or bad churches. It’s the same in any epistemological sub-discipline. We must have the triune God and his Gospel of grace to be called Christian in Scripture. Very few qualifiers need defining right now beyond these two headings in Scripture. Any church defining these truths well and by the conviction of Scripture alone will likely have a sound handling of every part of the book. Churches with sound statements in one generation can become synagogues of Satan in the very next, and synagogues of Satan can become true churches overnight. Truth (speaking in totality) shows us the difference with anyone in the now.

A synagogue of Satan doesn’t mean each member is a Satanist. It just means that the theological position of the church itself is not of God. If you say this of my group, you must a) a proper definition of the truth, b) know the collective position of my group, and c) know what I as an individual associated say about that position to know where I stand. If needed, you must ask. If my group, and therefore I myself if I be found in concert with it, is satanic, then you should tell me why if you love me and want to see God honored in my salvation.

God uses sharp rebuke in the lives of his people to correct. He uses words of warning. He uses what he chooses to perfect the salvation of his beloved. It all flows from the good and kind intention of his will in the world. If we tell you you’re in a church or synagogue of Satan it’s to call you out of it for life and peace. If you find yourself in a synagogue of Satan, leave it.

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