devotional

27JAN
2022

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 221

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 7: “To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority, which is in any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe; with commands and rules for the due and right exerting, and executing of that power.”

Jesus is the immediate and only universal head of the Christian church on the earth. The worldwide church. We often refer to it as the universal or the catholic church (not to be confused with the Roman Catholic Church). If Jesus is head of the whole thing, that means he’s also the head of every local assembly attached to it too. Now, each generation and each church in each can only be measured by its loyalty to God and Scripture as to whether it can be said to be a part of the whole, but there’s no doubt that it’s into the basket of the church that Jesus has put all his eggs to sanctify us, so to speak. The goal is conformity to Christ for every saint (Romans 8:29) and the local churches are the main engines he’s set up that’s driving that. We live our lives and live out our faith everywhere, of course, but a church-centric religion is both what’s described and prescribed for us in the 27 letters we call the New Testament Canon. One needn’t look further than Ephesians to see this set forth. It’s not employers, governments, unions, schoolboards, or parachurch ministries that lead God’s salvation charge, it’s the church or the churches- gathered saints in worship and works that mainly forms God’s people and brings us home. Whatever else God uses to make us holy always comes second to the works, practices and ordinances of the churches. There are many denominations (article) but one God over all roughly 8K of them. We’re a diverse body and that’s designed for a diverse people. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:22-23. Christ is the head of true churches, and we are the body united to him. Cf. 1 Corinthians 12. God says through Paul explicitly that it’s in the day-to-day life of God’s churches that Jesus does his principal work in the lives of his people. Christ is the mystery revealed (Colossians 1:27) and his churches today the plan of the triune God brought to pass in the 1st Century AD but planned to do so from before the foundation of the world. The church is about, “…the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 3:9-10. God chose to create churches among the nations to display his love and holiness in his body. Even Satan sees it we read. The day to day lives of God’s people in the church are a greater display of God’s covenant faithfulness than anything else, and he’s given us everything there that we need to live well. We are not perfect, and grace to you, but we’re together being perfected.

I want people to be excited about their church! I want kids to see people living their lives bound together by the Spirit himself!

There are what we in the military call “right and left limits” given by God to churches in the Bible. We’re not given exhaustive details for how we’re to do everything. That’s on purpose. It allows believers in every place to perform what is given in proper order with personal style. Qualifications for example are given for the men who run it. We must meet those qualifications. Women are never to be appointed as pastors over the men, or to hold such authority in the church. This is another rule. There are also rules for the ordinances to be rightly administered with the signs of the covenant befitting the covenant itself, etc. Good churches play by the rules in joy and fellowship. When they do, they breathe the clean air of God’s grace, are firmly rooted in the tilled soil of the Cross, and flourish alongside the ever-flowing river of living water from which trees grow fruitful.

Based upon everything I see in Scripture, what the Apostles instituted in the New Covenant church in all this were entirely independent congregations in Christ, united in the Holy Spirit, bound by the truths of Scripture, with elders or pastors, deacons, and congregants. That’s the deal. Bam. Done. Finished. Now, I admit that I may be colored by baptist or even maybe American ideals on the matter, but it still seems clear that once the Apostles died out there was no hierarchy above the local church pastorate. The Apostles naturally functioned as higher authorities during the transition time, but this was understandable in the church’s initiation. What was prescribed from then on shows each church performing its varied worship (not cookie cutters) according to the rules in total autonomy from each other with Christ directly at the head. Amen.

So, what you see in your local church is what you get, dear reader. There is nothing higher in this life appointed for us. In your church then, I invite you to pursue the best gifts. 1 Corinthians 13. Like the Hebrews approached the tabernacle, and then the temple, so we can approach our churches as unto Christ himself today as the places of God’s blessing and the main place for our shaping in joy and peace, life and death. We should approach church then theologically with a healthy respect for the Faith performed mainly therein that Christ—God incarnate—has purchased with his own life blood. Acts 20:28.

“To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” – God through Paul. Ephesians 3:21.

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