devotional

08MAR
2022

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 226

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 12: “As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.”

Pastor Mark Dever once said, “If you’re not a member in good standing at a local church that you attend regularly, you’re probably going to hell.” I’ve been well served by this statement. He’s right. The “probably” is purposefully there since it can’t be a “definitely” as church membership is neither a prerequisite to salvation nor its probation, but we should no doubt be in church. We are “bound to” it if we’re to be members of a body. If God saves someone, they want spiritual fellowship with others. Period. We may not “have opportunity” for several reasons. I’m a military guy for example. I’ve moved 29 times in my lifetime, most of them as a military member. There are transition times in those moves when I wasn’t able to find a church. Lots of people move for lots of reasons. You may not live near a solid church. You may have other things get in the way even back in the seventeenth century when this was written, but as a general rule, you should be in church. We are “bound to join” one because that’s where we find Jesus. He is the head of any true church, and it’s in the church’s weekly functions that he’s chosen to meet with his people in worship. He’s not constrained to a building, of course, but he’s built that building. That building is both his people and where his people meet. 1 Timothy 3:15 speaks of any solid Christian (Protestant) church as the: “…household of God…the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” I say again, Jesus built it in order for us to find him there. Jesus told Peter, a rock in the first days of the church all about his plan for the church saying, “…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18b. The churches are his, and we should be a part of one of them.

Part of the reason I’m Baptist Reformed is that I strongly believe that the local churches should be independent. We have a polity that generally says so. The biblical model is that Christ is the head of the universal church, and that in each town or city where God saves, men will be equipped and placed there to lead in a church or churches to shepherd God’s people.

There are “privileges of the church.” Yes. As Baptists, we’ve done at times a poor job in talking about grace through the ordinances. I have four kids. I’ve personally baptized half of them. I have another one who’ll be ten this year and that’s the age I aim at for baptism. She’s able to understand its meaning, and upon profession of her faith in Jesus, I’ll Lord-willing baptize her later this year. We’ll talk a lot about it and we’ll do it. I’ll cry. It’ll be great. It is a means of grace to her. As all sanctifying works are, it is a privilege of the believer to obey Jesus in it. It’s also a church ordinance to be done under the authority of a local church. The Lord’s Table, which only half of my kids have ever eaten now having been baptized in water, is another such church privilege. We do it as a body. There are other things that when we’re in line with Christ in a local church become available to us by collective means, but these are chief among them. The two ordinances are a divine means of grace to us all. Not saving or regenerative graces, of course, but sanctifying graces in Christ. Works are always a part of our sanctification.

The confession here speaks of discipline. If your church won’t discipline its people it’s not a church at all. If love covering a multitude of sins means that no sins are ever uncovered there’s a misapplication of love going on. We sin. We also make mistakes in theology. Godly leaders don’t lord anything over their people, but they serve their people with needed corrections. 2 Timothy 4:2. We should submit to that with our pastors as unto Christ. When we do, it’s another means of grace to us in our Christian walk. Jesus has chosen to arrange the church to sanctify his people in the New Covenant. I hope you’re in such a place. If not, see Pastor Dever’s comment near the opening again.

Here’s a few great places to begin looking for a good church in your area if you don’t already have one:

https://www.9marks.org/church-search/

https://tms.edu/find-a-church/

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