devotional

18JUL
2022

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 234

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 28. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Paragraph 1: “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world.”

I love the ordinances of the church! In weeks to come I’ll cover more details given by the confession on many specifics concerning baptism and far more on the ordinance of the Table. Today, in looking at this first brief sentence, let’s talk a bit about what these gifts are as well as what they are not.

When they speak rightly of Jesus here as “the only lawgiver” I like to think of it as that Christ could have commanded anything he wished and chose these things for the New Covenant church. He ordained these. He did not suggest them. He commanded them. Thus, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15. He himself ordained all of the Law of Moses with its works as he chose back on Sinai, and now he, that only lawgiver, has chosen these two ordinances or sacraments now.

John the Baptizer started baptism. Mark actually identifies John’s preaching as “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ…” Mark 1:1-5. Jesus was baptized. Not for all the same reasons we must be, but he said of it: “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15b. He himself had his disciples baptizing others. They themselves were all baptized, though only a few of them are recorded. Jesus made baptism standard for all of his disciples in his church. Matthew 28:19. Jesus also instituted the Lord’s Table. Luke 22:20. Jesus turned the highly symbolic Passover meal into another even more sacred highly symbolic meal on the night he was betrayed to die. Jesus established these two ordinances (or sacraments). They are blessed. Hallowed. Wonderful! Some Christians also practice foot washing based on passages like John 13:12 and 1 Timothy 5:10. What is certain in the epistles is the two principal ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are means of grace that God has chosen to convey blessing to the saints. They sanctify us, as do all the means of grace, and they will thus endure to the end of the age among the faithful.

Why this paragraph is separated here is not certain to me. Its data could easily be included in paragraphs 29 and 30. The Westminster Confession’s chapter 27 is called “Of the Sacraments.” Like the LBCF here, the Westminster divines offer an overview of sacraments (theirs here being far more in-depth) and then go into more detail on both in their confession in the following paragraphs. It’s possible that the LBCF writers, again following suit in 1689, simply did the same.

Baptism is not entrance into Christ. Baptism does not regenerate. I’ve no doubt that God has married the regeneration of many of his saints to their immersion (or to other means erroneously employed) but it is not to be viewed as a standard point of regeneration at all! God has not chosen the water to save. He’s chosen the blood. The Romanists says of Baptism: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit…and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” (RCCC, 1213). Couched in the whole of this now apostate system’s current self-declaration, this alone constitutes another gospel. Which is not another. The Lutheran Church sadly also maintains the abysmal error of baptismal regeneration, but the Gospel there is couched in a wider system of God’s sovereignty and God’s grace and stands a universe apart from Rome. I must say that any system that makes water baptism a requirement for God to save someone is a terrible and false religion that makes the Gospel as unprofitable to someone as circumcision does for the same reasons. See Galatians.

No sound Christian should believe that obedience to the command of baptism saves. Or that of the Table. Clearly, neither are to be approached in an unworthy manner, but no act of obedience saves anyone…as the LBCF confession makes perfectly clear in its harmony of the biblical data. If any act of obedience is believed to be the grounds of one’s living fellowship with God, it ends up setting aside God’s perfect sovereignty and grace in election and turns the Bible on its head. It turns Romans 9:16 into a farce.

God does not save by baptism; he saves by grace. He does not save by the Table; he saves by grace. We who are saved simply obey him as he instructed us to, and that in every generation since he first commanded us to do it and to the end of time.

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