devotional

14SEP
2015

LBCF 1689 Reflections (Part 38)

 

 

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. This will be my personal reflections on this beloved written codification of the Christ faith which is according to a Baptist flavor.

 

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Chapter 3, paragraph 3b: “…others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.”

 

Question: is it ever wrong of God to punish someone for their sin? The answer is no. It’s no, pal. At the end of all the discussion on this subject we must return to this simple, humbled premise in order to keep ourselves fixed where God would have us to be fixed. Where it is wise for us to be fixed. We have broken the law (sinned), and God should judge us for it. He is a just judge. This is how we should see the judgment of men. The honorable John Wesley, in his folly on Predestination (sermon #58), said rightly: “But, in order to throw light upon this dark question, it should be well observed, that when we speak of God's foreknowledge, we do not speak according to the nature of things, but after the manner of men.” We study God and his truth as mere puny mortals is what he’s saying. Reverend Wesley knew that God is not like us; that he thinks a lot higher, Isaiah 55:9. Wesley knew that we speculate on things eternal (such as in his talk on predestination, or here as I'm reflecting on this confession on judgment predetermined by God on those he leaves in their sin) from our temporal viewpoints. We are men in pursuit of the infinite one. We only think on him as we're able, and that is not as God is able. We study God's judgment from our vantage point only. Such is the case here. Still we are not left to ourselves as the pagans. We have the Holy Spirit himself. John Calvin references Simonides in Cicero (De natura deorum) who, when asked by king Hiero "what God was" asked for a day to think about it, then two, then four, then sixteen, etc. After a while he said to the king, "the longer I consider; the darker the subject appears." (The Institutes 1.5.12). We have the word of God that illumines the darkness, yet we are but men in it still. God’s sovereignty relates to the question of those who receive judgment for their sin, but we do well to remind ourselves that we speak of it “in the manner of men.” We must speak of it from our mortal perspective rightly, and remember that we do so. At the end of it all, man is responsible for himself. This is why he is guilty. You do not have to have freedom (in the libertarian or Wesleyan sense) to be so. The single greatest biblical example I wish to cite here of this reality is found in Jeremiah. Jeremiah 25:8-9 says, “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.” So, God is going to use this king and his nation to bring destruction on Israel and others. God is doing it! Nebuchadnezzar, a flesh and blood human man, is leading the charge…under God’s purposes and plans. Cf. and recall Acts 17:26; Daniel 4:34-37 (for Neb’s view on God). So, surely Babylon is not guilty then for their bloodthirstiness? After all, “God himself personally sent them” to do it, didn’t he? Does this absolve them? Jeremiah 25:12 says: “Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.” Nope. He/they’re guilty. Why? In the manner of men, they destroyed a nation they wanted to destroy. They wanted the power, the money, a close sea port, whatever. They did what they wanted. It was God, however, who sent “the king of Babylon, his servant” to do it. Yet, he is guilty. It is ordained. He did the will of God (cf. Romans 9:19-21) and he’s 100% guilty for it. Him and his whole nation are evil for doing it. If you don’t see the depth of this, and if you are not reminded of your need to speak of this in the manner of men then you’re simply not interested at this time in the Bible’s description of God’s sovereignty. Your answers for stuff will almost always then come just from the stuff, and not from God.

     Whether or not a person has ever even heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ a person deserves hell for their sin, and this is right of God. He is just. No one ever gets a raw deal; some just get what they don’t deserve which is mercy. God loves to show mercy! The difficulty of man’s culpability for sin and God’s righteousness in condemning what he himself ordained (but yet still not forced) to happen are not to be lost on us. It is difficult on purpose. God is not confusing us; there is an ocean’s depth of wisdom in this both in the church and outside it among heathen. Scripture means to maintain the self-checking wisdom of a man knowing that he is fully responsible for himself under the complete sovereignty of a God in which every atom in the universe must daily receive its permission to be. No one is to come away from the Bible with a que sera sera sort of attitude toward sin. God didn’t make you do it and neither did the devil. You did it. I will not hesitate to ever emphasize the reality that at the judgment of a man, his sins are rightly seen as his own, and that he’s guilty for them. This is never wrong of God. I return to this truth every time I consider these deep things. It’s a tough reality, but I approach my answer to it with both hands and all my pockets full of related Bible truths.

     In light of the whole confession I’m mentioning some of this here along with this sentence from it.

     As I wrote last week, it is, “…from the same lump” that God redeems some. Who would ever say that God is “unfair” for not saving all? Who can charge even a mere man with a lack of compassion for feeding only 20 homeless people if his city has 500? God is not obligated to forgive us. Repeat: God is not obligated to forgive us. One more time: God is not obligated to forgive us.

     We all have to answer why God is not saving everyone. No matter what your theological convictions are, we all must answer why God’s plan never included 100% redemption. He could have. If God does whatever he pleases, he did not have to make man mutable and thus able to fall into sin…unless that was his plan. Free will is no good answer to this issue because the Bible simply doesn’t talk about such a thing. It is only supposed or implied by those who demand it alongside big creatures in Loch Ness. He could have destroyed the serpent before he tempted Eve. He could have erased just Adam and Eve and started again with a new race and no devil. He could have made everything perfect with Noah. He did not have to create hell before Adam was created. He could, he could, he could, but he didn’t. We want randomness in the world. We’ll settle for a careless God who’d sacrifice a billion to help a hundred save themselves, but we do not want a God whose purpose in this world was also to demonstrate what wrath is! God, however, passes over people, leaving them to their own desires, and his judgment of them at the end for it is never wrong.

 

 

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