devotional

02OCT
2015

LBCF 1689 Reflections (Part 40)

 

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.

 

NEXT-

 

Chapter 3, paragraph 5: “Those of mankind that are predestined unto life…”

 

Are you among those predestined unto heaven? What could be more applicable to our everyday lives than the question of whether or not we are of the elect of God? Every Christian should ask themselves this question and look for the answer the way the Bible instructs them to. We should test ourselves as life gives us occasion to, 2 Corinthians 13:5. Sin may cause us to doubt our previous answers sometimes, but once we’re settled in Christ, the tests that cause questions will eventually only show themselves as more assurance in the end. We’ll see that tests actually only perfect us before God. We would never assume a salvation of works, but we dare not affirm a salvation without works. How can we ever know if we’re of the elect? The answer is faith. An active and enduring faith is the only faith that saves. The answer is a trust in salvation that is in Christ alone. The answer is love for God, and hatred of sin. The answer is love toward others, especially others of faith. The answer is a willing and even joyous dedication to God even when no one’s looking. The answer is a sensitivity to others. The answer is sound theology. The answers are tests and there are a good handful of them in the Bible. They each stand alone and yet they stand together. Scripture gives us these tests. They function like an outlet for you to test a light bulb. Each bulb in your bag is a separate test. Come up and plug your cord into the test plug. If your bulb lights up, you’re good. Plug each one in. Test yourself. Only Christians want to do this. God will never let us see the Lambs Book of Life in this life. We can only know we’re of the elect if we have the faith of the elect. Bad trees cannot bear good fruit.

     The Bible describes what faith looks like. It gives us stories, evidences and biographies of it to model it. Sound believers are given evidence upon evidence of their faith through the word. It’s literally like a man being uncertain if a tree is an apple tree or not. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to tell an apple tree from any other tree by bark or leaf. If he’s not sure all he has to do is wait until fruit season. Then he’ll know, without doubt, whether or not a tree is a living apple tree or not. Since it is certain that no one saved can ever be lost, it only remains for true believers to grow more and more certain of their election in time. They can do so by examining their fruit. It’s not a daily thing, but it happens with time. Ephesians 2:8-10 ends by saying we were given our salvation in order that we would work in it. That’s why I’m writing to you now. Faith first works in us, and then we work it out, Philippians 2:12. 

     It takes the utmost humility for anyone to dare presume that they’re of the elect. To understand what it is you’re actually presuming in it requires a deep abandonment of pride and self-exaltation. Such an abandonment only comes at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Sure, an arrogant Jew may presume himself of the chosen people because he was circumcised, but that is not like the affirmation of an election based on nothing you’ve done or good in yourself. Arrogant people presume they’re of the elect because of their free will, their prayers, water baptism, church affiliation or piety. Christians affirm their election, when they understand it rightly, as a self-abasing means to honor their Savior alone. Are you of the elect? You won’t know by sitting under a lotus tree and just thinking on it. Are you of the elect? You have to test yourself. 2 Peter 1:1-11 is one of the best places to go in the Bible to do so. Bring your bulbs. In vs. 1 he addresses those of his same family of faith, (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). In vs. 2 he warmly expresses and gives in writing what he freely received from God. In vs. 3 he affirms that our power for our living faith is not at all from ourselves, but rather comes to us from God. He also affirms that it was given to us to be active and to move us toward godly ends. In vs. 4 he speaks of the many promises, throughout both covenants, made to the elect. In vv. 5-7 he gives us tests of fruit for us all to know whether or not we actually belong to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus then these tests will become our tests. Go read them. Ask yourself if you embody these attributes? A tandem question to ask yourself is if it’s even your heart’s desire to ever embody these attributes. Christians want to be affirmed in them. Confidence before God is precious, and stems from an assurance based on such things as these. This is part of being approved before God, 2 Timothy 2:15. Jesus saved us to bear fruit. Bearing fruit is how God is glorified in us, John 15:8. If we’re failing in tests, as we often will, we’re reminded of the gospel and should feel called by God’s love through them to do better in them by his power. If we do not belong to Jesus then these tests will mean nothing, or we’ll throw our hands up in surrender before them, call them impossible, and label them worthless. In vs. 8 he calls these attributes fruit tests and shows how they bring assurance to us that the invisible God is making himself visible in us through them. In vs. 9 he speaks of those of whom these tests only increase obstinacy. A lack of passion fruit in individuals shows them un-saved. In vs. 10 he says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Do what things, Peter? See vv. 5-7 again. A person with right theology who does these things will never fall! Amen. In the growth of these fruits the Christian’s eternal election is made apparent.

     What does this have to do with paragraph five of chapter three of this confession? Everything and nothing. It speaks of the elect. The paragraph, like other parts before it, will go on to speak of the fact that God did not elect people based on their foreseen faith, obedience or endurance in the faith. This is to give all glory to God. I wanted to take a moment to talk then about how anyone can be sure of salvation. The answer is that they have right theology energizing an active faith. 

 

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