devotional

17JUL
2016

LBCF 1689 Reflections (part 66)

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 Christian Faith which is according to a Baptist flavor.

 

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Chapter 5, Of Divine Providence, paragraph 6: As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as the righteous judge, for former sin doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

 

Jesus rejoiced in the Bible about very few things. This isn’t to say he wasn’t always rejoicing, but that he reserved his public addresses of praise to the Father to very few things. When I a long time ago saw that one of those things he rejoiced in was the Father’s blinding of the lost it forced me to look at the gospel very differently. In the following text Jesus has just come off four long passages of rebuke to entire cities. He has pronounced judgment on them for their unbelief. They rejected him and his miracles. They did that. He’s commenting on it. That’s Matthew 11:20-24. Here’s the next part: Matthew 11:25-27: 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” He then freely invites everyone who cares what he’s talking about to come to him. There is a remarkable tension to be maintained in the Bible. We’re never to abandon ourselves or others to a hopeless determinism, yet we’re never to deny that grace alone is a gift from God that he either gives or withholds as he chooses.

 

God withholds his grace from people. It isn’t a grace due to them. If this grace is withheld then people will simply continue to do whatever pleases them, and face God’s righteous judgment for it. The confession affirms that our sin hardens us. Adam’s sin placed us all here; our sins prove it. If God leaves us to ourselves he isn’t wrong to do so. If he did this over my life I could not bring a charge against him. I should have obeyed him, but I didn’t. Obedience to the gospel is actually a command, Acts 17:30. The parables are actually a mercy of Jesus to sow truth into many inside crowds of people who don’t want it, Matthew 13:12-15. It is less for them to despise when all they have to despise is a sort of riddle they don’t understand. The meanings of parables was only given to Jesus’ chosen ones. Cf. Matthew 13:11; John 15:16.

 

This part of the confession would have us remember that we’re all under God. Laying down such truths helps us understand that God’s “function” in the universe isn’t just us. It isn’t rewards and punishments and nothing else. God is God. He is about eternity in a way we cannot comprehend. We are so very far under him. Such truths as this put us in our humble place. This earth may have been created for man, but God is the center of the universe. He hardens, he softens, he rules. We don’t. In all of this there is no one who desires God who’ll ever be cast out…and no one who desires God rightly without his loving mercy. We must preach the gospel to all hoping for their softening. God doesn’t function that way, but he commands his church to. It’s been well said that the same sun that melts the wax also hardens the clay. We preach truth in the hopes of softening the clay.

 

 

2 responses to “LBCF 1689 Reflections (part 66)”

  1. Cleveland Wessman says:

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    • Joseph Pittano says:

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