devotional

14SEP
2014

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part Four.

 

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 according to a Baptist flavor.

 

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Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures

1.3: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon or rule of the Scripture, and, therefore, are of no authority to the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings.”

 

The books collected and called The Apocrypha are books that were written, with some small overlap depending on who you reference, between the close of the Old Testament (OT) and the start of the New Testament (NT). Up until just a few hundred years ago many of these apocryphal books were included in most Protestant Bibles between the OT and the NT. They were isolated and titled separately so as to be set apart from Scripture. They were not included as canonical books, but as books held in esteem as good historical references for all Christians. They are not, and have never been considered, “God breathed” as the 66 books in the Bible are. The Roman church added them to their list of canonical books as a second (or deutero canon) after we told them to get lost in The Reformation. And even they do not collect them all. There are various non-Protestant sects that gather different collections of these books and call them biblical. Christian history does not call them canonical. When the Bible’s 66 books were codified, these were not part of that original listing.

     The apocryphal books are not canonical. They are not to be in the Bible. They are, as the confession here states, “Of no authority to the church of God.” No one can be brought under church discipline for any violations of good order or discipline in the church of Jesus Christ because of any principles directly believed to violate anything in the apocryphal books. In other words, if someone is a fornicator, church discipline (excommunication if not repented of) could be administered according to passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 or other passages. No one could cite an apocryphal text as the reason for the censure…even if they did speak on the matter. They are not “binding” documents. The 66 books of the Bible are binding, and binding on all who name the name of Christ.

     The apocryphal books are, “Human writings.” I like this phrase a lot. The Bible, through written through humans, is not a human writing; it is wholly of God. The reason the confession speaks of these books as, “…to be made use of,” etc., is because they are of use. The Apocrypha can teach us about what’s called intertestamental history. Many writings such as those of others alive in that day can do the same thing. We can use these books to help us understand the culture and times of the NT. There was lot of history between the close of the OT and the start of the NT. A lot of history! These books help show us many things about the Jewish people and their relationship with Rome. They can help us understand why the synagogue was so important in Jesus’ day, and a hundred other historical things. They can be made use of in such ways.

     The Apocrypha is human writings. This confession I enjoy is also just a human writing. It too can only be made use of as such. It itself is not binding on Christians on its own authority. If anyone disagrees with something written in it then a church who affirms it would answer by the Scriptures, not the confession itself. The Scriptures then become the binding arbitrator and rule, not the confession. This of course is, I hope, the hope of any confession. They’re like a mirror that condenses divine thoughts like a prism for summation. I’ve read several books that’ve changed my life. Books like The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by John MacArthur, or Spectacular Sins by John Piper have had enormous impact on my faith. They’re human writings, however. They’re not scriptural. The Apocrypha, even by those who first recorded the writings, were never thought to be canonical or biblical.  

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