devotional

12OCT
2014

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part Seven.

 

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

Paragraph 6a. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men…

 

Oh, the genius of these 37 divines to affirm these things! There is so much here that’s applicable in every generation. Much of the genius of how God arranged His book could be termed, “Veiled precision.” What I mean here is that Scripture is not just a long list of do’s and don’ts written to address every situation you may face in life. If it was it couldn’t relate to a lot because it could never be long enough. Though the Book of Proverbs rocks the Bible is not just an index of proverbs. A lot of things written are still prescriptive and plainly delivered, but there’s a genius in the text in how its words are couched in enough of the culture, personal experiences and history of its authors to make the whole of it relevant to every generation of the righteous in a unique way. It is therefore precise as we rightly apply it in our lives (2 Timothy 2:15) but fixed in history (or veiled by it) so that its teachings would 1) never be exhausted, and 2) always be applicable to us. It is a bride to every generation.

     Any schooled Bible lover understands that the Bible is not a book about everything. It is a book first true in history and then also true in theology. This again, as already discussed, is what we call its “sufficiency.” The Bible is sufficient. No one will “miss heaven” because God forgot to reveal something. It is by no means an exhaustive revelation, as even books stacked equal to the world’s cubic feet could not contain it (John 21:25), but it is wholly sufficient to reveal all that God wished to.

     What’s meant here about how all Bible truths are, “…either expressly set down or necessarily contained…” is merely that some things written are more self-explanatory than others. I’ll pick some examples. Some things are more, “Cut and dry” while others may require more time to grasp or perhaps be harder to extrapolate and interpret. Some Bible passages are difficult to understand without other Bible passages that shed more light on them so a knowledge of various and sometimes widely separated texts is helpful. This inherently more complex knowledge naturally belongs to the more mature in Spirit led living, but it’s there for all of us. In other words if you need to know anything about faith or life it’s in the Bible…if you know where or how to look. Your questions may not be addressed verbatim, but they’re addressed. An example of this is that you will not read whether “Tammy” or “Bruno” is the wife or husband for you, but you will know what sort of wife or husband you should be looking for as a believer through various passages. There’s then the “veiled precision” to apply the Bible’s teaching to Tammy or Bruno directly.

     There are elementary things in the Bible, and there are things perhaps only more mature Christians are able to digest or communicate. Example: “Do not lie.” Ref. Exodus 20:16; Mark 10:19, et al. Simple enough, right? You hear it. You know it. You break it. You die. Easy. “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food…” Romans 14:20a. Huh? That’s a bit more difficult. Well while there’s certainly more in the immediate context of this statement in Romans 14 to help us define what this means, there’s also an always applicable principle here that’s, “necessarily contained.” Follow me. Here it is: Paul teaches here how some newly converted Christians, who lived in a pagan culture, sometimes feared eating meat that was sacrificed to idols because they knew it was an idolatrous practice and feared that the ingestion of this “contaminated” meat could defile them. They didn’t understand. They feared it was a sin to eat it. Was it? No. Paul taught this clearly, Romans 14:14. However, there is something else to consider- love and patience in discipleship. This will look different in every culture and time. To these young believers, just offending their more delicate sensibilities was enough to warrant rebuke to anyone who would do it willingly and, “…destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” So here’s a question for you: is this passage not applicable to us in the 21st Century who are not accustomed to foods sacrificed in the town square to false gods? No. The “veiled precision” is the principle of doing to others what we’d have them do, or loving our neighbors as ourselves, etc. It is that Christians should not offend the consciences of younger Christians as any given culture’s issues apply. This historically and culturally couched principle has therefore the veiled precision I need to know that I shouldn’t offend my younger Christian friend today, by say, going to a movie with war scenes in it if he thinks it’s a sin to see them. The principle from the meat scenario in 1st Century Rome is applicable to me in that I should not force him to face his apprehensions by pushing him in to see Saving Private Ryan, pretending not to be aware of his weaker conscience in the matter, or pretending that it doesn't matter. I should teach him and bear with him and love him enough to do so because my God died for him. I can explain why it’s perhaps not a sin, and hope he’ll understand that he cannot be “defiled” by merely external things, but I’m not to offend or “destroy” him by my discovered liberty in Christ that such things cannot defile. It’s better for me to be gentle with him. How do I know this? Because Paul said it was wrong to chow down on temple court bought steaks before his younger brother in Christ. Veiled precision.

     These men also were wise to outline what we call, “The closed canon.” God has completed His spoken/written revelation to the world. We have a faith now, “…once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3. Benny Hinn may claim to have, “A word from God” for you, but he doesn’t. Don’t believe it. Mike Murdock or Paula White may try to sell you, “A private revelation” but they’re only a cheap horoscope-style postulator full of death. There is no more authoritative revelation through prophets, popes or Apostles. What we have is 1) once for all time given, and 2) to ALL the saints. It ain’t private. We have a final revelation we call the Bible. What you need is there!!! With its bookends Genesis and Revelation we have a settled perfection full of everything needed, both simple and profound, to enter heaven as prepared as needed. I despise the Word of Faith Religion primarily on these grounds.

     We can so uniquely apply the Scripture through personal observations and circumstance so as to appear to add some “new” insight as it directs our lives, but this is not, “New revelation” at all; it is instead simply the wise application of an already settled and existing revelation. Veiled precision.

     Finally, the “Traditions of men” of which they speak here is directed toward any principle, either written or oral, no matter how sound, that may attempt to be put on the level of the Bible’s writings. This is surely something we learned from the damnable doctrines of the popes and their unending blasphemies. No traditions of men, or churches, can add to revelation. We have numbered 1189 chapters in the Bible. We do not expect 1190. We Christians affirm “Sola Scriptura,” that it is Scripture alone that is to be held as authoritative over us, and not anything other. We may codify truth, hence the LBCF of 1689, but Scripture is the rod by which we measure the straightness of anything we say. These men knew this, and I love them for it.  

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