LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 203

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. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 24. Of the Civil Magistrate. Paragraph 1b: “…and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”

The Confession cites Romans 13:1-4 for the whole of its paragraph one. I’d like to cite it for you here in full (NASB):

Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a servant of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

Often, when I come to a stop sign and a driver opposite me and I exchange hand gestures to allow the other to go first, I feel the benefits of mutual success in modern life. It’s nice to be at peace with one’s neighbors. You look out for my house when I’m gone, and I look out for yours. We build fences around our pools for one another’s kids. Deuteronomy 22:8. My point is that God establishes good neighborly things, and even good governments, for the benefit of the people. For human flourishing. They look very different around the world and throughout history. Not all governments are created equal! Communism is terrible. Socialism is disastrous. Critical Race Theory (not just an analytical tool) today is attempting to destroy the biblical basis of American government, with the American form of a Representative Republic (and its unique judiciary and the balance of its powers with a separated state) in my opinion being the finest form of human government ever devised. God established at the first, for a relatively short time, a theocratic government in ancient Israel from the time of Moses (~1445 BC) to the time of Saul (~1050 BC). Israel was not a “failed state.” God’s intention was to institute it as it was for exactly that time. A true and good theocracy isn’t possible except under Christ. This was part of the lesson. Aside from this best leadership, we settle for what’s possible in the collective wisdom of humbled men and women in governmental developments. In Israel’s national infancy, God gave his Ten Commandments at the first, and the elders developed the remaining six hundred and three commandments in subservience.

Genesis 9:6 is Jesus’ categorical statement about the matter of what we rather politically today might call, “Capital punishment.” It’s just after the flood of Noah’s day when God placed his rainbow in the sky and says, “Whoever sheds human blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made mankind.” This is actually a command from God. He ordained this. Government is not the church, and vice versa, but government’s primary job is citizen protection. It’s a fallen world. We issue handguns for this purpose today. God’s word called for the death penalty at times. Crimes such as cursing one’s parents, Sabbath-breaking, fornication and homosexuality are all instances of this. Exodus 21:17; 31:14; Deuteronomy 22:21; Leviticus 20:13, respectively. There are more. We don’t see them carried out almost at all in the Bible, but they’re given. All sin merits the death sentence (from God) according to Romans 6:23, etc. We aren’t all equally wicked, no, but if you get close to God you see that he’s not even close in his love for justice than any of us is. He’s literally infinitely righteous. Infinitely holy!

Good governments employ biblical foundations for establishing guilt. Bad governments establish others. Ancient Israel was unique in a hundred ways in its relationship with Yahweh, but God still laid a foundation for us all with them in our subsequent societally mitigated ways. No one else had the Ark of the Covenant’s plans laid out for them, but God is just as real to us all. Israel was a very special people. America’s biblical basis for its jurisprudence is primarily why we hear the phrase “Judeo-Christian” values related to our state. Our leaders today are ignorant of this like spoiled kids who take their wealth for granted, but we’re built on it. But I digress. Death sentences in Moses’ day were never prescribed as, “Street corner mobs.” Even when the Bible speaks of it being done, “At the doorway of one’s home” there were systemic safeguards implemented to prevent irrational action. There were elders, courts, diverse witness testimonies, rights to defend oneself, time constraints, evidences to be presented, even locations where those who’d caused accidental deaths might flee for sanctuary to protect them from hasty retaliations. God’s laws protected men, women, kids, the disabled, strangers, the poor…everyone.

God values life more than us all. So if someone commits a crime worthy of death they should be put to death. We’re often in far larger communities than in Moses’ day so we have other ways where the principles of justice are carried out, but the idea is the same. See again Genesis 9:6 for an example. If you kill a person, people should still kill you…judiciously. We’re not asking men to become monsters in this. You walk into a place and start shooting, if you’re shown surely guilty like on camera, you should be tried and quickly publicly executed (after a preacher gets to present you the Gospel where even if God grants you repentance the state still has to kill you). I fully support the death penalty. Those who don’t have a perverted sense of justice on such matters. Now, I believe it’s better that a hundred guilty men go free than that a single innocent man ever be wrongfully imprisoned or executed, but there are sometimes conclusive evidences.

In any case, there are things that if you’ve done, you’ve forfeited your right to protection. A righteous form of government enforces this in righteous ways…as God has decreed.

Joseph Pittano

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