LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 206

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 3b: “…and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.”

Here we have an explicit order to pray for our leaders. It’s not an option. We can pray for many things regarding our leaders. We can pray for their conversion if we suspect it necessary. We can pray for godly wisdom and blessing in them if they’re believed to be loved by God. We can pray for God to protect us from them. It’s even appropriate to pray for their removal and destruction at times, but the context of Paul’s words regarding prayers for them bear an end state in mind. He says to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Pray for them…so that we may… The context here for leaders is for the life of the church or believer in the midst of a culture. Though not always stated as explicitly, all 22 epistles (and our five historical books) were written with the expectation that the readership was living, “In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:15. Was this not the same in God’s Israel-focused Old Covenant? Paul wrote these words to Timothy not long before a sword came down on his neck from his leaders. As believers, we need to focus on our churches. Please put in work there if you love God. Pray for your leaders that you be able to serve. The final words in this paragraph of the confession simply echo Paul’s inspired counsel to Timothy on the context for our prayers for our God-ordained national leaders at all levels.
As an American today, I fall easily prey to the idea that “Getting it right before God” means “Getting it right culturally.” This is a dangerous mistake! What nation as a whole ever got it right? The test in the New Covenant is not nations, but churches. Families. Marriages. It’s an easy mistake to make given our nation’s history. America, with all her unimaginable historical sins, was a nation conceived in liberty under a devotion to the biblical religion of Christianity. Its every failure to live that out is always a failure to implement the full counsel of God at one point or another. Honorable references to God and the Faith are not sparse in our nation’s history. At least some semblance of Christianity among the statesmen who conceived our foundational national documents was ever-present. America is a theistic nation. When you come from such a background, it’s easy to feel that you’re losing hold of things when we look around today, but there’s no such thing as a Christian nation.Never was. God made no covenant with us as a people. All we can and should do, like any nation, is honor him as a group of Gentiles and then seek his blessing. This is available to all peoples. It would seem that for many (not all) in Washington D.C. today, the only things to do with God anymore are the monuments they pass daily on their way to work. We are not even trying to honor God anymore it seems. The open celebration of sins like abortion, greed, extortion and sexual immorality alone demonstrate this. Our insanity can’t be explained except by spiritual hardening.

Reader, nevertheless, the place we can get it right as a people is in the church. We should pray for our leaders to be a part of that, but if nothing else, we should pray for them to allow us to live in light of that reality. When leaders allow the churches to be the churches there’s blessing for all. The church is salt for “the earth” after all and nothing less. Matthew 5.
In the church we don’t have to manufacture unity. We have to pray and work to maintain it, which is surely its own challenge, but God is the one who unites us in Spirit and in truth. We, with him, cultivate what he plants. A church with the basis of a solid Protestant confession of faith cannot be easily shaken. That church will pray together. That church will pour life from God into its men, its women and its kids for their lives. That church will work to worship its God, to edify itself, and to bring the Gospel to the people around it. That church will see God’s blessing on all they do. And if you envision five thousand people you’re probably wrong. Might be fifty people. Paul told Timothy to pray for national leaders who will allow for this by if necessary just staying out of the way. We can then be that salt and light in our nation’s midst. I’m no sacralist. I take issue with sacralism. Sacralism has historically almost shown itself capable of more horrific activity than just about anything else. No, the church has only one head- Jesus Christ, and consists properly of its people, its evangelists, its deacons and its pastor/teachers in the midst of its wider non-believing culture.

In America today, as men are given more and more over to destruction by God, we must pray for our leaders all the more that we may live a fruitful and godly life in their midst. This isn’t to say we retreat into a cloister, no, we should take the Gospel more public, but our focus isn’t a “moral majority” or something. Our focus is godliness in our churches. Are you a part of that in any way? Then blessed are you! Pray for your nation’s leaders to that end. If our churches are strong it spills over on all the rest. The church is a sphere of influence entirely apart from the government. They’re meant to be blessings to each other. But where we get it right is in our churches. Let’s pray for our leaders along these lines.  

Joseph Pittano

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