LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 223

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 26. Of the Church. Paragraph 9: “The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.”

As with each paragraph of the confession, the writers offer passages in support of their statements. It’s never exhaustive in any creed. They provide here for us Acts 6:3-6; 14:23 and 1 Timothy 4:14. Please take a moment to consider these brief passages. I offer Titus 1:5 in addition to these to demonstrate the universality of the “way appointed by Christ” in his elders and similarly his deacons. Paul writes “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” This is prescription. Paul tells Titus to do this everywhere he goes and where God establishes a people. The rules for such appointments are not lost to history. They aren’t needing to be developed in the traditions of the church. Sola Scriptura. They’re found here and in the other so-called “pastoral epistles” to Timothy. There is nothing lacking in it as usual. 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We know that women are not to hold the offices of pastor/elder and also what sort of men are to.

Isn’t it something how true it is that we can have “the way appointed by Christ” joined to “the common suffrage of the church itself.” Christ works in his churches. This is each local autonomous church in its area that’s established on and by the truth. There is no central elder appointing authority in the Bible. No higher regional hierarchy to install or remove leaders. In all the churches there would be the evangelistic works that establish a fellowship, and then men appointed for its life (likely or normally from those places) with all the giftings to both men and women given by God for the cause. It’s God the Holy Spirit himself who gifts his own their ministry as it written he is “…distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:11.

The laying on of hands is an incredible sign of trust and commission. It is most humbling. It’s saying to all the witnesses present that one’s hands are also to the Gospel plow. This solemn process, usually in a ceremonial service, commemorates the solemnity of setting a man aside for the holy works of elder or deacon. In Acts 8:18, Simon illicitly coveted what he saw transmitted by hands. 1 Timothy 4:14, as cited already, relays God’s direct calling so closely to the mutual affirmation of leaders in an assembly that it says the gifting, though by God directly, was “granted…with the laying on of hands…” Reiterated in 2 Timothy 1:6. The act is a formal passing of the torch to subsequent leaders as sheep beget sheep. Men who’ve built men by putting their hands to work on them. It’s considered an elementary matter in Hebrews 6:2. It is work to be done as often as God calls and as often as we can see it.

Fasting is for many a rare work. Anyone who’s made a practice of it knows of its spiritual benefits. In my opinion it’s best to be done as a total abstinence from all sustenance (both food and water). It reminds us who are spiritual just how fleshly we still are in very short order. It makes every bite and every sip infinitely precious and appreciated. It focuses the mind after it fogs it. It aids prayer. It is a work of righteousness Jesus was able to assume would happen once he’d departed. “… But the days will come when the groom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15b. Fasting is also assumed by him to take common place in the lives of his people. Matthew 6:16 begins not with “if” but “when you fast…” In all our talk here about how God the Spirit guides and appoints his own, consider Acts 13:2 and their posture: “While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.” They were fasting and serving. After the calling, it led them to more fasting and serving. Acts 13:3.

Best reason to fast: Jesus did.

All of this also combines to teach us why we should never take God’s callings lightly. God has given his church the model. When we trust it, he works. Know it. Obey it. There’s no other way.

Joseph Pittano

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