LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 138

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 which is according to a Baptist flavor.




Section 16, “Of Good Works.” 16.3: “Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ; and that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is necessary an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet they are not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty, unless upon a special motion of the Spirit, but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”


It’s as ridiculous for a working-class man to say he bought a car to never drive it, as it is to say that God redeems a man to not get something from him.


When the subject of works and faith comes up, one’s mind is often called to James these last days. The same subject, however, is dealt with in a great many other places in Scripture. One common accusation of Roman Catholicism against the church is that we try to “remove James 2 from the Bible.” In many ways historically, their accusations here are sadly not without merit. Many deny the place of works in Christian sanctification to their own destruction today who call themselves “Bible-believing Christians.” I have no doubt that many Protestants in history like Luther were horribly wrong in their treatments of James’ epistle, or on the subject of works altogether. Antinomianism and his estranged other brother legalism have not ever been small problems. Like Wormwoods, they just keep training up Screwtapes. We need to try to understand why, and I think we can, but there’s just no doubt that Luther was wrong on James, and he should have been disciplined for his teachings (or should I say non-teachings) on James’ epistle which is and has always been, as much as anything from Paul or anyone else, of purest gold when untainted by the “Midas touch” of Rome. James’ letter was tainted by the ungodly world of the sixteenth century. It then became like a talk about sex to a person abused sexually. But I’m quick to run to the defense of my brother Luther. You can hardly blame a man who’s been in a fierce battle on his southern front for ten years to have a weak northern defense. #GodusedLuther. LOL. I stand upon his massive shoulders and would seek to correct his misunderstandings about the nature of grace and works in James by using illustrations from his own life as evidence. Scripture first, and a mirror for him second. I would, if all things were as they are, seek to use his very life itself to teach him this truth. Luther’s life all but proves my theology on faith and works. And he, though wrong, inadvertently helped many of us to see it in God’s use of the man.


I love the way the confession here advises that we should not be negligent in our good works, or that we should be waiting on some “special motion of the Spirit” towards this or that before we act. No. We’ve been given our master’s will, and we should be about it as a matter of duty simply because he said we should be about it. Period. It is God who rescued us from idle desires, but that rescue shows up in non-idleness and willing obedience to our master’s commands. There is great rebuke for those who know (have read) of their master’s will and are not about doing it. Luke 12:47 and its context. Christians, by their works (i.e. water baptism once, Bible study, evangelism, financial going or sending, prayer, service to someone, fellowship, financial generosity, hospitality, fasting, etc.) are to be “stirring up the grace of God that is in them.”


A faith without works is dead. A faith based on works is dead too. We are saved by the Cross. Saved by Jesus. Saved entirely by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ brought to God’s adopted thereby. To deny this, for the sake of claiming to affirm the Gospel, is ultimately to make one’s works at best useless, and at worst, satanic. We work because our Father is at work in and through us. We work because it pleases him. We work because what pleases him pleases us too. We work because it leads to others coming to know him. We work because it is our joy to work, it is what he has commanded us to do, and because in Christ, “The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much…” Ecclesiastes 5:12a.

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