LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 140

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.” 16.5a: “We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins;…”

Sin was just too costly to ever assume we could turn the tide.

The Bible’s call to action is no weak call. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24. The Bible’s call to works is one unto hard work. We are to run like we’re trying to win. We are to lay aside weight to run, etc. To study like one to win. Pray like one to win. Fast like one to win. Evangelize like one to win. Write like one to win. Preach like one to win. Love and forgive like one to win. Etc. When Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door…” there’s no way to not get a picture of a person at work if we consider what that looks like. We are told clearly: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” in Philippians 2:12, and that a professed faith without its evidential works is no faith from God in Christ. James 2:14-17, et al. This is why I love John Piper’s controversial (don’t know why) teaching on final salvation. We are not saved by the fruit, but we will not be saved without the fruit nevertheless.

Attached here is one of my favorite paintings. It’s Called, “The Candidat Jobs in Examination 1844” or simply “Das Examen.” Engraved by Theodor Janssen. I just wanted to share it. I took a picture of it in the Grossmunster Museum in Zurich last year on a trip through Switzerland. It shows a younger man having his theology tested by a group of older men. The books are open. Other books are being referenced from the shelf. Hearts are bowed in prayer no doubt. It’s a long day. The table is full of discussion. Some are more pleased than others to hear this young man’s heart via his articulations. The young man is being called lovingly and most willingly to give a defense of his faith to qualify him for teaching or preaching in the church. Anyone who’s been through an ordination knows something of this…I hope. It is how I live my life. First to God are each of us to study. Then, as we are never called to do so alone, also before one another. I want men and women to enjoy what God has taught me because in it they come to see what God has also taught them. Sorry social justice warriors. They’re all white dudes. Get over it.

Nevertheless, in all our running, all our working out, all our everything, it is purest Satan to see any of our works as cooperative for the forgiveness of our sins in any way or at any point. We needed Jesus and his Cross for grace. Justification is by faith alone. The Cross demands nothing else. Anathema to any who say otherwise.

Fruit in salvation is as necessary to discerning the sovereign salvation of God in someone’s life as the production of CO2 is to the influx of O2 to ascertain whether or not a person is breathing. Maintaining a sound theology through this weak analogy is to make the first exhale a miraculous result of salvation, and not the product of a first natural inhale. It is not the O2 that first produces the CO2 of divine life any more than a mere man’s chromosomes were necessary to create Christ in Mary’s womb. Grace alone is the O2 of our fruits of CO2. Once we are exhaling new life, the breathing simply becomes “natural” to us. At least somewhat. It’s all of grace, but our sanctification is grace at work.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing…” John 6:63a. The flesh is works. The flesh here also can mean works done in the assumption of any perfecting effects of works.

Catch me at the end of my life. I will have run my race. By God’s sustaining and beautiful, merciful grace, I will have endured. I will have done all and will yet profess gladly and loudly that none of it. No, not one single work I ever did forgave a single sin. I will profess then as I do now that if the payment needed for my sin was converted to money and was said to be $70,342,239,556.13 that Jesus paid it all. That if my theology professed that Jesus’ works only paid $70,342,239,556.12 then I’d be no doubt damned. Jesus paid the $70,342,239,556.13 for all of my sin on the Cross. This is imputation. This is the righteousness of faith.

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