LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 142

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.” 16.6: “Yet notwithstanding the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight, but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

This is so very clearly the biblical Gospel. Forget all the fine points for a moment, reader. The Gospel is this: “Who I am is made fully acceptable to God because of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and what Jesus now is to me.” A Gospel of grace is one that demonstrates the utter need of a Savior from start to finish. Jesus did not come to save good people. There are no good people. We are all of us born members on team Adam; we have all sinned. Romans 3:23; 5:15-19. We were drafted. Born “DOA” yet also naturally “1A.” We cannot have a system to save us because we are in and of ourselves beyond saving from birth. Many angels sinned as well, and God made no plan of salvation for them. Those fallen angels are also beyond saving. For man, there is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the only thing that makes the difference. There is nothing in you that would make God hear you. Nothing. You’ve heard this Gospel. Repent and trust in the Son because there is a judgment to come where only those who believe in the Son (rightly) will be pardoned. Listen to the Psalmist:

“Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.

Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalm 2:10-12.

Jesus purifies us…and therefore our works. Yet, we are not made acceptable on the basis of the latter. We are made acceptable by God’s work of the former. By this, the latter becomes as present as the former in the final analysis. Grace alone! If God intends a man to complete an 8-mile run in his salvation, then miles 1-7 along the way are a litmus test, not just that he crosses a finish line. We were ordained for good, non-meritorious good works, Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8; Acts 4:9-12; 26:20. Yet, we will sin on our best days. Romans 7:14-20. We will sin on our last days. 1 Timothy 1:16; Philippians 3:12-14. But as one excellent preacher once excellently remarked: “The only sin you can make any progress against is a forgiven sin.” If that has sunk it, it’s the Gospel sinking in. The Gospel isn’t what God’s called you to, it’s who he’s called you through. Now, go where he leads you.

Christianity is the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to all of God’s people. I wrote this to try to prove why I conclude such:

He’s worth more than us all. His life and works are far beyond sufficient to redeem us all. He is no mere prophet. Jesus is the one for whom all the prophets wrote, and the one to whom all the prophets bow down in worship. We have an alien righteousness as Christians. It is a righteousness foreign to us and like seed placed in soil it was planted in us from someone else. Jesus’ righteousness becomes our righteousness as God imputes it to us. This is the foundation of the Faith. This righteousness was formed outside of us in its entirety, and like a seed that falls into the ground and dies, it was sown in us (the good soil) and is bearing much fruit to the glory of God.

This is why all of our works become treasures to God as our fruit. He loves them. John 15:16. Even the death of his saints is pleasing to him. Psalm 116:15. Our works are never perfect. They’re tainted with sin, false motives, short-sighted prayers and folly, but they’re a blessing to God and to his people nonetheless because of Jesus. This acceptability is a spiritual reality. No works of a non-believer can please God. And all works from a believer cannot but please God. It is a categorical or qualitative distinction when we say that the Christian’s works are acceptable before God in Christ. They’ve been taken out from category A: “Unacceptable and self-righteous” and by the many saving graces of the triune God placed in category B: “Acceptable and lovely.” This is the only reason Christians will have a judgment of our works to come. 1 Corinthians 3:5-15. While all the judgment of God is very humbling to imagine, I look forward to that judgment I’ll face. This is no judgment of sinners. It is the judgment of saints. I’ve been delivered from the latter unto the former.

I want to close with just a bit more emphasis on how lovely it is that even my writing of this letter is an acceptable work to God in Christ Jesus. It’s like when we speak of praying “in Jesus’ name.” Question: what does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name?” Is it just the words we use at some point in our prayers that makes God hear us? No. Of course not. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:14. In John 16:23 he says again, “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” I take this literally. We all should who are in Jesus. It may be my greatest shame at my judgment that I don’t seem to, but I profess that I do in fact take this literally. What can account for such a boldness in prayer? Just that I used the right #hashtag with God? No. What it means to “pray” or “ask in Jesus’ name” is that we pray “as believers.” As “disciples.” We who are in Jesus are the only ones who can pray in Jesus’ name. Those prayers and works done “in Jesus’ name” are heard and made acceptable by faith in Christ. They please God and that brings us great joy in return.

Thank God that our works are not in vain any more! They’re Christ’s works in us! And ours in him!

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