LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 146

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.


Section 17, “Of the Perseverance of the Saints.” 17.1c: “…notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands…”


I just love the God-centered nature of this phraseology. With a God like the God of the Bible, such ideas mustn’t ever fall short of fitting definitions in the full light of him. Answers on everything from SIN to cotton candy find their most fitting definitions in light of a God like the God of Scripture—one in whom all things consist. In whom all things are sustained. The one in whom all things are. So, when we consider perseverance, to leave out God’s role in it is appalling. Can God overcome our sin or not? If not, who can? Us? Is it God and us? Does he need my help? If so, who gets the credit? See what a mess it is to not trust in Jesus alone? No, God can overcome. God does. God must. He saves and keeps saved.


The first part of the confession affirms that sin can remove peace from the faith. Yielding to temptation to sin brings discipline upon the believer. Fathers discipline kids for doing wrong. Fellowship, in that sense where the believer partakes of the fruit of peace in his own heart before God, will become “clouded” by sin for a time. Now, they will be brought to repentance. They will not continue in sin without crisis. They will be brought to repentance in life. I will also add that they will sin in different ways, often forsaking easily the more flagrant sins, and will sin less as time goes on. But it’s not quantitative problem only dealt with in Jesus. Qualitatively, he saves. That may lead to varying quantities of sin, but that wouldn’t matter without the quality of righteousness in which the sinning Christian lives. In the sins of the saints, their discipline will win the day not their sin. Only he who endures to the end will indeed be saved. Why? Because God has given them his Holy Spirit. He never loses, and a calculated tactical defeat is not a loss of the war. God knows sin will win minor victories along the way to any saint’s glorification, but our theology is not so evil so as to pretend that we gain our justification, lose it, and can regain some state of it by sacramental obediences. Dear God, what an a-biblical, pathetic, useless and boring idea this would be. No, we actually have a Savior who trust in Christ. Sin will not have the final say over him.


Of course, none of this can be consistent outside of the biblical view of the eternal plan of salvation in God toward the believer. To believe that Jesus died for any other than his elect is foreign to the Bible. Limited atonement is not only a necessary reality of the Christian life under an omniscient God, it is exhaustively spelled out for us in the Scriptures (Romans 8:28-11:10; Ephesians 1-2:10; John 6:26-71; John 17, et al). To deny the harmony of the triune God in election, redemption and application is to commit consistency suicide theologically. The people of God are “engraven upon the palm of his hands,” of God’s hands of both Spirit and incarnate-now-glorified. Jesus actually delivers his people from their sin. Matthew 1:21. They are the many (shown here: Revelation 5) for whom he gave his life a ransom. Matthew 20:28. To believe he would again lose them is an insult to God’s integrity and loving power. Exactly as the high priests offered their offerings for the people in Israel, so Jesus offered himself for the elect. For his predestined. Romans 8:29-30. They’re on his hands. Now we rest in him. Hebrews 4.

So, when we sin. Not if, but when, we are not to lose heart. If we had a Savior only as good as we are, we’d have no savior except ourselves! If we were ever saved, it was by God. Has he made that plain in your affections? If we are ever to be kept it is by God. In a regenerate heart then alone can there be rejoicing even in the discipline of the Lord for sin. It is the wonderful addition of truth to truth that produces in the life of the race-running believer the knowledge of why God would ever save him at the end of his run.


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