LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 163

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 18. “Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation.” Paragraph 4b: “…yet are they never destitute of the seed of God and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved from utter despair.”

Peter’s betrayal was foretold by Jesus prior to Jesus’ arrest on both occasions. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13. Peter was there when Jesus said, “whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33. After Peter then denied Jesus before men, he “wept bitterly” when he saw that his heart wasn’t as dedicated as he thought it was. But Peter, remember, was restored…just as Jesus also said to him. Many years later he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” I invite you to read 1 Peter 1:3-7 for context. I have no doubt that his perhaps darkest night of the soul helped teach him this. Peter’s an example of the preserving or sticking grace of God. Sometimes sin reveals to each of us this same truth. The truth that we’re not as dedicated as we’d like to be, or think we are. And friend, blessed are those hurt by this! They’re the ones who can quote Peter later in life. The believer is kept close to God. God is not “out to get” his own. When Paul wrote, “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” in Colossians 3:3 believers should rest in the fact that both sets of hands hold strong. Peter came to see it. Reader, if you believe in Jesus you too will not be put to shame. Romans 10:11. And he’s a better Savior than we could ever imagine.

The confession’s writers here, just like their readers, needed to hear this. God will restore. They want you to fight to not deny this in your life.

I really appreciate the inserted “and the brethren” here. The church is such a means of grace. All of the influence of others. My pastors, theologians, devotional writers, my elders, my friends, those God has entrusted to me as his sheep—they are all preserving agents of grace. They’re all salt in my life that keep me, in some ways, by the “operation of the Spirit” from spoiling. They’re how he prunes and produces more fruit in me.

Like Rocky Balboa in round ten, only stronger, the heart of the believer just won’t (can’t) quit. There’s just no place else to go! We have a duty to believe who’ve been redeemed. They call this “duty” a “sincerity of heart and conscience.” That literally warms my heart. Paul said, “brethren, we are under obligation…” Romans 8:12. Cf. Galatians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. But we can’t be satisfied if this is mere external service to us! No! Please hear John: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3. I don’t need a sweet melody playing to “feel” this. I’ve been redeemed. I know God. I therefore have a duty, a most noble duty, to repent, and to continue to repent, and believe…even after I sin again in looking with lust on a woman. This is my religion.

One of the more assuring parts of Scripture that I think develops the staying power of faith in us is in 1 John. John writes other things there like, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” 1 John 3:6. This passage canonizes our hearts. What I mean is that it lays down an abiding truth next to our hearts to straighten it over time like a straight stick gets tied to a weak tree. It cannot mean that a believer must be sinless. Anyone interpreting the passage that way has not rightly divided the word. What it means is that while believers sin, their lives having been changed toward sin is evident in them. Their trajectory is entirely different and oriented to the throne of God. They don’t desire sin any longer. “They can’t sin.” They can’t enjoy it or “practice” it when God illuminates it as sin. They won’t choose it over God. Some of this is easy. Some of this is impossibly hard, and all based on God’s grace to illumine it. Holiness marks the one born again. Sin is present in their members. It tempts from without and within. It creeps in. It wins battles. But the believer is entirely under Christ and grows up in him. They just keep coming back for more. The passage reveals, along with many others, that a heart that hates sin is the heart that loves righteousness. This can become a cause for rejoicing in the fighter when they see it.

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