LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 175

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 20. “Of the Gospel, and the Extent of the Grace Thereof.” Paragraph 1: “The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners.”


God and God’s work is the Gospel. The “First Gospel” is seen all the way back in Genesis 3:14-15. Here it is:

“The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel
.” (Emphasis mine).


This is after what many call the “Covenant of Works” had technically ended with Adam’s (and Eve’s) transgression. There’s was the sacred duty to enjoy God and avoid sin. This was prior to their first sin. Sin, however, and consequently “The Fall,” soon entered into creation (no surprise to God) and we see here in God’s address nothing short of the promise of the Gospel. Now, it would be thousands of years until Galatians 4:4-6 (et al) was fully accomplished, but God clearly had it planned out from before it all started. All of it, all of God’s saving works toward mankind since the fallout in Eden, both through the informal and formal covenants in history, has been works in some sense under the larger banner of a “Covenant of Grace.” Life in God is not man’s to maintain now, as with Adam, it’s God’s to give, as with us all. Even the Mosaic Law, a formal covenant, is ultimately based solely upon the grace God granted to Abraham and his descendants long before. Cf. Galatians 2:21. The blessings and cursings of the Law dispensed among the Hebrews was for a people God had already sworn by his own name to preserve. They simply could not disqualify God’s promise so as to remove it because it was always God’s to give, and he chose to long ago. Ultimately in Christ, we know that the promises of salvation were for even a select group among this wider group, cf. Romans 9:6, but the group had a national priestly solidarity in the promises from the start.


We clearly see the promise of a descendent of the woman (Eve) crushing the serpent’s head through the lens of the New Covenant. Jesus became a man—Deity and humanity together. He crushed death (the serpent) and the imagery abounds in the Apostles’ hearts. The commandment to repent and believe this promised and now fulfilled Gospel is now what the church is sent to proclaim to the world. It is the message of the Cross. Jesus’ crushing of the serpent is made clear in Galatians 2:15 where when he left the judgment to God and offered himself a righteous sacrifice to God for the justice of grace. We read there: “He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, [and] made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” Jesus, through the Cross, kills the rightful jurisdiction of Law over God’s people by effectively granting them sonship in a new kingdom by crucifying them with himself and raising them up with him in newness of life. Cf. Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:56.


When Paul writes, “the gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” in Romans 1:16, it’s what these confessional framers meant by the revealed Gospel being, “…effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners.” The proclamation of Jesus’ death and Resurrection is the Gospel. The command to repent and believe in him/in this is the hope we have and the message we hold out to others. In this proclamation, God calls his sheep out from the world. Through things like preaching, prayer and evangelism God saves via the spoken message. Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 13:48; Mark 4:1-9; John 10:27-30; Mark 1:15. It’s how he does it.


When we speak of an “effectual” nature to God’s calling through the Gospel message, we mean it as a word to describe a produced effect in the hearts of some. Not everyone who hears Jesus really “hears Jesus.” Some do and they follow him. Why? They’re “effectually called” by God through what they’ve heard. Jesus said it this way: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” John 6:37. We can’t conversely call what God is doing aside from this “ineffectual” because it will also lead to one’s judgment, but there is a difference between what many theologians rightly call the “effectual call” or the “general” or “outward” call of the Gospel. Those who truly obey Jesus’ command to repent and believe are “effectually” called by God through the communicated message.



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