LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 179

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 3b: “…not being annexed by virtue of any promise to the due improvement of men’s natural abilities, by virtue of common light received without it, which none ever did make, or can do so.”

It’s said that once when asked how we can reconcile God’s eternal predestination, which is evidently not based on foreseen faith or any such thing, with man’s complete responsibility, that CH Spurgeon responded: “I didn’t know that friends needed to be reconciled.” He was right. I know that some sure signs of a heart that loves Jesus are an apprehension of the truth of God and an enduring life lived in honor of it, but I give none of this to the abilities of a person. A good preacher must affirm both that God alone decided who was to be saved based on his own will, and so uphold what it means to say we’re saved alone by Jesus, but also, however, he must never fail to preach the command of obedience that God issues to all who hear him. The friends needn’t be reconciled, only proclaimed. They fight, but back to back, and not face to face. The Christian must tell everyone he can that they themselves must all decide for Jesus. That they must exercise their will livingly toward the Cross in total submission to God’s offer of salvation or they will not be saved. So long as we don’t in this presume grace based upon anyone’s responses too quickly, ascribe to anyone’s will an eternal sovereignty over God’s, or leave someone to feel that they must first become God before they feel progress can be made if it seems good to them, we’ve done the work of an evangelist. And each message need not include every part. To some it’s a full Law and Gospel rundown that’s needed. To others, it’s a talk about our duties as parents that the Spirit uses to awaken them to sin. To others, it’s a discourse on dog breeds that hammers home the point. So long as the Cross has been communicated, we must be ready in it all. And of all our work in love it can then be said that, “…God was causing the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6.

Men needn’t “improve” themselves in order to have God’s favor. This is good news. They can’t improve themselves. Grace isn’t “annexed” to a bettered natural behavior. There are no bootstraps in Christianity except Jesus’ which none of us are worthy to touch. A man needn’t “improve himself to have New Testament salvation. Instead today, it’s that those imputed Jesus’ righteousness improve themselves thereby. It’s not the improvement that merits the grace; it’s the grace that merits all the subsequent improvement. Otherwise, grace is no longer grace and work is no longer work. A key ingredient to the beauty of the Gospel is that God saves those who have no claim to it. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:5. God grants faith by grace alone. He loves us despite who we are, so come as you are. If you truly come it’s an entirely new you anyway in the sight of God.

The confession has already talked about God’s prescribed limits on natural revelation. It’s not enough to have natural sight and hearing. The new heart of regeneration brings the new sight and new hearing needed to see and hear Jesus. This has already been mentioned. They say it again here. The message of the creation isn’t the same as Jesus’ message. Jesus’ message is more detailed. Stars don’t tell you to repent and believe in Jesus’ Resurrection. The Resurrected Jesus does.

Not one single soul has ever once in any sense of the idea ever come to God on its own. Cain and Abel were hopeless on their own. Us too. But God comes. “…The flesh profits nothing…” John 6:63. Fallen flesh needs a spiritual jump start. Salvation is not of our natural ability. It’s of grace and grace alone.  Reformed theology does well to give both God and man their due consistently.

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