LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 181

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 4: “Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God.”


God saves. And such through the Gospel’s proclamation. An accurate and active theology on this glorious truth is the passion of my life.


What it means to “become a Christian” is to be born again. It’s a spiritual reality we come to understand in study by God’s teaching. Being “born again.” Being “regenerated.” Being “saved” in the ultimate sense is something God does in a person before they exercise Christian belief. Being born again (quickened in older days) is actually the first work of one’s sanctification. Obviously, only the elect will receive this in their lives. This is the doctrine of Sola Gratia (grace alone) in a most specific sense, and understanding it infuses our worship with glorious abandon like putting fuel on a fire. This is the kind of stuff the writers of Scripture (especially Paul) devote entire chapters to. This isn’t a verse here married to a verse there perhaps only united by a reader’s skills; this is diligent contextual dedication I see by the inspired writers. Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, etc. How it is we’re saved matters. We see this by the sheer volume of time spent teaching on it in Scripture in the New Covenant. Many Christians do not understand this by neglect of the Scriptures. Others by sinful arrogance. Others by sheer confusion and/or majoring on minors.


Many confuse regeneration and justification often. I know I used to. Justification always follows regeneration. Always. It is a logical necessity, though not always a discernable chronological necessity, to affirm this if we’re to fully grasp just how we’re redeemed by God in Christ. Many see their being born again “as a result” of a faith that, while God may have induced it, actually came “from them.” Their flesh and their wills, oddly enough, actually profit them everything. I call that blasphemy. John 6:63. No. Faith comes from God and is a gift of God. This is the only consistent theology on grace. Furthermore it cannot be, as some like to say, a gift that remains wrapped up and un-delighted in unless someone opens it because faith is described as spiritual life itself. 2 Peter 1:3; Acts 11:18; 13:48, etc. Faith here is more like the canvas than any brush strokes done on it. But we could go further. It’s more like the bonded arrangement of the atoms that make the canvas to then be painted on, or even the God-force that makes the atoms exist. Salvation all goes back to God due to the nature of sin in fallen (dead) people. As much as one needn’t take a breath in the womb on day one for life to begin at conception- as it surely does- so no believer exercises his or her faith before it’s given. Faith is life in Christ itself. When God gives it, life begins. Everything else follows. Such is the consistent picture in Scripture of being born again- “new birth,” “resurrection” and “new creation.” In all three, God alone is the mover. And it’s equally denied by these analogies that it’s God and anything else that moves at the first.


You did not believe while you were dead in sin. If Christ set you free…then you believed. Simple. Whether you were converted at five years old or thirty, fruit being our measure, this was the case. God, who alone can, had to make you alive in Christ in order for you to believe in Jesus.


It is the message preached that saves, but the message alone can’t do it. It’s not designed to. It is not the message of Jesus that saves; it’s Jesus that saves by the message. So, hearing the message spiritually must be done with regenerate ears, etc. It isn’t just sound waves that saves. If it could then everyone who heard the Gospel would be born again. When it’s implanted, conversion is detectable to any of us, but God must save us. And he’s delighted to do so since the start. The message must be communicated, and is sufficient unto it, but the salvation, which cannot be apart from it, is entirely of the Lord. Life comes from him. It (the Gospel message of Jesus’ death and Resurrection) is the means. This is the only consistency I can find in Scripture regarding passages in abundance like: “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” and “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 and Romans 8:8, respectively. No one can call Jesus Lord unless he’s made himself their Lord. And belief (faith) pleases God, hence no one not already born again has it. This is all Ephesians 2:8-9 without making it all depend on some un-biblical idea of our alleged free wills. We go from one kingdom to another by spiritual adoption. I preached a sermon on adoption recently that I’d be delighted for you to hear. I’ll put a link below. We’re united to Christ by a spiritual circumcision made by no one other than God the Holy Spirit himself. Colossians 2:11. I believe in a will that’s fallen and must be made alive first by grace to allow me to then freely will what’s pleasing to God my Savior.


That’s what they’re saying here. We preach. “…God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. That’s our commission. Matthew 28:18-20. We must be about that. We preach the Gospel openly to all we can without restraint or prejudice, but it’s God alone who, “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Ephesians 2:5. We leave to God what he’s not left to us and obey him to preach, trusting him alone in it all, for it all. The pressure is then off of us entirely.


Just like Joshua isn’t the hero of Israel’s conquest, we’re not the heroes when someone is saved- God is. And furthermore reader, YOU ARE NOT your own hero if you believe. We do well as believers to ponder this long and seek by the Scriptures and fervent prayer to make our praise consistent with our hearts. To God alone be the glory our hearts cry! And amen to that.


I love Reformed soteriology on this because it includes everything immediately to a theology on God. God alone gets the glory for saving me. That’s important to most of us. But then also nothing is left out as to my called for responses and works. I must believe. I did. How? God must save. He did. Amen.


Audio sermon on “Adoption.” Currently message #544 on Biblecia’s audio page (Power Point slides available free on the index page):

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