LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 193

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 22. Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day. Paragraph 5: “The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner.”

The church is essential! It is the most essential organization on earth. More important than a hospital. More important than the halls of a Congress. The church, as an institution, matters more than them all. There’s truism that goes: you’re not paid in this life according to how hard you work. You’re paid according to the size of the problem you solve. Pastors and elders aren’t “professionals.” The image of a shepherd isn’t that of a CEO. We are not to be wealthy. But aside from those wise biblical parameters that keep pastors focused well, if this truism held sway, we should be billionaires. We’re not “pros” and we don’t “solve” the problem of sin, but we bring mankind the message of eternal life. How valuable is the person or people in an organization that does that?!

In the days of the Apostles we read, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42. Truth is to be discovered in our lives, and we’re all here for so short a time. It takes time to grow as a saint. And we’re all babies, even the most aged of us, next to the infinite God. God moved the church to where it is today. It’s no accident. He moved his people to learning and lives lived around scriptural teaching ministry. During the intertestamental period (roughly 420 to 5 BC) synagogues in Israel began to play a far more crucial role in the lives of the Hebrews. Their culture and language was changing. The re-built temple (first built in 966 BC) was not yet gone, but it faced new issues. It was under repeated assault. Like any historic edifice, its capture was prized by several conquering armies from Babylon to Greece to Rome. Synagogues later would be targets as well, even from one man who’d later be called as an Apostle, but they took a more prominent role during this time in the lives of the people. By the time Jesus began his public ministry we see custom well established in the relatively new idea of the synagogue. “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written…” Luke 4:16-17. Paul of course had the same custom. All of them did. Synagogue worship was the common practice in the historical narratives of the New Covenant (Matthew-Acts). See Acts 15:21. The temple began to fade until it was no more in AD 70.

God transforms his people wherever he chooses, but the church has been established by God as the place around which we’re to expect it. The best thing for a family to build its life around is a local church! A pastor’s main task is to preach sound doctrine. To bring the full counsel of God to God’s people. He will give an account for his faithfulness in doing so. It’s a true statement that someone not a member of a local Christian church they’re regularly at is probably going to hell. I say “probably” here to avoid the sin of saying “certainly.” There are exceptions, sure. Some people have been hurt by churches. Some people might not have any good churches around them. We move, we miss, we get busy, we join the military. I know. But all things equal, you do have to go to church to be a Christian. Yes. You do. You don’t have to go to church for God to save you, but you’ll want to go when he’s done so. It is the expectation of every letter in the New Covenant. If you weren’t a member of the church in Ephesus, Colossae, Rome, Thessalonica, etc., then the letters we have and should know today, in that first century, would likely never have hit your ears. Consider that. It’s the church that God has established—a people centered on his lovely truth.

Works of righteousness (that’s what they are) like baptism and the Lord’s Supper have become our prescribed custom by God’s design. Wonderful customs when done well in the Spirit and in the truth! They’re a necessary part of what we do. They are means of grace to us.

Are you in a good church? I hope so. I pray you’re in a place that you’re fascinated to go to. Where the sometimes hard but clearly fruitful works of learning, serving and worshipping God are commonplace in all you do there. I pray you know the value of a church’s families within the family structure with you and your kids if you have them. The church is the people. It’s also the places where the people meet. Where the word of God is literally loved over you as the man of God—the pastor—and your elders pray for you to make a disciple of you, spur you on to good works, discipline you, visit you when you need it, and serve you for your joy, theirs and God’s honor. Where they call for your service and you find yourself excited to give it.

We need the church.

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