LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 95

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. This will be my personal reflections on this beloved written codification of the Christian Faith which is according to a Baptist flavor.




Section 8, paragraph 8c: “…and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.”

There’s a great deal of history in the crafting of this statement. As the Gospel of the New Testament was recovered, the truths of Scripture spread across Europe and also the world. The great doctrine of God’s personal election took its proper place in Reformed Theology like nowhere else beforehand. It’s not that people beforehand weren’t saved. Of course not. Rather, it’s that just as the believers after AD 450 lived under a greater light of the knowledge of God’s nature via conciliar reflection, so we believers today now live under a greater light of why we believe after learning what grace alone truly means. After the 16th Century, the great doctrine of election had received its proper focus. For some, this wrongly fostered a fatalism. Those alive in Christ, however, saw their ultimate dependence on the Cross of Christ. The Reformed Baptist expression of the Faith of 1689 is the single best and most full-orbed summary of the church and its Gospel available. It is a result of that great initial Reformation period. It had the advantage of another generation of believers having passed by to reflect upon it.

I love the statement “free and absolute grace”. I love the ‘completely free’ Triune God! I believe that the freedom of God is to be praised, not just defined. It’s to be celebrated, not just tolerated. Systems that too strongly tie God’s work to sacramental obedience obeyed can be dangerous. They inevitably tie us to our institutions. I’m not saying they are all de facto dangerous, but they can be. I am forced to tie every reason for my justification, and every reason for my sanctification, to God’s “free and absolute grace”. This truth produces perseverance in me. This makes me want to work. Not to earn, but to produce. The vineyard owner parable is a great truth. He said, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” Matthew 2:15. God owns the harvest. He does with his own whatever he wishes to. Those of us hired by God will receive our wages.

The confession says that God’s grace is given by him to men, “…without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.” What condition does a man need to meet to be saved from the penalty of SIN? My answer is that he need only have a beating heart. God’s grace is completely and totally free. We will never obligate God. So what does a man have to do to be saved? Does he need to be water baptized? No. If so, then God’s grace is not free. Does he need to first believe by his own resources? If so, then God’s grace is not free. Does he need to partake of the Lord’s Supper? If so, then God’s grace is not free. Do his parents need to baptize him on the eighth day of his life? If so, then God’s grace is not free. Does he (not a she) need to be circumcised? If so, then God’s grace is not free. Does he need to endure to the end, meaning keep himself in the Faith by works? If so, then God’s grace is not free. All the works we are to do. All of them. All of our works- belief, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, evangelism, etc. we are to be a people zealous for all these works (Titus 2:14) but perish the thought that we’d tie our hopes for God’s grace to anything inside the church.

What assurance can this bring to us? It is to strip away all but Jesus and Jesus himself. His life, his righteousness, his salvation, his presence in our lives and works. Of course, to the self-righteous there’s only a risk here. Only a laying down of vain hopes. Good works adorn God’s grace wrought in us. Freely we have received, freely we should then give. To the righteous, it is no burden to bear to divorce their hopes for grace from all of their works. If Luther we in my church today, I’d be zealous to show him that his hope was not in his baptism. That his hope is in the grace of God that made his baptism valid. To the righteous, we are quick to affirm that we’re saved by grace alone. Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7. God chose to save us. Those saved say amen.

We take this message to the world that they too might rejoice in this great and perfect hope. It is a perfect hope only because it is not of ourselves. It is the gift of God. All those who repent and trust in Christ can have this hope alive in them. They will grow in it by their works, but truly enter into it only by God’s free and unmerited grace. All who desire it will be received.

Come and welcome to Jesus Christ!

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