LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part Eight.


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 according to a Baptist flavor.





Paragraph 6b. “Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word…”



Most people who go to hell will go having heard the gospel. This is why John Wesley once referred to the world as, “A gigantic insane asylum.” “He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given,” Matthew 13:11. Spiritual insight, on any level, must be given to us by God.

     What’s really meant here by the words, “Inward illumination?” I wonder how many of you reading this could accurately articulate it. First let’s talk just on “illumination.” Conceptual synonyms in the Bible for what’s meant here could be words like, “sight” “faith” “life” “drawn” “draw” “called” “alive” “spirit” “spiritual” “in/of the light” and more. By degrees, illumination can mean anything from, “Unto eternal life” thereby speaking of one’s eternal overall position before God, or it could just mean some new insight given to someone who’s already born again. When a born again wife, for example, in spiritual growth learns from a Bible passage on Monday a way to better love her husband than she did on Saturday that’s illumination as well. In either case, God must open, by some degree, the eyes (or heart) of a person to truly illuminate them. I believe that the confession speaks of illumination in its totality, or in the first sense mentioned here. Hence in context we read the words following about a “…saving understanding.”

     At the heart of a mature faith there is the affirmation of the total depravity of mankind. You may not use those words, but the idea must be there. Without this piece of the puzzle the gospel will forever remain unfinished in your heart. Men are born as flesh and flesh only, John 3:6; John 6:63. The curse of sin is all of ours to bear who are the brood of the first Adam, Romans 5:12. We are actually born dead in our SIN or, “Of the flesh” entirely. Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 3:12. We cannot please God (Romans 8:8) until we’re born again, and born again we must be if we wish to live, John 3:3. This is why illumination is needed first. So, while a person may read the Bible and glean many things by his fleshly mind or merely human nature he cannot have a, “Saving understanding” of the Bible without illumination. He must be given this sight or hearing by God. A person may read the Bible as a politician and even though not a believer be aided by its counsel in many ways. He needn’t be illumined spiritually to be illumined intellectually, ethically or morally. That sort of illumination is not what’s being mentioned here in the LBCF. What they’re saying is that a man cannot benefit “savingly” from Scripture without illumination. Think of the illumination they’re talking about here as a naked corpse being handed a credit card and being told to go buy some clothes. He can do nothing with it unless he’s given life back. What we lost in Adam can only be restored in Christ. Because we were murdered by our sin, God had to give us life first before we could do anything. Corpses read and even preach from the Bible every day. They are not inwardly illuminated. Jesus taught a great many parables on this.

     Now let’s talk quickly about the “inward” part of, “Inward illumination.” Often in Scripture we see the difference between an inward and an outward call of the gospel. The words “inward” and “outward” are not used, but the distinction is evident all over the Bible. For example, in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas are preaching in a city called Antioch. In this city, Paul begins his public “outward” call to the people there. Many (especially the Jews present) reject it. He continues to preach. The peoples’ natural ears were bombarded with sound waves that processed Paul’s words into their brains electronically as designed. That’s merely the outward call. They were all told wonderful things. Others in the crowd, however, were inwardly called by God the Holy Spirit through the words spoken. This spiritual calling is inward illumination. Here it is: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed,” Acts 13:48. Their belief showed the inward calling of God; only living people truly believe, and St. Luke tells us they did. Many heard the message outwardly that day, but the elect in the crowd heard it inwardly. Inward illumination is spiritual illumination. This kind of inward illumination is as required for true salvation today when a teenager blows the dust off their teen study Bible as it was for the Gentile hearer that day in Antioch. Illumination, in this sense, is in the ultimate or overall sense. To be inwardly illuminated is to born again. The inward call is God opening the heart and making a person a believer. Unlike those who merely hear the outward call, everyone who hears the inward call is saved from sin. We know this because Jesus says that everyone called by the Father will most absolutely positively be in heaven, John 6:43-44. “Called” in this sense, again, is a synonym for inward illumination.

     To be illuminated and have a saving understanding of the Bible you must be raised to life. That takes a miracle. I know only one who can do this. Won’t you come to Him? Won’t you see your sin in His law and find rest in His cross? Perhaps, through these external words, He is at work inwardly in you…

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