LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part Thirteen.


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 9: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.”


Scripture interprets itself. Peter interprets Isaiah, James interprets Luke, etc. If you’re a student of the Bible you’ve come to see clearly that it’s not at all a book written in our generation or 21st century culture. It is a text to which bridges must be built for sound appropriation to our lives today. Even much of the poetry and prose is very foreign to us. Let’s face it, if any man alive today told his wife: “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep which have come up from the washing, every one of which bears twins, and none is barren among them,” (Song of Solomon 4:2) he would get some looks. To a culture like Solomon’s, however, such a compliment would not have been strange.

     There are a handful of texts for which we simply cannot be certain exactly what they mean. I’m not just talking about differences in interpretation here though that too might be the case. Here I’m speaking of verses that no one will likely, “Build a denomination on” if you know what I mean. They are somewhat shadowy or difficult to us. They would not have been to the original audience(s); to us, however, living at least two millennia later, the meanings are for the most part lost to us. We might still be aided nonetheless by other passages to see what they cannot mean. Scripture then still helps us interpret Scripture. Other passages help us to not make bad assumptions based on ambiguities even if they don’t directly help us understand any passage better. For example 1 Corinthians 15:29 says: “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” Baptism for the dead? Huh? What does this mean? They knew what was going on in Corinth here, but we don’t…for certain anyway. This isn’t taught anywhere else in the Bible. It’s not mentioned elsewhere. If it was we’d go there first to help us understand this. Since it’s not expounded anywhere else or demonstrated we classify this as a somewhat shadowy verse. I have never heard a preacher worth his salt preach on this passage without humbly admitting that his understanding of it is difficult. What we can be certain of, however, by the proper use of other non-ambiguous passages that teach clearly that salvation is not by works, is that we the living are not to undergo water baptism on behalf of the dead as some cults today purport. Here is what the confessional writers mean when they talk about Scripture interpreting itself. I use verses to shed light on other verses. This principle is useful in many ways. 

     When they speak of the truths of a Scripture being, “Not manifold but one” they speak of a principle most useful to Christians today. Parables and Bible teachings were not given to teach numerous hidden meanings to various readers as they come in and out of a passage. There is ultimately one truth in Scripture…even the ambiguous few. It is that truth we all should be striving after. Ephesians 4:11-16.   

     This is a very useful principle. Scripture helps us interpret Scripture. If you’re confused about what James said about justification, compare his teachings on it with Paul’s and vice versa. If you are provoked to want more information by Jude’s mention of fallen beings then see what Jesus had to say about them. Compare each author with others under Jesus’ own teachings. We do this based solely on the conviction that men are not ultimately the authors of Scripture. We reconcile ourselves to the Bible, not the Bible to ourselves. We seek to find THE Author of it through each man He chose to pen its pages. We seek therefore His meaning in each text. If certain passages do not fully reveal themselves to us then we go to other writers to unveil more. Such is the unparalleled genius of God in the Bible’s authorship.


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