Today we continue our series on Gospel Convergence concerning the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith; each week I will reflect on a chapter of the Confession. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me.
The Power to Believe
What exactly is ‘Saving Faith’? The Confession answers in this way: ‘whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls’ (pg. 68). In essence ‘Saving Faith’ is the God-given power to believe in Jesus and share in salvation. Essentially, this is the Reformed way of speaking about faith as opposed to the Arminian understanding of faith.
The Confession argues that there are three ways in which the elect are given the power to believe. First, it is ‘the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts’ (pg. 68). Paul speaking of salvation in terms of being transformed into the image of Jesus confesses that ‘this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit’ (2 Cor. 3:18). Therefore the power to believe comes first from the Spirit. However, this often comes by means. Second, then, the Confession states that this is ‘ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word’ (pg. 68). This is of course famously supported by Romans 10: ‘how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? …faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ’ (vv. 14, 17). However, it can be supported elsewhere in Scripture. One of the major points of the Minor Prophets is that God speaks, and through that Word shapes His people. Haggai evidences that:
The word of the LORD cam by the hand of Haggai the prophet…Thus says the LORD of hosts (1:1-2)
The word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet (2:1)
The word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, Thus says the LORD of hosts (2:10-11)
The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai (2:20)
The Word is not the only means though. Third, the Confession identifies other sacraments/means of grace which increase and strengthen this faith. ‘Saving Faith’ ‘by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened’ (pg. 68). Sadly, the Protestant church have been prone to shy away from understanding these disciplines as means of grace, strengthening ‘Saving Faith’, giving the elect the power to believe. But the Confession gets it right!
‘Saving Faith’ is an all-encompassing faith though. It does not just give us the ability to believe in Jesus and share salvation. Rather, it aids us in knowing, understanding and trusting God more. Here are some of the things identified by the Confession, ‘By this faith a Christian believeth…
- To be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word.
- The glory of God in His attributes, the excellency of Christ in His nature and offices and the power of the Spirit in His workings and operations
- Yielding obedience to the commands
- Trembling at the threatening
- Embracing the promises of God in this life and that which is to come
Even so, ‘the principal acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving and resting upon Him alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life’ (pg. 69).
Indeed, this ‘Saving Faith’ goes all the way to assurance. ‘[T]hough it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory, growing up in many to the attainment of full assurance through Christ ‘ (pg. 69). We desire to have ‘all the riches of full assurance’ (Col. 2:2) and the Confession assures us that this is possible, we may have ‘the full assurance of hope until the end’ (Heb. 6:11), and that because of ‘Saving Faith’ wrought in us by the Spirit through the Word.
I haven’t always taken the time to consider application for the different chapters of the Confession. Sometimes it would elongate the post too much, and other times the application is evident within the reflection. However, today’s reflection could cause a little irritation with those of an Arminian persuasion. Some Christians will repeatedly assert that they chose Christ, freely and willingly. I don’t deny that. What the Confession states in chapter 14 does not deny that. God in His great grace, love and favour, subtly drew us toward himself by His power – this is ‘Saving Faith’. Often this realisation does not dawn until a while after conversion and yet when it does the only response can be adoration of God’s greatness, power and compassion…
Struggling to adore God? Consider His exercise of ‘Saving Faith’.