Reflections on The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Part 30 ~ The Final Judgement

Today we conclude our 30 part series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I hope and trust that you have benefited from looking at doctrines in Scripture thematically and systematically.


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The Confession fittingly ends with the climactic event which will end human history as we know it, the Final Judgement.  In doing so, the Confession answers three questions for us.

What is the Final Judgement?

In answering the first question the Confession straight-forwardly asserts: ‘God hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world in righteousness’ (pg. 122).  The Final Judgement is a moment in time (‘a day’) when God will judge everyone, everywhere, for everything.  If that sounds a little stark, then consider that this is exactly the point that Paul makes to the Athenians listening to him on Mars Hill (Acts 17:31).

On that day we are told that all of the apostate angels with be judged.  After all, as Jude reminds us, ‘the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgement of the great day’ (v. 6).  Not only the angels but all people throughout history too.  This is one of the closing exhortations that Paul leaves with the church in Rome.  He writes ‘we will all stand before the judgement seat of God…each of us will give an account of himself to God’ (Rom. 14:10, 12).

This Final Judgement will be conducted by Jesus, the one to whom all power and judgement has been given to by the Father (Acts 17:31).  As we noted last week then, depending on our standing in Christ, this judgement will lead to one of two destinations:

[F]or then shall the righteous go into everlasting life and receive that fullness of joy and glory with everlasting reward, in the presence of the Lord; but the wicked, who know not God and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments and punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (pg. 122-123)

Why is there a Final Judgement?

The answer to this second question is perhaps beyond the full comprehension of our finite human minds.  However, it is not beyond stating in our finite human language.  The Confession unashamedly proclaims:

The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of His justice, in the eternal damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient (pg. 122)

There is a Final Judgement for the glory of God’s mercy to the elect, and the glory of God’s justice to the reprobate.  Yet, in Romans 9, an equally black and white statement of God’s election and rejection contains the same emphasis.  It is all ‘in order to make known the riches of his glory’ (v. 23).  There is a Final Judgement for God’s glory.

What difference does the Final Judgement make now?

This is a rare chapter in the Confession that contains some practical application (however, this is justifiable given the aim of the Confession).  There are two reasons why it has been revealed to us that there is a Final judgement:

  1. To deter sin. The knowledge of one day giving an account and being judged for all of our actions is to encourage us to flee from sinful passions.  After talking about God’s judgement Paul acknowledges, ‘knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others’ (2 Cor. 5:11).  The Final Judgement should deter us from sin, and force us to deter others.
  2. To console those in adversity. The knowledge of one day God’s perfect justice being executed should be of some consolation to those who are facing adversity in their life.  Paul encourages the Thessalonian Christians, who are suffering, that God will repay those who have afflicted them with affliction but only ‘when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven’ (2 Thess. 1:5-7).

However, there are also two reasons why we do not know when this Final Judgement will occur:

  1. To avoid carnal security. The unknown date of the Final Judgement should discourage individuals from revelling in their carnal security – living how their sinful desires dictate knowing that there is time to repent before judgment.  Of course this is antithetical to Biblical teaching, and yet we know that our twisted sinful souls would justify it to us if only we knew the date of the Final Judgment.
  2. To aid watchfulness. The unknown date of the Final Judgement should provoke us to watchfulness, knowing that it could begin at any given moment.  We dare not get caught red-handed.

Jesus taught this to his disciples explicitly:

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. (Mark. 13:32-37).

We end this series as the Confession ends: Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.  Amen.

Reflections on The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Part 29 ~ The State of Man in Death and Resurrection

This is the penultimate post in our series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I hope and trust that you have benefited from looking at doctrines in Scripture thematically and systematically.


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Benjamin Franklin is credited with the now famous assertion that in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.  It is to death that the Confession now turns its attention.  There are three groups of people that the Confession addresses.

Everyone

The Confession agrees with Franklin that death is a certainty for everyone – there is no exception.  Everyone’s final destination on this earth is death (if the Lord does not return).  What is the state of man in this certainty?  To begin with our bodies return to dust.  From dust they came, and to dust they return (Gen. 3:19).  Even the greatest Israelite King, David, saw corruption and decay (Acts 13:36).  However, we are not only physical bodies, but also eternal souls.  And so, our “souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them” (pg. 120; Ecc. 12:7).  The implication here is that there is something beyond the grave, of which we are conscious.  It is at this point that we must consider the second group of people.

The Righteous

Everyone’s bodies return to dust, and all their souls return to God, but everyone does not enjoy the same treatment.  The righteous (or Christians, believers in Christ) are immediately received into Paradise (Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23).  It is here that the righteous await their full redemption at the end of time.

Of course, the reality is that there will still be people living when the end of time arrives.  These people will not experience death per se, but they will experience resurrection.  Scripture clearly teaches that these people will be caught up into the air and changed in the blinking of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:17).

For the righteous who have experienced death, at the end of time they will enjoy having their souls reunited with their resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15:42ff.).  In this we will be raised to be made like Christ (Jn. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1 Jn. 3:2).  This is the glory which awaits the righteous in death and resurrection.

The Unrighteous

Sadly, there is a third group of people – the unrighteous.  These people have spurned Christ and his love throughout their life, and so face a very different experience on the other side of death.  As mentioned above their souls return to God, but not to be welcomed into Paradise.  Instead, these individuals are cast into a place of suffering and torment until the final judgement which will occur at the end of time (Luke 16:23-24; 1 Pet. 3:19; Jude 6-7).

At the end of time, however, the unrighteous will be brought before God again and will be judged for their rebellion and hatred against God (Jn. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).

Conclusion

I want to conclude with three implications for what I assume will be a Christian readership:

  1. First, we should note the great comfort that Scripture affords the Christian in death. While we will suffer death like everyone else – and for some that will be painful, undignified and brutal – we will not enter some strange abyss.  To be absent from the body, to die, is to be with the Lord.  For those who have lost loved ones in Christ this is a great comfort as we know they are now present with God.  As the Confession reminds us they “behold the face of God in light and glory” (pg. 120).  For those perhaps facing death and their final days, know this: when you close our eyes for the final time God will be the next person you see!
  2. Second, we must think again what heaven (or to be more accurate the new heaven and new earth) will be like. This is somewhat difficult as Scripture uses lofty imagery to describe the indescribable, but so often our ideas are mistaken (and badly informed by media).  In resurrection we will be given back our bodies, only they will be glorified.  We will be perfect representations of Jesus Christ.  We will experience what Adam and Eve enjoyed all too briefly.  We will not have some bodiless, floating experience.
  3. Third, can we really it back in our comfortable churches and not cry out to the world in darkness about the dangers that lie ahead of them? To die, to be raised, to be put in a ‘holding cell’, to be brought before God, to be judged and condemned eternally is a frightful prospect.  We alone hold the remedy to that in the gospel of Jesus Christ – and thus, we must proclaim it!  Again there is comfort to be found here, because it is never too late to trust in Christ while there is breath in your lungs.  After all, Jesus promised the thief on the cross that that very day he would be with him in Paradise!

Reflections on The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Part 28 ~ The Ordinances

We are nearing the end of our Gospel Convergence series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I would still encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me. 1689 - Final

The Ordinances

This blog post covers chapter 28, 29 and 30 of the Confession which deal with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (28), baptism (29) and the Lord’s Supper (30).  The reason that we are taking these chapters together is because these two ordinances belong together in the Church.  As Mark Dever makes clear, in numerous places, the ordinances serve as doors to the church – baptism the front door and the Lord’s Supper the back door (see for example The Deliberate Church, pp. 105-108).

In dealing with both of these ordinances the Confession is careful to remind us that they are positive, instituted by Christ and for those who belong to the church (pg. 113).  Christ is recorded as instituting these ordinances in the Gospels:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:19-20)

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matt. 26:26-29)

Baptism

How then does the Confession go about defining baptism?

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him; of remission of sins; and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of live. (pg. 114)

This is exactly the picture painted in the New Testament.  Perhaps one of the clearest statements found on baptism is that of Paul’s in Romans 6:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him be baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (vv. 3-4)

There are then three assertions posited by the Confession with respect to baptism.  First, the only proper subjects for baptism are those who profess Christ and evidence faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ.  Second, that the outward element to be used in baptism is water, and that it is to be done in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see Matt. 28:19-20 above).  Third, the Confession claims ‘immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance’ (pg. 115).  In defence of this claim Matthew 3:16 and John 3:23 are cited.

Space precludes a detailed defence of the Confession’s version of baptism (otherwise known as believer’s baptism or credo-baptism).  The verses cited are familiar and there are pat answers on both sides of the argument.  Nonetheless, for credo-baptists looking for a more robust defence, or peado-baptists wanting to read a solid defence of believers baptism I would point the reader to Believers Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by T. R. Schreiner and S. D. Wright.

The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper, argues the Confession,

Was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in His churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance and showing forth of the sacrifice of Himself in His death, confirmation of the faith of believers and all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe to Him; and to be a bond and a pledge of their communion with Him and with each other. (pg. 116)

What then are the facets of this remarkable meal that Christians are to share in?  The Confession notes six:

  1. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial. The Confession states it is ‘only a memorial of that one offering up of Himself by Himself upon the cross, once for all’ (pg. 115).  While I would query the use of the term ‘only’ here, there can be no denial that the Lord’s Supper is to be a memorial to that awesome sacrifice.
  2. Written against the background of the battle with the Catholic Church it is perhaps unsurprising to find that the Confession makes it explicitly clear that to deny the cup to any believer is contrary to Scripture.
  3. Again, the Confession also makes it clear that to worship or adore the elements in any way is likewise contrary to Scripture.
  4. There is then a clarification that, even though it is justifiable to speak of the elements as Christ’s body and blood (for that is what they represent), in no way and by no means do the elements ever change their nature from bread and wine. Indeed, it is ‘repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason’ (pg. 118).
  5. Happily the Confession proceeds to state that the Lord’s Supper is indeed more than just a memorial. ‘Spiritually [believers] receive and feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of His death’ (pg. 119; see John 6:52-58).
  6. While the Lord’s Supper is a glorious feast for those who are Christ’s, it is a judgement and damnation on those who partake of it ignorantly and in their unregenerate state.

All six of these facets are found to a greater or lesser extent in the longest section of Scripture to treat the issue of the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgement. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Reflections on The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Part 27 ~ The Communion of the Saints

We are nearing the end of our Gospel Convergence series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I would still encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me.


Chapter 27 of the Confession raises the topic of the communion of the saints.  This is perhaps a phrase that is uncommon in modern Christian vocabulary, and yet it communicates a beautifully rich picture of the fellowship that all Christians enjoy with one another.  In an attempt to flesh this out somewhat the Confession appears to answer two questions.

What is Communion of the Saints?

Communion of the saints begins where most Christian doctrines begin, with Jesus Christ.  First, communion of the saints is unity in Jesus.  ‘All saints’, the Confession explains ‘are united to Jesus Christ, their head, by His Spirit and faith, although they are not thereby1689 - Final made one person with Him’ (pg. 111).  It continues by underlining that this unity is expressed in sharing Jesus’ graces, sufferings, death, resurrection and glory.  John clarifies the unity we have in Jesus in stating ‘our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 Jn. 1:3).  Paul reflects the Christian life in seeking to ‘share [Jesus’] sufferings, becoming like him in his death’ (Phil. 3:10).  In Romans 6:5, then, we are reminded that just as ‘we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.’  Indeed, this certainty is manifested in that Paul can say that even now we share Jesus’ glory as we are seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).

Second, however, the Confession makes it clear that this unity in Jesus means we are explicitly united to one another as Christians.  This is evident in that we all stand on level ground in Jesus Christ.  Paul, in perhaps his most forceful letter, presses this home in stating: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3:28).  Even though Paul uses this list to make it clear that we are all one in Jesus Christ, in no way does our salvation erase these differences physically (such as gender).  Rather, we are all different but equal in Christ.  This is reinforced in the image Paul uses in Ephesians 4:16, ‘the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’

What does Communion of the Saints mean?

This second questions notes that the unity in Jesus and with one another, in other words the communion of saints, has explicitly practical implications.  In fact, we saw a glimpse of that by quoting Ephesians 4:16.  There are three answers to this question present in the Confession.

First, the communion of the saints means that we must share the gifts God has given us for the mutual benefit of each other.  At the beginning of a vitally important section in 1 Corinthians on the orderly worship of God we are told that ‘[t]o each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ (12:7).  In other words, each Christian is given a gift by the spirit to use for the mutual benefit of all Christians in that place.  Again, a similar point is made at the end of 1 Thessalonians as Paul writes ‘we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all’ (5:14).  As the Confession puts it: ‘[Christians] are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, in an orderly way, as do conduce to their mutual good’ (pg. 111).

Second, ‘[s]aints, by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God’ (pg. 111).  Again, this implication is drawn directly from Scripture.  The writer to the Hebrews encourages:

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near’ (10:23-25)

Third, this communion requires that we relieve each other’s outward needs when necessary and appropriate.  In Galatians Paul closes by encouraging his readers to do good to everyone, but especially to the household of faith (6:10).  There is a special bond between Christians which gives them priority in receiving help.  The early church offers us an example of what this looks like as Luke records for us that ‘the disciples determined everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.  And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul’ (Acts 11:29-30).  In fact, relieving the needs of our fellow Christians is commanded by John, and offered as an evidence of our genuine profession.  John asks, ‘if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 Jn. 3:17).  He then warns, ‘let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (v. 18).

Reflections on The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689: Part 26 ~ The Church

We are nearing the end of our Gospel Convergence series on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I would still encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me. 1689 - Final


The importance of the church in the life of a Christian is impressed upon us in the Confession as it devotes eight pages to this topic – the most on any issue in the Confession.  There is a bit much for us to go through in detail, so here are the 14 headlines from this chapter regarding the church:

  1. The catholic or universal church is invisible. This invisible church “consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ” (pg. 103).  In other words, every true Christian is a member of the catholic or universal church by default.
  2. Although there is an invisible church, there is also a visible church. This visible church consists of those “professing faith”, displaying “obedience unto God”, “not destroying their own profession” and therefore, “of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted” (pg. 103).
  3. One sad reality is that the visible church will inevitably be a mixed entity – consisting of both true Christians and pretenders. Indeed, some churches may even fall beyond recognition as a Christian church due to their indiscretion in admitting pretenders to their membership.  However, gladly “Christ hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world” (pg. 104).
  4. The head of the church, whether invisible or visible, is the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
  5. True disciples of Jesus cannot and should not endeavour to go it alone. Jesus calls all of his followers to “walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification and the due performance of that public worship” (pg. 105).
  6. The head of the church, Jesus Christ, has invested each individual, local, gathered congregation with power for ensuring order in the worship and discipline of that local congregation.
  7. “A particular church, gathered and completely organised according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members” (pg. 106).
  8. The officers within a local, gathered congregation are known as elders and deacons. Individuals to fill these offices should be elected by the gathered congregation, set apart with fasting and prayer, and with the imposition of hands.
  9. Amongst the officers there should also be, means permitting, a pastor. Churches should offer pastors a healthy respect and a comfortable supply of material goods.  In return the pastor should attend to the church with the Word and prayer, being hospitable with the material goods supplied and living out the gospel which he preaches.
  10. Although a pastor devotes the majority of his time to preaching the Word, preaching should not be confined to pastors. Rather, “others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it” (pg. 108).
  11. Joining a church in membership is an imperative under the rule of Christ. “[A]ll believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do” (pg. 108).
  12. Any individual members having issue with another member in the church should endeavour to avoid disturbing the church, refuse to absent themselves from the regular meeting or ordinances, but also wait for the church to act on the matter.
  13. Individual churches are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ.
  14. A grouping of churches may involve themselves in each other’s affairs for the mutual benefit of all involved. However, each individual church within the grouping does not hold authority or jurisdiction over any single church within the grouping.

For further reading some of these articles may be helpful: https://gospelconvergence.com/?s=church