IBC Sunday School – 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith

Introduction

 

  1. Purpose of this study
    1. Three perspectives to approaching Scripture:
      1. Redemptive-historical / Christocentric: what has God done in history? How do God’s acts in history point towards and culminate in God’s ultimate revelation to us in the person of Christ?
      2. Ethical / exemplary: what should I do?
      3. Theological: what should I believe?
    2. Our study of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (“1689 Confession,” also known as the “Second London Baptist Confession”) will be primarily theological.
      1. We will go through the 1689 Confession and explore its teaching chapter-by-chapter, paragraph-by-paragraph.
      2. The Confession summarizes the Biblical teaching on a wide range of topics, one topic at a time, allowing topics to mutually inform each other. Thus, by walking through the Confession in this way we will be engaging in systematic theology: making sense of all the Biblical data on individual topics.
        1. Sometimes the confession will be explicit about connections between doctrines. Other times, connections between doctrines are implicit. As much as we can, we will try to spell out these connections in our study.
      3. The theological perspective will have ethical and Christocentric implications. Right doctrine should lead to right living (Romans 12:1-2). As well, a systematic understanding of Biblical covenants will help us see the Christocentric nature of redemptive history.
  2. What is a confession of faith?
    1. Creed: short, concise statement of the essential truths of the Christian faith
      1. “Credo” means “I believe” in Latin.
      2. E.g. Nicene Creed (381), Chalcedonian Creed (451)
    2. Confession: longer, more extensive statement of Christian doctrine
      1. E.g. 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833)
    3. Creeds/confessions serve two purposes: define truth, isolate falsehood.
      1. Different groups throughout church history have issued creeds/confessions to define what they believe, in contrast to error.
    4. Biblical warrant for confessions
      1. The church is a “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is an institution designed by God to preserve the truth, defend it against error, and pass it on to future generations.
      2. One way that the church has been able to carry out its duty is by publishing confessions of faith. This is in keeping with Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
      3. Examples of creeds in Bible
        1. Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
        2. 1 Timothy 3:16 – “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
  3. Practical uses and benefits of confessions
    1. Systematic and condensed theological reference
    2. Tool for discipleship
    3. Public standard to promote church unity and fellowship
    4. Public standard for church discipline
    5. Standard for evaluating elders
    6. Historical connection to Christians who have come before
  4. Historical background of the 1689 Confession
    1. The development of the 1689 Confession took place in the context of 17th century England. The Confession had three main influences.
    2. First London Baptist Confession of Faith (first ed. 1644, second ed. 1646)
      1. Published by seven Particular Baptist churches.
      2. The primary purpose of this confession was for the English Baptists to disavow any ties with the Anabaptists of Continental Europe and instead show that they shared the same basic theological perspectives as the Puritan churches around them.
      3. The Confession taught the doctrines of grace, believer’s baptism and congregationalism (among others), and repudiated the Anabaptist view of free will and of civil government.
    3. Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)
      1. Published by the Westminster Assembly, a council of theologians called by Parliament to restructure the Church of England. The council was mostly comprised of Puritans of the Presbyterian persuasion.
      2. The Confession taught a Presbyterian view of church government, a Presbyterian state-church, and infant baptism, among others.
    4. Savoy Declaration (1658)
      1. Published by six Puritans of the Congregational persuasion (including John Owen).
      2. The Confession was a modest revision of the Westminster Confession. The revision rejected the Presbyterian form of church government and instead insisted on the independence of each local congregation. It also rejected the idea of a state-church and approached the idea of religious freedom.
    5. Second London Baptist Confession (published 1677, adopted 1689)
      1. Published in 1677 by elders William Collins and Nehemiah Coxe of the Petty France Church in London. Adopted by 100 Particular Baptist churches in 1689.
      2. The Confession combined extracts from the First London Baptist Confession, Westminster Confession, and Savoy Declaration. Of the 160 paragraphs in the Confession, 146 are derived from the Savoy Declaration (which often reflects Westminster), 8 are derived from the First London Confession, and 6 originated from elder Collins.
      3. The Confession adopted the Congregational view of church government and religious freedom. It rejected infant baptism in favor of believer’s baptism (with an Appendix explaining its reasoning), and also adopted a distinctive view of covenant theology.
  5. Significance of the 1689 Confession
    1. It stands in line with Christian orthodoxy
      1. In particular, it teaches the classical doctrine of God and Christology.
    2. It stands in line with the Reformation tradition
      1. It is in substantial agreement with the Westminster Confession and the Savoy Declaration, and upholds the doctrines of grace, the Reformed doctrine of Scripture, justification by faith alone, etc.
    3. It articulates Baptist distinctives
      1. In particular, believer’s baptism, covenant theology, and congregational church government
    4. It exerted a wide-ranging influence on (American) Baptist life
      1. The 1689 Confession “quickly became the standard of Calvinistic Baptist orthodoxy in England, North America, and today, in many parts of the world.”
  6. Overview/outline of the 1689
    1. Part 1: First Principles (chapters 1-6)
      1. Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures
      2. Chapter 2: Of God and the Holy Trinity
      3. God’s Decree
        1. Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree
        2. Chapter 4: Of Creation
        3. Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence
      4. Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the punishment thereof
    2. Part 2: God’s Covenant (chapters 7-20)
      1. Chapter 7: Of God’s Covenant
      2. Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator
      3. Setting of the Covenant
        1. Chapter 9: Of Free Will
      4. Blessings of the Covenant
        1. Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling
        2. Chapter 11: Of Justification
        3. Chapter 12: Of Adoption
        4. Chapter 13: Of Sanctification
      5. Graces of the Covenant
        1. Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith
        2. Chapter 15: Of Repentance unto Life and Salvation
        3. Chapter 16: Of Good Works
        4. Chapter 17: Of the Perseverance of the Saints
        5. Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation
      6. Means of the Covenant
        1. Chapter 19: Of the Law of God
        2. Chapter 20: Of the Gospel and the Extent of Grace thereof
    3. Part 3: Christian Liberty (or, God-centered Living – Freedom and Boundaries) (chapters 21-30)
      1. Chapter 21: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience
      2. Religious Worship
        1. Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day
        2. Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows
      3. Chapter 24: Of the Civil Magistrate
      4. Chapter 25: Of Marriage
      5. On the Church
        1. Chapter 26: Of the Church
        2. Chapter 27: Of the Communion of Saints
        3. Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
        4. Chapter 29: Of Baptism
        5. Chapter 30: Of the Lord’s Supper
    4. Part 4: Last Things (chapters 31-32)
      1. Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead
      2. Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment
  7. Concluding remarks and resources
    1. We commend the 1689 Confession to you as an accurate summary of Scriptural truths. But the Confession is a fallible human document and may be wrong. Ultimately, the teachings of the 1689 Confession should be tested against Scripture itself, which is our only infallible standard for all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience – the Confession even says as much.
      1. If you find yourself in disagreement with a teaching in the Confession, I would urge you to humbly examine the Confession’s teaching and any alternative teachings by the standard of Scripture. Do not dismiss the Confession’s teaching lightly – as the most influential Baptist confession ever written, it has the weight of history behind it.
    2. Resources
      1. Online
        1. Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA), https://www.arbca.com/1689-confession
        2. Founder’s Press, “The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English,” https://founders.org/library/1689-confession/
      2. Apps
        1. iOS: “Christian Creeds & Confessions,” https://apps.apple.com/us/app/christian-creeds-confessions/id359513722
        2. Android: “Creeds and Confessions,” https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nz.co.conglomo.confessions
      3. Books
        1. Samuel E. Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, (Welwyn Garden City: EP Books, 2016), 5th edition.