Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Who Speaks for Reformed Baptists? – Part 2

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 30, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Who represents us best as Reformed Baptists?  Is there a specific individual or church we can look to as our definitive model?  Leaders come and go and we have all seen the devastation that can occur when a movement follows a man.  Consider any cult and the founder will almost always be a strong male (or female) leader.

A movement which comes into being because of one leader or adopts one leader as the definitive spokesman has some inherent problems.  It is subject to the changeable ideas of the leader.  It is often destined to be relevant for one or at the most two generations.  Within the third generation the movement has generally changed enough to no longer be exactly what the founder envisioned.

The 1689 Confession is a strong defense against error.  We have witnessed men who have changed their views over time.  Others have begun to tolerate or even espouse errors they once did not hold.  There is also the problem of the “one strong leader” endorsing men and giving his stamp of approval to those who stand on the borderline of orthodoxy.  The stability of the Confession holds individual elders and entire congregations accountable to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27b).

This is why I believe our Confession is the best safeguard for the local congregation and for our movement as whole.  The confession is written and the written word is powerful when it comes to giving stability and continuity.  It is not subject to the trends of the day, or the newer ideas of men.  No doubt this is why God ordained His Word be given in written form.  Of course, the confession is not inspired so I make the comparison for illustrative purposes only.  Leaders change, styles change, emphases come and go, but the confession serves a useful purpose that stands the test of time.  It functions much like the United States Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution is not inspired and it can be changed.  When it is wrong it should be changed.  Aren’t you glad that African Americans are no longer counted as 3/5 of a person?  Still there have been only 27 amendments over the years.  Ten amendments are the Bill of Rights which came as part of the original Constitution.  Two deal with instituting and abolishing prohibition, which cancel each other out.  Our massive country has gone from 13 Colonies to its present state with only 15 amendments in more than 200 years.  In that same time, however, it is estimated that more than 10,000 changes to the U.S. Constitution have been suggested in Congress!

Today we occasionally hear calls for the 1689 LBCF to be changed.  But change implies that something is wrong or lacking.  Since even small changes can make huge differences they must, of necessity, be weighed carefully.

It should be noted that our particular confession is already a modification of the Savoy and that the Savoy was a modification of the Westminster.  Appropriate changes have already been made by those who went on before us.  Our present confession gives us the privilege to sit on the broad shoulders of the Westminster divines.  Our system of doctrine has been time-tested, and more than 300 years later, still speaks with the powerful relevance that the Puritans knew.  I believe this same firm doctrinal stance can continue another 300 years into the future if God so wills.

Is our confession in urgent need of change?  I would strongly argue there is no need at this time for change.  Sound and scholarly research into the background of the confession has been and is still being done.  More is needed.  This information gives us even greater insight into the issues they faced and why they wrote as they did.   For the confession to remain relevant it must be timeless, and not get bogged down with the transient controversies of the day.  In fact when changes are made it would likely be to those few peculiarly seventeenth century issues.

Some issues may arise which are important to a particular congregation that are not specifically dealt with in the confession.  These types of issues can be dealt with by individual congregations according to their wisdom and they should not become a bar to fellowship between congregations.  Our individual churches may have a different look or feel to them, and still be Reformed Baptist.

Realistically we are in the second generation of Reformed Baptists in the modern sense.  What we do and how we do it will determine whether there will be a third, fourth or fifth generation or if those who follow us morph into something else.  Obviously, we hope and pray that coming generations will be wiser than us, more informed than us, and more in love with Christ and His truth than us.  What we can do to help them is leave a solid foundation on which to build.

Our Reformed Baptist churches need strong leaders.  I do not believe our movement is best served by one strong leader or one exemplary church.  Our confession, in its present form gives us a firm footing for ensuring doctrinally sound pastors and teachers in the local church.  It protects the local congregation from the novel ideas of men.  I would call upon us to hold it as our form of unity and labor to understand it better.

Part 1

Steve Marquedant
Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Ontario, California

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