Summary: The reformation gave rise to many denominations, including the baptists. In this lesson we see how reformed theology is an important part of baptist history.
When I began this series, I listed 14 individual lessons which we were going to cover regarding the history of the church.
The goal of this course was not to cover every historical event in the past 2,000 years, as that would be beyond our grasp.
But instead, it was to show the clear consistent testimony of truth which has been preserved down through the ages within the church.
In the early years, the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds bore witness to the truth.
Unfortunately, as corruption found its way in, so did a removal of the ability of ecumenism in any meaningful sense.
Last week, we noted that denominationalism is the result of the fracturing which occurred after the Protestant Reformation, but that it was a fracturing which was necessary because what was being held together in Rome was not truth, but it was undeniably heretical.
So, now instead of ecumenical councils providing strong creeds and affirmations for the worldwide church, a local church (body of believers) must decide which group or denomination with which it will have an affiliation - if any at all.
Its not just about finding a right “flavor” of Christianity, as some have suggested.
It is about finding the truth, and upholding the truth.
Our church, just in the past weeks, affirmed the Elder’s Decision to join the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals.
In doing so, we made a commitment that we would stand for the truths of Reformed Theology in our promotion of the Gospel of Christ.
Within the group FIRE, there is also a consistent understanding of Credo-Baptism, that the ordinance of baptism is for believers only; thus, we have not only established ourselves as Reformed, but also as Baptistic in our practice of the ordinances.
In our church, we do not practice the baptism of infants (known as Paedobaptism), but rather we baptize only those who have made a personal profession of faith in Christ and repentance of sins.
As such, because we have taken positions which are both Reformed and Baptistic, I wanted to spend an evening of this series dealing with two documents which are more recent (less than 400 years old) which we can and should look to as guides for our church.
I. 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
II. Abstract of Principles
I believe in these two documents, we will see clear testimony of our reformed and baptistic forefathers which not only agrees with our understanding of Scripture, but also gives weight and substance to many of the positions that we hold.
Certainly the ancient creeds have tremendous value for our faith; but we need not discount these more recent confessions and their value as well, for they contain great wisdom for the modern church when employed correctly.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith is one of the most important Reformed documents in the english-speaking world.
It was preceded and highly influenced by two other important Reformed documents:
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)
The Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order (1658)
It is sometimes referred to as the Second London Baptist Confession (or the 2LBC) because it was preceded by The First Baptist Confession which was written in 1644.
The First Baptist Confession predates the Westminster Confession, but while it is very Reformed in tone, it was not nearly as expansive.
Following the writing of the Westminster Confession and Savoy Declaration, it was obvious it needed to be revised and expanded.
The expanded version was originally written in 1677, and it drew heavily from the influences of the Westminster and Savoy Declaration.
However, at the time it was illegal to promote it; though many pastors were making references to it.
In 1689, The Toleration Act was passed and so the confession from 1677 was given a new preface and declared the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.
During this time in history, English baptists were separated into two categories:
General Baptists had been influenced by arminianism, which was a growing teaching of this time, and taught that the atonement of Christ was made “in general” for all mankind.
Particular Baptists were influenced by Reformed Theology, and taught that the atonement of Christ was made “in particular” for the Elect.
NOTE: The 1689 Confession affirms the Particular Baptist perspective.
The Particular Baptists were responsible for creating churches in Colonial America, and in 1707 the Philadelphia Association was established.
The 1689 Confession was adopted as The Philadelphia Confession with an addition of two chapters.
Chapter 23: On Singing Praise
Chapter 31: On the Laying On of Hands
It is easily demonstrated that the earliest Baptist churches in America were Reformed in their Theology
This theology would become the ancestor of the Southern Baptist Convention (which we will see expressed more fully when we look at the Abstract of Principles).