(Article for publication week of 4-11-2012 AD)
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
Last week we gave you a quote from the eleventh chapter (“Of Justification”) of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith showing how our spiritual forefathers contended for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. This chapter is identical to the Westminster Confession of Faith as believed by conservative Presbyterians. This week I have some more historical quotes from the past regarding the doctrine of justification. I give these quotes first of all as working definitions for our series we have started on justification, the very “heart of the gospel” (Elder Jimmy Barber); secondly to show the historic faith of the saints; and thirdly to issue a challenge to the modern churches to examine themselves whether they are truly contending for the faith of the scriptures to which Jude exhorts.
In 1806 the first Baptist churches in Mississippi formed the Mississippi Baptist Association. The fifth of their articles of faith states, “we believe that sinners are only justified in the sight of God, by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ; which is unto all, and upon all them that believe.” These articles of faith are still the official confession of many Baptists churches in Mississippi that were organized in the nineteenth century. This article of faith on justification is a brief statement of the Biblical doctrine expressed in the earlier Confession of Faith of the Particular Baptists adopted in 1677 and circulated in 1689. The American Baptists adopted this confession of Faith, first adopted in Great Britain in 1742.
The Particular Baptists in Great Britain adopted their First London Confession of Faith in 1644. Concerning justification, they stated in article 28, “those that have union with Christ, are justified from all their sins by the blood of Christ, which justification is a gracious and full a quittance of a guilty sinner from all sin, by God, through the satisfaction that Christ hath made by His death for all their sins, and this applied (in manifestation of it) through faith.”
My final quote this week will be from the Shorter Catechism, question and answer #33. “What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”
I trust these quotations from historic and sound confessions of the past will be a help to you as we study the vital doctrine of justification. I have not given all the scripture references given in some of our old confessions, (and they are numerous), but will be using many of them in future articles. I exhort you my dear readers to “earnestly contend for the faith (for there is but one) that was once (that is once for all) delivered to the saints.”