Justification by Faith – Looking to the 1689 Confession for Help and Clarity (Part 5)

Given that the doctrine of justification is so primary to our joy and assurance in the gospel, it would be wise for us to give effort to grow in our understanding and clarity of what the Scriptures teach. For this reason, I am giving several posts to the subject of justification by walking through various paragraphs given to this in the 1689 Baptist Confession.

PARAGRAPH 5: Simultaneous Just and Sinful

God continues to forgive the sins of those who are justified. Even though they can never fall from a state of justification, they may fall under God’s fatherly displeasure because of their sins. In that condition they will not usually have the light of His face restored to them until they humble themselves, confess their sins, plead for pardon, and renew their faith and repentance. — “Confessing the Faith.”

The fifth paragraph of this chapter looks to the concern over present sin within the life of the believer. Again, it is yet another reminder as to how much the doctrine of justification by faith fuels Christian assurance and joy in salvation. The confession states plainly: “God continues to forgive the sins of those who are justified.” This emphasis upon his continual forgiveness is not an exemption from our concern for sin or needed repentance, but an ongoing comfort, reassuring us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

Secondly, the confession reminds us that while our justification is unwavering, enjoyment of God’s communion may fluctuate. It is at this statement we are reminded of the 1689 Confession’s attempt to speak against the false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Council of Trent, justification may be lost “through infidelity or the commission of mortal sin” and “one forfeited, it may be regained through the sacrament of penance.” 1 However, the Scriptures speak otherwise, assuring us that no one will every be able to bring condemnable charges against the believer, for “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33, ESV) Likewise, we are assured that nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35-39). Experientially, we may sense a distance between us and God, a sense that we have grieved his Spirit, but positionally, we are assured that our legal status of “accepted” has not changed.

Instead, the confession reminds us that forgiveness of sin must never mean frivolity towards our sin. Although God no longer punishes the sin of his elect as an angry Judge, he does lovingly discipline them as a Father (Hebrews 12:5-8). This discipline is intended to humble us in grief over our sin and provoke a renewed sense of faith and repentance.

(Part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 of this series provide a bit of explanation and setup for this current post.)

  1. Mark Sarver. “The London Baptist Confession of Faith | Exposition of Chapter 11,” Herald of Grace, 09-29-2017,

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