We believe in the Holy Spirit:
A Confessional Overview

This series explores the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the 2nd London Confession of Faith. 

Part 2

In this short series of blogs, we are considering how the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith summarises the biblical witness to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Confession does not diminish the work of the Spirit by not having a separate chapter on his person and work. Instead, the Confession follows the biblical witness in presenting the triune God as foundational to all of theology. As John Webster says, the Trinity “permeates theological affirmations about every matter; theology talks about everything by talking about God.”[1]  In this blog post, we consider the relationship between God’s Word and the Spirit as summarised in the Confession.

There is such a close relationship between the Spirit and the Word of God that we must never separate the two. To speak of the Word of God apart from the Spirit of God is to fall into rationalism. Alternatively, to speak of the Spirit apart from the Word is to venture into enthusiasm.[2] The doctrine of the Scriptures is very much grounded in the work of the Holy Spirit. Hence, in Revelation, when the Lord speaks to his church, he states, “he who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.”

The first appearance of the Holy Spirit in the Confession is in chapter 1 and paragraph 5. It speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, who testifies to the divine authority and truthfulness of the Scriptures. It states, 

“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

(2LBCF 1.5)

We come to believe the Scriptures because of the testimony of the Spirit. Moreover, the Confession summarises the Bible’s teaching on inward illumination by the Spirit of God. It is by the Spirit of God that we behold and believe Christ’s glory in the Word of God. Paragraph 6 of chapter 1 declares,

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” 

(2LBCF 1.6)

Furthermorethe Holy Scriptures are delivered by the Spirit. Paragraph 10 of chapter 1 continues,

“The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.” 

(2LBCF 1.10)

How do we come to believe the Scripture? It is by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned three times in chapter 10 of the Confession on effectual calling, which teaches us that the Word and Spirit effectually call us. We are quickened, renewed, or resurrected by the sovereign grace of the Spirit. The Spirit works through the Word of God as it is read and preached, giving us new life.

In chapter 14 and paragraph 1, the Confession describes how the Spirit works through the preaching of the Word of God, “the grace of faith, is the work of the Spirit in our hearts, ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word of God.

As previously mentioned, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is distributed throughout the Confession as a trinitarian work and is foundational to key points of doctrine. Therefore, the doctrine of the Word of God rests upon the work of the Spirit who inspired Scripture as the infallible, inerrant, truthful, authoritative Word. The Holy Spirit continues to speak through it, effectually calling sinners to faith, repentance and new life.

[1] J. B. Webster, God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, vol. I, God and the Works of God (London, 2016), 117.

[2] “The Reformers charged the radicals with “enthusiasm”—meaning, literally, “God-within-ism.” Why do you need a visible church and its external ministry when your inner self is a spark of divinity and God speaks directly to us in the depths of our hearts?” Horton, Michael, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, 2017), 253.

Picture of Brett Shaw

Brett Shaw

Working with Trinity Grace Church in Greater Manchester to help revitalise a reformed Baptist church in Glossop, England and the establishment of a new association.