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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 3,806 views | 555 Words | 06 March 2015 23:00
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-26:-Of-The-Church-Commentary/1045&search=ALLEGIANCE&precision=exact
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Chapter 26: Of the Church

What is the church? What is the visible church and invisible church? Who is the head of the church? What power does the church have? What is church discipline? What offices are there in the church? What about church membership? What does an elder do and who can become an elder? What does a deacon do and who can become a deacon? What is the work of the pastor?

Although this chapter is the longest in the Confession, yet it will not have a long commentary, for most of the things which are asserted here could easily be proven by looking at the proof-texts that are provided. 


§1 The Universal Church Consists Of The Whole Number Of The Elect

  1. The catholic or universal church, 1 which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. 2
    1. Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Heb. 12:23[1]
    2. Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col 1:18, 24; Rev. 21:9-14

The word “catholic” means universal and hereby they are agreeing with the last part of the Apostles’ Creed: 

I believe in the Holy Spirit, 9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, 10. the forgiveness of sins, 11. the resurrection of the body, 12. and the life everlasting. Amen.

Neither the Nicene Creed nor the Confession refers to the Roman Catholic Church in the word "catholic", but the universal Christian Church of Jesus Christ. This church is the Universal, throughout the globe, invisible church. This designation refers to true believers, who were chosen before the foundation of the world, are members of the New Covenant and not merely members of a local church. They are true believers and this is what the New Covenant consists of and this is what makes up the invisible Church, which only God knows who belongs to it. There will be professing believers in our churches, even members or on the staff, who are not true believers and thus not part of the invisible church, but they are part of the visible church.

The New Covenant consists only of believers. This is one of the major points which 1689 Federalism stresses. The New Covenant, which is wholly salvific, is only for the elect. In other words, all the member of this covenant, unlike all previous covenants, are redeemed and elect of God from eternity. All the members of the New Covenant are truly regenerate and Spirit-dwelt believers. This is seen for example from Hebrews 8:6-13 where all members of the New Covenant, from the oldest to the youngest know the LORD. Not merely know about Him, but truly know Him. Furthermore, this New Covenant is unlike the Mosaic Covenant which had members who were unbelievers and members who were believers. This New Covenant is one which will not be broken like the Mosaic was and from whence apostasy is impossible. So basically, the Universal Church or the Invisible Church consists of the members of the New Covenant, all redeemed and elect believers throughout all ages. For more on covenant theology, I refer you to the case I tried to provide for 1689 Federalism in chapter 7 (see here).

Matthew 16:18

The Lord Jesus promised to establish His church which no power of hell could stand against. He said:

Matt. 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

It is Christ who builds His community of believers, His congregation, His church. Men do not build the church. Men may build church buildings, but Christ is the architect of His Church. Sadly, this is often now what this verse is remembered for As Albert Barnes noted, if “it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it [Matt 16:18, and who the rock is], and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for.”[2] The controversy that surrounds this verse between the Protestants and Catholics lies in the fact who “this rock” is which is being referred to and the further Roman Catholic implications of this. The Roman Catholic church claims that here Christ gave Peter supreme authority over the church and raised him above all other disciples. Furthermore, they see in this the Papacy. They say that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and from him, there has been a direct succession of popes/bishops of Rome. Therefore, they see in the Pope the authority of Peter, which they understand as being the supreme on earth over the Church. The Pope, so to say, is Christ on earth.

Barnes was right, these things could not be found anywhere in the Bible, let alone in Matthew 16:18. It was not the intention of the Lord Jesus to give us here a doctrine of a single bishop of Rome who will be called the Head of the Church. There is no difficulty in identifying Peter as “this rock” which Christ was speaking of. As Keith Thompson has studied this passage and observed, “Conservative Protestant exegetical scholarship is basically unified in affirming Peter is the rock here. D. A. Carson, Craig Blomberg, Craig S. Keener as well as the late Oscar Cullmann and W. F. Albright among many dozens of others are in agreement on this point.”[3] The difficulty lies in the fact that the Papists have read all kind of things in the words of the Lord Jesus which He never intended.

The Apostle Peter did function as the "starter" of the Church. On the day of Pentecost, it was he who first preached the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:14-41). Furthermore, it was also he who brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles in Acts 10. So, in a real sense, Christ did build His church on Peter's preaching and through Peter's ministry. This may also be tied to the key's given to Peter a few verses later (Matt. 16:19). But it is wrong to say that by this declaration and by this deed, now Peter is the head of the Church on earth. The passage communicates no such thing, nor is such a thing taught elsewhere in Holy Writ. The Bible teaches there is only one Head of the Church—Jesus the Christ. Most importantly, we should not ignore the occasion that caused the Lord Jesus to say such a thing about Peter. When the Lord Jesus asked who the disciples said that He is, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Therefore, Peter should not be considered in his person alone, but also in His confession, which is the confession of every true Christian. The Lord Jesus, the true and only Head of the Church, built His church on the foundation of Peter among others (Eph. 2:20) and all of His people share in Peter's confession that Christ is “the Son of the living God.”

From the Scriptures, we do not see Peter as having sole authority in the Church, but as an elder shared authority with others in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the claim that in Matthew 16:19 the Lord Jesus gives unique authority to Peter to absolve sins, judge doctrinal matters and so on, is wrong because that power is given to the Church in Matthew 18:18. In Matthew 16, the Lord Jesus specifically spoke of Peter, but He did not mean only Peter as the next reference to this “binding and loosing” shows. Peter did receive a key and he used it to open the door to the Gentiles as he did to the Jews (cf. Acts 14:27; 15:7). Peter opened the door to the Jews (Acts 2), to the Gentiles (Acts 10) and to the Samaritans (Acts 18). He was one of the foundation stones of the Church (Rev. 21:14). Just a few verses later (Matt. 16:23) Peter would be called “Satan”, thus this declaration of our Lord did not mean that he was to be infallible or without fault. Barnes noted here that ‘The whole meaning of the passage is this: “I will make you the honored instrument of making known my gospel first to Jews and Gentiles, and I will make you a firm and distinguished preacher in building my church.”’[2]

This Church of Christ, this assembly of Christ, is known for its confession of Christ as the Son of God and has its ALLEGIANCE to Him and her faith rests on Him. This Church, strictly speaking, started on Pentecost by the coming of the Spirit. But, this idea of a church was not unique to the New Covenant as Israel itself is often called a church in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word qahal is the equivalent of ekklesia in the Greek which is used in Matthew 16:18. Christ's Church is uniquely His and consists of His elect, beloved from eternity and drawn together in love.

For those who want to know more about the Papacy, the interpretation of Matthew 16:18 and its understanding by the early church fathers, I recommend Dr. James White's debate vs Father Mitch Pacwa. It is a very insightful and respectful debate.

The Whole Number Of The Elect

The Confession claims that the Universal and Invisible Church “consists of the whole number of the elect, that have ...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 3,046 views | 555 Words | 06 March 2015 19:34
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-23:-Of-Lawful-Oaths-And-Vows-Commentary/1042&search=ALLEGIANCE&precision=exact

Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

What does the Bible say about oaths and vows? Doesn't the Bible mention them a lot? What about when Christ said that we should not swear? What is the difference between an oath and a vow?

This chapter should be viewed in the context of the Anabaptists who refused oaths based on their understanding of Matthew 5:33-37. The Anabaptist Network writes:

Many [Anabaptists] refused to swear oaths. Oaths were very important in sixteenth-century Europe, encouraging truth-telling in court and loyalty to the state. Anabaptists often rejected these, citing Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 and arguing that they should always be truthful, not just under oath. Nor would they swear loyalty to any secular authority.[1]

Thus the Reformed confessions added a chapter addressing this issue. In paragraph three, a passage from the Westminster and Savoy was omitted in the 1689 which said: “Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being lawfully imposed by authority.” See the comparison here. Thus, this chapter was added in the Reformed confessions in time of controversy and in order to clarify their stance upon oaths and vows made in the government and the church.


§1 Lawful Oaths

  1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth, and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof. 1
    1. Deut. 10:20; Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; 2 Chron. 6:22-23; 2 Cor. 1:23[2]

An oath is something honorable. It is something that is solemn. In an oath, a person swears by the name of God that they are telling the truth and nothing but the truth. This is what is often done in court when a person places their hand on the Bible and pledges that they are telling the truth and at the same time calls upon God to be a Witness that they are indeed telling the truth and only the truth. Therefore, when a liar and a deceiver takes an oath by the name of God, he is taking the Lord's Name in vain and he is bringing judgment upon himself (Ex. 20:7).

An oath is considered a part of worship because in an oath we are calling upon the God Whom we worship to witness to the things which we are saying. We are actually calling upon Him to examine us and judge us “according to the truth or falseness” of the oath and the words which we have spoken. Therefore, the Bible warns us to not be “rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God” (Eccl. 5:2). We should not be quick to swear an oath on every occasion, but only wherein we are necessarily called to do so and without violating our conscience. 


§2 The Name Of God Only Is That By Which Men Ought To Swear

  1. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred; yet as in matter of weight and moment, for confirmation of truth, and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God; so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken. 2
    1. Deut. 6:13; Exod. 20:7; Jer. 5:7
    2. Heb. 6:13-16; Gen. 24:3; 47:30-31; 50:25; 1 Kings 17:1; Neh. 13:25; 5:12; Ezra 10:5; Num. 5:19.21; 1 Kings 8:31; Exod. 22:11; Isa. 45:23; 65:16; Matt. 26:62-64; Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23; Acts 18:18

The statement is pretty full and well written. God is the highest authority in the Universe and He is the only all-seeing and all-hearing Being, therefore, we call upon Him who knows all things to be a Witness and a Judge for us. The name of God is the only all-holy object by which men should swear an oath. But they should be very careful as they are calling God to witness and judge. If we are to take an oath for the government, for example, we should only do it if it doesn’t contradict anything the Bible says or we believe in. The fact that it is sin to swear by any other name is seen in what the Lord said to Israel:

Deut. 6:13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.

Only in God's name may they swear as only Yahweh are they commanded to worship because calling upon Yahweh in an oath is a part of religious worship and not something merely secular. He is the highest authority, therefore, we should call upon Him. But even more importantly, because God Himself swears by His Name, so how much more should we? Hebrews 6:13 says:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,

Therefore, we learn here that we swear by that which is greater than us. Since there is nothing greater than God, God swears by Himself. In the same way, we, His rational creatures, should do when called upon to swear. Since there is, in fact, something and Someone greater than us. Therefore, we should swear by His Name and call upon Him alone in our oaths. Our Lord Himself was put in a situation in which He swore an oath:

Matt. 26:62-64 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 

The word adjure is defined by Webster as "To charge, bind, or command, solemnly, as if under oath, or under the penalty of a curse; to appeal to in the most solemn or impressive manner; to entreat earnestly.”[3] The Free Dictionary defines it as “To command or enjoin solemnly, as under oath”.[4] In short, Christ was called upon to make an oath before the authority of the Sanhedrin and He did not refuse because He knew that He was telling the truth. He was indeed the Son of God. Therefore, we see here that our Lord did not refuse to take an oath, but He did in fact take it because He knew what He said was the truth. Other instances of oaths could be looked at from the references provided on this paragraph.


§3 The Weightiness Of So Solemn An Act

  1. Whosoever taketh an oath warranted by the Word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knoweth to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns. 1
    1. Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Jer 4:2; 23:10

God is Holy and He loves His Name, therefore, He attaches a dreadful punishment for the one who takes His Name in vain, saying that "he will not hold him guiltless” (Ex. 20:7). God will not allow His Name to be taken in vain and blasphemed. His judgment may not appear visibly to us or it may not even appear in this world, but we can be certain of this: the Lord will not let His Name and His glory to be trampled without punishing those who did so. Therefore, we should all the more be careful in taking oaths. We should take oaths only when necessary and not rush to make oaths for every thing we're called to be speaking the truth on. We should live in a manner before people that they would not require of us an oath to know that we're speaking the truth. But, if the government calls upon us to take an oath which is not against any biblical principle or our conscience, it is unreasonable for us to refuse unless we know that we're not telling the truth.

Here we come to the discussion of the text in Matthew 5:33-37 wherein some people see that Jesus basically forbade swear oaths. But was this the case? Did Jesus simply abrogate all that was said in the Old Testament about oaths?

Matt. 5:33-37 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 

Some, upon reading this passage, have concluded that Christians should not take oaths, otherwise they're disobeying what is said here by our Lord. Basically, if this interpretation is true then Jesus Himself disobeyed this principle in Matthew 26:62-64 where He submitted to an oath. The Apostle Paul likewise when he said, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you” (Rom. 1:9). Or even more pointedly in 2 Corinthians 1:23, "But I call God to witness a...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 4,340 views | 555 Words | 05 March 2015 19:46
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-19:-Of-The-Law-Of-God-Commentary/1038&search=ALLEGIANCE&precision=exact
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Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

Introduction

What is the relationship of the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel?

There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

Defining Our Terms

Natural Law

The Natural Law is the Law of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God. Natural Law may be discovered by reason and by innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

Moral Law

The Moral Law on the other hand is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

[S]pecifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[2]

And then Dr. Barcellos adds:

As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalogue had a unique redemptive-historical context and use, it is nothing other than the Natural Law incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant. This is one of its uses in the Bible but not all of its uses.

The Decalogue contains the summary and the essence of the Moral Law, but it does not contain all the moral laws. For example, there is no “thou shalt respect elders”, but we understand that this is comprehended under the fifth commandment to honor our parents, and derived from it.

Positive Law

Positive Law simply said is a moral law which has no basis in nature or is not self-evident, but is based upon a commandment of God. Dr. Barcellos defines positive laws as:

Positive laws are those laws added to the Natural or Moral Law. They are dependent upon the will of God. These laws are “good because God commands them.” They become just because commanded. The first Positive Laws were given to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 1:28; 2:17), as far as we know. Subsequent Positive Laws are spread throughout the Old and New Testaments. Positive laws can be abrogated for various reasons. They are not necessarily universal or perpetual. Some obvious illustrations of Positive Law in the Old Testament are circumcision and animal sacrifices and two New Testament illustrations are baptism and the Lord’s Supper under the New Covenant...Neither circumcision, animal sacrifices, baptism, or the Lord’s Supper are either universal or perpetual.[3]


§1 God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart

  1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; 2 by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it. 3
    1. Gen. 1:27; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 2:12a, 14-15[4]
    2. Gen. 2:16-17
    3. Gen. 2:16-17; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10,12

The Law Upon The Hearts Of All Men

We believe that when Adam stood in the Garden, he stood as a representative of all his posterity (see here on Adam's federal headship). He did not stand to represent himself alone, but God placed him as the covenant head over the whole human race. His obedience would be our obedience and his disobedience would be our disobedience. Sadly, we know what Adam did. Therefore, we believe that Adam did have the perfect Law of God upon His heart. The moral law, or the natural law, which he knew simply by being a man in God's image, knowing what morality is. Adam certainly knew that he was present in a good creation with a good God. There was a standard before the Fall. The moral law, we believe was summarized in the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (paragraph 2). But how does it make sense then to say that Adam had the moral law upon his heart even when there was no sin and there was no Fall? The objection would be, what does "Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery” mean to a creature who is sinless? It is a valid objection, but obviously it is not convincing for it assumes that the only way that the moral law can be expressed is in the negatives (thou shalt not) and not positives (thou shalt). For example, we can state the seventh commandment in the negative just like it is in the text, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14), or we can state it positively as “You shall remain faithful to your spouse.” The same idea is communicated, whether stated negatively or positively, and that idea is that one should be faithful to their spouse. Let's take for example the third commandment. Negatively, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7), or we can also say “You shall honor and glorify the name of the LORD your God.” It is only because of the wicked perversity of man that these commandments had to stated negatively, because disobedience to them is part of our depraved nature.

Adam stood in our place. If he had obeyed God in his time of probation, then we would all have never fallen and received rewards by virtue of his obedience. Not only was the moral law written in his heart, but God gave him one positive precepts, namely, "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” and threatened death and misery upon the breach of that particular commandment saying "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16). He did eat of it, he died spiritually at that moment and death came through his sin into the world. We all died in Adam (Rom. 5:12-14). For more on Federal Headship and Adam's disobedience see chapter 6.

That law, which as the Confession says was written upon Adam’s heart, did not vanish away with his disobedience, but remained. The radical difference now is that Adam had lost the freedom to will the good (see chapter 9) and therefore, obedience to the Law without grace became impossible. While before the Fall, the creation being “very good” (Gen. 1:31), he did not have to put effort into obedience as that was the “very good” state in which he was. Obedience came naturally to him as a very good creature. While after the Fall, obedience does not come naturally, but rather disobedience comes naturally. The moral law within man is part of what it means to be a rational creature and a human being in the image of God. What separates us from the brute beast is that we act according to choice and not by instinct. We can think through our c...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 4,440 views | 555 Words | 04 March 2015 21:41
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-9:-Of-Free-Will-Commentary/1028&search=ALLEGIANCE&precision=exact

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

I would like to take a look at the freedom of will endued to us by God. Is it libertarian free will of which most of the non-Reformed find essential for love? Is it another kind of freedom? Does our freedom mean that God is not Sovereign? Does God ordain our free actions? These are some questions that we’ll have to wrestle with. For this study I am greatly for my understanding among others indebted to the following authors:

  • Jonathan Edwards – The Freedom of the Will
  • R.C. Sproul – Willing to Believe - both the book (see review) and also the video series
  • Thaddeus J. Williams – Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? 

Calvinists are always leveled the charge that our understanding of God’s absolute micro-managing sovereignty makes men as puppets and robots. One wonders what the reason was for the Westminster, Savoy and 1689 to offer a chapter on free will if they thought that people were merely puppets and robots as many critics like to mock Calvinism.

In section 1 we will have our longest discussion of the will. There I hope, with Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, to lay the understanding of the human will as believed by Calvinists which I believe happens to be biblical and logical. I have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards' position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for explanation to understand what he's getting at. 2)  And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by Calvinists. In the following sections we will try to lay some things concerning man's will in the four states, from innocence until glory.


§1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
    1. Matt.  17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

God Ordains Human Actions

From chapter 3 it is clear that God is sovereign and ordains even human actions. Therefore the freedom spoken of here is not autonomous freedom.

Section 1: God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (See commentary)

His sovereignty and orchestration and ordaining extends to all things whatsoever comes to pass, the good and the bad. Chapter 5 which speaks of God’s providence is even clearer on this:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

If even the evil actions of men are under His control how much more the good actions? For the case that God ordains and is sovereign even over the evil actions of men and yet holds them accountable see chapter 3 section 1 where I try to argue just that from the biblical texts. In consistency with what the confession said in chapters 3 and 5, the freedom spoken by the 1689 is not a freedom of will from God’s sovereignty, but freedom of will within God’s sovereign decree.

Edwards on the Will

R.C. Sproul, in Willing to Believe, presents Augustine as have taught the following four conditions of the will:

  1. Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  2. Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This Adam and Eve also had prior to the Fall.
  3. Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  4. Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Points 1 and 2 concern the State of Innocence (section 2),  Point 3 is for those under the State of Sin (section 3). Point 4 is for the State of Glory (section 5). Those who are redeemed in Christ are not fixed in any one point, but find themselves in points 1-3.

The Nature and Determination of the Will (Part I, section I-II)

But what is freedom in the Calvinistic sense then? What do we mean when we speak of freedom of choice? None better than Edwards has defended the Freedom of Will as understood by Calvinists:

And therefore I observe, that the Will (without any metaphysical refining) is, That by which the mind chooses any thing. The faculty of the will, is that power, or principle of mind, by which it is capable of choosing: an act of the will is the same as an act of choosing or choice.

If any think it is a more perfect definition of the will, to say, that it is that by which the soul either chooses or refuses, I am content with it; though I think it enough to say, it is that by which the soul chooses: for in every act of will whatsoever, the mind chooses one thing rather than another; it chooses something rather than the contrary or rather than the want or non-existence of that thing. So in every act of refusal, the mind chooses the absence of the thing refused; the positive and the negative are set before the mind for its choice, and it chooses the negative; and the mind’s making its choice in that case is properly the act of the Will: the Will’s determining between the two, is a voluntary determination; but that is the same thing as making a choice. So that by whatever names we call the act of the Will, choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining, or being averse, being pleased or displeased with; all may be reduced to this of choosing. For the soul to act voluntarily, is evermore to act electively. Mr. Locke (1) says, “The Will signifies nothing but a power or ability to prefer or choose.”[2]

The will is the faculty by which the mind makes the choice between options. The will’s determination is not forced by outside forces, but is voluntary by nature. Edwards is not speaking of coercion, but of the soul choosing according to its pleasure. By determining or determination of the will is meant that the choice is thus and not otherwise. Edwards says:

By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended, causing that the act of the Will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise: and the Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action, or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object. As when we speak of the determination of motion, we mean causing the motion of the body to be in such a direction, rather than another.[3]

This is the idea that we would have gotten even without the definition of the phrase. But, says Edwards, if we say that the will is determined, then we must ask what determined the will. The determination of the will is an effect which supposes a cause. The cause, which makes the will to be determined to one choice rather than another, is the motive. There is cause and effect relationship between the motive and the will. The choice that the soul makes is in accordance to its desires, this means that every choice has a reason. Nothing that we choose is without motivation or reason. Edwards says, “A man never, in any instance, wills any thing contrary to his desires, or desires any thing contrary to his will.”[4] But what then determines the will to one thing rather than another, is it chance, is it fate? No, it is the person itself, or to be more precise–the motive:

that motive, which, as it stands in view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the will. But may be necessary that I should a little explain my meaning.

By motive I mean the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctly. Many particular things may concur, and unite their strength, to induce the mind; and when it is so, all together are as one complex motive. And when I speak of the strongest motive, I have respe...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 4,578 views | 555 Words | 04 March 2015 21:12
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-4:-Of-Creation-Commentary/1023&search=ALLEGIANCE&precision=exact

Chapter 4: Of Creation

Did God create for His glory? How did God create? Why did God create? How long did God take to create? What did God create?

Creation. There are few topics like this which generate heat between believer and unbeliever, and even among believers. But it is essential. Here is the foundation of everything, if there was no creation, there would obviously be nothing. Whom can we trust to tell us how it happened? The Witness has been pleased to reveal to us the way He created this world. The question is: Was everything that He revealed accurate and true? Can we gain any knowledge from outside the special revelation of God that can supply or actually radically change our view of Genesis? Which is primary the exegesis of Scripture or the findings of modern (secular) science? My comments will be short.


§1 In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to make the world

  1. In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six daysand all very good. 5
    1. Heb. 1:2; John 1:2-3; Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4[1]
    2. Rom. 1:20; Jer 10:12; Ps. 104:24; 33:5-6; Prov. 3:19; Acts 14:15-16
    3. Gen. 1:1; John 1:2; Col. 1:16
    4. Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11
    5. Gen. 1:31; Ecc 7:29; Rom. 5:12

For His Glory

The Lord God King of the Universe, is the Creator God who created the world ex-nihilo (out of nothing) in the space of six days. This the Creator did not because He lacked something, but was pleased to manifest His glory to His creatures. Therefore, we believe that the whole creation exists to display the glory of its Creator. Everything was created for God's own glory and for God's own purpose. Since God is all-sufficient in and of Himself, the Creation did not add anything to Him that He did not possess, rather, the Creation displayed and manifested His glory to others. In Psalm 19:1 we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The heavens, i.e., the space and that sky, displays the glory of God. Oh, how long can we sometimes stare in the night to the beautiful starry heavens? Or, how are we struck with amazement when we see pictures of outer space and pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope? All these things, which are normally out of our visible sight, still bring glory to the Creator. When we see them, we are filled with awe and reverence for the Creator. The Creation is actually meant to display the glory of God to us. In Isaiah vision of the Lord Jesus, the host of heaven worships and praises God with the following words:

Isa. 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The earth does not merely contain His glory, but is full or filled with His glory. His holiness displays itself in His glory in the created world. The holiness of God is glorious and it fills the whole created world. That was God's purpose is creating, to display His glory and for people to acknowledge it. In Romans 1:20 we read that God's “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” The glory and power of God is displayed in the created world in such a way that no one would be make an excuse before His Majesty. The power and divine nature of God displayed in the created world is undeniable and sufficient to render us without an excuse before Him. When God created, there was no higher goal than creating for Himself and to display His glory. He could not have depended for His glory on His creatures, which were yet uncreated, for He is completely independent of His creation for His perfections. The Trinity enjoyed fellowship and glory even before the creation of the world (John 17:5). God was not lacking anything. The host of heaven, in Revelation 4:11, declare:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

God is worthy to receive, i.e., be credited of having glory, honor and power. Why? “for you created all things”. The fact that God is the Creator of all things make it obligatory on us to bring Him glory, honor and praise. It is by His will that everything exists or  has existed. It was He who determined if this thing existed or not, or that thing happened or not. He creates these things by His will so that they would bring glory and honor to Him. In Proverbs 16:4 we read, “​The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Everything that God created, He created with its assigned purpose. It is He who gave those things their purpose, it is not to be thought that the created things gave themselves a purpose. That is absurd. Even the wicked He has created for a purpose, namely, a purpose of destruction and punishment (see more in chapter 3 on Reprobation). All things exist and were created to display His glory in one thing or another. The people of God are said to be that sons and daughters of God who were created for His glory, and they are called by His holy Name (Isa. 43:6-7). In Colossians 1:16 we read:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

The Son of God was not only the Agent of Creation, but He was the goal of Creation. Not only were all things that were created, created by Him and through Him, but also for Him. Do not miss this bit. The reason that the Creation exists is for the Son—for His pleasure and for His glory. Everything is set up and is created for the praise of Jesus’ glory. Such is the Father's good pleasure that the Son may be glorified in all things, just like the Father (John 5:22-23).

Even salvation has its end goal in the glory of God. Three times in Ephesians 1 we are told that we have been predestined and saved “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6) and “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12, 14). In Romans 9:22-23 it is said:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 

God will display both the glory of His justice and wrath in bringing just punishment upon the reprobate, as He will glorify Himself in the riches of His glory for the elect. All things were created to glorify God and God will glorify Himself in all things, no doubt!

See John Piper, Why Did God Create the World?

The Days

This controversy of the days of Genesis started with Augustine I believe, because He believed that God basically made everything in one day, as time means nothing with an Eternal God. But many have taken Augustine's position and pointed to it to “excuse” or “support” their radical departure from a straightforward reading of Genesis. What can we learn from the Bible about the days of creation? I believe a straightforward reading will give us nothing apart from 6 days of God’s work in creating everything and the 7th day for rest. But this has been challenged by the rise of secular theories of origin, and some Christians has been comfortable to come up with all sort of ways to make the Bible fit with “science.” Almost all of these theories do not acknowledge that the days of Genesis are straightforward 24 hour days. They are long ages, they say, they sometimes even mix and change the chronology of the days. Here I don’t want to rebut those position, but I want to lay down my position. For those wanting to learn of the Creationist position, I point you to Creation.com and AnswersInGenesis.org. This is not the place to learn anything new from this debate.

First, the fact that the days spoken of in Genesis are regular days, much like the ones we have (they may have been an hour shorter or something, but basically they are not long ages), is seen from the way that God closes His work every day. Remember, this is the account of the Only Witness that could see the Creation and He has been pleased to reveal it to us. At the end of day 1 through 6 there is this reoccurring phrase “there was evening and there was morning, the X day.” This shows that the days spoken of here are simple days like we have, they constitute an evening and a morning.

...
Verse Evening Morning X day
Gen. 1:5 And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Gen. 1:8 And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.



1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 7,083 views | 555 Words | 04 March 2015 20:58
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-3:-Of-Gods-Decree-Commentary/1022&search=ALLEGIANCE&precision=exact

Chapter 3: Of God's Decree

What does it mean that God is sovereign? Does God control all things? Does God ordain and is sovereign even over sin? What about election? Does God choose who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? Did God predestine because He saw what was going to come to pass? Does it matter what we do? Does God ordain the ends as well as the means?


§1 God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity...whatsoever comes to pass

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably1 all things, whatsoever comes to pass2 yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; 3 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather establishedin which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. 5
    1. Prov. 19:21; Isa 14:24-27; 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9:19; Heb. 6:17[1]
    2. Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11
    3. Gen. 18:25; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5
    4. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 10:5-7; Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
    5. Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

Introduction

There is no truth of Scripture more hated by some and cherished by others than the doctrine of Divine Absolute Sovereignty. The natural man cannot bring himself to accept such a doctrine, yet the child of God who believes this precious doctrine loves it, magnifies the Lord through it and finds his rest in it. The Confession is clearly and unashamedly Calvinistic in its view of the absolute, free, irresistible, micro-managing sovereignty of God. Every molecule moves the way it does because God from all eternity has willed that it be so. From eternity past to eternity future nothing will occur to the mind of God which He didn't already know and ordain. He possesses all knowledge, actual and possible (chapter 2:2). The Confession doesn't go into the Hyper-Calvinistic error of disregarding man's will and responsibility, but rather affirms that the liberty of second cause agents (men) are established because of God's decree. The liberty here discussed is obviously not the mythical libertarian free will. There is no such thing as libertarian free will. Libertarian Free Will says that one can go against all inclination and nature, which is impossible and ridiculous. Jonathan Edwards in his The Freedom of the Will shows the absurdity and impossibility of such a will. Rather, moral agency or free will, biblically defined, would be the freedom to do whatever one desires. The Bible speaks about a limitation upon the desires and inclinations of the natural man; this limitation is our sinful natures from which sinful actions are born. See chapter 9 for our discussion of man's free will, moral inability, moral necessity and libertarian free will.

God orders every event in such a way that He is sovereign over every step, yet in the same time the second cause agent is not being coerced to do anything against their desire, but out his own desires and freedom carries whatever God has from all eternity decreed. We may not understand how this is done, but I believe that such is the testimony of Scripture. It is not for me to understand how the two work together, rather, it is for me to believe that it is such if I see both in Holy Writ. On a personal level, there is no truth that I cherish more than knowing the Triune God, and knowing Him as the only Sovereign. It is not merely “in the head” doctrine, but it is a doctrine that I praise God for, cherish daily and find comfort in daily.

Some years ago, I came across the Doctrines of Grace through the Facebook page called Reformed Memes Daily and I remember seeing something from Romans 9:18. I was amazed that the Bible had such things to say and wanted to study this issue. Apparently, I had not read that passage before. It was not easy, but I promised God that I would believe anything that His Word teaches, no matter how painful. Through my study I tried to collect as many verses as possible in regards to God's sovereignty as are relevant and that I could find from daily Bible reading and other books. More about my journey can be read here. The document where I put these verses was the reason that this website was made. It is found here.

What I will seek to provide below is a case for God's absolute control of everything, thus justifying paragraph 1 of this chapter. Here we will touch on issues which are relevant to chapter 5, Of God's Providence, but we will direct the interested reader from chapter 5 back to paragraph 1 of chapter 3. In General Sovereignty, I will deal with texts which speak of God's sovereignty over history and His counsel. In Particular Sovereignty, I will try to deal with God's sovereignty over specific things such as evil and human actions. By no means is this an extensive case or discussion of God's absolute sovereignty, but I believe that it is nonetheless a decent biblical case for that.

General Sovereignty

First, let's start with verses about God’s Lordship over the world.

Neh. 9:6 You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

He not only has created the world out of nothing, but He keeps the world in existence. Genesis 1:1 should be enough to prove God’s sovereignty over the creation that He has made. Everything is dependent upon Him. Without Him all would perish. All things, from stars to ants and angels to men are dependent upon Him for their every moment existence. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. The God of the Bible is both the Creator and the Governor of the world. He both has created everything, and He keeps everything in existence.

Acts 17:26-28 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

He has determined where everyone is to live. He has determined the countries in the world with their boundaries. Not only has He done that, but in Him we have our being. In Him and because of Him we are able to do anything and everything. He is the Uncaused Cause, He is the Primary Cause, we are secondary agents. Anything we do, we first need to “borrow” power and strength from Him. Thus, whatever I do, whether evil or good, I still am dependent on Him for whether He will grant me power and ability to dow what I will or not. Man is in no way independent from God, but in everyway dependent even when we deny that. The Scripture is clear that we're dependent upon Him for everything. The great Particular Baptist commentator, John Gill, said the following:"The natural life which men live is from God; and they are supported in it by him; and from him they have all the comforts and blessings of life; and all motions, whether external or internal, of body or of mind, are of God, and none of them are without the concourse of his providence, and strength assistance from him; though the disorder and irregularity of these motions, whereby they become sinful, are of themselves, or of the devil; and their being, and the maintenance of it, and continuance in it, are all owing to the power and providence of God."[2] He is the independent and the self-sufficient God, we are dependent on the Independent One and we are not sufficient in and of ourselves, unlike Him. We are dependent in everything upon Him. We are dependent on Him even for our daily bread, as we pray (Matt. 6:11).

Heb. 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Our beloved Lord is not only God, but He is the One who directs everything in the Universe. He is the one who upholds everything by His power. You are not dead, because the Lord Jesus is upholding you right now and giving you life. The Earth is not destroyed, because Jesus reigns as Sovereign over all things. The Universe is not turned into chaos, because Jesus reigns as Supreme. This word “upholds”, in the Greek is the word φέρω (phero), which has the basic meaning of carry, bear, move, bring forward and uphold.[3] So, He is the One who is moving everything, bringing everything forward in the Universe to its proper, predetermined and designed end. He brings it to the end that He has determined. He brings it to the place that...