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A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw Simon Wartanian | 2,631 views | 555 Words | 27 November 2015 22:25
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-Jeffrey-D-Johnsons-The-Fatal-Flaw/1067&search=CHAPTER 14&precision=exact

The Fatal Flaw

Of the Theology behind Infant Baptism

For some time I have tried to get my hands on Jeffery Johnson’s book, but Amazon did not provide it as new. That is, until I saw it on Solid Ground Books. I was able to get it along with the Kingdom of God and Hercules Collin’s Catechism.

I’ve heard a lot of good about this book and I’ve also listened to Jeffery Johnson’s sermons/lectures on Covenant Theology especially the most recent with Pascal Denault. I’ve read his chapter in Recovering Covenantal A Heritage and listened to his sermon on the dual nature of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants which helped me a lot. I was eager to get started on this book and see what I could learn more.

The Paedobaptist Positions

To start, he lays down all the division of Paedobaptism. He numbers 8 –

  1. Fides Aliena (Faith of Another) – the church supplies the faith necessary for the infant. Those who hold this position understand that faith is a necessary prerequisite for baptism. But this faith could not come from the infant, thus the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
  2. Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
  3. Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
  4. Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
  5. Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
  6. Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
  7. Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the sacrament, Federal Vision says “God’s promise assures us there is basic, fundamental unity between the sign and the thing signified. The water and the Spirit cannot be divided.” (p. 16, from The Federal Vision, edited by Steve Wikins and Duane Garner)
  8. Paedofaith – Some Federal Vision theologians claim that covenant children are regenerate from the womb. Basically, Christian parents receive Christian and thus believing children from God. “God gives us children with faith. Covenant children begin life as believers, not in need of conversion, but endurance (cf. Heb. 10:36). They should be received and raised as children of God.” (p. 18, from Mark Horne, Why Baptist Babies?)

Although it was really nice to know about all the different positions about infant baptism, the author seeks to directly combat one position and that is the Westminster position (positions 4 and 5). It’s not like from the earliest days of infant baptism that the church understood it was the sign of the Covenant of Grace, or that it did not wash away sin. That is clearly not the case.

The old church practiced infant baptism for other reasons, than the Reformed Paedobaptist churches since the Reformation.

Although I do not believe that infant baptism is a biblical practice, but I must agree with Jeffery Johnson that the Westminster position of Covenant Theology and infant baptism is the closest to the Scripture from the above options. For some people to be truly “Reformed” you have to hold to Covenant Theology which supports the practice of infant baptism, forgetting that there is a difference between Baptist and Presbyterian Covenant Theology. If you would like to learn more about 1689 Baptist Covenant Theology, which is called 1689 Federalism see my attempt to make a case for it when expositing the 7th chapter of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith here.

The Westminster Position

The author spends some time first to explain the Presbyterian/Westminster. The basis of the Westminster position is continuity between the covenants of the Bible.

They understand that the Lord established a covenant of works in the Garden with Adam as the representative of the human race which he broke. Then the Lord established the Covenant of Grace in Genesis 3:15 and onward. This was Covenant of Grace was differently administered under Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But the essence of these covenants was the same.

The logic is understandable. If infants were admitted into the covenant under Moses and Abraham and the New Covenant is basically and essentially the same, then infants should also be admitted into the New Covenant. The question is, whether if these covenants truly were administrations of the one Covenant of Grace.

The Westminster says the following of the Covenant of Grace in chapter 7 –

Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe. (paragraph 3)

As Calvinists, our Presbyterian brethren along with us believe in salvation by grace and in Christ throughout the ages. This is what is here conveyed in the Confession. The essence of the Covenant of Grace is faith and salvation in Christ, although that had different outer form under the various covenants. Abraham did not have as much clarity about the Messiah as we now by the grace of God have. This is expressed in the fifth paragraph –

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.

Under the law, by that meaning the whole period of the Old Testament, the Covenant of Grace was seen in the shadows and prophecies (See certain shadows in the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants). But under the New Testament dispensation we have a fuller revelation of God’s purposes and the Covenant of Grace which was fully revealed in the New Covenant.

The Westminister position is summed up in the last sentence in paragraph 6 –

…There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.

As Pascal Denault puts it: one covenant, two administrations.

Sign of the Covenant

Our Presbyterian brethren argue that the sign of the covenant of grace prior to the New Covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was applied to all males within the covenant. In fact, 8 days old infants were required to be circumcised.

They see the sign of the covenant being replaced from circumcision to baptism on the basis of their interpretation of Rom 4:11 and Col 2:11-12. Johnson spends quite some time on Romans 4:11.

Now let us apply the Westminster understanding of the Covenant of Grace to this. The Covenant of Grace was administered under Abraham and Moses a...




Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology Simon Wartanian | 4,403 views | 555 Words | 19 July 2015 19:18
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/Review-Of-Wayne-Grudems-Systematic-Theology/1062&search=CHAPTER 14&precision=exact

Introduction

I purchased this book because I wanted to have a good biblical case for each doctrine that I was interested in looking at. At that time I was interested in learning more about God's sovereignty.

I never thought that I'd read such a large book with 57 chapters of biblical doctrine, but I am thankful that God sustained me through the journey that I had with Wayne Grudem in biblical doctrine.

Why it's awesome

A lot of reasons can be given why this Systematic Theology is great. It is the first Systematic Theology that I've picked up and I know for certain that I will go back to it many times.

In a certain sense Dr. Grudem's job is simple, find the passages which speak of a particular doctrine and explain what they say. But it is the manner in which he cites and explains the passages that is encouraging. He always explains the contexts and I cannot think of a citation that is out of context. He lays out the context, explains what the passages means in context and it's relevance to the present topic.

I love those fruitful footnotes. I would often skip footnotes thinking that they only refer to works cited, but that's not the only thing that Dr. Grudem does in his footnotes. He often explains things more technical, makes a particular case for something, refers to a relevant topic in his Systematic Theology or engages with the other side. 

His handling of the Holy Scriptures is truly aspiring. I pray that God would given me the same love for the Scriptures, that Dr. Grudem has. He does not simply assume things, he proves them biblically. That should be every Christian's desire.

The two biggest reasons why it's a great text is because, first it is thoroughly biblical. What I most loved is the fact that he produced the passages and not merely referenced them. He backs up every major statement he makes upon a doctrine.

Second, it is accessible and not only for “theologians.”[1] It is easy to understand, he tries his best to explain things plainly, though there are obviously difficult doctrines which are not that easy to explain.

If you don't have this great Systematic Theology, get it now.

Major Doctrines

Here I want to say a couple of things about Grudem's major influence on my doctrine.

The Holy Scriptures

Dr Grudem is unashamed about his belief in God's absolute and holy Word.

The Bible is God's sole authoritative Word, His very speech (2Tim 3:16). God used holy men as His instruments and spoke through them, not ignoring or overriding their vocabularies and use of language (2Pet 1:20-21).

It is incapable of being wrong, because it comes from the God who is the Truth (Jn 14:6) and who cannot lie (Heb 6:18). The Word of God reflects the character and its integrity is based upon the character of God.

The Bible, which is the collection of 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books is the very and certain Word of God.

See my commentary on the first chapter (Of The Holy Scriptures) of the 1689 Baptist London Confession.

Trinity

Dr Grudem excellently shows the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity from the Scripture and not from creeds as is often alleged by unbelievers. I have often gone back to CHAPTER 14 (God in Three Persons: The Trinity) to get more insight into this great doctrine and the biblical support.

Dr Grudem goes on to prove the doctrine of the Trinity by using three statements that summarize the doctrine:

  1. God is three persons.
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.

From there on he goes into the Scriptures to prove just that!

See my case for the doctrine of the Trinity in my commentary on the 1689 Baptist London Confession.

God's Providence

This is the first chapter that I read from Grudem. Chapter 16: God's Providence. And man...I was in for something. It was excellent and it was fully biblical. I loved it.

He defines God's Providence as follows:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.[2]

God is absolutely sovereign over His creation. Nothing can happen without His will. Moreover He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Although God is absolutely sovereign, even over chance events (Prov 16:33), man is still held responsible (Isaiah 11, Gen 50:20; Acts 4:27-28).

This is above our understanding, but it is what the Scriptures teach and thus we are to obey it.

This is not fatalism, this is the carrying out of a divine plan of a God who is just, holy, wise and merciful.

We are not “robots,” as many non-Calvinists would accuse Calvinists of making man, we make responsible choices, but these choices are absolutely under the control of God.

See my commentary on chapter 3 (Of God's Decree) and chapter 5 (Of Divine Providence) on the 1689.

The Person of Christ

The treatment of of the Person of Christ is excellent. His two-fold natures in one Person, His effective and definite atonement, resurrection and ascension. All these he handles in part 4 with great care and persuasive biblical argumentation.

Before reading his treatment on the Person of Christ, I thought that Christ now was only divine and not man. God graciously used Dr. Grudem to persuaded me otherwise. 

In the incarnation the Word took on flesh (Jn 1:1, 14). He did not lay aside His divinity, but added humanity to His divine Person (Phil 2:5-11). He was resurrected with a human body and went into heaven with that glorified body, nothing actually convinces us that the Lord Jesus ceased to be human at the moment of His ascension. In fact the Bible tells us that it is the man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator:

1Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 

The Application of Redemption

Part 5 is entitled The Doctrine of The Application of Redemption. Therein Dr. Grudem handles among other things:

  1. Common Grace
  2. Election and Reprobation
  3. The Gospel Call and Effective Calling 
  4. Regeneration
  5. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
  6. Justification (Right Legal Standing Before God)
  7. Adoption (Membership in God’s Family)
  8. Sanctification (Growth in Likeness to Christ)
  9. Death and the Intermediate State
  10. Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body)
  11. Union with Christ

These chapters are excellent like the rest and if you didn't know, Dr Wayne Grudem is a full-fetched Calvinist and in these chapters, what is called “Calvinism” is argued and shown to be the system of the Bible itself. He follows Romans 8:29-30 in laying out these doctrine sin this way:

Rom 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

The Doctrine of the Church

Part 6 of this treatment deals with Ecclesiology. I've learned a ton in this part, because it wasn't something that I've read about before.

Being a baptist, he argues for a congregational and independent type of church and makes the case for the consistent plurality of elders in NT congregations.

What I also liked was the distinction that he made with with more and less pure churches. He admits that in the present time there will not be a church which is perfect in doctrine, but there will be churches which are more or less pure churches. There are no perfect churches.

Being a Reformed Baptist myself, I loved his treatment of Baptism (chapter 49) and his interaction with Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology on Protestant Infant Baptism. I though that his case for Credobaptism was strong and he was gracious toward our Padeobaptist brethren.

An important doctrine which he got me more thinking about was the Gifts of the Spirit. He being a continuationist and I...kinda undecided, but was practically a cessationist, but couldn't make up my mind from the Scriptures because according to my judgment I didn't see any where in the NT the idea that the spritual gifts would stop.

A few things should be said, Dr. Grudem is an excellent theologian, so he is not like the prosperity preachers and the Benny Hinns. He does not believe that “NT congregational prophecy” is the speaking of the very words of God, but he defines prophecy as “telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.”[3] He does not believe that NT congregation prophecy is predicting the future. Further, he believes that in the OT the prophets spoke the very words of God and to disobey a prophet was the same as to disobey God. But this is not the case in the NT. In the NT, the prophets are replaced with the Apostles (w...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 4,904 views | 555 Words | 06 March 2015 23:27
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-31:-Of-The-State-Of-Man-After-Death-And-Of-The-Resurrection-Of-The-Dead-Commentary/1050&search=CHAPTER 14&precision=exact
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Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead

This chapter concerns itself with eschatology, which is the doctrine of the last things. It discusses questions concerning what happens after we die, the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and the resurrection of the just and unjust.

I hold to the Amillennial view of eschatology, therefore what is written here will reflect that eschatology. Basically, Amillennialism teaches that the thousand years of Revelation 20 are symbolic for the whole time between Christ's Ascension and Second Coming. When He comes that will be the end of everything. The rapture, general resurrection and final judgment will take place, then God will usher in the World to Come. There are neither multiple resurrections nor multiple judgments. There are no 7 years of Great Tribulation. There are no two peoples of God, Israel and the Church. Rather, the Church is the Israel of God. The promises of restoration and blessing pertain not to the Fallen World, but to the World to Come. We do not believe that the Bible teaches a golden age on this Fallen Earth.

In paragraphs 2-3 there is a case for Amillennial eschatology and a critique of Premillennialism throughout the sections.


§1 The Intermediate State

  1. The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day; besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.
    1. Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Acts 13:36; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22[1]
    2. Gen. 2:7; James 2:26; Matt. 10:28; Eccles. 12:7
    3. Ps. 23:6; 1 Kings 8:27-49; Isa. 63:15; 66:1; Luke 23:43; Acts 1:9-11; 3:21; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; 12:2-4; Eph. 4:10; Phil. 1:21-23; Heb. 1:3,4:14-15; 6:20; 8:1; 9:24; 12:23; Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13; 20:4-6
    4. Luke 16:22-26; Acts 1:25; 1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:9

The body returns to the dust from whence it came, but the souls are immortal from the time they begin to exist; they cannot just disappear and go out of existence. They will exist without body in heaven or Hades until Christ comes to end the world and bring in the New Heavens and New Earth. The elect then will receive a glorious body like that of Jesus and enjoy endless fellowship with the God Triune, while the reprobates will receive physical bodies just to be tormented in the lake of fire.

The Intermediate State describes the time between death and the resurrection of the body, this includes a discussion of the immortality of the soul, heaven and Hades.

The Immortality Of The Soul

While people are buried and their bodies return to the dust from whence they came, their souls do not cease to exist, they are immortal. While the body decomposes and returns to dust, the soul of man lives evermore. It is important to define the usage of the word “immortal” and “immortality” here. This immortality which the souls of men and angels possess is obviously not like the essential immortality of God. In 1 Timothy 6:16 we read that God “alone has immortality”. This speaks about God essentially and by nature having immortality. He ever was and ever will be immortal, i.e., undying. Albert Barnes noted on that passage that God has immortality “by his very nature, and it is in his case underived, and he cannot be deprived of it. It is one of the essential attributes of his being, that he will always exist, and that death cannot reach him”.[2] But this word is often used in reference to men and angels, so what does it mean? It means that the souls of men and angels are undying from the moment that they come to exist. It means that the soul of man does not simply decompose or disappear after death, like the physical body does. Rather, the soul is unable to die, because God designed it to be so. There is no “must-ness” that the souls of man or of angels be immortal except that God had willed them to be so. It is not essential, as it is in the case of God, that our souls be immortal. Rather, this immortality is derived from God and is dependent upon His power. Louis Berkhof writes, ‘the word “immortality” designates, especially in eschatological language, that state of man in which he is impervious to death and cannot possibly become its prey.’[3] The word “immortal”, though it may be controversial to some, is used simply to indicate that the souls of men “neither die nor sleep”, while their bodies sure do until the resurrection.

While the Bible does not have a statement saying “the soul of man is immortal,” it very much, I believe, assumes and does not question it. For example, had the Fall not taken place, man would have lived forever in body and soul, but the Fall brought physical death to the body, yet it did not destroy the soul of man. The soul of man remained, but now in enmity with God, no longer walking in fellowship and peace with Him. Death is said to have come because of sin (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Therefore, if sin had not come there would be no death. Notice that we're speaking here not only of the immortality of the soul, but of the body. If the Fall had not taken place and the time of probation was passed, then man would have been immortal in body and soul. Yet as it is, man did fall and bring spiritual and physical death into the world, yet this death is never spoken of in terms of the cessation of the existence of the soul. The Bible again and again assumes the immortality of the soul. To say that death existed prior to the Fall is to insult God and His declaration that His creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It is to make death, which is any enemy (1Cor. 15:26), a friend. Death presupposes sin, but there was no sin prior to the Fall, therefore, there was no death. This means that if man had passed the time of probation, he would have eat from the tree of life and lived forever in body and soul. This means that God's original design was for man to be immortal in both body and soul. 

The immortality of the soul is also assumed when the Bible speaks of eternal punishment or bliss (e.g. Matt. 25:46; see also chapter 32). For how can a person be eternally punished or be eternally in bliss if their soul is not immortal? Christians are said explicitly to “put on immortality” at the resurrection (1Cor. 15:53-54). Our souls will be united to our glorified and immortal physical bodies. At that time, not only will our souls be immortal, but our glorified bodies will likewise be immortal and perfect. The immortality of the soul is likewise assumed when the Bible teaches about the resurrection of the dead (e.g. Acts 24:15). The souls of men do not go out of existence once they die, but they wait either in heaven or in Hades to their final fate.

Physical Death

Death brings the separation between body and soul/spirit. As we noted above, death would have not come if man did not sin. Death exists because of sin. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that “death is the wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23; 5:12). Therefore, had there been no sin, there would not have been death. The Bible speaks in various ways about death. Sometimes it is said to be the termination of life (Matt. 2:20; Mark 3:4; Acts 15:26; 20:24; the word ψυχή [psoo-khay] being the word also for soul). Other times it is spoken in terms of separation of the spirit from the body (Eccl. 12:7; John 19:30; Acts 7:59; Jas. 2:26). Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. The physical body of man decomposes and returns to the dust from whence it came, yet his spirit/soul returns to the God who gave it. The soul of man does not cease to exist and decompose, rather goes either into bliss or into doom.

The Bible speaks of death in terms of sleep. In the beginning this may seem to support the idea that the souls of men are unconscious until the resurrection and the judgment, but this is not the way that Scripture uses this word. Rather, I believe that when used in connection to death, sleep means death. But, why use this word if it is directly synonymous? Well, sleep is not exactly synonymous to death. When a man sleeps we assume that at sometime he will awake, otherwise we will say that he's in a coma, dead or something else. This means that the idea of sleep in connection to death, assumes the idea that the one sleeping will one day awake. In other words, when the Bible speaks of people's death in terms of sleep, it assumes and it communicates thereby, that they will one day be raised. For example, in the resurrection of Lazarus we have our Lord telling His disciples that “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep” (John...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 3,715 views | 555 Words | 06 March 2015 23:14
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-29:-Of-Baptism-Commentary/1048&search=CHAPTER 14&precision=exact
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Chapter 29: Of Baptism

What is baptism? What does it symbolize? Can I be saved without being baptized? Are professing believers alone to be baptized? What about infant baptism? What is the baptismal formula? How is baptism to be performed? Is it by sprinkling, pouring or immersion?

Let me start with a personal testimony. I was born in Iraq to an Armenian (not Arminian) family. The church of the Armenian people is the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is an Orthodox church and it is very much similar to Roman Catholicism. Infants would be baptized around 40 days old or something around that time. That was not different in my case. Throughout my youth, I saw my infant baptism as the basis that I was a Christian. What made it also difficult was the fact that in Iraq, everyone would have their religion on their ID card. I even served as an altar boy in the church when I was little. But to be honest, I did not know the Gospel, yet I was not ashamed to proclaim that I am Christian, but don't ask me what the Gospel is! Thus, throughout my youth, I saw my baptism as the ground that I am a Christian, even though I did not pray often or did not know why Christ died. The Armenian Church, by the way, believes in baptismal regeneration and baptism by dipping the infant thrice in a bowl of holy water. My family came to the Netherlands in 2008 and I finally knew what freedom was, but not the freedom of the Gospel (yet). Two years or so after that, I met with an old friend and stayed with him a few days. He saw that I did not pray before bed, so he questioned me. He told me about prayer and how proper is it to pray to God and thank Him for everything. I told him that I don't want to be religious. He directed me to videos and episodes of Zakaria Botros (Arabic), who shares the Gospel with Muslims via TV and exposes Islam. Through his videos and episodes, I came to know the true Gospel and was saved by God's grace. After that, there grew in me a desire to study His Word, so I bought Bibles and study Bibles and started reading the Scriptures daily. Around that time, I started attending a Baptist church. I did not know that it was a Baptist church. We went there with some friends of mine and by God's grace, kept attending church on the Lord's Day.

I started reading the Bible and I could not find anything about the baptism of infants or that baptism as the basis of my faith and all the things which I had simply assumed in my youth. So I set out to study this matter and came to the conclusion that infant baptism was unscriptural and what happened to me as an infant, was not biblical baptism. On a Saturday night, I fell on my knees and asked the Lord if He wanted me to be baptized that He would give me some sign. The next day, the Lord's Day, the preacher talked about discipleship and following Christ no matter what and he said something like, “It doesn't matter what your family will think of you if you want to be baptized”, which I saw as a sign from heaven. My family would not have been happy about my baptism because they think that my baptism as an infant was valid. Moreover, the Armenian Church is a national church. It does not get new converts, for example. Most infants are baptized and declared Christian, even if they know not the Gospel. Therefore, the only baptism that is practiced and that I have heard of is infant baptism.

I still feel guilty for asking the Lord for a sign when I had already concluded that believers’ baptism is the biblical position and that infant baptism was unscriptural. His Word was clear on this subject. So, after that service, I directly went to one of the elders and told him that I want to be baptized. After giving my testimony and based on that I was baptized on 16-06-2013.

It is not my purpose in this chapter to overthrow the paedobaptist position by directly arguing against it, but by presenting a positive case for credobaptism—baptism upon the profession of faith. No doubt, we would have to touch upon some arguments or texts which our paedobaptist brethren like to use. But mainly, this is meant to be a positive case of what we (Reformed) Baptists believe.


§1 What Baptism Is And Is Not

  1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. 3
    1. Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12; Gal. 3:27[1]
    2. Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16
    3. Rom. 6:4

Things Which Baptism Signifies

Christian Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, in token of his previous entrance into the communion of Christ's death and resurrection,—or, in other words, in token of his regeneration through union with Christ.[2]

Baptism signifies the new life and the blessings thereof, which the believer has received through faith and repentance. The Confession describes it as “a sign of fellowship with” Christ. Baptism shows our union with Christ, just as He Himself was baptized, so we share in a baptism similar to His and follow His example. Stanford E. Murrell defines baptism as:

an ordinance wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, signifies and seals the engrafting of a soul into Christ, and the partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace and our pledge to be the Lord’s.[3]

We will look at the different aspects of baptism as presented in the New Testament below.

Union With Christ In Death, Resurrection, Newness Of Life

Galatians 3:27

Gal. 3:25-27 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 

We are children of God, why? Because we have been baptized into Christ. What does this mean? It means that we identify with Christ and we declare that we belong to Him. What is the meaning of “have put on Christ”? This means that we “have put on his sentiments, opinions, characteristic traits”[4] (Rom. 13:14). We are identifying with Him and saying to those watching that we belong to Him. To Paul's argument, this then would mean that all who are baptized into Christ are children of God because they have put on His characteristics. They identify with Him. Jamieson, Fausset, Brown give the input of Paul's argument well when they write: “By baptism ye have put on Christ; therefore, He being the Son of God, ye become sons by adoption, by virtue of His Sonship by generation. God regards us in Him, as bearing Christ's name and character, rather than our own.”[5] These are realities which baptism signifies, but are not caused by water baptism. The baptism into Christ is not the same as water baptism in the name of Christ. But we will see why that is the case below.

Romans 6:3-5

Rom. 6:3-5 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

This is the most familiar and known aspect of baptism amongst Baptists. Baptism symbolizes our death to the old life and our resurrection to the new life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is even more strengthened when we understand the mode of baptism to be immersion. The whole body goes into the water, symbolizing the death of our old self and identification with Christ's death, and then we come out of the water, symbolizing the resurrection of the new man in Christ and with Christ. It is a given fact, the Apostle assumes, that baptism into Christ, which means to be engrafted in Him and united with Him, of which water baptism is a sign or representation, is a baptism into Christ's death. This means that in our baptism we are identifying with Christ's death. Baptism symbolizes the laying down of the old life with Christ and being united with Him in His death. Paul says elsewhere, "I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). This is symbolized by water baptism when the person being baptized is immersed and is under water. This signifies the person's death to his old self, even that the waters of baptism are seen as a grave for the old man. Dr. Wayne Grudem observes:

In fact, the waters of baptism have an even richer symbolism than simply the symbolism of the grave. The waters also remind us of the waters of God’s judgment that came upon unbelievers at the time of the flood (Gen. 7:6–24), or the drowning of the Egyptians in the Exodus (Ex. 14:26–29). Similarly, when Jonah was thrown into the deep (Jonah 1:7–16), he was thrown down to the place of death because of God’s ju...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 5,542 views | 555 Words | 06 March 2015 19:29
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Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

How are we to worship God? What is the Regulative Principle? Is it taught in the Scriptures? What are the elements of worship? What are circumstances? Are we only to sing the Psalms? Can we use musical instruments in public worship? 

Is there a specific day of worship? What is the Sabbath? Which day is it? When was it first instituted? How is it that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath? Where does Scripture teach the change of the day? What about Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17? Don't these passages teach the aborgation of the Sabbath? How is the Sabbath to be kept?


§1 The Regulative Principle Of Worship

  1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. 1 But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. 2
    1. Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33[1]
    2. Gen. 4:1-5; Exod. 20:4-6; Matt. 15:3, 8-9; 2 Kings 16:10-18; Lev. 10:1-3; Deut. 17:3; 4:2; 12:29-32; Josh. 1:7; 23:6-8; Matt. 15:13; Col. 2:20-23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17

There Is A God

Creation testifies to everyone without question that there is God. General Revelation is sufficient to reveal God to the world and to hold them accountable (see chapter 20). Everyone knows that there is a God. But not only that there is a God, but also that this is a God that must be worshiped. This explains the countless religions that have existed and still exist. It is all because of the Fall that we have multitude of religions rather than only one. Romans 1 speaks about those who suppress the truth about God through idolatry. All religions in one way or another try to appease the god(s) and serve them. That is the sense that they get from General Revelation. There is a God to Whom they owe their existence and blessings, therefore they are to serve and love Him. But the Confession is quick to add the way in which the true God wants to be worshiped is instituted by Himself alone. To that now we turn our attention.

What Is The Regulative Principle?

In the words of Derek Thomas, “the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.”[2] For everything we do in worship, we must have a scriptural warrant. Sometimes the language of command is used. All that is commanded is acceptable, and what is not commanded is forbidden. We must be careful with such a language. What is meant is not we must have imperatives for everything in corporate worship. But rather, the Regulative Principle of Worship teaches that for every element of worship in the corporate worship of God’s people, there must be a Scriptural warrant. We cannot simply add things to the worship of God which have no warrant in the Word of God.

The Confession says that there is an “acceptable way of worshiping the true God” which presupposes that there is an unacceptable way. We are not to worship God as we feel and as we think He would like us to worship Him. Rather this “acceptable way” is determined and “instituted by himself”. It is God who commands, directs and shows His people in His Word how He desires to be worshiped. How He desires to be worshiped is “limited by his own revealed will”, meaning, the Holy Scriptures. Only things which God (directly) has commanded and/or have a Scriptural warrant may take place in the corporate worship of God’s people. Simply said, the Regulative Principle of Worship is the application of Sola Scriptura to the corporate worship of the Church. This Regulative Principle is contrasted with the Normative Principle. In the time of the Reformation those who held to the Regulative Principle were the Reformed and the Puritans, while those who held to the Normative Principle were the Lutherans and Anglicans, among others. But, what is the Normative Principle? The twentieth article titled “Of the Authority of the Church” from the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, reads:

The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.[3]

This is the position of virtually all non-Reformed churches these days. Whatever is not commanded is permitted, unless expressly forbidden. The church may decree “Rites or Ceremonies” but these must not be against “holy Writ”. The Regulative Principle on the other hand states that only those things described and commanded in Holy Writ as they concern the worship of God’s people, are to be part of the worship of the Church. Therefore, the Puritans saw a return to Rome in the teaching of the Church of England. They saw that the Normative Principle left the door to Rome open. While the Regulative Principle shut tightly the door to Rome and held fast to Scripture as the basis for the elements and way of worship.

The last observation concerns the fact that this Regulative Principle concerns the worship of the gathered church. The corporate/public worship of the church on the Lord’s Day (or any other day that the church gathers to worship) is to be regulated by the Scriptures alone in all its elements of worship. Not all life is to be regulated by this principle, but only the corporate worship of the church. Therefore, Dr. Waldron speaks of “the regulative principle of the church” and says that “God regulates His worship in a way which differs from the way in which He regulates the rest of life.”[4]After writing about the uniqueness of the church gathering of the New Covenant and its connection with the tabernacle and Temple in the Old Covenant, Dr. Waldron says:

God never told Moses precisely how to construct Moses’ tent. God never told Moses precisely how to regulate His family. Those tasks He left to the discretion of Moses because it was Moses’ tent and Moses’ family. But it is for that very reason that God exercises such pervasive control over the tabernacle and its worship. The tabernacle was God’s tent; it ministers to His family. Thus, He rules its worship with a special and detailed set of regulations to which He expects precise obedience.[5]

God is jealous for His worship and He has actually not given man freedom to do as they will in His worship. We shall shortly see how jealous God is concerning His worship and the way He is worshiped, by the measures He deals to those who pervert His worship. John Calvin is considered to be one of the first who advocated for the Regulative Principle of Worship. In a letter to Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558), Calvin writes in 1543:

I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command, what do we gain by a contrary course? The words of God are clear and distinct,

“Obedience is better than sacrifice.” “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” (1 Samuel 15:22; Matthew 15:9.)

Every addition to His word, especially in this matter, is a lie. Mere “will worship” ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ [ethelothreskeia] is vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate.[6]

Every addition to God’s Word in the matter of His worship is a lie. It is not, Calvin says, a bad suggestion or a bad idea, rather it is a lie. This is a very serious charge. The reason that such a thing is a lie and sin is because it perverts the true worship of God, which should solely be based upon what He has said. In conclusion, the Regulative Principle teaches that:

  • Whatever is commanded concerning worship is to be done;
  • Whatever is forbidden is not to be done;
  • Whatever is not spoken about, is not to be done.

Scriptural Support

What is the Scriptural support for this doctrine? We will explore a few examples which will s...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 3,908 views | 555 Words | 05 March 2015 18:55
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Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation

In this chapter, we will consider what repentance actually is. Is repentance a gift? Do we repent only when we become Christians? Does repentance always accompany faith? Is repentance necessary for salvation?

I find the division of the paragraphs a bit unhelpful. The Confession speaks of those who are aged repenting unto life (par. 1), Christians repenting of their sins (par. 2) and defines what repentance actually is in paragraph 3. It seems to me that it would have been more natural to begin by defining what repentance actually is and then proceeding with what are now paragraphs 1 and 2. Therefore, I will begin here by giving a definition of what repentance is and then I will try to defend that definition biblically in paragraph 3. Wayne Grudem says that:

Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.[1]

Thus, repentance is not only a sorrow for our sins against God, it is not only us being sorry for doing what we did, but it the commitment to forsake our sins and instead obey Christ the Lord. But more on this in paragraph 3.

That the Baptist Confession depends and copies from the Savoy Declaration of 1658 can very clearly be seen especially in this chapter, which is wholly different in the Westminster, but almost identical in the Savoy. See the comparison here.


§1 God in their effectual calling giveth them repentance unto life

  1. Such of the elect as are converted at riper years, having sometime lived in the state of nature, 1 and therein served divers lusts and pleasures, God in their effectual calling giveth them repentance unto life. 2
    1. Titus 3:2-5[2]
    2. 2 Chron. 33:10-20; Acts 9:1-19; 16:29-30

In this paragraph, the Confession is speaking about the repentance of those who have lived manifestly wicked lives. The words of Dr. Waldron here are especially helpful:

The Confession makes this distinction out of a desire to distinguish repentance as a crisis experience from repentance as an ordinary grace. All believers are marked by the ordinary grace, but not all believers will know, or need to know, repentance as a crisis experience.

In this chapter two types of such a crisis experience are mentioned. The Confession first refers to ‘such of the elect as are converted at riper years having sometime lived in the state of nature’. Scriptural examples of this are Manasseh, Paul and the Philippian jailor. Secondly, it refers to ‘believers [who]…fall into great sins and provocations’. The scriptural examples here are David and Peter.[3]

We simply think of Saul of Tarsus and his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. In the sight of the religious Jews his way of life was blameless (Phil. 3:4-6), but in the sight of God, he was a wicked man who was persecuting Him (Acts 9:4). As a persecutor of the Church, it was understandable that the saints had difficulty in believing that the wicked persecutor has been saved and now is a saint. His wicked life was turned upside down by God and he was that his righteousness through the law was worthless. When the Lord saved him, He gave him “repentance unto life.” A beautiful phrase coming from Acts 11:18 which means that repentance is necessary, and in fact, it leads to true life in Christ.

The paragraph does not mean that only those who are “at riper years” and are manifestly wicked are granted repentance, rather the point is, if these people are called by God, anyone and everyone should repent and turn to God. As Dr. Waldron also notes, this paragraph is written against those who would say that only if you had a dramatic experience of repentance, you are saved. There is no question that the Philippian jailer and Paul had a dramatic experience, but countless millions have not had a dramatic experience, yet they have repented, been saved and walked since then in a life characterized by repentance from sin.

Notice also that the Confession connects repentance with effectual calling (chapter 11). When God calls us, He not only gives us faith, but He also grants repentance which accompanies that faith (2Tim. 2:25; c.f. Acts 20:21). This happens at conversion when God transfers us from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Christ. He grants us faith and repentance and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The Reformed understanding of the Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation) is:

  1. Election (chapter 3)
  2. Effectual Calling (chapter 10)
  3. Regeneration (chapter 11)
  4. Conversion (CHAPTER 14 Of Saving Faith and chapter 15, the current one on repentance)
  5. Justification (chapter 11)
  6. Adoption (chapter 12)
  7. Sanctification (chapter 13)
  8. Perseverance (CHAPTER 14)
  9. Glorification

See this helpful picture by Tim Challies.

It is important to note that here we are speaking of the logical order of salvation and not how we experience salvation. In chapter 11, I argued for “Regeneration Precedes Faith”. From our experience, the new birth and faith in the Lord Jesus happened at the same time. So, when we speak of the Ordo Salutis, we do not mean the order in time, but logically. This has to do more with causation and which one is dependent on the other. Repentance is in stage four. Repentance and faith together are under conversion and they describe what conversion is. There would not be conversion if there was no regeneration. There would be no regeneration if there was no effectual calling. There would be no effectual calling if there was no sovereign election in eternity past. One is dependent upon the other and springs forth from the other.


§2 God has mercifully provided that believers so sinning and falling be renewed through repentance unto salvation

  1. Whereas there is none that doth good and sinneth not, and the best of men may, through the power and deceitfulness of their corruption dwelling in them, with the prevalency of temptation, fall into great sins and provocations; God hath, in the covenant of grace, mercifully provided that believers so sinning and falling be renewed through repentance unto salvation. 3
    1. Ps. 130:3; 143:2; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20
    2. 2 Sam. 11:1-27; Luke 22:54-62
    3. Jer. 32:40; Luke 22:31-32; 1 John 1:9

Paragraph 1 dealt with unbelievers turning to Christ, now paragraph 2 deals with Christians turning back to Christ after sin and restoring their relationship to their merciful Savior.

Forgiveness

Christians can testify that they sin daily and seek God's forgiveness for known and unknown sins daily. But sometimes we fall into greater sins. It is a greater sin to commit adultery in actuality, than in the heart, obviously. Both are sin, but one is greater than the other. It is a greater sin to murder someone, than to merely hate someone. It is possible for Christians to fall into the “greater” sins.  There have been believers who have committed adultery, been involved in sexual immorality, stolen, cheated and done other things which God has forbidden. They have fallen into sin, but they have not fallen beyond recovery...if they truly were believers! This is the test of true believers: a true believer will always be brought back to repentance by God. It may take days, months or years, but the Shepherd will not lose any of His sheep and will seek them out one by one.

We may sometimes think too highly of ourselves and our ability to overcome sin, and also think too lowly of the remaining corruption in us and the fallen world around us. With such a mindset we leave ourselves open to Satan's attacks. We may think “no, not me” and “I will not fall into that sin”, but we forget about the “power and deceitfulness of [our] corruption dwelling in [us]” which makes it all the more easy for us to fall into sin. God would be just and holy if He were to abandon us the moment we sin again after being in Christ and leave us in our sin, yet as our Father and the faithful covenant God, He will not leave or forsake us even in the midst of our sin.

The great Gospel promise is that not only are all our sins punished in Christ – past, present and future, but also that we should seek forgiveness from God and man every day and may experience forgiveness every day. 1 John 1:9 is crucial in this discussion.

1John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

This is a passage and a promise that I cherish, knowing myself to be a great sinner and Christ the Lord my great Savior. In this passage, we are commanded to walk in the light and have our life patterned after Jesus’ own perfect life. But then John, knowing the nature of man, reminds us that it ...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 3,413 views | 555 Words | 05 March 2015 18:34
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CHAPTER 14: Of Saving Faith

What is faith? Is it simply believing something without any and contrary to all evidence? Is it wishful thinking? Dr. Wayne Grudem defines faith as:

Trust or dependence on God based on the fact that we take him at his word and believe what he has said.[1]

The confession in chapter 11 paragraph 2 defines faith as:

Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification...

In this chapter we will explore such things concerning faith as what it is, what is its nature and how it is increased and strengthened. Can we have temporal faith? Can we lose our faith? Such things we will try to deal with here.


§1 The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit

  1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened. 2
    1. John 6:37, 44; Acts 11:21, 24; 13:48; 14:27; 15:9; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2[2]
    2. Rom  4:11;  10:14, 17; Luke 17:5; Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 2:2

The Grace of Faith

We have already argued that faith is a gift in chapter 11 on Justification. It is something that God gave us to exercise. We Calvinists do not believe that God believes for us, but that our faith finds its origin in God and comes to us through regeneration (1John 5:1, see our discussion on this passage). By this faith, which is granted to us (Phil. 1:19) by the grace of God, we believe and are justified. The Word tells us that "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). We believe, are justified and received into the arms of God (Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1; 10:9). Again and again we are told that we are justified by faith (e.g. Rom. 3:28-30; 4:5-10; 9:30; 10:4; 11:6; Gal. 2:15-16; Phil. 3:9) and then we understand that even our faith was by grace granted to us by God (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts. 3:16; 18:27; 2Pet. 1:1). So that we can truly say: Soli Deo Gloria! There is no contribution on our part for our salvation except the sin that made it necessary, as Jonathan Edwards said.

This faith is worked in us through the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who regenerates us and gives us new life (John 3:5-8) by which faith comes (1John 5:1). Regeneration precedes faith. The Spirit uses the Word of God preached to us in the Gospel. The Gospel proclamation goes out and the Spirit uses the Gospel proclamation to draw the elect to the Son (John 6:44, 63). 2 Thessalonians 2:14 says that God called us through the Gospel. The Lord did not merely elect a people and leave them. No, He goes out and through the Gospel preachers/witnesses draws them to the Son in faith and repentance. Peter writes:

1Pet 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God

It is through the Word of God that regeneration came and we became Christians. It is not without the Gospel that we became Christians. But it is through the Spirit of God working on our hearts in many ways through Bible reading, discussions and the proclamation of the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation among other things that God saves us. Peter says that "this word is the good news that was preached to you" (1Pet. 1:25). It is through the Gospel that the Sovereign Lord chooses to work.

Means Appointed For the Strengthening of our Faith

It is common sense and obvious I believe that things like Bible reading/study, the ordinances, namely—the Lord's Supper and Baptism, prayer, fellowship with other believers are means through which our faith grows stronger. Bible reading, Bible study, the preaching of the Word are obviously the highest means which God has appointed and given to us for the strengthening of our faith. As we know more and more about the God who loves us, saved us and preserves us, and see His faithful dealings with people of the past, our faith and trust becomes stronger in the God whom we love. We will learn how to practice our faith and depend on Him as ones like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul and so on. In the Lord's Supper (chapter 30) we come to remember what Christ the Lord has done for our salvation. That He died on the cross to take away our sin from us and give us His righteousness. He left us a sign and a remembrance of His offer on the cross. As we participate in the Lord's Supper, we are then spiritually and by faith communing with the living Christ. It is not possible to commune with the living Christ through faith and yet our faith remain unchanged. In baptism (chapter 29) we declare that we are unashamed followers of the Lord Christ. We make it our aim to obey and please Him by doing that which He commanded. Obedience to His commands obviously increases our faith. To spend time in prayer with God is essential to the Christian life as breathing is to human life. The Bible commands us to pray without ceasing (1Thess. 5:17), and thus commands us to remain in continual communion with God. As we remain in communion with God our trust and faith in Him is strengthened. As we see God answering our prayers our faith and trust in Him are strengthened. As we see Him change us into Christ's likeness through and in prayer, our faith in Him becomes stronger as we become more like Christ. As we have communion with other believers and hear about what God is doing in their lives, we are encouraged and moved to bless and praise God for His graces. As we see people who walk very closely with the Lord Jesus, we are moved by their example to imitate the Lord Jesus and walk in the way of the Lord. All these means it has pleased God to be the way our faith is increased and strengthened. But remember the most important is the reading and study of the Scriptures, in and through which God reveals Himself to us (1Sam. 3:21; see also here).


§2 By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself 

  1. By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself, and also apprehendeth an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world, as it bears forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in his workings and operations: and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed; and also acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, 2 trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come; but the principal acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. 5
    1. Acts 24:14; 1 Thess. 2:13; Ps. 19:7-10; 119:72
    2. John 15:14; Rom. 16:26
    3. Isa. 66:2
    4. 1 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 11:13
    5. John 1:12; Acts 15:11; 16:31; Gal. 2:20

The Nature of Christian Faith

The writer to the Hebrews says that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). If, according to critics, faith is a blind leap into the dark, how can this verse say that there is “assurance” and “conviction” in faith? Biblical faith is obviously not as the skeptics often see it. Rather, biblical faith is trust and belief in God based on what He has done in the past and does in the present. As we read the Scriptures we see what God accomplishes through people, most prominently, how God accomplished redemption through the death of Jesus Christ and how His death applies to us now. As we see and read about the saving works of God we are moved to trust that He did and said those things which are written down in the Bible. The assurance that we have in our Christian faith is based upon the character of the object of our faith, namely—the Triune God. Our faith is based upon the fact that God is truthful (Isa. 65:16; John 3:33) and thus His Word likewise is the truth (John 17:7) and reflects His unchanging character (Heb. 13:8; Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6). We know that God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and thus we trust His promises to us about overcoming our sin, having our sins forgiven by the blood of Christ, the eternal state, the resurrection and all things which His Word speaks about. 

As we trust God and have our firm faith, assu...




1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted Simon Wartanian | 4,816 views | 555 Words | 16 November 2014 22:30
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Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession, 1677

To The Judicial and Impartial Reader

Courteous Reader: It is now many years since divers of us (with other sober Christians then living, and walking in the way of the Lord, that we profess) did conceive ourselves to be under a necessity of publishing a Confession, of our Faith, for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were, or had entertained prejudices against our profession, by reason of the strange representation of them by some men of note who had taken very wrong measures, and accordingly led others into misapprehension of us and them. And this was first put forth about the year 1643, in the name of seven congregations then gathered in London; since which time divers impressions thereof have been dispersed abroad, and our end proposed in good measure answered, inasmuch as many (and some of those men eminent both for piety and learning) were thereby satisfied that we were no way guilty of those heterodoxies and fundamental errors which had too frequently been charged upon us without ground or occasion given on our part. 

And forasmuch as that Confession is not now commonly to be had, and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein, it was judged necessary by us to join together in giving a testimony to the world of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles by the publication of this which is now in your hand. And forasmuch as our method and manner of expressing our sentiments in this doth vary from the former (although the substance of this matter is the same), we shall freely impart to you the reason and occasion thereof. One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work was (not only to give a full account of ourselves to those Christians that differ from us about the subject of baptism, but also) the profit that might from thence arise unto those that have any account of our labors in their instruction and establishment in the great truths of the Gospel, in the clear understanding and steady belief of which our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before him in all our ways, is most nearly concerned; and therefore we did conclude it necessary to express ourselves the more fully and distinctly; and also to fix on such a method as might be most comprehensive of those things we designed to explain our sense and belief of; and finding no defect in this regard in that fixed on by the Assembly, and, after them by those of the congregational way, we did readily conclude it best to retain the same order in our present Confession; and also when we observed that those last mentioned did in their Confessions (for reasons which seemed of weight both to themselves and others) choose not only to express their mind in words concurrent with the former in sense concerning all those articles wherein they were agreed, but also for the most part without any variation of the terms, we did in like manner conclude it best to follow their example in making use of the very same words with them both in these articles (which are very many) wherein our faith and doctrine are the same with theirs; and this we did the more abundantly to manifest our consent with both in all the fundamental articles of the Christian religion, as also with many others whose orthodox Confessions have been published to the world on the behalf of the Protestant in diverse nations and cities. And also to convince all that we have no itch to clog religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words which hath been, in consent with the Holy Scriptures, used by others before us; hereby declaring, before God, angels, and men, our hearty agreement with them in that wholesome Protestant doctrine which, with so clear evidence of Scriptures, they have asserted. Some things, indeed, are in some places added, some terms omitted, and some few changed; but these alterations are of that nature as that we need not doubt any charge or suspicion of unsoundness in the faith from any of our brethren upon the account of them.

In those things wherein we differ from others we have expressed ourselves with all candor and plainness, that none might entertain jealousy of aught secretly lodged in our breasts that we would not the world should be acquainted with; yet we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty and humility as will render our freedom in this respect inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours. 

We have also taken care to affix texts of Scripture at the bottom, for the confirmation of each article in our Confession; in which work we have studiously endeavored to select such as are most clear and pertinent for the proof of what is asserted by us; and our earnest desire is that all into whose hands this may come would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not. 

There is one thing more which we sincerely profess and earnestly desire credence in - viz., that contention is most remote from our design in all that we have done in this matter; and we hope that the liberty of an ingenuous unfolding our principles and opening our hearts unto our brethren, with the Scripture grounds of our faith and practice will by none of them be either denied to us, or taken ill from us. Our whole design is accomplished if we may have attained that justice as to be measured in our principles and practice, and the judgment of both by others, according to what we have now published, which the Lord (whose eyes are as a flame of fire) knoweth to be the doctrine which with our hearts we most firmly believe and sincerely endeavor to conform our lives to. And O that, other contentions being laid asleep, the only care and contention of all upon whom the name of our blessed Redeemer is called might for the future be to walk humbly with their God in the exercise of all love and meekness toward each other, to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, each one endeavoring to have his conversation such as becometh the gospel; and also, suitable to his place and capacity, vigorously to promote in others the practice of true religion and undefiled in the sight of God our Father! And that in this backsliding day we might not spend our breath in fruitless complaints of the evils of others, but may every one begin at home, to reform in the first place our own hearts and ways, and then to quicken all that we may have influence upon to the some work, that if the will of God were so, none might deceive themselves by resting in and trusting to a form of godliness without the power of it, and inward experience of the efficacy of those truths that are professed by them. 

And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of religion in our day which we cannot but touch upon and earnestly urge a redress of, and that is the neglect of the worship of God in families by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the gross ignorance and instability of many, with the profaneness of others, be justly charged upon their parents and masters, who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young, but have neglected those frequent and solemn commands which the Lord hath laid upon them, so to catechise and instruct them that their tender years might be seasoned with the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures; and also by their own omission of prayer and other duties of religion of their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, having, inured them first to a neglect and the contempt of all piety and religion? We know this will not excuse the blindness and wickedness of any, but certainly it will fall heavy upon those that have been thus the occasion thereof; they indeed die in their sins, but will not their blood be required of those under whose care they were, who yet permitted them to go on without warning - yea, led them into the paths of destruction? And will not the diligence of Christians with respect to the discharge of these duties in ages past rise up in judgment against and condemn many of those who would be esteemed such now? 

We shall conclude with our earnest prayer that the God of all grace will pour out those measures of his Holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be accompanied with the sound belief and diligent practice of it by us, that his name may in all things be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

WE the MINISTERS and MESSENGERS of and concerned for upwards of one hundred baptized congregations in England and Wales (denying Arminianism), being met together in London, from the third of the seventh month to the eleventh of the same, 1689, to consider of some things that might be for the gl...