The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

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, 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 and my position on it, I am greatly indebted to the following authors:

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

Calvinists have always been 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 an explanation to understand what h...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling

This entire chapter is about the Calvinistic doctrine that has been called Irresistible Grace. Unfortunately, that has been misunderstood to mean that men never disobey and resist God, but that is not how the phrase has been historically defined. Rather, it means that the resistance which natural man always has to the Spirit (Acts 7:51) is overcome when God decides to save a person.

The material in this chapter has a connection with what we have already dealt with. There would be no effectual calling if there was no predestination, so that should be kept in mind. Predestination is dealt with in chapter 3, so I will not make a case for predestination here, but will take it for granted.


§1 Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call

  1. Those whom God 1 hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, 3 effectually to call, 4 by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; 10 yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. 11
    1. R...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

Chapter 11: Of Justification

Now we come to the great biblical and Protestant doctrine of justification. Calvin said that “Justification is the main hinge on which salvation turns.” There is no salvation without a proper understanding of justification. This is not a secondary issue, it is a foremost essential of true and biblical Christianity. It is one of the things which separates confessional Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. There will be a lot of things which I will point the interested reader to previous chapters, rather than expound again here.


§1 Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth

  1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ's active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God. 4
    1. Rom. 8:30; 3:24[1]
    2. Rom. 4:5-8; Eph. 1:7
    3. 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 5:17-19
    4. 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Titus 3:5, 7; Rom. 3:22-28; Jer. 23:6; Phil. 3:9; Acts 13:38-39; Eph. 2:7-9; Phil 1:29; 2Pet 1:1

Now that we've dealt with the first...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 12: Of Adoption - Commentary

Chapter 12: Of Adoption

In this chapter, we will try to find what the Bible says about us being the children of God. What does it mean to be children of God and how do we become children of God? These are the questions that we will try to answer.


§1 Make partakers of the grace of adoption

  1. All those that are justified, 1 God vouchsafed, in and for the sake of his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, 4 receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry Abba, Father, 5 are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a Father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.7
    1. Gal. 3:24-26[1]
    2. 1 John 3:1-3
    3. Eph. 1:5; Gal. 4:4-5; Rom 8:17, 29
    4. Rom. 8:17; John 1:12; 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 3:12
    5. Rom. 8:15; Eph. 3:12; Rom. 5:2; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 2:18
    6. Ps. 103:13; Prov. 14:26; Matt. 6:30, 32; 1 Peter 5:7; Heb. 12:6; Isa. 54:8-9; Lam. 3:31; Eph. 4:30
    7. Rom. 8:17; Heb. 1:14; 9:15

The Golden Chain of Romans 8:29-30 continues. After our justification, the Lord takes us into His fold and adopts us for the sake of Christ as children and heirs of Him. This is done to all who are justified. It is not a privilege only of some believers, but the privilege of a...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

Chapter 13: Of Sanctification

Now that we were elected, called and justified we enter into the Christian life, which is one of growth in holiness with ups and downs. In this chapter, we will deal with the question concerning what sanctification is and how it works.


§1 Through The Virtue Of Christ's Death And Resurrection, Are Also Farther Sanctified, Really And Personally

  1. They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; 4 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, 5 without which no man shall see the Lord. 6 
    1. 1 John 3:3-8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9-10; Rom. 1:7; 6:1-11; 15:16; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 3:12; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11[1]
    2. 1 Thess. 5:23; Rom. 6:19, 22
    3. 1 Cor. 6:11; Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6
    4. John 17:17, Eph. 5:26; 3:16-19; Rom. 8:13
    5. Rom. 6:13-14; Gal. 5:17, 24; Rom. 8:13; Col. 1:11; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:22-25; 2 Cor. 7:1
    6. Heb. 12:14

United, Called and Regenerated

I refer the interested reader to the previous chapters where we dealt with these things. I lightly to...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

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 somet...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation - Commentary

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 repen...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 16: Of Good Works - Commentary

Chapter 16: Of Good Works

What is a “good work”? In our world of today, many would call that which is against the Word “good.” What does “good” mean and what is the standard to measure “good” by?


§1 Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his Holy Word 

  1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his Holy Word, and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intentions. 2
    1. Micah 6:8; Rom. 12:2; Heb. 13:21; Col. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17[1]
    2. Matt. 15:9 with Isa. 29:13; 1 Peter 1:18; Rom. 10:2; John 16:2; 1 Sam. 15:21-23; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 5:1; Col. 2:8, 16-23

The Criteria For Good Works

We don't simply invent for ourselves what good works are and declare that they are good, but rather it is God who lays down the criteria for good works in Holy Writ. This does not mean that if a particular action is not mentioned in the Bible that it is therefore bad, but we look at the particular deed in light of all Scripture. We don't demand an explicit text for everything. For example, helping an old lady cross the street is a good deed, but it is not mentioned in the Bible. Does that mean that it is therefore bad if it is not mentioned? No, not really. Because we know from the Bible that we should love our neighbor, and help an old lady cross the street is such an expression of love and respect.

Commanded By God

Only what is commanded by God and what may be deduced from ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints

What do we mean by the Perseverance of the Saints? Does it matter what we do? Are we to be passive and do nothing? What passages support the doctrine of Perseverance? What about passages which speak of falling away and Hebrews 6?

Wayne Grudem defines the perseverance of the saints in this way:

The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.[1]

In this chapter, I want to mainly do two things: first, argue for the P in the TULIP, the Perseverance of the Saints; and second, examine some passages which are often brought up against the doctrine.


§1 Can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace

  1. Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation - Commentary

Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

In many ways this chapter is dependent upon the previous chapter about the Perseverance of the Saints and we concluded in the previous chapter that the doctrine is indeed biblical. If eternal security is biblical for those who are regenerate and have true faith, may we conclude that God is willing that they have assurance of salvation and have confidence that they will be with God forever? The answer of this chapter is “yes.” The most texts for the doctrine of perseverance at the same time are texts about the assurance that we are called to have in Scripture, therefore, I will reference the exegesis of the relevant texts, if necessary, in the previous chapter.


§1 Although temporary believers, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves

  1. Although temporary believers, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. 2
    1. Job 8:13, 14; Jer. 17:9; Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 18:10-14; John 8:41; Eph. 5:6-7; Gal. 6:3, 7-9[1]
    2. Rom. 5:2, 5; 8:16; 1 John 2:3; 3:14, 18-19, 24; 5...