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

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

...nd salvation as being a resurrection (e.g. John 5:24-25; Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 2:13). We have to be made alive and set free from our sin. We are fixed by our fallen nature in sin and we do not desire to escape it. Paul said–

Rom. 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

Slaves are not free, but fallen man is free in regards to righteousness, meaning—he is free from anything that has to do with righteousness. They have no desire or “ALLEGIANCE” (HCSB) to righteousness. Righteousness was far away from them who were slaves of sin. They had nothing to do with righteousness. Their will was to do sin and their ALLEGIANCE was to Satan (John 8:44; Eph. 2:2-3; 2Tim. 2:26). They are under a hard and cruel master and they follow his will.

The Bible also tells us about fallen man's inclinations. Before and after the Flood it is said that “Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5 NET; 8:21). Even from childhood man's intentions and inclinations are evil and thus opposed to God. But if our inclinations and intentions are what determine our will, how can it be properly said that man is able to come to God or do anything pleasing to Him if His inclinations are against Him? It is impossible without a heart change—the miracle of regeneration.

Inability to come to God

Fallen man cannot convert himself, nor can he even prepare himself for conversion. What we said above about fallen man's actions all being sinful in God's sight (Rom. 14:23; 2Tim. 2:26) obviously does not exclude the fact that he cannot come to God or convert himself. Rather, the data above implicitly says that fallen man cannot and will not come to God because of his sinfulness and God's utter holiness and righteousness.

It is common to hear people saying that they are searching for God, but are they? What does the Bible say? Is not what we have already said enough to conclude that no such thing can spring from man's will? How can a man dead in sins, following the will of Satan, the enemy of God, come of his own to God and seek Him? That's an impossibility. Paul, when he looks at the whole of humanity, expressly says that “no one seeks after God” (Rom. 3:11). But you may say, “people do seek for God!” That might be true and it is true in two senses. Either they are seeking the pleasures and peace that come from God and not the person of God Himself, or it is God Who is seeking them. In the former, men are seeking after idols; in the latter, men are seeking after God because He is seeking after them. The Lord Jesus’ mission was “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), He was not sent so that the lost might seek Him, rather, He is the Seeker! But we have a more express testimony to this effect from the lips of our Lord:

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

For a discussion of this passage and John 6 see chapter 3 on Unconditional Election.

The Lord Jesus is not excluding people by saying no one can come, rather He is expressing the inability of natural man to come to Him. He does not say no one may come, but He says no one can. "Can” has to do with power and ability, “will” has to do with desire. He who “cannot” likewise “wills” not. The two are interconnected. The Greek word here is dunamai from which we get the word dynamo from. Thayer's Greek Definitions (G1410) says the following:

- Original: δύναμαι
- Tran...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

...an Pharaoh, Stalin, Hitler or Saddam apart from the grace of God, which has distinguished us for His purposes and glory. The fact that we believe in Christ is not due to anything in us, but merely of God's sovereign and distinguishing grace and love. This doctrine should awake in us a love for the none-saved and zeal for evangelism, for the same God Who wills the destruction of the wicked is the same God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:31-32).

The doctrine of reprobation certainly is a high mystery as is election, but it’s a truth that the Scripture teaches and therefore we must embrace, even if it goes against our traditions or our feelings. Our ALLEGIANCE should be to God and to His Word. He is the ultimate authority of righteousness and holiness. His judgments are always right and holy. He never does anyone wrong. Glory to His Holy Name in everything that He does and ordains!


§4 The Number Of The Elect Cannot Be Incrased Or Diminished

  1. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. 1
    1. Matt. 2:1-14; John 13:18; Rom. 11:5-6; 1 Cor. 7:22-22; 2 Tim. 2:19

God knows who are His (2Tim. 2:19). His call is irreversible (Rom. 11:29). He will lose or add no one (John 6:37-40). It is not fitting to think that the number of the elect may be changed because that would mean that God changed His mind upon a matter that He has decided from all eternity. I mean, what new information must come to the mind of God, which He did not already know, which would cause God to change His mind? God knows all things, contingent and actual. That which He has chosen from all eternity to occur is what He has chosen in full knowledge and wisdom, without any ounce of ignorance. See our discussion of God's Immutability and knowledge in chapter 2. God cannot learn any new thing because He already knows all things. Nothing new can be brought up to the table which would cause God to change His mind. Therefore, the idea that the "list of the elect" can change implies that God changes His mind, which is impossible, and that God is not all-wise, which is false.


§5 Unconditional Election

  1. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, 1 without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto. 2    
    1. Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:4-6, 9, 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:9
    2. Rom. 9:11-16; 11:5-6; Eph 2:5

What Is It?

The doctrine of election and predestination. It is useful, necessary, and most sweet. Ignorance of it impairs the glory of God, plucks up humility by the roots, begets and fosters pride. The doctrine establishes the certainty of salvation, peace of conscience, and the true origin of the church.[18]

The doctrine of eternal election is a most sweet and glorious doctrine from the Word of God. It is a doctrine much disagreed upon by Christians, yet I believe that the cause of disagreement is not based upon what the Scripture says, but rather because the idea is hateful to the human depraved mind. The doctrine is basically that God is free to select those, whom He has pleased out His mere pleasure, to save from His just wra...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary

...r presuppositions and see what is moving us to have a particular view. What has “science” revealed that trumps our Creation view? Are we anti-science? What presuppositions are used in these scientific findings? Are they consistent withwith themselves? Are they consistent with Scripture? Do they contradict proper interpretation of Scripture? These are all important consideration which all of us bring to every topic, but especially in this hotly debated subject, and we should be made aware of them. Ultimately, I believe in the Young Earth Creationist position because my reading of the Scripture, not because of the findings of science. I find those interesting, but my ultimate ALLEGIANCE is to the written Word of God.


§2 God created man, male and female...after the image of God

  1. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created; being made after the image of Godin knowledgerighteousness, and true holinesshaving the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change. 3
    1. Gen. 1:27; 2:7; James 2:26; Matt. 10:28; Eccl. 12:7
    2. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; Eccl. 7:29; 1 Cor 11:7; James 3:9; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24
    3. Rom. 1:32; 2:12a, 14-15; Gen. 3:6; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 5:12

Man is the epitome of creation, he is the crown of creation. Man is the only image of God of everything that God created. But what does it mean that man was made in the image and likeness of God as Genesis 1:26-27 teaches? A most basic observation about what man being in made in the image of God means is that man resembles or reflects God. That is what images do and that is the idea communicated through words like image or likeness. Man is in some way like God. While the plants are made and reproduce “according to [their] kind” (Gen. 1:11-12), sea creatures “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:21), land animals “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:24-25), man alone is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). In v. 26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. In v. 27, the narrator says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him”. This sets man apart from the rest of creation as the epitome of the created earth. Furthermore, God gets very personally involved in the creation of man as it is clear in Genesis 2. The rest of creation was made by divine fiat and speech, but when it comes to man, God's hands get involved! Some have tried to find different meanings or senses for the words image and likeness, but is this justified? There clearly seems to be a parallelism in v. 26 between image and likeness. When the speech of God is summarized in v. 27, there is nothing said about likeness, but the whole is communicated with the words that man was made in the image of God. Louis Berkhof helps us to see that both terms are used interchangeably in the Bible:

In Gen. 1:26 both words are used, but in the twenty-seventh verse only the first. This is evidently considered sufficient to express the whole idea. In Gen. 5:1 only the word “likeness” occurs, but in the third verse of that chapter both terms are again found. Gen. 9:6 contains only the word “image” as a complete expression of the idea. Turning to the New Testament, we find “image” and “glory” u...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

...gh faith in Christ and what is revealed about Him in the Holy Scriptures.

Idolaters are subject to God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18-23; 1Cor. 5:10-11; 6:9; 10:7, 14; Gal. 5:20; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 9:20; 21:8; 22:15) and Christians are to avoid idolatry at all costs (1Cor. 5:11; 2Cor. 6:16; Col. 3:5; 1John 5:20-21). The heathen in Acts 19:26 did rightly understand the message of Paul about the one true God and therefore the rejection of all idolatry, saying that Paul was teaching that “gods made with hands are not gods.”

In Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5 Paul connects covetousness with idolatry. But what does this mean? “Covetousness places one’s ultimate ALLEGIANCE in the acquisition of the possessions of others, which often leads to other grave sins (e.g., 1 Kings 21:1–19). Paul says this is tantamount to idolatry (see also Col. 3:5).”[28] When we do not accept our lot from God, but covet that which God has not given us, we think ourselves wiser than God and thereby commit idolatry. John Gill observes on Colossians 3:5 that:

The covetous man, and the idolater, worship the same for matter and substance, even gold and silver; the covetous man lays up his money, makes no use of it, as if it was something sacred; he looks at it, and adores it, and puts his trust and confidence in it, and his heart is so much set upon it, that he neglects the worship of the true God; and indeed no man can serve God and mammon.[8]

Conclusion On The 2nd Commandment

We conclude with Q&A 108 and 109 of the WLC:[15]

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

The Third Commandment

Exod. 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

See also Deut. 5:11.

General Observations On The 3rd ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows - Commentary

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; Ro...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

... “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 been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ” which undoubtedly includes believers prior to the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ's blood. But how is this the case? As we have argued and tried to show in chapter 7 on the Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Grace, in 1689 Federalist understanding, is the New Covenant in promise form. It was not a formal covenant as the others were. The fact that all the saints, both prior to the physical coming of Christ and after the coming, are included in the Universal Church is seen in Hebrews 12:22-24. Here, the church on earth joins with the church in heaven. In worship, we come to the assembly or the Church “of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven”. John Gill commented on this passage:

the church of God, consisting of all his elect, both Jews and Gentiles, and the meeting of them together: they met together, in the infinite mind of God, from all eternity; and in Christ, their head and representative, both then and in time; and at the last day, when they are all gathered in, they will meet together personally; and a joyful meeting it will be; and a very general one, more so than the assembly of the Jews, at any of their solemn feasts, to which the apostle may have some respect; since this will consist of some of all nations, that have lived in all places, and in all ages of time[4]

If it was the blood of Christ which saved all saints in all ages and under all the covenants and thereby they belong to Christ and His assembly. He is their Mediator and He is the Mediator of only one covenant, the New Covenant in His blood. If He stood for them before God, He stood as the Mediator of the New Covenant or the Covenant of Grace on their behalf. Therefore, they had to be members of the New Covenant or people chosen to be in the New Covenant for Christ to able to represent them. This was, in fact, the covenant which the believers under the Old Testament were called into (Heb. 9:15-17). Dr. Sam Waldron writes:

the church is the climactic earthly expression of the people of God. Thus language is frequently used which equates the church with all those in union with Chri...