The Staunch Calvinist

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

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

... await fulfillment in Christ and His people. The covenants that I would like to deal with are the following:

  1. The Covenant of Redemption [§2] [here]
  2. The Covenant of Grace [§3] [here]
  3. The Covenant of Works [§1] [here]
  4. The Covenant with Noah (Noahic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  5. The Covenant with Abraham (Abrahamic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  6. The Covenant with Israel through Moses (Mosaic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  7. The Covenant with David (Davidic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  8. The Covenant with the Church (New Covenant) [§3] [here]

What Is A Covenant?

Before going into the specific covenants, let us define what a covenant actually is. A covenant may simply be defined as: A commitment with divine sanctions. To add more input, it may be said this way:

In the general sense, a covenant is simply a binding agreement or compact between two or more parties; in legal terms, it is a formal sealed agreement or contract.[3]

Simply said, a covenant is the way that God communicates with man. It must be noted that the covenants made by God are made up by God—what I mean is that God doesn't ask people's opinion about what they think of the covenant, blessings, and curses. It is something imposed by God. It is a sovereign covenantal arrangement. This is seen in Nehemiah Coxe's definition of Covenant, which is...

“A declaration of his sovereign pleasure concerning the benefits he will bestow on them, the communion they will have with him, and the way and means by which this will be enjoyed by them.”[4]

Walter Chantry defines a covenant as “a sovereignly given arrangement by which man may be blessed.”[5] A. W. Pink defines it as:

Briefly stated, any covenant is a mutual agreement entered into by two or more parties, whereby they stand solemnly bound to each other to perform the conditions contracted for.[6]

From these definitions, we observe that a covenant seeks to bring man to a better state of existence or being. It doesn't seek to leave man in the place he was prior to the covenant. Dr. Richard Barcellos observes:

Think of the Noahic covenant. Prior to its revelation as found in Genesis 6-9, the earth was potentially subject to a universal flood due to the justice of God being executed on the earth against the wickedness of man. We know this for certain because that is exactly what happened. The Noahic covenant, which includes man (Noah and his descendants), also involves every living creature (Genesis 9:9-10, 15, 16). It embraces and benefits the earth as well (Genesis 8:22...Genesis 9:13...Jeremiah 33:20, 50...). That divine covenants are revealed to man for "the advancing and bettering of his state" [Nehemiah Coxe] can also be said of all other divine covenants with man throughout the Bible. Abraham (along with his carnal and spiritual seed) was better off for the covenant revealed to him. The Israelites were better off for the covenant revealed to them. It promised them blessings from God that were not promised to them prior to its promulgation. David and the Israelites were better off for the covenant revealed to them, and believers of all ages are much better off for the revelation of the new covenant in its promissory form in the Old Testament and in its concluded, or historically ratified, form in the New Testament.[7]

Nehemiah Coxe writes:

The immediate and direct end therefore, of God’s entering into covenant with man at any time (so far as concerns man himself) is the advancing and bettering of his state. God never made a ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

.../../post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-7:-Of-Gods-Covenant-Commentary/1026">chapter 7.

Signs

What do we actually mean by a sign and a seal? A sign is something visible which points to inward and spiritual realities. The rainbow was the visible sign of the Noahic Covenant, it functioned as a token (“Something serving as an indication, proof, or expression of something else”[19]) that God will not destroy the earth by water again (Gen. 9:13-17). Circumcision functioned as a visible sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, which symbolized the need to be cleansed from sin through blood spilling. For Abraham, it was a sign and a seal of the faith which he had prior to circumcision (Rom. 4:11). The Sabbath functioned as a visible sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It functioned as a sign that God had set His people apart (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). There is no sign mentioned in connection with the Davidic or the New Covenant explicitly. But the throne would probably fit as a visible sign for David that he will always have someone from his posterity to sit on it and rule over Israel. As for the New Covenant, we only have two “positive and sovereign institution[s]” (1689 28:1). I admit from the start that we have no text in the New Testament identifying baptism or the Lord's Supper either as a sign individually, or signs together of the New Covenant. But does this then imply that we have no reason to see them as signs at all? Obviously not. We see them as signs of the New Covenant when we understand what a sign or a token is.

We noted above on Colossians 2:11-12 that we do not see baptism replacing/fulfilling circumcision as the sign of the New Covenant, as it is often alleged by our Presbyterian brethren, but rather, circumcision of the foreskin has its counterpart in the circumcision of the heart. Circumcision of the foreskin was not fulfilled in water baptism, but rather in the circumcision of the heart. There is nothing said there about water baptism being fulfilled and has become the sign of the covenant, as it functioned for the Abrahamic Covenant. That was not the purpose or intention of the Apostle. But we may indeed see baptism as a sign of the covenant because baptism signifies something. Our Confession says that baptism is a sign of fellowship and union with Christ, as we tried to show above. Baptism shows us the blessings of the covenant. In water baptism, we picture the spiritual union which we have in Christ and thus we have it as a sign of the blessings of the New Covenant. In baptism, we picture the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Christ and our union with Him. Therefore, baptism is a sign of the New Covenant.

The Lord's Supper likewise functions as a sign of the New Covenant. A sign to be celebrated and not neglected, because, with the celebration of the Lord's Supper, we remember the Lord's death until He comes (1Cor. 11:26). When we remember the Lord's death in the Lord's Supper, we have the Gospel in visible form. We remember His great love for His own and the sacrifice of His life for our sake. We experience spiritual union with our Savior. We remember and express our thanksgiving for His great salvation and the forgiveness which he offered us on the

...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

... in Galatians 4:4 –

Gal. 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 

Christ became man at God’s appointed and perfect time. As a true Israelite, He was born under the authority of the Mosaic Law and in the Mosaic Covenant. The text says that the Son was born under the law, that means that He was subject to the Law. The Lawgiver was subject to His own Law! He was circumcised on the eighth day according to the Abrahamic Covenant. He kept the Law of Moses perfectly throughout His life, while He definitely broke many of the traditions of the Jews, but never once the Law of God. The purpose, says Paul, that He was born under the law was to redeem those who were under the law. Is this referring only to Jews as they are subject to and under the Law? I have difficulty with this view primarily because of the “we” in v. 5. Paul is writing to a largely Gentile audience about the dangers of placing the Jewish traditions and laws above the Gospel of Christ. The way that I understand this is in the same way that I understand Romans 2:12-14 (see here and here). Both Jews and Gentiles are under the Law and possess it, yet in a different sense. Jews possess the fullness of the written Law, while Gentiles only have the moral law written on their hearts. Therefore, the way that I understand Galatians 4:4-5 is that the Lord Jesus was indeed born under the Mosaic Law to redeem those who were under the Law. But the Law of Moses is itself an expansion of the Law of Creation given to us through Adam our federal head. In essence, it is the same as the Mosaic and has the same moral law as the Decalogue. Therefore, both Jews and Gentiles could properly be said to be under the law and thus were redeemed through Christ. Matthew Poole comments on this phrase:

This makes it appear, that Christ’s being under the law must be understood as well of the moral as of the ceremonial law, that is, subject to the precepts of it, as well as to the curse of it; for if the end of this being born under the law, was to redeem those that were under it, that he had not reached by being merely under the ceremonial law; for the Gentiles were not under that law, but only under the moral law; and they also were to be redeemed, and to receive the great privilege of [adoption.][4]

The Expositor's Greek Testament puts it in this way:

The description under Law includes Gentiles as well as Jews: for though they had not the Law, they were not without Law to God (cf. Romans 2:14…): they have indeed been expressly specified in Galatians 3:14 as included in the redemption from the curse of the Law.[15]

The Lord Jesus fulfilled the Law on our behalf. This is part of His active obedience. The Lord Jesus, the federal head of the New Covenant people of God, was fulfilling the Law for us and in our place. Since we could not fulfill the Law, we were doomed, but when Christ fulfilled the Law for us, both in its commandments and curses, we were set free! The purpose of Christ’s coming was not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.

Matt. 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...k be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

Under The Old Covenant

The rainbow was the sign of the Noahic Covenant; circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant and the Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant. Dr. Waldron reminds us that we should not think simply because the Sabbath is the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, that it is therefore ceremonial. Rather “the structure of our thinking must not be either-or, but both-and. The Sabbath is both a moral law and a covenant sign, not either a moral law or a covenant sign.”[88]As a sign, the Sabbath has some symbolic value for the people of God. The Sabbath is grounded in Creation in Exodus 20:11 and in redemption in Deuteronomy 5:15. In Exodus 31:13-17, the Sabbath is grounded in Creation and is to function as a sign and a token between Israel and God. A sign is a visible representation of an invisible reality. The Sabbath serves as a sign and token between God and His people that He is the One who sets them apart, making them holy. He has given them the Sabbath as a sign that He is their God and they are His people. This in no way denigrates the abiding moral nature of the Sabbath. Dr. Waldron explains it in the way of a woman marrying on her birthday. The date is the same, but there is an added significance to the date after her marriage. This in no way diminishes the fact that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance for all men.

The chief sign according to Exodus 31:13 is “a reminder that the covenantal relationship that Jehovah had established with their fathers and with them was a relationship that had sanctification as its central feature.”[89] This covenantal relationship between God and His people which the Sabbath signifies, is because of God’s sanctifying work. We are to know God, through the Sabbath, as our Sanctifier. The Sabbath, as a visible sign, was given to always remind Israel of God their Sanctifier. He has set us apart as He has set apart the Sabbath day for His worship. In Ezekiel 20:12, 20, we also read of the Sabbath being a sign of sanctification and a sign that they are God’s people. The Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day, but came with force as a sign of the Mosaic covenant. Ezekiel 20 is “teaching that the Sabbath was given to Israel at the Exodus for the first time as a covenant sign.”[90] Iain Campbell says that the heart of the matter is that “Israel was to keep days and specific years, holy, sanctifying them as a sign that God was the one making Israel holy. There is an intimate link between Sabbath observance and God's sanctifying work in his people.”[91]Based on these two verses, Dr. Martin writes:

From the parallelism of these verses [Ezk 20:12, 20] we may deduce that the covenant relationship expressed in the words “I am the Lord your God” includes also the commitment “I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” The Sabbath was meant to be a reminder of these truths.[92]

After the general apostasy of humanity from the commandments of God and the fourth commandment in particular, Dabney observes the importance of the Sabbath as a sign:

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A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw

...w Circumcision?

While examining circumcision under the Old Testament Johnson finds these discrepancies:

  1. Male Exclusivity – Circumcision was restricted to males.
  2. Jewish Citizenship -  Circumcision was the requirement for citizenship in Israel, not faith. Membership within the covenant was not based upon faith, but upon bearing the sign of the covenant.
  3. Unbelieving Adults – Not only infants, but all adults would have been circumcised. Abraham was circumcised when he was 99. Genesis 17 says that not only Abraham’s direct family, but everyone in his house (even the slaves) had to be circumcised and receive the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. We can’t simply assume that everyone in Abraham’s house was already a believer in the true God. Obviously there would have been some adult unbelievers who received the sign.
  4. Children of Unbelievers – The Westminster position says that the promise is given to believers and their seed. But why? Under the Old Testament it did not matter if the parents had true faith. Their children had to be circumcised and thus receive the sign of the covenant.
  5. Different Meaning – Circumcision under the Old Testament had nation and political significance which baptism does not have. Circumcision was the sign for the Abrahamic Covenant which the Jewish males bore in their body. It set them apart as God’s national old covenant people.
  6. Different Participants – From the above mentioned differences between baptism and circumcision do not have the same participants. Unbelievers had received the sign of the covenant which our Presbyterian brethren would never knowingly do. Furthermore, circumcision under the Old Testament was properly administered to children of unbelievers, but this the Westminster position would not do.

There is an analogy between circumcision and baptism, but it is wrong and unbiblical to make them identical.

The New Testament teaches that circumcision was replaced by circumcision of the heart. We do not believe that the NT teaches that circumcision was replaced by baptism, but rather it was replaced by spiritual circumcision – the circumcision of the heart (e.g. Rom 2:28-29; Col 2:11-12, see this too).

The Nature of the Old Covenant

Johnson identifies “continuity” to be the essence of Westminster Covenant Theology. It is the pin holding it all together. The emphasis in Westminster Covenant Theology is upon continuity between the covenants. In Dispensationalism it is upon the discontinuity. The 1689 Baptist position seeks a balanced position between both continuity and discontinuity.

The majority of Reformed Paedobaptists believe that the Mosaic Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Grace and thus it was a covenant of grace, rather than of works.

Johnson begs to differ along with 1689 Federalists and even some Paedobaptists. A lot of assumptions and inferences are drawn by Paedobaptists concerning the New Covenant based upon the Mosaic being an administration of the Covenant of Grace which would be unjustified if it were not a covenant of grace. One thinks of the mixed membership of the covenant. Rom 9:6 says “…For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,” therefore our Westminster brethren assume that this continues also in the New Covenant. All who were descended from Israel were in the covenant, or as they would say in the outward administration and received the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. All who belonged to the covenant participa...


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

...ist, see below). What is important is that we keep God's commandments. What is here encouraged and contrasted are the moral commandments of God and the ceremonial commandments of God.

Circumcision, which was the initiation sign of the Old Covenant, is here regarded as unimportant and not binding, over against “keeping the commandments of God.” Circumcision is the prime example of a commandment that is ceremonial. It was an essential part of the Old Covenant, but now it is a sign that has been fulfilled by the circumcision of the heart. Circumcision was, in fact, a commandment of God since the Abrahamic Covenant (e.g. Gen. 17:10-14) and its disobedience was the breaking of God's covenant (Gen. 17:14). But, how is Paul then pitting one commandment of God against other commandments? It is essential, I believe, for the proper understanding of this passage to believe in the threefold division of the law. Paul is disregarding one set of commandments, the ceremonial which now have had their fulfillment in Christ, over against the moral, which are ever-binding and which Paul here declares their importance and perpetuity. Circumcision is nothing (KJV) and has had its fulfillment in the New Covenant promise, but “keeping the commandments of God” remains and is not “nothing.” Rather, we are encouraged to keep and obey His commandments.

1 Corinthians 9:19-21; Galatians 6:2 – The Law Of Christ

1Cor. 9:19-21 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

In this passage, we learn of Paul’s evangelistic strategy. He wanted to change and adapt to the environment as long as that did not interfere with the moral law of God. Although he is not obligated to do the things which he goes on to describe, yet for the sake of the Gospel, he will follow or do certain things which are not binding upon him. He has learned from his Master that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26). As long as he is not binding himself to things which go contrary to the Gospel, he is willing to do them for evangelistic purposes, so that he would not be a stumbling block.

When Paul was around Jews he would, for the sake of the weak brother or those whom he’s trying to win over to Christ, keep the ceremonial laws which, as a Christian, are no longer binding upon him. For example, he would circumcise Timothy “because of the Jews who were in those places” (Acts 16:3) and because Timothy’s mother was a Jew and thus he had to be circumcised. He knew and taught that circumcision doesn’t matter (e.g. 1Cor. 7:19), yet here, so as not to give the Jews a cause of stumbling or an excuse, he takes Timothy and circumcises him. Likewise in Acts 21:20-26, he observes a vow and a purification ceremony, even offering a sacrifice. He did this so that he would not cause a reason for the Jews to see an unnecessary problem in Paul. He would not have done this if the matter was concerning justification by faith or Gentile and Jewish Christian fellowship, for example (e.g. Acts 15; Gal. 2:11ff). He knows that he has the freedom to eat anything he wants, yet, if a Jew...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

...end this novel teaching, Dispensationalists do not allow the New Testament to interpret the Old. It is our belief that the New Testament should take precedence over the Old, not because the Old was not inspired or the New is more inspired. Rather, it is our belief that there is a greater clarity in the New Testament than in the Old. The Old was filled with types and shadows, but in the New we have the reality in Christ. Moreover, the interpretation of the Apostles of the Old Testament is the correct interpretation of the Old Testament, not the “literal” interpretation of Dispensationalists. Let me give you a few examples.

In Galatians 3, the Apostle Paul interprets the Abrahamic Covenant to have had promises made to Abraham to his singular Offspring who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Then he goes on to say that “if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Also,

Gal. 3:7-9 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

It is the teaching of Dispensationalism that the Abrahamic Covenant forms the basis that Israel must remain as the people of God and is always entitled to the Promised Land, and that Israel has not yet attained to the (complete) fulfillment of that promise. But this is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture that all the promises were indeed fulfilled to Israel (e.g. Josh. 21:43-45) which were made to the physical seed. Yet, as we saw, the seed or offspring which had the promises made to, according to Paul, was the Lord Christ. It was to Him and to Abraham that God made promises. Moreover, the true children of Abraham are not those who are physically descended from him, but those who share his faith. It is by faith that we are children of Abraham. Galatians 3:29 explains how we may be children of Abraham and thus heirs to the promises which were made to Abraham and to Christ. It is through Christ, the true and faithful child of Abraham, that we are made children of Abraham. Being a child of Abraham is a matter of faith, not of fleshly descent. The promises included that we will be the people of God and inherit the Promised Land. But Romans 4:13 teaches that the Promised Land is not limited to that land in the Middle East, but rather, it is the whole world. This is in accordance with one of the beatitudes of our Lord (Matt. 5:5). John the Baptist teaches that it is of no avail, contrary to Jewish opinion, that they have the favor of God and they will be in peace because they are physical children of Abraham, for God is able to raise children of Abraham from stones. Rather, the people should repent and have the same faith as Abraham (Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8). The promises given to Jews after the flesh were conditioned upon their obedience through the Mosaic Covenant (e.g. Deut. 7:11-12). It is needless, for the student of the Bible, to mention the many places when Israel’s prosperity and occupation of the Land is conditioned upon their obedience (see Deut. 32 for example; Lev. 18:24-28). The Abrahamic Covenant was not an unconditional covenant, but had the condition of being circumcised and obeying the law of God (Gen. 18:19; 26:4-5; Rom. 2:25). See for more chapter 7 on the Abrahamic Covenant....


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 20: Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof - Commentary

...nant-Commentary/1026"Chapter 7 of the confession on the types and shadows. For types in the Adamic Covenant see here. For types in the Noahic Covenant see here. For types in the Abrahamic Covenant see here. For types in the Mosaic Covenant see here. For types in the Davidic Covenant see here.


§4 Effectual Insuperable Work of the Holy Spirit upon the Whole Soul

  1. Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; 1 yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God. 2
    1. Ps 110:3; 1 Cor 2:14; Rom. 1:16-17
    2. John 6:44; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6

The message of the gospel is the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace (Rom. 1:16), but there is something more necessary for sinners to be born again, quickened or regenerated. This is the effectual insuperable (i.e., irresistible, impossible to overcome) work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul (John 6:44, 63), which is the inward call and work of the Gospel in sinners. This work of the Spirit gives us a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, there is no true conversion.


It is indeed true that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), yet that power is not alone but is accompanied by the Holy Spirit who applies the truths of the Gospel and the work of Christ to the elect. To be born again and thus be saved, it is necessary to be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-6), otherwise, we are still in the “flesh” and in our sin. Our Lord declares that “It is the Spirit who gives life” and "the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63). Therefore, if God would be pleased give us life in Christ, He will send both the Gospel and His Spirit to make that work effectual in the hearts of His elect. The Gospel is clear and reveals Christ, yet for the Gospel to be applied to the hearts of people, the work of the Spirit is crucial and necessary. God cleansed us and regenerated us by the Spirit, "the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Both the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, are necessary for the salvation of the elect. In this way, we see the Trinitarian work of redemption. The Father who planned redemption and elected a people to be given to the Son. The Son who obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for those given to him. The Spirit who applies the work and benefits which the Son bought by His blood to His elect. All glory to the Triune God—Yahweh.

 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

(Romans 1:16)

Footnotes

  1. ^ Sam E. Waldron. A Modern Exposition Of The 1689 Baptist Confession Of Faith. (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2013). pp. 302-303.
  2. ^ Many Scriptural references have been supplied by Samuel Waldron's Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which was apparently supplied by the Westminster Confession of Faith 1646.
  3. ^ John Calvin. Commentaries. Taken from the ...