The Staunch Calvinist

"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

...ten speaks of regeneration and 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; 2 Tim. 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; 2 Tim. 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...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

... to faith (see more here). Water baptism likewise signifies the fact that we are walking in newness of life with Christ our Lord, because of His resurrection and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit. What is also signified by water baptism is the cleansing of sins. It is not the water, but the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin. But we are to go into the water to publicly identify with our Lord and show the spiritual realities in the physical, divine ordinance of water baptism. We identify with our Lord and we profess our faith and Allegiance to Him.

Signs And Seal Of The Covenant

It is said in the Westminster Confession 28:1 that baptism is “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace” and in 27:1 that the “Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace.” The 1689 omits these two things in its respective chapters, but does this entail a denial and rejection of these things? I believe that it does entail a denial of some aspects, but not an entire denial. Baptists reject that baptism functions as a seal of the Covenant of Grace, rather, it is the Holy Spirit Who is said to be the seal on believers in the New Testament. The same is true for the Lord’s Supper; it is not a seal of the New Covenant, but the Holy Spirit is the seal. But we do believe that the holy ordinances do function as signs of the New Covenant.

In 1689 Federalist understanding, the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant before it was formally established in the blood of Christ. In contrast, Westminster Federalism teaches that the New Covenant is the last and final administration of the Covenant of Grace. Westminster Federalism teaches that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic covenants were administrations of the Covenant of Grace. But the Covenant of Grace reaches its final administration and revelation in the New Covenant. But we, 1689 Federalists, deny this. We believe rather that the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace was revealed in these covenants and the blessings thereof given to the elect, but not because of the covenant they found themselves in, but because they believed the promise. We believe that the Covenant of Grace, prior to the cross, existed in promise form, and not an established covenant. As John Owen said, “Believers were saved under it [the Mosaic Covenant], but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.”[24] See more on 1689 Federalism and the case for it in chapter 7.


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”[25]) 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 t...

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

...raoh, 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 Increased 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

The number of the elect cannot change. It is particularly and unchangeably designed. All things were ordered by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will (paragraph 1). Therefore, if any change would be made concerning the decree of election or reprobation, this would mean that all things were not decreed by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, which is false. Therefore, if this is true, the number of the elect and reprobate is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

God knows who are His (2 Tim. 2:19). His call is irreversible (Rom. 11:29). He will lose or add no one (John 6:37-40; 10:28-29). 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

The predestination to life took place before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9) and it was according to God’s eternal and immutable purpose. Yes, this predestination was out of His mere free grace a...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary

...d in these scientific findings? Are they consistent with themselves? Are they consistent with Scripture? Do they contradict the proper interpretation of Scripture? These are all important considerations which all of us bring to every topic, but especially in this hotly debated subject, and we should be made aware of them. We are absolutely not anti-science. We simply do not accept everything that is labeled “science” by fallible men and then doubt the infallible account of the Creator. Ultimately, I believe in the Young Earth Creationist position because of my reading of the Scripture, not because of the findings of scientists. 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 created as male and female with reasonable and immortal souls (Gen. 1:27; 2:7), distinguished from animals. Furthermore, man was rendered fit unto the life to God for which they were created. Man was created after the image of God (Gen. 1:26), which consisted in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). The law of God was written in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15). It was not something external to them and most importantly, they had the power to fulfill it. While all men have the law on their hearts (Rom. 2:15), yet they do not possess the power to fulfill it. Something important to note here is that the law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, is not only formulated in the “thou shalt not’s”, but also positively in “thou shalt.” The seventh commandment to a sinless man, for example, would be, “You shall be faithful to your wife and cling fast to her.” The same concepts could be communicated in forms of “thou shalt.” Furthermore, the Confession speaks here of the law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments (see chapter 19), yet the wording of a specific commandment could be different from the time before and after the Fall.

Man, in his original state had the power to fulfill the law, but also to transgressing it, which Adam and Eve did. They were not fixed in their state, but were still in the time of their probation and were left to the liberty of their own will. This does not mean that God was not Sovereign over Adam and Eve’s decision, as God’s decree does not violate man’s liberty as chapter 3 teaches. Had Adam obeyed past his time of probation, he would have earned eternal life and blessedness for all his descendants. 

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 made in the image of God means is that m...

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

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

Idolaters are subject to God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18-23; 1 Cor. 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 (1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Cor. 6:16; Col. 3:5; 1 John 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).”[29] 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 Commandment

The third ...

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 Mennonite 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]

An example of the Anabaptist stance on oaths and vows comes from their own mounts. The Schleitheim Confession of Faith comes from 1527 and was written by Michael Sattler in Germany. J. C. Wenger, a translator of the confession, explains:

The Schleitheim Confession was widely circulated. Ulrich Zwingli translated it into Latin and attempted to refute it already in 1527. It was in print in its original German form as early as 1533. John Calvin used a now-lost French translation of the Seven Articles in his refutation of Anabaptism published in 1544.[2]

All this means is that it is a very good representative of Anabaptist teaching. Therefore, it is also representative of what it says on vows and oaths:

Seventh. We are agreed as follows concerning the oath: The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises. In the Law it is commanded to be performed in God’s Name, but only in truth, not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the Law, prohibits all swearing to His [followers], whether true or false, -- neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jerusalem, nor by our head, -- and that for the reason which He shortly thereafter gives, For you are not able to make one hair white or black. So you see it is for this reason that all swearing is forbidden: we cannot fulfill that which we promise when we swear, for we cannot change [even] the very least thing on us.[2]

The seventh and last article goes on to answer some common objections made against the first statement. A century later (1632), the Dutch Mennonites still confessed the same of what was said by Sattler:

XV. Of the Swearing of Oaths

Concerning the swearing of oaths we believe and confess that the Lord Christ has set aside and forbidden the same to His disciples, that they should not swear at all, but that yea should be yea, and nay, nay; from which we understand that all oaths, high and low, are forbidden, and that instead of them we are to confirm all our promises and obligations, yea, all our declarations and testimonies of any matter, only with our word yea, in that which is yea, and with nay, in that which is nay; yet, that we must always, in all matters, and with everyone, adhere to, keep, follow, and fulfill the same, as though we had confirmed it with a solemn oath. And if we do this, we trust that no one, not even the Magistracy itself, will have just reason to lay a greater burden on our mind and conscience. Matt. 5:34, 35; Jas. 5:12; II Cor. 1:17.[3]

This means that the teaching of the Anabaptists on this point was still alive. Thus the Reformed confessions added a chapter addressing this issue. This is likewise important for our forefather to confes...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...ed “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.”’[6]

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. See Acts 7:38 where Stephen speaks of “the church in the wilderness” (KJV). 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 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 comments 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[8]

If it was the blood of Christ which saved all saints, in all ages and under all the covenants, then 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 who have been chosen to be in the New Covenant for Christ to represent them. This was, in fact, the covenant that the believers under the Old Testament were called into (Heb. 9:15-17; see here also). Dr. Sam Waldron observes that

the church is the climactic earthly expression of the people of God. Thus language...