The Staunch Calvinist

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


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

...f=""The Law of God II – Threefold Division
  • Tripartite Division of the Law of God: A Patristic and Reformed Orthodox View
  • Jonathan F. Bayes - The Threefold Division of the Law
  • It has been a classic Christian doctrine to divide the Law of Moses or the law of the Pentateuch into three divisions, which are 1) the moral laws, 2) the Ceremonial Laws, and 3) the judicial or civil laws. This does not mean that we have neat categories and we know to which category every law belongs, because some laws are difficult to discern or are a combination. But we do believe that the Bible gives us such a division to understand the abiding validity of the moral law and the abrogation of the ceremonial and judicial laws. The question that we need to answer is: Does the Bible make a distinction between the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and the other laws? If the answer is positive then a division of the law is established. If not, then the threefold division would be proven false.

    For those wanting a detailed, exhaustive and interactive treatment of this subject, I recommend Philip S. Ross’ From the Finger of God. The book is technical containing a lot of Hebrew and Greek, and interacting with a lot of pro and con literature. It is not a book for the average reader, but it is a very detailed book. What is to follow is not a detailed case for the threefold division, but this is what convinces me of the validity of the division.

    That the threefold division is not neat and exact is acknowledged by the Confession. In paragraph 3, it is said that “God was pleased to give to the people of Israel Ceremonial Laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship…partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties”. This means that just because there are Ceremonial Laws does not mean that they do not have moral aspects. In fact, the Ceremonial Laws were moral as long as they were binding on the people of Israel and had not yet been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were positive laws for only a limited time, unlike the Decalogue which is moral law for all time and rooted in the nature of God.

    The Division Of The Law In The Old Testament

    The Division in the Pentateuch

    From the beginning, the Decalogue is distinguished from the other laws which God gave. Most of the Pentateuch contains laws given by God to Moses. Although the Pentateuch is often called the Law of Moses, this does not refer to the origination of the laws, but rather the way in which they were communicated to Israel. The Decalogue alone was spoken and delivered directly by God, all the other laws were mediated through Moses. The Ten Commandments were directly spoken by God to the people (Ex. 20:1; Deut. 4:33; 5:4-5, 22; 9:10). This already gives us the idea that there is some significance to the Decalogue in contrast to the other laws, for why would God only speak these Ten Commandments and not the other ones directly to Israel? This points us to their primacy over the other laws. In fact, Moses tells us the purpose of why God directly came and spoke the words to Israel, namely, “that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Ex. 20:20). Obviously, this does not mean that they would not sin merely because of hearing the Law, they surely did. But it does increase their liability as they heard these words directly from the mouth of God and still rebelled against Him.


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

    ...y, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

    Our main focus here is the word translated “self-made religion” in v. 23. But let us first observe what is said previously to that in this chapter. We are freed in Christ from the Ceremonial Laws of the Old Testament, but not only that, we are also freed from everything that is contrary to His Word. These things concern the doctrines of the false teachers about asceticism. We should not submit to their “regulations” (v. 20), which are contrary to the Word but are “according to human precepts and teachings” (v. 22). We should reject these regulations and precepts because they are useless and godless. They do not have the warrant of Scripture and therefore they are vain. These additions to His word, which Calvin says are “a lie”, appear to have wisdom and appear harmless. But in fact, if God has not authorized them, they are forbidden and they promote “self-made religion” (v. 23). Now we turn our attention to this word.

    The Greek word is ἐθελοθρησκεία (ethelothreskeia, G1479), which Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines as “voluntary, arbitrary worship” and “worship which one prescribes and devises for himself”.[19]The word ethelothreskeia is a compound of two words. Θέλω (thelo, G2309), which is the verb meaning “to will” and the noun θρησκεία (threskeia, G2356), which means “religious worship.” Therefore, this word is often referred to as “will worship” by those writing for the Regulative Principle and it is thus translated by the KJV and YLT. The NET says “self-imposed worship”. Calvin, noting on this passage, writes of the word “ἐθελοβρησκεία literally denotes a voluntary service, which men choose for themselves at their own option, without authority from God. Human traditions, therefore, are agreeable to us on this account, that they are in accordance with our understanding, for any one will find in his own brain the first outlines of them.”[12]This “will worship” (KJV), “self-imposed worship” (NET) and “self-imposed religion” (ESV) is “according to human precepts and teachings”, which the Church ought not to follow. By forbidding “self-imposed worship”, the Apostle Paul directs the Church to the God-imposed worship—the Regulative Principle of Worship. God ought to be worshiped in the way that He has prescribed, with no additions nor subtractions. Albert Barnes notes:

    In will worship. Voluntary worship; that is, worship beyond what God strictly requires--supererogatory service. Probably many of these things they did not urge as being strictly required, but as conducing greatly to piety. The plea doubtless was, that piety might be promoted by service rendered beyond what was absolutely enjoined, and that thus there would be evinced a spirit of uncommon piety--a readiness not only to obey all that God required, but even to go beyond this, and to render him voluntary service. There is much plausibility in this; and this has been the foundation of the appointment of the fasts and festivals of the church; of penances and self-inflicted tortures; of painful vigils and pilgrimages; of works of supererogation; and of the merits ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 21: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience - Commentary

    ...afflictions, the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation: 3 as also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind. 4
    All which were common also to believers under the law for the substance of them; but under the New Testament the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of a Ceremonial Law, to which the Jewish church was subjected, and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of. 6
    1. John 3:36; Rom. 8:33; Gal. 3:13[1]
    2. Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18; Rom. 6:14-18; 8:3
    3. Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 2:14-15
    4. Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Rom. 8:15; 1 John 4:18
    5. John 8:32; Ps. 19:7-9; 119:14, 24, 45, 47, 48, 72, 97; Rom. 4:5-11; Gal. 3:9; Heb. 11:27, 33-34
    6. John 1:17; Heb. 1:1-2a;7:19, 22; 8:6, 9:23, 11:40; Gal. 2:11f.; 4:1-3; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:19-21; John 7:38-39

    The freedom and liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in the freedom from the dominion of sin, the punishment for sin and the free access (Eph. 2:18; 3:12), which we received through Christ, to God. Furthermore, our obedience to God and His commandments is not out of slavish fear (1John 4:18), but a child-like love and willing mind (Rom. 8:14-15). We obey because we love our Father and not because we are afraid of how He might punish us. In our obedience there is reverence, but no fear of punishment or condemnation. All these things were common also to believers under the law although those living under the law were still under the yoke of a Ceremonial Law (e.g. Col. 2:16-17), which believers under the New Testament are not. With the doing away of the Ceremonial Law, we have a greater boldness of access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16) now that we know what Christ has accomplished and what it means for us. The Spirit of God is more fully communicated to us with His gifts and graces than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of (John 7:38-39). There are no believers without the Holy Spirit, but under the New Testament, there is a fuller communication of the free Spirit of God.

    The Children Of God Are Freed From

    Oh, brothers and sisters, how thankful should we be to our Lord for the many liberties which He has blessed us with as His children. The Confession mentions ten things which we have been freed from. As His children and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are slaves to no one, but God. Paradoxically, true freedom comes from slavery to none other than Christ. We belong to Him and we are called to walk in freedom (Gal. 5:1). We are under grace and are free, but our freedom does not consist in doing our own will, but the will of the Father and seeking His good pleasure. We were called out of the bondage of sin to walk in the freedom of God and the Gospel.

    1. The guilt of sin

    When Satan tempts me to despair
    And tells me of the guilt within
    Upward I look and see Him there
    Who made an end of all my sin
    Because the sinless Savior died
    My sinful soul is counted free
    For God the Just is satisfied
    To look on Him and pardon me
    To look on Him and pardon me

    Before The Throne of God Above, verse 2.

    Christ, our precious Lord and Savior, makes an end of our sin and thereby also end of the guilt of sin. The guilt of sin does not ...

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

    ...n 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 least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 

    Perhaps in the context that the Lord, as the new Moses, was giving a Law to His people on the mountain, people might have gotten the idea that He was doing away with the Mosaic Law. The Lord is emphatic. He by no means is destroying, abrogating or doing away with the Law. Rather He is come to fulfill the Law. To do it and to be the true representation of it. To be a true keeper of the Law of God and work the Law in the hearts of His people. The Lord also speaks of the Scriptures in the phrase “Law or the Prophets.” He has come so that the many types, shadows, and prophecies from the Old Testament may have their fulfillment in Him and His people (2 Cor. 1:20). He had to identify Himself with His people and that is why He was baptized. To identify Himself with His people who needed to repent. He tells John that it was “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Christ summarized the Law with two things, 1) loving God and 2) loving your neighbor. Who but Christ the Lord has perfectly fulfilled this? Therefore, He truly did fulfill the Law and demonstrated what it truly means to obey the Law. Christ did not only actively fulfill the Law, that is by obeying God, but He also pass...

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

    ...the household of God,

    Notice that Paul here explicitly states what we implicitly drew from vv. 12-13. The Gentile believers have become fellow citizens of the Israel of God. Notice Paul’s careful wording: they are not called Israel, but they called “the saints” and thus implying that unbelieving Jews are not “members of the household of God” nor are they citizens of the Israel of God. Rather the saints are those “who were near” and to whom the gospel was preached and who received it (v. 17). The way that “the dividing wall of hostility” was abolished, which separated Gentiles from Jews, was by the abolishing of the Ceremonial Law. The purpose was “that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (v. 15). This is against the Dispensational idea that God wants to have a heavenly people (the Church) and an earthly people (Israel), rather, the will of God is to have a singular people made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles, who are the Temple and dwelling place of God (vv. 19-22).

    In conclusion, all these passages teach, contrary to Dispensational doctrine, that the Church is in fact, according to New Testament teaching, the Israel of God.

    Literalistic Interpretation Of Prophecy

    A lot of Dispensationalists equate literal interpretation with “truth.” If you are interpreting a prophecy symbolically or as not pertaining to Israel after the flesh, you are spiritualizing and thus misinterpreting the passage. Well, the problem is actually that the apostles themselves “spiritualize” Old Testament texts. The clearest example of this is in Acts 15. In the midst of the controversy about the Gentiles and the Jewish church, James the half-brother of the Lord, stands up and says the following:

    Acts 15:13-18 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’

    This is very interesting! Not only does James here indicate that the Church was foreseen by the Prophets, indicating that he could cite more prophets if necessary, but also the engrafting of the Gentiles was predicted. This is from the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12, the only problem is that, literally interpreted, the prophecy teaches the restoration of Israel and the Davidic kingdom, not the inclusion of the Gentiles. This passage is problematic to Dispensationalists. The wording of the passage is likewise different. Here is a table which compares the translation of the ESV, the LXX in English and the words spoken by the apostle James:

    Amos 9:11-12 ESV Amos 9:11-12 LXXE Acts 15:16-18
    “In that day In that day “‘After this
        I will return,
    I will raise up I will raise up and I will rebuild
    the booth the tabernacle the tent
    of David that is fallen of David that is fallen, of David that has fallen;
    and repair its breaches,    
    and raise up its ruins and will rebuild the ruins of it, I will rebuild its ruins,
      and will set up the parts thereof that have been broken down,  
    and rebuild it as in the days of o...

    1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

    ...6th Commandment: Gen. 4:3-15; John 8:44; Exod. 1:15-17; Job 24:14
  • 7th Commandment: Gen. 12:17; 39:7-9; Lev. 18:20, 27; Job 24:15; 31:1
  • 8th Commandment: Gen. 3:11; 30:33; 31:30-32; 40:15; 44:8-9; Job 24:14
  • 9th Commandment: Gen. 3:4, 13-14; 12:11-13; 27:12; 29:25; Job 24:25; 27:4; 36:4; John 8:44
  • 10th Commandment: Gen. 3:6; 6:2, 5; 13:10-11; Exod. 15:9-10; Job 31:1, 9-11
  • Rom. 2:12a, 14-15
  • Exod. 32:15-16; 34:4, 28; Deut. 10:4
    1. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel Ceremonial Laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties, all which Ceremonial Laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are, by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only law-giver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end abrogated and taken away.
      1. 1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 6:17; Jude 23
      2. Col. 2:14, 16-17; Eph. 2:14-16
      3. Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:16-17
    1. To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use.
      1. Luke 21:20-24; Acts 6:13-14; Heb. 9:18-19 with 8:7, 13; 9:10; 10:1
      2. 1 Cor. 5:1; 9:8-10
    1. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.
      1. Matt. 19:16-22; Rom. 2:14-15; 3:19-20; 6:14; 7:6; 8:3; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:19 with Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Eph. 4:25-6:4; James 2:11-12
      2. James 2:10-11
      3. Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21; James 2:8
    1. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to shew what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unallayed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.
      1. Acts 13:39; Rom. 6:14; 8:1; 10:4; Gal. 2:16; 4:4, 5
      2. Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Ps. 119:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:19
      3. Rom. 3:20; 7:7, 9,14, 24; 8:3; James 1:23-25
      4. James 2:11; Ps. 119:101, 104, 128
      5. Eph. 6:2-3; Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:6; Ps. 19:11
      6. Luke 17:10
      7. Matt. 3:7; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:40; Heb...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary as to reveal Himself in human language to us miserable sinners. What an amazing grace! What we have in Scripture, which is “the word of the LORD”, is, in fact, the self-disclosure and revelation of God Himself. He reveals to us things about His character, His promises, His plans, His judgments, His people and so on. It is God Himself Who makes this condescension to reveal His glory to us in verbal revelation. It pleased the Lord not to restrict this revelation of Himself to the persons or nation(s) which He originally gave, but to commit these to writing for future generations. Even in things which are no longer applicable to Christians (e.g., Ceremonial Law, civil law) or prophecies which are already fulfilled, we see a self-revelation of God’s holiness, covenant-keeping and promise-keeping nature. Since Scripture is His Word, we have Him speaking to us and revealing Himself to us.

    In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes to Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God”, θεόπνευστος (Theopneustos, G2315). The word is combined from the two words for God and for breath or spirit, hence the translation “breathed out by God”, or “God-breathed” (ISV, YLT). The idea here is that Scripture is God’s revelation and is given by His mouth. All and the whole of Scripture has that nature of God speaking to us. It is the breath from out of His mouth. When we put our hands before our mouths while we are speaking, we cannot but feel our breath. That is the same way Scripture is described in relation to God. It is God’s breath, it is God’s Word spoken from His mouth. This does not mean that every Word of the Bible is dictated, but rather, the result of all that is in the Bible is exactly what God wanted to have there and is God-breathed. The Bible as (self-)revelation is closely connected with the discussion of its authority, therefore, we will say more on this below.

    The Truthfulness, Infallibility, And Inerrancy Of Scripture

    We may know and not doubt the truth of the matter which is affirmed in the Scriptures on the basis of the God of Scripture. We know that the world was created in 6 days because Scripture testifies to this. We know and believe that Adam and Eve existed because the Scripture treats them as historical persons. We know that the Flood and Babel occurred because they are treated as historical fact in the Scripture. We know that Christ died for our sins because the Scriptures say so. We know that He rose because Scripture says so. We know He ascended into Heaven because Scripture says so. We know that He will come back to judge the living and the dead because Scripture promises so. This is circular, we know, and every argument for an ultimate standard is circular. But there is a difference between a narrow circle and a wide circle. A narrow circle says the Bible is true because the Bible says that it is true. This is obviously true for Christians, but it is a very narrow circle. On the other hand, you could argue that the Bible is true because of its self-authenticating nature, fulfilled prophecy within itself based on the God that it reveals. Isaiah 53 is an incredible example of fulfilled prophecy within the pages of the Bible. One Testament records the prophecy; the other records its fulfillment against all the beliefs and expectations of the Jews at that time. The Bible is the palace of the King, and we may certainly go into the palace to inquire about what this King has said about Himself.

    The truthfulness, infallibility, ...