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"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

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  • The Covenant of Works [§1] [go]
  • The Covenant with Noah (Noahic Covenant) [§3] [go]
  • The Covenant with Abraham (Abrahamic Covenant) [§3] [go]
  • The Covenant with Israel through Moses (Mosaic Covenant) [§3] [go]
  • The Covenant with David (Davidic Covenant) [§3] [go]
  • The Covenant with the Church (New Covenant) [§3] [go]
  • What Is A Covenant?

    Before going into the 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, 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 covenant with man in which his goodness to him was not abundantly manifest. Yes, such is his infinite bounty that he has proposed no lower end to his covenant transactions with men ...


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

    ...fillment in the Lord Jesus who had recently been crucified, raised and ascended to heaven. Most people in His earthly ministry did acknowledge Him as prophet (Luke 7:16; 24:19; Matt. 21:11; John 4:19; 6:14; 7:40). We conclude that indeed the Lord Jesus had and has the office of Prophet. He is the prime Prophet in whom and through whom God is revealed (John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). See paragraph 10 for our benefit from this office.

    Christ the King

    I would refer you to our discussion of the Davidic Covenant and its fulfillment in Christ in chapter 7. See paragraph 10 for our benefit from this office.

    Christ the Savior

    He is the Savior of His church, of His people. He gave Himself up for her, to save and purify her. This point is very clear in the Bible. The purpose of Christ in dying on the cross was to save His church from the deserved wrath of God and to atone for her sins.

    Eph. 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 

    It is clear from this glorious passage what effect the death of Christ has. He died for His bride. His love drove Him to give Himself up for her, so that He may be glorified in them, His own people. That He may make them brothers and sisters of His, holy and blameless. The Lord Christ is twice called the Savior of the world (John 4:42; 1John 4:14). He is the only hope that the world has for redemption. He is the only One who can save us from the wrath of God due to our sins. He is the only One Who can reconcile us back to God in a harmonious relationship. In fact, it is through the shedding of His blood that He has redeemed for God definitely and not hypothetically, people from every corner of the world (Rev. 5:9), because He has died for them (John 11:49-52; 1John 2:1-2). It is through His sacrifice and perfect life that we are counted righteous and forgiven all our sins. He is Christ the Lord, the Anointed One to save His people (Matt. 1:21).

    It is important for us to remember that when we speak of Christ as our Savior, we speak of Him as our Savior from God's judgment and wrath (Rom. 5:9). The wrath of God was set against us, and the Lord Jesus came to willfully and freely take upon Himself our sin so that the righteous and dreadful wrath of God could be atoned for. Christ did not come to save us from our problems or our miserable lives, but He came to save us from the wrath of God!

    Christ the Head

    A handful of texts speak of the Lord Christ as being the head of the Church. In this section I want to explore what that means. The Confession, following the Reformed tradition and Sola Scriptura, abhors the doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church holds concerning the Pope being the head of the church and denounces it with very strong words:

    The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. (1689 26:4)

    ...

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

    ...m/"Solid Ground Books. I was able to get it along with the Kingdom of God and Hercules Collin’s Catechism.

    I’ve heard a lot of good about this book and I’ve also listened to Jeffery Johnson’s sermons/lectures on Covenant Theology especially the most recent with Pascal Denault. I’ve read his chapter in Recovering Covenantal A Heritage and listened to his sermon on the dual nature of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants which helped me a lot. I was eager to get started on this book and see what I could learn more.

    The Paedobaptist Positions

    To start, he lays down all the division of Paedobaptism. He numbers 8 –

    1. Fides Aliena (Faith of Another) – the church supplies the faith necessary for the infant. Those who hold this position understand that faith is a necessary prerequisite for baptism. But this faith could not come from the infant, thus the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
    2. Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
    3. Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
    4. Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
    5. Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
    6. Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
    7. Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the sacrament, Federal Vision says “God’s promise assures us there is basic, fundamental unity between the sign and the thing signified. The water and the Spirit cannot be divided.” (p. 16, from The Federal Vision, edited by Steve...

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

    ...ant 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 TheWord Bible Software. In loc.
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