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

...n’t just predestine them to eternal life and didn’t do anything about it. Rather, He did call them Himself through the Spirit and the proclamation of the Gospel. Did you notice that every link in the chain calls our mind back to the one previous to it? The Apostle Paul is emphasizing the connection between each link of the chain. The first link was the foreknowing of God of the elect. The second chain does not say that God merely predestined, rather, it connects the first link with the second, saying, "those whom he foreknew he also predestined". Now we come to Effectual Calling. In this link, as all the others, a connection is made with the previous link: "those whom he predestined he also called". 

We will deal with this in paragraph 6 when speaking about the means which God uses. Suffice it to give a few verses which point to this Effectual Calling in Scripture. This is a special and Effectual Calling subsequent to which people are justified. This is not the general call of the Gospel, but this is an effectual and indeed an Irresistible Call (see also chapter 10).

1Cor. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1Cor. 1:23-24 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1Cor. 1:26-31 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

More on the Effectual Call in chapter 10. A further confirmation that this call is not simply the proclamation of the Gospel alone, but is also accompanied with the effectual work of the Spirit is what is said in the fourth link of the Golden Chain of Redemption.

He Also Justified

Those whom He foreknew, were the same who were predestined, called and justified. Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. Wayne Grudem says that:

Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.[28]

Justification is best expressed in the third chapter of Romans.

Rom. 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

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Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling

This entire chapter is about the Calvinistic doctrine that has been called Irresistible Grace. Unfortunately, that has been misunderstood to mean that men never disobey and resist God, but that is not how the phrase has been historically defined. Rather, it means that the resistance which natural man always has to the Spirit (Acts 7:51) is overcome when God decides to save a person.

The material in this chapter has a connection with what we have already dealt with. There would be no Effectual Calling if there was no predestination, so that should be kept in mind. Predestination is dealt with in chapter 3, so I will not make a case for predestination here, but will take it for granted.


§1 Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call

  1. Those whom God 1 hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, 3 effectually to call, 4 by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; 10 yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. 11
    1. Rom. 8:28-29[1]
    2. Rom. 8:29-30; 9:22-24; 1 Cor. 1:26-28; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9
    3. John 3:8; Eph. 1:11
    4. Matt. 22:14; 1 Cor. 1:23-24; Rom. 1:6; 8:28; Jude 1; John 5:25; Rom. 4:17
    5. 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Peter 1:23-25; James 1:17-25; 1 John 5:1-5; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:14; Heb. 4:12
    6. John 3:3, 5-6, 8; 2 Cor. 3:3, 6
    7. Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 1:9; Eph. 2:1-6; 2 Tim. 1:9-10
    8. Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 2:10, 12; Eph. 1:17-18
    9. Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 31:33
    10. Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27; John 6:44-45; Eph. 1:19; Phil. 2:13
    11. Ps. 110:3; John 6:37; Rom. 6:16-18

Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He, in His appointed and accepted timeeffectually calls to Himself by His Word and Spirit (Rom. 8:28-29; 1Cor. 1:23-24; 2Thess. 2:13-14; John 3:5-6; 6:63; 2Cor. 3:3, 6). That which was planned from eternity is applied and actualized in time. They are called out of that state of sin and death (Eph. 2:1-6) and transferred to the “state of grace” (chapter 9:4). He enlightens our minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God (1Cor. 2:10; Eph. 1:17-18 ), for fallen man cannot accept and understand the things of God (1Cor. 2:14). He takes from us that heart of stone, which is full of sin and gives a new heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26), which desires to love and obey Him. He renews our wills and sets us free from slavery to sin. The ability and willingness to desire and do the good comes by His almighty power (e.g. Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 13:20-21). It is by grace alone and it is the work of God in us. He draws us to Jesus Christ in such a way that we will effectually and certainly come to Him, yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace (Ps. 110:3; John 6:37; Rom. 6:16-18 ). God changes our nature and gives us the desire to believe and come to Christ. This is the miracle of regeneration. No one comes to Christ against their will. But works so powerfully in us that those who did not desire Christ, come to desire Him and most willingly and freely cast t...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

...od's faithfulness. It is God who will sanctify them and keep them blameless. This does not mean that there is no responsibility for them to seek after the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14), but it puts things into perspective. God's work is primary. We endure and preserve, because it is He who preserves us and causes us to endure and transforms us into the likeness of Christ our Lord (cf. Phil. 2:12-13). Therefore, truly, all is of pure grace and we have to pray to God to sanctify us daily and change our desires to conform to His own.

8. The believers are called into the fellowship of God. 1 Corinthians 1 lays a strong stress on the Effectual Calling of God. In verse 2 we read that the believers were “called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours”. All believers are called by God to be holy ones, set apart for His purpose. They did nothing to earn it, but were simply the objects of the Father's loving grace. Can God now reverse His judgment that the believers are indeed saints and holy ones in His sight, set apart for His use? If we were called into God's fellowship without any regard to our works and faithfulness, but based on God’s faithfulness, how can we through our works lose this blessed fellowship bestowed upon us by grace? Are we really saying that to enter the fellowship is by grace alone, but to remain in the fellowship is by our faithfulness? Those who truly know God and not merely profess to know Him, cannot be separated from His blessed fellowship.

9. Lastly, 1 Thessalonians 5:24 stress the fact that it depends ultimately on God to preserves us. It is God who will keep us blameless because God cannot fail nor goes back on His word. He has called us into His fellowship, and He will never cast us out, but rather He will work on us to make us more holy and more like Christ. We are given assurance that God will indeed sanctify us and keep us without blame. 

Philippians 1:6 – Will bring it to completion

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

1. We notice first of all the connection between the previous two passages discussed from Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and the present passage concerning the day of Jesus Christ. This is an important day and it is a day when final verdicts will be heard before all men and about all men. Therefore, it is understandable for Paul, when speaking about the security of the believer in the hands of God, to assure us that we will be safe and blameless on the Day of the Lord, for that is a day of rejoicing for the believer and a day of doom for the unbeliever (e.g. 2Thess. 1:5-12).

2. Paul is persuaded, sure, confident and convinced of one thing, namely, if God begins a work, He will surely complete it and not leave it undone. He does not think that God will do it. No, He is sure. If God has begun a work in the life of the believer, He also will bring it into fruition and completion in the end. This work in the least is the work of God in the believer to bring them to faith (John 6:29). It is He who has caused us to be born again (1Pet. 1:3) and it is He also who will sustain us to the end in the same condition of regeneration. Even though our working out of salvation, it is actually God who works in us to do His pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). The “fruit of righteousnes...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation - Commentary

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Thus, repentance is not only a sorrow for our sins against God, it is not only us being sorry for doing what we did, but it the commitment to forsake our sins and instead obey Christ the Lord. But more on this in paragraph 3.

That the Baptist Confession depends and copies from the Savoy Declaration of 1658 can very clearly be seen especially in this chapter, which is wholly different in the Westminster, but almost identical in the Savoy. See the comparison here.


§1 God in their Effectual Calling giveth them repentance unto life

  1. Such of the elect as are converted at riper years, having sometime lived in the state of nature, 1 and therein served divers lusts and pleasures, God in their Effectual Calling giveth them repentance unto life. 2
    1. Titus 3:2-5[2]
    2. 2 Chron. 33:10-20; Acts 9:1-19; 16:29-30

The Confession begins by noting that some of the elect...are converted at riper years. This means that they have sometime lived in the state of nature and therein served divers lusts and pleasures (e.g. Saul in Acts 9; the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:29-30; Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10). The nature of their repentance may be different than they who have not been given so much time to live in the state of nature and sin. In other words, not everyone has to have a radical conversion or repentance. But everyone is to repent of their sins and turn to God. It is God Who giveth them repentance unto life. Repentance, like faith (chapters 11:114:1), is a gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the elect. 


In this paragraph, the Confession is speaking about the repentance of those who have lived manifestly wicked lives. The words of Dr. Waldron here are especially helpful:

The Confession makes this distinction out of a desire to distinguish repentance as a crisis experience from repentance as an ordinary grace. All believers are marked by the ordinary grace, but not all believers will know, or need to know, repentance as a crisis experience.

In this chapter two types of such a crisis experience are mentioned. The Confession first refers to ‘such of the elect as are converted at riper years having sometime lived in the state of nature’. Scriptural examples of this are Manasseh, Paul and the Philippian jailor. Secondly, it refers to ‘believers [who]…fall into great sins and provocations’. The scriptural examples here are David and Peter.[3]

We simply think of Saul of Tarsus and his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. In the sight of the religious Jews, his way of life was blameless (Phil. 3:4-6). But in the sight of God, he was a wicked man who was persecuting Him (Acts 9:4). As a persecutor of the Church, it was understandable that the saints had difficulty in believing that the wicked persecutor has been saved and now is a saint. His wicked life was turned upside down by God and he saw that his righteousness through the law was worthless. When the Lord saved him, He gave him “repentance unto life”; a beautiful phrase coming from Acts 11:18 which means that repentance is necessary, and in fact, it leads to true life in Christ.

The paragraph does not mean that only those who are “at riper years” and are manifestly wicked are granted repentance, rather the point is, if these people are called by God, anyone and everyone should repent and turn to God. As Dr. Waldron also notes, this paragraph is written against those who w...


1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

...Of God's Decree

  • Of Creation

  • Of Divine Providence

  • Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the punishment thereof

  • Of God's Covenant

  • Of Christ the Mediator

  • Of Free Will

  • Of Effectual Calling

  • Of Justification

  • Of Adoption

  • Of Sanctification

  • Of Saving Faith

  • Of Repentance unto Life and Salvation

  • Of Good Works

  • Of the Perseveraance of the Saints

  • Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

  • Of the Law of God

  • Of the Gospel and the Extent of Grace thereof

  • Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

  • Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

  • Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

  • Of the Civil Magistrate

  • Of Marriage

  • Of the Church

  • Of the Communion of Saints

  • Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper

  • Of Baptism

  • Of the Lord's Supper

  • Of the State of Man after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead

  • Of the Last Judgement

  • (More) Scriptural references have been added from Sam Waldron's excellent Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.


    Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures [Return] [Commentary]

    1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience 1, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable 2; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation 3. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church 4; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary 5, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. 6
      1. Isa 8:20; Luke 16:29; Eph 2:20; 2 Tim 3:15-17
      2. Ps 19:1-3; Rom 1:19-21, 32; 2:12a, 14-15
      3. Ps 19:1-3 with vv. 7-11; Rom 1:19-21; 2:12a, 14-15 with 1:16-17; and 3:21
      4. Heb 1:1-2a
      5. Prov 22:19-21; Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1; Deut 17:18ff; 31:9ff, 19ff; 1 Cor 15:1; 2 Thess 2:1-2, 15; 3:17; Rom 1:8-15; Gal 4:20; 6:11; 1 Tim 3:14ff; Rev 1:9, 19; 2:1 etc.; Rom 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21
      6. Heb 1:1-2a; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Eph 2:20
    2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these: 
      OF THE OLD TESTAMENT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
      Genesis Matthew
      Exodus Mark
      Leviticus Luke
      Numbers John
      Deuteronomy Paul's Epistle to the Romans
      Joshua  I Corinthians & II Corinthians
      Judges Galatians
      Ruth Ephesians
      I Samuel & II Samuel Philippians
      I Kings & II Kings Colossians
      I Chronicles, II Chronicles I Thessalonians & II Thessalonians
      Ezra I Timothy & II Timothy
      Nehemiah To Titus
      Esther To Philemon
      Job The Epistle to t...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation - Commentary

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    Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

    In many ways this chapter is dependent upon the previous chapter about the Perseverance of the Saints and we concluded in the previous chapter that the doctrine is indeed biblical. If eternal security is biblical for those who are regenerate and have true faith, may we conclude that God is willing that they have assurance of salvation and have confidence that they will be with God forever? The answer of this chapter is “yes.” The most texts for the doctrine of perseverance at the same time are texts about the assurance that we are called to have in Scripture, therefore, I will reference the exegesis of the relevant texts, if necessary, in the previous chapter.


    §1 Although temporary believers, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves

    1. Although temporary believers, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. 2
      1. Job 8:13, 14; Jer. 17:9; Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 18:10-14; John 8:41; Eph. 5:6-7; Gal. 6:3, 7-9[1]
      2. Rom. 5:2, 5; 8:16; 1 John 2:3; 3:14, 18-19, 24; 5:13; 2 Peter 1:10

    Chapter 14 on faith also talks about temporary believers (chapter 14:3), but this time the Confession speaks about them in connection with assurance. As their faith was false and carnal, so their assurance is likewise false. They vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions (John 8:41; Gal. 6:3, 7-9 ). This is the greatest self-deception and most terrifying thing, namely, to think that you are in right-standing with God, but in truth, you are not. This is a perishable hope

    But there is true hope and a true assurance. This is for them that truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity. They are described as those endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him (Rom. 7:24-25). They desire and try to walk uprightly before God. They are not they that deceive themselves with false hopes, but seek to obey and please God from the heart. These may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace (1John 5:13). How beautiful is the phrase certainly assured! We may have certainty and assurance of our being in the state of grace and at peace with God. Those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity...may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2). This is nothing like the false hopes which the unregenerate entertain, but it is a hope which shall never make them ashamed (Rom. 5:5).


    Temporary Believers

    The Confession starts first with a word of warning, namely, a warning about false believers. These false believers are said to be “temporary believers” and are “unregenerate men.” They do have assurance, but a vain and false assurance. The temporary believers are the seeds that fell on the rock in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:13). They fell away from their profession because they had no true faith in them which is by nature lasting (1John 2:19). Their faith was merely feel good and not borne out sincere love for God and hatred for sin (repentance)...


    Irresistible Grace, Effectual Calling - Scripture List

    ...

    Irresistible Grace, Victorious Grace, Effectual Calling of the Spirit[1]

    This is the belief that God is able to raise the spiritually dead sinner to life. This is an act of efficient grace. When God chooses to bring on of his elect to spiritual life, it is an act of similar to when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead: just as Lazarus was incapable of resisting the power of Christ in raising him from the dead, so too the dead sinner is incapable of resisting the power of God that raises him to spiritual life. This is not to say that men have not resisted God’s grace. This doctrine speaks specifically to the grace that brings regeneration, not to individual acts of sin committed by believers or unbelievers.[2]

    In addition to the outward general call to salvation, which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected. However, the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call, the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God’s grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of these to whom it is extended.[3]

    For a defense of Effectual Calling/Irresistible Grace see here.

    General verses about Effectual Calling

    Ps 110:3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.

    Mt 16:15-17 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

    Lk 10:21-22 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

    Jn 6:37-40 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    Jn 6:44-46 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me[4] 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

    Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as ...


    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

    ...ion with Christ, we were children of wrath and not of God (Eph. 2:3). Ephesians 2 does not speak of this relationship merely from our subjective viewpoint of the viewpoint of our experience. That is what we were. Further in the passage, Paul says that at the time that we were in the flesh, we were "separated from Christ," which certainly does not mean that we merely felt ourselves separated from Christ. We actually were and we demonstrated this by living in the flesh as the beginning of the chapter described. 

    This doctrine also confuses the ordo salutis (order of salvation). In Romans 8:29-30, we get very close to a clear ordo salutis: fore-loving, election, Effectual Calling, justification, glorification. Notice that justification does not take place in eternity, but in time, and specifically after we are powerfully called by the Holy Spirit to be in Christ. Notice the careful wording of the Confession: God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect. It does not say that God justified all the elect from eternity because that is not what the Bible says. Rather, God planned and decided to justify all the elect. It is true that we were justified in Christ's resurrection only in the sense that our justification was purchased and secured. Yet, the totality of Scripture that teaches that we are only justified when we believe. As we noted above, Galatians 2:16 even teaches that we believe "in order to be justified". John Dagg observes:

    Some have dated justification in eternity past, regarding it as grace given in Christ Jesus before the world began. Justification is not a secret purpose in the bosom of God, but a revelation from him, and therefore it cannot be eternal. It implies, not only the accounting of the sinner righteous, but the declaring of him righteous; other wise, it would not be the opposite of condemnation; and neither justification nor condemnation can be from eternity. God's purpose to justify is eternal, and so is his purpose to glorify; but it is improper to say that believers are justified from eternity, as to say that they are glorified from eternity. It is clearly the doctrine of Scripture, that, on believing in Christ, men pass from a state of condemnation into a state of justification.[37]

    The Puritan John Flavel criticized this doctrine in his own time, writing:

    That the elect are not justified from eternity is clear, because although their justification is purposed in eternity, it is not purchased and applied until time. We are justified by Christ’s blood and by faith. (Rom. 5.9,1) The elect sinner is not freed from condemnation nor justified till he is united to Christ, which union is by faith, and takes place during the elect’s life-time. It is both irrational and unscriptural to imagine that men can be justified before they exist. God’s purpose or intention to justify them is not the same as His actually justifying them. Besides, John 3.18 expressly declares that only "he that believeth in Him (Christ) is not condemned." Furthermore, in the great chain of salvation mentioned in Romans 8.30, the elect are first predestined and called before they are justified. Lastly, it is highly derogatory to Christ to teach eternal justification, for men had to be lost before He could save them. Justification is the fruit of His meritorious death and satisfaction given to justice. Justification is not, therefore, from eternity.[38]


    §5 God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justifi...


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

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    Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

    Introduction

    What is the relationship of the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel?

    There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

    Defining Our Terms

    Natural Law

    The Natural Law is the Law of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God (see here on the image of God). Natural Law may be discovered by reason and innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

    Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

    Moral Law

    The Moral Law, on the other hand, is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

    specifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[2]

    And then Dr. Barcellos adds:

    As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalog...


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

    Chapter 20: Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof

    This chapter concerns itself with the emphasis and necessity of special revelation for salvation. This chapter is absent in the Westminster Confession, but it was taken from the Savoy Declaration of the Puritan Congregationalists. Concerning the historical background, Dr. Sam Waldron writes:

    The contents of the chapter indicate that the error in view depreciated the necessity of the special revelation contained in the Scriptures for salvation. A general knowledge of the period permits the educated guess that the Puritan authors had already sensed the intellectual tendency which would later produce Deism, with its emphasis on the sufficiency of human reason and natural revelation and its opposition to supernatural revelation and the distinctive tenets of Christianity. Such men wanted to establish a completely rational basis for the existence of God and morality. They disliked the idea that a special revelation given only to some men was necessary to worship and serve God acceptably.[1]

    Against such men, the Confession asserts the necessity of special revelation about God through the Gospel and Scripture for salvation. The Confession acknowledges the strength of natural revelation, but natural revelation is not enough for salvation, yet it is enough for condemnation. The Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit are necessary for salvation. This chapter concerns itself less with “what” the Gospel is than to confess the necessity of special revelation over against those who would reject special revelation and claim that they can come to salvation merely through natural revelation. 


    §1 God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ

    1. The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners. 1
      1. Gen. 3:15 with Eph. 2:12; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 11:13; Luke 2:25, 38; 23:51; Rom. 4:13-16; Gal. 3:15-22; Rev 13:8[2]

    The covenant of works given to Adam was broken by sin and thereby made unprofitable unto life (see also chapter 6:1). Now it only administers its curse—death. Therefore, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ (Gen. 3:15; Eph. 2:12) as He had purposed to save the elect by Christ from eternity. In this promise of Christ, the gospel was revealed as the means of calling the elect (Gal. 3:8; Luke 2:25, 38). As the gospel was revealed in this promise, God worked to beget in the elect faith and repentance so that they would embrace this promise, which was effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners (Gal. 3:15-22 ). This promise of Christ was essentially or in substance the promise of the gospel and salvation, which is what Christ accomplished on behalf of the elect. 


    Salvation was always through Christ, whether people were consciously aware of that or not. They were also saved by faith alone and by not works. By reading the Old Testament and seeing the absence of the cross, we may have thought that salvation was by works and not grace under the Old Testament, but now, in the New Testament era, it is by grace. This is completely false and a grave mistake. Salvation has always been by grace. The reason that ...