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

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

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Chapter 3: Of God's Decree

What does it mean that God is sovereign? Does God control all things? Does God ordain and is sovereign even over sin? What about Election? Does God choose who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? Did God predestine because He saw what was going to come to pass? Does it matter what we do? Does God ordain the ends as well as the means?


§1 God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity...whatsoever comes to pass

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably1 all things, whatsoever comes to pass2 yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; 3 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather establishedin which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. 5
    1. Prov. 19:21; Isa 14:24-27; 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9:19; Heb. 6:17[1]
    2. Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11
    3. Gen. 18:25; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5
    4. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 10:5-7; Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
    5. Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

God hath decreed in Himself means that He decreed by Himself alone without considering others. As the modern translation puts it: “From all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself.” He was not influenced when He decreed everything. But what does mean that God “decreed”? A decree, in this context, means putting everything in order and planning everything that is to occur in history. This decree of God was from all eternity and therefore is unchangeable. To further stress the “decreed in himself” part, the Confession adds that this decree was made freely. God was not limited by anything outside Himself. Furthermore, this decree was according to the most wise and holy counsel of His own will. It was not arbitrary or random. Rather, it was ordained by the Wisdom Himself Who does nothing without a goal, reason or a purpose (cf. Eph. 1:11). What did God decree? All things, whatsoever comes to pass. There is nothing that occurs that was not already decreed by God from all eternity. But this does not mean that God is the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein. God does not create sin or author it, nor does He have delight in it. Rather, He orders it and ordains it to be for His own holy purposes, according to the most wise and holy counsel of His will. Even evil and sin are ordained according to His holy purposes. Our redemption came about by the greatest sin committed by man, the crucifixion of the Son of God, which was ordained by God (Acts 4:27-28).

When God ordains sin, He does no violence to the will of the creature, nor is their liberty hundred or taken away. Everyone committing sin and evil does so because they will and desire so. In the example about the crucifixion of the Lord, everyone in the act was a willing participant: Judas, the Jewish leaders, the Romans. All really wanted to do these things and they were not forced to will so. Nonetheless, the Scriptures are clear that they came to “do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” According to Reformed theology, God's decree establishes the liberty of creatures, because their liberty is found within God's decree. This high and mysterious doctrine shows the...


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

...e of perseverance is a great mountain, which gives the saints assurance and faith in God’s almighty power in overcoming sin in us and completely saving us. The doctrine does not teach, contrary to non-Protestant caricatures, that Christians after being saved can do whatever they want to do and still remain saved. Rather, the doctrine teaches that those who have the Spirit of God indwelling in them will persevere in the faith by the almighty power of God. The Lord will chastise, sanctify and lead them toward a holier life.

That the doctrine is true and biblical may be seen from many ways (see paragraph 2), including (1) the decree of Election, (2) regeneration, (3) justification and (4) Christ’s obedience.

Election: It has pleased God from all eternity to select a particular people in the Lord Jesus Christ whom He will redeem from sin to be with Him forever without any consideration of foreseen faith or works, merely because of His good pleasure. Seeing that their salvation was not dependent upon them, how would their perseverance be (completely) dependent upon them? There is no debate among Calvinists about whether the elect can lose their salvation. Someone who accepts Unconditional Election must believe in perseverance. It is logically necessary, for to contend otherwise is to say that God has unconditionally chosen a person to be saved, but has not chosen to preserve that particular person, which is absurd on its face. Therefore, the one who accepts Unconditional Election inevitably must accept the Perseverance of the Saints. For to reject the doctrine is to contend that God fails to save those whom He intends to save. See chapter 3, paragraph 5 for more on Unconditional Election.

Regeneration: Through regeneration, we have been made new creatures, given a new heart and a new spirit. Plus, the Spirit of the Almighty has come into our hearts (e.g. Ezek. 36:25-27). We’ve been given a new nature with the Law of the God written upon our hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). What happens when (supposedly) a person loses their salvation? Do they become unregenerate? Do they receive their old nature back? Do they become unborn again? Do you see the difficulty that such an idea of “falling away” brings with it? It is simply impossible that such a thing will happen. And what if the person loses their salvation and then comes to the Lord Jesus again, does God cause him to be born again for a second time? See chapter 11 for more on regeneration.

Justification: Justification is a legal act of God by which He declares guilty sinners free because of Christ's work. Our sin is put upon Him, and we receive His righteousness (e.g. 2Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:21-31). How does it happen that God’s verdict, for a (supposedly) regenerate believer, become void after that person falls away (see Rom. 8:1)? Does the person become unjustified? Does he lose his justification? But how can that be if God has already declared them just based on nothing in themselves, but solely by grace through faith because of Christ? The idea that justified believers came become unjustified unbelievers is not found in the New Testament and has great implications on the doctrine of justification by free grace and through faith alone. Those who believe such things happen practically believe in justification by works or perseverance by worksSee chapter 11 for more on justification.

Christ's Obedience: The Father has given the Son a charge, namely, to lose none of the elect (e.g. Jo...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

...lling

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 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 themselves upon Him.


Called by the Word and Spirit

It is the Word...


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

...ronginfallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it; yet being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of means, attain thereunto: and therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and Election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.3 
  1. Acts 16:30-34; 1John 5:13
  2. Rom. 8:15-16; 1Cor. 2:12; Gal. 4:4-6 with 3:2;1John 4:13; Eph. 3:17-19; Heb. 6:11-12; 2Peter 1:5-11
  3. 2Peter 1:10; Ps. 119:32; Rom. 15:13; Neh. 8:10; 1John 4:19, 16; Rom. 6:1-2, 11-13; 14:17; Titus 2:11-14

This infallible assurance does not come directly nor doth...so belong to the essence of faith. In other words, just because someone has faith does not mean they also have and know of this infallible assurance. They do have assurance if they have true faith, but they do not have a knowledge of it or they do not embrace it. These two are different. All believers will certainly remain in the state of grace. But not all believers know or live in light of this infallible assurance. Therefore, a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he attains that assurance. We do not need extraordinary revelation to know of this assurance. But the Spirit enables us to come to know of this assurance through the right use of means (1John 5:13 “these things”). God has given us His Word and Spirit whereby we may know of and embrace this assurance. The Bible calls us to make our calling and Election sure (2Pet. 1:10), therefore, it is the duty of every one to seek to have this assurance of faith and salvation. This is so that his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God. It is such an amazing grace to know that we are saved and may be assured of our eternal salvation. It is such a fountain which can endlessly bring forth praise unto God for His amazing grace toward us. Instead of leading us to looseness, it leads us to more obedience toward God as a sign of thankfulness for His amazing grace.


Seek Assurance!

Assurance is not definitional or essential to the nature of saving faith. Some people are truly saved, have true faith, but do not have assurance. This means nothing to their eternal salvation, though it may have effects on the way they live now. The Confession says that infallible assurance is not essential to true faith. Even though it is not essential, yet God calls us to make our calling and Election sure and thereby have assurance of salvation and grace. It is true that many saints have struggled and struggle with assurance and God may not give them assurance, or may give it to them later, yet all believers are nonetheless called to seek this assurance. We are commanded by Scripture to do so. This assurance may be attained even without any “extraordinary revelation”, but rather by the “right use of means” which God has given us to know if we are believers, these include the focus of our faith, the testimony of the Spirit to our spirit, obedience from the heart to God, etc. My favorite passage on assurance is 2 Peter 1 wherein th...


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

...ithout any condition foreseen in them to procure (Rom. 9:11) this amazing redemption and the manifold blessings of God.


Introduction

Particular Atonement/Redemption or as it is most commonly known, Limited Atonement, is one of the most confusing doctrines about Calvinism to non-Calvinists. Honestly, it was not a difficult point for me to accept the L in TULIP, logically and naturally followed from the other points. If I believed that we were all dead in sin (Total Depravity), God has chosen from the world particular people to be saved (Unconditional Election), how would I reject Limited Atonement and remain consistent?

Some find the phrase “Limited Atonement” confusing as it may suggest to some the effect of the atonement itself was limited, but that is not the intended meaning, so they prefer to use other phrases as Particular Atonement/Redemption. That is fine, but as with every big theological term, we cannot simply assume the meaning. We must learn and try to understand what is being conveyed through the use of the term.

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation.[28] 

By saying that the atonement is limited, we are not saying that it is limited in its power, rather it is limited in scope. The Father’s will and desire is for Christ to be a perfect Savior for those whom the Father has given to Jesus (John 6:37-40). It was not the Father's will or intention for Christ to be the substitute for all sinners, but only those whom the Father has given Him. This is what we mean by Limited Atonement or Definite Atonement.

Both Calvinists and Arminians limit the atonement but in different aspects. The Calvinist limits the atonement in its scope, the Arminian limits it in its power. Charles Spurgeon rightly observed:

We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it, we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, "No, certainly not." We ask them the next question-Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They say, "No." They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say, "No; Christ has died so that any man may be saved if"-and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say then, we will just go back to the old statement-Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say "No;" you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why you... We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are we...


Unconditional Election, Sovereign Grace - Scripture List

...

Unconditional Election, Sovereign Grace

God elects a specific people unto Himself without reference to anything they do. This means the basis of God’s choice of the elect is solely within Himself: His grace, His mercy, His will. It is not man’s actions, works, or even foreseen faith, that “draws” God’s choice. God’s Election is unconditional and final.[1]

God’s choice of certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause, of God’s choice. Election, therefore, was not determined by, or conditioned upon, any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus, God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.[2]

For a defense and case for this doctrine see here.

General verses regarding Unconditional Election

Ps 65:4 ​Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

Mt 11:25-30 At that time Jesus declared, “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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Mt 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

Jn 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Jn 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.[3]

Jn 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 13:46-48 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Rom 8:29-30 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the im...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

...h his use of this particular word is, I believe, that the faith which we have did not originate with us. It was as it were by lot–outside of our influence. It was given to us. We obtained it. It is the kind of faith which is the same as the Apostles’ and it was obtained by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus. Who but God in the Bible controls the results of the lot (Prov 16:33)? One commentary says–

obtained—by grace. Applied by Peter to the receiving of the apostleship, literally, "by allotment": as the Greek is, Luke 1:9 John 19:24. They did not acquire it for themselves; the divine Election is as independent of man's control, as the lot which is east forth.[10]

There is indeed biblical warrant and evidence for the doctrine that faith is indeed a divine gift given to those who are elect, like repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2Tim. 2:26). Our case is further strengthened when we consider the Scriptural teaching on the inability of fallen man to believe (see here).

Regeneration Precedes Faith

While this is not directly addressed by the Confession in this section, it is related to the point addressed above, namely, that faith is a gift. The question that I want to answer here is: Do we believe to be born again, or are we born again to believe? I will try to argue that the latter is the answer.

Before starting to argue for Reformed and Calvinistic belief that regeneration precedes faith, it must be noted that here we are speaking about “preceding” not necessarily in time, but logically. If we look at it in the sense of time, then both regeneration and faith happen at the same moment. But, the question that we are concerned with is to find which is the cause and which is the effect. Is regeneration the cause of faith, or is faith the cause of regeneration. I found that Matt Slick had a very nice analogy to explain the relationship between regeneration and faith –

In a light bulb, electricity must be in place in order for light to occur. But, it is not true that light must in place for electricity to occur. The light is dependent on the electricity, not the electricity on the light. Therefore, the electricity is logically first. That is, it must be necessarily present in order for the resultant light to appear.   However, the electricity is not temporally first because when the electricity is present, light is the necessary and simultaneous result.  When two things are simultaneous, one does not have temporal priority over another.  So, when the electricity is present, there is not a duration of time before light occurs.  It occurs simultaneously with the presence of the electricity.  This is the same with regeneration and faith.  Regeneration must precede faith not in a temporal sense, but in a necessary sense.  In must be in place in order for believing to occur, but it occurs simultaneously with regeneration.  So, logically, regeneration is first.  Temporally they are simultaneous.[11]

The Testimony of 1 John 5:1

To prove that regeneration precedes faith the Reformed often go to 1 John 5:1 and that is also where I will go–

1John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 

The ESV is fairly clear on this point, but let us use the Young Literal Translation also –

1John 5:1 YLT Every one who is believing that Jesus is the Christ, of God he hath been begotten, and every one who is lov...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...sp;2
  1. 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7-8; Acts 11:26; Matt. 16:18; 28:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-9
  2. Matt. 18:15-20; Acts 2:37-42; 4:4; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 5:1-9

All people...professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ (Rom. 1:5-8; 1Cor. 1:2), who are not destroying their profession are to be called visible saints. Notice the careful wording of the Confession. While paragraph 1 speaks of the universal or invisible church consisting of the whole number of the elect and thus those who are truly regenerate, the second paragraph says nothing of Election. It speaks of those who are professing the faith and obedience unto God by Christ. This is the only way in which we as people can know if one is regenerate or not. Indeed, some will be able to deceive us, but we do not have the ability to look into one’s heart to determine if they’re elect or not. Therefore, profession and the way of life is the only way in which we can (fallibly) determine if one is a Christian or not. If this is the case for someone, they are may be called visible saints, i.e., saints of the visible church. Finally, all particular congregations, i.e., local churches, should consist of visible saints, i.e., those professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ. The Westminster Confession of Faith in chapter 25:2 (which is the parallel for this chapter) says that the invisible church “consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children” (compare both here). In other words, their children are included as visible saints and as part of a local church. But the 1689 rejects this in saying that only they who profess the gospel and obedience unto God may be called visible saints.


All Christians are saints. It's not a title special which the Pope places on some people who were “holy.” Being a saint, contrary to the usual meaning of the term, does not mean being perfect, but it means being someone who is set apart by God for holy use. Everyone who professes the true faith of the Gospel may be called a saint and welcomed as a brother or sister. Obviously, some professing believers will be just that—professors of the faith, but not possessors of the faith. They are welcomed into our fellowships, receive the sacraments unbeknown to us that they're actually not true believers. We cannot look into peoples’ hearts, but we must listen to what comes out of their mouths and what their conduct is. Those who participate in church fellowship, but are not true believers, will certainly have some restraints because of the preaching of God's Word. This is the case for example in 2 Peter 2:17-22 (see here). Some of them may remain professing believers until death. Some will fall away from the church and go into other religions or atheism. Some will come to true repentance and faith in Christ. But the fact is, such professing believers, should be treated as believers unless their mouth or their lives prove otherwise.

1Cor. 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, 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:

Paul writes to a local church of God which is located in Corinth, but his words apply to the universal church as well. Paul did not have special insight into who is a true believer and who is not. He took people at their word and judged from their conduct if they're true bel...


A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

.../sup century came Jacob Arminius who studied in Geneva (Calvin’s city) and was a Calvinist, but later came to doubt his Calvinism. He agreed with Calvinism about Total Depravity, but where he differed was the nature of grace. Many of the statements of Arminius about human depravity, could be amen’d by Calvinists, but not those about the nature of grace. Basically, he believed that grace was resistible. It was necessary, but not essential in the sense that for anyone to be saved he needs grace, yet grace alone can’t do it, it must cooperate with man for its effectiveness. Man can resist the grace of God.

He also believed the common belief even of our day that the Election of God was based on who would believe or not believe like the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.

The Augustinians & the Reformed

This book was written to defend and clarify the Augustinian doctrine of free will, which is the Reformed doctrine of free will. Here I want to survey some of the theologians and their thoughts concerning free will. Let’s start with Augustine.

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine was the ardent opponent of Pelagius. He was the one who answered and challenged Pelagius and it was because of his prayer that Pelagius was outraged. They are so radically different from each other.

Augustine believed and taught the doctrine of Original Sin. The doctrine teaches that because of Adam’s disobedience and because Adam was the representative of the whole human race (the root of the tree), therefore by his disobedience the whole human race was thrown into misery and sin. He stood in the place of those born of men and women. He believed that death (both spiritual and physical) was the punishment of the disobedience of our first parents.

He taught that all men have free will (liberum arbitrium). What they lacked was liberty (libertas). Augustine defined free will as the power to make free choices without any compulsion from the outside. In that sense every person has free will and is free to do as he pleases. What man in the Fall has lost is libertas. Augustine (and RC) understands libertas as the ability do that which is required of us. God commands man to be holy and obey Him, but since the Fall man has not been able to do that because he lost the libertas to will to that which is good. Because as Jonathan Edwards later would clearly say is that man choses according to his pleasure and desires, the only problem is that the Scriptures everywhere describe our desires as sinful. Man is free do all that he desires (liberum arbitrium), but in the Fall he has lost his desire to do good (libertas).

At this point RC introduces some helpful Latin phrases (I love the fact that he many times explains what words mean):

  • Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  • Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This obviously Adam and Eve did.
  • Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  • Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Augustine like all Calvinists rejected Pelagius’ foreknowledge view of Election and taught that God predestined according to His good pleasure without “looking into the future.” He predestined not because men believed, but He predestined so that men would believe.

Martin Luther

Some more than thousand ye...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary

...the authority and word of the Old Testament by the phrase “it is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24, 31; Mark 7:6; 9:13; 14:21, 27; Luke 4:4, 8; 7:27; 19:46; 24:46; John 6:45; 8:17), which not only shows its authority, but also its perspicuity. The difficulty which we have with Scripture is not because of Scripture, but because of our limitation and in not properly and harmoniously interpreting Scripture.

The essential things of Christianity are expressed in the Apostles’ Creed. This statement is not meant to be a minimizing of Christianity, but rather it shows the very core and essentials of the Christian faith. Indeed, the issue of Election, sovereignty of God, the Law of God, the Lord’s Day, Regulative Principle of Worship, believers baptism are very important for this Confession, yet if someone believes in a wrong, yet not an entirely anti-biblical view of these things, it does not mean that they’re not saved. For example, Calvinists believe that Arminians are dear brethren who are wrong on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and of His Election of the believers. But we do not deny that they’re brethren. Only Hyper-Calvinists would deny that. We believe that they’re brethren who believe a wrong view of Election and do not follow their view to its logical consistency, which would place salvation in the hands of man and dependent upon him. As R. C. Sproul somewhere said, they are saved by a “happy inconsistency.” Although followed to its logical conclusion, the Arminian view of Election places salvation in the hands of man, yet, they confess that salvation is by grace alone, and not of the doing of man. Such inconsistencies could exist without rendering one an unbeliever. All of us have some wrong doctrine in our theology because we are sinful and imperfect people, that is what it is essential to be immersed in the Word and examine our doctrine against the only and sole infallible rule of faith.

The Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Maker of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.[51]

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
    the holy catholic church;[52]
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body;
    and the life everlasting.

Amen.


§8 The Hebrew and Greek immediately inspired by God

  1. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; 2 so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them3 But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, 4 therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, 5 that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in...