The Staunch Calvinist

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

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

...postasy from the covenant will be impossible, but that was not impossible under the Old Covenant. This does not mean that all the covenantees will obey God perfectly, but it means that no one will be cast out of the covenant. For the covenant is first of all made with Christ Who has fulfilled all conditions of the covenant and then in Christ with every believer. It is a covenant which certainly has conditions, but those conditions are fulfilled by and in the Mediator of the covenant. There are no covenants absolutely without conditions, but the question is merely what these conditions are and who is to fulfill them.

4. That true believers Falling Away From Grace is impossible in this covenant is seen in the fact that they have the Law of God written on their hearts. The Law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, is upon the heart of every born-again believer. This is a part of regeneration that God Himself will write His Law so near to us, upon our very nature, not in stone, but upon tablets of flesh (2Cor. 3:3). It is likewise God who will give the ability to follow the Law as is taught in Ezekiel 36:25-27. The Law is no longer something external, but it is something internal. It is a part of His new God-given nature by which he is able to obey and walk in a manner consistent with it by the grace of God.

5. The New Covenant, as the other covenants of God, has the promise that God will be our God and we will be His people. But there is something different about this covenant. The promise of having God as our God is relevant in meaning and efficacy according to the covenant it is attached to. The promise is now attached to a covenant which actuates complete forgiveness of sins, the writing of the Law upon the heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No covenant before the New had this promise, therefore, it is certain that those who had an outward relationship with God through the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants have God as their God, but in a very different sense than in the New Covenant. The New Covenant is a covenant from which apostasy is impossible and therefore the promise means a lot more than what it meant, for example, in the Abrahamic or Mosaic Covenant. It is a covenant which provides intimate relationship with God through His Son and by His Spirit.

6. The New Covenant, unlike all other covenants, only contains believing members. That this is the case may be seen from the fact that everyone in the covenant "knows the Lord." This does not speak of mere cognitional knowledge, but of intimate relationship with God. We know Him in an intimate way, as our Father. There is no need to teach those who are in the covenant to "know the Lord," because they already know Him by the nature of the covenant that they find themselves in. The text does not say there is no need to know about the Lord, but to know the Lord. John says that we have his anointing (1John 2:27). This does not mean that there is no necessity for teaching doctrine. Rather, the salvific knowledge of God comes to us through the Spirit when we believe. There is no need to teach the members of the covenant to know the Lord, because by His Spirit, Who is within them and His Law which is on their hearts, they know the Lord.

7. This New Covenant also includes the promise that the sins of the covenantees will be forgiven. This does not mean that under the Old Covenant sins were not forgiven. But this means that this covenant, by nature, is a c...


Hebrews 6:4-6, Apostasy and Calvinism

Hebrews 6:4-6 – It is impossible to restore them again to repentance

Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

(This post is taken from a section in my commentary on chapter 17 of the 1689 Baptist Confession, so there are some things here that have been previously argued for, as for example the positive case for the doctrine of Perseverance).

This is arguably one of the most difficult and notorious passages in Holy Writ. There is no consensus on its interpretation. I have consulted many commentaries and articles on this passage and I come to it knowing that I don’t have all the answers. But I also come to it with presuppositions in mind. I am unashamed to say that the Bible does in fact teach the Perseverance of the Saints, therefore this passage cannot be describing the actual apostasy of a regenerate believer totally from the faith. It may be a warning about true believers, it may be hypothetical, but what it cannot be is say that some true and regenerate believers will in fact fall away completely from the faith. I have argued that even in the book of Hebrews itself, the doctrine of Perseverance and the perfection of the work of Christ on behalf of the elect is taught. I have consulted the following articles and commentaries and will cite from some of them freely in the following discussion:

The passage does not say that regenerate believers apostatize:

  • John Calvin. Commentaries. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. Hebrews 6:4-9. Can also be found at here.
  • John Gill. Exposition of the Entire Bible. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. Hebrews 6:4-9. Can also be read at here.
  • Arthur W. Pink. Exposition of Hebrews. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. Chapters 24-27. His commentary on Hebrews 6 can be found here.
  • Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994). Chapter 40.
  • John M. Frame. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014). Chapter 44.
  • J. Ligon Duncan III – Falling Away? (Sermon)
  • Mathew Poole - English Annotations on the Holy Bible. Commentary on Hebrews 6, here.
  • William Burkitt – Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. Commentary on Hebrews 6, here
  • Albert Barnes - Notes on the New Testament. Commentary on Hebrews 6, here. He accepts that the descriptions describe a true Christian, but rejects that it is possible for a true Christian to apostatize.
  • Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, David Brown – Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Commentary on Hebrews 6, here.
  • Matthew Henry – Complete Commentary on the Bible. Commentary on Hebrews 6, here.
  • Bob Utley – You Can Understand The Bible (Not that explicit). Commentary on Hebrews 6, here and here.
  • John Owen – Exposition of Hebrews. Commentary on Hebrews 6, here.
  • Steven J. Cole – Lesson 17: When Repentance Becomes Impossible (Hebrews 6:4-8).

The passage describes regenerate believers who have fallen away: