The Staunch Calvinist

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

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

...appropriate, though it may be strange that the Confession starts with the Bible rather than with God. But that is the case because the presentation of God in the Confession is drawn from the Scriptures and that’s why it was necessary for the Confession to declare what it believes about the Bible before it dives into topics whose belief is based upon Scripture above all. According to the Confession, the Scripture is sufficient, certain and infallible. It is all that we need in this life for godliness and to know the will of God. We don’t need extra revelations from God, when we have His pure and sufficient Word in our hands.

GENERAL REVELATION And The Necessity Of Scripture

Looking at Creation, we perceive that there must be a powerful Creator Who has created all these things and brought them into being. Looking in our hearts, we see that our conscience condemns us and that there is a law which dictates what is right and what is wrong. Looking at the beauty of the world, it is most reasonable for us to conclude that there must be an Amazing Designer to this world. This is what we call GENERAL REVELATION. This is the revelation of God which is available to everywhere. This revelation, says the Confession, “manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God”, but it is not perfect. The purpose of GENERAL REVELATION is to condemn and leave men inexcusable for their rebellion against the God Whom they know. The Apostle Paul makes very clear in Romans 1:18ff that all people know the true God, yet they hold down the truth, suppressing it and choosing rather to believe the lie. He says that the created world testifies to the fact that there is a Creator Who has revealed Himself to them. God reveals Himself in Creation. But since we live in a fallen world, this revelation of God is distorted, hence the necessity of verbal and special revelation. From looking at the beauty of the world and the awesome things in nature we cannot deduce that God is a Triune Being existing as Father, Son, and Spirit. Nor can we deduce that we have to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved from God’s wrath. Nor can we have an idea of His special love for His people. For these things, GENERAL REVELATION falls short. It is able to condemn men and leave them without an excuse (Rom. 1:20), but it is not able to point them to the way of salvation. That’s why it pleased God to reveal Himself in words besides His GENERAL REVELATION in nature.

God’s revelation of Himself came in words after the Fall to Adam and Eve, and it continued with Noah, Abraham and the other saints of old. Certainly, people knew the true God in these times, just think of Melchizedek who was a high priest of the Most High God coming to Abraham. Therefore, there must have been some kind of special revelation from God. When we speak of Special Revelation, we mean God’s revelation in words and visions to His people, as in the Bible. Special revelation is necessary for salvation, but the Bible is not necessary for salvation. Let me clarify. Nobody has been saved through GENERAL REVELATION alone, for that power, it does not have. GENERAL REVELATION has the ability to condemn, but not save. On the other hand, every soul (beyond the age of childhood or disability, see chapter 10) that has been saved, has been saved because of God’s special revelation. The message of the Gospel came to them, even if they had not read the Bible. In the Bible, we have the full special revelation of God, which God want...


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

... style="color: #ee82ee;"he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. 2
  1. Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33[1]
  2. Gen. 4:1-5; Exod. 20:4-6; Matt. 15:3, 8-9; 2 Kings 16:10-18; Lev. 10:1-3; Deut. 17:3; 4:2; 12:29-32; Josh. 1:7; 23:6-8; Matt. 15:13; Col. 2:20-23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17

There Is A God

Creation testifies to everyone without question that there is God. GENERAL REVELATION is sufficient to reveal God to the world and to hold them accountable (see chapter 20). Everyone knows that there is a God. But not only that there is a God, but also that this is a God that must be worshiped. This explains the countless religions that have existed and still exist. It is all because of the Fall that we have a multitude of religions rather than only one. Romans 1 speaks about those who suppress the truth about God through idolatry. All religions in one way or another try to appease the god(s) and serve them. That is the sense that they get from GENERAL REVELATION. There is a God to Whom they owe their existence and blessings, therefore they are to serve and love Him. But the Confession is quick to add the way in which the true God wants to be worshiped is instituted by Himself alone. To that now we turn our attention.

What Is The Regulative Principle?

In the words of Derek Thomas, “the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.”[2] For everything we do in worship, we must have a scriptural warrant. Sometimes the language of command is used. All that is commanded is acceptable, and what is not commanded is forbidden. We must be careful with such a language. What is meant is not we must have imperatives for everything in corporate worship. But rather, the Regulative Principle of Worship teaches that for every element of worship in the corporate worship of God’s people, there must be a Scriptural warrant. We cannot simply add things to the worship of God which have no warrant in the Word of God.

The Confession says that there is an “acceptable way of worshiping the true God” which presupposes that there is an unacceptable way. We are not to worship God as we feel and as we think He would like us to worship Him. Rather this “acceptable way” is determined and “instituted by himself”. It is God who commands, directs and shows His people in His Word how He desires to be worshiped. How He desires to be worshiped is “limited by his own revealed will”, meaning, the Holy Scriptures. Only things which God (directly) has commanded and/or have a Scriptural warrant may take place in the corporate worship of God’s people. Simply said, the Regulative Principle of Worship is the application of Sola Scriptura to the corporate worship of the Church. This Regulative Principle is contrasted with the Normative Principle. In the time of the Reformation, those who held to the Regulative Principle were the Reformed and the Puritans, while those who held to the Normative Principle were the Lutherans and Anglicans, among others. But, what is the Normative Principle? The twentieth article titled “Of the Authority of the Church” from the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, reads:

The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God...


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

...r and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

The reasons that they are ἀναπολογήτους (anapologetous,  G379) is because of the fact that God Himself is the One who has revealed Himself to all people. The things about God and His power are “plain to them” and the reason why they're plain is “because God has shown it to them.” When we doubt the validity of GENERAL REVELATION, we doubt the power and word of God. They know God for certain, but by sin they suppress that truth. Because of God's self-revelation in Creation, they are without a defense—they are without an apologetic. This GENERAL REVELATION will shut the mouths of people on the Day of Judgment who never heard of the Gospel. There is here not a word about people having an excuse because they never heard the Gospel. In fact, at the time when Paul was writing the majority of the living humans then had not yet received the message of the Gospel. Nonetheless, Paul still declares all people to be “without excuse.” They're without excuse not because they do not know, but because they do know God from the created world and they have rejected Him. They will not be judged they've rejected the Gospel, but because they've rejected the God who has clearly revealed Himself in creation. John Calvin comments on Romans 1:20—

So that they are inexcusable. It hence clearly appears what the consequence is of having this evidence — that men cannot allege any thing before God’s tribunal for the purpose of showing that they are not justly condemned. Yet let this difference be remembered, that the manifestation of God, by which he makes his glory known in his creation, is, with regard to the light itself, sufficiently clear; but that on account of our blindness, it is not found to be sufficient. We are not however so blind, that we can plead our ignorance as an excuse for our perverseness. We conceive that there is a Deity; and then we conclude, that whoever he may be, he ought to be worshipped: but our reason here fails, because it cannot ascertain who or what sort of being God is. Hence the Apostle in Heb 11:3, ascribes to faith the light by which man can gain real knowledge from the work of creation, and not without reason; for we are prevented by our blindness, so that we reach not to the end in view; we yet see so far, that we cannot pretend any excuse. Both these things are strikingly set forth by Paul in Act 14:16, when he says, that the Lord in past times left the nations in their ignorance, and yet that he left them not without witness (amarturon ,) since he gave them rain and fertility from heaven. But this knowledge of God, which avails only to take away excuse, differs greatly from that which brings salvation, which Christ mentions in Joh 17:3, and in which we are to glory, as Jeremiah teaches us, Jer 9:24 [3]

GENERAL REVELATION is sufficient to condemn, but not to save, that's why the Confession stresses the need of the special revelation of the Gospel for salvation. Men cannot be saved merely by GENERAL REVELATION, they need special revelation. GENERAL REVELATION is not able to save not because it is bad or unclear, but because that was never its purpose and could also be distorted by sinful man. Furthermore, Christ is not revealed by GENERAL REVELATION, but by special revelation in the Holy Scriptures. It is true that history may tell us about Him. His ministry, ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment - Commentary

...;s will. With the knowledge that we have of God's will, with that also we will be judged. This does not mean that people who have not heard the Gospel will not be judged, that would be contrary to the argument of Romans 1:18-32. But rather, the standard of judgment is the Law of God and the knowledge that we had of His will. This is why the Apostle Paul is harsher against Jews in Romans 2 than he was against the Gentiles in chapter 1. The reason is that the Jews have the oracles of God and they know with certainty what God approves and what He disapproves, because God has spoken in Holy Writ. On the other hand, the Gentiles do not have a special revelation of God, but they only have the GENERAL REVELATION of God in the created world. This does not excuse them, because the Apostle says very clearly that they knew God and that's why their without an excuse (Rom 1:20). Yet Scripture makes clear that their final condition will be a bit different than those who had a wider knowledge of God's will. This does not mean that they will not go to Hell, but rather, their torment will be "lighter" than those who receive a "severe beating" (Matt. 11:21-24). A person who has gone to Church for a long time, heard the faithful preaching of God's Word, heard the Gospel proclaimed and he denied it, will receive a severe beating, while a man living in the jungles of Africa will likewise be condemned, but his condition will be "lighter" in comparison to that rejector of the Gospel. This is no basis to ignore foreign missions or ignore sharing the Gospel with people who are un-churched or do not know much about God and the Bible. They will be judged and they will be in torment, it does not matter if their condition will be "lighter" in comparison to others. They still need saving.

According To Works

The most difficult aspect of the judgment is that fact that we are judged by our works. That this is the case is evident from several biblical passages in both testaments, such as: Job 34:11; Psalm 62:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; 25:34-46; John 5:28-29; Romans 2:6; 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 4:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-8; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:25; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; 20:12; 22:12. Does this mean that we are justified by our works? Not at all. Scripture is clear that salvation and justification is by grace through faith (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9, see also here), not only that, but our works are explicitly excluded (Rom. 3:28; 4:6; Gal. 2:16).

Therefore, how should we understand these two biblical truths? For those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture the option cannot be that Paul or the other authors of Scripture are contradicting themselves, rather, it is what it is. The Bible teaches that we are justified by faith apart from our works, yet in the future, at the Last Judgment, we will be judged according to our works. Our works done in the body will determine either our eternal rewards or our eternal misery. The Lord Jesus teaches that we will give an account even for our words (Matt. 12:36-37). Thoughts are also not disconnected. All wickedness gets born in the heart and starts from there until it gives birth to the deeds. Lust, which is something mental (i.e., not an act as adultery is), is declared about our Lord as a violation of the Law (Matt. 5:27-29). By this, we learn that not only our works and words but also our thoughts will be liable to judgment. Oh sinner, fl...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity - Commentary

... contemplating about God without standing on the solid and infallible foundation of the Word of God (chapter 1). As the Confession declares, so the Bible teaches, God is fully comprehended only by Himself. Obviously, we do not mean that He is absolutely incomprehensible, for we know a lot of things about Him even without special revelation. From the natural world, says Paul, we can know “his eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20), for example. But we cannot fully and exhaustively understand “his eternal power and divine nature” whether from GENERAL REVELATION or even from special revelation. The essence of God is only exhaustively and completely understood by Himself alone.  

Job 7:11-12 describes this doctrine: “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? 8 It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?” There are hundreds of mysteries about God which we do not know and do not comprehend. Even things which we know about Him from special revelation, we do not fully comprehend. How is it that a being can exist without a beginning? What is eternity exactly? It is difficult for us to understand because these things fall outside of our experience. Even when thinking about God and when God speaks to us in Scripture, He condescends to speak in a way that we would understand. Thus He speaks of Himself being a father, a husband, a friend, and so on. Using things from the natural world which we know, so that we would comprehend Him a little bit. Paul breaks forth in praise, saying: ‘“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen’ (Rom. 11:34-36). The incomprehensibility of God is implied when Paul speaks about “the depths of God” which the Spirit searches and understands (1Cor. 2:10). Wayne Grudem writes:

It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully.[6]

Yet obviously, even though we cannot fully understand anything about God, yet we understand several things which God has revealed to us in general and special revelation about Himself. But all the things which we know are the “outskirts of his ways” and a small “whisper do we hear of him” (Job 26:14).

The Immutability of God

Although this heading properly belongs to the Infinity of God, yet since I want to give a longer treatment of this subject, I chose to include it under a separate heading. The immutability of God is the doctrine that God never changes His mind. The word immutable means “not capable or susceptible of change; unchangeable; unalterable.”[7] This doctrine is closely connected with the absolute sovereignty of God and His perfect knowledge of all things. Since God is perfect and infinite in all His attributes, including His knowledge, therefore, He cannot change His mind. Contrary to some Open Theist claims, this is not a limitation or a weakness in God, but a perfection. To say that God truly and literally changes His mind/plan is to say that God became better and wiser. Arthur Pink said that immutability

is one of the excellencies of the ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

...ved, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 

Do you see the stress that Paul lays upon the willful disobedience and rebellion of people to the GENERAL REVELATION of God? 

Verse 18: They are actively holding down the truth. They are fighting the truth by their unrighteousness. They don't want it to come out. It is like a ball in a swimming pool, all that you need to have the ball come on the surface is nothing. To have the ball under the water you'll have to push the ball down. This is exactly what these people are doing. But can unborn children, infants and little children truly be said to do this?

Verse 19: The knowledge of God is clear and plain to all those who actively suppress the truth of God. They know that God exists and they hate Him. They know it because it is God Himself Who reveals Himself to them in nature.

Verse 20: They know that God exists and they perceive and understand his power and nature from the creation around them. The word for "perceive" is the Greek καθοράω (kathorao, G2529), which Thayer's Greek Definitions defines as “to look down, see from above, view from on high" and “to see thoroughly, perceive clearly, understand”[4]. It is on this basis that they are “without excuse.” They do not have a leg to stand on because they know that God exists from the things he has created. They have a bird's eye view. They clearly understand that God exists and willfully rebel against Him. It is those who have no excuse. Paul does not have in mind those who are mentally disabled and therefore cannot understand and perceive the world around them, nor does he have in mind those who are infants and are not mature in their understanding. He is speaking about and against those who clearly know God and they hate Him, and everyone does that. God's wrath is revealed against all men who suppress the truth and everyone outside of Christ does exactly just that. Whether in false religion or denial of religion.

Verses 21-22: They knew God. They did not merely know about Him, they knew Him and His person from the creation around them, which demonstrates His eternal power and divinity. But they don't delight to honor Him because of their sinful nature which is against the true God of heaven and earth. Their thinking is worthless because they did not start with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). They actively exchanged the glory of God for worthless things. Again the question rings: Can this be said of unborn children, infants, little children or of those disabled? In this scenario, it seems that this group mentioned about do indeed have an excuse.

Does it now mean that this group (unborn children, infants, little children, disabled) deserves heaven? No, because we have already established that all are conceived and born in sin. But in the scenario that Paul is painting in Romans 1, they have an excuse, namely that they are not willfully rebellious, nonetheless, they are born in sin (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). They do deserve God's wrath on the basis of Adam's federal headship, not on the basis of what Paul says in Romans 1. In Roma...