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

...ent, certain, and infallible”. This means that Scripture is enough; true and sure; and cannot err. What is the scope of this sufficiency, certainty, and infallibility? The Confession says that Scripture is the only infallible “rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience”. Holy Scripture is given as a measuring line and a standard. It is a standard of standards. There are other standards and rules besides the Bible, but the Bible alone is the “sufficient, certain, and infallible rule”. The Bible is the norm and rule to test everything else by.

Paragraph 1 then moves to speak about the insufficiency of General Revelation for salvation. The “light of nature, and the works of creation and providence” demonstrate that there is a powerful God Who is the Creator of everything. Yet this knowledge is not sufficient to save. Although it is sufficient to leave men inexcusable. This is basically Paul's argument in Romans 1:18-32. Men know the God Who exists because of the creation which they are able to observe and because God has revealed Himself to them. So clear is this revelation that when they stand before the thrice Holy God they will be found “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). General Revelation condemns. If we are to be saved we need something more than General RevelationBecause General Revelation is insufficient to save (“Therefore”), the Lord specially revealed Himself and His will to His church. This is what theologians call special revelation. This revelation of God is to His people, the church and it concerns Himself and His will. Scripture is the self-disclosure of God. 1 Samuel 3:21 is an interesting passage where it is said that “the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.” The revelation of the LORD happened by the word of the LORD. When God reveals His Word and speaks to us through the Bible, He is not merely revealing this about us and about Himself, but He reveals Himself to us. 1 Timothy 3:16 describes the Bible as the breath of God (see more on this below). The Word of God is personal to God and it reveals Him and is ever true and certain as the Author of it is true and certain.

This part spoke about the revelation of the Word of God. The next part speaks about the inscripturation of the Word of God. This is the process whereby the Word of God is written down to be preserved for the next generations. This was so as to bless the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world so that we would have a certain and infallible Word of God. We would not have to try to remember what God said when we could read the inscripturated Word in the Bible. Furthermore, this also establishes the truthfulness of the Word of God. The Word of God is one and certain, though the interpretations thereof might differ among men. This revelation of God and His will and the subsequent inscripturation thereof is most necessary to know Who the true God is and the way of salvation. This is also because the former ways of God's revealing his will have now ceased. God no longer gives His Word and commands it to be inscripturated. The revelation of God is complete and is sufficient for us to live godly and obedient lives before His face.


The Confession starts with the authority of the Bible because the Confession is meant to be an interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, it must start with its position on the Bible. The Confession seeks to be faithful to the Bible in what it c...


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

...t as intercessors between us and God/Jesus. The most important aspect of what is called the Regulative Principle of Worship is expressed in the last clause: any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. Not only is He to be worshiped according to His revealed will, but He is not to be worshiped through that which He has not revealed. If it is not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures, it should not be an element of His worship. If it is prescribed in the Holy Scriptures, it should.


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 Controversie...


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

...hereby to attain saving faith or repentance. 3 
  1. Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:13-15
  2. Ps. 19; Rom. 1:18-23
  3. Rom. 2:12a; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47 with Acts 17:29-30; Rom. 3:9-20; Prov 29:18; Isa 25:7; 60:2, 3

Salvation by Christ is revealed only by the Word of God (Rom. 10:13-15). It is only from the Scriptures that we know that by faith in Christ and repentance toward God, we attain to the forgiveness of sins. The message of the Gospel comes from the special revelation of God and is not part of General Revelation. Neither the works of creation or providence, with the light of nature, make discovery of ChristGeneral Revelation reveals that there is a God, but to know Who this God is and what He requires, we need special revelation. Furthermore, those who are destitute of the revelation by Him by the promise or gospel cannot be saved (Rom. 10:13-15). It is by the embrace of the gospel and the revelation of God alone that we are saved.


The Gospel, unlike the existence of God, is a special revelation, meaning it is only revealed in the Bible. You cannot look at creation and conclude that God gave His only Son to die in our place! Scripture in no place gives any hint that people can be saved outside of Christ or without the work of Christ. Therefore, for those who are neither infants nor people with mental problems (see chapter 10, par. 3), their end is doom. Not because they rejected the Gospel, but because they lived in sin. Romans 1 clearly teaches that all people know God and they suppress the truth about that one God and seek others ways. Paul writes:

Rom. 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power 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 sho...


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

...and 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 t...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

...eived, 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 Romans 1, the ...