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


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 16: Of Good Works - Commentary

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Chapter 16: Of Good Works

What is a “good work”? In our world of today, many would call that which is against the Word “good.” What does “good” mean and what is the standard to measure “good” by?

§1 Good Works are only such as God hath commanded in his Holy Word 

  1. Good Works are only such as God hath commanded in his Holy Word, and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intentions. 2
    1. Micah 6:8; Rom. 12:2; Heb. 13:21; Col. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17[1]
    2. Matt. 15:9 with Isa. 29:13; 1 Peter 1:18; Rom. 10:2; John 16:2; 1 Sam. 15:21-23; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 5:1; Col. 2:8, 16-23

Good Works are those which God hath commanded in His Holy Word and those derived from it by necessary and good consequence. Those are no Good Works which have no warrant from the Word and devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intentions (Matt. 15:9; 1 Peter 1:18; Rom. 10:2). God is to be worshiped and obeyed in the way that He has commanded and prescribed in His Word.

The Criteria For Good Works

We don’t simply invent for ourselves what Good Works are and declare that they are good, but rather it is God Who lays down the criteria for Good Works in Holy Writ. This does not mean that if a particular action is not mentioned in the Bible that it is therefore bad, but we look at the particular deed in light of all Scripture. We don’t demand an explicit text for everything. For example, helping an old lady cross the street is a good deed, but it is not mentioned in the Bible. Does that mean that it is therefore bad if it is not mentioned? No, not really. Because we know from the Bible that we should love our neighbor, and helping an old lady cross the street is such an expression of love and respect.

Commanded By God

Only what is commanded by God and what may be deduced from Holy Writ is binding upon the consciousness of men. Throughout history, various churches and religions have added to the commandments of God in such a way as binding the consciences of man. The Lord Jesus quotes the words of Isaiah approvingly when he says, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matt. 15:8-9 from Isa. 29:13). From this passage, we learn that whenever we add things to the Lord’s commandments and teach them as if they were the Lord’s, we dishonor Him and worship Him falsely. Therefore, the Confession is explicit that “Good Works are only such as God hath commanded in his Holy Word”, so that only God would be the Lord of the conscience (see also chapter 21 on the liberty of the conscious).

It is God Who teaches us through His will “what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). And it is God Who is and determines the criteria of what Good Works constitute. It is His holy character as revealed in His Word. It is also God Who works in us His Good Works. We cannot really do any Good Works which are pleasing in His sight without His will and direction.  That’s why Paul tells us that “ is God Who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The Holy Spirit in Hebrews 13:21 tells us that it is God Who “equip[s] you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight”. The glory of the New Covenant is the fact that we have God’s Law on our hearts and given the abilit...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

... the works of the Law; and faith occupies a less prominent, though not less indispensable, position.[7]

In another place, Paul says:

1 Cor. 1:30-31 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.”

The Lord Christ is our righteousness. We do not have a righteousness of our own. Indeed, Isaiah says that all our Good Works are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6) and Paul says that none is righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10). How could we, with our “righteousness”, stand before a thrice holy God?! This is the promise of God since of old. Calvin says that by Christ becoming our righteousness, he “means that we are on his account acceptable to God, inasmuch as he expiated our sins by his death, and his obedience is imputed to us for righteousness. For as the righteousness of faith consists in remission of sins and a gracious acceptance, we obtain both through Christ.”[8]

Jeremiah speaks of a time when the LORD will become our righteousness (Jer. 23:6). It is He Who forms the basis of our right-standing before and with God. That which will enable us to stand before the throne of God and not be consumed in His wrath is the fact that we have the righteousness of Christ credited to us, which is able to make us stand before the “holy, holy, holy” God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 is inescapable on this point:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

See our discussion of this passage in chapter 8 for the substitutionary atonement.

God was pleased (Isa. 53:10 KJV) to place our sins upon Christ and treat Him as though the Righteous and Sinless had done every sin we have done. There was a purpose for this (“so that”). The purpose is that we should become righteous and this righteousness would be the righteousness of God, not of our own in accordance with the promise of Jeremiah 23:6. Barnes comments on the above passage, saying:

That we might be made the righteousness of God - This is a Hebraism, meaning the same as divinely righteous. It means that we are made righteous in the sight of God; that is, that we are accepted as righteous, and treated as righteous by God on account of what the Lord Jesus has done. There is here an evident and beautiful contrast between what is said of Christ, and what is said of us. He was made sin; we are made righteousness; that is, he was treated as if he were a sinner, though he was perfectly holy and pure; we are treated as if we were righteous, though we are defiled and depraved. The idea is, that on account of what the Lord Jesus has endured in our behalf we are treated as if we had ourselves entirely fulfilled the Law of God, and bad never become exposed to its penalty. In the phrase “righteousness of God,” there is a reference to the fact that this is his plan of making people righteous, or of justifying them.[9]

How amazing is the grace of God that He should give His Son for our pardon and cleansing?! I can stand before the thrice-holy God without being consumed because I am legally pardoned because of what Christ did for me! I, the sinner, am treated like the sinless Son of God!

In Romans 4, Paul largely argues for justification by faith alone by taking the example of David and Abraham. The thesis which he is trying to establish is that justification by faith has always been the way pe...

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

...te-marker-74-6" href="#footnote-74" rel="footnote"[74]

And Calvin likewise notes:

Hence, not to be under the law means, not only that we are not under the letter which prescribes what involves us in guilt, as we are not able to perform it, but also that we are no longer subject to the law, as requiring perfect righteousness, and pronouncing death on all who deviate from it in any part. In like manner, by the word grace, we are to understand both parts of redemption — the remission of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us, — and the sanctification of the Spirit, by whom he forms us anew unto Good Works.[7]

Paul is not an antinomian, for he expects that some will misunderstand his statement, therefore, he goes on to say:

Rom. 6:15-16 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Sin, which is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), is not the answer to us being under grace. Rather, since we are under grace we should all the more refrain from sin. To not sin and live in righteousness is to live in accordance with God’s Law. Therefore, this verse does not teach that the Christian is free from obedience to God’s Law, rather, here is a contrast made between the law as a system of justification and a rule of righteousness for a justified believer. We are freed from the curse and rigor of the Law, but not from obedience to it. In fact, we have been set free from sin to live to righteousness! In this, the statement of the Confession is justified:

…so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.

Romans 10:4 – Christ Is The End Of The Law For Righteousness

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

How often is this verse quoted as “Christ is the end of the law” and by which people imply that Christ abrogated the whole Old Testament law! It’s quite amazing that people so misuse this passage. It is true that Christ is the end of the law, but for a particular purpose, not wholly! There is not a period after “end of the law”, but the apostle then goes on to explain for what is Christ the end. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. What does this mean?

The law being referred to here is the whole Mosaic Law which the Jews, by their obedience to it, tried to gain a right standing with God. By their obedience to the Law of Moses and their works, they thought they would be justified. This, the apostle has totally refuted, especially in chapters 3-4 of this epistle. What he argues here is that “Christ ends using the law for the purpose of obtaining a right standing with God.”[100] The law was not given for the purpose of producing righteousness and salvation; it cannot accomplish that for sinful man. Rather, it was given to reveal sin and show its sinfulness (Rom. 3:20; 7:5, 13). But what does Christ being the “end” here mean? The word τέλος (telos, G5056) can mean end as in “termination” and “goal” among other things depending on the context, of course. The translation “end” by most English Bibles does not necessarily mean “end” as termination, but can also mean goal. The word in itself is ambiguou...

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

...ce, Mat. 17:18, “And Jesus rebuked the devil.”)’.[27]

3) To exhort means “To urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal”.[29] The word is translated with “encourage” in the HCSB. The pastor is to admonish and encourage his people by the Word of God. John Gill notes:

Exhort; to all the duties of religion respecting God and man; to show love, and to do Good Works; to hold fast the profession of faith, and walk as becomes the Gospel of Christ; and to persevere in faith and holiness: or “comfort”, as the word may be rendered; for as the ministers of the Gospel are in some cases to be “Boanergeses”, sons of thunder, so other cases they should be Barnabases, sons of consolation; and comfort distressed minds, by preaching the comfortable doctrines of peace, pardon, righteousness and salvation by Jesus Christ:[10]

The faithful pastor is to reprove error, rebuke false teaching and to exhort his people. This he should do with and in patience and teach the Word of God. Paul writes concerning the Lord’s servant that he “must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

1 Tim. 3:1-2 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

To be a pastor and a teacher is a great privilege and blessing. But, as we also read in 2 Timothy 4:1, it is a solemn charge and task, which should not be toyed with. The preacher ought to teach God’s people God’s Word and preach the Gospel of Christ for the salvation of sinners and the upbuilding of the Church. It is indeed a solemn and noble task.

3. The Singing Of Psalms, Hymns, And Spiritual Songs

Singing is an important element of worship. It is our response to what the Lord has done and what He will do. Music and song are an important part of expressing our feelings and thoughts as humans. From the earliest times, people have engaged in worship through song and music. When the Lord delivered Israel through the Red Sea, the people responded with a song of praise (Ex. 15:1-21). It was a natural reaction to what the Lord’s work to burst into song and praise. The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs and prayers for God’s people to use, inspired and given by His Spirit and should be used by them. Yet, inevitably, the question of Exclusive Psalmody comes up when we speak about the Regulative Principle of Worship. Are Christians only commanded to sing the 150 Psalms? I would like to give a brief defense that we’re allowed/commanded to sing more than only the 150 Psalms.

Exclusive Psalmody?

First, let us notice the different wording of our Confession here from the Westminster and the Savoy, which it heavily depended on.

1689 Baptist 22:5

Westminster 21:5

Savoy 22:5

…teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord…

…singing of psalms with grace in the heart…

…singing of psalms…

Rather than following the wording of the Savoy, as I believe that the Confession mainly does, or the wording of the Westminster Confession, the framers of the 1689 chose to follow the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:19. Some of those who hold to the Westminster Confession likewise do not have...

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

...confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” We can have assurance of faith, but not merely assurance, but full and complete assurance. Why? Because of the nature of the New Covenant, that is the “therefore” there for (see Heb 10:1-18 above). And based on this truth and the nature of the New Covenant, we are encouraged to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Heb. 10:23), “stir[ring] up one another to love and Good Works” (Heb. 10:24) and not neglecting to gather for church, but rather encouraging each other to fellowship (Heb. 10:25). This is the background of this warning about apostasy. The background is not one of doom, but one of hope for the believer.

Sinning deliberately with knowledge

The passage begins with the conjunction “for” which is referring back to all that was said in previous verses which I tried to summarize above. The idea that we get is that if we reject all that was said in vv. 19-25 and likewise vv. 1-18 which are the basis of vv. 19-25 then we are without hope. If we know and understand what is said here, yet still reject it, choosing rather to sin while knowing the truth then there is no longer a sacrifice for sin for us. This is similar to the apostates of Hebrews 6:4 who were “enlightened” (see my comments) and while knowing and experiencing the truth, rejected it and went back to Judaism.

If after knowing the truth of the gospel, they profess it, reject it later and apostatize back to Judaism, there will be no sacrifice for them anymore as the institutions of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the work of Christ. If they reject the only sacrifice that can deal with the problem of sin, then there is no other sacrifice for sin that they can look forward to. As the Author explained at the beginning of the chapter (Heb. 10:1, 4, 11), the sacrifices under the Old Testament never took away sin, but rather were shadows of Christ’s once for all time perfect sacrifice to do away with sin. There is no sacrifice for them for the sin of apostasy which God will not forgive in the case of those spoken of here and Hebrews 6, but they will also find no effectual sacrifice for sins in the Temple sacrifices, even though at the time of writing the Temple was standing and the sacrifices were offered every day. They will find no forgiveness for their sins, but rather fall into the hands of an angry God. As they apostatize from their profession of Christianity, while knowing the truths of Christ, they at the same time reject the only way for forgiveness of sins and can expect nothing but the wrath of God to consume them without mercy.

How much worse and the One sanctified

If anyone who breaks the law of Moses willfully and deliberately is put to death on the basis of 2 or 3 witnesses, how much worse should the punishment be who rejects the true religion after knowing and experiencing that it is indeed true? The comparison is from the lesser to the greater and this concerns the severity of God’s judgment. On this point John Calvin observes:

This severity of God is indeed dreadful, but it is set forth for the purpose of inspiring terror. He cannot, however, be accused of cruelty; for as the death of Christ is the only remedy by which we can be delivered from eternal death, are not they who destroy as far as they can its virtue an...

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

...ined and appointed it. On this day, not only the apostate angels (Jude 6; 1 Cor. 6:3) but also all persons that have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Even Christians will have to appear before the tribunal of Christ. What is the reason for their appearance? It is to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds (Matt. 12:36) and to be rewarded according to what they have done...whether good or evil (e.g., Rev. 20:11-15). God will reward us or take rewards away according to the works which we have done in the body. All our Good Works have been washed away by the blood of Christ and rewarded by grace. But there will be some who will lose rewards because of their works. The wicked will be condemned by their works because they demonstrate their nature as fallen and wicked.

The Day of Judgment is not the day that will determine the destinies of men; their destinies were fixed at the time they died (Heb 9:27; see here). We deny the doctrine of soul-sleep, the righteous pass from this life into the Intermediate State in bliss, while the wicked go into misery upon their deaths. But what is then the difference between what the wicked and righteous experience now in the Intermediate State and what they will experience after the Day of Judgment? Well for one, they were already judged at death and their judgment was private (Heb 9:27), but the Day of Judgment is public in which the secrets of men will be disclosed. Second, the joy and also the misery of men in the Intermediate State is bodiless. Their bodies lie rotting in the grave, while their souls are in places of peace or anguish. At the Day of Judgment, all the dead will be resurrected, their souls uniting with their bodies, and then come to appear before the throne of God. The difference then is that their everlasting punishment or their everlasting bliss is in body and soul, while in the Intermediate State it is in the soul alone. Moreover, the wicked will then be publicly condemned before the world, and the righteous publicly rewarded before the world, and all heaven will bless and praise God for His righteousness.

The Day Of Judgment

There is a Day of Judgment, fixed by God’s decree that it should come to pass, in which all people that have ever lived will come and stand before Him to give an account of their words, thoughts, and deeds. This is a day that should rightly awaken fear and awe. For some it will be terrible, for others it will be joyous and victorious. The Confession here borrows much from biblical passages to form its statement in paragraph 1. The first passage which it alludes to is Acts 17:31. We read:

Acts 17:30-31 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Christ The Judge

There was a time when God let the nations go their way, but now that the Christ has come and suffered for all kinds of men, the people of God are no longer confined to a single nation (cf. Rev. 5:9). In accordance with the Savior’s words, the gospel is to be preached to all nations (Matt 28:18-19; Acts 1:8). Therefore, as the gospel goes out to these nations, they are to respond to it positively, otherwise, they have no way of peace with God. God’s command to everyone is “to repent”, i.e., turn back from ...

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

...s to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the emphasis on justification, adoption, and sanctification in this passage. This has nothing to do with ideas of “being elect and doing whatever sin you want because you’re elect.” In fact, it is the opposite. We are to live holy lives unto the glory and honor of God, our Redeemer because we are chosen. We are to be “zealous for Good Works” (Titus 2:14). Notice that Paul is not ashamed to talk of election and evangelism side by side. He thanks God for His love for them and His election of them, but he also acknowledges that God called the Thessalonians through the proclamation of the gospel by Paul. He does not see a conflict between sovereign election and evangelism, and neither do Calvinists.

For more on God’s effectual calling see chapter 10; for justification see chapter 11; for adoption see chapter 12; for sanctification see chapter 13.

The fact that God ordains both the ends as well as the means is not only logical but also Scriptural. By logical, I mean that a simple reflection on the passages which speak of God’s sovereignty over history (as in paragraph 1) would lead us to conclude that He must both ordain the ends and the means to the ends ordained. Such is the case with election as we saw from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. God elects and ordains the means to bring His elect to salvation. Outside of salvation, we read, for example, in 2 Samuel 17:14 the following:

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.

Notice how the main end of the Lord, namely, bringing harm upon Absalom, has the means of the counsel of Ahithophel being overthrown. Absalom chose the counsel of Hushai above that of Ahithophel and the Scripture gives us the reason why he did that. “For”, says the Holy Spirit, the Lord ordained, decreed and wanted to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel. But why did the Lord want to do that? The last part of the verse gives us the purpose of the Lord’s doing, “so that”, He would punish and bring harm upon Absalom. We see that the concept of God ordaining the ends as well as the means is not only logical and common sense given what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, but more importantly, it is biblically attested to. See also chapter 5, paragraph 3.

§7 Our Attitude To The High Mystery Of Predestination

  1. The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal electionso shall this doctrine afford matter of praisereverence, and admiration of God, 3 and of humilitydiligence5 and abundant consolation 6 to all that sincerely obey the gospel.
    1. Deut. 29:29; Rom. 9:20; 11:33
    2. 1 Thess. 1:4-5; 2 Peter 1:10
    3. Eph. 1:6; Rom. 11:33
    4. Rom. 11:5, 6, 20; Col. 3:12
    5. 2 Peter 1:10
    6. Luke 10:20

The Confession closes this chapter by encouraging us and telling us how we are to think about this doctrine. It is called the doctrine of the high mystery of predestination. It is a mystery because many things puzzle our mi...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary


Chapter 9: Of Free Will

I would like to take a look at the freedom of will endued to us by God. Is it a libertarian free will, which most of the non-Reformed find essential for love? Is it another kind of freedom? Does our freedom mean that God is not sovereign? Does God ordain our free actions? These are some questions that we’ll have to wrestle with. For this study and my position on it, I am greatly indebted to the following authors:

  • Jonathan Edwards – The Freedom of the Will
  • R.C. Sproul – Willing to Believe (see review)
  • Thaddeus J. Williams – Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will?
  • Scott Christensen - What about Free Will?: Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty

Calvinists have always been leveled the charge that our understanding of God’s absolute micro-managing sovereignty makes men as puppets and robots. One wonders what the reason was for the Westminster, Savoy and 1689 to offer a chapter on free will if they thought that people were merely puppets and robots as many critics like to mock Calvinism.

In section 1, we will have our longest discussion of the will. There, I hope, with Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, to lay the understanding of the human will as believed by many Calvinists, which I believe happens to be biblical and logical. I have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards’ position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for an explanation to understand what he’s getting at. 2) And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by many Calvinists. Edwards is obviously not without critique, especially on his speculations about the Fall. But some Reformed people also disagree with him on free will, claiming that his view is too mechanistic and deterministic. His discussion clarifies many things for me and from the people I benefited from, who are mentioned above, I’ve not read their criticism on Edwards beside his speculations on the Fall. I mention this so that you know that not every Calvinist agrees with Edwards, though a majority does. Some resources on this subject are found at Reformed Books Online.

In the following sections, we will try to lay some things concerning man’s will in the four states, from innocence until glory.

§1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
    1. Matt. 17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

The will of man, by definition and nature, is endued...with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice. This is also one of those things which set us apart from the lower creation. Paragraph 1 does not speak about Adam’s will before the Fall; paragraph 2 will do that. Rather, in paragraph 1, the will of man is spoken of generally without reference to it being enslaved to righteousness or sin. It is by nature free. What does this freedom consist of? That is is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. Man is not a robot as many non-Calvinists like to caricature Calvinism. No one has done something because they were forced by God in their wills to do so. Rather, they ac...

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

...tyle="color: #00ccff;"sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendorwithout spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
  • Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for Good Works.
  • After citing and alluding to the above-cited passages, Owen says:

    Thus clear, then, and apparent, is the intention and design of Christ and his Father in this great work, even what it was, and towards whom, — namely, to save us, to deliver us from the evil world, to purge and wash us, to make us holy, zealous, fruitful in Good Works, to render us acceptable, and to bring us unto God; for through him “we have access into the grace wherein we stand” Rom. 5:2.[31]

    1. “that which was effectually fulfilled and accomplished by it” (book I, chap. 1):
      1. Reconciliation:
        1. Rom. 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
        2. 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Eph. 2:14-16.
      2. Justification:
        1. Rom. 3:23-25 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.
        2. Heb. 9:12; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24.
      3. Sanctification:
        1. Heb. 13:12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
        2. Heb. 1:3; 9:14; 1 John 1:7; Eph. 1:3; 5:25-27; Phil. 1:29.
      4. Adoption:
        1. Gal. 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
        2. Eph. 1:14; Heb. 9:15.

    The obvious question now is: “Is God able to accomplish that which He intends?” We see that by the blood-shedding of Christ, the Father intends for the Son to be an actual ransom (Matt. 20:28) and to actually save, and not try to save sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15). He is said to deliver us from “the present evil age” and not to try to deliver us by His self-giving for our wickedness (Gal. 1:4). Well…did He or did He not? Not only do we see the intention of the atonement in Scripture, but also its effects and application, which correspond to the intention of God in it.

    The Work of the Trinity

    Secondly, he enquires about the intention of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in the work of redemption. What did the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit plan to accomplish through the death of Christ? This is still how many Calvinists at the present time argue for Definite Redemption (i.e. James White). What effect did God want the atonement to have, and is He able to bring it to pass?

    • God the Father (book I, chap. 3):
      1. “The sending of his Son into the world for this employment”:
        • John 3:16-17; 5:37; 10:36; Rom. 8:3-4; Gal. 4:4-5; Isa. 19:20; 48:16.
        • An authoritative imposition of the office of mediator:
          • Purpose: Ps. 2:7-8; 110:1, 4; Heb. 1:2; Rom. 1:4; 8:29.
          • Inauguration: John 5:22; Acts 2:36; Heb. 3:1-6; Dan. 9:24 [“anointing of the most Holy”]; Matt. 3:15-17; Heb. 10:5; 1:3; 2:7-8; Matt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11.
        • “entering into covenant and com...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary


    In sanctification, God works in us to make us more Christ-like. It is a process throughout our Christian life on earth where God works to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Throughout our Christian life, we will, by the grace and work of the Holy Spirit, learn to hate and forsake our sins and follow Christ more faithfully. Louis Berkhof defines it thus:

    Sanctification may be defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spiritby which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sinrenews his whole nature in the image of Godand enables him to perform Good Works.[13]

    Notice that Grudem speaks of “a progressive work of God” and Berkhof of a “continuous operation” which implies that this is not a one-time event like justification.

    This work of sanctification is specifically attributed to the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says that both justification and sanctification come by the agency of “the Spirit of our God.” Calvin comments on this passage, saying that “Christ, then, is the source of all blessings to us from him we obtain all things; but Christ himself, with all his blessings, is communicated to us by the Spirit. For it is by faith that we receive Christ, and have his graces applied to us. The Author of faith is the Spirit.”[14] 1 Peter 1:2 says that our election was “in the sanctification of the Spirit”. This means that “The election that was purposed by the Father was carried into effect by the agency of the Spirit in making them holy.”[15] Joseph Benson explains the work of the Spirit in the life of the Christian from this passage:

    Through sanctification of the Spirit — Through the renewing and purifying influences of the Spirit on their souls; for sanctification implies an internal change wrought in the heart, the first part of which is termed regeneration, Joh 1:13, or a new creation, 2Co 5:17; Tit 3:5; producing, 1st, Power over sin, 1Pe 4:1-2; Romans 6.; over the world, 1Jn 5:4; and the flesh, Rom 8:2. 2d, Devotedness to God and his service in heart and life. 3d, A continually increasing conformity to the divine image.[16]

    In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, we are said to be chosen “to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” A similar idea is given in this passage as in 1 Peter 1:2. It means that believers are “made holy by the Divine Spirit.”[15] This work is “wrought by the Spirit who sanctifies all the elect people of God, first by eternally consecrating them to perfect holiness in Christ, once for all, next by progressively imparting it.”[17] We may lastly add 2 Corinthians 3:18 to the list:

    2 Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit

    It is the Spirit of Christ the ascended Lord Who transforms us into Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29), as we adore and behold His beautiful face through faith. Barnes beautifully explains this passage:

    The idea is, that it is by the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of the law, the spirit referred to by Paul above, 2Co 3:6, 2Co 3:17. It is done by the Holy Spirit procured or imparted by the Lord Jesus. This sentiment is in accordance with that which prevails everywhere in the Bible, that it is by the Holy Spirit alone that the heart is changed and purified. And the “object” of the statement here is, doubtless, to prevent the supposition that...