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

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

... returning to God of our souls does not mean we remain with God. Only the souls of the righteous now having been made perfect...are received into paradise, where they are with Christ (Heb. 12:23; Phil. 1:21-23). What a blessing and a privilege to be with Christ for all eternity. The One Whom we love and adore and to behold His face is the greatest blessing which we can imagine. We will likewise behold the face of God in light and glory, no longer afraid or trembling at His sight or in fear of our lives because of His glory. The souls of the righteous await in Heaven the redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:23) at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The souls of the wicked on the other hand are cast into hell where they are in torment and utter darkness and await the judgment of the great day (Luke 16:23; 2 Peter 2:9). The word “hell” in this context is not really accurate as Hell describes the place of torment after the resurrection, where the wicked are cast in body and soul. What would be more accurate here is to say that the souls of the wicked are cast into Hades as the rich man was (Luke 16:23). The wicked are reserved for a greater judgment in both body and soul on that great day in Hell, which is the second death.

Finally, aside from Heaven and Hell, Scripture knows of no other place. Therefore, Purgatory does not exist and is unbiblical. 


The body returns to the dust from whence it came, but the souls are immortal from the time they begin to exist; they cannot just disappear and go out of existence. They will exist without a body in Heaven or Hades until Christ comes to end the world and bring in the New Heavens and New Earth. The elect then will receive a glorious body like that of Jesus and enjoy endless fellowship with the God Triune, while the reprobates will receive physical bodies just to be tormented in the lake of fire.

The Intermediate State describes the time between death and the resurrection of the body, this includes a discussion of the immortality of the soul, Heaven, and Hades.

The Immortality Of The Soul

While people are buried and their bodies return to the dust from whence they came, their souls do not cease to exist, they are immortal. While the body decomposes and returns to dust, the soul of man lives evermore. It is important to define the usage of the word “immortal” and “immortality” here. This immortality which the souls of men and angels possess is obviously not like the essential immortality of God. In 1 Timothy 6:16 we read that God “alone has immortality”. This speaks about God essentially and by nature having immortality. He ever was and ever will be immortal, i.e., undying. Albert Barnes noted on that passage that God has immortality “by his very nature, and it is in his case underived, and he cannot be deprived of it. It is one of the essential attributes of his being, that he will always exist, and that death cannot reach him”.[2] But this word is often used in reference to men and angels, so what does it mean? It means that the souls of men and angels are undying from the moment that they come to exist. It means that the soul of man does not simply decompose or disappear after death, like the physical body does. Rather, the soul is unable to die, because God designed it to be so. There is no “must-ness” that the souls of man or of angels be immortal except that God had willed them to be so. It is not essential, as it is in the case of God, that our souls be immortal. Rather, ...


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

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It is not my purpose to give an extensive exegesis of these texts here, but we should notice a few things about this Melchizedek. Let’s start with Hebrews 7:2-3. This Melchizedek, at least typologically, points to Christ, if it is not the pre-incarnate Christ Himself! The significance is seen in the meaning of his name and function. His name Melchizedek, which means king of righteousness. It is the Lord Jesus in the New Testament Who is the King of God’s people. He is the righteous Davidic King Whom we adore and await to see fully and visibly reigning on the New Earth. Even now He is reigning, but He will more manifestly reign when He comes back to usher in the New Heavens and New Earth. Furthermore, this king of righteousness reigned in the city of Salem, which under David became Jerusalem. Salem means peace and thus he was the king of peace. Again resembling and pointing to the Lord Jesus Who was prophesied to be the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).

We should likewise not forget that Melchizedek was introduced to us as a priest of the Most High. Not only was He the king of righteousness, king of peace, but he was also a priest of the true God. He was a priestly king, just like the Lord Jesus. This was unheard of under the Mosaic Law and Levitical priesthood. Furthermore, in v. 4, we read of Melchizedek’s lack of genealogy, which was essential to the Levitical priesthood. You had to prove through genealogy that you were a Levite to be able to participate in the priesthood. But concerning the genealogy of Melchizedek, we do not read a single syllable in Genesis or anywhere in the Bible, pointing to our Lord’s divine nature, which is without beginning and without end. 

Now let us turn to vv. 5-8. Under the Law, the people of Israel were to pay tithes to the priests, but the father of the Israelites, Abraham himself, gave tithes to this Melchizedek. Moreover, Melchizedek blessed the one who had the covenant and the promises. It is obvious, the Author of Hebrews reasons, that this shows the superiority of Melchizedek over Abraham. If Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, then he is superior to Levi and his priesthood. 

The Necessity of the Melchizedekian Priesthood

But the Author of Hebrews also gives us the answer as to why Christ was not to be a priest after the order of Levi:

Heb. 7:11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?

The Author has just spoken of Melchizedek and of his superiority even over Abraham, but now comes back and deals with the priesthood that his readers are familiar with. The argument is, if the Levitical priesthood was good and through it, the people could attain perfection, i.e., righteousness, then why would God speak of the Messiah’s priesthood as being according to the order of Melchizedek? Well, the obvious answer is that because the Levitical Priesthood is unable to justify and perfect a sinner (Heb. 7:18-19; 9:9; 10:1). It is because the Levitical priesthood and the covenant under which it was, was faulty (Heb. 8:7-8). It was not meant to justify, but to point to the sinfulness of man and the need of the Savior (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:23-24). The necessity of having a priest not after the order of Aaron and Levi demonstrates the faultiness of the Mosaic Covenant under which th...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

...ternal life and immutable perfect communion with God were not a part of Adams natural constitution. He was sinless and upright, but he was able to sin. “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), meaning that sin is a violation of God’s law. Adam was capable of violating God’s law, and that is what he did.

The tree of life was a covenantal symbol of what was promised to Adam upon completion of his errand—confirmed eternal life and communion with God in His presence. This is established in Scripture by John’s use of the tree of life in Heaven in Revelation 2:7, promising its benefits to the one who conquers, i.e. the one who perseveres, trusting in Christ. It also appears in John’s description of the consummation in Revelation 22 where God dwells with His people, and is equated with eternal life in that consummation. Further confirmation of this is the fact that man’s expulsion from the garden is specifically connected to a barring from the tree of life which offers eternal life (Genesis 3:22-24).[13]

Furthermore, notice what the Confession says:

although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

The Confession speaks of the reward of life, which in this case was what was promised to Adam had he obeyed. But notice that this reward of life is not due to man’s obedience deserving that. But it is God’s arrangement to bless and reward that obedience because of His promise and condescension. This condescension of God, which He expresses by way of covenant, is most voluntary and free. There is no obligation placed upon God to be gracious or to commune with man. It is His mere good pleasure and will to do so. Notice also the last part of Nehemiah Coxe’s statement above, “Suitably, the reward is of debt according the terms of such a covenant. (Do not understand it of debt absolutely but of debt by compact.)” It was “of debt” exactly because of God’s covenant with Adam (“by compact”).

Concerning the blessings and obedience of and within the Covenant of Works, John Owen writes the following:

The covenant of works had its promises, but they were all remunerative [profitable, rewarding], respecting an antecedent obedience in us; (so were all those which were peculiar to the covenant of Sinai). They were, indeed, also of grace, in that the reward did infinitely exceed the merit of our obedience; but yet they all supposed it [our obedience], and the subject of them was formally reward only.[14]

No covenant of God with man is ever strictly based on man’s works alone. God is gracious in all of His works and dealings with man. But it is nonetheless true to categorize the Adamic Covenant as a covenant of works.

An aspect that makes the Covenant of Works with Adam different from all the rests is that it did not provide a way to return back to God because man had not been estranged from God. It provided no atonement, neither forgiveness of sins. This point is brought up by Coxe in this way:

As to the terms and condition of this covenant that God made with Adam and all mankind in him, it was a covenant of works. With respect to immediate privilege and relationship it was a covenant of friendship. With regard to the promised reward it was a covenant of rich bounty and goodness. But it did not include or intimate the least iota of pardoning mercy. While its law ...


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

...ery early on, the principle of “what is not commanded, is forbidden.” Williamson concludes:

It is no exaggeration at all, then, to say that this was Cain’s downfall: he was not willing to limit himself to worship that had God’s approval.(5) We therefore see a clear principle: worship which is not sanctioned by God is forbidden.[7]

The Second Commandment

Exod. 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

First of all, we have dealt with this commandment briefly in chapter 19 on the Law of God (see here for that). What does this commandment concern itself with? In the simple, brief or basic form of the commandment, it says, “You shall not make yourself a carved image” or “You shall not have any idols.” The first commandment says “You shall have no other gods.” What is then the difference between the first and the second commandments? I believe the difference lies in this:

  1. The first commandment teaches us not to have any other god or object of worship other than the LORD God.
  2. While the second commandment teaches us how we are not to worship this one God.

It is here necessary to dispel the idea that we sometimes may have of the ancients. No one thought that the idol itself (i.e., the image) was the deity they’re worshiping. Rather, the idolaters wanted to get to the deity through that dumb idol. Second, we need to reconsider the idolatry of the golden calf. It is often thought that Israel quickly went astray after other gods in that instance. But in actuality, that is not the case. They had clearly seen the power of God working among them. They were not so dumb as to quickly go after other gods. They knew that there is but one God and He had manifested Himself clearly to them. Well, what was their sin then? Their sin was to worship God through the golden calf! Israel tried to worship God in a way that He explicitly forbad in the Second Commandment, which was declared by God in their hearing. Aaron, who made the golden calf, said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD” (Ex. 32:5). That’s the Tetragrammaton! A feast to Yahweh, the true God. As to the “gods” in vv. 1 and 4, the word Elohim is plural even when speaking of the true God, therefore, its translation, among other things, is dependent on the context and the margins mention that it also can be translated “a god” and not “gods.” Support for seeing that it is speaking of a singular god is seen in Aaron’s declaration above. The feast is to be to Yahweh, and not to other false gods. They tried to worship Yahweh in a way which He clearly had forbad in the Second Commandment. They tried to make representations of Him, which He clearly forbad and His wrath was kindled against them. It is generally understood in the Reformed tradition that the Second Commandment has to do with worship. Therefore, the Westminster Larger Catechism says:

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

... a statement upon a subject which is not as clear in Holy Scripture. I do not believe that by saying “elect infants” they assumed that all other infants were in damnation. Rather, by “elect” they wanted to assert that their salvation is solely by grace and not through deserving it or merit, even if they die in infancy. Furthermore, the phrase is placed in contrast to “elect infants living to grow up.” Those elect infants will be called by the ministry of the Word and Spirit as paragraph 1 makes clear.

In the following paragraphs, I’m going to argue the case that Pastor MacArthur made in Safe in the Arms of God. I think that he made a decent biblical case for infant salvation. I do not mean that he answered every question that could be posed, but I thought it was a good case for what happens to those who die in infancy and those who are disabled. I know that some Reformed people disagree with him, usually because of his Dispensationalism, but hear him out. I have also benefited from:

Infant Salvation

We are now approaching a very difficult and touching subject. It is very emotional and that is obviously understandable. We do not neglect our emotions, but the Scriptures are the infallible standard of truth. So our search for the answer must begin and finish with Holy Writ. What has God said on this subject? This question does not merely concern infants, but also unborn babies and the mentally disabled.

Persons

First, we must begin with the question: “Are fetuses human persons?” I believe that the biblical answer is positive. The first go-to-text is Jeremiah 1:5. There the Lord speaks about Jeremiah’s ordination and election. Before Jeremiah came out of the womb, the Lord knew him and talked about him as a “you” and not an “it.” In Psalm 139:13-16, the writer speaks of God Who formed him from the very beginning in the womb until the end. God had determined his days before there was any. The Lord saw the person, He didn’t see a fetus who became the writer of the Psalm. But He saw him who once was a little fetus. In Luke 1:41-44, upon Mary coming to Elizabeth, the baby John in Elizabeth leaped in her and could express his feelings. Elizabeth does not refer to him as a thing or as merely a fetus, but she says the baby leaped in her. He was able, even in the womb, to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15), which is only for persons and was able to express emotions. The Law gave the same protection for unborn children as for adults. In Exodus 21:22-23, we read of the punishment of someone fighting a husband and who hits his pregnant woman. If there was harm, the lex talionis was to be followed. Calvin observes on v. 22:

If men strive, and hurt a woman. This passage at first sight is ambiguous, for if the word death (39) only applies to the pregnant woman, it would not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great...


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

...Exegetical NT. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. In loc. Words within square brackets supplied. ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...nder Christ” which undoubtedly includes believers prior to the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. But how is this the case? As we have argued and tried to show in chapter 7 on Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Grace, in 1689 Federalist understanding, is the New Covenant in promise form. It was not a formal covenant as the others were. The fact that all the saints, both prior to the physical coming of Christ and after the coming, are included in the universal church is seen in Hebrews 12:22-24. Here, the church on earth joins with the church in Heaven. In worship, we come to the assembly or the church “of the firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven”. John Gill comments on this passage:

the church of God, consisting of all his elect, both Jews and Gentiles, and the meeting of them together: they met together, in the infinite mind of God, from all eternity; and in Christ, their head and representative, both then and in time; and at the last day, when they are all gathered in, they will meet together personally; and a joyful meeting it will be; and a very general one, more so than the assembly of the Jews, at any of their solemn feasts, to which the apostle may have some respect; since this will consist of some of all nations, that have lived in all places, and in all ages of time[8]

If it was the blood of Christ which saved all saints, in all ages and under all the covenants, then they belong to Christ and His assembly. He is their Mediator and He is the Mediator of only one covenant, the New Covenant in His blood. If He stood for them before God, He stood as the Mediator of the New Covenant or the Covenant of Grace on their behalf. Therefore, they had to be members of the New Covenant or people who have been chosen to be in the New Covenant for Christ to represent them. This was, in fact, the covenant that the believers under the Old Testament were called into (Heb. 9:15-17; see here also). Dr. Sam Waldron observes that

the church is the climactic earthly expression of the people of God. Thus language is frequently used which equates the church with all those in union with Christ. The church is the body and bride of Christ (Eph. 1:22; 4:11-16; 5:23-27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24). Furthermore, the bride of Christ is composed in the last day of the saved from every age (Eph. 5:27; Rev. 21:9-14; note also Matt. 8:11-12; John 10:14-17; Heb. 11:39-40). Thus the church will one day be composed of all the redeemed. As the people of God, the church does consist ‘of the whole number of the elect’.[9]

That the universal church consists of the elect may be seen in a few ways. First, we may see the church as the members of the New Covenant. As noted above, Jeremiah 31 teaches us that all members of the New Covenant are regenerate believers, who live with God as their God in an unbreakable covenant. The Old Covenant was broken and in it, the people were faithless. But this New Covenant will not be like the Old. As only those who are part of the New Covenant can have Christ as their covenant head, so they are united with those who likewise have Christ as their covenant head into one body. They belong to each other because they belong to Christ. Furthermore, Christ is covenant head to no other than they for whom He mediates. Those who have Him as Mediator do not fail to come to God (Heb. 7:25; John 6:44). Therefore, they make up the society of His called-out ones.

Second, we may see the church as the body of believers beca...


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 it 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 hindered 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...


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

... this below.

The Truthfulness, Infallibility, And Inerrancy Of Scripture

We may know and not doubt the truth of the matter which is affirmed in the Scriptures on the basis of the God of Scripture. We know that the world was created in 6 days because Scripture testifies to this. We know and believe that Adam and Eve existed because the Scripture treats them as historical persons. We know that the Flood and Babel occurred because they are treated as historical fact in the Scripture. We know that Christ died for our sins because the Scriptures say so. We know that He rose because Scripture says so. We know He ascended into Heaven because Scripture says so. We know that He will come back to judge the living and the dead because Scripture promises so. This is circular, we know, and every argument for an ultimate standard is circular. But there is a difference between a narrow circle and a wide circle. A narrow circle says the Bible is true because the Bible says that it is true. This is obviously true for Christians, but it is a very narrow circle. On the other hand, you could argue that the Bible is true because of its self-authenticating nature, fulfilled prophecy within itself based on the God that it reveals. Isaiah 53 is an incredible example of fulfilled prophecy within the pages of the Bible. One Testament records the prophecy; the other records its fulfillment against all the beliefs and expectations of the Jews at that time. The Bible is the palace of the King, and we may certainly go into the palace to inquire about what this King has said about Himself.

The truthfulness, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture are based on the God of Scripture. Since Scripture is His Word, therefore, it reflects His character. God is described as being “the truth” (John 14:6), “God, who never lies” (Tit. 1:2; cf. Num. 23:19). His Word is said to be “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13), “pure words…purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6), “Every word of God proves true” (Prov. 30:5), “your word is truth” (John 17:17; cf. 2 Sam. 7:28; 1 Kgs. 17:24; Ps. 119:43, 89–90, 142, 151). The word “infallible” is closely related and sometimes synonymous with “inerrant.” Noah Webster defines infallibleness as “Not fallible; not capable of erring; entirely exempt from liability to mistake; applied to persons. No man is infallible; to be infallible is the prerogative of God only.”[2] He likewise defines inerrability as, “Exemption from error or from the possibility of erring; infallibility.”[3] He sees these two terms as synonymous and meaning the same thing, namely, that thing which is inerrant and infallible, cannot be wrong or contain errors. But there is a certain way in which inerrancy and infallibility differ from each other, and this we get in the Chicago Statement On Biblical Inerrancy:

Infallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.

Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.[4]

Article XI states that “Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.”[4] Therefore, when we speak of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, we are speaking about the complete truthfulness of Scripture, and of the fact t...


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

...n the basis of that written law. This means that they will be judged on the basis of the greater light that they had received. The knowledge of the Jew concerning the true God here is much greater than the Gentile, although they knew God (Rom. 1:21), obviously, they did not have as much knowledge of His will as the Jew did. Therefore, this Jew here will be punished more severely because of the greater revelation which he lived under. The heathen will receive a “light beating”, while those who know God’s will and still rebel against Him will receive a “severe beating” (Luke 12:47-48).

3. In both cases, the apostle is not assuming that Gentiles will go to Heaven because they did not know the written law of God, or that they would not be judged by the law of God. It is a basic biblical assumption that all people will be judged by the law of God because the law of God is not something arbitrary that God thought of someday, but it is a reflection of His pure and glorious character. The moral law reflects the Lawgiver. Things are good because they reflect Him and they are evil because they don’t. It is essential to understand that the moral law is a reflection of God’s holy character. He is the standard. There is nothing above God. We will stand before Him and give an account on the Day of Judgment and the standard to be judged by is His perfection, as expressed in the Decalogue/moral law. If you are afraid, you should be, because none of us can live such a perfect life, therefore, flee to Christ the Savior!

4. What does Paul mean to say in v. 13? He presents two groups: 1) the hearers of the law which are the Jews, and 2) the doers of the law which are presumably Jews and Gentiles. Is the apostle here teaching that people can be justified by works despite what his conclusion in chapter 3 on chapters 1-2 says? I don’t think so. Perhaps he is here speaking about the hypothetical justification by the law, by this I mean, that theoretically, it is possible to be justified by the law, but only if you do all that God commands without any disobedience (Gal. 3:10). Oh, and did I mention, that men are born in and prone to sin from the womb (Ps. 51:4-5; Gen. 6:5; 8:21; see chapter 6)? Therefore, this is an impossible task for anyone, but the Lord Christ. I don’t have a firm opinion on this passage and I don’t think that its proper understanding is essential to the points I’m trying to make here about the moral law, therefore, I will move on.

5. Now the apostle in v. 14 connects vv. 12-13 together. The Gentiles do not have the written law, but, says the apostle, they actually do what the law requires! How can this be? Here the apostle is referring to moral laws like stealing, murder, adultery, which have not been seen as virtues and from which tons of godless people have abstained. They abstained from these things because they knew the unwritten moral law of God. They do that “by nature.” The Greek word is here φύσις (phusis) and is defined by Mounce as:

essence, Gal. 4:8; native condition, birth, Rom. 2:27; 11:21, 24; Gal. 2:15; Eph. 2:3; native species, kind, Jas. 3:7; nature, natural frame, 2 Pet. 1:4; nature, native instinct, Rom. 2:14; 1 Cor. 11:14; nature, prescribed course of nature, Rom. 1:26[5]

They do what the law requires by “nature”, by virtue of what they are, namely creatures in the image of God. They do that by “native instinct.” Albert Barnes observes, “The expression means clearly by the light of conscience and reason, a...