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

.... The paragraphs in which I deal with parts of the Scripture's doctrine are not necessarily in logical order, therefore, here are the topics in a somewhat more logical order:

  1. Necessity of Scripture (paragraph 1)
  2. Scripture As Self-Revelation (paragraph 1)
  3. Canon of the Old Testament (paragraph 4)
  4. Canon of the New Testament (paragraph 3)
  5. Inspiration of Scripture (paragraph 2)
  6. Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture (paragraph 1)
  7. Authority of Scripture (paragraph 4)
  8. Sufficiency of Scripture (paragraph 6)
  9. Sola Scriptura (paragraph 110)
  10. Authentication of Scripture (paragraph 5)
  11. Perspicuity of Scripture  (paragraph 7)
  12. Interpretation of Scripture (paragraph 9)

This chapter is in many ways based upon the truths in 2 Timothy 3:16. All the particular subjects which are treated are part of a unified whole doctrine about God's Word.


§1 The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule

  1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience 1, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable 2; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. 3 Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church 4; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary 5, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. 6
    1. Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29; Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:15-17[1]
    2. Ps. 19:1-3; Rom. 1:19-21, 32; 2:12a, 14-15
    3. Ps. 19:1-3 with vv. 7-11; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:12a, 14-15 with 1:16-17; and 3:21
    4. Heb. 1:1-2a
    5. Prov. 22:19-21; Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1; Deut. 17:18ff; 31:9ff, 19ff; 1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Thess. 2:1-2, 15; 3:17; Rom. 1:8-15; Gal. 4:20; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:14ff; Rev. 1:9, 19; 2:1 etc.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21
    6. Heb. 1:1-2a; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-8; Eph. 2:20

Holy Scripture, which is defined to be the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is “sufficient, 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 h...


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

...8-29; 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, flee to Christ!

We saw above that God will judge us according to the light of the knowledge of His will which we possessed. We noted that Scripture speaks of “light” and “severe” beating among other things to describe the degrees of punishment (Luke 12:47-48; 20:47; Matt. 11:21-24). There are also rewards for the righteous. In the Parable of the Ten Minas, the Lord Jesus gives the one servant who had made “ten minas more...authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:16-17). Then comes the one who had made “five minas” and he receives authority “over five cities” (Luke 19:18-19). On the other hand, there comes a wicked servant who is cast where he belongs, because he certainly does not belong to the Lord (Luke 19:20-27). We see in Jesus’ teaching that rewards will also be different in Heaven. Believers will be rewarded according to their works done in faith. John Gill beautifully comments on the words “Lord, your mina...” (v. 16), saying:

This servant owns, that the gifts he had were Christ's; he calls them, "thy pound"; and therefore did not glory in them as his own attainments, or, as if he had received them not; and ascribes the great increase, not to himself, but to the pound itself; to the gifts of Christ, as they were his, and as used by his grace and strength, and as blessed, and owned by him, to these purposes.[2]

The rewards which the Lord will render His people are gracious because even our best works are stained with sin and therefore do not merit any reward (Isa. 64:6). But because of His great love and grace, He will reward the works which He Himself, through His Spirit, worked in us, as though they were perfect because they’re washed with the blood of the Lamb. With the Last Judgment our eternal destiny is not at stake as we said at the beginning of the section. The Last Judgment is the public vindication of God’s justice. God will show that the people whom He has chosen and whom He has redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, have the works which demonstrate that they belong to Him, while on the other hand, the wicked with their wickedness demonstra...