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

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Chapter 19: Of the Law Of God

Introduction

What is the relationship of the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel?

There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

Defining Our Terms

Natural Law

The Natural Law is the Law Of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God (see here on the image of God). Natural Law may be discovered by reason and innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

Moral Law

The Moral Law, on the other hand, is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

specifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[2]

And then Dr. Barcellos adds:

As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Deca...


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

...00;"born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 

Christ became man at God’s appointed and perfect time. As a true Israelite, He was born under the authority of the Mosaic Law and in the Mosaic Covenant. The text says that the Son was born under the law, that means that He was subject to the Law. The Lawgiver was subject to His own Law! He was circumcised on the eighth day according to the Abrahamic Covenant. He kept the Law of Moses perfectly throughout His life, while He definitely broke many of the traditions of the Jews, but never once the Law Of God. The purpose, says Paul, that He was born under the law was to redeem those who were under the law. Is this referring only to Jews as they are subject to and under the Law? I have difficulty with this view primarily because of the “we” in v. 5. Paul is writing to a largely Gentile audience about the dangers of placing the Jewish traditions and laws above the Gospel of Christ. The way that I understand this is in the same way that I understand Romans 2:12-14 (see here and here). Both Jews and Gentiles are under the Law and possess it, yet in a different sense. Jews possess the fullness of the written Law, while Gentiles only have the moral law written on their hearts. Therefore, the way that I understand Galatians 4:4-5 is that the Lord Jesus was indeed born under the Mosaic Law to redeem those who were under the Law. But the Law of Moses is itself an expansion of the Law of Creation given to us through Adam our federal head. In essence, it is the same as the Mosaic and has the same moral law as the Decalogue. Therefore, both Jews and Gentiles could properly be said to be under the law and thus were redeemed through Christ. Matthew Poole comments on this phrase:

This makes it appear, that Christ’s being under the law must be understood as well of the moral as of the ceremonial law, that is, subject to the precepts of it, as well as to the curse of it; for if the end of this being born under the law, was to redeem those that were under it, that he had not reached by being merely under the ceremonial law; for the Gentiles were not under that law, but only under the moral law; and they also were to be redeemed, and to receive the great privilege of [adoption.][4]

The Expositor's Greek Testament puts it in this way:

The description under Law includes Gentiles as well as Jews: for though they had not the Law, they were not without Law to God (cf. Romans 2:14…): they have indeed been expressly specified in Galatians 3:14 as included in the redemption from the curse of the Law.[15]

The Lord Jesus fulfilled the Law on our behalf. This is part of His active obedience. The Lord Jesus, the federal head of the New Covenant people of God, was fulfilling the Law for us and in our place. Since we could not fulfill the Law, we were doomed, but when Christ fulfilled the Law for us, both in its commandments and curses, we were set free! The purpose of Christ’s coming was not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.

Matt. 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdo...


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

...

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 others 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 others 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 which 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 worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any represen...


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

...the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.

20:1 The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to giveforththe promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of callingthe elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and[is]therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners.

First of all, believers are subject to the Law Of God not as a covenant of works to earn righteousness and life by, but as a rule of life. What is, even more, is what is said in chapter 20. There, the doctrine of the Covenant of Works is clearly expressed. The Covenant of Works was broken by sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, and thereby "made unprofitable unto life". This means that before being broken by sin, it was profitable unto life. Because the Covenant of Works was broken, God decided to make and reveal the Covenant of Grace.

As to the implicit references to the Covenant of Works, 6:1 says, "Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour". Man was given a law which would have led to life, but Adam transgressed. This is in essence what the Covenant of Works teaches as we shall see below. So likewise the statement in 19:1:

God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

Therefore, there is no question that the Confession teaches and accepts the classic Reformed doctrine of the Covenant of Works. The reason for the omission is the focus of the chapter upon the Covenant of Grace and of the fact that the Confession had already said things concerning the Covenant of Works, while the sister confessions do not in the respective chapter (compare 6:1 here).

But what is a covenant of works? Simply said: a covenant wherein one needs to earn its blessings. Pascal Denault defines it thus:

The Covenant of Works had a simple way of functioning: if Adam had obeyed, he and his posterity after him would have retained life and would have been sealed in justice; but his disobedience marked the entrance of death into the world. The fall placed Adam and all of his posterity under condemnation. The Covenant of Works was conditional and provided no way to expiate the offence in case of disobedience.[10]

Nehemiah Coxe, probably the chief editor of the Confession, defined it thus:

If the covenant be of works, the restipulation [condition, requirement] must be by doing the things required in it, even by fulfilling its condition in a perfect obedience to its law. 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.)[11]

Dr. Richard Barcellos gives the following definition for the Covenant of Works:

that divinely sanctioned commitment or relationship God imposed upon Adam, who was a sinless representative of mankind (or a public person), an image-bearing son of God, conditione...


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

...lerate sin. The Good News to us is summarized in Romans 3:23-26: “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. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” A great substitution has taken place where Christ has taken the punishment of all the elect upon Himself and thereby satisfying the holy wrath and Law Of God.

The Justice of God

Those who seek Him will indeed find Him (Jer. 29:13; 33:3). He does not reject those who seek Him, yet He rewards them (Heb. 11:6), although they don’t deserve it (Luke 17:10). It is our duty to do the will of God and seek Him. Those who seek God realize that it was God Who was seeking them (John 6:44). God’s rewards to the righteous are by grace and gracious covenant and not by obligation. The Lord Jesus taught us in Luke 17:10, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Even if we did all that we were commanded, which we are not able to do, we still are unworthy slaves, deserving of no rewards. Therefore, how gracious and merciful God is toward us that He even rewards our works, which are always stained with sin, and for the sake of Christ, pours out on us His immeasurable grace.

The justice of God means that He hates “all sin, and…will by no means clear the guilty.” The justice of God is demonstrated in bringing judgment upon the godless in this life and also in the next. The Bible teaches that not only does He hate the sin, but He also hates sinners (e.g. Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5; Rom. 9:13). This doctrine is difficult. We cannot equate the righteous and holy hatred of God with human hatred, which is motivated by sin. Since God is sinless and altogether holy, His hatred, therefore, is likewise sinless and holy. The hatred of God against sin and sinners was demonstrated on the cross in that the Father sent His only Son to die a terrible death and bear the wrath of God on behalf of His people. On the cross, both the wrath and love of God were demonstrated. God does not simply forgive us without sacrifice. Rather, He provided the sacrifice which would provide satisfaction to His holiness and His law. We have defied His holiness and we have broken His law. God cannot simply push sin under the rug, but He must deal with it because He is not a corrupt judge, but He is the righteous Judge of all the earth. God punished His Son, as the Substitute on behalf of His people, so that His people can be forgiven and given the righteousness of Christ. In this way, God is Just and the Justifier of those who believe in the Son. See for more on this, see chapter 11.

Nahum 1:2 introduces God as, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” The wrath of God is what Jesus took upon Himself in the place of all those who believe in Him. It is from the judgment and wrath of God that we are saved. The wrath of God rests on everyone who does not believe and obey the Son (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18-31). The wrath of God is His displeasure and hatred of the sin and the s...


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

...nt. This does not mean that all the covenantees will obey God perfectly, but it means that no one will be cast out of the covenant. For the covenant is first of all made with Christ Who has fulfilled all conditions of the covenant and then in Christ with every believer. It is a covenant which certainly has conditions, but those conditions are fulfilled by and in the Mediator of the covenant. There are no covenants absolutely without conditions, but the question is merely what these conditions are and who is to fulfill them.

4. That true believers falling away from grace is impossible in this covenant is seen in the fact that they have the Law Of God written on their hearts. The Law Of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, is upon the heart of every born-again believer. This is a part of regeneration that God Himself will write His Law so near to us, upon our very nature, not in stone, but upon tablets of flesh (2Cor. 3:3). It is likewise God who will give the ability to follow the Law as is taught in Ezekiel 36:25-27. The Law is no longer something external, but it is something internal. It is a part of His new God-given nature by which he is able to obey and walk in a manner consistent with it by the grace of God.

5. The New Covenant, as the other covenants of God, has the promise that God will be our God and we will be His people. But there is something different about this covenant. The promise of having God as our God is relevant in meaning and efficacy according to the covenant it is attached to. The promise is now attached to a covenant which actuates complete forgiveness of sins, the writing of the Law upon the heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No covenant before the New had this promise, therefore, it is certain that those who had an outward relationship with God through the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants have God as their God, but in a very different sense than in the New Covenant. The New Covenant is a covenant from which apostasy is impossible and therefore the promise means a lot more than what it meant, for example, in the Abrahamic or Mosaic Covenant. It is a covenant which provides intimate relationship with God through His Son and by His Spirit.

6. The New Covenant, unlike all other covenants, only contains believing members. That this is the case may be seen from the fact that everyone in the covenant "knows the Lord." This does not speak of mere cognitional knowledge, but of intimate relationship with God. We know Him in an intimate way, as our Father. There is no need to teach those who are in the covenant to "know the Lord," because they already know Him by the nature of the covenant that they find themselves in. The text does not say there is no need to know about the Lord, but to know the Lord. John says that we have his anointing (1John 2:27). This does not mean that there is no necessity for teaching doctrine. Rather, the salvific knowledge of God comes to us through the Spirit when we believe. There is no need to teach the members of the covenant to know the Lord, because by His Spirit, Who is within them and His Law which is on their hearts, they know the Lord.

7. This New Covenant also includes the promise that the sins of the covenantees will be forgiven. This does not mean that under the Old Covenant sins were not forgiven. But this means that this covenant, by nature, is a covenant which establishes peace between God and man. The Old Covenant, on the other hand, did ...


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

...ch the Gospel is even more necessary and heightened in light of the fact that 1) they are under the wrath of God and without an excuse, and 2) the only way of salvation is through calling upon the name of the Lord. Thereby the necessity of special revelation, which is the Scripture in our hands today, is established. We must preach the Gospel, which is revealed in Scripture, for people to be saved. That is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Moving beyond the subject of the necessity of special revelation, the Scripture is necessary for our spiritual growth. We need special revelation to know the will of God more certainly and more clearly. Certainly, we know the Law Of God by virtue of us being made in the Imago Dei, and therefore, we know some things concerning the will of God and right and wrong. But as we noted above, just like general revelation has been corrupted through the Fall, so likewise our perception of the moral law is corrupted and not clear. Therefore, it pleased God to reveal His perfect law to us in the Bible with words, so that His people would more clearly know what He said and what He meant (see chapter 19). The Scripture is necessary for us as Christians because it is our spiritual food. Our Master, as the God-Man, repeatedly appealed and relied on Scripture, how much more should we? When tempted by Satan, the Lord famously said:

Matt. 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Notice that even in upholding the necessity and authority of Scripture, the Lord Christ appeals to Scripture (Deut. 8:3). We do not truly live by physical bread and food alone, but we are to live by every word of God. Notice how the Scripture is here described. It is said to be “word[s] that comes from the mouth of God.” It has its origin with the God of the world and it is Him speaking by His mouth to us. We are to feed and live on this Word. The Lord does not say that we should feast on the Word, implying that we read and study it occasionally. But the Word ought to be like bread to us—every day’s food. We are to read and study Scripture daily so as to grow in our faith and in our relationship with God.

In 1 Peter 1:23-2:2, the Apostle Peter speaks about the “imperishable…[and]…the living and abiding word of God” (v. 23), which “remains forever” (v. 25; cf. Isa. 40:8) and which is “the good news that was preached to you” (v. 25). He goes on in chapter 2 to speak of us as “newborn infants” who “long for the pure spiritual milk” (2:2), which is the word of the Lord about which he is writing. Just like newborns cannot survive without the milk of their mothers, in the same way, Christians are dependent upon the Word of God.

The subject of mediation and delight of the Psalmist is “the law of the LORD” (Ps. 1:2). He does not occasionally think about the Word of God, rather, “he meditates day and night” on the Word of God. It is an essential part of his life. It is the light in which he walks (Ps. 119:105). He stores up God’s Word in his heart and has the desire to learn more from God (Ps. 119:11-12, 18, 20). His delight is in God’s Word (Ps. 119:16) and on it he meditates (Ps. 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 148). And so goes the 119th Psalm praising God for giving us His Law and His Word as a guide and self-revelation. A Christian cannot be spiritually healthy without the Word of God.

Although general revelation reveals that there i...


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

...ram of Dispensational eschatology:

Dispensational Problems

In addition to the problems with Historic Premillennialism, which are common with Dispensationalism, I see the following problems with this system.

It is obviously a recent innovation starting with John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s and is certainly not confessional. Dispensationalists reject Covenant Theology (chapter 7), the abiding validity of the moral Law Of God (chapter 19), the Christian Sabbath (chapter 22), and the eschatology of the Confession (chapter 31) among other things. But the biblical problems are greater.

Two Peoples Of God

First of all, its novel idea that the Church and Israel are a separate people of God. From the earliest times of the Church, the Church saw itself as coming in place of Israel as the people of God. Dispensationalists derogatorily refer to this as Replacement Theology. Call it what you want, the Scriptures teach that the Church, Jewish and Gentile believers, are the Israel of God and the history of Christian theology up to Darby proves this. If you would read the old commentators, they would always refer to the Old Testament prophecies of restoration and prosperity as relating to the Church as the singular people of God. No doubt, a lot of the commentators saw also a latter day restoration of Israel (e.g. John Gill does this very often), but not as a separate people of God. But there came a change with the prominence of Dispensationalism, and the promises of God to His Church were taken away and given to an earthly and fleshly people, i.e., only to physical descendants of Abraham. They contended that we must separate Israel and the Church. They are not one people, but two different peoples of God, one heavenly and the other earthly with two separate plans. To defend this novel teaching, Dispensationalists do not allow the New Testament to interpret the Old. It is our belief that the New Testament should take precedence over the Old, not because the Old was not inspired or the New is more inspired. Rather, it is our belief that there is a greater clarity in the New Testament than in the Old. The Old was filled with types and shadows, but in the New we have the reality in Christ. Moreover, the interpretation of the Apostles of the Old Testament is the correct interpretation of the Old Testament, not the “literal” interpretation of Dispensationalists. Let me give you a few examples.

In Galatians 3, the Apostle Paul interprets the Abrahamic Covenant to have had promises made to Abraham to his singular Offspring who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Then he goes on to say that “if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Also,

Gal. 3:7-9 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

It is the teaching of Dispensationalism that the Abrahamic Covenant forms the basis that Israel must remain as the people of God and is always entitled to the Promised Land, and that Israel has not yet attained to the (complete) fulfillment of that promise. But this is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture that all the promises were indeed fulfilled to Israel (e.g. Josh. 21:43-45) which were made to the physical seed....


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

...ustification by faith alone, which I will seek to make a case for below. They confess that faith is necessary, but it is not enough. They confess that grace is necessary, but it is, again, not enough. I assert and will seek to prove that the Bible teaches that faith alone is that which justifies the wicked and not grace/faith plus anything in us.

Imputed Righteousness

Christ's active obedience is what was imputed to us, which we discussed in chapter 8 (see here). His active obedience refers to Lord's keeping the Law Of God perfectly for us and in our place. All that righteousness which the Lord Jesus earned, the Father credits to us. It is as though we had lived the perfect life of Christ in complete obedience to God. That is how God sees His children. But it is not only His active but also passive obedience which justifies us. His passive obedience refers to His obedience to the Father even to the point of death and torture. It is through Christ's righteousness and death that we are justified and are in the right with God. Christ provided us a perfect righteousness by perfectly obeying and living the Law Of God in our place and He took the penalty of the Law, which was ours, upon Himself. Christ’s righteousness is given and credited to us. It is not mixed and infused with our own righteousness. The apostle Paul says:

Phil. 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

Paul does not find comfort in his own righteousness, which comes through the law and doing "good" things which the law commands. But he finds his comfort, peace, and rest in the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ. This righteousness is from God. It was given to Paul by God and that "through faith in Christ". Charles J. Ellicott notes:

But . . . the righteousness which is of God by (on condition of) faith.—This verse is notable, as describing the true righteousness; first imperfectly, as coming “through faith of Jesus Christ,” a description which discloses to us only its means, and not its origin; next, completely, as “a righteousness coming from God on the sole condition of faith”—faith being here viewed not as the means, but as the condition, of receiving the divine gift (as in Act. 3:16). It may be noted that in the Epistle to the Romans, we have righteousness “through faith,” “from faith,” “of faith;” for there it was needful to bring out in various forms the importance of faith. Here, now that the urgent necessity has passed, we have the stress laid simply on the opposition of the gift of God through Christ to the merit of the works of the Law; and faith occupies a less prominent, though not less indispensable, position.

In another place, Paul says:

1Cor. 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 Go...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

...ther a sort of zig-zag or flatline. When Paul came to repentance, there was a direct break from his sinful life: 

Gal. 1:23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”

But this does not mean that he was from that moment free from sin. He was certainly free from the dominion of sin, but was not free from its presence in his life. Therefore, he largely speaks of this inner war in Romans 7 among other places. But He is confident that he will have the victory:

Rom 7:22-25 For I delight in the Law Of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the Law Of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin

There is a continual conflict within Paul and two things waging war against each other. But He is confident that he will have victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! He speaks of himself in the present tense as being the foremost of sinners (1Tim. 1:15). He knows that he has not yet attained perfection, but it is still his aim to do so (Phil. 3:11-12). In Galatians 5, he speaks of the two opposing desires of the flesh and the Spirit of God. This is similar to Romans 7 and what is there calling the law of my mind and the law of sin. He writes:

Gal 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 

Paul gives a command, namely: walk by the Spirit. This means that we must live "under the influences of the Holy Spirit; admit those influences fully into your hearts. Do not resist him, but yield to all his suggestions".[15] We should seek to listen to the directions of the Spirit and keep His Word in our hearts. To walk in the Spirit means to conduct ourselves in keeping and consistent with the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:24, Paul says, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." Barnes explains:

The sense of this verse probably is, “We who are Christians profess to be under the influences of the Holy Spirit. By his influences and agency is our spiritual life. We profess not to be under the dominion of the flesh; not to be controlled by its appetites and desires. Let us then act in this manner, and as if we believed this. Let us yield ourselves to his influences, and show that we are controlled by that Spirit.” It is an earnest exhortation to Christians to yield wholly to the agency of the Holy Spirit on their hearts, and to submit to his guidance...[15]

We are to walk in or by the Spirit, which means we must live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. Now we return to Galatians 5:16. Of what benefit is walking by the Spirit? For if we walk by the Spirit we will "not gratify the desires of the flesh." Then vv. 17 to the end go on to explains what the works and fruits of the flesh and the Holy Spirit are. We will not dive into the details, but let us listen to Philip Schaff on v. 16:

The Holy Spirit and the sinful flesh are so antagonistic and irreconcilable that to follow the one is to r...