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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...is the work of the pastor? How is a church to govern itself?

This is the longest chapter in the Confession. Without question, this chapter is different than the sister confessions. The doctrine of the church was and is one of the most important distinctions between paedobaptists and Baptists. Covenant Theology, as noted in chapter 7, is an important difference between our Reformed paedobaptist brethren and us, Reformed Baptists. Practically, 1689 Federalism manifests itself in the doctrine of the church. One of the primary distinctive of Baptist ecclesiology is regenerate membership. Furthermore, the distinction that only those baptized upon a profession of faith may be members of a Local Church. This distinction and difference must be placed in the light of the huge agreement concerning almost all other areas of the Confession. Our forefathers basically copy-pasted from the Congregationalists and Presbyterians. Alan Dunn observes the following on the historical setting of this chapter:

On the one hand, our Confession was written in an attempt to distinguish us from the false Roman Catholic Church. We will encounter statements in which Roman Catholic teaching is refuted. On the other hand, our Confession aligns us with churches that proclaim the gospel and worship Christ in obedient submission to Scripture.

Among such Biblically orthodox churches however, there are yet differences held with honest Biblical conviction. Therefore, our Confession also expresses our Baptistic and Reformed distinctives in contrast to our Presbyterian and non-Reformed brethren.[1]


§1 The Universal Church Consists Of The Whole Number Of The Elect

  1. The catholic or universal church, 1 which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. 2
    1. Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Heb. 12:23[2]
    2. Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col 1:18, 24; Rev. 21:9-14

The catholic (meaning universal) church, which is called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 12:23). The universal church does not consist only of New Covenant Christians, but of the whole number of the elect who have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ. Notice that the church consists of the elect who are gathered, i.e., converted. In their unregenerate state, the elect are not part of the universal church until they are gathered into Christ. Christ is the head (Col 1:18) and the church is the spouse (Eph. 5:25), the body (Col 1:18) and the fullness (Eph. 1:23) of Christ.


The word “catholic” means universal and hereby, our forefathers are agreeing with the last part of the Apostles’ Creed: 

I believe in the Holy Spirit, 9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, 10. the forgiveness of sins, 11. the resurrection of the body, 12. and the life everlasting. Amen.

Neither the Nicene Creed nor the Confession refers to the Roman Catholic Church in the word “catholic”, but to the universal Christian Church of Jesus Christ. This church is the universal invisible church. This designation refers to true believers, who were chosen before the foundation of the world, are members of the New Covenant and not merely members of a lo...


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

...or prayer and the proper worship of God was the Temple in Jerusalem. But that is no longer the case. God is to be worshipped everywhere in the universe. There is no special place which God has appointed God He will receive our worship and hear our prayers under the New Covenant. He is everywhere with us. We can worship Him loudly or in silence. Thank You, Lord! See our discussion above on John 5.

We are not to neglect the gathering together of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Rather, we should look forward to the Lord’s Day on which we come with God’s people to publically worship our Lord, as a Local Church joining the worship in heaven (Heb. 12:22). We are not to be those who “neglect to meet together”, rather “encouraging one another” to meet as a corporate body to worship the Lord. We should be joyful when we see the Lord’s Day coming, preparing ourselves to the public worship of God in His congregation. We should be as joyful as David was:

Ps. 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

We do not treat the church gathering as something common, but rather consider it holy and solemn. For the Lord manifests Himself to us there in a special manner, in the midst of His local community. We should battle against the common sinful ideas of our age that church is unnecessary and it doesn’t matter if we go or not, or the way in which we conduct ourselves there. We should understand that any place where God manifests His special presence, which He has promised to do in the gathering of His people in His name (e.g. Matt. 18:15-20), is holy ground. Therefore, the church assembly is sacred and is to be treated as sacred and separate. Not as a “common” thing. This is the reason why the Regulative Principle of Worship concerns the worship of the gathered church. Because the Reformers understood from both Testaments that there is a difference between the public and private worship of God.

When we neglect our assembling together on the Lord’s Day with God’s people we miss on God’s blessings which He ministers to us in His congregation. We miss on the means of grace: the Word and the sacraments. The fellowship with brothers and sisters, the encouraging of each other, the testifying about what the Lord is doing in our lives. It is true that going to church does not make one a Christian, but it is a sin to neglect the meeting of God’s people. It is a great error and sin to not heed the voice of God and assemble ourselves as a local body for His praise. We are not meant to be autonomous and on-ourselves Christians but are to grow in a family of like-minded believers, so that we may encourage and support each other.


§7 The Case For The Christian Sabbath

  1. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished. 2
    1. Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:8-11; Mark 2:27-28; Rev. 1:10
    2. John 20:1; Acts 2:1; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1; Rev. 1:10; Col. ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...membership in the Covenant of Grace. We’ve spoken about covenant membership in the New Covenant in many chapters and we will speak of it again below.

All who belong to the covenant are regenerated and Spirit-dwelt believers. Church membership does not equal membership in the New Covenant. There are many who are church members, but are sons of perdition and not members of the New Covenant in any way. They may enjoy the blessings of being with believers and under the teaching of the Word of God, but that doesn’t make them members, in any sense, of the New Covenant, because I believe that the New Covenant doesn’t have multiple ways of membership. They are members of a Local Church and in a sense part of the community of the people of God insofar as the Local Church is regarded as “the community of the people of God.” But their membership in that community does not place them in the New Covenant. They see the blessings and glories of the New Covenant, yet they have no part in it because it is a spiritual covenant not made with those who are only born of the flesh

The significance of baptism argues for believers’ only baptism. The ordinance should be administered only to those who profess to have experienced what the ordinance signifies, regeneration, remission of sins, and union with Christ. A. H. Strong wrote:

As marriage should never be solemnized except between persons who are already joined in heart and with whom the outward ceremony is only the sign of an existing love, so baptism should never be administered except in the case of those who are already joined to Christ and who signify in the ordinance their union with him in his death and resurrection.[44]

Dr. Wayne Grudem notes that “the outward symbol of beginning the Christian life should only be given to those who show evidence of having begun the Christian life.”[35] Essentially, each of the things which we argued that water baptism signifies, could not be applied to infants, therefore, baptism must mean something very different for infants and for those who profess faith. But about a distinct meaning of baptism for infants only, Holy Writ knows nothing. Therefore, a “baptism” which is not in accord with our Lord’s will cannot be a proper baptism. 

The Covenantal Argument

Then there is the Reformed Baptist covenantal argument for the proper subjects of baptism. We have very briefly argued above for the understanding that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs of the New Covenant, therefore, this argument is basically that only those who belong to the covenant should be subjects of its signs. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper ought only to be given to those who are in the New Covenant. From a human point of view, we must judge with the knowledge which we have of the person and of the profession of that person whether they belong to the New Covenant or not. But we should not knowingly administer the ordinances and signs of the New Covenant to those we have no reason to believe that they’re members of the New Covenant.

While it may sound strange to modern Baptist ears that we make a covenantal argument here for professors baptism, yet the historical evidence is undeniable that this is how our forefathers argued. They did not merely point to the texts in Acts and the order of first believing then being baptized. They certainly did that as we did that. But they also combined this with a rigorous covenantal defense for the subjects from the nature of the New Covenant. They...


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

...n style="color: #00ffff;"faith itself wrought in us by the grace of the promise, and so its precedency unto pardon respects only the order that God had appointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.[70]

As to membership in the New Covenant, we have seen from Jeremiah that it is only elect believers, those united to Jesus Christ, and thus those who are members of a Local Church are not necessarily members of the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant. Members of the church are just that, members of a Local Church, but not necessarily members of the universal church of Christ, they are merely members of the visible church. Furthermore, as Reformed believers, we believe that Christ died to save and atone for the sins of the elect. Those are also His covenant community and by His blood, He places them in the New Covenant and in relationship with God. But this is not the case for apostates or infants of believing parents. It is essential to understand what the basis of membership in the New Covenant (or for that matter, any covenant) is and it is one’s relation to the Federal Head. The Israelites were in covenant with God because of their physical relation to Abraham. No Amorite could claim membership to the Abrahamic Covenant. Relation to the head defines the membership. The same is true for the Davidic Covenant. The same is true for the New Covenant, but what is very clear under the New Covenant is that physical privileges no longer apply (e.g., John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:6-8). Our relationship with Jesus Christ is called our union with Him, which is by faith (see chapter 27). Therefore, without faith, there can be no relation to Christ. And if there is no relation to Christ, there is, therefore, no relation to His Covenant, too. The Old Covenant did not require faith for membership, while the New Covenant presupposes faith from all its members. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him or to be in any sense, in Christ. Dr. Renihan explains the nature of the Kingdom of God:

The kingdom proclaimed by the Christ is a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). Though the full unveiling of the nature of this kingdom occurs in the apostolic writings, the ministry of Christ established all its fundamental features. It is a kingdom from above, a kingdom entered not by natural birth, but supernatural birth (John 3:3-6). It is a kingdom belonging not to those born of the flesh, but those born of the Spirit (Matthew 8:11-12). It is a kingdom belonging not to those born of Abraham’s body, but his belief (John 8:39, 56). It is a kingdom whose localized assembly is based on faith in Christ and the exercise of His authority (Matthew 16:16-19). It is a kingdom of those who are humble and helpless like children (Matthew 18:1-4).[71] 

The description which is given to us in the New Testament precludes the membership of those who do not have the Holy Spirit and are not united to Christ by faith. Therefore, union with Christ is the only way to be or enter into the Covenant of Grace. Dr. Renihan helps us again:

Apart from union with Christ, the federal head of the New Covenant of grace, there is no participation in the blessings and benefits of Christ’s covenant. Paul is quite clear that “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). This is consistent with all other cases of federal headship in the covenants of Scripture. Apart from ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper - Commentary

...nistered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. 1
  1. Matt. 24:45-51; 28:19-20; Luke 12:41-44; 1 Cor. 4:1; Titus 1:5-7

The holy appointments or ordinances are to be administered by those only who are qualified and called to this task, according to the commission of Christ.


Now here there is a little difficulty. Who are the persons qualified to do these things? In a Local Church, those persons would be the elders. But, does this exclude any regular member in administering the ordinances or helping in the administration thereof? I do not see any biblical command that only the elders may do these things, nor any prohibition against regular members helping. Obviously, within the local gathering of God’s people, the elders would undertake to administer the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. They may, perhaps, ask the help of some brothers or sisters for the Lord’s Supper, for example, to pray for the bread and wine and distribute the elements. I do not see why that would not be permissible. Obviously, having the elders administer the ordinances is much better, as they are the ones who are in the position to lead the church and are known as the church leaders. Therefore, having them baptize a person or administer the Lord’s Supper, is much more authoritative than a regular member. Philip, for example, who was not an elder, baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38). I do not advise people to go and baptize others outside the church. That is not my point. But rather, my point is that I see nothing in the Bible (I am open for change) which restricts the administration of the ordinances to elders alone.

As for the Lord’s Table, the disciples in the early church in Jerusalem, it seems, were regularly celebrating it (e.g., Acts 2:42). But the Lord’s Supper was especially celebrated on the Lord’s Day in the corporate gathering of God’s people (Acts 20:7). The people of God were gathered on the first day in Troas to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians, when they came “together as a church” (1 Cor. 11:18) observed the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). This would indicate that the Lord’s Supper is generally to be administered on the Lord’s Day in the corporate gathering of God’s people. The Lord’s Supper should not be celebrated by one person, but rather in a gathering of more people. There may be occasions when a group would want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper outside of the gathering of the church, or a sick brother or sister not in the corporate gathering may want to partake of the Lord’s Table. I do not see any prohibition of such a thing. But we should note that the common, regular, and normal observance of the Lord’s Supper is within the corporate gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Supper is not a “me and Jesus” moment, but it is “me and Jesus and the congregation” unity moment. It is vertical as well as horizontal. In fact, the believers at Troas were gathered one the first day of the week to “break bread” (Acts 20:7). When Paul spoke against the Corinthian misuse of the Lord’s Supper, he addressed it in the context of corporate worship (1 Cor. 11:17ff). Therefore, private celebrations should be discouraged. The gathering of God’s people is the proper context for the Lord’s Supper as well as Baptism.

In conclusion, we give the words of Bob Carr:

While there is nothing in the Bible that says that only ministers may administer the ordinances, surely it is r...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

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Victory Guaranteed

The promise of Scripture is indeed that “the generate part doth overcome”. We have already touched on the fact that sanctification is a life-long process of ups and downs, and therefore, there will be times when our remaining corruption will get the best of us. But there will also be times when we, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, get the victory against our sin. The way to avoid and achieve victory against the flesh and sin is to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:17) and use the means that God has given for our sanctification such as reading the Word, prayer, corporate worship and communion with the people of God.

A Local Church is essential and necessary for the growth of every Christian. It is there where you will meet people with whom you will spend all eternity worshipping God. They can minister to you through the things that God has taught them and you can minister to them. We do not have to wage this war all alone, but we have brothers and sisters who likewise wage this irreconcilable war. It is there where the Word of God is preached and it is the church which is the center of God’s love. All true Christians are waging war against their flesh. It is good to be in company. Holy Writ tells us that we already are conquerors in Christ. John writes:

1 John 5:4-5 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 

Our victory against the evil world system, which would include sin and the flesh, is guaranteed by the fact that we have been born of God. Just as our Lord Jesus conquered, so likewise we are promised that we will conquer and overcome (Rev. 3:21). Paul applies this language of overcoming and conquering even to physical persecution. It doesn’t matter how badly we are persecuted in the world, it doesn’t matter how much we are hated for His sake, our identity is found in Christ, and in Him, we are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37). As we wage this spiritual war, we should seek to more and more be obedient to God from the heart and grow in His grace that we may not wander from Him, but cling tightly to Him and shun the thought of sin. Peter encourages Christians to grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). We should seek Him more earnestly and more frequently in the Word and prayer, that our love and devotion for Him may grow and at the same time our love and devotion for sin and the flesh decrease and die out.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). We are to pursue God and seek to be conformed to His will and to be like His beloved Son. As we behold, enjoy and worship Christ, the Spirit changes us into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). This holiness, the gracious Lord works in us by His grace through discipline. In v. 10, the writer tells us that the purpose of why God disciplines (not condemns!) His children is so “that we may share his holiness.” He disciplines us for our own good so that we will be purified from sin and seek Christ instead of the fleeting pleasures of sin. He makes us more like Christ through His fatherly discipline.

As we seek to be more and more in love and satisfied with the Triune God, and as we seek to reverently fear Him we will realize that the “fear of the LORD is hatred of evil” (Prov. 8:13). ...


Review of Sam Waldron's To Be Continued?

...happy to affirm that God does miracles today." (p. 99) However, there is also a strict definition of miracles which he believes do not happen anymore. "A miracle is redemptive, revelatory, extraordinary, external, astonishing manifestation of the power of God." (p. 100) On the "revelatory" part he says that it is "a sign done by a prophet or apostle to attest the divine origin of his message" (p. 100) and he later gives a few reference were miracles were used for attestation. But I don't believe that miracles were restricted to attestation, though that is a major part. That I cannot deny. Rather, I believe that the stress in 1Cor 12-14 is laid upon the Local Church and the believers building each other up. The specific purpose given in 1Cor 12-14 is upbuilding of believers, not attestation.

Then there is the question "what about those who where neither apostles nor prophets and worked miracles?" I don't believe that the answer which usually goes along the lines of "they were associated with the Apostles" in a book called the Acts of the APOSTLES is satisfying. Everyone there is in someway associated with them. What about those in Corinth to what authority they were attesting WITHIN the congregation? What about the believers in Galatia (Gal 3:5)?

But this point among others in the strict definition of miracle becomes an occasion in which strict miracles are associated with revelation, but since infallible and biblical revelation ceased with the Apostles, therefore, these kinds of miracles and miracle-workers also ceased.

Conclusion

I actually really enjoyed reading this book. Dr. Waldron is a great a great teacher and writer. He challenged me and I've learned a lot from him in different areas of theology. I believe that this was a gracious and good defense of cessationism.

He doesn't go into the craziness of the charismatic movement, but rather goes simply against "continuationism" and tries to make the case that the miraculous gifts ("apostles", prophecy, tongues and miracles) have ceased.

...