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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

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Chapter 26: Of the Church

What is the church? What is the visible and invisible church? Who is the head of the church? What power does the church have? What is church discipline? What offices are there in the church? What about church Membership? What does an elder do and who can become an elder? What does a deacon do and who can become a deacon? What 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 everlas...

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

...and the whole earth (Gen. 9:9, 12). Who are included in the Abrahamic Covenant? All those who are related to Abraham either by birth or adoption (as belonging to his household, also slaves) (Gen. 17:12-14). The Mosaic Covenant is made with the same people as the Abrahamic Covenant. The Davidic Covenant belongs to the sons of David (2Sam. 7:12-15; Ps. 132:11). Who are included in the New Covenant? All those united to Jesus Christ.

Someone who does not belong to Abraham, cannot lay a claim to Abraham’s covenant. Someone who does not belong to David’s line, cannot lay a claim to David’s covenant. It is essential to understand Federal Headship as it relates to covenant Membership, which is very important.

For example, the promise to Noah was, “I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you” (Gen. 9:9). The claim to this covenant is directly related to Noah. The question is, “Am I related to Noah?” Therefore, Nehemiah Coxe says, “Future generations to the end of the world are as much involved in this covenant as their immediate offspring with whom it was first made. They have equal claim with them to its blessings without any consideration of their immediate parents.”[21]

As it concerns the Abrahamic Covenant, relation to Abraham defines everything. The promise to him was, “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:7). To lay a claim upon this covenant, you have to be related to Abraham. Furthermore, this promise concerns everyone related to Abraham. This is so since it was made with all his “offspring after [him] in all their generations for an everlasting covenant”. The participation of the Israelites in this covenant did not depend upon their parents’ obedience or piety, but whether they were related to Abraham. Dr. Renihan explains:

God made a covenant with Abraham as a federal head over his natural posterity. Genesis 12:2, 3, 7 make this clear. God tells Abram that he will become the father of a great nation and that his descendants will inherit Canaan. Abram is the federal head of this covenant. God said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ Participation in these promises depends on whether you are encompassed by the federal headship of Abraham. The blessings and curses of the covenant flow through the federal head.[22]

Relation to the covenant head determines covenant Membership. This point is essential in our discussions of covenant Membership in the New Covenant. As it relates to the Abrahamic, Coxe explains:

The promises previously given to Abraham for his natural offspring involve those in remote generations as much as those immediately descended from him. And in some respects they were made good more fully to them than to the others. For it was not until the fourth generation that God was known to them by his name Jehovah (Exodus 6) in the actual accomplishment of his word. The fathers only had his all-sufficiency engaged for the later fulfilling of the promise in its proper season. It was not Abraham’s immediate seed, but his mediate, that became as numerous as the dust of the earth and took possession of the land flowing with milk and honey.[23]

§2 The Covenant Of Redemption

  1. Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...cumcision of the males, but in the New Covenant, there is a “circumcision made without hands” by Christ for every member of the New Covenant, male and female. The apostle is not equating circumcision and baptism here, but circumcision of the flesh and circumcision of the heart. In the Old Covenant, anyone who did not have the sign thereof did not belong to the covenant. In the New Covenant, anyone who is not circumcised in heart (which is not a sign of the New Covenant, because a sign has to be visible, see below on Signs And Seal), does not belong to the New Covenant. Circumcision functions as the prerequisite for Membership in both covenants. Thus, the type and anti-type relationship here is not between Old Covenant circumcision of the foreskin and Christian baptism. Rather, it is between circumcision of the foreskin and circumcision of the heart, which is the regeneration promised to be an essential aspect of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27). The fulfillment and replacement of circumcision of the foreskin in the Old Testament is the circumcision of the heart in the New Testament.

What does the phrase “by the circumcision of Christ” mean? It can possibly mean a few things: 1) the circumcision which was performed on Christ (Luke 2:21); 2) the circumcision which belongs to Christ; or 3) the circumcision which is performed by Christ. The translation, as given in the ESV, I think, is purposefully vague, because the expression in itself is vague and not altogether clear from the first reading. I believe we can quickly discard option one as being invalid. Nowhere is any significance attached to the circumcision performed on Christ in the New Testament in connection with our salvation. The second and third options I take together since they are not mutually exclusive. The circumcision of which Paul is writing is the Christian, New Covenant circumcision and it is the circumcision which Christ performs on believers by His Spirit. This circumcision is what is also known as regeneration in which the Spirit gives us a new heart and a new spirit. The Lord Christ, by the Spirit, makes us a new creation and gives us His Spirit to dwell in us (Ezk 36:25-27). Dr. Richard Barcellos, after citing Titus 3:5-6 writes, “Regeneration is by the Holy Spirit and through Jesus Christ and all is connected to the divine trinitarian act in saving us. The Holy Spirit is the effective agent of regeneration; however, he is, nonetheless, the Spirit of Christ and God (i.e., the Father).”[12] Through regeneration, we have put “off the body of the flesh”, which means the death of the old man and are raised to new life in Christ. What we must notice is that both circumcision and the “putting off the body of the flesh” are clearly spiritual things. Our human bodies were not renewed or destroyed, nor were we circumcised in our human bodies, rather, we were circumcised and born again in spirit and inwardly. The “flesh” is the fallen nature. This “circumcision made without hands” resulted in the “putting off the body of the flesh”. Paul continues and identifies this with burial with Christ in baptism. Similar to Romans 6, the going into the water symbolizes our death with Christ and the “putting off the body of the flesh”.

Now we come to v. 12. Verse 12 begins with an aorist tense, passive voice, participle mood verb, συνταφέντες (syntaphentes, having been buried with). What does this all mean? The “aorist tense describes an undefined action that norma...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary


Next up is the noun ἁγιασμός (hagiasmos, G38). This word is used 10 times in the New Testament and it could basically be translated as “holiness” or “sanctification.” Mounce explains that hagiasmos '(“holiness, sanctification, consecration”) is generally used in the NT in the moral sense, referring to the process (or the final result of that process) of making pure or holy.”[8] So, Paul says that we should no longer present our bodily Members as “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness”, but as “slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” or holiness (Rom. 6:19). While we are now ahead of ourselves, here we see that sanctification does not merely affect us internally, but externally also in what we do with our bodily Members for example. In Romans 6:22, we are set free from sin and the fruit from that “leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 teaches that Christ has even become “sanctification” to us, which He does by His Holy Spirit, the Agent of sanctification. God’s will and calling are for our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3, 7) and the purpose is that we “[may] know how to control [our] own body in holiness and honor” (1 Thess. 4:4). Our salvation was “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” according to 2 Thessalonians 2:13. There is a kind or degree of holiness which we must possess “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14), which the Lord works in us through discipline (Heb. 12:10, a different word is used here than hagiasmos). According to 1 Peter 1:2, our election “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” was “in the sanctification of the Spirit”. Then there is the use in 1 Timothy 2:15, which I’m not sure what the passage means. We see that this word is used with reference to moral purity rather than merely separation. As Mounce observed, this word is used to refer to the process and not merely to the fact of sanctification or holiness. Berkhof explains that while hagasmos ’denotes ethical purification, it includes the idea of separation, namely, “the separation of the spirit from all that is impure and polluting, and a renunciation of the sins towards which the desires of the flesh and of the mind lead us.” While hagiasmos denotes the work of sanctification, there are two other words that describe the result of the process, namely, hagiotes and hagiosune.’[9] We will take a look at these words below. But first, let us take a look at another word which Mounce mentions.

This word is the adjective ὅσιος (hosios, G3741). It is used 41 times in the LXX and it is a word primarily found in Old Testament citations. It is used of Christ as the “Holy One” (Acts 2:27; 13:35); of the “holy and sure blessings of David (Acts 13:34 cited from Isa. 55:3); men should raise holy hands in prayer (1 Tim. 2:8); an elder should be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8); the Lord Jesus, our high priest is “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26); finally, God is said to be alone holy (Rev. 15:4) and He is also the “Holy One” Who is just (Rev. 16:5). In all these instances, we cannot separate the idea of moral holiness. In each of these instances, moral purity is that which is clearly intended to be conveyed. That’s why Berkhof observes that hosios “describes a person or thing as free from defilement or wickedness, or more actively (of persons) as religiously fulfilling every moral obligati...

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

...11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

While we are not talking here about the New Covenant specifically, this passage is important in its teaching that the New Covenant is a covenant whose Members are all regenerate, therefore, a few observations are in order.

1. In contrast to the priestly ministry under the Mosaic Covenant, Christ’s ministry is more excellent, why? (i) The covenant under which He ministers is better and (ii) the covenant is established on better promises. (i) The New Covenant is better than the Old mainly because it has Christ as its Mediator and High Priest (Heb. 7:21-22). Not only that, but also because the Old Covenant was not a pure covenant of grace and the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace established in time (see chapter 7 for more on 1689 Federalism). (ii) The promises of the New Covenant do not merely pertain to the earthly things, but have their focus on the heavenly and eternal things. We do not have shadows and earthly temporary things like the Temple and the sacrifices, but we now have the reality in Christ. This is what makes the priestly ministry of Christ more excellent and places it above the old Mosaic priesthood.

2. The Mosaic Covenant was not without fault for it demanded perfect righteousness from those who were sinful from birth. This did not work together and therefore, the Lord from the days of Moses (and before) declared the coming of the Christ and thereby the New Covenant which will deal with the problem of our sin and will not be a covenant with which the Lord will find fault. This Old Covenant is described as a covenant in which “they did not continue in my covenant”; a covenant that was broken. The people were faithless from the beginning. The covenant contained unbelievers and believers alike. That the covenant was broken from the beginning may be seen from the fact that when Moses came down from the Mountain of God and broke the Ten Commandments, in that way he pictured the fact that Israel had broken the covenant they just ratified with God. They wandered away so quickly from Him Whose voice shook the earth. The Mosaic Covenant is a covenant which demands perfect obedience in all points (Gal. 3:10), and therefore, sinful man is not able to keep the terms of this covenant. The fault of the covenant mainly lies in the fact that it was given to a sinful people and it had not the ability to deal with their sins as did the New Covenant. It was a subservient covenant pointing to the sin of man and the need for redemption (e.g., Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:23-26).

3. In contrast to the Old Covenant, the New is not like the Old. Meaning, it will not be broken and its people will, in fact, continue in the covenant. This is the exact point which is here ascribed to the Mosaic and it is said that the New Covenant is unlike the Old. Therefore, the New Covenant is at least unlike the Mosaic Covenant respecting this point. Genuine apostasy from the covenant will be impossible, but that was not impossible under the Old Covenant. This does not mean that all the covenantees will obey God perfectly, but it means that no one will be cast out o...

1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted name may in all things be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

WE the MINISTERS and MESSENGERS of and concerned for upwards of one hundred baptized congregations in England and Wales (denying Arminianism), being met together in London, from the third of the seventh month to the eleventh of the same, 1689, to consider of some things that might be for the glory of God, and the good of these congregations, have thought meet (for the satisfaction of all other Christians that differ from us in the point of Baptism) to recommend to their perusal the confession of our faith, which confession we own, as containing the doctrine of our faith and practice, and do desire that the Members of our churches respectively do furnish themselves therewith,

Hanserd Knollys Pastor Broken Wharf London
William Kiffin Pastor Devonshire-square London
John Harris Pastor Joiner’s Hall London
William Collins Pastor Petty France London
Hercules Collins Pastor Wapping London
Robert Steed Pastor Broken Wharf London
Leonard Harrison Pastor Limehouse London
George Barret Pastor Mile End Green London
Isaac Lamb Pastor Pennington-street London
Richard Adams Minister Shad Thames Southwark
Benjamin Keach Pastor Horse-lie-down Southwark
Andrew Gifford Pastor Bristol, Fryars Som. & Glouc.
Thomas Vaux Pastor Broadmead Som. & Glouc.
Thomas Winnel Pastor Taunton Som. & Glouc.
James Hitt Preacher Dalwood Dorset
Richard Tidmarsh Minister Oxford City Osen
William Facey Pastor Reading Berks
Samuel Buttel Minister Plymouth Devon
Christopher Price Minister Abergavenny Monmouth
Daniel Finch Minister Kingsworth Herts
John Ball Minister Tiverton Devon
Edmond White Pastor Evershall Bedford
William Pritchard Pastor Blaenau Monmouth
Paul Fruin Minister Warwick Warwick
Richard Ring Pastor Southampton Hants
John Tompkins Minister Abingdon Berks
Toby Willes Pastor Bridewater Somerset
John Carter   Steventon Bedford
James Webb   Devizes Wilts.
Richard Sutton Pastor Tring Herts
Robert Knight Pastor Stukeley Bucks
Edward Price Pastor Hereford-City Hereford
William Phipps Pastor Exon Devon
William Hankins Pastor Dimmock Gloucester
Samuel Ewer Pastor Hemstead Herts
Edward Man Pastor Houndsditch London
Charles Archer Pastor Hick-Norton Oxon
In the name of and on the behalf of the whole assembly.



Put forth by the ELDERS and BRETHREN Of many CONGREGATIONS OF Christians

(baptized upon Profession of their faith) in London and the Country.

With the Heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the Mouth Confession is made unto Salvation, Rom. 10:10.

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

... those things listed above.

Conclusion On The Judicial Laws

Though the judicial law, as part of the Mosaic Covenant, has passed away, yet the general truth and moral use of the civil law was not abrogated. Christians are not called to establish theocracies on this earth, but rather they are called to obey the laws of the land and not to rebel unless forced to do things contrary to God’s law. The greatest power given to the church is not the death penalty, but excommunication and discipline. Concerning those that are outside, Scripture says that God will deal with them and therefore, the church has no authority over them. Rather, the church has only authority over its Members.

§5 The Moral Law Doth For Ever Bind All

  1. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, 1 and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; 2 neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation. 3
    1. Matt. 19:16-22; Rom. 2:14-15; 3:19-20; 6:14; 7:6; 8:3; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:19 with Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Eph. 4:25-6:4; James 2:11-12
    2. James 2:10-11
    3. Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; 1 Cor. 9:21; James 2:8

The moral law which was given and written in the heart of man doth for ever bind all (Rom. 2:14-15). God does not require obedience only from justified persons (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:19; Eph. 4:25-6:4), but also of others (1 Tim. 1:8-11). The obedience to the law is not meant to be so that people only obey them because they are good and right, but more importantly in respect of the authority of God the Creator. They are to be obeyed because they were given by the Creator and obedience to these commandments is obedience to God the Creator. This same moral law, which was written in the heart and later given in the Ten Commandments. Christ in the Gospel does not in any way dissolve, rather, He strengthens (Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31) this obligation by clarifying what the law means and what it requires. 

The Moral Law Doth For Ever Bind The Unbeliever

It is clear from Romans 2:14-16 (see above) that the law of God is written even upon the heart of the unbelieving man and he will be judged according to it on the day when “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16). It is obvious that God commands and demands that even unbelievers believe in Him and obey Him. Most of all, His command to them is: repent and believe, otherwise you will perish (Acts 17:30-31; Luke 13:3, 5). He is their Creator and can demand from them their obedience and love. They owe it to Him as creatures in covenant with Him through Adam (Rom. 1:21-23). They will all be judged by Him, which implies that they were under His law and they had knowledge of this law. Romans 1:32 teaches us that not only unbelievers know the moral law of God, but they also know its righteous punishment.

The Moral Law Doth For Ever Bind The Believer

More than the Creator, Christians know God as their Father and Redeemer, therefore, their obligation of obedience to Him is even greater than the unbelievers’. Not only that, but the Bible also calls God’s people to obey God! The simple question here is: Does God require and desire the obedience of His people? The answer is obvious. Over and over again we are called to obey God, although in many instances the Ten Commandments are not named, yet we understand that all mo...

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

...stead, neither does He intercede for them.

Although I have added my own exegesis of the passages above, I have greatly benefited from Owen’s insight into the connection between Christ’s sacrifice and His subsequent intercession. This is, in my opinion, a very powerful argument for Particular Atonement. Even if we take into consideration the work of the High Priest on behalf of Israel, for example, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). It will quickly be replied by our opponents that the High Priest interceded for all of Israel, which included unbelievers, and the sacrifice was likewise made for all of Israel. We will not object to that fact, only to the supposition that the Membership of the Mosaic and New covenants is the same. The Old Covenant included in it both believers and unbelievers, while the New Covenant includes only believers. It is made only with them and all of its Members have the benefits of the covenant applied to them (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13). Therefore, the analogy or the type still stands. The only difference is the people who make up the covenant. On the one hand, the Old Covenant contained both believer and unbeliever alike; while the New Covenant subsists of believers only. The High Priest interceded only for the covenant people of God and not for the heathen and godless. Likewise, our High Priest intercedes not for the world, but for those who are His. Furthermore, we should be able to distinguish between the type (Levitical priesthood) and the antitype (Christ’s high priesthood) and keep them distinct.

The End of Christ’s Death

Now we have begun with book II of Owen’s monumental work. He begins by returning to the subject in chapter 1 of book I, which concerned the end (i.e. goal) of Christ’s death as Scripture declares it (see above).

The primary, or “supreme and ultimate” end of Christ’s death is the glory of God. The glory of God stands at the center in Reformed theology. That is what attracted me at the beginning to Reformed theology. The obsession with the glory of God and trying to do all things to His glory. Everything and anything that God does, He does first of all to and for His glory. Owen cites a few passages to this effect (Prov. 16:4; 2 Cor. 4:15; Eph. 1:6, 12; Phil. 1:11; 2:11; Rev. 5:13; I would add Isa. 46:8-11). Owen says:

The Lord doth necessarily aim at himself in the first place, as the chiefest good, yea, indeed, that alone which is good; that is, absolutely and simply so, and not by virtue of communication from another: and therefore in all his works, especially in this which we have in hand, the chiefest of all, he first intends the manifestation of his own glory; which also he fully accomplisheth in the close, to every point and degree by him intended.[37] (book II, chapter 1)

The secondary, or the end that is “intermediate and subservient to that last end” of Christ’s death, which is “the bringing of us unto God” (book II, chapter 1). The salvation of the elect is “subservient” to the glory of God. Generally, if you would ask an Arminian, or a non-Calvinist, what God’s primary purpose or plan is, they would likely answer “redemption.” On the other hand, Reformed theologians see that God’s glory is the primary goal and end of everything which God does, including the salvation of the elect, but that in itself is not the primary goal; the glory of God is the primary goal.

Before enquiring in the Scriptures, Owen lays down the thesis which he is trying to prove:

“Jesus ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary are still things that we struggle with. Then comes the lifelong process of sanctification. That is the process through which the Spirit works on us to transform us into Christ’s image and destroy sin in us slowly. Sanctification is a lifelong process of ups and downs. It is not a constant line going upward, but upward and downward. When we die then our sanctification is complete and we are freed from the presence of sin, but still await the redemption of our bodies.

Now we are engaged in a war. As Paul says in Romans 6:13, we should present ourselves no longer as instruments of sin and unrighteousness, but instruments fit to be used by God. We should present our Members as instruments for righteousness. To do that which God is pleased with. But sadly that is not as easy as it sounds and Paul knows this, that’s why he writes of the struggle that there is within him in Romans 7. So now we turn our attention to Romans 7. In vv. 1-6, Paul uses an analogy, which seeks to demonstrate how we have been freed from the law by dying just as a wife is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives, but if he dies she is free from that particular law. But for our purposes, we need to look at vv. 7 and beyond.

From his previous discussion about the effect of the law when we are under sin, some people might get the idea that Paul says that the law is of sin and is actually sinful, which is not even remotely in Paul’s mind. His point was that the law for a person under sin can only increase sin, as it has no power to forgive, but it condemns all who do not obey it (Gal. 3:10). Rather, he says that the law actually brings the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7). The law is not the problem; sin is the problem (Rom. 7:8), which uses the “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12) commandments to produce sin in us. Where there is no law, there is no sin (Rom. 5:13) because sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). But all are indeed under the law either the one written on stone or on the conscience (Rom. 2:12-15; see chapter 19). Sin has no power without the law (Rom. 7:8), but since we were under the law as a covenant of works (i.e., in the State of Sin), sin reigned over us and used even the good and holy to produce more sin and impurity. Thus Paul says that in a sense he was alive or unaware of his sin apart from the law, but when he understood the requirements of the law, he died (Rom. 7:9-11).

The problem of why the law is ineffective to bring life and sanctification to a person under the State of Sin is because the law is spiritual (Rom. 7:14). It is not designed to produce life and sanctification in the lives of those under sin, but only condemnation and fear. For the law to produce righteousness and sanctification, its subject must be those who are spiritual (Col. 2:13-15). Spiritual does not mean non-physical, but rather a person who is led by the Holy Spirit. This is indeed the promise of the New Covenant in which God promises that He will cause us to obey and delight in the law (Ezek. 36:25-27; Jer. 31:31-34). But the problem is that corruption still remains in us and we still sin (Rom. 7:14). Now we come to the controversial aspect of this chapter. The commentators are divided whether v. 14 and following refers to Paul in the present or in the past. I believe that it refers to Paul in the present, i.e., when he is regenerated and under grace and not law. I believe that this is the case because of the following reasons:

  • Paul speaks in t...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 27: Of the Communion of Saints

..."In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). In this analogy, we see the apostle comparing our union with Christ with a building and its stones. We are a temple, but we are a temple because we are in Christ Who is building us into a temple for God. This is similar to what is said by Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-5. In this passage and others like it, we see that our union with Christ is the foundation for our communion with the believers (paragraph 2). We are also described as Members of a body and Christ being the Head (Eph. 3:6; 5:29-30; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Col. 2:19).

R. L. Dabney gives a helpful summary of the images used by Scripture to illustrate this blessed union:

The nature of this union is to be deduced from a full comparison of all the representations by which the Word illustrates it. In one place it is described by the union of a vine with its branches; and in another, of the stock of an olive tree with its limbs. (John 15:1-5; Rom. 11:16-24) The stock is Christ, diffusing life and fructifying sap through all the branches. Second, our Savior briefly likens this union to that between Himself and His Father. (John 17:20-21). Grace will bring the whole body of the elect into a sweet accord with Christ and each other, and harmony of interest and volition, bearing some small relation to that of the Father and the Son. Third, we find the union compared by Paul to that between the head and the Members in the body; the head, Christ, being the seat and source of vitality and volition, as well as of sense and intelligence; the Members being united to it by a common set of nerves, and community of feeling, and life, and motion. Eph. 4:15-16. Fourth, we find the union likened to that between husband and wife; where by the indissoluble and sacred tie, they are constituted one legal person; the husband being the ruler, but both united by a tender affection and complete community of interest, and of legal obligations. (Eph. 5:31-32; Ps. 45:9). Fifth, it is illustrated by the union of the stones in a house to their foundation cornerstone, where the latter sustains all the rest, and they are cemented to it and to each other, forming one whole. But stones are inanimate; and therefore the sacred writer indicates that the simile is, in its nature, inadequate to express the whole truth, by describing the cornerstone as a living thing, and the other stones as living things together composing a spiritual temple. See 1 Cor. 3:11-16; 1 Pet. 2:4-6.[6]

Besides the pictures of this blessed union, we also see this union mentioned in the words that Paul often uses. For example, “in Christ” comes up 90 times in my Bible software (e.g., Rom. 3:24; 6:11; 8:1-2, 39; 1 Cor. 1:2, 4; 4:10; 15:22; 2 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:14, 26, 28; Eph. 1:3, 12; 2:6). Various aspects of our salvation are captured with this often-used phrase by Paul. Also, there is the “in Him” phrase which is the same (e.g., Eph. 1:4, 7; 2 Cor. 1:10; 5:21; Eph. 3:12; 6:20; Phil. 3:9; Col. 1:14; Col. 2:6-7, 11). Marcus Peter Johnson summarizes what we have “in Christ”:

Furthermore, in Christ we are justified (Rom. 8:1), glorified (8:30), sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2), called (1:9); made alive (Eph. 2:5), created anew (2 Cor. 5:17), adopted (Gal. 3:26), and elected (Eph. 1:4–5).[7]

Another phrase which shows our union with the Savior is “with Him” (e.g., Rom. 6:4, 5, 6, 8; 8:17, 32; 1 Cor. 6:17; 2 Cor. 6:1; Col. 2:12-13; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 5:...