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

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

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  • The Covenant of Grace [§3] [here]
  • The Covenant of Works [§1] [here]
  • The Covenant with Noah (Noahic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  • The Covenant with Abraham (Abrahamic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  • The Covenant with Israel through Moses (Mosaic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  • The Covenant with David (Davidic Covenant) [§3] [here]
  • The Covenant with the Church (New Covenant) [§3] [here]
  • What Is A Covenant?

    Before going into the specific covenants, let us define what a covenant actually is. A covenant may simply be defined as: A commitment with divine sanctions. To add more input, it may be said this way:

    In the general sense, a covenant is simply a binding agreement or compact between two or more parties; in legal terms, it is a formal sealed agreement or contract.[3]

    Simply said, a covenant is the way that God communicates with man. It must be noted that the covenants made by God are made up by God - what I mean is, God doesn't ask people's opinion about what they think of the covenant, blessings, and curses. It is something imposed by God. It is a sovereign covenantal arrangement. This is seen in Nehemiah Coxe's definition of Covenant, which is...

    “A declaration of his sovereign pleasure concerning the benefits he will bestow on them, the communion they will have with him, and the way and means by which this will be enjoyed by them.”[4]

    Walter Chantry defines a covenant as “a sovereignly given arrangement by which man may be blessed.”[5] A. W. Pink defines it as:

    Briefly stated, any covenant is a mutual agreement entered into by two or more parties, whereby they stand solemnly bound to each other to perform the conditions contracted for.[6]

    From these definitions we observe that a covenant seeks to bring man to a better state of existence or being. It doesn't seek to leave man in the place he was prior to the covenant. Dr. Richard Barcellos observes:

    Think of the Noahic covenant. Prior to its revelation as found in Genesis 6-9, the earth was potentially subject to a universal flood due to the justice of God being executed on the earth against the wickedness of man. We know this for certain because that is exactly what happened. The Noahic covenant, which includes man (Noah and his descendants), also involves every living creature (Genesis 9:9-10, 15, 16). It embraces and benefits the earth as well (Genesis 8:22...Genesis 9:13...Jeremiah 33:20, 50...). That divine covenants are revealed to man for "the advancing and bettering of his state" [Nehemiah Coxe] can also be said of all other divine covenants with man throughout the Bible. Abraham (along with his carnal and spiritual seed) was better off for the covenant revealed to him. The Israelites were better off for the covenant revealed to them. It promised them blessings from God that were not promised to them prior to its promulgation. David and the Israelites were better off for the covenant revealed to them, and believers of all ages are much better off for the revelation of the new covenant in its promissory form in the Old Testament and in its concluded, or historically ratified, form in the New Testament.[7]

    Nehemiah Coxe writes:

    The immediate and direct end therefore, of God’s entering into covenant with man at any time (so far as concerns man himself) is the advancing and bettering of his state. God never made a covenant with man in which his goodness to him was not abundantly manifest. Yes, such is his infinite bounty that he has ...


    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

    ...Westminster Federalism teaches that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic covenants were administrations of the Covenant of Grace. But the Covenant of Grace reaches its final administration and revelation in the New Covenant. But we, 1689 Federalists, deny this. We believe rather that the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace was revealed in these covenants and the blessings thereof given to the elect, but not because of the covenant they found themselves in, but because they believed the promise. We believe that the Covenant of Grace, prior to the cross, existed in promise form, and not an established covenant. As John Owen famously said, “Believers were saved under it [the Mosaic Covenant], but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.”[18] See more on 1689 Federalism and the case for it in chapter 7.

    Signs

    What do we actually mean by a sign and a seal? A sign is something visible which points to inward and spiritual realities. The rainbow was the visible sign of the Noahic Covenant, it functioned as a token (“Something serving as an indication, proof, or expression of something else”[19]) that God will not destroy the earth by water again (Gen. 9:13-17). Circumcision functioned as a visible sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, which symbolized the need to be cleansed from sin through blood spilling. For Abraham, it was a sign and a seal of the faith which he had prior to circumcision (Rom. 4:11). The Sabbath functioned as a visible sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It functioned as a sign that God had set His people apart (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). There is no sign mentioned in connection with the Davidic or the New Covenant explicitly. But the throne would probably fit as a visible sign for David that he will always have someone from his posterity to sit on it and rule over Israel. As for the New Covenant, we only have two “positive and sovereign institution[s]” (1689 28:1). I admit from the start that we have no text in the New Testament identifying baptism or the Lord's Supper either as a sign individually, or signs together of the New Covenant. But does this then imply that we have no reason to see them as signs at all? Obviously not. We see them as signs of the New Covenant when we understand what a sign or a token is.

    We noted above on Colossians 2:11-12 that we do not see baptism replacing/fulfilling circumcision as the sign of the New Covenant, as it is often alleged by our Presbyterian brethren, but rather, circumcision of the foreskin has its counterpart in the circumcision of the heart. Circumcision of the foreskin was not fulfilled in water baptism, but rather in the circumcision of the heart. There is nothing said there about water baptism being fulfilled and has become the sign of the covenant, as it functioned for the Abrahamic Covenant. That was not the purpose or intention of the Apostle. But we may indeed see baptism as a sign of the covenant because baptism signifies something. Our Confession says that baptism is a sign of fellowship and union with Christ, as we tried to show above. Baptism shows us the blessings of the covenant. In water baptism, we picture the spiritual union which we have in Christ and thus we have it as a sign of the blessings of the New Covenant. In baptism, we picture the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Christ and our union with Him. Therefore, baptism is a sign of the New Covenant.

    The Lord's Supper likewise functions as a si...


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

    ... 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 Decalogue had a unique redemptive-historical context and use, it is nothing other than the Natural Law incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant. This is one of its uses in the Bible but not all of its uses.

    The Decalogue contains the summary and the essence of the Moral Law, but it does not contain all the moral laws. For example, there is no “thou shalt respect elders”, but we understand that this is comprehended under the fifth commandment to honor our parents, and derived from it.

    Positive Law

    Positive Law simply said is a moral law which has no basis in nature or is not self-evident, but is based upon a commandment of God. Dr. Barcellos defines positive laws as:

    Positive laws are those laws added to the Natural or Moral Law. They are dependent upon the will of God. These laws are “good because God commands them.” They become just because commanded. The first Positive Laws were given to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 1:28; 2:17), as far as we know. Subsequent Positive Laws are spread throughout the Old and New Testaments. Positive laws can be abrogated for various reasons. They are not necessarily universal or perpetual. Some obvious illustrations of Positive Law in the Old Testament are circumcision and animal sacrifices and two New Testament illustrations are baptism and the Lord’s Supper under the New Covenant...Neither circumcision, animal sacrifices, baptism, or the Lord’s Supper are either universal or perpetual.[3]


    §1 God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart

    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; 2 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. 3
      1. Gen. 1:27; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 2:12a, 14-15[4]
      2. Gen. 2:16-17
      3. Gen. 2:16-17; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10,12

    Adam was given a law of universal obedience written in his heart (Rom. 2:14-15). Even in his innocence, man was never without the law of God (chapter 4:2). This law is a law of universal obedience, i.e., it concerns everyone. The location of this law was not in stone, but in his heart; it was inward. In addition to this law, he was also given a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). By obedience to the law and the precept he was given, he was bound along with all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedienceEveryone was to obey all of the law, exactly as God required and forever. This law being given in the context of the Covenant of Works had promises and threats. For a law without a covenant has no rewards or threats. But when it is placed in a covenantal context it has rewards and threats. The reward or promised life was upon the condition of obedience, which is implied if they did not breach the covenant but would eat of the tree of life (Gen. 2:9; 3:22). But death was the punishment for the br...


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

    ...d.org/messages/is-there-a-lord-s-day"Is There A “Lord’s Day”?
  • Mark Fitzpatrick - Study: Are Christians supposed to keep the Sabbath?
  • The Institution of the Sabbath

    We will deal here with the fact that the Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day of creation as a day of rest for man. It was not something newly introduced on Mt. Sinai, but it is as old as the Creation. If it could be demonstrated that the Sabbath was not instituted at Sinai, but at the Creation, then arguments used against the Sabbath in connection with the passing away of the Mosaic Covenant are useless, since then the Sabbath would transcend the Mosaic Covenant and is not a unique and new part of it. Joseph A. Pipa writes:

    Along with work (Gen 1:28; 2:15) and marriage (Gen 2:18-25), God instituted the Sabbath to govern the lives of all mankind. Just as the ordinances of work and marriage are permanent, so is the ordinance of the Sabbath.[41]

    Let’s see if this statement is true and biblical. Our discussion of the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, a blessing and a commandment given to man at Creation will center around three texts: Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11 and Mark 2:27-28.

    Genesis 2

    Gen. 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

    God, the Sovereign Lord and Creator, after finishing His work of creation took a rest. This rest was not needed because He was tired, for God does not get tired (e.g. Isa. 40:28). But this rest consisted in enjoying His “very good” creation, which He had made. Joseph Pipa observes, “By resting on the Sabbath, God reflected on the beauty and glory of His completed work, taking joy in it.”[42] God didn’t need the rest because He was tired, rather His rest consisted in joy and delight. This at the outset shows us that our Sabbath rest does not consist merely in physical rest because of weariness, but rather upon meditating on the work and things of God. Furthermore, what was the purpose of God in creating in six days? Was there just too much to do so that He needed some time? Obviously not. “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:9). Rather, as many, including Archibald Alexander, observe, in doing this God was “thus setting an example to his creature man; for He not only rested on the seventh day, but sanctified it; that is, set it apart to a holy use — to be employed, not in bodily labour or converse with the world, but in the contemplation of the works and attributes of God, and in holding delightful communion with his Maker.”[43] 

    Although, the noun “Sabbath” is not present Genesis 2:1-3, yet we clearly see the Sabbath there. Dr. Sam Waldron remarks:

    The relevance of this text for the subject of the Sabbath is made explicit by the statement in verse 2 that God "rested" in which word the verbal form meaning `to sabbath' is used.[44]

    Therefore, we basically have God sabbathing on the seventh day of creation. What we basically have in the Creation week are: six days of work by God and then a day of rest on which no work of creation was done. God entered His Sabbath rest on the seventh day. He stopped His work of creation, but the work of providence by which He upholds t...


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

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

    Guarantee of A Better Covenant

    Heb. 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

    The fact that the Lord Christ is the Mediator and High Priest of the New Covenant makes it a better covenant from the Old. But not only that, Christ is the surety (KJV) of the New Covenant. He is the guarantee that this covenant will not fail, but succeed, unlike the Mosaic Covenant (Heb. 8:6-13). This New Covenant is better because Christ is its Mediator. It is Christ who stands between sinful man and perfectly holy God (1Tim. 2:5). Christ is sinless (Heb. 4:15; 7:26), man is sinful and God is holy, but now Christ can stand between God and man because Christ is fully divine and fully human. In His one person, He shares both the nature of man and of God, and He is, therefore, capable to be the go-between of God and man. 1 Timothy lays the stress on the humanity of Christ when it tells us that He is the only Mediator between God and man (1Tim. 2:5).

    His mediation and intercession make the New Covenant superior and better than the Old Covenant. The priests under the Old Covenant were many because they died and had to be replaced. On the other hand, this Mediator of the New Covenant has an indestructible life (Heb. 7:16) and continues forever. Death has no power over Him and thus He is able to finish His work and make perfect atonement and intercession for His people. After arguing thus, the Author of Hebrews tells us –

    Heb. 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

    To make intercession is to entreat the favor of God upon us, not based upon our works, but based upon His finished work (Heb. 7:27) on behalf of His people for whom He purchased all the blessings of God. The Lord Christ does not offer Himself repeatedly, rather in His intercession He points to His finished work as the basis of His appeal for us (Heb. 9:24-26). He is able to save, He is mighty to save—all who have boldness in and through Him to come to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). The reason for that is that Jesus intercedes and prays for God's elect that their faith may not fail (Rom. 8:34; Luke 22:32). Their drawing near to Christ is through the work of God in them and does not originate in themselves (John 6:44).

    Ministry in Heaven

    Heb. 8:1-2 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 

    The Lord's priestly ministry is not on the earth and that would have been unacceptable under the Mosaic Covenant (Heb. 7:13-16; 8:4),...


    A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw

    ...on – the circumcision of the heart (e.g. Rom 2:28-29; Col 2:11-12, see this too).

    The Nature of the Old Covenant

    Johnson identifies “continuity” to be the essence of Westminster Covenant Theology. It is the pin holding it all together. The emphasis in Westminster Covenant Theology is upon continuity between the covenants. In Dispensationalism it is upon the discontinuity. The 1689 Baptist position seeks a balanced position between both continuity and discontinuity.

    The majority of Reformed Paedobaptists believe that the Mosaic Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Grace and thus it was a covenant of grace, rather than of works.

    Johnson begs to differ along with 1689 Federalists and even some Paedobaptists. A lot of assumptions and inferences are drawn by Paedobaptists concerning the New Covenant based upon the Mosaic being an administration of the Covenant of Grace which would be unjustified if it were not a covenant of grace. One thinks of the mixed membership of the covenant. Rom 9:6 says “…For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,” therefore our Westminster brethren assume that this continues also in the New Covenant. All who were descended from Israel were in the covenant, or as they would say in the outward administration and received the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. All who belonged to the covenant participated in the essence and inner administration and truly knew God.

    Johnson goes on to prove that the Mosaic Covenant was not an administration of the Covenant of Grace, but rather was a covenant of works. He demonstrates this by showing its conditionality, curses, the fact that it was broken and also by going to the analogy of Paul in Galatians 4:21-31. Galatians 4 is pretty clear upon the contrast and the vast differences between the Mosaic and the New. I also seek to demonstrate the Mosaic was of works by going to 2Cor 3 here.

    If the Mosaic was truly of works and not based upon grace, then it is wrong to view the New Covenant through the Mosaic.

    Holding on the motif that the old and new covenants are essentially the same Paedobaptist covenant theologians view the new covenant through the spectacles of the conditional nature of the old covenant. Consequently, since the old covenant included the non-elect and obvious stipulations, this must mean that the new covenant contains these things as well. If the new is essentially the same as the old, then conditions and covenant-breakers must be artificially imposed upon the new covenant. (p. 95)

    In chapters 7 and 8 Johnson deals with the “biggest dilemma for covenantal Paedobaptists. How do they make the covenant of grace look like a covenant of works, or vice versa?” The dilemma is conditions and covenant-breakers within the old covenant.

    In chapter 9 the author identifies the fatal flaw of Paedobaptist covenant theology, it is the fact that they label the Mosaic Covenant of Works as a covenant of grace. The fact that the Mosaic contains covenant breakers and condition is contrary to the notion of a covenant of grace as he sought to argue in the previous chapters. In chapter 9 he also looks to “the problem of making the covenant of grace breakable.” (p. 121)

    The next two chapters he examines the deficiencies (chapter 10) and purpose (chapter 11) of the Old Covenant.

    In chapter 12 and 13 he writes about the discontinuity between the Old and New covenants. He identifies four aspects in which they differ:

    1. Di...

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

    ...s able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

    1. The "this" in verse 22 refers back to the oath of God made in Psalm 110:4 concerning the Messianic Priest, which ensures us that the New Covenant will be better. Why? Because it has a High Priest Who is so not because of genealogy, “but by the power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 10:16). He has come as a High Priest not like the weak high priests of the Mosaic Covenant who were never able to finish their job and who were stopped short because of death. But as a High Priest Who is so without end and forever. The fact that Jesus is the Mediator of this covenant, makes it a better covenant for the work of the mediator and priest is crucial to the effectiveness of the covenant.

    2. The earthly priests did never finish their job. When they made an offering in the morning and they had to make another offering in the evening also. When they made offerings on the Day of Atonement, they had to repeat the same ritual the next year. When the lamb was slain for the Passover, the same ritual was to be repeated again every year, all the while the blood of animals cannot take away sin (Heb. 10:4, 11). Therefore, these sacrifice did not have power within themselves, but were used merely as covering for the elect’s sins and shadows and types pointing to the sacrifice of Christ, which does away with sin for His elect. In contrast to the old priests who were prevented by death, the Lord Jesus knows no end. His priesthood is not terminated by His death, because He died and came back to never die again. The Christ shall never die!

    3. This reason, namely, that Christ lives forever as High Priest over God’s people is the reason that He is able to save to the uttermost. And that means that He is able to save completely and without any failure. There is a specific people whom He saves, namely, those who draw near to God through Him. But we know that the natural man does not seek God (Rom. 3:11), nor desires to obey Him (Rom. 8:7-8). Rather, it is only the gift of grace which enables and makes one willing to come to Christ (John 6:44, 65). Therefore, the one who comes to God through Him, comes because they are drawn by God, not because of their own autonomous ability. It is those people whom He is able to save completely. Only those who draw near through Him. He is the only Savior that God has given to the world. All other roads to God lead to damnation, but the road through the Lord Jesus Christ leads to salvation.

    4. The reason given for Him being able to save completely is that He continues His priestly work beyond His sacrifice through His intercession. Intercession is merely the continuation of His once-for-all-time sacrifice on behalf of His people. By intercession, the Lord Jesus applies the benefits which He bought for us by His blood on the cross and points the Father to His perfect work on the basis of which He can treat us as righteous and spotless. He pleads before the Father on our behalf when we sin. 1 John 2:1-2 we are given confidence that we will find forgiveness for our sins because Christ is our Advocate before the Father. He pleads for us based on His work. When Christ pleads for us, it is impossible for Him not to get what He’s pleading for, for it delights the Father that the Son is glorified and honored just as He is. Christ prays for us that our faith may not fail, as He did for Peter (Luke 2...


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

    ...cluded that we will be the people of God and inherit the Promised Land. But Romans 4:13 teaches that the Promised Land is not limited to that land in the Middle East, but rather, it is the whole world. This is in accordance with one of the beatitudes of our Lord (Matt. 5:5). John the Baptist teaches that it is of no avail, contrary to Jewish opinion, that they have the favor of God and they will be in peace because they are physical children of Abraham, for God is able to raise children of Abraham from stones. Rather, the people should repent and have the same faith as Abraham (Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8). The promises given to Jews after the flesh were conditioned upon their obedience through the Mosaic Covenant (e.g. Deut. 7:11-12). It is needless, for the student of the Bible, to mention the many places when Israel’s prosperity and occupation of the Land is conditioned upon their obedience (see Deut. 32 for example; Lev. 18:24-28). The Abrahamic Covenant was not an unconditional covenant, but had the condition of being circumcised and obeying the law of God (Gen. 18:19; 26:4-5; Rom. 2:25). See for more chapter 7 on the Abrahamic Covenant.

    By being children of Abraham by faith, this means that we are also Jews by faith, entitled to the promises of God which are in Christ (2Cor. 1:20). In Romans 2:25-29, Paul teaches us that the one who is circumcised ought to keep the whole Law of God, otherwise his circumcision is useless. Therefore, circumcision obliges and binds one to obey the whole law. Circumcision is not a physical matter, but a spiritual matter. It is a circumcision of the heart, not the foreskin as expected from Old Testament prophecy about the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27). Being a Jew and thus a child of Abraham is a matter of the heart and spiritual not physical descent. It is to be circumcised not (merely) in the flesh, but in the heart by the Spirit (2Cor. 3:3). In a similar passage, written to the Philippians, Paul says that “we are the [true] circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). To Gentiles, Paul says that they’re the circumcision because they (1) worship God by His Spirit, (2) glory in the cross our Lord, and (3) they put no confidence in them being physical children of Abraham. “The circumcision” is the name given to the Jews who required Gentile Christians to be circumcised (see Acts 11:2-3; Galatians 2:11-14; cf. Acts 15:1). We learned also from above that being a child of Abraham is a matter of faith and not physical descent (Gal. 3:7-10, 29). Therefore, to be a true Jew after the will of God, is to be circumcised not in the flesh, but in the heart according to the promise of the New Covenant.

    Believers are also said to be the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16. The passage reads:

    Gal. 6:15-16 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

    Circumcision of the flesh gives us no entitlement to God, nor is it of any help if one does not keep the whole law. What matters is a new creation, which is the circumcision of the heart, not of the foreskin. This is essential. While the circumcision party wants to boast in the flesh (Gal. 3:13), Paul wants to boast in the cross of Christ, which is a stumbling block and foolishness (Gal. 6:14; cf. Phil. 3:3). And this is the rule whi...


    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

    ...but they are part of the visible church.

    The New Covenant consists only of believers. This is one of the major points which 1689 Federalism stresses. The New Covenant, which is wholly salvific, is only for the elect. In other words, all the member of this covenant, unlike all previous covenants, are redeemed and elect of God from eternity. All the members of the New Covenant are truly regenerate and Spirit-dwelt believers. This is seen for example from Hebrews 8:6-13 where all members of the New Covenant, from the oldest to the youngest know the LORD. Not merely know about Him, but truly know Him. Furthermore, this New Covenant is unlike the Mosaic Covenant which had members who were unbelievers and members who were believers. This New Covenant is one which will not be broken like the Mosaic was and from whence apostasy is impossible. So basically, the Universal Church or the Invisible Church consists of the members of the New Covenant, all redeemed and elect believers throughout all ages. For more on covenant theology, I refer you to the case I tried to provide for 1689 Federalism in chapter 7 (see here).

    Matthew 16:18

    The Lord Jesus promised to establish His church which no power of hell could stand against. He said:

    Matt. 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    It is Christ who builds His community of believers, His congregation, His church. Men do not build the church. Men may build church buildings, but Christ is the architect of His Church. Sadly, this is often now what this verse is remembered for As Albert Barnes noted, if “it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it [Matt 16:18, and who the rock is], and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for.”[2] The controversy that surrounds this verse between the Protestants and Catholics lies in the fact who “this rock” is which is being referred to and the further Roman Catholic implications of this. The Roman Catholic church claims that here Christ gave Peter supreme authority over the church and raised him above all other disciples. Furthermore, they see in this the Papacy. They say that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and from him, there has been a direct succession of popes/bishops of Rome. Therefore, they see in the Pope the authority of Peter, which they understand as being the supreme on earth over the Church. The Pope, so to say, is Christ on earth.

    Barnes was right, these things could not be found anywhere in the Bible, let alone in Matthew 16:18. It was not the intention of the Lord Jesus to give us here a doctrine of a single bishop of Rome who will be called the Head of the Church. There is no difficulty in identifying Peter as “this rock” which Christ was speaking of. As Keith Thompson has studied this passage and observed, “Conservative Protestant exegetical scholarship is basically unified in affirming Peter is the rock here. D. A. Carson, Craig Blomberg, Craig S. Keener as well as the late Oscar Cullmann and W. F. Albright among many dozens of others are in agreement on this point.”[3] The difficulty lies in the fact that the Papists have read all kind of things in the words of the Lord Jesus which He never intended.

    The Apostle Peter did function as the "starter" of the Church. On the day of Pentecost, it was he who first preached the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:14-41). Furthermore, it was also he who brought...


    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 20: Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof - Commentary

    ...types and shadows. For types in the Adamic Covenant see here. For types in the Noahic Covenant see here. For types in the Abrahamic Covenant see here. For types in the Mosaic Covenant see here. For types in the Davidic Covenant see here.


    §4 Effectual Insuperable Work of the Holy Spirit upon the Whole Soul

    1. Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; 1 yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God. 2
      1. Ps 110:3; 1 Cor 2:14; Rom. 1:16-17
      2. John 6:44; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6

    The message of the gospel is the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace (Rom. 1:16), but there is something more necessary for sinners to be born again, quickened or regenerated. This is the effectual insuperable (i.e., irresistible, impossible to overcome) work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul (John 6:44, 63), which is the inward call and work of the Gospel in sinners. This work of the Spirit gives us a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, there is no true conversion.


    It is indeed true that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), yet that power is not alone but is accompanied by the Holy Spirit who applies the truths of the Gospel and the work of Christ to the elect. To be born again and thus be saved, it is necessary to be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-6), otherwise, we are still in the “flesh” and in our sin. Our Lord declares that “It is the Spirit who gives life” and "the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63). Therefore, if God would be pleased give us life in Christ, He will send both the Gospel and His Spirit to make that work effectual in the hearts of His elect. The Gospel is clear and reveals Christ, yet for the Gospel to be applied to the hearts of people, the work of the Spirit is crucial and necessary. God cleansed us and regenerated us by the Spirit, "the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Both the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, are necessary for the salvation of the elect. In this way, we see the Trinitarian work of redemption. The Father who planned redemption and elected a people to be given to the Son. The Son who obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for those given to him. The Spirit who applies the work and benefits which the Son bought by His blood to His elect. All glory to the Triune God—Yahweh.

     

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

    (Romans 1:16)

    Footnotes

    1. ^ Sam E. Waldron. A Modern Exposition Of The 1689 Baptist Confession Of Faith. (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2013). pp. 302-303.
    2. ^ Many Scriptural references have been supplied by Samuel Waldron's Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which was apparently supplied by the Westminster Confession of Faith 1646.
    3. ^ John Calvin. Commentaries. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. In loc.
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