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- Necessity of Scripture (paragraph 1)
- Scripture As Self-Revelation (paragraph 1)
- Canon of the Old Testament (paragraph 4)
- Canon of the New Testament (paragraph 3)
- Inspiration of Scripture (paragraph 2)
- Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture (paragraph 1)
- Authority of Scripture (paragraph 4)
- Sufficiency of Scripture (paragraph 6)
- Sola Scriptura (paragraph 1, 10)
- Authentication of Scripture (paragraph 5)
- Perspicuity of Scripture (paragraph 7)
- Interpretation of Scripture (paragraph 9)
This chapter is in many ways based upon the truths in 2 Timothy 3:16. All the particular subjects which are treated are part of a unified whole doctrine about God's Word.
§1 The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule
- The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience 1, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable 2; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. 3 Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church 4; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary 5, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. 6
- Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29; Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:15-17
- Ps. 19:1-3; Rom. 1:19-21, 32; 2:12a, 14-15
- Ps. 19:1-3 with vv. 7-11; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:12a, 14-15 with 1:16-17; and 3:21
- Heb. 1:1-2a
- Prov. 22:19-21; Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1; Deut. 17:18ff; 31:9ff, 19ff; 1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Thess. 2:1-2, 15; 3:17; Rom. 1:8-15; Gal. 4:20; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:14ff; Rev. 1:9, 19; 2:1 etc.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21
- Heb. 1:1-2a; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-8; Eph. 2:20
Holy Scripture, which is defined to be the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is “sufficient, certain, and infallible”. This means that Scripture is enough; true and sure; and cannot err. What is the scope of this sufficiency, certainty, and infallibility? The Confession says that Scripture is the only infallible “rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience”. Holy Scripture is given as a measuring line and a standard. It is a standard of standards. There are other standards and rules besides the Bible, but the Bible alone is the “sufficient, certain, and infallible rule”. The Bible is the norm and rule to test everything else by.
Paragraph 1 then moves to speak about the insufficiency of general revelation for salvation. The “light of nature, and the works of creation and providence” demonstrate that there is a powerful God Who is th...
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.
§1 God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart
- God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, 1 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
- Gen. 1:27; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 2:12a, 14-15
- Gen. 2:16-17
- 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 obedience. Everyone 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 is expanded with 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 breach of the commandments and the covenant (Gen. 2:17). Furthermore, God endued Adam with the power and ability to keep all those things which He commanded and gave him. Therefore, Adam was not placed in a disadvantaged state.
The Law Upon The Hearts Of All Men
We believe that when Adam stood in the Garden, he stood as a representative of all his posterity (see here on Adam’s federal headship). He did not stand to represent himself alone, but God placed him as the covenant head over the whole human race. His obedience would be our obedience and his disobedience would be our disobedience. Sadly, we know what Adam did. Therefore, we believe that Adam did have the perfect Law of God upon His heart. The moral law, or the natural law, which he knew simply by being a man in God’s image, knowing what morality is. Adam certainly knew that he was pre...
The Souls Of The Righteous In Heaven
Already in the Old Testament believers were expecting a blissful existence with God after their physical death. David says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:6; cf. Ps. 16:10-11; 17:15; 73:24; 115:18). He expects to ever live in the presence of God. He did not only live with and for God in his earthly life, but he believes that God’s presence will always be with Him. He will dwell in His house and this is said at a time when the Temple was not yet built. Elijah is said to have “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2Kings 2:11). Jesus shows that there will be a resurrection from the fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are living before the presence of God (Matt. 22:31-32; Luke 20:37-38).
But there is the greater revelation of this fact in the New Testament. There is general agreement amongst Christians that once they die, they will be in the presence of the Lord. (1) The Lord Jesus, before being crucified and going back to the Father, tells His disciples that He will go before them to prepare a place for them, and then come and take them to that place (John 14:1-4). The Lord Jesus, through His atonement on the cross and resurrection, made a place for His people and then He comes and takes them in their death to Himself. (2) Paul says that it is better for him to die because dying is gain, why? Because in dying we will go to the place where the Lord Christ is (Phil. 1:21-23). To depart and to die is to be with Christ, which is better. (3) To another church, he writes that as long as we live in the body, we are away from the Lord. His greater desire is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2Cor. 5:8). As long as we live our lives here, we are with the Lord and the Lord is with us, but it is not the same as being “at home with the Lord.” Then we will see Him face to face and have close and direct communion with Him. (4) The Author of Hebrews says that Christians join in worship with those in heaven, which includes “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:22-23). In heaven, they reach sinless perfection, yet they still await the resurrection of their body. Notice that these are said to be the “spirits of the righteous”, the Author is not speaking of a bodily resurrection, for that is after the Intermediate State is over and Christ has come back. (5) John describes the martyrs of the Lord Christ who were waiting until God’s judgment would come upon the wicked who persecuted them. They are described as “the souls of those who had been slain” (Rev. 6:9). They were living in the presence of God, they were neither inactive nor in a state of soul sleep. These passages teach us that there is a better state of existence awaiting Christians after they die.
The Souls Of ...
Devised From His Own Heart
The last Old Testament example is that of Jeroboam’s idolatry. After the split of the united Kingdom of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms, Jeroboam, the king of the northern kingdom, was afraid that the people abandon him and side with Judah, the southern kingdom. That was because of the absence of the Temple in the northern kingdom. What he does is foolishly repeat the sin of Israel at Sinai.
1Kgs. 12:28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
As we observed above on the Second Commandment, so likewise here we observe concerning the word “gods” which could also be translated as “god” in the singular. John Gill notes, “that these [the two calves] were representations of the true God, who had brought them out of Egypt; and that it might as well be supposed that God would cause his Shechinah to dwell in them as between the cherubim over the ark.” These words sadly echo what Israel said at Sinai (Ex. 32:4). It appears that Israel had still not learned its lesson. Not only did Jeroboam institute this false worship of images, but also, instead of letting the people go to the appointed place of the Lord, which was Jerusalem, he instituted a false priesthood to promote this idolatry (1Kgs. 12:31). Not only did he do that, but he even appointed a feast by his own authority (1Kgs. 12:32)! The text says:
1Kgs. 12:33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.
He had no divine warrant for such idolatrous and blasphemous ways of worshiping God. He had to follow God’s Law and what it said concerning how He is to be worship and not to devise “from his own heart” how God should be worshiped. After this incident and in subsequent history, Jeroboam becomes an example of a sinful and evil king (e.g. 1Kgs. 10:29, 31; 13:2, 6, 11; 16:2, 19-20, 26; 21:22; 22:52; 2Kgs. 3:3; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:21-22; 23:15). Notice especially 2 Kings 10:29. In the next chapter (1 Kings 13), God sends a prophet to prophesy about the abolishment of this false worship. It is obvious that God was not pleased with this innovation of worship which had no basis in His Word. Jeroboam, as the text says, “devised” these things “from his own heart” (1Kgs. 12:33), which was wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Williamson notes:
Jeroboam was always spoken of, after that time, as the one who “caused Israel to sin” (as a corporate body) (I Kings 15:30). We hardly exaggerate, then, when we say that this was a major source of Israel’s ultimate downfall. Worship which had been appointed by God was replaced by a new form of worship. But because this worship was not commanded by God it was therefore rej...
Christians are complete in Christ because they have received a circumcision made without hands – regeneration. Regeneration produces faith that vitally unites souls to Christ in the efficacy of his burial and resurrection. This vital union with Christ in burial and resurrection is a spiritual baptism. Vital union brings believing sinners into the orbit of redemptive privilege and power.
Therefore, what we have in this text is Paul teaching us that the circumcision of the Old Testament finds its counterpart in the circumcision of the heart in the New Testament. There is a spiritual baptism which is Union with Christ in His death and resurrection is spoken of in terms of spiritual baptism which comes after regeneration, which union and the blessings thereof are experienced through faith.
Even a cursory reading of these passages (Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:11-12) will display a connection between water baptism and union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. But a closer reading of these passages reveals that although water baptism is not that which they directly speak about, yet the realities described are typified, symbolized, and signified by water baptism.
Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
The use of water in baptism obviously does not literally wash away our sins, rather, it is the blood of Christ through faith which cleanses us from all sin (e.g. 1John 1:7-9; Rev 1:5), although it cannot be denied that baptism communicates such imagery of washing away sin, and therefore it is closely associated with believing and regeneration in the New Testament and it was immediately done after coming to faith in the Apostolic church. Albert Barnes says on this passage, ‘Sinners are represented in the Scriptures as defiled or polluted by sin. “To wash away the sins” denotes “the purifying of the soul from this polluted influence,” 1Co 6:11; Rev 1:5; Rev 7:14; Isa 1:16; Psa 51:2, Psa 51:7.’ There should be no delay to be baptized after coming to faith. There is no reason. Paul was clearly regenerated, came to faith and was justified prior to his baptism, as it may be seen from Acts 9:17-18 about him being filled with the Holy Spirit. After that, the only proper response is to identify with the Lord Who appeared to him by baptism. Baptism was a public act which identified Paul with the Lord and His people, even if there were not many people, yet, his baptism still would have been seen as a sign about an inward reality. Even John Calvin, the Paedobaptist, agrees that baptism came after Paul’s faith. He wrote on this passage:
It is not to be doubted but that Ananias did faithfully instruct Paul in the principles of godliness; for he would not have baptized him if he had been void of true faith. But...
Isa. 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
The Servant of the Lord is none other than the Lord Jesus Who is prophesied about before He came on the scene. He is the Lord’s chosen and He is in whom God delights (Matt. 3:17; 17:5, etc.). We also read of Christ being the chosen of God and in whom God delights in the New Testament Scriptures often with allusions to the Old Testament (John 6:27; 1 Pet. 2:4-6). Christ is the prime elect of God, and all the believers have been elected in Him and when they come to faith, they become united with Him.
Our Lord is not only the prime elect of God, the Son of God, God the Son, the Savior and Awaited One, but He is also the High Priest of God’s people. The task of the priest is to be a mediator between God and man. This was the case in the Old Testament also, for example, when the people would come with their sacrifices to the Levitical priests, or on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest would intercede and make atonement for the people of Israel (Lev. 16). Christ the Lord is the High Priest and mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6; 12:24). The priests were to stand between God and man, but the problem with the Levitical priesthood was the fact that the priests themselves were not pure. They themselves were full of weaknesses and sin and they were to stand between sinful man (themselves being sinful) and holy God. That’s problematic.
After the Order of Melchizedek
The Book of Hebrews (which is now my second favorite epistle after Romans) lays great stress, especially in chapter 7, on Melchizedek and his priesthood. Melchizedek comes on the scene in the life of Abraham after the slaughter of the kings in Genesis 14. He comes at once on the scene and the text tells us that “He was priest of God Most High” (Gen. 14:18). Even at that time, there were more people who knew God other than the ones we meet in the Bible. Melchizedek was a priest of God the Most High. He comes here on the scene and for centuries we hear nothing about him until we come to the Messianic Psalm 110:4.
Ps. 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Here, Yahweh promises to David’s Adonai (Lord) that He would be a priest forever. The strange part that His priesthood would not be after the order of Levi and Aaron, as it was the only acceptable form of the priesthood under the Law, but “after the order of Melchizedek.” The significance of the Melechizedekian priesthood lies in the various statements about him in the book of Hebrews:
Heb. 7:2-3 and to him [Melchizedek] Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
Heb. 7:5-8 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is ...
The book of Hebrews does not mention its audience nor the reason for writing as the other epistles often do. There is no definite answer concerning its author, this I think does not carry much weight to its interpretation, because all of Scripture is breathed out by God ultimately (2 Tim. 3:16).
The reason that the epistle is called “Hebrews” is because from internal evidence we can see that there is a great stress about the dichotomy between the Old Covenant on the one hand and the New Covenant on the other hand. There is a lot of discussion about Old Testament issues as sacrifices, priests, and the Temple, therefore it is indeed reasonable to conclude as most scholars have done that the epistle was addressed to a congregation mainly made up of Hebrew Christians. These believers were being tempted to go back to the old ways, and the message of the epistle is that there is nothing to go back to. The Old Covenant is done away with. The only way to be the people of God and to have a living relationship with God is through Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. They were probably being persecuted by the unbelieving Jews to come back to the old ways and the Book of Hebrews warns against such things. We know also that the Old Testament practices were still living as the author was writing, for example, from Hebrews 8:4 were it is said that in the temple there are priests who offer sacrifices. He speaks about the Temple in Jerusalem in Hebrews 9:1-5 without any mention that the Temple is not standing (i.e., the book was written pre-70 A.D.). This proves that from the point of view of those who were being tempted to go back, there was something to go back to, namely, the Temple and all its regulations. But the argument of Hebrews is that even if the Temple and its regulations are standing and are continuing, there are made nothing by the New Covenant. They are useless since their function of being shadows has been fulfilled by the coming of the reality in Christ.
The writer of the book of Hebrews is deeply acquainted with the Old Testament Scriptures and practices, quoting a lot of texts from there to make his point about the divinity of Christ (chapter 1), the eternal priesthood of Christ (chapters 5-7), the fact that the New Covenant is superior and better (chapters 8-10) and so on. He knows what is there and He knows that it is consistent with the revelation of God made in the last days through and in His Son (Heb. 1:1-2).
For the purpose of the present chapter, we must notice the fact that Hebrews does not describe people who were regenerate at one time and have become unregenerate later. But Hebrews warns against falling away, without saying that some have actually fallen away and have become unregenerate. It is useless to use the “warning passages” to prove that regenerate believers do fall away and become unregenerate. For we too are aware of the warning passages and contend that they do not describe the actuality of the elect falling away. To prove that some true believers do, in fact, fall away, it must be proven that Scripture speaks and describes those who are regenerate and later become unregenerate. Below, I want to take a look at some passages in Hebrews which lead us to believe that God does indeed preserve the elect and does not lose any. I will try to make my comments brief and try to make a case that t...
Gen. 15:6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
In this connection, it is good to take a look at some Greek words which are important for our discussion.
Logizomai and Dikaioo
The Lord counted Abram’s faith as righteousness, not any deed he had done (we will discuss the details of this passage below). Paul argues that this was the case under the Old Testament and likewise now that Christ has been raised. It is important for us to note the concept of imputed/credited righteousness in Romans 4 and elsewhere. The Greek word used in these instances is the verb λογίζομαι (logizomai, G3049), which means “to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over”. Dr. William D. Mounce says that the “basic meaning of logizomai has to do with counting or thinking”. The important distinction between the Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrine of justification has to do with the fact that the Protestant doctrine of justification declares the sinner to be righteous although he is not fully righteous, because of Christ’s merits. While the Roman Catholic doctrine seeks to make the sinner righteous and only then will he be really justified and righteous. But notice that the word which the Apostle Paul uses, logizomai, has to do with counting and thinking of someone as righteous instead of making them righteous (e.g. Rom. 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11). For all our purposes, as stated at the beginning of this paragraph, justification does not affect our nature or change our inner life; it changes our state from condemned to justified. Robert L. Dabney said:
We believe that the true meaning is not to make righteous in that sense, but only to declare righteous or false righteous in the forensic sense; and that the act of justification does not change the moral state, but only declares, in the forum of heaven, the legal state of the sinner.
Forensic simply means legal. Theologians often speak of “forensic justification” and mean by it as a legal act of God declaring someone righteous.
The same which was true for logizomai is true of the word for justification, δικαιόω (dikaioo, G1344). The word is defined by Thayer as “to render righteous or such he ought to be” and “to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be”. Mounce gives it the basic definition of “to declare righteous, justify”. Berkhof says:
This verb means in general “to declare a person to be just. Occasionally it refers to a personal declaration that one’s moral character is in conformity with the law, Matt. 12:37; Luke 7:29; Rom. 3:4. In the Epistles of Paul the soteriological meaning of the term is clearly in the foreground. It is “to declare forensically that the demands of the law as a condition of life are fully satisfied with regard to a person, Acts 13:39; Rom. 5:1,9; 8:30-33; I Cor. 6:11; Gal. 2:16; 3:11. In the case of this word, just as in that of hitsdik, the forensic meaning of the term is proved by the following facts: (a) in many instances it can bear no other sense, Rom. 3:20-28; 4:5-7; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:4; (b) it is placed in antithetic relation to “condemnation” in Rom. 8:33,34; (c) equivalent and interchangeable expressions convey a judicial or legal idea, John 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 4:6,7; II Cor. 5:19; and (d) if it does not bear this meaning, there is no distinction between justification and sanctification.
This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.
Under the law, by that meaning the whole period of the Old Testament, the Covenant of Grace was seen in the shadows and prophecies (See certain shadows in the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants). But under the New Testament dispensation we have a fuller revelation of God’s purposes and the Covenant of Grace which was fully revealed in the New Covenant.
The Westminister position is summed up in the last sentence in paragraph 6 –
…There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.
As Pascal Denault puts it: one covenant, two administrations.
Sign of the Covenant
Our Presbyterian brethren argue that the sign of the covenant of grace prior to the New Covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was applied to all males within the covenant. In fact, 8 days old infants were required to be circumcised.
They see the sign of the covenant being replaced from circumcision to baptism on the basis of their interpretation of Rom 4:11 and Col 2:11-12. Johnson spends quite some time on Romans 4:11.
Now let us apply the Westminster understanding of the Covenant of Grace to this. The Covenant of Grace was administered under Abraham and Moses and obviously included infants. In fact it commanded infants to bear its sign. Therefore, unless the contrary could be proven, infants are also admitted into the last administration of the Covenant of Grace – the New Covenant and should receive its sign, which they believe is baptism.
It’s understandable if the theology of the Covenant of Grace is correct.
Turn the Tables!
For those credobaptists who are not familiar with the Westminster position which is rooted in Covenant Theology, infant baptism is something they would not come up with by simply reading the Bible. Thus, they think that the case is closed by the fact that infant baptism is nowhere described or commanded in the New Testament.
But through Covenant Theology the Paedeobaptists turn the tables upon the non-covenantal Credobaptist. They teach that the covenants of God were made with the believers and their seed. This is one basic aspect of the various administrations of the Covenant of Grace (from their perspective), which they assume would continue to the last administration of the Covenant of Grace, that is – the New Covenant. This is understandable. Thus, they counter the non-covenantal credobaptism with the following:
“Unless an express statue of repeal and prohibition of the former privilege can be produced, the natural conclusion is that the old rule remained in force as regards their place of infant children of the believer within the visible fellowship of faith to which their parent belongs.” (p. 28, from Douglas Bannerman)
The tables have now been turned. The non-covena...