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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...p;chapter 22:8). But those who are not part of a local church cannot obey the command of God concerning public worship on the Sabbath day and are neglecting to meet together (Heb. 10:25).


While the first four paragraphs focused on the invisible church and attention was given to its visible manifestation in paragraph 2, the following paragraphs concern themselves specifically with the order of the church. A word which is sometimes used in this respect is Polity. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives two definitions for Polity: (1) “something (such as a country or state) that has a government : a politically organized unit” and (2) “a form of government”[28]Polity, then, has to do with government, i.e., how things are managed. Since we are speaking of the church then Polity has to do with church government and how the church is organized. In the words of Mark Dever, “Polity, then, is management, organization, government, and structures of authority.”[29] This is thus the introductory paragraph for the rest of the chapter which touches upon different aspects of the local church on earth.

He calls by His Word and Spirit

The Lord Jesus is the Head of the church and He is her only Head. As Head, He is its Ruler. He gathers His people to Himself. A church, as the Greek word indicates is an assembly of people. John Dagg explains, “The Greek word ἐκκλησία denotes an assembly; and, in this particular, differs from the English word church, which is often used to signify the house in which men assemble for religious worship.”[30] The church is the assembly of God’s redeemed. The word congregation or assembly is a better fit for translation than the word church, which most often denotes the building in our society. We’ve argued in paragraph 2 that local churches should be composed of those who profess the true faith and live in a way consistent with that profession. But whom does He call to congregate? He calls those whom He died for to Himself. We’ve noted the Confessional use of the “Word and Spirit” formula in chapter 13:1

We must understand and believe that the church is the creation of Jesus Christ. It belongs to Him. It is His wife. He takes the initiative to call her to Himself. The way in which He calls her is through His Word and Spirit. Which word is this? It is the word of the gospel which creates spiritual life. Peter speaks of this precious word when he says, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:23, 25). God’s word, in the beginning, created the universe, and God’s word has recreated us spiritually. The apostle Paul says, ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6). He compares the creation of the world with the “new creation” of the believer (2 Cor. 5:17). The preached Word is called “the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20). It creates spiritual life and it points to the source of all life. This “word of life” is something to be held onto (Phil. 2:6). It nourishes us as a baby is nourished by milk (1 Pet. 2:1-2).

But this word is not alone. To call His people out of the world, the Lord Jesus sends both His Word and His Spirit. The Word alone, while powerful, convincing, true and good, cannot create life by itself. For that, the Spirit and His work are nec...