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

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence - Commentary

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Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence

Are divine sovereignty and human responsibility incompatible? What do we mean by Providence? How does the Providence of God work? Does God use means? How does the Providence of God relate to the wicked and the church?

This chapter is in many ways connected with chapter 3 about God’s Decree. Therefore, the interested reader is directed there for more about God’s divine sovereignty.


§1 God the good Creator of all things

  1. God the good Creator of all things, 1 in his infinite power and wisdom 2 doth upholddirectdispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy Providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will;  7 to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy. 8
    1. Gen. 1:31; 2:18; Ps. 119:68[1]
    2. Ps. 145:11; Prov. 3:19; Ps. 66:7
    3. Heb. 1:3; Isa. 46:10-11; Dan. 4:34-35; Ps. 135:6; Acts 17:25-28; Job 38-41
    4. Matt. 10:29-31
    5. Prov. 15:3; Ps. 104:24; 145:17
    6. Col. 1:16-17; Acts 17:24-28
    7. Ps. 33:10-11; Eph. 1:11
    8. Isa. 63:14; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 9:17; Gen. 45:7; Ps. 145:7

God the good Creator is the One Who is sovereign over all things and the One who upholds, directs, disposes, and governs all creatures and things (Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:11; Isa. 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rev. 4:11). His sovereignty extends from the greatest even to the least (Matt. 10:29-31). God is as much concerned about little things as He is about big things because they all work out for His glory and according to His most wise plan. By His most wise and holy Providence, He has assigned an end and purpose for everything that was created (e.g., Prov. 16:4). This was done according to God’s infallible foreknowledge of that which He has ordained and according to the free and immutable counsel of His own will. The purpose for disposing and directing all things as He does is to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy which is seen in His Providence.  


Providence may be defined as:

Divine Providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine Providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8).[2]

It is the God, the good Creator, Who governs and directs every step in the universe. He is the standard of goodness. He means and intends everything for good (defined by Himself), while man means it for evil (Gen. 50:20). Everything He does is most holy and wise, free and immutable, and for His glory (Isa. 46:8-11). He upholds the universe by the power of His word and He directs history to its predetermined end (Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:11). He disposes of good and evil and governs every molecule and atom the way He pleases (Dan. 4:34-35; Isa. 45:7; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Eph. 1:11). Why? To the glorification of His attributes! See chapter 4 for the purpose of creation. This is closely connected with God’s decree in chapter 3 (see the commentary there). God’s sovereign decree could be seen as the blueprint of history, while God’...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

...Through my study, I tried to collect as many verses as possible in regard to God’s sovereignty as are relevant and that I could find from daily Bible reading and other books. More about my journey can be read here. The document where I put these verses was the reason that this website was made; it is found here.

What I will seek to provide below is a case for God’s absolute control of everything, thus justifying paragraph 1 of this chapter. Here we will touch on issues that are relevant to chapter 5 (Of God’s Providence), but we will direct the interested reader from chapter 5 back to paragraph 1 of chapter 3. Under the section General Sovereignty, I will deal with texts which speak of God’s sovereignty over history and His counsel. Under Particular Sovereignty, I will try to deal with God’s sovereignty over specific things such as evil and human actions. By no means is this an extensive case or discussion of God’s absolute sovereignty, but I believe that it is nonetheless a decent biblical case for it.

General Sovereignty

First, let’s start with verses about God’s Lordship over the world.

Neh. 9:6 You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

He not only has created the world out of nothing, but He keeps the world in existence. Genesis 1:1 should be enough to prove God’s sovereignty over the creation that He has made. Everything is dependent upon Him. Without Him, all would perish. All things, from stars to ants and angels to men are dependent upon Him for their every moment existence. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. The God of the Bible is both the Creator and the Governor of the world. He both has created everything, and He keeps everything in existence.

Acts 17:26-28 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

He has determined where everyone is to live. He has determined the countries in the world with their boundaries. Not only has He done that, but in Him, we have our being. In Him and because of Him we are able to do anything and everything. He is the Uncaused Cause, He is the Primary Cause; we are secondary agents. Anything we do, we first need to “borrow” power and strength from Him. Thus, whatever I do, whether evil or good, I still am dependent on Him for whether He will grant me power and ability to do what I will or not. Man is in no way independent of God, but in every way dependent upon God even when he denies His existence. The Scripture is clear that we’re dependent upon Him for everything. The great Calvinistic Baptist commentator, John Gill, said the following: “The natural life which men live is from God; and they are supported in it by him; and from him they have all the comforts and blessings of life; and all motions, whether external or internal, of body or of mind, are of God, and none of them are without the concourse of his Providence, and strength assistance from him; though the disorder and irregularity of these moti...


1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

...font-size: 18px;"With the Heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the Mouth Confession is made unto Salvation, Rom. 10:10.
Search the Scriptures, John 5:39.


Table of Contents

  1. Of the Holy Scriptures
  2. Of God and the Holy Trinity
  3. Of God’s Decree
  4. Of Creation
  5. Of Divine Providence
  6. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the punishment thereof
  7. Of God’s Covenant
  8. Of Christ the Mediator
  9. Of Free Will
  10. Of Effectual Calling
  11. Of Justification
  12. Of Adoption
  13. Of Sanctification
  14. Of Saving Faith
  15. Of Repentance unto Life and Salvation
  16. Of Good Works
  17. Of the Perseveraance of the Saints
  18. Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation
  19. Of the Law of God
  20. Of the Gospel and the Extent of Grace thereof
  21. Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience
  22. Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day
  23. Of Lawful Oaths and Vows
  24. Of the Civil Magistrate
  25. Of Marriage
  26. Of the Church
  27. Of the Communion of Saints
  28. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  29. Of Baptism
  30. Of the Lord’s Supper
  31. Of the State of Man after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead
  32. Of the Last Judgement

(More) Scriptural references have been added from Sam Waldron’s excellent Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.


Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures [Return] [Commentary]

  1. 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
    1. Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29; Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:15-17
    2. Ps. 19:1-3; Rom. 1:19-21, 32; 2:12a, 14-15
    3. Ps. 19:1-3 with vv. 7-11; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:12a, 14-15 with 1:16-17; and 3:21
    4. Heb. 1:1-2a
    5. 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
    6. Heb. 1:1-2a; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-8; Eph. 2:20
  2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these: 
    OF THE OLD TESTAMENT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
    Genesis Matthew
    Exodus Mark
    Leviticus Luke
    Numbers John
    Deuteronomy Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
    Joshua  I Corinthians & II Corinthians
    Judges Galatians
    Ruth Ephesians
    I Samuel & II Samuel Philippians
    I Kings & II Kings Colossians
    I Chronicles, II Chronicles I Thessalonians & II Thessalonians
    Ezra I Timothy & II Timothy
    Nehemiah To Titus
    Esther To Philemon
    Job The Epistle to the Hebrews
    Psalms Epistle of James
    Proverbs The first and second Epistles of Peter
    Ecclesiastes The first, second, and third Epistles of John
    The Song of Solomen The Epistle ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

... triperspectivalistic means: God’s law (normative: especially the third use of the law), the history of redemption (situational: God calls us to holiness by reminding us of what He has done for us) and personal experience (existential: believers as resources to each other).[31] Robert L. Dabney speaks of “The Means Three”: “God’s truth, His ordinances, and His Providence.”[32] James Boyce speaks of “the truth of God”, and others which are subordinate to the word of God as (1) the Providences of God, (2) the good works of Christians, (3) prayer, (4) the Lord’s Day, (5) association of believers in church relations, (6) the ministry given by Christ, (7) the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.[33] Berkhof speaks of the Word of God, the sacraments and providential guidance as being the means.[34] A. H. Strong speaks of “the word of God, prayer, association with other believers, and personal effort for the conversion of the ungodly”.[35] John Dagg speaks merely of “the word of truth” and “the dispensations of Providence”.[36]

From this short perusal into the systematic theologies to which I have access, the list can be as long or as short as one wants it to be. Our Confession focuses upon the two primary means: Word and Spirit as it does in other instances:

  • We know that the Bible is the Word of God “from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (1:5);
  • Christ governs the hearts of the redeemed “by his Word and Spirit” (8:8);
  • God effectually calls the elect “by his Word and Spirit” (10:1);
  • We are sanctified “by His Word and Spirit indwelling in [us]” (this paragraph);
  • Saving faith “is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word” (14:1);
  • Christ calls the church “through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit” (26:5).

Seeing the focus of the Confession upon Word and Spirit, it is no wonder that we see it here again. Yet we should not see this as the only means that the Confession allows for sanctification. We have good reason to explicitly mention prayer, corporate worship, the ordinances, the Providence of God. All of these are still subordinate to the basic “Word and Spirit.”

God works to sanctify us and make us more like Christ through the Spirit Whom He has given us and the Word that His Spirit has written for our benefit. Paul says that we were washed, sanctified and justified by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). Our regeneration, justification, and sanctification are the work of the Spirit. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says again that our sanctification is through the Spirit of God within us. If the Spirit was not given to us we would have been hopeless. But it is the Spirit through Whom God works in us. It is the Spirit Whom He has given to us (Ezek. 36:25-27). It is the Spirit Who works in us fruit that is acceptable to God (Gal. 5:22-23). It is through the Spirit that the war against the flesh and sin is waged (Rom. 8:1-13). See more on the Spirit in chapter 11.

The Lord Jesus prays to His Father that His people may be sanctified in the truth and this truth He identifies as His Word (John 17:17). The means whereby we are sanctified and become more like Christ is through meeting the God revealed in Jesus Christ in the Word that His Spirit wrote down for us (1 Sam. 3:21). In Acts 20:32, Paul commends and puts the Ephesians into the hands of God and the word of His grace, which Paul says that it “is able to build ...


Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

...k to chapter 14 (God in Three Persons: The Trinity) to get more insight into this great doctrine and the biblical support.

Dr Grudem goes on to prove the doctrine of the Trinity by using three statements that summarize the doctrine:

  1. God is three persons.
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.

From there on he goes into the Scriptures to prove just that!

See my case for the doctrine of the Trinity in my commentary on the 1689 Baptist London Confession.

God’s Providence

This is the first chapter that I read from Grudem. Chapter 16: God’s Providence. And man...I was in for something. It was excellent and it was fully biblical. I loved it.

He defines God’s Providence as follows:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.[2]

God is absolutely sovereign over His creation. Nothing can happen without His will. Moreover He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Although God is absolutely sovereign, even over chance events (Prov 16:33), man is still held responsible (Isaiah 11, Gen 50:20; Acts 4:27-28).

This is above our understanding, but it is what the Scriptures teach and thus we are to obey it.

This is not fatalism, this is the carrying out of a divine plan of a God who is just, holy, wise and merciful.

We are not “robots,” as many non-Calvinists would accuse Calvinists of making man, we make responsible choices, but these choices are absolutely under the control of God.

See my commentary on chapter 3 (Of God’s Decree) and chapter 5 (Of Divine Providence) on the 1689.

The Person of Christ

The treatment of of the Person of Christ is excellent. His two-fold natures in one Person, His effective and definite atonement, resurrection and ascension. All these he handles in part 4 with great care and persuasive biblical argumentation.

Before reading his treatment on the Person of Christ, I thought that Christ now was only divine and not man. God graciously used Dr. Grudem to persuaded me otherwise. 

In the incarnation the Word took on flesh (Jn 1:1, 14). He did not lay aside His divinity, but added humanity to His divine Person (Phil 2:5-11). He was resurrected with a human body and went into heaven with that glorified body, nothing actually convinces us that the Lord Jesus ceased to be human at the moment of His ascension. In fact the Bible tells us that it is the man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator:

1Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 

The Application of Redemption

Part 5 is entitled The Doctrine of The Application of Redemption. Therein Dr. Grudem handles among other things:

  1. Common Grace
  2. Election and Reprobation
  3. The Gospel Call and Effective Calling 
  4. Regeneration
  5. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
  6. Justification (Right Legal Standing Before God)
  7. Adoption (Membership in God’s Family)
  8. Sanctification (Growth in Likeness to Christ)
  9. Death and the Intermediate State
  10. Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body)
  11. Union with Christ

These chapters are excellent like the rest and if you didn’t know, Dr Wayne Grudem is a full-fetched Calvinist and in these chapters, what is called “Calvinism” is arg...


God's Absolute Sovereignty: Resources used

...

The document can be found here.

General Resources used

  • Wayne Grudem; Systematic Theology Chapter 16 – God’s Providence
  • A.W. Pink; Sovereignty of God
  • R.C. Sproul; What is Reformed Theology?
  • David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, S. Lance Quinn; The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented
  • James R White; Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
  • ESV Study Bible
  • ESV MacArthur Study Bible
  • ESV Reformation Study Bible
  • NLT Study Bible
  • HCSB Study Bible

Verses

Commentaries

The Word software resources

  • The software can be downloaded from here.
  • Various modules can be download from here.

Modules for the commentaries

...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, Of Sin, And of the Punishment Thereof - Commentary

...trong. And God threatened death upon the breath thereof, which passed down to all of Adam’s children. But Adam and Eve did not long abide in this honour. They fell by the subtlety of the serpent who subdued and deceived Eve (1Tim. 2:14). In turn, Eve seduced Adam to eat of the tree which he willfully did and transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them (Gen. 3:6). Even this was not outside of God’s Providence and decree (as chapter 5:4 says). But was ordained and permitted according to His wise and holy counsel. God had a purpose in ordaining and permitting the Fall, which was for His own glory, which is the purpose and end of all things which He has ordained.


Our Confession is in agreement with Ecclesiastes 7:29 where it is said that man was created upright, but “they” (man) sought out many (evil) schemes. Adam and Eve received a direct command from God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17), which (perhaps) caused the knowledge and experience of a new kind of morality, namely evil morality. There was nothing in the fruit that did that, but it was God’s way of testing them. The Confession is clear that Adam out of his own will took of the tree and transgressed. He was not coerced against his will and desire, neither was Eve. Of this command, we read in Genesis 2:16-17:

Gen. 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

Here, this command is directly given to Adam before the creation of Eve. Whether Eve knew of this command directly from God or not, I am unsure. But I have no doubt that she knew that she should not eat of the tree. Adam had one requirement: if he obeyed he would earn eternal life for himself and his posterity, if not he and his descendants after him will be born sinful and be condemned–they will die (see chapter 7 on the Covenant of Works). Adam, in the Garden of Eden, stood in the stead of all people that would come from him. See paragraph 3 for federal headship. Most importantly, the Fall is recognized to not be outside of God’s sovereign decree, but in it. It pleased God to “permit” it, why? Because He had “purposed to order it to his own glory.” In what way? By displaying a wider range of His attributes: by putting His wrath on display and by putting His grace on display; by conquering evil and getting glory over it; by saving His elect from the world; by becoming man in the process of saving the world. All these glorious things could not have happened if God had not decreed the Fall. 

The first sin may be the most difficult question to answer as to how it could have been that a perfectly good being like Adam or Satan could rebel and fall. What would cause them to do that? Free will has no explanatory power. We do not believe that it sufficiently answers the question. That’s why the Fall and every sin needs to be recognized as ordained by God of old and is purposed to display His glory. Sin is never outside of God’s control. It is indeed mysterious why would or how would a “very good” (Gen. 1:31) creature rebel against God. I reject the notion that there is no freedom without the opposite, that is, man must have the ability to obey and disobey to be truly free (see chapter 9 on free will). The Persons of the Blessed Trinity have always obeyed each other and never...


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

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They do what the law requires by “nature”, by virtue of what they are, namely creatures in the image of God. They do that by “native instinct.” Albert Barnes observes, “The expression means clearly by the light of conscience and reason, and whatever other helps they may have without revelation. It denotes simply, in that state which is without the revealed will of God. In that condition they had many helps of tradition, conscience, reason, and the observation of the dealings of Divine Providence, so that to a considerable extent they knew what was right and what was wrong.”[6]

6. When Gentiles follow the law externally, without themselves being conscious of following the true God’s will, they become the law to themselves. This does not mean that whatever they think is good, becomes good, but rather, they, or more exactly, their conscience wherein God’s law is, becomes the measure of good and evil. The same moral law is revealed to the Jew as well as to the Gentile, what differs is the mode of revelation. The Gentile, as we see in v. 14, becomes the law to himself. But the Jew has the written law already in his hands and knows God’s will more clearly and more unmistakably than a Gentile who has no access to Scripture whereby he may know the will of God. The Gentile becomes the law to himself, although he does not possess the written Ten Commandments. The moral law, which was later summarized in the Ten Commandments on Sinai, was already written in the heart of Adam and continued to be part of what it means to be in the Imago Dei in every man. But I repeat again, merely having the moral law upon the heart does not mean the willingness to follow that law. We are able to sear and wound our conscience by continual sin whereby it approves of things which are not lawful. Our whole being is affected by sin, the conscience is not exempt from the corruption of sin.

7. By Gentiles doing what the law requires they demonstrate that although they do not have the law in written form upon tablets of stone, they do have the law written upon their hearts. Not only that, but their conscience evaluates their deeds. There is a conflict within their mind about their actions, some things are commended while others are condemned. Each person has had that feeling when doing something wrong that he remains uneasy with himself. He is troubled within himself, especially the Christian when sinning against God. While at other times we feel good when doing something good. Our conscience is the place where the law is written. We know God’s law through our conscience. We have the moral law within us by our creation and by nature of being creatures in God’s image. But we must acknowledge that this law, through the Fall, has been marred and continually been disobeyed. People can certainly follow the law outwardly as the things expressed in the Decalogue are “common sense” and “self-evident,” but true obedience to the law can happen only by a regenerate person, because the law, first of all, begins with the love and adoration of the true God, from whence all the other commandments about the love of the neighbor flow. John Calvin observed on v. 15:

Who show the work of the law (73) written, etc.; that is, they prove that there is imprinted on their hearts a discrimination and judgment by which they distinguish between what is just and unjust, between what is honest and dishonest. He means not that it was so ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary

... Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule
  1. 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
    1. Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29; Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:15-17[1]
    2. Ps. 19:1-3; Rom. 1:19-21, 32; 2:12a, 14-15
    3. Ps. 19:1-3 with vv. 7-11; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:12a, 14-15 with 1:16-17; and 3:21
    4. Heb. 1:1-2a
    5. 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
    6. 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 the Creator of everything. Yet this knowledge is not sufficient to save. Although it is sufficient to leave men inexcusable. This is basically Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-32. Men know the God Who exists because of the creation which they are able to observe and because God has revealed Himself to them. So clear is this revelation that when they stand before the thrice Holy God they will be found “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). General revelation condemns. If we are to be saved we need something more than general revelation. Because general revelation is insufficient to save (“Therefore”), the Lord specially revealed Himself and His will to His church. This is what theologians call special revelation. This revelation of God is to His people, the church and it concerns Himself and His will. Scripture is the self-disclosure of God. 1 Samuel 3:21 is an interesting passage where it is said that “the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.” The revelation of the LORD happened by the word of the LORD. When God reveals His Word and speaks to us through the Bible, He is not merely revealing this about us and about Himself, but He reveals Himsel...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

... God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (See commentary)

His sovereignty, orchestration and ordaining extends to all things whatsoever comes to pass, the good and the bad. Chapter 5 which speaks of God’s Providence is even clearer on this:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his Providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

If even the evil actions of men are under His control, how much more the good actions? For the case that God ordains and is sovereign even over the evil actions of men and yet holds them accountable, see chapter 3 section 1 where I try to argue just that from the biblical texts. Consistent with what the Confession said in chapters 3 and 5, the freedom spoken by the 1689 is not a freedom of will from God’s sovereignty, but freedom of will within God’s sovereign decree.

Edwards on the Will

R.C. Sproul, in Willing to Believe, presents Augustine as having taught the following four conditions of the will:

  1. Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  2. Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This Adam and Eve also had prior to the Fall.
  3. Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  4. Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Points 1 and 2 concern the State of Innocence (paragraph 2). Point 3 is for those under the State of Sin (paragraph 3). Point 4 is for the State of Glory (paragraph 5). Those who are redeemed in Christ are yet not fixed in any one point, but find themselves in points 1-3.

The Nature and Determination of the Will (Part I, section I-II)

But what is freedom in the Calvinistic sense, then? What do we mean when we speak of freedom of choice? Many agree that none better than Edwards has defended the Freedom of Will as understood by Calvinists:

And therefore I observe, that the Will (without any metaphysical refining) is, That by which the mind chooses any thing. The faculty of the will, is that power, or principle of mind, by which it is capable of choosing: an act of the will is the same as an act of choosing or choice.

If any think it is a more perfect definition of the will, to say, that it is that by which the soul either chooses or refuses, I am content with it; though I think it enough to say, it is that by which the soul chooses: for in every act of will whatsoever, the mind chooses one thing rather than another; it chooses something rather than the contrary or rather than the want or non-existence of that thing. So in every act of refusal, the mind chooses the absence of the thing re...