The Staunch Calvinist

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


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...ould be baptized around 40 days old or something around that time. That was not different in my case. Throughout my youth, I saw my infant baptism as the basis that I was a Christian. What made it also difficult was the fact that in Iraq, everyone would have their religion on their ID card. I even served as an altar boy in the church when I was little. But to be honest, I did not know the gospel, yet I was not ashamed to proclaim that I am Christian, but don’t ask me what the gospel is! Thus, throughout my youth, I saw my baptism as the ground that I am a Christian, even though I did not pray often or did not know why Christ died. The Armenian Church, by the way, believes in baptismal Regeneration and baptism by dipping the infant thrice in a bowl of holy water. My family came to the Netherlands in 2008 and I finally knew what freedom was, but not the freedom of the gospel (yet). Two years or so after that, I met with an old friend and stayed with him for a few days. He saw that I did not pray before bed, so he questioned me. He told me about prayer and how proper is it to pray to God and thank Him for everything. I told him that I don’t want to be religious. He directed me to videos and episodes of Zakaria Botros (Arabic) who shares the gospel with Muslims via TV and exposes Islam. Through his videos and episodes, I came to know the true gospel and was saved by God’s grace. After that, there grew in me a desire to study His Word, so I bought Bibles and study Bibles and started reading the Scriptures daily. Around that time, I started attending a Baptist church. I did not know that it was a Baptist church. We went there with some friends of mine and by God’s grace, kept attending church on the Lord’s Day.

I started reading the Bible and I could not find anything about the baptism of infants or that baptism as the basis of my faith and all the things which I had simply assumed in my youth. So I set out to study this matter and came to the conclusion that infant baptism was unscriptural and what happened to me as an infant, was not biblical baptism. On a Saturday night, I fell on my knees and asked the Lord if He wanted me to be baptized that He would give me some sign. The next day, the Lord’s Day, the preacher talked about discipleship and following Christ no matter what and he said something like, “It doesn’t matter what your family will think of you if you want to be baptized”, which I saw as a sign from heaven. My family would not have been happy about my baptism because they think that my baptism as an infant was valid. Moreover, the Armenian Church is a national church. It does not get new converts, for example. Most infants are baptized and declared Christian, even if they know not the gospel. Therefore, the only baptism that is practiced and that I have heard of is infant baptism.

I still feel guilty for asking the Lord for a sign when I had already concluded that believers’ baptism is the biblical position and that infant baptism was unscriptural. His Word was clear on this subject. So, after that service, I directly went to one of the elders and told him that I want to be baptized. After giving my testimony, I was baptized on 16-06-2013.

It is not my purpose in this chapter to overthrow the paedobaptist position by directly arguing against it, but by presenting a positive case for credobaptism—baptism upon the profession of faith. No doubt, we would have to touch upon some arguments or texts which our paedobaptist bret...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

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We could go on and on by giving Protestant theologians who defined justification in this way. Louis Berkhof says:

Justification is a judicial act of God, in which He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner. It is unique in the application of the work of redemption in that it is a judicial act of God, a declaration respecting the sinner, and not an act or process of renewal, such as Regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. While it has respect to the sinner, it does not change his inner life. It does not affect his condition, but his state, and in that respect differs from all the other principal parts of the order of salvation. It involves the forgiveness of sins, and restoration to divine favor.[3]

The Baptist A.H. Strong defined it as:

By justification we mean that judicial act of God by which, on account of Christ, to whom the sinner is united by faith, he declares that sinner to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law, but to be restored to his favor. Or, to give an alternative definition from which all metaphor is excluded: Justification is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner, because of the sinner’s new relation to Christ. God did condemn; he now acquits. He did repel; he now admits to favor.[4]

Section one first deals with a distortion about justification and then gives the biblical position.

Not Infusion of Righteousness

Roman Catholics believe in what may be called “infused righteousness.” This means that in salvation, the merits of the Lord Jesus on the cross are infused with the righteousness of the sinner and together they constitute the basis of salvation. Meaning, Christ’s righteousness is not enough, rather it is given to help us with our own righteousness through works and obedience to God and the Roman Catholic Church. In their own words, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:[5]

This “infused righteousness” is attained by a work, namely baptism. That is the way you get this righteousness. Basically, this position teaches that salvation by grace alone is not enough. You have to add your works and obedience to the work of Christ. It is wrong to think that Roman Catholics do not believe in the necessity of grace. Rather, they don’t believe in the sufficiency of grace. Grace alone is not enough to justify. In their own words from the Council of Trent:

“If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema,” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).[6]

Rome, in these words, has denied the gospel of Christ. They place their curse upon the Protestant and biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. which is the gospel of our salvation. They have denied justification by faith alone, which I will seek to make a case for below. They confess that faith is necessary, but it is not ...

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

...rance is a great mountain, which gives the saints assurance and faith in God’s almighty power in overcoming sin in us and completely saving us. The doctrine does not teach, contrary to non-Protestant caricatures, that Christians after being saved can do whatever they want to do and still remain saved. Rather, the doctrine teaches that those who have the Spirit of God indwelling in them will persevere in the faith by the almighty power of God. The Lord will chastise, sanctify and lead them toward a holier life.

That the doctrine is true and biblical may be seen from many ways (see paragraph 2), including (1) the decree of election, (2) Regeneration, (3) justification and (4) Christ’s obedience.

Election: It has pleased God from all eternity to select a particular people in the Lord Jesus Christ whom He will redeem from sin to be with Him forever without any consideration of foreseen faith or works, merely because of His good pleasure. Seeing that their salvation was not dependent upon them, how would their perseverance be (completely) dependent upon them? There is no debate among Calvinists about whether the elect can lose their salvation. Someone who accepts Unconditional Election must believe in perseverance. It is logically necessary, for to contend otherwise is to say that God has unconditionally chosen a person to be saved, but has not chosen to preserve that particular person, which is absurd on its face. Therefore, the one who accepts Unconditional Election inevitably must accept the Perseverance of the Saints. For to reject the doctrine is to contend that God fails to save those whom He intends to save. See chapter 3, paragraph 5 for more on Unconditional Election.

Regeneration: Through Regeneration, we have been made new creatures, given a new heart and a new spirit. Plus, the Spirit of the Almighty has come into our hearts (e.g., Ezek. 36:25-27). We’ve been given a new nature with the Law of the God written upon our hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). What happens when (supposedly) a person loses their salvation? Do they become unregenerate? Do they receive their old nature back? Do they become unborn again? Do you see the difficulty that such an idea of “falling away” brings with it? It is simply impossible that such a thing will happen. And what if the person loses their salvation and then comes to the Lord Jesus again, does God cause him to be born again for a second time? See chapter 11 for more on Regeneration.

Justification: Justification is a legal act of God by which He declares guilty sinners free because of Christ’s work. Our sin is put upon Him, and we receive His righteousness (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:21-31). How does it happen that God’s verdict, for a (supposedly) regenerate believer, becomes void after that person falls away (see Rom. 8:1)? Does the person become unjustified? Does he lose his justification? But how can that be if God has already declared them just based on nothing in themselves, but solely by grace through faith because of Christ? The idea that justified believers came become unjustified unbelievers is not found in the New Testament and has great implications on the doctrine of justification by free grace and through faith alone. Those who believe such things happen practically believe in justification by works or perseverance by works. See chapter 11 for more on justification.

Christ’s Obedience: The Father has given the Son a charge, namely, to lose none of the elect (e.g., John 6:37-40). How ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

...ich desires to love and obey Him. He renews our wills and sets us free from slavery to sin. The ability and willingness to desire and do the good comes by His almighty power (e.g., Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 13:20-21). It is by grace alone and it is the work of God in us. He draws us to Jesus Christ in such a way that we will effectually and certainly come to Him, yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace (Ps. 110:3; John 6:37; Rom. 6:16-18 ). God changes our nature and gives us the desire to believe and come to Christ. This is the miracle of Regeneration. No one comes to Christ against their will. But the Holy Spirit works so powerfully in us that those who did not desire Christ, come to desire Him and most willingly and freely cast themselves upon Him.

Called by the Word and Spirit

It is the Word of God–the precious gospel, which comes to us, which is the message of salvation used by the Spirit to awaken us to newness of life. God has ordained to call His elect people through the means of preaching the gospel. Notice that the Confession says effectually call because there are two types of calling: 1) the general call and 2) the effectual call. By the general call of the gospel, we mean the simple preaching of the gospel to all who are able to hear and understand the proclamation. In this sense, all who are able to hear (or read) and understand the call of the gospel are invited but are not supplied with the Spirit to make them willing to accept the gospel. This is the case in Matthew. 22:14, which I believe is the only explicit instance on which this “general call” is based. Clearly, our Lord there distinguishes between those who are called and those who are chosen. A lot of people are called, in the sense of Matthew 22:14, but few people are chosen. The effectual call, on the other hand, is the call of the gospel proclamation used by the Spirit to cause us to be born again. We don’t merely hear the gospel, but the Spirit applies the message of the gospel to our life and grants us the ability to accept the call of the gospel and respond positively. It is in this sense that most passages that speak of God’s calling are concerned with. My favorite passage on the effectual calling of the Spirit and the gospel proclamation is in 2 Thessalonians 2–

2 Thess. 2:13-14 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In contrast to those to whom God sends delusions because they refuse to love the truth (2 Thess. 2:11-12), Paul praises and thanks God because He has chosen the Thessalonians. He always gives thanks to God for their salvation. He is thankful that they’re beloved and they are elect. God’s choice was made in eternity as is elsewhere clear in Paul (Eph. 1:4-5, or if the alternative option is more correct: “Some manuscripts chose you from the beginning”), but the application of that work begins with the effectual calling. In v. 14, Paul says that they were called to be saved, but how were they called? The answer is through the proclamation of the gospel by Paul and his companions. It is by means of the gospel, which Paul elsewhere says is the “power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), that God called us to be saved. He called us for a purpose: we are to obt...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

...tly touched upon our union with Christ in chapter 8 paragraph 5 (see chapter 27, paragraph 1 for more detail). We dealt with the effectual call or Irresistible Grace in chapter 10 and Regeneration and Justification were dealt with in chapter 11.


The answer to question 35 “What is sanctification?” of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is as follows:

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.[2]

Having this definition, we can say that sanctification is a work of renewal and enablement. This enablement is twofold: to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness. It is a work of life and death by God. But before we dive into sanctification and its effect, we must first note that “to sanctify” something is to “make it holy”.


Sanctification has to do with making or declaring holy. Holiness essentially has to do with “otherness” or setting apart. This idea is conveyed in the Old Testament by the use of words like:

  • consecrate (e.g. firstborn [Ex. 13:2]; the people of Israel [Ex. 19:10; Josh. 3:5; 7:13], the priests [Ex. 19:10, 22; 28:3]; Mt. Sinai [Ex. 19:23]; gifts [Ex. 28:38]; offering [Ex. 29:27]; Passover lamb [2 Chron. 30:17]; altar [Ex. 29:36, 27, 44]; the tent of meeting and all its items [Ex. 30:26-29]; the temple [2 Chron. 29:5]; a fast [Joel 1:14; 2:15]),
  • set apart (e.g. Israel and the godly [Gen. 49:26; Deut. 10:8; Ps. 4:3]; priests [Num. 16:9]; musicians [1 Chron. 25:1]; land [Ex. 8:22]; newborn of man and beast [Ex. 13:12]; animals [Lev. 20:25]; cities [Deut. 4:41; Josh. 16:9]),
  • separate (e.g. Israel [Lev. 15:31; 20:24, 26]; priests [Num. 8:14; 1 Chron. 23:13]; animals [Lev. 20:25]; Nazarite [Num. 6:2, 3, 12]; a portion of the temple [Ezek. 48:21-22]).

While our initial idea may be that of making people holy or setting people apart, the usage of these words is very wide, ranging from people to things. If we consider the usage of the word “holy” then this would encompass these things above and even more. The basic idea conveyed from these passages is that a thing or a person is separated from a common purpose and given another purpose and it or they belong to another, e.g. God. William D. Mounce explains the concept of holiness and the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament:

Generally, qados [which is used 117 times] is translated as “holy,” “holy one,” or “saint.” It describes that which is by nature sacred or that which has been admitted to the sphere of the sacred by divine rite. It describes, therefore, that which is distinct or separate from the common or profane.[3]

All over the Bible, God is said to be holy. He Himself provides the standard which our holiness or the holiness of things are measured against. He is said to be “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). It is the only attribute of God that is raised to the third repetition. It is not an attribute among many others. Rather, it is the attribute that encompasses all others. His love is holy; His justice is holy; His grace is holy; His wrath is holy and so forth. Holiness to God means that is He is morally perfect, other and separated from sinners. J. I. Packer explains:

When Scripture calls God, or individual persons of the Godhead, “holy” (as it often does: Lev. 11:44-45; Josh. 24:19; Isa. 2:2; Ps. 99:9; Isa. 1:4; 6:3; 41:14, 16, 20; 57:15; Ezek. 39:7; Amos 4:2; John 17:11...

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

...ful, lest we seem either maliciously to deprive them of the blessing of God, or to accuse and scoff at the Spirit, as having divulged what ought on any account to be suppressed. Let us, I say, allow the Christian to unlock his mind and ears to all the words of God which are addressed to him, provided he do it with this moderation, viz., that whenever the Lord shuts his sacred mouth, he also desists from inquiry.[23]

Divine election basically means that God is the One Who does the work of Regeneration, granting of repentance and faith to people. We are not to look for election only in texts which specifically state that it was done before the foundation of the world, but we should also look at texts which speak of God’s present work, like granting faith and repentance (Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:26; Eph. 2:8-9) and argue for election on the basis of God’s working. What election tries to show is that God is the ultimate Agent and decision-maker in salvation. Indeed,

Rom. 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

We are here arguing for Monergism as opposed to Synergism. Monergism is the singular and effective work of the Triune God whereby He grants grace and mercy, faith and repentance, and all that is necessary for salvation to man and raises the dead sinner to spiritual life. As the many metaphors used in the Scriptures of men being raised from the dead (Eph. 2:1-4) or being born again (John 1:12-13; 3:1-8), these Scriptures suppose that man has no active role in the new birth/Regeneration. GotQuestions defines monergism as: ‘Monergism, which comes from a compound Greek word that means “to work alone,” is the view that God alone affects our salvation. This view is held primarily by Calvinistic and Reformed traditions and is closely tied to what is known as the “doctrines of grace.”’[24] says the following about Monergism:

Monergism: In Regeneration, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerated human nature. He quickens us through the outward call cast forth by the preaching of His Word, disarms our innate hostility, removes our blindness, illumines our mind, creates understanding, turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh -- giving rise to a delight in His Word -- all that we might, with our renewed affections, willingly & gladly embrace Christ. The Prophet Ezekiel inspired by the Holy Spirit asserted “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Eze 11:19, also 36:26) The Apostle Paul said, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” (1 Thess. 1, 4, 5). I.e. In Regeneration the word does not work alone but must be accompanied by the “germination” of the Holy Spirit. And again ” have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Pet 1:23)[25]

The Century Dictionary says the following about monergism, “In theology, [monergism is] the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in Regeneration [the new birth] - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated [born again], a...

Review of Dean Davis' The High King of Heaven on Amillennialism

...he wilderness in utter dependence on God (James 5:17; 1Kings 18). It also reminds us of the Jewish persecution in the time of the Maccabees and Antiochus Epiphanes IV.

Both 3,5 and 1000 years represent the Church Era, but it depends from which angle we look at it. If we look at it from the angle of persecution, it seems of imperfect and incomplete. But if we look at the 1000 years in the context of Satan’s binding it seems so huge and assures us of Gospel success. Let us not forget that many, if not all the disciples expected our Lord to return soon. 1000 is a huge number.

The First Resurrection

There are two possible explanations for this. It is either Regeneration or the entrance of the saints to heaven (Dean’s view). I favor the Regeneration view because it has direct statements from Scripture and especially from John to confirm this, but I still have some questions which the “entrance to heaven” view answers. I’m challenged by Dean’s view, it seems indeed to fit. [Edit: as of 25-04-2015 I have changed my view of the first resurrection to Dean’s. I believe the first resurrection refers to the believers’ entrance into the Intermediate State.]

Dean’s view say that the first resurrection is not a physical resurrection, indeed the consistent teaching of the NT is that of one general resurrection at the Parousia. The first resurrection refers to the believers’ entrance to heaven and reigning there with Christ.

There are two groups who are reigning with Christ:

  1. The martyrs
    1. the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God
  2. Born again believers
    1. those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands

The Regeneration view sees support in John 5.

John 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Here Regeneration is seen as a resurrection from the dead. Resurrection from deadness in sin.

This is further confirmed in the many ways that Paul refers to our old self and Regeneration:

Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Here is it of special importance because in a certain and real (because the Bible affirms it) sense we are already seated in heaven (on thrones?) and are reining. In what way? Reining in life (Rom 5:17) and against sin.

The new life is connected with resurrection in Ephesians 5 also:

Eph 5:13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, Eph 5:14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

I think both views have good support and there remains questions to be asked about each (and more research and re-checking for me).

This is indeed not meant to be an exhaustive exposition of Revelation 20 and answering objection, but that’s exactly the reason why you should get the book and study it for yourself. [In re-reading on the subject of the First ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

...trongwhereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls—it is the sole instrument of justification (chapter 11:2). Furthermore, this grace of the work of the Spirit of Christ (John 6:63; Ezek. 36:25-27). Faith is our response to the call of God, but it does not originate with us. It is granted to us by God and it is worked in us by the Holy Spirit through Regeneration and the creation of the new man in Christ. It is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:23), i.e., by the preaching of the gospel coupled with the work of the Spirit of Christ. This faith is further strengthened by the means of grace. These are the gospel ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But also prayer, Bible reading and study, the communion of the saints and other things prescribed and commended in the Word of truth. By these means, faith is not created, but it is increased and strengthened.

Greek Words

We will start our study of faith by first noting which words are used in the New Testament especially to denote faith and belief. The word faith or belief in our daily lives may be used in a lot of senses. We may say that we believe that someone is speaking the truth and mean that we have confidence. We may say, “I believe that I’ve read that book” when we actually mean that we “think we read that book.” We use it when we have confidence or trust in something without evidence. In secular eyes, faith is always connected with believing something without or contrary to evidence. But is this the nature of biblical faith? Before we answer that, we must take a survey of the Greek words and expressions used to denote faith, particularly in the New Testament.


The primary word in the New Testament for faith is the Greek noun πίστις (pistis, G4102). According to Joseph Henry Thayer, pistis primarily means the “conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it”[3]. According to my Bible software (TheWord), it is used 227x in the NA28. William D. Mounce says that 'pistis means “belief, trust, confidence,” though it can also mean “faithfulness.”’[4] If we may at the outset observe, the basic meaning of the word has to do with conviction, trust, reliance, and confidence. It has nothing to do with “faith without evidence.” Louis Berkhof observes:

In classical Greek. The word pistis has two meanings in classical Greek. It denotes: (a) a conviction based on confidence in a person and in his testimony, which as such is distinguished from knowledge resting on personal investigation; and (b) the confidence itself on which such a conviction rests. This is more than a mere intellectual conviction that a person is reliable; it presupposes a personal relation to the object of confidence, a going out of one’s self, to rest in another. The Greeks did not ordinarily use the word in this sense, to express their relation to the gods, since they regarded these as hostile to men, and therefore as objects of fear rather than of trust.[5]

Now let us observe the different uses of the noun pistis in the New Testament. First of all, there are a few instances in which it is used in a passive sense of faithfulness. This is the case in Romans 3:3 when Paul says, “Does [the Jews’] faithlessness [ἀπιστία, apistia] nullify the faithfulness ...

Hebrews 6:4-6, Apostasy and Calvinism

...or ages in God” means. In Eph 1:18 Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts may be “enlightened” whereby we “what is the hope to which he has called you.” This does not refer to conversion, rather it refers to us receiving more knowledge into the mystery of Christ. It is used in John 1:9 to speak of Christ being the light who “gives light” to everyone which definitely does not mean that He saves everyone without exception, but rather He gives light of knowledge. It’s use in Hebrews 10:32 does neither lend the idea that it is a technical term for saving faith or Regeneration. John Owen defines this word as “to give light or knowledge by teaching” and gives the following basis of this definition:

Φωτίζομαι, is “to give light or knowledge by teaching;” —  the same with הוֹרֶה, which, therefore, is so translated ofttimes by the Greeks; as by Aquila, Exo 4:12; Psa 119:33; Pro 4:4; Isa 27:11, as Drusius observes. And it is so by the LXX., Jdg 13:8; 2Ki 12:2; 2Ki 17:27. Our apostle useth it for “to make manifest;” that is, “bring to light,” 1Co 4:5, 2Ti 1:10. And the meaning of it, Joh 1:9, where we render it “lighteth,” is to teach. And φωτισμός is “knowledge upon instruction:” 2Co 4:4, Εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι αὐτοῖς τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, —  “That the light of the gospel should not shine into them;” that is, the knowledge of it. So 2Co 4:6, Πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως, —  “The light of the knowledge.” Wherefore to be “enlightened,” in this place, is to be instructed in the doctrine of the gospel, so as to have a spiritual apprehension thereof.[2]

The true believer is enlightened, but he is enlightened in a much deeper way through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, than the apostate through the outward teaching of God’s word and truth and the ministry of the Spirit. The enlightening of the believer leads to a changed life according to the truth with which he is enlightened. These apostates likewise had some kind of repentance and change of life obviously, having once lived with the people of God, they were not wild sinners and Christ rejecters as they became after their apostasy. Therefore, this enlightening, which is the knowledge they received through teaching did have some effect on them, but it did not have a lasting effect on them because it was not joined by faith neither was this knowledge worked into the believer’s life through the Holy Spirit. These apostates had merely natural knowledge of the things of God as they heard them within the congregation and not true and spiritual knowledge of them. John Owen observes that

“There is a knowledge of spiritual things that is purely natural and disciplinary, attainable and attained without any especial aid or assistance of the Holy Ghost. As this is evident in common experience, so especially among such as, casting themselves on the study of spiritual things, are yet utter strangers unto all spiritual gifts. Some knowledge of the Scripture, and the things contained in it, is attainable at the same rate of pains and study with that of any other art or science.”[2]

Some in the early church have connected this enlightening with baptism, which was called “illumination”, but I believe that this has little to do with the present passage as the Author does not make this connection and the use of “illumination” to refer to baptism came later in history.[3]

Concerning the word “once” Wayne Grudem says:

Similarly, the word once that is used to speak of those who “have once been enlig...

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

...h and this passage here. Although the word “New Covenant” is found nowhere in Ezekiel, it is inarguable that this passage speaks of the New Covenant. The Lord promises in this covenant to cleanse His people from their sins. He will sprinkle water (this is not about the mode of baptism...) upon them to cleanse them from their sins. This promise speaks of a spiritual cleansing like that for example in Titus 3:5 –

Titus 3:4-6 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of Regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 

In this passage, we can see how Paul has in mind the promise of the New Covenant in Ezekiel and the like. He speaks of washing and renewal of spirit by the Holy Spirit. Obviously, as Reformed believers, we do not believe that baptism causes our Regeneration, therefore this verse is speaking figuratively of our spiritual cleansing and not of our baptism. See also 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26, and chapter 29 on Baptism. The Lord will wash us and sprinkle cleansing water upon us to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and uncleanness. He will drive us away from our idols and will cause us to look upon Him as our only God. The Lord will give us a new heart, which will be able to obey Him and which is Regeneration. Indeed, Moses noted the cause of Israel’s frequent disobedience –

Deut. 29:2-4 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 3 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. 

The Lord had not given them a heart of flesh but left them to their natural heart of stone because the heart of flesh is the promise of the New Covenant and no other covenant. Like we noted, in Jeremiah, the New Covenant does not produce a mixed community, but a community of the elect believers alone. Moses looks forward to the promise of the new heart as a prophet in Deuteronomy 30:6 –

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This promise which Moses gave to the children of Israel finds its fulfillment in the New Covenant where God circumcises our heart and gives us a heart of flesh willing to do what He loves, rather than the heart of stone which does what He hates. Obedience to the first table of the Law and the summary thereof, which is loving God, follows from heart circumcision, which is the work of God the Spirit on the elect. The Lord will renew our nature, you could say He will re-create us, in fact, that is precisely what the New Testament says that He did in us who believe –

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Gal. 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

The Lord renewed our nature and gave us a new nature (heart), which desires to obey Him and do the things that He loves. We are no longer slaves to our sinful nature and our stony heart, we are slaves of righteousness (Rom. ...