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.
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 nat...
The light of nature or natural Revelation as we call it shows that there is a God, Who hath lordship and sovereignty over all (Rom. 1:19-23). That there is a God, no one will be able to deny when they stand before God. Both creation and the Creator testify to God. This is basic Romans 1. Furthermore, this God is just, good and doth good unto all (Ps. 145:9) as evidenced by the things which we have and receive. Therefore, He is to be worshiped and served with the whole of our being. Yet He is not to be worshiped as we like. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by Himself (Ex. 20:4-6; Deut. 4:2; 12:29-32). It is God Who determines how He is to be worshiped. This acceptable way is limited by His revealed will, i.e., Holy Scripture. The unacceptable way of worshipping God as according to the imagination and devices of men (Acts 17:29; Col. 2:23), the suggestions of Satan, visible representations (Ex. 20:4-6) and any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures (Lev. 10:1-3) is abominable to God and He is not pleased with it. God is not to be worshiped as we think He would like to be worship. Why should we think of ways of worshipping Him when He has revealed how He desires to be worshiped? Neither is He to be worshiped through or by any visible representations. This excludes all images and statues of the persons of the Godhead as well as the saints who according to Roman Catholic theology can act as intercessors between us and God/Jesus. The most important aspect of what is called the Regulative Principle of Worship is expressed in the last clause: any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. Not only is He to be worshiped according to His revealed will, but He is not to be worshiped through that which He has not revealed. If it is not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures, it should not be an element of His worship. If it is prescribed in the Holy Scriptures, it should.
Creation testifies to everyone without question that there is God. General Revelation is sufficient to reveal God to the world and to hold them accountable (see chapter 20). Everyone knows that there is a God. But not only that there is a God, but also that this is a God that must be worshiped. This explains the countless religions that have existed and still exist. It is all because of the Fall that we have a multitude of religions rather than only one. Romans 1 speaks about those who suppress the truth about God through idolatry. All religions in one way or another try to appease the god(s) and serve them. That is the sense that they get from General Revelation. There is a God to Whom they owe their existence and blessings, therefore they are to serve and love Him. But the Confession is quick to add the way in which the true God wants to be worshiped is instituted by Himself alone. To that now we turn our attention.
In the words of Derek Thomas, “the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions ...
This chapter concerns itself with the emphasis and necessity of special Revelation for salvation. This chapter is absent in the Westminster Confession, but it was taken from the Savoy Declaration of the Puritan Congregationalists. Concerning the historical background, Dr. Sam Waldron writes:
The contents of the chapter indicate that the error in view depreciated the necessity of the special Revelation contained in the Scriptures for salvation. A general knowledge of the period permits the educated guess that the Puritan authors had already sensed the intellectual tendency which would later produce Deism, with its emphasis on the sufficiency of human reason and natural Revelation and its opposition to supernatural Revelation and the distinctive tenets of Christianity. Such men wanted to establish a completely rational basis for the existence of God and morality. They disliked the idea that a special Revelation given only to some men was necessary to worship and serve God acceptably.
Against such men, the Confession asserts the necessity of special Revelation about God through the Gospel and Scripture for salvation. The Confession acknowledges the strength of natural Revelation, but natural Revelation is not enough for salvation, yet it is enough for condemnation. The Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit are necessary for salvation. This chapter concerns itself less with “what” the Gospel is than to confess the necessity of special Revelation over against those who would reject special Revelation and claim that they can come to salvation merely through natural Revelation.
The covenant of works given to Adam was broken by sin and thereby made unprofitable unto life (see also chapter 6:1). Now it only administers its curse—death. Therefore, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ (Gen. 3:15; Eph. 2:12) as He had purposed to save the elect by Christ from eternity. In this promise of Christ, the gospel was revealed as the means of calling the elect (Gal. 3:8; Luke 2:25, 38). As the gospel was revealed in this promise, God worked to beget in the elect faith and repentance so that they would embrace this promise, which was effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners (Gal. 3:15-22 ). This promise of Christ was essentially or in substance the promise of the gospel and salvation, which is what Christ accomplished on behalf of the elect.
Salvation was always through Christ, whether people were consciously aware of that or not. They were also saved by faith alone and by not works. By reading the Old Testament and seeing the absence of the cross, we may have thought that salvation was by works and not grace under the Old Testament, but now, in the New Testament era, it is by grace. This is completely false and a grave mistake. Salvation has always been by grace. The reason th...
From these definitions, we observe that a covenant seeks to bring man to a better state of existence or being. It doesn't seek to leave man in the place he was prior to the covenant. Dr. Richard Barcellos observes:
Think of the Noahic covenant. Prior to its Revelation as found in Genesis 6-9, the earth was potentially subject to a universal flood due to the justice of God being executed on the earth against the wickedness of man. We know this for certain because that is exactly what happened. The Noahic covenant, which includes man (Noah and his descendants), also involves every living creature (Genesis 9:9-10, 15, 16). It embraces and benefits the earth as well (Genesis 8:22...Genesis 9:13...Jeremiah 33:20, 50...). That divine covenants are revealed to man for "the advancing and bettering of his state" [Nehemiah Coxe] can also be said of all other divine covenants with man throughout the Bible. Abraham (along with his carnal and spiritual seed) was better off for the covenant revealed to him. The Israelites were better off for the covenant revealed to them. It promised them blessings from God that were not promised to them prior to its promulgation. David and the Israelites were better off for the covenant revealed to them, and believers of all ages are much better off for the Revelation of the new covenant in its promissory form in the Old Testament and in its concluded, or historically ratified, form in the New Testament.
Nehemiah Coxe writes:
The immediate and direct end therefore, of God’s entering into covenant with man at any time (so far as concerns man himself) is the advancing and bettering of his state. God never made a covenant with man in which his goodness to him was not abundantly manifest. Yes, such is his infinite bounty that he has proposed no lower end to his covenant transactions with men than to bring them into a blessed state in the eternal enjoyment of himself. And therefore, when one covenant (through the weakness of man in his lapsed state) has been found weak and unprofitable as to this great end of a covenant because insufficient to accomplish it, God finds fault, abolishes it, and introduces another in which full provision is made for the perfect salvation of those that have interest in it (Hebrews 8:7, 8).
Now that we know what a covenant is, let us delve into the covenants of which the Bible speaks.
We begin our study of the covenants with the Covenant of Works because that is the way our Confession starts this chapter. Some may be searching for the phrase "Covenant of Works" in paragraph 1 or the whole chapter. You won't find it. But that does not mean that the concept of the Covenant of Works is not here. A few reasons may be given as to why the Confession does not use the phrase "covenant of works" in this chapter, while the sister confessions do. First of all, if we compare the title of the chapter, in the Westminster and Savoy confessions we have "Of God's Covenant with Man", while in the 1689 we have "Of God's Covenant." The 1689 focuses on the Revelation and establishment of the Covenant of Grace, while the others treat God's covenants from the beginning and not only focusing upon the Covenant of Grace. The 1689 "concentrates on the covenant of grace and either assumes or implies t...
specifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by Revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.
And then Dr. Barcellos adds:
As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalogue had a unique redemptive-historical context and use, it is nothing other than the Natural Law incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant. This is one of its uses in the Bible but not all of its uses.
The Decalogue contains the summary and the essence of the Moral Law, but it does not contain all the moral laws. For example, there is no “thou shalt respect elders”, but we understand that this is comprehended under the fifth commandment to honor our parents, and derived from it.
Positive Law simply said is a moral law which has no basis in nature nor is it self-evident, but is based upon a commandment of God. Dr. Barcellos defines positive laws as:
Positive laws are those laws added to the Natural or Moral Law. They are dependent upon the will of God. These laws are “good because God commands them.” They become just because commanded. The first Positive Laws were given to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 1:28; 2:17), as far as we know. Subsequent Positive Laws are spread throughout the Old and New Testaments. Positive laws can be abrogated for various reasons. They are not necessarily universal or perpetual. Some obvious illustrations of Positive Law in the Old Testament are circumcision and animal sacrifices and two New Testament illustrations are baptism and the Lord’s Supper under the New Covenant...Neither circumcision, animal sacrifices, baptism, or the Lord’s Supper are either universal or perpetual.
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, ...
This book lays out the classic view of Amillennialism which is Dean Davis believes (as others also do) is the classic eschatology of Church History and the Reformation.
The word amillennialism means no millennium. However, amillennarians do not deny the existence of a millennium, only that it begins after the Parousia and that it will last for a literal thousand years. Instead, they teach that the thousand years of Revelation 20 symbolize the present Era of Proclamation, during which time Christ reigns with (the departed spirits of) his saints in heaven. Amillennarians are, then, “present-millennarians.” Pages 23-24
Basically, Amillennialism teaches that the Millennium of Revelation 20 started from the cross and will end at the Second Coming of our Lord, spanning over 2 millennia up till now and is thus to be interpreted symbolically, rather than literally. The Millennium is the Gospel Era, or as Dean likes to call it, the Era of Proclamation.
This is a simple chart laying out the Amillennial vision of Salvation History.
One of the very ups of this book was the extensive study of the Kingdom of God in the New and Old Testaments. My understanding of the Kingdom of God was really expanded.
Dean Davis defines the Kingdom of God as:
In essence, the Kingdom of God is the direct reign of God the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, over his redeemed creatures; creatures who have been rescued from every spiritual and physical enemy, and restored to every spiritual and physical friend that God planned for them in the beginning. Also, the Kingdom is the blessed realm that this redemptive reign creates, and over which it forever rules. Page 65.
This he does not merely assume, but ably goes to prove it from the Bible, here is a summary of his five points:
Thereby is indeed the definition that he gives is justified and satisfactory.
Amillennarians see the Kingdom of God coming in two stages, separated by the Parousia of our Lord:
Now, the terminology used here is not meant to give the idea that the Son has no share in the second stage of the Kingdom or that the Father has no share in the first, but rather is taken from 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 where we learn that at the Coming of our Lord, the Lord Jesus will deliver His Kingdom, His consummated Kingdom to God the Father and will be subjected to Him. Thus, seeing a difference between the present Kingdom of the Son (which is to be delivered up to the Father) and the coming Kingdom of the Father (which is the eternal World to Come). This terminology is also supported by Matthew 13:41-43.
The two-staged Kingdom is seen from Jesus’ own contrast of this present age and the age to come. Here is a table I made for myself: ...
Returning to our passage in Acts 17:31, we see the subjects of this judgment being the world. Scripture teaches that both believer and unbeliever will appear before God in the Last Judgment. This is evident from Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 7:21-23; 12:36-37; 25:31ff; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:6-16; 14:10-12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 11:18; 21:11-15. Sometimes Scripture is so explicit that it refers to believers having to stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom. 14:10-12; 1Cor. 4:5; 2Cor. 5:10; Ps. 50:4-6). Other times, the Scriptures warns of the judgment against the wicked (Matt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; 2Pet. 2:9; 3:7), but they both will stand before the throne of God on the last day, that is what Scripture teaches. Not only men, but angels also will come into the Judgment (Matt. 8:29; 1Cor. 6:3; 2Cor. 2:4; Jude 1:6).
The Confession states that even the apostate angels will be judged. This is a Day of Judgment not only for men but also for angels. This is obviously based on Scripture. In Matthew 8:29, we read the demon speaking about a time in which he, along with his companions, will be tormented. In Jude 1:6, we read that “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority”, God “has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day”. In 2 Peter 2:4, says that “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment”. There is a time at which these angels will have to stand before the throne of Christ to be judged and condemned. Finally, 1 Corinthians 6:3 says, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” There are a lot of questions and speculations about this passage and the idea. Who are meant by the angels? Are good angels also included? Then this would probably be the only passage where good angels are subjects of judgment. Are they fallen angels? Then this will agree with other passages (2Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6), therefore, it seems to me that the passage is speaking of fallen angels. But I cannot be dogmatic because generally the word "angel" is used positively. In other places where it means fallen angels, the context makes that clear (2Pet. 2:4 “angels when they sinned”; Jude 1:6 “angels who did not stay within their own position”). Therefore, I believe the NT is not clear whether good angels will be subjects for the judgment, although I doubt that they will be, but it is clear that fallen angels surely will.
What is the nature of this judgment? There are a lot of questions about this, but there is also a lot of speculation as Scripture does not seem to say how exactly the saints will judge angels. Most seem to think that this judgment will consist in approving the judgments of God made against the fallen angels and the wicked.
The Bible also teaches that the Last Judgment will take place at the coming of Christ, on the last day, that is the only time indication that the Bible gives (Matt. 24:36). 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 tells that we will be granted relief when “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels” (v. 7), ...
Christ the Lord, through His obedience, redemption work, death and indestructible life is seated at the right hand of God, the hand of power and might (Matt. 26:64). All other authorities on the earth derive their authority from God (Rom. 13:1ff; Dan. 2:21). The Lord Jesus, the Lord of glory, is seated, i.e., in the position of ruling and resting from His completed work of redemption, above all the authorities that are in the world. He is above them and moreover, He rules over them. Revelation 1:5 describes Him as “the ruler of kings on earth.” He is above everything that is created and everything that is feared and esteemed in this world by mortal men. The Father has put on display the everlasting love He has for His Son by putting everything under His feet to do with it as He pleases and carry out God's eternal decree.
Now we come to our word κεφαλή (kephale) in v. 22. In the previous verses we read of Christ being head of the church, but here we read that He is head over all things to the church, for the sake of the church. Indeed, this confirms His promise that He is with us and we are not fear in the discipling of the nations, because first of all, He has all rule and authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18-20). He is given to us as head over all authority, for our sake and for the good of His body, the Church. He is head, supreme, chief and prominent over all the world and everything that is created and exists. He is head over the ungodly world even as He is head over His body, the Church, and He exercises His sovereign reign for the sake of His church and His glory.
Heb. 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
The Lord Christ is the heir to all that He has created as the first chapter goes on to demonstrate the full deity and creatorship of the Lord Jesus. But how is He heir? Well, the verse tells us. By the fact that He is the “Son” of God. Because an heir is a “person who inherits or is entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit the estate of another.” He is an heir by right also since He was involved in the creation of the world. In fact, He was the Agent of creation. As John tells us:
John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
He is the heir of the creation that He has made. As we have seen above, the Lord Jesus is the head of the all rule and authority, supreme and sovereign over all the cosmos which He created. He already owns everything and is ruler of everything, but this I believe refers to the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise (Rom. 4:13), fulfilled by the One to Whom the promises were given (Gal. 3:16). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on Whole Bible says the following concerning Christ’s heirship:
His heirship follows His sonship, and preceded His making the worlds (Pro 8:22-23; Eph 3:11). As the first begotten, He is heir of the universe (Heb 1:6), which He made instrumentally, Heb 11:3, where "by the word of God" answers to "by whom" (the Son of God) here (Joh 1:3). Christ was "appointed" (in God's eternal counsel) to creation as an office; the universe so created was assigned to Him as a kingdom. He is "heir of all things" by right of creation, and especially by redemption. ...
Job 7:11-12 describes this doctrine: “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? 8 It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?” There are hundreds of mysteries about God which we do not know and do not comprehend. Even things which we know about Him from special Revelation, we do not fully comprehend. How is it that a being can exist without a beginning? What is eternity exactly? It is difficult for us to understand because these things fall outside of our experience. Even when thinking about God and when God speaks to us in Scripture, He condescends to speak in a way that we would understand. Thus He speaks of Himself being a father, a husband, a friend, and so on. Using things from the natural world which we know, so that we would comprehend Him a little bit. Paul breaks forth in praise, saying: ‘“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen’ (Rom. 11:34-36). The incomprehensibility of God is implied when Paul speaks about “the depths of God” which the Spirit searches and understands (1Cor. 2:10). Wayne Grudem writes:
It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully.
Yet obviously, even though we cannot fully understand anything about God, yet we understand several things which God has revealed to us in general and special Revelation about Himself. But all the things which we know are the “outskirts of his ways” and a small “whisper do we hear of him” (Job 26:14).
Although this heading properly belongs to the Infinity of God, yet since I want to give a longer treatment of this subject, I chose to include it under a separate heading. The immutability of God is the doctrine that God never changes His mind. The word immutable means “not capable or susceptible of change; unchangeable; unalterable.” This doctrine is closely connected with the absolute sovereignty of God and His perfect knowledge of all things. Since God is perfect and infinite in all His attributes, including His knowledge, therefore, He cannot change His mind. Contrary to some Open Theist claims, this is not a limitation or a weakness in God, but a perfection. To say that God truly and literally ch...