The Staunch Calvinist

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


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...e God commands it. Notice carefully that our claim is that the specific day is a positive command, not the Sabbath as a whole!

A law or a commandment being positive moral law in no way diminishes the fact that it is binding and obligatory. Hopkins writes concerning the specific day that it “is from his positive will and command, and therefore is as binding and forcible as if it were a law of nature engraven on our hearts; unless the same authority alters it that did first enjoin it. For this being a positive law, is therefore good and necessary, because commanded.”[66] Robert Dabney writes that the worship of God should also have a public and corporate aspect of it, which necessitates a specific day:

That it is man’s duty to worship God, none will dispute. Nor will it be denied that this worship should be in part social; because man is a being of social affections, and subject to social obligations; and because one of the great ends of worship is the display of the Divine glory before our fellow creatures. Social worship cannot be conducted without the appointment of a stated day; and what more reasonable than that the Divine authority, who is the object of this worship, should meet this necessity, by Himself fixing the day for all mankind?[67]

There is nothing inherently (in and of itself) moral about the seventh or first days of the week. What makes one day moral and obligatory is the command of God. Now we move to the more controversial part concerning the nature of the Sabbath.

Moral Command

What does it mean that the Sabbath commandment is moral? It basically means that it is eternal and cannot be abrogated. This is the Confessional description: a positive moral, and perpetual commandment. A commandment that will not go away in its essence and is ever-binding. The day is a positive command as we’ve tried to explain, which can be changed if the Lord so pleases. But the essence of the Sabbath, which is rest and worship, is demanded by the law of nature and is binding upon all men. A lot of Christians in the present time, which profane the Sabbath Day, contend that the Sabbath is merely and essentially ceremonial and not moral. In this way, they justify the abrogation or “fulfillment” of the Sabbath under the New Covenant. It is essential to this viewpoint that they understand the Sabbath as merely a positive command given at Sinai, not as we tried to prove, an institution from the seventh day of the world.

Creation Ordinance

That the Sabbath is essentially moral (we don’t deny that there are ceremonial and temporary aspects more on which see below) is seen in the fact that it was instituted even before the Fall on the seventh day. It was “made for man” as our Lord taught us (Mark 2:27, see here). It was a gift from God given to Adam and to all his posterity, even before the Fall. Moreover, the Sabbath was moral in that it was based upon the Creator’s example. The Sabbath was instituted and based on what God did. Six days of work; seventh day of rest. Therefore, man was commanded to keep the Sabbath by following his Creator’s example. This is part of what it means to be in the Imago Dei. The words of Ezekiel Hopkins are very helpful here:

This declaration, if the will of God concerning the sanctification of the Sabbath is attended with a moral reason; and therefore is not merely and barely positive, as ceremonial laws are. The reason is, that God rested on the seventh day; and therefore we ought so to do…since piet...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

...o;[22] It is that kind of faith that most people in the western world have, who have been raised in a Christian environment. James, in rebutting those who claim faith without works, says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (Jas. 2:19). The mere belief of true facts is never saving. We must believe in these facts, but we must also believe that we have an interest in these facts. We are not saved because we believe that Christ died for sinners. We are saved because we place our hope in Christ Who died for our sin also. Robert Dabney lays out the differences between historical and saving faith out:

It is certainly true that historical faith does not believe all the propositions embraced by saving faith, nor the most important of them. Cat. que. 86. It believes, in a sense, that Christ is a Savior, but does it believe that all its best works are sins; that it is a helpless captive to ungodliness; that sin is, at this time, a thing utterly undesirable in itself for that person; and that it is at this moment, a thing altogether to be preferred, to be subdued unto holiness and obedience in Jesus Christ? No, indeed; the true creed of historical faith is that “I am a great sinner, but not utter; that I shall initiate a rebellion against ungodliness successfully some day, when the ‘convenient season’ comes, and I get my own consent. That the Christian’s impunity and inheritance will be a capital thing, when I come to die; but that at present, some form of sin and worldliness is the sweeter, and the Christian’s peculiar sanctity the more repulsive, thing for me.” Now, the only way to revolutionize these opinions, is to revolutionize the active, spiritual tastes, of whose verdicts they are the echo—to produce, in a word, spiritual tastes equally active in the opposite direction. We have hence shown that historical faith does not embrace the same propositions as saving; and that the difference is not merely one of stronger mental conviction. But we have shown that the difference is one of contrasted moral activities, dictating opposite opinions as to present spiritual good; and hence procuring action of the will to embrace that good in Christ (see also, 2 Thess. 2:10; Rom. 10:9-10).[23]

Miraculous Faith

By this, I mean the faith that is given by God to someone for performing a miracle. By this kind of faith, a person is enabled to be convinced that God is going to do something for or through them. This is the kind of faith that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:2. Albert Barnes comments that what Paul says here is “Though I should have the highest kind of faith. This is referred to by the Saviour Mat 17:20, as the highest kind of faith; and Paul here had this fact doubtless in his eye.”[19] Strong strangely classifies this kind of faith as the lowest form saying, “The special faith of miracles was not a high, but a low, form of faith, and it is not to be sought in our day as indispensable to the progress of the kingdom.”[22] He connects this with the cessation of miracles. But if we consider 1 Corinthians 13:2 and Matthew 17:20, this kind of faith seems to be a true faith, but not one common to all believers. This is also that “faith by the same Spirit” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:9. In 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul makes it clear that the Spirit “apportions to each one individually as he wills” and the purpose for the gifts of the Holy Spirit are “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). This means...

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


Chapter 19: Of the Law of God


What is the relationship between the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the gospel?

There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

Defining Our Terms

Natural Law

The Natural Law is the Law of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God (see here on the image of God). Natural Law may be discovered by reason and innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

Moral Law

The Moral Law, on the other hand, is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

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.[2]

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 De...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 30: Of the Lord's Supper - Commentary

...For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But “the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.” This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.[12]

In other words, the reason for the denial of the cup is not because it was commanded by Christ, but because the Catholic clergy thinks it appropriate, although the priests partake of both the bread and wine. Robert Dabney writes:

And our Saviour, as though foreseeing the abuse, in Mark 14:23, and Matt 26:27, has emphatically declared that all who eat are also to drink. This innovation of Rome is comparatively modern; being not more against the Word of God, than against the voice and usage of Christian antiquity. It presents one of the strongest examples of her insolent arrogance both towards her people and God. The true motive, doubtless, is, to exalt the priesthood into a superior caste.[13]

This practice has not a hint in Scripture. Christ says of the bread, “Take, eat; this is my body” and of the cup, “Drink of it, all of you” (Matt. 26:26-27). Denial of the cup to the faithful, for whatever reason not found in Holy Writ, is disobedience to Christ’s command.

Worshipping The Elements

Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.”[14]

The above statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our Confession denies. Since Roman Catholics believe that the host becomes the very body of Christ, they think it proper to render the worship of adoration to it, since they think that the bread becomes Christ’s body. But for those, going with Scripture Alone, and free of this superstitious sacramentalism, rendering any kind of worship or reverence to the bread and wine, is idolatry. What Rome does in their worship is idolatry because it is not in accordance with what Scripture teaches, but is built up by the wisdom of men. Christ is not present in the host itself, but is present to the faith of believers. Moreover, this is in direct contradiction and disobedience to the Second Commandment of our God. Oh wait, there is a reason which the Roman Catholic Church has added commandments one (Ex. 20:3) and two (Ex. 20:4-6) together, and split the tenth commandment (Ex. 20:17) in two, to have the number ten. If they would have the second commandment plainly, and follow it, they would stop with their idolatry in worshipping the host, their images, and statues in their churches. But they do not care about the Law of God, rather, they go on with their idolatrous and will-worship. Therefore, the procession of the bread, and laying it at home as a blessing, and other kinds of superstitious acts are contrary to the mind of Christ in giving us this ordinance. It is meant to be an ordinance that is celebrated in the company of the faithful.

§5 No Change In Substance And Nature

  1. The outward elements in this or...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

...he first church. The text goes on to say that “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). Their unity in attending the temple and praising God there, and eating and celebrating the Lord’s Supper in their homes, was certainly used by God to give them more growth in holiness. This holiness and change of nature were even seen by outsiders in that they had “favor with all the people.” Coupled to this, the text ends with “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Robert Dabney writes:

Worship is a sanctifying means, because the petitions there offered are the appointed medium for receiving grace; and because all the parts of worship give expression and exercise, and thus growth, to holy principles.[38]

A Christian cannot grow to mature holiness without the body of believers to which he is called by God. The stirring each other to good works, encouraging each other and meeting each other goes hand-in-hand in Hebrews 10:24-25. As we converse with our brothers and sisters, we hear about what the Lord is doing in their lives and that should arouse a response in our hearts either of rejoicing when celebrating victories or a call to prayer when they’re troubled in spirit.

The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper no doubt are means to further sanctification. While baptism is a one-time event, the Lord’s Supper is recurring. In the book of Acts, it is often spoken of in terms of breaking bread (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; cf. Luke 24:35). Both ordinances remind us of what Christ has done for us and His promise of renewal and complete forgiveness of sins. As we are united with Him in these ordinances, by faith we also grow more into His likeness.

Lastly, we may speak of the providences of God. By this, I mean personal experience with growth in holiness in favorable and adverse times. John Dagg lays it out beautifully:

Besides the word of truth, the dispensations of Providence are used by the Holy Spirit, as means of sanctification. Afflictions are often blessed to the spiritual good of God’s people. David says: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.” These afflictions are chastisements which our heavenly Father employs, to make us partakers of his holiness.” In themselves, afflictions have no sanctifying efficacy, and many who are tried by them, are incited to greater hatred of God; but the Holy Spirit accompanies them to the believer with a sanctifying power, and uses them to wean his affections from the world, and fix them on God. When outward things either cease to give him enjoyment, or produce positive grief and pain, he finds within him a source of happiness, in the exercise of faith and hope in God. Hence, in his darkest hours, as to worldly prosperity, the believer sometimes finds his prospects of heaven most clear, and his foretaste of future blessedness most delightful.[39]

As Dagg does, so we must observe that this is connected with God’s fatherly chastisement. This is beautifully laid out in Hebrews 12. The purpose of this chastisement is that “he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Dabney explains that the providence of God is not without the working of the Word and Spirit:

Last, God’s providences, both prosperous and adverse, are powerful means of sanctif...