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The Staunch Calvinist

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


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper - Commentary

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Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

What does it mean that the ordinances are positive institution? What is the difference between the Reformed and Roman Catholic understanding of the Sacraments? Who may administer the ordinances?

§1 Ordinances Of Positive And Sovereign Institution

  1. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. 2
    1. Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25[1]
    2. Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:13-17; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Cor. 11:26; Luke 22:14-20

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances and commandments of positive and sovereign institution. They have been instituted and commanded by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver and are, therefore, to be obeyed and continued in His church to the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:26). What does it mean that the ordinances are of positive and sovereign institution? It means that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are moral commandments which are added to the moral law already existing. They are not things which of themselves are moral, but they are moral because they have been instituted and appointed by the Lord Jesus. They are given to us as a law, which the Lord Jesus Christ, by His power and authority as Head, King and Lawgiver of the church has instituted. Finally, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only ordinances under the New Covenant which the Confession speaks about. Christ has given us only to ordinances which we ought to obey, not seven Sacraments according to Roman Catholic teaching.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two ordinances or Sacraments which the Lord Jesus by sovereign authority instituted and commanded us to observe. Now, what does the word “positive” mean in the sentence “positive and sovereign institution”? Does it mean something that is happy and good, over against something negative and bad? No, that is not the contextual meaning of the word. Rather, by “positive institution” or “positive command,” the Confession means an institution or a command that is not inherently moral. A person who has not read the Bible or heard of the God of the Bible, still knows that murder is wrong and lying is bad. But, can it be argued that they know that not being baptized is sin and not partaking of the Lord’s Supper is sin? Obviously not. So, these things, just like the command of Genesis 2:16-17 in the Garden, are things which are not inherently moral, but become moral when God commands them. They are things that are good because commanded, in contrast to pure moral laws that are commanded because they are good. The Lord Christ, by His own power and authority, established two ordinances for the New Covenant people of God. But, what do we mean by ordinance or sacrament? A.H. Strong writes, “By the ordinances, we mean those outward rites which Christ has appointed to be administered in his church as visible signs of the saving truth of the gospel. They are signs, in that they vividly express this truth and confirm it to the believer.”[2] They are the only visible signs which God has given His people to show the truths of the gospel with. He has not allowed us to use images of any of the blessed Persons of the Trinity (see here), but has given us the bread and wine, and the waters of baptism as signs which symbolize the truths of the gospel.

These ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...rch, by regeneration and by the Holy Spirit’s work (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:13). But entrance to the local or visible church is by profession of faith and baptism, which is a sign of new life. Louis Berkhof beautifully expresses this: 

The invisible Church naturally assumes a visible form. Just as the human soul is adapted to a body and expresses itself through the body, so the invisible Church, consisting, not of mere souls but of human beings having souls and bodies, necessarily assumes a visible form in an external organization through which it expresses itself. The Church becomes visible in Christian profession and conduct, in the ministry of the Word and of the Sacraments, and in external organization and government.[15]

The two ways of seeing the church, invisible and visible, do not speak of two churches. Christ has one church for whom He gave His life (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 5:25). Ideally, only those who belong to the invisible church should be members of the visible church. Since the universal church consists of born-again, Spirit-indwelt, united-to-Christ believers, why should its visible manifestation be any other? But we’ve said over and over again that the invisible church is the church as God infallibly sees it. God has not granted us the gift of infallibility. Therefore, how are we to know who should belong to a visible or local church and who should not? Does it matter to God? To ask such a question is to answer it. It is a ridiculous question which assumes that God does not care about that which He has spoken about in His Word. The majority of the Epistles in the New Testament were addressed to visible, definite, and local churches. They were not written to some heavenly church. They were not written to the universal church although they certainly were written for it. They are addressed to visible churches in the Roman world. How are these people addressed?

The church at Rome is described as:

  • “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7).
  • Their “faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Rom. 1:8).

The church at Corinth is described as:

  • “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2).
  • They are being supplied “so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7-8).
  • They are described as coming “together as a church” (1 Cor. 11:18; 14:23).

The church at Ephesus is described as:

  • “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).
  • They are blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”, they are chosen and predestined to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:3-6).

The church at Philippi is described as:

  • The Epistle is addressed “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).
  • They were partners with Paul in the gospel since day 1 (Phil. 1:5).
  • They are assured that God will bring His work in them “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

We could go on, but we will not. While these churches were not perfect, they are still addressed as congregations of true believers. Notice the way in which they are addressed in the letters. They are said to be sain...

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

...nk and praise the Lord for what Jesus did for us on the cross.

The Roman Catholic View

The Mass is the heart of the Roman Catholic religion and liturgy, by their admission. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the following designation for the Lord’s Supper:

The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of Sacraments; the Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.[5]

Therefore, if their doctrine of the Mass and the Eucharist (as they most often call it) is proven wrong, their whole religion and worship are proven wrong. The Eucharist is the center of Roman Catholic worship, therefore, if someone wants to refute Roman Catholicism, it is necessary for them to deal with this sacrament as Roman Catholics understand it. Roman Catholics understand that the Eucharist is not only a memorial, but it is actually an unbloody sacrifice. They believe that the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood when the priest speaks the words “this is my body” (Latin: Hoc est corpus meum). Although the bread still tastes like bread and the wine tastes like wine, yet in actuality, there is a change in the substance of the bread and wine. Thus, the doctrine of Transubstantiation (see paragraph 6 below), which means the change of the substance from one to another. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).[6]

At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread....” “He took the cup filled with wine....” the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the “work of human hands,” but above all as “fruit of the earth” and “of the vine” - gifts of the Creator. the Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who “brought out bread and wine,” a prefiguring of her own offering.[7]

Thus, as the bread and wine change into the substance of Christ’s body, the priest offers the sacrifice of Christ anew, although in an unbloody manner, through which the people receive remission of sins. In other words, this sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory and is repeated. So, instead of the Lord’s Supper being merely a memorial of that once for all sacrifice, it is actually a propitiatory sacrifice of Christ in an unbloody manner again and again. What is even worse, this propitiatory sacrifice is not only offered on behalf of those living and partaking of the Eucharist but also on behalf of the dead in Purgatory. The Catechism again:

As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also...

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

...p? How long should the sermon be? How long should the service be? How many songs do we sing? How often should the Lord’s Supper be administered? These are circumstances of worship, not elements or parts. Concerning the elements of worship, Tim Challies writes:

Said simply, the elements of worship are the “what” of worship - the parts that are fixed according to Scripture. Examining the New Testament will show the elements that are permitted and commanded by Scripture. These include reading Scripture, prayer, singing, preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper.[20]

We will discuss the elements of worship in paragraph 5 of this chapter. The elements or parts of worship is what worship is. The elements of worship define the corporate worship of Christ’s Church. They are the essence. On the other hand, the circumstances of worship, Challies writes:

The circumstances of worship are the “how” of worship - the conditions that determine the best way to worship God within the structure provided by the elements…The Directory of Worship for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church states, “The Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed no fixed forms for public worship but, in the interest of life and power in worship, has given his church a large measure of liberty in this matter.” While there is little freedom in the elements of worship, there is great freedom within them according to circumstances. However, as with every area of life, this freedom must be exercised cautiously and in a way consistent with Scripture.[20]

The circumstances of worship are those things that we could do without. While on the other hand, the elements or parts of worship are the things that we could not do without. If prayer or preaching is removed from the service, then an element and not a circumstance of worship is removed. But if, for example, the service starts at 12 o’clock instead of 10 o’clock, or a church decides to no longer use the beamer, then there is no change in the elements of worship, but merely the circumstances. Derek Thomas observes:

Thus, the regulative principle as such may not be invoked to determine whether contemporary or traditional songs are employed, whether three verses or three chapters of Scripture are read, whether one long prayer or several short prayers are made, or whether a single cup or individual cups with real wine or grape juice are utilized at the Lord’s Supper. To all of these issues, the principle “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) must be applied.[2]

It is in the circumstances where the most differences are found in those churches which hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship.

Who Can Worship God Perfectly?

Christ the Lord was the only Man who has worshiped God perfectly “in spirit and truth.” We all fall miserably short. God demands perfect worship, but we are unable to give God His due. Like all His Ten Commandments, no one can keep them perfectly, because they do not merely concern outward things, but they deal with the heart. Therefore, the Regulative Principle should drive us to the Lord Jesus and we should beseech Him to teach us through His Word and Spirit about how we ought to worship the Triune God “in spirit and truth.” We should pray that we may be further sanctified to worship God more truthfully. Even those who hold to the Regulative Principle are able to sin in not worshipping God truly with their heart. The elements and parts of worsh...

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


We conclude with Q&A 108 and 109 of the WLC:[15]

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the Sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

The Third Commandment

Exod. 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

See also Deut. 5:11.

General Observations On The 3rd Commandment

The third commandment calls upon us to not dishonor God and the things of God. We understand that by the “name of the LORD” is not simply meant the tetragrammaton (יהוה), but rather more fully—God and the things belonging to Him. Any shallow Bible reader will understand that in the Bible names are important. They are not merely there because they sound nice, but they have meaning. A name is not merely a designation but points to the nature and person himself. For example, in the Great Commission, our Lord says that the disciples should be baptized in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The singular “name” here of the three persons of the Trinity refers to their unity and common Being. It refers to Their nature, character, and authority. Likewise in the third commandment, the Name which is not to be blasphemed and not to be used irreverently does not merely refer to words like “God”, “Jesus”, “Holy Spirit”, “Yahweh” or “OMG”, but rather it refers to all things pertaining to God. In Exodus 34:5-7, God came down to Moses and “proclaimed the name of the LORD.” But how did God do that? Verses 6-7 tell us—by proclaiming His excellences and attributes.

The third commandment forbids and says that God abhors “all profaning and abusing of any thing whereby God makes Himself known”[24] (Keach’s Catechism, Q&A 61). This includes speaking disrespectfully of God and of the things of God, not taking God seriously...

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

...bove to my exegesis of the text. See also chapter 29 on this question.

As for the sign or signs of the covenant, I argue in chapter 29 that the signs of the New Covenant are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Circumcision is not replaced by baptism, rather, circumcision is fulfilled by the circumcision of the heart. Need I mention, that therefore, only those in the New Covenant are entitled to the Covenant Sacraments and promises?


I actually enjoyed this study of Covenant Theology that took me something like a month or more to finish writing [aside from later repeatedly updating it]. I had to revisit a lot of books that I’ve read on Baptist Covenant Theology to check how things were. I tried to use the Scriptures and explain the Scriptures as much as possible since I believe that often with the study of Covenant Theology, I do not hear much Scripture but names of men who have stood on both sides (Westminster and 1689). While that is great and encouraging, I wanted to focus more on the Scripture. Not to deny that I’ve benefited a lot from reading Owen obviously and made me stronger 1689 Federalist than I was beginning this study.

What sets 1689 Federalism apart is our insistence that the Covenant of Grace was not established, enacted and “cut” at any time before the death of Christ. The Covenant of Grace did indeed exist since Genesis 3:15, but it did exist in the form of a promise, not an established covenant. Every covenant of God did shadow and typify it and contained promises concerning it, but was not an administration of it. The Covenant of Grace was established, ratified, enacted and “cut” in the blood of Christ and in the New Covenant. We believe that the Covenant of Grace was established and cut in the New Covenant, thus, the Covenant of Grace is the retroactive New Covenant. Lastly, this is a diagram is from Pascal Denault’s work which represents the 1689 Federalist understanding of the Covenant of Grace as being revealed by farther steps but was concluded and established in the New Covenant/Testament.

1689 Federalist Covenant Theology Diagram


“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

(Jeremiah 31:31)



  1. ^ Many Scriptural references have been supplied by Samuel Waldron’s Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which was apparently supplied by the Westminster Confession of Faith 1646.
  2. ^ Wikipedia. Covenant Theology
  3. ^ Theopedia. Covenant
  4. ^ Nehemiah Coxe in Nehemiah Coxe & John Owen. Covenant Theology: From Adam To Christ. Edited by Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, Francisco Orozco. (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005). p. 36.
  5. ^ As cited in Jeffrey D. Johnson, “The Fatal Flaw of Infant Baptism: The Dichotomous Nature of the Abrahamic Covenant” in Recovering A Covenantal Heritage: Essays In Baptist Covenant Theology. Edited by Richard C. Barcellos. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2014). p. 230, n. 10
  6. ^ Arthur W. Pink. The Divine Covenants. (Memphis, TN: Bottom of the Hill Publishing, 2011). p. 26.
  7. ^ Richard C. Barcellos. Getting the Garden Right: Adam’s Work and God’s Rest in Light of Christ. (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2017). pp. 56-66.
  8. ^ Coxe, Covenant Theology. pp. 36-37.
  9. ^ Richard Barcellos. The Covenant of Works: Its Confessional and Scriptural Basis. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2016). p. 53.
  10. ^ Pascal Denault. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Parti...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

...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 [us] up”. Where would we find the will of God except in the Word of God through which we are made more like Christ? God sanctifies us through His Spirit and the Word which He inspired humans to write down as the rule of all faith and practice. We grow in grace as we grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

...quo;s mind; and that if he have a saving knowledge of this, but be ignorant of all the rest of the gospel, he may still be saved by believing this. The evidences are, that the gospel is so often spoken of as the object of faith; [but this is about Christ]; e. g., Mark 16:15-16; Eph. 1:13; Mark 1:15; Rom. 1:16, 17; et passim. That believing on Christ is so often mentioned as the sole condition, and that, to men who must probably have been ignorant of many heads of divinity; e. g., Acts 16:31; John 3:18; 6:40; Rom. 10:9, etc. The same thing may be argued from the experiences of Bible saints) who represent themselves as fixing their eyes specially on Christ. 1 Tim. 1:15, etc., and from the two Sacraments of faith, which point immediately to Jesus Christ. Still, this special faith is, in its habitus, a principle of hearty consent to all God’s holy truth, as fast as it is apprehended as His. Faith embraces Christ substantially in all His offices.[31]

The Elements of Saving Faith

Theologians generally speak about three aspects of saving faith: knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia).


Faith has an intellectual element, which is called notitia in Latin. Our faith is based on truth. Christian faith is not wishful thinking. It is not believing contrary to evidence. It is believing because of evidence. That saving faith contains the element of knowledge may be seen in the constructions of pisteuo with hoti, which we surveyed above (see here). So, we believe that God made everything out of nothing (Heb. 11:3). We believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). We believe the truth about the Lord Jesus, that He is divine (e.g. John 8:24); that He is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 11:27); that by believing in His Name we have salvation (John 20:31). Just as we died with Christ in His death, so we will rise to newness of life in Him and live in Him (Rom. 6:8). But does this alone qualify as saving faith? Not so. For the demons believe and they shudder (Jas. 2:19)! Who, do you think, has more knowledge about God, a human or the devil? Yet can we say that the devil has saving faith? No. Knowing facts about God or salvation is never enough. But that knowledge is necessary, is very clear because saving faith is explicitly set in Christ and in Him alone. Knowledge alone does not lead to action. For example, Romans 1:32 says, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Paul rhetorically asks:

Rom. 10:13-14 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 

This does not only show the necessity for the explicit proclamation of the gospel but also that people must know in Him they should believe. This requires that they know about Him. Dr. John Frame explains:

Knowledge in this context is simply a knowledge of God’s revelation, either special or general (Rom. 1:32; 10:14). It is a knowledge about God, not a personal knowledge, or friendship, with God. Nor is it a knowledge that the revelation is true. Rather, it’s simply a knowledge of what the revelation says.[32]

That this aspect is necessary for saving faith is explained by Robert Dabney:

The Bible agrees to t...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...th Christ our Lord, because of His resurrection and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit. What is also signified by water baptism is the cleansing of sins. It is not the water, but the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin. But we are to go into the water to publicly identify with our Lord and show the spiritual realities in the physical, divine ordinance of water baptism. We identify with our Lord and we profess our faith and allegiance to Him.

Signs And Seal Of The Covenant

It is said in the Westminster Confession 28:1 that baptism is “a sign and seal of the covenant of grace” and in 27:1 that the “Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace.” The 1689 omits these two things in its respective chapters, but does this entail a denial and rejection of these things? I believe that it does entail a denial of some aspects, but not an entire denial. Baptists reject that baptism functions as a seal of the Covenant of Grace, rather, it is the Holy Spirit Who is said to be the seal on believers in the New Testament. The same is true for the Lord’s Supper; it is not a seal of the New Covenant, but the Holy Spirit is the seal. But we do believe that the holy ordinances do function as signs of the New Covenant.

In 1689 Federalist understanding, the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant before it was formally established in the blood of Christ. In contrast, Westminster Federalism teaches that the New Covenant is the last and final administration of the Covenant of Grace. Westminster Federalism teaches that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic covenants were administrations of the Covenant of Grace. But the Covenant of Grace reaches its final administration and revelation in the New Covenant. But we, 1689 Federalists, deny this. We believe rather that the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace was revealed in these covenants and the blessings thereof given to the elect, but not because of the covenant they found themselves in, but because they believed the promise. We believe that the Covenant of Grace, prior to the cross, existed in promise form, and not an established covenant. As John Owen said, “Believers were saved under it [the Mosaic Covenant], but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.”[24] See more on 1689 Federalism and the case for it in chapter 7.


What do we actually mean by a sign and a seal? A sign is something visible which points to inward and spiritual realities. The rainbow was the visible sign of the Noahic Covenant, it functioned as a token (“Something serving as an indication, proof, or expression of something else”[25]) that God will not destroy the earth by water again (Gen. 9:13-17). Circumcision functioned as a visible sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, which symbolized the need to be cleansed from sin through blood-spilling. For Abraham, it was a sign and a seal of the faith which he had prior to circumcision (Rom. 4:11). The Sabbath functioned as a visible sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It functioned as a sign that God had set His people apart (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). There is no sign mentioned in connection with the Davidic or the New Covenant explicitly. But the throne would probably fit as a visible sign for David that he will always have someone from his posterity to sit on it and rule over Israel. As for the New Covenant, we only have two “positive and sovereign institution[s]” (28:1). I admit from the start that ...