The Staunch Calvinist

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


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary


Chapter 11: Of Justification

Now we come to the great biblical and Protestant doctrine of justification. Calvin said that “Justification is the main hinge on which salvation turns.” There is no salvation without a proper understanding of justification. This is not a secondary issue, it is a foremost essential of true and biblical Christianity. It is one of the things which separates confessional Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. There will be a lot of things which I will point the interested reader to previous chapters, rather than expound again here.

§1 Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth

  1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God. 4
    1. Rom. 8:30; 3:24[1]
    2. Rom. 4:5-8; Eph. 1:7
    3. 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 5:17-19
    4. 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Titus 3:5, 7; Rom. 3:22-28; Jer. 23:6; Phil. 3:9; Acts 13:38-39; Eph. 2:7-9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1

Those whom God has predestined He effectually calleth (chapter 10) and He also freely justifieth (Rom. 8:30). In this chapter, the Confession is setting forth the biblical doctrine of justification as well as countering the doctrine of justification as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. This justification is not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous...for Christ’s sake alone (Rom. 4:5-8; Eph. 1:7). God does not mix righteousness in us, but puts the righteousness of Christ into our account and counts it as our own. It is on this basis alone that we are righteous before God. Faith and obedience are not our righteousness, but our righteousness comes from Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in His death (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; chapter 8:5). We stand in this righteousness by faith, but even this faith is not of themselves but is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9; see also chapter 14:1). Therefore, even the condition for our justification and life with God was provided by God. This is the glory and greatness of the New Covenant of Grace in which we stand and have our relationship with God. All the requirements of the covenant are provided by God through His Spirit based on Christ’s work and obedience.

Now that we’ve dealt with the first three things in Romans 8:29-30, namely God (1) foreknowing us and (2) electing us (chapter 3) and (3) effectually calling us (chapter 10), we come to the 4th point in the five-pointed chain—justification. What is justification? Dr. Wayne Grudem defines it in this way:

Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.[2]

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 ba...

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


and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them; being constrained by the love of God; influenced by the grace of Christ; and strengthened by the blessed Spirit: and such persons observe and do them willingly and cheerfully; from a principle of love; in faith, and to the glory of God; without any mercenary and selfish views; without trusting to, and depending upon, what is done for salvation.[8]

Christ Does Not Dissolve, But Strengthens Our Obligation To Obey

The Confession claims that Sola Fide and Sola Gratia are, in fact, compatible with law-keeping. Contrary to the claim of some, Christ did not free us from obedience to the moral law but rather strengthened our obligation to render obedience. How exactly did Christ do that? Central to this discussion is Matthew 5:17-19, to which we turn our attention now.

Matthew 5:17-19

Matt. 5:15-17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

What Are The Law Or The Prophets?

Either anticipating what He will teach or on the basis of what He had taught before delivering the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Christ warns His listeners not to think that He has come to nullify the Old Testament Scriptures, but rather to fulfill them. Crucial to this text is the understanding of the word " fulfill”, which we will turn our attention to in a few moments. But first, let us identify what is meant by “the Law and the Prophets.”

I believe that the phrase refers to the Old Testament as a whole and not to the Decalogue or the Law of Moses particularly. The phrase occurs in Matt 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; 22:40; Luke 16:16; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom 3:21. The clearest proof that this refers to the Old Testament is I believe in Luke 16:16 where Abraham says to the man in Hades that his family has “[T]he Law and the Prophets”, meaning that they have the Word of God in their hands. Or, what Paul testifies before Felix that he believes “everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets” (Luke 24:14), by which he means that he believes the whole Bible (as he knew it, before the completion of the NT).

What is meant then by “the Law” in v. 18? I believe that the Old Testament is still in view, for the word or category “Law” is used in the New Testament for more than only the Pentateuch. For example, the Lord referring to Psalm 82:2 says, “Is it not written in your Law” (John 10:34). The Lord again quotes from the Psalms (35:19) by prefacing it with “the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled” (John 15:25). And 1 Corinthians 14:21 quotes Isaiah 28:11-12 says, “In the Law it is written”. In these instances, we see the word or category “Law” being used as a reference to all the holy writings which we know as the Old Testament and not merely to the Pentateuch. Seeing therefore that the word “Law” in v. 18 and the phrase “the Law or the Prophets” in v. 17 refer to the same thing, i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures, I see no reason to think that the subject of fulfillment changes from v. 17 to v. 18. What Christ will fulfill and what must be ...

A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

...e men believed, but He predestined so that men would believe.

Martin Luther

Some more than thousand years later there came a dispute between Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther. Luther taught the Augustinian view of freedom and predestination and Erasmus was on the Semi-Pelagian side, only he seemed to think that this topic has no much significance for the average Christian. Luther responded by saying that how isn’t it of any significance for people to know if they must do things for salvation or it comes wholly by the grace of God. For Luther, the subject of free will could not be divorced from Sola Fide and Sola Gratia and it is therefore important to understand. Luther taught the doctrine of Augustine, who taught the doctrine of Paul, who taught the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luther strengthened the argument of foreknowledge in regards to free will. He said that if God knows all things, then there could be no choice B. Foreknowledge makes certain that our choices will happen. Luther taught that “God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will.” As RC says about Luther’s view: God wills what he foreknows and foreknows whatever he wills.

Luther taught about the necessity of choices. If God knows all things, doesn’t that make our choices necessary and therefore somehow compulsory? Luther started his discussion of necessity in The Bondage of the Will by saying that “necessity” is a bad word. It gives the idea of compulsion and against one’s will, which it not what Luther means by necessity. What he meant by “necessity” is that the choices are certain to happen because of God’s perfect foreknowledge. He absolutely did not mean that the choices are against man’s will. They’re certain to happen.

One last thing about Luther, he didn’t like the term “free will.” He thought that it gave men a wrong notion of human freedom, what people often think when they say free will is the ability to do both the good and the bad. This Luther rejected. I also think that the term free will, if used it must be used with qualification. Perhaps moral agency or moral responsibility is a better term.

John Calvin

Now we come to the giant himself, whose name is mostly associated in the free will and predestination debate: John Calvin. RC observes that Calvin taught nothing that Luther did not about free will.

Calvin believed that free will meant the ability to freely choose without compulsion. He’s in line with the Augustinians before him. He, like Luther had a distaste for the term “free will” and thought it a too high and lofty title for the reality. Because he believed that the will is determined by the nature of man, as sinful man can only sin because that is all that he desires, therefore to call it free is too high and lofty. Surely man has a desire for the good, but it’s not the good that is defined by God. Everyone wants a happy family, a good house and wants to be helpful to others, but not in the manner that God has prescribed. We want worldly good, but without the Spirit of grace we are unwilling to will spiritual good. We have no desire for God.

Calvin further taught that the Fall had also a huge effect on our intellect, he taught the noetic effects of the Fall. It’s not only that we die and are alienated from God because of the Fall, but that the Fall of Adam had a huge impact on our thinking. To be sure, unbelie...

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

...usually assume, with the future as the citations above show. Eternal life begins on this side of eternity, and not only after death or after the last day. The believers at the present time possess eternal life. Eternal life is given to people through faith (e.g., John 3:16; 6:47). We do not earn it by our works, rather it is a gift of grace as faith is. It is important to note that we have done nothing to earn eternal life, therefore how would the maintaining that eternal life that we have received be dependent on our own efforts? If we’ve done nothing to earn it, how will its maintenance be dependent upon our efforts? How will this not turn salvation into works-based, rather than Sola Gratia.

Please do not overlook point two above and what having eternal life means. It is not possible for us to perish when we have eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28). It is God Who has given us the free gift of eternal life in His Son (Rom. 6:23), how and on what basis will God revoke His gift? We’re not even talking about the Arminian idea that people have the ability and choice to either accept or reject the gift of God, but we are talking here about those who have (supposedly) already received the gift and have fallen away from the faith. According to this idea, which maintains that eternal life is a gift from God, but could be lost or forfeited, then we would say that it is given by grace but maintained by obedience. But how is this not a works-based damnable gospel which the Scriptures (e.g., Galatians) warn against? Having eternal life means not entering into God’s judgment and coming under His condemnation, but rather going from spiritual death to life eternal with God in the present and also in the future (John 5:24). How does this fit with the idea of people losing their salvation? Do they after losing their salvation go from life back into spiritual death? Do they now enter into the judgment of God? Do you see what impossible ideas this doctrine of losing one’s salvation leads to?

Therefore, consistent with the two other passages from John we maintain that eternal life presupposes the fact that those who possess it are unable to lose it.

Pauline Corpus

After considering the apostle John and particularly the Lord Jesus’s words in the Gospel, we will move beyond the direct words of Jesus into the writings of the disciples beginning with Paul. Paul has 13 Epistles attributed to his name. He is the one who has some warning passages, passages about “falling away”, but he is also the one who often speaks of assurance of salvation and perseverance. Here, I want to look at a few passages from which we see that Paul taught the doctrine of Perseverance.

Romans 8:28-39 – Nothing can separate us

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more t...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary a congregation has degenerated to the point that they’re actually a synagogue of Satan. They are mistaken about some doctrines, but if they have the gospel right, they are a true church of Christ. Many churches do not adhere to the 1689 Confession, baptize children, do not believe in Covenant Theology, reject Calvinism, but if they preach the gospel rightly, they are still valid and true churches of Christ with some mixture of error and truth.

The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, is an example of a degenerated synagogue of Satan which the Reformers wrote and fought against. They finally lost any title which they had of a true church when they declared the gospel of Sola Gratia anathema in the Council of Trent in response to the Protestants:

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

This is the gospel and Rome has rejected it, so how can it be a true church of God if it rejects the gospel of God? It is the gospel that creates the church, but Rome has rejected the gospel in this declaration. This is not to mention all things about Mariolatry, all kinds of non-biblical doctrines like Purgatory, special priesthood, the Papacy, salvation by works and faith, indulgences and so on. All these things exclude the Roman Catholic Church from being a true church of God. They may claim Christ, but Christ does not claim them since they are a synagogue of Satan. Furthermore, the understanding of the church between Protestants and Roman Catholics is vastly different. The conception of the Catholics is more “physical” and organizational than the spiritual conception of Protestants.

No matter these synagogues of Satan and the churches whose doctrine is mixed with truth and error, the Lord Christ, as Sovereign over all, will always have His Church on earth which consists of those who are true to Him and call upon His Name. No matter the difficulties, the Lord’s word still stands fast: I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). No matter what Christ will have a people who are true to Him and call upon His Name. No matter how difficult things get or how severe persecution is, Christ is ever-victorious and His people are more than conquerors in Him (Rom. 8:37). The best and flourishing times of the church, paradoxically, are in its times of persecution and difficulty. As Tertullian so long ago said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” We see the Lord Christ praying to the Father to protect us within persecution and not take us out of it. The Lord prayed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Christ has promised to be with His church until the end of days and this means that He will have a church in the world until the end of days (Matt. 28:20). Some churches will apostatize, some churches will be purified, but Christ will ever have His church in this world and on earth. It is a true and a confessing church, who will confess Him before men at the cost of their lives (Matt. 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9; Mark 8:38; Rev. 2:10).

The Church and the Kingdom of God

At this point, it may be prope...