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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary

...s available to everywhere. This revelation, says the Confession, “manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God”, but it is not perfect. The purpose of general revelation is to condemn and leave men inexcusable for their rebellion against the God Whom they know. The Apostle Paul makes very clear in Romans 1:18ff that all people know the true God, yet they hold down the truth, suppressing it and choosing rather to believe the lie. He says that the created world testifies to the fact that there is a Creator Who has revealed Himself to them. God reveals Himself in Creation. But since we live in a fallen world, this revelation of God is distorted, hence the necessity of verbal and Special Revelation. From looking at the beauty of the world and the awesome things in nature we cannot deduce that God is a Triune Being existing as Father, Son, and Spirit. Nor can we deduce that we have to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved from God’s wrath. Nor can we have an idea of His special love for His people. For these things, General Revelation falls short. It is able to condemn men and leave them without an excuse (Rom. 1:20), but it is not able to point them to the way of salvation. That’s why it pleased God to reveal Himself in words besides His general revelation in nature.

God’s revelation of Himself came in words after the Fall to Adam and Eve, and it continued with Noah, Abraham and the other saints of old. Certainly, people knew the true God in these times, just think of Melchizedek who was a high priest of the Most High God coming to Abraham. Therefore, there must have been some kind of special revelation from God. When we speak of Special Revelation, we mean God’s revelation in words and visions to His people, as in the Bible. Special Revelation is necessary for salvation, but the Bible is not necessary for salvation. Let me clarify. Nobody has been saved through General Revelation alone, for that power, it does not have. General revelation has the ability to condemn, but not save. On the other hand, every soul (beyond the age of childhood or disability, see chapter 10) that has been saved, has been saved because of God’s Special Revelation. The message of the Gospel came to them, even if they had not read the Bible. In the Bible, we have the full Special Revelation of God, which God wanted His people to possess. But knowledge or possession of that whole Special Revelation is not necessary for salvation. What is necessary is knowledge and reception of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we speak of the necessity of Scripture, we do not mean that you can’t be saved if you have not read the Bible, or you can’t be saved without the Bible. Rather, what we mean is that Special Revelation, which the Bible is, is necessary for salvation because of fallen man’s condition in a fallen world. In Romans 10:13-15, Paul explains the necessity of Special Revelation for salvation. He says:

Rom 10:13-15 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? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

The call is for everyone to receive and call upon the Lord Christ, but, asks the Apostle, how are they to call upon the Lord Christ if they had never hea...


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

... love, and perseverance;  and when with others, in a known tongue. (Psalms 95:1-7; Psalms 65:2; John 14:13, 14; Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 14:16, 17 )
  1. Ps. 95: 1-7; 100:1-5
  2. John 14:13-14
  3. Rom. 8:26
  4. 1 John 5:14
  5. Ps. 47:7; Eccles. 5:1-2; Heb. 12:28; Gen. 18:27; James 5:16; 1:6-7; Mark 11:24; Matt. 6:12,14-15; Col. 4:2; Eph 6:18
  6. 1 Cor. 14:13-19, 27-28

What Is Prayer?

Praying to God is “one part of natural worship”. This means that no Special Revelation is needed to teach us that we should worship God through prayer. It is natural. We want to thank God when there is goodness in our lives and we seek His help when bad things happen. Dr. Wayne Grudem defines prayer as “personal communication with God.”[21] Keach’s Catechism 109 defines prayer as “Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.”[22] God is described as a God who hears our prayers (e.g. Ps. 65:2) and Who answers our prayers (Ps. 143:1). Prayer is an essential and necessary part of religious worship. In fact, the Apostle Paul teaches us to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess. 5:17) and to pray “at all times” (Eph. 6:18). The Lord Jesus taught us a model of how we ought to pray (Matt. 6:9-13). J.I. Packer beautifully writes of prayer in these words:

God made us and has redeemed us for fellowship with himself, and that is what prayer is. God speaks to us in and through the contents of the Bible, which the Holy spirit opens up and applies to us and enables us to understand. We then speak to God about himself, and ourselves, and people in his world, shaping what we say as response to what he has said. This unique form of two-way conversation continues as long as life lasts.[23]

But for prayer to be acceptable, certain things have to be followed which we now turn our attention to.

Acceptable Prayer

There are, whether you believe it or not, conditions which God places for answering prayer. The conditions are:

  1. Prayer must be made in accordance with God’s will (Matt. 6:10; Luke. 22:42; 1John 5:14).
    1. We pray according to God’s revealed will and submit to His sovereign pleasure, knowing that His promise stands fast (Rom. 8:28) and He knows what is best for us better than we do.
  2. Prayer must be made in the Name of Christ (John 14:13; 16:24; Heb. 13:15).
    1. Praying in Christ’s Name is not a magical formula, rather, it is praying on the basis of Christ’s work and authority. We pray, pleading with God not on the basis of our righteousness, but Christ’s. The “name” of a person, to the ancients, represented the character and authority of the person. Grudem observes, 'Thus, the name of Jesus represents all that he is, his entire character. This means that praying “in Jesus’ name” is not only praying in his authority, but also praying in a way that is consistent with his character, that truly represents him and reflects his manner of life and his own holy will. In this sense, to pray in Jesus’ name comes close to the idea of praying “according to his will” (1 John 5:14–15).'[24]
  3. Prayer must be made in the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:18; Jude 1:20).
    1. Relying on His power and graces to intercede on our behalf (Rom. 8:26-27).
  4. Prayer must be performed in faith (Jas. 1:6; Matt. 21:22).
  5. The one making the prayer should keep God’s commandments (1John 3:22).
  6. Prayer must be ...

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

...flesh, certainly embraces all human beings as well, whether believers or not. In that sense it is a covenant of common grace. But it is not indifferent as to how they respond to God. Even Noah’s grandson Canaan receives a curse for the lack of respect shown to Noah by Canaan’s father Ham (Gen. 9:20–27). Unbelievers within the covenant are called to become believers and to walk by faith as Noah did. And the passage never mentions natural law or natural revelation, though we may assume that these continue to convey the same moral content as they do in the universal covenant. In the Noachic covenant, God sets the standards of the covenant by his own words, his “Special Revelation.”[30]

Nehemiah Coxe explains the relationship between the Covenant of Grace and the Noahic Covenant in this way:

Although the grace of the new covenant was spiritually held out in this covenant with Noah (which was struck with him for all his posterity) yet the grace and blessing were not by this means bestowed on all mankind. They surely all have an interest in that covenant that signified, and in some ways included, spiritual blessings but those blessings do not pertain to all who have their signs. Instead they remain the peculiar right of those who by faith receive them, “who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).[31]

The Noahic Covenant revealed the Covenant of Grace and its blessings, but the blessings of the Covenant of Grace were not bestowed through the Noahic, but only through faith and the Covenant of Grace.

Worship In The Noahic Covenant And Sacrifices

I want to take a notice of the fact of how early animal sacrifices were involved and how a central role they played in the worship of God. Actually, the first animal sacrifice was made by God Himself when He provided clothes for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21 after their rebellion. Then we have the account of Cain and Abel who brought offerings to the Lord in Genesis 4:4-5. They already knew that they had to bring offerings although there was no mention of a command given in the Bible. The Lord tells Noah to take seven pairs of the clean animals, while from the unclean animals he may take a couple (Gen. 7:2-3). Why would that be? Well, first of all, for the offerings and second, for food as it was permitted for man to eat the animals after the Flood. In fact, once Noah got out of the Ark, he made an altar (something common in Genesis 12:7-8; 13:4; 22:9, 26:25; 33:20; 35:1, 7) and offered burnt offerings on it. In Genesis 8:20-21, we read –

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

To close this section, we note John Gill’s comments on Genesis 8:20 –

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord,.... Not an house for himself and his family, but an altar for God; his first and greatest concern being for the glory of God, and not for the temporal good of himself and his: this altar was erected, and devoted to the service of God; it was built according to his will, and by his direction: Noah's view was to renew the worship of God, preserve and propagate it...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 20: Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof - Commentary

...

Chapter 20: Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof

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.[1]

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. 


§1 God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ

  1. The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners. 1
    1. Gen. 3:15 with Eph. 2:12; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 11:13; Luke 2:25, 38; 23:51; Rom. 4:13-16; Gal. 3:15-22; Rev 13:8[2]

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 that this is so is because the Adamic Covenant (see here), which could have provided eternal life if Adam obeyed, was broken. When that covenant was broken, the promise of eternal life by obedience was likewise broken and became unprofitable for Adam's fallen and sin-cursed descendant. The Covenant of Works made with Adam in Eden lost the ability to give the promise of eternal life because now it was broken. That covenant did not contain provisions for atonement and now it could only administer the curse of that covenant—death. We see in Genesis 3 that just after God, the covenant Lord, confronts Adam and Eve with their sin, He likewise gives the promise of the Savior:

Gen. 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise y...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment - Commentary

... Luke 12:47 explicitly speaks about the Master's will. With the knowledge that we have of God's will, with that also we will be judged. This does not mean that people who have not heard the Gospel will not be judged, that would be contrary to the argument of Romans 1:18-32. But rather, the standard of judgment is the Law of God and the knowledge that we had of His will. This is why the Apostle Paul is harsher against Jews in Romans 2 than he was against the Gentiles in chapter 1. The reason is that the Jews have the oracles of God and they know with certainty what God approves and what He disapproves, because God has spoken in Holy Writ. On the other hand, the Gentiles do not have a Special Revelation of God, but they only have the general revelation of God in the created world. This does not excuse them, because the Apostle says very clearly that they knew God and that's why their without an excuse (Rom 1:20). Yet Scripture makes clear that their final condition will be a bit different than those who had a wider knowledge of God's will. This does not mean that they will not go to Hell, but rather, their torment will be "lighter" than those who receive a "severe beating" (Matt. 11:21-24). A person who has gone to Church for a long time, heard the faithful preaching of God's Word, heard the Gospel proclaimed and he denied it, will receive a severe beating, while a man living in the jungles of Africa will likewise be condemned, but his condition will be "lighter" in comparison to that rejector of the Gospel. This is no basis to ignore foreign missions or ignore sharing the Gospel with people who are un-churched or do not know much about God and the Bible. They will be judged and they will be in torment, it does not matter if their condition will be "lighter" in comparison to others. They still need saving.

According To Works

The most difficult aspect of the judgment is that fact that we are judged by our works. That this is the case is evident from several biblical passages in both testaments, such as: Job 34:11; Psalm 62:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; 25:34-46; John 5:28-29; Romans 2:6; 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 4:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-8; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:25; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; 20:12; 22:12. Does this mean that we are justified by our works? Not at all. Scripture is clear that salvation and justification is by grace through faith (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9, see also here), not only that, but our works are explicitly excluded (Rom. 3:28; 4:6; Gal. 2:16).

Therefore, how should we understand these two biblical truths? For those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture the option cannot be that Paul or the other authors of Scripture are contradicting themselves, rather, it is what it is. The Bible teaches that we are justified by faith apart from our works, yet in the future, at the Last Judgment, we will be judged according to our works. Our works done in the body will determine either our eternal rewards or our eternal misery. The Lord Jesus teaches that we will give an account even for our words (Matt. 12:36-37). Thoughts are also not disconnected. All wickedness gets born in the heart and starts from there until it gives birth to the deeds. Lust, which is something mental (i.e., not an act as adultery is), is declared about our Lord as a violation of the Law (Matt. 5:27-29). By this, we learn that not only our works and words but also our thou...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity - Commentary

...t; inconceivable.”[5] Only God can fully understand God. All that we know about Him is revealed by Him. There is no use in people sitting and contemplating about God without standing on the solid and infallible foundation of the Word of God (chapter 1). As the Confession declares, so the Bible teaches, God is fully comprehended only by Himself. Obviously, we do not mean that He is absolutely incomprehensible, for we know a lot of things about Him even without Special Revelation. From the natural world, says Paul, we can know “his eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20), for example. But we cannot fully and exhaustively understand “his eternal power and divine nature” whether from general revelation or even from Special Revelation. The essence of God is only exhaustively and completely understood by Himself alone.  

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.[6]

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).

The Immutability of God

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.”[7] 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 literal...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary

...

Chapter 4: Of Creation

Did God create for His glory? How did God create? Why did God create? How long did God take to create? What did God create?

Creation. There are a few topics like this which generate heat between believer and unbeliever, and even among believers. But it is essential. Here is the foundation of everything. If there was no creation, there would obviously be nothing. Whom can we trust to tell us how it happened? The Witness has been pleased to reveal to us the way He created this world. The question is: Was everything that He revealed accurate and true? Can we gain any knowledge from outside the Special Revelation of God that can supply or actually radically change our view of Genesis? Which is primary, the exegesis of Scripture or the findings of modern (secular) science? My comments will be short.


§1 In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to make the world

  1. In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six daysand all very good. 5
    1. Heb. 1:2; John 1:2-3; Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4[1]
    2. Rom. 1:20; Jer 10:12; Ps. 104:24; 33:5-6; Prov. 3:19; Acts 14:15-16
    3. Gen. 1:1; John 1:2; Col. 1:16
    4. Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11
    5. Gen. 1:31; Ecc 7:29; Rom. 5:12

For His Glory

The Lord God King of the Universe is the Creator God Who created the world ex-nihilo (out of nothing) in the space of six days. The Creator did this not because He lacked something, but was pleased to manifest His glory to His creatures. Therefore, we believe that the whole creation exists to display the glory of its Creator. Everything was created for God's own glory and for God's own purpose. Creation is the free act of the the triune Yahweh to create the world and everything in it, visible and invisible, out of nothing for His own purpose and glory.

Since God is all-sufficient in and of Himself, the Creation did not add anything to Him that He did not possess, rather, the Creation displayed and manifested His glory to others. In Psalm 19:1, we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The heavens, i.e., space and sky, display the glory of God. Oh, how long can we sometimes stare in the night to the beautiful starry heavens? Or, how are we struck with amazement when we see pictures of outer space and pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope? All these things, which are normally out of our visible sight, still bring glory to the Creator. When we see them, we are filled with awe and reverence for the Creator. The Creation is actually meant to display the glory of God to us. In Isaiah vision of the Lord Jesus, the host of heaven worships and praises God with the following words:

Isa. 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The earth does not merely contain His glory, but is full or filled with His glory. His holiness displays itself in His glory in the created world. The holiness of God is glorious and it fills the whole created world. That was God's purpose in creating, namely, to display His glory and for people to acknowledge it. In Romans 1:20, we read that God's “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creatio...