The Staunch Calvinist

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


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

...uo;s argument in Romans 1:18-32. Men know the God Who exists because of the creation which they are able to observe and because God has revealed Himself to them. So clear is this revelation that when they stand before the thrice Holy God they will be found “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). General revelation condemns. If we are to be saved we need something more than general revelation. Because general revelation is insufficient to save (“Therefore”), the Lord specially revealed Himself and His will to His church. This is what theologians call Special RevelationThis revelation of God is to His people, the church and it concerns Himself and His will. Scripture is the self-disclosure of God. 1 Samuel 3:21 is an interesting passage where it is said that “the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.” The revelation of the LORD happened by the word of the LORD. When God reveals His Word and speaks to us through the Bible, He is not merely revealing this about us and about Himself, but He reveals Himself to us. 1 Timothy 3:16 describes the Bible as the breath of God (see more on this below). The Word of God is personal to God and it reveals Him and is ever true and certain as the Author of it is true and certain.

This part spoke about the revelation of the Word of God. The next part speaks about the inscripturation of the Word of God. This is the process whereby the Word of God is written down to be preserved for the next generations. This was so as to bless the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world so that we would have a certain and infallible Word of God. We would not have to try to remember what God said when we could read the inscripturated Word in the Bible. Furthermore, this also establishes the truthfulness of the Word of God. The Word of God is one and certain, though the interpretations thereof might differ among men. This revelation of God and His will and the subsequent inscripturation thereof is most necessary to know Who the true God is and the way of salvation. This is also because the former ways of God’s revealing his will have now ceased. God no longer gives His Word and commands it to be inscripturated. The revelation of God is complete and is sufficient for us to live godly and obedient lives before His face.

The Confession starts with the authority of the Bible because the Confession is meant to be an interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, it must start with its position on the Bible. The Confession seeks to be faithful to the Bible in what it confirms and thus it is most appropriate to start by declaring its position on the Bible. I think it’s appropriate, though it may be strange that the Confession starts with the Bible rather than with God. But that is the case because the presentation of God in the Confession is drawn from the Scriptures and that’s why it was necessary for the Confession to declare what it believes about the Bible before it dives into topics whose belief is based upon Scripture above all. According to the Confession, the Scripture is sufficient, certain and infallible. It is all that we need in this life for godliness and to know the will of God. We don’t need extra revelations when we have His pure and sufficient Word in our hands.

General Revelation And The Necessity Of Scripture

Looking at Creation, we perceive that there must be a powerful Creator Who has created all these things and brought them into being. Look...

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

...according to his will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance;  and when with others, in a known tongue. 6
  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

Prayer is one part of natural worship, that which does not require Special Revelation. Natural worship is required of all men based on natural revelation. Religious worship is that worship which is based upon His revealed will. That is why prayer to God is required of all men (Ps. 100:1-4). But this does not mean that is accepted or acceptable since God has revealed the way in which we ought to pray. Although God is gracious and answers even some prayers of unbelievers. The acceptable way of prayer is to pray in the name of the Son (John 14:13-14), i.e., based on His authority and graces. It is by the help of the Spirit (Rom. 8:26), realizing our utter need for His guidance and help. Prayer is to be made knowing that our prayer should be according to the will of God (1John 5:14). Prayer is to be made with understanding, knowing what we are asking for. It is to be made with reverence since it is God to Whom we are praying. It is to be made with humility since we deserve nothing from God. It is to be made with fervency, i.e., with zeal and passion. It is to be made with faith that God will give us that which we ask for if it is according to His will. It is to be made with love to God and to others. It is to be made with perseverance, i.e., not giving up when the prayer is not answered quickly (unless led otherwise to not ask for that specific thing) and in preserving in prayer. Prayer in the presence of others should be in a known tongue so that everyone can understand what is being prayed and thereby “amen” it (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” (1 Thess. 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


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

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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/general revelation, but general revelation is not enough for salvation. General revelation 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 general 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]

The covenant of works that was given to Adam was broken by sin and thereby made unprofitable unto life (see also chapter 6:1). Now, it only administers its curse—death. Therefore, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ (Gen. 3:15; Eph. 2:12) as He had purposed to save the elect by Christ from all eternity. In this promise of Christ, the gospel was revealed as the means of calling the elect (Gal. 3:8; Luke 2:25, 38). As the gospel was revealed in this promise, God worked to beget in the elect faith and repentance so that they would embrace this promise, which was effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners (Gal. 3:15-22). This promise of Christ was, essentially or in substance, the promise of the gospel and salvation, which is what Christ accomplished on behalf of the elect. 

Salvation was always through Christ, whether people were consciously aware of that or not. They were saved by faith alone and by not works. By loosely reading the Old Testament and seeing the absence of the cross, we may think that salvation was by works 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 g...

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.”[39]

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).[40]

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 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 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 by his example; and thi...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment - Commentary 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. They need the gospel to escape the righteous judgment of God.

According To Works

The most difficult aspect of the judgment is the 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 are by grace through faith (e.g., Eph. 2:8-9, see also here). Not only that, but our works are explicitly excluded from any part in salvation and justification (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 us that we will have to give an account even for our words (Matt. 12:36-37). Thoughts are also included. 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 external act as adultery is), is declared by our Lord to be...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

... and grieve His Spirit (Eph. 4:30). It loves Christ for all that He is. It seeks to reflect Christ in its thoughts, words, and deeds.

So we understand that saving faith is about knowledge of God’s revelation, it is about assent and acceptance of God’s truth, and it is certainly a choice to commit one’s self and hope of salvation to Jesus Christ.

The Ground of Faith

On what is our faith based or grounded? It is generally answered that Christ is the object of saving faith as He is presented to us in the gospel. This means that our faith rests or is based upon the promise of God in the gospel. This gospel comes to us not in general revelation, but in Special Revelation, i.e., the Bible. Therefore, our faith is grounded in the truthfulness and faithfulness of God. This God is revealed both by general and Special Revelation, but personally and closely only through Special Revelation. This means that our faith rests upon the God of the Word. Saving faith does not rest in the natural man. Scripture teaches that we should not trust in man in such away (Ps. 118:8-9; Jer. 17:5). The wisdom of man is foolishness to God, therefore, this also cannot be the ground of our faith. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says:

1 Cor. 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God

Paul intentionally does not want to come with “lofty speech or wisdom” because he does not want to entice them through his own wisdom. Rather, he preached only Jesus Christ crucified, even if that was foolishness to them (1 Cor. 1:22-24). He knows that God is glorified in our weakness and He is shown strong in and through it (2 Cor. 12:9). His preaching rather was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. In other words, it was accompanied by the testimony of the Spirit Who confirmed the message through signs and wonders. Charles J. Ellicott explains on v. 4 that “The Apostle’s demonstration of the truth of the gospel was the result of no human art or skill, but came from the Spirit and power of God, and therefore the Corinthians could glory in no human teacher, but only in the power of God, which was the true source of the success of the gospel amongst them.”[37] Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the gospel will only create temporary or historical believers, which is no true faith. Therefore, Paul says that he did this “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Charles Hodge, therefore says, “The Spirit demonstrates the truth to the mind, i.e., produces the conviction that it is truth, and leads the soul to embrace it with assurance and delight.”[38] Calvin observes that 

their faith was founded not on men but on God. If the Apostle’s preaching had rested exclusively on the power of eloquence, it might have been overthrown by superior eloquence, and besides, no one would pronounce that to be solid truth which rests on mere elegance of speech. It may indeed be helped by it, but it ought not to rest upon it...Let it then be known by us that it is the property of faith to rest upon God alone, with...

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

...lect; 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 (1 Cor. 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 that 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 lite...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary

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