The Staunch Calvinist

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

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

...Luke 17:21; cf. Matt. 12:28), yet He taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10 KJV). The Kingdom of God is already a present reality with the coming of its King, nonetheless, there is a future aspect of it which we still expect even if the Kingdom is already here. This is the tension of the Already-Not-Yet. The Kingdom of God is here, but it not yet fully here, i.e., not consummated. Eternal life is said to be a present reality (John 3:16), yet that is also an aspect of the Age to Come when the believer will be immortal in body and soul (Luke 18:30). The apostates in Hebrews 6:5 are said to have tasted the powers of the age to come, which most likely refer to the Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles. These are things which are identified with the Age to Come, perhaps because they are means which God has given to the Church to bless her and conform her to the image which He has in mind, which will fully be realized in the Age to Come. The Christian believer finds himself in the time when the Age to Come, through the death and resurrection of Christ and through the outpouring of the Spirit, has already infiltrated this world, and the believer shares in its blessings. The following is a helpful diagram of the Two Age model and the Already-Not-Yet tension by Kim Riddlebarger:

The Two Staged Kingdom

The New Testament teaches that the Kingdom of God has come with the first coming of its King, yet, there is clearly a future aspect of the Kingdom of God. Amillennialists speak of the two stages of God’s Kingdom, 1) the Kingdom of the Son, and 2) the Kingdom of the Father. As with the general New Testament eschatology of the Two Ages, so in the same way is the revelation of the Kingdom of God in two stages and ages. This is part of the Already-Not-Yet tension of the New Testament. We know that the Bible teaches that the Kingdom of God is already here (Luke 17:21; Matt. 12:28; Rom. 14:17), yet we still expect the kingdom in the future (Matt. 6:10). We believe that the Kingdom is revealed in two stages. The first is what we call the Kingdom of the Son, which has infiltrated this Present Age through the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 13:36-43

Matt. 13:36-43 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. 

In Matthew 13:36-43 the Lord Jesus explains the Parable of the Weeds and from here we get a glance at the two-fold coming of the Kingdom of God. In v. 38, the Lord Jesus explains that the good seeds are the sons of the Kingdom, these are the believers who receive the Gospel and produce its fruits. This means that there is in the present a kingdom of...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...instances where water baptism occurs first and then the giving of the Spirit, but these are special occasions peculiar to that time in the foundation of the Church by the Apostles. The Lord had meant His Church to be built through the Apostles, so that's why they're the ones in Acts who have received the authority to give the Spirit by the laying on of hands. The Apostles John and Peter came and prayed for Samaria to receive the Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Through the preaching of Peter, the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48), although that was prior to their water baptism as noted above. Paul lays his hands on a group of about twelve men for them to receive the Spirit and His Spiritual Gifts after their water baptism in Christ's name (Acts 19:1-7). Yet the normative New Testament teaching, aside from these peculiar instances, is that believers receive the Spirit at the time of faith (Eph. 1:13-14; Gal. 3:2). Water baptism comes after receiving the Spirit, yet for the foundational period of the Church, God had desired to show the authority of the Apostles in withholding the Spirit and giving Him when they prayed or laid their hands on people.

The fourth reason is 1 Corinthians 1:14-17. Paul says, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel”. "But if baptism is necessary for salvation, why have you preached the Gospel to a wide audience, yet baptized a few?" In this passage we see baptism and salvation to be two separate things, in which baptism is not necessary for salvation. Baptism is not part of the Gospel, but it is a most proper response to it. The task of the Apostle, as given by His Lord, was to preach the Gospel, let others do the baptisms. The Apostle does not disregard baptism, but he has not received the commission of baptizing everyone who turns to the Lord. It would seem very strange, if baptism was necessary for salvation, for Paul to say, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius”. The Apostle, according to the theology which sees baptism as necessary for salvation, would be thanking God that only two persons were saved by his preaching, although, the passage implies that a lot more people heard the gospel proclamation from Paul, received it and yet were not baptized by him. They were not unsaved or unjustified until they were baptized by someone else, but they were, in fact, justified because Paul was sent to turn people from darkness to light and turn them to the Son.

Misused Texts

There are texts which, when read in isolation from the things which we noted, seem to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. We will take a look at a few. We have already taken a brief look at Acts 22:16 above, so we will not deal with it.

Mark 16:16

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:9-20 is widely regarded as an addition to the Gospel of Mark and not part of the original God-breathed text of the Bible, therefore, in a sense, what it teaches does not have authority since it is not part of the original. Yet, I believe what is said in these verses is not in contradiction to the Bible. My response to this text by those who say that baptism is necessary for salvation is brief.

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

...did not have lasting effect on them because it was not joined by faith neither was this knowledge worked into the believer’s life through the Holy Spirit. These apostates had merely natural knowledge of the things of God as they heard them within the congregation and not true and spiritual knowledge of them. John Owen observes that

“There is a knowledge of spiritual things that is purely natural and disciplinary, attainable and attained without any especial aid or assistance of the Holy Ghost. As this is evident in common experience, so especially among such as, casting themselves on the study of spiritual things, are yet utter strangers unto all Spiritual Gifts. Some knowledge of the Scripture, and the things contained in it, is attainable at the same rate of pains and study with that of any other art or science.”[13]

Some in the early church have connected this enlightening with baptism which was called “illumination”, but I believe that this has little to do with the present passage as the Author does not make this connection and the use of “illumination” to refer to baptism came later on in history.[14]

Concerning the word “once” Wayne Grudem says:

Similarly, the word once that is used to speak of those who “have once been enlightened” is the Greek term hapax, which is used, for example, in Philippians 4:16 of the Philippians’ sending Paul a gift “once and again,” and in Hebrews 9:7 of entrance in the Holy of Holies “once a year.” Therefore, this word does not mean that something happened “once” and can never be repeated, but simply that it happened once, without specifying whether it will be repeated or not.[15]

And he adds in a footnote that:

This is not the same word as ephapax, which is more regularly used in the New Testament of nonrepeatable events (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).

Finally, Matthew Henry notes that:

“Balaam was the man whose eyes were opened (Num. xxiv. 3), and yet with his eyes opened he went down to utter darkness.”[16]

This description is not particular to true believers alone. But what we also must take note of is the fact that these people, whose renewal to repentance is an impossibility after apostasy, were not regular backsliders. But they were those who knew the truth of the Gospel clearly, confessed it and professed the true faith for a time, but then turned their back on it. While in their time of profession, I don’t think we would have been able to say that they were not true believers as they appeared to be on all accounts as many apostates are (e.g. 2Pet. 2:20-22). To be enlightened does not mean that we were saved, but rather that we received instruction and knowledge in the truth.

2. Those who tasted the heavenly gift

The word “tasted” is used concerning the heavenly gift, the Word of God and the powers of the age to come. What does it mean to “taste” something? I think that the basic meaning is to know by experience.

The word γεύομαι (geuomai, G1089) and its basic meaning is “to taste” and “perceive the flavour of, partake of, enjoy”[3]. It is used in Hebrews 2:9 about Christ who “taste[d] death for everyone.” It speaks of an experience which is real, yet merely momentary. Even in the case of Christ the Lord who died for our sake, His “taste of death” was momentary and not never-ending. It is used in Matthew 27:34 where it is expressly said that tasting does not mean accepting the thing. I mean, the Lord tasted the wine, He tried it,...


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

..."hr-1689-wording-commentary" /

Means Of Grace

What is a means of grace? Is it a thing which grants grace to whom it is administered? Does it matter if the person has faith or not? In Reformed understanding, the means of grace supply grace and sanctification to those who already have faith. In Catholic understanding, grace is administered by the work performed. The Means of Grace include:

  1. The Word of God: (a) the reading, (b) teaching, and (c) preaching thereof.
  2. The twofold ordinances, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
  3. Church fellowship.
  4. Prayer.
  5. Worship.
  6. Spiritual Gifts.
  7. Giving.
  8. Church discipline.
  9. Evangelism.

According to Wayne Grudem, “The means of grace are any activities within the fellowship of the church that God uses to give more grace to Christians.[20] They are not meant to convey regenerating grace, but sanctifying grace. In other words, a person does not become a Christian by being baptized (Roman Catholic view), but they are baptized and strengthened in their faith because of their regeneration (Reformed Baptist view). The Means of Grace are intended for believers alone. There are longer and shorter lists of the Means of Grace. Some point to Acts 2:42 as containing the elements of the Means of Grace, which are: 1) the teaching and preaching of the Word of God, 2) church fellowship, 3) the Lord’s Supper, and 4) prayer. These are the things mentioned in the passage, but undoubtedly, we may understanding both ordinances to be meant under “the breaking of bread.” The reason why baptism is not mentioned is not because it is not a Means of Grace, or because it is not important. Rather, because baptism is the initiatory sign of the New Covenant, while the Lord’s Supper is the continuing sign of the New Covenant. In other words, there are no Means of Grace if there is no visible church. The Means of Grace are intended, primarily, to be communicated to the community of believers. Baptism is the ordinance which creates a visible community of believers, while the Lord’s Supper is the ordinance which upholds and nourishes this community of believers. We focus here upon the Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace.

In the Roman Catholic view, the sacraments (including Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), communicate grace regardless the faith of the recipient. I’ll let Louis Berkhof explain the Roman Catholic view:

As far as the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament is concerned, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that it works ex opere operato, which means, “in virtue of the sacramental act itself, and not in virtue of the acts or disposition of the recipient, or of the worthiness of the minister (ex opere operantis).” This means that every one who receives the elements, be he wicked or pious, also receives the grace signified, which is conceived of as a substance contained in the elements. The sacramental rite itself conveys grace unto the recipient. At the same time it also teaches, rather inconsistently, it would seem, that the effects of the sacrament may be completely or partially frustrated by the existence of some obstacle, by the absence of that disposition that makes the soul capable of receiving grace, or by the priest’s want of intention to do what the Church does.[21]

In contrast and in rejection of that abominable practice, which does not distinguish between the sign and the thing(s) signified, the Reformed see that grace is only communicated in the Lord’s Supper when it is met with the faith of beli...


Hebrews 6:4-6, Apostasy and Calvinism

...did not have lasting effect on them because it was not joined by faith neither was this knowledge worked into the believer’s life through the Holy Spirit. These apostates had merely natural knowledge of the things of God as they heard them within the congregation and not true and spiritual knowledge of them. John Owen observes that

“There is a knowledge of spiritual things that is purely natural and disciplinary, attainable and attained without any especial aid or assistance of the Holy Ghost. As this is evident in common experience, so especially among such as, casting themselves on the study of spiritual things, are yet utter strangers unto all Spiritual Gifts. Some knowledge of the Scripture, and the things contained in it, is attainable at the same rate of pains and study with that of any other art or science.”[2]

Some in the early church have connected this enlightening with baptism which was called “illumination”, but I believe that this has little to do with the present passage as the Author does not make this connection and the use of “illumination” to refer to baptism came later.[3]

Concerning the word “once” Wayne Grudem says:

Similarly, the word once that is used to speak of those who “have once been enlightened” is the Greek term hapax, which is used, for example, in Philippians 4:16 of the Philippians’ sending Paul a gift “once and again,” and in Hebrews 9:7 of entrance in the Holy of Holies “once a year.” Therefore, this word does not mean that something happened “once” and can never be repeated, but simply that it happened once, without specifying whether it will be repeated or not.[4]

And adds in a footnote that:

This is not the same word as ephapax, which is more regularly used in the New Testament of nonrepeatable events (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).

Finally, Matthew Henry notes that:

“Balaam was the man whose eyes were opened (Num. xxiv. 3), and yet with his eyes opened he went down to utter darkness.”[5]

This description is not particular to true believers alone. But what we also must take note of is the fact that these people, whose renewal to repentance is an impossibility after apostasy, were not regular backsliders, but were those who knew the truth of the Gospel clearly, confessed it and professed the true faith for a time, but then turned their back on it. While in their time of profession, I don’t think we would have been able to say that they were not true believers as they appeared to be on all accounts as many apostates are (e.g. 2Pet 2:20-22). To be enlightened does not mean that we were saved, but rather that we received instruction and knowledge in the truth.

2. Those who tasted the heavenly gift

The word “tasted” is used concerning the heavenly gift, the word of God and the powers of the age to come. What does it mean to “taste” something? I think that the basic meaning is to know it by experience.

The word γεύομαι (geuomai) and its basic meaning is “to taste” and “perceive the flavour of, partake of, enjoy” (Thayer’s. G1089). It is used in Heb 2:9 about Christ who “taste[d] death for everyone.” It speaks of an experience which is real, yet merely momentary. Even in the case of Christ the Lord who died for our sake, His “taste of death” was momentary and not never-ending. It is used in Matt 27:34 where it is expressly said that tasting does not meaning accepting the thing. I mean, the Lord tasted the wine, He tried it, but rejected it lat...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

...s them living and regenerates us (John 6:63). It is His person that we receive the moment we believe (Acts 2:38). The Spirit dwells in us (Rom. 8:9; John 3:16; 14:17; 2Tim. 1:14). We are sealed by the Spirit the moment we believe (Eph. 1:13-14). It is He Who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). We are led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18). The Spirit sanctifies us (1Thess. 2:13; 1Pet. 1:2). The Spirit makes us more like Christ and transforms us (2Cor. 3:18). The Spirit prays with us and for us (Rom 8:26-27). The Spirit bears witness to us that we redeemed and are children of the living God (Rom 8:16). The Spirit works fruits in us (Gal. 5:22-23). The Spirit gives Spiritual Gifts to the body (1Cor. 12:4, 8-10; Heb. 2:4). The Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11). The Spirit reveals the deep things of God to us (2Cor. 2:10). It is in the Spirit that we are spiritually baptized into the body of Christ (1Cor. 12:13). It is through the Spirit that we have access to the Father (Eph 2:18). There are many more things that the Spirit does for those whom Christ has purchased.[36]

Here we see the perfect work of the Triune God in the redemption of the elect. Christ obtained all that was necessary for the redemption of the elect 2000 years ago on the cross, yet the benefits which Christ has obtained are not directly applied, rather in God's timing, those who were before the foundation of the world in the Son chosen, are regenerated by the Spirit and changed from children of wrath into children of the living God.

Justified in Time

Antinomians and some Calvinists taught that the believer's justification took place in eternity. There was not a time when we were not justified. We simply did not acknowledge our justification until the moment of faith. Therefore, the Confession stresses that our justification did not take place before the Holy Spirit applied the work of Christ unto us. Some notable names on the Calvinist side who held such a defective view are John Gill and Abraham Kuyper. The contention of those on the "justification from eternity" side is that faith itself is a fruit of justification by which we come to realize that we are justified. Theologians have rightly observed that this undermines justification by faith since some of its proponents teach that faith itself is a gift of justification. The Biblical teaching is that justification is by faith. There is no justification without faith and this justification is received through the instrumentality of faith. Galatians 2:16 says that "we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ". This means that without faith were could not have been justified. Romans 3:28 teaches that "one is justified by faith", not that one acknowledges that they are justified by faith. See above for more.

Furthermore, those who believe this doctrine also believe that the elect were always favorable to God. And in a sense, this is true. In Christ, they were. But of themselves and before union with Christ, we were children of wrath and not of God (Eph. 2:3). Ephesians 2 does not speak of this relationship merely from our subjective viewpoint of the viewpoint of our experience. That is what we were. Further in the passage, Paul says that at the time that we were in the flesh, we were "separated from Christ," which certainly does not mean that we merely felt ourselves separated from Christ. We actually were and we demonstrated this by living in the flesh as ...


Review of Sam Waldron's To Be Continued?

To Be Continued?

Are The Miraculous Gifts For Today?

Dr. Waldron is a respectful and good Christian scholar, but this work was not written for the big scholars, but was written for the lay Christian who is interested in topic of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I liked the book and I thought that it was a pretty good case for cessationism. He tried to interact for example with Grudem on some points.

The Argument

The argument is basically:

1. There are no apostles
2. Therefore there are no prophets
3. Therefore there are no tongue-speaks
4. Therefore there are no miracle-workers

1. Apostles

First of all, by the use of Ephesians 4:9-11 he spends a paragraph or two to say that the apostolate was a gift. The word for gift in verse 9 is not the usual χάρισμα (charisma). He does not interact with those who do not accept that the apostolate was a (spiritual) gift, but rather a ministry or an office. This in my opinion is the biggest flaw in his argument. 

The Cascade Argument is built around and based upon the point that the greatest "gift" – the apostolate has ceased in the first century. He in fact makes a good case on the cessation of the apostolate, but does not make a convincing case that it was a spiritual gift like those mentioned in 1Cor 12:7-10 for example. Therefore, his Cascading Argument becomes weak. This is a point that Matt Slick also brought in the back-and-forth in their debate.

The argument basically starts with, if the greatest gift has ceased, it is therefore possible that the other "miraculous" gifts have also ceased. I don't believe that the NT makes such a distinction between the gifts as the “ordinary” and “extraordinary”, or “non-miraculous” and “miraculous.” I have not been able to find this distinction yet in the text of Scripture. 

2. Prophets

He demonstrates from the OT that a prophet was simply the mouth of God to the people (Ex 4:10-17; 7:1-2).  Also, what the prophets said had to be 100% accurate according to the regulations of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:15-22. Therefore he proceeds to the New Testament with the same definition of prophecy and this is understandable.

He first considers few passages used in support of continuationism including Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Cor 13:8-13 and the case of Agabus (Acts 21:10-11).

On Ephesians 4 he says that if we maintain that everything in verse 11 is needed for our maturity and unity in the faith then we are proving too much. If we follow that, then we must also say that the apostolate must continue, but we have proven that it in fact did not continue. Therefore, he says that the apostles must refer to the writings and teaching of the apostles that we have in the New Testament and prophets or prophecy refers to the book of Revelation. He does not dispute if we have prophecy (i.e. the book of Revelation), rather if we have ongoing or new prophecy.

I don't think that the putting of Revelation under the category of "prophets" is right. John was not writing as a prophet, but was writing with the authority of an Apostle, that is the case for every NT book. It was either written by an apostle or an associate. I know of no NT book whose author was an prophet. 

Therefore, I do indeed agree that we have the Apostles in their writings, but I know of nothing that we have from prophets, therefore, it would seem that they would be necessary for the building up and achieving the unity of faith. (I don't know how this practically looks, but ...


Review of Walter J. Chantry's Signs Of the Apostles

Signs of the Apostles

Observations On Pentecostalism Old And New[1]

My feelings are mixed concerning this small volume. I believe that his case for cessationism did not stand. I believe that he misused some passages to make his case. Here are a few things that raised my eyebrows.

First, he argues that miracles were given for attestation from the narrative of Moses (Ex 4:5) and NT. No one disagrees, but he makes attestation the primary purpose of miracles. And not simple attestation, rather attestation for prophetic ministry. Miracles were connected with the prophets as he tries to argue from Ex 4:5 and Deut 34:10-11 (later from Elijah's example in 1Kings 18:36). But then he raises the anticipated objection about the miracles of Samson or the other prophets, his answer is not satisfying. He basically says that the "history is incomplete" (p. 11), i.e. we do not have everything that they did, therefore, they must have done some prophetic stuff as leaders of God's people. That is unsatisfactory.

Second, he uses Psalm 74:9 to say that "This is a striking endorsement of the principle that only prophets work miracles. Where miracles are performed we should expect to hear the inspired Word of God spoken. When there is no prophet, there are no signs." (p. 12)

Here pastor Chantry understands the signs to refer to the miracles of the prophets. But I believe what is a more proper sense of the verse is to speak of the Temple. The enemies of Israel as they are described in verse 4 "have roared in the midst of your [God's] meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs." The enemies of Israel have set up their own things in the Temple of God as signs. But now destitute of the Temple (in the time of the exile), the Israelites do not have their signs, i.e. the ark, the sacrifices, the temple which pictured to the people the presence of God among them.

Whatever the sense of the text, this does not have bearing upon the miracles when we come to the NT as on Pentecost when they were to be poured out on all people (Acts 2:17ff).

Third, he uses Galatians 3:5 to say "Paul appealed to his miracle-working power as evidence that he, rather than the Judaizers, ought to be believed." (p. 15) Where does Paul fit into the text? The text reads "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— ". Can it be that this is based upon the assumption that only the apostles can work miracles while the verse doesn't say a word about such a thing?

Fourth, he limits the scope of Hebrews 2:3-4 to the apostles though he does not explicitly say that (pp. 15-16). But the text does not reject the present work of God among the Hebrews, it simply highlights God's work among the Apostles.

Fifth, he anticipates the objection of non-apostles doing miracles and he raises the case of Philip in Acts 8:4-15. Then there's some weird comment about the people to whom Philip had preached that "[c]ertainly the true converts among them already had God's Spirit in their hearts, for [citation of Rom 8:9]" (p. 17). This was a first time for me, usually people explain it in terms of the foundational period of Acts and the primacy of Apostles that the believers did not receive the Spirit.

He accepts that Philip did actually perform miraculous deeds as the Bible obviously says (Acts 8:6-7), but then objects that it was the Apostles and not Philip who had the prerogative of ministering the mira...