It is in the circumstances where the most differences are found in those churches which hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship.
Christ the Lord was the only Man who has worshiped God perfectly “in spirit and truth.” We all fall miserably short. God demands perfect worship, but we are unable to give God His due. Like all His Ten Commandments, no one can keep them perfectly, because they do not merely concern outward things, but they deal with the heart. Therefore, the Regulative Principle should drive us to the Lord Jesus and we should beseech Him to teach us through His Word and Spirit about how we ought to worship the Triune God “in spirit and truth.” We should pray that we may be further sanctified to worship God more truthfully. Even those who hold to the Regulative Principle are able to sin in not worshipping God truly with their heart. The elements and parts of worship may all be present, but if the heart is not present, it is vain worship.
We should pray that God may grant the grace for a reformation of worship according to His Word. Many churches nowadays do not care about what God has said concerning how He is to be worshiped, but rather look to the world for suggestions. They seek to learn from the world concerning what they desire to see in Church, rather than in the infallible and sufficient Word of God. They seek to draw people using means that God has not authorized and adding to His worship things which He has not commanded. May we pray that God would grant His people the grace and willingness to diligently search the Scriptures to learn about the way in which God desires to be worshiped.
To worship God by visibly representing Him in statutes or pictures (any of the Person of the Blessed Trinity) is to break the Second Commandment. To worship God “in spirit and truth” includes the idea of worshipping God invisibly, without any representations whatsoever. This does not mean that we may not have pictures of Bible verses or crosses, but it means, that no Person of the Holy Trinity may be visibly represented at all. For more on this see our discussion in chapter 19 about the Second Commandment.
All three persons of the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should receive religious worship and to God alone. No angels, saints, or any other creature (Rom. 1:25; Rev. 19:10) should receive religious worship. It is for God alone. Furthermore, this religious worship is mediated by Christ alone (Eph. 2:18; 1Tim. 2:5). We cannot go to God without Christ. Christ is our only access to God in all things.
That worship is to be offered to the Triune God is seen from the fact that God ought to be worshiped and that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal (see chapter ...
It is important to mention something about that which is called the Law of Creation or the Moral Law here. What I mean by that is the Moral Law of God that is put in us by virtue of us being in His image (see chapter 4 on the image of God). This Law of Creation was given to Adam and Eve from their creation. The Lord put into their minds and hearts certain basic laws which all humans have. This basic Law was summarized in the Ten Commandments and given at Sinai. You don't have to know the Ten Commandments to know, for example, that stealing, coveting, lying, murdering and dishonoring God are wrong. You know it intuitively. You know it by virtue of the fact that you are a creature of God, in covenant with Him either in Adam or in Christ. All this means that the Ten Commandments were not new commandments, but were a summary of the basic moral law which is on the mind and heart of every image-bearer. Of the fact that everyone has the basic moral law, we read in Romans 1-2. I would like to look at Romans 2:12-16:
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
We could go all ways into this passage, but let me focus on what I want to prove, namely, that every human has the basic moral law stamped upon them. This is clear from reading the passage. What we must realize is the two-fold way that Paul is using the word law. When in reference to Jews, he's using it as the complete revelation of God's Law given under Moses, the written law of God. But when speaking of the Gentiles, they do not have such a revelation of God, but they sure know Him and His Law (Rom. 1:18ff, 32). Gentiles do not have the written law, but they, by nature, do what the law requires. Why? Because the law contains the basic moral precepts for all humans and everyone knows right from wrong. Obviously, let us not suppose that this means that everyone does what is right because men are sinful and our consciences can be weakened. The work of the Law, or the summary of the Law, is written on their hearts and in their consciences. From there they also know the God they deny and that is the basis of their condemnation.
To not go more than necessary, I summarize, every image-bearer knows the Law of God and the Lawgiver and they are obligated to obey, their disobedience and rejection of the true God lead to their demise. The Ten Commandments sealed and made sure the Law given in the Garden to man. It did not leave “maybes” and “ifs.” It made certain what the Law of Creation was by summarizing it for us in stone. Because our nature is sinful, our conscience could at times approve of that which is wicked and condemn that which is good. But God left no “maybes” when He gave the Law on Sinai. For more see chapter 19 on God's Law generally and this section, specifically.
One important aspect of Covenant Theology is the Ch...
The Apostle Paul writes:
Rom. 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
We are under grace, not under the law as a covenant of works, and therefore the curses of the law as a covenant of works do no longer apply to us. For more on this see 1689 19:6.
These three things listed are interconnected and therefore, I will treat them under one heading. These are:
To belong to this world means to be a slave of Satan and under the bondage of sin. To live in sin means to be under the bondage of Satan and to belong to his world and so on. These things are interconnected and they concern the power of sin from which believers are delivered. Therefore, when I speak of sin, I always have in mind these three things. Some of the things already said above touch upon these points.
We no longer belong to the dominion of sin and Satan (Gal. 1:4; Col. 1:13; Rom. 6:12-14; Acts 26:18), but belong and are slaves to Christ and righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18). Sin can no longer reign in us as it did prior to Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. Prior to regeneration, we were children of wrath who “once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), but now we are by grace seeking to walk in the good works prepared for us long ago (Eph. 2:10). We are set free from the dominion and power of sin to enjoy our freedom to not sin, but rather do that which is right! We are set free from this evil world so that we would be “transformed by the renewal of [our] mind, that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
Liberty from the power of sin is a great and gracious gift to the children of God, but it is one which will fully be realized in the eternal state. As long as we live in this fallen world, we will have to struggle against sin and we will see that sin will try to regain its domino over us, but we have to fight! See more on the remaining corruptions in us.
Afflictions will come to the people of God, they are not delivered from afflictions. Yet they are delivered from the evil of those afflictions. Those afflictions will do them no ultimate or eternal harm. Afflictions will come upon the Christians, by they will be used as means of further sanctifying us and disciplining us by God, not as punishments. They are meant for our good, even i...
God will judge the world by His own standard. He is His own standard. 1 Samuel 2:3 says that “the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” He is the standard which determines what is right and what is wrong. The Law which He has given us in the Ten Commandments—the moral law—is a reflection of His morally excellent character and the standard which we will be judged by. God is the Judge and He will do no one any wrong, for He is Just (Gen. 18:25). Repeatedly the Bible declares that God is just and He will judge the world by righteousness (e.g. Ps. 9:7-8; 96:10-13). He will not be bribed or be partial in His judgment (Rom. 2:9-11), but will give each man according to his works. No man outside of Christ can have any confidence of fulfilling God’s righteous standard or coming anywhere near that perfect standard. Therefore, there is no peace for those outside of Christ. On the other hand, believers have confidence (1John 4:17). The standard of judgment is the revealed will of God. There are several ways which we may know the revealed will of God. We have the will of God in 1) the law of nature, the moral law; 2) we have the revealed will of God in the Bible; and 3) we have the revealed will of God in the Gospel. Each will be judged according to the measure of knowledge they have of the will of God. This is evident from passages as Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 12:47-48; 20:47; 2 Corinthians 9:6. 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 matt...
Man, in his original state had the power to fulfill the law, but also to transgressing it, which Adam and Eve did. They were not fixed in their state, but were still in the time of their probation and were left to the liberty of their own will. This does not mean that God was not Sovereign over Adam and Eve's decision, as God's decree does not violate man's liberty as chapter 3 teaches. Had Adam obeyed past his time of probation, he would have earned eternal life and blessedness for all his descendants.
Man is the epitome of creation, he is the crown of creation. Man is the only image of God of everything that God created. But what does it mean that man was made in the image and likeness of God as Genesis 1:26-27 teaches? A most basic observation about what man being made in the image of God means is that man resembles or reflects God. That is what images do and that is the idea communicated through words like image or likeness. Man is in some way like God. While the plants are made and reproduce “according to [their] kind” (Gen. 1:11-12), sea creatures “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:21), land animals “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:24-25), man alone is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). In v. 26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. In v. 27, the narrator says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him”. This sets man apart from the rest of creation as the epitome of the created earth. Furthermore, God gets very personally involved in the creation of man as it is clear in Genesis 2. The rest of creation was made by divine fiat and speech, but when it comes to man, God's hands get involved! Some have tried to find different meanings or senses for the words image and likeness, but is this justified? There clearly seems to be parallelism in v. 26 between image and likeness. When the speech of God is summarized in v. 27, there is nothing said about likeness, but the whole is communicated with the words that man was made in the image of God. Louis Berkhof helps us to see that both terms are used interchangeably in the Bible:
In Gen. 1:26 both words are used, but in the twenty-seventh verse only the first. This is evidently considered sufficient to express the whole idea. In Gen. 5:1 only the word “likeness” occurs, but in the third verse of that chapter both terms are again found. Gen. 9:6 contains only the...
God has given us everything that is necessary for his own glory, i.e., that we would glorify Him and see His glory, our salvation and our life of faith and obedience is contained in the Holy Scripture. These things are called the whole counsel of God and this is found either expressly or necessarily in the Word of God. By expressly, the Confession means by direct commands and teachings (e.g. the Ten Commandments, Baptism, the Lord's Supper). By necessarily contained, the Confession refers to principles, applications and implications of Holy Scripture. We are not only to obey the direct commands of Scripture, but also whatever is implied and is based upon the teaching and commands of Scripture. The Lord Christ uses this principle when He proves the resurrection of the dead from the fact that the Patriarchs are alive before God in heaven (Matt. 22:23-33). Resurrection was not in Exodus 3:6, but it was a necessary and a valid implication.
The whole counsel of God is not to be tampered with. No new revelations of the Spirit neither the traditions of men should be added to it because the canon is closed. God has given His last word whole the church and world in His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). Then the Confession comes again to the necessity of the Holy Spirit in connection with Scripture. The inward work of the Holy Spirit is not only necessary to convince us that the Bible is God's Word (paragraph 5), but also for the saving understanding of those things as are revealed in the Word. The Spirit gives us inward illumination to savor and love the truths revealed in the Word.
There are some things which are not revealed in the Word concerning the circumstances of the worship of God or the government of the church, but are left to be ordered by the light of nature (i.e., common sense) and Christian prudence (wisdom). These are things like the time of worship on the Lord's Day, the type of building or place to worship, how long the service will be, beamer screen or not, or the finances of the church. These are things which the Scripture does not directly or indirectly speak about but are left to Christian wisdom and common sense. Nonetheless, the general rules of the Word are still to be observed in these matters. These are not to be disconnected from the Word just because they are not directly addressed by the Word. See chapter 22 about the elements and circumstances of worship.
To say that Scripture is sufficient is not to say that it speaks on every topic imaginable or that it tells us everything that we should do and everything which we should not. Rather, the sufficiency of Scripture is defined as Scripture containing everything necessary that God wanted us to know about salvation, faith, and the walk of obedience. Whatever God had deemed necessary for His people to know, He has written for our benefit in Scripture. The primary passage in Scripture which teaches the sufficiency of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16:
2Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Here, the Apostle Paul gives us a great and necessary-to-know description of Holy Writ. The Scriptures, all of it, is profitable for teaching us the will of God; for reproving and criticizing us and our actions, because in them God has reveal...
3. In contrast to the Old Covenant, the New is not like the Old. Meaning, it will not be broken and its people will, in fact, continue in the covenant. This is the exact point which is here ascribed to the Mosaic and it is said that the New Covenant is unlike the Old. Therefore, the New Covenant is at least unlike the Mosaic Covenant respecting this point. Genuine apostasy from the covenant will be impossible, but that was not impossible under the Old Covenant. This does not mean that all the covenantees will obey God perfectly, but it means that no one will be cast out of the covenant. For the covenant is first of all made with Christ Who has fulfilled all conditions of the covenant and then in Christ with every believer. It is a covenant which certainly has conditions, but those conditions are fulfilled by and in the Mediator of the covenant. There are no covenants absolutely without conditions, but the question is merely what these conditions are and who is to fulfill them.
4. That true believers falling away from grace is impossible in this covenant is seen in the fact that they have the Law of God written on their hearts. The Law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, is upon the heart of every born-again believer. This is a part of regeneration that God Himself will write His Law so near to us, upon our very nature, not in stone, but upon tablets of flesh (2Cor. 3:3). It is likewise God who will give the ability to follow the Law as is taught in Ezekiel 36:25-27. The Law is no longer something external, but it is something internal. It is a part of His new God-given nature by which he is able to obey and walk in a manner consistent with it by the grace of God.
5. The New Covenant, as the other covenants of God, has the promise that God will be our God and we will be His people. But there is something different about this covenant. The promise of having God as our God is relevant in meaning and efficacy according to the covenant it is attached to. The promise is now attached to a covenant which actuates complete forgiveness of sins, the writing of the Law upon the heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No covenant ...
Rom. 3:28-30 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
What are the works of the Law but the things that God delights in and has commanded in the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments? But still, Paul says that is not the way that we are justified. That is not the way that we are declared righteous before the thrice holy God. It is by faith. For the Jew and the Gentile, it is the same way whereby comes the equality of Jewish and Gentile Christians (e.g. Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11ff). The Jews had the idea that justification was through their efforts, but Paul here combats that idea. Justification by works is the essence of all man-made religions and the path to perdition. In Galatians, when Paul is combating the “another gospel” of the Judaizing heretics, he in the same breath is combating against justification by works and teaches Sola Fide. The error of the Judaizes was that they added works to the Gospel of Christ. They began with requiring the believers to be circumcised, but they did not realize that those who are circumcised were obliged to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3), therefore they hinged the justification of the sinner upon his works.
Gal. 2:15-16 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Do you think that Paul was trying to show that justification by faith? He uses “works of the law” three times in a single verse to deny justification by works! Paul denies the place of works in our justification before God. Faith alone is sufficient. It is not by the deeds and works of the Law, which are in fact good because they're commanded of God, but not sufficient to declare us righteous and just before God since our good works are filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).
Ephesians 2:8-9 is probably one of the most loved passages of the Bible to those who love that they’re saved by faith alone and not works–
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
See our discussion above when I argue that this the gift refers to the whole process of salvation, i.e., faith and repentance, too. But for our present subject, notice how Paul attributes our salvation to that fact that it by grace, i.e., something that we did not deserve and was given to is in spite of us. Grace is not only unmerited favor, it is because of our sin, it is demerited favor. It was by grace and it was through faith. Faith was the instrument through which we were saved. Paul emphatically says that it was not our doing. There was nothing that we did, the purpose of this is to exclude all boasting from humans. God does not want humans to boast in anything but His work and His person (Jer. 9:23-24).
Paul argues that even David and Abraham under the Old Testament were justified by faith and not by works: