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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

Chapter 11: Of Justification

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


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

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

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

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

Section one first deals with a distortion about justification and then gives the biblical position.

Not Infusion of Righteousness

Roman Catholics believe what may be called "infused righteousness." That means that at salvation the merits of the Lord Jesus on the cross are infused with the righteousness of the sinner and together they constitute the basis of salvation. Meaning, Christ’s righteousness is not enough, rather it is given to help us with our own righteousness through works and obedience to God and the Roman Catholic Church. In their words:

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:[3]

This “infused righteousness” is attained by a work, namely baptism. That is the way you get this righteousness. Basically, this position teaches that salvation by grace alone is not enough. You have to add your works and obedience to the work of Christ. It is wrong to think that Roman Catholics do not believe in the necessity of grace. Rather, they don’t believe in the sufficiency of grace. Grace alone is not enough to justify. In their own words from the Council of Trent:

"If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Ju...


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

Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints

What do we mean by the Perseverance of the Saints? Does it matter what we do? Are we to be passive and do nothing? What passages support the doctrine of Perseverance? What about passages which speak of falling away and Hebrews 6?

Wayne Grudem defines the perseverance of the saints in this way:

The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.[1]

In this chapter, I want to mainly do two things: first, argue for the P in the TULIP, the Perseverance of the Saints; and second, examine some passages which are often brought up against the doctrine.


§1 Can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace

  1. Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity. 
    1. John 10:28-29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; 2 Peter 1:5-10; 1 John 2:19[2]
    2. Ps. 89:31-32; 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Tim. 4:7
    3. Ps. 102:27; Mal. 3:6; Eph. 1:14; 1 Peter 1:5; Rev. 13:8

The Impossibility Of Final Apostasy For The Elect

The biblical and Reformed doctrine of perseverance is a great mountain, which gives the saints assurance and faith in God’s almighty power in overcoming sin in us and completely saving us. The doctrine does not teach, contrary to non-Protestant caricatures, that Christians after being saved can do whatever they want to do and still remain saved. Rather, the doctrine teaches that those who have the Spirit of God indwelling in them will persevere in the faith by the almighty power of God. The Lord will chastise, sanctify and lead them toward a holier life.

That the doctrine is true and biblical may be seen from many ways (see paragraph 2), including (1) the decree of election, (2) regeneration, (3) justification and (4) Christ’s obedience.

Election: It has pleased God from all eternity to select a particular people in the Lord Jesus Christ whom He will redeem from sin to be with Him forever without any consideration of foreseen faith or works, merely because of His good pleasure. Seeing that their salvation was not dependent upon them, how would their perseverance be (completely) dependent upon them? There is no debate among Calvinists about whether the elect can lose their salvation. Someone who accepts Unconditional Election must believe in perseverance. It is log...


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

Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant

What is Covenant Theology? How many covenants does the Bible have and which are those? What is the Reformed Baptist and Paedobaptist understanding of the covenants? What is 1689 Federalism? Is the New Covenant the Covenant of Grace? Was the Covenant of Grace established before the New Covenant? Were the Old Testament covenants administrations of the Covenant of Grace?

Here we come to a chapter that is different than the one in the Westminster and Savoy confessions (see the confessions side by side here). Were the Baptists trying to be original or were they trying to communicate something else? I and many other brothers do believe that the framers of the Confession were trying to communicate a different Covenant Theology than that of their Westminster and Savoy brethren. Let not the reader suppose that I will exhaustively deal with every point or seek to rebut oppositions and answer objections. My objective here is to lay an understanding of Covenant Theology as I see it in the Scripture and as I was helped by the books and men mentioned below. This is not meant to be lengthy (although I guess it will kinda be), but concise. [22/09/2015 – It did become lengthy]


§1 The Covenant Of Works

  1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.1
    1. Job 35:7-8; Ps. 113:5-6; Isa. 40:13-16; Luke 17:5-10; Acts 17:24-25[1]

Introduction to Covenant Theology

Covenant theology (also known as Covenantalism, Federal theology, or Federalism) is a Calvinist conceptual overview mand interpretive framework for understanding the overall flow of the Bible. It uses the theological concept of covenant as an organizing principle for Christian theology. The standard description of covenant theology views the history of God's dealings with mankind, from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Consummation, under the framework of the three overarching theological covenants of redemption, works, and grace.[2]

Covenant Theology helps us see the story of the whole Bible. Covenant Theology unites the people of God and their purpose. Covenant Theology helps us see the importance given to covenants in the Bible. Covenant Theology is opposed to Dispensationalism which seeks to divide the people of God, their purpose and focuses on the discontinuity of the covenants. In this chapter, I will try to lay out how I understand 1689 Baptist Covenant Theology and make a case for it from Holy Writ. I've been greatly helped by the following books and men:

I don't pretend to have an answer to every question...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator

What are the threefold offices of Christ? What does it mean that Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant? What is Christ's Active and Passive Obedience? Did Christ by His death atone for the sins of all mankind or only for His elect? What is 'limited' in 'Limited Atonement'? What about passages used against Limited Atonement?


§1 It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus

  1. It pleased God, 1 in His eternal purpose, 2 to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, 3 to be the mediator between God and man; the prophetpriest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. 5
    1. Isa. 42:1; John 3:16[1]
    2. 1Pet. 1:19-20
    3. Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:21-22; Isa. 42:1; 1Pet. 2:4-6
    4. 1 Tim. 2:5; Acts 3:22; Heb. 5:5-6; Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; Heb. 1:2; Acts 17:31
    5. Rom. 8:30; John 17:6; Isa. 53:10; Ps. 22:30; 1 Tim. 2:6; Isa. 55:4-5; 1 Cor. 1:30

Christ the Elect

Our Confession states that the Lord Jesus was chosen, called and ordained by God to the office of the mediator. He was chosen by God for this office according to the Covenant of Redemption between them (see chapter 7 on the Covenant of Redemption). We said in chapter 7 that the Covenant of Redemption was the eternal covenant between the Persons of the Trinity, which laid out their roles in the self-glorification of God and the redemption of God’s elect. The Father was to elect a people and give them to the Son. The Son was to redeem the people whom the Father gave to Him. The Spirit was to apply the benefits of Son on their behalf to them and indwell them.

Christ was chosen by the Father from before the foundation of the earth to be the Savior of God’s people. God’s plans had Him as the center. In Ephesians 1:3-6 we read that before the foundation of the world we were chosen and predestined in Christ for salvation, meaning that Christ was already then chosen to be the Savior of God’s elect. He is the only One who can save us. We also read about the Servant Messiah in Isaiah’s prophecies. In Isaiah 42, we read –

Isa. 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

The Servant of the Lord is none other than the Lord Jesus who is prophesied about before He came on the scene. He is the Lord’s chosen and He is in whom God delights (Matt. 3:17; 17:5, etc). We also read of Christ being the chosen of God and in whom God delights in the New Testament Scriptures often with allusion to the Old Testament (John 6:27; 1Pet. 2:4-6). Christ is the prime elect of God, and all the believers have been elected in Him and when they believe they are united with Him.

Christ the Priest and Mediator

Our Lord is not only the prime elect of God, the Son of God, God the Son, the Savior and Awaited One, but He is also the High Priest of God’s people. The task of the priest is to be a mediator between God and man. This was the case in the Old Testament also for example when the people would come with their sacrifices to the Levitical priests, or on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest would intercede and make atonement for the people...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

Chapter 29: Of Baptism

What is baptism? What does it symbolize? Can I be saved without being baptized? Are professing believers alone to be baptized? What about infant baptism? What is the baptismal formula? How is baptism to be performed? Is it by sprinkling, pouring or immersion?

Let me start with a personal testimony. I was born in Iraq to an Armenian (not Arminian) family. The church of the Armenian people is the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is an Orthodox church and it is very much similar to Roman Catholicism. Infants would be baptized around 40 days old or something around that time. That was not different in my case. Throughout my youth, I saw my infant baptism as the basis that I was a Christian. What made it also difficult was the fact that in Iraq, everyone would have their religion on their ID card. I even served as an altar boy in the church when I was little. But to be honest, I did not know the Gospel, yet I was not ashamed to proclaim that I am Christian, but don't ask me what the Gospel is! Thus, throughout my youth, I saw my baptism as the ground that I am a Christian, even though I did not pray often or did not know why Christ died. The Armenian Church, by the way, believes in baptismal regeneration and baptism by dipping the infant thrice in a bowl of holy water. My family came to the Netherlands in 2008 and I finally knew what freedom was, but not the freedom of the Gospel (yet). Two years or so after that, I met with an old friend and stayed with him a few days. He saw that I did not pray before bed, so he questioned me. He told me about prayer and how proper is it to pray to God and thank Him for everything. I told him that I don't want to be religious. He directed me to videos and episodes of Zakaria Botros (Arabic), who shares the Gospel with Muslims via TV and exposes Islam. Through his videos and episodes, I came to know the true Gospel and was saved by God's grace. After that, there grew in me a desire to study His Word, so I bought Bibles and study Bibles and started reading the Scriptures daily. Around that time, I started attending a Baptist church. I did not know that it was a Baptist church. We went there with some friends of mine and by God's grace, kept attending church on the Lord's Day.

I started reading the Bible and I could not find anything about the baptism of infants or that baptism as the basis of my faith and all the things which I had simply assumed in my youth. So I set out to study this matter and came to the conclusion that infant baptism was unscriptural and what happened to me as an infant, was not biblical baptism. On a Saturday night, I fell on my knees and asked the Lord if He wanted me to be baptized that He would give me some sign. The next day, the Lord's Day, the preacher talked about discipleship and following Christ no matter what and he said something like, “It doesn't matter what your family will think of you if you want to be baptized”, which I saw as a sign from heaven. My family would not have been happy about my baptism because they think that my baptism as an infant was valid. Moreover, the Armenian Church is a national church. It does not get new converts, for example. Most infants are baptized and declared Christian, even if they know not the Gospel. Therefore, the only baptism that is practiced and that I have heard of is infant baptism.

I still feel guilty for asking the Lord for a sign when I had already concluded that believers’ baptism is the bib...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith

What is faith? Is it simply believing something without any and contrary to all evidence? Is it wishful thinking? Dr. Wayne Grudem defines faith as:

Trust or dependence on God based on the fact that we take him at his word and believe what he has said.[1]

The confession in chapter 11 paragraph 2 defines faith as:

Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification...

In this chapter we will explore such things concerning faith as what it is, what is its nature and how it is increased and strengthened. Can we have temporal faith? Can we lose our faith? Such things we will try to deal with here.


§1 The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit

  1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened. 2
    1. John 6:37, 44; Acts 11:21, 24; 13:48; 14:27; 15:9; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2[2]
    2. Rom  4:11;  10:14, 17; Luke 17:5; Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 2:2

The Grace of Faith

We have already argued that faith is a gift in chapter 11 on Justification. It is something that God gave us to exercise. We Calvinists do not believe that God believes for us, but that our faith finds its origin in God and comes to us through regeneration (1John 5:1, see our discussion on this passage). By this faith, which is granted to us (Phil. 1:19) by the grace of God, we believe and are justified. The Word tells us that "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). We believe, are justified and received into the arms of God (Rom. 1:16-17; 5:1; 10:9). Again and again we are told that we are justified by faith (e.g. Rom. 3:28-30; 4:5-10; 9:30; 10:4; 11:6; Gal. 2:15-16; Phil. 3:9) and then we understand that even our faith was by grace granted to us by God (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts. 3:16; 18:27; 2Pet. 1:1). So that we can truly say: Soli Deo Gloria! There is no contribution on our part for our salvation except the sin that made it necessary, as Jonathan Edwards said.

This faith is worked in us through the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who regenerates us and gives us new life (John 3:5-8) by which faith comes (1John 5:1). Regeneration precedes faith. The Spirit uses the Word of God preached to us in the Gospel. The Gospel proclamation goes out and the Spirit uses the Gospel proclamation to draw the elect to the Son (John 6:44, 63). 2 Thessalonians 2:14 says that God called us through the Gospel. The Lord did not merely elect a people and leave them. No, He goes out and through the Gospel preachers/witnesses draws them to the Son in faith and repentance. Peter writes:

1Pet 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God

It is through the Word of God that regeneration came and we became Christians. It is not without the Gospel that we became Christians. But it is through the Spirit of God working on...


1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession, 1677

To The Judicial and Impartial Reader

Courteous Reader: It is now many years since divers of us (with other sober Christians then living, and walking in the way of the Lord, that we profess) did conceive ourselves to be under a necessity of publishing a Confession, of our Faith, for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were, or had entertained prejudices against our profession, by reason of the strange representation of them by some men of note who had taken very wrong measures, and accordingly led others into misapprehension of us and them. And this was first put forth about the year 1643, in the name of seven congregations then gathered in London; since which time divers impressions thereof have been dispersed abroad, and our end proposed in good measure answered, inasmuch as many (and some of those men eminent both for piety and learning) were thereby satisfied that we were no way guilty of those heterodoxies and fundamental errors which had too frequently been charged upon us without ground or occasion given on our part. 

And forasmuch as that Confession is not now commonly to be had, and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein, it was judged necessary by us to join together in giving a testimony to the world of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles by the publication of this which is now in your hand. And forasmuch as our method and manner of expressing our sentiments in this doth vary from the former (although the substance of this matter is the same), we shall freely impart to you the reason and occasion thereof. One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work was (not only to give a full account of ourselves to those Christians that differ from us about the subject of baptism, but also) the profit that might from thence arise unto those that have any account of our labors in their instruction and establishment in the great truths of the Gospel, in the clear understanding and steady belief of which our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before him in all our ways, is most nearly concerned; and therefore we did conclude it necessary to express ourselves the more fully and distinctly; and also to fix on such a method as might be most comprehensive of those things we designed to explain our sense and belief of; and finding no defect in this regard in that fixed on by the Assembly, and, after them by those of the congregational way, we did readily conclude it best to retain the same order in our present Confession; and also when we observed that those last mentioned did in their Confessions (for reasons which seemed of weight both to themselves and others) choose not only to express their mind in words concurrent with the former in sense concerning all those articles wherein they were agreed, but also for the most part without any variation of the terms, we did in like manner conclude it best to follow their example in making use of the very same words with them both in these articles (which are very many) wherein our faith and doctrine are the same with theirs; and this we did the more abundantly to manifest our consent with both in all the fundamental articles of the Christian religion, as also with many others whose orthodox Confessions have been published to the world on the behalf of the Protestant in diverse nations and citi...


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

Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

How are we to worship God? What is the Regulative Principle? Is it taught in the Scriptures? What are the elements of worship? What are circumstances? Are we only to sing the Psalms? Can we use musical instruments in public worship? 

Is there a specific day of worship? What is the Sabbath? Which day is it? When was it first instituted? How is it that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath? Where does Scripture teach the change of the day? What about Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17? Don't these passages teach the abrogation of the Sabbath? How is the Sabbath to be kept?


§1 The Regulative Principle Of Worship

  1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. 1 But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. 2
    1. Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33[1]
    2. Gen. 4:1-5; Exod. 20:4-6; Matt. 15:3, 8-9; 2 Kings 16:10-18; Lev. 10:1-3; Deut. 17:3; 4:2; 12:29-32; Josh. 1:7; 23:6-8; Matt. 15:13; Col. 2:20-23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17

There Is A God

Creation testifies to everyone without question that there is God. General Revelation is sufficient to reveal God to the world and to hold them accountable (see chapter 20). Everyone knows that there is a God. But not only that there is a God, but also that this is a God that must be worshiped. This explains the countless religions that have existed and still exist. It is all because of the Fall that we have a multitude of religions rather than only one. Romans 1 speaks about those who suppress the truth about God through idolatry. All religions in one way or another try to appease the god(s) and serve them. That is the sense that they get from General Revelation. There is a God to Whom they owe their existence and blessings, therefore they are to serve and love Him. But the Confession is quick to add the way in which the true God wants to be worshiped is instituted by Himself alone. To that now we turn our attention.

What Is The Regulative Principle?

In the words of Derek Thomas, “the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture.”[2] For everything we do in worship, we must have a scriptural warrant. Sometimes the language of command is used. All that is commanded is acceptable, and what is not commanded is forbidden. We must be careful with such a language. What is meant is not we must have imperatives for everything in corporate worship. But rather, the Regulative Principle of Worship teaches that for every element of worship in the corporate worship of God’s people, there must be a Scriptural warrant. We cannot simply add things to the worship of God which have no warrant in the Word of God.

The Confession says that there is an “acceptable way of worshiping the true God” which presupposes that there is an unacceptable way. We are not to worship God as we feel and as we think He would like us to worship Him. Rather this “acceptable way” is determin...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation - Commentary

Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation

In this chapter, we will consider what repentance actually is. Is repentance a gift? Do we repent only when we become Christians? Does repentance always accompany faith? Is repentance necessary for salvation?

I find the division of the paragraphs a bit unhelpful. The Confession speaks of those who are aged repenting unto life (par. 1), Christians repenting of their sins (par. 2) and defines what repentance actually is in paragraph 3. It seems to me that it would have been more natural to begin by defining what repentance actually is and then proceeding with what are now paragraphs 1 and 2. Therefore, I will begin here by giving a definition of what repentance is and then I will try to defend that definition biblically in paragraph 3. Wayne Grudem says that:

Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.[1]

Thus, repentance is not only a sorrow for our sins against God, it is not only us being sorry for doing what we did, but it the commitment to forsake our sins and instead obey Christ the Lord. But more on this in paragraph 3.

That the Baptist Confession depends and copies from the Savoy Declaration of 1658 can very clearly be seen especially in this chapter, which is wholly different in the Westminster, but almost identical in the Savoy. See the comparison here.


§1 God in their effectual calling giveth them repentance unto life

  1. Such of the elect as are converted at riper years, having sometime lived in the state of nature, 1 and therein served divers lusts and pleasures, God in their effectual calling giveth them repentance unto life. 2
    1. Titus 3:2-5[2]
    2. 2 Chron. 33:10-20; Acts 9:1-19; 16:29-30

In this paragraph, the Confession is speaking about the repentance of those who have lived manifestly wicked lives. The words of Dr. Waldron here are especially helpful:

The Confession makes this distinction out of a desire to distinguish repentance as a crisis experience from repentance as an ordinary grace. All believers are marked by the ordinary grace, but not all believers will know, or need to know, repentance as a crisis experience.

In this chapter two types of such a crisis experience are mentioned. The Confession first refers to ‘such of the elect as are converted at riper years having sometime lived in the state of nature’. Scriptural examples of this are Manasseh, Paul and the Philippian jailor. Secondly, it refers to ‘believers [who]…fall into great sins and provocations’. The scriptural examples here are David and Peter.[3]

We simply think of Saul of Tarsus and his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. In the sight of the religious Jews his way of life was blameless (Phil. 3:4-6), but in the sight of God, he was a wicked man who was persecuting Him (Acts 9:4). As a persecutor of the Church, it was understandable that the saints had difficulty in believing that the wicked persecutor has been saved and now is a saint. His wicked life was turned upside down by God and he was that his righteousness through the law was worthless. When the Lord saved him, He gave him “repentance unto life.” A beautiful phrase coming from Acts 11:18 which means that repentance is necessary, and in fact, it leads to true life in Christ.

The paragraph does not mean that only those who are “at riper years” and are manifestly wicked are granted repent...


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

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

Introduction

What is the relationship of the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel?

There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

Defining Our Terms

Natural Law

The Natural Law is the Law of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God. Natural Law may be discovered by reason and by innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

Moral Law

The Moral Law on the other hand is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

[S]pecifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[2]

And then Dr. Barcellos adds:

As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalogue had a unique redemptive-...