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

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Chapter 19: Of the Law of God


What is the relationship between 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 (see here on the image of God). Natural Law may be discovered by reason and 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:

specifically 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...

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

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I will here freely quote from many authors, much wiser than me on the subject of the Sabbath. This Christian Sabbath study here could be seen as merely repeating what great theologians of the past and (some) of the present have said on this subject. Therefore, I will not hesitate to quote their words and give credit where credit is due. Below is a list of works that I’ve (either entirely or partly) read, listened to or watched on the Christian Sabbath.

Written Resources
  • Philip S. Ross. From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division Of The Law. (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2010).
  • C. P. Arand, C. L. Blomberg, S. MacCarty, & J. A. Pipa. Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views. Ed. C. J. Donato. (Nashville: B & H Pub. Group, 2011).
  • Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. The Lord’s Day. (Fearn: Christian Focus, 1997).
  • Robert Paul Martin. The Christian Sabbath: Its Redemptive-Historical Foundation, Present Obligation, and Practical Observance. (Trinity Pulpit Press, 2016).
  • Francis Nigel Lee. The Covenantal Sabbath. (London, ILQ: Lord’s Day Observance Society. 1974; out of print). Available online.
    • This is a very extensive work on the Sabbath, which is out of print, but available online. Luckily, I was able to find a physical copy. Read my review here.
  • John Owen. A Treatise On The Sabbath. (Forgotton Books, 2015). A photo-copy edition, which is also available online.
  • Richard Barcellos, etc. Going Beyond The Five Points. Ed. by Rob Ventura. (San Bernardino, CA: [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform], 2015). pp. 53-56.
  • Richard Barcellos. 
  • Roger T. Beckwith, Wilfrid Stott. This Is The Day: The Biblical Doctrine Of The Christian Sunday In Its Jewish And Early Church Setting. (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott. 1978, 181 pp. Out of print). Can be found online.
  • Robert L. Dabney.
  • Charles Hodge. Systematic Theology, Volume 3. 1872. § 8. The Fourth Commandment.
  • A. H. Strong. Systematic Theology: A Compendium Designed For The Use Of Theological Students. (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1970. Originally, 1907). pp. 408-410.
  • Thomas Watson.
  • Ezekiel Hopkins. An Exposition Of The Ten Commandments. 1690. The Fourth Commandment. pp. 192-224.
  • Jonathan Edwards. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 2. Revised and corrected by Edward Hickman. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974 edition). pp. 93-103.
    • Three sermons entitled, “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath” which could also be found online:
  • Samuel E. Waldron.

Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist

...ry/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Of Good Works
  • Of The Perseverance Of The Saints (A positive case for the Reformed doctrine and responses to passages such as Hebrews 6 and the like)
  • Of The Assurance Of Grace And Salvation
  • Of The Law Of God (Threefold Division Of The Law, the Decalogue before Moses, a brief exposition of the Decalogue, ceremonial and civil laws, the abiding moral law under the New Covenant in the OT prophecy and the NT, Threefold Uses of the Law, The Law and the Gospel)
  • Of The Gospel, And Of The Extent Of The Grace Thereof
  • Of Christian Liberty And Liberty of Conscience
  • Of Religious Worship And the Sabbath Day (A case for the Regulative Principle of Worship and the Christian Sabbath)
  • Of Lawful Oaths And Vows
  • Of The Civil Magistrate
  • Of Marriage
  • Of The Church
  • Of the Communion of Saints
  • Of Baptism And The Lord’s Supper
  • Of Baptism
  • Of The Lord’s Supper
  • Of The State Of Man After Death And Of The Resurrection Of The Dead (Intermediate State Hades, Sheol, Heaven; A Case for Amillennial Eschatology; critique of Premillennialism)
  • Of The Last Judgment (Endless punishment in Hell contra Annihilationism)
  • ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows - Commentary

    ...jpc" id="footnote-9">^ Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. In loc.
  • ^ HCSB Study Bible. Holman Christian Standard Bible. (Nashville, Tenn. 2010). pp. 1620-1621, notes on Matthew 5:33-37.
  • ^ Philip S. Ross. From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division Of The Law. (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2011). p. 230
  • ^ David G. Hagopian. So Help Me God: A Biblical View of Oaths.
  • ^ Ibid., footnote 1.
  • ^ As cited in Of Lawful Vows. The Reformed Reader.
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