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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...ritten in an attempt to distinguish us from the false Roman Catholic Church. We will encounter statements in which Roman Catholic teaching is refuted. On the other hand, our Confession aligns us with churches that proclaim the gospel and worship Christ in obedient submission to Scripture.

Among such Biblically orthodox churches however, there are yet differences held with honest Biblical conviction. Therefore, our Confession also expresses our Baptistic and Reformed distinctives in contrast to our Presbyterian and non-Reformed brethren.[1]


§1 The Universal Church Consists Of The Whole Number Of The Elect

  1. The catholic or Universal Church, 1 which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. 2
    1. Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Heb. 12:23[2]
    2. Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col 1:18, 24; Rev. 21:9-14

The catholic (meaning universal) church, which is called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 12:23). The Universal Church does not consist only of New Covenant Christians, but of the whole number of the elect who have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ. Notice that the church consists of the elect who are gathered, i.e., converted. In their unregenerate state, the elect are not part of the Universal Church until they are gathered into Christ. Christ is the head (Col 1:18) and the church is the spouse (Eph. 5:25), the body (Col 1:18) and the fullness (Eph. 1:23) of Christ.


The word “catholic” means universal and hereby, our forefathers are agreeing with the last part of the Apostles’ Creed: 

I believe in the Holy Spirit, 9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, 10. the forgiveness of sins, 11. the resurrection of the body, 12. and the life everlasting. Amen.

Neither the Nicene Creed nor the Confession refers to the Roman Catholic Church in the word “catholic”, but to the universal Christian Church of Jesus Christ. This church is the universal invisible church. This designation refers to true believers, who were chosen before the foundation of the world, are members of the New Covenant and not merely members of a local church. They are true believers and part of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. This is what the New Covenant consists of and this is what makes up the invisible church, which only God infallibly knows its members. There will be professing believers in our churches, even members or on the staff, who are not true believers and thus not part of the invisible church, but they are part of the visible church. The invisible church becomes visible. The Universal Church becomes local. John Dagg defines these distinctions as follows:

By the church invisible, they [theologians] mean all true Christians; and by the church visible, all those who profess the true religion. The invisible consists wholly of those who are sons of light; and the visible includes sons of light and sons of darkness in one community.[3]

The Presbyterian Louis Berkhof defines the distinction in the following way:

the invisible Church is the Church as God sees it, a Church which contains only believers, while the visible Church is the Church as man sees...


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

... seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled” (Rev. 10:7). The sounding of the seventh trumpet brings the plan of God to fruition and completion. This sounds similar to Acts 3:21 and the restoration of all things mentioned there. The Seventh Trumpet is seen here as the last trumpet, which sounds the end of the world. This is, I believe, the “last trumpet” of Paul (1 Cor. 15:52; cf. 1 Thess. 4:16).

Chapter 11 takes us to a vision of the temple of God and the Two Witnesses. The Temple of God is the Temple which is spoken of in Matthew 26:61 (Jesus refers to Himself, actually, see John 2:19) and the Church as the Temple of God (2 Cor. 6:16; 2 Thess. 2:4). The Universal Church is the temple of God spoken of here, and the “court outside the temple” are the unbelieving within the Visible Church. The angel is to measure the true temple of God, but not the hypocrites. To measure them indicates that God sets the Church Universal especially under His care. God wants to distinguish the true Church, therefore He measures them and sets them apart. The true Church alone is safe from God’s wrath. They may die because of God’s judgment, but they will not taste His eternal wrath (Rom. 8:1). In other words, the bodies of the faithful may be subject to pain and destruction, but their souls are safe in the hand of God who will give them a new body at His coming. Here, the imagery of measuring is used while in Revelation 7 the saints of God are sealed so as to be protected from the wrath of God. Both pictures symbolizing the same thing.

The nations will trample the holy city, which is the Jerusalem of the fallen world system. By that, I mean the designation “the great city” given by John, which is “symbolically…called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), which also persecutes His people. This trampling of the holy city is only for 42 months, which is the same as the 1,260 days in which the Two Witnesses prophesy (Rev. 11:3). While the Church is being persecuted, the Two Witnesses are still proclaiming the Word of the Lord.

The “holy city” spoken of here is the Church of God as in Revelation 20:9; 21:2, 10, 19. They will be trampled by the world and its system. They will suffer physical harm, but no spiritual harm will touch them. They will suffer as they remain faithful to their Savior who also suffered at the hands of wicked men. But the period of their suffering is limited to 42 months; 1,260 days; a time, and times, and half a time; which are 3,5 years. The time for the suffering of the Church is a broken seven and a short time. It is an imperfect and incomplete attempt by the world to destroy the Church. It is said to be ten days in Revelation 2:10. The time of persecution and trampling for the Church is also the time when the Church prophesies and proclaims the gospel. This persecution will obviously intensify as the Church faithfully and unashamedly proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. This 3,5 years of persecution has its basis in Daniel 7:25; 12:7, 11-12 and the persecution which the Jews suffered at the hands of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This period which is noted in three ways in the Revelation is the same:

  • 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3; 12:6),
  • forty-two months (Rev. 11:2; 13:5),
  • a time, and times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14).

In Revelation 12:6, 14, this 3,5 years period begins with the resurrection of Christ and the flight of the woman to the wilderness. The fact that it encompasses the whole period bet...


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

...the Lord Christ intercedes before the Father on behalf of those who were given to Him, in direct opposition to “the world” (John 17:9), i.e., those who were not given to Him. Right before offering His great sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, finds it necessary to explicitly say that His intercession is certainly not for the world, but only those given to Him. In the same chapter, Christ’s prays...

  • that His own may be kept in the Father’s name and from the evil one (John 17:11, 15);
  • for the sanctification of His church in the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17, 19);
  • for the union of Christ’s Universal Church in the Trinity (John 17:20-23);
  • for them seeing His glory and the love which the Father has for the Son (John 17:24);
  • that the love which the Father has for the Son may be in them (John 17:26).

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Christ “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The basis for the fact that He is able to save them to the uttermost, or “save completely” (NET), “save forever” (NASB), “save to the very end” (YLT), is grounded upon His intercession. Those who draw near to God, draw near to God through Him (cf. John 14:6). But we know that it is God Himself who draws us to Himself through Christ (John 6:44). In this way, everyone who draws near to Christ, Christ is able and willing to save to the uttermost—to the very end and thus accomplish the will of the Father (e.g., John 6:39).

Christ does much more than we ask. Just as He prayed for Peter (Luke 22:31-32), so likewise He prays for the faith of His elect. In short, Christ prays that the fruits of His death may be applied to all His people.

The Infallibility of Christ’s Intercession

The foundation on which Christ’s intercession is built is upon the fact that He always does the will of God. His mission from the Father was to accomplish the work which He had given Him (John 17:4) and that the Lord Christ certainly did. He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father (John 6:38). What is the Father’s will for Him? “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). Basically, that He should save them and keep them to all eternity. Well, the question now is: “Is Christ able to accomplish that which the Father wills for Him?”

To answer this question negatively is blasphemy. To entertain the thought that our Christ could in any way, shape or form disobey the will of the Father is not worthy of His glory. He laid down His prerogative as God and became like us, to obey the will of the Father and accomplish that work which was given to Him to do. That work, our Lord says, that He certainly accomplished (John 17:4). Furthermore, we have a clear word from the Savior as to the attitude of the Father towards Him. The Lord says:

John 11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Even those who knew Him knew that the Father will do whatever Christ asks (John 11:22). Christ on another occasion says that He “always do[es] the things that are pleasing to him [the Father]” (John 8:29). Well, it is the will of the Father that He give eternal life and keep for eternity all those who were given to Him (e.g., John 6:37-44; 17:1-5). Will the Lord ever fail to accomplish the will of the Fathe...


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

... His work of atonement for us, or it refers to (2) the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12, 27). A double meaning may be the intention of the apostle. The breaking of bread symbolizes Christ’s body figuratively broken for us on the cross as He bore our sin upon Himself, and thus we receive the benefits of His work. This is similar to what was said in the first part of the verse about communion in Christ’s blood. This is, in fact, how Christ Himself explains the bread as a symbol of His body (Matt. 26:26). But the breaking of Christ’s body was the basis, which created His mystical body, the church. The church is composed of born-again believers who make up the Universal Church of Christ. As we partake of the Lord’s Supper in the gathering of God’s people, we are united not only to Christ but also to each other, as a family of believers, meditating upon the work of Christ and receiving the benefits of that work from Him. We are drawn together by that singular sacrifice which made us the family of God. John Dagg observes that our “communion or joint participation in the benefits of Christ’s death, is signified by the joint partaking of the outward elements...Believers meet around the table of the Lord, in one faith on the same atonement, in one hope of the same inheritance, and with one heart filled with love to the same Lord.”[2]

Benjamin Coxe, the father of Nehemiah Coxe, one of the framers of the Confession, observed the four following things on 1 Corinthians 10:16-17:

1. True believers rightly receiving this Holy Sacrament, are thereby assured of their partaking of the benefits of Christ’s death.

2. All they who do outwardly receive this Sacrament do therein make an outward profession of receiving Christ crucified, and partaking of the benefits of Christ’s death.

3. This Sacrament does teach and assure all true believing communicants, that they being many persons, are yet one mystical body, because they are all partakers of one and the same Jesus Christ, of whose body the bread is an ordained token and pledge in this Sacrament.

4. They who join together in outward receiving of this Sacrament do both join together in the profession of the same faith in Christ, and also do profess themselves to be (in the judgment of charity, which they now mutually profess concerning each other) fellow members of the same mystical body, as being all fed with the same spiritual food.[3]

That it is a sign of union with the brethren is also shown from the context wherein it is celebrated. The Lord’s institution said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). But it does not specify either place, frequency, or context. Place we can discard quickly as there is no special holiness to a specific place. Frequency is not under discussion here. What we are left with is the context. By this, I mean the setting wherein it is celebrated. In the New Testament, it is clear that it was celebrated with the believers among their gathers. For example, we read of the 3000 converts from Pentecost joining the church in devoting “themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). A few verses later, it is said, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). Notice that the Lord’s Supper is here celebrated at home, which is no problem at all because homes were the buildings where Ch...


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

...pointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.[70]

As to membership in the New Covenant, we have seen from Jeremiah that it is only elect believers, those united to Jesus Christ, and thus those who are members of a local church are not necessarily members of the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant. Members of the church are just that, members of a local church, but not necessarily members of the Universal Church of Christ, they are merely members of the visible church. Furthermore, as Reformed believers, we believe that Christ died to save and atone for the sins of the elect. Those are also His covenant community and by His blood, He places them in the New Covenant and in relationship with God. But this is not the case for apostates or infants of believing parents. It is essential to understand what the basis of membership in the New Covenant (or for that matter, any covenant) is and it is one’s relation to the Federal Head. The Israelites were in covenant with God because of their physical relation to Abraham. No Amorite could claim membership to the Abrahamic Covenant. Relation to the head defines the membership. The same is true for the Davidic Covenant. The same is true for the New Covenant, but what is very clear under the New Covenant is that physical privileges no longer apply (e.g., John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:6-8). Our relationship with Jesus Christ is called our union with Him, which is by faith (see chapter 27). Therefore, without faith, there can be no relation to Christ. And if there is no relation to Christ, there is, therefore, no relation to His Covenant, too. The Old Covenant did not require faith for membership, while the New Covenant presupposes faith from all its members. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him or to be in any sense, in Christ. Dr. Renihan explains the nature of the Kingdom of God:

The kingdom proclaimed by the Christ is a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). Though the full unveiling of the nature of this kingdom occurs in the apostolic writings, the ministry of Christ established all its fundamental features. It is a kingdom from above, a kingdom entered not by natural birth, but supernatural birth (John 3:3-6). It is a kingdom belonging not to those born of the flesh, but those born of the Spirit (Matthew 8:11-12). It is a kingdom belonging not to those born of Abraham’s body, but his belief (John 8:39, 56). It is a kingdom whose localized assembly is based on faith in Christ and the exercise of His authority (Matthew 16:16-19). It is a kingdom of those who are humble and helpless like children (Matthew 18:1-4).[71] 

The description which is given to us in the New Testament precludes the membership of those who do not have the Holy Spirit and are not united to Christ by faith. Therefore, union with Christ is the only way to be or enter into the Covenant of Grace. Dr. Renihan helps us again:

Apart from union with Christ, the federal head of the New Covenant of grace, there is no participation in the blessings and benefits of Christ’s covenant. Paul is quite clear that “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). This is consistent with all other cases of federal headship in the covenants of Scripture. Apart from Adam, none participate in the Covenant of Works. Apart from Abraham, none participate in the Abrahamic Covenant. Apart from David, none participate in the...


1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

...rriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity, forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful, by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.
  1. Lev. 18:6-18; Amos 2:7; Mark 6:18; 1 Cor. 5:1

Chapter 26: Of the Church [Return] [Commentary]

  1. The catholic or Universal Church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
    1. Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Heb. 12:23
    2. Eph. 1:22; 4:11-15; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Rev. 21:9-14
  1. All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
    1. 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7-8; Acts 11:26; Matt. 16:18; 28:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-9
    2. Matt. 18:15-20; Acts 2:37-42; 4:4; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 5:1-9
  1. The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.
    1. 1 Cor. 1:11; 5:1; 6:6; 11:17-19; 3 John 9-10; Rev. 2-3
    2. Rev. 2:5 with 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:14-15; Rev. 18:2
    3. Matt. 16:18; 24:14; 28:20; Mark 4:30-32; Ps. 72:16-18; 102:28; Isa. 9:6-7; Rev. 12:17; 20:7-9
  1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
    1. Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:20-23; 4:11-16; 5:23-32; 1 Cor. 12:27-28; John 17:1-3; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 5:31; John 10:14-16
    2. 2 Thess. 2:2-9
  1. In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.
    1. John 10:16, 23; 12:32, 17:2; Acts 5:31-32
    2. Matt. 28:20
    3. Matt. 18:15-20; Acts 14:21-23; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14-16; 5:17-22
  1. The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subject...

John Owen's Case For Particular Atonement

...yer, the Lord Christ intercedes before the Father on behalf of those who were given to Him, in direct opposition to “the world” (John 17:9), i.e., those who were not given to Him. Right before offering His great sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, finds it necessary to explicitly say that His intercession is certainly not for the world, but only those given to Him. In the same chapter, Christ’s prays...

  • that His own may be kept in the Father’s name and from the evil one (John 17:11, 15);
  • for the sanctification of His church in the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17, 19);
  • for the union of Christ’s Universal Church in the Trinity (John 17:20-23);
  • for them seeing His glory and the love which the Father has for the Son (John 17:24);
  • that the love which the Father has for the Son may be in them (John 17:26).

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Christ “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The basis for the fact that He is able to save them to the uttermost, or “save completely” (NET), “save forever” (NASB), “save to the very end” (YLT), is grounded upon His intercession. Those who draw near to God, draw near to God through Him (cf. John 14:6). But we know that it is God Himself who draws us to Himself through Christ (John 6:44). In this way, everyone who draws near to Christ, Christ is able and willing to save to the uttermost—to the very end and thus accomplish the will of the Father.

Christ does much more than we ask. Just as He prayed for Peter (Luke 22:31-32), so likewise He prays for the faith of His elect. In short, Christ prays that the fruits of His death may be applied to all His people.

The Infallibility of Christ’s Intercession

The foundation on which Christ’s intercession is built is upon the fact that He always does the will of God. His mission from the Father was to accomplish the work which He had given Him (John 17:4) and that the Lord Christ certainly did. He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father (John 6:38). What is the Father’s will for Him? “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). Basically, that He should save them and keep them to all eternity. Well, the question now is: “Is Christ able to accomplish that which the Father wills for Him?”

To answer this question negatively is blasphemy. To entertain the thought that our Christ could in any way, shape or form disobey the will of the Father is not worthy of His glory. He laid down His prerogative as God and became like us, to obey the will of the Father and accomplish that work which was given to Him to do. That work, our Lord says, that He certainly accomplished (John 17:4). Furthermore, we have a clear word from the Savior as to the attitude of the Father towards Him. The Lord says:

John 11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Even those who knew Him knew that the Father will do whatever Christ asks (John 11:22). Christ on another occasion says that He “always do[es] the things that are pleasing to him [the Father]” (John 8:29). Well, it is the will of the Father that He give eternal life and kept for eternity all those who were given to Him (e.g. John 6:37-44; 17:1-5). Will the Lord ever fail to accomplish the will of th...


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

...uestion, What is meant by being baptised “into a name”? The answer is to be found in the fact so prominent in the Old Testament (e.g. Exo. 3:14-15), that the Name of God is a revelation of what He is. Baptism was to be no longer, as it had been in the hands of John as the forerunner, merely a symbol of repentance, but was the token that those who received it were brought into an altogether new relation to Him who was thus revealed to them. The union of the three names in one formula (as in the benediction of 2Co. 13:14) is in itself a proof at once of the distinctness and equality of the three Divine Persons. We cannot conceive of a command given to. and adopted by, the Universal Church to baptise all its members in the name (not “the names”) of God and a merely human prophet and an impersonal influence or power.[34]

If we had here a formula which said baptize in the names then we would have other things to say about this passage, but as it is, the passage speaks of a singular name, which all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity share, namely, the Divine Nature and Being—Yahweh. Henry Alford notes the significance of the singular when he says, “Not τὰ ὀνόματα [ta onamata, the names]—but τὸ ὄνομα [to onama, the name]—setting forth the Unity of the Godhead.”[45] Philip Schaff likewise comments on this formula, saying:

It is into one name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It is impossible that this means, the one name of God, of a mere man, and of an attribute of God. It is the one name of One God, existing (as well as manifested), as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Comp, the baptism of Jesus, where all three persons of the Godhead revealed themselves.—The doctrine of the Trinity receives powerful support from passages like this, but it rests even more on facts, on the whole Scripture revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the three great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification. All of which are signified and sealed in this formula of baptism. Since God reveals Himself as He is: this Trinity of revelation (economical Trinity) involves the Trinity of essence (ontological Trinity).[38]

In this passage we have for us confirmed the truth which we have seen throughout the Scriptures that while there is but one Being of God, yet this Being is shared by three co-equal and co-eternal Persons.

Some heretics say that the Persons of God are really modes, titles, or different masks of God. They are different ways that He expresses Himself or manifests Himself, but they are not distinct Persons within the singular Being of God. He puts on different masks. This is Modalism and this is heresy, condemned by the church long ago. That there is a distinction in persons is something which we have said from the beginning and throughout our commentary, we have tried to show. We saw in the previous passage, Matthew 28:19, both the unity of the Persons within the one Being of God, and the three persons of the Father, and Son, and the Holy Spirit. I am reminded of the beautiful words of Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329 - 390) concerning the unity and distinction between the Persons:

This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the one Godhead and power, found in the three in unity and comprising the three separately; not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the...