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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

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Chapter 26: Of the Church

What is the church? What is the visible church and invisible church? Who is the head of the church? What power does the church have? What is church discipline? What offices are there in the church? What about church membership? What does an elder do and who can become an elder? What does a deacon do and who can become a deacon? What is the work of the pastor?

Although this chapter is the longest in the Confession, yet it will not have a long commentary, for most of the things which are asserted here could easily be proven by looking at the proof-texts that are provided. 


§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[1]
    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. 1Cor. 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 they 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 the universal Christian Church of Jesus Christ. This church is the Universal, throughout the globe, 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 this is what the New Covenant consists of and this is what makes up the invisible Church, which only God knows who belongs to it. 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 New Covenant consists only of believers. This is one of the major points which 1689 Federalism stresses. The New Covenant, which is wholly salvific, is only for the elect. In other words, all the member of this covenant, unlike all previous covenants, are redeemed and elect of God from eternity. All the members of the New Covenant are truly regenerate and Spirit-dwelt believers. This is seen for example from Hebrews 8:6-13 where all members of the New Covenant, from the oldest to the youngest know the LORD. Not merely know about Him, but truly know Him. Furthermore, this New Covenant is unli...


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.

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 the Father? Perish the thoug...


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 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

... the 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 (1Cor. 15:52; cf. 1Thess. 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 (2Cor. 6:16; 2Thess. 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 prophecies 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 whol...


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

... the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.[60]

As to membership in the New Covenant, we have seen from Jeremiah that it is only the elect – the believers who are taken in the covenant community 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 as just that, members of the 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.

The Spirit is the seal and guarantee of and in the New Covenant (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2Cor. 1:22; 5:5). It is not circumcision, baptism or anything else. It is the Spirit of the Lord whom He has given to us, which sets the people of God apart from the reprobate. As for those using Romans 4:11 to argue that baptism now is the seal of the covenant I direct above to my exegesis of the text. See also chapter 29 on this question.

As for the sign or signs of the covenant, I argue in chapter 29 that the signs of the New Covenant are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Circumcision is not replaced by baptism, rather, circumcision is fulfilled by circumcision of the heart. Need I mention, that therefore, only those in the New Covenant are entitled to the Covenant sacraments and promises?

Conclusion

First things first, I must ask for forgiveness because I said that I would like to keep this short, but failed miserably. I actually enjoyed this study of Covenant Theology that took me something like a month or more to finish writing [aside from later repeatedly updating it]. I had to revisit a lot of books that I've read on Baptist Covenant Theology to check how things were. I tried to use the Scriptures and explain the Scriptures as much as possible, since I believe often with the study of Covenant Theology, I do not hear much Scripture but names of men who have stood on both sides (Westminster and 1689), while that is great and encouraging, I wanted to focus on the Scripture. Not to deny that I've benefited a lot from reading Owen obviously and made me stronger 1689 Federalist than I was beginning this study.

What sets 1689 Federalism apart is our insistence that the Covenant of Grace was not established, enacted and “cut” any time before the death of Christ. The Covenant of Grace did indeed exist since Genesis 3:15, but it did exist in the form of a promise, not an established covenant. Every covenant of God did shadow and typify it and contained promises concerning it, but was not an administration of it. The Covenant of Grace was established, ratified, enacted and "cut" in the blood of Christ and in the New Covenant. We believe that the Covenant of Grace was established and cut in the New Covenant, thus, the Covenant of Grace is the retroactive New Covenant. Lastly, this is diagram is from Pascal Denault's work which represents the 1689 Federalist understanding of the Covenant of Grace as being revealed by farther steps but was concluded and established in the New Covenant/Testament.

1689 Federalist Covenant Theology Diagram

 

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of J...


1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

...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 on...

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

...but that which the bread symbolizes; or it refers to (2) the Church as the body of Christ (1Cor. 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.

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.[2]


§2 Only A Memorial Of That One Offering Up Of Himself By Himself

  1. In this ordinance Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sin of the quick or dead, but only a memorial of that one offering up of himself by himself upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same. So that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominable, injurious to Christ's own sacrifice the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.
    1. John 19:30; Heb. 9:25-28; 10:10-14; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25
    2. Matt. 26:26-27, 30 with Heb 13:10-16

This paragraph begins by first saying what the Lord's Supper is not and then moves to define what it is. In the Lord's Supper, Christ is not offered up to His Father, nor any real sacrifice is made for the remission of the sin of the quick or dead  Holy Scripture does not speak in this way about the Lord's Supper. All these are additions and contrary to the heart of the Gospel. But this is the doctrine of the popish sacrifice of the mass, which is most abominable because it is injurious to Christ's own sufficient and once-for-all propitiation for all the sins of the elect. Christ's sacrifice is the only ground for the remission of our sins and not also the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass.

Wha...


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 [the names]—but τὸ ὄνομα [the name]—setting forth the Unity of the Godhead. [Words within brackets mine]”[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 ...