The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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

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The Covenant of Grace did not exist as an established covenant under the Old Testament era, but it existed in the form of a promise. The Covenant of Grace/New Covenant being retroactive (influencing or applying to a period prior to enactment) had in it all the faithful before Christ (see for example Heb. 9:15; Rom. 3:25-26 about the retroactive aspect of the New Covenant) or see below. As to questions about covenant membership, people and the like, these things will be discussed under the New Covenant, if the Lord permits.

1689 Federalism vs Westminster Federalism

A very helpful diagram that I found which demonstrates the understanding of Covenant Theology from the perspective of a 1689 Federalist can be found here. The commonalities and differences between 1689 and Westminster Federalism may be illustrated by a helpful diagram which Brandon Adams has made for 1689Federalism.com.

The Noahic Covenant

For many, when asking the question “which is the first covenant that the Bible mentions” the answer is the Noahic Covenant. In a way, this is understandable, since the first mention of the word “covenant” is found in Genesis 6:18, though I have argued for the Covenant of Works being the first covenant established in time above.

God’s Story

After our first parents disobeyed and broke the Lord’s covenant, they were severed from the fellowship of God and all that is good. Though God being merciful and gracious in nature, promised to them salvation in the Offspring from Eve (Gen. 3:15). Now man, being severed from fellowship with His good Creator, has become opposed to Him and to what He represents and has sided with the one who questioned the Lord’s authority in the first place (see chapter 6 on Total Depravity). Man has become totally opposed to God and has become wholly evil by rebelling against their good Creator. About the condition of man, Genesis 6:5 is very negative:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

The Lord was sorry that He made man on the earth and that man had become so wicked. The Lord wanted to blot out mankind which He had created as very good, but which has sought out many wicked and sinful ways away from God (Eccl. 7:29).

Gen. 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

The Fall affected much more than Adam and Eve alone. The Fall affected not only the whole human race but the whole creation itself. Indeed, Paul says that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:22) and that “the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20). This would include all animals, creeping things, birds and fish. The impact of the Fall was so great that even the non-human creation was affected and corrupted by it and therefore it had to be destroyed. God wanted to destroy all. We are happy, when reading about God’s judgment, to encounter the word “but.” We are thankful for the “but’s” in the Bible. Notice, for example, the “but” in Genesis 50:20 and Ephesians 2:3-5. Likewise, in this case, we see that the Lord’s intention is not to destroy all life and thus undo His creation. Rather, His purpose is to start all over again—with Noah. But a question may be raised about what excluded Noah from the people in Genesis 6:5? Well, ...


Quotes from A. W. Pink's The Divine Covenants

...http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Divine_Covenants/index.htm">online and that is how I collected these citations and corrected some typos and other minor errors.

It has been argued by Brandon Adams that the major theses of Pink was consistent with 1689 Federalism, which teaches that only the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. All the other OT covenants were not “administrations” of the Covenant of Grace. You will not find in this work the model of “one covenant, multiple administrations” that is associated with Westminster Federalism. Rather, you will find that all of the OT covenants “adumbrated” the “everlasting covenant of grace”, were subservient to the divine purpose of mercy and grace and contained gracious promises.

There are some statements which could be interpreted in favor of Westminster Federalism, which I have also included under the heading “Westminster Sounding Statements". But in reading these we must keep in mind the main theses of the work and how Pink uses certain words, for example, “administration.” I do believe that a fair interpretation can be given to these statements without doing violence to the meaning of Pink, but I'll leave that task to the interested reader.

One difficult statement for me to interpret has to do with the idea of “renewal.” For example:

Just as the various Messianic prophecies, given by God at different times and at wide intervals, were suited to the local occasions when they were first made, so it was in the different renewals of His covenant of grace. Each of those renewals—unto Abraham, Moses, David and so forth—adumbrated some special feature of the everlasting covenant into which God had entered with the Mediator; but the immediate circumstances of each of those favored men molded, or gave form to, each particular feature of the eternal agreement which was severally shadowed forth unto them.[1]

What does Pink mean by “renewal”? It seems to be “adumbrating” (an old word which he uses a lot meaning “disclose, foreshadow”) features from the Covenant of Grace. This is confirmed when we look to the chapters on those covenants which he mentions in the above citations. These covenants are subordinate to the ultimate “everlasting covenant of grace” and reveal it, but they are distinguished. The idea of “renewal” being a further adumbration of the Covenant of Grace is also confirmed in another quote:

They were all of them revelations of God’s gracious purpose, exhibited at first in an obscure form, but unfolding according to an obvious law of progress: each renewal adding something to what was previously known, so that the path of the just was as the shining light, which shone more and more unto the perfect day, when the shadows were displaced by the substance itself.[1]

Therefore, Pink probably does not give “renewal” the same definition as our Westminster Federalism brothers, which is to establish or administer (in the sense of WCF 7:5-6) the one Covenant of Grace. But t...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

.../em and rejection of these things? It does entail a denial of some aspects, but not an entire denial. Baptists reject that baptism functions as a seal of the Covenant of Grace, rather, it is the Holy Spirit who is named to be the seal on believers in the New Testament. The same is true for the Lord's Supper; it is not a seal of the New Covenant, but the Holy Spirit is the seal. But we do believe that the holy ordinances do function as signs of the New Covenant.

In 1689 Federalist understanding, the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant before it was formally established in in the blood of Christ. In contrast, in Westminster Federalism, the New Covenant is an administration of the Covenant of Grace. Westminster Federalism teaches that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic covenants were administrations of the Covenant of Grace. But the Covenant of Grace reaches its final administration and revelation in the New Covenant. But we, 1689 Federalists, deny this. We believe rather that the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace was revealed in these covenants and the blessings thereof given to the elect, but not because of the covenant they found themselves in, but because they believed the promise. We believe that the Covenant of Grace, prior to the cross, existed in promise form, and not an established covenant. As John Owen famously said, “Believers were saved under it [the Mosaic Covenant], but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works.”[18] See more on 1689 Federalism and the case for it in chapter 7.

Signs

What do we actually mean by a sign and a seal? A sign is something visible which points to inward and spiritual realities. The rainbow was the visible sign of the Noahic Covenant, it functioned as a token (“Something serving as an indication, proof, or expression of something else”[19]) that God will not destroy the earth by water again (Gen. 9:13-17). Circumcision functioned as a visible sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, which symbolized the need to be cleansed from sin through blood spilling. For Abraham, it was a sign and a seal of the faith which he had prior to circumcision (Rom. 4:11). The Sabbath functioned as a visible sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It functioned as a sign that God had set His people apart (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). There is no sign mentioned in connection with the Davidic or the New Covenant explicitly. But the throne would probably fit as a visible sign for David that he will always have someone from his posterity to sit on it and rule over Israel. As for the New Covenant, we only have two “positive and sovereign institution[s]” (1689 28:1). I admit from the start that we have no text in the New Testament identifying baptism or the Lord's Supper either as a sign individually, or signs together of the New Covenant. But does this then imply that we have no reason to see them as signs at all? Obviously not. We see them as signs of the New Covenant when we understand what a sign or a token is.

We noted above on Colossians 2:11-12 that we do not see baptism replacing/fulfilling circumcision as the sign of the New Covenant, as it is often alleged by our Presbyterian brethren, but rather, circumcision of the foreskin has its counterpart in the circumcision of the heart. Circumcision of the foreskin was not fulfilled in water baptism, but rather in the circumcision of the heart. There is nothing said there about water baptism being fulfilled and has become th...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

... we should pray for the churches of Christ that they stand uncompromised on His Word and His authority, not fearing man but fearing God.

We should even partner and fellowship with Arminians. Yes, their views of election are wrong, but most of them are sincere Christians, truly loving the Lord and wanting to serve Him, but have a blind-spot concerning God's absolute sovereignty. The closest theological friends for Reformed Baptists are Presbyterians and other Reformed groups with whom we share a lot of common teachings but differ on secondary issues like baptism, church government (the content of this chapter is totally unique and not taken over from the Westminster), covenants (Westminster Federalism and 1689 Federalism). But we are united in the core teachings of the Bible and the Gospel of Christ, therefore we have unity of faith. We may not worship in the same local congregation, but we are brothers and sisters in the Lord and belong to the Universal Church of Christ.


§15 Many Churches Holding Communion Together, Do, By Their Messengers, Meet To...

  1. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers. 2
    1. Gal. 2:2; Prov. 3:5-7; 12:15; 13:10
    2. 1 Cor. 7:25. 36, 40; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 John 4:1

When there are cases of difficulties or difference which a church may not resolve or between multiple churches, either in point of doctrine or administration, they may call the help of other churches. This is to be done among churches holding communion together, which probably means other Reformed Baptists churches for Reformed Baptists. They are to have messengers or representatives present to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference. Notice that these messengers do not give a command of what ought to be done, they give their advice. This advice is to be reported to all the churches concerned in this matter. These messengers of the churches give their advice on the matter because they are not entrusted with any church-power because they are not officers in the church(s) involved. Therefore, they do not have any jurisdiction over the churches involved in this matter. 


When there are troubles, problems, and errors, whether theological or practical concerning the church, the church may seek counsel from other churches. There are sometimes problems between two congregations, but these problems should be solved in a manner worthy of the name of Christ. A church may have difficulty with a particular doctrine or thing, and they may send representatives, whether the elders or others, to other churches to seek counsel from them. Notice the wording of the Confession, it speaks of "advice" and not a command, and also the last portion of the p...


Review of Dean Davis' The High King of Heaven on Amillennialism

...Daniel. There was no discussion of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, as if he had nothing to do with Daniel. He takes a futuristic approach and departs from the traditional First Advent Interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 to a radical interpretation.

He takes a blended prophecy approach to the Olivet Discourse. Believers that most of the signs did indeed occur in the first century, but lays very little stress on those. Insists that Matthew 24:29-31 is referring to the visible Parousia of our Lord, but I believe that Sam Storms made a very compelling case (at least for me) for the partial-preterist interpretation of Matt 24:1-35.

Fun and eschatologically irrelevant disagreement is his Westminster Federalism on the covenants, haha.

Conclusion

This is a great work, definitely a comprehensive book on eschatology going head to head with the difficult passages used to argue for premillennialism and offering an amillennial interpretation which Christ and Church centered and within the two-staged Kingdom model.

I have learned many things and I will no doubt be going back to the book and re-reading and re-checking some portions.

Go get it for yourself, I believe you will be challenged in your views.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria

Footnotes

  1. ^ Visit his blog where he has a lot of good stuff, audio teachings, charts, diagrams on Amillennialism at  https://amillennialism.wordpress.com 
  2. ^ See my commentary on chapter 1 of the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. https://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-1:-Of-The-Holy-Scriptures/1020 
  3. ^ Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, pages 451-465.
  4. ^ The Bible and the Future, pages 229-238
  5. ^ Joseph Henry Thayer's Greek Definitions, G3952
  6. ^ Joseph Henry Thayer's Greek Definitions, G602
  7. ^ Joseph Henry Thayer's Greek Definitions, G2015
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