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


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 De...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

...retations of Acts 2:39” in Recovering A Covenantal Heritage. pp. 417-448.
  • ^ As quoted in ibid., p. 403. 
  • ^ Keach, Gold Refin’d. pp. 57-58.
  • ^ As cited in W. Gary Crampton. From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism: A Study of the Westminster Standards and Infant Baptism. (Owensboro, KY: RBAP, 2010). p. 65. Italics original.
  • ^ As cited in Crampton, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism. pp. 65-66.
  • ^ Bryan Chapell, “A Pastoral View of Infant Baptism” in Covenantal Infant Baptism. pp. 20-21. Emphasis original.
  • ^ Ibid., p. 21.
  • ^ Keach, Gold Refin’d. p. 55. Italics original.
  • ^ Chapell, “Pastoral View.” p. 13.
  • ^ Mark E. Ross, “Baptism and Circumcision as Signs and Seals” in Covenantal Infant Baptism. pp. 107-108.
  • ^ Keach, Gold Refin’d. pp. 93-94.
  • ^ Stan Reeves. A Reformed Baptist View of I Cor. 7:14.
  • ^ Crampton, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism. pp. 73-74.
  • ^ As cited in Crampton, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism. pp. 75-76.
  • ^ Keach, Gold Refin’d. pp. 79-80. Italics are original.
  • ^ Collins, Believers Baptism. p. 15. Footnotes removed.
  • ^ Hercules Collins. The Antidote Proved a Counterfeit or Error Detected, and Believers Baptism Vindicated. (London, 1693). pp. 7-8.
  • a, b Form for the Administration of Baptism. (Protestant Reformed Churches in America).
  • ^ Ross, “Baptism and Circumcision.” p. 106.
  • ^ Chapell, “Pastoral View.” p. 24.
  • ^ Doriani, “Matthew 28:18-28.” p. 42.
  • ^ John M. Frame. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (P&R Publishing, 2014). p. 1063.
  • ^ Norcott, Baptism discovered plainly. pp. 6-7.
  • ^ John L. Dagg. A Manual of Church Order. (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Pub. 2012, originally 1858). pp. 71-72. Emphasis original.
  • ^ Everett Ferguson. Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2009). pp. 135-136.
  • ^ Ibid., p. 38.
  • ^ Ibid., p. 43.
  • ^ Grudem, Systematic Theology. p. 967.
  • ^ Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church. pp. 47-48. Italics are his.
  • a, b Ibid., p. 49.
  • ^ Ibid., p. 52.
  • ^ Ibid., p. 53.
  • ^ Mounce, Expository Dictionary. p. 52.
  • ^ Ibid, p. 1104.
  • ^ Baptism, Baptist, Baptize. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words. 
  • ^ Strong’s Definitions in The Blue Letter Bible. G907.
  • a, b Joseph Henry Thayer’s Greek Definitions. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. See reference for the Strong’s number.
  • ^ TDNT, from BibleWorks. Number 123, p. 93.
  • ^ Strong, Systematic Theology. p. 933.
  • ^ Grudem, Systematic Theology. p. 967, n. 4.
  • ^ Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church. p. 57.
  • ^ These citations are taken from the English translation of the LXX by Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton.
  • ^ Louis Berkhof. Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Banner of Truth Trust. 1963). p. 630.
  • ^ Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church. p. 64. Footnote references were omitted.
  • ^ The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Edited by J. J. S. Perowne. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. In loc.
  • ^ Charles J. Ellicott. Commentary For English Readers. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. In loc.
  • a, b Collins, Believers Baptism. p. 7. Italics original.
  • ^ Joseph Pipa, “The Mode of Baptism” in Covenantal Infant Baptism. pp. 112-126.
  • ^ Douglas Van Dorn. Waters of Creation: A Biblical-Theological Study of Baptism. Kindle Edition. pp. 51-52. Italics original, footnote references were removed.
  • ^ Keach, Gold Refin’d. p. 48.
  • ^ See Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church. pp. 56-59, 63-76, 83-89.
  • ^ Grudem, Systematic Theology...

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

    ...r-archibald-alexander/"The Lord’s Day. 1846.
  • B.B. Warfield. The Foundations Of The Sabbath In The Word Of God. 1951.
  • Francis Turretin. The Fourth Question – The Lord’s Day. 1679-1685.
  • John Murray.
  • A.W. Pink. The Christian Sabbath.
    • His comments on the fall of Satan being prior to the seventh day so that he does not accept the common understanding of “rest,” I find very strange.
  • Ian Campbell. Why Easter Makes Me a Sabbatarian. The Aquila Report, 2012.
  • Jon English Lee. Biblical Theology and the Transfer of the Sabbath.
  • From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. Green Baggins, 2005.
  • Bob Gonzales
  • Tony Warren. Who Changed the Sabbath Day to Sunday. The Mountain Retreat, 1996.
  • Thomas Shepherd. The Change of The Sabbath.
  • Gleason L. Archer Jr. Encyclopedia Of Bible Difficulties. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1982). pp. 116-121.
  • Nicholas T. Batzig. The Theological Significance of the Eighth Day. Feeding On Christ, 2014.
  • Audio Resources
    Video Resources

    The Institution of the Sabbath

    We will deal here with the fact that the Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day of creation as a day of rest for man. It was not something newly introduced on Mt. Sinai, but it is as old as the Creation. If it could be demonstrated that the Sabbath was not instituted at Sinai, but at the Creation, then arguments used against the Sabbath in connection with the passing away of the Mosaic Covenant are useless, since then the Sabbath would transcend the Mosaic Covenant and is not a unique and new part of it. Joseph A. Pipa writes:

    Along with work (Gen 1:28; 2:15) and marriage (Gen 2:18-25), God instituted the Sabbath to govern the lives of all mankind. Just as the ordinances of work and marriage are permanent, so is the ordinance of the Sabbath.[41]

    Let’s see if this statement is true and biblical. Our discussion of the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, a blessing and a commandment given to man at Creation will center around three texts: Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11 and Mark 2:27-28.

    Genesis 2

    Gen. 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

    God, the Sovereign Lord and Creator, after finishing His work of creation took a rest. This res...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

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    Chapter 13: Of Sanctification

    Now that we were elected, called and justified we enter into the Christian life, which is one of growth in holiness with ups and downs. In this chapter, we will deal with the question concerning what sanctification is and what Scripture says about it.

    §1 Through The Virtue Of Christ’s Death And Resurrection, Are Also Farther Sanctified, Really And Personally

    1. They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; 4 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, 5 without which no man shall see the Lord. 6 
      1. John 3:3-8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9-10; Rom. 1:7; 6:1-11; 15:16; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 3:12; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11[1]
      2. 1 Thess. 5:23; Rom. 6:19, 22
      3. 1 Cor. 6:11; Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6
      4. John 17:17, Eph. 5:26; 3:16-19; Rom. 8:13
      5. Rom. 6:13-14; Gal. 5:17, 24; Rom. 8:13; Col. 1:11; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:22-25; 2 Cor. 7:1
      6. Heb. 12:14

    Those who have been saved have a new heart and a new spirit created in them in accordance with the promise of the New Covenant (Ezek. 36:25-27). What this means is that they have a new nature and no longer are they enslaved by the old sinful nature inherited from Adam. This is all through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ’s work is the basis that we have a new nature. After having this new nature created in them, they are farther sanctified, really and personally (1 Thess. 5:13; Rom. 6:22). To be sanctified means to be set apart. If we are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit it means that we are being made more like Christ. This sanctification is through the same virtue as our receiving the new nature, i.e., by Christ’s death and resurrection. The way that He sanctifies us is by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them (John 17:17; Rom. 8:13; Eph. 3:16-19; 5:26). Word and Spirit is also how He calls us to Himself (chapter 10:1). It is also how He keeps us for and to Himself. By this new nature and sanctification, the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed (Rom. 6:13-14). The dominion is destroyed, but sin is not yet uprooted. We are to fight. Several lusts of the flesh are more and more weakened and mortified (killed). Not only are we fighting and overcoming sin and temptation, but we are also progressing toward holiness in being more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving grace. This is so that we would practice all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). The Lord grants us holiness and calls us to holiness so that we would see Him.

    United, Called and Regenerated

    I refer the interested reader to the previous chapters where we dealt with these things. I lightly touched upon our union with Christ in chapter 8 paragraph 5 (see chapter 27, paragraph 1 for more detail). We dealt with the effectual call or Irresistible Grace in chapter 10 and Regeneration and Justification were dealt with in chapter 11.


    The answer to question 35 “What is sanctification?” of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is as follows: