The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section I.6

“The whole counsel of God,” is of course a phrase taken directly out of the bible, in the context of Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian elders concerning their roles and responsibilities in the church of God (Acts 20:27). It also happens to be the title of an excellent trilogy by Richard C. Gamble, serving the same purpose.1 For the authors of the Confession it includes several things. First of all, echoing the answer to the chief end of man in the Catechisms, it starts with  everything “concerning all things necessary for his own glory.” Paul began his speech by declaring that he had “kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vv. 20-21)

Keeping back nothing was the flip side, as it were, of the whole counsel of God. There is much here to commend one to the ministry. It concerns both public proclamation, and house to house counsel. Paul’s procedure was to go to the Jews first, but as with him, so with us, it surely also means going to all people. The subject we must begin with, the subject of our proclamation to the world, nevertheless does have a beginning. Repentance and faith then, is the beginning of the whole counsel. This is the beginning of “testifying to the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24). This is also described as “preaching the kingdom of God” (v. 25). For Paul, and for any who would also be faithful, we do this that we might be “innocent of the blood of all men” (v. 26). One could go on to explicate further points made by Paul.

However, suffice it to show that this was in the forefront and context of the authors of the Confession. As mentioned, one of the chief ends, along with enjoying God, was to glorify God in all things (Cf. I Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17; WSC & WLC Q & A 1). Therefore, we must not limit, or pick and choose, what we want to highlight from the scriptures, but instead we must be concerned with the comprehensive and coherent world and life view attitude of the whole of scripture. It is all of one seamless garment. Further reasons for being so all inclusive, concern all things necessary for our salvation, which must needs go beyond the introduction of repentance and faith, to include all that follows, namely faith, and life. Let it therefore not be argued that the Confession is not concerned with a Christian, that is a Biblical world and life view.

However, they did not conceive of our relationship to the word, and its place in a Christian worldview, in any kind of a wooden perspective. Of course it includes everything “expressly set down in Scripture,” that is not just some things, but it also included those things that could, “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” There is a broad or expansive space in the faith and life of the Christian and the church, for addressing all of our life in the world. “Logical consequence is a fundamental concept in logic, which describes the relationship between statements that hold true when one statement logically follows from one or more statements.”2 To ‘deduce’ is to draw out the logical conclusions or consequences of one’s reasoning.

“‘All Scripture’ is declared to be ‘profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’; but all these ends cannot be obtained, unless by the deduction of consequences. Legitimate consequences, indeed, only bring out the full meaning of the words of Scripture; and as we are endued with the faculty of reason, and commanded to search the Scriptures; it was manifestly intended that we should draw conclusions from what is therein set down in express words. By ‘perfection’ of scripture, then, we mean, that the Scripture, including necessary consequences as well as the express words, contains a complete revelation of the will of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life. The Scripture represented as ‘perfect’, fitted to answer every necessary end (Ps. 19:8,9).

It is sufficient to make ‘the man of God perfect’, and able to make private Christians ‘wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 3:15-17). So complete is the Scripture, that its author has peremptorily prohibited either to add to, or to diminish ought from it (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18,19).”3 However, what sets Dt. 4:2 from Rev. 22:18-19 is, Moses laid down in Deuteronomy the guidelines for judging further canonical words in his discourses on true an false prophets (13; 18:15-22). So he was clear that nothing could be added to his composition of The Five Books, but he also laid down the rules for determining the canonicity of future revelations of the word of God. “Christ and his apostles have foretold the rise of false prophets, and warned us not to give heed to their pretended revelations (Matt. 24:11,24).

The Apostle Paul denounces a curse upon all who preach any other gospel than that which is contained in the Scriptures (Gal. 1:8,9).”4 On the other hand, the authors of the Confession wanted to make clear that “there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence.” This section alerts us to a reality then present, that not all those who participated in the Assembly were Reformed Presbyterians, and it really was out of a desire to put in writing what they could all agree to, that they settled on these words. However, these RPs, certainly had very distinct conceptions concerning ‘The Regulative Principle Of Worship’, and of Presbyterian church government.5

Of course there are many different conceptions of the application of the regulative principle of worship, as there are different forms of church government. However, the fathers of the Confession decided to deal with these specific applications elsewhere. Nevertheless, this does not take away the fact that they did lay down the principle that there are principles which may be derived from scripture to address these and other areas. “Because these principles are so all-encompassing we ought to do all (whether we eat, or drink or whatsoever we may do”) to the glory of God. And because each person must, as an image of God, apply these principles to his own particular circumstances, etc., it is of the utmost importance to insist upon Christian liberty (See Ch. XX).6

Some of these things have to do with the location or exact time of worship (Cf. Acts 2:46; 16:13, 25; 17:10-11; 18:7; 20:7). “The principle remained always in effect (Ex. 20:8), but the principle was carried out under varied circumstances concerning which God had not given every possible direction. We are not at liberty to modify the principle in any degree. But we are at liberty to work out the principle according to changes in circumstances, etc. (We may move the place of assembly from one building to another or from one hour to another, but not from one day to another.) Nothing other than the circumstances could be changed legitimately. We see this distinction in matters of worship and government.”7

Williamson is certainly on solid ground, given the make-up of the vast majority of the participants at the Assembly, that both worship and government of the church had clear scriptural justification. “The organization of the church with presbyteries and general assembly is of divine appointment, but the details of Church order is left to men.”8 Furthermore, Williams is also correct to highlight the connection that exists between redemptive acts, and accompanying revelation. The scriptures are indeed sufficient to provide everything we need for our salvation. “Paul’s testimony in II Timothy 3:15-17 plainly indicates that there is no such deficiency, since they are able to furnish the believer unto perfection. What would a comparison between Hebrews 10:10 (or 10:12, 7:27, etc.) and Jude 3 lead to?

Can Christ’s ‘once for all’ sacrifice be added to? If it cannot, then how can ‘the faith…once for all delivered to the saints’ be added to either?”9 “In making this point, the authors of the confession refer to Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, in which he tells them to ignore even ‘an angle from heaven’ should he come to them with another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). The teaching of Christ and his apostles is sufficient for us. Their explanation of Christianity is definitive.”10 “This section teaches (1) that God’s finished revelation (now inscripturated) is entirely sufficient for all of man’s spiritual needs, (2) that it is sufficient for all time (it cannot be added to), and (3) yet it is sufficient in terms of principles rather than details (leaving it to men to apply general principles according to their image function in particular instances).”11

“We are not restricted to the explicit words of Scripture. God is wisdom, and Christ is the Logos or Reason of God; we were created in his image, and are therefore required to accept conclusions deduced from Scripture ‘by good and necessary consequence.’ Christ himself, in arguing against the Pharisees, frequently drew out the implications of the Old Testament. John 10:34-36 is such an argument. Another example of implication, though not from the words of the Old Testament, is found in John 8:42. Paul in Ram. 3:20 draws a conclusion from a series of Old Testament verses. This same process of implication, which characterizes the New Testament, must also be applied today. Really, the trouble is not the justification of logic. The trouble is that some people doubt logic.”12

The primary source, or first axiom of a Biblical or Scriptural worldview, is of course the Scriptures themselves. To this end the fathers of the Confession reiterate the canonicity of the Bible which they delineated in the previous sections (I.1-5). In this respect, the canon being closed in the last days of the old covenant administration, and the inauguration of the new age in Jesus, stands alone, “unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” The first section of this sentence also reiterates the concluding words of the first section which stated, “those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.” By adding the “traditions of men,” they primarily had in view the Roman Catholic dictates.

However, it also surely applies to any traditions of men, including that with which Jesus had to contend, when he said to the Pharisees of his day that they made “the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Cf. Mt. 15:3-6; Mk. 7:13) Although the Old Testament refers to the new administration of the one covenant of grace, “the New Testament does not refer to any further revelation to be expected before the second advent of Christ.”13 Quite the opposite is in fact the case, as John in the final ‘Revelation’ of the new covenant states (Re. 22:18-19 Cf. Jn. 20:31; II Tim. 3:15-17). “Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word.”

“Of course, the validity of logic does not guarantee our infallibility. We may make mistakes in inference, and, what is more frequent, we may misunderstand some portions of Scripture. Especially with regard to a saving understanding of Scripture, we need the illumination of the Spirit of God. One of the reasons is that a saving understanding goes beyond an ordinary understanding. The worst infidel can easily understand that the Bible means to say that David was King of Israel and that Christ was Messiah. But in order that this information may be saving information, a man must accept it as the Word of God.”14 The necessity for the illumination of the Spirit “does not result from any want of either completeness or clearness in the revelation, but from the fact that man in a state of nature is carnal, and unable to discern the things of the Spirit of God.”15

Supplementary scripture: Is. 59:21; Jn. 6:45; 16:13; I Cor. 2:9-12; 11:13-14; 14:26, 40; Gal. 1:8; II Th. 2:2; I Jn. 2:20.

1. (P&R)

2. (Wikipedia)

3. (Shaw, 51)

4. (Ibid., 51)

5. (David W. Hall)

6. (Williamson, 11)

7. (Ibid., 12)

8. (Ibid., 12)

9. (Ibid., 10)

10. (‘Confessing The Faith’ Chad Van Dixhoorn, 18)

11. (Clark, 20)

12. (Williamson, 10)

13. (A.A. Hodge, 38)

14. (Clark, 21)

15. (A.A. Hodge, 39)

Lamentations 5 A Prayer For Restoration.

Lamentations 5 A Prayer For Restoration.

There is a strong indication, well worth a thorough study, that the word here translated as ‘remember’, is a call from a covenantal servant to the LORD. In any case, it would appear to have come after the devastation of the exile and captivity had set in. It is borne out by the appeal to the ‘LORD’, at the loss of their ‘inheritance’ (vv. 1-3). The rest that they were to receive as part of the covenantal promise, escaped them (vv. 4-6). Without a doubt, they knew that they were in this condition because of the sin of their fathers, but then ask why it is they who have to suffer, living like vagabonds (vv. 7-9). Famine, rape, assassinations, oppressive slavery, and the lack of any autonomous government was their lot, much less joy or dancing (vv. 10-15). However, they finally admit that they are actually suffering for their own sins as well (vv. 16-18). Finally, they also confess that it is not the LORD who has changed, but them, and on this basis appeal once again, for him to not forsake his people of the covenant (vv. 19-20). In fact, as strange as it might seem, they ask that the LORD would grant them repentance, which obviously means that they recognized that even this was a gift from the LORD (vv. 21-22).

Lamentations 4 From Gold To Clay-Hope Among The Ashes.

Lamentations 4 From Gold To Clay-Hope Among The Ashes.

Gold, from the dawn of creation, has always been a precious metal (Gen. 2:12). It was also used in a redemptive and worship context, as the mercy seat was made of pure gold (Ex. 25:16). When Moses delivered the word of the LORD, one the principles that must govern Kings, was that they were not to accumulate silver and gold, but rather to treasure the law (Dt. 17:17-18). Job understood that his hope and confidence was not to reside in fine gold (31:24), but with the Psalmist, it must rest in the law of the LORD (Ps. 19:7-11). “A word fitly spoken is like apples of God in settings of silver.” (Pr. 25:11) When Haggai spoke during the rebuilding of the temple in 520 B.C, he recorded the words spoken by the LORD. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine” (2:8). However, with the exile, the gold became dim, that is, most of it was gone, taken by Nebuchadnezzar.

The gold was also ‘dim’ because the temple had been burnt to the ground, so that it was covered with soot and ashes. The heat may even have melted it, as its stones were scattered or poured out “at the head of every street” (v. 1). However, as valuable as gold is, especially fine gold, the sons of God were far more precious to the LORD (v. 2a). But now they were “regarded as clay pots, the work of the hands of the potter” (v. 2b)! They were once set apart or holy, now they were just common, the dust and ashes of death. They had become like wild cruel animals, depriving their own children of life (vv. 3-4). They went from being blessed, to being cursed (v. 5). They were being punished for their iniquity, which was greater than the sin of Sodom (v. 6).* The Nazarites, referred to here, were like rubies, men or women set apart to the LORD (Nu. 6:1-21).

“Now their appearance is blacker than soot…their skin clings to their bones.” (v. 8) They were all dried up. It was better to die by the sword, than to starve to death (v. 9). Mothers cooked and ate their own children, which also happened with the destruction in 70 A.D (v. 10). This execution of God’s wrath was hard to believe (vv. 11-12). Their chief sin, and the root of all that followed, was because of the sins and iniquities of his servants of the word, “who shed in her midst the blood of the just” (v. 13), and the majority of the people wanted it this way (Jer. 5:31). They didn’t want a true servant of the word (Jer. 2:20; 26:8-9). Ezekiel gave the same message (22:26-28), as did Zephaniah, those who did “violence to the law” (3:4). Jeremiah laments that they were literally blind, and wanted nothing to do with the people (vv. 14-15).

“The face of the LORD scattered them; He no longer regards them. The people do not respect the priests nor show favor to the elders.” (v. 16) The people also looked in vain for any help from men (v. 17), but the only ones were their own apostates, and their enemies to come (vv. 18-19). It is into this context that their only hope for life was in the LORD’s Anointed, the Messiah, or the Christ, whom their enemies would capture in their pit, the One of whom they said, “Under his shadow we shall live among the nations” (v. 20). Yes, this was fulfilled in the greater destruction of 70 AD! His people would experience a full deliverance, and his and their enemies would be under their feet (vv. 21-22). Their earthly king would be gone (Cf. Jer. 52:9; Ez. 12:13), but their true Messiah would come (Cf. Is. 40:10-11; Jer. 33:7-8).

*“The prophets often use Sodom as an archetype of divine judgment on sin (Deut. 29:23; Is. 1:10; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:46; Hos. 11:8; Amos 4:11; Luke 17:28-30). The comparison with Sodom holds good for both the sins of the city and the dreadful judgment that fell upon it.” (NGSB. 1252)

Lamentations 3 There Is Hope.

Lamentations 3 There Is Hope.

The bible is real. Sometimes we are forced see affliction, and walk in the darkness, which is a condition wherein there is the absence of light (vv. 1-2). Throughout the day, and after many days, we age, as our bodies speak to us (vv. 3-4). Dark places are too often places of bitterness and woe, weariness and death (vv. 5-6). Life itself is like a heavy chain keeping us as prisoners of our own thoughts (v. 7). Sometimes it seems that not even our prayers can pierce the darkness, no matter how hard or loud we speak (vv. 8; 43-45). If that weren’t bad enough, we sometimes find the straight ways we have known are blocked, and we find ourselves traveling crooked paths (v. 9). We fear that an enemy waits for us, but it is the LORD who is the bear or lion waiting to ambush (v. 10). Maybe our ways have not been good, because he turns us from them that he might tear us to pieces, in the desolation that is our self, he aims his arrows at us, like a shot to the kidneys (vv. 11-13).

Jeremiah had become the ridicule of the people, but when one stands alone with the word it is not hard to be filled with bitterness (vv. 14-15). The bear or lion breaks us and covers us with ashes (v. 16). “You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. And I said, ‘my strength and my hope have perished from the LORD.’” (vv. 17-18). How does one find hope in the darkness? Jeremiah turned to the covenant LORD, asking him to remember his affliction and roaming, “the wormwood and the gall.” Yes, we have roamed in the darkness of our own ways, but if we humble ourselves, we might also remember him (vv. 19-21). “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (vv. 22-23) His faithfulness speaks to his commitment to the covenantal bond, therefore he is our portion, and our hope (v. 24). “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.” (v. 25)

Sometimes the best decision is to stop and wait on the LORD, but sometimes we also have to seek him out. It may not have all the clinical definitions one might find elsewhere, but this is sometimes the way of repentance, and sometimes it is simply the way of wisdom. “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (v. 26) Sometimes it is preferable to bear the yoke in one’s youth (v. 27). Jeremiah knew all about this, as he literally bore a yoke to be a visual demonstration that accompanied his words of exile. He remains for us an example that when find ourselves alone and silent, it is possible to find hope (vv. 28-29). A “soul far from peace,” can find the LORD himself to be one’s hope (vv. 17-18). Sometimes it feels like we are getting hit in the chops, but the LORD will not cast us off forever (vv. 30-31). “Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” (v. 32)

Like any parent, the LORD “does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” (v. 33) God’s anger is not like that of man in sin. He will afflict when justice is subverted (vv. 34-36 Cf. 22:3; Job 8:3). Only the Lord can predict the future, in part because he is the sovereign LORD of it (v. 37). “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (vv. 38-39) We need to examine our ways, and if there is rebellion in our hearts we need to repent (vv. 40-42). Desolation and destruction bring tears (vv. 46-51). It is a bitter pill to swallow, when one, like Jeremiah, is condemned without cause (vv. 52-54). Sometimes we just need to keep calling on the covenant LORD, who has promised to draw near, so that we need not fear (vv. 56-57). In the court of judgment, the Lord pleads our case, and redeems our live (vv. 58-59). The reprobate seek vengeance, but the saints leave this to the LORD (vv. 60-66).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section XI.1-2

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section XI.1-2

It has been traditional in Reformed theology to deal with the doctrines pertaining to one’s salvation in what is called the ‘ordo salutis’ – “a technical term of Protestant dogmatics to designate the consecutive steps in the work of the Holy Spirit in the appropriation of salvation.”1 A weakness in such a definition is that it has been understood as an order that is strictly consecutive or sequential. A better way to understand the dependencies is to look upon some of the associated doctrines as being concurrent, that is as happening at the same time. For example, strictly speaking, justification and definitive sanctification both happen concurrently, and both are consecutively or sequentially after regeneration or effectual calling (also being concurrent), which concerns repentance and faith as God’s gifts to his elect.

Many object to treating the subject of salvation in such a “clinical” or “logical” fashion, but as one proceeds, it will be more evident why this order is so crucial to keep in mind. Such an order is stated and presupposed by the authors of the Confession, just as it is here with the subject of justification, as being sequential to effectual calling. “Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies.” Justification follows upon effectual calling, because true or genuine faith is the ‘instrumental’ means of one’s justification. This is what they mean by “freely justifies.” The entire process is all of sovereign grace. This is why they tell us what justification is not. Some want to make justification to be based upon one’s works, in whole or in part, although they want to stress that these works are also a gift of sorts, of God’s grace.

The RCC thus speaks of the ‘infusion’ of righteousness, because their conception, like some in protestant circles, wants to suggest that justification itself changes one’s character seen in one’s conduct, and so in this way God justifies based upon, in part or whole, on these works. Thankfully, there was the RCC as the context in which the reformers and puritans protested, because it highlights the fact that in any given time in history there have always been two, and only two, kinds of religion – man-centred or God centred.2 For this reason the authors of the Confession were clear as to what justification is specifically. Therefore, God “freely justifies…by pardoning their (“Those whom God effectually calls”) sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them.”

Some want to suggest that no grid, as they caricature the ordo salutis, should be imposed on the scriptures. However, as one studies the Confession one can see that it was in fact the scriptures that guided their thinking and not the reverse. Paul saw this sequential order when he stated that those “whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28) Notice that in this order he does not include sanctification. Justification is its own branch, as it were, stemming from effectual calling. The Shorter Catechism succinctly states at A. 33, that justification is “an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.”

In the larger scheme of things, salvation applied is sequential to our being in the lost condition of the fall, or our total depravity, total meaning that it affects every part of our being. Therefore Paul made the point that “it is God who justifies.” (Rom. 8:33) “Justification does not mean that one is to be, or be made, or become inherently good, holy, or upright. To the contrary, it is the sinner who is justified, and at the very instant that he is declared just by God, he remains inherently sinful and unworthy. This does not mean that internal holiness is left unprovided for in the plan of salvation. Not at all. True believers are sanctified, as surely as they are justified.”3 The present writer is postulating that at the time of justification, one is also instantaneously definitively sanctified through the same finished work of Christ. However, progressive sanctification is just that – ‘progressive’.

Justification is a judicial declaration, as is condemnation (Cf. Dt. 25:1). Justification as a declarative act does not itself constitute one as righteous. “We must therefore carefully distinguish between such an act as regeneration (which institutes a change of nature) and justification (which declares a change of status). But here is the marvel of justification. God does what a human judge cannot and must not do. He declares righteous those who are really ungodly (Rom. 4:5, 3:19-24, etc.). If men were to do so it would be abomination (Prov. 17:15). But God does so and yet is not unrighteous in doing it. The question is: how? The answer is: God provides a just and legal basis upon which to declare the unrighteous to be just. And he does this by imputation.”4 Therefore, we are justified “for Christ’s sake alone.”

“Luke 7:29 says that the publicans justified God. Now certainly, the publicans did not infuse grace into God, nor did they give him any ability to do good works. Far from making God righteous, they declared that he was already righteous. It should be completely obvious that the publicans produced no change whatsoever in God’s character. That justification does not refer to a subjective change is seen also in other verses. There is the figure of speech in Matthew 11:19; “Wisdom is justified of her children.” Luke 10:29 says, “But he, willing to justify himself…” where the lawyer did not intend to alter his character but intended to defend it. He meant to declare that he was already just. That justification is a declaration is more clearly seen when we notice how the New Testament contrasts it with condemnation.

So too Romans 8:33-34 says, “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” The same contrast is also found in Romans 5:16 and 18. Other verses, though they do not explicitly use the two words, imply the same contrast, such as John 3:18. From this contrast we may conclude that since the verb ‘condemn’ does not mean to make a person guilty or to make his character evil, but means to declare that he already is guilty, the verb ‘justify’ does not mean to make a man just, or to improve his character, but means to declare that he is now just, not guilty, innocent. Indeed a good verb to contrast with ‘condemn’ is ‘acquit’. A judge acquits a man when he declares that the man is not guilty. Justification then is a judicial act. It is God’s declaration that this sinner is not guilty, but righteous. But how can this be so?

How can a sinner be righteous? It should be clearly understood that even faith is not the basis of justification. The ground or basis of justification is the object in which the faith rests; that is, Christ and his righteousness. God acquits the sinner, declares him not guilty, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness having been imputed to him. Sometimes the expressions are shortened in Scripture, as in Romans 5:5, so that faith is mentioned while the object of the faith is left understood; but this is because the true basis of justification had been clearly expressed a few verses before, in Romans 3:21-26. Then again, the great passage in Romans 5:12-19 shows that as it was one act of man that brought condemnation, so it was by the righteousness of one man that justification is possible. God requires and supplies complete sinlessness.”5

“It is the personal righteousness of Christ’s sinless obedience that is put to our account, on the basis of which we are declared not guilty. Read the same references again. Cf. also Tit. 3:57; Eph. 1:7; I Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9; and even Jer. 23:6, for remember, the Gospel is in the Old Testament and with it justification by faith. It has been necessary to insist that justification is a judicial act of acquittal, for only so can salvation be by grace. However, the ordinary idea of acquittal does not exhaust the Biblical concept of justification. Section I also says that God pardons the sins of those who are justified and accepts their persons as righteous. Perhaps the idea of pardon needs no explanation, for its meaning is easily understood; but the idea of acceptance needs to be distinguished from both pardon and acquittal. The governor of a state may pardon a convicted official without restoring him to favor and to his office.

Appointments to office, if honest, would depend on the future conduct of the pardoned man. But it is otherwise with Biblical justification; for if favor with God depended on our future conduct, eventual salvation would be based on our works-clearly contrary to Scripture-and we could never have an assurance of success. When our position depends on Christ’s merits instead of our own, we need have no fear.”6 Furthermore Clark goes on to make the added point that it is just this conception of justification that led people to claim that Paul was justifying continuance in sin. “In the time of the Apostle Paul, objectors argued that justification by faith alone encouraged men to sin. That they raised this objection in Paul’s day shows clearly that Paul did not teach justification by works. But in Romans 6 Paul shows with equal clarity that the objection is unfounded.”7

“Justification is God’s judicial act of acquittal, but acquittal never comes to a man without regeneration and effectual calling. God never pardons a man without removing his heart of stone and supplying him with a heart of flesh. Christ’s perfect righteousness is never imputed without the sinner’s being raised from the dead and given a new life. Faith in Christ, then, is always accompanied by other saving graces; and the second chapter after Justification in the Confession is Sanctification.”8 As Shaw also states, we must not confound justification with sanctification, which would pervert both law and gospel. “Justification is a judicial act of God, and is not a change of nature, but a change of the sinner’s state in relation to the law.”9 However,  the present writer believes that progressive sanctification is based on definitive sanctification, which occurs concurrently with justification.

The authors of the Confession were also clear in stating that faith is not what is imputed, it being rather a gift at our regeneration. “Not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith: which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.” “Imputation means to ‘reckon, think, or regard’. When an innocent man is reckoned or thought to be guilty, he will complain that men are falsely imputing guilt to him. They consider him to be what he actually is not. So it is with us. God (without doing wrong) regards us to be righteous. The reason that God can do this is that Christ kept the law perfectly and thus worked out a perfect righteousness which he then freely offered to the Father on our behalf for this purpose.”10

“God is able to reckon us free from guilt. The reason is that Christ placed himself in our room and stead so that God could consider our guilt to belong to him. He was condemned just as we are justified. We speak of ‘double imputation’ because of Christ’s active (perfectly obeying God’s law) and passive (fully suffering the penalty of the law against sin) obedience. God regarded his righteousness to be ours, and our guilt to be his. Without imputation of both (our guilt to him and his righteousness to us) there would be no basis for justification. But upon this basis God is able to declare us righteous in his sight. And this declarative act is justification.”11  This is what Paul meant when he stated that God is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26). “From this it clearly emerges that the sole ground of our justification is the obedience of Christ.”12

We should be confessing with Paul when he testified that he wanted to “be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Phil. 3:9) “Since we have no righteousness of our own, and since we must have perfect righteousness before God in order that he might declare that we are, there can be no mixture of our righteousness with that of Christ imputed to us. Saving faith is simply “receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness,” and is for this reason ‘the alone instrument of justification.’”13 This faith is a gift received and occurring by our regeneration, along with true repentance. Furthermore, this affirmation is opposed to any who would base justification on any admixture of our supposed righteousness with that of Christ’s.

“This means that at the instant we begin to trust in Christ we are then and there declared to be legally without sin, guilt or future punishment. This declaration cannot depend upon anything done by the sinner. Faith which is not ‘doing’ but only dependence upon what Christ has done, instantaneously results in complete and eternal justification, provided it be true faith. If it is true faith it will also produce good works which are the sure evidence thereof.”14 This conception of the Confession, as stated here by Williamson, also excludes any idea, rearing its ugly head again today, that there are supposedly two types of justification, one in a person’s present, and then one in the future. ‘True faith’, which is a gift along with repentance in our regeneration is, as stated previously, “the alone instrument of justification” with the righteousness of Christ being the ‘ground’.

Confusion arises when people take a definition of faith, which rightly shows itself to be ‘true’ by how one goes on to live, and bring it back into the branch of justification, as though this somehow justifies making our works to be mixed with Christ’s as the ‘ground’ of our justification. Some want to suggest that this is a ‘new’ way to look upon justification, when it is not new at all. Again, the fact of the matter is, if Paul were in any way suggesting this approach he would not have been accused by some of a conception of the gospel that justifies continuing in sin. Furthermore, the authors wanted to state that faith “is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.” Thus, to be precise, good works are not the evidence of justification, they are rather the fruit bearing evidence of regeneration, this being ‘true’ faith.

“The pardon of sin is unquestionably one important part of justification. It consists in the removal of guilt, or the absolution of the sinner from the obligation to punishment which he lay under by virtue of the sentence of the violated law. The pardon which God bestows is full and complete. It includes all sins, be they ever so numerous, and extends to all their aggravations, be they ever so enormous. Thus saith the Lord, ‘I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me’ (Jer. 33:8). All the sins of the believer are at once pardoned in his justification; his past sins are formally forgiven, and his future sins will not be imputed, so that he cannot come into condemnation (Ps. 32:1, 2; John 5:24.”15

“The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole ground of a sinner’s justification before God. It is not his ‘essential’ righteousness as God that we intend, for that is incommunicable; but his mediatory or surety-righteousness, which, according to our Confession, consists of his ‘obedience and satisfaction’. In the Old Testament, the Messiah is mentioned under this endearing name, ‘The Lord our righteousness’ (Jer. 23:6); and it is predicted that he should ‘bring in everlasting righteousness’ (Dan. 9:21). In the New Testament, Christ is said to be ‘made unto us righteousness’; and we are said to ‘be made the righteousness of God in him (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). It is declared that ‘by the obedience of the one shall many be made righteous’, and that ‘by the obedience of one, the free gift comes upon all men unto justification of life’ (Rom. 5:18, 19).”16

“The Scriptures constantly affirm that we are justified “through” or ‘by means of’ faith, but never ‘on account of’ or ‘for the sake of’ faith. Rom. v. 1; Gal. ii. 16. To our doctrine of justification the famous passage in James ii. 14 is often objected. But Paul and James are speaking of different things. Paul teaches that faith alone justifies. He is arguing against Pharisees and legalists. James teaches that a faith which is alone-that is, a dead faith-will not justify. He is arguing against nominal Christians, who would hold the truth in unrighteousness. Paul uses the word “justify” in the sense of ‘God’s justification of the sinner’; to which faith, and not works, is prerequisite. James uses the word to “justify” in the sense of ‘prove true’, or ‘real’; in which sense faith is justified or proved genuine by works.”17

Williamson sums up his treatment with the following, “justification is by faith. But there can be no faith except in one who is regenerated by the Spirit of God (Eph. 1:4,5,11, 2:4-10). These sections teach us (1) that those who are effectually called (regenerated and converted) are also justified, (2) that justification is judicial, (3) that it is effected by imputation, (4) that it is conditioned by, and instrumentally applied through faith (which is a gift of God).”18 Williamson adds a fifth point, namely “that while justification is by faith alone, it is invariably proactive of good works.”19 The present writer objects to a finer point here, that it is not justification per se that is proactive of good works, but rather of regeneration. As also mentioned earlier, it is important to bear in mind that there is such a thing as definitive sanctification.20

Supplementary scripture: I Kgs. 8:46; Ps. 143:2; Is. 53:6, 12; Zech. 3:1-5; Jn. 1:12; 3:18; 5:24; Acts 2:28; 10:44; 11:18;13:38-39; Rom. 11:6; II Cor. 7:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:6-9; 5:6; Js. 2:17, 22, 26; 3:2; I Pet. 2:24; Heb. 9:22, 28; 12:14.

1. (Wikipedia Cf. Murray, ‘Redemption Accomplished and Applied’)

2. (Clark, 120-123)

3. (Williamson, 104)

4. (Ibid., 104-105)

5. (Clark, 123-124)

6. (Ibid., 124-125 Cf. Phil. 3:8)

7. (Ibid., 125)

8. (Ibid., 125)

9. (Shaw, 175)

10. (Williamson, 105)

11. (Ibid., 105)

12. (Ibid., 105)

13. (Ibid., 105)

14. (Ibid., 105)

15. (Shaw, 174)

16. (Ibid., 178)

17. This might also help explain N.T. Wright’s position, because despite the fact that he admits that justification is a judicial declarative act, nevertheless he cannot conceive of God imputing his own righteousness to the defendant. As he states, it makes no sense to say that the judge somehow gives his own righteousness to the defendant. (Wright, ‘What Saint Paul Really Said’ 96-99. Horton, 93). However, the Reformed view is not that the divine righteousness is what is in view, but very specifically the righteousness of Christ, and this is not unfused, by imputed is the ground of justification.

18. (A.A. Hodge, 185)

19. (Williamson, 105)

20. (Ibid., 103)

21. (Murray, ‘Collected Writings Of John Murray 2:Systematic Theology’ Banner Of Truth, 277-284)

Lamentations 2 Covenantal Cursing.

Lamentations 2 Covenantal Cursing.

This second lament focuses on the Lord’s wrath on the “daughter of Zion.” It begins with a general judgment on all nations from the Lord, but also includes the destruction not just of the city, but also of the temple in it (vv. 1-7). There is a uniqueness to the destruction of city and temple though, it does merit the covenantal judgment of the LORD (vv. 6-22). The marvel is that he did not withdraw his hand, so to speak, in consideration of city and temple. The LORD would use their enemies for this task (v. 7). As horrible as all this is, Jeremiah focused attention upon the worst judgment of all, the absence of the law-word of the covenant. “The law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the LORD.”(v. 9a) Therefore, the elders cannot but sit “on the ground and keep silence.” (v. 10a) It was a time of mourning and sorrow (10b-12), without consolation or comfort, because there was no healer (v. 13).

This is what happens when leadership refuses to be subject to the word. They were using deceptive words, rather than uncovering iniquity, which would lead to reconciliation. Instead, they envisioned for the people “false prophecies and delusions (v. 14). They became the subjects of ridicule, not “the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth.” (v. 15). This punishment was the LORD purposing to fulfill the curses of the covenant, “commanded in days of old” (v. 17 Cf. Dt. 28:15ff.). The plea is for them to avail themselves of prayer to the Lord, an invitation open to all (vv. 18-19). However, their request for mercy was to the LORD of the covenant, to at least spare women and children, priest and prophet, no doubt thinking that they needed a mediator for what was happening (vv. 20-22). However, it was largely due to the apostacy of the priests and prophets which led to the absence of a word from the LORD.

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section I.2-5

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section I.2-5

“Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:” – for which they list all the books of the Protestant canon. Besides being canonical, the authors also wanted to distinguish the word ‘written’ from what they previously described as “at sundry times, and in divers manners,” and Christ as the Word, “all which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.” Here the authors want to make clear that the human authors wrote “by inspiration of God.” The bible is both the words of men, but also the word of God. They also wanted to state the reason for God giving such a revelation, and that is that we would have a “rule of faith and life.” Thus both belief and acts are to be assessed against the written word. The word alone has sole “authority in the Church of God,” as only the canon itself is to be ‘approved,’ the Apocrypha only made use of as any other human writing.

In their statement regarding the apocrypha they make a distinction between it and the canon, by stating that they are nothing more than “human writings.” Not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture.” They then raise the issue of authority, by making clear that the canon alone is inspired, and therefore it alone had unique authority for being the rule of “faith and life.” This we may call a worldview. This issue of authority continues to be taken up in I.4. “The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.” Here the authors are stating that the Scriptures are self-referential, that is, there being no authority equal to or greater than God, he alone can attest to its authority, which he chose to do with that testimony within the scriptures themselves.

Again, the authors wanted to be clear, that the scriptures have the sole binding authority for our consciences, for both believing and obeying. By mentioning “any man or church,” they wanted to also be clear that any confession, including their own, and any man, including of their number, but more particularly the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Also, the word is to be ‘received’ as it is, meaning two things at least. For one thing it did not originate in the minds of the authors, and it is not up to humans to decide what parts to receive, and what not to receive. Hence another reason for them to list all the books of the canon, and not the Apocrypha. “The true Church of Christ is founded on the Scriptures, and therefore the authority of the Scriptures cannot depend on the Church (Eph. 2:20).” 1

The church of the old covenant never received the Apocrypha, and the RCC did not do so until after the Reformation. “In the council of Trent (session of April 8, 1546) the Romanists added these books to the Bible.”(Clark, 13) Even so today, any group appealing to any other source other than the full canonical witness is not in harmony with sacred Scripture, or this Confession. “Does it not now appear that all the details of any writer’s theology and all the practices of his religion depend on what he believes to be the source of information about God?” (Ibid. 13) However, “we may be moved by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of the Holy Scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter.” Even though the testimony of the church is not required to endorse the authority of the scriptures, since they have self-referential authority, nevertheless the church ought to testify to her “high and reverend esteem of the Holy Scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter.”

“The heavenliness of the matter,” was their way of saying that it does not have its source in humanity, but from God. The efficacy of the doctrine,” refers to why it is necessary to have the scriptures for salvation, if such redemption itself is to be effectual. The words of mere mortals cannot save. The scriptures, though they are written by men, have a “majesty of style” that also betrays the Divine author. The fathers then get into what amount to the evidences of canonicity. Firstly, there is “the consent of all the parts.” The Bible has the internal coherence and consistency of all its parts, each with the others. As Moses stated when he was concluding his part, he told the people who were to come, that any new revelation must have the unifying consent of the first five books, and this is how the canon ultimately came to be (Dt. 13:4-5). Likewise Isaiah who commanded, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (8:20)

“The scope of the whole,” refers to two things, that the whole of canonical scriptures are to be received as the word of God, and secondly, that it covers the scope of every department of life, “(which is to give all glory to God).” We are called to glorify God in everything we do (I Cor. 10:31). The whole scope of salvation is as broad as the scriptures themselves, “the full discovery it makes of the only way of salvation.” The scope of salvation addresses the restoration of the full significance of our being in his image (Eph. 4:23-24; Rom. 12:2; Col. 3:10); which includes sustaining that work to perpetuity (II Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29). “Redemption came in a series of acts accompanied by God’s interpretation of those acts. When redemption was finished in deed, it was also completed in word (Heb. 1:1). The reason is that the completion of redemption leaves nothing more to be explained.”2 Again, we are also reminded that the full discovery of salvation can only be found in the word.

“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of the Holy Scripture,” because of “the many other incomparable excellences, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet notwithstanding our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.” This is all taken together to make the main point that these “evidences” are really only such for those who have the witness of the Spirit within. Without the Spirit, the carnal mind would, and do, dispute them all. Again, the fundamental axiom above all else, is the testimony of the scriptures to itself. “The Old Testament claims to be the very word of God (II Sam. 23:2). The New Testament writers readily accepted the Old Testament as the word of God.”3

“Christ promised to give his apostles the Holy Spirit so that they could also write the New Testament Scriptures (John 14:26; 15:26,27). The apostles later received the fulfillment of this promise (Acts 2:1,4; I Thess. 4:8; I Cor. 2:13). The apostles treated each other’s writings as the word of God, putting them on a level with the Old Testament (II Pet. 3:16). The Bible contains information which, in the nature of the case, could only have come from God, namely, creation and the new heaven and new earth of the future (Gen. 1,2 and Rev. 21,21). The Bible contains many predictions concerning events which were later fulfilled.”4 At this point Williamson states that he will give a few examples, but to quote all that he alone gives would be to repeat a large section of his own commentary, since he gives over fifty references, “and many others could be added.”5 “The fact of the matter is that the Bible cannot possibly be proved to be God’s word by anything external to God himself.”6

The authors are also clear in confessing the infallibility of the word. “The infallibility of the Bible is the axiom from which the several doctrines themselves are deduced as theorems. Every religion and every philosophy must be based on some first principle. And since a first principle is first, it cannot be “proved” or “demonstrated on the basis of anything prior.”7 “As Prof. John Murray puts it: ‘The authority of Scripture is an objective and permanent fact residing in the quality of inspiration.’ He also maintains that ‘faith in Scripture as God’s word…rests upon the perfections inherent in Scripture and is elicited by the perception of these perfections” (‘The Infallible Word’, p. 45).”8 The fathers stated that the objective witness is coupled with the subjective testimony. “‘Infallible’ denotes the quality of never deceiving or misleading, and so means ‘wholly trustworthy and reliable’.”9 It is the inner testimony of the Spirit that gives us a “full persuasion, and assurance.”

Supplementary scripture: Is. 59:21; Mt. 5:18; Lk. 16:29; 24:27; Jn. 16:13-14; Rom. 3:2; I Cor. 2:9-12; II Cor. 2:10-11; Eph. 2:20; I Th. 2:13; II. I Tim. 3:15-16; II Pet. 1:19-21; I Jn. 2:20, 27; 5:9; Rev. 22:18-20.

1. (Shaw, 48)

2. (Williamson, 5)

3. (Ibid., 5-6 Cf. Mt. 5:18; Lk. 1:68-79; Jn. 10:35; Acts 4:24-25).

4. (Ibid., 6)

5. (Ibid., 6-7 Cf. Hodge, 34-35)

6. (Ibid., 8)

7. (Clark, 18)

8. (Williamson, 8)

9. (‘Fundamentalism and the Word of God’ J.I. Packer, 95)

Lamentations 1. Affliction Without A Comforter.


Lamentations 1 Affliction Without A Comforter.

The genre of Lamentations is obviously poetry, but there are similarities in expression that we find in Jeremiah. “The idea of Jeremiah as the author may have been encouraged by 2 Chr.. 35:25, where we are told that the prophet composed laments for King Josiah, sometimes seeming to be spoken by an individual (ch. 3) and sometimes by a community (ch. 5), it may be that the poems come from different pens. The setting is clearly Judah, particularly Jerusalem, and almost certainly the period after the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and before the restoration of exiles in 538 B.C. The lament concerning the loss of Judah’s king (2:2, 9), in distinction from other devastations of Jerusalem, fixes this occasion for the laments. A setting during the period of the Babylonian exile makes Lamentations a fitting sequel to the Book of Jeremiah. As Jeremiah had foretold the fall of Jerusalem, Lamentations expresses the pain of the event itself.” (NGSB. 1240)

In this first of five laments, the condition of Jerusalem during the exile is depicted as a lonely place. It was once full of people, but now she was like a widow. She was great among the nations, a princess, but was now a slave (v. 1). The church, at various times in her history, has been a lonely remnant, weeping for what once was (v. 2). At times she seems to be in captivity, “under affliction and hard servitude”, finding no rest, all her persecutors overtaking her in dire straits (v. 3). It can also be a bitter condition (v. 4). However, these persecutors are but the means or instruments of the LORD’s affliction (v. 5). “All her splendor has departed,” as she “remembers all her pleasant things.” (vv. 6-7) “Jerusalem has sinned gravely” (v. 8), “she did not consider her destiny.” (v. 9a) There was no comforter (v. 2, 9b). However, her enemies did the unthinkable, they entered the sanctuary (v. 10). When God is angry, and affliction comes, it is a time of sorrow (vv. 11-12).

The prophet himself was lonely, but with fire in his bones sent by the LORD (v. 13). Jeremiah had worn a yoke to show the captivity that was to come, and now he prays as for the city, that it is also their sin that remains as a yoke too much to bear (vv. 14-15). She wept because there was no comforter, she had become an unclean thing (vv. 16-17). As an unclean thing Judah “falsifies her intended role as a witness to the holiness of God (Ex. 195,6).” (NGSB. 1243) In this punishment the LORD showed his righteousness, for they “rebelled against His commandment.” (v. 18a) All nations should take note (v. 18b). Her spiritual adulterers had left her, and her own priests and elders “breathed their last in the city.” (v. 19) Jeremiah gives them the words of a proper repentance, while as yet there is no comforter still (vv. 20-21). He also prays that the LORD might bring on their adversaries the same punishment that they were receiving, for their heart was faint due to their transgressions (v. 22).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith.

The Westminster Confession Of Faith.

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section I.

These studies stem from a firm belief in the original intent of its authors, that the church believe nothing but that which can be proved from holy scripture. There are certainly other ‘platforms’ and ‘creeds’ that express the same truths as the WCF, but scarcely any that are as thorough and comprehensive as it is. One of the things that immediately stands out is how the subject matters are ordered, and in particular with what it begins with. It is no accident or coincidence that it begins with scripture. The authors firmly believed that one must begin with the special revelation of God in holy scripture, for no truth can be put forth or tested that does not first establish a source for knowing. In the modern study of world views, this is also why one must begin with epistemology, or the study of knowledge, and in particular, the special revelation of scripture.

The reference to world view studies is appropriate, for it can be seen that the authors of the Confession viewed there enterprise as that which ought to be the foundation of any Christian, and therefore biblical understanding of the world and life. The vast majority of the current scholars debating and defending a Christian worldview want to maintain that we should begin with metaphysics, in particular ontology, or the study of being, namely a God, because they want to presuppose as a basic assumption, that all truth begins with the study of the God of the bible. Of course some want to claim that they are arguing for some kind of generic Theism, but if they would be more honest, they would admit that their conception of God is already formed by the special revelation of holy writ. To quote Clark, “this argument overlooks one vital point: Where do we get our information about God? 1

“Where and what is the source of reliable, accurate, full, and true information about God?”2 This is the question we must ask in regard to theology, and of a church’s and Christian’s confession of faith. “Therefore, the authors of the Westminster Confession did not put the doctrine of God in their first chapter. They put it in the second chapter. Chapter one has to do with our source of knowledge.”3 It is the contention of the present author, that this must also be the starting point in forming a Christian, that is, a Biblical worldview. There are certain propositions, assumptions or presuppositions if you will, which are axiomatic to any engagement or discussion of thinking and knowing anything. For example, there are certain rules of logic that one is forced to concede or accept, without being subject to internal contradiction or inconsistency.

The authors of the Confession understood that in their determination to give verbal expression to the faith, faith here being propositional truth, they needed to establish the Scriptures as there first axiom of all thought, discussion, and formulations. These were men not unaware of the traditions and philosophies of their day, which like most moderns, formulated their beliefs and worldviews from a totally different, but no less axiomatic source. Worldview study does indeed examine what goes into why some people choose one axiom over another, but that is not precisely the subject at hand. Suffice it to say, that one’s Confession, and worldview also, must begin with an axiom, and like the authors of this Confession, the present writer concurs with Clark, that the only true axiom of first importance, is the special revelation of holy Scripture. Sola (only) Scriptura, and Tota (total) Scriptura.

So as with the Confession, we begin with epistemology, or the study of knowledge. “Although the light of nature,” refers to what has come to be called ‘natural revelation’, and what the authors were concerned about here, was the biblical affirmation that there is some knowledge of God, or light of nature, such as, to use Paul’s words, leaves all men “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). However, we must not miss the point that this knowledge we have of what knowledge is the light of nature, we know only by examining the special revelation of holy Scripture. However, we can say, based on this presupposition, that all truth is God’s truth. We can also say, that one’s concept of truth is intimately related to the fields of religion and ethics. For Paul makes the point that this light of nature, includes God’s wrath on those who suppress the truth because they are both ungodly, and unrighteous (Rom. 1:18).

We can perhaps suggest that, this is an appropriate area to examine those pre-dispositional factors that affect one’s choice of their primary axiom, namely the condition or state of what the bible refers to as the ‘heart’, being the core or seat of what it means to be human. This is also the core meaning of idolatry, that the ungodliness is seated deeply in the human heart. It is that spiritual or religious commitment, which is revealed in words and deeds, and in the case of those who suppress the truth, do so in unrighteousness, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Rom. 1:19). Make no mistake about it, Paul based his belief or faith on the special revelation of holy Scripture, and does so by going back to the original creation of man and all things at the beginning (Rom. 1:20 Cf. Gen. 1-2). This light was part of the original creation, of man and the world.

For this reason the authors of the Confession go on to say – “and the works of creation and providence.” Creation and providence are intimately related for a number of reasons. Firstly, in the work of creation, God created history. The authors affirmed the doctrine of creation being in six days, as does the present author, but in all the discussions and arguments over this, one must not lose sight of the fact that the bible states that God also created history, and as the Creator he is as sovereign over history as he is of everything else. Obviously this also impacts our view of history, a central subject in anyone’s worldview. Creation and providence “do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable.” ‘Manifestation’ is but another word for ‘reveal’, but again, it is the special revelation of holy Scripture, which informs us specifically as to what natural revelation reveals.

Goodness stands out as that which God declared his creation to be when he created all things. However, it can also be seen in the providential dealings with all men, since, as Jesus said concerning the Father, that “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.” (Mt. 5:45) Wisdom, which we might say is the prudent application or exercise of knowledge, knowledge in particular of God’s law, is seen in the behavior of humanity, restrained by conscience. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” (Rom. 2:14-15) Even modern man cannot escape from their conscience.

Humans know the righteous judgment of God, not only because of conscience being referential to the law written in their hearts, but also, especially as pertains to judgment, that death stands as the inevitable testimony of our covenantal rebellion (Rom. 1:32). Next we read, “and power of God.” Some want to say that the Westminster Standards, or other like standards, should not be imposed on scripture, but even a cursory reading of this Confession, shows just how much their thoughts were formed by the Holy Scriptures, and how they were utterly focused on them, also as the source of the revelation which also came in the person of Jesus the Christ. The inclusion of “wisdom and the power of God,” surely comes from Paul’s words in I Corinthians 1:24 – “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Natural revelation may be described as “the mere edges of His ways,” but even hearing a whisper of God in creation, speaks of his power like thunder (Job 26:14). “But the thunder of His power who can understand.” There are two answers which the Confession and any worldview must address to this question. One is that because of the fall, our understanding is indeed darkened. However, this is why he also gave us his special revelation of holy scripture, to reverse this condition. However, there is still a whisper, as it were, saying “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God.” (Ps. 62:12). God has spoken in creation, and in the word, and both bear witness “that power belongs to God.” The word spoken in creation is enough to leave humans without excuse, but it is not sufficient to give the knowledge of redemption from our lost condition.

“Yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.” Much has been, and could still be written on the sufficiency of the word, but the key point here is that it is “sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.”4 The Confession will proceed to deal with what is “necessary unto salvation,” but at this beginning stage we need to see here that they are affirming and declaring that epistemology, or the theory of knowledge is the first order of business, with which they provide the primary axiom of Holy Scripture. Furthermore, they are affirming, echoing scripture as seen above, that this is more than just information, it is directed to us knowing God’s will. That is, scripture is the axiomatic starting point for both orthodoxy and orthopraxis – word and deed.

Paul made clear, that to know God’s will, that is, the holy scriptures, was to have the mind of Christ. Paul, quoting Isaiah, joins him in bearing witness, that the word is given that we might have this mind. “For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that He may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Cor. 2:16) Clearly there is a knowledge of God in humans, which the philosophers call ‘innate’, “and with this a priori equipment we see the glory of God upon the heavens.”5  Furthermore, “knowledge is the basis of responsibility,”6 and this is why humans are without excuse in not acknowledging it. “In the act of creation God implanted in man a knowledge of God’s existence.”7 However, “even innate knowledge of morality gives no information how or even whether sin may be forgiven.”8

“Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that, his will, unto his Church.” Again, anyone with a knowledge of the Scriptures, can readily see where the fathers got these words from, for they are contained in the prologue of the Letter or Epistle To The Hebrews. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages.” Except for the last word, aion or ages, the rest is given from the preferred New King James Version for its modern English usage. We are told a lot here, in both the Confession, and the epistle. Firstly, we have the Holy Scriptures for no other reason than that the LORD was pleased to reveal them to us, and secondly that there is a continuity in that revelation.

This continuity was nevertheless expressed in various ways, and at various times, which gives expression to a couple of important ideas. One is that God superintended this, as the sovereign Creator of history and therefore providence, and although the ways and times of the ages varied, they nevertheless communicated one unifying message. Fourthly, the LORD did this through the Prophets, beginning with Moses and ending in the Son. Therefore, fifthly, they find their apex and goal in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. By appealing to the fathers, the writer is also stating that this revelation is given in the broad perspective of the covenant. For, Jesus is also the heir of that last old covenant administration, the Davidic, and as such he comes to inherit all that has come before as the true Son of David, as well as the Son of God.

Although it is common in Reformed circles to say that we are living in the last days, this actually cannot be squared with the scriptural testimony, which states that the lasts days were the last days of the old covenant ages or eras. Obviously we are here concerned with what is called ‘biblical theology’, something that was not foreign to the fathers of the Confession. It is a cardinal principle of biblical theology that the acts of redemption are always accompanied by special revelation, which reinforces the need for special revelation when it comes to salvation or redemption. The testimony of Scripture is that with the coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of Days, as occurred in Jesus ascension (Dan. 7:13-14), that a number of things would happen, which are spoken of by the author of Hebrews, in the prologue.

These things are taken from Daniel’s prophecy at 9:24. First of all, like Hebrews, Daniel grounds what he is about to say, in history, which happens to be that which was fulfilled at the time of Christ’s first advent. These things are “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness,” which Jesus did when he, as our high priest, “had by Himself purged our sins.” Secondly, “to seal up vision and prophecy.” This the writer to the Hebrews is declaring in Christ’s role as the final Prophet. These two things occurred in history with the destruction of the temple, because of the once for all sacrifice of the Son. The canon of revelation was also completed, so that the gifts associated with this task also ceased. Hence, the fathers wanted to state in the Confession that “the former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people now ceased.”

However, we must not miss the fact that the fathers stated that these things were revealed “unto his  church,” showing that they believed that there is but one church throughout salvation history. “And afterward, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people now ceased.” Here we see that the fathers wanted to be very clear, that all the previous variety of ways and times, were preserved by the LORD in the written word, and that that word from the very beginning was its own test of canonization.

The word serves several purposes. Firstly, part of what is necessary unto full salvation, is that the whole of God’s will be declared to the church. Secondly, it was given “for the better preserving and propagating of the truth.” God’s special revelation is the sole guard and guarantee of what is true truth, as Schaeffer would say. However, they were not content with simply preserving the word, but it was also given that it might be propagated both in the church, and by the church, to the world. Furthermore, lest one think that they were only concerned with the intellect, they state that the scriptures were also given “for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world.” Part of being saved is to be established in the faith, and the writing of this Confession was also meant to help carry out this work.

The scriptures are also for our comfort. We need comfort, for besides our own infirmities, there is the “malice of Satan and of the world.” For the fathers, the church’s disputations with outsiders, the world, was really a spiritual battle led on the other side ultimately by Satan, and with malice. No doubt they had the following words of Paul in mind. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) ‘Malice is the intention or will to do someone evil. Against this we need to defend ourselves and the church with nothing less than the whole of the scriptural testimony. This is what should concern all branches of theology, worldview studies, the arts and sciences, and apologetics, and virtually all areas of thought and practice. Sola Scriptura, Tota Scriptura.

We must not miss the fact that the fathers also stated that this word was declared. Those human authors who wrote the scriptures, wrote not from their own imaginations, but only that which was declared unto them. It is these that the church must use in her doctrine and life. Ultimately, as stated in the prologue of the Letter To The Hebrews, Jesus is the culmination of both salvation history, and its accompanying special revelation. As the Anointed One, which is what the word ‘Christ’ means, Jesus occupies the threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. He is the One who is the heir of all things. Furthermore he is the author, sustainer, and end of all history, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. His reign as King is now, but it is through his word as our Prophet, and the gospel of his once for all sacrifice as our Priest. This is the power of God (Rom. 1:16-17).

One further point needs to be made with respect to the need for special revelation. The confession does indeed state that it was necessary for salvation, however, as Williamson has pointed out, even Adam needed special revelation to fully apprehend the will of God for him.9 The fathers clearly had in mind Psalm 19, which makes the same distinction between so-called natural revelation (vv. 1-6), and that which is obtained from God’s law. Verse seven does speak of the law-word of the covenant as “converting the soul,” however it goes on to say much more (vv. 7-11). This much more would surely have been necessary even before the fall. Nevertheless, it concludes with what is clearly also needed, and that is salvation to the full, by the Redeemer (vv. 12-14). The testimony of scripture is clear, man in Adam disobeyed the special revelation given (Gen. 3).

“Just as the test of man’s obedience came by way of the word of revelation, so the remedy for man’s present need comes by way of word revelation. Only the gospel can supplement natural revelation in such a way as to (a) disclose the means of removing God’s enmity (Rom. 1:17; II Cor. 5:18-21f) and (b) make man once more a willing subject of the will of God (Rom. 12:12).”10 “The Scriptures assure us, that there is no salvation for sinful men in any other names but that of Jesus Christ – that there is no salvation through him but by faith, and that there can be no faith nor knowledge of Christ but by revelation (Acts 4:12; Mark 16:16; Rom. 10:14-17). The Scripture affirms, in terms the most express, that ‘where there is no vision,’ or revelation, ‘the people perish’: and it describes those who are destitute of divine revelation, as ‘having no hope, and without God in the world’ (Pro. 29:18; Eph. 2:12)”11

Furthermore, “it pleased God that the whole of his revealed will should be committed to writing, that the church might have a standing rule of faith and practice, by which all doctrines might be examined, and all actions regulated – that sacred truth might be preserved uncorrupted and entire – that it might be propagated throughout the several nations, and might be conveyed down to all succeeding generations. Without this the Church would be left to the uncertainty of tradition and oral teaching; but the written Word is a sure test of doctrines, and a light in a dark place, both of which are most necessary (Isa. 8:20; 2 Pet. 1:19).”12 “That consequently it has pleased God, of his sovereign grace, to make, in various ways and at different times, a supernatural revelation of himself and of his purposes to a chosen portion of the human family.”13

Supplementary scripture: Nu. 12:6-8; Dt. 31:24; II Sa. 23:1-3; Jer. 36:1-2; Pr. 22:19:19-21; Mt. 4:4-20; Lk. 1:3-4; Jn. 16:13-14; Ro. 2:1; 10:13; 15:4; I Co. 1:21; Gal. 1:1, 11-12; I Tim. 5:18; II Tim. 3:15-17; II Pet. 1:20-21; 3:15-16; I Jn. 2:20.

One is strongly encouraged to also follow the questions included in the contribution of Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., in his ‘The Westminster Confession Of Faith Study Book’ (Christian Focus), in this section at 15-20. A further reference, especially good on scripture proofs, is ‘A Guide to The Westminster Standards’ by James E. Bordwine (The Trinity Foundation)

Solus Christus, Sola Deo Gloria!

Solus Christus, Sola Deo Gloria!

1.‘What Do Presbyterians Believe?’ (P & R, 7)

2. Ibid. (7)

3. Ibid. (8)

4. ‘The Sufficiency Of Scripture’ Noel Weeks (Banner Of Truth, 1988)

5. Ibid. (10)

6. Ibid. (10)

7. Ibid. (11)

8. Ibid. (11)

9. ‘The Westminster Confession Of Faith’ (P & R, 2)

10. Ibid. (3)

11. ‘The Reformed Faith’ Robert Shaw (Christian Heritage, 39)

12. Ibid. (41)

13. “The Westminster Confession A Commentary’ A.A. Hodge (Banner Of Truth, 28-29)


Jeremiah 52 Jerusalem Falls And The People Go Into Exile.

Jeremiah 52 Jerusalem Falls And The People Go Into Exile.

Zedekiah rebelled against the LORD, and against the king of Babylon his servant (vv. 1-3). For two years Jerusalem was under siege, and finally it fell in 587, the final wave of captivity (vv. 4-7). Zedekiah was captured in the plains of Jericho and taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah. His sons were killed before his eyes, then his eyes were put out, and he died in prison (vv. 8-11). Nebuzaradan, the king’s captain, burned down the temple and the houses of all the great (vv. 12-13). The walls were also broken down, a small number of the poor were left as vinedressers and farmers (vv. 14-16), but the rest of the people were taken captive to Babylon (vv. 28-30). All the articles of bronze, silver, and gold were taken (vv. 17-23).

2 priests, 3 doorkeepers, a military officer, 7 close associates of the king, and the military scribe, and 60 other men were also taken to the king of Babylon, who put them to death (vv. 24-27). On the other hand, in 560 king Jehoiachin was brought out of prison and ate before the king until his death (vv. 31-34). “The final chapter of Jeremiah is an appendix describing the fall of Jerusalem and reminding the reader that Jeremiah’s prophecies were fulfilled. Despite its message of divine judgment for sin, the Book of Jeremiah ends (like 2 Kings) on a hopeful note by calling  attention to the mercy shown to King Jehoiachin of Judah while in Babylonian exile (52:31-34; cf. 2 Kin. 25:27-30).” (NGSB. 1238)