If you were asked to identify the primary quality which defines a true man of God in his specific relation to a true woman of God – distinctively within the marriage relationship – what one-word answer might you give? What if the opposite question were asked: what single quality ought to characterise a woman of God in relation to her husband in particular?
…the distinctive feature of masculinity in this relation to femininity is love. Leadership or headship may be implied, but the focus of the apostle is on the motive and nature of the husband’s relation to his wife. This love is neither physical lust nor romantic delight, and neither one can or will supply a lack of intelligent and principled love.
Let me briefly spell out several things about this love. Note first its character, for it is Christlike. As such, it must be principled, realistic, intelligent , sweet and – ultimately – sacrificial. Its great pattern is Christ’s coming for and dying for his church. This is not a matter of occasional spectacular demonstrations, though it may include them. It is not a notional knight in shining armour who, fortunately for the husband, never actually needs to make an appearance. It is to labour for the good of your wife regardless of the cost to yourself, a daily death of a thousand cuts to male selfishness and laziness.
While many who visit our site will be familiar with the Second London Confession (often called the 1689 Confession), usually they have only seen the text of the Confession itself. But when it was first published, it also included a letter to the reader as well as an appendix. Here, we present this Letter. It is our hope that these materials will further the understanding of this wonderful document.
Judicious and Impartial
It is now many years since divers of us (with other sober Christians then living and walking in the way of the Lord that we professe) did conceive our selves to be under a necessity of Publishing a Confession of our Faith, for the information, and satisfaction of those, that did not throughly understand what our principles were, or had entertained prejudices against our Profession, by reason of the strange representation of them, by some men of note, who had taken very wrong measures, and accordingly led others into misapprehensions, of us, and them: and this was first put forth about the year, 1643. in the name of seven Congregations then gathered in London; since which time, diverse impressions thereof have been dispersed abroad, and our end proposed, in good measure answered, inasmuch as many (and some of those men eminent, both for piety and learning) were thereby satisfied, that we were no way guilty of those Heterodoxies and fundamental errors, which had too frequently been charged upon us without ground, or occasion given on our part. And forasmuch, as that Confession is not now commonly to be had; and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein; it was judged necessary by us to joyn together in giving a testimony to the world; of our firm adhering to those wholesome Principles, by the publication of this which is now in your hand.
And forasmuch as our method, and manner of expressing our sentiments, in this, doth vary from the former (although the substance of the matter is the same) we shall freely impart to you the reason and occasion thereof. One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work, was (not only to give a full account of our selves, to those Christians that differ from us about the subject of Baptism, but also) the profit that might from thence arise, unto those that have any account of our labors, in their instruction, and establishment in the great truths of the Gospel; in the clear understanding, and steady belief of which, our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before him, in all our ways, is most neerly concerned; and therefore we did conclude it necessary to expresse our selves the more fully, and distinctly; and also to fix on such a method as might be most comprehensive of those things which we designed to explain our sense, and belief of; and finding no defect, in this regard, in that fixed on by the assembly, and after them by those of the Congregational way, we did readily conclude it best to retain the same order in our present confession: and also, when we observed that those last mentioned, did in their confession (for reasons which seemed of weight both to themselves and others) choose not only to express their mind in words concurrent with the former in sense, concerning all those articles wherein they were agreed, but also for the most part without any variation of the terms we did in like manner conclude it best to follow their example in making use of the very same words with them both, in these articles (which are very many) wherein our faith and doctrine is the same with theirs, and this we did, the more abundantly, to manifest our consent with both, in all the fundamental articles of the Christian Religion, as also with many others, whose orthodox confessions have been published to the world; on behalf of the Protestants in divers Nations and Cities: and also to convince all, that we have no itch to clogge Religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words, which hath been, in consent with the holy Scriptures, used by others before us; hereby declaring before God, Angels, & Men, our hearty agreement with them, in that wholesome Protestant Doctrine, which with so clear evidence of Scriptures they have asserted: some things indeed, are in some places added, some terms omitted, and some few changed, but these alterations are of that nature, as that we need not doubt, any charge or suspition of unsoundness in the faith, from any of our brethren upon the account of them.
In those things wherein we differ from others, we have exprest our selves with all candor and plainness that none might entertain jealousie of ought secretly lodged in our breasts, that we would not the world should be acquainted with; yet we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty, and humility, as will render our freedom in this respect inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours.
We have also taken care to affix texts of Scripture, in the margin for the confirmation of each article in our confession; in which work we have studiously indeavoured to select such as are most clear and pertinent, for the proof of what is asserted by us: and our earnest desire is, that all into whose hands this may come, would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily, that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not.
There is one thing more which we sincerely professe, and earnestly desire credence in, viz. That contention is most remote from our design in all that we have done in this matter: and we hope the liberty of an ingenuous unfolding our principles, and opening our hearts unto our Brethren, with the Scripture grounds on which our faith and practise leanes, will by none of them be either denyed to us, or taken ill from us. Our whole design is accomplished, if we may obtain that Justice, as to be measured in our principles, and practise, and the judgement of both by others, according to what we have now published; which the Lord (whose eyes are as a flame of fire) knoweth to be the doctrine, which with our hearts we must firmly believe, and sincerely indeavour to conform our lives to. And oh that other contentions being laid asleep, the only care and contention of all upon whom the name of our blessed Redeemer is called, might for the future be, to walk humbly with their God, and in the exercise of all Love and Meekness towards each other, to perfect holyness in the fear of the Lord, each one endeavouring to have his conversation such as becometh the Gospel; and also suitable to his place and capacity vigorously to promote in others the practice of true Religion and undefiled in the sight of God and our Father. And that in this backsliding day, we might not spend our breath in fruitless complaints of the evils of others; but may every one begin at home, to reform in the first place our own hearts, and wayes; and then to quicken all that we may have influence upon, to the same work; that if the will of God were so, none might deceive themselves, by resting in, and trusting to, a form of Godliness, without the power of it, and inward experience of the efficacy of those truths that are professed by them.
And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of Religion in our day, which we cannot but touch upon, and earnestly urge a redresse of; and that is the neglect of the worship of God in Families, by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the grosse ignorance, and instability of many; with the prophaneness of others, be justly charged upon their Parents and Masters; who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young? but have neglected those frequent and solemn commands which the Lord hath laid upon them so to catechize, and instruct them, that their tender years might be seasoned with the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures; and also by their own omission of Prayer, and other duties of Religion in their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, have inured them first to a neglect, and then contempt of all Piety and Religion? we know this will not excuse the blindness, or wickedness of any; but certainly it will fall heavy upon those that have thus been the occasion thereof; they indeed dye in their sins; but will not their blood be required of those under whose care they were, who yet permitted them to go on without warning, yea led them into the paths of destruction? and will not the diligence of Christians with respect to the discharge of these duties, in ages past, rise up in judgment against, and condemn many of those who would be esteemed such now?
We shall conclude with our earnest prayer, that the God of all grace, will pour out those measures of his holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be accompanyed with the sound belief, and diligent practise of it by us; that his name may in all things be glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Conclusion: Practical Application of God’s Holiness
I commend Charnock’s treatment of what he calls “uses” for information, comfort, and exhortation. We consider the practical application of God’s holiness to sinners and saints.
A. Practical Application of God’s Holiness to Lost Sinners
God’s holiness calls sinners to face the fact that they can’t serve God acceptably while they live in sin. It calls them to face the certainty of his punishment. It calls them to face the finality and propriety of his punishment. It presses them to get right with God through Christ now, while they still have a chance to do so. Death is coming. Christ is coming. When they come, it will be too late.
B. Practical Application of God’s Holiness to Christians
1. God’s holiness calls Christians to humility and contrition before God.
God’s holiness uncovers our remaining corruption. The more we behold his purity and devotion to his honor, the more we see our uncleanness and self-centeredness. The more we dwell in his presence, the more we feel helpless and wretched. Thus Job and Isaiah came to feel their remaining sin.
2. God’s holiness calls Christians to filial fear of God.
God’s unequivocal devotion to his own glory elicits dread. We have meaning, purpose, and value only in relation to him and his design for us. He holds our life in his hands, to do with as he pleases, when he pleases, for his glory. Thus we should walk softly with him in filial fear.
3. God’s holiness calls Christians to reverent and joyous worship.
Divine holiness demands both reverence and joy in our worship. The display of his holiness in creation and redemption calls for songs of adoration and praise. Our infinitely holy God stands worthy of incessant praise from his creatures in heaven and on earth.
4. God’s holiness calls Christians to imitate to his holy character.
God’s holiness mandates putting away sin. Imitating his holy character is essential evidence of true religion. To this end he re-created us in his image and chastens us in love. We should imitate our Father because we love him and want to be like him and in order to defend his good name.
5. God’s holiness calls Christians to trust him and rely on him.
God is our Rock. He has sworn to bless us in Christ. His honor stands bound to our welfare. Holiness moves him to protect and preserve us. Thus, we must trust him to fulfill his sworn commitments to us. We must rely on our Holy One for help, security, and provision of all our needs in Christ. In conclusion, we should never forget the great importance of God’s holiness. Let us dwell on it until we live every day devoted to his glory and longing to see him as he is and be like him.
Omniscience is useful for instruction, consolation, confirmation, provision, and exhortation.
A. Instruction from God’s Omniscience
It teaches us the excellency of wisdom (Prov. 3:19-20).
It teaches us the value of all creatures, the Christian gospel, church, and ministry (Matt. 6:26, 10:31, 11:21, 23; Eph. 3:8, 10-11).
It teaches us the inscrutability of divine providence (Eccles. 8:16-17, 9:1).
It teaches us the sufficiency of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:5-8).
It teaches us the absurdity of thinking anyone can get away with sin (Rev. 18:5).
B. Comfort from God’s Omniscience
It comforts us because God ever watches over us (Isa. 40:28).
It comforts us because God never forgets us (Isa. 49:14-16).
It comforts us because God always remembers our faithful service to him (Heb. 6:10).
It comforts because the Holy Spirit prays for us, even when we don’t know what to pray (Rom. 8:27).
C. Confirmation from God’s Omniscience
Divine foreknowledge strengthens our faith that Jehovah is the one true God (Isa. 41:21-24, 48:5).
D. Provision from God’s Omniscience
It supplies a stockpile of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 3:5; James 1:5).
It supplies effectual argument to plead before God (Neh. 13:22, 29, 31; Luke 1:72).
E. Exhortation from God’s Omniscience
It exhorts about communion with God, cultivation of grace, and contemplation of his work.
1. God’s omniscience exhorts us to godly communion with the Lord.
a. Omniscience calls us to seek God for guidance and counsel (1 Sam. 23:11-12; Prov. 3:13, 21-22; Col. 3:5).
b. Omniscience calls us to praise God (Pss. 104:1, 33, 147:5; Rom. 11:33-36, 16:27).
c. Omniscience calls us to appreciate God’s special presence (Ps. 139:17,18).
d. Omniscience calls us to cleave to God alone (Jer. 10:10-12).
e. Omniscience calls us to trust God for protection and provision (Matt. 6:31-32,10:29-31).
f. Omniscience calls us to serve God (John 21:17).
g. Omniscience calls us to honor God (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 1:17-31).
2. God’s omniscience exhorts us to diligent cultivation of grace.
a. Omniscience urges us to cultivate humility (Job 1:21, 37:16, 38:1-39-30; Gen. 18:25).
b. Omniscience urges us to cultivate expectancy for eternal glory (Ps. 104:35; Heb. 6:10).
c. Omniscience urges us to cultivate sanctity (Ps. 139:19-22).
d. Omniscience urges us to cultivate sincerity (Ps. 139:23-24; Prov. 15:11; Ezek. 11:5; 1 John 3:19-21).
e. Omniscience urges us to cultivate sagacity (Prov. 3:13-15, 21-22).
f. Omniscience urges us to cultivate honesty (Matt. 11:21, 23).
g. Omniscience urges us to cultivate tenacity (Heb. 4:11-13).
3. God’s omniscience exhorts us to biblical contemplation of his works.
a. We should study and analyze creation until praise and gratitude flow from our lips (Ps. 104:24).
b. We should meditate on the mystery of providence until we stand lost in wonder (Eccles. 8:16-17, 9:1).
c. We should contemplate salvation until we give God all the glory (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 1:17-25).
In Conclusion, omniscience graciously invites all sinners to forsake their sinful ways and thoughts and seek the Lord, while there is still time (Isa. 55:6-9). May the Lord be pleased to write these many lesson of his supreme mind, knowledge, and wisdom on our hearts.
That which “remains” is “a Sabbath rest.” The noun “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]) is used only here in the Bible. Various cognate forms of it are used in the Septuagint (LXX) in at least four places (Exod. 16:30; Lev. 23:32; 26:34; 2 Chron. 36:21). Each use in the LXX, when referring to men, refers to Sabbath-keeping in terms of an activity in the (then) here and now. Lincoln admits this, when he says, “In each of these places the term denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath.” This can be seen especially in Exodus 16:30, Leviticus 23:32, and 26:35.
So the people rested (LXX: ἐσαββάτισεν [esabbatisen]; a verb) on the seventh day. (Exod. 16:30)
It is to be a sabbath (LXX: σάββατα [sabbata]; a noun) of complete rest (LXX: σαββάτων [sabbatōn]; a noun) to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep (LXX: σαββατιεῖτε [sabbatieite]; a verb) your sabbath (LXX: τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν [ta sabbata hymōn]; a noun). (Lev. 23:32)
All the days of its [i.e., the land’s] desolation it will observe the rest (LXX: σαββατιεῖ [sabbatiei]; a verb) which it did not observe (LXX: ἐσαββάτισεν [esabbatisen]; a verb) on your sabbaths (LXX: τοῖς σαββάτοις ὑμῶν [tois sabbatois hymōn]; a noun), while you were living on it. (Lev. 26:34-35)
Something interesting occurs in the LXX version of Leviticus 23:32a. The LXX text reads as follows: σάββατα σαββάτων ἔσται ὑμῖν (sabbata sabbatōn estai hymin). The NASB translates this verse: “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you.” The word σάββατα in the LXX compliments the verb “to be” (ἔσται). The word σαββάτων (“of complete rest”) modifies σάββατα. Both nouns clearly refer to an activity, a Sabbath-keeping to be rendered by those addressed in the passage. In Leviticus 23:32b of the LXX a verb is followed by its direct object as follows: σαββατιεῖτε τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν (sabbatieite ta sabbata hymōn [“you shall keep your sabbath”]). Here a Sabbath for the people of God to keep is pressed upon them, explicitly by verbs and implicitly by nouns. Also, in each case the word “Sabbath” is the same used by Moses in Genesis 2:2, “and He rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). Pertinent to our discussion as well is the fact that God’s creational rest in the LXX of Exodus 20:11 is referred to with the verb κατέπαυσεν (katepausen), the same word translated “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4. In the LXX, what for the Creator is “rest” implies a Sabbath day to be kept for creatures. Hebrews 3 and 4 seem to follow this septuagintal pattern (see the discussion on divine rests above and the exposition of Heb. 4:10 below).
Robert P. Martin has an excellent discussion on the word “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]). In the context of interacting with Andrew T. Lincoln, Martin says:
It is interesting that Lincoln acknowledges that “in each of these places [i.e., the LXX texts cited above] the term denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath,” i.e., not a Sabbath rest as a state to be entered into but a Sabbath-keeping as a practice to be observed. This, of course, corresponds to the word’s morphology, for the suffix —μoς indicates anaction and not just a state. This at least suggests that if the writer of Hebrews meant only “a Sabbath rest,” i.e., “a Sabbath state” to be entered into, he would have used the term σάββατον (“Sabbath”) or continued to use κατάπαυσις (“rest”), for he already had established the referent of κατάπαυσις as God’s own Sabbath rest which is to be entered into by faith (cf., 4:1, 3-4, 11). Thus σαββατισμὸς suggests a Sabbath action, i.e., “a Sabbath-keeping,” although the idea of a “a Sabbath state” is not necessarily excluded because of the overarching theme of the larger context.
Throughout the passage thus far, the word translated “rest” is κατάπαυσις (katapausis). This word is also used in Hebrews 4:10-11. The shift from katapausis to sabbatismos at Hebrews 4:9 is deliberate. But why the change? Joseph A. Pipa suggests the following:
The uniqueness of the word suggests a deliberate, theological purpose. He selects or coins sabbatismos because, in addition to referring to spiritual rest, it suggests as well an observance of that rest by a ‘Sabbath-keeping’. Because the promised rest lies ahead for the New Covenant people, they are to strive to enter the future rest. Yet as they do so, they anticipate it by continuing to keep the Sabbath.
Notice that Pipa includes “spiritual rest” in his understanding of the word sabbatismos. This is an important observation, also made by Martin above (i.e., “the idea of ‘a Sabbath state’ is not necessarily excluded because of the overarching theme of the larger context”).
Though many commentators take sabbatismos as either salvation rest in Christ now and in the future or exclusively eschatological rest, its use here in light of the flow of the contextual argument and its LXX usages suggest a different meaning. The LXX use has already been noted. In the context of Hebrews 4:9-10, the divine rests referred to have at least three things in common: 1) a divine rest after a divine work; 2) a rest to be entered in terms of man’s obedience and worship in light of the divine work/rest; and 3) a day of rest as a pledge and token of the divine work/rest and of man’s entrance into it. Each divine rest as given to the people of God (i.e., at creation and Canaan) both had an abiding rest day remaining once the rest was instituted. If the other two divine rests included rest-keeping in the form of a Sabbath day, it is not without warrant to expect future divine rests (assuming they occur) to include the same. I am suggesting Hebrews 4:9-10 indicates just such a rest.
 Lincoln, “Sabbath, Rest, and Eschatology in the New Testament,” 213.
Just as the temple yields to Christ and is transformed to fit the redemptive-historical circumstances brought in by his sufferings and glory, so the Sabbath yields to Christ and is transformed to fit the same redemptive-historical circumstances. The inaugurated new covenant has both a temple and a Sabbath. This connects Christ’s teaching on the temple and the Sabbath with subsequent revelation.
It is necessary to distinguish between symbols and types. A symbol portrays a fact or reality that presently exists. A type is prospective. Perhaps Geerhardus Vos’ discussion of the fourth commandment can help at this juncture. In his Biblical Theology the fourth commandment gets much more comment from Vos than the others. One of the reasons is due to its origin and modified applicability throughout redemptive history.
With the resurgence of reformed theology has come a rediscovery of the doctrine of Christian liberty. This doctrine is important for spiritual growth and health because, as Paul succinctly put it in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”…
Quite simply, Christian liberty is the freedom to live in ways that God that has not restricted by His commandments. As the Second London Confession of Faith (1689) puts it in chapter 21,
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from human doctrines and commandments that are in any way contrary to His Word or not contained in it. So, believing such doctrines, or obeying such commands out of conscience, is a betrayal of true liberty of conscience. Requiring implicit faith or absolute and blind obedience destroys liberty of conscience and reason as well (paragraph 2).
What God has commanded we must insist be done and do ourselves. What God has forbidden, we must insist not be done and not do. What God has neither commanded nor forbidden we are free to do or not do. Obviously, misunderstanding God’s law will inevitably lead to misunderstanding of Christian liberty.
James M. Renihan, over at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, concludes:
Our fathers promoted the cause of education and training. They raised funds. They asked some of their most capable pastors to take the lead in developing training programs. They urged capable men to earn credible academic credentials. They built institutions which served the churches very well for many years.
… It is curious that many people think that Baptists undervalue the need for education and preparation while our history testifies to exactly the opposite. Will we be like them? Will we give time, effort and funds to plan for the future?
Intro to the 2016 ARBCA circular letter on the 2nd London Confession of Faith (1677/1689) chapter 19 paragraph seven:
Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it . . . (2LCF 19.7a)
Our subject is important for at least three reasons. First, because this is what we confess as confessional, associational churches. It is, therefore, what we believe the Bible teaches. Second, because it is one of those confessional assertions that is often misunderstood and, in our day, denied by prominent evangelicals.1 And third, it is important for the well-being of our churches, which are comprised of God’s dear children. This last reason will be examined more fully in the conclusion.
In addressing the issue of how the “uses of the law . . . sweetly comply with the grace of the Gospel” (2LCF 19.7), we will consider 2LCF 19.7 in its confessional context, define some technical terms utilized in discussions about the law of God, identify the “uses of the law” implied by this paragraph, and discuss how the “uses of the law . . . sweetly comply with the grace of the Gospel.” A conclusion to the whole will be our final consideration of this topic in light of the discussion.
The Reformed Baptist Trumpet is the quarterly e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA), a network of ministers, church officers, and congregations in Virginia committed to promoting renewal and reformation in congregations throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. The RBF-VA gladly affirms the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. The Reformed Baptist Trumpet editorial committee: Steve Clevenger, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton, Virginia; Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia; W. Gary Crampton, Elder, Reformed Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia. The Editor is Jeffrey T. Riddle.
“It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries.” Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644)
Baptists have historically argued for the religious liberty of all people. As a group that was persecuted in their early days, Baptists have consistently argued for four hundred years that the civil government does not have authority over the consciences of citizens. Baptists have recognized that we either have religious liberty for all or not at all. If the government can take someone else’s freedom today, they can take yours tomorrow. Below is a list of quotes evidencing Baptists’ historic commitment to religious liberty. These could be multiplied many times over. The unique thing about the quotations below is not their advocacy of religious liberty for all, but that they specifically identify Muslims as deserving freedom to practice their religion freely. (Note: “Turks” and “Turkish” was used as an identifier of Muslims.)
“For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures.” Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (1612)
“It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries.” Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644)
Roger Williams also cited in a positive fashion that Oliver Cromwell once maintained in a public discussion “with much Christian zeal and affection for his own conscience that he had rather that Mahumetanism [i.e. Mohammedanism or Islam] were permitted amongst us, than that one of God’s Children should be persecuted.”
“The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” John Leland, “The Virginia Chronicle” (1790)
To add contemporary Baptist voices, I could add these excellent pieces by my friends Russell Moore and Bart Barber. These men and their arguments are right in step with the larger Baptist tradition of defending religious liberty for all.
The doctrine of divine impassibility is a biblical, catholic, classical, and confessional doctrine of the Christian church which states that because God is simple, infinite, eternal, and immutable, he cannot undergo any change in state of being, or be acted upon in any way. The Reformed confessions of faith express this by saying that God is “without passions.” This negation separates the being of God from an aspect of creaturely existence.
To understand divine impassibility, therefore, we have to study the divine nature that requires such a negation and the creaturely existence being denied of God. Many authors, far more capable and knowledgeable than myself, have dealt with the first part, arguing convincingly that the divine nature cannot be acted upon by anything or undergo anything. It is my goal to address the second element of this question, often untouched in these discussions, passions and affections in the context of the human nature. As we improve our understanding of the imperfections of our creaturely nature, we will improve our understanding of the perfections of God’s divine nature.
Man’s nature has parts—body (material) and soul (immaterial). And it has faculties seated within those parts—the mind, the will, and the passions or affections. The affections bring together the parts and faculties of the human nature. Affections are motions of the mind and will relative to perceived good and evil.
In other words, as a given person goes through life, their mind interprets the world around them and regards various objects as good or bad. If perceived as good, the person is drawn to those objects. If perceived as bad, the person is drawn away from those objects. These motions are the affections, and can therefore be sorted into two opposite lists.
Particular Baptist churches planted in the tumultuous soil of 17th century England grew up and bore fruit under a nasty set of doctrinal and methodological accusations, including that they subscribed to libertarian free will, denied original sin, that their pastors baptized women in the nude, and were opponents of church and crown.
Perhaps their most virulent and colorful opponent, Daniel Featley—a separatist persecutor deluxe—derisively dismissed our Baptist forebears, writing in a venom-filled pamphlet, “They pollute our rivers with their filthy washings.” Such was Baptist life under Charles I.
These nefarious charges and numerous others arose from leaders of the state church and led to decades of grinding persecution for Baptists. Seven churches returned fire, but not by brandishing the sword of steel or by hurling theological invectives. The seven carried out their war for truth by wielding the sword of the Spirit. The product was the most comprehensive expression of orthodox Baptist theology ever written—the SecondLondon Confession of 1689.
The signers of that venerable confession lived and moved in an age in which most local congregations wrote confessions of faith for a number of reasons, one of them to demonstrate their commitment to the historic Christian faith. Additionally, they sought to manifest their solidarity with the prevailing forms of Calvinistic orthodoxy as well as to expound the basic elements of their ecclesiology. The Second London Confession also aimed at refuting popular notions associating Particular Baptists with the radical wing of the Anabaptist movement on the continent.
Of primary importance, they saw biblical warrant for the practice of confessionalism in texts such as 1 Timothy 3:16, where the apostle Paul’s inspired pen produced a brief but beautiful display of the mystery of godliness:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
Fast-forward to 2016 and many Baptist churches continue to have statements of faith “on the books” as a part of their foundational documents. Yet, I’ve found that many churches do not know how useful the confession can be beyond establishing subscription to certain core doctrines. This raises a fundamental question: How should a local church use their confession of faith? Here are six ways a church might use a confession of faith. I owe at least four of these to my friend Sam Waldron’s fine work, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith(Evangelical Press). Confessions of faith should be used:
1. As an affirmation and defense of the truth…
2. As a baseline for church discipline…
3. As a means of theological triage and Christian maturity…
4. As a concise standard by which to evaluate ministers of the Word…
5. As a doctrinal basis for planting daughter churches…
6. As a means of establishing historical continuity and unity with other Christians…
[Here’s something I originally posted on 2/18/14. With some current controversies within evangelicalism, it suddenly seems timely.] The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), 2.3:
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
(Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Exo 3:14; John 14:11; 1 Cor 8:6; John 1:14, 18; John 15:26; Gal 4:6)
In an article focused on BCF 1689 2.3 [found HERE], Stefan Lindblad makes several helpful observations. For example, Lindblad notes that unlike in human begetting, in which the generic human essence is divided- and, by virtue of being begotten, a human being moves from a state of potentiality (non-existence) to actuality (existence)- God the Son is begotten of God the Father eternally (both Father and Son always exist), with no division of the divine essence. The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is both “expressly set down” and “necessarily contained” in Scripture (BCF 1689 1.10)
In his article, Lindblad defends the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son against current evangelical skeptics. In the final section of his article, Lindblad specifically focuses on Bruce Ware‘s teaching the Son’s eternal distinction from and relation to the Father is best understood in terms of eternal functional submission RATHER THAN the Son being eternally begotten. Ware writes:
The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost, respectively. [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance 162, n 3]
By contrast, Lindblad objects to Ware’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:3 in which Ware asserts that Paul teaches that male headship is “a reflection of the authority and submission that exists in the eternal Godhead.” […read the rest.]
Huddled together in 1644, representatives of 7 churches gathered to summarize their common confession, and to distinguish themselves from the Anabaptists and the Arminians. It was a time of turmoil, and the river of the Reformation had swept across the banks of London. This was one of the first of several non-Anglican groups in that century to put pen to paper and confess their faith. Two years later, the Westminster Assembly would produce its own confession (WCF), and then in 1658, the Congregationalists would follow suit (Savoy Declaration). That original group of 7 churches was the Particular Baptists. Amid persecution, and to show their solidarity and theological agreement in many ways with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists that had since written their own confessions, a larger crop of Baptists would draft the 1677 Baptist Confession with great reliance on the WCF and Savoy, however due to persecution, this document would not be published until 1689, giving it the name that it is known by today: “The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith”. This Confession was classically theist in its view of God, covenantal in its view of Biblical Theology, “Calvinist” in its soteriology, and would show alignment with the Westminster Confession of Faith on the Ordinary Means of Grace and the Law. I grew up Baptist, became Calvinistic in my soteriology in my teen years, and have found a wonderful home in the confessional roots of Baptist theology as a pastor in my mid-thirties. To me, this Historic Confession, similar to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Savoy Declaration, is worth considering for at least five reasons:
For Baptists influenced by the ‘New Calvinism’, it is helpful to see that for Baptists, Calvinism is not “new”…
It contains a wonderful vision for the Christian life…
There is value in saying more sometimes…
Historic Confessions ground us…
Believer’s Baptism has much of its roots in a Covenant Theology…
Historically, American Calvinistic Baptists have been fairly unified on their understanding of the role of civil government. They expressed their views in various confessions but the the Second London Baptist Confession was their mother confession. In Chapter 24, Of the Civil Magistrate, it provides the historic Calvinistic Baptist understanding of the role of civil government. It reads:
CHAPTER 24; OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE
Paragraph 1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end has armed them with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.1 1 Rom. 13:1-4
Paragraph 2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain justice and peace,2 according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom and commonwealth, so for that end they may lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.3 2 2 Sam. 23:3; Ps. 82:3,4 3 Luke 3:14
Paragraph 3. Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience’ sake;4 and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.5 4 Rom. 13:5-7; 1 Pet. 2:17 5 1 Tim. 2:1,2
This chapter is divided into 3 sections. Paragraph 1 is on God’s ordination of the civil magistrate. Paragraph 2 is about Christians who hold the office of civil magistrate. Paragraph 3 is about how Christians should submit to the civil magistrate. We’ll look at these one at a time…