Founders Journal Issue 106 (Fall 2016) “Decrees” Out Now FREE! [PDF | WEB]

Read online or download [51-page PDF] issue 106 (Fall 2016) of the Founders Journal on God’s “Decrees.”


Introduction: Decrees | Tom Nettles

The Nature of God’s Eternal Decree An exposition of Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Chapter 7 “The Decree of God” From the 1689 London Baptist Confession | Tom Hicks

Predestined to Eternal Life Glory Hidden in the Mystery | Jared Longshore

Reprobation and the Second London Confession “the Second London Confession affirms reprobation, a doctrine which has been and continues to be the subject of much controversy” | Richard Blaylock

Like a Stone? The Perfect Confluence of God’s Providence And Human Freedom | Aaron Matherly

The High Mystery of Predestination An exposition of Paragraph 3 of Chapter 7 “The Decree of God” From the 1689 London Baptist Confession | Fred Malone

Book Review The Gospel Heritage of Georgia Baptists: 1772–1830 by Brandon F. Smith and Kurt M. Smith | Reviewed by Tom Nettles

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New Website for Founders Ministries! + Book deal, new interviews & more

Not only did Founders Ministries give their site a face-lift, but they even updated their logo:


From their newsletter sent out today:

Founders Ministries is now providing free access to thousands of resources on recovering the gospel and reforming churches on our new website ( In celebration of the new site launch, Founders is offering a copy of a new edition of the book Dear Timothy at the pre-publication discount of 50% off for the next two weeks. You can order the book through the new website (Discount Offer ends November 7th).

founders-badgeEncourage others to sign up for the Founders Newsletter on the new website and they will be sent 5 vintage Founders Journals, gaining access into the work of reformation that has occurred over the past 25 years.

On the new website, you can access daily featured content on everything from the devotional Christian life to theologically informed pastoral ministry. Visit our new website and explore online articles, sermons, interviews, book reviews, the Founders Journal, and a number of past and present books published through Founders Press.

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Logos Pre-Pub: $99.95 ‘The Founders Journal (94 issues) (1990–2013)’

The 1990-2013 issues of ‘The Founders Journal‘, 94 in all, are currently gathering interest in Pre-Pub to see if this collection becomes a Logos resource.

Logos Founders Journal


the-founders-journalCommitted to historic Southern Baptist principles, the Founders Journal promotes the doctrines of grace and their application in the local church. This collection gathers a quarter century of theological scholarship for students, pastors, and church leaders seeking to recover the gospel of grace and work for the spiritual health and reformation of local churches. Containing both classic and contemporary articles, book reviews, and editorials, as well as news and letters, this journal is both a link to Southern Baptist heritage, and a valuable tool for modern church ministry…


Editor: Thomas K. Ascol
Publisher: Founders Press

Law & Gospel Roundup [Ascol, Hicks, Reisinger, Samson + more]

Pilgrim gets rid of his burden
Christian gets rid of his burden

Tom Hicks:

I submit that we need a clear understanding of the law/gospel contrast, if we want to be healthy in our preaching, churches, families, and individual sanctification. The law/gospel distinction is often misunderstood or overlooked, but it is thoroughly biblical and vital. Consider three different places in Scripture that teach the law/gospel contrast:

Galatians 4:22-26 says, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”

These verses contrast the two covenants of law and gospel, which are typologically revealed in Hagar and Sarah. The law covenant is a covenant of slavery to guilt and condemnation. The gospel covenant is a covenant of freedom to life and justification.

Hebrews 12:18-24 says, “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

These verses contrast two mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. The mountains are types of the law and the gospel. Sinai and Zion were both mountains of the Mosaic covenant. Sinai represents the law that condemns. Zion represents the gospel in the temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices.

Read more  | Audio [8 min]

law gospel founders journal cover

For more on this check out The Founders Journal, Issue 28 – Spring 1997


A Neglected Topic for Needy Times [10 min. readout] by Tom Ascol

Law and Gospel [21 min. readout] by Ernest Reisinger

A Much-Needed Tool for Evangelism [26 min. readout] by William Hatfield

The Law and Gospel on The Dividing Line [guest John Samson]:



Founders Journal Issue 94 (Fall 2013) Out Now! “A Closer Look at Confessions of Faith” $1.99

Download the most recent Founders eJournal

Available in two digital formats ($1.99 each):

  • ePub edition (for iBooks, Nook and other ePub readers)
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  • Both editions also include a PDF edition so you can read the journal on your computer as well

Founders Journal Issue 94 (Fall 2013)

“A Closer Look at Confessions of Faith”

 The Founders Journal 94


  • Editoral Introduction: A Closer Look at Confessions of Faith (Ken Puls)
  • The Moral Law of God and Baptist Identity (Jon English Lee)
  • The Deterioration of the Baptist Faith and Message (Jason Smathers)
  • Should We Be Creedalists? (Tom Hicks)

founders journal 93 Past Issues of the journal are available free online and in PDF format.

The Founders Journal is published four times a year as an eJournal. It is available for download in two digital formats: ePUB (for Apple iBooks, the Nook, and other ePUB readers) and mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). Now that the journal is in digital format, it is no longer necessary to purchase a subscription to the journal. New issues will be announced in our Founders eNews and made available for purchase and download in our online store.

[source: Founders Ministries enews]

Chapter 10 from “Better Than the Beginning”: The Sabbath Rest of Creation [Barcellos]

better than the beginning preview

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
(Genesis 2:1-3)




This is a massive subject. The issue of the Sabbath has caused much ink to be spilled in our day as well as in previous days. Sabbath simply means rest. But what does God’s rest mean for God and for us? There is much confusion on this issue due to not understanding the first revelation of the Sabbath as found in Genesis 2:1-3. This confusion, in part, is due to not allowing other parts of the Bible to explain the function of the Creator’s Sabbath. In order to understand the Bible correctly, we have to understand what the Creator’s Sabbath means, not only for us but for God. In order to do that, we have to let the Creator tell us what it means. He does just that in various places in the rest of Scripture.


Every picture tells a story and every person has a story. But there is one Person whose story stands apart from all others and that story is God’s, recorded for us in the Bible. God’s story tells us that He created, what He created in the first place, why He created man andwhat man’s supposed to do, why there’s so much trouble on the earth, and where history is heading. In the next two chapters, I want to show that understanding the Creator’s Sabbath helps us understand the entire Bible–what it is about, what went wrong, how God’s going about fixing what went wrong, and where history is heading. In order to do that, it is important to understand the Bible’s diversity and unity and its beginning and end…

Read the rest [21 min. readout]

The above is taken from Founders Journal #91 “The Christian and the Law”:

Download (PDF, 7KB)

Download the most recent Founders eJournal


founders journal 93

Past Issues of the journal are available free online and in PDF format.


The Founders Journal is published four times a year as an eJournal. It is available for download in two digital formats: ePUB (for Apple iBooks, the Nook, and other ePUB readers) and mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). Now that the journal is in digital format, it is no longer necessary to purchase a subscription to the journal. New issues will be announced in our Founders eNews and made available for purchase and download in our online store.

Founders Journal Issue 93 (Summer 2013) Out Now! “Can Baptists Thrive on Controversy?”

Download the most recent Founders eJournal

Available in two digital formats ($1.99 each):

  • ePub edition (for iBooks, Nook and other ePub readers)
  • mobi edition (for Kindle, Kindle Fire and other mobi readers)

Founders Journal Issue 93 (Summer 2013)
Can Baptists Thrive on Controversy?

The Founders Journal 93



  • Can Baptists Thrive on Controversy? (Tom Nettles)
  • Baptist Identity Crisis (Erik Smith)
  • J. Frank Norris: No Independent (Matthew Lyon)
  • Spurgeon’s Theory of Theological Controversy (Tom Nettles)


founders journal 93

Past Issues of the journal are available free online and in PDF format.


The Founders Journal is published four times a year as an eJournal. It is available for download in two digital formats: ePUB (for Apple iBooks, the Nook, and other ePUB readers) and mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). Now that the journal is in digital format, it is no longer necessary to purchase a subscription to the journal. New issues will be announced in our Founders eNews and made available for purchase and download in our online store.


[source: Founders Ministries enews]

Tom Hicks on Benjamin Keach

The following article is from Founders Journal 76, Spring 2009, pp. 9-16, by Dr. Tom Hicks of Morningview Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama.

[listen to 26 of 29 minute readout]



Benjamin Keach was an evangelical. As a Baptist pastor, his aim was to believe, teach, and defend everything in Scripture, including Baptist ecclesiology, but he was first and foremost an evangelical who benefitted from and held certain core doctrines in common with other evangelicals. Those core convictions related to the authority of Scripture, the gospel-structure of Scripture, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Biographical Background

Benjamin Keach was born on February 29, 1640 at Stoke Hammond, Buckinghamshire, England, and died on July 18, 1704. He lived during one of the most tumultuous periods of English history. Keach was converted when he was fifteen years old under the preaching of Matthew Mead, a warm evangelical Anglican Calvinist. Being convinced of believers’ baptism and liberty of conscience, Keach sought baptism by immersion under the ministry of John Russell, who was a General Baptist pastor. By the time Keach was eighteen years old, he had demonstrated that he was a gifted teacher and preacher; so, his church set him apart for the ministry.

When Keach was twenty years old, he married a young woman named Jane Grove. They had five children, but Jane died in 1670 when she was only thirty-one years old. Keach remained single for two years after Jane’s death, and then he married Susanna Partridge, who had been widowed. Keach and Susanna had five daughters, and they were married for thirty-two years until Keach died in 1704.

Keach’s ministry was fraught with difficulties and persecutions. He was jailed in 1664 for preaching to a group of dissenters. He was arrested again that same year when the authorities found out that he had written a book for children entitled, A New and Easie Primer, because they claimed it taught various heresies, including believers’ baptism. The jury found Keach guilty because the judge intimidated them into handing down a guilty verdict. The judge sentenced Keach to jail for two weeks, during which time he was required to appear twice in the pillory where his books were burned right in front of his face.

When Keach was twenty-eight years old, persecution was so severe that he and his family moved to London where he was ordained the pastor of a church in Southwark. In his early years as a believer, Keach held to an Arminian doctrine of salvation. But, soon after becoming the pastor of the Southwark church, he adopted Calvinist theology, which he vigorously preached and defended for the rest of his life. When Keach first became the pastor of the Southwark church, the small congregation met in a little house on Tooley Street in London. However, as the church grew, it soon had to move to Horse-lie-down where it eventually grew to have nearly one thousand members.[David A. Copeland, Benjamin Keach and the Development of Baptist Traditions in Seventeenth-Century England (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2001), 59.] Keach’s church would later be pastored by other notable figures such as John Gill and Charles Spurgeon.

Keach was arguably the most influential second generation Baptist. He wrote more than forty books in defense of the gospel and his whole system of theology. The fact that he signed the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith helped to give that confession wide acceptance among Particular Baptists. Keach was committed to all biblical truth, but his core beliefs were those shared not just by fellow Baptists, but by other evangelicals as well.[For more biographical information on Keach, see William Cathcart, ed., Baptist Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, PA: L.H. Everts, 1881), s.v. “Keach, Rev. Benjamin,” 637-638; Thomas Crosby, The History of the English Baptists (London: n.p., 1739), vol ii, 185-209; vol iii, 143-147; vol. iv, 268-314; Thomas J. Nettles, The Baptists: Key People Involved in Forming a Baptist Identity, vol. 1. (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005), 163-193.]

The Bible

Benjamin Keach believed that the Bible is God’s perfect revelation to men. In 1682, Keach wrote a book on the metaphors of Scripture, entitled Tropologia: A Key to Open Scripture Metaphors. In a section preceding the main body of the work, Keach included a detailed defense of the divine origin and authority of the Bible, called “Arguments to Prove the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures.”[For a more detailed analysis and description of Keach’s arguments contained in this section, see L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, revised and expanded (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 75-81.] In that section, Keach marshaled numerous arguments in defense of a single thesis: “The Scripture, or Book called the Bible, is of divine Original, inspired by the Spirit of God, and therefore of infallible Truth and Authority.”[Benjamin Keach, Tropologia: A Key to Open Scripture Metaphors (London: n.p., 1682), viii.]

Keach said that his thesis should be evident for a number of reasons. Chief among those reasons is that the Bible itself claims to be God’s Word. The Bible’s human authors believed that the words they wrote were the very words of God. Keach wrote, “that God Himself inspired them to write it, and that it was no product of their own, but every part of it the genuine Dictate of the Holy Ghost.”[Ibid., xvii.]

The character of the human authors also gives credibility to their claims. The biblical authors did not present themselves as perfect men, but humbly revealed their own faults. Since they were so honest about themselves in their writings, their motivations should not be looked upon with suspicion. In addition, the Bible is a book that was written by numerous human authors over a period of thousands of years. With so many different authors from different times, one would expect a wide variety of conflicting opinions. However, the Bible’s teaching is harmonious. The Bible is a single story from cover to cover with a single unifying theme. The Scripture’s unity is a testimony to its divine origin.

Keach also made a practical argument for the Bible’s authority. No other book exercises such power over the hearts of men. Only the Bible has the power to convert sinners and edify saints, to expose sin by God’s holy law and to bring men to salvation by God’s great grace. Such power is proof of the Bible’s divine origin. The doctrines revealed in Scripture are so contrary to natural human impulses that it would be impossible for men to have written it. Doctrines such as divine sovereignty, human sin, the cross, grace, repentance and faith are repugnant to depraved human beings. Thus, the Bible must be of divine origin.

Regarding the relationship between the inerrant originals and translations of the Bible, Keach wrote:

The Word of God is the Doctrine and Revelation of God’s Will, the Sense and Meaning, not barely or strictly the Words, Letters, and Syllables. This is contained exactly and most purely in the Originals, and in all Translations, so far as they agree therewith. Now though some translations may exceed others in Propriety, and significant rendering of the Originals; yet they generally, (even the most imperfect that we know of,) express and hold forth so much of the Mind, Will, and Counsel of God, as is sufficient, by the Blessing of God upon a conscientious Reading thereof, to acquaint a Man with the Mysteries of Salvation, to work in him a true Faith, and bring him to live godly, righteously, and soberly in the World, and to Salvation in the next.[Ibid., xxi.]

In other words, the very letters, syllables, and words of the originals were “exactly” and “most purely” found in the originals. God inspired every detail of the autographs. But, in His powerful providence, God also has ensured that any corruption of transmission or translation has not so changed the message of the Bible such that its meaning is distorted.

In spite of all his arguments for Scripture’s truthfulness, Keach believed that only the Holy Spirit can soften a man’s heart to make him able and willing to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. There is no logical argument that will convince a man of the Bible’s truthfulness unless the Spirit brings him to repentance. In the fifth question, Keach’s Catechism asks, “How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God?” It answers, “The Bible evidences itself to be God’s Word by the heavenliness of its doctrine, the unity of its parts, its power to convert sinners and edify saints; but the Spirit of God only, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in our hearts, is able fully to persuade us that the Bible is the Word of God.”

The confessions of faith that Keach embraced also taught the doctrine of biblical authority and divine origin. Keach held to the Second London Baptist Confession, which has a clear statement on the authority of Scripture: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience” (2LBCF 1:1). It also says that Scripture “is to be received because it is the Word of God” (2LBCF 1:4), and that it is “infallible truth and divine authority” (2LBCF 1:5). The Baptist Catechism, which bears Keach’s own name, asks, “What is the Word of God?” It answers, “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Keach drew up a confession of faith for the Southwark church. Section 6 of that confession, “Of the Holy Scriptures,” reads, “We believe the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, and are the only Rule of Faith, and Practice; all things being contained therein that are necessary for us to know concerning God, and our Duty unto him, and also unto all men.”[Benjamin Keach, The Articles of the Faith of the Church of Christ or Congregation meeting at Horsley-down (London: n.p., 1697), 5.]

Keach’s commitment to the Bible’s authority was a commitment that he held in common with other evangelicals. It set him apart from groups that denied biblical authority and formed the basis of unity with other evangelicals.

Covenant Theology

Like other evangelicals, Keach embraced covenant theology, which he believed was the Bible’s own hermeneutical grid and therefore the lens through which Scripture should be read. For Keach, covenant theology was the framework of the gospel itself. According to Austin Walker, “The covenant of grace assumed a central place in Keach’s thinking, so much so that it is not possible to appreciate either Keach’s Calvinism or the man himself without a right appreciation of his understanding of it.”[Austin Walker, The Excellent Benjamin Keach (Dundas, ON, Canada: Joshua Press, 2004), 107.] In 1693, Keach preached two sermons that were later edited and printed in a forty-four page booklet entitled The Everlasting Covenant. These two sermons outline Keach’s covenant theology.

The heart of Keach’s covenant theology has to do with the contrast between the covenant of works (law) and the covenant of grace (gospel). Keach believed that God made a covenant of works with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and that God made a covenant of grace among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity.[Benjamin Keach, The Everlasting Covenant , A Sweet Cordial for a Drooping Soul or, The Excellent Nature of the Covenant of Grace Opened in a Sermon Preached January the 29th at the Funeral of Mr. Henry Forty (London: n.p., 1693), from the preface.] Where Adam failed to keep God’s law, Christ succeeded. Romans five explains the contrast between these two covenant heads (Romans 5:12-21). Just as there is one covenant with Adam and all who are in him, so also is there one covenant with Christ and all who are in Him.

Keach taught that the Bible reveals two administrations of the covenant of works. The first administration appeared in the garden before Adam’s fall. That garden covenant promised eternal life to Adam on the condition of his perfect obedience to God’s law and threatened eternal death for sin. In addition to the first edition of the covenant of works, Keach wrote that “there was another Edition or Administration of it given to Israel, which tho’ it was a Covenant of Works, i.e. Do this and live, yet it was not given by the Lord to the same End and Design… It was not given to justify them.” Referencing John Owen, Keach argued that the Mosaic covenant given to the Israelite nation serves to reveal God’s perfect holiness. It also serves to prove that sinners, who are without such perfect holiness, can never be justified in God’s sight. Therefore, one function of the Mosaic covenant is to drive men outside of themselves, away from their own righteousness, and to the alien righteousness of Christ for justification (Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:21-22). Keach’s covenant theology was significantly influenced by John Owen, who was not a Baptist, but a Congregationalist.[Ibid., 7.]

Keach taught that the covenant of grace manifested itself throughout biblical history. Genesis 3:15, the protoevangelium, reveals the first gospel promise to Adam. It is a revelation of the covenant of grace because the promise of grace “primarily runs to Christ, as the Woman’s seed, and so to us in him.” The Abrahamic promise does the same when God declares to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and 22:18, “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” According to the New Testament, Christ himself is the promised offspring (Galatians 3:16), and this promise guarantees blessings for men from every nation who are in Him (Galatains 3:28-29). Similarly, Keach argued, the Davidic covenant “runs to Christ, and also in him to us” (Psalm 89:20, 28, 29). The covenant with David and his offspring pointed to Christ and was a type of the covenant with Christ and those in Him. So, all of the Old Testament covenants are promises flowing from a single covenant of grace with Christ and those in Him.[Ibid., 10.]

Keach argued that the covenant of grace is a covenant of grace to the elect, but to Christ, it is a covenant of works and merit. Christ had to keep God’s law in order to merit the blessing Adam forfeited. The elect benefit from the merits of Christ in the covenant of grace when the Spirit applies Christ’s work to them.

He then discussed various ways in which the eternal covenant of grace is a well-ordered covenant (2 Samuel 22:5).[Ibid., 20-21.] It is well-ordered with respect to God’s attributes. It puts many of God’s attributes on display, including God’s sovereignty, showing that God has the right to choose those upon whom He would bestow His saving benefits. The covenant also displays God’s infinite wisdom in designing such a covenant, His love for His people, His justice in upholding His holy law, His power in effectually calling the elect, and His faithfulness in keeping them to the end.[Ibid., 22-24.]

Keach said the covenant of grace is well-ordered in that it magnifies the glory of the whole Trinity. The Father’s glory is magnified because He is the efficient cause of redeeming grace. The Father sends the Son, and everything the Son does in the covenant ultimately redounds to the glory of God the Father. The covenant of grace also magnifies the glory of Jesus Christ as the covenant head. Christ’s glory is manifest by His loving willingness to suffer and intercede for God’s enemies and to be their high priest forever, purchasing justification and securing sanctification for the elect. The covenant also magnifies the glory of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating His divinity and distinct personality. He has His own terms to fulfill, convicting of sin, quickening the elect on the basis of Christ’s work, clothing them in Christ’s righteousness by faith alone, sanctifying them to the uttermost, and preserving them safely unto their glorification. Thus, Keach said that the covenant of grace is well-ordered to glorify the whole Trinity.[Ibid., 24-27.]

Furthermore, the covenant of grace is well-ordered because it honors God’s holy and righteous law. Keach insisted that Scripture shows God upholding and honoring the law by means of the covenant of grace. He taught that God cannot justly discard His law, nor can God justly accept imperfect obedience as any part of justification because justification requires perfect obedience to God’s law.

Keach then showed that the covenant of grace is well-ordered for the good of the elect. It is the ground and cause of their reconciliation, quickening, justification, adoption, sanctification and salvation from hell. It is a dependable covenant, sure, and certain in every respect. Christ fulfills all of its terms. The covenant was formed in the eternal and immutable decree of God and is therefore sure. It is a sworn oath and promise for the elect. It was confirmed by Christ’s blood and executed by the Holy Spirit. This covenant was witnessed by mighty miracles and attested by the Apostles. Therefore, the elect may trust that this is a sure covenant for their good.[Ibid., 31-34.]

Finally, Keach turned to apply his two sermons. His application included both “reprehension” and “exhortation.” Keach began by reproving licentious living. It took the death of Christ to redeem men from their sin, which shows sin’s seriousness. Far from promoting lawlessness, the covenant of grace, rightly understood, leads men to understand the great wickedness of sin and causes them to hate it and turn from it. Keach also reproved those who mixed their own holiness with Christ’s righteousness, since nothing short of Christ’s perfect righteousness can merit any justification for sinful men. Keach admonished everyone who tries to reform his life through moral efforts and legal strivings, since such legalistic effort can never bring salvation. Only those who look to and rest in Christ and His righteousness may have peace with God and properly grounded relief for their troubled consciences. Keach exhorted the ungodly to tremble in light of their sins and the infinite offense they are to God. He told broken sinners to look to Christ for comfort and urged them to embrace God’s free grace in the gospel, and to find consolation in Jesus Christ.[Ibid., 38-43.]

For Keach, the covenant of grace is no lofty or high minded speculation. It is the very marrow of the gospel with rich and far reaching practical implications for all men everywhere, but especially for those the Father has chosen for salvation. It is also one of the gospel convictions that he shared with fellow evangelicals who were not Baptists.

Justification by Faith Alone

Keach’s doctrine of justification was another core doctrine that he shared with other orthodox evangelicals. There were two extreme unorthodox understandings of justification: (1) eternal justification before faith and (2) justification by faithful works on the last day. In response to both of these errors, Keach wrote A Medium Betwixt Two Extremes, in which he argued that justification is by faith alone, though the book primarily responds to eternal justification. God declares believing sinners righteous on the ground of Christ’s righteousness after it is received by faith alone. Keach insisted that while everyone in Adam is actually condemned, everyone in Christ is actually justified. The text of his sermon was Romans 8:1, which says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Keach began the sermon by dealing with the context of the passage in the book of Romans, showing that it comes after Paul charges that all are under sin and condemnation (Romans 1-3) and that justification comes by grace through faith (3-5), even though a war rages in the heart of every believer between the law of sin and the law of God (6-7). Keach then explained Romans 8:1, arguing that “now,” after conversion, there is no condemnation for those who are “in Christ.” On the basis of his exegesis, Keach drew two doctrinal conclusions. First, “All those that are in Christ Jesus, or have obtained actual Union with him, are justified Persons, and for ever delivered from Condemnation.” Second, “All Mankind, even the Elect as well as others, are under Condemnation, before their actual Union with Jesus Christ.”[Benjamin Keach, A Medium Betwixt Two Extremes. Wherein it is proved that the whole First Adam was condemned, and the whole Second Adam justified (London: n.p., 1698), 11, 12.]

Keach then set out to show how absurd it is to say that the elect are actually united to Christ and justified from eternity. If eternal justification is true, then none of the elect were ever condemned. That is because on their scheme, Adam, who was among the elect, was eternally justified. If that is true, then Adam could not have been condemned when he fell in the garden.[Ibid., 14.] It then necessarily follows that none of those who were in Adam could have been condemned either, and there was no fall or need for Christ’s redemption, which is absurd. Not only is justification before faith contrary to reason, but it is also contrary to Scripture. Romans 10:4 teaches that Christ is only the end of the law for those who believe, not to anyone else. Galatians 3:13 and 4:4-5 say that Christ came to redeem those who were under the law and thus condemnation. Those texts do not say that Christ came to redeem those who were justified but did not know it. It is also illogical to say that Christ redeems and justifies those who are under the law if they were never actually under the law’s condemnation.

Keach went on to explain in what sense Christ historically purchased reconciliation and justification for the elect and in what sense the elect are not actually justified and reconciled until they believe.[Keach said it is logical nonsense to say that “God saw us in the first Adam condemned, and in the second Adam justified, at one and the same time.” Ibid., 25.] He argued that Christ’s historical work actually paid the price to deliver the elect, but that the elect are not actually delivered, but are condemned, until the Holy Spirit applies His work in time. Keach wrote, “So the Atonement made for us by Jesus Christ, which is the Price and meritorious Cause of our Redemption and Justification, is one thing, and our receiving the Atonement or the application of his Blood to our personal and actual discharge from Sin, Guilt and Condemnation, is another thing.”[Ibid., 18.] So, Christ’s work purchased the robe of righteousness, but the Holy Spirit graciously places that robe over the shoulders of the elect in His time. Keach explained that the difficulty we have in grasping this distinction comes from the fact that God is an eternal and timeless Being who appropriates the benefits of Christ’s work at various points in time. Nevertheless, before the elect believe in time, they are condemned, and after they believe, they are justified. Justification changes God’s relationship with the elect from “condemned” to “justified.”[Ibid., 26-27.]

Keach further explained that even though this controversy relates to the work of Christ and His federal headship, the same perplexity regarding accomplishment and application applies to Adam’s federal headship. When Adam sinned in the garden, his posterity was condemned in him. At that moment in history, Adam’s sin demerited condemnation for those who descend from him by natural generation. They were “fundamentally and representatively condemned in him.” However, none in Adam “are actually condemned until they actually exist and partake of his corrupt Nature.” The same is true of those in Christ. Christ’s work merited justification for those in Him. All of the elect were “fundamentally and representatively justified in him.” However, none in Christ “are actually and personally justified until they are united to him, and partake of his Divine Nature.”[Ibid., 19.]

Keach argued that when men become partakers of the divine nature, they believe unto actual justification. According to Scripture, faith precedes actual justification (Romans 5:1; 3:28; Galatians 2:16, 24; Acts 13:38; John 3:36), and those who wish to honor the text of Scripture must affirm that we are actually justified after faith, not before it. While Keach affirmed that justification is by faith, he denied that faith is a “cause,” “condition,” “instrumental cause,” “procuring cause,” or “qualifying condition” of justification. By denying those terms, Keach meant to reject any notion that faith somehow renders Christ’s work more satisfying to God. He preferred instead to say simply that “without Faith God declares no Man a justified Person.” Keach wrote, “The Holy Spirit in our Union with Christ, puts upon us the Robe of Righteousness, which was not upon us before we obtained that Spiritual Union,” and, faith is “the Hand that receives, or that apprehends Jesus Christ.”[Ibid., 20-22.] This is a critical difference between Keach and the high Calvinists. Keach denied that Christ’s righteousness is actually imputed until the Holy Spirit imputes it in time.

Keach recognized that there were some who taught that the elect merely come to realize that they are justified by faith (passive justification by faith). They said that though the elect were always justified, they did not always know it. So, when the elect come to faith, they simply come to understand the righteous status they have always possessed. Keach rejected this view as being inconsistent with the testimony of Scripture.[Ibid., 27-28.]

He closed the sermon with an application that begins by warning people “to take heed how they seek to render the state of the Elect to be good before Grace and actual Union with Jesus Christ.”[Ibid., 32.] Keach declared that there is no benefit that can come from telling unregenerate men that some of them might already be justified, since such teaching might simply serve to harden them in their sins. He also pointed out that justification before faith diminishes God’s grace and gives repentant sinners less to be thankful for after their conversion, since they were never children of wrath, but merely failed to realize their righteous status.

Keach’s doctrine of justification was the orthodox evangelical view. The doctrine of justification was central for Keach because it is the pivotal place at which Christology meets soteriology. On this point, like the doctrine of Scripture, and covenant theology, Keach was at one with his evangelical brothers in Christ.

Founders Journal #92 Now Out

It can be downloaded in either  EPUB or MOBI format. Here are the details:

The Founders Journal 92'

The Founders Journal

Issue 92: Spring  2013

price: $1.99


Editoral Introduction: Be Strong in the Lord (Ken Puls)
Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective (Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura)
The Fight of Your Life (Tom Ascol)
Know Your Enemy (Tom Ascol)

Past Issues of the journal are available free online and in PDF format.


The Founders Journal is published four times a year as an eJournal. It is available for download in two digital formats: ePUB (for Apple iBooks, the Nook, and other ePUB readers) and mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). Now that the journal is in digital format, it is no longer necessary to purchase a subscription to the journal. New issues will be announced in our Founders eNews and made available for purchase and download in our online store.

Interview #10 – Tom Ascol – Founders Ministries + Brandon Adams on


On episode 10 of our podcast, we interview Tom Ascol about Founders Ministries.

After that, Brandon Adams joins us to talk about his new site 1689 Federalism and then we talk about some Reformed Baptist headlines and give you a hint of our special guest on next week’s episode.

Books & Sites Mentioned:

Headlines Mentioned:

Sponsor: – A wiki dedicated to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, commonly called the 1689, and theology in accordance with the doctrines contained therein.

Post-Interview Music:

The Fightin’ Texas Aggie War [Lyrics & MP3 download]

David Kingdon: The Silence That Breaks The Silence

David Kingdon on the New Testament’s silence of infant baptism and the place of John the Baptist in Redemptive History:


… the question that needs to be put is this: “Is there reason to believe that Reformed paedobaptists have overlooked a key element in redemptive history that calls into question their common assumption that it is possible to jump from circumcision to the baptism of infants?” I believe there is. It is the ministry of John the Baptist which we must now consider.

For full text see David Kingdon’s “John the Baptist: The Silence That Breaks The Silence” from Founders Journal, Spring 2002, pp. 5-16.