Chapter 3: Of God’s Decrees

The Decrees (2)

1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5)

It is important to keep the historical setting of the Confession in mind.  When the Westminster Divines began their work on the Westminster Confession in 1643, it was only 24 years after the Synod of Dort (1618 to 1619), which met to address the Arminian controversy.  This Arminian controversy brought forward the issue of God’s decree; this may be in part why we see the placement of it here in the Confession—at chapter 3.  It is also logically placed before God’s works of creation and providence for everything that is flows from God’s decree.  God’s decree is a foundational doctrine, especially to the doctrine of soteriology (i.e. the study of salvation).

The Confession states: God hath decreed in himself.  First, we should answer the question, “What is a decree?”  The Oxford English Dictionary defines a decree as: “To command (something) by decree; to order, appoint or assign authoritatively, ordain.”[1]  This is the general use of the word, but what is a good theological definition?  The Baptist Catechism, question 10, provides a solid theological definition: “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” For God to issue decrees in himself, means that God’s decrees are determined by him alone and without reference to anyone or anything else.  And thus even though the execution of his decree is related to creation, yet God does not base his determination of those decrees on anything he foresees in and of that creation.  When we get to paragraph 2, this will be further expanded, but here the point is simply that God’s decree originates only within the Triune God.

God issues his decree from all eternity.  Berkhof states: “The divine decree is eternal in the sense that it lies entirely in eternity.”[2]  This is foundational to a Biblical approach of God’s decree, and its ramifications can hardly be over-emphasized.  In Scripture we see such statements: “Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? (Isaiah 45:21b NASB). Or “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:10 ESV).  God does not make impromptu decrees or decrees which are dependent upon the free agency of mankind; rather, God’s decrees are predetermined in eternity (i.e. “from ancient times”).

Further, God issues his decrees by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably.  The confessional wording, counsel of his own will, is directly from Scripture: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11 KJV).  Berkhof states: “The word ‘counsel,’ which is one of the terms by which the decree is designated, suggests careful deliberation and consultation.  It may contain a suggestion of an intercommunion between the three persons of the Godhead.”[3]  Letham states: “The phrase “counsel of his own will” implies that in all God’s plans all three persons of the Trinity are integrally and invisibly involved.  Moreover, God’s decrees are “for his own glory”; viewed in a Trinitarian light, these are not the designs of a celestial megalomaniac insistent on imposing himself, but are the wise and holy plans of the God who is indivisible in communion and love.”[4]

God’s counsels or decrees are most wise and holy.  God’s wisdom is not simply his all-knowing, but it is ethical (morally pure) and practical in nature.  It is God doing all things well.  Creation is the perfect object lesson of the wisdom of God’s decree.   All things in creation are interrelated in such a way that if just one thing were different the whole of creation would not function.  For example, if the sun were just slightly closer to the earth, the earth would be too hot to sustain life, or if it were slightly further away, the earth would be too cold.  The mass of the earth and its speed are exactly what they need to be in order to bring about the right amount of gravitational pull for life to function.  There are many such things that all work together in perfect harmony in order to sustain life on this planet.  Whether we move to the outer reaches of space, or to the inner reaches of microbiology, we see that it is God’s wisdom that has assembled all these inter-related things to work in perfect harmony with each other.  This shows God’s wisdom in the physical dimension of creation, but so also in all the other various aspects of creation.  God’s counsel is also holy.  This means that God’s decrees are morally perfect.  In all God’s decrees he is not the author of sin, nor has fellowship with it.  God does not create (author) sin, and so all God’s counsels or decrees are in harmony with his holiness.

God decrees freely, meaning that the Lord decrees as he pleases without any constraints.  “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3 ESV). God’s decrees are the first cause of everything that happens.  There is nothing behind, before or alongside of God’s decrees other than the counsel of God’s own will.  Further, God’s decrees are unchangeably determined. We see in Scripture direct statements along this line: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV; see also 1 Samuel 15:29).  And, “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath” (Heb. 6:17 (ESV).    God’s purpose is unchangeable.  And, since all his decrees are issued by his most wise and holy determinate counsel, there would be no reason to change course midstream; his decrees are issued perfectly the first time, and so they never need to be changed.  As well, there is an obvious connection between God’s unchanging essence and God’s unchangeable decree.  As we learned from chapter 2, God is simple, and therefore everything he is and does is perfectly consistent with all his attributes.

By these decrees all things, whatsoever come to pass.  The phrase, all things, literally means everything, and if that was not clear, whatsoever is added.  As R.C. Sproul states, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”[5]  And while God decrees all things, it is important to note, as the Confession states: yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein.  In Chapter 5, we will go into a further explanation of this topic, but for we simply need to understand that God’s determined will (i.e. predestined, or decreed will) extends even to Adam and Eve’s disobedience and to all other sinful actions.  God wisely puts limits on sin, orders sin, and governs sin in various ways for his own holy ends, but in a way that God is not creating sin, or has anything in common with sin; sin comes only from the creature.

If God decrees all things, then how does God pre-determine events without violating the free agency or will of mankind?  The Confession adds: nor is violence offered to the will of the creature.  While God decrees all things, including the actions of men, he does so without violating man’s will.    When we hear that God is free to do whatever he wants, in any way, to whomever and whenever, we tend to cringe.  We think that if God is that free in his will, then we are not so free in ours.  It is true that men’s wills can never override God’s, but that does not mean that God violates the will of man.  The issue of free-will is a primary objection that the Arminian raises to Reformed Theology.  But in fact, Reformed Theology does not deny free agency or believe that God violates man’s will to bring about God’s decree.  Certainly, God may circumstantially stop a person from doing something, or he may influence their desire in such a way that they freely choose one thing over another, but God never forces or does violence to a person’s will so that he or she chooses contrary to what which he or she desires.  We must remember that when God decreed to make mankind, he also decreed to give them free agency, and so it is not a defeater to God’s will; rather it is part of God’s will, and so there is actually no contradiction or difficulty.  God does not decree one thing that is contrary to another, for God decreed all things by his most wise counsel.  And as we will see in chapter 5, God uses his free agent creatures to carry out his decrees in creation; he does so according to the nature of his creatures (i.e. the way he made them).  In Chapter 9, Of Free Will the nature of free-will is covered in detail.

The Confession continues: nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away but rather establishedWhile God issues decrees (‘the first cause’), the execution or carrying out those decrees is usually accomplished by God using various means (‘second causes’).  God ordains the end, as well as the means to the end.  God is free to make use of various means or ways to carry out his decrees if he so choses, and in fact, that is how he ordinarily works.  God’s use of second causes does not in any way indicate that God’s decree is not the first cause of all that happens.  In fact, the way in which God’s providence makes use of second causes only proves or establishes that there is a design—a decree—which is orchestrating the second causes.  Sproul states: “What scientists call the laws of nature we call the normal operations of the sovereign God.  They are His laws; they are not independent in nature.  They simply describe the regular, normal way in which God manages or governs His universe.  He is the primary cause of everything that comes to pass, the power supply for all force; secondary causes are always dependent for their power on the primary source of power.”[6]  The execution of God’s decree by the use of various means may appear quite ordinary, but that does change the fact that God is quite involved in carrying out his decrees.  In these means that God uses appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.  In other words, when we observe how God makes use of these means we see God’s wisdom.  And we observe God’s power and faithfulness at work to accomplish his decrees.  Sproul again states: “The more we reflect on this and work through some of the apparent difficulties, the more we realize that our destinies, our lives, and our children’s lives, in the final analysis, are not exposed to the blind forces of chance or fate.  This is our Father’s world, and our lives are in His hands.  His purpose and will are being brought to pass.”[7] This portion of the Confession has discussed providence.  Again, this will be the subject of that all important chapter 5, Of Divine Providence.

The Decrees (2)

2. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. (Acts 15:18; Romans 9:11, 13, 16, 18)

God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions.  Looking at God’s decrees from the perspective of eternity, when he issued them, God knew all the possibilities of his decrees.  The first statement is an acknowledgment that God knows the future, including what could have happened if he had determined differently.  But while God had access to that knowledge in eternity, when the decrees were issued, yet, hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future.  Thus given the knowledge God has of that decreed future, of all possible (or supposed) conditions, yet God did not require, need, or make use of that knowledge to make his decrees.  The Confession adds: or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.  This serves to clarify that God does not depend on any future conditions.  To say it differently, there is no condition or situation in the future upon which God’s decrees are contingent upon.  God’s decrees are self-contained.

Arminian theology implies that God took note of future conditions—conditions which apparently exist external to, and outside of God or his decree.  Based upon that foreseen condition (whatever its particulars may be), God then made his decree.  But where would such a future condition or circumstance come from if not from God or his decree?   According to the Arminian model, in eternity God looked down the corridors of time at conditions or situations apparently outside of God or his decree?  In reality, this model indicates that God gazes down a corridor of time that is not ordered by God, but is ordered by the autonomous free-will of man.  In this model, man determines God’s eternal decree because God must get permission, as it were, from man’s free-will before he determines his decrees.  So then God is not issuing decrees freely or independently, but rather in subjection to and contingent upon a future created by man’s own free-will.  God has to work around what man has already willed.  When one applies this model to election, one must redefine ‘election’ to mean ‘self-election,’ to which God responds by basically back-dating our self-election and calling it eternal divine election.  One can see that there are some real problems here.

In contrast to this Arminian quagmire, the Confession indicates that there is no future without God having decreed it.  Thus the only corridor of time is the one God decreed; the end comes from its beginning.  Berkhof states of God’s decree: “It is unconditional or absolute.  This means that it is not dependent in any of its particulars on anything that is not part and parcel of the decree itself.  The various elements in the decree are indeed mutually dependent but nothing in the plan is conditioned by anything that is not in the decree.  The execution of the plan may require means or be dependent on certain conditions, but then these means or conditions have also been determined in the decree.”[8]  In this way, we see that God’s decrees are not conditional upon anything, period!  All the necessary elements required to perfectly execute his decree are very much part of the decree.  Thus God’s decree is not dependent upon a knowledge or condition of the future to determine his decree or to carry it out; he orders that future!  A.A. Hodge nicely summarizes this paragraph as follows: “This all-comprehensive purpose is not, as a whole nor in any of its conditional elements, conditional.  It in no respect depends upon the foresight of events not embraced in and determined by his purpose.  It is absolutely sovereign purpose depending only on “the wise and holy counsel of his will.”[9]

Some people assume that the use of foreknew or foreknowledge in Scripture refers to God’s knowledge of the future.  For example, Romans 8:29 states: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (ESV).  Samuel Waldron writes: “The word in the Scriptures Foreknowledge some say shows God’s decrees are based upon foreseen events.  But “Foreknowledge means foreordination.  The Standard Greek Lexicon, of Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich asserts that the word “foreknowledge”, means foreordination in those passages most frequently used to prove that election is on the basis of foreseen qualifications.  This Lexicon asserts that the meaning of this word in Romans 8:29 and Romans [Chapters] 9-11 is “choose beforehand” and in 1 Peter 1:2 “predestination”.  It is crucial to note that in these passages it is not something about the elect which is foreknown, but they themselves who are foreknown.  Here we remember that the term “know” in the Bible frequently carries with it the idea of love.  Thus foreknowledge in these passages contains the idea of distinguishing love.”[10]

Where is the Scriptural evidence that God’s decrees do not depend upon knowledge of the future?  In part, it is based on passages that show God’s essence: his self-sufficiency (independence), his eternality, and his immutability.  If God is independent, then he is not in need of anything to issue his decrees.  If God is eternal, then his decrees are made within God’s eternality and independent of time.  If God is immutable, he does not base his decrees on the mutable nature of man.  But, also we see biblical passages that tell us God’s purposes are prior to creation (Job 38:4-7).  In Isaiah 40:14, we see: “Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?”  Based upon these passages (and others) which relate to the eternality of God’s decrees, we then understand future knowledge or conditions are not the basis of God’s decrees.  As we head to paragraph 3, we move from decrees in general to the decree of election specifically.

The Decrees (2)

3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice. (1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:5, 6; Romans 9:22, 23; Jude 4)

The very first point here is that predestination or foreordination is by the decree of God.  Whether one is predestined to eternal life, or one is left to act in their sin, it is by the decree of God.  Just as those appointed to eternal life are part of God’s eternal plan, so the reprobate (i.e. the non-elect left in their sin) are part of God’s plan; both are inside the decree of God for all things are within God’s decree.  But while that is true, yet the Confession delineates between predestination to eternal life and being left to act in sin, leading to a just condemnation; these two different destinies are not executed in the same way.  We will get to this distinction shortly.

  • That God has elected and predestined a people for eternal life is both explicit and implicit in Scripture:
  • “But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)”  John 6:64 (ESV)
  • “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” John 10:25-26 (ESV)
  • “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.John 17:9 (ESV)
  • “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”   1 Thess. 1:4-5 (ESV)
  • He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Eph 1:5 (ESV)
  • “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.  Romans 11:5-6 (ESV)

God by showing grace to some and justice to the rest he manifests his glory.  How so?  It brings to the forefront both God’s glorious grace and God’s glorious justice.  It has been said God had three choices: 1) He could have saved all mankind and shown only his glorious grace.  2) He could have saved none and shown only his glorious justice.  And 3) He could have done both: saving some and thus showing His glorious mercy and passing over others showing His glorious justice.  We know, of course, that God determined to do number three; thus both attributes are gloriously shown forth.  As it states in Ephesians 1:5-6: “He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6 ESV).  In this passage we see 1) God’s predestination of the elect (i.e. ‘us’) to adoption, 2) God’s decree (i.e. the purpose of his will), and that 3) it is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace.’

This predestination or foreordaining has to do with men, and interestingly, also of angels.  We perhaps do not think of angels as predestined, but it is what Scripture reveals.  “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality” (1 Tim 5:21 ESV).  Thus we are reminded that even the elect angels of God are predestined.  Election is another word which refers to God’s choice of someone.  If they are elected they are predestined; if they are predestined they are elected.  Predestinated means that God determined one’s destiny to eternal life ahead of time (i.e. a person’s pre-destiny).  It is their sure destiny, and it is guaranteed by God’s own decree.  There is no question as to whether God’s decree will be executed, and thus one’s destiny of eternal life is as good as done.  Foreordained is basically the same meaning.  For God to ‘ordain’ is to determine what will happen; the prefix ‘fore’ simply means the ‘ordaining’ is done before it happens.  Both predestinated and foreordained here are related to the destiny of men and angels who will receive eternal life.  One question we face right away is whether the Confession intends to include elect angels as part of eternal life through Jesus Christ, or only men?   No doubt one could make a case that even the decree of election of angels is through Christ, but I doubt that is the point.   The eternal life through Jesus Christ is probably related to men only, since angels are not in need of redemption.  The Confession’s main point is that whether we are talking about the election of men or angels, both are by God’s decree, but of course, for mankind eternal life is through Christ alone.

The Confession first addresses the predestination or foreordination to eternal life.    We have an abundance of Scriptural evidence that God does indeed predestine men to eternal life.  For example, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48 ESV).  We see it in the golden chain of redemption in Romans 8:30: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (ESV).  We could site many such passages.  There is no question that the Bible teaches that God elects men.  Even Arminians do not deny election; they just deny that election is unconditional.  They teach election is conditional upon God’s knowledge of their future faith (i.e. conditional election).  We will discuss this more in paragraph 5 of this chapter. This predestination or foreordination to eternal life is 1) through Christ Jesus, and 2) it is to the praise of his glorious grace.  He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6 ESV).

The Confession then states: others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation to the praise of his glorious justice.  We now move to the topic of those who are not predestined to eternal life.  While the Confession began this paragraph by establishing that the destiny of both men and angels are equally by the decree of God, here it clarifies that the predestination to life and the leaving of the others to their sin is not equivalent.    The Confession does not say: “By the decree of God, some men and angels are predestinated to eternal life and the others are predestined to eternal damnation,[11] thus making the two completely equivalent.  Why does it not make them equal?  First, to answer this question let’s look at several Scripture passages regarding the non-elect:

  • What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” Romans 9:22 (ESV). 
  • “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4 (ESV)
  • The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come” Rev. 17:8 (ESV).
  • “At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.Matt. 11:25-26 (ESV)
  • “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” Romans 9:17-18 (ESV).
  • “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?” Romans 9:20-21 (ESV)
  • A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”  They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 1 Peter 2:8 (ESV)

These passages make it abundantly clear that even the non-elect fall under God’s decree.  It might be good to pause a moment and let that sink into our mind: these people are by God’s decree destined to destruction.  But does it necessarily follow then that these non-elect are mere innocent victims of God’s will—pawns in the hands of a cruel and heartless God?  Of course, it does not follow.  But how are we to make our way through these passages without reaching the conclusion that God violates the will of the non-elect and creates evil in their heart in order to destroy them.  This is the accusation that many level at Reformed Theology regarding its model of God’s sovereignty.  If we are to understand the Word of God on this point, we will need to listen carefully to the nuances of Scripture which resolve these seeming difficulties in perfect harmony with God’s holy nature and the nature of his free-will creatures.  One has to deal with the above passages somehow, and simply ignoring them and calling it a “mystery” is not a good interpretive method to deal with what God has clearly revealed.  By using sound interpretive methods, such as comparing Scripture with Scripture—theology with theology—we see God’s wondrous ways.

The tendency is to see no distinction between predestination to life and judgment, but we must resist this; like two magnets that want to be pulled together, we have to use a little force to keep them separate.  In terms of God’s decree in predestination two terms are sometimes used: positive decrees and negative decrees.  In God’s positive decree of election, he actively intervenes by creating faith in their heart.  Thus with the elect God changes their heart, which results in a reorientation so that they both desire and are enabled to come to Christ; this does not do violence to their will for they freely choose that which their new heart desires.  In God’s negative decree, he passes over the non-elect (i.e. the reprobate) and does not intervene and does not actively create faith in them.  In the reprobate, God does not change their heart, and thus there is no reorientation of their heart and mind; they are left to their own sinful desires—the very things they love.  They do not desire to choose Christ and are unable to do so, for it is contrary to their sinful nature.  God, by his glorious grace, shows mercy and changes the heart of the elect, and God, by his glorious justice, leaves the reprobate person alone to indulge in their sin, as they desire, and thus they receive that which they justly deserve.  In this way, God is neither the author of sin, nor does violence to the will of his creatures.  Those who are not elect do not want to leave their sin for they love it more than God.  God does not need to do anything to the reprobate in order for them to receive judgment; he justly leaves them alone, or passes over them.  Where doctrinal mistakes are made is when one fails to see a distinction between God’s positive or negative decree.

I might point out that we are talking about a doctrine sometimes called double predestination.  The problem with the phrase ‘double-predestination’ is that there is nothing built into it which indicates a distinction in the predestination of the elect and reprobate which clearly exists.  But, if rightly understood the phrase double predestination is perfectly valid.  There are two terms which highlight the distinction of God’s decree in predestination: equal ultimacy and unequal ultimacy.

Equal ultimacy means that God equally intervenes to create faith in the elect and unbelief in the reprobate.  While this view is symmetrically pleasing, symmetry is not always biblical.  This symmetrical view of God’s decree in predestination is a positive-positive decree.  This is the position of hyper-Calvinism (which is really not Calvinism at all).  It is an unbiblical view, and is not the position of Reformed Theology.  But while it is easy for us to dismiss such a view as indeed ‘hyper’, yet one has to admit that at first glance this is what some passages of Scripture seem to imply.  For example, Exodus 4:21: “I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (ESV). Or, Exodus 7:3: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt” (ESV).  Such passages indeed seem to indicate that God actively creates hardness in Pharaoh.  But by comparing Scripture with Scripture, we know that this passage cannot mean that God creates evil in Pharaoh’s heart for God is not the author of sin nor does he have fellowship with it.  Then how do we resolve this in light of the whole of Scripture?

God is active in the affairs of men in many ways, and one of those ways is that he gives differing levels of common grace to his creatures.  Common grace is evidenced in many ways: from the blessings of rain, food, clothes, shelter and so on, to the grace of restraining evil in this world.  At any given time, if God were to remove his grace which restrains evil in this world, it would become a very wicked place—more wicked and very quickly.  God does not owe this blessing of restraining evil to the world; as such it is grace.  God is perfectly just when he removes this blessing of grace from sinners, and he does remove this grace in varying degrees according to his own free purposes.  All God has to do to “harden” Pharaoh’s heart, is to remove some of his common grace which restrains sin, and Pharaoh’s heart will become harder than he was before.  Pharaoh is acting freely in his own sin; God does not need to create evil for him to become more evil; Pharaoh was quite capable of that by himself.  In this way, God does not actively harden Pharaoh’s heart, but passively hardens it.  This does not deny that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, for that is exactly what the passage says.  This view is faithful to the passage for it does not specify how God would harden it.  And so by the means of passively hardening (the removal of a degree of common grace’s restraining evil), God governs and directs even sin to be his servant without violating the free-will of his creatures and without being the author of evil.  And so these passages in Exodus 4 and 7 do not necessitate the doctrine of equal ultimacy.

Unequal ultimacy means that God intervenes to create faith in the elect, but does not create faith in the reprobate.  In this God leaves the non-elect to their own sin—to the sin they love and freely pursue.  God does not create evil in them for it is already there.  As a result of their pursuit of sin, they receive the just consequence—condemnation.  This is the position of Calvinism.  This view of God’s decree of predestination is a positive-negative decree. Thus while it is not a symmetrical view of predestination, it is the biblical view which harmonizes God’s active decree for the elect, and his passive decree in the reprobate.  In this view, God is not the author of evil, yet he still directs it for his purposes without violence to the will of his creatures.

God’s decree glorifies him.  His decree to save the elect glorifies himself.  His decree to pass over (i.e. leave in sin) the non-elect glorifies himself.  God is free to show grace to some, and justice to the rest.  IT is remarkable that God shows grace to any, for all deserve eternal judgment.  We have no right to protest God’s way or his decree; we can only stand back in awe and terror at his wondrous ways.  Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev 4:11 (ESV)

The Decrees (2)

4. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.  (2 Timothy 2:19; John 13:18)

Here the Confession expounds the unchangeableness and the exactness of God’s eternal decree in predestination (or foreordination).  The exactness is seen in the word particularly and the unchangeableness is seen in its unchanging design.  Of course, we already know that God is unchanging and that his decrees are also unchanging, and so we would not expect this number to be flexible.  The number cannot be increased or diminished because God’s decree is eternal and unchanging.

What do the Scriptures state along these lines?  “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled” (John 13:18 ESV).  “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” ( John 10:29 ESV).  “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him”  (John 17:1-2 ESV).  “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV).  “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19 ESV).  These passages encourage us that even in those times we lack assurance, doubt, or are fearful of leaving our God, if we are part of that number, we cannot be deducted, as it were, from that number of God’s elect.

The Confession leaves no wiggle room; there is no room for openness views of God.  God is not open in his plan and decree; it has all been laid out from eternity by God.  He is not open to changing his plans; he has foreordained the beginning from the end.  Do not fight God on this; rather, be still and know that He is God.  In our evangelism, let us be confident that God will save all his elect through the preaching of the gospel, and even when we suffer for the gospel, we can say with Paul, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10 ESV).   This doctrine is of great comfort to God’s people.

The Decrees (2)

5. Those of mankind that are predestinated tolife, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto. (Ephesians 1:4, 9, 11; Romans 8:30; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 9:13, 16; Ephesians 2:5, 12)

As we begin this paragraph with the words, those of mankind, we are certain that it speaks only of men, and not of angels.  We are also certain by the words predestinated to life, it is speaking of the elect and not the reprobate.  In Scripture we see regarding those men predestined to life: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9 ESV).  The Confession states: God before the foundation of the world was laid.  The point is made here first in terms of time.  God’s choice of his elect was before creation.  Scripture states: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:4-6 ESV).  Then the Confession states that God made his election according to his eternal and immutable purpose.  Before creation means in eternity—before time itself.  It was made according to his unchangeable purpose.  Scripture states: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11 ESV).

When one considers the decree of God and that it extends even to the Fall (1689, 5:4) one may ask whether God’s decree of election was made before the fall or after the fall?  To answer this question, we first need to recognize that God’s decree, all of them, were made in eternity, and thus we are unable to determine a time order, but we can deduce the logical order.  There are various opinions on this matter, but the Reformed Confessions take the view that God logically first decreed the Fall, and then the elect.  This position is termed infralapsarianism.  In contrast, Supralapsarianism is the view that God first decreed the elect, and then the Fall.   It is outside the scope of this commentary to discuss the ramifications of the various positions, but the Westminster Confession (see 3:7), the Savoy Declaration (see 3:7) and the 1689 Confession (see 3:3, 6) take an infralapsarian position.  For example, in paragraph 6 of this chapter we see this statement: “wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ.”  This implies the decree of election logically follows the decree of the Fall.  Again, we are not speaking of an order that can be made chronologically, but logically.  The time-logic distinction may seem artificial, but such categorization is helpful in the field of theology.

The Confession adds that God elected according to his secret counsel.  God has not revealed to us who the elect are, but they are no less elect in his secret counsel.  God predestined according to the good pleasure of his will.  The Confession echoes the Scripture: “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim 1:9 ESV).  Calvinism has a high view of God’s sovereignty, and part of that is recognizing God’s freedom to do as He pleases, but we also recognize the comfort this doctrine brings to the elect because God did not begrudgingly choose us, but he was pleased to do so.

The prior statements of the Confession leave no room for boasting by the person who comes to Christ, but as if to make the point quite clear, the Confession states predestination is “out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto.”  God’s choice to predestine to life is unrelated to anything that a person can do, will do, or anything else in them.  There was no condition in the elect person that caused God to choose them; there was no cause at all in the person that moved God to choose them.  Election is not based on events from the future, but only upon God’s free choice, for His own purpose and for His own glory.  This is the ‘U’ in TULIP (the oft used acrostic of the five points of Calvinism), that is, unconditional election.  God is not moved by anyone but himself.  When one claims the credit for choosing Christ, one underestimates one’s deadness in sin, and takes credit for something that the Father initiated himself.  To take credit for the choosing is in a sense conceptually taking away God’s freedom in election, and taking glory that belongs only to God; one should not take credit for being the initiator, when that belongs to God alone. God is free to show his love to those he chooses.

The Decrees (2)

6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, oreffectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10; Romans 8:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:5; John 10:26; John 17:9; John 6:64)

For sake of clarity, let’s break this paragraph down into the following topical outline:

  1. The elect are appointed to glory: “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory,”
  2. The decree of election is executed by foreordained means: “so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto;
  3. It is Christ who redeems elect: “wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,”
  4. It is the Spirit who applies Christ’s redemption through effectual calling: “are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season,”
  5. The benefits of effectual calling (ordo salutis): “are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation;”
  6. The exclusive recipients of Christ’s redemption and effectual calling with its benefits: “neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

The Elect are Appointed to Glory

 God hath appointed the elect unto glory. The end (or accomplishment) of God’s decree of election is glorification, and there are foreordained means (or ways) to that end.  The Confession has already established that God has appointed the elect to eternal life, but here the term glory is used instead.  This word has various usages, but here glory is used in reference to the full accomplishment of God’s decree of election.  Glory (or glorification) is not merely the state of an elect soul when they die and enter into heaven—being made perfect in holiness,[12] but more than that, it is when at the Last Resurrection the elect are reunited to their bodies (which are raised incorruptible), and will be in that state in heaven forever in God’s presence (see Chapter 31).[13]

 The Decree of Election is Executed by Foreordained Means

 The Confession states: so he hath by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. God’s will is eternal and most free.  This is true of both his decrees and of the way he carries them out.  God’s will in carrying out his decrees is just as eternal as the decree itself, and God is just as free in determining the means as he is in determining the ends.  God executes or carries out his decrees using foreordained means.  It is important that we understand that God does not merely decree or foreordain without also including a foreordained plan of carrying it out.[14]

The specific means (or ways) to the end (or accomplishment) of glorification is Christ’s work of redemption and the application of it by: effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, and perseverance of the saints.  These are the foreordained means of bringing the elect to their appointed state of glory.  There is a logical order to these means, and this order is referred to as the order of salvation (also known as the ordo salutis in Latin).[15]  There is much to address regarding the order of salvation, but will save that for the later chapters: chapters: 3 (election: paragraphs 3-7), 8 (Christ’s redemption), 10 (effectual calling), 11 (justification), 12 (adoption), 13 (sanctification), 14 (faith), 15 (repentance), 17 (perseverance), and 31 (glorification).  Our current paragraph in the Confession mentions each of these.[16]

 It is Christ Who Redeems the Elect

 The 1689 Confession states: wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ.  The first foreordained means was Christ’s purchase of the elect; without Christ’s redemptive work the decree of election could not be carried out.  It is important to realize that both the elect and the non-elect alike are fallen in Adam, but only the elect are redeemed by Christ.  Christ’s redeeming work (his life of obedience and his atoning death) actually accomplished redemption for the elect, though that purchase is not applied until God’s foreordained time.  Notice that the elect are fallen in Adam, but redeemed by Christ.  We see a hint here of that transfer of the elect from fallen Adam’s federal headship, to Christ’s headship; they are no longer in Adam, but in Christ. Chapter 8 explains the redemption purchased by Christ.

It is the Spirit Who Applies Christ’s Redemption through Effectual Calling

 The accomplishment of redemption for the elect is not the same thing as its application.  First redemption is accomplished by Christ’s work.  But how is it applied?  It is applied by the Holy Spirit.[17]  But how does the Holy Spirit apply redemption?[18]  It is applied through effectual calling.[19]  Thus the Confession states that the elect are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season.  Chapter 10, Of God’s Effectual Call, will deal with this in detail, but for now the subject is merely introduced.  Thus far in our progression the means of bringing the decree of election to pass are: 1) Christ’s redemption, and 2), the Spirit’s application of that redemption by effectual calling.   This work of the Spirit comes about in due season.  The timing is foreordained just as the means.   God does all things well, and so it up him when redemption is applied to the each of the elect.

The Benefits of Effectual Calling

 The Confession states that the effectually called : are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation.    The foreordained means then are: Christ’s work, the Spirit’s application of it to the elect through effectual calling, and here we see the results or benefits[20] of effectual calling: justification,[21] adoption,[22] sanctification,[23] and perseverance of the saints[24] (i.e. kept by his power).  Notice that all of these benefits are through faith unto salvation.  Faith is not restricted to the prior phrase ‘kept by his power,’ but rather faith is the instrument by which all the benefits of effectual calling are received.  And so it is by all of these foreordained means that God executes the decree of election in bringing the elect to glory.  I have not explained the character of these means and benefits other than providing the explanations from the Baptist Catechism in the footnotes.  I hope these explanations will assist the reader until we get to the detailed explanation in their respective chapters.

The Exclusive Recipients of Redemption and Effectual Calling with its Benefits

 As if to leave no room for misinterpretation, the Confession adds: neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.  As Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  The general call of the gospel comes to many, yet only those effectively called will actually come for only the elect are effectively called.  The rest are passed over and left in the sin they love so much, and thus they justly receive their condemnation.  Thus only the elect receive Christ’s redemption in their effectual calling, and from that come all its benefits.  God’s decree of election is accomplished by these foreordained means; by these, God infallibly and perfectly executes his decree of election by bringing many sons to glory.

The Decrees (2)

7. The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)

The Confession calls predestination a doctrine of high mystery.   Scripture states: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33 ESV).    God has been pleased to reveal much of the nature of his decrees—indeed a high mystery, but on the other hand there are limitations to what is revealed.  A.A. Hodge states: “The philosophy of the relation of his [God’s] sovereign purpose to the free agency of the creature, and to the permission of moral evil, is not revealed in the Scriptures, and cannot be discovered by human reason, and therefore ought not to be rashly meddled with.  This truth ought not, moreover, to be obtruded out of its due place in the system, which includes the equally certain truths of the freedom of man and the free offers of the gospel to all.”[25]  Thus predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care.  There are many ways to go astray with this doctrine, and those who believe it ought to careful in their own understanding and in the articulation of it to others.  A.A. Hodge states: “This section teaches that the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care.  This necessity arises from the fact that it is often abused, and that its proper use is of the highest degree important.”[26]

Why is this doctrine of predestination so important?  That men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.  Let’s break this down.  There are two things here in the Confession which ought to lead the true Christian to the assurance they were effectually called.  First, men attending the will of God revealed in his Word.  That is, the Christian, man or woman, who is attentive to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.  Secondly, it addresses the person who is yielding obedience thereunto.  That is, the Christian who is obeying the Word of God.  In contrast to this last one, we know that there are professing Christians who know the Word of God, and yet are not yielding obedience to it.  And so by these two mutually inclusive things, one may be certain of their effectual vocation (vocation is a synonym for ‘calling’).  It is not that obedience to the Word of God is the basis of effectual calling, but that it is the evidence of it.   If one is effectually called, they may be assured of their eternal election because those elected in eternity are always effectually called.  We have only to look at Romans 8:30 to see this: And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  The Confession is promoting assurance of one’s election and effectual call, but it is being careful to avoid promoting false assurance in those who are acting in ways contrary to those who are called.

The 1689 Confession ends this paragraph by stating: so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.  The doctrine of predestination should cause us to praise him, for our sovereign God has a people that he has predestined to glory by his grace from start to finish. Jesus said, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20 ESV).  This doctrine causes us to revere God because he is wondrous in his grace and fearsome in his judgments.  Paul said to the Gentile Christians regarding the Jew, “That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe“(Romans 11:20 ESV).  We stand in admiration of God for his sovereign grace and justice.  We bow in humility because God elected us in eternity.  We are to be diligent to make our calling and election sure.  “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10 ESV).  By this doctrine, the elect derive much comfort, if the elect are sincerely obeying the gospel.  But such comfort cannot be derived by the disobedient and hypocrite, who do not obey the gospel.  R.C. Sproul states: “When we see the depths to which God goes to bring His people to the fullness of salvation, we stand in awe before His grace.  Is there anything more amazing than that we should be called children of God?  The apostle John writes to his flock: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).  This helps us see the excellence and sweetness of grace, and it moves us to praise, reverence, and admiration.” [27]

As we move to chapter 4, Of Creation, there is no question that chapters 1 to 3 have been very strenuous.  Chapter 1, Of Scripture, established our authority for truth and reality, and called us to full submission to the Word of God.  In Chapter 2, we discovered things about God only found in the Holy Scriptures, and we were strained as we sought to apprehend what God is like; we were humbled and awed by his majesty, his eternity and infinitude.  And in Chapter 3, were challenged and prodded to grasp and accept the decree of this sovereign God, much to the dislike of our sinful tendency to think of ourselves as completely autonomous.  The first three strenuous chapters have resolved matters of authority: God’s sovereignty (chapter 3), the Godhead (chapter 2), and Scripture (chapter 1).  These truths guide us as we further explore what God has revealed of himself and of his will to the church.

_______________________

[1] The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 104.

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 103, 4.

[4]Robert Letham, The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2009), 182.

[5] R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 186) , 26-7.

[6] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 81.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 105.

[9]A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 63.

[10] Samuel E. Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition, 3rd ed. (Webster, Ny.: Evangelical Press, 1999), 69-70.

[11] The Westminster Confession of Faith states: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.”  The Westminster Confession gives the impression in paragraph 3 that both groups are equivalent, however, later in paragraph 7 the Westminster Confession clarifies that these two are not equivalent.  The 1689 Confession indicates the lack of equivalency right up front.

[12] Baptist Catechism 40: Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at their death?  A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness (Heb. 12:23), and do immediately pass into glory (2 Cor. 5:1, 6, 8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 23:43); and their bodies being still united to Christ (1 Thess. 4:14), do rest in their graves (Is. 57:2) till the resurrection (Job 19:26, 27).

[13] Baptist Catechism 41: Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?  A. At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory (1 Cor. 15:43), shall be openly acknowledged, and acquitted in the day of judgment (Mt. 25:23; Mt. 10:32), and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in the full enjoyment of God (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12) to all eternity (1 Thess. 4:17, 18).

[14] Again, as cited above Berkhof states of God’s decree that: “It is unconditional or absolute.  This means that it is not dependent in any of its particulars on anything that is not part and parcel of the decree itself.  The various elements in the decree are indeed mutually dependent but nothing in the plan is conditioned by anything that is not in the decree.  The execution of the plan may require means or be dependent on certain conditions, but then these means or conditions have also been determined in the decree.”  Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 105.

[15] I would recommend as an excellent book on this subject, John Murray’s book entitled, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955).

[16] Repentance is not mentioned in this paragraph of the Confession, but is inseparable from faith and thus implied.

[17] Baptist Catechism 32: Q. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?  A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us (John 1:11-12) by his Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5,6).

[18] Q. Baptist Catechism 33: Q. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?  A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us (Eph. 1:13, 14; John 6:37, 39; Eph. 2:8), and thereby uniting us to Christ, in our effectual calling (Eph. 3:17; 1 Cor. 1:9).

[19] Baptist Catechism 34: Q. What is effectual calling?  A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit (2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14), whereby convincing us of our sin and misery (Acts 2:37), enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ (Acts 26:18), and renewing our wills (Ez. 36:26, 27), he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel (John 6:44, 45; Phil. 2:13).

[20] Baptist Catechism 35: Q. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?

  1. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification (Rom. 8:30), adoption (Eph. 1:5), sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them (1 Cor. 1:30).

[21] Baptist Catechism 36: Q. What is justification? A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins (Rom. 3:24, 25; and 4:6, 7, 8), and accepteth us as righteous in his sight (2 Cor. 5:19, 21), only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Rom. 5:17-19), and received by faith alone (Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).

[22] Baptist Catechism 37: Q. What is adoption? A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace (1 John 3:1), whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17).

[23] Baptist Catechism 38: Q. What is sanctification?  A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace (2 Thess. 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph. 4:23, 24), and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness (Rom. 6:4,6; 8:1).

[24] Perseverance of the saints accompanies and flows from justification, adoption and sanctification; nonetheless, it is part of the order of salvation.   Baptist Catechism 39: Q. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?  A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience (Rom. 5:1, 2, 5), joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5, 17), increase of grace (Pr. 4:18), and perseverance therein to the end (1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 1:5).

[25] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 76-7.

[26] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 76.

[27] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, vol. I, The Triune God (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R Publishing, 2006), 107.

This entry was posted in Symbolics. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s