In the last blog on chapter 7 of the 1689 (which you can find here: https://cbtseminary.org/of-gods-covenant-1689-71-sam-waldron/), I underscored that the disagreements between the Baptists and their Puritan friends over covenant theology did not include disagreement over the fundamental issue of the covenant of works or life. Even when we move into paragraph 2 of chapter 7, the unity between them continues to emerge. Here is what it says:
“Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.”2LCF 7:2
The “moreover” with which this paragraph begins assumes the fact of the breaking of the covenant of works. In agreement with the Reformed, the Baptists set beside the covenant of works a covenant of grace by which God determined to restore fallen mankind to a place of favor in His sight and put them into possession of the eternal life they had forfeited by breaking the covenant of works.
Though one may say that in the voluntary condescension of the covenant of works, there had been a kind of “grace,” it was nothing like the grace now bestowed on mankind by the covenant of grace. A new Adam or federal head, Jesus Christ, would be provided to keep this covenant for mankind. This eternal life now bestowed is not conditioned on personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, but it is freely offered on the basis of what this new Adam achieved. Even the necessary believing reception of this free offer is a gift of the sovereign grace secured by Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is sent to make them willing and able to believe.
Though the principles at the basis of the covenant of grace are the same as those in the covenant of works, the grace contained in it for sinners is vastly different than the voluntary condescension of the covenant of works. It is freely offered and sovereignly bestowed.
There have been not a few who could not hold together what the Confession here juxtaposes. They have thought that if salvation is sovereignly bestowed somehow this contradicts it being freely offered. But the Confession here clearly teaches the free offer of the gospel. This doctrine means that God offers, invites, and commands all who hear the gospel the salvation which it promises. This offer is not just for the elect. How can God desire and command what He has not chosen to include in His eternal decree? That perhaps is a mystery beyond our comprehension. We only know that it is true.
It is not, however, different from many other things. God by His will of precept commands many things that He does not will by His will of decree. God’s will of precept was disobeyed by the brothers of Joseph when they sold him into slavery, but this very act fulfilled God’s will of decree. Cf. Genesis 50:20. These two dimensions of God’s one will seem contrary to us finite creatures, but they are not. And neither is the free offer of the gospel to all contradicted by the election of only some. Matthew 22:14 makes this clear: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” We must preach to all that God sincerely calls them. He wants and commands them to repent and believe the gospel.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.