Given that the doctrine of justification is so primary to our joy and assurance in the gospel, it would be wise for us to give effort to grow in our understanding and clarity of what the Scriptures teach. For this reason, I am giving several posts to the subject of justification by walking through various paragraphs given to this in the 1689 Baptist Confession. (Part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series provide a bit of explanation and setup for this current post.)
PARAGRAPH 4: The Decree, Securing and Applying of Justification
From all eternity God decreed to justify all the elect, and in the fullness of time Christ died for their sins and rose again for their justification. Nevertheless, they are not justified personally until the Holy Spirit actually applies Christ to them at the proper time. — “Confessing the Faith.”
The focus within paragraph four revolves around the particular question of “when are the elect justified?” To this, the confession points in three directions.
Firstly, we must look to eternity past, as we are reminded that it was according to God’s decree that his elect were marked out for salvation. Then, we must also look to the moment in history when “Christ died for their sins and rose again for their justification.” This event was the redemptive purchase which most certainly secured the justification of the elect. However, the confession is quick to affirm that justification is not made personal “until the Holy Spirit actually applies Christ to them.” This statement is especially relevant in light of the hyper-Calvinist or antinomian who affirmed an “eternal justification” and therefore saw no need to call for repentance or compel sinners to repent.1 Of note, it is helpful to see the triune emphasis upon salvation here: decreed by the Father, secured by the Son and applied by the Spirit.
- Robert Oliver. History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771-1892 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2006) p 7. ↩