4 Questions by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
But as I have said multiple times, that is not what the confession says. It says 'PROFESSORS', not TRUE PROFESSORS. Judas was a professor. Annanias and Saphira were professors, as was the apostle Demas. Yet all proved to be apostates.

Please explain why the distinction is made then? Why is the term elect used to describe the invisible church and not the visible?

[Edited on 11-21-2005 by Scott Bushey]

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
for all those who seem to be having a visible/invisible "brain flachulation", let's turn to the commentators of the Particular Baptist genre to explain to all the baptists who think they know what they are talking about what this section is talking about.

Ponder DRS. Samuel Waldron's work who is, as we would consider, one of the foremost expositors of the 1689 Baptist Confession, and one who is considered very influential in the Particular baptist camp. Not only this, but he wrote, "A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith" which runs 490 pages. He has also written on the Particular Baptists of the past, and knows thier theology quite well.

"Of the Church", page 309, Waldron sets up the "outline" of this chapter. His outline is as follows:

Paragraphs 1-4 = The Universal Church
A. Its identity (1-2)
1. As invisble (para 1)
2. As visible (para 2)
B. Its perpetuity (para 3)
1. Its seeming improbability
2. Its actual certainty
C. Its authority (para 4)

He says:

"This chapter is divided into two clear sections. Paragraphs 1-4 deal with the universal church, while paragraphs 5-15 deal with the local church." (page 311)

"The universal church as invisible consits of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one." (page 312)

"The universal church is always visible, even if it is not perfectly or completely visible." (page 313)

"In what sense is the church invisible? It is invisible because we cannot directly see the work of the Spirit which joins a person to Christ...visible churches are only imperfect and partial manifestations of it." (pages 313-314)

"The universal church is not simply or completely invisible. Paragraph 2 teaches that it is visible. It asserts two things about this visible universal church. The identity of the visible church is described as those who profess to believe the gospel and obey Christ and who do not contradict this profession by holding foundational errors or practicing ungodliness. The relation of the universal, visible church to local churches is that only visible saints should be members of local churches. While the universal church is not perfectly or completely visible, it is practically visible."

Those who profess and obey the Gospel int he Confession's description are those, as Waldron believe are baptized and disciples. They may not necessarily be converted since, as Waldron said, we cannot discern the Spirit's work in this way. For Waldron, and those particular baptists he follows, he states that visible saints "should" be members, but this is not always the case as every baptist knows. As a matter of fact, to have a regenerate membership is an impossibility since one cannot determine, actually, whether another is saved. This is why Waldron outlines this section as a visible/invisible distinction, and not an invisible/invisible-visible distinction. Later he says:

"The members of local churches must be disciples of Christ who are joined to those churches by baptism." (page 318)

"Discipleship, baptism and church membership are intimately connected in the Great Commission." (page 318)

"Church membership presupposes and demands discipleship manifesting itself in obedience to the Lord - obedience manifested specifically in the acts of baptism and submission to the Word in the teaching ministry of the church." (IBID)

Waldron, though practically befuddling membership in the Reformed and Scriptural sense, is certainly following 1) the 1689 Confession in the visible /invisible distinction, and 2) practical membership which is authorized by baptism, and discipleship.

Thus, Waldron's conclusion is that the church universal is manifested in two ways:

Universally invisible - all the elect.
Universally visible - all those professing and outwardly obeying.

Though I certainly disagree with his departure from received orthodoxy on the church at other points, his visible/invisible distinction is much closer to the 1689 Confession's intent, than anything the particular baptists here have manifested. It is certainly true that the 1689 Confession is departing from the Savoy Declaration on this point, and changing its wording greatly, and certainly it is deviating hugely from the WCF. But at least Wladron recognizes more than this thread has for those particular baptists - that the church is invisble and visible. They are not simply speaking of "visible saints" and thier intention is much wider.
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