Class: Overview of the Westminster Confession of Faith

This is the web version of the paper handout for class. In each class, I answer previous questions, briefly overview the structure of the chapter, read key verses, then read and comment on at least one section from the chapter. My goals for the class are to overview the confession, entice you to learn more on your own, and give you opportunites to get your questions answered.

For an excellent written commentary, read Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the corresponding study guide by Chad and Emily Van Dixhoorn.

Chapter 1: Holy Scripture

  • the reason for Holy Scripture (1)
  • the books of Holy Scripture (2-3)
  • the authority of Holy Scriputre (4)
  • the testimony concerning Holy Scripture (5)
  • the sufficiency of Holy Scripture (6)
  • the clarity of Holy Scripture (7)
  • the sharing of Holy Scripture (8)
  • the interpretation of Holy Scripture (9)
  • the judgment of Holy Scripture (10)

2 Timothy 3v14-16: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Romans 15v4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Chapter 2: Of God, and the Holy Trinity

  • the nature of God (1)
  • the supremacy of God (2)
  • the unity of persons as God (3)

Jeremiah 10v10: But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

Romans 11v36: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Proverbs 16v4: The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Chapter 3: Of God’s Eternal Decree

  • all things that happen are ordained by God (1-2)
  • salvation and damnation are also ordained by God, to the exat number (3-4)
  • reasons for God’s ordaining the salvation of some from their sin (5)
  • the means are foreordained too (6)
  • reasons fo God’s ordaining some to the consequences of their sin (7)
  • how we ought to treat this “high mystery” (8)

Isaiah 46v10 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,’

Revelation 4v11: 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.

Ephesians 1v11: 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

Job 23v13: But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does.

Acts 2v23: this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Chapter 4: Of Creation

  • the creation of the world by God (1)
  • the creation of man by God, under God, and over his creatures (2)

Genesis 1v1-3 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

1 Corinthians 8v6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

OPC Report on Views of Creation:…

Chapter 5: Of Providence

  • God upholds and directs all things (1)
  • God uses second causes (2)
  • God uses means but isn’t bound to them (3-4)
  • God’s providence extends to the fall (4)
  • Reasons why God’s people suffer hard providences (5, 7)
  • Reasons why wicked people suffer hard providences (6)

John 10v29: 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.

Matt 10v29-30: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

Daniel 4v34-3: At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof

  • the fact of the fall (1)
  • the effects of the fall (2)
  • the spread of the fall to others (3)
  • the spread of the fall in ourselves (4)
  • the remains of the fall in the re-born (5)
  • the guilt of the fall (6)

Rom 3v23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Prov 20v9: Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?

1 John 1v8, 10: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

John 3v6: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Chapter 7: Of God’s Covenant with Man

  • knowledge of God through covenant (1)
  • the Covenant of Works (2)
  • the Covenant of Grace (3-4)
  • different administrations of the Covenant of Grace (5-6)

Job 9v32-33For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

2 Cor 3v6-8: who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

Jer 31v31-33: Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Gal 3v7-9: Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Chatper 8: Of Christ the Mediator

  • the offices and work of Jesus for mankind (1)
  • the incarnation of the Son of God (2-3)
  • the obedient suffering of Christ (4)
  • the satsifaction and reward of justice (5)
  • the benefits given to all the saints (6)
  • on the two natures of Christ the Mediator (7)
  • not a partial, but a fullly effectual atonement (8)

1 Pet 1v19-20: but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

1 Cor 1v30: And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Heb 2v14, 16-17: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

  • God has given mankind a free and able will (1)
  • before the fall: able to do good or fall
  • after the fall: will hates the good (3)
  • power of grace in this age: free from natural bondage to sin, but with remaining corruption (4)
  • power of grace in the age to come: free to good alone (5)

Eccl 7v29: See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Jas 4v7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Col 3v10: and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

John 6v44-45: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—

John 15v5: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Gal 5v17: For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling

  • the elect come freely by the call of God in Word and Spirit (1)
  • this effectual call is by grace alone (2)
  • a note on elect infants and others uncapable of outward calling (3)
  • none can be saved who aren’t called (4)

Rom 8v30: And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

2 Tim 1v9-10: 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, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Ezek 36v26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

John 6v37: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

1 Cor 16v22: If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.

Chapter 11: Of Justification

  • how we are justified by God and how we are not (1)
  • the role of faith and other saving graces (2)
  • what Christ did in justifying us (3)
  • when we are justified (4)
  • what happens when we sin after we are justified (5)
  • in substance we share the same justification with Old Testament saints (6)

Titus 3v5-7: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Phil 3v9: not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Rom 3v22-28: the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Chapter 12: Of Adoption

“All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.” (1)

Eph 1v5: he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

John 1v12: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Gal 4v4-5: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Rom 8v17: and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

1 Pet 1v3 -4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Chapter 13: Of Sanctification

  • how we are sanctified and what happens when we are (1)
  • how much we are sanctified in this life (2-3)

Titus 3v5: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

Eph 5v26: that [Jesus] might sanctify [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

2 Cor 7v1: Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

1 Thess 5v23-24: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Phil 3v12: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

14. Of Saving Faith

  • What is the use of saving faith and how does God give it to us? (1)
  • What does saving faith involve? (2)
  • The ups and downs and hope of faith. (3)

Heb 10v39: But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Eph 2v8: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

1 Thess 2v13: And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Acts 16v31: And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Gal 2v20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

1 John 5v4-5: For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

15. Of Repentance Unto Life

  • it’s nature and necessity in preaching (1-2)
  • the necessity of repentance in the Christian life (3)
  • the hope of repentance (4)
  • repenting of particular sins (5)
  • public and private repentance (6)

Acts 11v18: When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Prov 28v13: Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Jas 5v16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

1 John 1v9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

16. Of Good Works

  • good works are only what God commands (1)
  • what happens when they flow from faith (2)
  • God who enables our good works, calls us to be active in doing them (3)
  • How good can we get in this life? (4-5)
  • Does God accept imperfect good works? (6)
  • Is there anything good in the works of unbelievers? Also, a succinct definition of good works. (7) Here are some rhymes I wrote to help you remember. Which is your favorite?

I’ve done a good work
When faith was the source,
God’s word set the course,
And it’s end was the glory of God.

A work that is good
Flows from faith in the gospel,
Agrees with what’s lawful,
And is done for the glory of God.”

Heb 13v21: equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Heb 11v6: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

2 Pet 1v5-8, 10: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

Phil 4v13: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (See John 15v4-6)

17. Of the Perseverance of the Saints

  • God perseveres those whom he effectually calls (1)
  • What perseverance depends on (2)
  • How saints fall away sometimes (3)

Phil 1v9: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

John 10v28-29 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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.

Rom 8v30-34 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

1 Thess 5v23-24: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

1 John 3v9: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (c.f. Luke 8v11; WCF 18.4)

Eph 4v30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ps 51v8, 12: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice….Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

1 Cor 11v32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

For a slightly longer explanation fo the doctrine, with refutations of common errors, read this section of the Canons of Dordt.

18. Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

  • true believers may be assured of their being in a state of grace (1)
  • that assurance is infallible because of its foundations, which are many (2)
  • infallible assurance does not come equally to all or at the same time, but it comes to those who seek it, through the ordinary ways; it is important that we seek to have it (3)

Matthew 7v22–23: On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

1 John 5v13: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

Hebrews 6v11, 19: And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,… We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,

2 Corinthians 1v21–22: And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Psalm 31v22: I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.

19. Of the Law of God

  • The nature of the covenant of works, the form of the law, given to mankind (1)
  • The continuing and binding nature of the law, and the Ten Commandments (2)
  • the nature of the ceremonial laws to the people as a church under age (3)
  • The nature of the judicial laws to the people as a body politic (4)
  • The binding nature of the moral law on all people (5)
  • Use of the law to believers (6)
  • The sweet connection between law and grace in the lives of believers (7)

Rom. 13v8-9: Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Heb. 9:v10: but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

1Pet. 2v13-14:  Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

1Cor. 9v21: To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Rom. 3v19: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Rom. 3v31: Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Rom. 7v22: For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,

20. Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

  • what Christian liberty really is (1)
  • God is Lord of the conscience; false lords (2)
  • “under the pretense of Christian liberty” (3)
  • Christian liberty and lawful power/authority (4)

Gal. 1v4: who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Gal. 5v1:   For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2Cor. 3v8: will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

James 4v12: There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Matt. 15v9: in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Jer. 8v9: The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?

1Pet. 2v16: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Heb. 13v17:   Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Matt. 18v15-18:   “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Christopher Chelpka @christopherchelpka