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Covenant Reformed News - May 2022

Covenant Reformed News


May 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 1


The Unchangeable God (1)

Change is an intrinsic part in our created and fallen world. There are changes in the weather, the economy and technology. Some changes in the nations are especially distressing and even lethal: wars, diseases and famines. We could say that the news is almost all about change.

Consider the many changes in your own life. You were once a tiny unborn baby in your mother’s womb. Some nine months after your conception, you were born. You grew from infancy through childhood and your teenage years until you became an adult. In old age, our hair begins to thin or fall out and our strength fails.

There are changes in one’s family life, such as leaving one’s parents to go to university or to start one’s first job. Human life usually involves getting married, having children and seeing them leave home. The later years of many involve grandchildren, bereavement and even widowhood. There are other changes too, such as unemployment or health problems, for you or your loved ones or both!

We also experience great changes, both up and down, in how we feel: angry, sad, unhappy, distressed or lonely at one time but calm, encouraged, uplifted or joyful at another. Even in our relationship to the God of our salvation, at times we are close to Him while at other times we seem far away.

The pen man of Psalm 102 writes a lot about change, distressing change. The heading reads, “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” He was reproached by his “enemies” (8) and was experiencing “trouble” (2): “For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin” (3-5).

God’s heavy hand was upon him. All his grief was “because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down” (10). In various ways, Psalm 102 also indicates that the church was experiencing dark days too. The psalmist’s comfort in all this is especially one divine attribute or perfection: God’s unchangeableness or immutability. This is instructive for us too!

God’s unchangeableness is presented very starkly here, not only against unsettling changes for the psalmist and the church, but even over against the two things which seem most stable in our world. What are they? The earth beneath us and the heavens above us. Underneath us, the earth is solid and firm. The things on earth change: trees lose their leaves, animals die and houses are built on new tracts of land. But the earth itself is constant. The heavens are a model of constancy too. Yes, clouds move in the sky, while the sun, moon and planets travel in outer space, but the heavens themselves are largely unchanged.

However, even the heavens and the earth change, especially at the beginning of this age and its end. Both heaven and earth were created, brought into existence out of nothing: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands” (25). Both heaven and earth will be radically transformed at the second coming of Jesus Christ: “They shall perish … yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed” (26). They will not be annihilated but renewed as the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).

Heaven and earth were created by the Almighty out of nothing (Ps. 102:25) and will be gloriously renewed at the end of this age (26), “but thou art the same” (27) for Jehovah is the unchangeable God! The Most High is “the same” as He was or is in His eternal timelessness as the uncreated Creator. Absolutely no change has happened in Him in the past and it never will in the future. He is immutable before the creation, after the creation, in the psalmist’s day, in our day, and when He transforms the heaven and the earth at the last day, for “they shall be changed: but thou art the same” (26-27)!

James declares, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (1:17). “Variableness” has an astronomical use, referring to the heavenly bodies. Even the stars change, increasing or decreasing, but with God there is “no variableness.” “Shadow of turning” is also a phrase taken from the world of astronomy. The heavenly bodies cast shadows and there are shadows on the moon. But with God there is “no variableness” and not even a “shadow of turning.” After all, He is “the Father of lights.” This is another astronomical allusion, this time to the sun. As the infinitely blessed and perfect One, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). With the God who is light and “the Father of lights,” there can be “no variableness” or even a “shadow of turning,” for He is absolutely and infinitely unchangeable.

Malachi 3:5 speaks of Israel’s sorcery, adultery, false swearing, oppression and lack of fear of the Lord. We could add to this all the sins of the church of all ages, including our own iniquities. If ever there were a reason for God to change by stopping to love the church and starting to hate the church, here it is. Yet what do we read? “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (6). This is certain proof that the true and living God is absolutely unchangeable! Our salvation in Christ is forever sure for the God of eternal election, effectual redemption and irresistible regeneration will not and cannot change. Rev.  Angus Stewart

  

 

Mercy and Judgment Upon Israel

These passages in Numbers 14 are used by some to teach a divine mercy upon reprobate individuals: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word” (18-20). “Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (23). “I the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die” (35).

The argument is, “Moses prays that God would forgive Israel and not utterly destroy them after the 10 spies brought back the bad report. God forgives Israel according to the greatness of His mercy, even though they are an evil congregation (and remain evil till the whole generation dies in the wilderness). Notice (1) God’s forgiveness here to these reprobate individuals is non-salvific (though they were spared from divine judgment at that moment, they all eventually perished in the wilderness); (2) Moses pleads in his prayer that God is merciful and forgiving by His very nature even to these reprobate.”

The questioner raises a very important issue. Not only here in Numbers but also in many other passages, it appears that Lord is, at the same time, promising salvation and threatening eternal judgment to the same people. That, of course, cannot be the case. He cannot pardon men and send them to hell. If the Lord had pardoned all those who sinned at Kadesh by rejecting the report of Joshua and Caleb, and by refusing to enter Canaan, then they would not have perished in the wilderness. By the same token, if they perished in the wilderness under the judgment of God, then they were not pardoned. Pardon for sin is absolute. If God pardons someone’s sins, then He has justified that person and there is no possibility of that person perishing under His wrath.

Nor is there any such thing as a “non-salvific” forgiveness. That is the same as saying that there is a forgiveness which does not forgive and a salvation which does not save. If a judge pardons me, then I am free from all the legal consequences of whatever crime I committed and I can never be charged again with that crime. If I am sent to prison or executed for my crimes, then I have not been pardoned.

Nor is delay of judgment a kind of forgiveness but the opposite, for the impenitent sinner has more time to sin (Rom. 2:5). If delay of judgment is a kind of forgiveness, then God has spent six thousand years forgiving those whom He intends in the end to destroy. If a judge delays my punishment for a crime, setting another date for sentencing, that is not in any sense of the word a pardon but only a delay.

That God is merciful “by His very nature” is true but He is not such to the reprobate or to those who perish everlastingly. If that were true, He would be denying Himself, denying His own righteous nature, when He punishes them everlastingly.

This does not answer the question of how God, almost in the same breath, can speak of forgiveness and of judgment to those who have sinned. The answer is that God is not speaking to an individual but to a nation, to the church of the Old Testament (Acts 7:38). That nation, the church of the Old Testament, like the church of the New Testament, is always a mixed multitude. There are in the church those whose sins are forever pardoned but there are also those who perish unpardoned under the judgment of God. Because they are mixed together, the Word of God, both His promise of pardon and His threat of eternal condemnation, comes to all, though the promises are exclusively for the benefit of those who are chosen of God and redeemed by Christ’s blood.

This is the teaching of Romans 9:6-7: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Notice that Paul is insisting that God’s Word cannot fail, in this case neither His word of pardon nor His word of judgment. His Word of pardon does not fail, when He promises pardon to Israel, for those who have merely the name of Israel are not really the Israel whom God is addressing. It does not fail either because “the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (8), counted not only as true children of Abraham but as children of God, whom He in His love always pardons through the cross.

There are always those in the institute church who worship alongside believers and who cannot even be distinguished from them in many cases, but who are not really that church which is the body of Christ, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23), which obtains peace and pardon in Him, while those who remain hypocrites and unbelievers in the church never obtain it. “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day” (Rom. 11:7-8).

Does this mean that the word of pardon has no application at all to those who perish? It does not mean that. Those who perish must hear the word of God’s pardon to their own condemnation. God is “by His very nature” a merciful God, and the proclamation of His mercy to all makes those who hear and do not believe His mercy guilty before Him and most worthy of His just judgments.

Does this mean that God’s word of judgment has no application to those whom He pardons? No! The word of judgment must be heard by those who are pardoned, not because they will ever come under the eternal judgment of God (thanks be to Him for the gift of His Son!), but because they too have sinned, and must repent and turn from their sins, as they always do by the Spirit’s irresistible grace.

The Word of God’s pardon and His judgment of sin come to all who hear the Word, and it is the Word itself which does the sifting, hardening and bringing under God’s judgment those who have only the name of Israel or church, and bringing peace and pardon to those who, according to His eternal election, by the blood of Christ and through the work of the Spirit, are God’s own. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - April 2022

Covenant Reformed News


April 2022  •  Volume XVIII, Issue 24


Lessons From the Four Horsemen

After considering the four horses of Revelation 6:1-8, both individually and collectively, in the last four issues of the News, we are in a position to make several observations.

First, the four horses with their riders are similar to the signs of Christ’s return, as set forth, for example, in His Olivet discourse. Compare the white horse with Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” The red horse is akin to Matthew 24’s “wars and rumours of wars … For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (6-7). The black horse: “famines … in divers places” (7). The pale horse: death by “wars and … famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (6, 7), and through persecution (9-10, 21, 29). Thus the signs, like the four horsemen, are part of the warp and woof of history, and not something merely added on.

Second, the four horses and the other two seals in Revelation 6, like the signs of our Lord’s second coming in Matthew 24, do not support postmillennialism. That is the theory that the vast majority of people in this age will become true believers and that the church will enjoy earthly peace and prosperity, for civil government, industry, art, science, etc., all around the world will be governed by Christians according to biblical principles. Yes, there is the glorious victory of the gospel in saving all of God’s chosen people (white horse) but this world will never become a Christian paradise (or anything near it) prior to our Saviour’s bodily return. After all, the remaining five seals in Revelation 6 speak of wars, economic disparities, death, martyrdom and anti-Christian injustice, and vast upheavals in creation, respectively.

Third, the six seals in Revelation 6 bring comfort to the child of God. There is the irresistible success of the gospel in calling, sanctifying and preserving each and every one of God’s elect and redeemed people out of every kindred, tribe and tongue (seal 1). We are also consoled by the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God over all things, including events which bring awful pain and grievous tears: regional conflicts, poverty, deaths by wild animals, persecution and terrifying upheavals in creation (seals 2-6, respectively). It is not the devil or merciless fate but Jesus Christ who opens the six seals, and He does so as “the Lamb” who died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins (Rev. 6:1). In executing the eternal decree of the Triune God, our Saviour is preparing all things for His second coming and caring for His sheep, for “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

On the basis of the eschatology presented by the four horsemen and, indeed, the other two seals of Revelation 6, we can even say that we have here the key elements in the Christian philosophy of history.

Notice, first, that the history of this age is linear and has an end; it is not cyclical and everlasting, as per paganism and secularism. The history of mankind and this world has a point at which it stops and towards which everything is moving: Christ’s return for the day of universal judgment (Rev. 6:16-17), which ushers in the eternal state of the new heavens and new earth.

Second, history includes various factors. It consists not only of the preaching of the gospel or church history (white horse). It is not merely war or military history (red horse). It is not just economic history (black horse) or medical history (pale horse). Human history is the interplay of all four horsemen and the various factors included in them, such as political history and social history. Each individual or family or group or nation acts and reacts with respect to all of these things. The world, the flesh and the devil attack every fallen human being, producing wickedness and misery. Not only sin but grace also works in the hearts and lives of all of God’s regenerate people.

Revelation 6 clearly fits with what has happened in the last 2,000 years—all four horsemen have been busy! This chapter of sacred Scripture also presents us with the main elements of our world’s future up to Christ’s second coming.

Third, history takes place on earth according to heaven’s rule. The Greek philosopher Aristotle was terribly wrong in his claim that God is not interested in the world and its history. In his book Approaching Hoofbeats, Billy Graham’s Arminian theology led him to the ridiculous notion that the four horsemen of Revelation 6 are conditional on man’s will! The truth is that it is our Lord Jesus, seated at the right hand of God in glory, who opens the seals and affects Jehovah’s eternal decree. History cannot be understood apart from the Triune God of the Bible for it is “His story,” written by Him in eternity and realized by Him in time.

Fourth, history is purposeful. Neither human life nor history is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing. History has a goal or purpose: the glory of the blessed Trinity in Jesus Christ through the salvation of His elect church, and His just judgment of the reprobate and impenitent wicked. This truth is only understood and loved by those who believe the inspired Scriptures.

The misinformation in the news presented by the various media outlets consists not only in their presenting factual errors and omitting important stories—typically reflecting their bias—but in their ignoring God’s almighty hand. For example, an earthquake is not merely a “natural” event; it is a harbinger of the shaking of the whole world at Christ’s return for judgment (Matt. 24:7; Heb. 12:26-27; Rev. 6:12-17)!

All of this gives Christians good reason for being interested in history. History is not “more or less bunk,” as Henry Ford claimed. History flows from God’s eternal decree as executed by the Lamb of God. Scriptural eschatology gives us a Reformed philosophy of history. These things are vital components of our biblical worldview and crucial for a Christian education. In heaven, our Lord Jesus opens the seven seals of the scroll and sends forth the horses, and by faith we hear their hoofbeats! Rev. A. Stewart

 

 

 

Born of Water and the Spirit

I will answer the following two related questions in this issue of the News:

  1. “What does Jesus mean by being ‘born of water and of the Spirit’ in John 3:5? Obviously, this isn’t referring to baptismal regeneration.”
  2. “What does John mean by ‘the spirit, and the water, and the blood’ in I John 5:8? If ‘the spirit’ is the Holy Spirit, what are ‘the water’ and ‘the blood’ referring to?”

1) In answering these questions, we will take John 3:5 first. Some interpret the passage to refer to physical birth and spiritual birth, physical birth being “of water” and spiritual birth “of the Spirit.” While it is certainly true that a person must ordinarily first be born physically before he can be born again, that is so obvious and so trite that it is difficult to see why Jesus would even mention it.

Others take the reference to being born of water as a proof of baptismal regeneration, i.e., that we are born again by water baptism. The questioner suggests that such an interpretation is impossible, as indeed it is, for water cannot and does not wash away sin and bring about spiritual rebirth, as so many water baptisms demonstrate. The Bible itself tells us so in I Corinthians 10:1-5, where the water baptism of Israel in the Red Sea did not regenerate many of them. They were “all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea ... But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (2, 5).

Nevertheless, the water in John 3:5 must refer to the water baptism. It cannot refer to anything else. It refers to that water, however, as a sign of the blood of Christ. One must be born of Christ’s blood and Spirit, that is the idea of the passage, but the sign, water, is mentioned instead of that which it represents, the shed blood of Christ.

That the blood of Christ is not named and the sign is named should not seem strange. In both baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the names of the sign and the spiritual realities they signify are often interchanged. Jesus calls the bread of the Lord’s Supper His body, even though it is only the sign, and the water of baptism, though it is not the reality, is commonly called by the name of the reality. We mean that sprinkling or pouring water on someone is not really “baptism” but, because it is so closely associated with real, spiritual baptism by the blood and Spirit of Christ, it has the same name.

Ezekiel says something very similar to John 3:5 in 36:25-27, mixing symbols, pictures and realities: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

The key to the interpretation of John 3:5 is in the passage, in verse 3. Comparing verses 3 and 5, it is evident that being “born of water and of the Spirit” (5) is the same as being “born again” (3). There is only one birth in the passage, though both the blood of Christ (symbolized by, and called by, the name of its sign) and the Spirit of Christ are involved. There is no other birth and there is no other baptism, but that.

Note that the water of baptism symbolizes both the blood and Spirit of Christ, not just the blood. While the word “water” is used in place of the word “blood,” that is the point Jesus is making. It is the Spirit who applies the blood of Christ to us for our cleansing, both the initial washing away of our sins in regeneration and the subsequent washing away of sin in the Spirit’s work of sanctification. But it is the shed blood of Christ which the Spirit applies and which alone avails for my cleansing.

Another important point is that, without this cleansing by the blood and Spirit of Christ, no one will even “see” the kingdom of God (3). We may not trust in anything but the blood and Spirit of Christ. That I was baptized with water does not guarantee my entrance into heaven. That I made a profession of faith does not mean I will see the heavenly kingdom of which Christ speaks in John 3. I must be cleansed of sin and guilt before I can stand in the presence of the God who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab. 1:13) and of whom Psalm 5:4 says, “neither shall evil dwell with thee.”

It is regarding these truths that Jesus chides Nicodemus, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”(John 3:10). What Jesus had said was nothing new but had been spoken long before by the prophet Ezekiel. Not only should Nicodemus have known what Jesus meant by being “born of water and of the Spirit,” but he should have known, too, that works of righteousness, keeping the law and the rites prescribed by the law, do not gain entrance to the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, we should not be too hard on Nicodemus, for even today there are many who do not know these things, though they sit in a church every Lord’s day.

2) That leaves I John 5:8 and the answer is really the same. John mentions water and blood not because they are different things—the blood is symbolized by the water—but because the water is such a beautiful and important picture of the blood as well as of the Spirit. The water, therefore, should never be neglected, though it must always be understood that the water is only a picture and symbol, and that only the blood and Spirit of Christ can open the kingdom to those who were unwashed and unclean, and who needed the spiritual heart transplant that Ezekiel 36:26 describes: a second miraculous birth.

The Spirit, the water and the blood, John says in I John 5:8, “agree in one.” There is but one Lord, one faith and one baptism, the washing away of sin by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, symbolized by the water of baptism.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7-10). Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Philippines Mission Newsletter - April 2022

PRCP website header

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES

April 2022  Newsletter

Missionaries: Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) & Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Dear fellow saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches, greetings from across the Pacific.

We think of you all often, pray for you daily, and trust that you enjoy, as we do, the Lord’s care and blessing.

No doubt your weather is gradually warming up as Spring arrives and God’s creation comes to life again. We have entered our dry season here and temps have slowly climbed from daytime highs in the low 80s to highs in the mid-90s. This makes our periodic “cool offs” at the Faith Academy pool most welcome and enjoyable.

Speaking of Faith Academy, the school the Smit children attend, we are very glad that after almost two years of online instruction, face-to-face classes started up again this past March. This has not happened yet for the public schools, but we are grateful the government has at least approved it for some private schools. At first the children attended only two days per week, but now they attend from Monday through Thursday, with Friday being an at-home study day. This is a significant and encouraging development for us all.

We are also once again teaching face-to-face seminary classes. While the first semester of the current school year was a hybrid of online and face-to-face instruction, since January we have been able to meet in class. That comes after at least 1 ½ years of “virtual” instruction.  Rev. Smit and I provide the instruction, and the classes are held in the guest house behind our (the Kleyn’s) home. The PRCP has one seminary student, and he is currently taking 5 courses: Hebrew, Dogmatics, Church Polity, NT History, and NT Isagogics. To save travel time, the classes are all taught on two days each week. And what a difference face-to-face makes! It certainly underscores how inadequate virtual instruction is. Please pray that the Lord blesses this work and that He might raise up more young men to study for the ministry. The need here, as is also true for you, is indeed great.

philmap2Now that covid restrictions are lifting, we should soon be able to visit the pastors and churches in Southern Negros Occidental again, specifically the three who have expressed a desire to be Protestant Reformed and eventually, the Lord willing, to join with the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines. Our last visit there was in February of 2020. In the meantime, we continue to send them copies of the Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, PR Theological Journal, etc. They are eager for us to visit again and to resume our regular work among them. The Lord willing, we plan to visit them in May.

The PRCP churches have continued to experience some struggles and disappointments, especially on account of covid and of the schism in the churches, but by God’s grace they are doing well. Most of the regular church activities have returned to normal, such as catechism classes, Bible studies, Classis meetings, etc.  And apart from a six-week period in August and September of 2021, the churches have also been able to hold face-to-face worship each Sunday. Rev. V. Ibe preaches most Sundays in the Berean PRC, and the two missionaries provide the preaching in Provident PRC, in Provident’s outreach work in Guiguinto (about one hour north of Manila), and as needed in the Berean PRC.

One of the recent disappointments for the PRCP (as also for us missionaries) was that the emeritus pastor, Rev. L. Trinidad, withdrew from the denomination and joined with the RPC in Bulacan. A few others in the PRCP have recently done the same. In spite of these departures and the harsh accusations leveled against the PRCP and PRCA, we and the saints here are confident that the Lord uses also these events for the building up of His church as well as for our own personal growth and good.

This past March the Philippine government again opened the country to foreign visitors (tourists). This means that a delegation of Doon, the FMC and the Contact Committee will be able to visit us and the churches here again. Both we and the saints here look forward to this and pray it will be possible, the Lord willing.

With the approval of Doon’s Council and the FMC, both missionary families plan to take furloughs this year – something that has been on hold for a few years. The Smits hope to take theirs in June and July, and my wife and I from mid-July and into August. We have scheduled our furloughs so as to minimize the overlap (it will end up being about two weeks). We hope to see and fellowship with many of you soon. Until then, may the Lord watch between us and bless each of us in his/her unique place and work in His kingdom.

In the love of Christ,

Rev. Daniel Kleyn

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Reformed Witness Hour Update - May 2022

RWH Logo 2019

 

May 2022

May 1

Joseph the Prime Minister

Genesis 41:41-57
Rev. R. Kleyn

May 8

The Path to Reconciliation

Genesis 42:1-25
Rev. R. Kleyn

May 15

When It Seems That Everything Is Against You

Genesis 42:26-43
Rev. R. Kleyn

May 22

Loving Discipline

Genesis 43:15 - 44:13
Rev. R. Kleyn 

May 29

I Am Joseph

Genesis 44:14 - 45:15
Rev. R. Kleyn 

RKleyn

For May, Rev. Kleyn will continue the series on the Life of Joseph from the book of Genesis. Rev. Kleyn is currently the pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI.

 

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Reformed Witness Hour Update - April 2022

RWH Logo 2019

 

April 2022

April 3

Joseph Resists the Advances of a Seductive Woman

Genesis 39:6-20
Rev. R. Kleyn

April 10

Joseph in Prison

Genesis 40
Rev. R. Kleyn

April 17

Burning Hearts and Opened Eyes

Luke 24: 13-35
Rev. R. Kleyn

April 24

Joseph Remembered and Exalted

Genesis 41:1-40
Rev. R. Kleyn 

RKleyn

For April, Rev. Kleyn will continue the series on The Life of Joseph and give a special Easter message on April 17. Rev. Kleyn is currently the pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI.

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Visit our website or go to eepurl.com/gikNsL to sign up for our monthly email.  You’ll receive one email each month with RWH news, statistics, interviews, message excerpts, and other great content.

 

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Covenant Reformed News - March 2022

Covenant Reformed News


March 2022  •  Volume XVIII, Issue 23


The Four Horses Considered Together

In the last two issues of the News, we have identified and explained the four horses of Revelation 6:1-8. The white horse speaks of the gospel, the red horse brings war, the black horse deals with the selling of food and drink, and the pale horse conveys death. One could say that the white horse treats spiritual matters in the ecclesiastical sphere, the red horse concerns military matters in the national sphere, the black horse involves economic matters in the commercial sphere and the pale horse covers biological matters in the mortal sphere.

The four horses give a helpful perspective on the vital issues of man’s total depravity and God’s sovereign grace. Man’s sin issues in war (red horse), huge economic disparities (black horse) and death (pale horse), for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). God’s grace comes into this fallen world by the preaching of the gospel (white horse) blessed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ to all His elect. One could sum it all up thus: the first horse deals with the progress of grace in the church and the other three horses with the misery of the curse in the world.

Clearly, the four horses cover key factors or major themes in human history. The movements of the white horse around the globe are traced in books of church history and even factor in studies on world history, though very rarely as prominently as they should. Moreover, is not the history of mankind splattered red with the blood of war, blackened with all sorts of economic woes and famines, and littered with pale corpses?

It is helpful to consider the effect of the four horses upon both those elected in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and the reprobate or “the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:22). The pale horse with its rider has authority over both (Rev. 6:8) for all men are mortal since the fall. The black horse affects both believers and unbelievers, for some of both are rich and some are poor and some are in between these two extremes, with I Corinthians 1:26-28 indicating that many of God’s people are lightly esteemed and materially poor in this life. Christians too are involved in various ways in wars (red horse), including serving in the military, navy and air force. Bereavement and disabilities bring pain and grief to both the godly and the ungodly. The white horse rides into cities, towns and communities with the result that the elect are saved, whereas the reprobate are hardened and left without excuse. This occasions spiritual separation between those abiding in unbelief and those mercifully given faith.

All this is the sovereign good pleasure of the Most High, and the purpose of the Lamb who takes the book out of God’s right hand and opens the seven seals, including the first four: the white, red, black and pale horses! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

 

Was Nineveh’s Repentance Real?

The question for this article of the News is: “I have read your article on Jonah and Nineveh in the Standard Bearer (15 October, 2021), but can you prove that the people of Nineveh’s repentance was sincere and their faith was in Christ who is the only way of salvation? Did Jonah preach Christ? Nothing in the narrative proves this.”

Was the repentance of the Ninevites genuine? Was it just “the sorrow of the world,” which works death, merely a sorrow for the consequences of their sins and for their threatened destruction? Or was it a “godly sorrow” (II Cor. 7:10)? Many, such as Hugh Martin in his commentary on Jonah, do not believe that it was sincere.

There is clear evidence that Nineveh’s repentance was genuine. First, there is the testimony of Jesus in Matthew 12:41 (Luke 11:32): “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” There is no indication in the words of Christ that their repentance was false and every use of the word “repented” in the New Testament is of a real, spiritual repentance, worked by the Spirit of God.

In Matthew 12, Jesus is addressing an “evil and adulterous generation” (39) who refused, in their self-righteousness, to believe and humble themselves. They required a sign from Christ in order to repent and believe. Jesus tells them that no sign would be given but the sign of the prophet Jonah and speaks of Nineveh’s repentance as testimony against them. If Nineveh’s repentance had not been genuine, then it would have been no testimony against those unbelieving Jews.

Second, the Ninevites humbled themselves before God, cried to God and believed God (Jonah 3:5-9). The latter refers to their believing Jonah’s preaching of divine judgment especially but it is also the word that Scripture uses to describe true faith, worked by God’s Spirit. They heard Jonah’s proclamation but they “believed God” (5)! Believing God, they prayed to Him and in praying to Him they humbled themselves before Him. There can be no doubt that these Ninevites were saved as a demonstration of the great truth that “Salvation is of the Lord” (2:9). God did in Nineveh what He would not do in Israel for their hardness of heart and continued idolatry.

That this repentance lasted for only a short time, that is, for that generation, is evident. Within 100 years, the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah would speak again of Nineveh’s evil ways and would prophesy its destruction (Nah. 3:7; Zeph. 2:13). In 612 BC, Nineveh would be destroyed by the Medes.

Nineveh was not saved in its generations. God did not continue His covenant with Nineveh in the Old Testament. That would not happen among the Gentiles until New Testament times. Nevertheless, God demonstrated the sovereignty of His mercy and foretold the New Testament salvation of the Gentiles in Nineveh’s repentance.

The Ninevites, therefore, are an illustration of what the Word says in I John 1:8-9: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” May God grant us all repentance unto life (as He granted it to these Gentiles) and not take away this grace from us (as He took it from Israel)!

Nineveh’s salvation also demonstrates the importance of repentance. We cannot be saved from sin, except in the way of repentance and by faith in Christ. Salvation does not leave us in our sins, but saves us both from the guilt and power of sin. Repentance is turning from sin and is part of our conversion to God, and part of our deliverance from the presence and power of sin.

The reader poses a penetrating question, though, in asking whether Christ was preached to the Ninevites. Without the preaching of Christ, there is no possibility of genuine repentance or of faith. The important passage in answering this second question is Luke 11:30: “For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.”

Jonah cannot be a type of Christ, nor is he identified as a type in Scripture, but he was a sign, a miracle or sign that pointed ahead to the greater miracle or sign of Christ’s coming and work. That is what Christ means when He compares Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish to His own three days in the belly of the earth. The one miracle points ahead to the other and greater miracle.

That miracle of Jonah’s deliverance from the fish’s belly became part of his preaching in Nineveh, whether he intended it to be so or not. He not only preached to them but he was also a sign to them. It was that sign, as much as Jonah’s actual preaching, which God used for the salvation of the Ninevites. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Jonah himself, as much as the Word which came from his mouth, was the sermon he preached in Nineveh. In that way, Jonah’s preaching included both the call of the gospel to repentance and the good news of the gospel, the promise that whoever repents and believes will be saved. Thus he preached Christ to them.

We should not be surprised that the gospel was preached in that way in Nineveh. God, in the Old Testament, not only sent His Word through His prophets but very often made them living examples of the Word they brought. Hosea, commanded to marry a whorish woman, was a living sermon to Israel in the days of Jeroboam II, the same king in whose days Jonah prophesied (Hos. 1). Ezekiel, lying on his side in front of an iron pan for some fourteen months, was a sign and sermon to the Jews in the Babylonian captivity in the last days of the Kingdom of Judah (Eze. 4:1-8).

There are those who speculate about Jonah’s physical appearance after being in the belly of a fish for three days. This was a miracle and the Word of God does not tell us what it was like in the belly of the fish or anything of Jonah’s condition after those three days. It was not his appearance but what happened to Jonah, first under the anger of Jehovah and then in his repentance, that was a sign to the Ninevites of God’s justice of His mercy. How the Ninevites learned his story is beside the point but it was the sign, as well as the threat of destruction, that brought them to their knees.

Perhaps the sign was more effective than an actual recitation of the promises would have been, for the Ninevites would hardly have understood a passage like Isaiah 53, had it been preached to them. Many in Israel, who knew of the promised Messiah, did not understand how He could be “as a root out of a dry ground” or like a lamb led to the slaughter (2, 7).

But the Ninevites would have understood from Jonah’s story that the God whom he served, the God of heaven and earth and sea, was different from their idols. They would have understood Jonah’s disobedience, and would have learned from his story that the God of Israel was able to punish, and did punish, sin. They would have listened fearfully, therefore, when that man who had suffered such an awful ordeal preached to them the necessity of repentance. They would have realized, too, from Jonah’s story that the God of Israel, unlike the gods they served, was a God who is not only just but merciful, a God able and willing to save. They would even have realized that there was in God’s sight no difference between Jonah, the Israelite, and themselves.

So Jonah preached in Nineveh by Word and by example. May we, learning from the story of Jonah, have a higher regard for the preaching of the gospel and humbly submit ourselves to it, believing that His Word does not return void (Isa. 55:11). May we never forget that, though it is preached by weak and sinful men, it is “the power of God unto salvation” to all who believe (Rom. 1:16). May we, vomited out of the belly of hell by God’s amazing mercy, continue to give attendance on the preaching of the Word so that, when we fall into sin, as Jonah did, we too may be set again on the path of obedience by the power of the Word. And may all glory and praise be to Him, to whom alone belongs the glory both of the means He has appointed and their good fruit (Canons of Dordt III/IV:17). Rev. Ron Hanko


Westminster Confession 15: Of Repentance Unto Life

  1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.
  2. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.
  3. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.
  4. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation, so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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