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Covenant Reformed News - January 2018

Covenant Reformed News

January 2018  •  Volume XVI, Issue 21



Pulpit Failure Regarding Ecclesiology

Through compromising with the ungodly world, liberal Protestantism has lost the infallible Scriptures, the blood of Christ’s cross, the gospel of grace, etc. Thus it is apostate and a manifestation of the false church. However, not all is well with evangelicalism either. One of its big problems is that of a low, sub-biblical and non-creedal view of the church. Why? How has this widespread malaise gotten hold?
A major reason is that of pulpit failure. Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, has not been, and is not being, properly taught by many ministers (and their theological colleges). Why is this?
First, in some congregations, the “three Rs” are preached but little more or else. By the “three Rs,” we do not mean the traditional trio of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. Instead, we are referring to ruin by the fall, redemption by the cross and regeneration by the Spirit. While these things are indeed fundamental and massive biblical truths that are necessary for salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ, they are not the whole of God’s revelation. Often, ecclesiology and other things are totally or largely left out.
A second factor in pulpit failure regarding ecclesiology for some is that of the Sunday evening gospel service. Thereby at least half of the church’s sermons consist of the potted gospel addressed to the unconverted. This gives little preaching time to cover the truth of the church (and other biblical subjects) and so build up the people of God in this area. (Contact us, if you are in the British Isles and would like us to post to you a free copy of the pamphlet “Reformed Evangelism and the Sunday Evening Gospel Service.”)
A third reason why many ministers avoid or skate around the doctrine of the church is that they know that it is an issue on which many of their members disagree. In non-Reformed and non-creedal churches, there is an ever-increasing number of controversial topics. The temptation, and often the practice, is to steer clear of ecclesiology (and other subjects) out of the fear of upsetting and losing members. It is especially easy to understand the attraction of this for a minister of a small church: “If we lose any more people, our congregation will no longer be viable!”
However, this failure to teach ecclesiology (or any other biblical doctrine) is wrong. The apostolic example and requirement for the Christian pastor is that he declare—not a little or some or most of but—“all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), as did Paul, that “wise masterbuilder” of the church (I Cor. 3:10)! An undershepherd who avoids or sells short God’s truth about His church is not feeding Christ’s sheep with the rich and varied diet of Jehovah’s inspired Word that is necessary for their spiritual health and strength.
Various practical problems especially arise in congregations where ecclesiology is not properly taught. The loss of the scriptural office of deacon (I Tim. 3:8-13; Acts 6; Phil. 1:1) is one example; unbiblical “committee men” are often substituted in their place. Without the robust doctrine of the church taught in the Word of God, elders can soon be reduced to mere figureheads or yes-men. Where the full, biblical and Reformed ecclesiology is not found, it is much easier for the minister to become the tyrannical lord of the congregation. Moreover, the members of the church will be ill equipped to contradict the usurpation that is the appointment and “rule” of women office-bearers (I Tim. 2:11-15). With little or no knowledge of the doctrine of the church, most people will blindly go along with lay preaching, contrary to the Reformed faith and confessions (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 158).
If sins or abuses arise in the congregation or denomination, the ill-taught member will not know if he or she can protest, or how to protest. Those bereft of Scripture’s wholesome ecclesiology are defenceless against strong-arm tactics by despotic office-bearers. All they are able to do is moan about it, because they are not empowered and equipped to use the God-honouring, ecclesiastical means for redress. Likewise, without the glorious, biblical doctrine of the church and its worship, congregations are wide open to modern “will worship” (Col. 2:23) and false ecumenism (II Chron. 19:2), despite the lamentations of those who retain some fear of God. What a foolish notion many have, that it is okay if ecclesiology gets short shrift in the preaching for it is of little practical value! Carnal men who think they know better than God are the occasion of the tears of the faithful and the apostasy of the church.
Once ignorance, apathy and errors regarding ecclesiology set in, it is usually very difficult to address and correct these problems by teaching. Tragically, many of the people begin to enjoy their increasingly man-centred church and its governance by man’s wisdom. As the prophet of God lamented, “My people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:31)!
Sadly, with the loss of vital ecclesiology and Christian knowledge in general, as well as the resulting waning of godliness, the biblical and creedal teaching of the Calvin Reformation is largely seen as too difficult and too costly. There are so few who are interested in the election of the church, the church militant, true doctrinal church unity, the holiness of the church, the regulative principle of church worship, covenant baptism, the office of deacon, elders overseeing the Lord’s supper, church discipline, church order, church government, Christ’s kingship over His church, spiritual church authority, the three marks of a church (faithful preaching, sacramental administration and church discipline), the necessity of joining a true church, etc. Sometimes the ignorance of ecclesiology is so deep and the people are so entrenched in false paths that they perversely slander the biblical, Reformed and creedal teaching as if it were Roman Catholicism! Rev. Stewart
 

The Law of Christ (1)

A reader asks, “I would like to ask your view of the law of Christ (I Cor. 9:20-21). What exactly is the law of Christ and how does it, if at all, differ from the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament?”
There is much confusion on this issue, especially in the controversy over the error of Antinomianism. There is a growing notion abroad, fanned by the Federal Vision, that the good works of the law have to be performed by the believer and added to faith in order to secure salvation. It is all part of a conditional salvation, which makes our salvation rest on our works. Those who deny conditional salvation are then slandered as hyper-Calvinists. The truth concerning God’s moral law plays an important part in the controversy but there are few who understand it properly, i.e., biblically.
The Decalogue was given to Israel from Mount Sinai. It is a codification of God’s law that is imbedded in the creation itself. According to Romans 1:18-32 and Romans 2:14-15, even the pagans, who do not have the sacred Scriptures, know the law in their consciences but God gave it to His people from Sinai on two tables of stone.
The Ten Commandments are, therefore, God’s unchangeable moral will for man whom He originally created in His own likeness. The Triune God formed every creature with the specific purpose of glorifying Him in its own unique way. Man was created to glorify God by living a holy life as He Himself is holy, and thus representing the Most High as head of the creation.
That man fell does not change the law in any respect, as the Arminian alleges. The keeping of the law is the fundamental way in which man must live as God’s friend-servant and that remains true for all time. Whether man can keep that law or not makes no difference. This is the conditio sine qua non for man to have fellowship with God. Even though man’s depravity is so complete that he cannot even will to do what God commands, he is still required to keep the law and violation of it means everlasting hell.
God is the infinitely holy One. He created man in His own image, which included holiness. If man (in Adam) refused to obey that law and fell into total depravity, this is not God’s fault but man’s own fault. That law remains unchangeably the same throughout history and into eternity. There is no difference between the law of the Old Testament and the New.
God had another purpose in mind in giving Israel His law from Sinai. God had eternally determined to save a church out of the fallen human race through His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The law was given as a schoolmaster to lead Israel to Christ (Gal. 3:24). To fallen Adam and Eve, God promised the seed of the woman who would crush the head of Satan and deliver His people from the misery of sin and death (Gen. 3:15). Believing Israel lived in constant anticipation of the coming of that Deliverer.
But they often had to be taught to look for their Redeemer, even as we need to be taught the same as we await our Lord’s second coming. One means was the law, which, as Paul expresses it, was a schoolmaster to bring the people to Christ.
It worked this way. God had, in His saving grace, so worked in the hearts of His people that they heard and learned that salvation included a keeping of the law. “Do this,” God had said, “and live.” But believing Israel, hearing this, could only cry out in anguish, “We can’t, we can’t.” And the law said, “Cursed is he that keepeth not all the words of this law” (cf. Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). It was to them that the gospel came: “Look to Him who is to come. Hope in the promise of God who will send the Redeemer!”
The words of our Lord must have come as refreshing water to the thirsty soul, when He cried to those who were labouring and heavily laden with the curses of the law crushing them, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). “You do not have to keep the law in order to become God’s people. I have come to do what you cannot do!”
The law still has that purpose today, as our beloved Heidelberg Catechism has it: “Whence knowest thou thy misery? Out of the law of God” (Q. & A. 3).
The law says, “Keep me and live, and accursed art thou if thou keepest me not.” All I can say is, “I can’t, I can’t. Woe is me.” It is the gospel that comes with good news: “Go to Christ, go to Him. In Christ and His work, not yours, is hope to be found.”
When I go to church, it is after a week of toil in which I have sinned. The burden of sin weighs heavily on my soul. I do not come to church, in the first place, to hear the minister say to me, “You must do this; this is your calling. I admonish you that you must fulfil this command to come to God.” My only response is, “I tried. I can’t. Is it all hopeless?” I go to church to hear what Christ did for me! That is the gospel! That is what I want to hear! That is what I need!
But there is more. Christ not only paid the necessary cost of eternal hell for us but He also earned for us the fullness of salvation, now and eternally in heaven. While this includes all the blessings of salvation, I want to call your attention to one in particular.
After a description of Israel’s terrible sins in Ezekiel 16, God speaks of His covenant promise in verses 60-63. God says that His anger towards us for breaking His law is pacified (63). Besides this covenant blessing of the forgiveness of sins, there is another blessing of the new covenant: God’s writing His law in our hearts.
Hebrews 8:8-10, quoting Jeremiah 31:31-33, says, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ... Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers … For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
It is the same law given to Adam at his creation and codified for Israel at Sinai that is now written in our minds and on our hearts. That is, salvation by Christ has as one of its wonderful blessings the spiritual ability to keep God’s law (though never perfectly in this life).
By His irresistible grace in the new covenant, God has written on our hearts the law of love, love for Him and our neighbour, as summed in the Decalogue of Moses. For us, the Ten Commandments have become the law of Christ! Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
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/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Ballymena Lecture

Living Wisely in a Digital Age

 This very practical speech will address a serious concern in our day: the attachment of many young people (and adults!) to their phones and digital devices. Is this healthy? Does this serve real flesh-and-blood or face-to-face contact? How does this affect family life and the friendships of Christian youth?  What of their church life and the communion of the saints? What of the dangers of pornography? 

Speaker:
Rev. Nathan Decker
(Michigan, USA)

Wednesday, 24 January 
at 7:45 PM

Venue:
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

(83 Clarence Street,
Ballymena BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 

www.cprc.co.uk

Rev. Decker will also preach at both Lord’s Day services on 21 January
The sermons and lecture will be streamed live 
at www.cprf.co.uk/live.html
 

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 25 January
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart


Subject:
God's Saving Will in the New Testament
 
What does the New Testament say about what God wishes, wills, desires or wants? Does He ever desire anything He does not get? Does He ever want anything He decrees will not happen? How do Gods’ eternity, unchangeability and omnipotence fit  with His wishes? And what does all this say about Christ and His cross?

NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprc.co.uk
www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
Walking in the
Way of Love


A Practical Commentary on I Corinthians

by Nathan Langerak
(432 pp., hardback) 

Walking in the Way of Love, volume 1, is a commentary on, and application of, chapters 1-9 of I Corinthians. Directed toward the believer and the true church of Jesus Christ, the book teaches the vitally important way of true love, over against the foolish chatter about love spoken by the world and the apostate church.

Here is rich fare: the cross as the wisdom and power of God, the Spirit searching the deep things of God, carnal Christianity, apostolic ministry, church discipline of those living in fornication, the believer and going to court, singleness and marriage, Christian liberty, ministerial support and much more!.

 £17.50 (inc. free P&P)
Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851
.
Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!

Righteousness by Faith Alone

12 sermons on
Romans 4 on
CD or DVD 
in a box set

 
Justification by faith alone is biblical and Reformation truth. But there are rich aspects of it that you are not aware of!
  
(1) Abraham’s Justification)
(2) The Justification of the Ungodly
(3) David and the Non-Imputation of Sins
(4) David and the Imputation of Righteousness
(5) The Time of Abraham’s Justification
(6) The Abrahamic Land Promise and Justification
(7) The Logic of Faith Alone
(8) The Necessity of Faith Alone
(9) The God of Justification
(10) Abraham’s Justifying Faith
(11) Abraham’s Unwavering Faith
(12) Jesus Raised Because of Our Justification

£10/box set (inc. P&P)

LIsten free on-line
or order from the
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!
Read more...

Reformed Witness Hour Messages for January 2018

First PRC of Grand Rapids, MI and the Reformed Witness Hour Committee announce the messages scheduled for January 2018 on the RWH radio program.

Rev. Bill Bruinsma, pastor of Pittsburgh PRC (Pennsylvania), completes his four-month service for the RWH program, as he gives a special New Year's message and finishes a series on Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians (cf. schedule of messages below).

January 7 - Confidence in Christ's Coming, Hebrews 10:35-37

January 14 - Arming Ourselves for Christ's Return (1), 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10

January 21 - Arming Ourselves for Christ's Return (2), 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10

January 28 - Wholly Sanctified, 1 Thessalonians 5:23

RWH Flyer January 2018 Page 1

You are encouraged to listen to these important messages and to let others know about them too. Help spread the word about the Reformed Witness Hour, now in its 77th year of broadcasting the truths of God's sovereign, particular, efficacious grace!

RWH Facebook image

Use the attached flyer (pdf) to spread the news of these important gospel messages!

Read more...

Reformed News Asia - December 2017

Issue 46 - December 2017
Pamphlets

We print pamphlets written by our members and those from other Reformed churches of like-minded faith. They include a wide range of topics from doctrines to church history and practical Christian living. These pamphlets serve to promote knowledge of the true God as expressed in the Reformed faith.

NEWPamphlet!
SIGNS OF THE TIME
By Prof Herman Hanko 

"The Scriptures speak frequently of the signs of Christ’s coming, and the entire book of Revelation is devoted to a discussion of these signs. But the chapter in Matthew 24, speaks clearly and briefly of all the signs that must take place before the Lord returns. It is well that we, who live in the end of the ages, know what these signs are in order that we recognize them as signs when these events take place. We must be students of the times in which we live and know what is happening in our own country and in all the nations of our planet earth.
 
But Jesus does not give us the list of signs in order that we may have some additional information of God’s works; He himself ends His discussion of the signs of His coming with many urgent warnings to watch and pray; and He even gives us three parables in Matthew 25 to press home His admonitions concerning how we are to live in the light of the nearness of Christ’s coming.
 
The wicked mockers laugh at the anxious prayer of the righteous, “Come Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly.” But our Lord tells us how we must live when our life is controlled by the nearness of Christ’s return. Peter emphasizes the same practical calling that is ours. After pointing to the foolishness of those who mock Christ’s coming, and after assuring us of the complete destruction of this present world, he says, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11)."


Click hereto view our catalogue of pamphlets.

Click here to make an order.

All pamphlets are free. CERC reserves some discretion regarding large orders and/or orders from those outside Singapore.

 
Featured Book
For local orders (S'pore), please contact Ms Daisy Lim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For international orders, click here.
WALKING IN THE WAY OF LOVE
by Nathan J. Langerak

From the RFPA website:

Written by new author Nathan J. Langerak. Rev. Langerak is a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. He lives in Crete, Illinois, with his wife, Carrie, and six children. He has served as pastor of Crete Protestant Reformed Church since 2007.

________________________

"A love that disciplines impenitent sinners; a love that will not fellowship with the impenitent sinner; a love that will not endure false doctrine or those who teach it; a love that suffers the loss of all earthly things, including earthly friendships, goods, and standing for the sake of the truth; a love that says what the apostle Paul says at the end of his great book on love, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha,” is true love. It is God’s love and Christ’s love manifesting itself in the believer. These and many other hard things belong to the way of love as revealed by the Holy Spirit and in which 1 Corinthians calls the believer to walk."

 
Audio Recordings
The Preparatory and the Lord's Supper sermon as we partook of the Lord's Supper on 24 December 2017:

Preparatory Sermon: The New Covenant
Lord's Supper: The Sign of the Swaddling Clothes

 
Upcoming Events!
 
CERC Church Retreat 2018

New Year Church Retreat outing to explore and experience the unspoilt nature reserve of Singapore!

Date: 1st January 2018 (Monday)
Time: 10am - 2pm
Venue: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension

 
Past Events...
 
Confessions of Faith & Baptism
CERC concluded the year with 8 Confessions of Faith and 2 Baptisms. Thank God for adding to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:47b 
Confessions of Faith 
Baptism of Victor
Baptism of Joshua Kiew
 
Vacation Bible School 2017
From 4-7 Dec, CERC held its annual Vacation Bible School under the theme "Parable and the Sower". Lessons were conducted about the sower and the four different types of grounds in which the seeds fell on. The last day of the camp was an outing at Bukit Panjang Park where the children were brought to do simple gardening at Pocket Greens farm. Many other fun activities were also done in church to further emphasize the need for the seeds to be planted on good ground. 
Outing day!
 
CKCKS Camp 2017
Our annual CKCKS Camp was held on 19-22 Dec under the theme "Examine Yourselves", taken from II Corinthians 13:5. This year, we were pleased to have 4 speakers - Pastor Lanning, Elder Lim, Elder Lee and Elder Leong, addressing the topics of Examining ourselves, Contentment, Antithesis and Love for the Church respectively. We thank God for the good speeches, the fruitful discussions and a good time of fellowship. 
Speech by Elder Lim
Discussion groups
Outing - Ninja tag, a game where one has to have a really good aim!
A game of hockey with newspaper sticks
Group shot - fun shot!
 
Lannings' Farewell
Over the second last weekend of December, CERC bid farewell to our dear minister and his family. We Thank God for his service, the friendship and the dedication over the last 5 years. We trust that God will provide for their needs as well as for our needs. 

Psalm 121:8  "The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore."

Starting of the farewell event
Quiz game to lighten up the mood
The Lannings' family with the cake
Song "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" dedicated to the Lannings'
Final shot at the airport send-off
 
Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church
We are a Reformed Church that holds to the doctrines of the Reformation as they are expressed in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt.

Lord’s Day services on Sunday at 930 am & 2 pm • 11 Jalan Mesin, #04-00, Standard Industrial Building, Singapore 368813 • Pastor: Rev Andy Lanning  •www.cerc.org.sg 
 

 
Read more...

Covenant Reformed News - December 2017

 

Covenant Reformed News

December 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 20



Three Good Reasons to Honour Christ’s Church

Sadly, in most of conservative Christianity, there is a grievous disinterest in, and an abysmally low view of, the truth of God’s church. Most know little and care less about ecclesiology, the glorious doctrine of the body of Christ. Let me give you three reasons why you and all professing Christians should care about the church.
First, all disrespect and indifference towards the church stands in stark contrast to God’s written revelation. The first 17 books of the Bible, Genesis to Esther, record the history of the church from the salvation of Adam and Eve to the return of God’s people from the Babylonian captivity. The last 17 books of the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Malachi, summarize the prophets’ preaching to the church.
In the 4 gospel accounts, Matthew 16:18-19 declares that the purpose of Christ’s incarnation and redemption is to “build [His] church,” to which He gives “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Acts records the work of Christ by His Holy Spirit in gathering His holy, catholic or universal church. To whom are the 21 New Testament epistles addressed? Most of them were written in the first instance to churches, congregations in Rome, Galatia, etc. The rest of these letters were addressed to church office-bearers or members, such as Philemon, Gaius (III John), Timothy and Titus. Even the last canonical book, Revelation, was written, first of all, to 7 existing church institutes (Rev. 1:4, 11).
Turning to the specific focus of individual biblical books, we note that the Psalms are the songs of the church. Zechariah emphasizes God’s love and salvation of the church. I Corinthians deals with a host of church problems. Ephesians extols the church as the body of Christ, treating its election (ch. 1), catholicity (ch. 2-3), unity (ch. 4) and holiness (ch. 4-6). The three pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) set forth the institutional structure and work of the church. Revelation 2-3 consists of Christ’s commendations, critiques, admonitions and promises to organized churches.
Do you read the books of the Bible? Have you understood the prominence of God’s church upon its pages? As you search the Scriptures in the future, look out for the Bible’s massive theme of ecclesiology. Let us think God’s thoughts after Him and highly esteem the body of His Son!
Second, what about the great sixteenth-century Reformation? Have you ever thought of this question: Of what was it the reformation? It was a reformation, of course, of many things, including preaching, worship, doctrine, etc. But centrally, it was the Reformation of the church! As such, it was the reformation of church preaching, church worship, church doctrine, etc.
Another way of emphasizing this is to consider the greatest theological book of the Reformation: John Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion. As is well-known, this work is divided into four main parts. These are, roughly speaking, first, God the Father and our creation; second, God the Son and our redemption; third, God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification; and, fourth, the church. This last part of Calvin’s Institutes is way longer than any of the other three. In fact, it forms more than one third of the book. The title of the fourth part of the Institutes gives us Calvin’s perspective on the significance of the truth of the church: “The External Means or Aids by Which God Invites Us Into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein.”
If you are a son or daughter of the Reformation and treasure this great work of God, then you cannot be lukewarm towards the truth of Christ’s church. The glory of the Reformation was its reformation of the Lord’s visible churches. Likewise, the calling of reformation in our day is especially that of reforming the churches, by God’s grace.
A third important perspective on the importance of ecclesiology is provided by the Reformed confessions. Here is a thematic analysis of the Belgic Confession’s articles on ecclesiology: the nature of the church (27); joining the church (28); the marks of the church (29); the government and offices of the church (30-31); the order and discipline of the church (32); the sacraments of the church (33), namely, baptism (34) and the Lord’s supper (35); and church and state (36).
Notice, first, that the Belgic Confession is thorough, dealing with the church’s nature, membership, marks, government, offices, order, discipline and sacraments, as well as its relationship to civil government. Flowing from the first point, we observe, second, that the Belgic Confession’s exposition of the doctrine of the church is lengthy. Its treatment of ecclesiology receives 10 articles (27-36), whereas this confession gives 5 articles to soteriology or the doctrine of salvation (22-26). Since the Belgic Confession consists of 37 articles, its treatment of ecclesiology is over a quarter of its articles. In fact, over 27% of the articles of the Belgic Confession (1561) are on the doctrine of the church.
What place does Christ’s church have in our thinking? Tragically, and to their own serious loss, there are those of whom it could be said that the church has only a small place in their hearts and minds and lives. If this had been Jesus Christ’s attitude to the church, He would never have laid down His life for her on the cross in order to cleanse her and glorify her, and to present her to Himself in marriage (Eph. 5:25-27)!
Augustine (354-430) expressed well the Christian’s love for the truth of the church and the true church: “The city of God we speak of is the same to which testimony is borne by that Scripture ... ‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.’ And in another psalm we read, ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness, increasing the joy of the whole earth’ ... And in another, ‘There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.’ From these and similar testimonies ... we have learned that there is a city of God, and its Founder has inspired us with a love which makes us covet its citizenship” (The City of God, 11:1). Let this live in our hearts! Rev. Stewart
 

The Song of Solomon: Canonical and Christocentric

A reader asks, “I am interested in some views on the Song of Solomon. When attending a lecture, the pastor never tired of reminding us from Ephesians 5:22-33 that it was a picture of the love God has for His church, and marriage is a reflection of that love. My question is, What evidence internally from the book itself is there to prove the above view, which I believe is the traditional interpretation?”
A classmate of mine, while we were studying in college, later took the position that the Song of Solomon did not have anything to do with Ephesians 5:22-33. It was not a song depicting the love that is a reality in the love between Christ and His church, nor did it have anything to do with the love between a man and his wife.
When I asked him what he made of the book, he answered, “It is an erotic love song” —with emphasis, I presume, on the word erotic. I do not remember what his answer was when I asked him whether he thought it belonged in the canon of Scripture but, from his later writings, I suspect that he did want to preserve its canonicity—although the purpose of the book in the canon is then difficult to determine.
It is well to remind ourselves what criteria were used by the church to determine which books properly belong in Scripture and which books are apocryphal.
The explanation can be found in Belgic Confession 5, entitled “From Whence the Holy Scriptures Derive Their Dignity and Authority.” The article reads, “We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing, without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves of them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling.”
In a sense, the church has always held that the 66 books we believe are canonical are indeed that. Already in the days of Josiah, when many of the people did not even know there was a Bible, a copy of the book of the law was found in the temple and immediately recognized as God’s Word (II Kings 22:8-23:2).
It is generally accepted that an early Jewish council in Jamnia (c. 90 AD) fixed the Old Testament canon, which decision accords with our Lord who referred to “the law and the prophets.” Almost from the beginning of the post-apostolic era, the church recognized the same books of the New Testament as canonical. A dispute may have swirled around a few books but the church as a whole considered the books in our Bibles, including the Song of Songs, as being truly canonical. The Council of Carthage in 397 AD, for example, ranked the Song of Solomon in the canon.
Belgic Confession 5 speaks of the external evidence and the internal evidence of the canonicity of the 66 books listed in Belgic Confession 4. Interestingly, both the external and internal evidence are the work of the Holy Spirit. He inspired the Scriptures and He works in the hearts of the elect to recognize this. To believe what the Spirit inspired is to believe the whole of Scripture to be from God. The internal testimony of the Spirit in our hearts is by means of the external testimony of the Scriptures themselves.
Here is a human example of this. If my copy of The Institutes of the Christian Religion has on its title page the name John Calvin as the author and the entire book is in keeping with all we know of John Calvin, it is pretty hard to prove to me that he did not write that book. The external evidence is his name on the title page and the internal evidence is that the contents perfectly reflect everything we know of the French Reformer.
I make a point of this because the Bible is an organic unity written by one Author and not just a conglomeration of books written by different authors—as is widely believed today by those who deny Scripture’s verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit.
I have emphasized that the Song of Solomon has always been part of the canon because what follows from this conviction is the proof for the fact that the Song of Solomon describes in poetry the love between Christ and His church.
Scripture is an organic unity containing only one theme and written by one Author. We may well ask what that theme is. The answer is: The mighty work of God in Jesus Christ through whom God saves an elect church to live in covenant fellowship with Him to His everlasting praise and glory.
When I taught in the seminary, I often used the figure of the Bible being a portrait of Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God. Every book of Scripture is a part of that portrait. My own teacher while I was a student in seminary told us that, before we began to write out our sermons, we should put a cross on the upper right hand corner of page 1 to remind ourselves that we must preach Christ crucified or we are not preaching the Word of God. Christ must not be tacked on to the sermon once in a while; He must not be “presupposed,” that is, simply assumed to be behind what is said. We must follow the example of Paul, who wrote, “we preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23). That is all we ever preach. Scripture is the full story of all God’s mighty works in Jesus Christ. So it is with the narratives; so it is with the exhortations; so it is with the poetry; so it is even with Genesis 1-11. Let no one think that he will never have enough to preach on, if he takes the position that every word speaks of Christ crucified. God’s works are infinite in their number and marvellous in their richness.
Put all that together and one has proof, irrefutable proof, of the fact that the Song of Solomon is a song that celebrates the union of Christ and His beloved church. Even the church in the old dispensation recognized that in this remarkable Song of Songs. The portrait of Christ in the Holy Scriptures would be impoverished if the Song of Solomon were not part of the canon. Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Ballymena Lecture

Living Wisely in a Digital Age

 This very practical speech will address a serious concern in our day: the attachment of many young people (and adults!) to their phones and digital devices. Is this healthy? Does this serve real flesh-and-blood or face-to-face contact? How does this affect family life and the friendships of Christian youth?  What of their church life and the communion of the saints? What of the dangers of pornography? 

Speaker:
Rev. Nathan Decker
(Michigan, USA)

Wednesday, 24 January 
at 7:45 PM

Venue:
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

(83 Clarence Street,
Ballymena BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 

www.cprc.co.uk

Rev. Decker will also preach at both Lord’s Day services on 21 January
The sermons and lecture will be streamed live 
at www.cprf.co.uk/live.html
 

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 25 January
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart


Subject:
God's Saving Will in the New Testament
 
What does the New Testament say about what God wishes, wills, desires or wants? Does He ever desire anything He does not get? Does He ever want anything He decrees will not happen? How do Gods’ eternity, unchangeability and omnipotence fit  with His wishes? And what does all this say about Christ and His cross?

NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprc.co.uk
www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
Bound to Join: Letters on Church Membership
by David J. Engelsma
(184 pp., hardback) 

Some professing Christians deny the necessity of church membership. Others join a church for unsubstantial reasons or leave a church for trivial, often selfish, reasons. Many remain members of apostatizing churches because of family or traditional ties. Some Christians find themselves in countries or areas where no true church exists or can be formed. They ask, sometimes in anguish, “What must we do?” In the form of letters to an inquiring (though not always appreciative) European audience, this book addresses the issue of church membership in the twenty-first century.  This instruction is applicable to all believers and is based on Scripture, the Belgic Confession (1561) and the important, but little known, controversy of John Calvin with the Nicodemites.
 
£8.80 (inc. P&P)

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
on-line, by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851
.
Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!

Church Authority

5 classes on Belgic Confession 32 (Vol. XXIV)
on CD in a box set


Many today have never heard of church authority or think it a subject of little value. But if a congregation or denomination does not know and practise this biblical truth, it is headed for disaster! Listen to these eye-opening classes and marvel at the biblical and Reformed teaching on the church’s ministerial exercise of Christ’s authority for the edification and not the destruction of the saints.

(1) Church Authority (Matt. 28:9-20)
(2) Church Authority: Source and Parties (Isa. 9:1-7)
(3) The Nature of Church Authority (II Cor. 10)
(4) The Standard of Church Authority (Col. 2:4-23)
(5) Church Authority: Ecclesiastical Laws and Discipline (II Cor. 13)

£6/box set (inc. P&P)

LIsten free on-line
or order from the
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!
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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - December 2017

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI
18 December, 2017

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Visit of the Engelsmas

DREngelsma 2017We greatly enjoyed the visit of Prof. and Mrs. Engelsma (19 October-6 November). The CPRC invited them for two main reasons. First, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and our congregation wanted to celebrate this wonderful occasion. Prof. Engelsma is a man who embodies the Reformation, so we asked him to give lectures on this great theme and preach in the CPRC. Second, the latter enabled me to fill the pulpit of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF), while Rev. McGeown was in America speaking at Reformation conferences in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Loveland, Colorado.

Our Reformation commemorations began with a half-day conference on Saturday, 21 October. Prof. spoke powerfully on “Martin Luther: Theologian of the Glory of God” and “Justification in Paul and in James,” while the ladies served a lovely lunch between the two speeches. Carolyn and Erik Prins (Trinity PRC) were present, as were three friends from Wales and a brother from England, plus local visitors.

Prof. Engelsma's other lectures dealt with key figures and truths of the Reformation: “Martin Luther: Man of Conviction” (Friday, 27 October) and “Calvin's Doctrine of the Covenant” (Friday, 3 November).

The 6 Sunday sermons by Prof. Engelsma also addressed vital Reformation subjects. All of his 10 public speeches are online on audio and video, with the latter including some question-and-answer sessions. They were made into an attractive box set of DVDs or CDs. It is available for £10 in the UK and $20 in the US (inc. P&P).

Ref500 lecture CPRC NI

We paid for advertisements twice in the Belfast News Letter and the Ballymena Guardian. The latter paper also published two articles about Prof. Engelsma's visit. The saints in the CPRC were very encouraged by our brother's labours in our midst. A good number joined us live online, and his videos have received a lot of attention.

Internet Witness

The CPRC now has over 2,000 videos on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/CPRCNI). Very appropriately for a congregation that is called the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, our 2,000th video was Prof. Engelsma's lecture on “Calvin's Doctrine of the Covenant.” Our thanks to Stephen Murray, our audio-visual man, for his labour of putting the videos online every week for many years. It is working too, for we have now had over 1/4 million video watches on our YouTube channel.

Over 3,000 people have subscribed to the CPRC Facebook page. Though this is hardly what Mark Zuckerberg intended, it has helped us get out the Reformed faith and reach new translators.

In our online languages section, Hungarian saw the biggest growth in the last two months, thanks to Bálint Vásárhelyi and Tibor Bognár. With their 10 recent written translations, we now have 216 pieces in Hungarian (www.cprf.co.uk/languages/hungarian.html). We also added a second sermon video with Hungarian subtitles: “The Sovereignty of God (II).” Now we have 27 videos in 4 foreign languages: Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian, and French (www.youtube.com). We added 3 more Russian pieces, including material from Prof. Engelsma's Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, and 3 Danish pieces, thanks to a faithful pastor from Denmark. A brother in India translated “Knowing the True God,” a pamphlet by Rev. Houck, into Hindi. Is this the first Protestant Reformed writing online in Hindi?

Varia

The CPRC has used various means to honour the work of Jesus Christ through the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. These include Prof. Engelsma's excellent Reformation speeches, letters in the local press, five installments on “What Is a Protestant?” in the Covenant Reformed News and a 12-sermon series on the great Reformation truth of “Righteousness by Faith Alone” (Rom. 4).

Other recent writings on this subject include “The Reformation and the Nature of the Church” for the Standard Bearer, “Martin and Katie Luther: A Reformation Marriage” for the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, and “Martin Luther and God's Saving Righteousness” for the British Reformed Journal.

I spoke on “Martin Luther's Great Discovery” for the Limerick Reformed Fellowship on Saturday, 28 October. An encouraging number attended, including some people we had never seen before, and we had a good question session afterwards. At this meeting in Limerick and at Prof. Engelsma's lectures, we sold books, and CD and DVD box sets at reduced prices.

In order to promote the Reformed Witness Hour (RWH) in the British Isles, we posted RWH booklets along with the Covenant Reformed News. The RWH gave us these spare copies for free and we waited until we had gotten enough of them across the Atlantic before mailing them with the News. Hopefully, more people will tune in to the RWH radio programme that we sponsor and that is broadcast from outside Londonderry in Northern Ireland on Sunday mornings (8:30-9:00 A.M. on Radio North/Gospel 846 AM or MW) or go to their website (www.reformedwitnesshour.org).

The British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) conference on “The Reformed Family— According to the Word of God” (21-28 July, 2018) is drawing nearer. Booking forms, including prices, are (or very soon will be) online (www.britishreformed.org). You are all very warmly invited to join us at Hebron Hall in South Wales. Prof. Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning will be our main speakers. It promises to be a rich time of fellowship and growth under the Word of God.

Thank you for your support and prayers, and for your cards. Our covenant “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love” (Heb. 6:10). May the Lord be with you all!

In Christ,
Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - December 2017

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.limerickreformed.com/
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Building 2017 2Life on the mission field without a church building has its challenges. As you know, we rent a room in Conradh na Gaelige, an Irish language centre, in Limerick city. Until recently, we were on the first floor, with a main room for the worship service and an adjacent room for a “cry room” and storage (of the lectern, psalm books, Bibles, pamphlets, etc.). For various reasons, we recently moved downstairs to An Cistin, which translates as “The kitchen.” There are fewer stairs, which is helpful for Bill and Jimmy, who find the stairs a challenge. The bathrooms are on the same floor, which again reduces the need to climb stairs. The seats are also slightly more comfortable (cloth-covered instead of bare wood). And there is a kitchen, so we can make tea or coffee after the services on occasion.

As a small fellowship with several young children (ranging from 8 months to 6 years) we faced the problem of a lack of “cry room” facilities. To make matters worse, the kitchen has a wooden cabinet filled with delicate—and I presume expensive—china, something we don’t want little hands to handle! Therefore, some arranging of furniture is necessary every week to block off the cabinet and to free up some space for a nursery and cry room (during church) and a play area (after church). The next thing we need to do is to find a way to make it possible for parents with crying children to hear the service in the cry room. The door separating the two rooms is quite thick, which blocks out most of the sound. Our “tech experts” are working on a way to install speakers in the cry room. Thankfully, the saints are cooperating together on this, so that parents and children, young and old, can feel comfortable in public worship. “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).

Building 2017 1
Catechism with Sebastian (6) and Jason (5) is going well. Both boys learn their lessons well and are enthusiastic listeners and contributors. Last week, we reached the history of Isaac (Old Testament History for Beginners, Lesson 11). Catechism also continues (via Google hangout) with my nieces, Anna, Lily, and Hope; and with Chester and Dale Mansona (we are currently studying the Canons of Dordt, having finished the Belgic Confession). The other regular church activities are the Bible studies: the Tuesday evening study recently began Ezra (we have reached chapter 3—the postexilic history is fascinating, but less known than other Bible history); while the Bible study in the Mansona home has finished Romans chapter 1—the truth of God giving people and nations over to sin is both sobering and relevant in our day!

Building 2017 3

Yesterday morning, I finished a series on “The Coming of the Holy Spirit of Christ,” with the peculiar history of Acts 19:1-7: “The Spirit Coming on Certain Disciples of John.” I have almost finished my fourth series through the Heidelberg Catechism, having preached on the Sixth Petition yesterday evening.

I have also given speeches recently in Wales (23 November) and in Limerick (9 December). The latter speech was the seventeenth “Back to Basics” lecture, this time on “Peace with God.” These speeches are relatively short and simple introductions to the Christian faith. Rev. Stewart also gave a special lecture in Limerick (28 October), which we entitled, “Luther’s Great Discovery,” with 13 in attendance. I was also invited to speak on 24 November at the United Youth Rally of some local Welsh Evangelical churches. The meeting was hosted by the church of Brian Harris, who arranged for me to speak with his pastor’s permission. I spoke on “Who Is Jesus?” to a group of 55-60 people (mostly late teens and early twenties, with a few older people and one or two children). It was an enjoyable experience, and I stayed at the Harris’s house for one night and at a hotel (near the airport) for the second night. That weekend, Julian Kennedy from the CPRC came to visit.

On the weekend of 1 October, three young men from Michigan visited the LRF: Jason Corson, David Kalsbeek, and Eric Schipper. Our little fellowship enjoys visitors, so we would like to encourage as much of that as possible. With Dale Mansona we did a “walking tour” of Limerick. Do not forget the possibility of “Study Abroad” programmes at the University of Limerick, and the British Reformed Conference this summer!

Under the category of “evangelism” I mention my visit to Michigan and Colorado to participate in two Reformation conferences. First, I spoke on 28 October in Grand Rapids, MI; and second, I spoke on 4 November in Loveland, CO. Both conferences were very enjoyable. It was great to meet (Rev.) David and Ruth Torlach again (as Prof Cammenga mentioned at the Conference in Michigan, David graduated—with (Rev.) Dan Holstege and me—in the top three of his class!). In Colorado, I preached in Loveland on 5 November, taught a church history class on John Wycliffe in the Protestant Reformed school, and gave a short presentation on the LRF to the study hall group. What a blessing to see Christian education in action! Blake DeBoer, one of the teachers in Loveland, brought me to see Estes Park. It was a joy to meet the saints in Loveland, a congregation that I had not previously visited.

The exciting news, of course, is that Larisa DeJong and I are engaged to be married! But I am sure most of you already knew that, for Prof Cammenga announced it at the Reformation Conference, and, even without that publicity, news travels fast. Larisa and I are happily making plans for our wedding. We thank you for your prayerful support and for your many congratulations.

Pray for us, as we do for you,

In Christian love,
Rev. Martyn McGeown

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