Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland


83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT43 5DR, Northern Ireland

Services: 11:00 A.M. & 6:00 P.M.


Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

Phone: (from U.S.A.) 011 (44) 28 25 891 851

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Covenant Reformed News - January 2023

Covenant Reformed News

January 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 9


The Blessings of the Messianic Era

New Testament believers, Galatians 3:26 asserts, “are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” The word “children” here is literally “sons.” According to its context, God’s (human) “sons” are contrasted with unbelievers (e.g., Heb. 12:5-8) or the contrast is between the New Testament church as a mature son—and in which believers are “sons” (Gal. 4:5-6)—over against the Old Testament church as an immature child.

The latter is the idea here (1-7). The New Testament church is a grown-up, mature, adult son, whereas the Old Testament church, was an immature child who was placed under the Mosaic law as a “schoolmaster” to guard, discipline and supervise him (3:24, 25; cf. 4:2). Thus Galatians 3:26 begins with the word “For,” indicating that it gives the reason for verse 25: “after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children [i.e., sons] of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (25-26).

Consider a man who wants a babysitter or a childminder to look after himself! He desires to get back into the playpen and start playing with a rattle again. He longs for someone to walk him by the hand to kindergarten or primary school. Everybody would rightly think, “That guy has a massive psychological problem!”

Likewise, what are we to make of groups in the New Testament age who want to go back to keeping the Mosaic law, including the ceremonial and/or civil laws? The Hebrew Roots movement seeks to bring back the system of laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy! The Christian Reconstructionists desire to restore the civil laws in the Pentateuch! The dispensationalists look forward to the return of the ceremonial and civil laws of Moses in their future, earthly, literal millennium!

Don’t any of these groups understand the glorious privileges and dignity of the New Testament church? The full and profound faith concerning the incarnation and cross of the eternal Son of God has come (Gal. 3:25)! Don’t you get it? The days of the Mosaic pedagogue are over for “we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (25)! Don’t you see? The New Testament church is now grown-up and mature, “For ye are all the children [i.e., sons] of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (26)!

Paul explains, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (27). This refers to our real, inward, spiritual baptism into the Lord Jesus, which is signified and sealed by the sacrament of water baptism in the name of the Triune God.

Our baptism is far better than circumcision. First, unlike the rite of circumcision, baptism is not bloody or painful. Second, unlike the Old Testament ceremony of circumcision, water baptism is catholic or universal, for females as well as males.

By God’s grace, we “have put on,” and so are clothed with, “Christ” Himself (27). In Him alone, we have both imputed righteousness and imparted sanctification, and all the blessings of salvation. We do not physically wear the rough garment of a prophet, the white linen of a priest or the royal robe of a king. We are clothed with Christ Himself. Thus we appear before God clothed in Him, with His standing, character, graces and life.

What a garment! Consider its extent: it covers us completely. Consider its permanence: it never wears out and it is never taken off. Consider its possession: it is really and truly ours by faith alone in Jesus! This heavenly clothing covers my nakedness, protects my weakness, expresses my allegiance and makes me beautiful.

One could argue that the “For” at the beginning of Galatians 3:27 gives a reason why New Testament believers are God’s sons: “ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (26-27). It is also true that the “For” at the beginning of Galatians 3:27 gives a reason why New Testament believers are not required to keep the Mosaic civil and ceremonial laws: “But after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster … For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (25, 27).

The apostle adds, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (28). This is one of the most foolishly and wickedly perverted texts in Scripture. It is often appealed to as if it supported unbelieving feminism’s usurpation of church office by women (cf. I Tim. 2:12).

Galatians 3:28 has been abused in this way for many decades by extremely liberal churches and theologians, like Krister Stendhal, a Swedish Lutheran. But this text is not dealing with church office; deacons, ruling elders and teaching elders are treated in I Timothy 3, Titus 1, etc. The subject in Galatians 3:28 is salvation in Jesus Christ in the New Testament age for the catholic or universal church! It is dealing not with the special offices of pastor, elder or deacon but with the office of believer!

In its context, Galatians 3:28 speaks of the development of the history of redemption from the age of the Mosaic law to that of the New Testament gospel. The salvation which we have in our incarnate, crucified and risen Lord Jesus is far richer and deeper than that presented by Mosaism!

“There is neither Jew nor Greek” (28) for, in the Christian era, there is no national or ethnic distinction in salvation. Hence all the Old Testament laws regarding unclean foods (Lev. 11; Deut. 14), the land of Canaan, worship at a physical tabernacle or temple, etc., are abrogated. There is now full equality of salvation in Christ irrespective of all nationality!

Moreover, “there is neither bond nor free” (Gal. 3:28). This declares the end of the Mosaic laws regarding the children, wounding, goring and releasing of slaves (e.g., Ex. 21). There is full equality in Jesus in the New Testament church, for we are all Christ’s slaves and the Lord’s free men (I Cor. 7:22).

Also “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). The days in which females do not partake of the initiatory sacrament (i.e., circumcision) are over, for now both genders are baptized. The Mosaic legislation concerning men and women as regards purification after childbirth (Lev. 12), bodily discharges (Lev. 15), pilgrimage to an earthly holy place, inheritance, military service, etc., is rescinded.

Why? “for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28)! The full equality in salvation of all believers in the New Testament age and the unity of the catholic or universal church rest upon our spiritual union with Christ! Rev. Angus Stewart


Relics and Elisha’s Bones (2)

We continue with this question, submitted by one of our readers: “If God forbids us to have relics or to venerate the dead, why was the soldier resurrected from the dead after touching Elisha’s bones in II Kings 13:20-21?”

We have seen that the veneration of relics is both foolish and sinful. Though spittle and clay, handkerchiefs, garments, Peter’s shadow and Elisha’s bones were used in healing the sick and raising the dead, there is no power in them and they may not be worshipped. They were only means used by God and by those He sent. He alone, in Christ, may be worshipped, as the first two commandments require.

It is worth noting that God does not work such miracles or any miracles through men any more, miracles such as were done by Elisha’s bones, by Peter’s shadow or by handkerchiefs and aprons from the hand of Paul. In the New Testament, such miracles were signs of an apostle: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (II Cor. 12:12). Though there are those who claim to be apostles today, their claims are bogus, for one of the qualifications of an apostle was that a man be an eyewitness of the risen Christ (I Cor. 9:1).

Do we not believe in miracles, then? We do. All God’s works are miraculous. He works every day in the sea what Jesus did by the Sea of Galilee when He multiplied fish. God performs every year in the fields what Christ did when He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000 with miraculous multiplications of bread. God also does things in our lives for which there is no “natural” explanation. Some are healed by God’s hand when the doctors have given up and all available medicines have failed. Some are rescued from death when there is no human power that could have rescued them. God still works miracles, but not now by men and never by relics.

What, then, is the point of the narrative in II Kings 13 and what is its purpose in God’s Word? A correct answer to this question will help us see that the story of the man raised by Elisha’s bones has nothing to do with the veneration of relics.

II Kings 13:20-21 reads, “Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” That is one of only ten such miracles in the Bible (counting the resurrection of Jesus) and of three in the Old Testament.

The miracles of the prophet Elisha are unique in the Old Testament. More than any of the other miracles of the Old Testament, they pointed ahead to Christ’s miracles. No one in the Old Testament except Elijah and Elisha raised the dead; only Elisha multiplied food (II Kings 4:42-44); he alone healed a leper (5:1-14); only he paid someone’s debt by a miracle (4:1-7). The correspondence is not perfect but many of Elisha’s miracles are similar to those of Jesus. Also, apart from Moses, Israel’s great lawgiver, the miracles of Elisha are more numerous than those of any other Old Testament figure.

Is there, then, a correspondence between the miracle recorded in II Kings 13 and the work of Jesus? We believe there is: that what happened when that man was raised by Elisha’s bones is similar to what happened at the death of Jesus: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:50-53).

In both cases, we see the victory over death that Jesus brings and the power of God in Jesus to bring life out of death. His death is the death of death and the beginning of our new life. This is the point of the story of Elisha’s bones. It is not an encouragement to look for and keep relics or to put our trust in things, but a reminder that death is swallowed up in victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, a reminder that “if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him” (II Tim. 2:11). Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). That is the good news of the gospel, not the fact that handkerchiefs and aprons, clay and spittle, and old bones were once used by God to heal or to bring people back to this life.

Raised from the dead by the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we begin already in this life to live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and to experience a severing of the ties that bound us to this fallen world: “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “For our conversation [i.e., citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

When we die, it is the death of Jesus that makes the burial of our bodies only a “sleep” until He comes again. It is Christ’s death that ensures our presence in Paradise at the moment of death and that guarantees the resurrection of our bodies at the end of this age. This is the point of the narrative in II Kings 13. Having begun already in this life the life of heaven, we “go on unto perfection” and to that glory which no eye has seen or ear heard—all by the power of Jesus’ death and His resurrection!  Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant PRC-N. Ireland Newsletter - January 2023

CPRC News Header
Ballymena, N. Ireland
5 January, 2023

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

At the start of this new year, we thought it would be good to update you on the Lord’s work in our midst, and to thank you for your prayers and support.  We appreciate the cards and e-mails that some of you have sent us, though we are not able to respond to all of them.  We trust that this letter to all will also serve as a satisfactory reply to those who have contacted us.


Since our last letter, two covenant children have been baptized in the CPRC:  Elsie (9 October), a daughter of David and Kristin Crossett, and Jude (11 December), a son of Joe and Lisa McCaughern.  Elsie’s grandparents, Bob and Carolyn Prins, and her uncle Andrew from Trinity PRC in W. Michigan were present, as were many of Jude’s relatives, on these respective blessed occasions.

Billy and Val McCaughern, Jude’s grandparents, were received as members on 25 December, when they were able to join the rest of the confessing congregation at the Lord’s table.  Billy had been an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  It is lovely to have them with us.

Some of the saints pointed out that there had been times when the volume of the audio of the Sunday services pumped into the cry room was too low.  A technician fitted an amplifier control button in the room in time for the worship services on 16 October, so now those with small children in the cry room can hear well.

On 19 October, Timothy Spence left for Australia, stopping off for a few days in Singapore to enjoy fellowship and worship with the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, our sister church.  Tim is working as a doctor in Australia for a year or so and has settled in well with the saints in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Launceston, Tasmania, pastored by Rev. Mark Shand.

This year, there are 26 children in five catechism or pre-confession classes.  The mid-year tests took place last week (18 December) and the kids did well.  Last Friday, we held a games night at church, which was well attended by both adults and children (30 December).


In the late summer, we completed an 11-sermon series on Psalm 69, entitled, “The Most Avoided Messianic Psalm.”  Psalm 69 is appealed to thrice in the Gospel According to John (2:17; 15:25; 19:28-30), twice in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (11:9-10; 15:3) and once in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles (1:20) regarding Christ’s ministry and cross, and those who betrayed and reproached Him.  Why then does most of the church world avoid this inspired messianic song?  Because it includes imprecations, teaches particular atonement, and opposes both a desire of God to save the reprobate and a universal or common grace.  Moreover, Psalm 69 clearly records the sovereign will and prevailing prayers of our Lord Jesus Himself, especially from the cross ( com/playlist?list=PL2Y5Eq5r6y2EbmQYH8fHr1kU0khongBB6)

“Faith or Works” is the title of the series of 10 sermons on Galatians 3.  Over against all Judaizing, Galatians 3 contains powerful teaching on justification in Christ (13), the Seed of Abraham (16), and by faith alone without works (1-14).  It explains more clearly than any where else in Scripture the relationships between the Abrahamic covenant promise, the Mosaic law and the New Testament faith (15-29).

Our Tuesday morning classes on “Saving Faith:  A Biblical and Theological Analysis” have been progressing well.  In the last few months, we considered faith in connection with, first, authority and, second, reason.  Many err by placing the authority for their faith in the wrong place: the Roman magisterium, science, a charismatic minister, political correctness, fallible tradition, one’s own intellect, etc. (cf. I Cor. 2:5).  We looked at Scripture’s teaching on natural revelation, natural theology, natural religion and natural law, and contrasted this with Thomas Aquinas and Roman Catholicism, before turning to John Calvin’s biblical theology regarding the sensus divinitatis and the semen religionis, namely, the ineradicable sense of divinity and seed of religion in every human being, as well as man’s conscience as an essential part of his humanity under God—things that the spirit of our age is trying desperately to stamp out!

The Ballymena Times onine version carried a short article I sent in regarding our Wednesday night “Classes on the End Times” (16 September).  In our seven classes on “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9,” we presented and critiqued Dispensationalism’s literalist view of Daniel 9:24-27, considering the first 7 weeks, the middle 62 weeks, and the 70th week.  Then we explained the correct and historic teaching of this powerful passage in terms of seven key words, all of which begin with the third letter of the alphabet:  Christ, cross, covenant, chronology, coming, counsel and comfort in Daniel 9:24-27.

Then we had six classes on “The Signs of Christ’s Return,” considering them collectively or as a group.  We introduced, identified, and classified the eschatological signs spoken of in Scripture, before turning to their idea and characteristics, as well as people’s responses to them.  We also looked at the Old Testament and the signs of Christ’s second coming, and we compared and contrasted them with the signs of the end of the world in Judaism and Islam (

Prof. Engelsma’s two volumes on The Church’s Hope were published at a good time for these classes on the last things and many attendees have bought them.  Stephen Murray, our audio-visual man, has produced box sets of the two sermon series (on Psalm 69 and Galatians 3) and the two topics in eschatology (“The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9” and “The Signs of Christ’s Return”).  All the Lord’s day sermons and the Wednesday night doctrine classes are recorded and placed on our website (, but not our more informal Tuesday morning meetings.


In the 153 days since our last letter (5 August), we have added 125 translations in 11 languages (  All of The Reformed Worldview book by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma is now on-line in both Polish and Russian.  Through the fine work of Lilian from Kenya, our new translator into Swahili, the major African language in eastern parts of that vast continent, we now have 37 articles in her native tongue.  Of the 207 languages on our website, Spanish is the one that receives most hits.  In the last year or so, the Covenant Reformed News has gotten a lot of translations. Now for every English article in the News, we average more than two translations.

Lilian Kenya transl CPRC 2023

Lilian and her daughter

Here are the translations that Mary has put on our website in the last 5 months or so:  35 Polish, 23 Russian, 22 Hungarian, 21 Swahili, 12 Spanish, 5 Afrikaans, 2 Chinese (by a new translator in Malaysia), 2 Telugu (Apostles’ Creed and Heidelberg Catechism), 1 Tagalog, 1 Italian, and 1 Arabic (Canons of Dordt).

Late in the summer, Mary and I visited places in and around the historic border between England and Wales (22-26 August).  We had two major purposes: first, to meet friends and give a lecture in South Wales on “The Two Ages in Eschatology” (25 August), and, second, to check out possible venues for BRF conferences and places suitable for the day trips that would occur during such conferences.  We visited three possible conference sites, and spoke with managers and staff.  We toured abbeys, aqueducts, battlefields, bridges, canals, museums, Roman remains, interesting towns, etc., so as to make recommendations for the BRF Council.

In our last letter, we mentioned the subject and speakers that were chosen for the next BRF conference by the attendees at July’s BRF conference in Northern Ireland.  Now we can also announce the BRF Council’s decision regarding the venue and dates.  The BRF has booked Cloverley Hall in Shropshire, England, near the border with Wales ( for a week (3-10 August) in the summer of 2024.  We are looking forward to Prof. Brian Huizinga and Rev. Ronald Hanko unfolding to us wonderful truths in the area of eschatology concerning the glorious return of our Saviour!  The conference is now less than 19 months away.

Cloveryley Hall BRF 2024

Cloverley Hall

May the Lord preserve and bless you in this coming year, as we look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

In Him,
Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart


Covenant Reformed News - December 2022


Covenant Reformed News

December 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 8


The Abrogation of the Mosaic Law

Galatians 3:25 declares this good news: “after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” “The faith” is spoken of twice in verse 23 and once in verse 25 as something that “came” and was “revealed.” In the context, it is equivalent to the Christ who “came” and was “revealed” some 2,000 years ago.

Christ is especially the object of our faith as the One in whom we are called to believe, for believing in Him is believing in the Triune God (John 12:44; 14:1; I Pet. 1:21). The faith of the church is in the incarnate, crucified and risen Lord Jesus, as the One who reveals the Father and sends the Spirit, as the gospel declares.

Before the coming of “the faith” as recorded in the New Testament, the people of God were “under the law” of Moses (Gal. 3:23), including Israel’s ceremonial and civil laws, such as these four. (1) What happened if a Jew touched a dead body, either in battle or accidentally or some other way? He was ceremonially unclean for a week and needed the application of the ashes of a red heifer (Num. 19). (2) Numbers 6 records the Nazarite vow of a special consecration to God. Not only was the Nazarite forbidden to touch a dead body, but he was also divinely prohibited from cutting his hair and drinking any liquor or wine, or eating any product of the vine. (3) What if a man stole livestock in Israel and killed or sold the animals, and was caught? He had to restore 4 sheep for 1 sheep and 5 oxen for 1 ox (Ex. 22:1). (4) What had to be done if there was an unsolved murder in the Jewish countryside? Deuteronomy 21:1-9 required that a measurement be made to ascertain the nearest town or village. The elders of that place were then to behead a heifer and wash their hands over the decapitated beast’s carcass.

Should we in the New Testament church go back to this? The incarnation of the eternal Word is far greater than the civil and ceremonial codes given by Moses (John 1:14-18)! Christ and His cross is our “reconciliation” and “everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24); do we really need the ashes of a red heifer (Heb. 9:13-14)? Since Jesus died and rose again, so that now we are dead to the dominion of sin and alive to God through His Spirit (Rom. 6), men do not need to grow long hair and stop eating raisins in consecration to the Lord as did the Nazarites. Since the exalted Christ has received the fulness of the Holy Spirit and rules the entire universe from His heavenly throne, does God really require us to remember the specific ratio for sheep or oxen to be restored by the cattle rustler? In a baffling rural murder, now that the church is catholic or universal, must we still identify the nearest village to the corpse and decapitate a heifer?

The “schoolmaster” that the New Testament church is “no longer under” “after that [the] faith is come” (Gal. 3:25) is the Mosaic law (17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24). The Greek word rendered “schoolmaster” (24, 25) tells us that the law of Moses was a guardian, a disciplinarian and a supervisor to look after “children,” for that is how the Old Testament church is described (4:3).

In the period from Moses to Christ, the people of God were “under the law” (3:23), that is, “under a schoolmaster” or pedagogue (25). Galatians 4 describes the Mosaic law, that pedagogue for Old Testament Israel, as elementary (3, 9), “weak” (9) and “beggarly” (9), even stating that it brings “bondage” (3, 7, 9, 21-31). Galatians 3 declares that the law of Moses was restrictive (22, 23), before adding, thankfully, that, in the history of redemption, it was merely preparatory (24) and temporary (25)!

In the last two millennia, sadly, various parties have corrupted the biblical truth regarding law and gospel, faith and works. First, some preach salvation by faith and works, e.g., Roman Catholicism and liberal Protestantism. Second, others teach (or claim to teach) salvation by faith (though they rarely, if ever, say “faith alone”) and the necessity of observing all the Mosaic law, e.g., some in the Hebrew Roots movement. Third, others maintain that salvation is conditioned on faith in Christ and works, and that the Mosaic law is still binding in the New Testament age, e.g., the Judaizers condemned in Galatians and Philippians 3.

We may also identify at least three erroneous positions regarding which parts of the Mosaic law ought to be kept. First, the Christian reconstructionists want to reimpose the civil, but not the ceremonial, laws of Moses upon all nations in their postmillennial kingdom. Second, the premillennial dispensationalists maintain that Christ Himself will bring back both the civil and ceremonial laws of Moses (modified according to a literalistic reading of Ezekiel 40-48) in their literal millennium, after their secret rapture and their literal seven-year tribulation. This disposes some dispensationalists to keep elements of the Mosaic law now and/or to get things ready for their literal millennial kingdom, e.g., by breeding red heifers. Third, the Hebrew Roots movement seeks the religious observation of the whole system of the law of Moses (including both civil and ceremonial laws) now as well as in a future earthly millennium.

But what does Galatians 3:25 proclaim? “But after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” with the “schoolmaster” being “the law” (24) of Moses (17, 18, 19, 21, 23)! With the coming of Christ, the full New Testament faith and the gathering of the catholic or universal church, the Mosaic law, with all its civil and ceremonial codes, is “no longer” required by God and never again will be in the future!

Professing Christians ought not hanker after the civil and/or ceremonial laws of Moses. A massive change in the history of redemption took place in “the fulness of the time” with Christ’s incarnation, redemption and pouring out of the Holy Spirit (4:4-7), and the completion of scriptural revelation. This transformation is far better in every way! Do not follow the Hebrew Roots movement or any false doctrine concerning the Mosaic law. Instead, embrace the riches of the gospel summed in the epistle to the Hebrews: the better covenant with its better promises, better hope and better country, because of the better sacrifice of the better high priest, our Lord Jesus Christ! Rev. Angus Stewart



Relics and Elisha’s Bones (1)

One of our readers sent the following interesting question: “If God forbids us to have relics or to venerate the dead, why was the soldier resurrected from the dead after touching Elisha’s bones in II Kings 13:20-21?”

Relics are things, even body parts such as pieces of bone or teeth, that are connected with Jesus and His life or with Jesus’ family members, the apostles, martyrs or others who are deemed saints by Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Buddhism, Islam or other religions. They are supposed to have some spiritual value, miraculous or otherwise, and for that reason are often worshipped. In Roman Catholicism, veneration is supposedly a lesser form of worship offered to these relics, of which there are thousands.

Such things have no spiritual value at all. We see this in the example of Hezekiah who “brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan [i.e., a piece of brass]” (II Kings 18:4). One can understand why the Jews had a high regard for the brasen serpent, for it was an object from their wilderness wanderings in the days of Moses, the great lawgiver. Nevertheless, Hezekiah was right in calling it a piece of brass and destroying it, so that they could not worship it.

A piece of brass or a bone is only that, no matter to whom it belonged. A hank of hair or a fragment of wood, even if it came from the “true cross,” is hair or wood and has no spiritual value. Paul makes that point in a negative way about meat sacrificed to idols (e.g., I Cor. 8; 10:23-33). No matter where it was bought or whether it was the carcass of an animal offered to some heathen god, it was only meat. The spiritual danger, Paul says, is (1) in the conscience of the person who cannot eat it without thinking of his former idolatry or (2) in the conduct of the person who is not careful to avoid offending the weaker brother. Meat is only meat with no power to save or destroy spiritually.

God forbids having relics for the purpose of worship, as the first and second commandments teach us. God alone must be worshiped and He “neither can nor may be represented by any means. But as to creatures, though they may be represented, yet God forbids to make or have any resemblance of them either in order to worship them or to serve God by them” (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 97).

Nor may we worship men or angels, not even their bones or feathers (the Spanish palace, El Escorial, claims to have a feather from the archangel Gabriel, part of its collection of over 7,000 relics). John was forbidden to worship the angel who spoke with him: “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9). Worthy of note in this passage is the word used for “worship,” a word much the same as the word “venerate.” Only God may be venerated.

As an aside, I am appalled when I go in the local Christian bookstores by the things I see, not much different in themselves or in their use from the relics of apostate Christianity or heathenism. I see WWJD bracelets, pocket tokens, religious jewellery of various kinds that is supposed to have some spiritual significance or be of some spiritual help, bottled Jordan River water, anointing oil, pictures that are a violation of the second commandment, items of clothing with a religious message, etc. Not all of this is per se wrong but, where it becomes a “help” to one’s spirituality, an object of trust or a substitute for real spirituality, it is not much different from the veneration of relics.

II Kings 13:20-21 states, “Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” The burial party was more shocked by the man’s resurrection than by the marauding Moabites!

Graves in Israel were caves, either natural or man-made, usually sealed with a stone, as was the tomb of Jesus. II Kings does not give us many details, but the burial party either opened Elisha’s cave tomb, in their haste to get rid of the body they were carrying, or for some reason his tomb was open, so that the body of the dead man, instead of being placed in his own tomb, was thrown into Elisha’s and was raised by Elisha’s bones.

That the miracle is no encouragement to superstition is clear in several ways. There is no evidence that Elisha’s bones, either before or after this event, were objects of worship, were used to serve God or were used for other miracles. Nor is there evidence that they were kept as relics. Elisha’s bones stayed in his tomb where they belonged. Nor is it likely that his bones became an object of worship since any contact with a dead body made an Israelite ceremonially unclean (Num. 19:11).

What happened is not much different from the woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment (Matt. 19:20-22), the blind man whom He cured with clay and water (John 9:6-7) or those who were healed by handkerchiefs brought from the apostle Paul (Acts 19:12). Some in our day sell handkerchiefs and other objects that have been “blessed” by charismatics, promising healing through them. Not only is this making merchandise of the gospel but it is utter nonsense. There is no power in these things.

The power to heal the woman with an issue of blood did not reside in Jesus’ garment but in Him, as He said, “I perceive that virtue is gone out of me” (Luke 8:46), nor was anyone else healed by touching His garment in the press of the multitude. Acts 19 tells us that these miracles were unusual and ascribes no power at all to the “handkerchiefs or aprons” (11): “God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul” (12). Likewise, the power of the cross lies not in a chunk of wood but in Him who died on the cross.

Those who trust in such things, like those who look for the ark of the covenant or Noah’s ark, make a fundamental mistake. Even if the ark of the covenant or Noah’s ark could be found, it would not change one unbelieving heart or strengthen the faith of a child of God one iota. Faith is a gift of God and rests in Jesus Christ through the Word of God. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Act. 4:12)! Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
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. • •

Covenant Reformed News - November 2022

Covenant Reformed News

November 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 7


Christ’s Six Comings Before His Second Coming

Holy Scripture prophesies the future glorious bodily coming of our Lord Jesus in the clouds of heaven with His holy angels (e.g., Matt. 24:30-31; Rev. 1:7). From the New Testament, we may speak of six other comings of Christ, all of which precede His return at the end of this age. In the first three instances, our Saviour predicts specific events in the first century AD, whereas the next three speak of His ongoing comings throughout the last days, the period from His first coming to His second coming.

1) Transfiguration. Jesus told His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16:28; cf. Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). Immediately following these three texts, on a mountain in Galilee, our Lord’s face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light, picturing His glory at His second coming (II Pet. 1:16-18).

2) Pentecost. In the upper room, during His last week on earth, Christ promised His disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18)—by means of His representative, the Holy Spirit (16-17), who was poured out in Acts 2.

3) Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70). Our Saviour prophesied the destruction of the holy city as one way in which He would come: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” (Matt. 10:23; cf. 23:32-38). In answer to His disciples’ question regarding His (second) “coming” (24:3), Jesus referred to local and near events, typifying cosmic and final events, and averred regarding the former, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (34).

4) Preaching. The “voice” of the good shepherd calls His “sheep” “by name” so that they “follow” Him (John 10:3-4, 16, 27). In the light of Ephesians 2:17, which teaches that He “came and preached peace to you which were afar off [i.e., Gentiles], and to them that were nigh [i.e., Jews],” Christ comes (spiritually, not bodily) in faithful preaching wherever and whenever His truth is proclaimed (Rom. 10:14; Eph. 4:21).

5) Death of believers. On the evening before the cross, Jesus promised His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Thus the Son of man comes at the death of each and every one of His beloved saints to receive them unto Himself in heaven!

6) Signs of Christ’s return. Jesus declared, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). His promise, “I come quickly” (Rev. 22:7), is in the present, not the future, tense. Thus theologians note that there is an important sense in which Christ comes in the signs of the times: wars, earthquakes, persecution, apostasy, etc. (Matt. 24; Rev. 6-20). Rev. Angus Stewart



The Third Use of the Law

We continue in this article to address the following request: “Maybe Rev. Hanko can write an article on the role of the law in the conviction of sin, paving the way for the knowledge of Christ, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches in the knowledge of misery. Has it such a function, and what place has it in the regeneration of a sinner and in his growth in grace?”

We have seen that the law has an important and necessary function in showing us our depravity and sin, and our need for God’s great salvation. Now the question is: “Does the law have a place in the regeneration of a sinner and in his growth in grace, i.e., his sanctification?”

If we mean by “place” that the law has any power to regenerate or sanctify us, the answer is an unqualified “No.” Galatians 3:21 tells us plainly that the law cannot regenerate us: “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” The Word of God is saying here that, if the law were able to regenerate us and give us life, it would first have to be able to justify us and that it cannot do.

Nor can the law sanctify us, as is clear from Romans 8:3-4: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Having the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us and walking after the Spirit is sanctification and growth in grace, which are always and only the fruit of Christ’s work, and not something the law could do.

We do not mean, however, that the law has no connection with our regeneration and spiritual growth. When we are born again, regenerated, the Spirit of God writes the law in our hearts: “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: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:10-11; quoting Jer. 31:33-34).

The law does not give us the new life of regeneration, but, written in our hearts, it defines the boundaries of that new life that we have through regeneration and in Christ. When God created man, His moral law was a boundary for man’s life of fellowship with Himself. Within the boundaries of God’s law was life. Outside of those boundaries was death and so the law defined the boundaries of man’s fellowship with God.

God did something like that for all of His creatures. God’s law for a fish is that it must live in the water and, if that law is broken, the fish dies. God’s law for a tree is that it must be rooted in the earth and, if that law is broken, the tree dies. So it was with man who was created to live in relationship with God. God’s law for him was much more extensive but only within the boundaries of God’s law for him can he live in fellowship with God. Outside those boundaries is only death.

That does not change with our regeneration. When we are regenerated, God gives us life out of death, and also writes the law in our hearts and brings us back within the boundaries of the law (the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us). Thus the law continues to define, like a boundary, where a life of peace, blessedness and fellowship with God is found.

The law does this because the law is rooted in the nature of God Himself. It is grounded in the truths that He is the only God (the First Commandment), that He is spirit, so glorious that no eye has seen Him or can see Him (the Second Commandment), that He is so holy that even His name may not be uttered without reverence and fear (the Third Commandment), that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all (#4), sovereign (#5), the living God (#6), faithful (#7), Lord of all (#8), a God of truth (#9) and perfect (#10).

With its precepts, therefore, the law tells us what our life in relationship to Him must be, that we must be single-eyed and single-hearted in relationship to Him, that we must worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), that we must be holy as He is holy, fear and reverence Him, find our rest in Him, submit to Him, receive our life from Him, be faithful in all our relationships as He is faithful to us, seek all things from Him, walk in the truth and be perfect as He is.

Those precepts of the law are necessary because we are still sinners and are tempted to think that life, happiness and satisfaction can be found apart from Him in sin. The law, then, continues to remind us that it is not so. We also need those precepts because we are slow of heart and ignorant of His glory, and of what it means to love and serve Him. We need to be told over and over that love is not just a feeling but that love involves obedience: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Calvin says, “The Law acts like a whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth” (Institutes 2.7.12).

In regeneration, therefore, we are given a new life filled with the love of God and obedience to Him, and the law is written in our hearts to show us the way of life. The law does not preserve the life of regeneration. It does nothing to strengthen and sustain that new life of Christ in us. That life does not depend on the law for anything. Christ by His Spirit is the source, the strength, the blessedness, the help and the hope of that new life. He is our life (Gal. 2:20). The law is only a reminder and a guide.

The law has a similar function in our sanctification. It has no power to make us holy, or even keep us holy, but it is an important guide for holiness, the road map which we must follow as we walk the narrow way of life. Written not only on tables of stone but in the fleshy tables of our hearts, it becomes a guide that we know well and love. It shows us where danger threatens our relationship to God and to others whom we love. It shows us the path of peace and spiritual safety in worship, in family and marriage, in our work and even in our inward life.

This is what Psalm 119:105 has in mind: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Thus also Deuteronomy 32:46-47: “And he [i.e., Moses] said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.” Saved by grace, regenerated and renewed by the Spirit, a believer finds the law most useful and good.

Thus the law is a guide for gratitude also, for a life lived according to the precepts of the law is a life of gratitude to God, a life in which our thankfulness becomes more than just words. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people” (Ps. 116:12-14). In other words, “I really have nothing to give; all I can do is receive. In taking the cup of salvation, I will be thankful and will, by grace, pay my vows and serve to the utmost of my ability as long as I live.”

It is a guide for gratitude because, as the Westminster Larger Catechism explains, “[The law] is of special use, to shew them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good” (A. 97). The law, written upon our hearts and in the Word of God, constantly reminds us of what Jesus said: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10).

This, according to Calvin, is the third and principal use of the law: “The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the finger of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in which they still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge; just as a servant who desires with all his soul to approve himself to his master, must still observe, and be careful to ascertain his master’s dispositions, that he may comport himself in accommodation to them” (Institutes 2.7.12).

In short, God’s law is a mirror of our misery and so also a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, a lamp for living, a handbook for holiness and a guide for gratitude. What other response is possible but “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant Reformed News - October 2022


Covenant Reformed News

October 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 6


The Workers of Miracles

Who are the workers of miracles after Christ’s incarnation, atoning sacrifice on the cross and ascension into heaven? The biblical and Reformed answer is, “The apostles and a few others, and that only in the apostolic age.” However, Pentecostals and Charismatics would respond, “The apostles and many others in the apostolic age, and many since then.” Many renewalists claim that this includes apostles and prophets in the 1,900+ years since the deaths of the 12 apostles and Paul.

Let us look at the key New Testament book in this regard, Acts, beginning with two express statements that the 12 apostles wrought miracles. First, “many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (2:43). Second, “by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (5:12). These miracles were not wrought by (ordinary) believers. We do not read here of a miracle-working early church but of miracle-working apostles!

Acts records several miracles performed by the apostle Peter: the healing of the man born lame (3:1-4:22), the slaying of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), the curing or exorcizing of multitudes in and around Jerusalem (15-16), the raising of paralysed Aeneas (9:32-35) and the resurrecting of dead Tabitha (36-42).

A number of wonders wrought by the apostle Paul are spoken of in Acts. He blinded Elymas the sorcerer in Cyprus (13:9-12). In Iconium, he performed “signs and wonders” (14:3) with Barnabas, one of “prophets and teachers” in the church at Antioch who was sent by the Holy Spirit (13:1-2); he healed a crippled man at Lystra (14:8-10); he exorcised the female fortune-teller at Philippi (16:16-18). In Ephesus, God wrought healings and exorcisms by the unusual means of Paul’s “handkerchiefs” (19:11-12). Paul raised Eutychus from the dead in Troas (20:9-12) and had no ill effects from the poisonous bite of a snake in Malta (28:3-6). On that island, he also healed Publius of dysentery and fever, and others with various diseases (7-10).

Did any others perform miracles apart from those already mentioned? Yes, three men. First, there was Stephen, who “did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). He was one of the first seven deacons upon whom the 12 apostles laid their hands (1-6). Moreover, Acts 7 presents Stephen not only as the first Christian martyr but also a prophet for he received a heavenly vision of the exalted Christ (55-60).

Second, Philip wrought miracles in Samaria (8:6-7, 13). Not only was he, like Stephen, ordained a deacon by the apostles (6:1-6) but he was also, like Timothy (II Tim. 4:5), an evangelist (Acts 21:8), exercising an extraordinary temporary office, in which the person worked under and assisted the first-century apostles (Eph. 4:11).

Third, after Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, Ananias healed him of his blindness (Acts 9:12, 17-18). The Messiah who had earlier miraculously blinded Paul later sent Ananias to restore his sight miraculously. God did not use any of the (earlier) 12 apostles for this task, otherwise Paul’s later detractors would have claimed that he was a second-hand apostle (cf. Gal. 1-2). Instead, the Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision (Acts 9:10-16), thereby also indicating to us that he was a prophet.

So whom did God use to work miracles after the exaltation of His Son? What does the book of Acts say? It was not ordinary members in the church. The Lord empowered the 12 apostles, especially Peter, and the apostle Paul. Four other men are mentioned: the prophets Stephen, Ananias and Barnabas, and the evangelist Philip. These men were vitally connected to the apostles, as those ordained by the 12 apostles (Stephen and Philip) or working a miracle upon the apostle Paul (Ananias) or accompanying the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey (Barnabas). With the deaths of the apostles, and those who were appointed by them or laboured with them or performed a miracle upon them, the days of godly miracle workers have ended.

This explains Paul’s inspired statement in II Corinthians 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” After all, if in our day all or some Christians, or some pastors or elders, can perform miracles, how are such “wonders” “the signs of an apostle”?

Miracles in the apostolic age were designed to authenticate (1) Christ’s apostles and/or (2) the gospel that they proclaimed. First, the New Testament speaks of miracles as validating the apostolic messengers of Christ, “them that heard him” (Heb. 2:3): “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” (4). “Wonders” also had this function with regard to the Lord Himself, as Peter declared at Pentecost, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22; cf. John 3:2; 5:36; 9:16, 30-33; 10:25, 37-38).

Second, miracles validated the message of the 12 apostles: “they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). This is also the case as regards the gospel preached by Paul the apostle and Barnabas the prophet who accompanied him: “Long time therefore abode they [in Iconium] speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).

Let us hold fast to the New Testament apostles and the apostolic gospel that they proclaimed: salvation is in Christ alone to God’s glory alone (I Cor. 15:1-4)! Rev. Angus Stewart



The First Use of the Law

One of our readers asked, “Maybe Rev. Hanko can write an article on the role of the law in the conviction of sin, paving the way for the knowledge of Christ, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches in the knowledge of misery. Has it such a function, and what place has it in the regeneration of a sinner and in his growth in grace?”

Identifying our misery with our sin and depravity, the Heidelberg Catechism speaks in Lord’s Day 2 of the function of the law in the conviction of sin:

Q. 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?
A. Out of the law of God.

Q. 4. What doth the law of God require of us?
A. Christ teaches us that briefly, Matthew 22:37-40, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Q. 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
A. In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.”

The Catechism clearly teaches that we know not only our sin but also our sinfulness and depravity from the law, and especially from that most basic requirement of the law that we love God with everything we are and in all we do, and our neighbour also. This knowledge of sin is part of what we need to live and die happily (Q. & A. 2).

The Westminster Confession 19:6 is similar. It not only speaks of the law discovering the “sinful pollutions” of our natures, hearts and lives, but also reminds us that “conviction of” and “humiliation for” sin are not ends in themselves, but the way in which we learn our “need ... of Christ” and “the perfection of his obedience.” Following the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession, therefore, our answer is: “Yes, the law does have an important function in discovering our sin and sinfulness.” This, according to John Calvin, is the first use or function of the law.

That the law discovers our sin and shows us our lost condition is also the teaching of God’s Word. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet ... For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (7:7, 9). The Word of God does not find fault with the law for this but rather commends it: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (12).

There are several things worth noting about these verses. Romans 7:7 teaches us that the law has this ability to show us our sin because it looks not only at our outward actions but also at our inward lives and hearts. The tenth commandment is especially important in that regard. It forbids a sin which, in itself, hurts no one, is not even discoverable by others and which has to do with our inward life. It serves as reminder that sin involves not only actions and words, but also motives, intentions and thoughts (Jer. 17:9-10).

This is fundamental to understanding the doctrine of total depravity. What the unbelieving do is never good in God’s eyes because, though they sometimes conform to the law in their outward actions, their hearts are never right with God. All the so-called “good” they do is an abomination to Him because their intentions are always wrong, for they do not do anything by way of “seeking God.” Psalm 14:2-3 says of them, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Nor, according to these verses, is true conviction of sin only a recognition that people do bad things or that I sometimes disobey, tell lies, cheat, steal, hurt others, am not faithful to my wife or that there is a little bad in all of us, etc. True conviction means that I confess with David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:4-5). When truly convicted of sin, I see that I have sinned against God, that I am worthy of condemnation and that I not only do sinful things but am wicked by nature.

Conviction of sin means that I come to say with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). I stop excusing myself. I cease thinking that I am, deep down, a decent person. Rather, I acknowledge that my condition is hopeless and that there is nothing I can do for myself. This, in the grace of God, is the beginning of my deliverance for, having shown me my sinfulness and misery, the Spirit turns my eyes to Jesus, in whom I find not only the possibility of deliverance but all things necessary for my salvation.

This is the great work of the Holy Spirit. The law does not truly discover sin, convict of sin and humble for sin, without the saving work of the Holy Spirit. The law shows our sinfulness, but we cannot see our sinfulness and humble ourselves for it, unless God’s grace breaks our hearts (Jer. 31:18-19). Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, the law is powerless and useless even in showing us our sin.

Used by the Holy Spirit, the law functions as a schoolmaster or pedagogue to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). By the grace of the Spirit, the law shows us the great Giver of the law, the God beside whom there is no other, the God who demands that we worship Him and worship Him as He commands, and not according to our own imaginations, the God whose name is so holy that may not be uttered without reverence and fear. A schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, indeed, but a schoolmaster we will not follow unless we are also taught of God’s Spirit.

By the teaching of the Spirit we say, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death” (Rom. 7:9-10). We add, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (12). The same grace that opens my eyes to see my lost condition brings me to the cross, where I find that the Giver of the law is not only holy and just, but also merciful and good.

The rest of this query we will answer in the next issue, DV. Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
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. • •

Covenant Reformed News - September 2022

Covenant Reformed News

September 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 5

The Nature of Apostolic Miracles

In the last issue, we introduced the signs of an apostle (II Cor. 12:12) and listed various types of miracles (Matt. 10:8; Mark 16:17-18). But what about the miracles claimed by Pentecostals and Charismatics in our own day? A lot of them are non-verifiable, such as the “healings” of bad backs and headaches or psychosomatic illnesses. How does one prove that a person actually had these pains, that he or she no longer has them and that this was due to a miracle performed by a charismatic? What about their performing “difficult” miracles, like raising people from the dead, cleansing lepers, causing people born lame to walk, etc.? Claims regarding these things by Pentecostals and Charismatics are rare, and few stand up to even a little investigation.

Victor Budgen relates this amusing story of a healing meeting in London: “in the middle of the Albert Hall rally the chairman announced that a person in the congregation who had been taken ill was in the St John’s ambulance room, and if there was a doctor in the house would he please go there quickly” (The Charismatics and the Word of God, p. 100). Where was the faith of the chairman and the attendees in the healing power of the charismatic leaders? Why did they need to turn to medics?

The miracles of II Corinthians 12:12 were both real and undeniable, as they had to be in order to serve Paul’s point. Clearly, while he was in Corinth for some 18 months (Acts 18:11), the apostle had performed a plurality of miracles that provoked wonder in those who beheld them and pointed to the truth of the gospel that he preached: Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners! Besides the references to miracles performed by Paul in the book of Acts and II Corinthians 12:12, the apostle speaks of his miracles in Galatia in central Turkey (Gal. 3:5), and even from Jerusalem all the way north and west to Illyricum, roughly the former Yugoslavia (Rom. 15:19).

Pagan opponents, unbelieving Jews and false apostles would dearly have loved to be able to deny the wonders that Paul performed. But, like the miracles of Christ (John 11:47), and of Peter and John (Acts 4:14-16), Paul’s mighty deeds could not be gainsaid.

Notice, first, that the apostles healed people totally. Paralysed Aeneas was bedridden for eight years. Peter announced to him, “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,” and he arose and made his bed (Acts 9:32-35). Aeneas did not merely show improvement or make progress. Instead, he had unimpaired power in his limbs.

Second, the apostles healed people instantly, like the lame man of Acts 3. There was no need for any therapy afterwards or a process of rehabilitation.

Third, the apostles healed everyone who came to them seeking healing (e.g., Acts 5:12-16). They did not try to heal someone but fail, and then blame it on the sick person: “You didn’t have enough faith!” How unlike the supposed faith healers of our own times!

After over a century of Pentecostalism (including Charismaticism and Neo-charismaticism), where are their undeniable miracles? Lots of sick people were supposedly healed but are as ill as they ever were. Others have traipsed to many healing meetings seeking a cure but have not even claimed to have received healing. There have been multitudes of hoaxes and exposures. Christ’s name has been repeatedly discredited before the world by these charlatans and yet gullible people are still falling for it.

How different from the apostle Paul! “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (II Cor. 12:12). Paul is telling the Corinthians, in effect, “You saw God’s power in, and you marvelled at, miracles wrought by my hands. They are signs of my apostolic office—you yourselves being eyewitnesses and you cannot deny it.” On the other hand, the pretend miracles and incomplete cures (at best) are signs of an impostor, a false teacher with a false gospel, often one who is out to fleece the people.

One charismatic describes how someone knows when he or she has been “Touched for Healing.” “Usually you will feel extreme heat all over your body. Then after a few minutes, most will feel a wonderful and supernatural peace from the Lord Jesus Christ. You will know when this happens, it feels so wonderful. It’s like heaven on earth. You will know when this happens and you will have zero doubt. You will know it is the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ touching you ... Sometimes you will feel a wind first. Really!!!! Just like a real wind or a lightly swirling breeze, even in a completely closed room. Sometimes you will feel like a warm blanket of energy wrapped around your entire body. When this happens, it is like supernatural clothing. It feels like a part of you perfectly. Sometimes you will smell a heavenly jasmine or other wonderful fragrances. You will know this smell is heavenly and holy when it manifests itself in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. If you ever smell these wonderful fragrances, you are having an extra special visit from the Lord Jesus. You will know without any doubt when you smell them.”

What is one to make of all this unbiblical tomfoolery? Where is there anything like this in all of sacred Scripture? Did you notice how often the writer speaks of how it usually “feels” (six times in the paragraph above)—the feeling of heat or peace or the wind or a blanket or perfectly fitting clothes—or “smells” (four times)—heavenly jasmine or another wonderful fragrance? (Roman Catholic mystics often speak of supposed divine visitations in similar language.) Remarkably, it does not even say that you know that you have been healed when you are actually healed! Beloved, a true sign of a biblical apostle is real healing without any of the mumbo-jumbo in the previous paragraph, as II Corinthians 12:12 and the New Testament teach! Rev. A. Stewart






Is the Church Our Mother?

Our question for this issue comes from a friend in South America: “Besides the church being the bride or wife of Christ, according to Galatians 4:26 and other verses ... is the church also the mother of believers or Christians?”

Scripture does not in so many words call the church the mother of believers. Nevertheless, the expression is, we believe, warranted by Scripture. Revelation 21:9 suggests it for, if the church is the bride of Christ, then it follows that she is also our mother.

Isaiah 66:10-11 exhorts us, “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.” Jerusalem was a name for the church in the Old Testament and continues to be a name for the church in the New (Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 21:2). Isaiah certainly is describing Jerusalem as the mother of believers, therefore.

The verse mentioned by our South American friend, Galatians 4:26, is closest of all to an actual reference to the church as our mother: “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Here again, in an allegory, the name Jerusalem is a name for the church and the church is called “the mother of us all.”

The church is our mother in the sense that she gives birth to us. It is not the church which regenerates, justifies and sanctifies us, but it is through her ministry that God performs His work of grace in us. Thus Paul calls the members of the church, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).

The Christian church has always recognized the propriety of this name. The church father Cyprian said, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the church as Mother” (The Unity of the Church, chap. 6) and Calvin wrote several times in his Institutes of the church as the mother of believers. Here are a couple of his famous quotes:

I will start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith. ‘For what God has joined together, it is not lawful to put asunder’ [Mark 10:9 p.], so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem [Gal. 4:26] (4.1.1).

But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title ‘mother’ how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matt. 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives (4.1.4).

This name “mother” has been misused, especially by Roman Catholicism which uses the name to buttress its absolute authority. Because the church is our mother, so they think, we must bow to her authority as we would bow to the authority of the Word of God: unreservedly and without question. Such abuse of the name, however, is easily answered with a reminder that no mother is a good mother who does not come with the Scriptures in hand and whose authority is not founded on that Word.

While rejecting the errors of Romanism, thinking of the church as our mother serves as a reminder of some important things about the church. It is a reminder of the unity of the church of Christ in all nations and all history. Believers have only one mother, though the visible church is fragmented and divided. We all—no matter our background, skin colour, nationality, language, etc.—not only have the same Father but also the same mother. Names such as Jerusalem and Zion are names for the church, both in the Old and the New Testaments (Gal. 4:24-27; Heb. 12:22-24), and are an example of this wonderful unity which transcends time.

The name mother reminds the church and her leaders that she must be like a mother to her members, and not like a tyrannical and over-bearing monster. It serves as a reminder to the members that the church is the place where they should expect to be fed, nourished, comforted, corrected and guided (Isa. 66:10-11). They should not leave her side, unless she in her visible manifestation becomes a whore rather than a mother. Though the name Mother is not used in Revelation 22:17, the idea of the church as our mother, the one through whom God provides for His children, is certainly to be found there: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

In some churches, all the emphasis is on “saving souls” but what is done for those who are so saved? “Mother” church does little or nothing to nourish and care for her children. Nothing is said about church membership to the evangelized, and those who do become church members are left untaught and unguided. That same misguided emphasis on “saving souls” often leads to the neglect of those who have been long time members of the church, especially the elderly, the widows, the sick and the poor. It leads all too often to neglect of the youth as well. Though under the care of mother church, they remain untaught and it is no surprise that they go their own way in the end.

As our mother, the church deserves our respect and love and obedience. Christians ought to put ourselves under her care, “maintaining the unity of the church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them” (Belgic Confession 28).

When our mother is seriously ill, as she sometimes is, we must not immediately abandon her, but must seek her healing and well-being, through prayer, standing for the truth and, if necessary, church reformation. All too often those who would not think of abandoning their natural mother give up on mother church when she is ill and falls short of the standard for spiritual health set by the Word of God. Rev. Ron Hanko

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