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Covenant Reformed News - October 2023

Covenant Reformed News
October 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 18


 

Nehemiah’s Covenant Prayer

After considering Nehemiah’s godly enquiry concerning Jerusalem (Neh. 1:1-3) in the last issue of the News, we now focus on his response to the bad news about the people of God, their capital and its perimeter wall (4-11).

Though deeply troubled, Nehemiah did not keel over, as some do when they hear terrible tidings. He did not need anyone to put a chair behind him lest he collapse but that godly man did realize that he needed to sit, so at once he lowered himself to the ground or into a chair for he was heartbroken: “it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept” (4).

Nehemiah’s reaction is all the more remarkable given that he was a grown man, not a child. He was not an emotional wreck or a fifth-century BC snowflake, in modern language. Nehemiah was a responsible person, even the emperor’s cupbearer.

Even though he was personally affluent and working in Shushan the palace (the citadel of Susa) some 1,000 miles from Jerusalem, her distress was his distress. Nehemiah’s tears were genuine, for God had put into his heart a love for the church and so he suffered with Israel’s suffering.

Nehemiah was not only deeply grieved immediately after hearing the sad report concerning Jerusalem. Afterwards, he continued to do three things: he “mourned … and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (4). You could say that he prayed with lamentations and fasting.

For how long? Scripture says on “certain days” (4). During how long a period? For the four months from Chisleu (1), the ninth month of the year, to Nisan (2:1), the first month of the year. At what times? Nehemiah tells us: “day and night” (1:6).

Nehemiah is seeking the Lord for the welfare of His church deliberately, and with resolution and perseverance, for a period of about 120 days. These are the actions of a man who sought the welfare of Israel for a long time even before he oversaw the laying of a single stone on Jerusalem’s defensive walls. The genuine and deep distress that he manifests for the people of God over 2,400 years ago puts us to shame and stirs us up to pray for the body of Christ in our day!

Nehemiah 1:5-11 contains a summary of his covenantal praying for four months in Mesopotamia. It begins with the covenant address: “I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments” (5). Here, as elsewhere, the Lord’s “covenant and mercy” refer not to two separate things but to His one covenant mercy.

If we approach Jehovah as the God of the covenant in Jesus Christ, we have access to Him and confidence that He will answer our prayers for His people: “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants” (6).

Next Nehemiah laments Israel’s covenant breaking. I “confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses” (6-7). Notice that Nehemiah includes in this confession of sin both himself and his family, and that he makes no excuses: “We have dealt very corruptly against thee” (7). This is the way that we too must confess our sins to God: with shame and without cover up.

Nehemiah acknowledges God’s covenant judgment upon Israel’s covenant breaking. This is the explanation for the Jews’ fall to, and exile by, the Babylonians, as God had warned repeatedly in the Pentateuch (e.g., Lev. 26:33; Deut. 4:27): “the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations” (Neh. 1:8).

Then Nehemiah recalls God’s covenant promises (e.g., Lev. 26:40-45; Deut. 4:29-31; 30:1-5): “But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there [i.e., Jerusalem with its temple]” (Neh. 1:9).

Nehemiah reminds Jehovah of Israel’s identity and His deliverance of her from Egypt: “Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand” (10). Specifically, Nehemiah requests the answer to the prayers of two parties, not only himself but all of God’s covenant people: “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name” (11). Even more particularly, he asks, “prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man [i.e., Medo-Persian Emperor Artaxerxes]” (11).

Beloved, we live some 2 ½ millennia after this profound prayer in Nehemiah 1. Our hope is in our Lord Jesus Christ, whom Nehemiah’s contemporary, Malachi, called “the messenger of the covenant” (3:1). He bore our covenant judgment on the cross of Calvary because of our covenant breaking of the law of God. In Him, we have all the covenant promises: the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God, a new heart and a new life, and the new heavens and the new earth! Let us seek the welfare of Christ’s church—often troubled by false doctrine, worldly members, divisions and persecution—by seeking God’s face in covenant prayer for her! Rev. Stewart

 

The Covenant of Redemption (2)

We continue our discussion of the covenant of redemption. That covenant is sometimes seen as an agreement between the Persons of the Trinity, between the Father and the Son or between God and Christ. We have seen that the covenant in Scripture is not an agreement but a relationship. That is not to deny, however, that there is a covenant between the Persons of the Trinity, and between God and Christ.

The covenant in the highest and most important sense is not the relationship that God establishes with His people in Christ. It is first of all and most importantly the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, a relationship hinted at in Proverbs 8:22-31: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”

I Corinthians 2:9-11 is another passage that hints at this relationship, though that relationship must be blessed and wonderful beyond anything we can imagine: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

That is the covenant as an eternal reality in the Trinity. There is no other covenant. For that reason God, more often than not, speaks of the covenant as one: “my covenant.” The covenant with Christ and the covenant in Christ with the elect are not different and separate covenants. Nor was the covenant with Adam in paradise.

When God establishes His covenant with us, He takes us into that blessed relationship, becoming our Father, taking us as His sons and daughters, and, having provided His own dwelling place as our home, taking us to live with Him forever. In other words, He establishes His covenant with us, so that we become part of that family in which He is Father and Christ is His only-begotten Son through the Holy Spirit. That relationship between the Persons of the Trinity is THE COVENANT and into it we are taken when God establishes His covenant with us.

In order to reveal and establish that covenant with us, God first establishes it with Christ, not by some kind of transaction or agreement but by making Christ His Son through the incarnation: “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him” (Ps. 89:26-28). Through the incarnation and human nature of Christ, He takes us to be His people, with Christ, as God and man, becoming the personal link that joins God and His people forever in the blessed relationship that we call the covenant. That relationship between God and Christ is the covenant of redemption, if we are to use such terminology.

In Christ, God sovereignly and powerfully redeems and sanctifies those whom He has chosen, that they, sinners in themselves, may be His people and may live with Him in eternal bliss to praise Him and glorify Him forever. That is what we call the covenant of grace. It too is not a different covenant, but the glorious revelation of the one everlasting covenant and of the great God of the covenant.

The eternal covenant, the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace are not different covenants, but one covenant, revealed in Christ and through Him established with all the elect, who are brought into that covenant as God’s friends and children. That covenant God established with different people throughout the Old Testament: Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and Israel. Each covenant was not a new and separate relationship, but a new revelation of the wonders of God’s covenant.

With Noah, for example, Jehovah revealed the wideness of His covenant mercy by showing that His covenant includes not only men and women but all creatures. With Abraham, He showed Himself to be the faithful God of the covenant, who is pleased to be the Friend and Father not only of believers but of their children. With Israel at Sinai, God showed that the way of the covenant is obedience to Him and love for Him. The law was never meant to be the condition of the covenant but the way in which God’s covenant people show their thankfulness for His covenant mercies (Ps. 89:1-2).

With David, Jehovah showed the unbreakableness of His covenant—how He would keep covenant with a sinful people, maintaining that relationship through the suffering of Christ with a people who would forsake His law, refuse to walk in His judgments, break His statutes and fail a thousand times over to keep His commandments (30-34). He would find someone like David but much greater, whom He would make His “firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth” (19-28).

Through the suffering of that David-like Prince, God would see to it that His covenant was not broken by the sins of His chosen people (30-34), for He would cause the rod of His judgment and all His wrath to fall on the One whom He had chosen (38-45). What response is possible but that with which Psalm 89 concludes: “Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen” (52)?

God fulfilled His covenant in Christ. That covenant, fulfilled, is the new covenant of Hebrews 8. Not a different covenant but the realization of all the covenant promises made for four thousand years previously, as the covenant formula in Hebrews 8:10 so clearly shows: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”  Rev. Ron Hanko

 

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Hosanna PRC - Ordination/Installation Service of Pastor-elect Matt Koerner - November 9, 2023

Ordination service M Koerner livestream 2

Last evening Hosanna PRC (Edmonton, AB) joyfully witnessed and celebrated the ordination and installation service of pastor-elect Matthew Koerner. Rev. M. Koerner is a 2023 graduate of the PR Theological Seminary and is married to Sharon (Kleyn). He becomes the sixth pastor in the congregation's history.

Ordination service M Koerner Rev H Bleyenberg

The service was held in St. Albert Evangelical Lutheran Church, with Rev. H. Bleyenberg of Immanuel PRC in Lacombe, AB, leading the service (photo above) and emeritus pastor Rev. T. Miersma also present and participating (see photo below). Rev. Bleyenberg preached from I Peter 5:5-6, under the theme, “The Humble Minister”. 

 Ordination service M Koerner laying on of hands

Part of the service of ordination involved the laying on of hands, pictured above, with Rev. Bleyenberg (r) and Rev. Miersma (l) participating. At the conclusion of the service, Rev. Koerner pronounced his first benediction as a minister of the gospel.

MKoerner benediction

Afterward, a special time of fellowship was enjoyed by the congregation with their new pastor and his wife along with family and friends.

Ordination service Matt Sharon Koerner
Rev. M. Koerner and Sharon

MKoerner ordination ministers group
Rev. Bleyenberg and his wife Deb; Rev. Koerner and his wife Sharon; Rev. Miersma and his wife Jan.

Thanks to Nick Kleyn for the photos!

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Domestic Missions Newsletter - Fall 2023

Dear brothers and sisters in our Lord, 

My wife and I have been warmly welcomed at  Zion PRC and are very blessed to be among the  saints there. I am very thankful for the men on  Zion’s council and the DMC and for the friendship and good working relationship we have  together. Things are going quite well and I am much enjoying the work. 

What follows is a brief summary of what  has taken place thus far and some things  regarding what is planned going forward. 

ThM classes 

I am currently taking classes at Calvin Theo logical Seminary toward a Master of Theology  degree (ThM) with emphasis on Missions/ Evangelism. In each class I am conducting  research and writing papers from a missions  perspective.

One of my classes last semester was on I & II Thessalonians. In that class we studied Paul’s mission work in Thessalonica and the subjects brought up in I and II Thessalonians, which he wrote early on in his mission labors. My second class was on the history of worship. My paper in that class was on how mission work was conducted in the days of Augus tine, considering specifically what Augustine’s experience was like as a convert/catechumen going through the catechumenate and being baptized while receiving instruction from Ambrose.

From now on I plan to take no more than one  class at a time, so that I have sufficient time to devote myself to other labors. In this fall  semester I am enrolled in just one class. It is  called ThM Research Methodology, and is on how to conduct the research and write my  Master’s thesis. At the present time my inten tion is to write on the subject of eschatology and missions. Paul frequently talked about the return of Christ when conducting his mission  work. The thought would be to conduct research on the specific points he mentioned  and how this can be applied today in the work  of missions. 

Speeches/lectures 

I have been and will be continuing to conduct research on what God teaches us in Scripture  on the principles and methods of missions. The subject of the history of missions is quite  important as well, and I am doing research on this also.

In May, I led a presentation/discussion entitled  “Fishers of Men” in one of the breakout/discus sion sectionals during the Missions Conference  put on by Trinity PRC and the DMC. Later this  month (September) I am scheduled to give an  evangelism lecture at Hope PRC (Redlands),  followed by another one in October at SW PRC. 

Working with Evangelism Committees With the help of our evangelism committees, I  am beginning to put together a list of contacts.  So far we have communicated with contacts  in Texas, Minnesota (north of Minneapolis),  North Dakota, Alabama, and Hungary. I have  travelled quite a bit this summer, assisting our  churches and our sister church in Northern  Ireland with pulpit supply. As this begins to  wind down a bit this fall, my wife and I plan  to travel to visit with some of the contacts we  have and to witness to others in their area. We are working on coming up with more ways  to start communicating with those who are  making use of our sermons and written material  online. Some of these people who are visiting  our websites are leaving comments. If they  leave their name along with their comment, it  may be possible to locate them. For example,  a man left a comment regarding a sermon  preached at one of our churches. My wife is on FaceBook and she looked up his name on  FaceBook, found him and sent him a FaceBook  message letting him know that I would like to  talk with him on the phone. He very quickly  provided his phone number and I called him  and we talked for awhile. This is just one way that we can work together to start communi cating with those who are watching sermons, listening to podcasts, or reading our material online.

We are also analyzing website stats. I have  asked all of our evangelism committees to  provide us with any stats they have concerning  the location of the hits they are getting on  either SermonAudio, their own website, their  FaceBook page, etc. I also had very helpful  conversations with Jordan Van Baren about  the RFPA stats, and with Brian Key about the  Reformed Witness Hour stats.

Hungary

A thirty-six your old man named Adam has  emailed us. Hungary, being a country in  Europe, falls under the work of domestic  missions. He has translated a number of works  for the website of Covenant PRC in Northern  Ireland and has also learned much by listening  to the sermons there and reading material that  they have posted.

After talking about his own spiritual history  and the current ecclesiastical situation in  Hungary, he writes:

The reason why I am writing you (is) that I  would like to kindly ask about your opinion  about the following thing: 

What are the circumstances where PRCA  would take into consideration one church  planting in Hungary? I know the workers are few and by the Grace of God the doors  are open by the Holy Spirit in Asia, thus  the harvest might be bigger there, but is there anything that could help to raise the chances (at least) that a good Reformed  Church with Dutch Heritage would consider  Hungary as a target for a church planting mission? Or at least providing a little help  in that? 

He goes on to say that he knows one family of  five that he expects will likely be interested, and also a number of others. He expressed  agreement with us on the doctrine of the life long marriage bond and said that this was one of the main reasons he was contacting us specifically.

He went on to say that he was willing to open  his house in the airport area of Budapest for all  gatherings and Sunday worship in the begin ning.

Using Technology

We intend to use both audio and visual means  to find contacts and begin working with them,  with a view to hopefully gathering together  groups of contacts. I am working on a series  of messages/podcasts and plan to add intros/outros encouraging people to contact us. After  completing a podcast series, the plan would be  to make a series of YouTube video shorts (i.e. 1  minute), perhaps 20 or 30 of them for starters. 

Closing

There is much work to be done, and as time  goes on the number of those to whom our  Lord will lead us will likely continue to grow.  Should our Lord lead you to anyone desiring to  receive instruction, please direct them to me  at the contact info listed above. May our heav enly Father continue to bless us as we labor  together in this important work. 

In the service of our Lord, 

Rev. J. Laning

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Covenant Reformed News - September 2023

Covenant Reformed News
September 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 17


 

Nehemiah’s Godly Enquiry Concerning Jerusalem

The Bible itself often identifies the spiritual significance of its major characters and it is also instructive who makes these identifications. Abraham is called “the father of all them that believe” by Paul, the great proponent of justification by faith alone (Rom. 4:11). David is spoken of as “the man after God’s own heart” by no less than Jehovah Himself, who saw and moulded David’s heart (Acts 13:22). John the Baptist is the one who would “make ready a people for the Lord,” as stated by the angel Gabriel, who was preparing Zacharias and Elizabeth for the birth of their son (Luke 1:17).

Nehemiah is a man who sought the welfare of Israel. This is what God’s enemies thought regarding him. This is a good testimony to have from the ungodly, and their fears regarding Nehemiah were accurate! “When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel” (Neh. 2:10).

Here are three well-known roles or works of Nehemiah. First, he was the cupbearer of Artaxerxes, the Medo-Persian Emperor. Second, he became the governor of Judah. Third, in this office, he was the moving force in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s perimeter wall. In all these roles, whether as cupbearer, governor or wall builder, he was a man who sought the welfare of Israel. The church needs more men and women like him!

Two members of Nehemiah’s family are named. His father was called Hachaliah (1:1; 10:1) and he had a brother named Hanani (1:2; 7:2), as well as at least one other brother (1:2). If Nehemiah had sisters, they are not mentioned in this book.

Here are two good reasons to think that Hachaliah and his wife had a godly home. First, they had Nehemiah for a son. Second, they had Hanani for a son, whom faithful Nehemiah appointed one of the leaders in Jerusalem, the holy city (7:2).

The Lord especially uses homes like that of Mr. and Mrs. Hachaliah to produce men and women who seek the welfare of Israel, the elect, redeemed and gathered church of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are the sort of homes we need in our congregations!

What does Nehemiah ask at the very start of his book? He makes a double-barrelled enquiry about the people back in Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem (1:2).

The people about whom Nehemiah asks are those who had returned to Judah out of the Babylonian captivity in two main groups. First, there was the group under Zerubbabel the governor. They numbered about 50,000, including Jeshua the high priest, and they rebuilt the temple (Ezra 1-6). These people arrived in Judah over 80 years before the events of Nehemiah 1. Second, there was the much smaller group under Ezra the scribe. Ezra 7-10 deals with the arrival of this great priest and focuses on his leadership in promoting spiritual edification (rather than physical construction). Ezra and his group arrived just 13 years before Nehemiah 1.

How are these two groups doing? Are they amalgamating and uniting in the Lord’s service? Why did Nehemiah enquire about them? Because he cared about their welfare!

Why did he ask about the place, Jerusalem? Because he knew that there was rebuilding work that needed to be done. He hoped to hear that the city wall was progressing. After all, Ezra’s party was there to inject new energy into the people of God in Judah.

To whom did Nehemiah make these enquiries? Nehemiah asked Hanani, because his godly brother knew the issues and understood the importance of people’s spiritual morale. Nehemiah asked the “men of Judah” who were with Hanani because they had recently been there and so they had first-hand knowledge.

Do you see the significance of this? In general, you need to ask the right people in order to get accurate and helpful answers. This is perhaps especially true as regards the church. Ask people at the heart of the church, people who are spiritually attuned.

When did Nehemiah ask Hanani and these men of Judah these questions? When, after journeying from Jerusalem, they had arrived in Shushan the palace, also known as Susa the citadel, one of the places where the Medo-Persian emperor resided and where Nehemiah worked. In other words, these people had up-to-date information on the situation on the ground or, at least, information as current as possible in those days.

Let us follow the text in Nehemiah 1:1-2, which summarizes our exposition so far. “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah” (1)—here is the book’s heading. Next the scene is set: “And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace” (1). Then comes the arrival of the party from the west: “Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah” (2), followed by Nehemiah’s enquiry about the people and the place, “I asked them [1] concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and [2] concerning Jerusalem” (2).

What was their reply? “And they said unto me, [1] The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: [2] the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (3).

How did Nehemiah respond? Not merely with pleasantries: “And how was the weather during your long journey?” Was he a little bit saddened or fairly upset? No! He was deeply troubled and you know why, reader! Because Nehemiah was a man who loved God’s church, her distress was his distress. Doubtless Nehemiah had sung Psalm 137 in the captivity many times and he had meant it! “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (5-6)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

The Covenant of Redemption (1)

A reader writes, “I would like Rev. Hanko to discuss the traditional ‘covenant of redemption’ theory in a future News, particularly the various versions of it:

1) an agreement between the Father and the Son;
2) an agreement between the three divine Persons;
3) an agreement between the Triune God, as represented by the Father, and Christ.

Some say that the covenant of grace in time is a mirror image of this eternal contract; others say it is something separate and different. Various texts are used for this theory.”

The idea of a covenant of redemption (Latin: pactum salutis) or “counsel of peace” (Zech. 6:13) dates back to the seventeenth century, with the term “covenant of redemption” first appearing in 1638 in a speech by the Scottish theologian David Dickson. Men such as Herman Witsius, Patrick Gillespie and James Durham developed the idea in detail. Though many consider the notion of such a covenant as speculative and unbiblical, it continues to have its defenders.

There are different ideas about the parties in this covenant, nicely enumerated above by the friend who sent in the question. Most often, the covenant of redemption is considered to be an agreement between the Father and the Son, to bring about the redemption of the elect through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. Louis Berkhof, for example, defines the covenant of redemption as “the agreement between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given Him” (Systematic Theology, p. 271). 

Biblical basis for such a covenant of redemption is sought in the many scriptural passages that describe the salvation of the elect in terms of a purchase, implying, so it is said, a previous agreement, either between the Father and the Son or between the Triune God and Christ. Likewise, the word “propitiation” in Romans 3:25 and I John 2:2 is assumed to imply a transaction of some kind between the Father and Christ. All the references to Christ’s coming in obedience to the Father, fulfilling God’s will, doing His Father’s business and saving those whom the Father gave Him, are cited as proof of such an agreement or transaction between God and Christ.

An important text to those who teach a covenant of redemption is Zechariah 6:13, which speaks of “the counsel of peace” which “shall be between them both.” This passage, however, has nothing to do with any kind of pre-temporal inter-Trinitarian covenant or a covenant between God and Christ. It refers to the union of the priestly and kingly offices in Jesus who is “a priest upon his throne.” In other words, the text speaks of the reconciliation of justice and mercy in Christ who is both King and Priest, not a covenant of redemption.

We are among those who find the theology of a covenant of redemption to be speculative and unbiblical. Our objections to such a covenant, however, have to do not only with the interpretation of various passages but also with the fact that those who hold to a covenant of redemption begin with an unscriptural view of the nature of a covenant. They all define a covenant in terms of an agreement, a contract or a transaction, whether it be a covenant between all the Persons of the Trinity, between God and Christ, between God and Adam or between God and His elect people. This agreement, so it is said, has promises, conditions and stipulations, as any agreement would. After starting with that wrong idea that the covenant is an agreement, those who hold to a covenant of redemption find proof for such a notion in the passages mentioned above.

We have three objections to such a presentation of the covenant. First, such a view of the divine covenant is not to be found in the Bible. Scripture always presents the divine covenant as a relationship, not an agreement. The formula for the covenant between God and His people reveals the covenant to be a relationship. That formula, though expressed in different ways, is essentially, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12). We will write more of the covenant as a relationship in another article.

Second, if the covenant is an agreement, then God and man, whether Adam, the elect or Christ as man, act on equal terms. That is a denial of God’s sovereignty. In His works and ways with man, God never acts as equal but as sovereign. Even in the incarnation, Christ as man is subject to the Father, sovereignly chosen, equipped, sent into the world and assigned the work of redemption (Act. 2:36). As the Servant of God (Isa. 49:6), His work was subject always to God’s judgment and approval (Matt. 3:17).

The covenant relationship between God and the elect never depends on the elect agreeing to be God’s people or even on Christ agreeing on their behalf. It is not a transaction or agreement. That would make God’s covenant dependent and conditional. God sovereignly chooses the elect to be His people, effectually redeems them in Christ and powerfully converts them by the Spirit. Thus the covenant between God and His people is never described in the Bible as an agreement, something dependent on the will and cooperation of the sinner, but as a relationship established and kept by God Himself. We call this a “unilateral” covenant, a covenant established and maintained by God alone. The covenant between God and His people, then, is not bilateral or two-sided but one-sided. It is, most emphatically, God’s covenant.

Third, if the covenant is an agreement, it is not “everlasting” (Gen. 17:7). An agreement is always temporary, ending when its terms and conditions have been met. God’s covenant does not cease when the redemption of His elect people has been accomplished, but reaches its highest glory and splendour in eternity. 

If we are going to speak, therefore, of a covenant of redemption, it is not an agreement between God and Christ, but the relationship between them, established through the incarnation, in which Christ, as God’s Son, becomes the One through whom and in whom God establishes His covenant with us. It is the relationship described in Psalm 89:26-28: “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.”

More must be said, however, and we will continue this discussion in another article, Lord willing. Rev. Ronald Hanko

 

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

RWH Logo 2019

News from the Reformed Witness Hour

October 2023

 

Help Us Get the Word Out!

 

This month we have five Christ-centered, Gospel-themed messages to share!

W Bruinsma RWH

In October, we will continue with Rev. Bruinsma’s series on Christ’s return.

October 1
Satisfied with Marrow and Fatness 
Psalm 63:5


October 8
Gathered Unto Armageddon
Revelation 16:10-16


October 15
The Final Sign of Christ’s Return
Luke 21:25-28


October 22
The Scripture of God’s Word
2 Peter 1:20-21

October 29
To a Thousand Generations
Psalm 105:6-8

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New Radio Station Update

You may remember in March this year we announced that the Reformed Witness Hour would air on two new radio stations: WGTK in Greenville, South Carolina and WLQV in Detroit, Michigan. Since that time, we have also found a second station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to air our program, WJAS. We are extremely excited to see that in the first six months of broadcasting in South Carolina, the number of messages listened to in the state has doubled compared to the six months prior to broadcasting there.

 

In Case You Missed It!

If you missed it, take time to listen to Rev. Bruinsma’s message on Christian Education called Craving Knowledge. As we continue this school year, this sermon gives a wonderful reminder of our calling as children of God to gain knowledge and wisdom in the Word of God. Rev. Bruinsma discusses Proverbs 1:7, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction” and expounds on the three important terms used:

  1. Knowledge: what we must attain or desire.
  2. Instruction: the way we are to attain such knowledge.
  3. Wisdom: the goal of our knowledge.

Do you crave knowledge? Fools despise instruction, remember.  At times children like to bemoan the fact that they must apply themselves to their studies. But the Word of God is plain; apply yourselves to your schoolwork, not simply because it is beneficial from an earthly point of view, but because it is beneficial from a spiritual point of view. All knowledge is a gift of God.  And the more we know of God and how He works in creation and history, the more we become wise.  Learn more by listening to the message at reformedwitnesshour.org, search for key words: Craving Knowledge.

When you support the Reformed Witness Hour, you are Supporting…

Top 5 countries reached March- August 2023

  Plays

  Top 5 states reached March - August 2023

  Plays

United States

 6,709

  Michigan

  1,574

Cambodia

  1.953

  South Carolina

  629

Singapore

   732

  Colorado

  501

United Kingdom

  415

  Ohio

  456

Canada

  240

  Oregon

  374

 

Sponsor a Month of Reformed Witness Hour

When a church sponsors the Reformed Witness Hour, we air a promo before or after the week’s radio message that features the church. We can deliver a standard announcement, or a member of your church can write and voice the clip. If your church has a special conference or lecture coming up, consider using this sponsorship to advertise the event to local listeners who might have an interest in the topic. If your church or evangelism committee would like to learn more about sponsoring the RWH, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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Covenant Reformed News - August 2023

Covenant Reformed News
August 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 16


 

Clothed With Christ (3)

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” declares Galatians 3:27. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, high Anglicanism and other groups claim this text refers to the ritual or ceremony of baptism: Everyone baptized with water has personally and truly “put on Christ.” According to this view, Galatians 3:27 teaches the baptismal regeneration of all who receive the first sacrament: “For as many of you as have been baptized [with water] into Christ have put on Christ.”

The biblical doctrines of grace are radically opposed to baptismal regeneration. This soul-destroying dogma does not fit with the eternal, unconditional election of some in Christ and the sovereign reprobation of others in the way of their sins (Rom. 9:22-24; I Thess. 5:9). Dying only for His elect sheep and church (John 10:11, 15, 26; Eph. 5:25), the Lord Jesus gives His abundant life to them alone. The new birth is infallibly granted only to those whom the Holy Spirit desires to save (John 3:8). All those who are born again (I Pet. 1:3) are kept by the divine omnipotence (5) and so they assuredly receive their eternal inheritance (4). As Romans 8:30 declares, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Contrary to Romish baptismal regeneration, those to whom the Saviour gives “eternal life” will “never perish” (John 10:28).

Over against the heresy of baptismal regeneration, the truth is that Galatians 3:27, like many other passages (e.g., Rom. 6:3-4; I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12; I Pet. 3:21), refers to the spiritual, inner baptism of God’s elect and redeemed people (which is signified and sealed by water baptism). Let us marvel at this: The Holy Spirit has baptized us into Christ Himself! This is what water baptism points to and symbolizes.

Many Baptists appeal to Galatians 3:27 in order to make a different point from that made by the advocates of baptismal regeneration. These Baptists believe that baptism equals (total) immersion (followed by rapid emersion). They claim that this text provides support for the mode that they use in the ceremony of water baptism. Galatians 3:27’s reference to our putting on or being clothed with Christ, they say, is an allusion to someone being enveloped in a robe after he or she has been (totally) immersed (and then swiftly emersed) in the ritual of baptism.

According to the immersionist theory, Jesus is pictured in not just one but two ways in the ceremony of baptism! First, Christ is represented by the sinner, for his going under the water portrays Jesus’ burial (though His body was laid in a cave tomb and not put underground) and his coming up of the water the Redeemer’s resurrection (though He did not arise out of soil). Second, Christ is represented by the robe with which the baptized sinner is clothed.

But what is the element in the sacrament of baptism? It is not the baptized sinner, nor any garment that he or she may put on after the ceremony. The cleansing water is the sacramental element and sign! The water symbolizes and seals the washing away of our sins by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5).

In many sports, like football or snooker or golf or tennis or rugby, it is a big mistake to take one’s eyes off the ball. In the sacraments, one’s spiritual focus is to be on the elements, whether water in baptism or bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. The elements point to and signify Christ’s cleansing us by His blood and Spirit (baptism), and feeding us by His broken body and shed blood (Lord’s Supper).

There is an additional problem with the immersionist reading of Galatians 3:27. What is the function of the (postulated) robe? To get rid of the water (which pictures the washing away of sins) by drying it up! In other words, Christ the robe dries up His cleansing blood and Spirit!

So what is Galatians 3:27 teaching? As we said earlier, its subject is real baptism, not ritual baptism by water (though the latter symbolizes and seals the former). The doctrine of our text is neither baptismal regeneration nor the immersionist mode of baptism. It is union with Jesus Christ! By inner, spiritual baptism, we come under the blessed influence of our Saviour, so as to be changed and transformed by Him or, to use the language of Galatians 3:27, we are clothed with Him!

We are often spiritually timid and in need of encouragement. “I believe that I am saved by God’s grace and baptized into Jesus,” we think, “but am I really clothed with Him? Could someone as weak and foolish as I am actually have put on Christ as my imputed righteousness and infused holiness? Could it be true that I, all over and permanently, am enveloped by the Lord Jesus in His threefold office and adorned with His image, so that He alone covers my nakedness, protects my vulnerability and makes me beautiful in God’s sight?”

Galatians 3:27 states, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Therefore, a person is either both “baptized into Christ” and clothed with Him or neither. This text proclaims that you, believer, are both: “For as many of you as [1] have been baptized into Christ [2] have put on Christ.” Rev. Angus Stewart

__________________________________________

For more on the Bible’s teaching on the mode, meaning and subjects of baptism, read this excellent work, which is now on-line for the first time: “Sprinkling, Infant Baptism and the Bible” by Rev. Ron Hanko.

 

Why Baptize All the Infants of Believers?

Here is our question for this issue of the News: “Seeing that baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant and the covenant promise, if only the elect are in the covenant, if they only and only they are embraced in the promise of God, and the reprobate are not, why does God still will all the children of believers to be baptized?”

The reader of the News is correct that only the elect are in the covenant. Galatians 3:29 is clear: “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The seed of Abraham is a spiritual seed, defined not by physical descent from Abraham but by faith in Abraham’s God. All who believe are the spiritual children of Abraham (7) and the children of God (26). Only these spiritual children of Abraham are the heirs according to the promise. The promise is the covenant promise, I will be your God and you shall be my people (Lev. 26:12; Jer. 30:22). That promise was made to Abraham in Genesis 17:1-7 and through him to all his spiritual descendants. They are those who belong to Christ by election and by the blood of atonement. They alone are in the covenant and they alone are heirs according to the promise.

The reader who submitted this question is also correct that the promise of God, the promise of the covenant, is also only for the elect. Like the covenant itself, the promise is not made to all baptized children conditionally but only to the elect. It is not, as some have said, a cheque presented by God to all baptized children, a cheque which they must endorse before it becomes valid and payable to the bearer. Acts 2:39 teaches that the promise is only for the elect and not for all baptized children conditionally: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” The promise is to those whom God calls, and they are always called irresistibly and effectually. They are the elect, therefore.

The heresy of the Federal Vision denies any connection between the covenant and election, and many Reformed theologians also hesitate to affirm such a connection. The Federal Vision teaches that baptized children may be elect but still go hell on account of their covenant unfaithfulness; they may be elect and end up out of the covenant. Others want a covenant that is in some sense with all baptized children, not just with those baptized children who are elect. Thus they teach a covenant that is conditional, that is, with all baptized children, but conditioned on their faith and obedience.

Romans 9:6 addresses this issue: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” The Word of God in the context includes the promises, and the Israel to whom the promises belong is defined not by physical descent from Abraham but by election. Only true Israel, elect Israel, has the promises. This is Paul’s conclusion: “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Rom. 11:7).

That raises the question: “Why does God still will all the children of believers to be baptized,” if “baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant and the covenant promise”?

The answer to this insightful question is that just as the gospel must be preached to the non-elect, so also must the sacraments, in the purpose and will of God, be administered to many non-elect. It is, of course, impossible to administer the sacraments only to the elect, just as it is impossible to preach the gospel and its call to the elect only. Only God perfectly knows those who are His own (II Tim. 2:19). Some try to limit the preaching of the gospel and/or the administration of baptism to the elect by requiring a profession of faith in Christ of all those who are baptized, but the latter does not guarantee that the sacrament is administered to the elect only.

It is the error of hyper-Calvinism to attempt to limit the preaching of the gospel and its call to the elect, and the error of credo-baptism to attempt to limit the sacrament of baptism to the elect only. Both are impossible. Not only that, but God has His sovereign purpose in willing children who are not elect to be baptized and it is the same purpose He has in sending the gospel call to many who are not elect.

The sacraments, we should remember, are a visible and tangible gospel which declare Christ crucified as the only way of salvation. When the gospel is preached, God wills that many hear who are not elect and who do not believe. He wants them to hear for their hardening and condemnation. Hardened in their unbelief and disobedience, they also serve God’s purpose, just as Pharaoh did (Rom. 9:17-18). By their disobedience, they bring Jehovah’s just wrath upon themselves and they are the means He sovereignly uses to chastise His people, to deliver them from the wicked world in which they live and to make them ready for eternal glory.

The same is true of baptism. Many who are baptized, instead of “improving their baptism” (Westminster Larger Catechism, A. 167), reject all that baptism signifies, are hardened in their faithlessness and unbelief, and bring the judgment of God upon themselves. This does not happen only for their destruction, however, since they are sovereignly used by God within the church for the final salvation of the elect. Their hatred of the gospel is often the beginning of persecution, an important, though distressing, part of God’s deliverance of His church. Introducing heresies and godless living into the church, they are used by God in the church to separate wheat from chaff, to waken His people out of spiritual indifference and sloth, and to occasion the development of the truth.

I Corinthians 11:19 says, “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” So it is with the gospel and so it is with the sacraments. In God’s purpose to save His people and His church, He does all things in perfect wisdom to realize His purpose and to bring all things to their appointed end. Those who do not believe, even under the gospel and the sacraments, who fit the description of Jude 4, are part of that all-wise plan. They are the chaff without which the wheat cannot grow and ripen.

So let us not hesitate to apply the sacrament of baptism to all the children of believers, knowing that some who receive it are not among God’s elect people. Likewise, let us not baulk at preaching the gospel wherever and whenever God gives us opportunity, never hesitating because we preach to a “mixed” audience but trusting that it will be the power of God unto salvation to all whom He has chosen. Rev. Ron Hanko

 

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