The Great Escape!

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Great Escape!

Meditation on Psalm 124: 6,7,8

Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

The title of this meditation might sound like the escape of a person out of a prison or a soldier escaping from the clutches of the enemy army.  I think of my father’s imprisonment by the German army when they invaded the Netherlands in World War II. He and several of the prisoners were able to escape the prison before they would have been taken away to one the German work (death) camps. The Holy Spirit led David to write this psalm, probably after his son Absalom with many followers pursued him over the Jordan River, and the LORD gave David a great victory over his enemies.

The church in this world is surrounded by enemies. There is first of all our own sinful flesh, which we have to fight against every day. Second, there is the world that is not a friend to grace, but hates and pursues the followers of Jesus. Third, our “adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” Apart from divine support, the church of Christ would quickly fall before its raging enemies. Several examples are given in this psalm. The enemies are like a hungry animal, ready to eat us up like a little morsel of meat. The wicked are like the undertow of Lake Michigan, which would suck the swimmer under and away from shore, or like a tsunami wave that wipes out complete villages. The last example in the psalm is that of a professional trapper in the woods who snares his prey in his net.

What kinds of snares are set before you to catch you unawares? Great are the temptations of our sinful  flesh: sexual lust, greed, pride, worldliness, drunkenness, bitterness, anger, and revenge. There are the snares of the world with flattery, pleasure, attention, or the threat of violence, ridicule, persecution, and death. Satan has a whole legion of demons with him who has had 6000 years of practice at seducing, tempting, and deceiving God’s saints. How can the church stand up to such power? How are you and I able individually to withstand them? The only reason the people of God continue in this world is the almighty power of their God. His strength is all sufficient. What would the people of God have been like if the Lord was not on their side?

Enoch, prophesying against the wickedness in his day, would have been killed if God had not translated him up to heaven. Noah and his family were the lone survivors when God saved him and his family with a flood. Israel would have been left under Pharaoh’s cruel slavery and the death of all their male infants in the time of Moses except for the Lord’s ten plagues against Egypt.. Unless the LORD fought for Israel against the Canaanites, the thick walls of the cities and the giants of the land would not have been conquered. The Midianites swarmed the land of Israel in the time of Gideon, but with the Lord on their side, Gideon with  only 300 Israelites won a decisive battle and routed the enemy. So we can continue to go through the history of the church. Over against the cruelty of the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestants were imprisoned, tortured, and put to death. But nothing was able to stop God’s reformation of His church!

The LORD changes not, nor does His compassion fail. He is on our side. We might despair when we see the world that we live in grow increasingly wicked and ferocious, and in the church we see great apostasy, slander, and schism. But our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. His purpose is to save us alive.  We must confess, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say; If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when wicked men rose up against us: Then they had swallowed us up quick.” This is the believers’ confidence.  God is on His throne. If God is for us, who can be against us? Believers can rejoice in the promise of Jesus Christ, “ I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. All authority belongs to our Christ. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. All the power of our sinful flesh, the world, and Satan and his host cannot destroy the church because the infinite strength of the Creator defends and helps us. “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” This verse is used in many Reformed churches to open their worship services.

Looking at the unrest today in the world and even in the church, what comfort to say, “Our help in in the name of Jehovah who made heaven and earth.” He is on our side! We are escaped from the hands and plots of our enemies.

Now Israel may say, and that in truth, If that the Lord had not our right maintained, If that the Lord had not with us remained, Wen cruel men against us rose to strive, We surely had been swallowed up alive.”

“Blest be the Lord who made us not their prey; As from the snare a bird escapeth free, Their net is rent and so escaped are we. Our only help is in Jehovah’s name, Who made the earth and all the heavenly frame. Louis Bourgeois, 1551


Help for the Weary Pilgrim

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Help for the Weary Pilgrim

Meditation on Psalm 121: 1,2,8

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth…The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalm 121 is the second of fifteen Songs of Ascent. These are songs that were sung by the Israelites as they travelled to Jerusalem for the three yearly festivals. Some of God’s people had to travel over one hundred miles. As they went up to the temple, they would see the hills or mountains around Jerusalem. Mt. Zion was the mountain on which the temple was built. What great anticipation there was! They could see the temple there! The hills or mountains around Jerusalem were a great place to build the city. These hills served as natural protection from enemies around.

The psalmist expresses his confidence in God’s protecting providence. “I will lift up mine eyes.” This is a gesture of prayerful dependence. “From whence cometh my help?” This is a question, “where does my help come from?” Do we look to the hills for help? No, our dependence is not upon earthly things. The answer to the question asked in vs. 1 is found in vs. 2. “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” He, who created the hills and everything else, is able and willing to help me. There on Mt. Zion is the temple, with the holy of holies, the Ark of the Covenant, and the mercy seat. This was the place for worship of Jehovah. There the Lord dwelt in the midst of His people.

Many troubles come to the pilgrims in their lives and travels. Often we are fearful and despairing. Is Jehovah still gracious? We have sinned against Him time and time again. But the temple is before us with the altar of burnt-offerings. The temple before us tells us that our God is still there. The LORD is Jehovah God. He is the “I AM”; the self-sufficient, self- existent God who has no needs and changes not. His relationship with His people does not change, no matter how many sins they commit. He is their God who loves them, Yes, He will chastise those whom He loves. But can you smell the smoke of the sacrifices? There is the forgiveness of sins through the blood that is shed in our place. This all pointed forward to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross. Oh, what a day when Jerusalem the holy city comes down from heaven (Rev. 21). Then there will be no more sin!

We are weary spiritual pilgrims to that city. We must still wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness as well as our own sinful nature. But Jehovah is our help, someone who comes to our aid by surrounding and embracing us. “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.” He gives us stability in our lives. He will keep us. That word, “keep” or “keeper” is used three times. But that same Hebrew word is used another three times, translated as “preserve”. The psalmist tells us six times in this short psalm that God guards, watches over, and protects us. Why does he mention it six times? There is so much repetition so that it soaks into our consciousness. What anxiety can survive these repeated promises? “Day and night”, “our going out and coming in”: these opposites designate totality. The Lord’s protection is continuous, without interruption, against all kinds of dangers. This does not mean that believers will never suffer, but that God’s providence will guard them from anything that would truly do them harm. He will work all things for their good (Rom 8:28).

Today, as believers, we are the temple of God. He is in you and me. In your pilgrimage in this world, look up and see how precious you are to Him. He is shaping us to prepare us for that city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God. Look ahead as the weary Israelites did in their travels to Jerusalem. Look up! Know who your helper is! Trust him. Love Him. Serve Him.

One of our greatest comforts is to know that God is always the guardian of His people. Even in the greatest trouble, God’s people have no reason to fear. Faith assures the Christian that all will be well. God is always there for us; He never slumbers or sleeps. If God did not spare His Son, but gave Him up for us, then surely He will give us all that we stand in need of. Look ahead! There is the city that has foundations. Look up. Jehovah God is our help and keeper for Jesus’ sake!

Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest, Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed. I know not, O I know not what joys await us there, What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare!”

There is the throne of David; and there, from care released, The song of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast; And they who with their Leader have conquered in the fight, forever and forever are clad in robes of white. (Bernard of Cluny, 12th century)


"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Meditation on Lamentations 3: 21-24

“ This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3: 21-24)

On Sunday morning and evening, many of our churches have the pleasant task of trying to seat all of our members in the sanctuary for worship. Pleasant, I say; what a nice problem. In an age when many churches have a problem of trying to fill their seats, we have the opposite problem of crowded sanctuaries!  That is said with all humility. God has been, and is, so good. He has blessed us with faithful members who desire to worship and hear the gospel preached!

What is the cause of all of this? It is God’s great faithfulness to us; His mercies are new every morning. This is where the above text comes  and fills us with humility. We do not deserve this blessing.” It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not!”

We as Protestant Reformed Churches do not deserve this. We are sinners who deserve God’s wrath and condemnation.  It is all of His mercy to us in our Lord Jesus Christ! We are Christ’s church. Christ Jesus is continuing to gather and build His church.  By His Word and Spirit we continue to be preserved, so that our church is able to be a light in the midst of great darkness.

We are able to pass on to the rising generations the beauty and greatness of our God and His marvelous works. We are able to reach out to others in our community and share with them the rich and precious heritage that has been given to us.   We are sinners, but listen to the rest of the story: we are redeemed sinners, forgiven all of our sins through the spilled blood of our Lord Jesus. Imputed to us is Christ’s righteousness. We are new creatures, sons and daughters of God by adoption, filled with Christ’s Spirit. And we have a glorious hope! Jesus is coming again. As members of His kingdom, we  will one day be with Him in the new heavens and new earth. Yes, as Jeremiah says in the above text, “therefore we have hope.”

Listen then also to what God says in His Word through Jeremiah (Lam. 3:24- 26): “ The LORD is my portion. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” God is good to His church.

With this glorious truth we press on in our service to Christ. Filled with humility, love, trust, and dependence we serve the Lord with gladness, making known His mercies and faithfulness to the rising generations. To God is the glory both now and forever!


Covenant PRC, N. Ireland Newsletter - June 2020

CPRC News Header

Dear saints,

Attached is the latest letter from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, N. Ireland.

It contains 5 sections:

  • End of Our Mission Field
  • Coronavirus Lockdown
  • Redirected Labours
  • Main Website Developments
  • Slowly Returning to Normality

Some highlights:

Regarding the number of translations in our top languages, we have 1 in the 500s (552 Italian), 1 in the 400s (483 Portuguese), 1 in the 300s (301 Hun-garian), 1 in the 200s (222 Spanish) and 4 in the 100s (169 German, 161 Burmese, 150 Indonesian and 138 Afrikaans). Especially to help new transla-tors, we created this webpage, “Translating for the CPRC Website: Questions and Answers” ( This would be a good link to send to anyone you think might be both willing and able to assist us with this project.

We designed, printed, collated and stapled 1,000 copies of a new CPRC Book catalogue (https://cprc.

After a lot of time because of red tape, we man-aged to prove to PayPal that the CPRC is indeed a charity, so that we could qualify for lower charges for using their services on our website. First, Mary enabled people in the UK to pay for our books and box sets of CDs or DVDs on-line by PayPal or bank transfer, and it has been working well ( Second, she set up a donation page, both for people in the UK (who can also contribute Gift Aid) and all the nations of the world by PayPal or bank transfer (https://cprc. Over the years, many people have asked us to set up such a webpage and several have used this service already. Third, saints from any country outside the UK (except America and Canada, for we do not want to “compete” with the RFPA) can now buy the products in our bookstore through PayPal or bank transfer, with the former being most convenient and least expensive for most people ( Our first international customer who used PayPal was a brother from France.

May the Lord be with you all,

Pastor Angus Stewart


"I Am for Peace"

 This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Meditation on Psalm 120: 2,6,7

 "I Am for Peace"

Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue…My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

Psalms 120- 134 are titled, “Song of Degrees” or “Song of Ascents”. The fifteen psalms are called the “Pilgrimage Songs”, sung as God’s people would travel to Jerusalem for the three great feasts of the old covenant religious calendar. How fitting they are for all believers in this world. We journey through the week, looking forward to Sunday when we can go to church to hear the gospel of peace. All of our life is a pilgrimage, with eager expectation to the time when God delivers us from this vale of tears to the Jerusalem which is above. In this pilgrimage, we sing songs of pilgrimage.

When we stand for God and His kingdom, we can expect to be slandered by a world that is opposed to God and his Word. But how sad it is when the slander and hatred come from those of our own household. If this psalm was written by David, he knew the slander of those from whom he should not expect it. Having fought battles for King Saul, David was forced to flee as King Saul sought to kill him as a troubler of Israel. Later in his life, David fled from the wrath of his own son, Absalom. Absalom presented himself to the people as one who would judge them and give them justice over against his father who was getting too old or careless. In this way, Absolom stole the hearts of the men of Israel ( I Sam. 15:4-6). Absalom lied to his father, telling him that he wanted to fulfil a vow made in Hebron to serve the Lord. But instead he gathered a strong conspiracy against his father.

Slander and lies bring disharmony, hostility, and opposition. Over against this, the Psalmist said, “I am for peace.” He desired peace with God, peace with his brethren, and even with his enemies. How is this possible? It is only as we are justified by faith alone that there can be peace with God and peace with our neighbor. By nature, as the Heidelberg Catechism instructs us, we hate God and hate our neighbors. When the psalmist stated that he was for peace, he implied his hatred for lies, strife, war, deceit, and slander.

What anguish the psalmist endured in his soul because of slander and lies. He cried, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” The psalmist had confidence. He cried unto the LORD, and he heard me (vs.1).” God hates slander. What will be given to the liar and false tongue is “sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper” (vs. 4). God will shoot His hot arrows at those who slander and tell lies. This is true both now in time, and unless repented of, eternally.

This psalm is correctly the first psalm of ascent, because it is the desire of the child of God to be delivered, brought up to Jerusalem, which means, “city of peace”. The Psalmist felt as if he wa in the midst of the wicked nation of Japheth, north of Israel, or a ruthless nation from Ishmael, southeast of Israel. Both nations are used figuratively in vs. 5 to represent the psalmist’s feeling of isolation even though he resided in Israel. In Jerusalem was the temple where the peace offering was made. Jehovah spoke peace to His own through the offering.

Ultimately, this psalm finds its highest realization in Jesus Christ. “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” Jesus lives in perfect harmony with His Father in heaven. He came to make the peace offering, taking away the sins of His people. He makes the church a place of peace. How His soul was distressed when He was slandered during the duration of His ministry. He was slandered by the leaders in Jerusalem. They said He cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub, a troubler of Israel, and guilty of blasphemy because He made himself equal with God. His disciples were called liars when they said that Jesus rose from the dead. God delivered Jesus from lying lips and deceitful tongues when He raised Him from the dead and Jesus ascended into heaven.

There is a sense in which all Christians live in Meshech and Kedar; the world is no friend to grace or to God. It is easy for us to feel out of place in a world where values are the opposite of truth. God, the gift of salvation, the hope of eternal life, and our obedience to God’s laws receive mockery. When we stand for the unbreakable marriage between a man and a woman, when we oppose abortion, when we say that there is only one way to the Father, and when we hold the truth of a six-day creation, we are slandered as those that are narrow-minded, bigoted, and mean spirited. It is to be expected. Although we are in the world, we are not of it. “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.”

But when it is fellow Christians who charge us with being hyper-Calvinists, unscientific, narrow when it comes to Sabbath observance, etc., we feel it and we feel isolated. When the devil stirs up disharmony and bitterness even in our own churches, how sad and distressed we are. Who can bring harmony and peace back? We must look and go, as the psalmist did, to the only one who can help. “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.” We look to Jesus, the Prince of peace, who by His offering for our sin brings peace with God and peace between fellow believers. We need to go the cross of Calvary and confess our sins of bitterness, hostility, false accusations and slander. With Him there is plenteous forgiveness and deliverance from the power of sin. By His grace we have peace with God, who hates slander, as well as peace with our fellow believers. May we, by the work of the Holy Spirit, be able to say on our pilgrimage to the city of peace, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” May we strive to live in harmony and love in righteousness.

Near the end of the Songs of Ascent, we have Psalm 133:

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” “...for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”


Covenant Reformed News - June 2020

Covenant Reformed News

June 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 2

Faith Alone and Imputation

In three previous issues of the News, we have been considering Romans 4:2: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” Let us now see how the argument of this Scripture applies to various groups.

Judaism teaches that obedience to the Torah merits before God. Roman Catholicism claims that man’s own good works, performed by cooperating with divine grace, are a crucial component in his righteousness before Jehovah. According to the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, one’s personal obedience to the Most High in this life is part of the basis of one’s justification on the last day. In Islam, keeping sharia law in the service of Allah obtains righteousness before him. The liberal Protestant looks to his churchgoing, saying of prayers, etc., as grounds for his acceptance with God. The “man in the street” thinks that, since he is a “good person” who has (supposedly) “never hurt anyone,” God would never cast him into hell.

All such foolish claims constitute boasting—people boasting to themselves and boasting about themselves to others. But such boasting is of no value before the holy God of heaven. He beholds sin in all that we do (Rom. 3:9-20; Isa. 64:6). His standard is not human or religious opinion but His own perfect moral law (Gal. 3:10; James 2:10). He is the One who sees the heart, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9), with all its evil intentions and motives (Heb. 4:12). As the infinitely majestic One, He demands that He always be glorified as the supreme goal of all our thinking, speaking and doing. The Psalmist was right: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3).

Thus justification cannot be by man’s works, even in the tiniest little part. This shuts us up to the grand gospel truth that father Abraham was justified by faith alone, which is developed in the three clauses of Romans 4:3.

This verse begins, “For what saith the scripture?” Literally, it refers to “the scripture,” namely, Genesis 15:6, which is quoted in the rest of Romans 4:3. This verse from the first book of the Bible is the locus classicus for justification by faith alone in the Old Testament, being cited in Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23, and explained in Romans 4.

“For what saith the scripture?” Romans 4:3 continues, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The text does not say, “Abraham worked, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” or even “Abraham believed and worked, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The Scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:2 rules out in toto man’s works in his justification, while verse 3 mentions faith as the only means of justification. To echo the apostle’s earlier statement, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (3:28).

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3). There are three key words or phrases in the last clause. First, “it” refers back to “believed” and so speaks of faith. Second, “counted” means imputed or reckoned to one’s account. Third, “counted … for righteousness” is equivalent to God’s gracious justification, His declaration that we are righteous or just in His sight.

Here again we oppose not only Rome, but also the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision. In their corruption of the gospel, all of these heretical movements attack gracious imputation. Yet father Abraham’s being counted or imputed righteous occurs in Genesis 15:6, the foundational Old Testament Scripture, which is quoted in Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23, and developed in Romans 4 as the equivalent of justification.

Regarding the truth of imputation, the Canons of Dordt reject the classic Arminian heresy which states, “God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace” (II:R:4).

Of course, “faith itself” is not “perfect obedience” to Jehovah’s holy law and it is absurd to reckon that He would regard or impute it as such. Nor can the infinitely just God reckon man’s imperfect obedience as if it were a full and complete keeping of His pure moral standards. The Canons are correct: “these [Arminians] proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church” (II:R:4).

The Scriptures do not teach that the Triune God regards faith “as if it were” righteousness or accepts faith “instead of” righteousness, as some sort of substitute for perfect obedience to Jehovah’s law. This would be ascribing to man’s faith the place and role of Christ Himself. He is the true substitute of all elect believers, for the Lord Jesus is the One who died on the cross under the wrath of God instead of us, and the One who kept the law of God in our place and for us.

The Bible says that we believe “unto” righteousness (Rom. 10:10) or that faith is reckoned to us “for” righteousness (e.g., Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3, 5, 9, 22; Gal. 3:6), not that faith is imputed to us “instead of” righteousness or “as if it were” righteousness.

Faith’s unique role in justification is that of the means or instrument that lays hold of the righteousness of God in Christ. Faith looks outside itself and away from itself to the righteousness of another, even the Lord Jesus, whose righteousness it appropriates. Faith is counted to us for righteousness as the only means by which we receive Christ’s obedience reckoned to our account! Rev. Angus Stewart


The Well-Meant Offer and Organic Unity (1)

I wish to apologize to readers of the News for not answering their questions sooner. One reason was the volume of questions; the other reason was my determination to complete my treatment of God’s organic dealings with His creation over several issues.

This is a fundamental difference between the Reformed faith and the Arminianism that includes the notion of a gracious offer of the gospel in which God supposedly expresses His affection for absolutely all men and, in that love, passionately desires to save the reprobate. This is rank heresy and a denial of God’s purpose in the preaching (Isa. 6:9-10; II Cor. 2:15-17). I have received a number of questions concerning this error and the teaching of Scripture. I will now respond to one of them, Romans 11:28, though briefly, in the light of what I have written earlier.

There is one warning, however. The defence of the gracious offer of the gospel to absolutely everybody is usually done by a very random and sometimes arbitrary choice of texts. Advocates of this view jump rapidly from verse to verse without carefully considering them in the light of the whole of God’s Word.

I follow Martin Luther’s view of Scripture. Heretics, he said, can always find a text that is supposed to prove their point. If one makes this his way of using Scripture, he can make Scripture teach anything he wants to prove. Luther believed that the Scriptures are an organic whole. I believe that too. The whole of Scripture is a portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ, the revelation of the God of our salvation. If one is painting a portrait, one cannot present the subject’s eyes without taking into account the whole portrait.

My Bible teacher in high school, himself belonging to a domination other than the one to which I belong, warned us of taking a verse out of its immediate context and the context of the whole of Scripture. He told us, in an unforgettable illustration, that he could prove from Scripture that we ought soon to commit suicide, quoting the following texts: “[Judas] went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5); “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37); “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).

While that may seem far-fetched, it is like what Arminians do. They quote John 3:16, for example, without considering the following verses or John 17:9 or Romans 9 or our Lord’s prayer in Matthew 11:25-27, where He thanks His heavenly Father that He has revealed the truth to some and hidden it from others.

It is somewhat wearisome to run after these Arminians as they, like bumble bees, flit from text to text without carefully studying any of them. Nor do the defenders of this position do their homework before coming up with question after question. Let them read Reformed literature, such as, Arthur Pink’s The Sovereignty of God or my recent book, Corrupting the Word of God, on the history of the doctrine of the well-meant offer of the gospel. (Both books are available from the CPRC Bookstore for £8 and £15, respectively, plus 10% P&P.)

Now to the Scripture: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom. 11:28).

This verse is a clear illustration of the principle that a text’s interpretation must be considered in the light of its context. The context in Romans 9–11 clearly indicates that Paul is answering the question, If the gospel is being preached to the Gentiles, has God forgotten His people, the Jews? Paul answers, first of all, by saying that election and reprobation were worked out by God throughout the physical descendants of Abraham: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (9:13). Not all Israelites were saved; just read Romans 9:6-8! It is, therefore, a violation of Scripture to interpret “they” in Romans 11:28, as meaning all men head for head. It refers only to the nation of Israel and that as organically conceived.

Because of their unique place in history, the Jews as a nation are not considered as Jews head for head but as a nation that occupies a special place in God’s working out of His purpose of salvation in Christ. The nation of Israel’s special place is defined in Romans 9:4-5. Therefore, as Paul discusses the gospel preached also to the Gentiles, he uses the figure of an olive tree: Israel is the natural olive tree; the Gentiles are of the wild olive tree (11:16-24). Each branch is a generation as it grows. Once a branch of a wild olive tree is cut off, that branch (those who believe not the gospel) is lost forever.

But this is not true of the Jews. Because they are the “beloved,” the nation, organically considered, was cut down but individual Jews can yet be saved, a privilege denied the nations of the Gentiles. This privilege is granted only to the Jews. Election determines who among the Jews is saved. Therefore, the reprobate Jews are “enemies” for the sake of the Gentiles, to make room for these Gentiles in the olive tree (11:11ff.).

The questioner asks for a book that deals specifically with Romans 11:28. Let him order Herman Hoeksema’s commentary on Romans, Righteous By Faith Alone (£20 plus 10% P&P), where he will find a detailed explanation of this matter. Prof. Herman Hanko

Rev. Stewart will be interviewed by phone on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio on “Regeneration: God’s Gift of a New Heart” on Thursday, 25 June, from 4-6 PM (Eastern Time in the US) or 9-11 PM (UK time), DV. Listen live on-line ( The audio of the previous interview on the new birth, “Supernatural and Infallible Regeneration: Most Delightful, Astonishing, Mysterious and Ineffable” (cf. Canons III/IV:12), is on a special webpage containing sermons, articles, and box sets of CDs and DVDs on this beautiful subject (

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
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Synodical Committees

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Classical Officers

Classis East
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Classis West
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