News from All Churches
Covenant Reformed News
April 2017 • Volume XVI, Issue 12
Our Identity in Christ (1)
One’s identity refers to who one is. There are two issues here. First, what is it to be human in general? Second, who am I personally? Human identity and personal identity are probably bigger issues in our world today than ever before.
What is a person? Some 150 years ago, aboriginal people were viewed by some as subhuman, despite the fact that all of humanity has descended from our first parents, Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26). Similarly, 75 years ago, the Nazis wickedly classified certain people as Untermenschen, including the Jews, “of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:5).
In much of the world, unborn babies are not viewed as persons. Therefore, they, like Aboriginals or Jews in the past, are disposable and can be killed. In certain places of the world, there is a drive to have some animals classified as persons possessing various legal “rights” (e.g., bonobos, chimpanzees, elephants, whales, dolphins and eagles).
The modern “culture of death” is spreading, with not only abortion (the murder of unborn babies) at one end of the human lifespan, but also euthanasia (the voluntary killing off of the elderly) at the other end. Moreover, consent can be problematic and there are reports of involuntary euthanasia too. Increasingly, there is a push to allow the consensual termination of the lives of people in the middle years of life as well, especially those with severe disabilities or experiencing great pain.
There are also issues of mental health, including depression, self-harm and suicide (the sixth commandment forbids the taking of one’s own life, as well as the lives of others). Radical Islamic suicide bombers have blown themselves up in order to murder others.
All these things raise questions. Who are we as human beings? What is our life?
Our bodies are also included in our identity. As Western societies revert to paganism, body piercing has seen a massive increase. It is not just the piercing of ears but also of noses, tongues, navels and other body parts. Men, as well as women, are doing it.
Along with body piercing, tattooing is becoming well-nigh ubiquitous—for women, as well as men. Some even use tattoos (and other means of body alteration) in order to look more like animals.
Others are pushing for greater acceptance of public nudity. If we are merely evolved animals, since animals do not wear clothes, why not go naked? Ideas have consequences; principles work through!
What views of a person’s self-identity and the meaning of life are expressed in drunkenness or drug abuse, when life’s “highs” are experienced by entering oblivion?
One’s sexuality is an aspect of one’s identity. We are continually hearing about homosexuality, bisexuality and more. Part of the defence of these lifestyles and behaviours is this: “This is our identity! You must respect our identity!” These things are being aggressively defended, encouraged, promoted and celebrated in many spheres, including legally, politically, culturally and educationally.
Others are practising and promoting bestiality (sexual intercourse with animals). Among their arguments are the following: “We are only animals like them. The other animals seem to enjoy it. No one is being hurt by our private actions.” In our secularist age, the main legal argument against bestiality is that from animal rights!
One’s marital status is an aspect of one’s identity. A few years ago, civil partnerships were introduced for sodomites and lesbians. Advocates said publicly that this was all that they were after. But the ink had hardly dried when they were clamouring for homosexual “marriage” as a basic human right! Those who maintained that marriage is between a man and a woman, as the Lord Jesus Christ taught (Matt. 19:4-6), are denounced as “bigots” and worse. Recently a man and a woman campaigned for heterosexual civil partnerships in the UK, as in some other countries, though they lost their case.
One’s gender is also part of one’s identity. These days we have not only the binary: male and female (Gen. 1:27); we have many more “options.” A recent form in Brighton gave as many as 25! Transgenderism is a new crusade to justify a man who thinks he is, or wants to be, a woman and vice versa. Someone transitions to the desired gender by taking hormones, undergoing surgical operations, wearing different clothes, taking a different name, etc. Debates have started regarding the correct personal pronoun. Instead of being either a “he” or a “she,” a person may choose gender-neutral options like “ze,” “e,” “xhe,” “they” or many others.
As well as transgenderism, we now have transracism. There was a recent case of an American political activist who modified her hair, skin colour, speech, etc., and claimed to be black. However, it came out that she was white. Her defence essentially was, “Everybody has to respect my self-identity! If I say I am black, then I am black!”
There is also transageism, whereby grown men (or women) act like little children and comfort themselves by playing with rattles and suchlike. If one’s gender, sexuality, race, etc., can be redefined without respect to objective reality, but on the basis merely of one’s subjective feelings or wishes, what is wrong with a 50-year-old man self-identifying as a 6-year-old boy or girl (or even as a cat or a dog)?
Where does it end? There are people who want to be disabled (and even those who have acted upon this desire by cutting off their limbs). This is transableism. In today’s politically-correct world, who wants to challenge their subjective feelings?
In 1979, Francis Schaeffer and Everett Koop wrote a famous book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? They would have a lot more to write about in 2017!
Our world, especially in the West, is hopelessly confused and lost regarding the meaning of life and self. Many are endlessly trying to “find themselves” or “reinvent themselves” or “re-identify themselves.” Many people do not know who they are or do not like who they are or are totally sick of being who they are. Some are looking to pagan or Eastern religions, or are looking within, or are looking to ever-changing public opinion, the secular state or politically-correct ideology to try to find some meaning in life. Many are crippled by the fear of man and concern about what others think of them.
Surely, there has to be a better way! What about the gospel of Jesus Christ and finding our true identity in Him and God’s saving love? Rev. Angus Stewart
The More-Loving-Than-God Argument (1)
A brother in Wales writes, “Though it has been formulated in various ways, one popular argument for common grace/well-meant offer (CG/WMO) is that God, after all, must love everybody, ‘otherwise He is outdone by His own creatures.’ I have named this ‘the more-loving-than-God argument’ for CG/WMO.”
The brother then lists six reasons why some people reckon it is necessary that God loves every man, woman and child that ever lived. I hope to treat these six individual points separately but, first of all, it is important to address the argument as a whole. It is interesting that these arguments continue to come up in the camp of the defenders of common grace. That this same argument, though in different forms, continues to appear becomes, at last, a sort of screech of desperation, because these arguments have been satisfactorily answered again and again. The fact is that they have been repeatedly refuted also by theologians outside the Protestant Reformed Churches. Nor can it be denied that this idea has been convincingly answered by the whole tradition of orthodox thought beginning with Augustine (354-430) and continuing through the theology of the Protestant Reformers and second-generation Reformers on into the mainstream of Reformed thinking throughout the world.
Defenders of common grace, though they are theological dwarfs in comparison to the giant theologians of bygone centuries, think they know such great things that they can, with a wave of the hand, dismiss the whole tradition of Reformed thought.
If you question the fact that a denial of CG/WMO is indeed the tradition of all solid Reformed thought, I urge you to read my most recent book, Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer (available from the CPRC Bookstore for £16.50, including P&P, with cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church”).
In this issue of the News, I will give a few reasons why the notion that God loves all men cannot be supported. In later issues of the News, I will answer the arguments of those people who defend a universal love of God.
1) No one has ever presented any proof from Scripture that God loves all men. It is true that some, who are “unlearned and unstable [and] wrest ... the ... scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:16), appeal to various texts but they do not properly interpret them in the light of the whole of God’s Word. These “proof texts” have been repeatedly answered over the ages, beginning with the great N. African theologian, Augustine. Just read Augustine’s Enchiridion, chapters 94-107 (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/ augustineenchiridion.htm) to learn what this ancient church father believed.
2) If God loves all men, He loves the monsters of iniquity who have committed crimes so outrageous that our souls shudder even to read of them. Two modern examples are Hitler and Stalin. To say that God loves them when they never expressed one word of repentance for their heinous sins is preposterous. I have listened to one man who, in defence of his position, insisted God also loves Satan and all his demons.
3) It is a deadly travesty of God’s greatness to argue that He loves many whom He sends to hell at the end of their lives. If one wants to avoid such wicked notions, one can only conclude that all men without exception are finally saved. One wonders: all devils as well? Many, in defence of the heresy that God loves all men, have been forced into a universalistic theology.
4) If God’s love for all men is expressed in a divine desire to save everybody, He is a very weak God, a failure in His purpose and helpless to attain that which He earnestly desires—unless one does really want such a Bible-denying position as universalism.
5) Some may argue that not all are saved but only those who reject Christ. But the so-called well-meant offer is, after all, a part of common grace. And common grace insists that God gives every man the grace to accept or reject the gospel offer. This is sheer Arminianism, leaving the final determination for salvation up to man’s free will. Such a position has been condemned by the church of Christ for many centuries. What profit is there in resurrecting old heresies that have never been accepted by the church of Christ?
6) Finally, the truth of God’s sovereignty is the heart of the truth of the gospel. CG/WMO denies God’s sovereignty. This is a denial of the very essence of God. If God is not sovereign, God is not God. God, by definition, does as He pleases and has no need of man (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). Nor does He leave anything at all, especially His most important work—salvation—to man’s arbitrary will and final decision. I want no deity like that. He cannot do what I need most. He cannot overcome my sinful will, decisive in the question of an eternal heaven or hell. He is but an idol, worse than those the heathen worship and serve, for He cannot save those whom He loves and wants to save.
Because of my sin and depravity, I need a God who is absolutely sovereign. He has to overcome, with His powerful grace, all my resistance and make me willing, in the day of His power, to love Him. Then all glory belongs to Him and there is nothing else to do but praise and bless His holy name. I have come to know that there is not even 0.0001% of my salvation that I can do, and have to do, to be saved. Thank God, it is not so! Thank God that He does it all by the cross and Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor does God do it by pulling me to heaven as a child pulls a toy duck over the floor, for He works in me “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). This is the wonder of God’s sovereign, transforming grace in Christ! Prof. Herman Hanko
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851
This brief summary of the history of the PRC in Myanmar provided by Rev. Titus was first published in the April 2017 issue of the Beacon Lights, a PR young people's magazine. and is reproduced here with their permission as well as with the approval of the Hope PRC Council, which oversees the work in Myanmar.
A Short History of Protestant Reformed Churches of Myanmar (Burma)
Once, godly philosopher and theologian Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." That is how the story begins, without our covenant God's drawing us with His covenant love, there will be no PRCM in this unfortunate country. It is a wonder of grace that, how we became reformed believers from no-missionary allowed country. So, I need to tell about my self, because that is the beginning of how PRCM started.
My name is Rev. Titus San Ceu Luai. I was born in 1967, from a nominal Christian home, in Baptist Church. My father was a military officer with excellent ability for the army, trained the best and highest military school of the land, so he did not care very much about religion, but my grandpa was a pastor in Independent Church of Burma, my mother also a Christian namely but a little more concern with religion than my father. My parent had four children, I am number two. In that way I was brought up in a highly military officer's home, guns were every day in my life, but no Jesus.
And in his providence, the Lord send three evangelists, from one of evangelicalism groups, to our home, when I was about 18 years old, and I was converted for His mercy and grace. In that was I became one of evangelical persuasion Christian from Baptist. That was about 1984.
And round about 1986, one of my uncles from mother's side came and visit our house, he was founding pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Myanmar. And he was surprised that our family now believe really to the Lord, he said when he was young he visited our house but my father did not like to talk about Christianity at our house, but now everything changed. So, he said he will teach us Five Points of Calvinism and we all agree to listen. He taught us night after night for almost a week, and especially I was really changed into Presbyterianism after that. And my uncle told me that he going to open soon a theological school and if I interested I can attend.
So, I attend that Presbyterian school in 1987. And my uncle's church was Chin speaking church and my father's house after some time had a fellowship group meet regularly, and need a pastor and my uncle's church cannot give a Burmese speaking pastor, so when I was at school first year, the Assembly of Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Myanmar called me as probation-pastor for that little Burmese speaking congregation, I speak both Burmese and Chin language, because my father and mother are Chin tribe and the place I was born and grown up is Burmese speaking place, in fact, in our country too many languages are speaking till today, and majority can understand Burmese language, it is like common-language for the whole country. And finished at 1992, after that the Presbyterian gave me ordination, since my probation period was over and I got married. As Presbyterian system's way, first pro-pastor four plus married then ordination, quite different from we Reformed church.
And from 1992 as soon as I finished school, the Assembly call me to become a lecturer at the school since shortage of able teacher. And I study a lot for teaching as well as for pastoral work and realized that Reformed mean not only Five Points of Calvinism but much more and no one here to teach me, and liberal at my school only had very few books. At that time the country was ruled by Socialist government so Christian books are banned and very rarer to get. In that way the thirst in my heart to know more of Reformed truth goes on.
And in 1994 the school asked me to go for further study to Singapore at Far Eastern Bible College, M.div program. And I sent and found out that that college taught 50 - 50 to be saved, that means man 50 % God 50 % working for salvation, I was dismay and confused, away from country, away from my wife and daughter, felt very sorry. But the Lord had other purpose for me to be there.
That was, I found a magazine from college library called "Standard Bearer," and articles I read I agree 100 %. So, I wrote to the address, but no reply for quite some time. During that time one of my fellow students who was a member of Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore, invited me to attend "Reformation Lecture," that held at his church. I followed him, and after lectures finished, there tea time at the basement of the church, I found one white man with a brooch "seminarian." I asked that young man where he came from, he reply me he came from America, and I ask him whether he knew "Standard Bearer," he said he came from that school, I was so happy, his name is Allen Brummel, now Rev. Brummel. He brought me to Rev. Kortering pastor-on-loan from PRCA, who is going to be my mentor and friend till today.
Rev. Kortering asked me what I want to know about Reformed truth. I reply him, I want to know everything of Reformed, I want to see the world as a Reformed man, every-corner of life and doctrine. He said, "Oh, if that is the case we need to spend together sometime," I said that will be fine. From that day on every week I was in Rev. Kortering's house, listening whatever he said, and read books that he gave me to read, and attend all classes that he taught to ERCS. And the thirst that in my heart quenched. I became thoroughly Reformed man in PR tradition.
So, my church back home and my college in Singapore did not like me to become like that, so lastly they kicked me out from college as well as from denomination for what they called "too Reformed." That was 1997. My wife suffered the most, because we have no home only the Presbyterian School's apartment we stayed, and I was in Singapore, she with two little children were kick-out from the apartment no place to stay, but deacons from ERCS helped and she got managed to rent a small place to stay and waiting me to return. I returned home, and my former congregation also broke away from Presbyterian denomination and followed me, in that way we started Protestant Reformed Churches of Myanmar.
So, I was a Baptist, then evangelical, then Presbyterian, lastly Protestant Reformed. That was my pilgrim journey, still going forward. All these for His mercy and for His glory. My special thanks are to PRCA brothers who helped me all the time, especially Hope PRCA.
From 1997, our covenant Lord sustains His covenant people, so though our numbers very few, we stand for the truth, as our PR churches in the world do. We maintain, covenant view of family, no remarry after divorce, marriage is life-long, we strongly believe double-predestination, we strongly oppose common grace, grace is always particular, no grace whatsoever for reprobate. We also maintain, Heidelberg Catechism preaching, we are the only one church do that in our country, we sing only Psalms, for that we have to translate English Psalms songs into Burmese, quite difficult, so, we have only about 23 songs, but we are happy to sing them, no other songs in worship.
We had from 1997, quite a numbers of contacts in various parts of our country who are interested in our PR views, till today we continue to work with them. And Hope PRCA always helps us to do that, and they faithfully oversight our activities as well as come and visit and conduct seminars, so that those who wants to know PR views of Reformed truth can learn more in-depth.
And from 1997, since no Reformed creed is available in Burmese language, I have to translate them, so I did, and finished all our three forms of unity, Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Cannons of Dordt. And Church Order of Dordt, various forms of Reformed liturgy. Which are so difficult, many nights very few hours to sleep.
And PR books that produced by RFPA are so faithful to the truth, I like them to be read by my people, but they cannot understand English, so I have to translate them into Burmese, so I did, and finished a few books, Doctrine According to Godliness, Portraits of Faithful Saints, Contending for the Faith. And now I am translating For Thy Truth Sake. Plus, various articles of Standard Bearers, which I put them in my weekly paper, called, "Sunday Digest." And I finished PR Catechism materials for various ages of children and youth.
And our Burmese Bible was written by Baptist-Arminian missionary, so a lot of areas need to improve, so I translate KJV into Burmese and now finished all NT books, plus some OT books, all 150 Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, now I start the book of Deuteronomy.
Please pray for us to spread our PR truths through out the country, our country is Baptist dominant country in Christendom, and majority are not Christian. So, we have a lot to do for His kingdom. And pray for those translation works to finish for His glory. And please pray for publishing those books that finish translation. And one more thing to request for prayer is that to establish Reformed day-school for our covenant children. Last time till 2010, our government does not allow to have private school all school is run by government, and from 2010 it was allowed to have private school but not yet Christian school, and private school that teaches their own prescribed subjects, only all private schools are now allow to teach government prescribed subjects, all humanistic and nationalistic views. But from 2015, things a bit changed with newly elected government led by Nobel-prize winner, Lady Aung San Su Kyi. So, in His providence through your prayers we might have our own covenant-school.
In His service,
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
14 April, 2017
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
Patrick, the great British missionary who preached the gospel of grace in Ireland in the fifth century, is probably the world’s most famous “patron saint.” Sadly, parades on St. Patrick's Day (17 March) are now being used to promote the homosexual agenda.
However, when he boarded a ship to escape from slavery in Ireland, the real Patrick did not comply with the request of the (male) sailors: “I refused to suck their breasts for fear of God, but rather hoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ, because they were pagans” (Confession 18). In fifth-century, pagan Ireland, sucking a man's nipple was a sign of friendship or of the reception of protection. Patrick “refused” to engage in it out of the “fear of God” in order to avoid any homosexual connotations. Instead, this faithful Christian, whose two writings are saturated with the authoritative Word of God (e.g., Letter to Coroticus 20) and who would later return to Ireland as a missionary, “rather hoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ.”
So I wrote a letter to the N. Ireland press, explaining from Patrick’s own writings, the earliest extant Irish literature, how he was sharply opposed to sodomy as anti-scriptural and sinful. The Belfast Telegraph and the News Letter published the letter in full on St. Patrick's Day or the day before, respectively ( www.cprf.co.uk/articles/ patrickandhomosexuality.html ).
Besides an earlier article in the Mid-Ulster Mail, the Tyrone Courier printed a piece I sent them about Rev. McGeown’s new book Called to Watch for Christ’s Return (22 February), as did the Ballymena Guardian (11 April). With the help of Marco Barone, a willing trans-Atlantic courier flying to and from Grand Rapids, our supply of this end times’ book has been renewed.
Our bookstore, filled with RFPA materials, is a great resource for building up our members, getting out the truth of the Reformed faith, and making our church better known. We love selling these wonderful books!
Ministry of the Word
The 34-sermon series on “The Life of Jacob” (Gen. 25-50) has concluded, with the third box set of the trilogy entitled “Jacob, Joseph and Egypt” (Gen. 37-50). Available on CD or DVD, it is listed with about 70 other box sets on-line ( www.cprf. co.uk/audio/boxsets.htm ).
A couple of weeks ago, we started a new series of sermons on “The Conclusion to Christ’s Farewell Discourse” (John 16). This beautiful chapter of God's Word deals with such themes as Christ’s bodily departure, the persecution of His saints, the work of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and peace.
The CPRC catechism classes concluded with an end-of-season test on Monday, 27 March. All the students in the 3 classes on Beginners New Testament, Juniors Old Testament, and Heidelberg Catechism Book 2 did well—a testimony not only to their hard work but also to that of their parents.
After 16 classes on the holy war, we have begun a study on the holy land in our Tuesday morning classes. It is a massive theme in Genesis, the rest of the Pentateuch, and throughout Old Testament history and prophecy, with important lessons for us New Testament Christians (e.g., Heb. 11:8-16).
Our Wednesday night study of the Belgic Confession is in rich ecclesiastical pastures. Our six classes on Belgic Confession 31, “The Ministers, Elders and Deacons,” looked at how Christ calls His officebearers: their qualification, nomination by the council, election by the congregation, and ordination. We also covered sinful motives for, and ways of, seeking church office, equality among officebearers, and “Murmuring, Strife, and Contention Against OfficeBearers.”
We are currently on Belgic Confession 32, “The Order and Discipline of the Church,” dealing with the whole area of church authority: its nature, source, parties, etc. Our Belgic Confession audio page includes some 215 audios of all of the classes from over the last six church seasons ( www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm ).
The subject of my last lecture in South Wales was “The New Calvinism and the Reformation” (2 March). The speech contrasted the “New Calvinism” of John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, etc., with the old Calvinism of the Reformation and its creeds in the areas of the doctrines of grace, Charismaticism, worship, ecclesiology, etc. There were 17 of us present. The video of the lecture, plus the question and answer session, is online ( www.youtube.com/ watch?v=soWSTosMTsYp ).
The CPRC YouTube site continues to grow, thanks to the work of Stephen Murray (www.youtube.com/cprcni). Our subscribers have increased to 770. Now all the sermon series, conference speeches, and debates that we have online in video are in handy playlists. Thus, for example, the videos of the 6 sermons in the 2010 series “The Outrage of Gibeah” (Jud. 19-21) are arranged one after another on a special YouTube page.
The CPRC main website (www.cprc.co.uk) is doing well. We average about 2,400 different people per day (excluding those listening to audios or reading pdfs). The last 2 months saw the addition of just 7 new translations (3 Spanish, 2 Hungarian, and 2 Czech), probably our worst haul ever! Though slow, our foreign section keeps growing ( www.cprf.co.uk/lan-guages.htm ).
This summer, Mary and I are taking our biennial holiday in North America, D.V. I am to preach 8 times: Spokane (23 July), Edmonton and Lacombe (30 July), Lynden (6 August), and Providence and Hudsonville (13 August). It will be good to worship with the saints in all these 6 churches again. I will also be giving a slide presentation after the Sunday afternoon/evening service in 4 of these churches. Rev. Brummel and I are to speak at an evangelism conference in Lacombe on Saturday, 29 July.
Our sister-church relationship is important to us, so we appreciate all these opportunities to maintain contact and strengthen our bonds in Christ. In our absence from Northern Ireland, Rev. Bleyenberg of Providence PRC will be preaching in the CPRC and the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) on three Lord’s Days (30 July and 6 & 13 August).
We appreciate your interest, support, and prayers for your sister church and its mission work on the island of Ireland.
May the Lord be with you all,
Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart
"Covenant Keepers", the youth ministry of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore (our sister church), has just released the March 2017 issue of "Salt Shakers" (#42),their youth magazine.
The March 2017 issue of "SS" is once again filled with interesting and profitable articles, and our PRC young people especially are invited and encouraged to make it part of their reading content.
Below you will find a note from the "SS" Committee introducing the contents of this issue and images of the cover and table of contents. The entire issue is also attached here in pdf form.
Rev. Rodney, pastor of Covenant of Grace PRC in Spokane, WA, will complete his service for the RWH program, concluding his series on the law of God, as well as delivering special messages for Good Friday and Easter.
You are encouraged to listen to these important messages and to let others know about them too. Help spread the word about the Reformed Witness Hour, now in its 76th year of broadcasting the truths of God's sovereign, particular, efficacious grace!
Below are the messages scheduled for this month, also in flyer form (attached in pdf).
April 2, 2017 - Christian Stewardship, Exodus 20:15
April 9, 2017 - Messiah Must Suffer, Mark 8:31-32
April 16, 2017 - Risen according to the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:4
April 23, 2017 - The Taming of the Tongue, Exodus 20:16
April 30, 2017 - Obedience from the Heart, Exodus 20:17