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Covenant Reformed News - May 2022

Covenant Reformed News


May 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 1


The Unchangeable God (1)

Change is an intrinsic part in our created and fallen world. There are changes in the weather, the economy and technology. Some changes in the nations are especially distressing and even lethal: wars, diseases and famines. We could say that the news is almost all about change.

Consider the many changes in your own life. You were once a tiny unborn baby in your mother’s womb. Some nine months after your conception, you were born. You grew from infancy through childhood and your teenage years until you became an adult. In old age, our hair begins to thin or fall out and our strength fails.

There are changes in one’s family life, such as leaving one’s parents to go to university or to start one’s first job. Human life usually involves getting married, having children and seeing them leave home. The later years of many involve grandchildren, bereavement and even widowhood. There are other changes too, such as unemployment or health problems, for you or your loved ones or both!

We also experience great changes, both up and down, in how we feel: angry, sad, unhappy, distressed or lonely at one time but calm, encouraged, uplifted or joyful at another. Even in our relationship to the God of our salvation, at times we are close to Him while at other times we seem far away.

The pen man of Psalm 102 writes a lot about change, distressing change. The heading reads, “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” He was reproached by his “enemies” (8) and was experiencing “trouble” (2): “For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin” (3-5).

God’s heavy hand was upon him. All his grief was “because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down” (10). In various ways, Psalm 102 also indicates that the church was experiencing dark days too. The psalmist’s comfort in all this is especially one divine attribute or perfection: God’s unchangeableness or immutability. This is instructive for us too!

God’s unchangeableness is presented very starkly here, not only against unsettling changes for the psalmist and the church, but even over against the two things which seem most stable in our world. What are they? The earth beneath us and the heavens above us. Underneath us, the earth is solid and firm. The things on earth change: trees lose their leaves, animals die and houses are built on new tracts of land. But the earth itself is constant. The heavens are a model of constancy too. Yes, clouds move in the sky, while the sun, moon and planets travel in outer space, but the heavens themselves are largely unchanged.

However, even the heavens and the earth change, especially at the beginning of this age and its end. Both heaven and earth were created, brought into existence out of nothing: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands” (25). Both heaven and earth will be radically transformed at the second coming of Jesus Christ: “They shall perish … yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed” (26). They will not be annihilated but renewed as the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).

Heaven and earth were created by the Almighty out of nothing (Ps. 102:25) and will be gloriously renewed at the end of this age (26), “but thou art the same” (27) for Jehovah is the unchangeable God! The Most High is “the same” as He was or is in His eternal timelessness as the uncreated Creator. Absolutely no change has happened in Him in the past and it never will in the future. He is immutable before the creation, after the creation, in the psalmist’s day, in our day, and when He transforms the heaven and the earth at the last day, for “they shall be changed: but thou art the same” (26-27)!

James declares, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (1:17). “Variableness” has an astronomical use, referring to the heavenly bodies. Even the stars change, increasing or decreasing, but with God there is “no variableness.” “Shadow of turning” is also a phrase taken from the world of astronomy. The heavenly bodies cast shadows and there are shadows on the moon. But with God there is “no variableness” and not even a “shadow of turning.” After all, He is “the Father of lights.” This is another astronomical allusion, this time to the sun. As the infinitely blessed and perfect One, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). With the God who is light and “the Father of lights,” there can be “no variableness” or even a “shadow of turning,” for He is absolutely and infinitely unchangeable.

Malachi 3:5 speaks of Israel’s sorcery, adultery, false swearing, oppression and lack of fear of the Lord. We could add to this all the sins of the church of all ages, including our own iniquities. If ever there were a reason for God to change by stopping to love the church and starting to hate the church, here it is. Yet what do we read? “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (6). This is certain proof that the true and living God is absolutely unchangeable! Our salvation in Christ is forever sure for the God of eternal election, effectual redemption and irresistible regeneration will not and cannot change. Rev.  Angus Stewart

  

 

Mercy and Judgment Upon Israel

These passages in Numbers 14 are used by some to teach a divine mercy upon reprobate individuals: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word” (18-20). “Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (23). “I the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die” (35).

The argument is, “Moses prays that God would forgive Israel and not utterly destroy them after the 10 spies brought back the bad report. God forgives Israel according to the greatness of His mercy, even though they are an evil congregation (and remain evil till the whole generation dies in the wilderness). Notice (1) God’s forgiveness here to these reprobate individuals is non-salvific (though they were spared from divine judgment at that moment, they all eventually perished in the wilderness); (2) Moses pleads in his prayer that God is merciful and forgiving by His very nature even to these reprobate.”

The questioner raises a very important issue. Not only here in Numbers but also in many other passages, it appears that Lord is, at the same time, promising salvation and threatening eternal judgment to the same people. That, of course, cannot be the case. He cannot pardon men and send them to hell. If the Lord had pardoned all those who sinned at Kadesh by rejecting the report of Joshua and Caleb, and by refusing to enter Canaan, then they would not have perished in the wilderness. By the same token, if they perished in the wilderness under the judgment of God, then they were not pardoned. Pardon for sin is absolute. If God pardons someone’s sins, then He has justified that person and there is no possibility of that person perishing under His wrath.

Nor is there any such thing as a “non-salvific” forgiveness. That is the same as saying that there is a forgiveness which does not forgive and a salvation which does not save. If a judge pardons me, then I am free from all the legal consequences of whatever crime I committed and I can never be charged again with that crime. If I am sent to prison or executed for my crimes, then I have not been pardoned.

Nor is delay of judgment a kind of forgiveness but the opposite, for the impenitent sinner has more time to sin (Rom. 2:5). If delay of judgment is a kind of forgiveness, then God has spent six thousand years forgiving those whom He intends in the end to destroy. If a judge delays my punishment for a crime, setting another date for sentencing, that is not in any sense of the word a pardon but only a delay.

That God is merciful “by His very nature” is true but He is not such to the reprobate or to those who perish everlastingly. If that were true, He would be denying Himself, denying His own righteous nature, when He punishes them everlastingly.

This does not answer the question of how God, almost in the same breath, can speak of forgiveness and of judgment to those who have sinned. The answer is that God is not speaking to an individual but to a nation, to the church of the Old Testament (Acts 7:38). That nation, the church of the Old Testament, like the church of the New Testament, is always a mixed multitude. There are in the church those whose sins are forever pardoned but there are also those who perish unpardoned under the judgment of God. Because they are mixed together, the Word of God, both His promise of pardon and His threat of eternal condemnation, comes to all, though the promises are exclusively for the benefit of those who are chosen of God and redeemed by Christ’s blood.

This is the teaching of Romans 9:6-7: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Notice that Paul is insisting that God’s Word cannot fail, in this case neither His word of pardon nor His word of judgment. His Word of pardon does not fail, when He promises pardon to Israel, for those who have merely the name of Israel are not really the Israel whom God is addressing. It does not fail either because “the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (8), counted not only as true children of Abraham but as children of God, whom He in His love always pardons through the cross.

There are always those in the institute church who worship alongside believers and who cannot even be distinguished from them in many cases, but who are not really that church which is the body of Christ, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23), which obtains peace and pardon in Him, while those who remain hypocrites and unbelievers in the church never obtain it. “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day” (Rom. 11:7-8).

Does this mean that the word of pardon has no application at all to those who perish? It does not mean that. Those who perish must hear the word of God’s pardon to their own condemnation. God is “by His very nature” a merciful God, and the proclamation of His mercy to all makes those who hear and do not believe His mercy guilty before Him and most worthy of His just judgments.

Does this mean that God’s word of judgment has no application to those whom He pardons? No! The word of judgment must be heard by those who are pardoned, not because they will ever come under the eternal judgment of God (thanks be to Him for the gift of His Son!), but because they too have sinned, and must repent and turn from their sins, as they always do by the Spirit’s irresistible grace.

The Word of God’s pardon and His judgment of sin come to all who hear the Word, and it is the Word itself which does the sifting, hardening and bringing under God’s judgment those who have only the name of Israel or church, and bringing peace and pardon to those who, according to His eternal election, by the blood of Christ and through the work of the Spirit, are God’s own. 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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PRC and Sister-Church News Highlights for May 22, 2022

Psa 54 6Below you will find special highlights of PRC and sister-church news for this twentieth Sunday of our Lord's year 2022, May 22.

Because our Lord is risen from the dead on the third day, as He promised, today, on this first day of the week, we gather in worship as members of our living Savior's church. With gratitude and gladness we bring our praise to our triune God for fully accomplishing our salvation in His Son and by His Spirit. We cordially invite you to join us in worship on this day and on any Sunday.

Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul. He shall reward evil unto mine enemies: cut them off in thy truth. I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good. For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies. ~ Psalm 54:4-7

If you are new to this website and are interested in the PRC, we invite you to join us at any of our services (morning and afternoon/evening). For congregations, locations and times, visit this page.

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS

  • This Thursday evening, May 26, the PRC congregations will gather in worship to commemorate the glorious ascension into heaven of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Please join us in praising our Savior as we remember His finished work on earth and His ongoing work in heaven to save and glorify His church. Check the worship service times of the church near you at this link.

  • Last Sunday Rev. J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland) declined the call to Doon PRC. He is considering the call to Hudsonville PRC (received May 11).

  • This morning Grace PRC voted to extend a call to Rev. E. Guichelaar (Randolph PRC).
  • Rev. J. Marcus plans to be installed as Peace PRC's new pastor on Sunday morning, June 12, with Rev. J. Engelsma leading the service.
  • Classical appointments and pulpit supply for today in the vacant PRCs: Rev. R. Barnhill in Doon (IA) PRC; Rev. S. Regnerus (2nd Sunday) in First PRC, Edmonton, AB; Prof. B. Gritters and Rev. J. Smidstra in Grace PRC;  Prof. B. Huizinga and Rev. M.McGeown in Hudsonville PRC; Rev. J. Engelsma in Peace PRCMay we count it a blessing of our church federation that we can help one another in these needs. Let us remember to pray for the men who supply these pulpits and for the vacant congregations.

Acts 1 8

  • Special PRC Evangelism/missions notices: 
    • The Council of Zion PRC (Jenison, MI) has formed its first trio for the calling of a home missionary: Revs. A. Brummel (Calvary), J. Smidstra (First-Holland), and Rev. C. Spronk (Faith PRC).
    • Byron Center (MI) PRC: The Evangelism Committee is making a special effort to invite their friends and neighbors to the Ascension Day service on May 26. This past week members met to distribute flyers in the community. They have also sponsored a special annoucemement on the Reformed Witness Hour program in the Grand Rapids, MI area for today and last Sunday.
    • First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI: "Join us for a Mexico Outreach Update/Singspiration on Sunday, June 12 at 7:30 PM here at First PRC GR. Plans are being finalized for trips to two different areas in Mexico this summer. Come and learn more about this work. Also, hear an update on the book translation work that we are involved with. A collection will be taken to help cover the costs of this outreach. A light lunch will be served following that evening service."
    • Hope PRC-GR (today's bulletin): "The Myanmar committee reported that it held a video conference with Rev. Titus, Elder Naw Taung, and Deacon Joseph regarding their labors as officebearers and the life of their congregation. Although the saints in Myanmar live in constant danger due to civil unrest, their faith is strong."

PRC DENOMINATIONAL NEWS

  • Classis East met on Wednesday, May 11. Here is a brief summary of the meeting. The full report may be found on this page.

Classis East convened Wednesday, May 11, in Zeeland, MI. First PRC of Holland hosted the meeting at Redeemer Christian School. Rev. Lee presided as chairman. The council of Georgetown PRC approved Rev. Carl Haak’s request for emeritation and brought the request to Classis for its approval. Classis approved the request and expressed deep appreciation and thanks to God for Rev. Haak’s 43 years as a faithful minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Rev. Haak’s emeritation will begin on September 1, 2022. Classis advised two consistories to proceed in their work of Christian discipline; advising one consistory to announce the name of an impenitent confessing member; advising the other consistory to proceed with the erasure of an impenitent baptized member. A pulpit supply schedule was adopted for Grace and Hudsonville PRC’s. Classis received a report from its special committee, appointed in January, to study how to handle sexual abuse cases. The expenses of Classis totaled $1,162. The delegates appreciated the hospitality of First PRC of Holland, especially the women on the catering committee. The next meeting of Classis East will convene at 8:00 AM on September 14, 2022 at Byron Center PRC.

  • Future Teachers and Ministers: Information for the 2022 PR Scholarship Fund essay competition is now available. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the essay topics and submission requirements. *Completed essays must be submitted by May 31st.

CCHS sem visit May 2022 2
The Seminary hosted the junior students from Covenant Christian HS in Grand Rapids this past Friday, May 20.

PRC Seminary Notices:

  • The seminary has now completed its second semester and entered its summer break. Continue to pray for the faculty, students, and staff as we enter the summer months with other labors and activities planned.
  • Last Friday, May 20, the seminary hosted 94 junior students plus three church history teachers from Covenant Christian HS in Grand Rapids (see photo above). They enjoyed a pizza lunch before breaking up into four (4) groups to hear presentations on the history and work of the seminary (Prof. B. Gritters), the library and tour of building (Prof. B. Huizinga, student life (Sem. M. Koerner), and PRC archives (Mr. C. Terpstra). It was a great blessing to be able to do this once again.
  • Sem. Marcus Wee has completed his four-year program and will be examined at the PRC Synod in June before returning to the CERC in Singapore. Sem. Isaac Peters has completed a special three-year program and will be returning to the EPC in Australia. A graduation program for these men is planned for June 16 at Zion PRC.
  • Prof. B. Huizinga submitted his ThM thesis (on the idea of the rewards in the covenant of grace in Reformed theology) last month and sat for its defense this past Tuesday, May 17. This is the final step in his three-year process of obtaining this degree. In addition, he also plans to take on two more courses in OT Studies this Fall from Prof. Cammenga and will be preparing for these this summer. Prof. R. Dykstra has officially ended his teaching at the seminary as of this semester and Prof. D. Kuiper will be taking over the rest of his classes in this coming year. Prof. C. Griess continues working toward his advanced degree and is taking some summer courses as well.
  • With joy the faculty announces that it has licensed student Arend Haveman to speak a word of edification in the churches. We are grateful for the brother’s progress to this point in his training. All scheduling of Mr. Haveman must be done through the seminary, either by sending a request to the seminary secretary, Miss Sharon Kleyn, or the rector, Prof. R. Cammenga.
  • The History of the Protestant Reformed Churches: 1924-1949. The 100th anniversary of our denomination approaches. How well do you know the early history of our churches? Prof. Kuiper will teach an evening class, open to any and all members of the PRC, who are interested in learning about the first 25 years of our existence. The class will be held at the seminary on July 6, 13, and 20, and August 10, 17, and 24 (all Wednesdays) at 7:30pm. Preregistration is NOT necessary, but is helpful for us to know how best to accommodate you. Please call the seminary, (616) 531-1490, or email Sharon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., to preregister.
  • The spring 2022 issue of the PRT Journal is at the printers, but the digital editions are on the seminary's website. This issue will feature the speeches from the seminary's fall 2021 conference on preaching, plus numerous book reviews. If you want to be added to our mailing list (either print or digital) or wish to pick up a copy, contact Sharon, the seminary secretary.
  • The seminary is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., including the library and bookstore. PRC members and friends are welcome to visit and make use of these resources.
  • For the latest seminary news and information, visit the seminary's website.

ephesians 4 3

SISTER-CHURCH/MISSION NEWS:

  • Covenant ERC, Singapore and her Kolkata, India mission work:
    • Pastor J. Tan is faithfully serving the CERC each week as her pastor.  Their bulletin this week included this note concerning their mission work in Kolkata, India: "Session meets together every two months with our Missionary Pastor Singh to update and share with each other all that is happening in our mission field in Kolkata India. Here are some updates and prayer request from last week’s meeting with Pastor Singh. We give thanks to God that He has moved the hearts of the government in the land to lift all COVID restrictions and life has since returned to pre-covid days. With this development, church activities and evangelism will be unhindered. It is our goal that in due time the fellowship will be instituted as a church. For that, according to the principles in the book of Acts, there must be office bearers, elders and deacons. Please pray for the following two men who have shown great interest and have finished the office bearer training course with Pastor Singh."
    • The CERC is also planning her next church camp on June 10 and 11, which includes speeches by pastor Tan , an interactive workshop, and activities.
  • Covenant PRC, N. Ireland:
    • Rev. A. Stewart continues to minister the Word faithfully to the saints in Ballymena. 
    • A March newsletter has been released by the CPRC. Visit this page to read it and catch up on all the exciting news out of Ballymena!
    • Sign up for the 2022 British Reformed Fellowship family conference at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland from Saturday, July 9, to Saturday, July 16. The speakers, Prof. David Engelsma and Prof. Brian Huizinga will lecture on "Union With Christ." For information see the website (http://brfconference.weebly.com).
    • The April 2022 issue of "Covenant Reformed News" was published at the end of the month. Follow the link to read the latest profitable articles by Revs. A. Stewart and R. Hanko.
  • PRC in the Philippines and her mission work:
    • A new Philippines mission newsletter has just been published in April. Read the news from the Far East here.
    • Berean PRC bulletin: Rev. V. Ibe led the worship services today. In addition: "Elder Umali and deacon Julius Arragona are scheduled to visit the saints in All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship (AGPRF), Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija today, D.V."
    • Provident PRC bulletin: Rev. R. Smit preached and lead her worship services today. 
    • The PRCP Seminary: "Seminary Classes are finished for this current school year and the final exams will take place from May 19- 25, the Lord willing. Let us remember our student, Bro. Ace Flores, in our prayers."

RWH Logo 2019
Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you, on Sermonaudio, or on your favorite podcast - wherever you are!

RKleyn 2020

  • This month Rev. R. Kleyn (First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI) continues speaking for the RWH. The focus will be a series on the life of Joseph. Today's message is based on Genesis 43:15-44:13 and titled "Loving Discipline."
  • The Reformed Witness Hour publishes each month's messages in an attractive booklet. These printed sermons are a great blessing to many and are distributed all over the world, including to many prisoners in the U.S. If you or your Evangelism Committee would like to receive these, let the RWHC know and they will add you to the mailing list (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

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REFORMED RESOURCES FOR EDIFICATION, EDUCATION, and EVANGELISM

Faith Practice SKey

Want to know the distinctive Reformed tradition and practices of the PRC? Look up this valuable resource!

  • For sound, distinctively Reformed literature on a variety of subjects and for all ages - including church history and Bible study materials - visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association website or stop in at their Jenison (Michigan) location.

  • The Reformed Book Outlet (downtown Hudsonville, MI) is temporarily closed while it moves into a new building that is being renovated. See the following note for details.
    Special notices re the RBO! Reformed Book Outlet is in process of moving! We have found a new building for our store in downtown Hudsonville on Harvey St. after needing to move out of our current location in Keegstra’s Dollar Store. We need to do some renovations to the building before we can move in, so watch the bulletin or our social media pages for updates on when we will open in our new location. In the mean time, our website will still be open for ordering, for shipping or for local pickup (more details on this to come)!. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know you’re able to help us move or with any questions!

  • Are you interested in learning more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Or are you simply interested in growing in your faith and walk with the Lord? Visit the Resources pages of this website and the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.

  • Do you need some catechism materials for use in your church or family? The PRC publishes catechism materials on Bible history and Reformed doctrine, for children of all ages. Visit this page for more information.

  • The PR Sunday School Association also publishes complete OT and NT Bible Story Lessons for young children and older children. Visit this page to learn more.

This Week's Thought for Contemplation

"Forgiveness or remission of sins is not exactly the same thing as justification. Justification is very similar to forgiveness of sins and they are related, but we should distinguish them from one another. Justification is more than forgiveness of sins; it includes forgiveness of sins, but it includes more. Forgiveness is God’s act of sending away our sins, while justification is God’s act of declaring that we are righteous. When God declares that we are righteous, he means that we are in perfect harmony with his standard which is revealed in his law. If you will, forgiveness is the negative side of justification: if God forgives us, we have no guilt, but what about positive righteousness? In justification God imputes or reckons Christ’s righteousness to our account. Or forgiveness is the non-imputation of sin, while justification is by the imputation of righteousness.

When we pray for forgiveness we ask that God would be “pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood not to impute to us poor sinners our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us” (Heidelberg Catechism A 126). The Catechism also closely connects the forgiveness of sins to justification: “What believest thou concerning the forgiveness of sins? That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long” (Q&A 56). That is, strictly speaking, what the remission of sins is—God not remembering our sins. The Catechism adds, “but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God” (A 56). That is justification, which is closely connected to the forgiveness of sins, although not identical to it. Similarly, the Belgic Confession does not say in Article 23 that the forgiveness of sins is justification, but that “[in the forgiveness of sins] our righteousness before God is implied.”

Also, justification concerns our legal state or status: it is God’s unchanging declaration that we are righteous received by faith alone. We can speak of justification in different senses or we can say that there are multiple declarations of righteousness. To that we will turn next time, God willing."

Rev. M. McGeown in a recent blog post, "Preaching Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins (4): Forgiveness of Sins"

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PRC and Sister-Church News Highlights for May 15, 2022 *(Updated)

Ps 53 6Below you will find special highlights of PRC and sister-church news for this ninteenth Sunday of our Lord's year 2022, May 15.

Because our Lord is risen from the dead on the third day, as He promised, today, on this first day of the week, we gather in worship as members of our living Savior's church. With gratitude and gladness we bring our praise to our triune God for fully accomplishing our salvation through His Son. We cordially invite you to join us in worship on this day and on any Sunday.

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. ~ Psalm 53:1-3,6

If you are new to this website and are interested in the PRC, we invite you to join us at any of our services (morning and afternoon/evening). For congregations, locations and times, visit this page.

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS

  • This past Wednesday, Hudsonville PRC extended a call to Rev. J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland).

  • Today Rev. J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland) declined the call to Doon PRC.

  • *UPDATE: Last Sunday Rev. S. Regnerus (Lynden, WA) declined the call to First PRC-Edmonton.

  • Grace PRC's Council has formed a new trio consisting of Revs. N. Decker (Grandville PRC), E. Guichelaar (Randolph PRC), and W. Langerak (Trinity PRC). The congregation will call next Sunday, May 22.
  • Rev. J. Marcus plans to be installed as Peace PRC's new pastor on Sunday morning, June 12, with Rev. J. Engelsma leading the service.
  • Classical appointments and pulpit supply for today in the vacant PRCs: Rev. K. Koole (2nd Sunday) in Doon (IA) PRC; Rev. S. Regnerus (1st Sunday) in First PRC, Edmonton, AB; Prof. B. Gritters and Rev. D. Noorman in Grace PRC;  Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. C. Haak in Hudsonville PRC; Rev. M. DeVries in Peace PRCMay we count it a blessing of our church federation that we can help one another in these needs. Let us remember to pray for the men who supply these pulpits and for the vacant congregations.
  • Special PRC Evangelism/missions notices: 
    • The Council of Zion PRC (Jenison, MI) has formed its first trio for the calling of a home missionary: Revs. A. Brummel (Calvary), J. Smidstra (First-Holland), and Rev. C. Spronk (Faith PRC).
    • Byron Center (MI) PRC: The community Bible study resumes discussion of John 16:9 and following this week Thursday. Please join us May 19, in the church narthex at 7:30 PM. They are also making a special effort to invite their friends and neighbors to the Ascension Day service on May 26. This week Wednesday they are meeting to distribute flyers in the community. They have also sponsored a special annoucemement on the Reformed Witness Hour program in the Grand Rapids, MI area for today and next Sunday.
    • First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI: "Join us for a Mexico Outreach Update/Singspiration on Sunday, June 12 at 7:30 PM here at First PRC GR. Plans are being finalized for trips to two different areas in Mexico this summer. Come and learn more about this work. Also, hear an update on the book translation work that we are involved with. A collection will be taken to help cover the costs of this outreach. A light lunch will be served following that evening service."

Classis East May 11 2022

PRC DENOMINATIONAL NEWS

  • Classis East met this past Wednesday, May 11. Here is a brief summary of the meeting. The full report may be found on this page.

Classis East convened last Wednesday at 8 AM in Zeeland, MI. First PRC of Holland hosted the meeting at Redeemer Christian School. Rev. Lee presided as chairman. The council of Georgetown PRC approved Rev. Carl Haak’s request for emeritation and brought the request to Classis for its approval. Classis approved the request and expressed deep appreciation and thanks to God for Rev. Haak’s 43 years as a faithful minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Rev. Haak’s emeritation will begin on September 1, 2022. Classis advised two consistories to proceed in their work of Christian discipline; advising one consistory to announce the name of an impenitent confessing member; advising the other consistory to proceed with the erasure of an impenitent baptized member. A pulpit supply schedule was adopted for Grace and Hudsonville PRC’s. Classis received a report from its special committee, appointed in January, to study how to handle sexual abuse cases. The expenses of Classis totaled $1,162. The delegates appreciated the hospitality of First PRC of Holland, especially the women on the catering committee. The next meeting of Classis East will convene at 8:00 AM on September 14, 2022 at Byron Center PRC.

  • Future Teachers and Ministers: Information for the 2022 PR Scholarship Fund essay competition is now available. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the essay topics and submission requirements. Completed essays must be submitted by May 31st.

Sem picnic May 14 2022
Group photo from the seminary picnic Saturday night, May 14 - the last one for the Dykstras, Wees, and Peters.

PRC Seminary Notices:

  • The seminary completed its second semester this past Friday, with final exams held last week. Continue to pray for the faculty, students, and staff as we enter the summer months with other labors and activities planned.
  • Saturday evening, the seminary family celebrated the end of the semester with its annual spring picnic, this time at the Huizingas' home. It was also a "farewell" of sorts for Prof. Russell and Carol Dykstra, Marcus and Tze Yan Wee, and Isaac and Bek Peters (see photo above). Sem. Wee has completed his four-year program and will be examined at the PRC Synod in June before returning to the CERC in Singapore. Sem. Peters has completed a special three-year program and will be returning to the EPC in Australia. A graduation program for these men is planned for June 16 at Zion PRC.
  • Prof. B. Huizinga submitted his ThM thesis (on the idea of the reward of grace in Calvin's theology) last month and will sit for its defense this coming Tuesday, May 17. May the Lord bless this final step in his three-year process of obtaining this degree. In addition, he also planning to take on two more courses in OT Studies this Fall from Prof. Cammenga and will be preparing for these this summer. Prof. R. Dykstra has officially ended his teaching at the seminary as of this semester and Prof. D. Kuiper will be taking over the rest of his classes in this coming year. Prof. C. Griess continues working toward his advanced degree and is taking some summer courses as well.
  • With joy the faculty announces that it has licensed student Arend Haveman to speak a word of edification in the churches. We are grateful for the brother’s progress to this point in his training. All scheduling of Mr. Haveman must be done through the seminary, either by sending a request to the seminary secretary, Miss Sharon Kleyn, or the rector, Prof. R. Cammenga.
  • The History of the Protestant Reformed Churches: 1924-1949. The 100th anniversary of our denomination approaches. How well do you know the early history of our churches? Prof. Kuiper will teach an evening class, open to any and all members of the PRC, who are interested in learning about the first 25 years of our existence. The class will be held at the seminary on July 6, 13, and 20, and August 10, 17, and 24 (all Wednesdays) at 7:30pm. Preregistration is NOT necessary, but is helpful for us to know how best to accommodate you. Please call the seminary, (616) 531-1490, or email Sharon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., to preregister.
  • The spring 2022 issue of the PRT Journal is at the printers. This issue will feature the speeches from the seminary's fall 2021 conference on preaching, plus numerous book reviews. If you want to be added to our mailing list (either print or digital) or wish to pick up a copy, contact Sharon, the seminary secretary.
  • The seminary is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., including the library and bookstore. PRC members and friends are welcome to visit and make use of these resources.
  • For the latest seminary news and information, visit the seminary's website.

ephesians 4 3 2

SISTER-CHURCH/MISSION NEWS:

  • Covenant ERC, Singapore and her Kolkata, India mission work:
    • Pastor J. Tan is faithfully serving the CERC each week as her pastor.  Their bulletin this week included this note concerning their seminary student: "Last week was the conclusion for the semester in the PRCA’s Seminary, classes and exams. We give thanks to God for upholding our dear brother Seminarian Wee all these four years of intense schooling. He now can put all his focus on preparing for the synodical examinations. Please keep our dear brother, wife and children in prayers. Please also keep the faculty and the students of the seminary in prayers for faithfulness."
    • The CERC is also planning her next church camp on June 10 and 11, which includes speeches by pastor Tan , an interactive workshop, and activities.
  • Covenant PRC, N. Ireland:
    • Rev. A. Stewart continues to minister the Word faithfully to the saints in Ballymena. 
    • A March newsletter has been released by the CPRC. Visit this page to read it and catch up on all the exciting news out of Ballymena!
    • Sign up for the 2022 British Reformed Fellowship family conference at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland from Saturday, July 9, to Saturday, July 16. The speakers, Prof. David Engelsma and Prof. Brian Huizinga will lecture on "Union With Christ." For information see the website (http://brfconference.weebly.com).
    • The April 2022 issue of "Covenant Reformed News" was published at the end of the month. Follow the link to read the latest profitable articles by Revs. A. Stewart and R. Hanko.
  • PRC in the Philippines and her mission work:
    • A new Philippines mission newsletter has just been published in April. Read the news from the Far East here.
    • Berean PRC bulletin: Rev. V. Ibe led the worship services today. "A live stream of our worship services will be available at the official Berean PRC Facebook page. FYI, starting June 05, 2022, we will no longer have live streaming of our worship services." In addition: "The saints in All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship (AGPRF), Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija will join us in our worship services via livestream today, the Lord willing."
    • Provident PRC bulletin: Rev. D. Kleyn preached and lead her worship services today. 
    • The PRCP Seminary: "Seminary Classes are finished for this current school year and the final exams will take place from May 19- 25, the Lord willing. Let us remember our student, Bro. Ace Flores, in our prayers."

RWH Logo 2019
Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you, on Sermonaudio, or on your favorite podcast - wherever you are!

RKleyn 2020

  • This month Rev. R. Kleyn (First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI) continues speaking for the RWH. The focus will be a series on the life of Joseph. Today's message is based on Genesis 42:26-43 and titled "When It Seems That Everything Is Against You."
  • The Reformed Witness Hour publishes each month's messages in an attractive booklet. These printed sermons are a great blessing to many and are distributed all over the world, including to many prisoners in the U.S. If you or your Evangelism Committee would like to receive these, let the RWHC know and they will add you to the mailing list (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

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REFORMED RESOURCES FOR EDIFICATION, EDUCATION, and EVANGELISM

evangelism reformed faith DJE

Does confession of the Reformed faith hinder or even render unnecessary the work of evangelism? Read this resource to receive an answer in harmony with the gospel of sovereign grace and the calling to bring that gospel to sinners.

  • For sound, distinctively Reformed literature on a variety of subjects and for all ages - including church history and Bible study materials - visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association website or stop in at their Jenison (Michigan) location.

  • The Reformed Book Outlet (downtown Hudsonville, MI) is temporarily closed while it moves into a new building that is being renovated. See the following note for details.
    Special notices re the RBO! Reformed Book Outlet is in process of moving! We have found a new building for our store in downtown Hudsonville on Harvey St. after needing to move out of our current location in Keegstra’s Dollar Store. We need to do some renovations to the building before we can move in, so watch the bulletin or our social media pages for updates on when we will open in our new location. In the mean time, our website will still be open for ordering, for shipping or for local pickup (more details on this to come)!. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know you’re able to help us move or with any questions!

  • Are you interested in learning more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Or are you simply interested in growing in your faith and walk with the Lord? Visit the Resources pages of this website and the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.

  • Do you need some catechism materials for use in your church or family? The PRC publishes catechism materials on Bible history and Reformed doctrine, for children of all ages. Visit this page for more information.

  • The PR Sunday School Association also publishes complete OT and NT Bible Story Lessons for young children and older children. Visit this page to learn more.

This Week's Thought for Contemplation

"Fifth, repentance is not faith and faith is not repentance. Faith is knowledge, confidence, trust, and assurance. Repentance is a change of mind. Nevertheless, faith and repentance are inseparably connected. Since we believe in Christ for salvation from sin, we necessarily repent of our sins at the same time. We cannot look to Christ in faith for salvation from sin while we hold to our sins. If we have true faith, we change our mind concerning our sins. Thus repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin: by faith we look to Christ and by repentance we look away from sin. Thus Paul summarizes his preaching in Ephesus in Acts 20:21: “Testifying both to the Jews and the Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

"John Calvin writes, “Repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith… Can true repentance stand apart from faith? Not at all. But even though they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill, 3.3.1 and 3.3.5 (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960), vol. 1, 593, 597).

"The Canons of Dordt do not separate repentance and faith, although they also distinguish them: “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings to whom he will and at what time he pleaseth by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith” (Canons 1:3). Men are not called only to faith without repentance or only to repentance without faith; they are called to both repentance and faith or to faith and repentance. “Moreover the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published” (Canons 2:5). Unbelievers are called to repent and believe or to believe and repent. Those two spiritual activities can and should be distinguished, but not separated; quite simply, if a person refuses to repent of his sins, he shows that he has no faith. Indeed, if a believer walks impenitently in gross public sin for a time he “interrupt[s] the exercise of faith” (Canons 5:5)."

Rev. M. McGeown in a recent blog post, "Preaching Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins (3): Classifying Repentance (Pt.2)"

Read more...

Classis East Report - May 11, 2022

Classis East May 11 2022
Delegates from Classis East at the new facility of Redeemer Christian School, Zeeland, MI

May 11, 2022, Classis East Report

First PRC of Holland, MI hosted Classis East in the Redeemer Christian School building in Zeeland, MI.

After Rev. Bill Langerak declared classis properly constituted, Rev. Dennis Lee assumed the chair and presided over the business of the meeting. Recognizing the importance of making decisions in harmony with Scripture as set forth in our Reformed confessions, classis requires every first-time delegate to sign the Formula of Subscription. Two delegates attended classis for the first time and therefore signed the Formula. Classis exercises mutual oversight by receiving answers from each member church to the questions found in Article 41 of our Church Order. Rev. Lee asked these questions and received satisfactory answers from the delegates representing the nineteen churches of Classis East. The stated clerk gave his report regarding his work over the last four months; classis approved his work. The reporter for the Classical Committee fell sick and was absent, which means the committee will have an extended report at the September meeting of Classis East.

Classis adopted a pulpit supply schedule for the two vacant congregations in the East, Grace PRC and Hudsonville PRC.  At its March, 2022, meeting, Classis West requested that Classis East assist in providing pulpit supply for one of its vacant churches. In light of a positive change in circumstances (Classis West has one less vacancy due to Rev. Marcus’s acceptance of the call to Peace PRC), the Classical Committee of Classis West sent a letter to Classis East withdrawing this request.

In previous sessions Classis East has appointed two special committees. One committee reported that it did not have a report on its mandate to propose changes to the rules of classis regarding the distribution of its agenda. The second committee brought a report regarding its study of how to handle sexual abuse cases to classis that was received for information. Classis thanked the committee for its work so far, encouraged the committee to continue its work, and looks forward to acting upon recommendations from the committee in the future.

Two consistories asked for the advice of classis before continuing in the work of Christian discipline applied to members of their congregations. Classis advised one consistory to proceed to the announcement of the name of an impenitent confessing member per Articles 76 and 77 of the Church Order. Classis advised the other consistory to proceed with the erasure of a baptized member who, though often admonished by the elders, continues to walk in sin.

Classis approved of the request of Rev. Carl Haak to retire from the active ministry after forty-three years of faithful service. Classis marked the occasion by giving opportunity for several delegates to speak appropriate words about Rev. Haak’s service to the churches, singing the doxology, and pausing from its business to allow the delegates to speak individually to Rev. Haak and his wife, Mary. By an official decision Classis East formally and sincerely “expressed its deep appreciation and thanks to God for the 43 years of Rev. Haak’s humble and godly leadership and active ministry in our churches.” Contingent upon the approval of Synod 2022, Rev. Haak’s retirement will become official on September 1, 2022.

The catering committee of First Holland PRC did an excellent job of taking care of the delegates during various breaks and lunch. The women well deserved the thanks expressed by the Chairman, Rev. Lee, on behalf of classis.

The expenses of the meeting totaled $1,161.56. For its next meeting Classis will convene on September 14 at Byron Center PRC. After the vote to adjourn the meeting, Rev. Lee closed with prayer. The delegates began leaving for home around 3:15 p.m.

We thank God for the unity of our churches expressed in the meeting and pray for God’s blessing upon the decisions.

Rev. C. Spronk
Stated Clerk, Classis East

PRC and Sister-Church News Highlights for May 8, 2022

Psalm 52 8Below you will find special highlights of PRC and sister-church news for this eighteenth Sunday of our Lord's year 2022, May 8.

Because our Lord is risen from the dead on the third day, as He promised, today, on this first day of the week, we gather in worship as members of our living Savior's church. With gratitude and gladness we bring our praise to our triune God for fully accomplishing our salvation through His Son. We cordially invite you to join us in worship on this day and on any Sunday.

Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints. ~ Psalm 52:7-9

If you are new to this website and are interested in the PRC, we invite you to join us at any of our services (morning and afternoon/evening). For congregations, locations and times, visit this page.

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS

  • Last Sunday (May 1) Prof. B. Gritters (PRC Seminary) declined the call to Grace PRC. Her Council has formed a new trio consisting of Revs. N. Decker (Grandville PRC), E. Guichelaar (Randolph PRC), and W. Langerak (Trinity PRC). 

  • Last Sunday Rev. J. Marcus accepted the call from Peace PRC. Over the next few weeks they plan to move their possessions there and then be installed in early June. May the Lord prosper these plans and prepare them for ministry in this congregation.

  • Rev. J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland) is considering the call to Doon PRC (received April 24).

  • Rev. S. Regnerus (Lynden, WA) is considering the call to First PRC-Edmonton (received April 17).
  • The Council of Hudsonville PRC's new 'trio' is now a duo (Rev. J. Marcus took the call from Peace PRC) - Revs. D. Noorman (SW PRC) and J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland). The congregational meeting is planned for this Wednesday, May 11.
  • Classical appointments and pulpit supply for today in the vacant PRCs: Rev. K. Koole (1st Sunday) in Doon (IA) PRC; No supply in First PRC, Edmonton, AB (video sermon and livestream today); Prof. B. Gritters and Rev. N. Decker in Grace PRC;  Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. W. Langerak in Hudsonville PRC; Rev. J. Marcus in Peace PRCMay we count it a blessing of our church federation that we can help one another in these needs. Let us remember to pray for the men who supply these pulpits and for the vacant congregations.
  • Special PRC Evangelism/missions notices: 
    • Georgetown PRC:  India Update: "The PRC of Vellore, India expresses their thanks to God for the love, care, and support for the India Mission through GPRC. The FCRA license (permission to receive foreign funds for the GFH) was renewed by the India Gov’t for 5 years! This is an answer to prayer and cause of thanksgiving to God. The congregation enjoyed their Easter services with visitors and family members. Weekly Bible studies in the book of Romans continue."
    • Pittsburgh (PA) PRC: Her spring lecture will be held this Friday, May 13 at 7 PM. Rev. J. Marcus will speak on the subject "Redeeming the Time." "Invite a friend or family member. Refreshments will follow."
    • Wingham (ON) PRC: "The Consistory has decided to start an evangelism committee for the purpose of organizing and facilitating our outreach as a church to our local community. The committee is subject to our consistory and intended to be a servant of the congregation to help us be faithful witnesses of our Lord. The consistory has appointed Rev. Holstege, Jason and Julie Dickert, and Nolan and Derica Crich as the first members. May the Lord bless this endeavor for his glory."

PRC DENOMINATIONAL NEWS

  • Classis East will meet this Wednesday, May 11, hosted by First PRC-Holland, MI and *held at Redeemer Christian School, 7250 Ransom St., Zeeland, MI.
  • Future Teachers and Ministers: Information for the 2022 PR Scholarship Fund essay competition is now available. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the essay topics and submission requirements. Completed essays must be submitted by May 31st.

last friday lunch May 6 2022

PRC Seminary Notices:

  • The seminary completed its final classes of the second semester this past Friday, and now this week final exams will be taken (May 9-13). Continue to pray for the faculty, students, and staff that they may press on in faithfulness.
  • Aaron Van Dyke led in devotions this past week; Rev. J. Maatman led the final chapel of the semester last Wednesday.
  • The seminary's final Friday lunch of the semester was a "farewell" celebration for Prof. R. Dykstra and his wife Carol (see photo above, which included Mr. Arnold Dykstra, his father, as well as other seminary family guests and friends). After 26 years of faithful service to the PRC Seminary, he has now officially retired from his active duties of teaching. We thank the Lord for His goodness in giving us Prof. Dykstra and his gifts of teaching and leadership over these years, and pray that His rich blessing be on him and Carol as they continue to serve the Lord in the ministry at Byron Center PRC, where he now serves as pastor.
  • With joy the faculty announces that it has licensed student Arend Haveman to speak a word of edification in the churches. We are grateful for the brother’s progress to this point in his training. All scheduling of Mr. Haveman must be done through the seminary, either by sending a request to the seminary secretary, Miss Sharon Kleyn, or the rector, Prof. R. Cammenga.
  • The History of the Protestant Reformed Churches: 1924-1949. The 100 th anniversary of our denomination approaches. How well do you know the early history of our churches? Prof. Kuiper will teach an evening class, open to any and all members of the PRC, who are interested in learning about the first 25 years of our existence. The class will be held at the seminary on July 6, 13, and 20, and August 10, 17, and 24 (all Wednesdays) at 7:30pm. Preregistration is NOT necessary, but is helpful for us to know how best to accommodate you. Please call the seminary, (616) 531-1490, or email Sharon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., to preregister.
  • The printed edition of the Fall 2021 issue of the PRT Journal was mailed out in March. The digital editions (pdf and ePub) are also available on the seminary's website. Work is being finalized on the Spring 2022 issue, which will feature the speeches from the seminary's fall conference on preaching, plus numerous book reviews. If you want to be added to our mailing list (either print or digital) or wish to pick up a copy, contact Sharon, the seminary secretary.
  • The seminary is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., including the library and bookstore. PRC members and friends are welcome to visit and make use of these resources.
  • For the latest seminary news and information, visit the seminary's website.

greatcommission1

SISTER-CHURCH/MISSION NEWS:

  • Covenant ERC, Singapore and her Kolkata, India mission work:
    • Pastor J. Tan is faithfully serving the CERC each week as her pastor.  Their bulletin this week included this note from the Foreign Mission Committee re her work in Kolkata, India: "FMC would like to inform you that our recent regular letter to the saints in Kolkata Fellowship has been put up on the noticeboard, located at the MPH, for your reading. In the country where about 90% of the population believes in Hinduism, the letter serves to encourage the saints in living out the Christian Faith in the midst of spiritual darkness and always to look to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation, for strength to bear all circumstances of their lives. Keep our fellow brothers and sisters in Kolkata in your prayers." May we in the PRC remember to do so also.
    • The last issue of "Reformed News Asia" was published in December 2021 - #65. Be sure to check it out for the latest news from our sister!
  • Covenant PRC, N. Ireland:
    • Rev. A. Stewart continues to minister the Word faithfully to the saints in Ballymena. 
    • A March newsletter has been released by the CPRC. Visit this page to read it and catch up on all the exciting news out of Ballymena!
    • Sign up for the 2022 British Reformed Fellowship family conference at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland from Saturday, July 9, to Saturday, July 16. The speakers, Prof. David Engelsma and Prof. Brian Huizinga will lecture on "Union With Christ." For information see the website (http://brfconference.weebly.com).
    • The April 2022 issue of "Covenant Reformed News" was published at the end of the month. Follow the link to read the latest profitable articles by Revs. A. Stewart and R. Hanko.
  • PRC in the Philippines and her mission work:
    • A new Philippines mission newsletter has just been published in April. Read the news from the Far East here.
    • Berean PRC bulletin: Rev. V. Ibe led the worship services today. "A live stream of our worship services will be available at the official Berean PRC Facebook page. FYI, starting June 05, 2022, we will no longer have live streaming of our worship services." In addition: "Elder Alann Penaverde and deacon Rudy San Juan are scheduled to visit the saints in All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship (AGPRF), Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija today, the Lord willing."
    • Provident PRC bulletin: Rev. R. Smit preached and lead her worship services today. "Rev. D. Kleyn is scheduled to visit the Bearers of Light Community Church in Guiguinto, Bulacan today, the Lord willing, in order to preach and teach there."
    • The PRCP Seminary is also coming to the end of its second semester.

RWH Logo 2019
Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you, on Sermonaudio, or on your favorite podcast - wherever you are!

RKleyn 2020

  • This month Rev. R. Kleyn (First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI) continues speaking for the RWH. The focus will be a series on the life of Joseph. Today's message is based on Genesis 42:1-25 and titled "The Path to Reconciliation."
  • The Reformed Witness Hour publishes each month's messages in an attractive booklet. These printed sermons are a great blessing to many and are distributed all over the world, including to many prisoners in the U.S. If you or your Evangelism Committee would like to receive these, let the RWHC know and they will add you to the mailing list (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

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REFORMED RESOURCES FOR EDIFICATION, EDUCATION, and EVANGELISM

marriageanddivorce

What should the church and believers teach and practice with regard to marriage and divorce according to the Word of God? Read this resource to receive an answer explaining what the PRC believes and practices.

  • For sound, distinctively Reformed literature on a variety of subjects and for all ages - including church history and Bible study materials - visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association website or stop in at their Jenison (Michigan) location.

  • The Reformed Book Outlet (downtown Hudsonville, MI) is temporarily closed while it moves into a new building that is being renovated. See the following note for details.
    Special notices re the RBO! Reformed Book Outlet is moving! We have found a new building for our store in downtown Hudsonville on Harvey St. after needing to move out of our current location in Keegstra’s Dollar Store. We need to do some renovations to the building before we can move in, so watch the bulletin or our social media pages for updates on when we will open in our new location. In the mean time, our website will still be open for ordering, for shipping or for local pickup (more details on this to come)!. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know you’re able to help us move or with any questions!

  • Are you interested in learning more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Or are you simply interested in growing in your faith and walk with the Lord? Visit the Resources pages of this website and the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.

  • Do you need some catechism materials for use in your church or family? The PRC publishes catechism materials on Bible history and Reformed doctrine, for children of all ages. Visit this page for more information.

  • The PR Sunday School Association also publishes complete OT and NT Bible Story Lessons for young children and older children. Visit this page to learn more.

This Week's Thought for Contemplation

"If repentance is “a change of mind,” how exactly do we classify it theologically? Confusion in the church world forces us to face that question. Is it something we do, is it something God does, is it a gift to us, is it an activity of man, is it part of our salvation? These questions are asked today. 

"First, repentance is the gift of God. In Acts 5:31 we read about Jesus, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” In Acts 11:18 we read that God “also to the Gentiles hath granted repentance unto life.” In 2 Timothy 2:25 Paul writes, “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Repentance leads to an acknowledgment of the truth and it is God’s gift to give or to withhold: he gives it to the elect and he withholds it from the reprobate. Left to ourselves we would never—and we could never—repent. By nature we are so in love with our sins that we could never have a change of mind concerning them. By nature we are in utter, miserable bondage to sin—sin’s servants or slaves. But when God works in us by his grace and Spirit, then we have a change of mind (metanoia), or we repent; then we sorrow over our sins and turn from them. “God, who as he has chosen his own from eternity in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance” (Canons 3-4.10). 

"Second, repentance is the activity of the sinner: God works in us, so that we repent. Obviously, or it should be obvious, God does not repent for us, in us, through us, or instead of us. We sin, and we repent—we have a change of mind. God does not change his mind: he is unchangeably opposed to all sin. Mark 6:12: “And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” Luke 5:31-32: “And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 15:10: “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Acts 26:19-20: “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Canons 3-4:12 summarizes this teaching of Scripture: “Man is himself rightly said to believe and repent by virtue of that grace received.”

Rev. M. McGeown in a recent blog post, "Preaching Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins (2): Classifying Repentance"

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Reformed Witness Hour Update - May 2022

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May 2022

May 1

Joseph the Prime Minister

Genesis 41:41-57
Rev. R. Kleyn

May 8

The Path to Reconciliation

Genesis 42:1-25
Rev. R. Kleyn

May 15

When It Seems That Everything Is Against You

Genesis 42:26-43
Rev. R. Kleyn

May 22

Loving Discipline

Genesis 43:15 - 44:13
Rev. R. Kleyn 

May 29

I Am Joseph

Genesis 44:14 - 45:15
Rev. R. Kleyn 

RKleyn

For May, Rev. Kleyn will continue the series on the Life of Joseph from the book of Genesis. Rev. Kleyn is currently the pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI.

 

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PRC and Sister-Church News Highlights for May 1, 2022

Psa 51 17Below you will find special highlights of PRC and sister-church news for this seventeenth Sunday of our Lord's year 2022, May 1.

Because our Lord is risen from the dead on the third day, as He promised, today, on this first day of the week, we gather in worship as our living Savior's church. With gratitude and gladness we bring our praise to our triune God for fully accomplishing our salvation through His Son. We cordially invite you to join us in worship on this day and on any Sunday.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar. ~ Psalm 51:14-19

If you are new to this website and are interested in the PRC, we invite you to join us at any of our services (morning and afternoon/evening). For congregations, locations and times, visit this page.

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS

  • Today Prof. B. Gritters (PRC Seminary) declined the call to Grace PRC.

  • Last Sunday (April 24) Doon PRC voted to call Rev. J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland).
  • This past Wednesday (April 27) Peace PRC extended a call to Rev. J. Marcus.  Today he accepted that call. We rejoice with him and Amy and their family in God's provision of a new place of kingdom labor. May the Lord by His grace and Spirit prepare them for ministry in this congregation.

  • Rev. S. Regnerus (Lynden, WA) is considering the call to First PRC-Edmonton (received April 17).
  • Hudsonville PRC's Council formed a new trio of Revs. J. Marcus, D. Noorman (SW PRC), and J. Smidstra (First PRC-Holland). The congregational meeting is planned for Wednesday, May 11.
  • Classical appointments and pulpit supply for today in the vacant PRCs: Rev. E. Guichelaar (2nd Sunday in Doon (IA) PRC; No supply in First PRC, Edmonton, AB (video sermon and livestream today); Prof. B. Gritters and Rev. R. Kleyn in Grace PRC;  Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. A. Spriensma in Hudsonville PRC; Rev. A. Brummel (2nd Sunday) in Peace PRCMay we count it a blessing of our church federation that we can help one another in these needs. Let us remember to pray for the men who supply these pulpits and for the vacant congregations.

  • Upcoming PRC Easter/Spring Singspirations and Choir programs:
    • Georgetown PRC: Her choir will present a program TONIGHT after her evening service.
    • Grandville PRC: The young people are hosting a singspiration TONIGHT after the evening service.
  • Special PRC Evangelism/missions notices: 
    • First PRC-Holland: "The Evangelism Workshop is this week Wednesday, May 4, at 7 p.m. Rev. Smidstra will first give a speech on personal evangelism. After the speech, the Evangelism Committee will give an informational presentation on its plans to begin an outreach Bible study in the Zeeland area."
    • Byron Center PRC (MI): "The community Bible study resumes discussion of John 16:8 and following this week Thursday. Please join us May 5, at the church at 7:30 p.m."
    • Southeast-GR PRC: "- The Evangelism committee requests the church members to join us in another door-to-door event scheduled Saturday May 7, from 10 am to 11:30 am, meeting first at Adams. This is a great way to increase awareness of our presence in the immediate community and to let others know of the truth of the gospel."

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  • Young People's News! The Faith PRC Steering Committee has decided to extend registration for this year's PRYP Convention through Wednesday, May 4 ONLY to allow a limited amount of remaining camp capacity to be filled. Complete your registration ASAP at https://prcconvention.com/registration/ before the limit is hit or registration closes! Reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.

PRC DENOMINATIONAL NEWS

  • Upcoming: Classis East will meet Wednesday, May 11, hosted by First PRC-Holland, MI and *held at Redeemer Christian School, 7250 Ransom St., Zeeland, MI.
  • Future Teachers and Ministers: Information for the 2022 PR Scholarship Fund essay competition is now available. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the essay topics and submission requirements. Completed essays must be submitted by May 31st.

sign April 2022

PRC Seminary Notices:

  • The seminary is in the final weeks of the second semester, with only one week of classes remaining on the schedule, and then a week of final exams. Continue to pray for the faculty, students, and staff that they may press on in faithfulness.
  • Prof. D. Kuiper travelled to Randolph, WI this weekend to preach for the Randolph PRC today while her pastor is on classical appointment. Prof. C. Griess travelled to Hull, IA this weekend to preach for Calvary PRC while her pastor was on classical appointment.
  • Arend Havemen led in devotions this past week; Aaron Van Dyke is in charge of them this week. Prof. D. Kuiper spoke for chapel last Wednesday; Rev. J. Maatman will do so this week for the final one of the semester.
  • With joy the faculty announces that it has licensed student Arend Haveman to speak a word of edification in the churches. We are grateful for the brother’s progress to this point in his training. All scheduling of Mr. Haveman must be done through the seminary, either by sending a request to the seminary secretary, Miss Sharon Kleyn, or the rector, Prof. R. Cammenga.
  • The printed edition of the Fall 2021 issue of the PRT Journal was mailed out in March. The digital editions (pdf and ePub) are also available on the seminary's website. Work is being done on the Spring 2022 issue, which will feature the speeches from the seminary's fall conference on preaching. If you want to be added to our mailing list (either print or digital) or wish to pick up a copy, contact Sharon, the seminary secretary.
  • The seminary is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., including the library and bookstore. PRC members and friends are welcome to visit and make use of these resources.
  • For the latest seminary news and information, visit the seminary's website.

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The April 2022 issue of "Covenant Reformed News" was published this past week. Read it at this page.

SISTER-CHURCH/MISSION NEWS:

  • Covenant ERC, Singapore and her Kolkata, India mission work:
    • Pastor J. Tan is faithfully serving the CERC each week as her pastor.  His "pastoral note" to the congregation this week includes these words [Lord's Supper Sunday]: "Let no one rob you of this comfort. Jesus Christ has saved us from death unto life. Our Lord by His perfect sacrifice has atoned for all our sins. He has saved us unto a life of sincere and humble confession that we are dead and hopeless of ourselves. He has saved us unto a life of wholehearted trust in the perfect sacrifice (once offered on the cross) to be the only ground and foundation of our salvation. Apart from abasement and hearted trust in God, there is no comfort. Therefore, know this in this efficacious work of God in us, God gives us comfort."
    • The last issue of "Reformed News Asia" was published in December 2021 - #65. Be sure to check it out for the latest news from our sister!
  • Covenant PRC, N. Ireland:
    • Rev. A. Stewart continues to minister the Word faithfully to the saints in Ballymena. 
    • A March newsletter has been released by the CPRC. Visit this page to read it and catch up on all the exciting news out of Ballymena!
    • Sign up for the 2022 British Reformed Fellowship family conference at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland from Saturday, July 9, to Saturday, July 16. The speakers, Prof. David Engelsma and Prof. Brian Huizinga will lecture on "Union With Christ." For information see the website (http://brfconference.weebly.com).
    • The April 2022 issue of "Covenant Reformed News" was published late last week. Follow the link to read the latest profitable articles by Revs. A. Stewart and R. Hanko.
  • PRC in the Philippines and her mission work:
    • A new Philippines mission newsletter has just been published in April. Read the news from the Far East here.
    • Berean PRC bulletin: Rev. R. Smit led the worship services today. In addition: "Rev. Ibe and Elder Alex Oriarte are scheduled to visit the saints in All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship (AGPRF), Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija today, the Lord willing."
    • Provident PRC bulletin: Rev. D. Kleyn preached and lead her worship services today. 
    • The PRCP Seminary is also coming to the end of its second semester.

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Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you, on Sermonaudio, or on your favorite podcast - wherever you are!

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  • This month Rev. R. Kleyn (First PRC-Grand Rapids, MI) continues speaking for the RWH. The focus will be a series on the life of Joseph, with other special messages interspersed. Today's message is based on Genesis 41:41-57 and titled "Joseph the Prime Minister."
  • The Reformed Witness Hour publishes each month's messages in an attractive booklet. These printed sermons are a great blessing to many and are distributed all over the world, including to many prisoners in the U.S. If you or your Evangelism Committee would like to receive these, let the RWHC know and they will add you to the mailing list (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

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REFORMED RESOURCES FOR EDIFICATION, EDUCATION, and EVANGELISM

ChildreninChurch 1

Should the children of Christian parents attend worship services when they are very young? Read this resource to receive an answer explaining why the PRC believes so and practices this.

  • For sound, distinctively Reformed literature on a variety of subjects and for all ages - including church history and Bible study materials - visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association website or stop in at their Jenison (Michigan) location.

  • The Reformed Book Outlet (downtown Hudsonville, MI) is temporarily closed while it moves into a new building that is being renovated. See the following note for details.
    Special notices re the RBO! Reformed Book Outlet is moving! We have found a new building for our store in downtown Hudsonville on Harvey St. after needing to move out of our current location in Keegstra’s Dollar Store. We need to do some renovations to the building before we can move in, so watch the bulletin or our social media pages for updates on when we will open in our new location. In the mean time, our website will still be open for ordering, for shipping or for local pickup (more details on this to come)!. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know you’re able to help us move or with any questions!

  • Are you interested in learning more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Or are you simply interested in growing in your faith and walk with the Lord? Visit the Resources pages of this website and the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.

  • Do you need some catechism materials for use in your church or family? The PRC publishes catechism materials on Bible history and Reformed doctrine, for children of all ages. Visit this page for more information.

  • The PR Sunday School Association also publishes complete OT and NT Bible Story Lessons for young children and older children. Visit this page to learn more.

This Week's Thought for Contemplation

"Fundamentally, then, repentance is a change of mind. 

"Repentance is a change of mind about a number of things. First, repentance is a change of mind about God. An impenitent unbeliever is in rebellion against God, he hates God, he refuses to submit to the will and law of God, and he has all kinds of false ideas about God. A repentant sinner changes his mind and turns to the true God. Paul speaks of “repentance toward God” (Acts 20:21). The Thessalonians as the fruit of their repentance “turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Repentance always results in turning from sin to God. Second, repentance is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. An impenitent unbeliever has wrong notions about Jesus Christ. On hearing the gospel, if God grants repentance, a sinner changes his mind about Jesus Christ, he sees him as the altogether lovely Savior and Lord, and he believes in him. Third, repentance is a change of mind about ourselves and our sins. An impenitent unbeliever views himself as good, as not needing salvation, as not needing the cross of Jesus Christ, as not needing to turn from sin. Before repentance we view our sins as good, as something to be loved and cherished. But when God brings us to repentance, we see our sins as God sees them—as horrible, odious—and we hate them. Because we hate them, which is a radical change of mind concerning them, we turn from them. We have spoken of impenitent unbelievers, but we can be impenitent too: then we have a wrong view of God, Christ, and ourselves, and our sins. Then we must have a change of mind. We must repent. 

"Here, then, is the message that the risen Lord Jesus commissioned his disciples to bring: “that repentance… should be preached in his name” (Luke 24:47). And the apostles obeyed the Lord’s commission. In Acts 2:38, when Peter exposed the Jews’ sin and the Spirit pricked their hearts, Peter said, “Repent.” In Acts 3:19, after the miracle of the healing of the crippled man, Peter said, “Repent ye, therefore.” The Jews were called to a fundamental change of mind: they had rejected Jesus; now they must receive him as Lord and be baptized in his name; they had been self-righteous; now they must forsake their self-righteousness. Those actions flow from a change of mind, metanoia, repentance. The same thing applies to the Gentiles and was preached to them. When Peter preached to Cornelius’ household, the response of the Jews was not, “The Gentiles have believed,” which was true, but “then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). When Paul preached in Athens, he said, “But now commandeth [God] all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Very few repented in Athens, but those who repented changed their mind about God, about Jesus Christ, about themselves, and about their sin."

Rev. M. McGeown in a recent blog post, "Preaching Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins (1): Repentance"

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Covenant Reformed News - April 2022

Covenant Reformed News


April 2022  •  Volume XVIII, Issue 24


Lessons From the Four Horsemen

After considering the four horses of Revelation 6:1-8, both individually and collectively, in the last four issues of the News, we are in a position to make several observations.

First, the four horses with their riders are similar to the signs of Christ’s return, as set forth, for example, in His Olivet discourse. Compare the white horse with Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” The red horse is akin to Matthew 24’s “wars and rumours of wars … For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (6-7). The black horse: “famines … in divers places” (7). The pale horse: death by “wars and … famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (6, 7), and through persecution (9-10, 21, 29). Thus the signs, like the four horsemen, are part of the warp and woof of history, and not something merely added on.

Second, the four horses and the other two seals in Revelation 6, like the signs of our Lord’s second coming in Matthew 24, do not support postmillennialism. That is the theory that the vast majority of people in this age will become true believers and that the church will enjoy earthly peace and prosperity, for civil government, industry, art, science, etc., all around the world will be governed by Christians according to biblical principles. Yes, there is the glorious victory of the gospel in saving all of God’s chosen people (white horse) but this world will never become a Christian paradise (or anything near it) prior to our Saviour’s bodily return. After all, the remaining five seals in Revelation 6 speak of wars, economic disparities, death, martyrdom and anti-Christian injustice, and vast upheavals in creation, respectively.

Third, the six seals in Revelation 6 bring comfort to the child of God. There is the irresistible success of the gospel in calling, sanctifying and preserving each and every one of God’s elect and redeemed people out of every kindred, tribe and tongue (seal 1). We are also consoled by the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God over all things, including events which bring awful pain and grievous tears: regional conflicts, poverty, deaths by wild animals, persecution and terrifying upheavals in creation (seals 2-6, respectively). It is not the devil or merciless fate but Jesus Christ who opens the six seals, and He does so as “the Lamb” who died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins (Rev. 6:1). In executing the eternal decree of the Triune God, our Saviour is preparing all things for His second coming and caring for His sheep, for “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

On the basis of the eschatology presented by the four horsemen and, indeed, the other two seals of Revelation 6, we can even say that we have here the key elements in the Christian philosophy of history.

Notice, first, that the history of this age is linear and has an end; it is not cyclical and everlasting, as per paganism and secularism. The history of mankind and this world has a point at which it stops and towards which everything is moving: Christ’s return for the day of universal judgment (Rev. 6:16-17), which ushers in the eternal state of the new heavens and new earth.

Second, history includes various factors. It consists not only of the preaching of the gospel or church history (white horse). It is not merely war or military history (red horse). It is not just economic history (black horse) or medical history (pale horse). Human history is the interplay of all four horsemen and the various factors included in them, such as political history and social history. Each individual or family or group or nation acts and reacts with respect to all of these things. The world, the flesh and the devil attack every fallen human being, producing wickedness and misery. Not only sin but grace also works in the hearts and lives of all of God’s regenerate people.

Revelation 6 clearly fits with what has happened in the last 2,000 years—all four horsemen have been busy! This chapter of sacred Scripture also presents us with the main elements of our world’s future up to Christ’s second coming.

Third, history takes place on earth according to heaven’s rule. The Greek philosopher Aristotle was terribly wrong in his claim that God is not interested in the world and its history. In his book Approaching Hoofbeats, Billy Graham’s Arminian theology led him to the ridiculous notion that the four horsemen of Revelation 6 are conditional on man’s will! The truth is that it is our Lord Jesus, seated at the right hand of God in glory, who opens the seals and affects Jehovah’s eternal decree. History cannot be understood apart from the Triune God of the Bible for it is “His story,” written by Him in eternity and realized by Him in time.

Fourth, history is purposeful. Neither human life nor history is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing. History has a goal or purpose: the glory of the blessed Trinity in Jesus Christ through the salvation of His elect church, and His just judgment of the reprobate and impenitent wicked. This truth is only understood and loved by those who believe the inspired Scriptures.

The misinformation in the news presented by the various media outlets consists not only in their presenting factual errors and omitting important stories—typically reflecting their bias—but in their ignoring God’s almighty hand. For example, an earthquake is not merely a “natural” event; it is a harbinger of the shaking of the whole world at Christ’s return for judgment (Matt. 24:7; Heb. 12:26-27; Rev. 6:12-17)!

All of this gives Christians good reason for being interested in history. History is not “more or less bunk,” as Henry Ford claimed. History flows from God’s eternal decree as executed by the Lamb of God. Scriptural eschatology gives us a Reformed philosophy of history. These things are vital components of our biblical worldview and crucial for a Christian education. In heaven, our Lord Jesus opens the seven seals of the scroll and sends forth the horses, and by faith we hear their hoofbeats! Rev. A. Stewart

 

 

 

Born of Water and the Spirit

I will answer the following two related questions in this issue of the News:

  1. “What does Jesus mean by being ‘born of water and of the Spirit’ in John 3:5? Obviously, this isn’t referring to baptismal regeneration.”
  2. “What does John mean by ‘the spirit, and the water, and the blood’ in I John 5:8? If ‘the spirit’ is the Holy Spirit, what are ‘the water’ and ‘the blood’ referring to?”

1) In answering these questions, we will take John 3:5 first. Some interpret the passage to refer to physical birth and spiritual birth, physical birth being “of water” and spiritual birth “of the Spirit.” While it is certainly true that a person must ordinarily first be born physically before he can be born again, that is so obvious and so trite that it is difficult to see why Jesus would even mention it.

Others take the reference to being born of water as a proof of baptismal regeneration, i.e., that we are born again by water baptism. The questioner suggests that such an interpretation is impossible, as indeed it is, for water cannot and does not wash away sin and bring about spiritual rebirth, as so many water baptisms demonstrate. The Bible itself tells us so in I Corinthians 10:1-5, where the water baptism of Israel in the Red Sea did not regenerate many of them. They were “all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea ... But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (2, 5).

Nevertheless, the water in John 3:5 must refer to the water baptism. It cannot refer to anything else. It refers to that water, however, as a sign of the blood of Christ. One must be born of Christ’s blood and Spirit, that is the idea of the passage, but the sign, water, is mentioned instead of that which it represents, the shed blood of Christ.

That the blood of Christ is not named and the sign is named should not seem strange. In both baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the names of the sign and the spiritual realities they signify are often interchanged. Jesus calls the bread of the Lord’s Supper His body, even though it is only the sign, and the water of baptism, though it is not the reality, is commonly called by the name of the reality. We mean that sprinkling or pouring water on someone is not really “baptism” but, because it is so closely associated with real, spiritual baptism by the blood and Spirit of Christ, it has the same name.

Ezekiel says something very similar to John 3:5 in 36:25-27, mixing symbols, pictures and realities: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

The key to the interpretation of John 3:5 is in the passage, in verse 3. Comparing verses 3 and 5, it is evident that being “born of water and of the Spirit” (5) is the same as being “born again” (3). There is only one birth in the passage, though both the blood of Christ (symbolized by, and called by, the name of its sign) and the Spirit of Christ are involved. There is no other birth and there is no other baptism, but that.

Note that the water of baptism symbolizes both the blood and Spirit of Christ, not just the blood. While the word “water” is used in place of the word “blood,” that is the point Jesus is making. It is the Spirit who applies the blood of Christ to us for our cleansing, both the initial washing away of our sins in regeneration and the subsequent washing away of sin in the Spirit’s work of sanctification. But it is the shed blood of Christ which the Spirit applies and which alone avails for my cleansing.

Another important point is that, without this cleansing by the blood and Spirit of Christ, no one will even “see” the kingdom of God (3). We may not trust in anything but the blood and Spirit of Christ. That I was baptized with water does not guarantee my entrance into heaven. That I made a profession of faith does not mean I will see the heavenly kingdom of which Christ speaks in John 3. I must be cleansed of sin and guilt before I can stand in the presence of the God who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab. 1:13) and of whom Psalm 5:4 says, “neither shall evil dwell with thee.”

It is regarding these truths that Jesus chides Nicodemus, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”(John 3:10). What Jesus had said was nothing new but had been spoken long before by the prophet Ezekiel. Not only should Nicodemus have known what Jesus meant by being “born of water and of the Spirit,” but he should have known, too, that works of righteousness, keeping the law and the rites prescribed by the law, do not gain entrance to the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, we should not be too hard on Nicodemus, for even today there are many who do not know these things, though they sit in a church every Lord’s day.

2) That leaves I John 5:8 and the answer is really the same. John mentions water and blood not because they are different things—the blood is symbolized by the water—but because the water is such a beautiful and important picture of the blood as well as of the Spirit. The water, therefore, should never be neglected, though it must always be understood that the water is only a picture and symbol, and that only the blood and Spirit of Christ can open the kingdom to those who were unwashed and unclean, and who needed the spiritual heart transplant that Ezekiel 36:26 describes: a second miraculous birth.

The Spirit, the water and the blood, John says in I John 5:8, “agree in one.” There is but one Lord, one faith and one baptism, the washing away of sin by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, symbolized by the water of baptism.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7-10). 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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Synodical Officers

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Synodical Committees

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Contact/Missions

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Classical Officers

Classis East
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Classis West
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