Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Website

83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT42 3NR, Northern Ireland

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

RevAStewart

Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

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

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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - June 2017

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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI
13 June, 2017

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Two Lectures

“Are Unbelievers in God’s Image?” was the title of a speech in the CPRC (12 May). This is a crucial subject, especially in our day, for the false view is being pedaled to support homosexuality, women in church office, universal grace, etc.

image cprc june 2017What is the nature of the imago dei? How does Scripture define it (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)? What is the relation between the image, the likeness and the glory of God? What do Martin Luther and the Reformed confessions teach? Did you realize that the claim that unbelievers share the divine image means that believers have two images of God and already had one before their conversion?

A good number were in attendance, with others watching live online. Both the speech (with slides) and the question session afterwards are online in video (www. youtube.com/watch?v=t73YQhEzKt0). A write-up of the lecture is being published in several articles in Salt Shakers, the magazine of the young people in the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) in Singapore (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/ unbelieversinimage.html).

Last week, Mary and I were in South Wales for a lecture on “N. T. Wright, Justification and the Reformation” (8 June). Wright is a former Anglican Bishop of Durham (#4 in the Church of England) and the most influential spokesman for the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP) with its radical redefinition of justification, the key doctrine which launched the Reformation half a millennium ago.

It was good for me to have an occasion to read more about Wright and the NPP, for they are influencing evangelicals in the UK and around the world, as well as the Federal Vision, especially in North America. As one considers these heretical movements, the truth of the biblical and Reformed faith stands out more sharply and strongly than ever before. Prof. Engelsma’s latest RFPA book, The Gospel Truth of Justification, is a superb contemporary work on this glorious doctrine. It is also refreshing because so many of the critiques of Wright and the NPP are weak and half-hearted.

This speech was our first meeting at our new venue in South Wales. Some days after we booked the hall, the British Prime Minis-ter arranged the General Election for the same date. On the day itself, we discovered that Margam Community Centre was also a polling station!

However, our room was in a different part of the building, so that was not a problem. Whereas the turnout of the UK electorate was high (68.7%), sadly the date clash did not help the turnout at our Reformed lecture. A lot more will be reached by the audio (www.cprc.co.uk/ntwrightjustification. mp3) and video (www.youtube.com/user/ CPRCNI) though.

Church Activities

With the end of the Monday night catechism and Wednesday night Belgic Confession classes for the season, our annual family visitation began. This year our text was Galatians 6. All but 3 of the 25 visits have been completed. It has been an encouraging and edifying time.

Our Tuesday morning class continues through the summer. We are presently studying the division of the promised land in the second half of Joshua, material not often covered but instructive chapters of God's Word!

After 9 sermons on “The Conclusion to Christ’s Farewell Discourse” (John 16), we have now begun a series on “The Healing of the Lame Beggar” (Acts 3-4). There is a lot to be learned here regarding miraculous healings (as opposed to those of Charismaticism and Romanism), evangelism, how the apostles interpreted Old Testament predictive prophecy and the periods in which it is (and is not!) fulfilled, defending the faith, persecution, etc.

Others

Besides the generous giving of our members, we have had sizable donations from Scotland, USA, England, and Australia. The CPRC has been able to increase its giving to the 2018 budget of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF). Our thanks to you in the PRC for helping us financially with this mission work.

The CPRC Bookstore had a lot of sales in May. However, our translation work seems to be slowing down of late (sadly!). The last two months saw the addition of 7 Hungarian, 1 Czech, and 1 Portuguese (www.cprf.co.uk/languages.htm).

A previous bimonthly letter mentioned that Hungarian subtitles were added to a CPRC sermon on “The Sovereignty of God.” Tibor, the translator, reports that this was watched by three classes of students in a Roman Catholic school in Hungary: “There was a girl in the first group who stated that the Bible does not teach predestination but it is a human invention. The second group was silent because the students were astonished. The third group said that it was a good sermon.... [Since even] the 'Reformed' pastors in this city are Arminians, it is possible that these students heard/read their first real Reformed sermon in their life.”

Elder Brian Crossett is the CPRC delegate to the PRC Synod in Hudsonville. Possibly this year will see more of our members in the US than ever before. Marco Barone has already been; Jennifer Hanko is presently there; later Philip and Susan Hall and family, Rev. McGeown (as well as his sister, Shelley, and her family), David, Kristin, and Sophie Crossett, and Mary and I will all cross the Atlantic, D.V. Some of these saints will make the trip more than once. All enjoy worshiping with and visiting fellow saints and family in the PRC.

In our trip (17 July – 14 August), I am to preach in 2 churches in Washington (Spokane and Lynden), 2 churches in Alberta (Edmonton and Lacombe), and 2 churches in Michigan (Providence and Hudsonville). It will be good to be back with members of our sister churches in North America.

May the Lord be with you all!

In Christ,
Rev. & Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - May 2017

 

Covenant Reformed News

May 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 13


Our Identity in Christ (2)

As we saw in the last issue of the News, Western views of man’s identity are becoming more and more secularist and anti-Christian. Though no mortal man knows the future, there are several converging factors that suggest that things are likely to get worse.

First and most obviously, there is evolutionism. It is over 150 years since Charles Darwin’s famous book The Origin of Species was published (1859). Over this period, evolutionary ideas have been working through all areas of human thinking and activity. According to evolutionism, man is merely developed slime. Life is resolutely materialist and meaningless. Thus man does not know, and cannot know, where he came from or where he is going.

Second, there is postmodernism, according to which there is no absolute truth. Truth is subjective. Knowing objective truth would only make people proud. The supposedly omnicompetent state takes care of “truth” for people.

Third, there are powerful political and legal forces, such as the homosexual lobby, which seek to marginalize and silence the Word of God. Man’s identity is continually changing, as homosexual activists and their abettors have progressively rolled out their agenda. More is to come, as people become more and more accustomed to the previous elements and are readied for the next stage.

Fourth, there are technological developments in the spheres of medicine, computing, robotics, etc., as well as in the theory and practice of propaganda to influence the masses.

In all of this, there is an ongoing redefining of man and his identity: redefining humans as animals, redefining the human person, redefining marriage, redefining human sexuality, redefining gender, etc.

Before and alongside this redefining of man is the redefining of God, especially through a false view of love. God’s love is presented as the #1 divine attribute and, in effect, the only divine attribute. God’s wisdom, omniscience, justice, power, unchangeability, holiness, eternity, etc., are dissolved in this false view of love. “So, even if God exists, He is no threat to us or our sinful lifestyle”—such is the thinking of foolish man.

The vague and inoffensive God of sentimental and unrighteous love is being replaced by man, redefined man, with the highest expression of redefined man being the autonomous state. Moreover, the state or nation is increasingly being seen by many as an intermediate stage in the movement towards a one-world government.

All this redefining of man and God serves to soften the world up for the Antichrist or man of sin, who “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thess. 2:4).

Thankfully, we have God’s Word, with foundational truths set forth even on the opening page of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). He is the Maker and Ruler of the universe. As early as Genesis 1, we read of Him as God, the (commanding) Word and the Spirit of God (1-3). Jehovah refers to Himself as both “I” (singular; 29) and “us” (plural; 26), the God who is one in Being and three in Persons.

The truth about man’s origin and nature is that he is the pinnacle of creation, being made on the last day of the creation week. Everything else was formed for him so that he should serve the glory of God (Belgic Confession 12). Man is not the product of cosmic chance and random mutations.

Man was formed from the dust of the earth and by the breath of God (Gen. 2:7). The two aspects of the one divine creation of man correspond to his being both body and soul. So people should be happy “under their own skin,” so to speak!

Man was made in the image of God (1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), not in the image of an ape. Indeed, man is to exercise godly dominion over all the animals, fish and birds (1:28).

God created humanity in two genders. Christ’s words to the Pharisees two thousand years ago are just as relevant to the politically correct in our own day: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4; quoting Gen. 1:27)? So rejoice in your God-given gender!

Jehovah made mankind for marriage, which is a one-flesh union between one man and one women for as long as they both shall live. As Christ said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). So be content in either singleness or married life (I Cor. 7).

The Most High created man for work. Work for six days to God’s glory in your lawful calling (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11)! Rest in Christ (Matt. 11:28), especially on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10).

The things in the previous seven paragraphs are based upon the first two chapters of the Bible. They are foundational truths about humanity, and what is good for men and women. But, as our society becomes more humanistic and pagan, even these basic building blocks for man’s life in God’s world are being removed.

We hear a lot in our day about “equality.” The following are key elements in a biblical framework of equality. All human beings are equally created by God. All were equally represented in Adam and fell in him, so that all are equally totally depraved of themselves (Rom. 5:12-21). All should wear clothes to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:21). All are equally governed by God’s eternal decree and providence (Eph. 1:11). So we must know ourselves to be those who are under God’s wise and powerful rule!

Moreover, biblical equality includes the truth that all will stand on the last day before the judgment seat of the Lord Jesus Christ. The exact same gospel comes to all, whether Jews or Gentiles: Salvation is in Christ alone, and all (equally) must repent and believe in Him!     Rev. Stewart

 

The More-Loving-Than-God Argument (2)


In my article last month, I began a series addressing a reader’s concerns over the heresies of common grace and the gracious or well-meant offer of the gospel (the notions that God loves everybody and passionately desires to save those He has eternally decreed not to save). The writer of the question remarked that he had run into various arguments in defence of common grace and the well-meant offer to which he would like answers. I began my response with a general criticism of these heresies but reserved answers to his specific questions for future articles. With this News, I begin my answers. 

One remark, however, before I start. I was astonished to see that all the questions, though fairly lengthy, involved no scriptural proof for the position advocated. Only one biblical passage was mentioned in all six questions. In subsequent letters, the questions continued but involved only one additional Scripture. It is remarkable that the two heresies of common grace and the well-meant offer can be supported for the most part only by human reasoning. Does not that in itself say a great deal about the wrongness of the arguments of those who defend these heresies?

I would also like to make a clarification, lest those who read these articles conclude that the questioner is a defender of these false doctrines. He is not; he merely wants answers to the objections.

Question 1. “God commands us to love one another, to love our neighbour, to love even our enemies. Why? Because God wants us to be like Him and to be Christ-like. He wants us to love everyone the same without partiality, and that love is not a selfish love or something that seeks its own. Therefore, to have a mind-set that says that God only loves a few while also believing that He commands us to love everyone is to make us more loving than God.”

The argument is based on an untrue premise. God nowhere commands us to love everyone. He does command us to love our neighbour but the connotation of the word “neighbour” is much narrower than (absolutely) “all men.” I do not see how it is possible for me to love all men: I do not even know the vast majority of those presently living. I do not understand how I could possibly know and love 7-8 billion people.

The idea is, of course, absurd. Yet, apparently, the defenders of a well-meant offer really mean that, because we must love everyone, God certainly loves everyone. The argument is, of course, that God would not command us to love all men if He Himself does not love all men. But God does not command us to love everyone: He commands us to love our neighbour. The term “our neighbour” is broader than God’s elect: that is true.

Our neighbours are those whom God has put in our path. Our neighbours are our spouses, our parents, our children, our siblings, our fellow church members, our friends, our work mates, our relatives and all whose lives touch ours. Sometimes they get in our way; sometimes they need us. They include the wounded man lying on the side of the road. Our neighbour is someone whom God puts in front of us so that, as we walk our pilgrim’s path in the world, we meet people who, for one reason or another, need our help. 

It is hypocritical, however, when people prate piously about loving someone on the other side of the planet who needs food and who have the loudest word about loving all men, but refuse to love their neighbours nearest to them. They abandon their spouses in favour of another man or woman. They neglect their children, send them to a day care so they can earn more money, and refuse to discipline their children and teach them the ways of the Lord. They too are our neighbours and they are the ones we must especially love. 

God also puts unbelievers on our path so that we bump into them: the man who works next to me in the factory, the passenger on a seat alongside of me in an aeroplane, the man in the ditch who cannot get his car out ...

We are commanded to love them too. We are commanded to love them simply because we are witnesses in this world of Jesus Christ to whom we belong. We have to be witnesses; it is a solemn and urgent command. 

I would like to know from one of these defenders of the spurious well-meant offer how they define love. Do they view it as some sentimental attitude to the down-trodden? But God’s love for His people is a love that seeks the ultimate good for the object, which is a glorious eternity with Him in heaven. Our love for our neighbour is not a sloppy and sentimental love for him; it is love that is an expression of God’s love for us. It means simply that we desire and seek the salvation of our neighbour by witnessing to him. What better thing would anyone want for his neighbour than to seek his salvation? We can surely help him if he has a need but we do so in the name of Christ who has loved us. That is what it means to love our neighbour.

Our neighbour may be someone unexpected; he or she may even be one who hates us. But then too we witness to him or her by explaining the gospel and emphasizing his or her calling before God. It is like the preaching. The church preaches so that everyone who hears knows the truth of the suffering and exalted Lord Jesus, and what God requires. We are to do the same, for the power of our witnessing is the power of the same gospel that saved us. We must tell them that they must repent of their sins and believe in Christ crucified.

How do these people who defend a love of God for all interpret Psalm 5:5-6, Psalm 6:8 (cf. Matt. 7:23; 25:41), Psalm 139:19-22 and countless other Psalms in which the Psalmist prays that God may destroy the impenitent wicked (cf. Prov. 3:33)? I know that some claim that the so-called imprecatory Psalms are not inspired but this is a ruinous lie about God’s Word (II Tim. 3:16).

This argument borders on the ridiculous. Prof. Hanko

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

Thursday, 8 June, 2017
at 7:15 PM

NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre
Bertha Road, Margam,
Port Talbot, SA13 2AP

N. T. Wright, Justification and the Reformation

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

The Gospel Truth of Justification
Proclaimed, Defended, Developed

David J. Engelsma
(528 pp., hardback)

AD 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ. In 1517, the Reformer Martin Luther affixed the 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, the act by which Jesus Christ began His Reformation of His church. Essential to this Reformation was the gospel-truth of justification by faith alone.
The book is a thorough explanation of the divine, saving act of justification and a vigorous defence of the doctrine, not only against the old heresies of Rome and of Arminianism, but also against the contemporary attacks on justification by the New Perspective on Paul, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and the Federal Vision.


£24.60 (inc. P&P)

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
on-line, by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!
 

Appointing
Office-Bearers and Church Authority

11 classes on Belgic Confession 31-32 (Vol. XXIII) 
on CD in an attractive box set
 
Article 31
The Ministers, Elders & Deacons

(1) The Election of Church
Office-Bearers (Acts 6)
(2) Seeking Church Office: Sinful Motives and Ways (Acts 8:5-25)
(3) The Qualifications for Church
Office-Bearers (I Tim. 3)
(4) Ordination and the Laying
on of Hands (I Tim. 4) 
(5) Equality Among Office-Bearers
(I Cor. 1:10-17)
(6) Murmuring, Strife & Contention Against Office-Bearers  (Num. 16:1-15)

Article 32 
The Order and Discipline of the Church & Its Areas 
(7) Church Authority (Matt. 28:9-20) 
(8) Church Authority: Source & Parties (Isa. 9:1-7)
(9) The Nature of Church Authority
(II Cor. 10)
(10) The Standard of Church Authority (Col. 2:4-23)
(11) Church Authority: Ecclesiastical Laws and Discipline (II Cor. 13)

£10/box set (inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line or
Order from the CPRC Bookstore
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851.

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!

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Covenant Reformed News - April 2017

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Covenant Reformed News

April 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 12


Our Identity in Christ (1)

One’s identity refers to who one is. There are two issues here. First, what is it to be human in general? Second, who am I personally? Human identity and personal identity are probably bigger issues in our world today than ever before.

What is a person? Some 150 years ago, aboriginal people were viewed by some as subhuman, despite the fact that all of humanity has descended from our first parents, Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26). Similarly, 75 years ago, the Nazis wickedly classified certain people as Untermenschen, including the Jews, “of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:5).

In much of the world, unborn babies are not viewed as persons. Therefore, they, like Aboriginals or Jews in the past, are disposable and can be killed. In certain places of the world, there is a drive to have some animals classified as persons possessing various legal “rights” (e.g., bonobos, chimpanzees, elephants, whales, dolphins and eagles).

The modern “culture of death” is spreading, with not only abortion (the murder of unborn babies) at one end of the human lifespan, but also euthanasia (the voluntary killing off of the elderly) at the other end. Moreover, consent can be problematic and there are reports of involuntary euthanasia too. Increasingly, there is a push to allow the consensual termination of the lives of people in the middle years of life as well, especially those with severe disabilities or experiencing great pain.

There are also issues of mental health, including depression, self-harm and suicide (the sixth commandment forbids the taking of one’s own life, as well as the lives of others). Radical Islamic suicide bombers have blown themselves up in order to murder others.

All these things raise questions. Who are we as human beings? What is our life?

Our bodies are also included in our identity. As Western societies revert to paganism, body piercing has seen a massive increase. It is not just the piercing of ears but also of noses, tongues, navels and other body parts. Men, as well as women, are doing it.

Along with body piercing, tattooing is becoming well-nigh ubiquitous—for women, as well as men. Some even use tattoos (and other means of body alteration) in order to look more like animals.

Others are pushing for greater acceptance of public nudity. If we are merely evolved animals, since animals do not wear clothes, why not go naked? Ideas have consequences; principles work through!

What views of a person’s self-identity and the meaning of life are expressed in drunkenness or drug abuse, when life’s “highs” are experienced by entering oblivion?

One’s sexuality is an aspect of one’s identity. We are continually hearing about homosexuality, bisexuality and more. Part of the defence of these lifestyles and behaviours is this: “This is our identity! You must respect our identity!” These things are being aggressively defended, encouraged, promoted and celebrated in many spheres, including legally, politically, culturally and educationally.

Others are practising and promoting bestiality (sexual intercourse with animals). Among their arguments are the following: “We are only animals like them. The other animals seem to enjoy it. No one is being hurt by our private actions.” In our secularist age, the main legal argument against bestiality is that from animal rights!

One’s marital status is an aspect of one’s identity. A few years ago, civil partnerships were introduced for sodomites and lesbians. Advocates said publicly that this was all that they were after. But the ink had hardly dried when they were clamouring for homosexual “marriage” as a basic human right! Those who maintained that marriage is between a man and a woman, as the Lord Jesus Christ taught (Matt. 19:4-6), are denounced as “bigots” and worse. Recently a man and a woman campaigned for heterosexual civil partnerships in the UK, as in some other countries, though they lost their case.

One’s gender is also part of one’s identity. These days we have not only the binary: male and female (Gen. 1:27); we have many more “options.” A recent form in Brighton gave as many as 25! Transgenderism is a new crusade to justify a man who thinks he is, or wants to be, a woman and vice versa. Someone transitions to the desired gender by taking hormones, undergoing surgical operations, wearing different clothes, taking a different name, etc. Debates have started regarding the correct personal pronoun. Instead of being either a “he” or a “she,” a person may choose gender-neutral options like “ze,” “e,” “xhe,” “they” or many others.

As well as transgenderism, we now have transracism. There was a recent case of an American political activist who modified her hair, skin colour, speech, etc., and claimed to be black. However, it came out that she was white. Her defence essentially was, “Everybody has to respect my self-identity! If I say I am black, then I am black!”

There is also transageism, whereby grown men (or women) act like little children and comfort themselves by playing with rattles and suchlike. If one’s gender, sexuality, race, etc., can be redefined without respect to objective reality, but on the basis merely of one’s subjective feelings or wishes, what is wrong with a 50-year-old man self-identifying as a 6-year-old boy or girl (or even as a cat or a dog)? 

Where does it end? There are people who want to be disabled (and even those who have acted upon this desire by cutting off their limbs). This is transableism. In today’s politically-correct world, who wants to challenge their subjective feelings?

In 1979, Francis Schaeffer and Everett Koop wrote a famous book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? They would have a lot more to write about in 2017!

Our world, especially in the West, is hopelessly confused and lost regarding the meaning of life and self. Many are endlessly trying to “find themselves” or “reinvent themselves” or “re-identify themselves.” Many people do not know who they are or do not like who they are or are totally sick of being who they are. Some are looking to pagan or Eastern religions, or are looking within, or are looking to ever-changing public opinion, the secular state or politically-correct ideology to try to find some meaning in life. Many are crippled by the fear of man and concern about what others think of them.

Surely, there has to be a better way! What about the gospel of Jesus Christ and finding our true identity in Him and God’s saving love?   Rev. Angus Stewart

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The More-Loving-Than-God Argument (1)


A brother in Wales writes, “Though it has been formulated in various ways, one popular argument for common grace/well-meant offer (CG/WMO) is that God, after all, must love everybody, ‘otherwise He is outdone by His own creatures.’ I have named this ‘the more-loving-than-God argument’ for CG/WMO.”

The brother then lists six reasons why some people reckon it is necessary that God loves every man, woman and child that ever lived. I hope to treat these six individual points separately but, first of all, it is important to address the argument as a whole. It is interesting that these arguments continue to come up in the camp of the defenders of common grace. That this same argument, though in different forms, continues to appear becomes, at last, a sort of screech of desperation, because these arguments have been satisfactorily answered again and again. The fact is that they have been repeatedly refuted also by theologians outside the Protestant Reformed Churches. Nor can it be denied that this idea has been convincingly answered by the whole tradition of orthodox thought beginning with Augustine (354-430) and continuing through the theology of the Protestant Reformers and second-generation Reformers on into the mainstream of Reformed thinking throughout the world. 

Defenders of common grace, though they are theological dwarfs in comparison to the giant theologians of bygone centuries, think they know such great things that they can, with a wave of the hand, dismiss the whole tradition of Reformed thought.

If you question the fact that a denial of CG/WMO is indeed the tradition of all solid Reformed thought, I urge you to read my most recent book, Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer (available from the CPRC Bookstore for £16.50, including P&P, with cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church”).

In this issue of the News, I will give a few reasons why the notion that God loves all men cannot be supported. In later issues of the News, I will answer the arguments of those people who defend a universal love of God.

1) No one has ever presented any proof from Scripture that God loves all men. It is true that some, who are “unlearned and unstable [and] wrest ... the ... scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:16), appeal to various texts but they do not properly interpret them in the light of the whole of God’s Word. These “proof texts” have been repeatedly answered over the ages, beginning with the great N. African theologian, Augustine. Just read Augustine’s Enchiridion, chapters 94-107 (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/ augustineenchiridion.htm) to learn what this ancient church father believed.

2) If God loves all men, He loves the monsters of iniquity who have committed crimes so outrageous that our souls shudder even to read of them. Two modern examples are Hitler and Stalin. To say that God loves them when they never expressed one word of repentance for their heinous sins is preposterous. I have listened to one man who, in defence of his position, insisted God also loves Satan and all his demons.

3) It is a deadly travesty of God’s greatness to argue that He loves many whom He sends to hell at the end of their lives. If one wants to avoid such wicked notions, one can only conclude that all men without exception are finally saved. One wonders: all devils as well? Many, in defence of the heresy that God loves all men, have been forced into a universalistic theology.

4) If God’s love for all men is expressed in a divine desire to save everybody, He is a very weak God, a failure in His purpose and helpless to attain that which He earnestly desires—unless one does really want such a Bible-denying position as universalism.

5) Some may argue that not all are saved but only those who reject Christ. But the so-called well-meant offer is, after all, a part of common grace. And common grace insists that God gives every man the grace to accept or reject the gospel offer. This is sheer Arminianism, leaving the final determination for salvation up to man’s free will. Such a position has been condemned by the church of Christ for many centuries. What profit is there in resurrecting old heresies that have never been accepted by the church of Christ?

6) Finally, the truth of God’s sovereignty is the heart of the truth of the gospel. CG/WMO denies God’s sovereignty. This is a denial of the very essence of God. If God is not sovereign, God is not God. God, by definition, does as He pleases and has no need of man (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). Nor does He leave anything at all, especially His most important work—salvation—to man’s arbitrary will and final decision. I want no deity like that. He cannot do what I need most. He cannot overcome my sinful will, decisive in the question of an eternal heaven or hell. He is but an idol, worse than those the heathen worship and serve, for He cannot save those whom He loves and wants to save. 

Because of my sin and depravity, I need a God who is absolutely sovereign. He has to overcome, with His powerful grace, all my resistance and make me willing, in the day of His power, to love Him. Then all glory belongs to Him and there is nothing else to do but praise and bless His holy name. I have come to know that there is not even 0.0001% of my salvation that I can do, and have to do, to be saved. Thank God, it is not so! Thank God that He does it all by the cross and Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nor does God do it by pulling me to heaven as a child pulls a toy duck over the floor, for He works in me “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). This is the wonder of God’s sovereign, transforming grace in Christ!  Prof. Herman Hanko

 
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
 
 

Ballymena
Lecture


Are All Men in the Image of God?

Many people think that unbelievers are in God’s image. But is that true? What does Scripture actually say about the image and likeness of God? What is the testimony of the Reformed confessions? And why is the issue of the image of God so important in our day?

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart
 
Friday, 12 May, 2017 
at 7:30 PM

at the CPRC
(83 Clarence St.,Ballymena,
BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 
www.cprc.co.uk

Unable to join us in Ballymena? The lecture will be streamed live at 
http://www.cprf.co.uk/live.html

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 8 June, 2017
at 7:15 PM

NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre
Bertha Road, Margam,
Port Talbot, SA13 2AP

N. T. Wright, Justification and the Reformation

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

Called to Watch for
Christ’s Return


Rev. Martyn McGeown
(304 pp., softback)

A few days before Christ gave His life on the cross, His disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). Jesus responded with the Olivet Discourse, His detailed teaching on the doctrine of the last things. Called to Watch for Christ’s Return gives the sober, distinctly Reformed and amillennial exposition of our Lord’s teaching, avoiding the murky waters of both Postmillennial Preterism, which sees almost everything in these chapters as fulfilled in AD 70, and Premillennial Dispensationalism, which promises a future temple in a restored Jerusalem after a secret rapture of the church.
Written by Rev. Martyn McGeown (the missionary of the CPRC) who is serving as the pastor of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship.

£8.25 (inc. P&P)

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
on-line, by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!
 
 

Jacob, Joseph and Egypt

12 sermons on CD or DVD in an attractive box set
 
The fascinating history in the latter chapters of Genesis, involving Joseph’s coat of many colours, Judah’s harlotry and incest, Simeon’s imprisonment, Benjamin’s massive serving and the Egyptian wagons, is retold from the perspective of Jacob. These sermons include the aged patriarch’s vision at Beersheba, meeting with Pharoah, blessing of the twelve tribes and embalming in Egypt. Jacob’s grief and despair over his sons is turned into joy and triumphant faith through the providence and grace of our covenant God!

£12/box set (inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line or
Order from the CPRC Bookstore
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851.

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!

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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - April 2017

CPRC News Header 

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI
14 April, 2017

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,


Local Press

Patrick, the great British missionary who preached the gospel of grace in Ireland in the fifth century, is probably the world’s most famous “patron saint.” Sadly, parades on St. Patrick's Day (17 March) are now being used to promote the homosexual agenda.

However, when he boarded a ship to escape from slavery in Ireland, the real Patrick did not comply with the request of the (male) sailors: “I refused to suck their breasts for fear of God, but rather hoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ, because they were pagans” (Confession 18). In fifth-century, pagan Ireland, sucking a man's nipple was a sign of friendship or of the reception of protection. Patrick “refused” to engage in it out of the “fear of God” in order to avoid any homosexual connotations. Instead, this faithful Christian, whose two writings are saturated with the authoritative Word of God (e.g., Letter to Coroticus 20) and who would later return to Ireland as a missionary, “rather hoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ.”

So I wrote a letter to the N. Ireland press, explaining from Patrick’s own writings, the earliest extant Irish literature, how he was sharply opposed to sodomy as anti-scriptural and sinful. The Belfast Telegraph and the News Letter published the letter in full on St. Patrick's Day or the day before, respectively ( www.cprf.co.uk/articles/ patrickandhomosexuality.html ).

Besides an earlier article in the Mid-Ulster Mail, the Tyrone Courier printed a piece I sent them about Rev. McGeown’s new book Called to Watch for Christ’s Return (22 February), as did the Ballymena Guardian (11 April). With the help of Marco Barone, a willing trans-Atlantic courier flying to and from Grand Rapids, our supply of this end times’ book has been renewed.

Our bookstore, filled with RFPA materials, is a great resource for building up our members, getting out the truth of the Reformed faith, and making our church better known. We love selling these wonderful books!

Ministry of the Word

Jacob Joseph sermonsThe 34-sermon series on “The Life of Jacob” (Gen. 25-50) has concluded, with the third box set of the trilogy entitled “Jacob, Joseph and Egypt” (Gen. 37-50). Available on CD or DVD, it is listed with about 70 other box sets on-line ( www.cprf. co.uk/audio/boxsets.htm ).
A couple of weeks ago, we started a new series of sermons on “The Conclusion to Christ’s Farewell Discourse” (John 16). This beautiful chapter of God's Word deals with such themes as Christ’s bodily departure, the persecution of His saints, the work of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and peace.

The CPRC catechism classes concluded with an end-of-season test on Monday, 27 March. All the students in the 3 classes on Beginners New Testament, Juniors Old Testament, and Heidelberg Catechism Book 2 did well—a testimony not only to their hard work but also to that of their parents.

After 16 classes on the holy war, we have begun a study on the holy land in our Tuesday morning classes. It is a massive theme in Genesis, the rest of the Pentateuch, and throughout Old Testament history and prophecy, with important lessons for us New Testament Christians (e.g., Heb. 11:8-16).

Our Wednesday night study of the Belgic Confession is in rich ecclesiastical pastures. Our six classes on Belgic Confession 31, “The Ministers, Elders and Deacons,” looked at how Christ calls His officebearers: their qualification, nomination by the council, election by the congregation, and ordination. We also covered sinful motives for, and ways of, seeking church office, equality among officebearers, and “Murmuring, Strife, and Contention Against OfficeBearers.”

We are currently on Belgic Confession 32, “The Order and Discipline of the Church,” dealing with the whole area of church authority: its nature, source, parties, etc. Our Belgic Confession audio page includes some 215 audios of all of the classes from over the last six church seasons ( www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm ).

The subject of my last lecture in South Wales was “The New Calvinism and the Reformation” (2 March). The speech contrasted the “New Calvinism” of John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, etc., with the old Calvinism of the Reformation and its creeds in the areas of the doctrines of grace, Charismaticism, worship, ecclesiology, etc. There were 17 of us present. The video of the lecture, plus the question and answer session, is online ( www.youtube.com/ watch?v=soWSTosMTsYp ).

Others

The CPRC YouTube site continues to grow, thanks to the work of Stephen Murray (www.youtube.com/cprcni). Our subscribers have increased to 770. Now all the sermon series, conference speeches, and debates that we have online in video are in handy playlists. Thus, for example, the videos of the 6 sermons in the 2010 series “The Outrage of Gibeah” (Jud. 19-21) are arranged one after another on a special YouTube page.

The CPRC main website (www.cprc.co.uk) is doing well. We average about 2,400 different people per day (excluding those listening to audios or reading pdfs). The last 2 months saw the addition of just 7 new translations (3 Spanish, 2 Hungarian, and 2 Czech), probably our worst haul ever! Though slow, our foreign section keeps growing ( www.cprf.co.uk/lan-guages.htm ).

This summer, Mary and I are taking our biennial holiday in North America, D.V. I am to preach 8 times: Spokane (23 July), Edmonton and Lacombe (30 July), Lynden (6 August), and Providence and Hudsonville (13 August). It will be good to worship with the saints in all these 6 churches again. I will also be giving a slide presentation after the Sunday afternoon/evening service in 4 of these churches. Rev. Brummel and I are to speak at an evangelism conference in Lacombe on Saturday, 29 July.

Our sister-church relationship is important to us, so we appreciate all these opportunities to maintain contact and strengthen our bonds in Christ. In our absence from Northern Ireland, Rev. Bleyenberg of Providence PRC will be preaching in the CPRC and the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) on three Lord’s Days (30 July and 6 & 13 August).

We appreciate your interest, support, and prayers for your sister church and its mission work on the island of Ireland.

May the Lord be with you all,

Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - March 2017

 

Covenant Reformed News

March 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 11


Our Calling to Be Longsuffering

As God’s elect, redeemed and regenerated people, we are called to reflect our heavenly Father’s communicable attributes, including His longsuffering to us. By His grace, we do this! Longsuffering is included as the fourth virtue in the ninefold fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (22-23).

In I Corinthians 13, the greatest biblical chapter on Christian love, it is the quality mentioned first: “Charity suffereth long [i.e., is longsuffering], and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (4).

Colossians 1:11 contains part of Paul’s desire and prayer for believers, that we may be “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” The Apostle’s petition here is that God would grant us spiritual strength so that we are able to be longsuffering towards others, able to control our own spirits (without getting sinfully angry), tongues (without speaking hastily or bitterly) and bodies (without striking people).

The book of Proverbs contains three texts which praise the blessed virtue of longsuffering, here translated “slow to anger” or “slow to wrath.” First, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (16:32). Here longsuffering flows from inner power so that we are able to control our spirits, as in Colossians 1:11. Second, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly” (Prov. 14:29). Here longsuffering is proof of our spiritual understanding in Christ (cf. Isa. 11:2). Third, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife” (Prov. 15:18). Here the believer, possessed of the Holy Spirit’s peace, exercises longsuffering so that strife does not result.

I Thessalonians 5:14 applies to our behaviour towards everybody, head for head, but especially, in its context, towards our brothers and sisters in the church: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient [i.e., longsuffering] toward all men.” How necessary in the congregation is this grace of longsuffering, lest foolish words and rude behaviour mar the communion of the saints and grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

Here are a couple of other New Testament passages that connect longsuffering and church unity. First, Ephesians 4 exhorts us to be diligent “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (3), for the church is “one body,” created by “one [internal] baptism,” animated by “one Spirit,” believing “one faith,” possessed of “one hope,” serving “one Lord,” and worshipping “one God and Father of all” (4-6). But how? “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (2).

Second, in Colossians 3 also, longsuffering (12) serves the fellowship of believers (13) and “peace” in the “one body” of Christ’s church (15). Let us heed the apostolic exhortation: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (12). The command to the individual child of God to “put on” various spiritual graces, including longsuffering, shows how our ongoing sanctification and growth in the image of God (10), including longsuffering, serves the unity of the church.

As well as the calling of all Christians to be longsuffering and the role it plays in congregational peace, Scripture also speaks in three places of the importance of longsuffering in the work of the Apostle Paul and Evangelist Timothy. These passages of God’s Word especially apply, in our day, to ministers of the gospel.

Paul wrote II Corinthians with Timothy (1:1). In chapter 6, the Apostle explains how we give “no offence in any thing” (3) and so manifest ourselves “as the ministers of God” (4), even in the midst of slander, persecution, poverty and distress (4-10): “By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned” (6)!

In his last canonical epistle, Paul reminds Timothy of his apostolic persecutions during his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra (II Tim. 3:11). Paul also speaks of the battle with false teachers (1-9, 13). In the midst of these references to persecutors and heretics, and in sharp contrast to them, the Apostle tells Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience” (10). One needs grace to suffer long when one is being cruelly persecuted by wicked men and vehemently opposed by false teachers!

We end this article, and thus the series of nine articles on longsuffering, with II Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” The visible church includes weak believers and even some hypocrites. Not all the physical children of believers are elect; there are also among them a carnal seed who will, in due time, reveal themselves as such (Rom. 9:6). It has been well said that “God has a billy goat in the congregation to make the minister humble!” From all this, it is evident that faithfulness to Christ will include admonition and the exercise of church discipline regarding the impenitent. How necessary it is, therefore, that the pastor “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all … doctrine,” bringing the full teaching of the objective Word of God to those who err. Subjectively, the minister must also “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering”!  Rev. Stewart

 

Calling God “Our Father”


A reader writes, “I am trying to ascertain when the big change occurred among God’s people that meant they could and should call Him their Father. We find it occasionally in the Old Testament prophets but when Jesus said pray like this, ‘Our Father,’ most commentators say that this was altogether novel. How did John, who also taught his disciples to pray, address God? I guess it was as Jehovah or Elohim but how could Christ treat His disciples as God’s adopted sons before His sacrifice and the outpouring of the Spirit? Or was He anticipating what would shortly happen?”

In my book, When You Pray, I suggested that only after our Lord came was it possible for God’s people (individually) to address God as their Father. Although I received many comments and questions on the material in that book, I am sure more questions were generated by that remark than any other part of it. I will try again to answer the question as clearly as I know how.

The questioner is correct when he asks, “Or was He anticipating what would shortly happen?” It is not strange that our Lord anticipated His suffering, death and resurrection. He also spoke many times to His disciples, and the multitudes that heard Him preach, of the blessings that would come to His people after He had completed His work on earth. One of those blessings, great and marvellous, was that now in their prayers they could call God their Father.

Before I say anything more, to me the real problem is not that the Old Testament saints could not individually call God their Father; the really perplexing problem was that they could pray at all! I know that the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prayed but this was possible because they were, in a dim sort of way, prophets, priests and kings before these three offices were separated from each other. Later, when the three offices were separated in Israel, we read of occasions when men who held one of these three offices did pray. We even occasionally read of a saint praying—as in the case of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah and, eventually, the mother of Samuel. But even Hannah’s prayer was divinely inspired and it is similar in many ways to Mary’s prayer, when she learned that she was pregnant with Christ. Mary may even have had Hannah’s prayer in mind.

Ordinarily God’s people had to go to a priest or a prophet to learn the will of God. They had, frequently, to go to the temple with a sacrifice in order to worship God and pray to Him. It was also legitimate in those days of the shadows of good things to come to make use of the Urim and Thummim. It is true that many of the Psalms were prayers and were sung in the temple, but they were all inspired by God and penned by men whom He had chosen.

When John and Jesus preached, their very sermons presupposed that the people prayed but that the people themselves knew that their prayers were difficult, for the way into the inner sanctuary where God dwelt was blocked by the veil that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple. Now God’s people are called to enter boldly into His presence, for the way is opened through the cross of Christ (Heb. 10:1-25).

When our great High Priest came to earth to make the perfect sacrifice, and taught His disciples and the multitudes what marvellous blessings the saints would receive now that the perfect sacrifice was about to be made, Jesus tells His disciples (and us) that we may not only go directly to God, but also when we arrive at the foot of His throne of mercy and grace, led there by Christ, we may even, wonder of all wonders, call the eternal and infinitely blessed God, “Our Father!”

I must confess that for me there are times when I have to struggle to come to God  in the faith that He is a father to us. It sometimes seems presumptuous. God is infinitely great. He makes the heavens His throne and the earth His footstool. He has created all things and upholds them by the word of His power. The distant galaxies, the tiny ant, the electron that spins around the nucleus of an atom—His hand moves them all. His holiness is a light too bright for even the seraphs, who cover their faces with their wings and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). Yet here I am, less than a speck of dust and a terrible sinner besides. His name I have blasphemed and cursed, and His infinite holiness I have trampled under my feet. And I am going to call Him “my Father”?

I have to read Hebrews 10 once again, for God calls me to Him with words of tender care. He tells me, “It is possible. I have given you My own Son, Jesus Christ the righteous, who will lead you, even trembling and awestruck, to Me. I will take you in My arms with an everlasting love and bring you home to live with Me forever.”

I cannot list here the many and wonderful blessings that we receive from our Father in heaven. Even in the Old Testament, the infinitely blessed God is compared to an earthly father: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Ps. 103:13). If you want to know something of what blessings are ours because Jehovah is our Father, read Psalm 103 in full. It will be good for you.

Remember, we can and must call God our Father because of the gift of His only begotten Son. He is the eternal Son, Himself “true God of true God,” as the Nicene Creed states, whom God gave in His everlasting love for us. God loves His Son with a great love, yet He gave Him to us because it is His eternal purpose to glorify His name through the creation of a new family, a family that reflects the riches of the Triune God who lives a family life in Himself. In that family, the Triune God is Father; Christ is our elder brother, who made the family of God possible for us; we are all children of God for Christ’s sake. Because He is the Son, believers are sons in Him. Because He cried out, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:34), we can follow Him to God.

We hide behind Christ when we approach the throne of God and pray “for Jesus’ sake.” But we are told to come with boldness! We must not doubt. We may not be so artificially humble that we dare not come where our Father dwells. With unceasing songs of praise, we cast all out cares upon Him, for He cares for us.  Prof. Hanko

----------------------------------
Prof. Hanko’s When You Pray (hardback, 192 pp.) is available from the CPRC Bookstore for £14.30 (inc. P&P in the UK). 
 
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This 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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South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 6 April, 2017
at 7:15 PM

The Round Chapel
274 Margam Road, Port Talbot, SA13 2DB

Why the Trinity?

The Trinity is one of the most important, and least appreciated, doctrines of Christianity. Do we really need to believe in the Trinity? Could Christianity survive without it? How do we answer the objections of other religions and cults? Come to find out! 

Speaker:
Rev. Martyn McGeown

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk
 



Ballymena
Lecture

Are All Men in the Image of God?

Many people think that unbelievers are in God’s image. But is that true? What does Scripture actually say about the image and likeness of God? What is the testimony of the Reformed confessions? And why is the issue of the image of God so important in our day?

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart
 
Friday, 12 May, 2017 
at 7:30 PM

at the CPRC
(83 Clarence St.,Ballymena,
BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 
www.cprc.co.uk

Unable to join us in Ballymena? The lecture will be streamed live athttp://www.cprf.co.uk/live.html

Reformation Resources

The 16th Century Reformation of the Church
edited by David Engelsma
(200 pp. Softback)
Twenty-five articles on the Protestant Reformation dealing with its central characters and doctrines. Stirring stuff!
£7.70

Always Reforming
edited by David Engelsma
(318 pp. Softback)
This superb book traces the continuing reformation in the Netherlands in the 17th and 19th centuries and in the Protestant Reformed Churches in North America in the 20th century.
£9.90 

Portraits of Faithful Saints
Herman Hanko
(450 pp. Hardback)
Inspiring and instructive biographies of over 50 saints from the 1st to the 20th century, including Augustine, Patrick, Alcuin, Bernard of Clairvaux, Beza, de Brès, Tyndale, Ames and Gresham Machen.
£24.20

The Reformed Faith of John Calvin
David Engelsma
(472 pp. Hardback)
An excellent summary of Calvin’sInstitutes, including explanation, analysis and application for today of this great Reformer’s much-needed teaching.
£19.80

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
on-line, by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!
 
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Covenant Reformed News - February 2017

 

Covenant Reformed News

February 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 10


God’s Longsuffering and Our Suffering

Our covenant God is longsuffering towards His people in their suffering. David confessed this comforting truth in Psalm 86. After telling the Lord about his persecution by the ungodly—“O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them” (14)—David consoles himself with these words: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (15).

Similarly, Jeremiah prays, “O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke” (15:15). That is, “Do not, in thy longsuffering over me, permit my enemies to persecute me so long that they succeed in destroying me!”

In Christ’s parable in Luke 18:1-8, the widow is the object of great injustice and ill-treatment at the hands of her oppressor. Even the unjust judge, wanting to get rid of her, eventually vindicates her (4-5). Jesus draws this lesson from the parable: “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with [i.e., is longsuffering towards] them?” (7).

How is this longsuffering possible for the unchangeable and ever-blessed God? The answer is that God shows empathy and is longsuffering towards His people, especially in their sufferings, through Jesus Christ who is both God and man in one divine Person. As God, Jesus cannot suffer. As man, our Saviour is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15).

Our calling is obvious: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (16). Like the widow in the parable (as well as David and Jeremiah), we “ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1), even when we are oppressed and afflicted by the ungodly, for God suffers long and empathizes with us in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 63 teaches the same truth, though without using the word “longsuffering”: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (9). This refers to the “love” and “pity” of the impassible God who was “afflicted” in “all” Israel’s “affliction” in “the angel of his presence,” Christ, who is God’s special divine angel (i.e., messenger) who “redeemed” and “saved” them. Again, as a man, our Saviour is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15).

Isaiah 63:9 declares the same message as Exodus 3:2. Where is Christ, “the angel [or special messenger] of the Lord”? In the burning bush, in the midst of the church experiencing the fiery afflictions of Pharaoh’s persecution. This means not only that He is “afflicted” in Israel’s “affliction” (Isa. 63:9). It also means that it is Christ’s presence in the Old Testament church which preserves it so that, though “the bush burned with fire,” it “was not consumed” (Ex. 3:2).

After the elders of Israel were told of God’s longsuffering towards and with them (in Christ), they were struck with awe: “when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped” (4:31).

Moving from the Israelites who were forced to make bricks without straw, James 5 refers to Christian employees who are abused in the work place and defrauded of their wages (4, 6). What is the exhortation God gives to His people in this Scripture? Join a labour union? Go on strike? Overthrow the “capitalist pigs”?

No, exercise the grace of longsuffering in light of the bodily return of Jesus Christ! “Be patient [i.e., be longsuffering] therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience [i.e., is longsuffering] for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient [i.e., be longsuffering]; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh … Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience [i.e., longsuffering]” (7-8, 10).

Notice the two examples given here of patience and longsuffering: first, a farmer waiting for the harvest (7) and, second, the Old Testament prophets who endured suffering for the truth they preached (10). The saint from Uz is then set forth by James for our emulation: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (11).

Hebrews 6 exhorts us to show Christian “diligence” to the “end” (11), “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience [i.e., longsuffering] inherit the promises” (12), like Abraham (13-14), who was tested severely and, “after he had patiently endured [i.e., been longsuffering], he obtained the promise” (15).

We must not grow discouraged or bitter with our sovereign God because of our afflictions. We must not huff and throw in the towel. We must not protest, “But I have already suffered long enough!”

The teaching of James 5 and Hebrews 6 is that Christians will and must suffer, but that we must, by God’s grace, be longsuffering in our suffering! Why? Jesus Christ our Saviour is coming again to punish the wicked and deliver us! This hope in the fulfilment of God’s promise of perfect salvation and joy is our spiritual motivation to be patient and longsuffering in our afflictions and hardships.  Rev. Stewart

 

Does Solomonic Authorship Befit the Song of Songs?


A reader writes, “I was reading the Song of Solomon and I wondered why the Spirit of God chose a man like Solomon, who flagrantly abused the marriage covenant, to write the book most interpret as exemplifying the one-flesh union between a man and his wife, and between Christ and His bride. Perhaps it is just another way of showing how the type always fails, unlike the antitype! I would be very interested in reading a good Reformed book on the Song of Solomon bringing out all it teaches of God’s covenant. I don’t know if there has been one.”

Sadly, many, even within the Reformed camp, have denied that the Song of Solomon, sometimes known as the Song of Songs or Canticles, is an Old Testament metaphorical song celebrating the marriage relation between Christ and His church. One author, a former classmate in college, called it “An Erotic Love Song.” A former professor in a Reformed seminary denied that it was canonical; that is, he denied that it had a place in Scripture because it could not have been inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, the questioner is right. It does exemplify the truth of marriage that husband and wife, as earthly pictures of Christ and His church, presuppose an underlying earthly figure. That underlying figure is the institution of marriage that dates from Paradise. And the underlying type is Solomon himself. David was a type of Christ as the warrior that destroys the enemies of the church to prepare the way for the kingdom of heaven. Solomon, in all the wealth and beauty of his kingdom, was a type of Christ who brings about, through His cross, the everlasting kingdom of righteousness.

Solomon married 700 wives and also possessed 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). It was indeed a mockery of the institution of marriage. Solomon paid the price for this, for his foreign wives led him into idolatry.

I have no interest in justifying Solomon’s sin. But it must be remembered, nonetheless, that before the coming of Christ, who, by His death and resurrection, made possible the true heavenly marriage, the earthly picture in the old dispensation was only a picture and thus defective. And so God permitted polygamy and concubinage because the earthly picture was not very clear in its depiction of the reality. It was like a very bad photo of a royal figure taken with a cheap camera. The picture was fuzzy and blurred; the details could not be clearly seen. When God reminded David of the many things He had given him, one of those was his many wives (II Sam. 12:1-14). But those in Scripture who were married to more than one wife inevitably had family problems: Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, David, Solomon and many of the kings in both Israel and Judah.

It ought also to be remembered that, although the historical books of the Old Testament do not mention Solomon’s confession of his sin, it is almost certain that Solomon’s book Ecclesiastes is his confession.

Finally, Solomon, though it was sinful, was carrying on a custom which monarchs in his day practised. Harems, sometimes huge, were common in palaces throughout the Middle East. Many wealthy men had harems.

Now to the question itself. The question seems to me to assume that no wicked man could be used by God in inspiring the Scriptures. But all the men whom God used in writing the Bible were sinners. Nevertheless, when they wrote, they were “holy men of God” (II Pet. 1:21). Their holiness was not a total and complete alteration of their entire nature from depravity to sinlessness. David, after all, committed his sins of adultery and murder after writing Psalm 23. It does mean that, in writing the Scriptures, they were kept by God from any possible error. And it means that all who participated in the writing of Scripture were God-fearing men, consecrated to the Lord and His cause. This was true of all of them, including Solomon.

David was a dreadful sinner, as well as his son Solomon. David sinned against the seventh commandment, as well as Solomon, and added the sin of murder to hide his adultery. Before his conversion, Paul committed the dreadful sin of persecuting Christ’s church.

I realize that the questioner meant a little more than the fact that God used sinful men to write the Scriptures: he meant to say that one who broke the marriage bond was used by God to write about that marriage bond. How can one who defiled marriage write about true marriage, especially the marriage of Christ and His church?

It seems to me that we ought to reframe the question in this way: Is not Solomon, the forgiven sinner, in the best possible position to be used by God to write a song on the beauty and wonder of the marriage between Christ and His church? He knew better than most how wicked he was (and we are), and how even saints corrupt an institution that is so sacred and holy. And so he looked at the true marriage of Christ and His bride the church, and saw in it the redemption of the marriage state among God’s people. That is, he saw what a marriage here on earth ought to be when it reflected the reality of the true marriage. So he sang a song about it by the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ. He did so as an expression of hope for the future, when the figure would disappear to make room for the reality.

One more point on the truth of inspiration. God, in His marvellous wisdom, did not pick men at random to write the Bible. From eternity, He conceived in His own mind the one sacred Scripture in which God in Christ is fully revealed. The Bible is a portrait of Christ. From eternity, God also chose those men whom He wanted to write the various parts of Scripture. As if that were not enough, God sovereignly determined all the preparation that each man needed to be able to write what He had determined for him to write. If one does not include in the doctrine of inspiration both predestination and divine providence, he is bound to go wrong. So Solomon, weak and sinful as any man, was chosen to write parts of Scripture (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon). Throughout his life and forty-year reign, God was preparing him for this work. Solomon seems to me the ideal man to write this beautiful song about marriage—here on earth but especially in heaven. It was a longing for the reality, and who can better write about the reality than one who knew how he had corrupted the figure? Prof. Hanko
 
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 2 March, 2017
at 7:15 PM

The Round Chapel
274 Margam Road, Port Talbot, SA13 2DB

The New Calvinism and the Reformation Compared

What is the New Calvinism? How does it differ from (old) Calvinism? What is its relation to the Reformation (which is in its 500th anniversary year)? And what is our calling as Calvinists and Reformed people?

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

Be Ye Holy:
The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification


by David J. Engelsma & Herman Hanko
(180 pp, softback)

What is sanctification? How is it related to justification? What is the error of antinomianism? What is the role of the law in sanctification? This book covers all this and much more, and exhorts us all to holiness!

£5.50 (inc. P&P)

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
on-line, by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!
 
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