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

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - February 2017

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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI

16 February, 2017

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,


Church Visitors

CC visitors CPRC 2017Rev. and Sue VanOverloop (Grace PRC) and Sid and Lisa Miedema (Byron Center PRC) stayed with us at the CPRC manse from Friday 12-Saturday 21 January. It is especially enjoyable when our annual church visitors come with their wives!

As well as preaching at both Lord’s Day services, Pastor VanOverloop led a Tuesday morning Bible study on “Paul’s Prayers for the Ephesians” and gave a Wednesday night lecture on “Content With Who I Am in Christ.” The Ballymena Guardian and the Belfast News Letter carried articles promoting this speech. The congregation and visitors appreciated Rev. VanOverloop’s ministry.

Building the wall in Nehemiah 3 was the theme of this year’s official church visitation with the CPRC Council (Monday, 16 January). What a great example to the church of all ages: In Nehemiah’s day, everyone joined in the work despite the opposition of the ungodly!

Our congregational dinner in the Ross Park Hotel was a good night of fellowship (Friday, 20 January). Our thanks to William Graham for his fine work as the after-dinner quizmaster. Besides our four church visitors, most of the congregation, and a good number of friends, our nephew Travis Hanko (Grace PRC) was also present at the dinner, having flown to Northern Ireland for a couple of days during a university course in the Netherlands.

Alicia Prins and Dana VanDyke (Trinity PRC) were in Northern Ireland in late December, staying with David and Kirstin Crossett. Our thanks to them and the church visitors for bringing over a good number of books for our church.

Rev. McGeown’s New Book

The CPRC Bookstore has been getting out a lot of RFPA literature of late, including Prof. Hanko’s excellent book, Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer.

McGeown Called Watch 2016Our current bestseller is Rev. McGeown’s Called to Watch for Christ’s Return (www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore/ calledtowatch.html). Apart from our BRF Conference books, which we sell at a very low cost, no other book has sold so many copies in such a relatively short period.

Our biggest difficulty lies in keeping up a stock of them through couriers travelling from Grand Rapids to the CPRC or the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF). For the present, I am holding off sending articles on Called to Watch for Christ’s Return to the Ballymena press because we are running low.

Three weeks ago, I e-mailed a piece to newspapers in the Cookstown area of Northern Ireland, where Pastor McGeown was brought up and where most of his family live. The Mid-Ulster Mail put it on their website and linked to it from their Facebook account. They also published it in full and prominently in their weekly printed version, along with two photos of the author and his book (2 February). This garnered more sales than any such article we have had published in any (secular) newspaper before. Hopefully, some of the new people reading this superb book on Matthew 24-25 and the end times will develop a spiritual taste for the truth of the biblical and Reformed faith, and will want other materials from the CPRC Bookstore in the future.

Others

The ministry of the blessed Word continues in the CPRC in various forms. On Tuesday mornings, we have been tracing the Old Testament’s teaching on holy wars from the Pentateuch through the historical books, especially Joshua and Judges.

We recently concluded six Wednesday night classes on “The Government of and Offices in the Church” (Belgic Confession 30). We refuted Charismaticism, Episcopalianism, and Anabaptism by insisting on only and all the three permanent, ordinary, and biblical church offices: pastors, elders, and deacons. On this scriptural basis, we then considered church office-bearers in connection with the Spirit of Christ, good order, and broader assemblies (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgic confessionclass.htm). It was good to have with us in the class two visitors from the Republic of Ireland, one from Co. Wexford and one from Co. Limerick, Colm Ring of the LRF.

Last Sunday's services included the 31st sermon on “The Life of Jacob,” the longest series I have preached (www.cprf.co.uk/ audio/OTseries.htm). Stephen Murray has already produced two of the three box sets on Jacob (CD or DVD), covering sermons 1-12 entitled “Jacob’s Birth, Blessing, and Young Family” (Gen. 25-31) and sermons 13-22 on “Jacob’s Enemies: Laban, Esau, and the Canaanites” (Gen. 31-35).

Jacob sermons CPRC 2017

The last two months have been very quiet on the translation front, with just 10 added to our website: 5 Spanish, 2 Hungarian, 2 Indonesian, and 1 Portuguese (www.cprf.co.uk/languages.htm). However, we have also received our first ever subtitled video. Tibor Bognár, who was at the 2016 British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference, added Hungarian subtitles to a YouTube video of my sermon on “The Sovereignty of God (I).” This video is atop our special Hungarian page, which contains some 185 translations (www.cprf.co.uk/ languages/hungarian.htm).

With 2017 being the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation, the CPRC is delighted that Prof. Engelsma has agreed to come to Northern Ireland to give some speeches in October and early November, and to preach on three Lord’s Days. We are holding a mini-conference on Saturday, 21 October, DV, the week before the PR Seminary conference in Grand Rapids. This also means that I am released to preach for the LRF on Sundays 29 October and 5 November, when Rev. McGeown is to be in the US to speak at Reformation conferences in Michigan and Colorado, respectively.

May the Lord be with all His believing children, the children of the Reformation,
Rev. & Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - January 2017

Covenant Reformed News

January 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 9


God’s Longsuffering and the Sins of His Elect

Having considered the reprobate ungodly in the last issue of the Covenant Reformed News, we now turn to Scripture’s teaching on the divine attribute of longsuffering with regard to the sins of God’s people in Jesus Christ.

Think of the terrible transgressions of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament! These included their lewd idolatry with the golden calf at Mount Sinai (Ex. 32-34) and their stubborn refusal at Kadesh to enter the promised land (Num. 13-14). We read of God’s being longsuffering or slow to anger at both of these low points, both at the time (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18) and later (Neh. 9:17).

This last verse occurs in a review of Israel’s history that highlights Jehovah’s mighty acts for the salvation of His people despite their terrible sins. Nehemiah 9 begins with the children of Israel coming together for a fast, covered with “sackclothes” and with dust upon their heads (1), confessing “their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers” (2).

Listen to their lament: “our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks” (16-17). Moreover, “they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations” (26). Repeatedly, “they did evil again before thee ... they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments … and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear” (28, 29).

Thus the Levites declare on behalf of Israel, “we have done wickedly: Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom” (33-35). Yet there was hope because God was longsuffering or “slow to anger” (17)!

No wonder that holy David, who meditated in God’s law day and night, celebrated this divine virtue (Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8) in connection with the forgiveness of sins (Ps. 86:5; 103: 3, 10, 12).

God also magnified His longsuffering in His salvation of elect Gentiles, including the Ninevites (Jonah 4:2) and the New Testament church (II Pet. 3:9, 15), most of which is not ethnically Jewish (Rom. 9:22-24). What a multitude of sins of former pagans are covered in the blood of Jesus Christ in the longsuffering of God!

Jehovah is “longsuffering” to predestinated individuals, including Paul, the “chief” of sinners, who persecuted the church before God showed His rich “grace” to him (I Tim. 1:13-16).

All of this speaks to us, beloved! How longsuffering has God been to us regarding our original sins! What about all of the sins of our youth (Ps. 25:7)? Many of us can recall our horrible iniquities before we came to Christ. There are also our sins as Christians, some of which seem to us to be even worse than our pre-conversion sins because they were committed against far greater light. We have transgressed God’s holy law as His children, as church members, as earthly sons or daughters, as husbands or wives, as fathers or mothers, at home and at work, in our thoughts and words and deeds!

But our covenant God comes to us in Scripture, reminding us of His longsuffering! Through the preaching of the holy gospel, He declares to us that He is longsuffering, as the One who is patient, gracious and slow to anger. Jehovah’s longsuffering is symbolized and sealed in the sacrament of holy baptism (I Pet. 3:20-21).

God’s longsuffering is an instance of what are often called His communicable attributes, that is, those divine perfections that He works into the hearts and lives of His people so that they reflect His virtues in a creaturely way.

Think of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35, which could also be called the parable of the unlongsuffering servant! Regarding the slave and his master, we read, “The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with [i.e., be longsuffering towards] me, and I will pay thee all” (26). Regarding the slave and his fellow slave, we read, “And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with [i.e., be longsuffering towards] me, and I will pay thee all” (29).

The point of the parable is that we should be longsuffering towards and forgive those who have wronged us, if they ask for our forgiveness (and we should be willing to forgive those who wrong us, if they do not ask for our pardon). After all, Scripture itself tells us the lesson regarding forgiveness that Christ’s parable is designed to teach: “Jesus saith unto him [i.e., Peter], I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (22).

Forgive others! After all, God has been, and is, longsuffering towards you and has forgiven you billions of sins, like the servant who owes an unpayable debt in the parable. Thus we must be longsuffering and forgive others. The truth of God’s longsuffering is very practical and for some this is a hard spiritual lesson to learn. By meditating upon, and rejoicing in, God’s longsuffering in Himself and towards us miserable offenders, the Holy Spirit enables us to be longsuffering and forgiving to those who have sinned against us.

What Christ teaches in one of His inimitable parables, the apostle Paul states in one of his canonical epistles: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved … longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:12-13). This is our calling as the undeserving objects of God’s longsuffering!  Rev. Stewart

 

False Prophets


“And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him” (Eze. 14:9-10).

A reader of the News from Uganda asked to have this passage explained.

God spoke to His people Israel in different ways. Sometimes He spoke directly to them, as at Sinai; sometimes through miracles He performed for them, which miracles were signs of spiritual truths; very frequently, God spoke to His people through prophets whom He anointed with His Spirit. Moses himself was a prophet through whom God spoke, more frequently, it seems, than any other prophet. But all the prophets spoke the Word that God gave them to speak. That was their glorious calling.

Just as a priest was a mediator between God and His people, and just as a king ruled over God’s people in His name, so a prophet spoke the Word of God. Even the word “prophet” means one who “bubbles over” with the Word of God. When Jeremiah, because he suffered much and was repeatedly rejected by Judah, wanted to resign his office and told God so, he could not resign because, as he put it, the Word of God was “as a burning fire” within him (Jer. 20:9). But where there were true prophets, there were also false prophets. They put themselves in an office to which they were not called by God. They falsely claimed to be sent by God and to speak on His behalf.

Even before Israel entered Canaan, while they were in the plains of Moab ready to cross the River Jordan, God through Moses spoke long to them. Among the things He said to them was His warning against false prophets and how Israel could distinguish them from the true prophets of God (e.g., Deut. 13; 18).

Perhaps, the clearest instance of false prophets as distinguished from a true prophet is found in II Chronicles 18. (The reader is urged to read the entire chapter and especially verses 4-27.) Let us take a close look at this chapter for it answers the questions of the reader.

II Chronicles 18 describes the wicked agreement between godless Ahab and God-fearing Jehoshaphat to go to war together against Syria. As the prophet Jehu told him, this was very wrong of Jehoshaphat: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (19:2). The righteous should never join with the wicked for any reason.

Ahab and Jehoshaphat were sitting at the entrance of the city of Samaria, where in most cities in Israel was a huge gathering place, a sort of public square. The false prophets that claimed to speak in God’s name were prophesying before the two kings, proclaiming and saying that the kings should indeed fight against the Syrians because Jehovah said they would be victorious.

Jehoshaphat asked for a prophet of the Lord and Ahab knew only of one, Micaiah by name, but Ahab did not like Micaiah because he always spoke evil of wicked Ahab. It is a strange conversation that revealed Ahab’s twisted mind. Micaiah prophesied the same as the prophets of Baal. Ahab demanded that he speak Jehovah’s word. Micaiah did so and was imprisoned by Ahab for doing it.

In the course of Micaiah’s prophesy of the defeat that Israel would suffer, he explained why the false prophets prophesied falsely. Some of the demons were in heaven (as was possible for them in the old dispensation) and God asked the assembly for volunteers to deceive Ahab. Some demons said they could deceive the king by being a lying spirit in Ahab’s false prophets and God gave them permission to do this.

This answers the question of the reader why the text quoted speaks of God deceiving wicked prophets. God is sovereign also over the demons. Yet, as the text makes clear, those who prophesy falsely, as well as those who listen to and act on the wicked prophesies that lead people astray, are all guilty. For they all commit their sin wilfully.

In other words, the people who listen to false prophets know that the prophet to whom they listen is a wicked prophet who does not come with the Word of God. They listen to him anyway and do what he says. They are enticed by the false prophet’s flattering words and like the predictions that suit them. (I do not know why good King Jehoshaphat did what the false prophets said and ignored what he knew to be the Word of God. He must have been so enamoured by his desire to cooperate with wicked Israel that he was blind to what he knew he ought to do.)

In the old dispensation, the Lord gave guidelines for Israel to distinguish between a false prophet and a true prophet. For one thing, they were to see whether the predictions the prophets made actually took place.

Today’s false prophets swarm like bees in the church world. Jesus said this would happen as a sign of His coming (Matt. 24:4-5, 11, 23-28). They claim to speak the Word of God but instead they speak seducing words, words that men like to hear. All the false prophets who emerge throughout the whole history of the church will culminate with the greatest of all false prophets, the Antichrist. The whole world will accept him not only as a prophet but as if he were Christ Himself, the great prophet of God (II Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 13:3-8).

In the new dispensation, God has given to His church an infallible canon by which every prophet, whether true or false, can be evaluated or tested. That canon is the sacred Scriptures. Let us not be deceived: those who follow false prophets know they are false; they follow them anyway, but they walk contrary to God’s righteous ways and will be destroyed. We must listen to prophets who bring to us the Word of God as found in the holy Scriptures alone. 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, 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

Corrupting the Word of God

The History of
the Free Offer

by Herman Hanko
(272 pp, hardback)

Emeritus professor of church history, Herman Hanko, guides us through fascinating doctrinal controversies in the early, Reformation and modern eras of the church, emphasizing the teaching of the great theologians, such as Augustine and John Calvin, on God’s particular grace, which is always irresistible and never fails or is frustrated. In dealing with the historical perspective of God’s absolutely sovereign grace versus the well-meant offer, this book fills a gap in the literature, and does so in a way that is warm and easily understood.

£16.50 (inc. 10% 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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Covenant Reformed News - December 2016

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Covenant Reformed News

December 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 8


God’s Longsuffering and the Reprobate Ungodly

In the last five issues of the Covenant Reformed News, we have been setting forth the Bible’s teaching concerning the divine attribute of longsuffering. Now we shall consider this perfection of God in connection with the impenitent wicked.

We start with the founder and first ruler of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam I, whom Scripture repeatedly calls the man who “made Israel to sin” (e.g., I Kings 14:16; 15:26, 30, 34; 16:2, 26; 22:52; II Kings 3:3; 10:29; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28). This wicked man rebelled against the house of David and, hence, against Jesus Christ, the sole king and head of the church, whom David typified. Jeroboam forsook Jerusalem (a picture of the true church), its temple (where Almighty God especially dwelt), its altar and sacrifices (which pointed to Christ’s satisfaction for sin) and the Aaronitic priesthood (which God had ordained). Instead, Jeroboam began a new dynasty over the northern tribes and established idolatrous shrines at Dan and Bethel, where non-Levitical priests offered sacrifices to the two golden calves that he had made, in keeping with his new religious calendar (I Kings 12:28-33).

Given the height of Jeroboam’s abominations, why did not the Holy One of Israel cut him off sooner? It was certainly not that there was any divine love for him!

One factor is that God willed the development of the false church in the Northern Kingdom over against the true church in the Southern Kingdom, also called Judah. This served to heighten the antithesis and to provide New Testament Christians with an Old Testament example of the true church and the false church existing side-by-side at the same time (Belgic Confession 29). Another reason is that Jeroboam had to live long enough to have a regenerate son, Abijah, of whom was “found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel” (I Kings 14:13).

Our second example is King Ahaz, ruler of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (rather than the Northern Kingdom of Israel, established by Jeroboam). You can read about Ahaz’s gross idolatry at God’s temple in Jerusalem in II Kings 16 and II Chronicles 28. Again the question arises, Why did God not slay him earlier? It was not that God was longsuffering towards him and desperately tried to convert him! Rather, Ahaz must be succeeded by the son of his own loins, the pious Hezekiah, who would begin cleansing the pollutions of the temple on the very first day of the first month of the first year of his reign (II Chron. 29:3, 17).

Our third individual is found in the New Testament Scriptures: Jezebel, that wicked woman in the church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29). She was a false prophetess, who promoted fornication and idolatry in the church, which she defended by her antinomianism. Her deceitful claim was that, unless one knows “the depths of Satan,” one can never fully appreciate the greatness of God’s rich grace of forgiveness (24)!

Concerning Jezebel, Christ declared, “I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not” (21). Was this because God loved her and was longsuffering to her and her reprobate followers? No! The Lord Jesus promised to “cast her into a bed [of sickness]” (22), adding, “I will kill her children with death,” so that “all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts” (23).

Turning from these three individuals (Jeroboam, Ahaz and the prophetess Jezebel), we will next consider a group of people: the false teachers mentioned in II Peter 2 and Jude. Do either of these holy men speak of those reprobate church leaders (Jude 4) as the recipients of God’s longsuffering or grace? No! Instead, they stress the certainty of their punishment (II Pet. 2:1, 3-6, 9, 12-13, 17; Jude 5-7, 13-15). God will execute His severe judgment upon these false teachers in accordance with His eternal plan! As Moses says, “their foot shall slide in due time” (Deut. 32:35).

Our last biblical example is Judas, whose eternal reprobation is underscored by Scripture (John 6:64, 70-71; 13:18, 21, 26-27; 17:12). Judas was a thief; he had the bag and was pilfering all along (John 12:6; 13:29)! So why did God not cast him into hell even then? First, Judas’ betrayal of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament (Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14, 20-21; 109:6ff.) and so in the providence of God this had to come to pass. Second, God had appointed Judas’ treachery as a crucial part of the way in which the Lord Jesus would go to the cross, where He would die for all the sins of His people.

Christ did not speak of any divine love or longsuffering for Judas that desired his salvation. Instead, the Son of God proclaimed regarding the traitor, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). This is true of all who die in impenitence. All those in hell wish that they had never existed!

Christ declared this judgment upon Judas (and all who lead others into sin): “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:1-2; cf. Matt. 18:6; Mark 9:42).

God does not immediately cut off the reprobate not because He is longsuffering to them but because, in His inscrutable justice, He is giving them more time and opportunity to heap up wrath unto themselves (Rom. 2:5). Jehovah’s purpose with the impenitent ungodly is “to shew his wrath, and to make his power known” (9:22).

Whereas God puts up with or forbears or “endure[s] … the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” He does this “with much longsuffering” towards His elect “that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (22-24). Reprobation and forbearance serve God’s election and longsuffering towards His beloved people in Jesus Christ!    Rev. Angus Stewart

 

Christ, Original Sin and Pain


Our readers will recall that in the last News we discussed whether our Lord could be sick. I answered in the affirmative for He was like us in all things, sin excepted (Heb. 4:15). The thought occurred to me that the fact that our Lord was without sin, even though He was born into our human race, requires some further explanation. In fact, one reader asked me personally how that could be: How could the Lord escape original sin and original corruption, for He was born of Mary and in the line of Adam?

The answer to this question is not stated in so many words in Scripture. The answer must be deduced from other truths the Bible tells us about our Lord Jesus Christ.

So that all our readers may know what original sin (consisting of original guilt and original corruption) is, a short explanation will assist us.

Original guilt is the guilt imputed by God to the whole human race for the sin Adam committed. That is, Adam was guilty before God for eating of the forbidden tree and he transgressed this divine command as the federal head of all who descended from him. What then of Christ Himself, for He was born a member of the human race?

The central proof for original guilt is found in Romans 5:12-14: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”

Although the truth of the above text is denied almost universally, it stands firm against all enemy attacks. Adam sinned. Death came into the world because of Adam’s sin. Why did death come on all men, even though they had not sinned as Adam did? Death came on all because all have sinned in Adam. People go to hell because mankind is guilty in Adam of eating of the forbidden tree. God also, of course, punishes the impenitent for their actual sins, the sins they commit personally.

Furthermore, Adam was a “figure” of our Lord, for Christ was eternally appointed to be the federal head of the elect. The result is that the righteousness that our Lord earned on the cross is imputed to all the elect for whom Christ is head and for whom He died.

Original corruption is the lot of all men, for death, which is the penalty for sin, came on all men. Paul reminds the Ephesians that they were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). All men are totally depraved (which is what death in sin means) who carry in them the corruption of sin. Total depravity is the punishment on guilty sinners that comes on all from guilty Adam.

Our Lord escaped original guilt because, although He was a part of the human race, His Person is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit who preserved Him from the corruption that is passed on from parents to children through conception (Luke 1:35). And so our Lord was like us in all things except sin.

Some also use the following argument: guilt is transmitted through the father; our Lord had no earthly father; God was His Father; therefore, Christ was without original guilt and corruption. In this argument, the last three statements are true but where is the proof that “guilt is transmitted through the father”?

In connection with this discussion, another reader wrote asking the following: “Could Christ feel pain? Could He have an accident?” I take the last question to mean, Was Christ subject to unintended injuries through some mishap?

In answer to the first question, yes, of course, He could, and did, feel pain. He could feel the slap in the face during His trial by the Sanhedrin. He could feel the crown of thorns pressed into His head. He could feel the whipping by the Roman soldiers. He could feel the excruciating pain of being nailed to a cross and hanging from those nails in the heat of the blazing sun. He felt the wrath of God as the very torments of hell, a pain we shall never have to feel, if we believe in Him who suffered for us. He suffered terribly in both body and soul.

The question about “accidents” is somewhat different. The reader should understand, first of all, that there is no such thing as an accident. We might be hurt if something happens to us that we did not expect. But God’s providence determines all things down to the smallest detail (Eph. 1:11).

Nothing could happen to Christ without His will as the eternal Son of God. He could not drown in a ship sunk by a storm on the Sea of Galilee. He could not be killed when the wicked tried to push Him off a cliff in Nazareth. Because He was “true God of true God” (as our beautiful Nicene Creed expresses it), nothing could take Him by surprise or happen to Him without His will.

But whether Christ’s divine nature, which is omniscient, always revealed all He knew to His human nature, I do not know. He knew, without being told, what His disciples were thinking. He knew that the cross lay at the end of His ministry. He knew what the Jews would do to Him, what Pilate would do to Him and what God would do to Him.

But did He know the identity of the woman who touched the hem of His robe? He asked, “Who touched me?” (Mark 5:31). Was that merely to bring the person forward? Or did He really not know? His divine nature did but did it always reveal things to His human mind? I do not know.

This is part of the great mystery of Immanuel, God with us. I know what the Creed of Chalcedon confessed: that Christ united in His divine Person both the divine and human natures without separation, without confusion, without mixture and without change. And I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (II Tim. 1:12). This is enough and this is my salvation!    Prof. Herman Hanko, emeritus PRC Seminary
 
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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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - December 2016

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI


16 December, 2016

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,


John Owen Lecture

jowen 1

2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Owen (1616-1683), perhaps the greatest theologian ever produced in the British Isles. His excellent book, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” is the most significant treatise in the history of the Christian church on the particularity of our Lord's atonement. Interestingly, while refuting Arminianism and Amyraldianism on the cross, Owen also superbly confounds their arguments for a desire of God to save the reprobate.

Since we typically choose a historical subject for the annual Reformation Day lecture in the CPRC, I spoke on “John Owen and the Death of Christ” (28 October), summarizing Owen's eventful ministry and setting forth his arguments for Christ's laying down His life for His elect sheep alone. We advertised this meeting through articles placed in Chatterbox (October) and the Ballymena Guardian (27 October), a trailer after our Sunday morning Reformed Witness Hour broadcast, flyers, etc.

We used similar methods, including a piece in the Portadown Times, to get the word out when this speech was given in Portadown (11 November), about an hour south of Ballymena. Though a number of people had told us that they were planning to attend, they and others were put off by a day of very heavy rain. Though they were few, the saints listened attentively and were encouraged by the truth of Christ's efficacious redemption.

The lecture on “John Owen and the Death of Christ” was given for the third time in South Wales (8 December). Earlier that day, Mary and I made three visits with some of the Lord's people—a young family, an elderly couple, and a young man—making the flight to mainland Britain even more worthwhile.

After the third delivery of the speech, we put it on-line on audio ( www.cprc. co.uk/owenlecture2.mp3 ) and video, along with the slides  (www.youtube.com/watch? v=7avtiihk_xw ). Already a lot more people have watched or listened to the lecture on the internet than were at all of the three meetings!

Church Meetings

Our Tuesday morning classes this year have been dealing with the Old Testament law. Recently, we treated the ashes of the red heifer (Num. 19) which were used in the Mosaic dispensation to cleanse those who had been in contact with a dead human body—the worst form of ceremonial uncleanness! This is the powerful New Testament argument from the lesser to the greater: “if...the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14).

Belgic Confession 29, “The Marks of the True Church, and Wherein She Differs From the False Church,” was the subject of nine Wednesday night classes in the CPRC. We began with the unavoidability of a test for churches and our calling in this regard, before looking at each of the three marks (faithfulness in preaching, sacramental administration, and church discipline) in turn and collectively. After treating the marks of a true church, we looked at the marks of a true Christian and the marks of a false church. Such teaching is so important in our day! One visitor to our classes went through seminary training for the ministry and he said that he had never even heard of the three marks! Many professing believers have little or no idea as to what they should be looking for in a church and so are confused or easily led astray. These nine CDs on “The Marks of the True Church” are the latest CPRC box set. The recordings of our Belgic Confession classes are the most listened to audios on our website ( www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm ).

We have been enjoying “The Life of Jacob” in the book of Genesis over the last few months (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/ OTseries.htm). The patriarch has now fled from Haran, wrestled with Christ at Peniel, embraced his formerly murderous twin, experienced the shame of Shechem, returned to Bethel, and been bereaved of three of his closest friends (Gen. 31-35). Now, with the installation of a hearing loop in our sanctuary, any physical impediment to hearing the Word of God has been lessened!

We have found Facebook to be a free and helpful means to circulate our online material, whether written or on audio or video. In the last few weeks, the CPRC Facebook page has increased by some 28% ( www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC ) and it has been used to gain about 120 new subscribers to the Covenant Reformed News.

Others

By God's rich grace, the congregation is enjoying unity and fellowship with God. We are very thankful for the support we receive from all of you in the Protestant Reformed Churches and, indeed, from other saints around the world. Below are just two of many such encouragements:


“We’ve enjoyed a couple of your live [Sunday evening] services which we watch here at noon [ www.cprf.co.uk/live.html ]. The a cappella psalm singing is particularly beautiful in worship. The sermons on Colossians 2 are well received and we are learning much from them. The learning curve for Reformed theology is so large that I think sometimes my brain will melt...”—Minnesota, USA


“As an Augustinian Calvinist, but a ‘poor lonesome Calvinist’ in a country dominated by apostasy in the major so-called Protestant churches and, of course, in the ‘Satan synagogue’ (the Roman Church) and atheism in the governing bodies, I am very interested by the CPRC website. I should be glad if I could receive your Covenant Reformed News.”—France

The English Churchman (14 & 21 October) carried a report on this summer's British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) conference (http://britishreformed.org). The Belfast News Letter published a letter I sent in explaining that the false ecumenism of the Lutheran World Federation with the Church of Rome is due to the awful apostasy of the former and not the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, as a Roman priest had claimed (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/lutheransandrome.html)!

The last two months have been something of a lean period with regard to new translations on the CPRC website with just 12 additions: 6 Hungarian, 3 Marathi (ecumenical creeds in this Indian language), 2 Portuguese, and 1 Spanish. However, this section of our website is still growing and gets a lot of hits (www.cprf.co. uk/languages.htm).

Our thanks to all those who send us cards or letters! Because our work already includes a lot of mailing, I trust that you will all understand that we are unable to send replies and that you will be satisfied with this note of appreciation.

This is the confession of the child of God: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Ps. 23:6). May the Lord be with you all in 2017!

In Christ,
Pastor and Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - November 2016

 

Covenant Reformed News

November 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 7


God’s Longsuffering and the History of Sin

In the last four issues of the News, we surveyed all the references to God’s longsuffering in both the Old and the New Testaments, emphasizing that the exercise of this divine attribute is particular, for the elect alone. But what about how this works out in the history of sin?

Let us start with the beginning of the history of sin: the fall in Genesis 3. Why did the Most High not cast Adam and Eve into hell immediately after their eating the forbidden fruit? Surely, this is what their sin deserved? However, in God’s eternal decree, He had a wonderful plan to glorify His great name through the salvation of an elect church in Jesus Christ. The immediate death and damnation of the first two human beings would have stopped the propagation of mankind! What then of the history of the world? What about the coming of the Messiah?

Moving forward many centuries, we come to the flood. Why did God tell Noah that 120 years would pass before the global deluge (Gen. 6:3)? It was not because the Almighty was longsuffering to the reprobate in that age. Rather, time was needed to build the ark and for Noah to preach about God’s coming judgment (II Pet. 2:5). Also within these twelve decades, other elect saints, like Methuselah, died. They could not perish in the flood because it was a picture of Jehovah’s avenging wrath against the ungodly! The longsuffering of God saved the eight souls in the ark; it was not trying to save the impenitent reprobate who drowned under the judgment of the Most High (I Pet. 3:20).

Why did the Lord not destroy Sodom earlier? It was not that God loves, and is longsuffering towards, everybody head for head. Instead, the Sodomites had to fill up the cup of their iniquity. The development of their wickedness even reached to their attempted, homosexual gang rape of two strangers (Gen. 19:1-11). Until the departure of believing Lot, the only elect person in Sodom, the Almighty could not burn up the city, as Abraham well understood: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (18:25). After all, the fire and brimstone are a picture of the “eternal fire” of hell (Jude 7; II Pet. 2:6)!

What about the Egyptians in the book of Exodus? Was the Almighty longsuffering towards them? No. Through the words and miracles of Moses, God hardened the hearts of Pharaoh (Ex. 4:21; 7:3, 13; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8), his servants (10:1) and his people (14:17). Jehovah’s hardening of the Egyptians issued from His eternal reprobation and holy hatred of them (Rom. 9:10-24; 11:7-10). Moreover, the Egyptians were destroyed for the sake of His beloved Israel: “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life” (Isa. 43:3-4).

Why did God not destroy the inhabitants of Canaan earlier? Was this because they were the objects of His longsuffering? No. In the days recorded in Genesis 12-50, there simply were not enough descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to possess the promised land. Besides, the people in Canaan had not yet sufficiently developed in their sin. As Jehovah told Abraham centuries before the conquest of the holy land, “But in the fourth generation they [i.e., Abraham’s descendants] shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Gen. 15:16). Then the Most High would use the sword of Joshua and the nation of Israel to inflict His judgment upon the wicked inhabitants of Canaan (cf. Lev. 18).

After the Jews crucified His Son, why did Jehovah not devastate Jerusalem and its temple sooner? Why did He wait four decades until AD 70? Christ explains that the Jews must commit other sins, especially persecuting His followers, so as to be fully ripe for their inescapable judgment: “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:32-35). Furthermore, elect Jews in and around Jerusalem needed to be saved first, as we read in the early chapters of Acts (e.g., 2:41; 4:4; 6:1, 7).

Does the sparing of the Gentile world for many hundreds of years before the Holy One of Israel began to gather a catholic or universal church (cf. Acts 14:16; 17:30) prove that He was longsuffering to these reprobate people? Of course not! How could the Triune God save elect Gentiles in the New Testament age, if He had wiped out their ancestors centuries before? The Lord had His elect among the subsequent generations and numerous descendants of ancient idolaters, including the (largely Gentile) readers of the Covenant Reformed News!

Finally, does the “delay” of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for the final judgment indicate that God is longsuffering to the reprobate? No. Revelation 6:9-11 records “the fifth seal.” John “saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” This is the loud cry he heard: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” John beheld that “white robes were given unto every one of them.” Then we read of the answer to their earnest cry: “it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

In short, the scriptural explanation of the delay of the great judgment day is that more saints must be martyred and the ungodly world must fully manifest its wickedness. Only then will all things be ready for the glorified Christ to return to deliver His beloved people and punish those who rebel against Him. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32)!  Rev. Stewart

 

Could Christ Be Sick?


This is a reader’s response to my last article: “Jesus would have had to have sinned in order to become ill and to know sickness by experience, because the weakness of the body is through sin.

First, Matthew 26:38 and Romans 8:10 make clear that sin makes the body weak, in fact, dead. But Christ’s body was neither dead nor weak.

Second, Jesus did not defeat, and did not know illness; He only commanded illness in others to depart. What sense would it make for Him to be sick, if He needed only say a word in order to be healed?

Third, the lamb for the sacrifices in Israel had to be without blemish. This pointed to Jesus (I Pet. 1:19). If He had His own weaknesses and sickness, then it would have been good for Him to take care of His own blemishes.

Roman 8:3 states, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The body of Jesus was not weak, and that was true until God left Him and burdened Him with our sins. He was even then able to bear the punishment and say, “It is finished.” Then He gave up His soul.

I understand that the article’s point was that Christ was tempted in all things but did not sin, yet I find the approach rather objectionable. He was sick so that He could heal! With the same logic, was it true that He was possessed so that He could exorcise demons? In addition, He must have first sinned, if He could be sick, yet He was not sinful!

The article is not based on God’s glory but on a human approach.

Finally, Jesus bore our weaknesses and our sicknesses. If He had His own, He could have bore only His own weaknesses and sicknesses.”
 

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I have provided the lengthy question above because its author was kind enough to give the reasons for his disagreement with what I wrote in a recent article, namely, that, although we do not read in Scripture that the Lord was ever sick, He could have been sick because He was like us in all things, except sin.

The questioner is from Hungary and I have summarized his arguments. I have also improved the English translation to make it clearer for readers of the News. I hope that I have accurately represented his ideas. If I have not, he can let me know.

I appreciate the fact that the questioner took the time to argue his case in some detail and, therefore, it will take a few issues to answer the brother adequately. This is worth our time and effort, for we are dealing with the great “mystery” of Scripture: “God was manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16). The brother’s arguments concerning this great truth must be answered.

I take issue with the questioner, however, when he charges me with using human logic instead of Scripture. It would be terrible if I did this, for I would be slandering our only Lord and Saviour if I used only logic to explain the mystery of His incarnation. The charge is doubly serious given that I have been preaching and teaching for over 60 years, and have always preached and maintained that our Saviour was like us in all things, sin excepted. That includes our sicknesses and diseases.

I will limit my answer in this issue of the News to underscoring and developing parts of two statements in our Reformed confessions. Belgic Confession 18, entitled “The Incarnation of Jesus Christ,” declares that God’s “only-begotten and eternal Son ... took upon Him the form of a servant, and became like unto man, really assuming the true human nature, with all its infirmities, sin excepted.” Notice the word “all,” in the phrase “all [our] infirmities.” That must include sicknesses for it is one of our infirmities.

The texts referred to in Belgic Confession 18 include Hebrews 2:14-15: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 14, in explaining part of the Apostles’ Creed, says, “That God’s eternal Son, who is and continueth true and eternal God, took upon Him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; that He might also be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted.” One verse quoted is Philippians 2:7: “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The next text Lord’s Day 14 cites is Hebrews 4:15: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

What I have explained in the News has been the teaching of the churches of the Reformation for the last 500 years. It is not my idea, but part of the heritage of the truth.

The truth of Christ’s federal headship and organic headship brings up the question of how our Lord could be like us in all things, except sin, but remain free from the guilt of sin and the pollution of sin. An explanation of this would take up more space than is available in this issue of the News, so I intend to deal with this next time, God willing.  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 December, 2016
at 7:15 PM

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

John Owen and the Death of Christ

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

 

Bound to Join a Faithful Church

8 classes on Belgic Confession 28 (Vol. XX)
on CD in an
attractive box set

Is it important to be a member of a (faithful) church? Is it historic, Christian, Reformed and creedal teaching that there is no salvation outside the (institute) church? Is this doctrine true? Why? What does it mean? What about exceptions? Why do we need to separate from false and departing churches? What practical steps are involved in leaving such churches and joining true churches?

£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 - October 2016

Covenant Reformed News

October 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 6


God’s Longsuffering—Particular and in Himself

In the last three issues of the News, we have surveyed all the biblical references to God’s longsuffering. We have observed from both the Old Testament (the historical books, the Psalms and the prophets) and the New Testament (the gospels and the epistles) that Jehovah’s longsuffering is particular.

First, God’s longsuffering is seen to be particular because it is found amidst references to His grace, mercy and kindness. This is the case in all three passages in the Old Testament historical books. In Exodus 34:6, Jehovah refers to Himself as “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering.” Later Moses declares, “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Num. 14:18). Likewise, the Levites confessed that the Most High is “a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and of great kindness” (Neh. 9:17).

Since they are based upon the two passages in the Pentateuch which refer to God’s longsuffering, we are not surprised that all three verses in the Psalms which speak of this divine virtue connect His longsuffering with His compassion, grace and mercy. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (86:15). “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and plenteous in mercy” (103:8). “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and of great mercy” (145:8).

The prophets present the same beautiful and harmonious picture of God’s attributes of goodness, with both concluding with references to His kindness: “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and of great kindness” (Joel 2:13); “I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:2).

Second, it is evident that God’s longsuffering is particular because Scripture speaks of its being exercised towards the elect alone. This very point is made in the first Old Testament reference to this divine perfection. The God who is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering” (Ex. 34:6) declares, “[I] will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (33:19).

In the first New Testament text on Jehovah’s longsuffering, Jesus stresses this: “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long [i.e., be longsuffering] with them?” (Luke 18:7). Similarly, Peter teaches that “God is longsuffering to us-ward” (II Pet. 3:9), those who are elect and “beloved” (1:10; 3:1). Whereas the Lord “endured ... the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction [i.e., the reprobate],” Paul declares that He has “much longsuffering” upon “the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory [i.e., the elect]” (Rom. 9:22-23).

Third, God’s longsuffering is particular because of the groups to which it is shown, such as the “eight souls [who] were saved by water” in the ark (I Pet. 3:20), spiritual Israel (Joel 2:13), penitent Gentiles (Jonah 4:2), believing Jews and Gentiles throughout the New Testament age (I Tim. 1:16), and godly individuals, such as Jeremiah (Jer. 15:15) and Paul (I Tim. 1:16).

Fourth, we know that God’s longsuffering is particular since it is always salvific or saving: “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (II Pet. 3:15). It is revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (I Tim. 1:15-16), who is the “only Redeemer of God’s elect” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, A. 21).

At this stage, a question arises regarding the nature of God: Is He longsuffering in Himself? The answer is an emphatic Yes!

The reason for this lies, first, in God’s self-sufficiency. He has need of nothing outside Himself for He is perfectly full and rich. Thus the Almighty is self-sufficient in all His attributes, including His longsuffering. Second, Jehovah is unchangeable. Therefore, He cannot become longsuffering through His creation.

So how is God longsuffering in His own Being? First, we need to remove the idea of time from all our thoughts about Jehovah, since He is eternal or timeless, for there is no time in Him. Second, the Almighty never grows tired or bored with Himself because of His own infinite glory, riches and fulness (whereas we, being finite and sinful, can and do become tired of ourselves!).

If you would like a definition, God’s longsuffering is His constant and never-wearying delight in Himself as the perfectly blessed One. We worship the longsuffering Jehovah (I Tim. 1:16) from the heart: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (17)!

God is also longsuffering regarding His Persons. The Triune God is one in His Being and three in His Persons, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He enjoys infinitely blessed covenant fellowship in Himself, between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. This divine Fellowship is absolutely perfect for it is always vibrant, beautiful, deep and satisfying. The fellowship of the three divine Persons never wanes or grows stale (unlike our fellowship with one another in this life, sadly).

Concerning our longsuffering Triune God (16), we again exclaim, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (17)!  Rev. Stewart

 

God’s Immanence in Hell


One of our readers asked the following question: “How can God, being immanent, still be in hell, which is a place of total separation from Himself?”

Perhaps the brother is thinking of Job 26:6: “Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.” He may especially be recalling Psalm 139:8: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”

The last verse deserves to be quoted in its context: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (7-10).

First, notice where Jehovah is present: land and sea (even the most far-flung regions), and heaven and hell. Second, observe that God is present everywhere in all His Persons, including the Holy Spirit (7) and so He is present spiritually and invisibly. Third, let us embrace the comfort this brings to Jehovah’s people for our God is present with us everywhere in His covenantal goodness. This evoked the Psalmist David’s awe and amazement expressed in the form of a rhetorical question: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (7).

But let us return to the question, this time proceeding more theologically.

God’s immanence is the same as His omnipresence. Jehovah is everywhere present in the entire earthly and heavenly creation. God’s immanence is intrinsically related to His works of creation and providence.

God’s work of creation, according to Scripture, is that divine operation whereby He gave existence to all creatures in heaven and on earth in such a way that He remained separate in essence from them, while the creature was and remains dependent on Him for its existence.

To deny that God created all things is that dastardly heresy of evolutionism, which thrusts God out of His own creation. To deny that all creatures are dependent on God for their continued existence is Deism, a heresy born in England that has become the handmaiden of theistic evolutionism. Pantheism, on the other hand, teaches that all the creation is an outflowing of God’s divine Being. The timid violet and the mighty oak are God Himself, His very Being, according to this devilish doctrine.

Scripture teaches that God created all things by the word of His power (Heb. 11:3) and that He continues to speak the word that brought the creation into existence so that it always owes its existence to God’s word (1:3).

Once having brought man into existence, God continues to speak the word “man.” If He should stop speaking that word, man would cease to exist. This is true of every man, both wicked and righteous—as well as the man, Jesus Christ in His human nature. After all, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-14).

Providence means that the God who gives existence to all things also upholds and directs all the activities of every creature in such a way that each is His instrument to reveal His greatness, power, majesty and sovereignty. Anything less than this would give power to the creature independent of God’s power.

The Scriptures are clear on the fact that the hosts of darkness are also under Jehovah’s sovereign control. Satan could bring evil on Job only with God’s permission (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). The demon who was a lying spirit in Ahab’s prophets was sent by God (II Chron. 18:18-22). Christ, as our exalted Lord, has supreme authority at God’s right hand also over the wicked (Ps. 2).

Since God is immanent in the wicked and sovereign over their lives, it is not difficult to understand that He is immanent in hell as well. We must, however, be careful as to how we understand this.

The Scriptures speak of God’s omnipresence as regards rational, moral creatures in two senses. God can be, and is, present with the wicked and the righteous in fundamentally different ways. He is present with the wicked to uphold them by His sovereign power—also in hell—but He is present with the righteous in His favour, love and merciful care of them. Or, to put it differently, God is present with the wicked in His fierce wrath against them, while He loves His people in Jesus Christ and takes them into His own covenant fellowship.

I am inclined to think that hell would not be such a terrible place if God were not there. But God is there and that makes it so awful.

Is not that true even in earthly relationships? If I am living five thousand miles away from my father, when I in some way incurred his wrath, it would, I think, be tolerable if he told me of his anger by a letter. But if he were in the same room with me and I could see the blazing fury that filled his eyes—if I could hear the cold, measured words that conveyed his utter wrath—if every bodily movement spoke of his determination to disown me as his son and to have nothing more to do with me, that would be unbearable. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

This brings us to a misconception in the brother’s question. The idea of hell as “a place of total separation from [God]” is, at best, incomplete. Hell is a place of total separation from all the pleasant things God sends in His providence but never from the omnipresent One Himself. God is in hell as the holy, avenging punisher of all impenitent sinners!

One more point: If God created and upholds the wicked, He does so for a purpose. That purpose is defined in Belgic Confession 16, which speaks of God’s goal in election as being to reveal His mercy, adding that He is also “just, in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.” God’s purpose in reprobation is to reveal His attribute of justice.  Prof. Hanko
 

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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  
www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
 

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 27 October, 2016
at 7:15 PM

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

Christian Contentmant

Speaker:
Rev. Martyn McGeown

All welcome!

Additional S. Wales Lecture
Thursday, 8 December
Rev. A. Stewart
"John Owen and the Death
of Christ"
_______

Reformation Day Lectures

Friday, 28 October, 2016
at 7:30 PM
at the CPRC
83 Clarence St. Ballymena, BT43 5DR

Friday, 13 November, 2016
at 7:30 PM
at Portadown Town Hall
15 Edward Street, Portadown BT62 3LX

John Owen and the Death of Christ

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

The Ballymena lecture on
28 October will be streamed live athttp://www.cprf.co.uk/live.html

God's Goodness Always Particular

by Herman Hoeksema
(144 pp, softback)

What does the Bible teach regarding God’s attitude to the reprobate ungodly? What are the implications of the notion that Jehovah loves or favours the wicked? Do the Psalms support or give the lie to the theory of common grace? Read and gain new appreciation for the truth that God’s goodness is always particular.

£7.70 (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!
 

Complete in Christ

10 sermons on Colossians 2 on CD or DVD in an attractive box set

In a 1,001 subtle and not so subtle ways, the world tells us that happiness, satisfaction and meaning is not found in Christ alone, and our darkened hearts are foolish enough to believe it! Learn from Colossians 2 about our all-sufficient riches in the cross of our Lord Jesus.

£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!
____________

“Behold, I Come Quickly”: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End

11 lectures/sermons on CD or DVD in an attractive box set

£12/box set (inc. P&P)

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

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