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 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

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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  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.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

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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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - February 2017

CPRC News Header

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

CPRC News Header

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  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

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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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