Print this page

Covenant Reformed News - August 2017


Covenant Reformed News

August 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 16

What Is a Protestant? (2)

It is important to note that the word Protestant, both in its first historical use and ever since, is not merely negative (protesting against the false doctrines, etc., of Rome); it is both positive and negative.

This is evident from the word itself in terms of its Latin etymology. It comes either from pro (for) and testari (to witness) or from protestatio (a declaration). So a protest was a setting forth of a strong affirmation in defence of a position. Thus the Protestants at the Diet of Speyer in 1529 proclaimed that “they must protest and testify publicly before God that they could consent to nothing contrary to his Word.”

The 1529 Protestants had a two-sided message like Peter and John in Acts 4. To the hostile religious authorities, they spoke both negatively: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (19), and positively: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (20).

In short, Protestants are for the truth and, therefore, against the lie. To put it slightly differently, we are opposed to error because we hold fast to God’s infallible Word.

But what do Protestants believe that Word to teach? One helpful summary of Protestant beliefs is the Five Solas (from the Latin for “only” or “alone”).

Sola Scriptura or Scripture alone is the Word of God. The Bible is inspired (II Tim. 3:16), inerrant (John 10:35), authoritative (as the voice of the living God), sufficient (not needing supplementation by the church or alleged direct revelation) and perspicuous or clear. This last characteristic of the Word does not mean that every verse in the Bible is easily understood by all human beings. The perspicuity of Scripture means that its main truths, which find their centre in salvation in Jesus Christ, can be grasped by all believers through the Holy Spirit by making prayerful use of the ordinary means.

Flowing from their faithful confession regarding the Scriptures, the Protestants, unlike the Roman Catholics, promoted and engaged in Bible translation (from the original Hebrew and Greek into the languages of Europe), Bible reading, Bible preaching (expounding the verses, chapters and books of Scripture) and Bible catechizing (so that even the children knew the content and doctrines of the Word).

The biblical truth of sola Scriptura exposed Rome’s teaching. Rome smuggled in the Apocrypha, as if it were part of the Word of God. Rome made its tradition of equal authority with the Bible. This went hand-in-hand with its unbiblical and anti-biblical doctrines: Mariolatry (the idolatrous veneration of the Virgin Mary), purgatory (an alleged place of fire where believers bear the temporal punishment of their sins), transubstantiation (the change of the bread and wine into the literal body, blood and divinity of Christ), the mass (an unbloody sacrifice offered by a priest for the sins of the living and the dead), the papacy and its hierarchy (in contrast to the New Testament’s permanent church offices: pastors, elders and deacons), five additional sacraments (confirmation, marriage, ordination, penance and the last rites), etc.

Sola Scriptura is needed today against Rome just as much as in the sixteenth century. Rome still holds the same heresies as it did at the Reformation, for it has not given up one of them and has reaffirmed all of them (e.g., at Vatican II and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church). In fact, since the Reformation, Rome has added more heresies, such as, papal infallibility in 1870 (the pope cannot err in matters of faith or morals when speaking ex cathedra) and the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary in 1950 (her physical ascent into heaven at the end of her earthly life). If Rome today is compared with Rome 500 years ago, as regards her heresies, Rome has not gotten better or stayed the same; Rome has gotten worse!

Not only is sola Scriptura needed just as much (and more) today against Rome, but it is also crucial versus other heretical movements that have arisen, especially higher criticism of the Bible and modernistic theology. These attack the infallibility of God’s Word, reckoning that there are errors in Scripture and its doctrines. Faithful Protestantism declares, “Thy word is true from the beginning” (Ps. 119:160).

Sola Scriptura also opposes Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and Neo-Charismaticism. All of these renewalist groups add to God’s verbal revelation in the Bible. Thus they especially deny the sufficiency of God’s Word, contrary to II Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation opposed the Charismatics or renewalists of its day among the Anabaptists.

Sola Scriptura is our watchword over against twenty-first-century political correctness. Not the moralizing of the liberal media, not opinion polls, not celebrity opinion but God’s Holy Word determines truth and morality. Here we affirm the authority of Scripture as God’s Word to judge all fallen and foolish humanistic standards. “Thus saith the Lord!” This is Protestantism! In the famous dictum of William Chillingworth, “The Bible alone is the religion of Protestants.” 

As Westminster Confession 1:10 states, “The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the scripture.”   Rev. Stewart

II Corinthians 6:1-2 and God’s Grace

Question 1: “According to II Corinthians 6:1, it is possible to receive grace ‘in vain.’ Does not this imply that a reprobate or a false convert can at least receive grace, even though it is in vain?”

No, it certainly does not mean that an unbeliever receives grace. The point is that God saves a number of people and that group becomes a congregation of Jesus Christ. Upon that congregation, God sends the blessings of His grace. They grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. God is gracious to that church as a body.

It almost always happens that there are also those in the congregation who are not true believers. They confess the truth for a while. They may even be chosen as office-bearers. But they are not faithful. Hebrews 6:1-6 speaks of such people. And so the warning is pertinent and needed.

There is also the carnal seed born in the church who do not show their ungodly colours until they become young people or confessing adults.

The grace God gives to a congregation creates a sphere of Christ’s gracious workings in saving His church. The congregation as a whole and each individual in it is called not to use this grace of God in vain. 

Everyone knows that, when a farmer irrigates his field, he waters weeds, as well as his crop. But the weeds receive the water in vain. Indeed, the watering causes them to grow rapidly and manifest themselves as weeds. So it is in the church. Hebrews 6:7-8 uses this figure too.

Question 2: “When Paul writes in II Corinthians 6:2, ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,’ is he not implying (a) that salvation is available to all who hear, and (b) that their receiving of it depends upon their response to this message, and (c) that God, through the apostle’s beseeching (1), is Himself expressing an ardent desire for all to respond immediately and be saved?”

For some strange reason that I will never understand, the phrase “now is the accepted time,” along with “now is the day of salvation,” is interpreted to mean that an invitation of the gospel is addressed on that very day to those listening, and that, if they do not do something about it and accept Christ, they will lose all opportunity to be saved. This interpretation is a favourite of Arminian evangelists who want to scare people into believing—something they find profitable to do for they believe that a man’s final salvation depends on the choice of his own will and not on God’s sovereign power to save whom He will. What nonsense!

The apostle refers in II Corinthians 6:2 to the entire new dispensation. With the coming of Christ and His glorious work, salvation now comes through Christ’s power to gather His church from all nations on the earth. It is no longer limited to the Jewish nation, where the saints knew the gospel through types and shadows. I might add that, after all, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (II Pet. 3:8). Today, as well as when the apostle wrote these words, is the day of salvation. It is always, in the new dispensation, the day of salvation.

At the same time, God confronts everyone who hears the gospel with His solemn and urgent command to repent of their sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.  So the church is ordered to preach the gospel that God saves sinners through faith in Jesus Christ, and ministers are called to command all to repent, turn from their sinful way and believe on Christ. The command to all to repent is “serious,” as Canons of Dordt III/IV:8 expresses it. God is earnest and not playing games when He commands all who hear the gospel to repent and to believe in His Son.

Question 3: “Most commentators believe that II Corinthians 6:2 teaches that the grace of God spoken of in the text  means the gracious offer of the gospel offer of reconciliation and pardon, which can be accepted or rejected. What can be said about this?”

Those commentators are wrong. Those who defend an ineffectual divine wish to save the reprobate are guilty of blaspheming Him by insisting that He is unable to save those whom He desires to save. Let us hold fast to the truth and give glory to God.

Question 4: “Does not Proverbs 1:28 (‘Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.’) imply that wicked reprobate individuals can truly express a desire for salvation and for God’s mercy?” 

This question appeals to Proverbs 1:28 in an attempt to prove that a man apart from saving grace is able truly to pray to God; hence, to do good. However, the Bible teaches that it is not possible for the unregenerated person to do good (Rom. 3:12), not even to pray rightly (Prov. 28:9). Though the wicked despise God’s law, walk in their own lusts and mock the truth of Scripture, they do know that God is God, and that He is almighty and able to do all things. They also know that when they die they will have to face the Judge of all men. So it is that these same wicked people, when they are in extreme danger or distress, often cry out to God to rescue them. In World War II, the saying was common: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” The meaning was that, in the front line of combat, the danger of being killed was so great that soldiers prayed that they might be spared. These were the same men who cursed and swore, and visited prostitutes when they could. So, after the danger was over, they went back to their wicked ways.

We are told in Scripture that, when our Lord returns, the wicked will cry for the mountains to cover them to hide them from the face of Christ (Rev. 6:16-17).

I recall that, when I was a child and a spectacular display of northern lights ignited the whole sky, the emergency facilities and newspaper offices were swamped with terrified people who thought that the end of the world had come. When they were assured that it was only filled with northern lights, they went back to their evil ways.

But God will not hear such cries, for their motive in praying was only to save, if possible, their own hides, while they hate Him and His sovereign rule in all their life, and use Him as if He were some sort of magician who will deliver them by His magic.

I think that at this point the real question should be asked: “If God truly loves them with a divine love, why does He not hear their frightened cries? If He really loves them and they cry to him, is it not cruel to ignore them?”    Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
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

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 28 September, 2017
 7:15 PM

Speaker: Rev. Angus Stewart
(pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, N. Ireland)

Martin Luther and God’s Saving Righteousness
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP

500 Years
of the Reformation


Saturday, 21 October, 2017
11 AM -  “Martin Luther: Theologian of the Glory of God”
1 PM - “Justification in Paul
and in James”
(lunch served between the two lectures)

Friday, 27 October, 2017, 7:30 PM 
“Martin Luther: Man of Conviction”

Friday, 3 November, 2017, 7:30 PM 
“Calvin’s Doctrine of the Covenant”

 Prof. David J. Engelsma 

emeritus Professor of Dogmatics at the Protestant Reformed Seminary, USA

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

83 Clarence St., Ballymena, N. Ireland BT43 5DR

Prof. Engelsma is also to preach at both CPRC services,
11 AM & 6 PM, on Lord’s Days 22 & 29 October and
5 November

Watch or contact us at (028) 25 891851 
for more details closer to the event 
Knowing God in the Last Days
Commentary on II Peter

Mark Hoeksema
(93 pp., hardback)

Knowing God in the Last Days is an explanation of the second general epistle of Peter to the early New Testament church. The primary theme of the letter is the knowledge of God, a concept that occurs many times and in various contexts throughout the book. The secondary theme of II Peter is the application of the knowledge of God to the last days in which we live. Especially in his third chapter, Peter reveals to the church the knowledge of God as it relates to the end times. Based on exegesis of the Greek text, this commentary gives clarity of explanation to God’s people regarding necessary and important aspects of today’s Christian life. 

£8.80 (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!

Philemon: An Object Lesson in Forgiveness

9 sermons by
Rev. Martyn McGeown
on CD or DVD in an attractive box set
This short New Testament book was written by Paul to Philemon 
regarding his runaway slave, Onesimus, who had recently been 
converted to Jesus Christ. It is, as the title of this 9-sermon series 
by Rev. McGeown puts it, an object lesson in forgiveness!
(1) Slavery and the Bible
(2) Greeting a Beloved Brother
(3) Paul’s Commendation of Philemon’s Love
(4) Paul’s Approach to Philemon
(5) Paul’s Heartfelt Plea for Onesimus
(6) Paul’s Consideration of Philemon’s Position
(7) God’s Good Purpose in Onesimus’ Departure
(8) Paul’s Satisfaction of
Onesimus’ Debt
(9) Paul’s Confident Conclusion

£10/box set (inc. P&P)

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

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