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 - February 2018

 

Covenant Reformed News

February 2018  •  Volume XVI, Issue 22



The Crowding Out of the Church

In general, twenty-first century Protestantism suffers from the terrible malaise of a gross ignorance of biblical and Reformed ecclesiology, faulty and false doctrines concerning the church, and a grievous under appreciation of Christ’s bride and body. Among the factors that produce and/or reinforce a low and erroneous view of the church is the misunderstanding of other spheres, institutions or parties, including work, oneself, the family and the state, which we shall consider in turn.
First, for some, the church is largely crowded out by work (the sphere of employment). Some are workaholics, labouring very long hours or often away on business trips, so the church gets short shrift in their lives. Some move home or attend university with little or no thought given to the presence or otherwise of a faithful congregation, manifesting the three marks of a true church, in the area (Belgic Confession 29). Some are given to “the love of money” which is the root of all sorts of evil (I Tim. 6:10), including slighting the church of which Christ is the head. Some professing believers break the fourth commandment by performing labour that is not a work of necessity or mercy, thereby incurring guilt before God, and depriving themselves of the means of grace and much-needed fellowship with other believers in the instituted church.
Second, there is the problem of unbiblical individualism (the sphere of self). Everything is all about me, my needs, and, hence, what the church can do for me. There is little or nothing about other saints and their needs, and what I can do for them. Little or no thought is given to the church or its head, the Lord Jesus Christ, just me!
Over against this, the Apostles’ Creed speaks of “the communion of the saints,” which is explained in the Heidelberg Catechism: “First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are, in common, partakers of Him and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members” (A. 55).
Typically, selfish people do not like being under authority (even where it is properly exercised) or having people over them (even if they are seeking to serve them in Jesus Christ) or being told what to do (even if this is done righteously and humbly) or being held accountable (even if it is to the Lord’s church and to Him).
This individualistic attitude has a hard time understanding, practising and living the biblical truth of the church. Such people struggle to submit to, enjoy and rejoice in scriptural ecclesiology. They kick against being part of a body and being under the Good Shepherd’s under-shepherds. In so doing, sadly, such people harm others and especially themselves.
Third, some have a wrong view of marriage and the home (the sphere of family). Consider a husband who is overbearing towards his wife and lords it over his household. Absolutely everything in the home has to come under his attention and suit him. Those who abuse their authority in their household will find it very difficult to submit and behave wisely in “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). If such a man is unemployed, with no boss to submit to or obey, his problem will be exacerbated because he is not used to being under anyone.
Likewise, there are wives for whom it is all about their husbands and children. The real issue is the home and the family. As long as they are okay, who cares about Christ’s body? The church is unnecessary or, at best, peripheral; never central.
For such husbands and wives (and their children), it is all about me and my family. The biblical place and significance of the church cannot be properly grasped and enjoyed.
However, the truth is that there should be no conflict: me versus the church or my family versus the church. The proper relationship is that of reciprocity. Believing husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children and individuals need and help the church. The church, in turn, needs and helps Christian husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children and individuals.
Fourth, there is the deification of the state (the sphere of civil government). In the twenty-first century, many states, especially in the West, are acting like God and are being regarded by many as if they were a sort of God. Professing Christians need to be careful lest their hearts and minds are secularized too!
The welfare state promises to give, through our taxes, cradle to grave security, if you can make it to the cradle without having been cruelly murdered in the womb. So who needs the God of providence and the church’s diaconate?
The politically-correct state seizes divine prerogatives by redefining person (in order to kill unborn babies), marriage (to promote homosexuality) and gender (to further transgenderism). All of this is contrary to God’s Word (Ps. 139:13-16; Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 1:26-27), as proclaimed by the true churches of Jesus Christ.
The moralizing state redefines love as first tolerance, and then approval and even celebration of sin, especially sexual sin. It then redefines God as the soppy, immoral god of left-wing love. Who then needs the real God of love and the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ, and the Ten Commandments as the summary of love for God and one’s neighbour, as proclaimed by Christ’s church?
The deification and absolutizing of the state is reflected in the well-nigh ubiquitous phrase: “the government,” as if the civil government is the only government that exists. What about God’s sovereign and all-encompassing government or the government of a business or family government or individual government or church government? The state’s unwarranted encroachment into the God-given spheres of the home, the church, work, etc., is bad enough but the Christian must not allow such usurpations to take over his own thinking!
Where this soul-deadening, secularizing, statist view steals the hearts and minds of professing Christians, they will have low views of the need of the church, the offices of the church, the authority of the church, the work of the church, etc. The leviathan, politically-correct state must not overshadow the believer’s vision of, and love for, God’s glorious church, the bride of Christ for whom He shed His atoning blood, and whom He sanctifies and cleanses by His Word (Eph. 5:25-27)! Rev. Angus Stewart
 

The Law of Christ (2)

We continue with our response to a reader’s question: “I would like to ask your view of the law of Christ (I Cor. 9:20-21). What exactly is the law of Christ and how does it, if at all, differ from the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament?”
God’s writing His law upon our hearts (Jer. 31:33) is possible only because of our Lord’s amazing sacrifice on the cross. If I may put it that way, the deepest depth of Christ’s suffering was when He cried out in utter anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). It was an awful cry of abandonment: “why?” Yet, even then, His cry was, “My God, my God.” That is, even at that terrible moment, Christ was saying, “Even though I know nothing but pure wrath, I still love thee, O My God!” In other words, He kept the law of God, not only in the years of His ministry but even as He experienced hellish agonies. It was perfect obedience. He earned it for us. That is why the law is now written on our hearts. Christ did what we cannot do: keep God’s law. His motto was “I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9).
Our Heidelberg Catechism speaks of a “must” regarding good works (Q. 86). The “must” arises out of our salvation. We are told that we must do good works because we are saved. We are told in the gospel that we can do good works as an incentive to do them. We are told in the Word that we will do good works. The “must,” the “can” and the “will” all come together in us by God’s work. The broken sinner is so happy to hear that he is justified by faith alone without his works that he, in thankfulness to God, does them through the power of divine grace.
Our good works are God’s working in us. Paul, in Philippians 2:12-13, urges us to work out our own salvation. The reason we are admonished to work out our salvation is because God has made it completely possible, for He, so the text tells us, not only makes us willing to do it but also He Himself works in us the very work He calls us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 is especially clear. Paul has said that salvation is God’s work entirely and never ours. We are saved by grace through faith—and neither grace nor faith are of ourselves but are gifts of God (8). Paul tells us how it is possible for us to do good works, even as those saved by grace through faith without works. We are God’s “workmanship” (10). The word means, God’s masterpiece, like the work of the greatest artist on a canvas. We are God’s workmanship because we show forth the skill and glory of the One who changed us from sinners to saints.
But what about our good works? Well, for one thing, He made us what we are so that we could do good works: “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (10). Even these good works are decreed for us—every one of them—in God’s eternal counsel: “good works, which God hath before ordained” (10). God determined them; Christ earned them, all of them, on His cross. They are part of our salvation. Our good works are God’s gift through Christ. Wonder of wonders, God determined that we should walk in them! It is all of God!
The complaint is made that this doctrine makes man a robot. How can a work be our work and God’s work? Cannot these deniers of sovereign grace see that God is almighty? He does marvellous things! The Canons of Dordt call this work of God as great a wonder as His creation of the universe, for it is “mysterious,” “ineffable,” beyond our understanding (III/IV:12). We, weak and insignificant creatures, cannot fully understand any of God’s works. Can we explain how a baby is formed in the womb of its mother? Comes to birth? Takes his or her place as an adult in God’s world?
Nevertheless, God has revealed a bit to us. Our good works are emphatically our good works. So much are they our good works that we are judged in accordance with our works and our good works by grace are even rewarded! How can this be?
When God begins the work of salvation in us at our new birth, He gives us the gift of faith. That faith, as Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, teaches us, is a living bond that unites us to the risen and exalted Christ so that His heavenly, resurrection life becomes ours. That faith our God brings to consciousness in us by the preaching of the gospel so that faith enables us to do two things. First, it makes us receive as truth everything God has revealed to us in His Word. Second, it causes us to put all our trust and hope for every speck of our salvation in Christ alone. It enables us to lay hold of Him, seek our salvation in Him alone and cling to Him in all our grief. Without Him, we have nothing; with Him, we have everything. It is in this way that we do good works because God works in us in Jesus Christ and by faith in Him.
Our Heidelberg Catechism begins with the one question without an answer to which I cannot live: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The answer, so simple, so plain, so child-like, so all-encompassing: “That I belong to Jesus. He bought me with His blood!” That is all—even for a child. I need no more than that.
The best illustration is to be found in the horticulturist’s work of grafting. If the branch of a Macintosh apple tree is cut off the tree, it would soon die, for its life comes from the tree. If it is grafted into a Gala apple tree, it will live, because it is grafted into a tree from which it gets its life. Though it be grafted into a Gala apple tree and draws its life from that tree, it will continue to bear Macintosh apples.
So we, grafted into Christ, do bring forth fruit. It is our fruit, no one else’s. Yet all the life in us that produces good works is Christ’s life. Salvation is in God alone, for He it is that must and will receive all the glory, both now and forever. Prof. Herman Hanko

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

Thursday, 22 February
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Martyn McGeown


Subject:
The Covenant of God
 
The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments (or covenants). Reformed theology is often called “covenant theology.” The Christian life, church, family and home are often called “covenantal.” God is the covenant God. Come to learn about the meaning and the importance of the covenant!

Margam Community Centre
Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprc.co.uk
www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
www.limerickreformed.com
 

British Reformed Fellowship Family Conference

21-29 July 2018

Hebron Hall
Conference Centre

South Wales

Theme:
The Reformed Family—According to the Word of God

Speakers:
Prof. David Engelsma
Rev. Andy Lanning

Check the conference website
for more details and booking forms
http://brfconference.weebly.com/
1834: Hendrick de Cock’s Return to the True Church

by Marvin Kamps
(512 pp., hardback)

The book recounts the reformation of the church in the Netherlands in 1834, when Hendrik de Cock testified against the false doctrines and unspiritual character of the state Reformed church. After having been unceremoniously suspended and deposed from office, he led his congregation to return to scriptural teaching and the biblical worship of God in Christ Jesus. This book narrates one man’s struggle against the perversions of Scripture by the vast majority of ordained pastors in the state Reformed church with its million or more spiritually sleeping members.  De Cock’s courageous testimony has inspired the witness of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world until this day. Read this stirring account and be galvanized to fight the good fight of the church militant!

£24.00 (inc. P&P)
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!

The Sacraments

6 classes on
Belgic Confession 33
on CD in a box set 

 Most people know what the two Christian sacraments are but how do we prove this? Why did Christ give us only two sacraments? What is the point of them? How do we benefit from them? How are Word and sacrament related? Listen and learn! 

(1) Introduction and Rome’s Sacramentology (Eph. 5:22-33)
(2) The Criteria for Determining the Sacraments (I Cor. 11:17-34)
(3) Exsurge Domine and the Rationale of Two Sacraments (I Cor. 10:1-22)
(4) Similarities and Differences Between the Word and the Sacraments (Gen. 17:1-14)
(5) The Component Parts of the Sacraments (Gen. 17:1-14)
(6) The Perspective and Purpose of the Sacraments (John 6:27-51)

£6/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!
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Covenant PRC, N. Ireland Newsletter - February 2018

CPRC News Header

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI

9 February, 2018

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Church Visitors

Rev. Nathan Decker (Trinity PRC) and Elder Sid Miedema (Byron Center PRC) were this year’s church visitors in the CPRC (18-25 January) and the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) (25-29 January). It was good to have both of these men back with us again!

CPRC supper 2018
Annual Congregational Dinner

Their first engagement was the CPRC annual congregational dinner (19 January). Besides members and friends of the church in Ballymena, Rev. McGeown, Colm Ring, Manuel Kuhs, Chester Mansona, and Sam and Jason Watterson of the LRF made the four-hour journey to join us (and that is only one way!). After a good meal, William Graham asked the questions for an excellent table quiz.

PRC church visitors 2018
Chester Mansona, Sid Miedema, Rev. Decker, Rev. McGeown

Rev. Decker preached at both of our Sunday services (21 January) and led a fine Bible study on Psalm 73 at the church on Tuesday morning. On the next night, his lecture on “Living Wisely in a Digital Age” was well attended and the on-line video has attracted a lot of interest ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=TorlK7c_CYw ).

Besides the official church visitation with the CPRC Council, our two American brethren had dinner with several families and visited with other saints. On the morning of their departure for Limerick, they even fitted in breakfast with a former member (Kristin Crossett) and a current member (Carolyn Prins) of the church that Rev. Decker pastors.

Teaching in the CPRC

“Ezekiel’s Prophecies Against Tyre” (Ezek. 26:1-28:19) was the subject of a recent 4-sermon series in the CPRC. God judged that wealthy island trading centre so that it was reduced to a rock upon which fishermen repaired and cleaned their nets. The prophet pictured the city as a great ship filled with international merchants and all their wares, but it was going to sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean. The king of Tyre thought that he was wiser than Daniel and even a god. His realm was another Eden for precious stones and gold, and he was like Adam or a cherub guarding the garden. Yet he was a fallen son of Adam and the image of Satan, and he would soon be cast from his garden of God and destroyed. The 4 sermons are on-line in audio (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/OTseries.htm) and video ( www.youtube.com/user/CPRCNI ), and soon will be available in a box set of CDs or DVDs for just £6.

In our Tuesday morning Bible study, we have been considering the Feast of Tabernacles, the most joyful of the Old Testament feasts. We have looked at its institution in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and its celebration in Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, and I Kings. More material is to come, including 4 major Old Testament passages and John 7.

Since the middle of November, our Wednesday night doctrine class has been studying the subject of baptism in connection with Belgic Confession 34. Our treatment has included the baptismal formula, the administrators of baptism, the requirements for a valid baptism,
immersionism, the mode of baptism, the meaning of baptism, etc. ( www.cprf.co.uk/ audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm ). It is a rich subject that opens up a lot of Scriptures.

The fortnightly Ladies’ Bible Study, which meets on Friday mornings, is now discussing Rev. Smit’s book, The Fruit the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The fortnightly Saturday night Men’s Bible Study has begun Studies in Acts by Mark Hoeksema. These fine RFPA resources are already proving beneficial to our members. Almost all of the copies of Rev. Brian Huizinga’s “Keeping the Sword Drawn” brought over by the two church visitors have gone already ( www.cprf.co.uk/pamphlets/keeping sworddrawn.pdf ). Some of the saints in the CPRC are also using a yearly Bible reading programme that Mary prepared from two existing programmes.

Others

“God’s Saving Will in the New Testament” was the subject of a lecture I gave in South Wales on 25 January. There are two main Greek words that deal with willing, determining, desiring, wishing, etc., in the New Testament. What does a study of this concept in the New Testament reveal about the will of God’s decree and the will of His command? We had a blessed night of fellowship with the saints, including with Timothy Spence, a member of the CPRC who is at a university in South Wales. Also a good number of books and box sets were purchased. The video is on-line ( www.youtube.com/ watch?v=rPml_52T__0 ).

The last couple of months have seen 14 translations added to our website (www.cprf. co.uk/languages.htm): 6 Hungarian (by 2 young men who are coming to the 2018 British Reformed Fellowship Conference), 6 German (on Pentecostal issues by a brother who last did some translations for us in 2010), 1 Italian (by a Calvinistic Baptist in Sicily), and 1 Hindi (Prof. Engelsma’s pamphlet “Try the Spirits” by Sam Salve in India).

We added our second video with French subtitles, thanks to Timothée Rapak of Reims. This brings our foreign language videos to 28 ( www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2Y5Eq5r6y2HmXGp8oXTSI2QS6_FJYjyJ ). The USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia often feature in the top 5 countries using the CPRC YouTube page. However, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, of all places, have broken into the top 5 in recent times!

We continue to get a lot of good feedback. “I love the steadfast, Calvinist, Reformed theology [of the CPRC] on the internet. Bless you!” (Florida, USA). “Just a note to say thank you for the great book, Knowing God and Man. I couldn’t lay it down once I started reading it. It is profound truth and an absolutely brilliant book. I will be using its contents for many references” (Northern Ireland). “I read the excellent article on the subject of Lefèvre [‘Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples: Pioneer of French Reform’]...I would love to quote it in an essay I’m writing to raise awareness of Lefèvre and his influence on the Reformation in France” (France). “Thank you for the books you kindly sent me. They will be very useful in the year ahead and also for the British Reformed Journals. The materials you send me are so appreciated in these days of Arminian churches” (England). “I have been a long-time reader of your website and have encouraged many to read your articles. One of the members of our church has recently translated some articles for you into Portuguese” (Australia).

Bookings for the 2018 British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference in Hebron Hall, Cardiff (21-28 July) are coming on very well. Already we have heard from people in Germany, Wales, America, Northern Ireland, Brazil, England, Australia, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, etc., that they are coming. The theme of “The Reformed Family—According to the Word of God” will be developed by our two main speakers, Prof. David Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning. The two-day trips include a fifteenth-century castle and Wales’ most popular heritage attraction, which is also one of Europe’s leading open-air museums. Much more information, including prices and the booking form, is on-line ( http://brfconference.weebly.com ). The North American booking secretary is Briana Prins (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Do join us!

Thank you for your support and prayers in Christ,
Rev. & Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - January 2018

Covenant Reformed News

January 2018  •  Volume XVI, Issue 21



Pulpit Failure Regarding Ecclesiology

Through compromising with the ungodly world, liberal Protestantism has lost the infallible Scriptures, the blood of Christ’s cross, the gospel of grace, etc. Thus it is apostate and a manifestation of the false church. However, not all is well with evangelicalism either. One of its big problems is that of a low, sub-biblical and non-creedal view of the church. Why? How has this widespread malaise gotten hold?
A major reason is that of pulpit failure. Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, has not been, and is not being, properly taught by many ministers (and their theological colleges). Why is this?
First, in some congregations, the “three Rs” are preached but little more or else. By the “three Rs,” we do not mean the traditional trio of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. Instead, we are referring to ruin by the fall, redemption by the cross and regeneration by the Spirit. While these things are indeed fundamental and massive biblical truths that are necessary for salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ, they are not the whole of God’s revelation. Often, ecclesiology and other things are totally or largely left out.
A second factor in pulpit failure regarding ecclesiology for some is that of the Sunday evening gospel service. Thereby at least half of the church’s sermons consist of the potted gospel addressed to the unconverted. This gives little preaching time to cover the truth of the church (and other biblical subjects) and so build up the people of God in this area. (Contact us, if you are in the British Isles and would like us to post to you a free copy of the pamphlet “Reformed Evangelism and the Sunday Evening Gospel Service.”)
A third reason why many ministers avoid or skate around the doctrine of the church is that they know that it is an issue on which many of their members disagree. In non-Reformed and non-creedal churches, there is an ever-increasing number of controversial topics. The temptation, and often the practice, is to steer clear of ecclesiology (and other subjects) out of the fear of upsetting and losing members. It is especially easy to understand the attraction of this for a minister of a small church: “If we lose any more people, our congregation will no longer be viable!”
However, this failure to teach ecclesiology (or any other biblical doctrine) is wrong. The apostolic example and requirement for the Christian pastor is that he declare—not a little or some or most of but—“all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), as did Paul, that “wise masterbuilder” of the church (I Cor. 3:10)! An undershepherd who avoids or sells short God’s truth about His church is not feeding Christ’s sheep with the rich and varied diet of Jehovah’s inspired Word that is necessary for their spiritual health and strength.
Various practical problems especially arise in congregations where ecclesiology is not properly taught. The loss of the scriptural office of deacon (I Tim. 3:8-13; Acts 6; Phil. 1:1) is one example; unbiblical “committee men” are often substituted in their place. Without the robust doctrine of the church taught in the Word of God, elders can soon be reduced to mere figureheads or yes-men. Where the full, biblical and Reformed ecclesiology is not found, it is much easier for the minister to become the tyrannical lord of the congregation. Moreover, the members of the church will be ill equipped to contradict the usurpation that is the appointment and “rule” of women office-bearers (I Tim. 2:11-15). With little or no knowledge of the doctrine of the church, most people will blindly go along with lay preaching, contrary to the Reformed faith and confessions (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 158).
If sins or abuses arise in the congregation or denomination, the ill-taught member will not know if he or she can protest, or how to protest. Those bereft of Scripture’s wholesome ecclesiology are defenceless against strong-arm tactics by despotic office-bearers. All they are able to do is moan about it, because they are not empowered and equipped to use the God-honouring, ecclesiastical means for redress. Likewise, without the glorious, biblical doctrine of the church and its worship, congregations are wide open to modern “will worship” (Col. 2:23) and false ecumenism (II Chron. 19:2), despite the lamentations of those who retain some fear of God. What a foolish notion many have, that it is okay if ecclesiology gets short shrift in the preaching for it is of little practical value! Carnal men who think they know better than God are the occasion of the tears of the faithful and the apostasy of the church.
Once ignorance, apathy and errors regarding ecclesiology set in, it is usually very difficult to address and correct these problems by teaching. Tragically, many of the people begin to enjoy their increasingly man-centred church and its governance by man’s wisdom. As the prophet of God lamented, “My people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:31)!
Sadly, with the loss of vital ecclesiology and Christian knowledge in general, as well as the resulting waning of godliness, the biblical and creedal teaching of the Calvin Reformation is largely seen as too difficult and too costly. There are so few who are interested in the election of the church, the church militant, true doctrinal church unity, the holiness of the church, the regulative principle of church worship, covenant baptism, the office of deacon, elders overseeing the Lord’s supper, church discipline, church order, church government, Christ’s kingship over His church, spiritual church authority, the three marks of a church (faithful preaching, sacramental administration and church discipline), the necessity of joining a true church, etc. Sometimes the ignorance of ecclesiology is so deep and the people are so entrenched in false paths that they perversely slander the biblical, Reformed and creedal teaching as if it were Roman Catholicism! Rev. Stewart
 

The Law of Christ (1)

A reader asks, “I would like to ask your view of the law of Christ (I Cor. 9:20-21). What exactly is the law of Christ and how does it, if at all, differ from the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament?”
There is much confusion on this issue, especially in the controversy over the error of Antinomianism. There is a growing notion abroad, fanned by the Federal Vision, that the good works of the law have to be performed by the believer and added to faith in order to secure salvation. It is all part of a conditional salvation, which makes our salvation rest on our works. Those who deny conditional salvation are then slandered as hyper-Calvinists. The truth concerning God’s moral law plays an important part in the controversy but there are few who understand it properly, i.e., biblically.
The Decalogue was given to Israel from Mount Sinai. It is a codification of God’s law that is imbedded in the creation itself. According to Romans 1:18-32 and Romans 2:14-15, even the pagans, who do not have the sacred Scriptures, know the law in their consciences but God gave it to His people from Sinai on two tables of stone.
The Ten Commandments are, therefore, God’s unchangeable moral will for man whom He originally created in His own likeness. The Triune God formed every creature with the specific purpose of glorifying Him in its own unique way. Man was created to glorify God by living a holy life as He Himself is holy, and thus representing the Most High as head of the creation.
That man fell does not change the law in any respect, as the Arminian alleges. The keeping of the law is the fundamental way in which man must live as God’s friend-servant and that remains true for all time. Whether man can keep that law or not makes no difference. This is the conditio sine qua non for man to have fellowship with God. Even though man’s depravity is so complete that he cannot even will to do what God commands, he is still required to keep the law and violation of it means everlasting hell.
God is the infinitely holy One. He created man in His own image, which included holiness. If man (in Adam) refused to obey that law and fell into total depravity, this is not God’s fault but man’s own fault. That law remains unchangeably the same throughout history and into eternity. There is no difference between the law of the Old Testament and the New.
God had another purpose in mind in giving Israel His law from Sinai. God had eternally determined to save a church out of the fallen human race through His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The law was given as a schoolmaster to lead Israel to Christ (Gal. 3:24). To fallen Adam and Eve, God promised the seed of the woman who would crush the head of Satan and deliver His people from the misery of sin and death (Gen. 3:15). Believing Israel lived in constant anticipation of the coming of that Deliverer.
But they often had to be taught to look for their Redeemer, even as we need to be taught the same as we await our Lord’s second coming. One means was the law, which, as Paul expresses it, was a schoolmaster to bring the people to Christ.
It worked this way. God had, in His saving grace, so worked in the hearts of His people that they heard and learned that salvation included a keeping of the law. “Do this,” God had said, “and live.” But believing Israel, hearing this, could only cry out in anguish, “We can’t, we can’t.” And the law said, “Cursed is he that keepeth not all the words of this law” (cf. Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). It was to them that the gospel came: “Look to Him who is to come. Hope in the promise of God who will send the Redeemer!”
The words of our Lord must have come as refreshing water to the thirsty soul, when He cried to those who were labouring and heavily laden with the curses of the law crushing them, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). “You do not have to keep the law in order to become God’s people. I have come to do what you cannot do!”
The law still has that purpose today, as our beloved Heidelberg Catechism has it: “Whence knowest thou thy misery? Out of the law of God” (Q. & A. 3).
The law says, “Keep me and live, and accursed art thou if thou keepest me not.” All I can say is, “I can’t, I can’t. Woe is me.” It is the gospel that comes with good news: “Go to Christ, go to Him. In Christ and His work, not yours, is hope to be found.”
When I go to church, it is after a week of toil in which I have sinned. The burden of sin weighs heavily on my soul. I do not come to church, in the first place, to hear the minister say to me, “You must do this; this is your calling. I admonish you that you must fulfil this command to come to God.” My only response is, “I tried. I can’t. Is it all hopeless?” I go to church to hear what Christ did for me! That is the gospel! That is what I want to hear! That is what I need!
But there is more. Christ not only paid the necessary cost of eternal hell for us but He also earned for us the fullness of salvation, now and eternally in heaven. While this includes all the blessings of salvation, I want to call your attention to one in particular.
After a description of Israel’s terrible sins in Ezekiel 16, God speaks of His covenant promise in verses 60-63. God says that His anger towards us for breaking His law is pacified (63). Besides this covenant blessing of the forgiveness of sins, there is another blessing of the new covenant: God’s writing His law in our hearts.
Hebrews 8:8-10, quoting Jeremiah 31:31-33, says, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ... Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers … For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
It is the same law given to Adam at his creation and codified for Israel at Sinai that is now written in our minds and on our hearts. That is, salvation by Christ has as one of its wonderful blessings the spiritual ability to keep God’s law (though never perfectly in this life).
By His irresistible grace in the new covenant, God has written on our hearts the law of love, love for Him and our neighbour, as summed in the Decalogue of Moses. For us, the Ten Commandments have become the law of Christ! 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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Ballymena Lecture

Living Wisely in a Digital Age

 This very practical speech will address a serious concern in our day: the attachment of many young people (and adults!) to their phones and digital devices. Is this healthy? Does this serve real flesh-and-blood or face-to-face contact? How does this affect family life and the friendships of Christian youth?  What of their church life and the communion of the saints? What of the dangers of pornography? 

Speaker:
Rev. Nathan Decker
(Michigan, USA)

Wednesday, 24 January 
at 7:45 PM

Venue:
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

(83 Clarence Street,
Ballymena BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 

www.cprc.co.uk

Rev. Decker will also preach at both Lord’s Day services on 21 January
The sermons and lecture will be streamed live 
at www.cprf.co.uk/live.html
 

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 25 January
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart


Subject:
God's Saving Will in the New Testament
 
What does the New Testament say about what God wishes, wills, desires or wants? Does He ever desire anything He does not get? Does He ever want anything He decrees will not happen? How do Gods’ eternity, unchangeability and omnipotence fit  with His wishes? And what does all this say about Christ and His cross?

NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprc.co.uk
www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
Walking in the
Way of Love


A Practical Commentary on I Corinthians

by Nathan Langerak
(432 pp., hardback) 

Walking in the Way of Love, volume 1, is a commentary on, and application of, chapters 1-9 of I Corinthians. Directed toward the believer and the true church of Jesus Christ, the book teaches the vitally important way of true love, over against the foolish chatter about love spoken by the world and the apostate church.

Here is rich fare: the cross as the wisdom and power of God, the Spirit searching the deep things of God, carnal Christianity, apostolic ministry, church discipline of those living in fornication, the believer and going to court, singleness and marriage, Christian liberty, ministerial support and much more!.

 £17.50 (inc. free P&P)
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!

Righteousness by Faith Alone

12 sermons on
Romans 4 on
CD or DVD 
in a box set

 
Justification by faith alone is biblical and Reformation truth. But there are rich aspects of it that you are not aware of!
  
(1) Abraham’s Justification)
(2) The Justification of the Ungodly
(3) David and the Non-Imputation of Sins
(4) David and the Imputation of Righteousness
(5) The Time of Abraham’s Justification
(6) The Abrahamic Land Promise and Justification
(7) The Logic of Faith Alone
(8) The Necessity of Faith Alone
(9) The God of Justification
(10) Abraham’s Justifying Faith
(11) Abraham’s Unwavering Faith
(12) Jesus Raised Because of Our Justification

£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!
Read more...

Covenant Reformed News - December 2017

 

Covenant Reformed News

December 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 20



Three Good Reasons to Honour Christ’s Church

Sadly, in most of conservative Christianity, there is a grievous disinterest in, and an abysmally low view of, the truth of God’s church. Most know little and care less about ecclesiology, the glorious doctrine of the body of Christ. Let me give you three reasons why you and all professing Christians should care about the church.
First, all disrespect and indifference towards the church stands in stark contrast to God’s written revelation. The first 17 books of the Bible, Genesis to Esther, record the history of the church from the salvation of Adam and Eve to the return of God’s people from the Babylonian captivity. The last 17 books of the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Malachi, summarize the prophets’ preaching to the church.
In the 4 gospel accounts, Matthew 16:18-19 declares that the purpose of Christ’s incarnation and redemption is to “build [His] church,” to which He gives “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Acts records the work of Christ by His Holy Spirit in gathering His holy, catholic or universal church. To whom are the 21 New Testament epistles addressed? Most of them were written in the first instance to churches, congregations in Rome, Galatia, etc. The rest of these letters were addressed to church office-bearers or members, such as Philemon, Gaius (III John), Timothy and Titus. Even the last canonical book, Revelation, was written, first of all, to 7 existing church institutes (Rev. 1:4, 11).
Turning to the specific focus of individual biblical books, we note that the Psalms are the songs of the church. Zechariah emphasizes God’s love and salvation of the church. I Corinthians deals with a host of church problems. Ephesians extols the church as the body of Christ, treating its election (ch. 1), catholicity (ch. 2-3), unity (ch. 4) and holiness (ch. 4-6). The three pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) set forth the institutional structure and work of the church. Revelation 2-3 consists of Christ’s commendations, critiques, admonitions and promises to organized churches.
Do you read the books of the Bible? Have you understood the prominence of God’s church upon its pages? As you search the Scriptures in the future, look out for the Bible’s massive theme of ecclesiology. Let us think God’s thoughts after Him and highly esteem the body of His Son!
Second, what about the great sixteenth-century Reformation? Have you ever thought of this question: Of what was it the reformation? It was a reformation, of course, of many things, including preaching, worship, doctrine, etc. But centrally, it was the Reformation of the church! As such, it was the reformation of church preaching, church worship, church doctrine, etc.
Another way of emphasizing this is to consider the greatest theological book of the Reformation: John Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion. As is well-known, this work is divided into four main parts. These are, roughly speaking, first, God the Father and our creation; second, God the Son and our redemption; third, God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification; and, fourth, the church. This last part of Calvin’s Institutes is way longer than any of the other three. In fact, it forms more than one third of the book. The title of the fourth part of the Institutes gives us Calvin’s perspective on the significance of the truth of the church: “The External Means or Aids by Which God Invites Us Into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein.”
If you are a son or daughter of the Reformation and treasure this great work of God, then you cannot be lukewarm towards the truth of Christ’s church. The glory of the Reformation was its reformation of the Lord’s visible churches. Likewise, the calling of reformation in our day is especially that of reforming the churches, by God’s grace.
A third important perspective on the importance of ecclesiology is provided by the Reformed confessions. Here is a thematic analysis of the Belgic Confession’s articles on ecclesiology: the nature of the church (27); joining the church (28); the marks of the church (29); the government and offices of the church (30-31); the order and discipline of the church (32); the sacraments of the church (33), namely, baptism (34) and the Lord’s supper (35); and church and state (36).
Notice, first, that the Belgic Confession is thorough, dealing with the church’s nature, membership, marks, government, offices, order, discipline and sacraments, as well as its relationship to civil government. Flowing from the first point, we observe, second, that the Belgic Confession’s exposition of the doctrine of the church is lengthy. Its treatment of ecclesiology receives 10 articles (27-36), whereas this confession gives 5 articles to soteriology or the doctrine of salvation (22-26). Since the Belgic Confession consists of 37 articles, its treatment of ecclesiology is over a quarter of its articles. In fact, over 27% of the articles of the Belgic Confession (1561) are on the doctrine of the church.
What place does Christ’s church have in our thinking? Tragically, and to their own serious loss, there are those of whom it could be said that the church has only a small place in their hearts and minds and lives. If this had been Jesus Christ’s attitude to the church, He would never have laid down His life for her on the cross in order to cleanse her and glorify her, and to present her to Himself in marriage (Eph. 5:25-27)!
Augustine (354-430) expressed well the Christian’s love for the truth of the church and the true church: “The city of God we speak of is the same to which testimony is borne by that Scripture ... ‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.’ And in another psalm we read, ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness, increasing the joy of the whole earth’ ... And in another, ‘There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.’ From these and similar testimonies ... we have learned that there is a city of God, and its Founder has inspired us with a love which makes us covet its citizenship” (The City of God, 11:1). Let this live in our hearts! Rev. Stewart
 

The Song of Solomon: Canonical and Christocentric

A reader asks, “I am interested in some views on the Song of Solomon. When attending a lecture, the pastor never tired of reminding us from Ephesians 5:22-33 that it was a picture of the love God has for His church, and marriage is a reflection of that love. My question is, What evidence internally from the book itself is there to prove the above view, which I believe is the traditional interpretation?”
A classmate of mine, while we were studying in college, later took the position that the Song of Solomon did not have anything to do with Ephesians 5:22-33. It was not a song depicting the love that is a reality in the love between Christ and His church, nor did it have anything to do with the love between a man and his wife.
When I asked him what he made of the book, he answered, “It is an erotic love song” —with emphasis, I presume, on the word erotic. I do not remember what his answer was when I asked him whether he thought it belonged in the canon of Scripture but, from his later writings, I suspect that he did want to preserve its canonicity—although the purpose of the book in the canon is then difficult to determine.
It is well to remind ourselves what criteria were used by the church to determine which books properly belong in Scripture and which books are apocryphal.
The explanation can be found in Belgic Confession 5, entitled “From Whence the Holy Scriptures Derive Their Dignity and Authority.” The article reads, “We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing, without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves of them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling.”
In a sense, the church has always held that the 66 books we believe are canonical are indeed that. Already in the days of Josiah, when many of the people did not even know there was a Bible, a copy of the book of the law was found in the temple and immediately recognized as God’s Word (II Kings 22:8-23:2).
It is generally accepted that an early Jewish council in Jamnia (c. 90 AD) fixed the Old Testament canon, which decision accords with our Lord who referred to “the law and the prophets.” Almost from the beginning of the post-apostolic era, the church recognized the same books of the New Testament as canonical. A dispute may have swirled around a few books but the church as a whole considered the books in our Bibles, including the Song of Songs, as being truly canonical. The Council of Carthage in 397 AD, for example, ranked the Song of Solomon in the canon.
Belgic Confession 5 speaks of the external evidence and the internal evidence of the canonicity of the 66 books listed in Belgic Confession 4. Interestingly, both the external and internal evidence are the work of the Holy Spirit. He inspired the Scriptures and He works in the hearts of the elect to recognize this. To believe what the Spirit inspired is to believe the whole of Scripture to be from God. The internal testimony of the Spirit in our hearts is by means of the external testimony of the Scriptures themselves.
Here is a human example of this. If my copy of The Institutes of the Christian Religion has on its title page the name John Calvin as the author and the entire book is in keeping with all we know of John Calvin, it is pretty hard to prove to me that he did not write that book. The external evidence is his name on the title page and the internal evidence is that the contents perfectly reflect everything we know of the French Reformer.
I make a point of this because the Bible is an organic unity written by one Author and not just a conglomeration of books written by different authors—as is widely believed today by those who deny Scripture’s verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit.
I have emphasized that the Song of Solomon has always been part of the canon because what follows from this conviction is the proof for the fact that the Song of Solomon describes in poetry the love between Christ and His church.
Scripture is an organic unity containing only one theme and written by one Author. We may well ask what that theme is. The answer is: The mighty work of God in Jesus Christ through whom God saves an elect church to live in covenant fellowship with Him to His everlasting praise and glory.
When I taught in the seminary, I often used the figure of the Bible being a portrait of Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God. Every book of Scripture is a part of that portrait. My own teacher while I was a student in seminary told us that, before we began to write out our sermons, we should put a cross on the upper right hand corner of page 1 to remind ourselves that we must preach Christ crucified or we are not preaching the Word of God. Christ must not be tacked on to the sermon once in a while; He must not be “presupposed,” that is, simply assumed to be behind what is said. We must follow the example of Paul, who wrote, “we preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23). That is all we ever preach. Scripture is the full story of all God’s mighty works in Jesus Christ. So it is with the narratives; so it is with the exhortations; so it is with the poetry; so it is even with Genesis 1-11. Let no one think that he will never have enough to preach on, if he takes the position that every word speaks of Christ crucified. God’s works are infinite in their number and marvellous in their richness.
Put all that together and one has proof, irrefutable proof, of the fact that the Song of Solomon is a song that celebrates the union of Christ and His beloved church. Even the church in the old dispensation recognized that in this remarkable Song of Songs. The portrait of Christ in the Holy Scriptures would be impoverished if the Song of Solomon were not part of the canon. 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
Share
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Ballymena Lecture

Living Wisely in a Digital Age

 This very practical speech will address a serious concern in our day: the attachment of many young people (and adults!) to their phones and digital devices. Is this healthy? Does this serve real flesh-and-blood or face-to-face contact? How does this affect family life and the friendships of Christian youth?  What of their church life and the communion of the saints? What of the dangers of pornography? 

Speaker:
Rev. Nathan Decker
(Michigan, USA)

Wednesday, 24 January 
at 7:45 PM

Venue:
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

(83 Clarence Street,
Ballymena BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 

www.cprc.co.uk

Rev. Decker will also preach at both Lord’s Day services on 21 January
The sermons and lecture will be streamed live 
at www.cprf.co.uk/live.html
 

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 25 January
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart


Subject:
God's Saving Will in the New Testament
 
What does the New Testament say about what God wishes, wills, desires or wants? Does He ever desire anything He does not get? Does He ever want anything He decrees will not happen? How do Gods’ eternity, unchangeability and omnipotence fit  with His wishes? And what does all this say about Christ and His cross?

NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprc.co.uk
www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
Bound to Join: Letters on Church Membership
by David J. Engelsma
(184 pp., hardback) 

Some professing Christians deny the necessity of church membership. Others join a church for unsubstantial reasons or leave a church for trivial, often selfish, reasons. Many remain members of apostatizing churches because of family or traditional ties. Some Christians find themselves in countries or areas where no true church exists or can be formed. They ask, sometimes in anguish, “What must we do?” In the form of letters to an inquiring (though not always appreciative) European audience, this book addresses the issue of church membership in the twenty-first century.  This instruction is applicable to all believers and is based on Scripture, the Belgic Confession (1561) and the important, but little known, controversy of John Calvin with the Nicodemites.
 
£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!

Church Authority

5 classes on Belgic Confession 32 (Vol. XXIV)
on CD in a box set


Many today have never heard of church authority or think it a subject of little value. But if a congregation or denomination does not know and practise this biblical truth, it is headed for disaster! Listen to these eye-opening classes and marvel at the biblical and Reformed teaching on the church’s ministerial exercise of Christ’s authority for the edification and not the destruction of the saints.

(1) Church Authority (Matt. 28:9-20)
(2) Church Authority: Source and Parties (Isa. 9:1-7)
(3) The Nature of Church Authority (II Cor. 10)
(4) The Standard of Church Authority (Col. 2:4-23)
(5) Church Authority: Ecclesiastical Laws and Discipline (II Cor. 13)

£6/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!
Read more...

Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - December 2017

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI
18 December, 2017

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Visit of the Engelsmas

DREngelsma 2017We greatly enjoyed the visit of Prof. and Mrs. Engelsma (19 October-6 November). The CPRC invited them for two main reasons. First, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and our congregation wanted to celebrate this wonderful occasion. Prof. Engelsma is a man who embodies the Reformation, so we asked him to give lectures on this great theme and preach in the CPRC. Second, the latter enabled me to fill the pulpit of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF), while Rev. McGeown was in America speaking at Reformation conferences in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Loveland, Colorado.

Our Reformation commemorations began with a half-day conference on Saturday, 21 October. Prof. spoke powerfully on “Martin Luther: Theologian of the Glory of God” and “Justification in Paul and in James,” while the ladies served a lovely lunch between the two speeches. Carolyn and Erik Prins (Trinity PRC) were present, as were three friends from Wales and a brother from England, plus local visitors.

Prof. Engelsma's other lectures dealt with key figures and truths of the Reformation: “Martin Luther: Man of Conviction” (Friday, 27 October) and “Calvin's Doctrine of the Covenant” (Friday, 3 November).

The 6 Sunday sermons by Prof. Engelsma also addressed vital Reformation subjects. All of his 10 public speeches are online on audio and video, with the latter including some question-and-answer sessions. They were made into an attractive box set of DVDs or CDs. It is available for £10 in the UK and $20 in the US (inc. P&P).

Ref500 lecture CPRC NI

We paid for advertisements twice in the Belfast News Letter and the Ballymena Guardian. The latter paper also published two articles about Prof. Engelsma's visit. The saints in the CPRC were very encouraged by our brother's labours in our midst. A good number joined us live online, and his videos have received a lot of attention.

Internet Witness

The CPRC now has over 2,000 videos on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/CPRCNI). Very appropriately for a congregation that is called the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, our 2,000th video was Prof. Engelsma's lecture on “Calvin's Doctrine of the Covenant.” Our thanks to Stephen Murray, our audio-visual man, for his labour of putting the videos online every week for many years. It is working too, for we have now had over 1/4 million video watches on our YouTube channel.

Over 3,000 people have subscribed to the CPRC Facebook page. Though this is hardly what Mark Zuckerberg intended, it has helped us get out the Reformed faith and reach new translators.

In our online languages section, Hungarian saw the biggest growth in the last two months, thanks to Bálint Vásárhelyi and Tibor Bognár. With their 10 recent written translations, we now have 216 pieces in Hungarian (www.cprf.co.uk/languages/hungarian.html). We also added a second sermon video with Hungarian subtitles: “The Sovereignty of God (II).” Now we have 27 videos in 4 foreign languages: Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian, and French (www.youtube.com). We added 3 more Russian pieces, including material from Prof. Engelsma's Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, and 3 Danish pieces, thanks to a faithful pastor from Denmark. A brother in India translated “Knowing the True God,” a pamphlet by Rev. Houck, into Hindi. Is this the first Protestant Reformed writing online in Hindi?

Varia

The CPRC has used various means to honour the work of Jesus Christ through the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. These include Prof. Engelsma's excellent Reformation speeches, letters in the local press, five installments on “What Is a Protestant?” in the Covenant Reformed News and a 12-sermon series on the great Reformation truth of “Righteousness by Faith Alone” (Rom. 4).

Other recent writings on this subject include “The Reformation and the Nature of the Church” for the Standard Bearer, “Martin and Katie Luther: A Reformation Marriage” for the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, and “Martin Luther and God's Saving Righteousness” for the British Reformed Journal.

I spoke on “Martin Luther's Great Discovery” for the Limerick Reformed Fellowship on Saturday, 28 October. An encouraging number attended, including some people we had never seen before, and we had a good question session afterwards. At this meeting in Limerick and at Prof. Engelsma's lectures, we sold books, and CD and DVD box sets at reduced prices.

In order to promote the Reformed Witness Hour (RWH) in the British Isles, we posted RWH booklets along with the Covenant Reformed News. The RWH gave us these spare copies for free and we waited until we had gotten enough of them across the Atlantic before mailing them with the News. Hopefully, more people will tune in to the RWH radio programme that we sponsor and that is broadcast from outside Londonderry in Northern Ireland on Sunday mornings (8:30-9:00 A.M. on Radio North/Gospel 846 AM or MW) or go to their website (www.reformedwitnesshour.org).

The British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) conference on “The Reformed Family— According to the Word of God” (21-28 July, 2018) is drawing nearer. Booking forms, including prices, are (or very soon will be) online (www.britishreformed.org). You are all very warmly invited to join us at Hebron Hall in South Wales. Prof. Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning will be our main speakers. It promises to be a rich time of fellowship and growth under the Word of God.

Thank you for your support and prayers, and for your cards. Our covenant “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love” (Heb. 6:10). May the Lord be with you all!

In Christ,
Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart

Read more...

Covenant Reformed News - November 2017

 

Covenant Reformed News

November 2017  •  Volume XVI, Issue 19


What Is a Protestant? (5)

Having seen what a Protestant is historically, theologically, creedally and ecclesiastically, we now need to consider this question: What is a son or daughter of the Reformation ethically? How does Protestantism influence one’s lifestyle? Many things could be said here but I will highlight just two points.

First, a Protestant loves and speaks the truth. Part of the background for this is historical. It is Jesuit teaching that it is okay, even virtuous, to tell a lie, if it serves the Roman Catholic Church. A degree of this moral ambiguity concerning the ninth commandment has hung over Roman Catholicism for many centuries. Think of the lies and cover-up in the Roman church, especially over the last several decades, regarding their homosexual priests who sexually abuse little boys.

Protestantism’s concern for truth flows from its solas or “onlys.” Sola Scriptura declares, “thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Salvation is solus Christus for He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jehovah alone is glorified (soli Deo gloria) as the “God of truth” (Deut. 32:4) by our keeping the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16).

Also the gospel truth of justification by faith alone (sola fide) also promotes honesty. In Psalm 32, David rejoices in the forgiveness or non-imputation of his sins: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (1-2). For believers, the non-imputation of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness always go hand in hand (Rom. 4:6-8). Now notice what Psalm 32:2 adds: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” One who is truly blessed because of the non-imputation of his sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to him by faith alone is honest before God, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Whereas fallen man instinctively and wickedly covers and hides his transgressions, the true believer confesses his sins, both for the first time and throughout his Christian life. Therefore, the child of God is honest, speaking the truth both to himself and to others, for in his “spirit there is no guile.”

Second, there is what has been called the Protestant work ethic. This too flows from the Five Solas or “onlys” of the Reformation. According to sola Scriptura, we must keep the fourth commandment out of gratitude, and so we labour for six days and rest upon the Christian Sabbath, which is called the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10), by spending the day in the private and public worship of God. We emulate our Saviour, Christ alone (solus Christus), who did the work His Father gave Him (John 4:34; 17:4). We are justified by faith alone (sola fide) and the faith which alone receives the imputed righteousness of God is also a faith that works, for we are justified by faith alone but not a faith that is alone. We are saved by grace alone (sola gratia) and so we do our work out of gratitude for a wholly gracious salvation. In keeping with the Reformation principle of soli Deo gloria, we labour to honour and serve the Triune God, and not merely man.

True Protestants believe that they ought to do honest and hard work, and they engage in it. Think of the French Huguenots and the terrible negative effect on France economically when they were persecuted and driven out of that country, especially through evil King Louis XIV’s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).

The Protestant work ethic is based on two other biblical and Protestant truths. The first is the priesthood of all believers. It is not only the case that the Christian minister’s faithful work is of value in God’s eyes; the work of all His people is holy when it is done out of faith and to please Him in Jesus Christ. The second biblical and Reformation truth that supports the Protestant work ethic is that of calling. It is not only preachers or elders or deacons who are called to their church offices. Instead, all Christians are called by God to work in whatever lawful employment He has given them in His providence. So it does not matter to the Lord how low paid your job may be or how menial and supposedly humble it is. No work is “beneath” you, when it is done to the glory of God. Our Saviour laboured manually for many years as a carpenter! This is an important point to make in our day when Western secularist ideas are degrading the good creation ordinance of work, and many people foolishly think that there is more dignity in being unemployed than in a low-paid job.

Listen to the refreshing biblical teaching of Colossians 3:22-24: “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” The motto of the Protestant work ethic is, in effect, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecc. 9:10).

So are you a Protestant? Doctrinally, do you hold to the Five Solas of the Reformation (Scripture alone, Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone and the glory of God alone) and to the great Protestant creeds? Practically, do you speak the truth, and believe and engage in hard, honest work? Historically, are you rooted in the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, which is pure, apostolic Christianity? Then keep on witnessing to the truth of God, working for the ongoing reformation of the church and fighting the good fight of faith!  Rev. Stewart
 

The Christian’s Financial Giving


Question: “I would like to ask a question regarding giving to pastors and giving to the poor. As for pastors, the Scriptures repeatedly quote Deuteronomy 25:4: ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn’ (Matt. 10:10; I Cor. 9:9; I Tim. 5:18). As for the poor, the Bible speaks of giving cheerfully and according to our ability (Deut. 16:17; I Cor. 16:2; II Cor. 9:7). Does Scripture apply the same principle to the two or are they different? If they are the same, how can it be proved? If the two are different, how is the pastor to live from the gospel (I Cor. 9:14)? What is the practical implication of this principle? I have read that Presbyterian churches in the seventeenth century (and other times as well) used obligatory church taxes. Is this in conformity with the Bible?”

I have quoted the entire question because the reader gives his reasoning in it, and because the question is important. Disagreement over the answer is not uncommon.

The only offices Christ has ordained in His church are minister, elder and deacon. This is agreed upon by almost all Reformed and Presbyterian churches, although some reckon that the office of minister of the Word and sacraments is a sub-division of the office of elder. The result of this view is that Christ has ordained teaching elders and ruling elders in the church, but two groups with differing responsibilities.     

We do not intend to argue the point here, although Scripture makes clear that the three offices in the Old Testament are all carried over into the new dispensation when the church received its New Testament form. The prophetic office became the office of pastor-teacher; the kingly office became the office of elder in the New Testament church; and the priestly office became the office of deacon. These new dispensational offices in the church are the special offices that arise out of, and are responsible to, the office of  believer. All God’s people are prophets, priests and kings. 

The duties of each office are basically the same in one respect. Ministers preach the gospel, elders rule in the church and deacons care for the poor (Acts 6), but all three offices bring the Word of God to His people. These offices and duties in turn reflect the three-fold office of Christ who is our chief Prophet, our only high Priest and our exalted King.

Hence, without going into any more detail on this beautiful structure Christ has given to the church, and by means of which He Himself is present in the church, let us note that the office of deacon is established by Christ for the care of the poor. 

It is a special gift of God that He Himself gives to the church the poor. Christ reminds us of this in His statement: “ye have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7). The Bible speaks often of God’s special care of His poor. The care of the poor is the highest manifestation in the church of the communion of the saints, and the highest fulfilment of Scripture’s injunction to bear each other’s burdens “and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). To give to the poor is a blessed activity because it is more blessed to give than to receive. The congregation that is without the poor loses something of the blessedness of the Saviour’s presence in the church and it ought to find other ways to care for the poor in sister churches or in other congregations in their own denomination.

Ministers of the gospel are not among the poor, nor are their wives and children. They are not the objects of benevolence. They are not to be cared for by the deacons. They are not given to the church as part of Christ’s promise: “ye have the poor with you always.” In fact, the office of deacon was instituted in the church, not to care for ministers but because ministers are (and ought to be) too busy to do the work of caring for the poor. 

Ministers have no time to engage in secular work either. Pastors ought to be giving themselves over to the study of God’s Word and prayer (Acts 6:4). If a minister has to take another job to provide for his wife and family, the congregation will suffer. This is not to say that so-called tent-making ministers are sinning. But I have talked with a few and, with one accord, each agreed that it would help his church or mission work, if he could labour full time as a minister.

The principle that “The labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7) is what the law meant when Israel was commanded not to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. An ox did work for the family that owned it and thus had a claim on some of its master’s earthly possessions. It was, after all, due to the ox’s work that the family had enough to obtain the necessities of life. The family owed the ox its living. It was not benevolence that prompted Israel to give the ox free access to the food that it had helped to produce. 

That principle was carried over into the new dispensational church, and the relation between an ox and its owner is the same as the relation between the minister and his congregation. To refuse the minister material support forces him to spend valuable time in earthly things and the congregation suffers spiritually. 

It is true that in most congregations deacons take collections for other causes than help for the poor: Christian schools, congregational or denominational kingdom causes, etc. But none of this is benevolence. These other financial matters are taken care of by the diaconate for convenience but they need not be done in this way.

The last question asked was concerning the rightness or wrongness of “obligatory church taxes.” The word “taxes” is inappropriate to ecclesiastical giving. In the Protestant Reformed Churches in the U.S. and Canada, we call this the annual budget. The budget covers all the expenses of a local congregation at a certain rate per family, per-week. It is not an obligatory tax; it is an amount that informs the congregation what the costs of the church are outside the benevolent fund. In this matter also the principle holds: One must give as he has been blessed. Budgeting is an excellent way to give systematically to cover the expenses of the church. It is not benevolence.

It is necessary for people to determine how much to give to each kingdom cause, including the schools. In our congregation and, I think, in most, two collections are taken every Sunday, besides the budget and benevolence. As good stewards in God’s house, every family must decide how much to give to every need in the church. That amount is determined by the need of each cause in relation to all the other causes. 

Giving is never an obligation; it is always a privilege. And the widow’s mite is more in God’s sight than a thousand dollars or pounds. Prof. Hanko
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 23 November
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Martyn McGeown

(pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Rep. of Ireland)

Subject:
The Reformation’s Recovery of Right Worship

 
NEW VENUE:
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprc.co.uk
www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
www.limerickreformed.com
Covenant and Election in the Reformed Tradition
by David J. Engelsma
(288 pp., hardback) 

Covenant and election are two of the most prominent and most important truths in Scripture. They run through the Bible like two grand, harmonious themes in symphony. These two doctrines and their relation are the twofold subject of this book.
In Covenant and Election, Prof. Engelsma traces these themes in the confessional documents of the Reformed churches and from John Calvin in the sixteenth-century through the fathers of the Secession churches in the nineteenth-century Netherlands to the twentieth-century theologians Herman Bavinck and Herman Hoeksema. With his usual penetrating scriptural analysis, Engelsma also exposes the contemporary and spreading heresy of the Federal Vision.
 
£16.50 (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!

Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation

A box set of 4 lectures & 
6 sermons on CD or DVD 
by Prof. David Engelsma 


These 10 Reformation speeches in the CPRC by Prof. Engelsma (USA) cover the Reformers (Luther and Calvin), the Five Solas (the glory of God alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone and grace alone) and Reformation subjects (justification and sanctification; covenant, election and reprobation; and hard choices and providence)

1) Martin Luther: Theologian of the Glory of God
2) Justification in Paul and in James
3) Jesus’ Pardon of the Adulteress
4) The Origin of Scripture 
5) Martin Luther: Man of Conviction
6) The Choice of the Young Man Moses
7) Created Unto Good Works
8) Calvin’s Doctrine of the Covenant
9) The Doctrine of Reprobation in the Gospel of Jesus
10) A Thorn in the Flesh

£10/box set (inc. P&P)

LIsten or watch 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!
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