Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Website

83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT42 3NR, Northern Ireland

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

RevAStewart

Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

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

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Covenant Reformed News - October 2016

Covenant Reformed News

October 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 6


God’s Longsuffering—Particular and in Himself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

God’s Immanence in Hell


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 27 October, 2016
at 7:15 PM

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

Christian Contentmant

Speaker:
Rev. Martyn McGeown

All welcome!

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

Reformation Day Lectures

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

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

John Owen and the Death of Christ

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

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

God's Goodness Always Particular

by Herman Hoeksema
(144 pp, softback)

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

£7.70 (inc. P&P)

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

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

Complete in Christ

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

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

£12/box set (inc. P&P)

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

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

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

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

£12/box set (inc. P&P)

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

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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - October 2016

CPRC News Header

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Ballymena, NI

13 October, 2016

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,


New Season

The church year is in full swing here again. The children of the congregation are doing well in the three catechism classes on Monday nights, as we look at New Testament History (Beginners), Old Testament History (Juniors), and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Our Tuesday morning classes (which continued through much of the summer) have cov-ered the ceremonial laws in Leviticus 11-15 which treat uncleanness involving food, child-birth, leprosy, and bodily issues. It is good to dig into the Old Testament law and see references to these things in Israel’s history and prophets, as well as in the gospel accounts and epistles. It adds further depth to the Scriptures, and shows the glory of the cross and the spiritual liberty of Christ’s New Testament church.

The Wednesday night classes recently concluded our treatment of Belgic Confession 28 (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm). The 8 audios, entitled “Bound to Join a Faithful Church,” should soon be produced on CDs as volume 20 of our series of box sets on this great Reformed creed.

“The Life of Jacob” is the engaging subject of an on-going sermon series in Genesis (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/OTseries.htm). We have looked at the patriarch’s birth and its doctrinal significance, his finagling the birthright from Esau and hoodwinking of Isaac for the blessing, his amazing dream of the ladder at Bethel and his godly response to it, plus most recently the strange circumstances surrounding his marriage to Leah and Rachel, when he received some of his own medicine by being outwitted by greedy Laban.

Jacob Buchanan is now helping with the live streaming of our Sunday services, especially in the evenings. In the last few months, viewers have more than doubled and we have been get-ting some good feedback. Our UK times (11 AM & 6PM) are 5 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time (www.cprf.co.uk/live.html).

One of our local newspapers, the Ballymena Guardian, carried an article I sent them about our new season of classes and services (6 September). It is good to have opportunities to witness of the Reformed faith so that others may be brought to the rich treasures we enjoy in Jesus Christ.

Bookstore

 3 books CPRC 2016The CPRC Bookstore continues its work. We have had a good number of new titles in the last three months. Of these, our best-selling books are, in order, Be Ye Holy by Profs. Engelsma and Hanko (46), Christianizing the World by Prof. Engelsma, and God’s Goodness Always Particular by Herman Hoeksema.

Since mid-July and the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference in Northern Ireland, we have sold 25 box sets of “‘Behold, I Come Quickly’: The Reformed Biblical Truth of the End” and 22 other box sets of CDs or DVDs. The hard copy audio-visual catalogue we produced and posted out with the Covenant Reformed News in June is helping get the preached Word out.

We receive a lot of appreciation from the Lord’s people. A brother in England wrote, “A big thank you for the solid Reformed materials you kindly sent me. Doctrinal, Reformed, biblical truth is the bedrock of my faith in Christ alone. The CPRC is a great blessing to me. Wishing you God’s peace and blessing.”

It is also striking how combinations of materials over a long time can bring contacts. A lady in Northern Ireland, who has been receiving the Covenant Reformed News for years through a friend who passes his copies on to her, recently saw a 2013 (!) British Christian magazine’s review of Prof. Engelsma’s Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root. So she phoned us, dropped by at the manse, and bought three books and a box set of DVDs.

Others express their gratitude to the Lord for His truth financially. In the last two months, we have received £2,700 from five saints in Scotland, Australia, and England.

Websites

Our main website continues to grow (www.cprc.co.uk). Recently, Mary added to our “Articles” page three of my old seminary term papers, which her father managed to extract from an old floppy disk (remember them?). After making a number of improvements, “God Above Time,” “Postmillennialism and the Remnant,” and “Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo and the Reformed Doctrine of the Atonement” are now online.

Our website also contains articles on Belgic Confession 1-7, Charismaticism, and Psalm-singing, which I wrote for the Salt Shakers mag-azine of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) in Singapore. Earlier today, Mary uploaded a document prepared by David Hutchings, a friend in South Wales, containing 8 Protestant Reformed Theological Journal arti-cles by Prof. Hanko entitled “Another Look at Common Grace” (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/ anotherlookatcg.pdf).

Regarding translations, this past two months have seen another 23 added: 12 Hungarian, 5 Spanish, 2 Czech, 1 Indonesian, 1 Portuguese, 1 Thai, and 1 Tigrinya. All of this, plus putting weekly bulletins, the monthly Covenant Re-formed News, audios of services and lectures, etc., means that Mary puts in a lot of hours of work on our main website.
Our other on-line witnesses are also growing. We have about 700 subscribers to our YouTube page (www.youtube.com/cprcni) and over 2,200 likes on the CPRC Facebook page. Have you checked them out?

Others

MDDeVries NI 2016On 14 August, Rev. Michael DeVries preached for the CPRC, while Mary and I were in the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF). This was the second of the three Sundays of Rev. McGeown’s trip to the US. It was good for the congregation to hear Pastor DeVries, some 9 years since his last visit. Mary and I spent some time with Rev. and Dawn on the north coast of Northern Ireland during the next two sunny days. They also joined us at our Tuesday morn-ing Bible class.

Later that week, Susan Hall and Janet Napier led a Children’s Bible Club at church (17-18 August). The attractive theme was “The Armour of God” (Eph. 6:10-17). Last Sunday, Philip Hall was reinstalled as deacon (9 October).

“Are Unbelievers in God’s Image?” was the subject at the lecture in South Wales (30 Sep-tember). Though a number of regulars told us that the date we had chosen would not work for them, we still had a decent number present, in-cluding some saints whom we had not seen for a while. Sales included 10 books and 4 box sets of CDs.

After the speech, we left off Timothy Spence, a CPRC member studying at Wales’ Cardiff University, at Hebron Hall (www.hebronhall.org). This is the Christian conference centre chosen as the venue for the 2018 BRF Conference on the family, with our main speakers being Prof. Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning! The gardens and the tennis courts look even better than they did in 2010 when we were last there. Maybe you should pencil in 21-28 July, 2018 for a week in Wales with the BRF?

May the Lord be with you all,

In Christ,

Rev. Angus and Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - September 2016

Covenant Reformed News

September 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 5


God’s Longsuffering in the New Testament

In the last two issues of the News, we looked at God’s longsuffering in the Old Testament. Now we turn to the seven New Testament instances.

The first reference to God’s longsuffering in the New Testament is Luke 18:7: “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” The object of Jehovah’s bearing or suffering long in this text is “his own elect,” those whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (0. 1:4).

The last biblical references to the longsuffering of the Most High are found in Peter’s two canonical epistles. In I Peter 3:20, we read that “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” Here Jehovah’s longsuffering is directed not to the wicked world He destroyed by the flood but to the “eight souls” (Noah and his three sons with their four wives) who were “saved” by water, as a picture of their eternal salvation.

The apostle Peter next speaks of God’s longsuffering in II Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Here we are told that God’s “longsuffering [is] to us-ward,” namely, the “beloved” (1), those who “have obtained like precious faith” with Peter and all the saints (1:1), and who are the objects of Jehovah’s “calling and election” (10), as opposed to the “scoffers” (3:3).

Those to whom the Almighty is longsuffering are the ones whom He wills, wishes, wants and desires not to “perish” but to “come to repentance” (9). The sovereign and unchangeable Lord, in His infinite wisdom, power and grace, effectually calls all of His own, for “who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). Notice that II Peter 3 explains why Christ has not yet returned. It is not that the Lord is “slack concerning His promise” (9), as the scoffers claimed, but that all of God’s elect church, all the stones in Jehovah’s spiritual temple, all the members of the body of Christ, must be brought to salvation before He comes back to judge the world.

This fits perfectly with Peter’s third and final reference to the Lord’s longsuffering: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” (15).

Notice three things in this text. First, the apostle asserts that “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation,” for those to whom the sovereign and omnipotent God is longsuffering are always saved! Second, this is to be a theological first principle with Christians in their thinking regarding Jehovah’s longsuffering: “account [i.e., consider, deem, think or reckon with deliberate and careful judgment] that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” Third, the effectual and saving power of God’s longsuffering is also the inspired teaching of the great apostle of grace: “even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.”

In Romans 9:22, that great theologian asks, “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction …?”

Here we are taught that Jehovah “endured … the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction [i.e., the reprobate].” He puts up with them for a while because He shall display His glory through His holy “wrath” and awesome “power” in His “destruction” of them as “vessels of wrath” for all their sin and rebellion. This is what God desires, wishes and wants: “God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known.” Reprobation (22) serves God’s election of both Jews and Gentiles, whereby he “make[s] known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory” (23).

We need carefully to distinguish between God’s enduring or putting up with the reprobate (cf. Matt. 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41) and His being longsuffering towards His elect (Luke 18:7). The Almighty “endured ... the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction [i.e., the reprobate]” (Rom. 9:22). How did He do this? The answer is found in the subordinate clause: “with much longsuffering” towards His elect (22). Remember that “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (II Pet. 3:15).

This is Paul’s other reference to God’s longsuffering in Romans: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (2:4). This does not refer to a “goodness” or “longsuffering” of God for the reprobate. First, the text does not say that Jehovah’s goodness or longsuffering merely tries (but fails) to lead the reprobate to repentance; it says that “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” Second, the verse speaks not of merely a bit of common grace for the reprobate, as some allege, but of “the riches of his goodness.”

Romans 2:4 is not addressed to man as elect or reprobate but to generic and undifferentiated man. Thus he is addressed in the context as “O man” (1, 3). If we come to differentiation, God’s “forbearance” is for the reprobate, as in Romans 9:22; His longsuffering is for the elect (Luke 18:7) and is always salvific (II Pet. 3:15).

The very same apostle Paul is the great biblical example of Jehovah’s longsuffering to an elect sinner: “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (I Tim. 1:16).

Paul says that God was longsuffering to him “first,” not chronologically but preeminently, since he viewed himself as the “chief” of sinners (15) for he blasphemed Christ and persecuted His church (13). No wonder the apostle speaks of the Lord Jesus manifesting “all longsuffering” towards him, before breaking forth with a doxology: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (17).

In God’s longsuffering to him in his gross wickedness before his conversion, Paul says he is a “pattern” (16). No one is too sinful to be saved, if God wills it. If the Lord can convert Paul who ravaged Christ’s church (Acts 8:1-4), then nobody is too difficult for Him. All must repent of their sins and trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, the only Saviour!  Rev. Stewart

 

Our Saviour’s Weakened Human Nature


A reader asks, “Could Christ have contracted disease while on earth? He had no original sin and had He not had our sins imputed to Him would never have died. Correct?” There are really two questions in what the reader writes. I will try to answer both of them in turn.

Our answer to the first one, “Could Christ have contracted disease while on earth?” must be in the affirmative. We never read that our Lord was sick but Paul does write, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).

Christ came not in the likeness of sinless flesh but in the likeness of sinful flesh. We must not take this to mean that Christ could sin for He most emphatically could not. Scripture is clear on that. He is the Second Person of the Trinity who possesses the entire divine nature and He united to it His human nature. He was God in our flesh and God cannot sin: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).

That He came in the likeness of sinful flesh means that He did not come in the strong and powerful human nature that Adam possessed before he fell but in the likeness of our flesh: weak, subject to trouble and disease, easily wearied (for our Lord was weary, hungry and thirsty) and eroded by 6,000 years of sinning. This is why, for example, Hebrews can tell us that He was tempted, even as we are tempted. He knew from experience the power and attractiveness of temptations. As such, He is a sympathetic high priest to whom we may boldly come to seek forgiveness and strength to stand against the wiles of the devil (Heb. 4:15-16).

I remember that long ago my pastor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema, began a sermon on Hebrews 4:15-16 with these words: “Beloved, this is such a beautiful and comforting text that I thought about reading it several times and then sending you home. I am afraid I might spoil it.” He then preached a sermon that was gripping, comforting and spiritually encouraging. The text is possible only because our Lord was born in the likeness of sinful flesh.

Christ was born a baby, weak, helpless, dependent on His mother and crying when He was hungry, yet without any sinful petulance. He did not have a halo on His head, any more than any of us has a halo—even though in our pride we sometimes think we do.

Finally, Psalm 103:3 reads, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Our Lord could not heal our diseases without experiencing them Himself. He was indeed like us in all things—except sin.

The second question cannot be answered. It is like asking: If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the forbidden tree, and they had lived forever, how many children would they have had? Or, if Adam and Eve had not sinned, would everyone now born have also been born, only in a state of moral perfection?

The fact of the matter is that Christ came into the world in order that sin might be imputed to Him. If one looks at the matter from the historical viewpoint, one would say that Adam and the whole human race sinned, and God provided Christ in order that He might save His elect from the fallen human race through the imputation of their sin to Christ. God sent Christ into the world to bear the sins and guilt of His people. If God had determined not to save a people for Himself, He would never have sent Christ into the world. The moment Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit the sin of the elect was imputed to Him. It was the very purpose for His coming into the world. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21).

Paul calls this the “great” “mystery” (I Tim. 3:16), for God’s purpose is profound and glorious, and the way of salvation is a wonder of which no mere creature could possibly have thought. Here is where the Arminian, with his heresy of a universal, ineffectual atonement, comes to disaster—with all his false theology. God imputed our sin to Christ. That means that Christ suffered the full penalty of sin for all those whose sin was imputed to Him. He bore the penalty of sin that consisted of death when God drives man from the world and assigns him an eternity of punishment in hell: “To live apart from God is death!”

If God imputed to Christ the sin of all men absolutely, no man any longer can or will perish in hell; all will be saved. But if God chose to glorify Himself through Christ (Eph. 1:3-14), and through Christ by imputing to Him the sins of the elect, then Christ had to die and go to hell for the elect alone.

Blessed gospel! “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19).  Prof. Hanko

_________________________________

For more on Christ’s real, complete, sinless, individual and weakened human nature, plus His virgin birth, temptations and His fulfilment of God’s covenant prophecies, listen to the 8 CDs on “The Incarnation of the Son of God.” The cost for this attractive box set on Belgic Confession 17-18 is £10 (inc. P&P) or listen free on our website.
 


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

 


South Wales Lecture

Friday, 30 September, 2016
at 7:15 PM

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

Are Unbelievers in God's Image?

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
_______

Reformation Day Lecture

Friday, 28 October, 2016
at 7:30 PM

at the CPRC
Ballymena, BT43 5DR

John Owen and the Death of Christ

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart

All welcome!
www.cprc.co.uk

The lecture will be streamed live at http://www.cprf.co.uk/live.html

 

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

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

These are the speeches at the excellent British Reformed
Fellowship Conference at Castlewellan, N. Ireland, in July

£12/box set (inc. P&P)

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

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

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Covenant Reformed News - August 2016

Covenant Reformed News

August 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 4


God’s Longsuffering in the Psalms and Prophets

In the last issue of the News, we considered God’s longsuffering (or His being slow to anger) in the Old Testament historical books: Exodus 34:6-7, Numbers 14:17-18 and Nehemiah 9:17.

We turn now to three references in the Psalms: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (86:15); “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (103:8); “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (145:8).

These three texts have at least four things in common. First, they were all inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned by David, according to their headings, as the fruit of his meditation upon God’s law, especially Exodus 34:6-7 and Numbers 14:17-18. Second, only God’s “positive” attributes are mentioned in all three verses: His compassion, grace, mercy and truth are spoken of in connection with His longsuffering. Third, all three are references to Jehovah’s longsuffering to His beloved people (including us). Fourth, all three references to God’s longsuffering in the Psalms are found in songs of praise. There is a lesson here for us too!

Moving to the twelve minor prophets, we come first to Joel 2:13: “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”

Again, we notice, first, that only God’s “positive” perfections are here mentioned: His grace, mercy and kindness are spoken of in connection with His longsuffering or being slow to anger. Second, like the three passages from the Old Testament historical books (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:17-18; Neh. 9:17) and the three verses from the Psalms quoted in the second paragraph, Joel 2:13 is addressed to God’s people, Israel. Third, this text is a call to repentance in which the prophet appeals to part of God’s earlier self-revelation to strengthen his exhortation. For us too, God’s longsuffering, both in Himself and to us, is an encouragement to confess our sins from our hearts.

The next minor prophet to refer to God’s longsuffering is Jonah: “And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (4:2).

A pattern is emerging! First, along with God’s longsuffering or being slow to anger, we read here of His grace, mercy and kindness. Again, they are all “positive” divine attributes. Second, the prophet is referring to God’s people, this time (elect) Gentiles. Third, Jonah knew God’s self-revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:6-7) and Kadesh-barnea (Num. 14:17-18), and so understood that, since Jehovah had sent him to preach to Nineveh, God had His people there to whom He would show Himself longsuffering, gracious, merciful and kind.

This is the reason why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh in the first place. He did not want to see the wicked Assyrians—Israel’s enemies—saved. Especially was this the case because Jonah knew, given the wickedness of the N. Kingdom, that God, in turning to the Gentiles, would turn away from the Jewish people whom the prophet loved.

Our third and final passage in the minor prophets is from the vision of Nahum: “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (1:3).

Like the two verses from the Pentateuch (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:17-18), Nahum first mentions God’s “positive” perfection in saving His people (“The Lord is slow to anger”) and then His “negative” attributes (“The Lord is ... great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked”) in His mighty punishment of the impenitent wicked, as the One who “hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm.”

Though Nahum 1 mostly concerns the judgment of the Most High upon Assyria, verse 3a (“The Lord is slow to anger”) is not the only bright note for His elect people in the chapter. We read that “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him” (7). We hear the gospel in Nahum 1: “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off” (15).

Moving from the above three passages in the twelve minor prophets, we come finally to the only reference to God’s longsuffering in the four major prophets, Jeremiah 15:15: “O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.”

Here only one divine attribute is mentioned: God’s longsuffering. In this text, it is not towards Israel as a nation, for the elect’s sake. Instead of being exercised towards a corporate body, God is longsuffering to an individual believer: Jeremiah himself. The prophet’s prayer is this: “Do not, O Lord, in Thy longsuffering over me, allow my persecutors to destroy me.” God is not longsuffering towards the wicked who afflict Jeremiah for he asks the Lord, “revenge me of my persecutors.” Rev. Stewart

 

The Theodicy and “Like a Dove”


1) The first of the two questions in this issue of the News was prompted by my three recent articles on the theodicy, God’s public justification of all His actions, especially His just wrath against the wicked in sending them to hell and His great grace in taking His elect to heaven, though they are sinners. A reader asks, “Will you please show us in Scripture where it says that all our iniquities will be publicly revealed?”

The simple and short answer is Romans 14:10-12 and II Corinthians 5:10. According to these texts, “every one” will “appear,” “stand” and “bow” before Christ’s “judgment seat,” including believers (“we”). Each human being will “give account of himself [or herself] to God,” concerning all “the things done in his [or her] body,” “whether it be good or bad.” Thus the believer’s sins are included.

God’s people from the early days of the Reformation believed this to be true and Reformed people have taught it through the ages till the present. The Belgic Confession(1561), only a few more than forty years after Luther began the Reformation, states that at the coming of Christ “the books (that is to say, the consciences) shall be opened, and the dead judged according to what they shall have done in this world, whether it be good or evil. Nay, all men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken, which the world only counts amusement and jest; and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all” (37).

First, it must be shown that God alone is the author of salvation and that the vast difference between those in heaven and those in hell is due to nothing but His electing grace. God accomplishes this by showing that eternity in hell for the wicked displays His fury against man’s sin. And God will publicly show His wrath against sin so that His infinite holiness is shown to all. Those who deny hell lose God’s holiness that demands punishment of sin.

Second, the Arminian will not be able to brag in heaven that he is there because he accepted Christ. If he could do that, the Arminian would take away from God His glory. The Arminian will show (if he could) his notebook full of all his good works and point out to everyone willing to look that he earned salvation and helped God along in the work of saving him. Then God does not receive all the glory that is due His name for He must share it with man (Eph. 2:8-9).

Finally, a light can be seen only in the darkness. Turn on the world’s most powerful light in the dazzling brightness of noon and one sees no light. Turn on a small torch in pitch darkness and the light is visible to all. The dazzling light of God’s grace, mercy and love can be, and will be, seen against the background of our dreadful sinfulness and the darkness of evil into which we plunged ourselves. It will be the brilliant light of God’s grace against the dark background of our terrible sin. That light will be seen by us and the entire world, because our sins will also be revealed and the great power of grace will be shown to have saved us from the pit of hell. God’s grace will be magnified. That is also the idea of the antithesis. It is more important that God be glorified than that our sins be hid in the judgment day.

2) A reader asks about a possible revision of Belgic Confession 9: “For when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, saying, This is My beloved Son; the Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Ghost appeared in the shape of a dove.” The reader proposes to make this more in harmony with Scripture, with the last part reading, “The Holy Spirit appeared in a bodily shape like a dove.”

Before I answer this question, I want to go on record as being strongly opposed to any changes in the confessions of the Reformed churches, unless they are clearly shown to be contrary to Scripture and concern an important change in doctrine.

If changes in the confessions are allowed, even minor and insignificant changes, there are many within Reformed churches who would pounce on the opportunity and, with smooth words, propose major changes in doctrines with which they do not agree.

This change, suggested by the questioner, seems to me to be a minor change.

The reader’s argument is as follows. “Like a dove” is not the same as the expression “as a dove” or, its equivalent, “in the shape of a dove.” “Nowhere in Scripture has the Godhead revealed Himself in the form of an animal—this actually is a pagan thought,” the reader adds. Luke writes, “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him” (3:22).    The questioner is asking, therefore, if it would not be better to use the language found in Luke.

I have not been able to ascertain the difference between “as” and “like.” Both words introduce a comparison. “As” introduces a simile or a comparison between two things, usually one thing from the creation and another thing that belongs to the spiritual world. “Like” often introduces a metaphor. Similes and metaphors are very much alike: a metaphor is an extended simile, such as in Christ’s parables. Matthew, in speaking of this event, uses a Greek word that literally means “as if.”

I do not entirely agree with the statement: “The voice of the Father was heard ... The Son was seen in the water and the Holy Spirit appeared in a bodily shape like a dove.” In this remarkable incident in the life of our Lord, the Triune God (not the First Person of the Trinity) was speaking of His Son, the eternal God in our flesh, and publicly gave Him the Spirit to qualify and ordain Him for His work of accomplishing salvation for us. The voice of the Triune God, saying almost the same words, was heard twice more in our Lord’s ministry. Also, Christ was baptized with water that He might “fulfil all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). It indicated that He took our sins upon Himself so that He might earn for us everlasting righteousness. That the Spirit came upon Christ in a visible form was to demonstrate publicly that the Lord Jesus Christ was indeed the Servant of Jehovah anointed to do His Father’s will, as Isaiah had prophesied. The dove was a symbol of peace of which Isaiah spoke (Isa. 54:13; 55:12).

It is interesting that in his marvellous book, Noah’s Ark, Rien Portvliet notes that the dove that left the ark and did not return was not seen again until the baptism of Christ.

Taking all these things together, a change our creeds is not necessary. Whatever words the narrative of the three gospels use, they mean the same thing.  Prof. Hanko

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

 

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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - August 2016

BRF group pic 2016

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,


BRF Conference

The fourteenth biennial British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference was definitely the biggest (and many would say the best). A total of 125 people stayed at the conference centre at least one night, with the vast majority of them there for the whole week (16-23 July). On top of that there were a record 47 day-visitors. Some came for a lecture or two or more, with one family camping only a few hundred yards away for five days of the conference.

This was also our most international conference, with saints from Northern Ireland (44), USA (41), Singapore (12), England (6), Wales (6), Australia (4), Republic of Ireland (4), Canada (4), Hungary (3), and the Philippines (1). Does this make it the most catholic meeting led by Protestant Reformed ministers?

The subject was a great one: “‘Behold, I Come Quickly’: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End.” Prof. David Engelsma's three main speeches treated the Lord's second coming and the precursory signs, the Antichristian kingdom and the beast from the sea (Rev. 13), and the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Rev. Andy Lanning covered the rapture and Antichrist, Christ's coming as a thief and the great apostasy, and living in the light of the final judgment and life eternal. Our two main speakers also delivered the Sunday sermons: “The Hope of Creation for Christ's Coming” (Rom. 8:19-22) and “Methuselah” (Gen. 5:25-27), respectively.

Rev. McGeown provided the opening address: “Disorderliness and the Second Coming of Christ” (II Thess. 3). Pete Adams, East Side's retired Christian school principal and an elder at First PRC in Grand Rapids, delivered a Sunday afternoon speech on “The Renaissance and the Reformation,” highlighting their eschatological implications. I delivered the special lecture on “Dispensationalism, J. N. Darby and Powers-court.”

BRF Conference Chairman, Brian Harris, introduced the meetings; various brethren led the morning and evening devotions; and BRF Treasurer Ivan Reid delivered the concluding remarks and gifts to our two chief speakers and their wives.

There were also the two day-trips. First, we had a guided tour of the Queen's official residence in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough, plus the gardens, fort, lake, and village. The second day-trip marked the first BRF conference trip to the Republic of Ireland, which took in the Battle of the Boyne (1690) site at which William III, Britain's only Dutch king, was victorious, and the largest Norman castle in Ireland at Trim, dating back to the 1170s. Those on one of the coaches for the latter trip learned about the 99-foot granite obelisk erected in Rostrevor to Major-General Ross, the Northern Ireland man who burned down the White House two centuries ago.

The conference centre itself was beautiful: a Victorian castle above an 80-acre lake in about 1,300 acres of forest. The gorgeous view out the main lecture room also included the Mourne Mountains in the distance. To crown it all, the weather was glorious: sunny and warm (at least, for us!). Especially in the first part of the week, people were buying and applying sun lotion! The Lord gave us the best weather of our summer.

But I have only provided you with the “bare bones” of the conference. The fellowship, the friendships, the discussions at meal times, the singing of Psalms in the evening—all and more were important parts of the week.

At the Biennial General Meeting, Prof. Engelsma and Rev. Lanning were unanimously voted back to be our two main speakers at the 2018 conference. The chosen subject is the family. The venue is to be Hebron Hall in South Wales. Brian and Sian Harris, who live in that area of the United Kingdom, will arrange the two day-trips. You are warmly invited to join us in the principality of Wales on 21-28 July, 2018!

Before and After the Conference

The evening before the conference, we hosted a barbecue at the manse, as a sort of welcome to the international visitors to the conference and a get-together including the saints in the CPRC and friends of the congregation. With people from as far west as Virginia Beach and Spokane and as far east as Manila and Brisbane, there were 99 people present.

 Be Ye Holy book 2016Several visitors from the Grand Rapids area brought with them copies of the two new RFPA titles (God's Goodness Always Particular by Herman Hoeksema and A Spiritual House Preserved edited by Cal Kalsbeek) plus the excellent new BRF book, Be Ye Holy by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma. This work consists of the speeches of the previous BRF conference in Scotland on sanctification. We sell it for £5 and, though we have had it in stock for only about a month, it has already become our best-selling title in 2016.

Most of the people at the conference stayed in the Ballymena area for at least a couple of days afterwards, either with members of the CPRC or in other accommodation. The saints here did not have enough spare beds and air mattresses for everyone!

The church building was well filled for the two Lord's Day services led by Rev. Lanning (24 July). This was the first time the minister from our sister congregation, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, has preached for us. It was good for our people to fellowship
with him and his family and other saints from Singapore, as well as with our sister churches in North America. After the evening service, we had tea upstairs.

The videos of all the speeches and the question and answer sessions can be watched on the CPRC YouTube channel (www.youtube. com/cprcni). They have already received a good number of hits. At the time of writing, the audios of the lectures should be online very shortly. Both the videos and the audios will soon be available via the BRF website (www. britishreformed.org).

Attractive box sets of the conference are being produced in both CD and DVD. Including postage, the cost is £12 for those in the British Isles and £15 for everyone else. E-mail me if you are interested in buying the box sets (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Others

The youngest member of the CPRC is now Sophie Lyn Crossett, the daughter of David and Kristin. Four members of Kristin's family and Trinity PRC were present for the happy occasion of the baptism (10 July).

Mrs. Callender, our oldest member, recently had open heart surgery to replace a leaky valve. The operation has been successful and she is recovering well by God’s grace.

The last couple of months have seen 23 new translations added to our website (www.cprf. co.uk/languages.htm), including 9 Spanish, 8 Indonesian, 5 Hungarian, and 1 Portuguese. The last is a translation by a Brazilian of Prof. Engelsma's fine book Christ's Spiritual Kingdom, published by Hope PRC in Redlands, CA. This is an important work to get online to set forth the truth regarding the end times against the postmillennial reconstructionist ideas which swirl around in parts of Brazil.

The Bible's teaching on leprosy is the subject in our current Tuesday morning classes. Recently we concluded a 10-sermon series on “Complete in Christ” (Col. 2)—a beautiful and comforting subject!

Though we have been very encouraged by all of the visitors and the activities, it is im-portant always to remember that the service of the Lord is not about numbers and admits of no triumphalism. He is the God of the still, small voice who dwells with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit. May our covenant God be with you all!

In Christ,
Rev. and Mary Stewart

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Covenant Reformed News - July 2016

CPRC News Header 

Covenant Reformed News

July 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 3


God’s Longsuffering in the Old Testament Historical Books

The very first use of the word “longsuffering” in Holy Scripture is found in the book of Exodus and on Mount Sinai. In this first biblical reference to longsuffering, God speaks of His own (not man’s) longsuffering: “And the Lord passed by before him [i.e., Moses], and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7).

The divine perfections that are listed along with longsuffering are “positive” (e.g., mercy, grace and goodness) and exercised for the salvation of God’s elect (“keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”). The Lord then goes on to speak of His “negative” work towards the reprobate: “and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (7).

This profound, divine self-revelation occurred against the dark backdrop of Israel’s terrible sin of worshipping the golden calf, contrary to the second commandment. It also came in answer to the prayer of Moses, the Old Testament mediator: “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” (33:18). Clearly, God’s “glory” includes His longsuffering!

Jehovah’s immediate response to Moses’ intercession reveals additional and important truths about His longsuffering: “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (19). First, God’s longsuffering is a revelation of His “name.” Second, God’s longsuffering is a manifestation of His “goodness.” Third, God is absolutely sovereign in His longsuffering for, since He “will be gracious to whom [He] will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom [He] will shew mercy,” He will be longsuffering to whom He will be longsuffering.

After the Lord’s beautiful self-revelation (34:6-7), Moses’ response is twofold. First, he worships: “Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (8). Our adoration too should be prompted by God’s longsuffering with us!

Second, Moses prays: “If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance” (9). Organically and with respect to the elect in Israel, Jehovah, in answer to this petition, forgives His people and journeys with His inheritance towards the promised land.

The second biblical reference to longsuffering is also found in the Pentateuch. This time, it is Moses (not God) who speaks of Jehovah’s longsuffering. He appeals to this divine virtue in a prayer, after Israel’s wicked refusal to enter into the land of Canaan (Num. 13:1-14:10).

This is the part of Moses’ intercession (13-19) that is of special interest for our present subject: “And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (17-18).

Notice here two tie-ins with God’s self-revelation at Mount Sinai. First, Moses at Kadesh-barnea mentions similar divine attributes and works, and in the same order as in Exodus 34:6-7: “positive” and then “negative.” Second, Moses explicitly appeals to God’s words uttered at the holy mount: “as thou hast spoken, saying” (Num. 14:17). But notice which of Jehovah’s virtues is mentioned first here: “The Lord is longsuffering” (18).

Next follows the conclusion and central request of Moses’ prayer: “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (19). This is swiftly followed by God’s gracious answer: “I have pardoned according to thy word” (20).

The third and final reference to Jehovah’s longsuffering in the Old Testament historical books is found in Nehemiah 9. This chapter contains the godly Levites’ review of Israel’s history, all the way from Abraham till after the return from the Babylonian captivity, with special reference to both Jehovah’s mercy and Israel’s sinfulness.

Nehemiah 9:17 reads, “And [they] refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.”

Unlike the two earlier historical references to Jehovah’s longsuffering, this text only speaks of God’s “positive” attributes and operations (“a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not”) and not His “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.”

Nehemiah 9 mentions the historical events that occasioned both of the earlier references to Jehovah’s longsuffering. God’s longsuffering at the end of Nehemiah 9:17 is sandwiched between Israel’s refusal to enter into the promised land (Num. 13-14) in the middle of verse 17 and the idolatry of the golden calf (Ex. 32-34) in verse 18. Here we see the glorious unity of Scripture, with the last text on God’s longsuffering in the Old Testament historical books alluding to the previous two! Rev. Angus Stewart

Three Questions

I have a number of questions sent in by our readers that, although only requiring a short answer, are important enough to be included in the News. I thought it good to answer three of them in this issue.

Question 1: “In Acts 21:24, it appears that Paul abandons his liberty in Christ and returns to Judaistic practice. I have found nothing so far to explain his behaviour apart from what he says in I Corinthians 9:20.”

The answer is simply that what the believing Jews asked Paul to do was a matter of Christian liberty. Christian liberty means that with certain things if a Christian does or does not do them he is not sinning. It is the motive that God judges. From the context, one learns that Paul did not budge on the question of circumcision but he did agree to take the vows of purification. These were in themselves innocuous; the motive for taking the vows is what counted. Paul’s motive was to avoid unnecessary strife in the Jerusalem church. It does seem from various parts of Scripture that the Jerusalem church was weak on the matter of Christian liberty in connection with Old Testament rituals. Paul chose not to offend the weaker brethren (Rom. 14:1).

Question 2: “Were the Donatists right regarding those who denied their faith under persecution, that they could not return to the Lord?”

The Donatists were a sect in early church history. They were numerous in N. Africa in the days of Augustine (354-430), who wrote against their position. They taught, as the questioner points out, that those who denied their faith to escape persecution could not, even after confession of sin, become members of the church again. They were forever excluded from the church and, presumably, from heaven.

This was a wrong position to take, for the Scriptures make clear that everyone who confesses his sin finds forgiveness (I John 1:9). God’s Word makes no exceptions, except those who have committed the unpardonable sin (Heb. 6:4-8; I John 5:16-17).

The questioner, in appealing to the Greek, points out that Jesus uses the future tense in such passages as II Timothy 2:12. But the future tense simply means that if someone denies Christ in this life, He will deny him in the judgment day when all men stand before the Lord Jesus, the universal Judge. That does not rule out his being restored in the way of confession and sorrow for sin.

The questioner adds in the same connection, “If that’s the case [i.e., that someone who denied Christ cannot be saved and restored to the church], then if someone repents and wants to come to Christ, since they were not actually a believer in the first place, according to Calvinism and predestination, can they have faith in him as Lord and Saviour after they have denied him?”

The questioner, sadly, has a serious misconception of Calvinism and biblical predestination. He should correct that. The fact is that anyone who is eternally predestined to be saved and is, in fact, saved in this life, nevertheless, can and often does fall into terrible sins. We must learn to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). Abraham and Isaac both left Canaan contrary to God’s will. David committed adultery and murder. Peter denied Christ out of fear of being killed by the same Sanhedrin that was condemning our Lord. All of these four men were true believers when they committed these awful sins. All later repented and were forgiven. Some Christians denied their Lord under the threat of persecution. When they confessed their sin, they were pardoned.

Behind the Donatist position was another error, serious and deadly. It is the idea that only true believers may belong to the church of Christ. And so the Donatists also denied infant baptism, for infants cannot believe. They basically deny the covenant.

Question 3: A Baptist asks, “Are you saying that we should teach all our children to believe they are God’s children, forgiven of their sins, etc., when in fact they may be the devil’s children and destined to eternal hell?”

The answer to this question is a most emphatic NO. Children of believers are born within the dispensation of the covenant. No Baptist can and will deny that this is true. This means that every child of believing parents comes under covenant instruction in the home, in the church and, where possible, in the Christian school. In all of these spheres, he is taught the truth of God’s Word: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations” (Canons II:5). This is the heart of the instruction children receive.

Furthermore, the Scriptures teach that God, while saving His church from those born outside the church, also saves believers and their seed (Gen. 17:7). Children, as well as adults, are citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:14; 18:1-6).

Therefore, godly parents teach their children, knowing that God saves children of believers and that He has not promised to save all of them. Believers are very conscious of Esau and the faithless Israelites. But they do not look at their children as a “nest of vipers,” as Jonathan Edwards did and as do all who believe in a conditional covenant. They teach the children to lay hold on the promise of God through faith in Christ. They teach these same children to repent and confess their sins to find forgiveness in Christ. God saves His elect and uses the means of covenant instruction. He saves those who believe in Christ. In other words, since faith is a gift of God, He gives elect, covenant children faith to believe in Christ and to confess their sins.

The trouble is that baptistic theology is independentistic—a grave weakness. They teach, so to speak, “Every man for himself.” God deals with every man in isolation from all others and as an individual. This inevitably leads to Arminianism. The Scriptures teach the organic unity of family life: God works out His salvation in families. He deals with people in all their organic relationships in life, and children in families.

Those interested in this question can read an extensive development of it in my book, We and Our Children, available from the CPRC Bookstore (£9.90, including P&P). 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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Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification

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

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

£5.50 (inc. P&P)

Order from the CPRC Bookstore
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851.
Or order this on-line from the
CPRC Bookstore.

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