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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Latest Issue of Covenant Reformed News - November 2015

 CPRC News Header

Covenant Reformed News

November 2015  •  Volume XV, Issue 19


The “Whole World” in I John 2:2
 

A reader asks if the Arminian and Amyraldian doctrine of universal atonement is taught in I John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Here are two simple arguments from the context which prove that I John 2:2’s reference to the “whole world” cannot refer to absolutely everybody, including the reprobate.

First, the word “propitiation” (2:2) refers to the turning away of God’s wrath by its being borne by Christ the substitute. If the Lord Jesus really bore God’s wrath for everybody, then nobody can go to hell, for their punishment has already been borne for them by Him. But the reprobate wicked do perish everlastingly, therefore Christ is not the propitiation for the sins of everyone.

Second, Christ is our “advocate with the Father” (2:1). But surely He is a perfect advocate who wins all His cases and never loses even one case! His intercession with the Father is completely successful and always attains its end! This is exactly what Scripture teaches (John 11:41-42; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). As Francis Turretin (1623-1687) puts it, “It is gratuitously supposed that a universal intercession can be granted. For as he is always heard by the Father (John 11:42), if he would intercede for all, all would be actually saved” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, p. 464)!

Note that I John 2:1-2 inextricably links Christ’s atonement and His intercession: “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins.” When Christ enters the presence of the Father to plead for His people, He does so on the basis of His accomplished redemption (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25-28; 9:24-26).

These two things (atonement and intercession) are the two aspects of His priestly office, for a priest offers a sacrifice to God and prays to Him on the basis of the sacrifice. But Christ does not intercede for everybody, as He Himself expressly declared, “I pray not for the world” (John 17:9). This is also evident for, if the Lord did, all would be saved, for God always answers His prayers, as Christ Himself averred, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41-42). Since Christ does not pray for everybody, He is not the propitiation for everybody.

Listen to the argument of John Owen (1616-1683): “These two acts of his priesthood are not to be separated; it belongs to the same mediator for sin to sacrifice and pray. Our assurance that he is our advocate is grounded on his being a propitiation for our sins. He is an ‘advocate’ for every one for whose sins his blood was a ‘propitiation,’ I John ii. 1, 2. But Christ does not intercede and pray for all, as himself often witnesseth, John xvii.; he ‘maketh intercession’ only for them who ‘come unto God by him,’ Heb. vii. 25. He is not a mediator of them that perish, no more than an advocate of them that fail in their suits” (A Display of Arminianism, p. 91).

Also, what sense would it make for I John to tell its readers that Christ bore the wrath of God against everybody (2:2) and is an advocate to intercede for everybody (2:1), only to refer a few chapters later to the unpardonable sin (5:16-17). If we are not to pray for those who have committed the unpardonable sin, why would Christ pray for those who have committed it? He surely knows who they are! Moreover, as we have seen, Christ’s prayers are always answered (John 11:41-42), so clearly He does not pray for them.

In short, the “whole world”in I John 2:2 does not refer to everybody head for head (cf. Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6; I John 5:19; Rev. 12:9). It refers here to the “whole world” especially of Jews and Gentiles (John 11:51-52), but also the world of every kindred, tribe, tongue, etc., of both young and old, rich and poor, male and female, etc.

John Calvin (1509-1564) said this in his commentary on I John 2:2: “Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretence extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation ... the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.”

Regarding Calvin’s understanding of I John 2:1-2, Jonathan Rainbow writes, “That settles it. So John’s words, ‘the whole world,’ mean ‘the whole church,’ ‘the faithful,’ and ‘the children of God.’ Like [Martin] Bucer [1491-1551], Calvin bypassed the subtleties of the scholastics and returned to the straightforward particularism of Augustine [354-430] and Gottschalk [c. 808-c. 867]” (The Will of God and the Cross, p. 134).

Likewise, A. W. Pink (1886-1952) states, “... when John added, ‘And not for ours only, but also for the whole world,’ he signified that Christ was the propitiation for the sins of Gentile believers too, for, as previously shown, ‘the world’ is a term contrasted from Israel. This interpretation is unequivocally established by a careful comparison of I John 2:2 with John 11:51, 52” (The Sovereignty of God, p. 259).

Thus the purpose of I John 2:1-2 is to comfort the penitent believer with the perfect sufficiency of the high priestly work of Jesus Christ, both as our “propitiation” and “advocate,” for each and every one of God’s children in the “whole world,” Jews and Gentiles, near and far, etc. Instead of denying that we sin (1:8, 10), we confess our sins to receive cleansing (1:9) through Christ our propitiation and advocate (2:1-2), so that we have communion with the Father through His Son (1:3), know His light (1:5), fellowship with one another (1:7) and receive God’s joy (1:4)!  Rev. Angus Stewart

Our Old Man and New Man (1)
 

I shall have to summarize the questions asked in this issue of the News, for the questioner sent in more material than we have room for in this article. The issue involves the New Testament concepts of our “old man” and our “new man.” The questions ask for these terms to be identified and the concepts explained.

The questioner especially refers to two texts: (1) “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24); (2) “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:9-11).

The texts seem to convey the idea that in the life of the Christian this work of God is completed (Col. 3:9-10) and yet the believer is admonished to put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph. 4:22-24).

The questioner further says, “This leads to a wider question concerning the nature and extent of the change that has taken place in the believer. What is the believer’s relationship to the old man and the old nature?” He then points out that II Corinthians 5:17 speaks of the believer as a “new creature.” He reminds us that Ephesians 2:3 teaches that we “were by nature children of wrath.” Are we to infer from this that when we were quickened we were given a new nature? If so, where do the struggles of Romans 7 come from?

The questioner ends with saying, “I recognize these are fundamental questions but the answers sometimes given are anything but clear.” To this, I will definitely add a loud “Amen.”

At the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) in Scotland, held in 2014, Prof. Engelsma and I discussed these questions at some length in speeches dealing with the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

I understand these lectures will be published in book form next year by the BRF and will be available at the BRF Conference in 2016 and from the bookstore of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, DV.

I will attempt, first of all, to define the important terms.

The Christian is a most unusual person. Some have even suggested that he is a spiritual schizophrenic. This is really not far from the truth. By nature, the Christian is indeed a child of wrath, and dead in trespasses and sins. In that sense, he is no different from anyone else in the world. Sin is, after all, not merely doing something wrong but it is a deadly disease of the entire nature of man. The sinner is incapable of doing any good. He is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).

Let it be understood that the nature of a man is his entire physical and psychical make-up. That is, a man’s nature is his body and soul, while his soul consists of his mind and his will (his emotions are a part of his will). Total depravity means that his entire nature is corrupted and incapable of doing anything good (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3).

The Scriptures teach us that the elect child of God is regenerated. Regeneration is that work of God through the Spirit of Christ that creates a new heart in man. That new heart is living in union with Christ. The life it possesses is everlasting and heavenly life, even fellowship with God through Christ.

Without going into detail, we may define the heart as the moral and ethical centre of man’s nature (Prov. 4:23). It is that part of a man that shapes the entire nature of man spiritually and morally. If his heart is pure, the whole man is pure. If his heart is depraved, the whole man and all his deeds are wicked.

Thus the heart of man is a man’s entire nature in principle. It is a microcosm of the entire nature of man. The heart is to the entire man what an acorn is to an oak tree and what a corn kernel is to a mature stalk of corn.

The entire oak tree is in that small acorn. Nothing new is ever added. An acorn can never become anything else but an oak tree, and an oak tree always begins with an acorn. But for an acorn to become a towering oak tree takes time, a lot of time.

One important difference makes my figure of an oak tree limited. The regenerated heart of an elect becomes the new man that every saint will be when he goes to heaven and Christ comes again to make all His people like He is, in all His glory and blessedness. But this happens only as God, through the means of grace, causes that new man gradually to become what he will be. The change that makes a depraved sinner a perfected saint, higher in glory than an angel, comes through death when our souls are glorified, and it comes in the resurrection of the body when our bodies are glorified through the resurrection.

The “old man” is the old depraved nature, which we carry with us till we die. The “new man” is the regenerated heart and our entire nature insofar as the heart influences it. Those who were at the 2014 BRF Conference may remember the diagrams I drew on the white board to illustrate this.

That definition and description of terms is sufficient for this issue of the News, but there is more to say. Please save this issue so that you are able to refer to it when we pick up, God willing, the subject in the next issue.  Prof. Herman Hanko
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A box set of 12 CDs or DVDs of the 2014 BRF Conference entitled “Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification” is available for £12 (inc. P&P) from the CPRC Bookstore. You can also listen or watch these lectures free on-line.
 

 

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
 

Christ’s Intercession

6 classes on Belgic Confession 26 plus
a bonus disk on CD in an attractive box set

 For whom does Christ pray? Does he intercede against other people? What does He pray for us? Does He bow down on His knees
in prayer for us? How does Christ’s intercession compare with and relate to the Holy Spirit’s intercession? How is all this of immense comfort to us? Bonus Disk: "The Intercession of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:26-27)
 
£8/box set (inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line or   
Post orders to: 
CPRC Bookstore,
c/o Mary Stewart,
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, Ballymena, BT42 3NR

Just Dad: Stories of Herman Hoeksema

by Lois Kregel
144 pp., softback

Many people are familiar with the public persona of Herman Hoeksema. But to his family he was "just Dad." This delightful anecdotal biography written by his youngest child records many stories about him, some perhaps familiar but others never before told.

£6.60 (inc. P&P)

Order this and much more
on-line from the
CPRC Bookstore.

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

S. Wales Lecture

"Spiritual Gifts"


Spiritual gifts are both a complicated and controversial issue. The Spirit has given gifts to the church for her edification.
Which ones? To whom? To what end? Come and hear what God’s Word has to say on this matter.

Speaker: Rev. M. McGeown

Thurs., 19 November
7:15 PM


at The Round Chapel
(274 Margam Rd., Port Talbot, SA13 2DB)

ALL WELCOME!

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


 

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Latest Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - October 2015

CPRC NI buildingOur sister church in Northern Ireland, Covenant PRC, Ballymena, has just released her latest newsletter. In this October 2015 issue her pastor, Rev.Angus Stewart, reports on the latest activities inside and outside the congregation.

Updates are also provided on their witness in their community and country through their website, lectures, sermons, and printed materials.

Be sure to read this newsletter below to be better informed of what our "sister" and her pastor are doing in the British Isles. This newsletter is also attached here in pdf form (see below).

CPRCNI Newsletter Oct 2015 Page 1CPRCNI Newsletter Oct 2015 Page 2

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Covenant Reformed News - October 2015

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Covenant Reformed News

October 2015  •  Volume XV, Issue 18


Only One Opportunity to Believe?


A reader in England asked about an interpretation of the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23) that he heard a while ago: Does this parable teach that everyone only has one opportunity to believe the gospel, namely, the first time they hear it?

First of all, it is worth pointing out that, if this view were correct, there would be no positive point in witnessing to or praying for anyone whom you know has already heard the gospel, once or more often, and not been converted. No one will ever be saved on their second or subsequent appearances in church and there is no hope to motivate anyone to invite them. Likewise, godly wives have no possibility of winning their unbelieving husbands to Christ after their first encounter with the Word of God (I Cor. 7:16; I Pet. 3:1), for their husbands’ first rejection of the Lord Jesus is tantamount to the unpardonable sin. Moreover, all who claim to be Christians but were not converted when they first heard the gospel (like myself, many readers of the News and various worthies in church history, such as Augustine) are not actually believers but only hypocrites!

One wonders what someone holding this strange interpretation of the Parable of the Sower would say about church discipline. Should the church also only give one opportunity for repentance to the professed believer who is erring? But this would contradict God’s unbreakable Word (John 10:35) in Matthew 18:15-18!

Beside drawing out the necessary implications of this novel view, the most simple and direct way of contradicting this teaching, that unbelief of the first presentation of the gospel that one hears seals one’s destruction, is to look at scriptural evidence to the contrary.

Are we to think that all the 3,000 people saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) had never heard the Word preached by Christ or His twelve disciples (Luke 9) or the seventy (Luke 10)? Likewise, is it really the case that the 5,000 men converted in Jerusalem, plus women, had not heard the gospel in the days of Christ’s prodigious public ministry or at Pentecost or through the apostles until the very day on which they believed (Acts 4:4)? Acts 6:7 states, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Are we to conclude that all these people and priests in Jerusalem were ignorant of the gospel all the time before this?

Beside the mass conversions in Jerusalem in the early chapters of Acts, we can point to individuals. Did the penitent thief really only hear the gospel on the day of his crucifixion (Luke 23:39-43)? Are we to assume that ungodly Manasseh, king of Judah, was totally ignorant of the Word of God until the day of his repentance in Babylon (II Chron. 33:11-13)? Yet the Bible expressly mentions God’s Word coming to Manasseh and the people before this (II Chron. 33:10; cf. II Kings 21:10-15)!

Perhaps the most obvious instance of a person in Scripture that refutes this bizarre interpretation of the Parable of the Sower is Saul of Tarsus or Paul the apostle. He well knew the contents of the Old Testament and he heard deacon Stephen’s apologetic speech, for he watched over the discarded garments of those who stoned the martyr (Acts 7). Saul, an ardent Pharisee, would hardly have been ignorant of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth or that of His disciples and, surely, he heard the gospel from the Christians he hauled away to prison (Acts 8:3). Yet he was only converted later on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).

Having said that various elect people in Scripture were not converted the first time they heard the Word, it is worth mentioning some in the Bible who believed when, it would appear, they were first exposed to the truth of the gospel, such as, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), Naaman (II Kings 5), the woman at the well and other Samaritans (John 4), Sergius Paulus (Acts 13) and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16).

At least three lessons may be drawn from all this. The first concerns the interpretation of Christ’s parables. Do not press them into making points that are not their purpose. The Parable of the Sower is designed to show, among other things, that not all believe the preached gospel and that those who reject it do so for different worldly and carnal reasons. The imagery of sowing is not to be forced to the point of one sowing, for this is not stated either in the parable itself or its interpretation (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23).

Second, let us admire the longsuffering of God to His elect. Paul, who had long heard and rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, declared, “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). Despite all our terrible sins, both before (cf. I Tim. 1:13, 15) and after our conversion, the Triune God does not cast off and reject any of His eternally chosen and blood-bought people. Where would all of us be now, if it were not so?

Third, let us imitate God’s longsuffering, including His patience with us in our foolishness and disobedience, in our witness to, and intercessions for, those outside of Christ. We must “exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Tim. 4:2). “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecc. 11:1)! Rev. Angus Stewart

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For a superb exposition of the Parable of the Sower and all Christ’s parables that illustrates how they are to be interpreted properly, read Prof. Hanko’s hardback, The Mysteries of the Kingdom (432 pp.), available from the CPRC Bookstore for £18 (plus £1.80 for UK P&P).
 

The Postponement of Shimei’s Punishment
 

A young lady from Colorado writes, “David previously spared Shimei’s life, though Shimei cursed him, because David knew that Shimei’s wickedness was in God’s hands (II Sam. 16). But, in I Kings 2:8-9, David later tells Solomon to bring Shimei down to the grave with blood. Is this God’s judgment on Shimei (through David) for his cursing David, for David tells Solomon not to hold Shimei guiltless? Is this simply David executing justice as king? Why is it that David now appears to uphold justice? Was it an admirable thing that he upheld justice in the end but was not defensive at first as he confessed God’s sovereignty in II Samuel 16?”

There can be no question about it that Shimei sinned dreadfully when he cursed David during the king’s flight from Absalom his son. The event is recorded in II Samuel 16:5-14. Abishai, one of David’s top generals, wanted to kill Shimei but David prevented him from doing that.

David’s belief in, and confession of, God’s absolute sovereignty over the sins of  wicked Shimei is amazing! “And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (II Sam. 16:10-12).

Shimei’s cursing of David was worthy of death because Shimei was one who believed that Saul and his sons should still have been on the throne of the nation. He did not believe, as God Himself had made clear, that God had deposed Saul and his sons for disobedience, and that David was the man of God’s choice.

Further, Shimei cursed God’s magistrate and thus violated a fundamental principle of God’s law, namely, that one has to honour and be in submission to those in authority over them, as the fifth commandment requires.

It is also quite possible that Shimei knew that David was in the line of Christ and was king as a type of Christ. After all, Jacob had already prophesied that Christ would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and not from the tribe of Benjamin, from which tribe Saul came. It may very well be that Psalm 89 had already been written, in which psalm David is said to be the one whose son would build the temple of God and sit on the throne.

David humbled himself and endured Shimei’s cursing because he received his ignominious flight from Absalom as God’s chastening. God had told David, through Nathan the prophet, that the sword would never depart from his house after his sin of adultery and murder (II Sam. 12:9-10). Only God could remove His chastening hand from David.

II Samuel 19:18-23 tells us that upon David’s restoration to the throne, Shimei, fearful of his life, begged to be forgiven. Again, David promised not to execute him. The Bible does not tell us why but the reason may be that David did not want to mar with bloodshed that happy day when he was restored to the kingdom.

Whatever reasons David may have had, he left some matters undone and, on his death bed, he charged Solomon, his son and successor, to take care of them (I Kings 2:5-9). There were men who had committed grave sins and had never been punished for them.

Joab was executed for his murder of Abner, the general of Saul and Ishbosheth, and Amasa, the newly appointed general of David’s armies, and for his part in the conspiracy to put Adonijah, David’s fourth son (II Sam. 3:4), on the throne instead of Solomon (I Kings 2:28-34).

Adonijah, who conspired to make himself king instead of Solomon, was executed only after he asked permission to marry Abishag, a concubine of David (I Kings 2:13-25). Perhaps he was only killed then because Solomon interpreted his request as implying that Adonijah was going to mount a second attempt to gain the throne. It seems to have been a custom in those days that a successor to a king’s throne also took the concubines as his own (II Sam. 3:7-8; 16:21-22).

Abiathar also deserved to be executed, for he joined Adonijah in his conspiracy to become king, but was spared because, as a priest of God, he had served David well. Nevertheless, he was deposed from his office (I Kings 2:26-27).

Solomon initially spared Shimei from a deserved death but told him to stay within Jerusalem. When he disobeyed, he was executed. He showed by his disobedience that he had no more respect for Solomon than he did for David and that he was not truly sorry for his sin. Though he was initially spared by both David and Solomon, he brought upon himself just judgment when he showed he had not genuinely repented (I Kings 2:36-46).

When we were children, my father said that David spared Joab because David was afraid of Joab and that, towards the end of his life, David wrongly left the “dirty work” of meting out justice upon those who deserved it to Solomon because he knew Solomon was very wise and so would know how to handle these difficult matters. Moreover, my father reckoned that David no longer had the energy to shed more blood, something he had done all his earlier years as king. The reader may judge whether these comments are a fair analysis of the situation.    Prof. Herman Hanko
 

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For more on Shimei, listen to or watch “Absalom and His Rebellion (II),” 9 sermons on II Samuel 15:24-18:33), available on the CPRC website and in an attractive box set on CD or DVD for £10 (inc. P&P in the UK) from the CPRC Bookstore.

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


Reformation Lecture

"Jan Hus: His Martyrdom and Ecclesiology"

Speaker: Rev. Angus Stewart

Friday, 30 October
 7:30 PM

at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
(83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR)

ALL WELCOME!

Unable to come? This lecture will be streamed live
 



S. Wales Lecture

"Spiritual Gifts"

Speaker: Rev. M. McGeown

Thurs., 19 November
7:15 PM

at The Round Chapel
(274 Margam Rd., Port Talbot, SA13 2DB)

Looking for Gifts?

Check out the CPRC Bookstore for quality Reformed commentaries, devotionals, biographies, children's materials and more
www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore.htm

The Seven Churches
in Asia

12 sermons on
Revelation 2-3 on CD or DVD
in an attractive box set

Nowhere in all Scripture does Christ Himself evaluate churches so penetratingly and succinctly as in Revelation 2-3: seven churches, one after the other, with their strengths and weaknesses, commendations and rebukes, promises and threats. What are the great issues in the church according to Jesus Christ? How does your church fare in His eyes? What are the lessons for congregations in the 21st century?

£12/box set (inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line or   
Post orders to: 
CPRC Bookstore,
c/o Mary Stewart,
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, Ballymena, BT42 3NR

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

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Covenant Reformed News - September 2015

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Covenant Reformed News

September 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 17


The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (4)


We conclude our exposition of Isaiah 51:1-3 with the third verse: “For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” Here God promises to console devastated Zion by making it like the Garden of Eden so that His people will rejoice.

Do you see the Spirit’s method in our text? The first problem was the lack of numbers in the church, so the Holy Ghost points to a person, Abraham, noting how Jehovah multiplied his seed (1-2). The second issue is the desolation of Jerusalem, so God reminds us of a place, Eden, pledging that His people will dwell in paradise (3).

The Holy Spirit in Isaiah 51:3 recalls us to the words He inspired in Genesis 2, such as the following: “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food ... And a river went out of Eden to water the garden ... And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat” (8-9, 10, 15-16).

In other words, our text promises that the “waste places,” “wilderness” and “desert” of Zion will be transformed into a new Garden of Eden, with the greatest fertility and blessedness (Isa. 51:7).

So what is the fulfilment of Isaiah 51:1-3? The first stage of the fulfilment is the return from the Babylonian captivity. The number of the people of God increased (1-2) but not massively, however. In fact, the largest group of returnees was only about 50,000 (Ezra 2; Neh. 7). Jerusalem was rebuilt with houses, city walls and a temple that was much smaller than Solomon’s, but it was not like Eden (Isa. 51:3)!

The second stage in the fulfilment of our text is the first coming of Jesus Christ, His substitutionary sufferings on the cross for His elect and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As regards numbers (1-2), our Saviour is now gathering His catholic or universal church, which consists of millions and millions of Jews and Gentiles. The people of God in the New Testament age are much more numerous than in the Old Testament, with more being gathered every day all around the world. But what about the land (3)? Has the world become like a new Eden? No!

The third and final stage in the fulfilment of Isaiah 51:1-3 awaits Christ’s glorious, bodily, second coming. Then the whole catholic or universal church of all ages consisting of millions upon millions upon millions of people will be gathered unto Him (1-2). As regards the land promise (3), all the people of God will enjoy the rich blessedness of everlasting life in the new heavens and the new earth, which will be far better than Eden—more wonderful and completely unloseable!

Isaiah 51:3 speaks twice of “comfort.” This is a frequent and blessed word in the second “half” of Isaiah (Isa. 40-66). In fact, the second part of the evangelical prophet begins with two occurrences of this word: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (40:1). The church’s comfort consists in the fact that “her iniquity is pardoned” (2). Isaiah then introduces John the Baptist, the Lord’s forerunner: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (3-5; cf. Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23).

Jesus Christ is “the Lord” and “our God,” whose “way” or “highway” John prepared (Isa. 40:3). Our Saviour is “the glory of the Lord” who was “revealed” so that “all flesh”—people all around the world—have seen Him by faith (5).

John’s message also includes a comparison between the transitoriness of mankind and his goodness, and the abiding permanence of the Word of God: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (6-8).

Not just John the Baptist but even Zion proclaims, “Behold your God!” (9). The church’s God is heralded as a strong and tender shepherd: “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (10-11).

Within this framework of comfort, and building upon it, Isaiah 51:1-3 holds out the consolation of the increase of the church with more to be added with the return from the Babylonian captivity and throughout the New Testament age until our Lord comes again (1-2), for God is not willing that any of His beloved, elect people should perish but that all of them should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9). Moreover, our comforting hope is not only the bliss of heaven with Christ after death, but especially the new creation, the perfect paradise of the far greater Eden (Isa. 51:3)! Rev. Angus Stewart

The Work of the Holy Spirit (3)

In 2008, the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) held its tenth biennial conference at the Share Centre on the shores of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, N. Ireland. The subject was “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” Later, the speeches and sermons were published in book form. One reader recently asked me a series of questions about the contents of the book, wanting to have the answers included in the News.

His second question reads,“What is the difference between the Spirit now as the Spirit of the risen Christ rather than just the Spirit of Christ? You mention that the Spirit could not work the reality of salvation because all he had to use was a picture book [The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 34]. Could you expand on that? I think the footnote on page 35 goes a long way to answering that—the anointing teaches you all things (I John 2:27). The Spirit of truth ... and more truth than before! On the next page you say it was difficult for Old Testament saints to pray and impossible for them to call God ‘Father.’ But nevertheless many examples can be found and there are instances where Israel calls God ‘Father.’”

Of the questions he asked me, two remain to be answered. The first one has to do with the question that arises out of statement I made that the Spirit of Christ, poured out on Pentecost, was poured out in heaven as well as on earth. The questioner wanted to know what difference the outpouring of the Spirit made in the lives of the saints in heaven.

We know very little of what heaven is like and we face great difficulties in trying to know what precisely happens in heaven. But, given the fact that the Holy Spirit of Christ is the One who binds all the saints together in the one body of Christ, this must, of necessity, include the saints in heaven, for they are one with the saints on earth.

We must also remember that Christ had not yet come into our flesh to accomplish His glorious work of redemption in His death, resurrection and exaltation. The devil still had access to heaven to slander the saints and fight with Michael (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Rev. 12:7-10; Jude 9). What a tremendous difference came about when our Lord ascended on high and was crowned as universal king: king over the whole earthly and heavenly creations, king over His beloved church, king over the devil and his demons, king over all!

To mention only what I discussed in the last News, just as saints on earth became prophets, priests and kings under Christ by the Spirit of Christ, so it was also in heaven. It is impossible to say what difference that great event made in the lives of the saints in heaven to see Christ Himself and to be prophets, priests and kings under Him. But different it was: vastly different!

The second question that still needs answering concerns the Old Testament saints calling God “Father.” I had said that this was rare, if indeed it ever happened. The questioner challenges this assertion. He cited no texts and I would be interested in receiving from him a list of such verses.

There is one point that does need to be made, however. God repeatedly addressed Israel as His “son,” His “firstborn” (Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9, 20). In that sense of the word, the nation as a whole, taken in its organic unity, is God’s son for He is the nation’s “father” (Deut. 32:6; Jer. 31:9) and was addressed by Israel as such (Isa. 63:16; 64:8). God called Israel His son when He led them out of the land of Egypt by signs and wonders. Israel as a nation recognized that it was the son of God because He had delivered the nation from the bondage of Egypt, a picture of the bondage of sin. It was, for the nation, Israel’s regeneration, Israel’s second birth. This is the reason why Hosea, referring to this event, says, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (Hos. 11:1).

But, do not forget that Joseph and Mary were commanded by God to flee from Herod’s bloody sword because, as Matthew tells us, Hosea had prophesied this. We read that Joseph “took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matt. 2:14-15). Hosea was speaking of Christ who was present in Israel—in Israel’s loins. God called Christ out of Egypt when Israel was delivered.

The only Old Testament references to God’s being the “father” of an individual who is His “son” involve the anointed King Jesus, typified by Solomon (II Sam. 7:14; I Chron. 17:13; 22:10). Jehovah calls Christ His “firstborn” (Ps. 89:27) who cries out to Him, “Thou art my father” (26). In Psalm 2, the Most High addresses “his anointed” (2) as “my king” (6) and “my Son” (7). God’s “Son” (12) is “begotten” of Him (7).

The point is that the New Testament calls us sons (or daughters) of God as individuals only because we belong to Christ who is the Son of God who has come into our world and died for our sins. Only because we belong to Christ can God possibly be our Father—as He is Christ’s Father. Only, therefore, because we have the Spirit of Christ, whom the old dispensational saints did not possess, can we call God our Father.

Thus Galatians 4:4-7 states, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

The disciples must have been momentarily stunned when Jesus, teaching them how to pray, said that they must begin their prayers with the words, “Our Father.”

To appreciate what the old dispensational saints lacked is to appreciate what we now have in the cross, resurrection and Spirit of Christ! Prof. Herman Hanko

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The 180-page softback book by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma entitled The Work of the Holy Spirit to which Prof. Hanko refers in this series of articles is available from the CPRC Bookstore for just £5.50 (inc. P&P). Simply contact the Bookstore or order on-line through the CPRC 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
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Covenant Reformed News - August 2015

Covenant Reformed News

August 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 16


The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (3)


In the last two issues of the News and in this issue and the next, we are considering this glorious prophecy of Isaiah: “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (51:1-3).

In last month’s News, we drew attention to the word “alone” in Isaiah 51:2: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” In order to understand the significance of the little word “alone,” let us consider the life of Abraham as recorded in Genesis 11-25, in connection with God’s covenant with the patriarch and his seed.

Abraham was an idolater in Ur of the Chaldees (Josh. 24:2). There were many idolaters in that city, but Isaiah 51:2 states that God “called him alone.” “But what about Terah, Abraham’s father?” someone might object. Abraham was the one who was principally called (Acts 7:2-3) and his father merely accompanied him. Terah never even reached the promised land, for he died in Haran (Gen. 11:32). “But what about Lot, Abraham’s nephew?” Though he made it to Canaan, Lot left Abraham (Gen. 13; 19).

God promised Abraham that He would multiply his seed, so that they would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the sand on the beach. Jehovah would make of Abraham a great and mighty nation, and all of the families of the earth would be blessed in him.

There was just one problem! Abraham was an old man—too old to beget children—and Sarah was an old woman—too old to bear children.

Yet whom did God call out of Ur? Just one man—not many men—and that when he and his wife were past having children. As Romans 4:19 puts it, “his own body [was] now dead” (as regards having children) and there was also the barrier of “the deadness of Sara’s womb.”

The rest of the Abrahamic narrative develops this theme. Time and time again, God repeats His promise to Abraham of a vast number of children as his descendents. We read of Abraham’s unbelieving and sinful arrangement with Hagar and the birth of Ishmael, with all the grief that caused (Gen. 16). Finally, Abraham and Sarah have a boy! She was 90 and he was 100. They called their son, Isaac, which means laughter!

Even then, God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, in order to test and purify the old man’s faith (Gen. 22). Later, Abraham’s servant goes to great lengths to obtain a godly bride for Isaac, lest he marry a pagan girl from Canaan (Gen. 24).

Let us now think of this narrative and subsequent history in terms of numbers. Abraham and Sarah are first introduced as two dry sticks, as you might say. After many years and various wrong turns, the chosen son, Isaac, is born, of whom God said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Rom. 9:7; Gen. 21:12; Heb. 11:18). Later, elect and beloved Jacob is born to Isaac and Rebekah, along with his twin, reprobate Esau, whom God hated (Rom. 9:13). Jacob has twelve sons. When they marry and have children, his family numbers seventy. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Israel consists of more than two million. In the reigns of David and Solomon, Abraham’s descendents are even more numerous.

Now we can understand the text: “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isa. 51:1). That is, consider your origin, consider your origin historically, consider your origin historically in Abraham and Sarah: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” (2).

Now think about the three verbs in the remainder of verse 2: “for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” God “called” Abraham with the effectual call to salvation in Jesus Christ in the promised land. Jehovah “blessed” him with covenant blessings according to His covenant promises. The Almighty “increased” Abraham so that that one man’s seed grew to seventy and even to millions. This is a wonder of grace! The whole inspired narrative underscores repeatedly and in vivid ways the amazing truth that God alone did it and not man, to whom this was impossible.

Thus the message to Isaiah’s readers, heart-broken over the smouldering ashes of Jerusalem, is that God has multiplied His people from very small beginnings before. He can do it again and He will do it again!

Those who believe this promise are the true children of Abraham (for they follow in their father’s footsteps) and chips off the old block, so to speak, for God “is able of ... stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt. 3:9). Just like us believing Gentiles!

This then is the connection between verses 1 and 2 of Isaiah 51: “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn” (1), that is, “Look unto Abraham your father” (2). This is not in conflict with looking to the living God in Jesus Christ, as we are commanded to do in Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else,” for six chapters later we are also exhorted, “Look unto Abraham your father” (51:2).

The call to look at Abraham does not mean that he is the object of our faith, as if we are saved by believing in the patriarch. Rather, we look at Abraham to see what God did for him in Jesus Christ. This is a standing lesson to the church, for just as Abraham was once numerically small, so God blesses His church by increasing her.

Next time, we will conclude our study of Isaiah 51:1-3 by looking more closely at the beautiful promise of verse 3 and how the whole passage is fulfilled. Rev. Stewart

The Work of the Holy Spirit (2)

In 2008, the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) held its tenth biennial conference at the Share Centre on the shores of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, N. Ireland. The subject was “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” Later, the speeches and sermons were published in book form. One reader recently asked me a series of questions about the contents of the book, wanting to have the answers included in the News.

His second question reads,“What is the difference between the Spirit now as the Spirit of the risen Christ rather than just the Spirit of Christ? You mention that the Spirit could not work the reality of salvation because all he had to use was a picture book [The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 34]. Could you expand on that? I think the footnote on page 35 goes a long way to answering that—the anointing teaches you all things (I John 2:27). The Spirit of truth ... and more truth than before! On the next page you say it was difficult for Old Testament saints to pray and impossible for them to call God ‘Father.’ But nevertheless many examples can be found and there are instances where Israel calls God ‘Father.’”

These are good questions: apparently my presentation at the conference was not as clear as one could wish. I appreciate the opportunity to expand on these things further.

I must, however, make one correction. I did not distinguish between the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of the risen Christ. Rather, I distinguished between the work of the Spirit in the church of the old dispensation and the work of the Spirit that was given to Christ at the time of His exaltation (Acts 2:33).

It is true, though, that there was a certain manifestation of the Spirit of Christ in the old dispensation but then the same is true of Christ Himself, who appeared in the old dispensation as the Angel of Jehovah. So also the Old Testament prophets could not have spoken in such an (almost) New Testament way (e.g., Isa. 53) without speaking in the church of the knowledge given to them by the Spirit, who revealed to them the things of Christ.

However that may be, and without going into the question in detail, there are especially two ways in which the work of the Spirit in the old dispensation differed from the work of the Spirit in the new dispensation. The first is that the Holy Spirit always does His work in the hearts of the people of God through the Word! It is never any different. He binds Himself in an unbreakable bond to the objective Word of God and always works through it. But in the old dispensation, the Word of God came to the church through types and shadows. Christ had not yet come. All the church had were pictures of Chist and His wonderful works.

As everyone knows, as nice and as accurate as a picture may be, it is not the reality. I cherish a picture of my wife, but I would far and away rather have her with me. So it was with the Old Testament church. The Word that came through pictures, which the Holy Spirit used, was subject to the same limitations as a picture always is.

In the new dispensation, with the work of Christ and the reality embodied in the New Testament Scriptures, the Spirit gives us a much clearer understanding of the great mystery of godliness, God become flesh (I Tim. 3:16). We see the reality, not a picture.

The second difference between the work of the Spirit in the old dispensation and the new was that God’s people did not hold the office of believers. I do not say that they were not believers, for they were. Read Hebrews 11. But they did not hold the office of believers.

That office of believers had three aspects to it: the offices of prophet, priest and king. No believer held these offices in the old dispensation. The result was that these offices were held by individuals who were chosen by God, anointed with oil and given their assigned work by Him.

If an Israelite wanted to know the will of God, he had to go to a prophet. If the nation wanted to worship God, they had to go to a priest who would make the necessary sacrifices. And when there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judg. 21:25).

Each saint in the new dispensation, through the work of the Spirit of Christ, is, in his own right, a prophet (I John 2:27), a priest who can worship God anywhere and at any time (I Pet. 2:5), and a king who rules his own life under Christ, as one who knows and does God’s will (Rev. 1:6).

These are fundamental differences. And we ought to be thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit, who brings us the reality of Christ and all He did through the infallible Scriptures.Prof. Hanko

---------------------------------------------

Westminster Confession VII: “5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. 6. Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.”
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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Reformation Lectures

"Jan Hus: His Martyrdom and Ecclesiology"

This year is the 600th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Czech pre-Reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake at the Council of Constance in southern Germany in 1415. Join us at this special Reformation lecture to learn of this great man, what he stood for and what the lessons are for us today.

Speaker: Rev. Angus Stewart

----------
S. WALES

Thursday, 8 October
7:15 PM

at The Round Chapel
(274 Margam Rd., Port Talbot, SA13 2DB)

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N. IRELAND

Friday, 30 October
7:30 PM

at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
(83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR)

ALL WELCOME!

Faith Made Perfect


by Herman Hanko
304 pp., hardback

This eminently practical book by Prof. Hanko gives instruction for living the Christian life in many of its aspects. A salient feature is the relation between justification and works, which James explains by the examples of Abraham and Rahab. Buy Hanko on James and benefit spiritually!

£16.50 (inc. P&P)


Order on-line or
Post orders to:
CPRC Bookstore,
c/o Mary Stewart,
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, Ballymena, BT42 3NR

In N. America, please
order from the RFPA

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


The Abolishing of the Ceremonial Law

8 classes on
Belgic Confession 25 plus
3 sermons on Hebrews 13
on CD or DVD in an attractive box set

What is the ceremonial law of the Old Testament? How did this law increase and decrease through the Scriptures? How would you prove its abolition from the New Testament and even the prophecies of the Old Testament? How does this enrich our understanding of Jesus Christ, Christian liberty and the unity of the Scriptures?!
£12/box set (inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line or
Post orders to:
CPRC Bookstore,
c/o Mary Stewart,
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, Ballymena, BT42 3NR

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

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Covenant PRC N.Ireland Newsletter - August 2015

Our sister church in Northern Ireland, Covenant PRC, Ballymena, has just released her latest newsletter. In this August 2015 issue her pastor, Rev.Angus Stewart, reports on the latest activities inside and outside the congregation, with special mention of their trip to the U.S. and the Haak's visit to Northern Ireland while they were absent.

Updates are also provided on their witness in their community and country, through their website, lectures, sermons, and printed materials.

Be sure to read this newsletter below to be better informed of what our "sister" and her pastor are doing in the British Isles. This newsletter is also attached here in pdf form (see below).

CPRCNI Newsletter Aug2015 Page 1

CPRCNI Newsletter Aug2015 Page 2

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