Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Website

83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT43 5DR, 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 - December 2020

Covenant Reformed News


December 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 8



Adam’s Federal Headship and Common Grace?

A friend forwarded the following to me from one of his theological opponents: “You believe in creation ordinances. Don’t you also believe that Adam was the federal head of humanity (of the reprobate as well as the elect)? Yet Genesis 1:28 says that God ‘blessed’ that federal head of all men, implying that all mankind in him (including the reprobate) partook of that blessing and favour of God. The rest of this verse mentions the privileges of (1) marriage, (2) having children and (3) exercising dominion over the earth as part of this general blessing upon the federal head.”

Right at the start of our response, we need to consider the significance of Adam’s federal or covenant headship, as the first man and one who represented the human race. What does Adam’s federal headship include and what does it not include?

Like the animals and birds before the fall, Adam did not eat meat (29-30). Since he is the covenant head of humanity, should everyone be vegetarian? The first and representative man was commanded to cultivate the Garden of Eden (2:15). Does this require or imply that all work as gardeners? Prior to his sin, Adam, our federal head, did not wear clothes (25). Ought everybody be a nudist, therefore?

I would anticipate that you, dear reader, are somewhat puzzled by the (specious) reasoning of the previous paragraph. You sense that the answer to all three of the questions is, “No!” However, you may not be sure why this is the correct response, though you probably think that, with some time, you could come up with the proper explanation.

This underscores the point that the Bible itself must tell us what is, and so what is not, included in Adam’s covenant headship. The answer is at hand, for Scripture treats this topic definitively and at some length in Romans 5:12-21.

“One” man (12, 15, 16, 17, 19), namely, Adam (14), was constituted by God as a federal head—over against Christ, the other federal head (14-19), whom he typifies (14). More specifically, the one man, Adam, represented us in his one and singular act, referred to as his “transgression” (14), “offence” (15, 17, 18) or “disobedience” (19), namely, his eating the forbidden fruit and not any of the subsequent sins he committed during his long life of 930 years (Gen. 5:5). All of humanity, Christ only excepted, “sinned” in Adam (Rom. 5:12), and have thus fallen under God’s judgment (16) and condemnation (16, 18), causing us to be totally depraved by nature (Ps. 51:5). This is the unique, astounding and humbling Christian doctrine of original sin.

There is a second biblical passage that presents Adam’s covenant headship, again contrasted, as to its results, with Christ as the federal representative of His own: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:21-22).

One might think, at first blush, that mankind receives two (unrelated) things through Adam’s headship, with Romans 5 teaching that we sinned in Adam and I Corinthians 15 declaring that we died in him. However, sin and death are intrinsically linked, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), a point made repeatedly in Romans 5 regarding Adam’s sin and our death (14, 15, 17, 21), and stated most famously in the key text in that passage: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (12).

In short, Adam’s federal headship means that sin has come upon mankind and, therefore, judgment, condemnation and death. Thus my friend’s correspondent has it all wrong. Instead of humanity being “blessed” through Adam, our covenant representative, the human race is cursed in him (cf. Gal. 3:10; Rev. 22:3)!

Now we come to the creation ordinances. First, to those who are in Adam and, therefore, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), marriage, though a good thing and a privilege, is not a blessing. Potiphar’s wife, Maacah, Jezebel, Athaliah and Herodias were not signs or bearers of God’s love to their ungodly husbands!

Second, being “the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:6) in Adam, having children is not a proof or manifestation of divine favour either. Idolatrous Sennacherib was murdered by his two wicked sons (II Kings 19:37; Isa. 37:38)! Regarding unbelieving parents and children, God declares, “Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field … Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body” (Deut. 28:16, 18).

What about, third, the earthly dominion of the ungodly? Think of profane Esau (Heb. 12:16) to whom God in His providence gave Mount Seir with much wealth and livestock (Gen. 36:6-8). Yet Jehovah “hated” him (Mal. 1:2-5), something which is true of all who are reprobate (Rom. 9:13). The Antichrist will be powerful and popular throughout the whole world (Rev. 13), being worshipped by absolutely everyone on earth, except the elect (8). But surely it is a terrible blasphemy to claim that God loves the “man of sin” and “son of perdition” (II Thess. 2:3)!

The truth is that all of Jehovah’s blessings are found alone in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3), “the last Adam” (I Cor. 15:45), the other and far greater covenant head! By His sacrifice on the cross, He “redeemed us from the curse,” which came through the sin of the first Adam, so that God blesses all who believe His gracious promise (Gal. 3:13-14).

As those who receive Christ’s imputed righteousness and not Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:16-19), and so will be gloriously resurrected (I Cor. 15:21-22), marriage and children (Ps. 128), and whatever land and possessions we may have (Deut. 28:1-14), are to us a blessing through faith and in the way of thankful obedience. This clear Christian doctrine is opposed to the anti-biblical philosophy that things are or convey God’s blessing to those who are in unbelief in Adam and outside of the Lord Jesus (cf. Ps. 73; Mal. 3:15).

The quotation with which this article began shows how the theory of common grace—a temporal, changeable (and unrighteous) divine love for the ungodly reprobate apart from the Saviour and His cross—leads to a side-lining and corrupting of the biblical and confessional truth regarding the federal headship of Adam (and, therefore, also of Christ), original sin and the creation ordinances. False principles work through! Using ingenious (but fallacious) arguments, common grace claims that the reprobate wicked are cursed and blessed in Adam, and so are blessed in all their activities—despite their being enemies of God and Christ (Gen. 3:15)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

The Church and Israel (2)

In the previous issue of the News, focusing on Acts 7:38, we showed that Old Testament Israel and the church of the New Testament are one people, one body. Israel, according to Acts 7:38, was “the church in the wilderness” and the New Testament church is the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:15-16). Coming in the New Testament to the general assembly and church of the Firstborn is the same as coming to Mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-23). When the angel shows John “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” he has a vision of the new Jerusalem “descending out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:9-10).

We should remember, as we consider the biblical identity of the two, that not all who were of Old Testament Israel were the true Israel of God (Rom. 9:6). There were those who were Jews only outwardly. Really, they were not Jews at all, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:28-29).

The same is true of the New Testament church. There are those who are members of the church in name, who receive the sacraments and hear the preaching, but who are merely tares among the wheat, as those sown by Satan, the arch-enemy of the church (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19). All of which is to say that the identity of the elect, redeemed and regenerated people of God in both testaments is that of the true Israel of God and “the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).

This is of immense importance as far as the promises of the Word are concerned. If Old Testament Israel is not the church, then the promises God made to Israel are not for the church. Then, though the Old Testament may be a matter of curiosity to me, it has no application to me as a New Testament Gentile member of the church. Then the Psalms, those precious melodies, may be sweet music to my ears but the words are of no real value to me. Then my singing them or reciting them is little different from the poetry of John Keats or William Wordsworth. The rhythms may tickle my ears but they speak a different spiritual language.

It is this truth, that Israel and the church are one, that makes the promise of God concerning children applicable to New Testament Christians. Then, and only then, are the words of God to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7), the promise not of an Old Testament covenant that does not include New Testament believers, but the promise of one everlasting covenant sealed by the circumcision of infants in the Old Testament and the baptism of infants in the New Testament.

“But,” someone will say, “these two signs are so different in appearance that they cannot be the same.” Nevertheless, they are fundamentally the same. Both signify the removal of sin by the shedding of blood, though in the New Testament that blood must be symbolized, for no actual blood may ever be shed again, since the Lamb of God has died. Colossians 2:11-12 identifies the two for the reality of circumcision, the circumcision made without hands (from which no female is excluded), is the same as being buried and raised with Him in baptism through the faith of the operation of God.

The identity of Israel and the church means that I, a Gentile, am a true child and a descendant of Abraham, not by fleshly generation but by spiritual descent, by the same faith in Christ that Abraham had: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). As a child of Abraham, all God promised him is mine also, not those earthly things, for they were only shadows, but the true spiritual realities: Canaan, really Messiah’s land (Rom. 4:13); a city (Heb. 11:16); a seed (Gal 3:16) and all the rest. The identity of Israel and the church means that I am justified, as Abraham was, by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law (Rom. 4). There is only one way of salvation, and that is the way of free and sovereign grace.

The identity of Israel and the church means, too, that there is but one future home for both. As we have seen, to come to the true and heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, is to come to the general assembly and church of the Firstborn (Heb. 12:22-23). Abraham, who never received the inheritance of the earthly land of Canaan, “not so much as to set his foot on” (Acts 7:5), though God had said, “to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Gen. 13:15), was content for he “desire[d] a better country, that is, an heavenly” (Heb. 11:16). All those who go to that heavenly country will rest in the bosom of Abraham as Lazarus did (Luke 16:22).

The Heidelberg Catechism’s teaching on the unity of the church is both true and comforting: “What believest thou concerning the ‘holy catholic church’ of Christ? That the Son of God, from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to Himself by His Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race, a [or one] church chosen to everlasting lifeagreeing in true faith; and that I am, and for ever shall remain, a living member thereof” (Q. & A. 54). Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant Reformed News - November 2020

Covenant Reformed News


November 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 7



The Great Red Dragon and the Man Child

Revelation 12:4 ascribes two wicked actions to the great red dragon or the devil. First, “his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” The “stars” here are not Rigel or Alpha Centauri or any of the astral bodies. The stars in Revelation 12:4 are “angels,” as is clearly stated in verses 7 and 9. This way of speaking of angels is not unique to Revelation 12. Job 38:7 refers to angels as “morning stars.” Isaiah 14:12 calls the King of Babylon/Satan “Lucifer,” the day star or the morning star.

In that the devil draws a “third” of the stars from heaven, we learn that not all the angels are fallen, not even a majority of them. Instead, a great many, a significant minority, of the heavenly host have apostatised.

This refers to the rebellion that Satan led in heaven. A third or a significant minority allied themselves with the devil and revolted from the Lord God. Thus these (now evil) angels “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” (Jude 6). This rebellion happened soon after creation and before Satan tempted Eve in Genesis 3.

Second, “the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (Rev. 12:4). Behind Herod’s slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem stands the devil (Matt. 2:16-18). This was his attempt to swallow up the man child after His birth.

Satan tried to stop the (first) advent of the Messiah in many other ways. Think of the murder of Abel by Cain or the mixing of the godly and ungodly lines which took place before the flood (Gen. 6) and was proposed at Shechem (Gen. 34). Saul attempted many times to kill David, an ancestor of Christ. Queen Athaliah wiped out the royal seed, except for one infant, Joash. Haman plotted to slaughter all the Jews. Antiochus Epiphanes IV made a concerted effort to destroy God’s covenant people. In short, the Old Testament teaches that the devil repeatedly tried to stop the Messiah’s coming!

There is another important instance not yet mentioned: Pharaoh’s command to cast all the newborn Israelite boys into the River Nile (Ex. 1:22). Ezekiel 29:3 even calls Pharaoh “the great dragon” because he was puffed up by Satan to an idolatrous pride. Psalm 74 describes God’s destruction of Egypt at the Red Sea in similar language: “Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness” (13-14).

This means, of course, that not only the church in the Old Testament but also Satan himself lived in anticipation of the birth of the Messiah. For 4,000 years, the church laboured in bearing Christ, with hope and joy. For the same 4,000 years, Satan sought to stop His birth, out of fear and dread. This is what is going on in the pages of the Old Testament; look out for it as you read the Scriptures!

As was stated in our three previous articles on Revelation 12:1-3 and the material above, the “man child” (5) is the Lord Jesus. He is male and He was born to the church, referred to as “the woman” in this chapter. Our Redeemer is the One who rules “all nations with a rod of iron” (5). This is a reference to Psalm 2:9, a messianic Psalm, which Christ applies to Himself and those in Him in Revelation 2:26-27.

Only two events in the life of our Saviour are referred to in Revelation 12:5: His birth and His ascension into heaven. The rest are implied and well-known from the rest of sacred Scripture: His holy life, His atoning death and His mighty resurrection. Christ’s birth and ascension alone are mentioned because these are the ways He came into, and departed from, this world. The dragon was not able to stop Him!

Since then, it is very obvious that the Messiah is absolutely untouchable by the evil one. After all, He is now in heaven with Almighty God. The ascended Christ is seated on His throne ruling all nations with a rod of iron!

The word “rule” in Revelation 12:5 means to “shepherd,” speaking of His gracious leading, protecting and providing for His flock, the church. His “rod of iron” is His powerful providential government of the ungodly, smashing them in pieces. Thus our Lord shepherds and defends His people (in part) by His mighty rule over the wicked.

With Jesus Christ being utterly untouchable, as the One who has ascended into heaven and is enthroned at God’s right hand reigning over the universe, the dragon turned his attention to the church to persecute her, so “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (6).

Herman Hoeksema is right: “The battle of the world is a battle of the devil against God. Not between the world and the church in [the] last instance, not even between Antichrist and Christ, is that battle. They all are agents. Christ is the anointed agent of God to fight, with His people, the battle against the devil. Antichrist … is the agent of Satan, to fight his battles against God and His church. What a tremendous idea is expressed here! We, as the covenant people, as being of God’s party in the midst of the world, fight the battle of Jehovah against the old serpent, the devil. There is magic joy in the very idea that the Lord will use us as instruments in His hand, nay, as His living people, to fight against the old dragon … God Almighty has always been victorious in the past, and … the devil with all his attempts to prevent the birth of the Great Seed has simply effected his own defeat. So it will be in the future. God will always be victorious, of course. Not yet has the devil given up the attempt to gain dominion over the kingdom of God. But the voices in heaven have already sung of it, and the elders have acknowledged it, that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ [11:15-18]” (Behold He Cometh, pp. 422-423).

May the Lord grant us understanding of His marvellous ways, and may He protect us from, and strengthen us against, the great red dragon, Satan himself! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

The Church and Israel (1)

This issue of the News will answer three questions concerning Israel and the church, the last two of which were sent by the same reader. Here they are:

  1. How do we support our view that Israel and the church are the very same one people of God in light of Matthew 16:18? Christ says, “I will build my church.” If words mean anything, does this not imply that, at that time, the church was not around yet but was an entity to come only in the future? Therefore, Old Testament Israel could not possibly be “the church” (as we say).
  2. The church is called the “body” of Christ (Col. 1:18) and entrance into the body is said to be through Spirit baptism (I Cor. 12:13)—the key element being that the work of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what places a person into Christ’s body, in whom elect Jews and Gentiles are united as the church. Since Acts 1:5 views Spirit baptism as future, while Acts 11:15-16 links it to the past, is it not evident that the church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2)?
  3. Certain events in history were essential to the establishment of the church—the church did not come into being and was not established until certain events had taken place. An example of this is that the church could not become a functioning entity until after the Holy Spirit provided the necessary spiritual gifts and offices (Eph. 4:7-11). So how can Old Testament Israel be the church?

That Israel and the church are the same is clearly taught in Scripture and is an important teaching of the Word of God. There are many passages we could use to show this but one passage in Acts is especially significant.

Acts 7:38 is clear and decisive: “This is he [i.e., Moses], that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.” Israel is “the church in the wilderness.” The New Testament word for the church, ekklesia, is used by Stephen and by the Spirit of God who speaks through him.

There are other passages as well. The church is built not on the foundation of the apostles alone, but on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Those who were aliens and strangers from Israel and covenants have been made nigh by the blood of Christ, so much so that these aliens and strangers (the Gentiles) are now reconciled unto God in one body (11-16), and we know that the church is that body: not just the New Testament church but Israel is the body of Christ. Together they are the one building and habitation of God through the Spirit.

The church did not begin at Pentecost. Christ, the builder of the church, did not begin to build His church then but from the very beginning, even after the fall of Adam and Eve. The words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church,” are not so much future as emphatic. Never have and never will the gates of Hell prevail against the church.

The necessity of Spirit baptism for entrance into the church does not mean that there was no entrance into the church in the Old Testament. It only means that Spirit baptism, “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), was experienced by God’s people in the Old Testament as well as the New (cf. Ps. 51:7-12; Eze. 36:25-27).

The gifts of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 4:7-11 were present in the church of the Old Testament in the offices of prophet, priest and king. Those offices, as well as the offices which Paul lists in Ephesians, are the offices of Christ as the Head and Mediator of His people, so that, both in the Old Testament and the New, Christ exercises those offices to reveal to His people the will of God for their salvation, to offer Himself as a sacrifice for their sins and intercede for them to God, and to rule over them by His Word and Spirit, defending and preserving them from their enemies, and giving them eternal life.

The difference between the Old and New Testaments is not that there were two different peoples, Christ standing in a different relation to each and saving them in different ways, the one by works and the other by grace, and giving each a different future.

The difference is, first, that Christ was present in the Old Testament through pictures and types. Pictures and types they were, to be sure, but Christ was present in them. Moses’ intercession was effective on Israel’s behalf, not because Moses was anything but a sinful man but because he was a picture of Christ the Intercessor. Abraham saw Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56). He offered his son and received him back from the dead “in a figure” (Heb. 11:17-19). The sacrifices of the Old Testament sent the people to Christ picturing what He would do for them. David spoke of Him in the Psalms (Acts 2:25-31), as did all the prophets, and what they said was the Word of God, living and powerful and able to make men wise unto salvation, not because David’s voice was mighty but because Christ spoke through David. Read Psalms 22 and 69, and you will still hear Him speaking peace to His people as our Prophet and Teacher.

The second difference between the church of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament is explained by Paul in Galatians 4:1-7. The church in the Old Testament was like a child not yet come to maturity and into its inheritance. It was like a child under the “bondage” of tutors and governors, the tutelage and governorship of the law. The church of the New Testament is that same child come to maturity and into its inheritance, through the coming of Christ and the outpouring of His Spirit. The beginning of the New Testament does not mark the birth of that child but its coming to spiritual adulthood. One child, one church!

This truth is important as far as baptism and its administration are concerned, as far as the promises of the Old Testament are concerned and as far as future coming of Christ is concerned. But we will deal with this next time, Lord willing. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant PRC Newsletter - November 2020

CPRC NI building

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

Ballymena, NI
November 20, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Church Growth

2020 has seen significant growth in the CPRC. Three Gould households from Antrim, about 11 miles by dual carriage way from Ballymena, started coming to our congregation at the start of March. Kerryann Gould came across us through our YouTube channel and main website (www.cprc.co.uk). Her three children are Aaysha, Somaya and Yossef. Kerryann spoke with her parents, Billy and Anne Gould, and her sister, Grace, about our scriptural doctrines and church. Key issues for the three Gould households were (and are) the Bible’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and God’sparticular grace in Jesus Christ.

Three saints from continental Europe have moved to Ballymena to join us. Tibor Bognar from Hungary made confession of faith on 26 July. His mother, Boglarka, arrived in our country on 9 September. Ivan Ortu from Sardinia, a large Mediterraneanisland west of mainland Italy, came on 10 October.The Lord used the Hungarian and Italian translations on our website (to which Tibor and Ivan have also contributed) and the British Reformed Fellowship conferences, amongst other things, to bring them to our church.

Two families from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship have relocated to Northern Ireland. Sam and Anga Watterson were received as members on 26 July, along with 3 of their children: Jason, Eleanora, and Jonas. The next Lord’s day, their 3-month-old daughter, Lara, was baptized. Manuel and Emily-Kate Kuhs and their 4 children (Sebastian, Penelope, Felicity,and Elizabeth) moved here in the middle of October.

This, of course, not only manifests itself in increased attendance at both the Sunday services but also in catechism, for we now have 15 students in 4 classes. This growth also benefits the fellowship at our Tuesday morning study on “Saving Faith: A Biblical and Theological Analysis” and our Wednesday night class on the Belgic Confession, which recently concluded its treatment of “Anabaptist Political History and Theory” (Art.36) and began “Eschatology and Time” (Art.37) (www.cprc.co.uk/belgic-confession-class).

We produced a new CPRC address, telephone,and email list (8 November) but not in the foolish spirit of David’s numbering the people in II Samuel 24. We are mindful and thankful that it is the sovereign Christ who builds His church. He does so at the time and in the manner of His choosing (Matt. 16:18), sometimes in ways that are unexpected or tinged with sadness, as with our brothers and sisters coming to us from our (closing) mission field in Limerick.

Coronavirus Restrictions

In order to maintain social distancing during these days of Covid-19, we roped off every other pew in our main auditorium. However, even with this loss of seating and the addition of new people, we are still able to accommo-date all who want to come to our services, though it is getting tighter.

Our church building, which was completed in the summer of 2010, was designed to admit a fair bit of growth. We have added chairs in appropriate places in the auditorium, plus we have a cry room, a balcony (where Tibor translates the sermon into Hungarian for Boglarka) and a narthex. Thankfully, with some planning, a seating chart, and the cooperation of all our people, we have not had to divide the congregation (for example, with half coming to the morning service and the other half to the evening service) and no one has been turned away. The Covid rules and the greater attendance have meant that our Tuesday and Wednesday classes, which formerly were held in the Bible study room, now meet in the (significantly larger) balcony area, for which we have purchased a whiteboard. The catechism classes are now held in various locations in our church building to avoid having to clean one room between each of the classes.

The pandemic made things especially complicated for those who moved country to join us, something that is never easy at the best of times.They had to navigate the coronavirus regulations in Italy, the Republic of Ireland, or Hungary, while putting their own affairs in order, and leaving their homes and jobs, etc., and then settle into a new church, home, job,and land, with its different form of Covid restrictions.

Sometimes even the coronavirus situation in a third country was a factor. Ivan Ortuhad to rearrange his flight route from Sardinia so that he no longer passed through the Netherlands, after the UK added that country to its “blacklist,” for he wanted to avoid a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Northern Ireland.

Fellowship between the people of God is crucial, as the saints build and maintain relationships with each other, giving and receiving support and encouragement in the Lord. This is especially important for new people, particularly those from other nations, but occasions for face-to-face communion outside church meetings have been severely curtailed in the present climate.

Currently in Northern Ireland, the regulations only permit people from one other specified household into one’s own home. Membership classes, which, in the CPRC, typically take place in the home of either the family or the minister, have been put on hold. Even a relatively simple transfer of membership is more difficult, since ordinarily it is our policy for an elder and the pastor to meet with the individuals or families in their homes.

We even decided to forego holding a Reformation day lecture this year (and a wonderful subject had been planned for it!) since, in these coronavirus days, we anticipated having far fewer visitors. Instead, on 28 October, we had our Annual General Meeting (with reports on the congregation’s audio-visual witness, finances, evangelism, etc.), which we had not been able to hold at its usual time in May or June.

Our Websites

We have been live streaming our Lord’s day services by video on Sermon.net since October, 2013. Several months ago, this company from Oklahoma added a function enabling us to simulcast on YouTube and Facebook. With our Sunday services being streamed on three websites, many more people are watching live.

At the recommendation of a lady in our congregation, we now also live stream in audio only (www.cprc.co.uk/live-streaming). This is useful for God’s people who are blind or have limited bandwidth, etc. Jacob Buchanan assembled a new and better, yet cheaper, computer for the live streaming of our services on the Lord’s day. The old one did the job for over seven years before failing.

The CPRC YouTube site has now surpassed ⅓ million video hits (www.youtube.com/user/CPRCNI). Stephen Murray has put in many hours of work, uploading 2,414 videos over the last 11½ years.

 Mary installed a free SEO (search engine optimization) plug-in on our main website (13 June). Besides creating a site map, the SEO plug-in alerts us to, and suggests, minor changes that we can make to advance our rankings in the various search engines. It has resulted in a noticeable increase in people coming to our website through searches.
Another major improvement to www.cprc.co.ukis the addition of push notifi-cations. A good number offolk havesub-scribed already and so will be notified whenev-er we add anything new to the website.
In the 5⅓ months since my last letter (9 June), we have added 151 translations (www.cprc.co.uk/languages). Over ⅔ of these are the 107 Burmese items by Rev. Titus in Myanmar, which we received through a memory stick from John Van Baren. The 18 Spanish translations include all the chapters of Saved by Grace by Prof. Ron Cammenga and Rev. Ron Hanko, as well as materials on God’s covenant and the errors of Charismaticism. The others are 9 Hungarian, 5 Indonesian, 4 Urdu (from friends in Pakistan), and 3 Odia, plus 1 each in French, Romanian, German, Portuguese, and Tamil (Church Order of Dordt).
Other News
On 25 June, I was interviewed on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio on “Regeneration: God’s Gift of a New Heart.” This audio and the earlier interview on “Supernatural and Infallible Regeneration: Most Delightful, Astonishing, Mysterious and Ineffable” are atop our regeneration resources page, which also contains articles, sermons,and quotes on this beautiful subject (www.cprc.co.uk/resources-on-regeneration).
CPRC NI pallet books 2020A pallet of excellent RFPA books and other Protestant Reformed literature, well packed by Alex Kalsbeek, arrived at our house on 29 June. Over the next few days, we attached CPRC Bookstore stickers to the hundreds of items, and put them on shelves and on the floor of the book room at the manse, and in the book cabinet at our church building. Both the number of titles and the amount of stock are larger than they have ever been before.These superb materials will keep us going for some time and benefit a lot of people!
 
Several major improvements were made to the manse and its grounds over the summer. The three youngest Buchanan boys, helped by Colin, their father, replaced rotted posts and planks in two fences, and tightened the sheep netting. My brother, Douglas, painted all the outside of the house. Julian Kennedy and Tommy Duncan help me to spread tons of topsoil and sand to level and improve the manse’s lawns. After spending 14 days quarantining on Northern Ireland’s beautiful north coast, Rev. Ron Hanko and Nancy were able to visit the CPRC during their last week in our province. It was great to see them both again and hear our former pastor preach to us at both of the services on Sunday, 27 September.
 
After recently celebrating his 90th birthday and having written excellent articles in all or almost all of the previous 421 issues, Prof. Hanko decided that the time had come for him to lay aside his work for the Covenant Reformed News (www.cprc.co.uk/covenant-reformed-news). With the October installment, his son, Rev. R. Hanko, who produced almost all of the first (fortnightly) 200 issues, graciously resumed writing for the (now monthly) News after a hiatus of almost 20 years.
 
Yesterday, we posted the new British Reformed Journal(BRJ) to people in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Canada, India, Germany, Eritrea, Australia, Brazil, etc., as well as a bulk mailing to the RFPA building in Michigan. Paula Roberts of the RFPA is kindly helping to keep our international postage costs down by passing on copies of the BRJ to subscribers in the PRC. Among the current issue’s six articles is “Common Grace in Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism” by Bálint Márk Vásárhelyi, our main Hungarian translator. New subscribers are always welcome (www.britishreformed.org/journal/subscribe).
 
The dates for next summer’s rescheduled British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) family conference are 10-17 July 2021. Prof. David Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning are to develop the beautiful truth of our union with Christ at Castlewellan Castle, County Down, Northern Ireland (www.britishreformed.org). Those of you who are interested in going to the conference would doubtless appreciate a 100% guarantee that it will go ahead. However, at this stage, given the uncertainty regarding the dissemination of vaccines internationally, foreign travel regulations, Covid rules for large groups in Northern Ireland in the months ahead, etc., we are not in that position. We will let you know as best we can as soon as we can, especially because we understand that you would need to buy transatlantic flights in order to come.
 
I trust that you will understand and be patient. Our Lord Jesus Christ rules from heaven so that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). May His peace guard our hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7), as well as our steps.
 
Yours by grace,
Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart
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Covenant Reformed News - October 2020

Covenant Reformed News


October 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 6



Thank You and Welcome Back!

We begin this Covenant Reformed News with a hearty and well-deserved word of thanks to Prof. Herman Hanko. He has written in all or almost all of the previous 421 issues since the News was started 28 years ago in November, 1992, by Rev. Gise Van Baren, who is now in glory with Christ. Prof. Hanko is the most prolific writer in the history of the News, with most of his contributions being answers to the questions of our (increasingly international) readers on a whole host of important subjects. Earlier this month, he celebrated his 90th birthday and recovered from COVID-19 by God’s grace. Prof. has decided that it is now time to lay aside his work for the News.

Many thousands of people have read Prof. Hanko’s articles in the fortnightly and then monthly News, which they received by post or e-mail from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) in N. Ireland or the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) in the Republic of Ireland or other churches (in America, Canada or the Philippines), or viewed on-line (www.cprc.co.ukwww.prca.org). The professor’s contributions have also been sent forth by e-mail in Italian and Hungarian versions of the News to those who subscribed to our translators’ lists. Some of Prof. Hanko’s articles can be read in about 10 other languages on-line (www.cprc.co.uk/covenant-reformed-news). On behalf of all those who have benefited from your writing in the News for almost 3 decades, we extend to you, Prof. Hanko, our sincere gratitude!

Now we cordially welcome our new writer, Pastor Ron Hanko, a son of the professor, who is taking over his role of answering readers’ questions. Rev. Hanko served as the missionary-pastor of the CPRC from 17 March (St. Patrick’s Day) in 1993 to February, 2001. During this time, he preached in many places in the United Kingdom and maintained a wide correspondence with saints throughout the British Isles. All of the first eight volumes of the News, apart from the opening issues in late 1992 and early 1993, were produced by him. Rev. Hanko next served a congregation in Lynden, Washington (USA), before retiring from the pastorate in 2017. After a gap of almost 20 years, welcome back, Rev. Hanko, to the Covenant Reformed News!

Many of Pastor Ron Hanko’s articles in volumes 1-8 of the News were published in his excellent book, Doctrine According to Godliness (£15). His other titles are The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer (£22) and Saved by Grace (£10), co-authored with Prof. Cammenga. Rev. Hanko has other books in the works. The CPRC Bookstore adds only 10% for P&P within the UK. Ordering information for those in the rest of the world (except the US and Canada) is on www.cprc.co.uk/ordering-information; we accept PayPal payments. Those in North America can acquire these books from www.rfpa.org.

 

Rebaptism in Acts 19?

One of our readers has asked about these verses from Acts 19:

4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7 And all the men were about twelve.

His question is, “Is this not anabaptism? Can you explain or point to any articles addressing it? Would this mean that the baptized converts of John the Baptist were re-baptized with water by the apostles?”

I do not know of any articles addressing this question but have myself written the following in a manuscript of a book on baptism which is to be published by the CPRC, hopefully in late 2021.

Baptists understand the Word of God to be saying here that Paul rebaptized certain persons who had been baptized by John, though they are reluctant to say that Paul did this because he thought John’s baptism was illegitimate. After rebaptizing these people with water, he also laid hands on them so that they received the Spirit and spoke in tongues. He did this because they had not heard of the Holy Spirit.

This misreads the passage. The Baptist reading makes the pertinent part of verse 4 a quotation and then makes verse 5 a reference to what Paul did after he finished speaking. This is the Baptist reading of these verses (notice the quotation marks):

Then said Paul, “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they [i.e., the disciples of John the Baptist to whom Paul is speaking] heard this, they [i.e., these same disciples of whom the apostle is speaking] were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

According to this Baptist interpretation, “they” in verse 5 refers to those to whom Paul was speaking and they were baptized with water by Paul in Jesus’ name, having been previously baptized by John. Reading the passage that way, it teaches rebaptism but it also suggests that John’s baptism was not really Christian baptism at all.

The passage should be read in the following way (again notice the quotation marks):

Then said Paul, “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they [i.e., the people who came to John’s baptism] heard this, they [i.e., the same people who came to John’s baptism] were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In other words, “they” refers to the people whom John baptized and verse 5 refers not to Paul’s rebaptizing of certain persons in Ephesus but to John’s baptism of certain people at the Jordan. It also identifies John’s baptism as Christian baptism, not as something that needed to be re-administered.

The proper reading of the passage, therefore makes verse 5 part of what Paul said to these Ephesian disciples and not a description of his rebaptizing them. Indeed, if this is the proper way to the read the verse, then verse 5 is saying that John baptized them, the only time they were baptized, and did so in the name of the Lord Jesus, identifying John’s baptism with every other New Testament baptism.

Grammatically, this is the way to read the verse, since it is verse 6 that mentions Paul once again and continues the story of what he said and did with the word “and.” There is, therefore, no ground to be found for rebaptism in these verses, nor in any other passage of Scripture.

Rebaptism is, in fact, a denial of the great biblical truth that we can only be saved once. No one who believes in the sovereignty of God in salvation, in the redeeming power of Jesus, in the efficacy of the Holy Spirit’s work and in the perseverance of saints, ought to rebaptize, since water baptism is a picture of salvation and ought for that reason to be administered only once. The Reformed creeds state, “Therefore we believe, that every man, who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal, ought to be but once baptized with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same: since we cannot be born twice” (Belgic Confession 34) and “The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person” (Westminster Confession 28:7).

Christ accomplished His atonement once and for all (e.g., Heb. 10:10, 12, 14), and we are born again once and only once. Thus the Reformed faith rejects the errors of those “who teach that it is not absurd that one having lost his first regeneration is again and even often born anew. For these deny by this doctrine the incorruptibleness of the seed of God, whereby we are born again, contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible (I Pet. 1:23).” (Canons V:R:8). Just as each of God’s children receives “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5)—a spiritual regenerating baptism by the Holy Ghost—so this ought to be signified and sealed by only one water baptism.

Let us note, however, that the usual interpretation of Acts 19:1-6 leads inevitably to the conclusion that John’s baptism was not (essentially) Christian baptism and that all John’s disciples would have needed to be rebaptized with water. This would have included Jesus and some of twelve as well. Yet not a hint of such rebaptism is suggested anywhere in Scripture.

What is more, if John’s water baptism was not Christian baptism, then John’s baptizing is of no value as far as determining the mode and subjects of baptism, nor is Christ’s baptism the same as ours. That leaves us with only a few other references to baptism in the New Testament. The Baptist, therefore, with his interpretation of Acts 19 puts himself in a dilemma. Rev. Ron Hanko
 


 

The Great Red Dragon

In the last two issues of the News, we saw the woman, the church, labour in pregnancy with the man child, the Christ (Rev. 12:1-2). Now we turn to the “great red dragon” (3) who is identified as “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (9).

Like the description of the woman in Revelation 12:1-2, that of the dragon is not to be taken literalistically. The Devil is not literally a “great red dragon” with “seven heads,” “ten horns” and “seven crowns” (3). Besides being well-nigh impossible to visualise, Revelation 12 calls this a “wonder” or sign (3) that points to Satan as possessing awful characteristics.

In general, the Devil is like a terrible monster: a great dragon with a mighty “tail” (4), 7 heads and 10 horns—unnatural, deformed and hideous!

His power is indicated in three ways. First, his size is “great.” Second, his “tail” casts a “third” of the stars down to the earth (4). Third, he has 10 horns, with horns in the Bible being a symbol of strength (cf. Deut. 33:17; Ps. 92:9-10).

The power of this dreadful dragon is used to bring destruction. He is coloured red, a fiery red, for he destroys like fire and sheds blood. As one who casts a third of the stars to the earth, he is destructive. He is also ravenous, ready to “devour” the woman’s man child (4) for, remember, he was a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).

Clearly, Satan is evil. The Triune God created him an holy angel but he fell into the sin of pride (I Tim. 3:6; cf. Isa. 14:12-14) and so became a hideous monster. The Devil shows his sin in the opening verses of Revelation 12 in that he stands ready to devour Christ as soon as He is born (4). All the iniquity among men and angels is in the image of Satan (John 8:44).

Notice the symbolic numbers associated with the Devil. First, he has 7 heads and 7 crowns, with 7 being the number of the covenant. Satan is, therefore, the counterfeit covenant ruler.

Second, he reigns over his evil dominion by his 10 horns. The horns represent the Devil’s power, as we said earlier, while the number 10 speaks of the completeness—think of the 10 plagues and 10 commandments—of his strength, as measured out by Almighty God according to His holy purpose. In Jehovah’s sovereign plan, Satan uses his God-given strength to deceive fallen men and angels, to attack Christ while He was on earth and to persecute the church, as well as to produce the universal kingdom of the Antichrist, the Devil’s greatest work, whom Christ “shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (II Thess. 2:8-9)! Rev. Stewart

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
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 Reformed News - September 2020

Covenant Reformed News


September 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 5



The Amazing Pregnancy of the Woman of Revelation 12

In the last News, we saw that the radiant woman of Revelation 12:1 is the church. Now we note that the (Old Testament) church was pregnant, pregnant with the Messiah (5): “she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered” (2).

Thus the church not only rejoices that the “Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” is “a child [that] is born” and “a son [that] is given” “unto us” (Isa. 9:6); she also marvels at the truth that He was born out of her.

What an amazing 4,000-year pregnancy! The church was pregnant with her seed, Christ, right from the very day of the fall in the Garden of Eden, according to Jehovah’s mother promise: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Who ever heard of such a long pregnancy? This is what the Old Testament days were: a gestation period of four millennia, not just nine months!

For these 4,000 years, the believing church was conscious that Christ was coming through her, as a pregnant woman knows that she is with child, especially as her due date approaches. As we saw above, Eve was told that her seed would crush Satan’s head. Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56).

Jacob and his sons looked forward to the coming of Shiloh (Gen. 49:10). A great prophet like Moses was in Israel’s womb (Deut. 18:15-19). The Messiah was to be the son of David (II Sam. 7:12-14). The prophets taught that the church would bring forth the Branch (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). He would even be Immanuel, God with us (Isa. 7:14)!

The Old Testament church’s consciousness that she was pregnant with the Messiah included her experiencing, for some four millennia, the pain and struggle of bearing Him, yearning for His birth and bringing Him forth. She longed for God to show His face and glory—in the incarnation of His only begotten Son. Out of the deep sense of her sin and misery, she struggled in prayer for forgiveness and righteousness—in the coming Christ and His cross. She sought for strength to fight against iniquity and for deliverance from her enemies—in the Messiah who would slay Satan and sin. She prayed for the extension and growth of God’s people, including the conversion of the Gentiles—through Christ who builds His church and saves His elect out of all nations. She desired the coming of God’s kingdom and the realization of His covenant—in the advent of the King of kings and “the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1).

“O Lord, hasten the coming of Thy Son, and bring His birth and our deliverance, for our labour pains are hard!” Such was, in essence, the prayer and hope of the woman, the church, in the Old Testament.

As members of the New Testament church, we cannot and do not groan in pain for Christ’s first coming, since that has already happened. But we ought and can and do pray earnestly for His second advent: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). In this, we join with the creation itself which groans and travails, suffering birth pangs, for Christ’s return and His renewal of the entire universe (Rom. 8:19-23)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

Universal Grace in Jonah?

A reader has asked about the meaning of three texts, two of them from the book of Jonah, which some use in support of a universal divine grace.

(1) First, he mentions Jonah 2:8 which some claim teaches a well-meant offer of the gospel. Jonah 2:8 reads in the Authorized Version, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”

I was sent nearly 35 translations of the verse, most of which are different from each other. Apparently, translators cannot agree on what is the proper translation and some, such as the NIV, clearly support the idea of a well-meant offer (WMO) of salvation to all men.

I have discussed the issue of this heresy of the WMO over and over again in the News, but it keeps coming up because many in Reformed and Presbyterian and other circles are determined to introduce into the Reformed faith this heresy which is a crucial component in Arminianism.

Let me give a brief summary of the teachings of the well-meant offer. The WMO presents the preaching of the gospel as an expression of God’s love for all men absolutely and His passionate desire to save everybody. It is up to man either to accept this love of God and believe in Christ or to reject it.

Implicit is the heretical doctrine of universal atonement, that Christ died for every man head for head. This is necessary because God cannot desire the salvation of all men unless it is available to them and all of salvation comes only from the cross. I cannot offer to give a man £10,000 if I do not have it, without making a mockery of my offer.

Further, along with the preaching of a universal love of God comes His grace to all men head for head. God’s grace is shown in His love, for grace to sinners is unmerited favour and God’s favour includes love. But that grace in giving all men a chance to be saved is also a grace bestowed on all men that enables them to accept the proffered salvation. Jonah 2:8 is appealed to as proof for God’s universal love.

I must make a few remarks about Jonah in general. First of all, Jonah was commanded to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to this arch-enemy of Israel, which was poised to destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel where Jonah lived.

Second, Jonah did not flee the land of Canaan because he was scared to go to that godless city. Jonah was no coward; after all, he was asleep and unafraid in a boat that was being tossed around by a storm that terrified seasoned sailors. He fled Canaan because ordinarily only in that land did God speak to His people. Jonah thought that, if he could get out of Canaan, God could not send him to Nineveh.

Third, he had to go to Nineveh because God would save one generation among the worst of all the uncircumcised heathen because their salvation was prophetic of a coming day in which the gospel would be sent to the four corners of the earth to save a catholic or universal church. However, though God did not ordinarily speak to people outside Canaan in the Old Testament era, He could also speak through raging storms and huge fish. Apparently, Jonah forgot that.

Fourth, when Jonah was in the belly of the fish, his prayer was almost entirely quotations from the Psalms.

Finally, Jesus Himself tells us that Jonah’s three-day stay in the fish’s belly was a type of His burial and resurrection (Matt. 12:40); that is, the Gentiles, such as the Ninevites, could be saved only through Christ’s being raised from the dead on the third day. But our Lord’s mighty work was atonement for both Jews and Gentiles, markedly different from God’s saving work in the old dispensation, which was largely with the nation of Israel.

It is in this general context that Jonah 2:8 must be understood—not as proponents of the WMO, who grab texts out of their context and sing, “Hallelujah, we have found a proof text for our heresy.”

On the surface of the matter, I wonder why WMO advocates have to interpret the phrase “their own mercy” in Jonah 2:8 as being God’s mercy. If we take the translation of the AV/KJV as correct—as it probably is—it speaks of the mercy demonstrated by the wicked, not by God. So why make it proof for the WMO?

You may argue that the wicked exercise no mercy and that there is only that mercy which God gives to or shows human beings, but that is not true. Proverbs 12:10 states that “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” They surely display a “mercy” which is a kindness shown to the underprivileged or others in distress. Many philanthropic organizations manifest a certain concern for others. James even speaks of a wisdom that the wicked have but calls it “earthy, sensual, devilish” (3:15).

Jonah, inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus speaking the word of Christ in the great fish’s belly, in his prayer to God in which he cites many different passages from the Psalms, expresses the truth that the wicked who worship idols do indeed perform their acts of mercy (as shown to Jonah by the sailors, for example). However, their acts of worship are idolatry. It is probable that Jonah implied the petition that God please show mercy to him.

There is in the world among the wicked a development of sin. The philosophy of common grace does not improve men and make them better than they would be without it; sin reaps the harvest of more and more terrible sin. More importantly, in the context in Jonah, God will save Gentiles too, although that must wait for its full realization when Christ comes. The unbelieving Jews and the wicked among the Gentiles, who reject the gospel and disobey the command to believe, develop in sin until they become ripe for judgment. Remember a command is not an offer.

The same reader continues, “The Lord has pleasure in the penitence, the sorrow and the conversion of the ungodly, even if these are temporal and absolutely without any signs of genuine repentance.” The texts appealed to are Jonah 3:5-10 and I Kings 21:27-29.

(2) Now we move from Jonah 2 to Jonah 3. The questioner’s interpretation of Nineveh’s repentance at the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:5-6) is wrong. It was a genuine repentance, as our Lord Jesus makes clear (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32). God saved the Ninevites as a prophecy of the salvation of the Gentiles in the New Testament age.

It is striking that only one generation was saved, for Nineveh returned to its idolatry. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, which later brought the Northern Kingdom into captivity. One can find the subsequent judgment on Nineveh in the book of Nahum. But before all this, Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. That generation of Ninevites will rise up in judgment against the people of Israel who did not repent, even though the incarnate Son of God, one far greater than Jonah, preached to them (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).

I am aware of the fact that not all commentators believe that Nineveh’s repentance was genuine but these words of Christ cannot be explained in any other way than that Nineveh truly repented.

(3) Concerning I Kings 21:27-29, it is clear that Ahab’s penitence was not the true repentance of a heart-broken sorrow for sin but was “the sorrow of the world” (II Cor. 7:10). That wicked king of Israel merely regretted what he had done because the consequences of God’s judgment upon him were frightening (21-24). Thus the next chapter speaks of Ahab’s hatred of the godly prophet Micaiah, whom he kept imprisoned (I Kings 22:8, 26-27). Nor did God gave him a “temporal” blessing; Ahab’s “extra days” meant more sin and a worse punishment for him in hell.

A drunkard whose family is suffering the effects of his drunkenness may be sorry for it, go to Alcoholics Anonymous, learn to quit drinking and restore his home. He may even ask for forgiveness from his badly-treated family. If he remains sober, a normal functioning family life may be recovered but that has nothing to do with salvation.

Similar principles concerning Ahab’s penitence are treated in a pamphlet written by Herman Hoeksema entitled, “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer,” which especially deals with Jehu. It is available to all online and we will post it free to any in the UK who request it.

The lesson is that all who promote a WMO and a universal grace do wrong when they flit from one text here and another there and, without any thought of the context or the Reformation principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, loudly claim to have found proof for their heresy. That kind of exegesis does injustice to Holy Writ and tears it apart as God’s revelation of Himself as the One who saves His elect people in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. Prof. Herman Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Covenant Reformed News - August 2020

Covenant Reformed News


August 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 4



The Woman of Revelation 12

Who is the woman of Revelation 12:1-2? “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”

We should begin by noting that we are dealing with symbolism here. First, the woman “appeared” in heaven (1). This is the language of revelatory visions: something appears which a prophet sees. Second, the woman is not literally “clothed with the sun,” with “the moon under her feet” and “a crown of twelve stars” on her head (1). This is the symbolism of a vision. Third, this is a “wonder” or, more precisely, a “sign” (1). The image of the woman is not itself the reality; it is a sign pointing to the reality.

What is the overall impression of this “sign” of the woman? The woman is radiated with glorious light! The light of the sun envelops her, the light of the moon shines under her feet and the light of 12 stars sparkles in her crown (1).

This is clearly heavenly light. The woman is a sign “in heaven” (1) and the heavenly bodies of the sun, moon and stars all emit a heavenly light. This light from heavenly luminaries forms the woman’s clothing (the sun is her attire), indicates her dominion (the moon is under her feet) and declares her royalty (12 stars are embedded in her crown).

The Roman church claims that this woman is Mary. Thus Revelation 12 is abused to serve Mariolatry, the idolatrous veneration of the mother of our Lord. This Scripture is twisted (II Pet. 3:16), as if it were proof that Mary is “the queen of heaven”—a pagan title denounced in the Old Testament (Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19, 25). The imagery of Revelation 12:1 has also been used in European Union publications.

Though the woman’s giving birth to a male who is Christ (2, 4-5, 13) would fit with Mary, other statements in Revelation 12 do not square with her. Mary did not flee to the wilderness after giving birth to our Lord, nor was she nourished by God there for 1,260 days or a time, times and half a time (6, 14).

The truth is that the woman in Revelation 12 is the church for it fits all the relevant data. First, the number of the church is 12 and the woman has “a crown of twelve stars” (1). Second, the church gives birth to Christ according to the flesh, and is persecuted and nourished by God (4, 6, 13-17). Third, the church has heavenly glory (1).

The heavenly glory of the church is her holiness. The gracious Spirit of the Lord Jesus makes her beautiful. He conforms her to the image of Christ her husband and head, and consecrates her to the living God. Hers is a victorious holiness so that the church wears a “crown” (1). Hers is a reigning holiness for she rules over all things by virtue of her union with Christ. Hers is a heavenly holiness for the church has been born from above.

Do you understand the “sign” of the glorious woman, the church according to her new nature in Christ? Or do you lightly esteem and despise the Lord’s beloved people and congregation? While the false church is a whore (Rev. 17), the true church is a beautiful woman clothed with the sun (Rev. 12)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

The Old Covenant and the New Covenant

A reader asks, “How does one answer the dispensationalists who point to the fact that God’s covenant is called a ‘new covenant’ in distinction from the covenant of the old dispensation that is called ‘old’ (Heb. 8:7-13)?”

It ought to be understood that dispensationalists must make a separation between God’s covenant with Israel in the old dispensation and His covenant with His people in the new dispensation, a church gathered not only from the Jews but also all the nations of the Gentiles. They are looking for support of their denial of infant baptism. Dispensationalists admit that baptism is a sign of the covenant but they deny that God’s covenant with Abraham is essentially the same as God’s covenant established in the new dispensation.

Both covenants have different signs: the covenant in the old dispensation had circumcision as its sign and the new covenant has baptism as its sign. The former is the “old” covenant; the latter is the “new” covenant. Hence, although Abraham’s seed with whom the old covenant was established was the nation of Israel, the new covenant is established only with believers. And infants cannot be believers. Even the Old Testament promises of the covenant were only for national Israel; the new covenant has different promises—so goes the dispensationalist argument.

The reader asks a question which is crucial regarding the whole heresy of dispensationalism. Do the words “old” and “new” refer to entirely different covenants, unrelated to each other and wholly different from each other? Or do they refer to essentially the same covenant? The dispensationalists hang their position on a broken hook. The entire system of dispensationalism stands or falls on whether or not the Bible speaks of two covenants that are fundamentally different from each other.

Scripture is twisted by their argumentation. That assertion is clear from the fact that the Bible uses the word “new” not only to describe something that is completely different from everything else but it also uses the word “new” in the sense of “altered” or “changed.” Two examples from the Word of God immediately come to mind.

The first is Scripture’s use of the expressions “old man” and “new man.” These are the terms used in Ephesians 4:22-24. The Bible has a similar passage in Colossians 3:9-10. There are other references to the truth of the old man and the new man in those passages that speak of the battle between the flesh and the spirit in our daily life. I refer to such Scriptures as Romans 7:14-25 and Galatians 5:17.

Every believer has the life of Christ in him by God’s wonder work of regeneration. That new life is called the “new man.” But we are a new man only in principle. We also, while in this world, possess and are the “old man.” The old man is that depravity of our body and soul that remains in us till death or the Lord’s glorious return. I am both the old man and the new man. The old man is myself but so is also (and especially) the new man. Though Scripture speaks of an old man and a new man, I remain one person.

The figure of a butterfly may help us understand this. Prior to weaving its chrysalis, the butterfly is an ugly worm. Yet it emerges from its cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. The worm and the butterfly are the same insect. Over the period of being in the cocoon, the worm gradually changes into the butterfly.

So it is with us. We are ugly totally depraved sinners. Gradually, over the course of our Christian lives, we are changed more and more into glorious saints. For a time, we are both a worm and a butterfly, as it were. We become a beautifully perfected saint only when we finally emerge from the “cocoon” of this life at our glorification.

“Old” and “new” can be said of the same worm/butterfly. “Old man” and “new man,” when applied to the regenerated elect, cannot refer to two different persons any more than the old covenant and the new covenant refer to two separate covenants.

The second example is Scripture’s references to the new heavens and the new earth. At the coming of Christ, this present creation, heaven as it now is and this present earth, will not be annihilated. They will be changed so that even the creation shall be made new—the renewed creation of both heaven and earth. The new creation is not an entirely new creation, totally different from the present heaven and earth—even though it is called a “new heavens” and a “new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). This present creation is the same creation that will be transformed and renewed when Christ returns upon the clouds of heaven.

God created both heaven and earth at the beginning. Adam was formed as the head of the creation. Adam sinned and the devil won control of the earthly creation. His attempt to take over heaven failed and he was thrown out of that realm. He now concentrates his attention on becoming the sole ruler of this earthly creation. It sometimes seems that he is successful in his attempt, for sin becomes greater and greater as God’s commandments are more and more rejected and despised in our time.

Christ died to redeem this earthly and heavenly creation, as well as His church. He will become Head over all—in the new creation in which heaven and earth become one. That the earth was created after the pattern of the heavenly (enabling our Lord to speak of the kingdom of heaven in parables in terms taken from this earthly creation) is a temporary arrangement, for both heaven and earth are God’s creation. Jehovah saw that all He had made was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That is, all that He had made was perfectly suited to His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.

God is not going to permit Satan to steal His creation away from Him. That would make Satan look as if he were stronger than God and one who could prevent Him from accomplishing His purpose in His own creation. When the wicked become ripe for judgment, and the last elect is born and brought to saving faith in Christ, God will realize His purpose in publicly making Christ the Head of all of earth and heaven, for all is redeemed in His cross (Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:10).

We are promised a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness shall dwell (II Pet. 3:13). But both shall not be “new” in the sense that the old heaven and the old earth will be annihilated, for then God’s work in the “old” heavens and the “old” earth would be a failure. But it will be “new” because, by a wonder of God’s grace, wisdom and omnipotence, heaven and earth will be formed out of the old creation and made more glorious than ever—as the everlasting dwelling place of Christ and His church.

In the first creation, Adam was head on earth and Satan was a mighty angel in heaven. Both sinned and fell. This was part of Jehovah’s eternal purpose, and serves the incarnation and cross of the only begotten Son, ensuring the salvation of the elect church to the glory of God. At the end of this age, Christ will be manifested as Head of both heaven and earth, but it is a unity that is “new” for it is formed out of the “old.”

How could it be different? The same wonder occurred at the time of the flood. The pre-deluvian world was under the curse and had become ripe for judgment. The post-deluvian world was significantly different from the old (II Pet. 3:4-7) and with it God established His covenant, of which the rainbow was a sign. Yet is was essentially the same world. The covenant with the creation was an everlasting covenant, and will be fully realized in the new heavens and the new earth.

How could it be different? While on earth, Jesus could tell Philip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Later, Christ died and was buried in a body like ours in all things except sin. But in heaven, in His exalted human nature, He is an even greater and more glorious revelation of the invisible Triune God.

How could it be different? When the resurrection of our bodies takes place, we will not be given completely different bodies. We shall be raised in the self-same bodies, which are now glorified. Our bodies will be made like unto the body of Christ (Phil. 3:21).

Why is it that the whole brute creation groans and travails in anticipation of its redemption (Rom. 8:19-22)? Is this because it is to be annihilated? Of course not. The “new” creation in Christ shall be the redemption of the “old” creation.

This is also our hope and the object of our longing (23-25)—we who are still in the old body of this death with only a small beginning of the new obedience. By God’s grace, we persevere in the confidence that we shall be transformed into the likeness of our wonderful Saviour. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:2-3). I will be perfectly changed from old to new but I will always remain I. Prof. Herman Hanko


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