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Covenant Reformed News - December 2019

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Covenant Reformed News


December 2020 • Volume XVII, Issue 20



Begotten by God’s Own Will

Holy Scripture speaks of regeneration as a new or spiritual birth. It is being born (or begotten) again or born from above or born of the Spirit or born of God. Thus James 1:18 states, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.”

What is regeneration? Regeneration is God’s granting new, spiritual and heavenly life—the resurrection life of Jesus Christ—to an elect but totally depraved sinner, so that his inner transformation is truly a new, spiritual and heavenly birth or begetting.

Who would have expected regeneration to have been mentioned in James 1:18 in the midst of James’ very practical first chapter? Very few, yet it fits the context really well. The previous verse begins, “Every good gift [including regeneration] and every perfect gift [including regeneration] is from above” (17). Moreover, the new birth is especially “from above” for all true Christians are “born again” or, as it may also be translated, “born from above” (John 3:3, 7). James 1:17 continues, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father.” How does God become our Father? By His begetting or regenerating us!

The previous verse commands, “Do not err, my beloved brethren” (16). How do we become brothers and sisters of each other? By regeneration, for we are begotten by the same spiritual and heavenly Father!

Regeneration is a “good” and “perfect” spiritual “gift,” and we also receive “good” and “perfect” earthly and temporal gifts (17). Regeneration is the first spiritual gift in the life of God’s elect because our fellowship with our heavenly Father begins with our being born again. It is only through our regeneration that we know the truth of James 1:17, that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”

So what is the first thing that James teaches us about regeneration? That it originates solely in the sovereign good pleasure of Almighty God: “Of his own will begat he us” (18)! The emphasis of the original Greek is captured in the word order of our English translation: “Of his own will begat he us.”

James 1:18 is not the only New Testament text on God’s sovereign will as the source of our new birth. John 1:13 declares that the regenerate “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This is the first reference to regeneration in the Gospel According to John and in the New Testament canon as arranged in our Bibles. It even occurs in John’s celebrated prologue (John 1:1-18).

Notice how emphatically antithetical John 1:13 is. It states that the origin of our regeneration is not any of these three things, for we “were born, [1] not of blood, [2] nor of the will of the flesh, [3] nor of the will of man.” Instead, we “were born … of God.” Our regeneration is of God, not man; of God’s will, not man’s will; of God’s will alone!

Two chapters later, we read, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Here Christ uses the wind as an image to convey the sovereignty of God in regeneration. Jesus speaks of the wind blowing wherever it wants, so that we do not know where it came from or where it is going next.

The lesson that the Lord is teaching us is that the Holy Spirit in regeneration is like the sovereign wind. The Spirit regenerates whom He wills or wishes or wants or desires. We do not know where He was last when He regenerated someone or where He is going next to regenerate another.

Christ was not afraid to instruct people in the absolute sovereignty of God the Spirit in regenerating whom He wants (and also not regenerating according to His own free and sovereign will). Here in John 3, Jesus is explaining the truth to an unbeliever, an unbeliever who was a leader in the institute church: Nicodemus the Pharisee.

Clearly, our Saviour did not think that this truth was too hard or sharp, or that it would blunt the seriousness of the call to repent and believe, or kill evangelism. After teaching Nicodemus about regeneration (1-13), Christ speaks about God’s love demonstrated in the cross bringing everlasting life to all who believe (14-17), and warns of God’s condemnation of all who love darkness and so do not trust the Son (18-21).

Now let us put two parts of James 1 together: “Do not err, my beloved brethren” (16) and “Of his own will begat he us” (18). How do people “err” (16) in opposition to the truth of God’s sovereign regeneration (18)?

First, many teach and believe baptismal regeneration that people are born again through the water that is applied by the church in the sacrament of baptism. Everyone who is dunked in, or sprinkled with, water by an ecclesiastical official in the name of the Triune God is born again so that new spiritual life is given to him or her. This is the position of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, high church Anglicanism and many others.

Second, many teach and believe decisional regeneration that people are born again through the exercise of their own free will. Whereas baptismal regeneration locates the power to effect the new birth in the church (with its sacrament), decisional regeneration places this might in the sinner himself (and his own supposed free will). According to the latter heresy, though God assists him, the final say always lies with man and his free will: man decides to believe and then (in response) God regenerates him. This is preached and believed in Arminianism and Methodism, and in most of fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

“Do not err, my beloved brethren” (16), not only regarding our practice, especially as concerns our temptations (2-15), but also regarding our doctrine. There is a massive theological error that most in Christendom actually embrace. Instead of the Bible’s doctrine of sovereign regeneration, they teach and trust in baptismal regeneration and/or decisional regeneration. I say, “and/or” because some, like John Wesley, believed or believe both of these heresies!

But what does James 1 say? “Of his own will begat he us” (18), so “Do not err, my beloved brethren” (16). As those who are “of the truth,” let us hear the “voice” of Him who bears “witness unto the truth” in the Bible (John 18:37)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

The Idea of the Organic in Scripture (5)

Adam was the head of all God’s work in the universe—not only of mankind but also of the creation. He fell and plunged the entire human race into the darkness and hopelessness of total depravity. The curse of God came also on the creation itself. The curse fell on the ground because Adam sinned (Gen. 3:17), but in Romans 8:19-22 Paul tells us that the whole creation groans and travails under the curse, waiting for the salvation of the children of God.

This is important because it means, as the passage in Romans makes clear, that the creation that is under the curse shall be delivered with the sons of God, that is, in the redemption of the elect accomplished by Christ. We often forget that. Christ bore our curse but He also bore the curse of God on the creation. The result is that Christ’s headship over His elect people, who were “chosen ... in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), extends also over the whole universe so that He is head of all.

But there is more. Colossians 1:20 insists that Christ is the head of all things “in heaven,” as well as all things on earth. It is almost as if the apostle thinks we might doubt his statement that Christ is also the head of heavenly things and the heavenly creation. But so it is. Scripture teaches that Christ is Lord of all, including the new heavens and the new earth.

That, quite obviously, brings up a problem. Christ becomes head of the heavenly things by dying for them and redeeming them with His blood. But, if this is true, then the angels too now look to Christ as their head because He died for them, as well as elect humans. How is that possible?

It is possible because God created the angels also, probably on the sixth day when He created man—although Scripture does not tell us specifically. But the angels also were created as a corporate unity with the angel that is now the devil at the head—as Adam was in the original creation. When the devil rebelled against God, he took a large number of angels with him into his depravity, but the entire angelic world was responsible for his sin and became guilty in him.

Scripture refers to “elect angels” (I Tim. 5:21). Election and reprobation took place in heaven as well as on earth. In heaven, it took place immediately at the fall of Satan, though Satan was permitted in heaven until Christ’s ascension when He threw him out. In the old dispensation, Satan could still enter heaven, as during his tirades against Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; cf. Jude 9; Rev. 12:7-12). The last passage also explains why Christ is also the head of the elect angels. So it is clear that Christ died, and through His death and resurrection became the head of all the earthly and heavenly creation.

We must understand this. When originally God created the heavens and the earth, He created them as two separate creations. They were different in that the earth was physical and material, while the heavenly creation was spiritual. They were so different that the two could have no contact with each other, nor could angels come to earth and men go to heaven. But when the fall came, God began to work His eternal and highest purpose by making His own eternal Son head over all. He gave many indications of His plan and purpose. He promised Adam the “seed” who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). The Old Testament is the story of Christ and Satan in their bitter warfare that would culminate in the cross (Rev. 12:1-5). God kept reminding His people of His purpose by His miracles, prophecies and laws, as well as the visits of angels and the words of outstanding men who spoke of Christ’s coming.

When Christ was born of Mary, God came in our flesh in the greatest miracle that took place in all of history, for Christ came to die for both creations and for the elect in the angelic word and the elect here on earth. His resurrection from the dead shattered the barrier that had existed in the old dispensation. Christ startled, so to speak, heaven and earth. He arose from Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb—an event that is part of the history of this world. But He went through a door that He created and that opened in heaven. His resurrection was visible only in heaven and was seen there. And there He became head over all!

And so, in this new organism that will finally be perfected when Christ comes again, this earth is destroyed with fire, the elect are saved and all things, including heavenly things, are made new. Christ will be acknowledged as Lord of all. He will be the head of all. The old world will be burned with fire, elect humans and angels will be delivered from sin and death, and the whole creation will be united as one great organism to the eternal glory of God.

That is Scripture’s teaching on the great works of our God. We cannot celebrate His greatness without seeing how He has revealed Himself in His mighty works in His beloved Son: Christ, head over all; the elect, Christ’s own body; the elect angels, their “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14); and the whole new creation, heaven and earth, the everlasting possession of Christ and His church. The old organism will serve its purpose and be swept away in order to make room for this glorious organism.

How easy it is to lose sight of God’s glory in our preoccupation with earthly problems and things. How great is the glory of our God revealed in Christ and His cosmic work. How beautifully biblical revelation portrays all God’s works united to bring praise eternally to Him who has done it all. Let us lift up our eyes on high and worship Him whose works are past finding out. 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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Dating Differently
A Guide to
Reformed Dating

by Joshua Engelsma
(160 pp. Softback)  
 
 
We’re bombarded with antichristian messages everywhere in life. From casual hookups to recreational sex, our culture’s messages on dating are no different. But Christians don’t have to follow these wicked societal norms. The Bible gives us a better way. It’s a way of chastity and wisdom, a way that understands that marriage—the end goal of dating—is for life. The person you marry will shape who you become spiritually. That person will also be the father or mother to the children God is pleased to give you some day. Pastorally and accessibly, Joshua Engelsma answers the practical questions of Reformed, Christian dating based on the truth that we must date differently—with marriage as the goal and Scripture as the guide.


£8.80 (inc. P&P)

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

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

South Wales
Lecture


William Tyndale: 
English Bible Translator


William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536) was a great English preacher, Bible translator, theologian, Reformer and martyr. Born in Gloucestershire, studied at Oxford University, and pursued by his enemies through Germany and the Lowlands, Tyndale was 
burned at the stake near Brussels for the truth of God’s Word. Come, hear and see this lecture with Powerpoint presentation!

Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart


Date:
Thursday, 23 January
 
7:15 PM

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

Books, CDs and DVDs available at the lecture
Coffee and tea provided after the lecture

All are invited! 

cprc.co.uk/south-wales-lectures
 


Reserve the date for
an additional
 

S. Wales Lecture

The Canon of Sacred Scripture

Speaker:
Rev. M. McGeown

Date:
Thursday, 27 February, 2020

cprc.co.uk/south-wales-lectures


For God's Glory & the Church's Consolation
edited by
Ronald Cammenga
(320 pp. Softback)  
 
This powerful book defends and promotes the Bible’s teachings on particular salvation as systematized in the Canons of Dordt (1618-1619) with special focus on the gospel call, the covenant, reprobation and assurance. It also covers the significance, polemics, sessions and church polity of Dordt. The chapters of this book were written by Prof. Douglas Kuiper, Rev. Angus Stewart, Prof. Brian Huizinga, Rev. Mark Shand, Rev. William Langerak, Prof. Ronald Cammenga and Prof. Barry Gritters.   

£14.30 (inc. P&P) 

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

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!
Last modified on 29 January 2020

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