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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - March 2021

Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter
Pastor M. McGeown

MMcGeown livestream preach Nov 2020

Monday, March 1, 2021

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Many of you have been asking for an update on my plans to immigrate to the USA. When we first started making enquiries into immigration, we were warned that the process could take at least a year, and that was without the added complication of COVID-19. On April 28, 2020 we submitted Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) as the first step toward a “green card,” and on June 16, 2020, Providence PRC submitted two more applications under the general category of Religious Worker (R-1 and I-360).

On August 24, 2020 I was informed that the R-1 application had been approved and that I should seek the earliest possible appointment for a (non-immigrant) visa interview in London, England, UK. The earliest possible appointment at that time was August 11, 2021. Later I secured an appointment for November 10, 2020 in Dublin, which was cancelled and rescheduled for March 8, 2021, when Ireland increased its COVID-19 restrictions in October 2020.

On December 17, 2020, the National Visa Center (NVC) informed of us that USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) had approved the I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”), and after more forms, fees, and documentation, I am now “documentarily qualified” for an immigrant visa appointment, but I do not know when I might be assigned such an appointment.

Of the three applications (I-130, R-1, and I-360) two have been approved and one (I-360) is pending. However, I still need a visa interview. On February 23, 2021, the Irish government announced yet another extension of the current “Level 5” restrictions until April 5, with the result that the appointment for March 8, 2021 (the non-immigrant visa) has been cancelled. According to the embassy’s website, “Under Level 5 restrictions the Visa Unit will be able to provide only extremely limited immigrant visa services. Non-immigrant visa services will be suspended except for life and death emergencies and for travel to engage directly in the fight against COVID-19” and “Under Level 4 and under only extremely limited routine services will be possible. As such, wait times for appointments and processing times might be greatly extended” (https://ie.usembassy.gov/us-travel-restrictions/).

To clarify, a non-immigrant visa is one that allows temporary residency in the USA. For example, the R-1 visa would grant me permission to live and work in the USA for two and a half years, and could be renewed for a maximum of five years. An immigrant visa is one that allows permanent residency in the USA. The I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) visa would grant me permanent residency in the USA.

Therefore, since the March 8 appointment is now officially cancelled, the earliest appointment that I have is the R-1 visa interview (the non-immigrant visa) in London, England, for August 11, 2021; and I am waiting for the embassy to grant an appointment for the I-130 (immigrant visa). If the embassy offers only “extremely limited immigrant visa services,” we wonder how likely it is for me to get an appointment for an I-130 immigrant visa interview in Dublin before August. The words “extremely limited” do not close the door completely, but they also do not offer a lot of hope. The National Visa Center’s website states: “NVC cannot predict when Consular Sections will resume routine services, or when your case will be scheduled for an interview.”

The issue, then, is not immigration as such, but the effect that COVID-19 restrictions are having on the embassy in Dublin. Under Ireland’s “Level 5” restrictions almost all businesses are 2 closed. No gatherings outside of one’s household, either in homes or in private gardens, are permitted. Some “social distanced” walking in parks and other public venues is permitted with one other household, but no picnics or the like are allowed (that would be a “gathering”). There is also a travel limit of 5km (3.1 miles) so that we may not, for example, drive to some of the beautiful scenic spots of Ireland and go for a walk, because “non-essential” travel beyond the 5km limit is punishable with a fine of €100 (c. $122), which applies to each adult in the vehicle. (We do have some nice areas for walking in Limerick, however). We also may not travel to Northern Ireland to visit family or to visit the church in Ballymena. Leaving the country on a “non-essential” journey is also out of the question and punishable with a fine of €2,000 (c. $2,430). Therefore, walks within the 5km limit, shopping for groceries, and errands to the bank or post office are really the only reasons for leaving the house, unless you cannot work from home.

Most grievous for us, however, are the continued restrictions on public worship. Most of the members of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship have left (two families moved to Northern Ireland before the end of 2020), so that only a handful of people remain. We have never had our own church building, the hall that we rented for ten years is closed, no other facility is available to us, and even mixed-household gatherings in private homes for worship, for Bible study, or even for a cup of tea are prohibited. Therefore, our worship is online only: I preach two sermons a week from my study and I lead a Bible study (on Proverbs) and teach four catechism classes (two for Providence PRC and two for my nieces in Northern Ireland) from home. The online program that we use allows us to chat afterwards, which is nice. Nevertheless, we long to be able to meet together again, but despite petitions from church leaders to the government and one pending court challenge (by a Roman Catholic businessman, whose case was just adjourned for the fourth time to March 23), the churches remain closed. Our brethren in Northern Ireland in the CPRC do hold in-person worship services and Bible studies, albeit with social distancing and the wearing of masks, but they are in a different jurisdiction (UK) with different rules.

We broadcast our services live on http://mixlr.com/limerickreformed/ at 11 am and 5.30pm (GMT) and the sermons are recorded and uploaded to https://sermons.limerickreformed.com/. I have been preaching a series on the parables (currently number 17 in the series) and have recently started my seventh time through the Heidelberg Catechism. I will continue preaching, teaching, leading the Bible study, and writing, until we move. We may not leave Limerick: Larisa does not have permission to reside in the UK, so moving to Northern Ireland is not an option, and we may not travel to other countries until immigration is sorted or travel restrictions are relaxed.

As you might imagine, we struggle with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and discontentment, but we also trust that God’s way is perfect for us. However, it is not easy: the monotony and lack of social interaction is very difficult, and the lack of fellowship and public worship is demoralizing. We greatly appreciate and need your prayers. Remember, too, the saints of Providence PRC, as they wait for their future pastor. It is wonderful to be able to teach some of the children catechism from afar, but we long to be with the whole congregation.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Covenant Reformed News - February 2021

Covenant Reformed News


February 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 10



The Apostles’ Authority to Rule and Show Mercy

Besides teaching authority, as we saw in the last installment of the News, the apostles also possessed ruling authority under Christ and in His church.

The apostles included in their office the authority of elders. Thus Cephas wrote, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder” (I Pet. 5:1). Unlike elders, however, the apostles did not only serve one church; they itinerated.

The apostles had the authority to discipline church offenders and excommunicate them. This is a fearful authority: to exclude an impenitent church member from the kingdom of heaven! Paul excommunicated Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:20). In connection with the Corinthian church, he excommunicated the incestuous man (I Cor. 5:3-5). Ananias and Sapphira, two wicked members of the church at Jerusalem, were slain by God before the apostle Peter (Acts 5). Are there any so-called apostles today with the might and right to do this? No!

The apostles had the power to ordain office-bearers. The Twelve appointed deacons in Acts 6. Paul (with Barnabas) ordained elders on the return leg of his first missionary journey (Acts 14:23). Along with a body of elders, Paul ordained Timothy (I Tim. 4:14; II Tim. 1:6). The former Pharisee gave instructions regarding training “faithful men” in order to maintain a godly succession of ecclesiastical office-bearers (2:2).

The ruling authority of apostles is evident in their founding and establishing congregations, and their subsequent oversight of them. The apostles had authority to hear and decide controversies among Christians and in the churches. Time and time again we read of this in the inspired epistles of Paul. The apostle John denounced Diotrephes (III John 9-10). The apostles officiated at the Jerusalem assembly in Acts 15, though they did not adjudicate on their own; they served with the elders (15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4).

They also directed and supervised the New Testament evangelists, who were special apostolic helpers. Paul appointed the field of service for evangelists Timothy and Titus, whom he left at Ephesus and Crete, respectively (I Tim. 1:3; Titus 1:5). The apostle instructed both evangelists in what especially they should do: Timothy was to refute false teachers (I Tim. 1:3ff.) and Titus was to “ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5ff.). In short, Paul wrote to Timothy that he might know how he ought to behave himself “in the house of God, which is … the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15).

In some sense, apostolic authority even carries over to the judgment day. The Lord Jesus declared to His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).

As well as teaching and ruling authority, the apostles possessed the right to show mercy in God’s church by helping the needy. Obviously, all Christians ought to and do assist the poor. But not all believers have the authority to show mercy in an official capacity. Only deacons, elected by the church and acting on her behalf, provide help to the needy as the designated representatives of the congregation and of Christ.

In the very earliest days of the New Testament church after Pentecost, there were no deacons. Thus, in Acts 4 and 5, we see the apostles doing (what would later become) diaconal work. People brought money, laying it at the apostles’ feet, with the Twelve then distributing it to the poor. When the number of believers multiplied, the apostles ordained the seven deacons whom the people elected (Acts 6:1-6). Similarly, we see Paul’s role in the official demonstration of mercy in the collection of money from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia for the needy saints in Jerusalem (II Cor. 8-9).

Having considered apostolic authority in teaching, ruling and showing mercy—a much higher authority than that of pastors, elders and deacons today!—we ought also consider the scope of their authority.

The authority of an elder or deacon is limited to his own congregation, though sometimes, for the duration of broader assemblies, elders have a wider sphere, and deacons from different churches may cooperate when need arises. Though the authority of preachers to teach is, hypothetically, universal—that is, if all the churches agreed in doctrine, a minister could preach in any congregation—yet his authority is especially in the church that called him.

However, all these congregations were equally under the authority of all the apostles. Thus Paul speaks of his “care of all the churches” (II Cor. 11:28), not only the ones he planted but even congregations he had not been able to visit. Peter’s first canonical epistle was written to, among others, the Galatians (I Pet. 1:1), though these churches were founded by Paul. In the book of Revelation, John writes to the Ephesians (Rev. 2:1-7), a congregation in which Paul had earlier laboured.

Let us take Paul as an example of this universal authority in all three spheres. As regards his right to instruct, he speaks of his “ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (I Cor. 4:17). His authority to rule in God’s church is seen in Acts 15, and in his advising, disciplining and even excommunicating members of various congregations. Paul demonstrated his right to administer mercy through his labours in Macedonia, Achaia and Jerusalem.

How this exposes the pseudo-apostles of our generation! These men (and women!) know full well that God has not given them this awesome authority, in its various spheres and vast scope. Therefore, they usually do not even claim it and over 99% of the church world gives 0% obedience to a charismatic who claims to be an apostle!

The universal scope of apostolic authority is also evident in the three—and only three!—extensions—not repetitions!—of Pentecost. The extensions of this once-for-all event show that Christ’s catholic church embraces, and full New Testament salvation is given to, not only Jews (Acts 2) but also Samaritans (Acts 8), Gentiles (Acts 10-11) and Old Testament believers who had not yet heard that the Messiah had already come (Acts 19). Notice, in these three extensions, the role of the apostles: Peter and John, Peter and Paul, respectively. In the light of all this, it is no wonder that one of these extraordinary and temporary church officers wrote, “though I should boast somewhat more of our authority … I should not be ashamed” (II Cor. 10:8)! Rev. Stewart

 

 

Satan’s Knowledge of Biblical Prophecy

One of our readers has submitted two questions about Satan. The first will be answered in this instalment of the News, with the second being treated in next month’s issue, Lord willing.

The brother writes, “I have two queries arising from reading Behold He Cometh by Herman Hoeksema about our arch enemy. 1) Since Satan is well aware of God’s Word, how come he did not know that Christ would rise from the dead from Psalm 16 and Isaiah 53? Did he know these Scriptures but not believe them or is it the case that, just as he knows that his time his short, he chooses to fight on regardless of his certain defeat, because that is his perverse nature? 2) Since the devil and the demons are pure spirits, how can we conceive of their suffering eternal punishment in the lake of fire without bodies? Presumably it will reflect the spiritual suffering of all the damned, a real sense of confinement, misery and God’s wrath?”

There can be little doubt that Satan knows the Scriptures since he quoted them so readily to Christ during the wilderness temptations (Matt. 4:6). Nor can there be much doubt that he knows what is going on in our world. The story of Job makes that clear (e.g., Job 1:7; 2:2), as do our own temptations. We can conclude, then, that the devil is and was aware of the teaching of God’s Word, and he knew of Christ’s coming, His death and resurrection, and what would be accomplished by our Lord in His work. Most certainly, he was behind the efforts of the Jewish leaders to seal and guard Christ’s tomb, in order to deny His resurrection once He had risen from the dead.

The passage alluded to in the question, Revelation 12:12, says that Satan knows that his time is short. This not only confirms his knowledge of the Scriptures and his ability to interpret them, but answers the question about his past and present opposition to Christ and His saving work. The devil, as the question itself suggests, continues his enmity and revolt, because he is the great rebel and unbeliever, though he knows his efforts are in vain. He is like those Nazis in the last days of World War II, who continued to believe in Hitler and the Third Reich and their ultimate victory, even when complete ruin loomed. Satan will not and cannot cease his war against the kingdom of God until he is thrown into the lake of fire.

This is characteristic of unbelief. Unbelief is willing ignorance (II Pet. 3:5). It knows and yet refuses to acknowledge God and His Word, and desperately seeks to deny its own wickedness and impending doom. Atheism is a good example. It carries on an endless crusade against the Most High exactly because it cannot escape the knowledge of God which is written into the conscience and mind of every man. It “doth protest too much” and shows, by continually opposing the truth of God, its own knowledge of the Almighty.

Romans 1 teaches these things: “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (19). Unbelievers have some knowledge of the truth but hold it under in unrighteousness (18), turning the truth into the lie (25). They know that God rules, but do not glorify Him and are not thankful (21). Despite knowing that He is Lord, they turn to idolatry, worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (25). (Idolatry does not prove ignorance of God but knowledge of Him!) They do this because “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (28) but it is also God’s judgment on them for their unbelief. So they “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (21).

That this is true of demons, as well as unbelieving men and women, is proved by James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” They know how great God is. They tremble at the very thought of Him. Yet they continue their opposition to Him. That is the folly of unbelief.

There is a warning for us in their unbelief, the warning of Hebrews 3:12: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” We must not close our ears to the Word of God. We must not harden our hearts through the deceitfulness of sin, when the Scriptures get in our sinful way. We must not only be hearers of the Word but also doers of it (James 1:22). The inspired words of Hebrews 2:1-3 must be our guide: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”

Satan’s unbelief and rebellion will continue to the end, when he will be thrown into the lake of fire. However, it is wonderfully true that our unbelief and rebellion have not continued, for God has brought them to an end, conquering our wicked hearts by the power of His irresistible grace, forgiving our sins through the obedience and sacrifice of our Saviour. He has softened our hardened hearts, delivered us from the folly and darkness of unbelief, and caused the light of His glory to shine in us. He has given us true faith in Christ and so the obedience of faith, by planting in our hearts the resurrection life of Christ. When His work in us in this life is finished, then we, who now see through a glass darkly, will see Him face to face in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord (I Cor. 13:12). Thanks be to Him! 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  
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 - January 2021

CPRC News Header

Covenant Reformed News


January 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 9



Apostolic Teaching Authority

In II Corinthians 10-13, the apostle Paul battles with false apostles and their followers in Corinth. These false apostles did two things. First, they elevated themselves as if they were great ones in the church. Second, they denigrated Paul as unimposing and inarticulate. In fact, he was not really an apostle at all!

Paul begins II Corinthians by reminding the church of his apostolic authority (1:1). Earlier, while an unbeliever, he had been given authority by the Jewish high priest to persecute Christians in Damascus and elsewhere (Acts 9:1-2, 14; 22:4-5; 26:10-12). Now Paul has authority from the crucified and exalted Christ, the Lord of the universe, as one of His apostles.

This is the highest New Testament office. Note the order in Ephesians 4:11: the ascended Jesus “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” I Corinthians 12:28 is even more explicit: “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers …” Thus the apostolic office has a unique authority in the New Testament church under Jesus Christ its head.

But what is authority? Authority is a legal right. In that Paul and the Twelve had apostolic authority, they had a legal right to speak and act in Christ’s name. Along with this legal right, God gave them the spiritual power and gifts to exercise it faithfully. No one before or since these thirteen biblical office-bearers has had this apostolic authority. Anyone who claims to be an apostle or to exercise apostolic authority—for these are the same thing—is a usurper and a liar.

In II Corinthians 10:1-7, Paul speaks of his apostolic authority, before adding, “though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed” (8).

First, when Paul states that he could say “somewhat more” regarding his apostolic authority, this is a deliberate understatement. He means that he could say a lot more.

Second, given that Paul could “boast somewhat more” about apostolic authority, it was clearly mighty and extensive, something about which one could glory or boast.

Third, the force of Paul’s argument, “though I should boast somewhat more of our authority … I should not be ashamed,” needs to be grasped. His meaning is this: “I could say a lot more about our apostolic authority; I could extol it highly and boast of it as mighty and extensive; and, as a matter of fact, it would all be true for I would not be ashamed of such claims as if I were a liar!”

Let us draw out the extent of this “somewhat more” of apostolic authority that Paul could “boast” of and “not be ashamed.” Apostolic authority includes teaching authority. Like Christian ministers or pastors today, the apostles had the authority to preach God’s Word and administer the sacraments.

The risen Lord commanded the Eleven, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Paul declared, “Christ sent me … to preach the gospel” (I Cor. 1:17; cf. Gal. 1:16). Like Christian ministers, the apostles had the divine right to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). Without this divine authorization, neither ministers nor apostles have the right to preach the gospel, or to administer baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Divine authority to do these things is given in the offices of apostle and pastor/teacher (Eph. 4:11).

The teaching authority of the apostles reaches far greater heights than that of a Christian minister though. The apostles have authority as infallible teachers of God’s truth, including the gospel, as eyewitnesses of the risen Christ (I Cor. 15:1-11), and the Lord’s Supper (11:23-25). Like the New Testament prophets, the apostles delivered binding interpretations of the Old Testament Scriptures and revealed the mystery of the full equality between Jews and Gentiles in the new covenant (Eph. 3:1-11).

The apostles are authoritative, infallible teachers of doctrine, worship, Christian living and church government, including the qualifications for deacons and for ruling and teaching elders (I Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-9). Without error, the apostles set forth the truth concerning relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and employers and employees (Eph. 5:22-6:9), as well as marriage and sexual ethics (I Cor. 6:9-7:40), concerning which Paul declared, “so ordain I in all churches” (7:17).

The apostles (Matthew, John, Paul and Peter) wrote 21 of the 27 (almost 78%) of the infallible and inerrant books of the New Testament. Along with the New Testament prophets (Mark, Luke, James and Jude) and the author of Hebrews (whether he was an apostle or a prophet), the apostles are the foundation of the church for their inspired writings reveal Jesus Christ as the church’s “chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).

Thus the writings of the apostles (and prophets) have absolute authority as God’s own Word, the highest and final appeal for Christian faith and life (cf. Acts 2:42). No wonder apostolic writings are to be read in the church’s worship services. Paul speaks of this (Col. 4:16; I Thess. 5:27), as does John (Rev. 1:3).

One wonders if those who wickedly claim to be apostles today even understand the authority of the office they pretend to hold. Do they really believe that they are infallible teachers? Who among them dares to allege that they are writers of inerrant Scripture? Few of them have the temerity to assert that they or their books are the foundation of God’s church or that what they have written should be read as part of congregational worship services. In other words, the vast majority of these pseudo-apostles do not even apprehend the ramifications of the teaching authority tied up with their arrogant claims.

As full-time teachers of Christ’s church (like pastors today), the apostles had authority to receive financial support from the people of God. This is the teaching of I Corinthians 9, which also indicates that the apostles had the authority to receive remuneration to support a wife (5) and, by implication, their children. Today’s false apostles certainly insist upon this aspect of the office! Unlike the true apostles in the first century (II Cor. 11:7-12; 12:13-18) but like their contemporary opponents (11:20), modern apostles often want and demand lots of money for self-aggrandisement! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

Did King Saul Truly Repent?

One of our subscribers writes, “Saul confessed his sin in I Samuel 15. Saul desired to worship God (25, 31). Samuel obliged Saul by returning with him before Israel and the elders (30-31). Does this not confirm that Saul genuinely repented and sought the Lord’s mercy alone? Is this not the confession of a regenerate heart?”

The passage referred to reads, “Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord” (24-31).

It is clear that Saul’s repentance and worship of God were not genuine. His sorrow was not a “godly sorrow” but the “sorrow of the world” (II Cor. 7:10). His was the kind of worship that God abhors, not the worship of a poor and contrite spirit (Isa. 66:2). It was the worship of those who choose their own ways (3), do not listen to Jehovah’s speech and do evil before His eyes (4).

What is the evidence for this? There is abundant proof in I Samuel 15: (1) Saul’s attempt to excuse his disobedience by blaming it on the people even after being rebuked (24); (2) Saul’s asking only Samuel’s pardon and not God’s (25); (3) Samuel’s refusal to accept Saul’s repentance and his insistence that God would not change His Word but would take the kingdom away from Saul (26-29); (4) Samuel’s refusing to have anything more to do with Saul (35); (5) God’s repenting that He had made Saul king (35); and (6) Saul’s request that Samuel honour him before the people by worshipping with him (30). Saul was not interested in God’s glory but only in his own reputation (John 5:44), and his worship was only to maintain his standing before the elders and the people.

If this were not proof enough, Saul’s subsequent behaviour abundantly proves that he was not a regenerate man. If Saul really repented in I Samuel 15, why was he forsaken by the Spirit of God and troubled by an evil spirit, Jehovah’s judgment upon him (16:14-16)? When Samuel was commanded to anoint David king, he was afraid Saul would kill him if he found out (16:2)! In the remaining years of his rule over Israel, Saul repeatedly tried to slay David (e.g., 18:11; 19:10-18; 23:15-29; 24:1-22; 26:1-25) and once even his own son Jonathan, David’s friend (20:33). Saul massacred 85 priests of Nob for helping David (22:9-23). Before his last battle, Saul consulted the witch of Endor (28:3-25) and ended his life by committing suicide (31:3-6).

After the self-murder of Israel’s first king, I Chronicles 10:13-14 concludes, “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” No wonder Israel “enquired not at it [i.e., the ark of the covenant] in the days of Saul” (13:3).

There is further proof in the Psalms. Psalm 18, a Psalm written when God delivered David from Saul, numbers him among the ungodly. Saul is referred to as a worker of iniquity in Psalm 59:2, a Psalm penned when Saul tried to kill David at his house. None of this is the behaviour of a true penitent and worshipper of the Lord.

Applying this to ourselves so that we sincerely and truly repent before God, we note that Saul’s sorrow is characterized by grief merely over the consequences of sin but is never sorrow for sin as sin against God. Saul asks Samuel for pardon (I Sam. 15:25) but David pleads, “Have mercy upon me, O God” (Ps. 51:1), and “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (4). Godly sorrow submits to the consequences of sin but the sorrow of the world does all it can to smooth over those consequences. Saul said, “Honour me … before Israel” (I Sam. 15:30) but David cried, “Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God” (Ps. 51:14).

True sorrow seeks its refuge in the atoning work of Christ but the sorrow of the world does not seek forgiveness in the Lord Jesus. David prayed, “According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (1-2). But Saul never echoed such sentiments and never looked to Christ. David’s sins, in our estimation, might seem greater than Saul’s, but Saul could not have written Psalms 32 and 51.

What does all this mean for you and for me? It means this: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (16-17). Believing those words, we respond with David, “Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” (9), and we pray this in the confidence that our sins are, and will be, forgiven for our Redeemer’s sake. 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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Reformed News Asia - December 2020 (Issue 63)

 
Issue 63
Pamphlets

We print pamphlets written by our members and those from other Reformed churches of like-minded faith. They include a wide range of topics from doctrines to church history and practical Christian living. These pamphlets serve to promote knowledge of the true God as expressed in the Reformed faith.
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Questions in the Bible - Job, Psalm
By Prof Hermon Hanko

This project was inspired by 'Pastoral Voice' written by Rev. Andy Lanning for CERC in Oct 13-Jan 14 which covered 6 questions in Genesis.

There are many questions within the Bible, 2,540 to be exact.

The Christian Literature Ministry has shortlisted and compiled a list of them based on certain criteria:

i) Can be linked to Christ
ii) Significant in history of church
iii) Spiritual lesson for us
iv) A question we may also ask

After 6 years of effort, 12 books of the bible have been completed. In addition to the 6 meditations from Rev. Lanning, the writers are: Prof. Herman Hanko, Rev. Richard Smit and Rev. Cory Griess. We are grateful for their labour of love.

May you benefit spiritually from the meditations, and pray with us that gradually we may compile more meditations from questions in other books of the Bible.


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Featured Book
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For international orders, click here.

His Friends and Servants
Tell His Wonders, volume 2


by Nathan J. Langerak

 

From the RFPA website:

By the wonder of salvation in Jesus Christ God establishes a covenant with us his people and makes us his friends and servants. And in his mercy he also makes a promise to us: I will be your God, and I will never forsake you.

God is always faithful to keep the promises he makes to us, even as he kept his promises to the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob. We may suffer terrible troubles in this world like Job or Joseph, but God rules all things for our sakes, and so his plan for us is always good.

As his friends and servants we seek heaven and flee the temptations of the world. The God who delivered his servant Daniel from the lion’s den also delivers us from the devil and keeps us safe until he brings us to heavenly glory.

This second book in the Tell His Wonders Bible story book series includes stories about Job and the patriarchs, Joseph and his brothers, several judges, King David, Daniel and his friends, and more.

Nathan J. Langerak is a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. In addition to the two books in the Tell His Wonders series, he has written Walking in the Way of Love, a two-volume commentary on the book of 1 Corinthians. He and his wife and their six children live in Crete, Illinois.

Michael Welply has illustrated more than eighty books, including The Random House Book of Bible Stories and Biblical Times, published by Simon and Schuster. He has two adult children and three grandchildren. He and his wife live in Levet, France.

For ages: 7-10

 
Audio Recordings
Series of Sermons from Prof Dykstra on the three Gentile Mothers of Christ:

Tamar, A Gentile Mother of Christ
Rahab, The Second Gentile Mother of Christ
Ruth: The Third Gentile Mother of Christ
 
Upcoming Events!
 
Stay tuned...
 
 
Past Events...
 
Prof. and Carol Dykstra 

Over the last few months, we were extremely blessed and thankful to have Prof Dykstra who was able to bring to us God's word via live streaming. In the last month, Prof. Dykstra was allowed to be relieved from his seminary duties and to come to Singapore to help us with pulpit supply. Prof. and Carol Dykstra arrived in Singapore on 15 Dec and has since provided pastoral help while serving their two-week Stay-Home Notice. They have recently did a swab test and tested negative for COVID-19. Thank God for His preservation and grace in granting to them a safe journey to Singapore and good health.

We are thankful to God for showing to us His will and that we could continue to receive the preaching of God's Word despite the circumstances that we are currently in. We are also thankful for the labour of love and the sacrifice of the Dykstras.

 
 
 
CK Camp 2020

This year, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the annual CK Camp was conducted in a different manner. The camp participants were split into three groups where they gathered in three different homes while having their various activities. Prof. Dykstra gave the talks for the camp and discussions and outings were conducted as well. We hope that the youths had a good time of fellowship and we pray that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thank God for this opportunity. 

 
 
 
One of the activities - Stand Up Paddle, exploring some of the mangroves in Singapore
 
Christmas Gospel Meeting

Similar to most of the activities conducted this year, the Christmas Gospel Meeting was brought online and conducted over Zoom. Many homes were opened to receive friends and guests, where they gathered to listen to the Gospel message by Prof. Dykstra on Mark 2:17. This was followed by singing of carols and a meal at each respective houses. It was a good time of fellowship and it was a good opportunity for many to get to know other members better. Thank God for this occasion. 

 
 
 
 
Notes
 
Salt Shakers
 

Salt Shakers is a bi-monthly magazine published by the youth in Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC). Included in each issue are writings pertaining to bothReformed doctrine and practical theology. Contributors to Salt Shakers include our pastor, youth and members of CERC, and pastors and professors from the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Salt Shakers also features articles from the Standard Bearer and other Reformed publications. Click here to access.

 
Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church
We are a Reformed Church that holds to the doctrines of the Reformation as they are expressed in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt.

Lord’s Day services on Sunday at 930 am & 2 pm • 11 Jalan Mesin, #04-00, Standard Industrial Building, Singapore 368813 • www.cerc.org.sg 
 
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Philippines Mission Newsletter - November 2020

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
NOVEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the PRCA,

Another update from your missionaries in the Philippines. While many of you enjoyed the warm fall colors, crisp cool air, and sweet apple cider, we enjoyed rain, rain, and more rain! This rainy season, one particular typhoon (hurricane) was quite remarkable, to say the least. I will come back to that.

Missionary Labors

Last August, we missionaries began our second year of training men for the ministry of the gospel on behalf of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP). I am teaching Biblical Hermeneutics again and have added OT History. Rev. Kleyn is teaching Homiletics and Church History again and has added Reformed Symbols (the study of the creeds). Rev. Smit is teaching Dogmatics and has added Greek Reading and NT Exegesis. We are teaching a total of 3 seminary students. A few visitors have also been attending or watching our online lectures on Zoom, Skype, or YouTube. It has been a very different format for teaching, sitting in front of our computers in our studies at home and teaching through a webcam. But it is working well enough. We expect to finish the first semester in early December when the students will take their final exams.

3 missionaries 2020

Although the Philippine government has been very strict throughout this pandemic, there have been some happy developments recently. In their quarantine guidelines, mass gatherings, including religious services, are now allowed up to 50% of the venue capacity. So, with much thanksgiving to God, the churches of the PRCP are gradually returning to normalcy in terms of their Sunday worship services.

Phil sem students 2020

First year seminarians Jethro Flores (left) and Emmanuel Jasojaso (right) taking a midterm exam.

In other labors, I have continued to pastor the Provident PRC with preaching on Sundays in their sanctuary and teaching during the week on Zoom. We recently completed a very enjoyable and very relevant Bible study on the book of Revelation on Wednesday nights from April through October. I am currently teaching OT Bible stories to the children and Essentials of Reformed Doctrine to the youth. We rejoiced greatly when three of the young women in the Essentials class came before the Council to profess their faith and to ask for approval to make public confession.This they will do, Lord willing, on December 13. I also attend (as advisor) the meetings of the Mission/Contact Committee and Translation Committee of the PRCP. However, Provident’s outreach work to two Brethren churches north of Manilawas put on hold because the congregations were not gathering during the quarantine. The work will continue, Lord willing, in January. In the meantime, the pastor of one of the churches (Pastor Ronil Domingo) has been attending many of our seminary classes as a visitor.

Rev. Kleyn, in addition to his full-timeload of preparation and teachingat the seminary, also continues to preach regularly on Sundays when requested by area churchesof the PRCP. He also attends(as advisor) themeetings of the very busy Finance Committee of the PRCP (on Zoom). However, the mission work in Southern Negros Occidental, which is primarily the workof Rev. Kleyn and Rev. Smit,has been put on hold due to the tight travel restrictions between the islands.

Rev. Smit, in addition to his full-time load of preparation and teaching at the seminary, continues to preach regularly on Sundays mainly for the Maranatha PRC through their Facebook page. He also attends the meetings of the Theological School Committee of the PRCP (as advisor) and devotes a lot of time to theological studies (reading and writing) for a program he is taking at a local Presbyterian seminary.

All three of us attended the Classis of the PRCP (as advisors) on October 31 which is currently recessed and scheduled to continue on November 30.

Typhoon!

On November 1 (a Sunday), a super typhoon passed through the Philippines. Due to the potentially strong winds and heavy rain, Provident’s Council decided to cancel the worship services. In the end, though, the storm did not hit Manila very hard or result in much damage. The experience was like so many before. A typhoon comes. It looks menacing on the radar. Then it breaks apart, at least in our area. And we are thankful.

typhoon 2020

But then came the typhoon of the evening of November 11. The Philippines called it Typhoon Ulysses (the rest of the world named it Typhoon Vamco). At midnight, we lost our electricity. Our fans turned off. Our kids’ night lights went dark and they woke up. The mighty hurricane wind rushed over our house like a freight trainin gust after gust. Having grown up in Michigan, far from hurricane territory, I had rarely heard the wind blow like that before. After a night of little sleep, we discovered the results the next morning. A large branch had fallen from a tree in our front yard. One of our neighbor’s mango trees fell down. More trees were down in the streets.

But the worst damage was not in our neighborhood, which is up in the mountains east of Manila. The worst, we soon discovered, was down in Metro Manila, in the city of Marikina where Provident PRC is located. The Marikina River overflowed the dike around Provident Village and filled the village with muddy water. The flood waters rose higher and higher, submerging the first story of all buildings and rising into the second story of many, including Provident’s church building. Perhaps you saw the bulletin announcement from the Contact Committee of the PRCA regarding this flood. Although all thel ibrary books were lost, as well as the sanctuary Bibles and Psalters, much equipment was destroyed, and there was even some structural damage... Although personal property was also lost by some of the five families of the church who live in that area... Yet the congregation is thankful to God for sparing all their lives and comforting them with the precious Reformed faith that they have come to know and love: the truth of the sovereignty of God over rain and drought, riches and poverty, and all things, and His eternal love for His elect and beloved people in Christ, using our light and momentary afflictions to work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

typhoon flooding 2020

As of this writing, the church building is still being cleaned and repaired from the flood damage, but our heavenly Father is meeting the needs of the congregation. Please remember our Filipino brethrenin Christ and us missionaries in your prayers. We the Holsteges look forward to seeing many of you on our furlough from December 16-June 30, the Lord willing.

In Christ,
Rev. Dan Holstege

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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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