Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland


83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT43 5DR, Northern Ireland

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


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 - 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: • Live broadcast:
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

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: • Live broadcast:
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

Covenant Reformed News - July 2020

Covenant Reformed News

July 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 3

Justification and the Five Solas

Romans 4:1-3 teaches all of the five Reformation solas or alones or onlys. Justification is by faith alone (sola fide). It is not by works: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (2). Justification is only by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (3).

Justification is through grace alone (sola gratia), since it is not by works in any shape or form (2).

Justification by faith alone and through grace alone is taught in Scripture alone (sola Scriptura): “For what saith the scripture [not fallen man or the wicked world or the false church or even the true church]? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (3). Here we have New Testament Scripture quoting Old Testament Scripture (Gen. 15:6). Clearly, Old Testament justification and New Testament justification are the same, though the latter part of God’s Word reveals this truth more fully.

Justification by faith alone through grace alone according to Scripture alone is to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). When Romans 4:2 says, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God,” it presupposes that the sinner’s justification is designed to bring glory not to man but to the blessed Trinity.

Justification by faith alone through grace alone according to Scripture alone and to the glory of God alone is in Christ alone (solus Christus). Justification is not by Abraham’s (or any man’s) works (2) and so it must be on the basis of someone else’s righteousness. The threefold promise to Abraham embraced the blessing, the seed and the land, all of which are only in Christ: blessing (Gal. 3:13-14), seed (16, 29) and land (Rom. 4:13; Eph. 1:10). That our justification is in Christ alone is clearly taught in chapters 3, 5 and 10 of Romans, as well as many other places (e.g., Jer. 23:5-6; I Cor. 1:30; 6:11; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; II Pet. 1:1).

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (Rom. 4:1). The issue here is not merely what the Bible says about Abraham but also what he personally found, discovered, learned, experienced or came to know. Abraham grasped that if he “were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (2). The patriarch understood that he had nothing in which he could boast. He had been an idolater in Ur (Josh. 24:2), and knew that all his works were sinful and could never withstand God’s intense and holy scrutiny.

Positively, Abraham found and discovered, by God’s grace, that justification is by faith alone: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). He knew that he was righteous before God with a perfect imputed righteousness that would stand at the final judgment: the righteousness of God in the coming Messiah. No wonder Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56)!

Have you found what Abraham found: Christ’s righteousness reckoned to your account by believing the gospel? Let us continually learn the riches and depths of this truth in all its glory and comfort! Rev. Stewart


The Well-Meant Offer and Organic Unity (2)

1) Another question of a reader is in response to the charge we make against the gracious and well-meant offer, that it teaches that God changes from loving all men to casting them into hell—surely a revelation of divine hatred. But God is immutable, that is, He does not and cannot change. Yet the reader claims that He does change.

“Was there not a moment in eternity when God did not create? Followed by a moment when He was creating all things and then followed by another moment when He stopped or was no longer creating? Isn’t that God changing? God can do whatever He wants, wishes, desires, etc., to do. Therefore, He can choose to ‘love’ an individual for a time, for whatever reason or purpose He deems proper, and then choose to ‘hate’ that same individual, as He pleases.”

The reader has made some serious mistakes in his question. One error is that he speaks of time in God’s counsel: “a moment in eternity.” The fact is that time itself is a creation of God (II Tim. 1:9). God is eternal and He determined that time would be made at the creation of the earth. It is a denial of God’s attribute of eternity to say time is in His decree (or in Him) and it would also mean that God changes, a denial of His immutability.

The second problem with the question is its insistence that God can do what He pleases (irrespective of His Being or nature). This sounds very much like the arguments of the Roman Catholic scholastics who discussed questions such as these: “Since God is omnipotent, can He create two mountains without a valley between or a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it? Since God is omnipotent, can He sin?” The answer to all these frivolous questions is: God can and does only that which is in harmony with His own divine Being or nature, and so also with truth or the law of non-contradiction.

The answer to the reader’s question itself is clear: “I am the Lord; I change not” (Mal. 3:6; cf. Num. 23:19; Heb. 1:10-12). That means exactly what it says. God’s counsel, therefore, is as eternal as He is. History is God working out His eternal counsel, part of which is the creature we call “time.”

The relation between eternity and time is a profound mystery. I have often pondered it and even discussed it with one of my colleagues. But we know that God’s ways are inscrutable and we are mere specks of dust with only a little understanding of His mighty works.

2) The more we come into contact with the gospel, the greater is our knowledge of the way of salvation and the greater is the divine requirement of us. In this sense, the saying of our Saviour in Luke 12:47 holds true: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” This statement is applied especially to those who labour in the vineyard of the Lord, yet the principle is of far broader extent.

The men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba will rise up in judgment against the generation of the Jews of Jesus’ day, and condemn them (Matt. 12:41-42), for they, though less privileged, gave more honour to the Word of the Lord. Sodom, Tyre and Sidon will find it more tolerable in the day of judgment than the cities of Galilee where Jesus laboured most (11:20-24), for they never heard the New Testament gospel, which the Jews received in richer measure. Does not this greater responsibility find its explanation in the fact that the preaching of the gospel is, indeed, a wonderful thing?

Generally speaking, the questioner is stating a clear and true principle of one’s relation to the gospel: the closer one stands to the pure preaching of the gospel, the greater is his responsibility. Luke 12:47, referred to by the questioner, clearly states this.

It is well that the implication of this is impressed upon us. We in Reformed and Presbyterian churches have a long and noble tradition to hold, brought to us by the gospel. But what has happened in America and Europe? These same churches have become unfaithful for the most part. Many have fallen away into materialism and worldliness. Many, rejecting the gospel, have joined sects or have abandoned Scripture altogether. Many have corrupted the truth with the heresy of Arminianism. The true church is a hut “in a garden of cucumbers,” a “besieged city,” a “very small remnant” (Isa. 1:8, 9). Think of the judgment that shall come on those who have departed into apostasy in comparison with heathen in the Orient who worship idols of silver and stone. The awful responsibility that is implied in the question makes one get on his knees and beg for mercy.

However, it is not at all the case that Luke 12:47 speaks of the gracious and well-meant gospel offer. There is nothing in the passage referring to God’s blessing upon, or love for, absolutely all who hear the preaching. There is only a warning that their judgment is greater because in unbelief they reject the fuller revelation of the gospel.

When we consider the Scriptures’ teaching, we learn something very different from the Arminian theory. The preaching of the gospel to many who reject it is indeed good. It is like the rain and sunshine that come upon the fields of all farmers. That is not common grace: that is common rain and sunshine. But is not every gift of God good? Does he ever give bad gifts? He sends terrible judgments upon the wicked, but His gifts are wonderful and always good.

If what God does for anyone in giving him his daily bread is good, is the coronavirus bad? Does God suddenly decide to give bad things to man when He usually gives good gifts? What constitutes good gifts? And what constitutes bad gifts? What we like is good? What we dislike is a bad gift? Is good and bad determined by how we feel about what God sends into our life?

I do not understand this type of reasoning. The fact is that God’s gifts in themselves are good. God never gives bad gifts. But is rain grace? Ought the farmer consider the drought that destroyed his crops a bad gift from God? There are a lot of people who, when faced with this dilemma, say, “No, the devil sends bad things; God sends only good things.” When four preachers from four different denominations were quizzed on TV about the terrorists’ destruction of the World Trade Center (11 September, 2001), they were asked by the host, “Did God send this disaster? Or even have anything to do with it?” None would answer in the affirmative. The host was so incensed that, though not a Christian himself, he walked away.

Though all God’s gifts are good, those who use them to sin suffer greater punishment for misusing them. If the prodigal son in Luke 15 was one who misused his portion of the inheritance in riotous living, does that make the father’s gift to him bad? It was good, was it not, regardless of how the wayward son used it? Scripture teaches that all things are good for His people, even calamities (Rom. 8:28), but all things are curses upon the wicked. Read Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33.

But we are talking about the preaching of the gospel. Scripture looks at this from God’s side. In Isaiah 55:8-11, we are told that God’s Word never returns to Him void. He does not bring the gospel to all men in grace and then find that men foiled His plans. The gospel is like the rain that God sends. It surely makes the crops grow but it also makes the thorns grow. That is, it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) to the elect but it is also the means He uses to harden sinners who reject the gospel. This same figure is found in Hebrews 6:7-8 in connection with the unpardonable sin.

I appeal, finally, to II Corinthians 2:14-17. Paul recognizes that there are many who have heard his ministry but rejected the command that comes to them to believe in Christ. But, he says, in any case, faithful preachers are pleasing to God whether the gospel is believed or rejected, for the gospel always accomplishes His purpose. In some, it continues to bring life, over and over, until it finally brings everlasting life in heaven; but for others, who are spiritually dead, it works death that becomes worse and worse until it ends in hell. But, says Paul, God always makes the preaching of the gospel triumph, for it always accomplishes the purpose He intends.

No wonder the apostle says, “who is sufficient for these things?” (16). It is a difficult thing for a minister of the gospel to see the Word of God rejected, especially in his own congregation but also on the mission field. But, Paul goes on to say, “Because of our pain in seeing the gospel rejected, we do not make the gospel more palatable by corrupting it with preaching so that the minister says to the sinner, ‘God loves you and wants to save you’” (cf. 17).

God’s sovereign purpose is always accomplished, not because men reject His love but because He is sovereign in all He does. Let us bow in humility before a sovereign God who does all His good pleasure and worship Him as God alone! Prof. Hanko

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

CPRC News Header

Dear saints,

Attached is the latest letter from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, N. Ireland.

It contains 5 sections:

  • End of Our Mission Field
  • Coronavirus Lockdown
  • Redirected Labours
  • Main Website Developments
  • Slowly Returning to Normality

Some highlights:

Regarding the number of translations in our top languages, we have 1 in the 500s (552 Italian), 1 in the 400s (483 Portuguese), 1 in the 300s (301 Hun-garian), 1 in the 200s (222 Spanish) and 4 in the 100s (169 German, 161 Burmese, 150 Indonesian and 138 Afrikaans). Especially to help new transla-tors, we created this webpage, “Translating for the CPRC Website: Questions and Answers” ( This would be a good link to send to anyone you think might be both willing and able to assist us with this project.

We designed, printed, collated and stapled 1,000 copies of a new CPRC Book catalogue (https://cprc.

After a lot of time because of red tape, we man-aged to prove to PayPal that the CPRC is indeed a charity, so that we could qualify for lower charges for using their services on our website. First, Mary enabled people in the UK to pay for our books and box sets of CDs or DVDs on-line by PayPal or bank transfer, and it has been working well ( Second, she set up a donation page, both for people in the UK (who can also contribute Gift Aid) and all the nations of the world by PayPal or bank transfer (https://cprc. Over the years, many people have asked us to set up such a webpage and several have used this service already. Third, saints from any country outside the UK (except America and Canada, for we do not want to “compete” with the RFPA) can now buy the products in our bookstore through PayPal or bank transfer, with the former being most convenient and least expensive for most people ( Our first international customer who used PayPal was a brother from France.

May the Lord be with you all,

Pastor Angus Stewart


Covenant Reformed News - June 2020

Covenant Reformed News

June 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 2

Faith Alone and Imputation

In three previous issues of the News, we have been considering Romans 4:2: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” Let us now see how the argument of this Scripture applies to various groups.

Judaism teaches that obedience to the Torah merits before God. Roman Catholicism claims that man’s own good works, performed by cooperating with divine grace, are a crucial component in his righteousness before Jehovah. According to the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, one’s personal obedience to the Most High in this life is part of the basis of one’s justification on the last day. In Islam, keeping sharia law in the service of Allah obtains righteousness before him. The liberal Protestant looks to his churchgoing, saying of prayers, etc., as grounds for his acceptance with God. The “man in the street” thinks that, since he is a “good person” who has (supposedly) “never hurt anyone,” God would never cast him into hell.

All such foolish claims constitute boasting—people boasting to themselves and boasting about themselves to others. But such boasting is of no value before the holy God of heaven. He beholds sin in all that we do (Rom. 3:9-20; Isa. 64:6). His standard is not human or religious opinion but His own perfect moral law (Gal. 3:10; James 2:10). He is the One who sees the heart, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9), with all its evil intentions and motives (Heb. 4:12). As the infinitely majestic One, He demands that He always be glorified as the supreme goal of all our thinking, speaking and doing. The Psalmist was right: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3).

Thus justification cannot be by man’s works, even in the tiniest little part. This shuts us up to the grand gospel truth that father Abraham was justified by faith alone, which is developed in the three clauses of Romans 4:3.

This verse begins, “For what saith the scripture?” Literally, it refers to “the scripture,” namely, Genesis 15:6, which is quoted in the rest of Romans 4:3. This verse from the first book of the Bible is the locus classicus for justification by faith alone in the Old Testament, being cited in Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23, and explained in Romans 4.

“For what saith the scripture?” Romans 4:3 continues, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The text does not say, “Abraham worked, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” or even “Abraham believed and worked, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The Scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:2 rules out in toto man’s works in his justification, while verse 3 mentions faith as the only means of justification. To echo the apostle’s earlier statement, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (3:28).

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3). There are three key words or phrases in the last clause. First, “it” refers back to “believed” and so speaks of faith. Second, “counted” means imputed or reckoned to one’s account. Third, “counted … for righteousness” is equivalent to God’s gracious justification, His declaration that we are righteous or just in His sight.

Here again we oppose not only Rome, but also the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision. In their corruption of the gospel, all of these heretical movements attack gracious imputation. Yet father Abraham’s being counted or imputed righteous occurs in Genesis 15:6, the foundational Old Testament Scripture, which is quoted in Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23, and developed in Romans 4 as the equivalent of justification.

Regarding the truth of imputation, the Canons of Dordt reject the classic Arminian heresy which states, “God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace” (II:R:4).

Of course, “faith itself” is not “perfect obedience” to Jehovah’s holy law and it is absurd to reckon that He would regard or impute it as such. Nor can the infinitely just God reckon man’s imperfect obedience as if it were a full and complete keeping of His pure moral standards. The Canons are correct: “these [Arminians] proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church” (II:R:4).

The Scriptures do not teach that the Triune God regards faith “as if it were” righteousness or accepts faith “instead of” righteousness, as some sort of substitute for perfect obedience to Jehovah’s law. This would be ascribing to man’s faith the place and role of Christ Himself. He is the true substitute of all elect believers, for the Lord Jesus is the One who died on the cross under the wrath of God instead of us, and the One who kept the law of God in our place and for us.

The Bible says that we believe “unto” righteousness (Rom. 10:10) or that faith is reckoned to us “for” righteousness (e.g., Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3, 5, 9, 22; Gal. 3:6), not that faith is imputed to us “instead of” righteousness or “as if it were” righteousness.

Faith’s unique role in justification is that of the means or instrument that lays hold of the righteousness of God in Christ. Faith looks outside itself and away from itself to the righteousness of another, even the Lord Jesus, whose righteousness it appropriates. Faith is counted to us for righteousness as the only means by which we receive Christ’s obedience reckoned to our account! Rev. Angus Stewart


The Well-Meant Offer and Organic Unity (1)

I wish to apologize to readers of the News for not answering their questions sooner. One reason was the volume of questions; the other reason was my determination to complete my treatment of God’s organic dealings with His creation over several issues.

This is a fundamental difference between the Reformed faith and the Arminianism that includes the notion of a gracious offer of the gospel in which God supposedly expresses His affection for absolutely all men and, in that love, passionately desires to save the reprobate. This is rank heresy and a denial of God’s purpose in the preaching (Isa. 6:9-10; II Cor. 2:15-17). I have received a number of questions concerning this error and the teaching of Scripture. I will now respond to one of them, Romans 11:28, though briefly, in the light of what I have written earlier.

There is one warning, however. The defence of the gracious offer of the gospel to absolutely everybody is usually done by a very random and sometimes arbitrary choice of texts. Advocates of this view jump rapidly from verse to verse without carefully considering them in the light of the whole of God’s Word.

I follow Martin Luther’s view of Scripture. Heretics, he said, can always find a text that is supposed to prove their point. If one makes this his way of using Scripture, he can make Scripture teach anything he wants to prove. Luther believed that the Scriptures are an organic whole. I believe that too. The whole of Scripture is a portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ, the revelation of the God of our salvation. If one is painting a portrait, one cannot present the subject’s eyes without taking into account the whole portrait.

My Bible teacher in high school, himself belonging to a domination other than the one to which I belong, warned us of taking a verse out of its immediate context and the context of the whole of Scripture. He told us, in an unforgettable illustration, that he could prove from Scripture that we ought soon to commit suicide, quoting the following texts: “[Judas] went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5); “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37); “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).

While that may seem far-fetched, it is like what Arminians do. They quote John 3:16, for example, without considering the following verses or John 17:9 or Romans 9 or our Lord’s prayer in Matthew 11:25-27, where He thanks His heavenly Father that He has revealed the truth to some and hidden it from others.

It is somewhat wearisome to run after these Arminians as they, like bumble bees, flit from text to text without carefully studying any of them. Nor do the defenders of this position do their homework before coming up with question after question. Let them read Reformed literature, such as, Arthur Pink’s The Sovereignty of God or my recent book, Corrupting the Word of God, on the history of the doctrine of the well-meant offer of the gospel. (Both books are available from the CPRC Bookstore for £8 and £15, respectively, plus 10% P&P.)

Now to the Scripture: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom. 11:28).

This verse is a clear illustration of the principle that a text’s interpretation must be considered in the light of its context. The context in Romans 9–11 clearly indicates that Paul is answering the question, If the gospel is being preached to the Gentiles, has God forgotten His people, the Jews? Paul answers, first of all, by saying that election and reprobation were worked out by God throughout the physical descendants of Abraham: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (9:13). Not all Israelites were saved; just read Romans 9:6-8! It is, therefore, a violation of Scripture to interpret “they” in Romans 11:28, as meaning all men head for head. It refers only to the nation of Israel and that as organically conceived.

Because of their unique place in history, the Jews as a nation are not considered as Jews head for head but as a nation that occupies a special place in God’s working out of His purpose of salvation in Christ. The nation of Israel’s special place is defined in Romans 9:4-5. Therefore, as Paul discusses the gospel preached also to the Gentiles, he uses the figure of an olive tree: Israel is the natural olive tree; the Gentiles are of the wild olive tree (11:16-24). Each branch is a generation as it grows. Once a branch of a wild olive tree is cut off, that branch (those who believe not the gospel) is lost forever.

But this is not true of the Jews. Because they are the “beloved,” the nation, organically considered, was cut down but individual Jews can yet be saved, a privilege denied the nations of the Gentiles. This privilege is granted only to the Jews. Election determines who among the Jews is saved. Therefore, the reprobate Jews are “enemies” for the sake of the Gentiles, to make room for these Gentiles in the olive tree (11:11ff.).

The questioner asks for a book that deals specifically with Romans 11:28. Let him order Herman Hoeksema’s commentary on Romans, Righteous By Faith Alone (£20 plus 10% P&P), where he will find a detailed explanation of this matter. Prof. Herman Hanko

Rev. Stewart will be interviewed by phone on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio on “Regeneration: God’s Gift of a New Heart” on Thursday, 25 June, from 4-6 PM (Eastern Time in the US) or 9-11 PM (UK time), DV. Listen live on-line ( The audio of the previous interview on the new birth, “Supernatural and Infallible Regeneration: Most Delightful, Astonishing, Mysterious and Ineffable” (cf. Canons III/IV:12), is on a special webpage containing sermons, articles, and box sets of CDs and DVDs on this beautiful subject (

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
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

Covenant Reformed News - March 2020

Covenant Reformed News

March 2020 • Volume XVII, Issue 23

COVID-19 and Christian Doctrine

The doctrinal framework provided by the inspired Scriptures is necessary for us to understand rightly the coronavirus pandemic. The Christian worldview makes sense of COVID-19, giving us comfort and peace in the Lord Jesus during these unsettled times. In this short article, we will see how the coronavirus fits within the six main heads of biblical doctrine (somewhat rearranged): 1) God, 2) man, 3) Christ, 4) the end times, 5) the church and 6) salvation. So do not be troubled or shaken!

1) God. The true and living God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His wisdom, power, love, faithfulness, holiness and justice. As such, the Most High is the sole Creator, universal Ruler and supreme Judge. He is absolutely sovereign, as the One who “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11)—including the coronavirus—for “none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:35).

2) Man. Unlike the angels, human beings have a physical body, including lungs, which are especially attacked by COVID-19. Unlike the animals, man possesses a spirit and does not merely cease to exist at death like a dog (Ecc. 12:7), contrary to the myth of evolutionism with its lies that provide false consolation to millions.

Through the fall of Adam, our representative head, the entire human race, Christ excepted, is conceived and born in sin, and totally depraved by nature (Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12-21). As a rational, moral creature, man has a conscience (Rom. 2:15), a sense of right and wrong, and a fear of death and divine judgment (Heb. 2:15). This is why many unbelievers are so scared of this plague.

3) Christ. As the Son of God and the Son of man, our Lord Jesus is fully God and fully man. Through His perfect obedience in a sinless life and a substitutionary death, our Saviour is “Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9). The crucified and risen Christ is now enthroned in heaven, executing God’s eternal decree and ruling over all things in providence.

He is the Lamb who, upon His exaltation, received the book from the hand of the Triune God and opens the seven seals, including the fourth seal with its pale horse (Rev. 5-6). Its rider, Death, employs especially four terrible means to kill people: war, famine, wild beasts and pestilence, including the coronavirus (Rev. 6:8; cf. Eze. 14:21).

4) End times. The Lord Jesus lists some of the signs of His return in Matthew 24:7: “[a] nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be [b] famines, and [c] pestilences, and [d] earthquakes, in divers places” (cf. Luke 21:10-11). The pestilence of COVID-19 is certainly “in divers places,” such as China, Italy, Iran, Spain, USA, Germany, S. Korea and, indeed, almost all the countries of the earth.

These worldwide afflictions not only reveal that the holy God of heaven judges sinful man on earth, but they are also harbingers of the second coming of Christ and the final judgment. How often our Lord Jesus promises in the Book of Revelation, “Surely I come quickly!” This is our one “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

5) Church. The most obvious effect of the coronavirus upon the church is that of disruption. Sunday worship services, catechism classes, Bible studies, etc., are either cancelled or severely curtailed all around the world. Outside one’s own household, there is little or no communion between the saints in the way of physical contact or face-to-face meetings. The Christian sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper are in abeyance.

Instead of going to Lord’s day services, many must use CDs or DVDs or audio cassettes or books. Others have access to on-line sermons or live webcasting. Currently, the CPRC live streams, by video and audio, prayer and the reading and exposition of the Word from our church building at the same time as our regular Sunday services: 11am and 6pm ( We are looking forward to the day when we can sing Psalm 122:1 together again: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Meanwhile, let us intercede for one another and fellowship with each other by phone or on-line.

6) Salvation. As regards the application to us of our redemption in Christ, it is still absolutely gracious and certain, according to God’s unchangeable will, for “whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30)!

So what is Jehovah doing with His elect, reconciled and regenerate people through the coronavirus? The divine goal and result with His saints in this life—even now!—is the same as it has always been and will always be: conforming us “to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29)!

How is our heavenly Father doing this during this pandemic, when the official preaching of the Word and the sacraments in the (physical) gathering of believers and their seed for public worship on the Lord’s day are temporarily denied to us? (During these days of COVID-19, Psalms 42, 43, 63, 84, 137, etc., are more poignant.)

We recall that there are other means that God especially uses at times like these: earnest prayer (have you been growing cold?), the reading of the sacred Scriptures (maybe you have been neglecting the Word?), the study of Reformed books (for which you may not have had much time of late), etc. Jehovah will graciously use these spiritual means, in connection with our present trials, for “we know 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)!

So let us not worry about the future but trust our merciful heavenly Father (Matt. 6:24-34; Phil. 4:6-8), who will use this plague, as He formerly used a terrible famine, for His people’s salvation and everlasting “good” (Gen. 50:20). Rev. Stewart

Check out our new “Coronavirus Resources Page,” which includes recent sermons on “The Coronavirus and the Fourth Horseman” and “The Six Seals and the Coronavirus.”

The Idea of the Organic in Scripture (8)

In the last issue of the News, I was dealing with the question of the difference between God loving all men absolutely and “offering” salvation to all men on the one hand, and His commanding all men to believe in Christ on the other hand. One can consult that article for the details. The defenders of the gospel as a loving offer to everybody head for head confuse the command of the gospel with a mere offer. This is inexcusable exegesis. Even in every-day speech, who confuses an offer with a command?

The appeal of the questioner we were answering in our last article is based on II Corinthians 5:20. In this text, Paul says that, as an ambassador of the gospel of Christ, he “beseeches” the Corinthians to be “reconciled to God” through faith in Jesus. The offer defenders appeal to the word “beseech.” On that word and similar words in Scripture, they hang their doctrinal error of God’s universal love and tender plea to absolutely everyone to believe in Christ.

I pointed out in the last article that words similar to the word “beseech” indicate the seriousness of God’s command that comes to all men to believe in Christ. God means what He says when He commands all men to forsake sin and believe in the gospel. He does not play games. Several remarks must be added to this.

Historically, the Reformed churches have always made a distinction between the will of God’s command and the will of God’s decree. The doctrine of election and reprobation belongs to the will of God’s decree; the will of God’s command is that all men forsake their sin and believe in Christ. Yet the will of God’s command is related to the will of His decree, for the will of His command is the means God uses to execute the will of His decree of reprobation so that reprobation is accomplished by God in the way of wicked man’s rejection of the gospel. The doctrine of a well-meant offer to all, rooted in an alleged divine desire to save everybody, has crowded out the doctrine of sovereign double predestination. This refusal to believe the truth of divine predestination is not only rooted in its inherent conflict with the idea of a well-meant offer, but historically those who hold tenaciously to a well-meant offer of the gospel have denied, or ended up denying, double predestination.

Such has been the nature of the preaching of the gospel throughout history—even in the Old Testament times. Even then, the gospel always came with the command to forsake sin and believe the promise of God that He would send the Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ.

And so God has worked through the ages. The gospel was preached to the organism of the nation of Israel, including elect and reprobate. The gospel was always the same: it included an urgent command to all who heard it to repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—in the old dispensation to believe in the promise of the coming of Christ as the Seed of the woman. But that command, preached to the organism of the nation, came to the elect as well as the reprobate, for the elect had to repent and believe the promise of Christ, as well as the reprobate. That was the command of God that came to all.

But along with that command came also the promise that whoever believed in Christ would receive eternal life in Him. That promise too came to all who heard the gospel. Those who rejected God’s command and scorned His promise were damned; those who believed the promise, forsook their sin and repented were saved.

So it is also in the new dispensation. In the organism of the church, this is always the command of the gospel: repent and believe! Never is that gospel to be reduced to a mere loving offer to all men absolutely, for that is a caricature of the gospel, and does terrible despite to the only true and sovereign God.

From God‘s point of view, the true preaching of the gospel that I have described is the means He uses to accomplish His purpose of election and reprobation, for the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” to all who believe (Rom. 1:16). God gives the gift of faith to His elect whom He knows eternally as His own (John 17:9). Whereas, He hardens the reprobate who reject the gospel and mock His command to repent.

God works in this way because He does not treat men as robots, so that the elect believe because God pushes the right button. My minister used to say that God does not take the elect to heaven in the top bunk of a Pullman sleeper. He works in them so that they actually do believe. Nor does God work in the reprobate in such a way that they reject the gospel because God compels them to reject it. Adam was created capable of doing all the things that God commanded him, but he rebelled and now his descendants show their wicked rebellion by turning their backs on Jehovah and remaining in the slime of sin.

The figure that Scripture uses to explain this truth is found in Isaiah 55:10-11 and Hebrews 6:7-8. It is the figure of rain that falls on the earth, and waters both herbs and weeds. The rain is responsible for the herbs bearing food and it is responsible for the growth of the weeds so that they manifest themselves as weeds. The same is true of our Lord’s teaching in the parable of the four kinds of soil, and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:3-30, 36-43).

Yet it must also be remembered that the gospel is preached to an organism, whether a nation, a church or a family. Hence, in John 15:1-8, Jesus compares the nation of Israel to branches. Christ Himself is the vine and God is the husbandman. There are branches in the vine that bear fruit and there are branches that do not bear fruit. The latter are those who do not turn from their wicked way (in Jesus’ day, particularly worshipping God in outward and formal law-keeping to gain salvation by the works of the law). The former are those who confess that only by faith in Christ can they be saved (in Jesus’ day, Nicodemus, the Marys, the disciples, the thief on the cross, etc.). Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Meditations by Herman Hoeksema
 to Encourage
& Uplift

Peace for the Troubled Heart
(304 pp., Hardback)

Comprising 37 meditations, this book addresses the theme of struggle and suffering in the life of every believer as a pilgrim in this world.

With God

(362 pp., Hardback)

Each meditation expresses the knowing, desiring, feeling and acting of the faith of the heart that is near to God and in fellowship with Him in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

All Glory to the Only Good God
(332 pp., Hardback)

46 chapters focusing on the God who is only good—good in Himself, good in creation, good in salvation, good in Christ and good to His elect people

£16.50 each (inc. P&P), £32 for 2 or
£47.50 for all 3 

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

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

BRF Conference CDs or DVDs 

Buy 1 conference box set and get the 2nd half price! 

Choose from the following 
British Reformed Fellowship Conferences

The Reformed Family—According to the Word of God (2018)

9 lectures and 2 sermons on topics such as singleness, marriage, divorce, child-rearing, childlessness and Christian education.

Behold I Come Quickly: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End (2016)

9 lectures and 2 sermons covering important aspects of eschatology, such as the great apostasy, dispensationalism, antichrist and the final judgment. 

Ye Shall Be My Witnesses (2012)

7 lectures and 2 sermons dealing with all aspects of witnessing—the calling, the content and the manner of the church’s and the individual’s witness. This set also includes a bonus disk with two author interviews.

just £10/box set (inc. P&P)
or 2 sets for £15 (inc. P&P)

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

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