News

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Website

83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT43 5DR, Northern Ireland

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

RevAStewart

Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

Phone: (from U.S.A.) 011 (44) 28 25 891 851

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Covenant Reformed News - March 2021

Covenant Reformed News


March 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 11



The Source and Purpose of Apostolic Authority

Two articles in the previous two issues of the News took their cue from II Corinthians 10:8, “For 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.” These instalments explained the right of the apostles to serve God in three spheres: teaching, ruling and showing mercy. Now, finally, we shall treat the source and purpose of the authority exercised by the twelve apostles and the apostle Paul, drawing out vital lessons for the church in our day.

Jesus Christ is the origin or source of apostolic authority: “our authority, which the Lord hath given us” (8). The Triune God has granted to His incarnate, obedient and glorified Son the right to reign over the entire universe, and He exercises His authority in the church in part through the apostles. Thus our risen Saviour declared to the Eleven, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 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: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20). Christ Jesus is “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” (Heb. 3:1); the supreme One whom God sent later commissioned His apostles.

For the sake of completeness, we should add from Ephesians 4:11 that our ascended Head also gave and gives others to instruct His church: “prophets” and “evangelists” (extraordinary and temporary office-bearers), and “pastors” who are “teachers” (ordinary and permanent office-bearers). Christ also equips and appoints elders and deacons to serve His congregations (I Tim. 3).

Since the Lord Jesus is the origin of apostolic authority, Paul and the Twelve possessed a derived authority, a ministerial authority and a circumscribed authority. Likewise, the authority of all the lower office-bearers in the New Testament church (prophets, evangelists, teaching pastors, ruling elders and deacons) is derived and ministerial, and circumscribed or limited to their respective spheres.

Christ told the twelve disciples, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28). If this is true regarding the awesome authority of apostles, how much more regarding pastors, elders and deacons, the church’s ordinary and permanent office-bearers? Thus Chapter 18 of the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) describes the authority of ministers as “more like a service than a dominion.”

Having seen that the Lord Jesus is the source of apostolic authority and that, therefore, the authority of the apostles (and all church office-bearers) is circumscribed and ministerial, we now turn to the purpose of apostolic authority. Paul states that it is “for edification, and not for your destruction” (II Cor. 10:8).

The goal or purpose of the apostolic authority, office and labours is to build up the church and certainly not to destroy the people of God. Jehovah’s punishment of the reprobate on the legal basis of their sin is subservient to the apostles’ glorious primary desire and purpose: the salvation of the elect by the cross and Spirit of Jesus Christ.

It is in this context that Paul speaks of the power and efficacy of preaching and church discipline to bring God’s true people to repentance and faith: “the weapons of our warfare are … mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds [by] casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (4-5).

The apostle explains that his armaments are not fleshly, carnal or worldly, appealing to earthly or base motives. His arsenal of the preaching of the Word and church discipline—exercised prayerfully and to the glory of God—is spiritual, addressing man’s mind or soul or conscience: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal … bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (3-4, 5).

A heartfelt understanding of the source of apostolic authority guides the church and its office-bearers to an exercise of ecclesiastical authority that is ministerial not lordly (I Pet. 5:3) and circumscribed by God’s Word. Likewise, a true appreciation of the purpose of apostolic authority (the salvation of the elect, not their destruction) commits a faithful church to the prayerful use of the spiritual means appointed by God (preaching, sacraments and discipline), trusting that His grace alone will make them effectual for the calling and sanctification of those eternally chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4).

The crucial importance of really believing and rightly exercising ecclesiastical authority is underscored by Belgic Confession 29’s description of its sinful abuse: “As for the false church, she ascribes more power and authority to herself and her ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit herself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does she administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adds to and takes from them as she thinks proper; she relieth more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God, and rebuke her for her errors, covetousness, and idolatry.” Rev. Angus Stewart

 

Satan’s Everlasting Punishment

We will now answer a second question about the devil: “Since Satan and 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?” I believe the questioner has answered his own question in speaking of “the spiritual suffering of all the damned, a real sense of confinement, misery and God’s wrath,” but I would like to elaborate in this article.

It is impossible to believe that the suffering of hell, whether of Satan or of the ungodly and unbelieving, is in a literal lake of fire so the question raises one of the difficulties with that kind of literalism. Even though unbelievers are resurrected (John 5:28-29) before being cast into eternal suffering, it is difficult to imagine that they could endure eternal fire without being consumed, i.e., it is hard to understand how any kind of body could endure that kind of suffering. As spirits, Satan and his demons are not at all subject to the torments of fire.

The clearest argument against a literal lake of fire, however, is the fact that Scripture does not always describe hell in those terms. It is described as the pit (Isa. 14:15), as the worm that never dies (Mark 9:43-48), as weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:42), as a furnace of fire (Matt. 13:42, 50), as outer darkness (Matt. 22:13), as chains of darkness (II Pet. 2:4) and as drinking the wine of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:10).

Hell cannot literally be all of these things and the obvious conclusion, therefore, is that they are figures of speech used to emphasize its horrible torments. Anyone who has suffered severe burns knows that agony and why it is used as a description of hell. The torment of being eaten by worms, as Herod was (Acts 12:23), may be even worse. Darkness, the kind of darkness one experiences in a deep cave or the kind of darkness that came on Egypt as the ninth plague (Ex. 10:21-23), is horrifying as well. All of these only hint at the far greater terror and torment of hell.

What, then, is the horror of hell, the “spiritual suffering” referred to by the questioner? It is the horror and torment of being forever separated from God. II Thessalonians 1:9 describes this: “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” This was the first punishment for sin and will be sin’s final punishment. God is the source of all blessing, life, peace, light and hope, and to be cut off from Him is to be forever separated from all that is good (James 1:17). This is the reason, too, why hell is described as darkness in Scripture and as death. Those who do not believe cannot have fellowship with God who is light (I John 1:5-6) and “to live apart from God is death.”

Eternal punishment in hell is a matter of exquisite justice. Those who separated themselves from God, and rejected and despised Him, will be given by God Himself what they themselves have wanted and chosen, and they will be given it for eternity.

Heaven is the opposite. The glory of heaven is not literal harps and streets of gold. It is not only the blessedness of no more tears and suffering, but also the glory and blessedness of being with the living God forever. Revelation 21 and 22 teach this repeatedly. “They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (21:3). “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (22-23). “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (22:4).

Heaven is enjoying the love and favour of God forever, while hell is suffering the wrath of God for eternity. As with God’s love, His wrath is not an empty emotion, but something powerful and effective that forever burns against sinners, driving them from His gracious and loving presence. He is a “consuming fire” against those who turn away from Him. For this reason, too, hell is death, not dissolution but the eternal dying of those who will never see life (John 3:36). This is God’s curse, the powerful and effective Word of His anger, that drives someone forever from His presence. This is why hell is no different for Satan and his minions than for unbelieving men and women.

This is what Christ suffered on behalf of those whom the Father had given Him. He experienced that separation from God and His divine wrath when, during the three hours of darkness on the cross, He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is His descent into hell. There was no need for Him to go to the actual place of eternal torment, because He suffered the “inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies” of being under the wrath of God against sin (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 44).

Our Lord’s Supper form states, “that He assumed our flesh and blood; that He bore for us the wrath of God (under which we should have perished everlastingly) from the beginning of His incarnation to the end of His life upon earth; and that He hath fulfilled for us all obedience to the divine law and righteousness; especially when the weight of our sins and the wrath of God pressed out of Him the bloody sweat in the garden, where He was bound that we might be freed from our sins; that He afterwards suffered innumerable reproaches, that we might never be confounded; that He was innocently condemned to death, that we might be acquitted at the judgment-seat of God; yea, that He suffered His blessed body to be nailed on the cross, that He might fix thereon the handwriting of our sins; and hath also taken upon Himself the curse due to us, that He might fill us with His blessings; and hath humbled Himself unto the deepest reproach and pains of hell, both in body and soul, on the tree of the cross, when He cried out with a loud voice, My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34) that we might be accepted of God and never be forsaken of Him; and finally confirmed with His death and shedding of His blood the new and eternal testament, that covenant of grace and reconciliation, when He said: It is finished (John 19:30).”

That He suffered the wrath of God and separation from God is a mystery too deep to fathom. He who took on Himself the curse due to us was God’s beloved Son in whom God was well pleased. Nor is it necessary for us to comprehend what He endured. It is ours to believe that He did, and so to be saved from the wrath to come and to have the hope of seeing God face to face in Jesus Christ. 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
Read more...

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
Read more...

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  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
Read more...

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  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
Read more...

Covenant Reformed News - November 2020

Covenant Reformed News


November 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 7



The Great Red Dragon and the Man Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Church and Israel (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant PRC Newsletter - November 2020

CPRC NI building

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

Ballymena, NI
November 20, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Church Growth

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus Restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Websites

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

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

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

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

Contact Details

Denomination

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Reading Sermon Library
  • Taped Sermon Library

Synodical Officers

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Synodical Committees

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact/Missions

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Classical Officers

Classis East
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Classis West
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.