Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Sister and Other Church Relationships

In harmony with the principles of holy Scripture and our Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt), the PRC through its Committee for Contact with Other Churches maintain full sister church relationships with three foreign churches and a corresponding relationship with one other foreign denomination.

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland (145)


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 Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore (114)

Covenant ERCS 2022


11, Jalan Mesin #04-00

Standard Industrial Building

Singapore 368813

Worship Services: 9:30 A.M. & 2:00 P.M.

Pastors: Josiah Tan (2021) and Marcus Wee (2022)

Ptr Josiah Tan 2023Pastor J. Tan

Ptr Marcus Wee 2023Pastor M. Wee

148 Bishan Street 11 #06-113 

Singapore  570148


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Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC) (2)

For information on this small Presbyterian denomination in Australia with whom the PRCA have a "corresponding relationship", visit their website.

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Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (11)

PRCP Organization Banner 4 9 2014

Berean PRC, Antipolo City - Pastors: Rev. V. Ibe; Rev. L. Trinidad (emeritus)
Provident PRC - Pastor:
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Covenant Reformed News - March 2023


Covenant Reformed News

March 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 11

Was Hagar Saved?

Was Hagar, the wife or concubine of Abraham and the mother of Ishmael, saved? As with the spiritual condition of Ishmael, whom we considered in the last issue of the News, there are differences of opinion among orthodox Christians on this question, with some claiming that Hagar was not a believer and others reckoning that she was a child of God. Similar to last time, I will give five biblical arguments from Genesis in support of the position that Hagar was saved by God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.

1. Do you really think that father Abraham would marry or take as a concubine an unbeliever and that holy Sarah (Heb. 11:11; I Pet. 3:6) would have presented an ungodly woman as a wife or concubine to her husband (Gen. 16:1-3)? This is Jehovah’s testimony regarding Abraham’s faithfulness in his household, the church: “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; [so] that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (18:19).

God’s people must marry “only in the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39). Believers are forbidden to enter into wedlock with an unbeliever: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (2 Cor.6:14,15).

2. The messenger of God appeared to Hagar. In fact, the very first recorded appearance of “the angel of the Lord” in Scripture is His conversation with Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14). Moreover, the angel of God spoke twice with Hagar, with the latter interaction being recorded in Genesis 21:17-19.

A careful consideration of these passages in Genesis 16 and 21, as well as a study of the angel or messenger of the Lord in the Old Testament, reveals that He is God, even an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. Hagar was the recipient not only of the first Christophany in the form of the angel or messenger of the Lord but of two of them! Both appearances were favourable to her. Are we really to think that Hagar was ungodly?

3. God answered Hagar’s prayers (just as He answered Ishmael’s prayers, as Genesis 21:17 records): “the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction” (16:11).

In naming Hagar’s son “Ishmael,” which means “God heard,” the pre-incarnate Christ would have us remember, whenever we read or write or say or hear or think the name “Ishmael,” that Jehovah answered Hagar’s prayers. Moreover, this text specifically states that God heard her “affliction,” for He cares for His people in their suffering and hearkens to their cries (cf. Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7; 4:31; 6:5; Isa. 63:9). Remember Scripture’s testimony regarding whose prayers Jehovah answers and whose He does not: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9); “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

4. Hagar made a good confession of God’s gracious speech to, and vision of, her: “she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Gen. 16:13).

Hagar wisely and thankfully memorialized this marvellous meeting and the wonderful God who met with her in Jesus Christ: “Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi” (14). The three parts of “Beer-lahai-roi” mean, roughly, “well-living-seeing.” If the reference is to God, Hagar calls it “the well of Him who lives and sees me.” Others reckon that the verbs “living” and “seeing” refer to Hagar herself, so that her point is, “I live after seeing Him at this well.” Some think that the name is deliberately ambiguous and so is designed to include both meanings. We do not need a definitive answer for our present purposes. Whatever the precise import of the name “Beer-lahai-roi,” like the name “Ishmael,” it underscores Jehovah’s mercy to Hagar and her piety.

Homer C. Hoeksema makes the following astute remarks regarding Hagar in Genesis 16, the chapter from which we have derived the last four arguments: “There are ... facets of this history we must not ignore ... we note that the Lord comforts Hagar. She is the recipient of a wonderful revelation through the angel of Jehovah, the Old Testament manifestation of the Christ (Gen. 16:7ff). The Lord reveals his favor to Hagar and promises to multiply her seed exceedingly. Hagar commemorates this revelation by naming the well where the angel of Jehovah appeared to her Beerlahairoi, ‘the well of him that liveth and seeth me’ (Gen. 16:14)” (Unfolding Covenant History, vol. 2, p. 157).

5. The messenger of the Lord told Hagar not to fear: “the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad” (21:17). Unbelievers have everything to fear! Where in His Word does God ever tell the wicked not to fear dying or Him?

There are three other instances in the book of Genesis when Jehovah tells people, “Fear not.” All of these commands are addressed to the believing patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob): “the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (15:1); “And the Lord appeared unto him [i.e., Isaac] the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (26:24); “And he said [to Jacob], I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation” (46:3). Thus Hagar is included in Isaiah’s exhortation of all those whom Jehovah has “created” and “formed” by His grace, including us: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (43:1)!  Rev. Angus Stewart

Christ’s Reign as King

Our question for this issue of the News was sent by a reader who was asked by a dispensationalist, “Reformed believers hold that Christ is now reigning as King on His throne, but what about Matthew 25:31-34, II Timothy 2:12 and Revelation 5:10, which, on the surface, seem to imply that He is not yet reigning as King?”

Dispensationalists, as represented by the Scofield Reference Bible notes and those connected with Dallas Theological Seminary, believe concerning the kingship of Christ:

  1. that Christ is King only of Israel, that is, of physical Jews, and has a different relationship to the church of which He is not King but Head (this is part of their belief that Israel and the church are two different peoples of God);
  2. that Christ’s reign as King will only begin with the restoration of the Jewish nation to the land of Israel, with the rebuilding of the temple and the reestablishment of the throne of David in the earthly city of Jerusalem. This will mark the beginning of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ in Jerusalem over the Jews and will be the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises to Israel.

Many postmillennialists also use language that implies that Christ must still be crowned King, and will not be until a future golden age is ushered in and all the world Christianized. Then this world will become the kingdom of God but not until then.

We believe that the true Israel, spiritual Jews, are the people of God, the church, gathered from both Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament. “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” (Rom. 2:28-29). “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

Because believing Jews and Gentiles are one people of God, we believe that Christ is King of both, of the spiritual Israel as well as of the New Testament church. “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:11-12). “Lord” is very similar to “King” in Scripture.

We believe, then, that Christ’s reign as King is not merely future but also present. As the eternal Son of God, of course, His kingship is without beginning or end (I Tim. 1:17). As the One born in due time and in the likeness of our sinful flesh, His coronation and kingship begin with His exaltation. The risen Christ declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). At Christ’s return, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:24-26).

What, then, about the verses mentioned in the question?

Matthew 25:31-34 states, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Dispensationalism presupposes that the judgment described in these verses takes place a thousand years before the end (dispensationalists believe in three or more judgments), at which time Christ’s kingship over the Jews will also be established. That is reading an awful lot into the passage! These verses describe the final great day of judgment at our Lord’s second coming: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).

What we have said regarding Matthew 25:31-34 applies also to II Timothy 2:12 and Revelation 5:10. In all three cases, dispensationism merely presupposes an earthly rule of Christ over the Jews for a thousand years before the end, something these verses do not even mention!

Moreover, the biblical truth of Christ’s bodily return is not just that He will come but that He is coming! The Lord Jesus told the sanhedrin at His trial, “I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

The present New Testament rule of Christ as King over all things on behalf of a church gathered out all nations is important. If He is not my King, then I owe Him no allegiance. If He is not King of the church, then I have no part in His kingdom. If He is not King of kings and Lord of lords now, then I can have no confidence that all things must work together for good to those who love God. If He is not King now and my King forever, then I have no idea where my citizenship resides, except, to my lasting grief, in some earthly nation that will soon be no more.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

Covenant Reformed News - February 2023

Covenant Reformed News

February 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 10


Was Ishmael Saved?

Was Ishmael, the son of Hagar, saved? There are differences of opinion among orthodox Christians on this question, with some claiming that he was not a believer and others reckoning that he was a child of God.

In this article, I will give no less than five biblical arguments in support of the position that Ishmael was saved by God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ. I shall present the points in the order in which they arise in the first book of the Bible, from Ishmael’s thirteenth year (Gen. 17), to his expulsion from Abraham’s camp (Gen. 21) and to his death over a century later (Gen. 25).

(1) Ishmael lived before God. In answer to Abraham’s prayer, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (17:18), the Lord responded, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee” (20). Was Abraham merely asking God for the continuation of Ishmael’s physical life? There is no indication in the inspired narrative that Ishmael was sick or in danger of expiring. Instead, Abraham here prayed for Ishmael’s spiritual life. After all, the grand subject of Genesis 17 is the covenant of grace! Father Abraham was concerned here with Ishmael’s covenant life, that is, everlasting life in Jesus Christ. Jehovah answered this prayer for Ishmael lived before God as His covenant friend. This is the prayer of all godly parents, themselves the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, regarding their children: “O that our sons and daughters might live before thee in Christ!”

(2) Ishmael was blessed by God. Jehovah’s response to Abraham’s prayer for his son is not only, “as for Ishmael, I have heard thee,” but also, “Behold, I have blessed him” (20). Surely, Ishmael is blessed by God (20) with the divine favour, as was blessed believing Sarah (16). Remember too that the blessings of Genesis 17 are covenant blessings in the coming Messiah!

This second point regarding Ishmael’s salvation reinforces the first. (1) Ishmael lived before God as (2) one blessed by God. In answer to Abraham’s prayer, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (17:18), the Lord responded, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him” (20).

(3) God answered Ishmael’s prayers. Genesis 21:17 states this twice and unambiguously regarding Ishmael: “God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad.” Here is the teaching of Scripture regarding whose prayers Jehovah answers: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9); “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

The connection between these three points is obvious. Ishmael (1) lived before God and (2) was blessed by God, and (3) God heard and answered his prayers.

(4) God was with Ishmael. “God was with the lad,” Ishmael (Gen. 21:20), as He was, for example, “with” Abraham (22), Jacob (28:15) and Joseph (39:2, 3, 21, 23), just as Jehovah is “with” all of His elect and believing people. The word “with” is the preposition of God’s covenant fellowship with His saints in Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

Let us restate the four points made so far, emphasizing the prepositions. Ishmael (1) lived before God, (2) was blessed by God and (4) was with God. No wonder that we read twice that (3) God answered his prayers!

(5) Ishmael was gathered unto his people at his death. After his 137 years in this life, Ishmael “gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people” (25:17). The statements that, at death, an individual was “gathered to/unto his people” or a group were “gathered unto their fathers” are significant references in the early books of the Old Testament to the blessed life of God’s people beyond their deaths.

This terminology is first used of father Abraham. Dying at the age of 175, he was “gathered to his people” (25:8). Some 90 or more years before, the Lord had promised Abraham, “thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace” (15:15). The godly “people” and “fathers” to whom Abraham went at death include Terah, Shem, Noah, Methuselah, Enoch, Seth, Adam and Eve. Also like Ishmael, “Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people” (35:29), as did Jacob (49:29, 33).

Besides these three great patriarchs in Genesis, Ishmael was gathered unto his people like the two sons of Amram and Jochebed: Aaron (Num. 20:24, 26; 27:13; Deut. 32:50) and Moses (Num. 27:13; 31:2; Deut. 32:50). The faithful generation that conquered the promised land under Joshua was also “gathered unto their fathers” (Judg. 2:10).

Thus in Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Judges we have 13 occurrences of the phrase “gathered to/unto his people/their fathers.” These references include six believing individuals—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron and Moses, as well as Ishmael (who marks the second use of this terminology)—and one godly generation, that of Joshua.

At the death of God’s people, they are buried as to their bodies. As to their souls, believers are gathered unto their spiritual fathers and people by Jehovah in His infinite mercy through the crucified and risen Christ.

To sum up this article, we have looked at five key testimonies: two from Genesis 17, two from Genesis 21 and one from Genesis 25. Their united testimony is that Ishmael was saved. After all, in this world, (1) Ishmael lived before God; (4) God was with him, (2) blessed him and (3) answered his prayers. When he left this world, (5) God in love gathered Ishmael unto his people. What more could one want? Rev. Angus Stewart


Felix’s Trembling

Our question for this issue of the News is: “In Acts 24:25, when Paul ‘reasoned’ with Felix of ‘righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,’ Felix ‘trembled.’ This man is viewed by many to be an unbeliever for, instead of believing the gospel that Paul shared with him, he sent the apostle away: ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’ How do we explain the trembling of this (apparently) unregenerate man apart from a gracious work of the Spirit, convicting him of his sins and bringing him to an acknowledgment that what he heard is the truth, though he rejected it? Surely unbelievers wouldn’t have any concern for these things, for there is ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:18)?”

It would seem from Scripture that trembling before God and His Word is a mark of God’s people, an evidence of repentance, of the true knowledge of God and even of humble gratitude for what God has done as Saviour (Ezra 9:4; Isa. 32:11; 66:2, 5; Jer. 33:9; Hab. 3:16; Mark 16:8; Acts 7:32). The wicked in Israel are commanded to repent and tremble before God in Jeremiah 5:21-22: “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?”

Surely it is true that God’s redeemed people tremble at the knowledge of their own sinfulness and of how near they were to eternal punishment in hell. Especially they tremble at the fact that they have sinned against God. They tremble when they see something of His glory and majesty, and when they behold the greatness of His salvation. Trembling is, for the believer, a mark of grace and of God’s work of salvation in Christ.

However, it is also true that the ungodly can and do tremble before God. In Deuteronomy 2:25, God promised that the heathen Canaanite nations would tremble when they heard of Israel’s victories east of the Jordan (and of their passage across that river into the land of Canaan). Jeremiah 10:10, looking ahead to the end, says that the nations will tremble at God’s wrath: “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” This is of the same nature as the trembling of Felix.

Many think that such trembling is an evidence of a common or preparatory grace of God, shown to those who are not yet regenerated or who may never be saved. This is wrong. Trembling before God is either an evidence of saving grace or only an evidence of unbelieving terror.

There is nothing in Scripture that suggests any change of heart or repentance on the part of Felix. That he knew something of the true God is likely for he was married to a Jewess (Acts 24:24) but this was no saving knowledge. That he knew something of the gospel is stated in Acts 24:22 and is no surprise, since he ruled the area where Christianity had its roots. His dealings with Paul show him to be wicked and unbelieving. He was interested merely in a bribe and in doing the Jews a favour (26-27). He trembled because Paul talked to him about righteousness, temperance and judgment, for he was unrighteous, intemperate and under the judgment of God.

Was this the work of the Spirit? Was it a gracious work of the Spirit? Did it show some knowledge of, and conviction for, sin? That it was the work of the Spirit is without doubt, for all things are of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. This is not to say, however, that it is a gracious operation of the Spirit in the heart of Felix. How could there be any grace in it when it produced nothing of value and only made the suffering of Paul longer and greater? How could Felix’s trembling be anything but terror before God, entirely lacking saving knowledge, for all he cared for was money and the opinions of men? There is nothing of a gracious operation of the Spirit in that. Indeed, the word translated “trembled” is a word that simply means “frightened.” Felix was frightened, as the ungodly often are when God shakes them out of their complacency.

The most important passage that reflects on Felix’s trembling is James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The word translated “tremble” describes not the feeling of terror, so much as the shuddering and shaking that results from extreme fear. The devils shake at the thought of God but their shaking is neither a gracious work of the Spirit, nor evidence of conviction for sin.

The fear that unbelievers sometimes show and the knowledge (non-saving and not gracious) that they have of God is explained in Romans 1:18-32. God manifests Himself to them in their consciences and in the things that are made, the creation: “that which may be known of God is manifest in them” (19). The knowledge of God that they have does not have anything gracious in it. It only leaves them “without excuse” (20).

Thus this knowledge of God bears no good fruit in them. They do not glorify Him or show thankfulness to Him (21). They turn the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator (25). Their idolatry is not evidence of some felt need for God, that they all have a “God-shaped hole in their hearts,” but is instead proof that they do not want to serve Him. What is more, turning from God, they fall into the vile affections which are so much a part of our society. Their unsaving and ungracious knowledge of God produces in them the sin of homosexuality (26-27).

Do they know God? Yes, they do. At least, they know His eternal power and divinity (20). Does that knowledge of God have any saving value? It does not. It only produces, in the righteous judgment of God, more wickedness. Is there any grace in that knowledge of God? There is not, for grace does not lead to the unnatural affections mentioned in Romans 1. Does God have His purpose in making Himself known to them? Yes, He does. He leaves them “without excuse” now and forever (20).

Romans 1 explains Felix’s trembling, as does the Word of God in James 2:19. God did what Ezekiel 32:10 describes: He brandished His sword before Felix through Paul’s testimony and Felix trembled for his life. What a difference between the trembling of Felix and that of Habakkuk, who said, “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble” (3:16). That is trembling by grace and with profit, trembling that finds rest 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

Covenant Reformed News - January 2023

Covenant Reformed News

January 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 9


The Blessings of the Messianic Era

New Testament believers, Galatians 3:26 asserts, “are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” The word “children” here is literally “sons.” According to its context, God’s (human) “sons” are contrasted with unbelievers (e.g., Heb. 12:5-8) or the contrast is between the New Testament church as a mature son—and in which believers are “sons” (Gal. 4:5-6)—over against the Old Testament church as an immature child.

The latter is the idea here (1-7). The New Testament church is a grown-up, mature, adult son, whereas the Old Testament church, was an immature child who was placed under the Mosaic law as a “schoolmaster” to guard, discipline and supervise him (3:24, 25; cf. 4:2). Thus Galatians 3:26 begins with the word “For,” indicating that it gives the reason for verse 25: “after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children [i.e., sons] of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (25-26).

Consider a man who wants a babysitter or a childminder to look after himself! He desires to get back into the playpen and start playing with a rattle again. He longs for someone to walk him by the hand to kindergarten or primary school. Everybody would rightly think, “That guy has a massive psychological problem!”

Likewise, what are we to make of groups in the New Testament age who want to go back to keeping the Mosaic law, including the ceremonial and/or civil laws? The Hebrew Roots movement seeks to bring back the system of laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy! The Christian Reconstructionists desire to restore the civil laws in the Pentateuch! The dispensationalists look forward to the return of the ceremonial and civil laws of Moses in their future, earthly, literal millennium!

Don’t any of these groups understand the glorious privileges and dignity of the New Testament church? The full and profound faith concerning the incarnation and cross of the eternal Son of God has come (Gal. 3:25)! Don’t you get it? The days of the Mosaic pedagogue are over for “we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (25)! Don’t you see? The New Testament church is now grown-up and mature, “For ye are all the children [i.e., sons] of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (26)!

Paul explains, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (27). This refers to our real, inward, spiritual baptism into the Lord Jesus, which is signified and sealed by the sacrament of water baptism in the name of the Triune God.

Our baptism is far better than circumcision. First, unlike the rite of circumcision, baptism is not bloody or painful. Second, unlike the Old Testament ceremony of circumcision, water baptism is catholic or universal, for females as well as males.

By God’s grace, we “have put on,” and so are clothed with, “Christ” Himself (27). In Him alone, we have both imputed righteousness and imparted sanctification, and all the blessings of salvation. We do not physically wear the rough garment of a prophet, the white linen of a priest or the royal robe of a king. We are clothed with Christ Himself. Thus we appear before God clothed in Him, with His standing, character, graces and life.

What a garment! Consider its extent: it covers us completely. Consider its permanence: it never wears out and it is never taken off. Consider its possession: it is really and truly ours by faith alone in Jesus! This heavenly clothing covers my nakedness, protects my weakness, expresses my allegiance and makes me beautiful.

One could argue that the “For” at the beginning of Galatians 3:27 gives a reason why New Testament believers are God’s sons: “ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (26-27). It is also true that the “For” at the beginning of Galatians 3:27 gives a reason why New Testament believers are not required to keep the Mosaic civil and ceremonial laws: “But after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster … For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (25, 27).

The apostle adds, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (28). This is one of the most foolishly and wickedly perverted texts in Scripture. It is often appealed to as if it supported unbelieving feminism’s usurpation of church office by women (cf. I Tim. 2:12).

Galatians 3:28 has been abused in this way for many decades by extremely liberal churches and theologians, like Krister Stendhal, a Swedish Lutheran. But this text is not dealing with church office; deacons, ruling elders and teaching elders are treated in I Timothy 3, Titus 1, etc. The subject in Galatians 3:28 is salvation in Jesus Christ in the New Testament age for the catholic or universal church! It is dealing not with the special offices of pastor, elder or deacon but with the office of believer!

In its context, Galatians 3:28 speaks of the development of the history of redemption from the age of the Mosaic law to that of the New Testament gospel. The salvation which we have in our incarnate, crucified and risen Lord Jesus is far richer and deeper than that presented by Mosaism!

“There is neither Jew nor Greek” (28) for, in the Christian era, there is no national or ethnic distinction in salvation. Hence all the Old Testament laws regarding unclean foods (Lev. 11; Deut. 14), the land of Canaan, worship at a physical tabernacle or temple, etc., are abrogated. There is now full equality of salvation in Christ irrespective of all nationality!

Moreover, “there is neither bond nor free” (Gal. 3:28). This declares the end of the Mosaic laws regarding the children, wounding, goring and releasing of slaves (e.g., Ex. 21). There is full equality in Jesus in the New Testament church, for we are all Christ’s slaves and the Lord’s free men (I Cor. 7:22).

Also “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). The days in which females do not partake of the initiatory sacrament (i.e., circumcision) are over, for now both genders are baptized. The Mosaic legislation concerning men and women as regards purification after childbirth (Lev. 12), bodily discharges (Lev. 15), pilgrimage to an earthly holy place, inheritance, military service, etc., is rescinded.

Why? “for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28)! The full equality in salvation of all believers in the New Testament age and the unity of the catholic or universal church rest upon our spiritual union with Christ! Rev. Angus Stewart


Relics and Elisha’s Bones (2)

We continue with this question, submitted by one of our readers: “If God forbids us to have relics or to venerate the dead, why was the soldier resurrected from the dead after touching Elisha’s bones in II Kings 13:20-21?”

We have seen that the veneration of relics is both foolish and sinful. Though spittle and clay, handkerchiefs, garments, Peter’s shadow and Elisha’s bones were used in healing the sick and raising the dead, there is no power in them and they may not be worshipped. They were only means used by God and by those He sent. He alone, in Christ, may be worshipped, as the first two commandments require.

It is worth noting that God does not work such miracles or any miracles through men any more, miracles such as were done by Elisha’s bones, by Peter’s shadow or by handkerchiefs and aprons from the hand of Paul. In the New Testament, such miracles were signs of an apostle: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (II Cor. 12:12). Though there are those who claim to be apostles today, their claims are bogus, for one of the qualifications of an apostle was that a man be an eyewitness of the risen Christ (I Cor. 9:1).

Do we not believe in miracles, then? We do. All God’s works are miraculous. He works every day in the sea what Jesus did by the Sea of Galilee when He multiplied fish. God performs every year in the fields what Christ did when He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000 with miraculous multiplications of bread. God also does things in our lives for which there is no “natural” explanation. Some are healed by God’s hand when the doctors have given up and all available medicines have failed. Some are rescued from death when there is no human power that could have rescued them. God still works miracles, but not now by men and never by relics.

What, then, is the point of the narrative in II Kings 13 and what is its purpose in God’s Word? A correct answer to this question will help us see that the story of the man raised by Elisha’s bones has nothing to do with the veneration of relics.

II Kings 13:20-21 reads, “Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” That is one of only ten such miracles in the Bible (counting the resurrection of Jesus) and of three in the Old Testament.

The miracles of the prophet Elisha are unique in the Old Testament. More than any of the other miracles of the Old Testament, they pointed ahead to Christ’s miracles. No one in the Old Testament except Elijah and Elisha raised the dead; only Elisha multiplied food (II Kings 4:42-44); he alone healed a leper (5:1-14); only he paid someone’s debt by a miracle (4:1-7). The correspondence is not perfect but many of Elisha’s miracles are similar to those of Jesus. Also, apart from Moses, Israel’s great lawgiver, the miracles of Elisha are more numerous than those of any other Old Testament figure.

Is there, then, a correspondence between the miracle recorded in II Kings 13 and the work of Jesus? We believe there is: that what happened when that man was raised by Elisha’s bones is similar to what happened at the death of Jesus: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:50-53).

In both cases, we see the victory over death that Jesus brings and the power of God in Jesus to bring life out of death. His death is the death of death and the beginning of our new life. This is the point of the story of Elisha’s bones. It is not an encouragement to look for and keep relics or to put our trust in things, but a reminder that death is swallowed up in victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, a reminder that “if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him” (II Tim. 2:11). Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). That is the good news of the gospel, not the fact that handkerchiefs and aprons, clay and spittle, and old bones were once used by God to heal or to bring people back to this life.

Raised from the dead by the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we begin already in this life to live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and to experience a severing of the ties that bound us to this fallen world: “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “For our conversation [i.e., citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

When we die, it is the death of Jesus that makes the burial of our bodies only a “sleep” until He comes again. It is Christ’s death that ensures our presence in Paradise at the moment of death and that guarantees the resurrection of our bodies at the end of this age. This is the point of the narrative in II Kings 13. Having begun already in this life the life of heaven, we “go on unto perfection” and to that glory which no eye has seen or ear heard—all by the power of Jesus’ death and His resurrection!  Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant PRC-N. Ireland Newsletter - January 2023

CPRC News Header
Ballymena, N. Ireland
5 January, 2023

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

At the start of this new year, we thought it would be good to update you on the Lord’s work in our midst, and to thank you for your prayers and support.  We appreciate the cards and e-mails that some of you have sent us, though we are not able to respond to all of them.  We trust that this letter to all will also serve as a satisfactory reply to those who have contacted us.


Since our last letter, two covenant children have been baptized in the CPRC:  Elsie (9 October), a daughter of David and Kristin Crossett, and Jude (11 December), a son of Joe and Lisa McCaughern.  Elsie’s grandparents, Bob and Carolyn Prins, and her uncle Andrew from Trinity PRC in W. Michigan were present, as were many of Jude’s relatives, on these respective blessed occasions.

Billy and Val McCaughern, Jude’s grandparents, were received as members on 25 December, when they were able to join the rest of the confessing congregation at the Lord’s table.  Billy had been an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  It is lovely to have them with us.

Some of the saints pointed out that there had been times when the volume of the audio of the Sunday services pumped into the cry room was too low.  A technician fitted an amplifier control button in the room in time for the worship services on 16 October, so now those with small children in the cry room can hear well.

On 19 October, Timothy Spence left for Australia, stopping off for a few days in Singapore to enjoy fellowship and worship with the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, our sister church.  Tim is working as a doctor in Australia for a year or so and has settled in well with the saints in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Launceston, Tasmania, pastored by Rev. Mark Shand.

This year, there are 26 children in five catechism or pre-confession classes.  The mid-year tests took place last week (18 December) and the kids did well.  Last Friday, we held a games night at church, which was well attended by both adults and children (30 December).


In the late summer, we completed an 11-sermon series on Psalm 69, entitled, “The Most Avoided Messianic Psalm.”  Psalm 69 is appealed to thrice in the Gospel According to John (2:17; 15:25; 19:28-30), twice in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (11:9-10; 15:3) and once in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles (1:20) regarding Christ’s ministry and cross, and those who betrayed and reproached Him.  Why then does most of the church world avoid this inspired messianic song?  Because it includes imprecations, teaches particular atonement, and opposes both a desire of God to save the reprobate and a universal or common grace.  Moreover, Psalm 69 clearly records the sovereign will and prevailing prayers of our Lord Jesus Himself, especially from the cross (www.youtube. com/playlist?list=PL2Y5Eq5r6y2EbmQYH8fHr1kU0khongBB6)

“Faith or Works” is the title of the series of 10 sermons on Galatians 3.  Over against all Judaizing, Galatians 3 contains powerful teaching on justification in Christ (13), the Seed of Abraham (16), and by faith alone without works (1-14).  It explains more clearly than any where else in Scripture the relationships between the Abrahamic covenant promise, the Mosaic law and the New Testament faith (15-29).

Our Tuesday morning classes on “Saving Faith:  A Biblical and Theological Analysis” have been progressing well.  In the last few months, we considered faith in connection with, first, authority and, second, reason.  Many err by placing the authority for their faith in the wrong place: the Roman magisterium, science, a charismatic minister, political correctness, fallible tradition, one’s own intellect, etc. (cf. I Cor. 2:5).  We looked at Scripture’s teaching on natural revelation, natural theology, natural religion and natural law, and contrasted this with Thomas Aquinas and Roman Catholicism, before turning to John Calvin’s biblical theology regarding the sensus divinitatis and the semen religionis, namely, the ineradicable sense of divinity and seed of religion in every human being, as well as man’s conscience as an essential part of his humanity under God—things that the spirit of our age is trying desperately to stamp out!

The Ballymena Times onine version carried a short article I sent in regarding our Wednesday night “Classes on the End Times” (16 September).  In our seven classes on “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9,” we presented and critiqued Dispensationalism’s literalist view of Daniel 9:24-27, considering the first 7 weeks, the middle 62 weeks, and the 70th week.  Then we explained the correct and historic teaching of this powerful passage in terms of seven key words, all of which begin with the third letter of the alphabet:  Christ, cross, covenant, chronology, coming, counsel and comfort in Daniel 9:24-27.

Then we had six classes on “The Signs of Christ’s Return,” considering them collectively or as a group.  We introduced, identified, and classified the eschatological signs spoken of in Scripture, before turning to their idea and characteristics, as well as people’s responses to them.  We also looked at the Old Testament and the signs of Christ’s second coming, and we compared and contrasted them with the signs of the end of the world in Judaism and Islam (www.cprc.co.uk/belgic-confession-class).

Prof. Engelsma’s two volumes on The Church’s Hope were published at a good time for these classes on the last things and many attendees have bought them.  Stephen Murray, our audio-visual man, has produced box sets of the two sermon series (on Psalm 69 and Galatians 3) and the two topics in eschatology (“The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9” and “The Signs of Christ’s Return”).  All the Lord’s day sermons and the Wednesday night doctrine classes are recorded and placed on our website (www.cprc.co.uk), but not our more informal Tuesday morning meetings.


In the 153 days since our last letter (5 August), we have added 125 translations in 11 languages (www.cprc.co.uk/languages).  All of The Reformed Worldview book by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma is now on-line in both Polish and Russian.  Through the fine work of Lilian from Kenya, our new translator into Swahili, the major African language in eastern parts of that vast continent, we now have 37 articles in her native tongue.  Of the 207 languages on our website, Spanish is the one that receives most hits.  In the last year or so, the Covenant Reformed News has gotten a lot of translations. Now for every English article in the News, we average more than two translations.

Lilian Kenya transl CPRC 2023

Lilian and her daughter

Here are the translations that Mary has put on our website in the last 5 months or so:  35 Polish, 23 Russian, 22 Hungarian, 21 Swahili, 12 Spanish, 5 Afrikaans, 2 Chinese (by a new translator in Malaysia), 2 Telugu (Apostles’ Creed and Heidelberg Catechism), 1 Tagalog, 1 Italian, and 1 Arabic (Canons of Dordt).

Late in the summer, Mary and I visited places in and around the historic border between England and Wales (22-26 August).  We had two major purposes: first, to meet friends and give a lecture in South Wales on “The Two Ages in Eschatology” (25 August), and, second, to check out possible venues for BRF conferences and places suitable for the day trips that would occur during such conferences.  We visited three possible conference sites, and spoke with managers and staff.  We toured abbeys, aqueducts, battlefields, bridges, canals, museums, Roman remains, interesting towns, etc., so as to make recommendations for the BRF Council.

In our last letter, we mentioned the subject and speakers that were chosen for the next BRF conference by the attendees at July’s BRF conference in Northern Ireland.  Now we can also announce the BRF Council’s decision regarding the venue and dates.  The BRF has booked Cloverley Hall in Shropshire, England, near the border with Wales (www.cloverleyhall.org) for a week (3-10 August) in the summer of 2024.  We are looking forward to Prof. Brian Huizinga and Rev. Ronald Hanko unfolding to us wonderful truths in the area of eschatology concerning the glorious return of our Saviour!  The conference is now less than 19 months away.

Cloveryley Hall BRF 2024

Cloverley Hall

May the Lord preserve and bless you in this coming year, as we look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

In Him,
Rev. Angus & Mary Stewart


Covenant Reformed News - December 2022


Covenant Reformed News

December 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 8


The Abrogation of the Mosaic Law

Galatians 3:25 declares this good news: “after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” “The faith” is spoken of twice in verse 23 and once in verse 25 as something that “came” and was “revealed.” In the context, it is equivalent to the Christ who “came” and was “revealed” some 2,000 years ago.

Christ is especially the object of our faith as the One in whom we are called to believe, for believing in Him is believing in the Triune God (John 12:44; 14:1; I Pet. 1:21). The faith of the church is in the incarnate, crucified and risen Lord Jesus, as the One who reveals the Father and sends the Spirit, as the gospel declares.

Before the coming of “the faith” as recorded in the New Testament, the people of God were “under the law” of Moses (Gal. 3:23), including Israel’s ceremonial and civil laws, such as these four. (1) What happened if a Jew touched a dead body, either in battle or accidentally or some other way? He was ceremonially unclean for a week and needed the application of the ashes of a red heifer (Num. 19). (2) Numbers 6 records the Nazarite vow of a special consecration to God. Not only was the Nazarite forbidden to touch a dead body, but he was also divinely prohibited from cutting his hair and drinking any liquor or wine, or eating any product of the vine. (3) What if a man stole livestock in Israel and killed or sold the animals, and was caught? He had to restore 4 sheep for 1 sheep and 5 oxen for 1 ox (Ex. 22:1). (4) What had to be done if there was an unsolved murder in the Jewish countryside? Deuteronomy 21:1-9 required that a measurement be made to ascertain the nearest town or village. The elders of that place were then to behead a heifer and wash their hands over the decapitated beast’s carcass.

Should we in the New Testament church go back to this? The incarnation of the eternal Word is far greater than the civil and ceremonial codes given by Moses (John 1:14-18)! Christ and His cross is our “reconciliation” and “everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24); do we really need the ashes of a red heifer (Heb. 9:13-14)? Since Jesus died and rose again, so that now we are dead to the dominion of sin and alive to God through His Spirit (Rom. 6), men do not need to grow long hair and stop eating raisins in consecration to the Lord as did the Nazarites. Since the exalted Christ has received the fulness of the Holy Spirit and rules the entire universe from His heavenly throne, does God really require us to remember the specific ratio for sheep or oxen to be restored by the cattle rustler? In a baffling rural murder, now that the church is catholic or universal, must we still identify the nearest village to the corpse and decapitate a heifer?

The “schoolmaster” that the New Testament church is “no longer under” “after that [the] faith is come” (Gal. 3:25) is the Mosaic law (17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24). The Greek word rendered “schoolmaster” (24, 25) tells us that the law of Moses was a guardian, a disciplinarian and a supervisor to look after “children,” for that is how the Old Testament church is described (4:3).

In the period from Moses to Christ, the people of God were “under the law” (3:23), that is, “under a schoolmaster” or pedagogue (25). Galatians 4 describes the Mosaic law, that pedagogue for Old Testament Israel, as elementary (3, 9), “weak” (9) and “beggarly” (9), even stating that it brings “bondage” (3, 7, 9, 21-31). Galatians 3 declares that the law of Moses was restrictive (22, 23), before adding, thankfully, that, in the history of redemption, it was merely preparatory (24) and temporary (25)!

In the last two millennia, sadly, various parties have corrupted the biblical truth regarding law and gospel, faith and works. First, some preach salvation by faith and works, e.g., Roman Catholicism and liberal Protestantism. Second, others teach (or claim to teach) salvation by faith (though they rarely, if ever, say “faith alone”) and the necessity of observing all the Mosaic law, e.g., some in the Hebrew Roots movement. Third, others maintain that salvation is conditioned on faith in Christ and works, and that the Mosaic law is still binding in the New Testament age, e.g., the Judaizers condemned in Galatians and Philippians 3.

We may also identify at least three erroneous positions regarding which parts of the Mosaic law ought to be kept. First, the Christian reconstructionists want to reimpose the civil, but not the ceremonial, laws of Moses upon all nations in their postmillennial kingdom. Second, the premillennial dispensationalists maintain that Christ Himself will bring back both the civil and ceremonial laws of Moses (modified according to a literalistic reading of Ezekiel 40-48) in their literal millennium, after their secret rapture and their literal seven-year tribulation. This disposes some dispensationalists to keep elements of the Mosaic law now and/or to get things ready for their literal millennial kingdom, e.g., by breeding red heifers. Third, the Hebrew Roots movement seeks the religious observation of the whole system of the law of Moses (including both civil and ceremonial laws) now as well as in a future earthly millennium.

But what does Galatians 3:25 proclaim? “But after that [the] faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” with the “schoolmaster” being “the law” (24) of Moses (17, 18, 19, 21, 23)! With the coming of Christ, the full New Testament faith and the gathering of the catholic or universal church, the Mosaic law, with all its civil and ceremonial codes, is “no longer” required by God and never again will be in the future!

Professing Christians ought not hanker after the civil and/or ceremonial laws of Moses. A massive change in the history of redemption took place in “the fulness of the time” with Christ’s incarnation, redemption and pouring out of the Holy Spirit (4:4-7), and the completion of scriptural revelation. This transformation is far better in every way! Do not follow the Hebrew Roots movement or any false doctrine concerning the Mosaic law. Instead, embrace the riches of the gospel summed in the epistle to the Hebrews: the better covenant with its better promises, better hope and better country, because of the better sacrifice of the better high priest, our Lord Jesus Christ! Rev. Angus Stewart



Relics and Elisha’s Bones (1)

One of our readers sent the following interesting question: “If God forbids us to have relics or to venerate the dead, why was the soldier resurrected from the dead after touching Elisha’s bones in II Kings 13:20-21?”

Relics are things, even body parts such as pieces of bone or teeth, that are connected with Jesus and His life or with Jesus’ family members, the apostles, martyrs or others who are deemed saints by Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Buddhism, Islam or other religions. They are supposed to have some spiritual value, miraculous or otherwise, and for that reason are often worshipped. In Roman Catholicism, veneration is supposedly a lesser form of worship offered to these relics, of which there are thousands.

Such things have no spiritual value at all. We see this in the example of Hezekiah who “brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan [i.e., a piece of brass]” (II Kings 18:4). One can understand why the Jews had a high regard for the brasen serpent, for it was an object from their wilderness wanderings in the days of Moses, the great lawgiver. Nevertheless, Hezekiah was right in calling it a piece of brass and destroying it, so that they could not worship it.

A piece of brass or a bone is only that, no matter to whom it belonged. A hank of hair or a fragment of wood, even if it came from the “true cross,” is hair or wood and has no spiritual value. Paul makes that point in a negative way about meat sacrificed to idols (e.g., I Cor. 8; 10:23-33). No matter where it was bought or whether it was the carcass of an animal offered to some heathen god, it was only meat. The spiritual danger, Paul says, is (1) in the conscience of the person who cannot eat it without thinking of his former idolatry or (2) in the conduct of the person who is not careful to avoid offending the weaker brother. Meat is only meat with no power to save or destroy spiritually.

God forbids having relics for the purpose of worship, as the first and second commandments teach us. God alone must be worshiped and He “neither can nor may be represented by any means. But as to creatures, though they may be represented, yet God forbids to make or have any resemblance of them either in order to worship them or to serve God by them” (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 97).

Nor may we worship men or angels, not even their bones or feathers (the Spanish palace, El Escorial, claims to have a feather from the archangel Gabriel, part of its collection of over 7,000 relics). John was forbidden to worship the angel who spoke with him: “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9). Worthy of note in this passage is the word used for “worship,” a word much the same as the word “venerate.” Only God may be venerated.

As an aside, I am appalled when I go in the local Christian bookstores by the things I see, not much different in themselves or in their use from the relics of apostate Christianity or heathenism. I see WWJD bracelets, pocket tokens, religious jewellery of various kinds that is supposed to have some spiritual significance or be of some spiritual help, bottled Jordan River water, anointing oil, pictures that are a violation of the second commandment, items of clothing with a religious message, etc. Not all of this is per se wrong but, where it becomes a “help” to one’s spirituality, an object of trust or a substitute for real spirituality, it is not much different from the veneration of relics.

II Kings 13:20-21 states, “Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” The burial party was more shocked by the man’s resurrection than by the marauding Moabites!

Graves in Israel were caves, either natural or man-made, usually sealed with a stone, as was the tomb of Jesus. II Kings does not give us many details, but the burial party either opened Elisha’s cave tomb, in their haste to get rid of the body they were carrying, or for some reason his tomb was open, so that the body of the dead man, instead of being placed in his own tomb, was thrown into Elisha’s and was raised by Elisha’s bones.

That the miracle is no encouragement to superstition is clear in several ways. There is no evidence that Elisha’s bones, either before or after this event, were objects of worship, were used to serve God or were used for other miracles. Nor is there evidence that they were kept as relics. Elisha’s bones stayed in his tomb where they belonged. Nor is it likely that his bones became an object of worship since any contact with a dead body made an Israelite ceremonially unclean (Num. 19:11).

What happened is not much different from the woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment (Matt. 19:20-22), the blind man whom He cured with clay and water (John 9:6-7) or those who were healed by handkerchiefs brought from the apostle Paul (Acts 19:12). Some in our day sell handkerchiefs and other objects that have been “blessed” by charismatics, promising healing through them. Not only is this making merchandise of the gospel but it is utter nonsense. There is no power in these things.

The power to heal the woman with an issue of blood did not reside in Jesus’ garment but in Him, as He said, “I perceive that virtue is gone out of me” (Luke 8:46), nor was anyone else healed by touching His garment in the press of the multitude. Acts 19 tells us that these miracles were unusual and ascribes no power at all to the “handkerchiefs or aprons” (11): “God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul” (12). Likewise, the power of the cross lies not in a chunk of wood but in Him who died on the cross.

Those who trust in such things, like those who look for the ark of the covenant or Noah’s ark, make a fundamental mistake. Even if the ark of the covenant or Noah’s ark could be found, it would not change one unbelieving heart or strengthen the faith of a child of God one iota. Faith is a gift of God and rests in Jesus Christ through the Word of God. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Act. 4:12)! 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

Covenant Reformed News - November 2022

Covenant Reformed News

November 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 7


Christ’s Six Comings Before His Second Coming

Holy Scripture prophesies the future glorious bodily coming of our Lord Jesus in the clouds of heaven with His holy angels (e.g., Matt. 24:30-31; Rev. 1:7). From the New Testament, we may speak of six other comings of Christ, all of which precede His return at the end of this age. In the first three instances, our Saviour predicts specific events in the first century AD, whereas the next three speak of His ongoing comings throughout the last days, the period from His first coming to His second coming.

1) Transfiguration. Jesus told His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16:28; cf. Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). Immediately following these three texts, on a mountain in Galilee, our Lord’s face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light, picturing His glory at His second coming (II Pet. 1:16-18).

2) Pentecost. In the upper room, during His last week on earth, Christ promised His disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18)—by means of His representative, the Holy Spirit (16-17), who was poured out in Acts 2.

3) Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70). Our Saviour prophesied the destruction of the holy city as one way in which He would come: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” (Matt. 10:23; cf. 23:32-38). In answer to His disciples’ question regarding His (second) “coming” (24:3), Jesus referred to local and near events, typifying cosmic and final events, and averred regarding the former, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (34).

4) Preaching. The “voice” of the good shepherd calls His “sheep” “by name” so that they “follow” Him (John 10:3-4, 16, 27). In the light of Ephesians 2:17, which teaches that He “came and preached peace to you which were afar off [i.e., Gentiles], and to them that were nigh [i.e., Jews],” Christ comes (spiritually, not bodily) in faithful preaching wherever and whenever His truth is proclaimed (Rom. 10:14; Eph. 4:21).

5) Death of believers. On the evening before the cross, Jesus promised His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Thus the Son of man comes at the death of each and every one of His beloved saints to receive them unto Himself in heaven!

6) Signs of Christ’s return. Jesus declared, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). His promise, “I come quickly” (Rev. 22:7), is in the present, not the future, tense. Thus theologians note that there is an important sense in which Christ comes in the signs of the times: wars, earthquakes, persecution, apostasy, etc. (Matt. 24; Rev. 6-20). Rev. Angus Stewart



The Third Use of the Law

We continue in this article to address the following request: “Maybe Rev. Hanko can write an article on the role of the law in the conviction of sin, paving the way for the knowledge of Christ, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches in the knowledge of misery. Has it such a function, and what place has it in the regeneration of a sinner and in his growth in grace?”

We have seen that the law has an important and necessary function in showing us our depravity and sin, and our need for God’s great salvation. Now the question is: “Does the law have a place in the regeneration of a sinner and in his growth in grace, i.e., his sanctification?”

If we mean by “place” that the law has any power to regenerate or sanctify us, the answer is an unqualified “No.” Galatians 3:21 tells us plainly that the law cannot regenerate us: “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” The Word of God is saying here that, if the law were able to regenerate us and give us life, it would first have to be able to justify us and that it cannot do.

Nor can the law sanctify us, as is clear from Romans 8:3-4: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Having the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us and walking after the Spirit is sanctification and growth in grace, which are always and only the fruit of Christ’s work, and not something the law could do.

We do not mean, however, that the law has no connection with our regeneration and spiritual growth. When we are born again, regenerated, the Spirit of God writes the law in our hearts: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:10-11; quoting Jer. 31:33-34).

The law does not give us the new life of regeneration, but, written in our hearts, it defines the boundaries of that new life that we have through regeneration and in Christ. When God created man, His moral law was a boundary for man’s life of fellowship with Himself. Within the boundaries of God’s law was life. Outside of those boundaries was death and so the law defined the boundaries of man’s fellowship with God.

God did something like that for all of His creatures. God’s law for a fish is that it must live in the water and, if that law is broken, the fish dies. God’s law for a tree is that it must be rooted in the earth and, if that law is broken, the tree dies. So it was with man who was created to live in relationship with God. God’s law for him was much more extensive but only within the boundaries of God’s law for him can he live in fellowship with God. Outside those boundaries is only death.

That does not change with our regeneration. When we are regenerated, God gives us life out of death, and also writes the law in our hearts and brings us back within the boundaries of the law (the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us). Thus the law continues to define, like a boundary, where a life of peace, blessedness and fellowship with God is found.

The law does this because the law is rooted in the nature of God Himself. It is grounded in the truths that He is the only God (the First Commandment), that He is spirit, so glorious that no eye has seen Him or can see Him (the Second Commandment), that He is so holy that even His name may not be uttered without reverence and fear (the Third Commandment), that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all (#4), sovereign (#5), the living God (#6), faithful (#7), Lord of all (#8), a God of truth (#9) and perfect (#10).

With its precepts, therefore, the law tells us what our life in relationship to Him must be, that we must be single-eyed and single-hearted in relationship to Him, that we must worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), that we must be holy as He is holy, fear and reverence Him, find our rest in Him, submit to Him, receive our life from Him, be faithful in all our relationships as He is faithful to us, seek all things from Him, walk in the truth and be perfect as He is.

Those precepts of the law are necessary because we are still sinners and are tempted to think that life, happiness and satisfaction can be found apart from Him in sin. The law, then, continues to remind us that it is not so. We also need those precepts because we are slow of heart and ignorant of His glory, and of what it means to love and serve Him. We need to be told over and over that love is not just a feeling but that love involves obedience: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Calvin says, “The Law acts like a whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth” (Institutes 2.7.12).

In regeneration, therefore, we are given a new life filled with the love of God and obedience to Him, and the law is written in our hearts to show us the way of life. The law does not preserve the life of regeneration. It does nothing to strengthen and sustain that new life of Christ in us. That life does not depend on the law for anything. Christ by His Spirit is the source, the strength, the blessedness, the help and the hope of that new life. He is our life (Gal. 2:20). The law is only a reminder and a guide.

The law has a similar function in our sanctification. It has no power to make us holy, or even keep us holy, but it is an important guide for holiness, the road map which we must follow as we walk the narrow way of life. Written not only on tables of stone but in the fleshy tables of our hearts, it becomes a guide that we know well and love. It shows us where danger threatens our relationship to God and to others whom we love. It shows us the path of peace and spiritual safety in worship, in family and marriage, in our work and even in our inward life.

This is what Psalm 119:105 has in mind: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Thus also Deuteronomy 32:46-47: “And he [i.e., Moses] said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.” Saved by grace, regenerated and renewed by the Spirit, a believer finds the law most useful and good.

Thus the law is a guide for gratitude also, for a life lived according to the precepts of the law is a life of gratitude to God, a life in which our thankfulness becomes more than just words. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people” (Ps. 116:12-14). In other words, “I really have nothing to give; all I can do is receive. In taking the cup of salvation, I will be thankful and will, by grace, pay my vows and serve to the utmost of my ability as long as I live.”

It is a guide for gratitude because, as the Westminster Larger Catechism explains, “[The law] is of special use, to shew them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good” (A. 97). The law, written upon our hearts and in the Word of God, constantly reminds us of what Jesus said: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10).

This, according to Calvin, is the third and principal use of the law: “The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the finger of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in which they still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge; just as a servant who desires with all his soul to approve himself to his master, must still observe, and be careful to ascertain his master’s dispositions, that he may comport himself in accommodation to them” (Institutes 2.7.12).

In short, God’s law is a mirror of our misery and so also a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, a lamp for living, a handbook for holiness and a guide for gratitude. What other response is possible but “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

Covenant Reformed News - October 2022


Covenant Reformed News

October 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 6


The Workers of Miracles

Who are the workers of miracles after Christ’s incarnation, atoning sacrifice on the cross and ascension into heaven? The biblical and Reformed answer is, “The apostles and a few others, and that only in the apostolic age.” However, Pentecostals and Charismatics would respond, “The apostles and many others in the apostolic age, and many since then.” Many renewalists claim that this includes apostles and prophets in the 1,900+ years since the deaths of the 12 apostles and Paul.

Let us look at the key New Testament book in this regard, Acts, beginning with two express statements that the 12 apostles wrought miracles. First, “many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (2:43). Second, “by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (5:12). These miracles were not wrought by (ordinary) believers. We do not read here of a miracle-working early church but of miracle-working apostles!

Acts records several miracles performed by the apostle Peter: the healing of the man born lame (3:1-4:22), the slaying of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), the curing or exorcizing of multitudes in and around Jerusalem (15-16), the raising of paralysed Aeneas (9:32-35) and the resurrecting of dead Tabitha (36-42).

A number of wonders wrought by the apostle Paul are spoken of in Acts. He blinded Elymas the sorcerer in Cyprus (13:9-12). In Iconium, he performed “signs and wonders” (14:3) with Barnabas, one of “prophets and teachers” in the church at Antioch who was sent by the Holy Spirit (13:1-2); he healed a crippled man at Lystra (14:8-10); he exorcised the female fortune-teller at Philippi (16:16-18). In Ephesus, God wrought healings and exorcisms by the unusual means of Paul’s “handkerchiefs” (19:11-12). Paul raised Eutychus from the dead in Troas (20:9-12) and had no ill effects from the poisonous bite of a snake in Malta (28:3-6). On that island, he also healed Publius of dysentery and fever, and others with various diseases (7-10).

Did any others perform miracles apart from those already mentioned? Yes, three men. First, there was Stephen, who “did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). He was one of the first seven deacons upon whom the 12 apostles laid their hands (1-6). Moreover, Acts 7 presents Stephen not only as the first Christian martyr but also a prophet for he received a heavenly vision of the exalted Christ (55-60).

Second, Philip wrought miracles in Samaria (8:6-7, 13). Not only was he, like Stephen, ordained a deacon by the apostles (6:1-6) but he was also, like Timothy (II Tim. 4:5), an evangelist (Acts 21:8), exercising an extraordinary temporary office, in which the person worked under and assisted the first-century apostles (Eph. 4:11).

Third, after Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, Ananias healed him of his blindness (Acts 9:12, 17-18). The Messiah who had earlier miraculously blinded Paul later sent Ananias to restore his sight miraculously. God did not use any of the (earlier) 12 apostles for this task, otherwise Paul’s later detractors would have claimed that he was a second-hand apostle (cf. Gal. 1-2). Instead, the Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision (Acts 9:10-16), thereby also indicating to us that he was a prophet.

So whom did God use to work miracles after the exaltation of His Son? What does the book of Acts say? It was not ordinary members in the church. The Lord empowered the 12 apostles, especially Peter, and the apostle Paul. Four other men are mentioned: the prophets Stephen, Ananias and Barnabas, and the evangelist Philip. These men were vitally connected to the apostles, as those ordained by the 12 apostles (Stephen and Philip) or working a miracle upon the apostle Paul (Ananias) or accompanying the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey (Barnabas). With the deaths of the apostles, and those who were appointed by them or laboured with them or performed a miracle upon them, the days of godly miracle workers have ended.

This explains Paul’s inspired statement in II Corinthians 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” After all, if in our day all or some Christians, or some pastors or elders, can perform miracles, how are such “wonders” “the signs of an apostle”?

Miracles in the apostolic age were designed to authenticate (1) Christ’s apostles and/or (2) the gospel that they proclaimed. First, the New Testament speaks of miracles as validating the apostolic messengers of Christ, “them that heard him” (Heb. 2:3): “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” (4). “Wonders” also had this function with regard to the Lord Himself, as Peter declared at Pentecost, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22; cf. John 3:2; 5:36; 9:16, 30-33; 10:25, 37-38).

Second, miracles validated the message of the 12 apostles: “they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). This is also the case as regards the gospel preached by Paul the apostle and Barnabas the prophet who accompanied him: “Long time therefore abode they [in Iconium] speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).

Let us hold fast to the New Testament apostles and the apostolic gospel that they proclaimed: salvation is in Christ alone to God’s glory alone (I Cor. 15:1-4)! Rev. Angus Stewart



The First Use of the Law

One of our readers asked, “Maybe Rev. Hanko can write an article on the role of the law in the conviction of sin, paving the way for the knowledge of Christ, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches in the knowledge of misery. Has it such a function, and what place has it in the regeneration of a sinner and in his growth in grace?”

Identifying our misery with our sin and depravity, the Heidelberg Catechism speaks in Lord’s Day 2 of the function of the law in the conviction of sin:

Q. 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?
A. Out of the law of God.

Q. 4. What doth the law of God require of us?
A. Christ teaches us that briefly, Matthew 22:37-40, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Q. 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
A. In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.”

The Catechism clearly teaches that we know not only our sin but also our sinfulness and depravity from the law, and especially from that most basic requirement of the law that we love God with everything we are and in all we do, and our neighbour also. This knowledge of sin is part of what we need to live and die happily (Q. & A. 2).

The Westminster Confession 19:6 is similar. It not only speaks of the law discovering the “sinful pollutions” of our natures, hearts and lives, but also reminds us that “conviction of” and “humiliation for” sin are not ends in themselves, but the way in which we learn our “need ... of Christ” and “the perfection of his obedience.” Following the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession, therefore, our answer is: “Yes, the law does have an important function in discovering our sin and sinfulness.” This, according to John Calvin, is the first use or function of the law.

That the law discovers our sin and shows us our lost condition is also the teaching of God’s Word. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet ... For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (7:7, 9). The Word of God does not find fault with the law for this but rather commends it: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (12).

There are several things worth noting about these verses. Romans 7:7 teaches us that the law has this ability to show us our sin because it looks not only at our outward actions but also at our inward lives and hearts. The tenth commandment is especially important in that regard. It forbids a sin which, in itself, hurts no one, is not even discoverable by others and which has to do with our inward life. It serves as reminder that sin involves not only actions and words, but also motives, intentions and thoughts (Jer. 17:9-10).

This is fundamental to understanding the doctrine of total depravity. What the unbelieving do is never good in God’s eyes because, though they sometimes conform to the law in their outward actions, their hearts are never right with God. All the so-called “good” they do is an abomination to Him because their intentions are always wrong, for they do not do anything by way of “seeking God.” Psalm 14:2-3 says of them, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Nor, according to these verses, is true conviction of sin only a recognition that people do bad things or that I sometimes disobey, tell lies, cheat, steal, hurt others, am not faithful to my wife or that there is a little bad in all of us, etc. True conviction means that I confess with David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:4-5). When truly convicted of sin, I see that I have sinned against God, that I am worthy of condemnation and that I not only do sinful things but am wicked by nature.

Conviction of sin means that I come to say with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). I stop excusing myself. I cease thinking that I am, deep down, a decent person. Rather, I acknowledge that my condition is hopeless and that there is nothing I can do for myself. This, in the grace of God, is the beginning of my deliverance for, having shown me my sinfulness and misery, the Spirit turns my eyes to Jesus, in whom I find not only the possibility of deliverance but all things necessary for my salvation.

This is the great work of the Holy Spirit. The law does not truly discover sin, convict of sin and humble for sin, without the saving work of the Holy Spirit. The law shows our sinfulness, but we cannot see our sinfulness and humble ourselves for it, unless God’s grace breaks our hearts (Jer. 31:18-19). Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, the law is powerless and useless even in showing us our sin.

Used by the Holy Spirit, the law functions as a schoolmaster or pedagogue to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). By the grace of the Spirit, the law shows us the great Giver of the law, the God beside whom there is no other, the God who demands that we worship Him and worship Him as He commands, and not according to our own imaginations, the God whose name is so holy that may not be uttered without reverence and fear. A schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, indeed, but a schoolmaster we will not follow unless we are also taught of God’s Spirit.

By the teaching of the Spirit we say, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death” (Rom. 7:9-10). We add, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (12). The same grace that opens my eyes to see my lost condition brings me to the cross, where I find that the Giver of the law is not only holy and just, but also merciful and good.

The rest of this query we will answer in the next issue, DV. 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

Covenant Reformed News - September 2022

Covenant Reformed News

September 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 5

The Nature of Apostolic Miracles

In the last issue, we introduced the signs of an apostle (II Cor. 12:12) and listed various types of miracles (Matt. 10:8; Mark 16:17-18). But what about the miracles claimed by Pentecostals and Charismatics in our own day? A lot of them are non-verifiable, such as the “healings” of bad backs and headaches or psychosomatic illnesses. How does one prove that a person actually had these pains, that he or she no longer has them and that this was due to a miracle performed by a charismatic? What about their performing “difficult” miracles, like raising people from the dead, cleansing lepers, causing people born lame to walk, etc.? Claims regarding these things by Pentecostals and Charismatics are rare, and few stand up to even a little investigation.

Victor Budgen relates this amusing story of a healing meeting in London: “in the middle of the Albert Hall rally the chairman announced that a person in the congregation who had been taken ill was in the St John’s ambulance room, and if there was a doctor in the house would he please go there quickly” (The Charismatics and the Word of God, p. 100). Where was the faith of the chairman and the attendees in the healing power of the charismatic leaders? Why did they need to turn to medics?

The miracles of II Corinthians 12:12 were both real and undeniable, as they had to be in order to serve Paul’s point. Clearly, while he was in Corinth for some 18 months (Acts 18:11), the apostle had performed a plurality of miracles that provoked wonder in those who beheld them and pointed to the truth of the gospel that he preached: Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners! Besides the references to miracles performed by Paul in the book of Acts and II Corinthians 12:12, the apostle speaks of his miracles in Galatia in central Turkey (Gal. 3:5), and even from Jerusalem all the way north and west to Illyricum, roughly the former Yugoslavia (Rom. 15:19).

Pagan opponents, unbelieving Jews and false apostles would dearly have loved to be able to deny the wonders that Paul performed. But, like the miracles of Christ (John 11:47), and of Peter and John (Acts 4:14-16), Paul’s mighty deeds could not be gainsaid.

Notice, first, that the apostles healed people totally. Paralysed Aeneas was bedridden for eight years. Peter announced to him, “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,” and he arose and made his bed (Acts 9:32-35). Aeneas did not merely show improvement or make progress. Instead, he had unimpaired power in his limbs.

Second, the apostles healed people instantly, like the lame man of Acts 3. There was no need for any therapy afterwards or a process of rehabilitation.

Third, the apostles healed everyone who came to them seeking healing (e.g., Acts 5:12-16). They did not try to heal someone but fail, and then blame it on the sick person: “You didn’t have enough faith!” How unlike the supposed faith healers of our own times!

After over a century of Pentecostalism (including Charismaticism and Neo-charismaticism), where are their undeniable miracles? Lots of sick people were supposedly healed but are as ill as they ever were. Others have traipsed to many healing meetings seeking a cure but have not even claimed to have received healing. There have been multitudes of hoaxes and exposures. Christ’s name has been repeatedly discredited before the world by these charlatans and yet gullible people are still falling for it.

How different from the apostle Paul! “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (II Cor. 12:12). Paul is telling the Corinthians, in effect, “You saw God’s power in, and you marvelled at, miracles wrought by my hands. They are signs of my apostolic office—you yourselves being eyewitnesses and you cannot deny it.” On the other hand, the pretend miracles and incomplete cures (at best) are signs of an impostor, a false teacher with a false gospel, often one who is out to fleece the people.

One charismatic describes how someone knows when he or she has been “Touched for Healing.” “Usually you will feel extreme heat all over your body. Then after a few minutes, most will feel a wonderful and supernatural peace from the Lord Jesus Christ. You will know when this happens, it feels so wonderful. It’s like heaven on earth. You will know when this happens and you will have zero doubt. You will know it is the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ touching you ... Sometimes you will feel a wind first. Really!!!! Just like a real wind or a lightly swirling breeze, even in a completely closed room. Sometimes you will feel like a warm blanket of energy wrapped around your entire body. When this happens, it is like supernatural clothing. It feels like a part of you perfectly. Sometimes you will smell a heavenly jasmine or other wonderful fragrances. You will know this smell is heavenly and holy when it manifests itself in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. If you ever smell these wonderful fragrances, you are having an extra special visit from the Lord Jesus. You will know without any doubt when you smell them.”

What is one to make of all this unbiblical tomfoolery? Where is there anything like this in all of sacred Scripture? Did you notice how often the writer speaks of how it usually “feels” (six times in the paragraph above)—the feeling of heat or peace or the wind or a blanket or perfectly fitting clothes—or “smells” (four times)—heavenly jasmine or another wonderful fragrance? (Roman Catholic mystics often speak of supposed divine visitations in similar language.) Remarkably, it does not even say that you know that you have been healed when you are actually healed! Beloved, a true sign of a biblical apostle is real healing without any of the mumbo-jumbo in the previous paragraph, as II Corinthians 12:12 and the New Testament teach! Rev. A. Stewart






Is the Church Our Mother?

Our question for this issue comes from a friend in South America: “Besides the church being the bride or wife of Christ, according to Galatians 4:26 and other verses ... is the church also the mother of believers or Christians?”

Scripture does not in so many words call the church the mother of believers. Nevertheless, the expression is, we believe, warranted by Scripture. Revelation 21:9 suggests it for, if the church is the bride of Christ, then it follows that she is also our mother.

Isaiah 66:10-11 exhorts us, “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.” Jerusalem was a name for the church in the Old Testament and continues to be a name for the church in the New (Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 21:2). Isaiah certainly is describing Jerusalem as the mother of believers, therefore.

The verse mentioned by our South American friend, Galatians 4:26, is closest of all to an actual reference to the church as our mother: “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Here again, in an allegory, the name Jerusalem is a name for the church and the church is called “the mother of us all.”

The church is our mother in the sense that she gives birth to us. It is not the church which regenerates, justifies and sanctifies us, but it is through her ministry that God performs His work of grace in us. Thus Paul calls the members of the church, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).

The Christian church has always recognized the propriety of this name. The church father Cyprian said, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the church as Mother” (The Unity of the Church, chap. 6) and Calvin wrote several times in his Institutes of the church as the mother of believers. Here are a couple of his famous quotes:

I will start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith. ‘For what God has joined together, it is not lawful to put asunder’ [Mark 10:9 p.], so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem [Gal. 4:26] (4.1.1).

But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title ‘mother’ how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matt. 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives (4.1.4).

This name “mother” has been misused, especially by Roman Catholicism which uses the name to buttress its absolute authority. Because the church is our mother, so they think, we must bow to her authority as we would bow to the authority of the Word of God: unreservedly and without question. Such abuse of the name, however, is easily answered with a reminder that no mother is a good mother who does not come with the Scriptures in hand and whose authority is not founded on that Word.

While rejecting the errors of Romanism, thinking of the church as our mother serves as a reminder of some important things about the church. It is a reminder of the unity of the church of Christ in all nations and all history. Believers have only one mother, though the visible church is fragmented and divided. We all—no matter our background, skin colour, nationality, language, etc.—not only have the same Father but also the same mother. Names such as Jerusalem and Zion are names for the church, both in the Old and the New Testaments (Gal. 4:24-27; Heb. 12:22-24), and are an example of this wonderful unity which transcends time.

The name mother reminds the church and her leaders that she must be like a mother to her members, and not like a tyrannical and over-bearing monster. It serves as a reminder to the members that the church is the place where they should expect to be fed, nourished, comforted, corrected and guided (Isa. 66:10-11). They should not leave her side, unless she in her visible manifestation becomes a whore rather than a mother. Though the name Mother is not used in Revelation 22:17, the idea of the church as our mother, the one through whom God provides for His children, is certainly to be found there: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

In some churches, all the emphasis is on “saving souls” but what is done for those who are so saved? “Mother” church does little or nothing to nourish and care for her children. Nothing is said about church membership to the evangelized, and those who do become church members are left untaught and unguided. That same misguided emphasis on “saving souls” often leads to the neglect of those who have been long time members of the church, especially the elderly, the widows, the sick and the poor. It leads all too often to neglect of the youth as well. Though under the care of mother church, they remain untaught and it is no surprise that they go their own way in the end.

As our mother, the church deserves our respect and love and obedience. Christians ought to put ourselves under her care, “maintaining the unity of the church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them” (Belgic Confession 28).

When our mother is seriously ill, as she sometimes is, we must not immediately abandon her, but must seek her healing and well-being, through prayer, standing for the truth and, if necessary, church reformation. All too often those who would not think of abandoning their natural mother give up on mother church when she is ill and falls short of the standard for spiritual health set by the Word of God. Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant Reformed News - August 2022

Covenant Reformed News

August 2022  •  Volume XIX, Issue 4

Introducing the Signs of an Apostle

The twelve apostles and the apostle Paul possessed the teaching authority of pastors, plus infallible teaching authority, including (for some of them) the authority to write inspired and canonical New Testament Scripture.

These apostles also possessed the ruling authority of elders. Like them, apostles had authority to discipline, hear and decide controversies, and ordain office-bearers. Unlike elders, the apostles had the authority to direct the first-century evangelists and will have the authority to judge the twelve tribes of Israel on the last day (Matt. 19:28).

Moreover, the apostles possessed the authority of showing mercy like deacons. The twelve did the work of deacons in the days of the early New Testament church up to Acts 6. The apostle Paul was the main figure in bringing financial assistance from the Greek churches to the poor believers in Jerusalem (I Cor. 16:1-4; II Cor. 8-9).

In short, the apostles united in themselves the offices of pastor, elder and deacon, and even possessed a greater authority than the combination of these three special and permanent offices. Furthermore, they held this authority universally, for all the churches were under the authority of the apostles. No wonder the apostle Paul could write, “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” (II Cor. 10:8).

This authority was derivative and ministerial. After all, the apostles were under the lordship of Jesus Christ, the sole king and head of the church, and they, like us, were subject to the truth of His Word.

In Paul’s battle with false apostles in II Corinthians 10-13, you could say that chapter 10 deals with apostolic authority, chapter 11 with apostolic sufferings, chapter 12 with apostolic revelations and chapter 13 with apostolic discipline. As well as apostolic visions, the supernaturalism of II Corinthians 12 includes apostolic miracles: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (12). Notice the connection here between apostles and miracles!

The true apostolic office is rightly linked with Spirit-wrought miracles in the apostolic age, as recorded in the New Testament. On the other hand, various false churches link their (spurious) miracles with their (counterfeit) apostles.

Consider, first, the Roman church. The Pope is supposedly the successor of the apostle Peter and the papal church claims to be a miracle-working church—in the past, in the present and in the future.

This correlation is evident, second, in Mormonism. Here are the sixth and seventh of “The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” of Joseph Smith: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.” “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.” “Apostles” (6) and miracles of “healing” (7) are closely connected.

We turn, third, to the Catholic Apostolic Church which is associated with, and was inspired by, Edward Irving (1792-1834) in London. The miracles they claimed led them to reinstitute the office of apostle. Like the Mormons, the Catholic Apostolic Church also settled upon twelve as the number of their apostles, the last of whom died in 1901.

Fourth, many charismatic groups claim to possess both miracles and apostles, while other parties that claim to have the power to work miracles are open to the idea of apostles today.

II Corinthians 12:12, cited earlier, uses three significant words for true miracles: “signs,” “wonders” and “mighty deeds.” As “mighty deeds,” miracles are objective works produced by extraordinary divine power. As “wonders,” miracles are marvels that evoke awe, the subjective result in human beings. As “signs,” miracles are indicators pointing to the great spiritual reality: redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ and salvation in Him alone, as infallibly taught by His special divine emissaries.

These miracles or “signs,” “wonders” and “mighty deeds” are of various types. Four are listed in Christ’s commission to the twelve disciples in Matthew 10:8: “[1] Heal the sick, [2] cleanse the lepers, [3] raise the dead, [4] cast out devils.”

This is the promise of the risen Lord Jesus in Mark 16:17-18: “these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name [1] shall they cast out devils; [2] they shall speak with new tongues; [3] they shall take up serpents; and [4] if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; [5] they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

“Them that believe” (17) were the eleven disciples who, after the Lord’s ascension into heaven (19), “went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (20).

Of these five “signs,” speaking with “new tongues”—languages that were “new” to the speaker and were not learned by ordinary means—was not unique to the apostles or even the other extraordinary and temporary office-bearers: prophets and evangelists.

Two of the other “signs” are mentioned in both Matthew 10:18 and Mark 16:17-18. This leaves us with six types of miracles from these two New Testament passages: [1] healing the sick, [2] cleansing lepers, [3] raising the dead, [4] exorcising demons, [5] immunity from snake venom and [6] immunity from poison.

But more needs to be said about the nature and the workers of these signs!  Rev. Angus Stewart



The Mother of God

A reader has asked, “Jesus has two natures ... We know that Mary is the mother of Jesus (being man) but is Mary also the mother of God (for Christ is divine)?”

The difficulty in answering this question revolves around the great biblical truth that Jesus, with His divine and human natures, is still one Person and that He is, personally, the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal and only begotten Son of God.

The question is whether we may ascribe things that are true of Him as a man to the divine Person. The Bible does this in Acts 20:28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” where Scripture, in effect, calls the blood of Christ the blood of God. We know that God has no blood, no “body, parts, or passions” (Westminster Confession 2:1), yet Christ’s human blood is ascribed to Him personally and is called the blood of God. This would seem to justify calling Mary the mother of God (Greek: theotokos or God-bearer).

Mary, we all understand, is not the mother of Jesus’ divine nature, the mother of God, in that sense. According to His divine nature, He is eternal, has no earthly father or mother and no beginning. But, in the same way that His blood is referred to as the blood of God, can Mary be called the mother of God as the one who gave birth to the Person who was God, united at conception with our human nature?

In Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, the term, mother of God, is accepted. It was in early use in the ancient church, but there were differences of opinion about it and a controversy erupted as part of the church’s battle against Nestorianism.

Nestorianism arose in the fifth century. Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, separated the divine and human natures of Christ to the point that he was guilty of teaching that Christ was two persons instead of one. At the heart of his teaching was a denial of the union of Christ’s two natures from the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary. His objections centred on the use of the term, mother of God, for he insisted that Mary could not be the mother of the divine nature and that God could not be a baby: “God is not a baby two or three months old!”

The Nestorians were guilty of serious error in teaching that the only begotten Son united Himself with an independent and completely human person, thus denying the reality of the incarnation. They insisted that the proper term for Mary was Christ-bearer (Greek: Christotokos). Mary was only the mother of the human person with whom the divine Son of God united Himself. There can be no doubt, therefore, that Nestorianism, a heresy that continues to plague the church, was wrong in its position regarding the union of Christ’s two natures.

Nestorianism was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and again at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Both these councils affirmed the propriety of the term, mother of God. The Creed of Chalcedon not only rejected Nestorianism by insisting that the two natures of Christ were united “without separation” but also used the name, “mother of God,” for Mary: “born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood.” For this reason, however, the Creed of Chalcedon has not been recognized by many. Article 9 of the Belgic Confession (1561) mentions the Apostles’Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, but not the Creed of Chalcedon.

The view of this writer is that, following the example of the Word of God in Acts 20:28, the term can be properly used, but it is not a biblical term and is often used to promote Mariolatry, so it is probably better to avoid it. Nor is it necessary to use the term to defend the truth that Christ is God and man in one Person, fully God and fully man, but still only one Person, and that the two natures of Christ were inseparably united in one Person from the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary.

Actually the Greek term, theotokos, God-bearer, is better than its usual translation, mother of God. The former makes it clear that Mary is in no sense the mother of Christ according to His divine nature and in no sense Christ’s mother from eternity.

It is better, so it seems to this writer, to stick as much as possible to the language of Scripture when speaking of the union of Christ’s two natures and to avoid language that may give offence or lead to misunderstanding. The fact is that the union of Christ’s two natures is a mystery. It lies at the heart of everything we believe but is beyond our comprehension. Any attempt to reason out the union of the two natures, the kind of attempt of which Nestorius was guilty, is bound to end in error.

We must confess that Christ is fully God and fully man. He must be God because only God can “by power of His Godhead sustain in His human nature, the burden of God’s wrath; and ... obtain for, and restore to us, righteousness and life” (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 17). He must be man because only man can pay for man’s sin, and only one who is like us in all things, except sin, can redeem and deliver us, body and soul, from our sins. He must be only one divine Person, for the testimony of Scripture is that there are not two Christs but one only and that one the only begotten Son of God.

How that divine Person could speak of being forsaken by God, how He, personally the Son of God, could hunger and thirst, be weary, suffer, die and rise again from the dead is the great mystery of our faith, and we must not tie ourselves in theological knots attempting to understand and explain that mystery, but must bow in wondering awe at what God has done and confess that “God was manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16).

The old Athanasian Creed sums up beautifully what we by faith are able to say, without destroying the mystery and miracle of the incarnation or by curiously inquiring into those things that are too high for us: “Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man. God, of the essence of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC

Covenant PRC-NI Newsletter - August 2022

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Ballymena, NI

4 August, 2022

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference

After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid, the 16th BRF family conference on “Union With Christ” finally took place at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland (9-16 July). However, as one attendee put it, “This BRF conference was so good that it made up for not having had one two years ago!”

There were 105 people who stayed at the castle for all or part of the week and another 26 who joined us as visitors once or twice or three times. Saints came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Northern Ireland, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Singapore, the United States, and Wales. Apart from a lingering uncertainty regarding the reintroduction of Covid regulations, especially those concerning international travel, more would have joined us. As it was, we were delighted with such an excellent attendance and the wonderful people who contributed to a blessed week.

I delivered the Saturday night opening presentation at the conference on “The Psalm of Union” (Psalm 56). Despite the fact that many delegates only arrived in Northern Ireland that day, and some had travelled a considerable distance and/or gotten little sleep the night before, the saints were remarkably attentive.

BH BRF Conf July 2022

Prof. Brian Huizinga’s two excellent Sunday sermons set forth the glory of the Saviour to whom we are united: “Our Changeless Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:8) and “The Lamb of God Come” (John 1:29). In the afternoon, I led a Bible study on “The Bond of Faith,” a topic intimately related to the mystical union.

From Monday to Friday, Professors Engelsma and Huizinga ably developed our beautiful theme of “Union With Christ” with six speeches that explained the nature of this mystical union and related it to the covenant, election, Jesus’ death, the forgiveness of sins, sanctification, our death, Christ’s resurrection, regeneration, marriage, the antithesis, abuse, etc. “‘Christ Is Made Ours:’ Calvin on Union” was my lovely subject for the BRF conference’s historical lecture on Wednesday night.

Look for the audios of all the ten speeches and sermons on the BRF website (www.british reformed.org). Lord willing, these will be reworked and published in the eighth BRF book, dealing with our union with Jesus Christ.

Among other things enjoyed by those at the Castlewellan conference were the two day-trips, ice cream in the cellars, shared meals, informal Psalm singing sessions, the arboretum, the hedgerow maze, walking around the lake, kayaking, several football matches, hiking up Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, etc. Friendships were renewed or established for the first time during a relaxing week with lovely weather and beautiful scenery in the Mourne Mountains and by the Irish Sea.

NIreland landscape BRF Conf 2022

I cannot do justice to the riches of God’s truth that was taught to us or the many wonderful aspects of the conference. I simply add here that reports by others will be carried in the Standard Bearer and the Beacon Lights, as well as in the next issue of the British Reformed Journal (BRJ) which will soon be sent to the printers. It has never been easier to subscribe to the BRJ. It can now be done online and costs just £10 for 4 issues (www.cprc.co.uk/ product/british-reformed-journal-subscription).

According to the decisions of the BRF’s Biennial General Meeting, the next conference is scheduled for the summer of 2024 in mainland Britain and its subject will be eschatology. After speaking at all of our previous conferences, Prof. Engelsma indicated that his age would rule him out in the future, sadly. Prof. Huizinga and Rev. Ron Hanko were chosen as the two main speakers for 2024.

Rev. Hanko is well-known in the BRF and the British Isles. He laboured in the United Kingdom for 7 or 8 years, speaking in various places in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. He attended several BRF conferences, wrote many articles in the BRJ (which are also on the BRF website) and was a member of the BRF Council. He has authored a good number of books and pamphlets (distributed by the CPRC Bookstore), and is writing in the monthly Covenant Reformed News again. The CPRC website contains many translations of his various works in several languages. His daughter, Jennifer, is a member of the CPRC, and Rev. Hanko has visited Northern Ireland several times in the last few years.

On the Lord’s day during the conference (10 July)—John Calvin’s birthday—Rev. Allen Brummel preached at both services in the CPRC in Ballymena for those in our congregation unable to make it to Castlewellan. On Sunday 17 July, the day after the conference’s conclusion, and with most of the conferees in attendance, the worship in the CPRC was led by Prof. Huizinga (Romans 2:4-5) and Rev. Brummel, all of whose three sermons dealt with key texts in the book of Job ( www.youtube.com/ user/CPRCNI). After this fine preaching of the Word, fellowship was enjoyed after the evening service around tea and sandwiches provided by the ladies of the congregation.

DHanko family BRF 2022

The next day, the majority of those from outside Northern Ireland flew home with accompanying sad farewells. Mary’s brother, Dave Hanko, with Joan, his wife, and Will, their son, stayed with us at the manse for a few more days, so we got to show them more of our province in the sunshine.

On the evening of the next Lord’s day (24 July), Prof. Engelsma preached a powerful sermon on “The Saviour's Assertions of His Sovereignty in Salvation” (John 13:18-19). Since this may well be the last time that he and Mrs. Engelsma will be in the CPRC, afterwards I gave a brief presentation outlining the immense service the professor has provided to our church (in its various forms) over the last 38 years. The videos of both these addresses are on-line (www.youtube.com/playlist?list= PL2Y5Eq5r6y2Fv4JNGXq935PevpTcIv1gH).


The last three months have probably seen more members added to our church than any other similar period. On 15 May, Joe and Lisa McCaughern with their three children (Jack, Maisie, and Xander) were received into the congregation. Christ’s particular atonement was a key doctrine in Joe’s coming to the CPRC.

Billy and Anne Gould, and their two adult daughters, Grace and Kerryann, joined us on 5 June. Some years ago, Kerryann married a man from Egypt and became a Muslim. After she was converted to Jesus Christ, he threatened her and they separated. Kerryann found us on the Internet, when she was seeking a church that teaches God’s sovereignty in salvation. Grace left her second husband and former church in order to join us, when she was convinced of the Bible’s teaching on marriage and remarriage.

Kerryann’s oldest daughter, Aaysha, is in a wheelchair for she has serious health issues, making it very difficult for her family to attend the worship services. Aaysha was able to attend on Sunday 12 June, when she was baptized in the name of the Triune God with her little sister, Somaya, and their brother, Yossef.

The next Sunday, Ivan Ortu from the Italian island of Sardinia and Colm Ring from Limerick in the Republic of Ireland made confession of faith together. Ivan came across us through the large Italian section on our website (www.cprc.co.uk/ languages/italian). Colm attended the Limerick Reformed Fellowship for several years.

All these additions provide greater opportunities for fellowship in the congregation. We produced a new CPRC listing because of changes to various people’s membership status, addresses, telephone numbers, and email numberaddresses (20 June).

My presentation at the CPRC Annual General Meeting (29 June) included some reflections on the Lord’s growth of our church. After doctrinal divisions in the old CPRC resulted in its disbanding in 2002, it took as many as fourteen years before the number of our confessing and baptized members reached their pre-split levels! Since 2016, the membership has further grown by over 50% and the Lord is bringing in others too. There are now 4-5 times more people attending our services than 20 years ago.

The BRF conference at Castlewellan, as well as additional contact with like-minded believers from our sister churches in North America and Singapore before and/or after the conference, was a great encouragement to both new and old members of our church.


In March, thanks to a suggestion by a brother in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we started adding the words of the four Psalms that we sing to our live webcasting. Thus people watching the service online on our main website (www. cprc.co.uk/livestreaming) or on the other CPRC webpages (YouTube, Facebook or Sermon.net) can sing along with us.

Around the start of April, our four Monday night catechism classes ended for the season. In 2002, we had one catechumen (and she was 16 years old); now the Lord has given us 24.

On Easter Monday, we held a congregational picnic in Antrim Park near Lough Neagh (10 April). We had additional occasion for fellowship when we had tea after the Lord’s day evening service on 24 April, and Bob and Carolyn Prins (Trinity PRC), who were in Northern Ireland for a few weeks, were able to join us.

Our Wednesday night Belgic Confession classes concluded for the season on 27 April. We finished with seven studies dealing with “Ezekiel 40-48 in Eschatology.” Both historic premillennialism and dispensationalism claim that these chapters predict a literal Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the future. But is this really true? And, if not, what do the last nine chapters in Ezekiel actually teach? The audios are free on-line (www.cprc.co.uk/belgic-confession-class) and the CD box set is available for just £8 (inc. P&P in the UK) (www.cprc.co.uk/product/ ezekiel-40-48-in-eschatology).

With both Monday night’s catechism and Wednesday night’s doctrine class over, Mary and I were able to spend a few days in Scotland (2-6 May) in order to check out Lendrick Muir as a possible BRF conference venue for 2024. We also considered places that would work for two day-trips and had dinner with friends in St Andrews. Next we engaged in family visitation, which involved 33 visits (10 May - 27 June). This year’s Scripture passage was Philippians 4.

Lidi Cecilio from Brazil visited from 17 May to 27 July, which dates included the BRF Conference (9- 16 July). She stayed with various families in the congregation and participated vibrantly in the fellowship of the church. Mary and I first met Lidi in 2012, when she and four friends were in Dublin studying English. Since then, she has visited us several times and become dear to the CPRC.

Sunday 29 May marked the end of 37 sermons on “Solomon: Israel’s Wisest King” (I Kings 1-11; II Chronicles 1-9), the longest series I have ever preached (www.cprc.co.uk/old-testament-sermon-series). Solomon is the last monarch of the united kingdom and he represents the high point in OT Israel. After him comes division, warfare, and temple desecration. Studying Solomon helps us understand Christ’s glorious kingship, (aspects of) the OT ceremonial law, and God’s one holy church, as well as Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and (some of) the Psalms.

Mary and I were finally able to make it to South Wales for a lecture on “The Irresistible Grace of God” on 9 June. Because of Covid regulations and the press of other labours, it had been over 28 months since we were last there! We visited the homes of Brian and Sian Harris, and Richard and Judy Holt, and took the three Hutchings out for dinner beforehand. It was lovely to see all of them again and the other saints who attended the lecture.

Mary and I hosted the congregation at the manse for a barbecue (24 June). We had good fellowship and the younger ones enjoyed playing football.


In the 139 days since my last letter (18 April), we added another 79 translations in 8 different languages (www.cprc.co.uk/languages). Almost half of these new translations are Polish (39), most of which are by Marcin Kozera and Robert Jarosz, both of whom were at the BRF conference—the first time that we had met either of them! These Polish translations include two pamphlets by Herman Hoeksema (“The Antichrist” and “The Mark of the Beast”) and the first half of the BRF book, The Reformed Worldview, by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma.

This is the breakdown of the remaining 40 new translations: 14 Dutch (including 5 pamphlets by Herman Hoeksema and Henry Danhof, supplied by Rev. Steve Key in pdfs), 8 Hungarian, 8 Afrikaans, 4 Spanish, 3 Odia (all of the Three Forms of Unity), 2 Russian, and 1 Korean.

We now have articles from the Covenant Reformed News translated into 22 different languages spoken in various countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America: Afrikaans, Burmese, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hiligaynon, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Kirundi, Luo, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, and Tagalog. Most articles of the News have been translated into at least one language and some up to as many as seven different tongues. Thus there are many more translations of the News on-line than there are pieces in English!

May the Lord continue to bless and keep you all by His Word and Spirit in these perilous times.

Rev. & Mary Stewart

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Synodical Officers

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Synodical Committees

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Classical Officers

Classis East
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Classis West
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