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, the PRC through its Committee for Contact with Other Churches maintain full sister church relationships with two foreign churches and a corresponding relationship with one other foreign denomination.

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland (82)

Website

83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT42 3NR, Northern Ireland

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

RevAStewart

Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

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

pastor@cprc.co.uk

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Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore (91)

CERCS 30thanniv 2017 group

Website

11, Jalan Mesin #04-00

Standard Industrial Building

Singapore 368813

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

AdenHartog

Pastor (Interim): Rev. Arie denHartog

148 Bishan Street 11 #06-113 

Singapore  570148

pastor@cerc.org.sg

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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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News from Our Sister Church in Singapore (March 15, 2015)

The following news items pertaining to our sister church in Singapore (CERC) was found in the bulletin of Grace PRC this Sunday (March 15, 2015), as well as reported in CERC's bulletins in the last few weeks:

SINGAPORE: The [PRC] Committee for Contact with Other Churches was asked by our sister-church in Singapore, Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, to conduct church visitation with them. To this end the Contact Committee is sending Rev. G. Eriks (Hudsonville) and Rev. S. Key (Loveland, CO) there, leaving this Thursday [March 19] and returning on the 30th.

INDIA: For almost two years there have been almost weekly Skype meetings with a minister in Kolkata, India named Emmanuel Singh by Rev. B.Woudenberg, Rev. J.Kortering, and our pastor [Rev.R.Van Overloop]. About six months ago Rev. A. Lanning along with an elder and a deacon of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore have joined these meetings. Rev. Singh and his wife have visited the saints in Singapore. Covenant ERC is sending their pastor and an elder (Rev. A. Lanning and Elder Fai Chong) to Kolkata, India for a week to visit Emmanuel Singh and to evaluate his work with a view to taking spiritual oversight of that work.

This is how the CERC reported it in one of their recent bulletins:

The Session of the CERCS will be sending a delegation of Elder Leong and Pastor Lanning to Kolkata, India this month as part of Session’s ongoing labour of investigating the possibility of CERC overseeing Emmanuel’s work in Kolkata and the surrounding villages. The delegation will depart 19 March (Thursday night) and return 25 March (Wednesday morning). The main work will be a two-day conference consisting of several speeches. Other labours will include discussions with Emmanuel and others about the work and evaluating Session’s ability to oversee the field. Let us pray for wisdom for the delegates, as well as for Emmanuel and the saints in Kolkata, as we heed our Lord’s command to “teach all nations” (Matthew 28: 19, 20).

Let us remember to pray for these men as they travel to Singapore and India and conduct the labors for which they were sent. May the Lord of the church be with them and bless their work.

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Reformed News Asia - March 2015 Issue

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The fifteenth issue of "Reformed News Asia" has been released by the Christian Literature Ministry (CLM) of our sister church in Singapore, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. Once again you will find an issue filled with informative and profitable content (for information on the previous issue, #14, visit this page)!

RNA March 2015 DevotionsOne of the special resources made available in this issue is the daily devotions, which continue a series covering the Heidelberg Catechism (LDs 10-13). Written by Rev.G.Van Baren and Rev.A.Brummel, these devotions on the "HC" take you through the month of March and into April (March 5- April 1). You will find great spiritual profit in using these devotions day by day (By the way, you may also find these same HC devotionals on the PRC website.).

Another item to note in this issue is this important one relating to our sister-church relation:

Session again has asked the PRC for church visitors this year, and the Contact Committee has agreed to send two ministers: Rev. Steven Key (from the PRC in Loveland, Colorado; L) and Rev. Garry Eriks (from the PRC in Hudsonville, Michigan; R). These brothers (and Mrs. Eriks) will be in Singapore from Friday, 20 March to Monday, 30 March.

Be sure to check out all the details of "Reformed News Asia" by subscribing to this important newsletter from our Singapore sister.

For more information on events and activities in the CERC (including the latest visitors from the U.S.), as well as on life in Singapore, with lots of great pictures and descriptions, visit the "Stories from Singapore" blog of the Lannings.

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Covenant Reformed News - January 2015 Issue

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Covenant Reformed News

January 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 9

*[Also attached here in pdf form]

The Voice Crying in the Wilderness (4)

The message declared by the voice crying in the wilderness is summarized by the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5, which is quoted in Luke 3:4-6: "As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

The imagery here is that of a great king travelling in his royal chariot to part of his realm. But the road is poor, for it is crooked and bumpy, with many hills and dips. The way must be fixed since the sovereign is coming. Level it, straighten it and fill in the potholes!

Who is the coming One? Luke 3:4 refers to Him as the "Lord," who is Jehovah, rendered "Lord" in Isaiah 40:3, which also identifies him as "God." Thus, Jehovah God is coming! This proves the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity incarnate.

Luke 3:6 calls Him not merely our Saviour but "the salvation of God." This fits perfectly with the annunciation of the angel Gabriel: "thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

Isaiah 40:5 hails Him as "the glory of the Lord." Thus, the message of John the Baptist is centred on the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ and His salvation.

What did John the Baptist command? He commanded the people to prepare the way for the coming king, like those who fix the road before the visit of the sovereign. They were to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, who is the Lord, Jehovah salvation, the glory of God.

But what is it to prepare the way of the Lord? What is the truth conveyed by this attractive imagery? It is summed up in one word: Repent! Matthew 3:2 encapsulates John’s message: "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

What is repentance? First, repentance is a radical change of mind and thinking with regard to ethical and divine things. You no longer imagine yourself to be a good person, for you realize your own sinfulness. As regards your works, you discover that they are not virtuous, never mind meritorious, for they are all "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). You understand that Almighty God is infinitely holy and not to be trifled with. You see that your security is not to be found in external religious observances or mere church connections. It finally grips you that you deserve to perish in hell for your sins.

Second, true repentance results in fleeing from the wrath to come, in the language of Luke 3:7. The sinner is gripped with a fear of divine judgment and punishment. He no longer loves and rejoices in evil attitudes, speech and deeds, but hates and detests his iniquities as evil that deserves God’s wrath. Thus he earnestly turns from his transgressions, and seeks salvation and eternal life in the cross of Christ.

Third, true repentance issues in confession of sin (Matt. 3:6). No longer do you excuse your iniquity, but you confess sin as sin, worthy of God’s righteous judgment. With grief and sorrow, sins are confessed to God and, where appropriate, to those whom you have wronged or to the church (Westminster Confession 15:6).

Fourth, true repentance brings forth good fruit, what John the Baptist calls "fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:8). Where there is repentance, there is always faith, for these two are inseparable so that you cannot have one without the other. Faith and repentance are produced by regeneration, the new birth, which makes the tree, and therefore its fruit, good, to use the language of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 7:17-18; 12:33, 35). Thus, those who are really repentant bring forth good fruit: they break with sin, they live according to all God’s commandments in principle, they are humble before God and man, they produce good works, they persevere in the truth and they suffer for righteousness’ sake by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit. Where there is no good fruit, there is no real repentance, merely hypocrisy.

Fifth, there is an important connection between repentance and baptism, both real, inner baptism and external, ritual baptism with water. This is the testimony of Luke 3:3, concerning John the Baptist’s ministry: "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." John proclaimed an inward, spiritual baptism which renewed God’s elect people so that they would be brought infallibly to repentance and receive the forgiveness of all their sins. This spiritual transformation and acquittal was signified and sealed in water baptism.

In John’s day, the kingdom of God was at hand, so he called people to repent and so prepare for the (first) coming of Christ. In our day, the kingdom of God has come, with the incarnation, cross and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Those outside the kingdom must repent and be converted, humbling themselves as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven, and those who are already citizens of God’s kingdom must continue in the way of repentance and faith (Matt. 18:3-4; Col. 2:6)!

This is the first of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses: "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." This was also the message of John the Baptist, as we have seen, and it is and must be the preaching of the true church today! Rev. Angus Stewart

God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will (1)

One correspondent writes, "Do you realize that God has no foreknowledge outside His creation? He can’t have foreknowledge of His own actions. Remember, He had no beginning and foreknowledge only exists prior to a beginning."

Although the question proceeds on a misconception and has an air of arrogance about it, when it suggests that those who believe in God’s foreknowledge really do not understand what foreknowledge is, the question is worth our consideration.

Another questioner has obviously given the matter considerable thought, but continues to have some problems with the idea of foreknowledge. He writes,

"I understand the passages about ‘before the foundation of the world’ in the light of foreknowledge.

1. What is that foreknowledge? For those He foreknew. What did God foreknow?

2. If the elect are chosen before the foundation of the world outside of foreknowledge of the individual, then, at what point were they ever condemned? I do not see how one can be simultaneously condemned and saved at the same time.

"As Moses raised up the serpent—

1. Numbers 21:8-9, I am sure we will agree that Christ Himself used this passage as a picture of what He was doing on the cross [John 3:14]. Well, in this picture, all of the people that were bitten had to use their free will and simply looked upon the serpent to live, and all who didn’t died. How can this be a picture of Christ in the Calvinist eye, when looking is an act of conscience and of will?

2. This cannot be an accurate picture, if the consequences are not applied in the same manner.

3. The serpent was never kept away from those who were bitten so that [they] would never be able to look upon it. If salvation is not available to those who are bitten, then it is not an accurate picture."

This last question does not have foreknowledge in mind, but it is so closely related to the subject of foreknowledge that it is well to treat the two together.

First of all, we ought to be sure of what the Bible means by "foreknowledge."

The word is not frequently used in Scripture. It is found only in Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2. Its verb cognate, "foreknow," is used only in Romans 8:29 and Romans 11:2.

In Acts 2:23, the word is used to teach us that Christ’s death and all the circumstances of it were brought about by God’s sovereign and eternal counsel. The word "foreknowledge" is, in fact, identified with His counsel.

In the other three instances, the word is used in relation to God’s people: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate;" "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;" "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew."

Although foreknowledge is distinguished from both predestination and election, it is closely associated with both concepts.

In the Middle Ages, many theologians, committed as they were to the Pelagianism of Rome, defined foreknowledge in the sense of prediction. God was able to predict accurately who would, by his own free will, believe, and, on the basis of man’s own decision to believe, he was elected. The Reformers, without exception, condemned this view as being contrary to the Scriptures and a denial of God’s sovereignty.

But the heresy arose again. It arose in the hypothetical universalism of the Amyraldians in France and in the Arminian heresy of Jacobus Arminius and his followers in the Netherlands. Amyraldianism was condemned in the Formula Consensus Helvetica(1675) and by the Westminster Assembly (1640s), although the Amyraldian position or views like it were defended by a few delegates. The Arminian position was condemned by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619).

The confessions that arose out of the Reformation are unanimously opposed to a conditional predestination and man’s free will. The Scottish Confession (1560) says, "So that the cause of good works we confess to be not our free will, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus …" (Art. 13). Regarding free will, Article 10 of the Thirty-Nine Articles(1562/63) of the Church of England states, "The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God." The Lambeth Articles (1595), intended to be added to the Thirty-Nine Articles, though never officially adopted by the Anglican Church, is strong on the doctrine of predestination (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/lambeth.htm). All the other Reformed confessions teach the same truth: the French Confession (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), theHeidelberg Catechism (1563), etc.

It is faithfulness to the confessions to confess and maintain these truths, and to oppose the heresies that basically arose out of Rome. That most of the church today is unfaithful to her heritage makes no difference; these churches have simply repudiated what lies at the heart of Reformation thought. In doing so, they have rejected Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, Knox and all the later Reformed theologians. Defenders of later heresies must not come up with their denials of foreknowledge, predestination and election, along with their notions of free will and attempt to palm this off on the church as the truth of the Scriptures. Let them do their homework and read Luther’s The Bondage of the Will or Calvin’s God’s Eternal Predestination and Secret Providence. They will soon learn that they stand outside the stream of biblical thought.

If they claim that the Reformation came with novelties, let them go back to Augustine (354-430) and Gottschalk (c. 808-c. 867) to learn that these are ancient truths held by the churches’ greatest theologians.

The only explanation for this consistent emphasis on God’s foreknowledge and the bondage of the will of man is that these doctrines that the Reformers taught are thoroughly scriptural and must be maintained.

We will enter into the subject itself more completely in the next article and answer some of the objections of the gainsayers. I urge our readers to save this issue of the News so that you can refer to it when the next issue comes out to refresh your memories of the questions we are dealing with. Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus, PRC Seminary)

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

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New Issue (Jan.-Feb., 2015) of Salt Shakers YP's Magazine - CERC "Covenant Keepers"

SaltShakersLogo"Covenant Keepers", the youth ministry of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore (our sister church), has just published issue #30 of "Salt Shakers" (Jan.-Feb. 2015), their youth magazine.

Once again the "SS" is packed with interesting and edifying articles, and our PRC young people especially are invited and encouraged to read it. Below you will find a note from the "SS" Committee introducing the contents of this issue.

You are encouraged to visit the"Salt Shakers" webpage where you will find a downloadable e-copy for your reading and spiritual growth. Or you may find the full copy attached here in pdf form.

Dearest Salt Shakers Readers,

Greetings in Christ on the behalf of the Salt Shakers team! We are thankful to be able to bring you the first issue of Salt Shakers for 2015. This is a milestone for Salt Shakers as we reach issue #30, and we thank God for His sustaining hand and grace in our work as a witness of the Gospel.
Chinese New Year celebrations are upon us, and many of us are surely looking forward to enjoying reunion dinners with our families. What special significance do reunion dinners have for Christians? Find out in "The Reunion in Heaven (CNY Special)"! In "Hyper-Calvinists? Hardly!" Pastor Andy Lanning addresses the charge of "Hyper-Calvinist" and refutes the Arminian Well-meant Gospel Offer (WMGO) teaching. The fearsome Ebola virus is discussed in "God's Sovereign Hand in Ebola".
Do check out the many other interesting articles. Blessed reading and remember to pass the Salt!
In Christ
Chua Lee Yang
On Behalf of the Salt Shakers Committee
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Reformed News Asia - February 2015 Issue

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The fourteenth issue of "Reformed News Asia" has been released by the Christian Literature Ministry (CLM) of our sister church in Singapore, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. Once again you will find an issue filled with informative and edifying content (for information on the previous issue, #13, visit this page)!

RNA Feb 2015 DevotionsOne of the special resources made available in this issue is the daily devotions, which continue a series covering the Heidelberg Catechism (LDs 6-9 - see pdf attachment). Written by Rev.J.Kortering and Rev.G.Van Baren, these devotions on the "HC" take you through the month of February and into March (Feb.5 - March 4). You will find great spiritual profit in using these devotions day by day (By the way, you may also find these same HC devotionals on the PRC website.).

Some of the upcoming events (2015 Church camp and Chinese New year) as well as activities of the past are reported on too - with plenty of pictures, such as the annual church retreat and "open Sunday", where the church theme and plans for the year are introduced.

To watch and hear a couple of special numbers the young people recently sang for the "open Sunday" program, see these YouTube links: Psalter 268 and “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”

Be sure to check out all the details of "Reformed News Asia" by subscribing to this important newsletter from our Singapore sister.

For more information on these events, visit the "Stories from Singapore" blog of the Lannings - lots of additional pictures and descriptions, for example on the recent anniversary celebrations of the "Covenant Keeper" (CK) youth groups.

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January 2015 Newsletter from Covenant PRC, N.Ireland

Our sister church in Northern Ireland, Covenant PRC, Ballymena, has just released her latest newsletter. In the January 2015 issue Rev.Angus Stewart reports on the latest activities inside and outside the congregation, with special focus on the recent visit of the PRC delegation, Prof.B.Gritters and Mr.David Kregel, along with their wives.

Rev.Stewart also reports on his busy activities in the congregation and the work of spreading the Reformed faith through the CPRC website - especially the many translations!

Be sure to read this newsletter below to be better informed of what our "sister" and her pastor are doing in the British Isles. This newsletter is also attached here in pdf form (see below).

CPRC Newsletter Jan 2015 1CPRC Newsletter Jan 2015 2

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Reformed News Asia - January 2015 Issue

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Issue thirteen of "Reformed News Asia" has been released by the Christian Literature Ministry (CLM) of our sister church in Singapore, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, and once again you will find an issue filled with informative and edifying content (for information on the previous issue, #12, visit this page)!

HC meditations LD 1 5 coverOne of the special resources made available in this issue is the daily devotions, which begin a series covering the Heidelberg Catechism (LDs 1-5 -see pdf attachment). Written by Prof.H.Hanko and Rev.J.Kortering, these devotions on the "HC" take you through the month of January and into February (Jan.1-Feb.4). You will find great spiritual profit in using these devotions day by day (By the way, you may also find these same HC devotionals on the PRC website.).

Some of the upcoming events (2015 Church camp) and activities of the past are reported on too - with plenty of pictures, such as the recently held Vacation Bible School and the Covenant Keepers youth camps (see the group photo here).

CKs Youth Camp Dec 2014

Be sure to check out all the details by subscribing to this important newsletter from our Singapore sister.

For more information on these events, visit the "Stories from Singapore" blog of the Lannings - lots of additional pictures and descriptions, for example on the annual New Year's day church retreat (see picture below).

1st event 2015

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Covenant Reformed News - December 2014

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Covenant Reformed News

December 2014 • Volume XV, Issue 8


The Voice Crying in the Wilderness (3)

Why did such unprecedented and consistently large crowds come, in the providence of God, to hear John the Baptist? Right at the start, we should note that it had nothing to do with John’s miracles. People flocked to Christ and His apostles in part because of the signs they wrought, but it was not so with John the Baptist. He did not perform any mighty wonders or even a single sign for, as John 10:41 states, "John did no miracle." One wonders how the Pentecostals seek to explain this. Maybe John did not have enough faith! Perhaps he did not have enough of the Holy Spirit? Yet John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). Even in biblical times, when many in the extraordinary offices of prophet and apostle did perform miracles, not all the prophets were given these powers. We do not read of Jeremiah or Hosea, for instance, performing a single miracle. John the Baptist was the forerunner and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets in that he heralded and met the Messiah (Matt. 11:11), yet he wrought no miracles.

1) One big factor in the massive crowds that John the Baptist drew was the 400 silent years. Since the death of Malachi, no prophet had risen in Israel for some four centuries. In the British Isles, this would take us back to the days of King James I (1603-1625) or before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New England! In those 400 years, how earnestly the Jews must have sung Psalm 74:9: "We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long." You say, "What about the inspired utterances of Zacharias, Mary and Elisabeth in Luke 1, or of Simeon in Luke 2?" But these were one-offs and not indicative of their possessing an on-going preaching prophetic office. John the Baptist was the first prophet in the New Testament Scriptures (coming 400 years after the last Old Testament prophet) and John the Apostle was the last prophet in New Testament Scriptures (dying over 1,900 years ago).

2) Another element that helps to explain the large crowds who attended on John’s ministry was the heightening of Messianic expectation. In many passages, the Old Testament predicts not only the coming of God’s kingdom, but also the arrival of an individual Saviour or Redeemer. He is the seed of the woman, Shiloh, the prophet like Moses, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, the son of David, the Branch, the suffering servant, the messenger of the covenant, and so on. For centuries, God’s people had been praying and looking for the Coming One who would bring deliverance. This Messianic expectation was increased towards the end of the 400 silent years by stories about Jesus’ birth and early days. A son was born to a virgin! The Bethlehem shepherds who saw an angel of the Lord, a host of angels and the new born babe; Simeon and Anna with the eight-day-old infant in the temple; those who were astonished at the wisdom of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple—all had spoken about this amazing boy. Moving from Luke 2 to Matthew 2, we have the wise men who followed the star, Herod the Great and the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and the slaughter of the innocents in and around Bethlehem—again, word of these things had gotten out. Add to this the reports of Jesus’ holy life in Nazareth!

3) There was also great expectation about John from his childhood and even before his conception. The people at the temple who saw dumb Zacharias gesticulating that an angel had appeared to him; the birth of John to two very aged, barren saints; Zacharias’ prophecy on the recovery of his voice at the naming of his son—how could these things be kept quiet? Thus we read that "all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be!" (Luke 1:65-66).

4) Then there was John himself, living alone for many years in the deserts (80). He forewent the priesthood and temple service. His food and clothing were also unusual. He dressed in camel hair, a rough garment worn by prophets (Zech. 13:4; II Kings 1:8). His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey, and never any product of the vine. John stood out with his very long hair because of his life-long Nazarite vow.

5) Furthermore, there was the location of John’s ministry: the wilderness (Luke 3:2). Admittedly, it meant that people had to journey some distance to get to him. But John’s location was unique and solemn, and this too served to draw the crowds.

6) Vast numbers were drawn to John because of his special activities (Luke 3:3). First, there was John’s water baptism: a unique, once-for-all, initiatory rite. Second, there was his preaching, which was especially earnest, sincere, forthright and bold. There had been no such preaching in Israel for centuries so crowds flocked to hear him.

7) Many heard John’s testimony (John 1:23) that his coming was in fulfilment of prophecy: "As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mark 1:2-3). The "prophets" here are Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3). This too increased interest in his ministry.

Together, the reasons given above help explain why multitudes came to John the Baptist. We ought also to remember that the Most High willed that Israel know about John and hear his message because he was the forerunner who heralded the coming of God’s incarnate Son. John’s ministry could not be a secret known only to a few.

Next time, Lord willing, we shall consider the wonderful message about the Messiah that was declared by that voice crying in the wilderness (Luke 3:3-6). Rev. A.Stewart

The Witch of Endor

A brother from Uganda asks, "When Saul visited the medium and Samuel spoke, was it really Samuel or was it the devil masquerading as him?"

I Samuel 28:3-25, the passage referred to by the questioner, is too long to repeat here, so our readers are asked to turn to their Bibles and read the passage before considering this answer.

Saul and the armies of Israel were drawn up to face the Philistines in battle. The Philistines, since the days of Samson, had been a thorn in the side of Israel and a tool in the hands of the Lord to chastise His people for their constant rebellion against Him in refusing to worship Him and giving their worship to Baal and Ashteroth.

At the request of the nation for a king, God had given them Saul, the son of Kish. At first he had appeared to be a good king but soon he began to show that he hated God because he refused to walk in His ways. Now the time of God’s full punishment upon Saul and Israel had come, for the Philistines were gathered against Israel in a mighty host. Saul was desperately afraid for God had forsaken him and spoke to him no more. Prior to Saul’s apostasy, the Lord had spoken to Saul through Samuel, the prophet and judge in the nation.

Saul sent his servants to find a witch in the forlorn hope that he could yet summon Samuel from beyond the grave to hear the prophet’s words from the Lord on the eve of the battle. The servants discovered a witch in Endor.

It seems like the sin of witchcraft was practiced very early in the history of the world. Pharaoh had his magicians (Ex. 7-9). In His law, God repeatedly warned Israel against all forms of witchcraft. Witchcraft is so appealing to fallen men and women because, through magic and sorcery, people claim to themselves extraordinary powers to enable them to talk to the dead, prophesy of events in the future and give superhuman powers that are not available to ordinary mortals. In our "scientific" age, superstition of every sort is still practiced: mediums, necromancers, crystal-ball prophetesses, palm readers, mind readers, all kinds of forms of ESP, etc. It is to be found among people in "uncivilized" countries, but, though perhaps more sophisticated, it is also found in every nook and cranny of our society. Saul had banned all witches from the nation (I Sam. 28:3), but now, in desperate fear, he wanted a witch to try to reach Samuel.

I believe that Samuel did speak to Saul, although only the witch seems to have seen him. I have no doubt that God was able to send Samuel back from the grave to bring His word to Saul. The text is too explicit in telling us that Samuel did indeed come to tell Saul of God’s judgments on him. The word which Samuel brought is also a word that could only come from God.

But the incident is very unusual and the Bible records no other similar event. What is strange is 1) only the witch could see Samuel; 2) Samuel appeared as he would have looked if he had still been on earth, old and wearing a mantel; 3) the impression is left that Samuel came, not from heaven, but from what in the Old Testament was called Sheol, the place of the dead. It seems to me that these three points implied in the text are conclusive. God performed a miracle at a crucial point in Israel’s history. An event took place that must have had a striking impact on the whole nation, for it was recorded for all Israel to read in the sacred Scriptures. By this wonder, God showed the nation why He was chastising them, what happens to wicked kings who lead Israel astray and what evil things happen when people resort to any form of witchcraft.

Note that the woman did not bring Samuel back from the dead by her witchcraft. She herself was frightened almost out of her wits when Samuel did appear to her. She claimed to be able to do it, but when Samuel did appear, she knew immediately that she had not brought him back.

Though many profess to have powers beyond human capabilities, the greater part of the exercise of these "powers" is pure delusion and deception of dreadfully superstitious people. I say, "the greater part" because I do personally believe that mediums of all sorts, including miracle workers, can and often do become agents of Satan, who does have powers beyond ours.

Many years ago, I was asked to make a speech on the occult. I refused even when I was pushed hard to make it. But when it was told me that some were using occult practices as a form of entertainment, I agreed to speak. Knowing almost nothing about the occult, I went downtown to the library and came home with an armful of books. It was not pleasant reading, but I did become convinced that there were indeed various unexplainable occurrences that were evidences of the occult. What was particularly convincing was the testimony of missionaries to pagan lands who had done battle with the occult among the heathen.

I came to the conclusion that, in certain instances, to engage in various practices related to witchcraft, the practitioners opened themselves up to demonic influences and powers. Revelation 13, in its description of the Antichrist as an agent of Satan himself, states that he will be able to perform miracles—probably by powers given him by the devil.

The conclusion of the whole matter is this: it is sinful and devilishly dangerous (I use the word "devilishly" in its literal meaning) to engage in any occult practices of the most simple kind. Even using such things as Ouija boards, table lifting, tapping, etc., for "entertainment" purposes is to open one up to possible demonic control. I have talked with a couple of people who have been delivered from such horrors. One was a Satan worshipper before she was brought to salvation; another was a leader in the Pentecostal movement. Their stories were not nice to hear and they do battle daily with the abiding temptations of their earlier sin.

The Bible’s warning against all forms of witchcraft and the occult are to be taken in utter seriousness (e.g., Deut. 18:9-14). We have God’s written revelation in the infallible Scriptures. All we need to know for our salvation is in them. Let us immerse ourselves in God’s all-sufficient Word and avoid all superstitions as we would avoid the powers of hell. Prof. H.Hanko

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Covenant Reformed News - November 2014

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Covenant Reformed News

 

November 2014  •  Volume XV, Issue 7

(*Also attached here in pdf.)


The Voice Crying in the Wilderness (2)


“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2). Not only do these names date the beginning of John the Baptist’s public ministry, as we saw last time, but they also indicate the wickedness of the days when his voice cried in the wilderness.

Tiberius Caesar was an ungodly Roman emperor (although he was not the worst). The Roman dominion over the Jews was a judgment upon them for their sins. Pontius Pilate was the wicked Roman governor of Judaea, which included the holy city of Jerusalem. He was the one who sentenced Jesus Christ to crucifixion, for He “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” according to that famous line in the Apostles’ Creed.

Herod (Antipas) and Philip were two sons of Herod the Great, who sought to kill the baby Jesus (Matt. 2:1-20). Herod Antipas was the one who imprisoned and executed John the Baptist (Luke 3:19-20; Mark 6:14-29) and to whom Christ referred as “that fox” (Luke 13:32). Herod questioned and mocked the Lord at His trial (23:8-11). Through their rejection of Christ, “the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves” (12).

Annas and Caiaphas are called “high priests” (3:2). According to God’s law, there should be only one high priest at a time, since each high priest was to be succeeded at his death. This reference to both men as high priests points to the Roman practice of selling this office and Jewish intrigues and conspiracies concerning the high priesthood. Annas occupied this office for nine years, after which he advised Caiaphas his successor and son-in-law. Calculating Caiaphas was the one who stated regarding the Lord that “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50; cf. 18:14). Annas and Caiaphas were leaders in the Jewish trial of Jesus Christ (18:13, 19-24, 28) and the trial of Peter and John (Acts 4:6).

Clearly, the days of John’s preaching, the days of Christ’s ministry and the days of the apostolic church were evil, judging from the leaders in church and state!

In the specific wicked days indicated in Luke 3:1-2, John began his crucially important ministry. He did not receive an ordinary call. He was not anointed as a priest, though his father, Zacharias, was a priest. Nor was he a Christian minister who was chosen by a congregation and ordained by the laying on of hands.

John received an extraordinary call. The angel Gabriel proclaimed John’s call to his father in the temple before he was born or even conceived (1:13-17). Mormonism falsely claims that John was ordained by the angel when he was eight days old (Doctrine and Covenants 84:28), but this was the day of his circumcision and public naming (Luke 2:59-63). John was equipped and qualified through being filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (1:15), the godly instruction of Zacharias and Elisabeth in his parents’ home, and prayer and meditation in the wilderness. Then John received a direct and irresistible prophetic call that he should begin his public ministry.

You see how God calls to special office in his church and kingdom? Those whom He granted the extraordinary (and temporary) offices, such as apostle, prophet or forerunner of the Messiah, received an extraordinary call. Those whom God grants the ordinary (and permanent) offices, such as pastor, elder or deacon, receive an ordinary call through the church and by the vote of the members.

John was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry (Luke 1:24-26; cf. 3:23). Before this, he lived in solitude in the deserts with the wild beasts (cf. Mark 1:13). Then he was shown or manifested to Israel (Luke 1:80).

Vast crowds came to hear that voice cry. Luke 3:7 tells us that it was a “multitude.” According to Mark 1:5, “there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem.” Matthew 3:5 adds that “all the region about Jordan” came to hear John preach. Among John the Baptist’s Galilean disciples were Andrew, Simon, Philip and Nathanael (John 1:35-51). All sorts of people were in the crowds: tax collectors and soldiers (Luke 3:12, 14), fishermen, like Peter and Andrew, and even Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 3:7), and priests and Levites (John 1:19).

Let us picture the scene when John “came into all the country about Jordan” (Luke 3:3). This was to the north of the Dead Sea, near the River Jordan. He went from place to place, to locations he had probably seen and noted during his years of solitude in the wilderness before his public preaching (1:80). The people from Jerusalem and the nearby regions of Judaea, Perea and Galilee and from all walks of life such as soldiers and Sadducees, fishermen and Pharisees came to hear him preach. Over many days and weeks and months, vast crowds of hundreds and thousands, even a “multitude” (3:7), flocked to hear him.

How did the attendance at John the Baptist’s ministry compare to the Old Testament preaching prophets from Samuel onwards? From the biblical records, it would appear that John the Baptist received a consistently larger crowd than Isaiah or Jeremiah, or Elijah or Elisha, or Hosea or Joel.

Next time, we shall consider why, in God’s providence, such unprecedented large crowds came to hear John the Baptist.    Rev. Angus Stewart

 

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The Necessity of Baptism


A reader asks, “If someone who was not circumcised was rejected from the covenant, is that still true today? Would it be right to say, ‘Yes,’ based on Hebrews 2:2-3? Another way of putting the question would be: Does Genesis 17:14 have any parallel in this dispensation?”

These are the texts: “For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?” (Heb. 2:2-3). “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Gen. 17:14).

Although the questioner does not explicitly say this, I am assuming that he understands that baptism has taken the place of circumcision in the new dispensation (Col. 2:11-12). I am also assuming that he is aware that circumcision has no spiritual significance today. His questions, therefore, refer to baptism.

The answer to this question is indeed, “Yes.” The two texts quoted are relevant and make clear that the failure of parents to baptize their children is in the new dispensation as great a sin as failure to circumcise was in Israel during the old dispensation. It is even correct to say that those who fail to have their children baptized have broken God’s covenant.

There are several things that must be said about this.

In the first place, the question immediately comes up: What about Baptists? Baptists believe only in “believer’s baptism.” That is, only those who are old enough to make a credible profession of their faith in Christ are to be baptized.

There is no question about it that they are very wrong in their theology. This is not the forum, however, in which to debate the whole question of infant baptism. But the situation of Baptists is somewhat different from the situation presupposed by the questioner. The texts quoted have to do with Israel, and Israel was the church of the Old Testament. These people were, therefore, God’s covenant people. The context is exactly that God establishes His covenant with Abraham and his seed, and gives circumcision as the sign and seal of the covenant. The refusal of an Israelite to have his child circumcised was a flat-out rejection of the sign of the covenant and, therefore, of the covenant itself.

God’s commands had to do, therefore, with His covenant people. The Baptists do not even have a biblical covenant doctrine. The punishment for one of God’s covenant people who refused to circumcise his children was to be cut off from the covenant, from the Old Testament church and from the people of God. In fact, by refusing to circumcise their children, they were cutting themselves off from the covenant people of God.

The New Testament equivalent of this punishment for those who refuse to baptize their children is Christian discipline, ending in excommunication from the church and thus from God’s covenant people.

That such refusal was a serious matter in Israel is evident from the fact that God was ready to kill Moses for not having circumcised his two sons. The narrative is given in Scripture in Exodus 4:24-26. It seems as if Moses’ wife, Zipporah, was the one who refused to have the boys circumcised. Even though she had been born and raised in a home where God was worshipped and served, she was not of the seed of Abraham and did not have directly the promises of the covenant, nor the sign of it. Nevertheless, they were both on their way to join Israel, and God insisted that they become a part of His covenant people by giving their sons the sign of His covenant. They would not be a part of God’s covenant people without it.

It seems as if during the forty-years wandering in the wilderness, the people also failed to circumcise their sons. I wonder sometimes if this was not due to the fact that every person older than twenty was killed in the wilderness, except Joshua and Caleb. However that may be, the nation could not enter the promised land without all the uncircumcised males being circumcised (Josh. 5:2-9).

It must be understood that circumcision and baptism are signs and seals of the covenant that are added to the Word of God as visible proof of the truth of the gospel that God establishes His people in the line of generations. Infants who are born dead and or who die shortly after birth need not be baptized: their salvation does not depend on it, contrary to Rome’s teaching. There is no magical power or even spiritual power in the water of baptism; it derives its power from being a sign and seal that accompanies the Word. The power is that of the Holy Spirit who works grace in the believer through faith in Christ. Prof. (emeritus) Herman Hanko

 

Belgic Confession 34: Holy Baptism

"... Therefore we believe that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal ought to be but once baptized with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same, since we cannot be born twice. Neither doth this baptism avail us only at the time when the water is poured upon us and received by us, but also through the whole course of our life.

Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. And indeed Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of the faithful than for adult persons; and therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that which Christ hath done for them; as the Lord commanded in the law that they should be made partakers of the sacrament of Christ’s suffering and death shortly after they were born, by offering for them a lamb, which was a sacrament of Jesus Christ. Moreover, what circumcision was to the Jews, that baptism is to our children. And for this reason Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ."

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Reformed News Asia, #12 - December 2014 Issue

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Issue twelve of "Reformed News Asia" has been released by the Christian Literature Ministry (CLM) of our sister church in Singapore, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, and once again you will find an issue filled with informative and edifying content (for information on the previous issue, #11, visit this page)!

RNA-Dec-2014 DevotionsOne of the special features of this issue is once again the devotions on the Belgic Confession, covering Articles 34-37 (see pdf attachment) on the doctrine of the sacraments, the civil magistrate, and the final judgment. Written by Missionary-pastor M.McGeown (Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Ireland), these devotions on the "BC" take you through the month of December (Dec.2 - Dec.31). You will find great spiritual profit in using these devotions day by day.

In addition, the newsletter also contains information about the CLM's pamphlet (For example, there's a new one on the Christian as soldier written by Connie Meyer!) and book ministries and about activities going on in the CERC, such as their annual Christmas Day gospel meeting, by which they try to reach the lost with the message of Christ's birth.

Some of the more recent activities of the past are reported on too - with plenty of pictures included, such as the installation of Rev.Lanning, their Reformed Youth Seminar with Rev.C.Haak, and their Reformation conference Rev.D.Kleyn.

Here is one picture of some recent visitors to the CERC - the three men from Hope PRC on their way to Myanmar.

3 American visitors - Nov 2014

Be sure to check out all the details by subscribing to this important newsletter from our Singapore sister.

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