Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 27 April, 2008


"Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:

Sing forth the honour of his name:

make his praise glorious" (Ps. 66:1-2)



Morning Service - 11:00 AM

God’s Magnifying His Word

Psalm 138:2

I. The Meaning

II. Our Calling

Psalms: 145:1-8; 119:129-136; 19:7-13; 138:1-6


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

The Mortification of the Old Man

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33; II Corinthians 7

I. A Profound Reality

II. A Striking Example

III. A Necessary Conjunct

Psalms: 108:1-8; 119:137-144; 32:3-6; 51:4-10


For audio cassettes of the worship services or CDs of the sermons, contact Sean Courtney (

CPRC website:


Quotes to Consider:

Martin Luther: "I have covenanted with my Lord that he should not send me visions or dreams or even angels. I am content with this gift of the Scriptures, which teaches and supplies all that is necessary, both for this life and that which is to come."

Jonathan Edwards: "You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure. God hath spoken much to you in the Scriptures; labour to understand as much of what He saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with having so much knowledge as is thrown in your way, and receive in some sense unavoidably by the frequent inculcation of divine truth in the preaching of the Word, of which you are obliged to be hearers, or accidentally gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search for it, and that with the same diligence and labour with which men are wont to dig in mines of silver and gold."

C. H. Spurgeon: "When God speaks, either from the pulpit or from His Word, I hold it to be my duty to keep silence. Even while we sing the glories of our God, our soul stands trembling; but when He speaks forth His own glories, who is he that dares to reply? Who is he that shall lift up his voice against the majesty of heaven? There is something so majestic in the voice of God, that when He speaks, it commands silence everywhere, and bids men hear."

Gerrit Vos: "Now then, when God has sought you out, and entered your heart by His Word, Spirit and grace, you are blest. Then the earth and all its treasures cannot charm you any more. Oh yes, we have our flesh with us, and it lusts after the things of the earth not only, but also after sin and corruption. But we crucify our flesh, we hate ourselves for Christ’s sake, and we mortify the deeds of the body. Then we do not hunger for heaven for heaven’s sake. Oh no. We long for heaven for God’s sake."

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

The Standard Bearers (1 & 15 April) are available today on the back table.

Women’s Bible Study meets this Tuesday, 29 April, at 10:15 AM at the Murrays.

Tuesday: Membership Class at the Hallidays at 8:15 PM.

Offering: General Fund - £600.70. Donations: £160 (tapes), £4 (CDs), £38.18 (Limerick).

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "Fighting Under the Banner of Our Ascended King" (Ex. 17:8-16).

Upcoming Lecture: Friday, 9 May, in S. Wales, on "The Antichrist."

This is part 1 of the 20th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma on justification.

Dear Forum,

As I indicated in the last instalment, we turn now to the fundamental confession of the Reformation, and truth of the gospel, that the justification of the sinner before the righteous God is by faith only. The word "only" in the confession concerning justification is our specific concern. What does this word establish about justification? What does this word rule out in the matter of justification? How does this word necessarily safeguard, not only the truth of justification, but also the gospel of grace in its entirety?

At the heart of the sixteenth century Reformation of the church by Jesus Christ was the gospel-truth of justification by faith only, and at the centre of this heart was the word "only." Denial of the word "only" in the confession that justification is by faith only is rejection and loss of the gospel of salvation by grace. Denial of the word "only," therefore, is the mark of the false church. And denial of the word "only" is, in spiritual practice, the unbelief of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican, which unbelief leaves the Pharisee unjustified and renders him condemned.

The quotation of Calvin in the last instalment makes plain that the Reformers regarded their inclusion of "only" and the Roman Catholics’ denial of "only" as the fundamental issue between them and Rome. Rome likewise was convinced that the word "only" was the main issue. Therefore, Rome was outraged when, as they viewed it, Luther inserted the word "only" in his translation of Romans 3:28. Whereas the Greek text is that accurately translated by the Authorized Version, "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Luther’s German translation read (in English translation): "only [German: allein] by faith."

In light of the fundamental importance, then and now, of the word "only," particularly with regard to one’s interpretation, if not translation, of Romans 3:28, it is significant that Norman Shepherd, longtime professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and father of the Federal Vision heresy now entrenched in the reputedly conservative Reformed churches in North America, has written that Luther was wrong to interpret Romans 3:28 as teaching that a man is justified only by faith. Shepherd’s objection is not to Luther’s alleged "insertion" of a word into the translation that does not occur in the Greek original, but to Luther’s understanding of the text. Shepherd objects to the word "only" in the confession of justification by faith. Thus, Shepherd comes down on the side of Rome in the matter of justification: justification is by faith "and"; justification is by faith and by the good works of the sinner.

Deny "only," and one commits himself to "and"—and works. Deny that Romans 3:28 is teaching justification by faith only, regardless whether one "inserts" the word in the translation, or simply understands the text as clearly implying "only," and one reads the text as teaching justification by faith and by the good works faith performs.

The Reformed confessions teach justification by faith only. Question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, "How are you righteous before God?" The answer is: "Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ."

In Article 22 ("Faith in Jesus Christ"), the Belgic Confession states that "we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone."

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England confess that "we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification" (Art. 11).

The Westminster Confession of Faith declares that "faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification" (11:2).

The Reformed creeds, reflecting the doctrine of John Calvin and officially expressing the Reformed faith’s teaching on justification, expose the falsity of the "big lie" that advocates of the Federal Vision are now trying to foist on the Reformed churches, not without success. The "big lie" (I deliberately borrow the phrase from the lexicon of Nazi Germany, particularly from the head of the propaganda ministry, Josef Goebbels, who cynically—and often successfully—practised the tactic of convincing Germans and the whole world of whatever falsehood it was that Hitler wanted them to believe by trumpeting the big lie boldly and often and by every means)—the "big lie" of the Federal Vision is the announcement that Calvin differed from Luther on justification, so that Calvinists differ from Lutherans on justification. According to the men of the Federal Vision, who as heretics are also liars, Luther taught justification by faith alone, but Calvin taught justification by faith and certain good works. According to the men of the Federal Vision, a staunch, uncompromising confession of justification by faith alone is Lutheran, not Reformed. The Reformed rather teach justification by faith and by works, that is, the false doctrine always taught by Rome and being taught today by the men of the Federal Vision.

That this is a lie—a big lie—can be discovered by everyone simply by reading Calvin on justification in his Institutes. Evidently the men of the Federal Vision suppose that God’s people cannot or will not read for themselves. That it is a lie that Calvin differed from Luther on justification, as that the Reformed at the time of the Reformation differed from the Lutherans on justification, is proved from the Reformed confessions, which express perfectly clearly that Calvin, whose influence on the confessions is acknowledged by all, agreed with Luther (as Calvin stated many times in his writings) on justification by faith only. The Reformed confessions express in language that is as plain as the sun in the heavens, that justification is by faith only. Do the men of the Federal Vision suppose that we are ignorant of our confessions? But it is the nature of the tactic of the "big lie" that it proclaims loudly and boldly a falsehood that is outrageous, contrary to all the evidence, overpowering any doubt and all convictions to the contrary by the sheer force and boldness of the telling of the lie.

One of the most influential of the Federal Vision men in this regard is the Presbyterian theologian, Peter A. Lillback. In his recent book on the covenant-doctrine of John Calvin, he argued that Calvin differed from Luther on justification. Lillback argued this miserable case from what he proposed as Calvin’s doctrine of the covenant. Since Calvin (according to the [mis]reading of Lillback) taught a conditional, gracious covenant with all the children alike, a covenant dependent on the faith and works of the children, Calvin also taught justification by faith and by the good works that faith performs. According to Lillback, confession of justification by faith alone is a Lutheran, not a Reformed, doctrine. I reviewed this book critically, and exposed the "big lie," in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal a few years ago (Nov. 2001) ("The Recent Bondage of John Calvin: A Critique of Peter A. Lillback’s The Binding of God").

Leading Orthodox Presbyterian and Presbyterian Church in America churchmen rewarded Lillback for his book, which they praise to the skies, by making him president of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

The Reformed confessions explicitly teach justification by faith only. They teach it often.     to be continued ...