Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 17 August, 2008


"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Ps. 146:5)



Morning Service - 11:00 AM - Sem. McGeown

Saved By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9

I. The Meaning

II. The Means

III. The Purpose

Psalms: 29:1-6; 136:13-26; 27:4-8; 40:1-5


Evening Service - 6:00 PM - Sem. McGeown

Zechariah’s Vision of the Golden Candlestick

Zechariah 4:1-6

I. The Startling Vision

II. The Important Message

III. The Necessary Encouragement

Psalms: 47:1-6; 137:1-6; 19:8-11; 2:1-6


For CDs of the sermons, contact Sean Courtney (


CPRC website:

Quotes to Consider:

Canons III/V:14: "Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should, by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of that salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also."

J. I. Packer: "The two theologies [Calvinism and Arminianism] thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it" ("Introductory Essay" to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ).

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

Three missionary letters are on the back table for your reading.

Seminarian Martyn McGeown will lead our worship services today. Martyn returns to Michigan tomorrow to continue his training at the PR Seminary. May the Lord be with him and bless him in his studies in the coming year.

A congregational meeting for the election of office-bearers will be held after this evening’s worship service. Philip Rainey’s term as elder finishes and the Council puts forward the following nominations for the congregation’s approval: Ivan Reid as elder (3-year term), and William Graham as deacon (3-year term).

Everyone is invited to stay for tea after this evening’s congregational meeting.

Mr. Callender remains in the Royal Hospital in Belfast because of an abscess which needs to be drained. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is "Craving Knowledge" (Prov. 1:7) by Rev. Bruinsma.

Offerings: General Fund (3 August) - £984.95; Building Fund £415.13; General Fund (10 August) - £643.67. Donations: £10 (C. R. News), £50 (website), £5.

PRC News: Rev. R. Kleyn (Trinity, MI) declined the call to Providence PRC (Jenison, MI). Providence PRC’s new trio is Cand. Bleyenberg, Rev. J. Laning (Hope, MI), and Rev. VanderWal (Redlands, CA). Rev. VanOverloop (Byron Center, MI) declined the call to the Philippines. Rev. VanOverloop, Rev. A. Brummel (Sioux Falls, SD), and Elder Dave Rau have been asked by the PRC Domestic Mission Committee to visit a group of believers in Tucson, Arizona.

This is part 2 of the 22nd e-mail from Prof. Engelsma on justification.

Despite the subtlety of the formulation of the heresy by the Federal Vision (FV), the doctrine of the FV is the teaching of justification by faith and works condemned by Scripture and the Reformed creeds.

According to the doctrine of the FV, the sinner’s own works are, in part, the means of justification. Faith is not the sole means.

This implies that when God justifies He has regard to the sinner’s own working and works and that the sinner’s own works are partly the sinner’s righteousness with God. Christ’s work in the place of the sinner is not the only righteousness of the sinner.

Does the faith that alone justifies (instrumentally) always work? Yes! Does it work in the matter of justification? No! Is true faith always a working faith? Yes! Does this working constitute the instrumentality of justification even in part? No!

In its subtle formulation of the heresy of justification by faith and works, the FV reintroduces into the sphere of the Reformed churches the old heresy of the Roman Catholic Church with this difference that the FV illogically and insignificantly rejects the notion of merit.

The ablest Roman apologists at the Reformation defended justification by works exactly as the FV does today. Bellarmine, for example, argued that, as Galatians 5:6 teaches, faith works by love (look for this very same text in the explanation of justification by the men of the FV!). Faith is "informed" by charity, or love. Only a faith that is informed by love justifies. And it justifies because it is informed by love. Faith, said Rome, is a working, loving faith. This working and loving of faith belong to the instrumentality of faith as the means of justification. The conclusion was that justification is by faith and works.

Indeed, Rome has made this subtle formulation of justification by works its official position in the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. I quote pertinent articles.

In Chapter 7 of the Sixth Session (on justification) Rome confesses, "In the ... justification of the impious ... the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those that are justified and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ ... receives in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these gifts infused at once, faith, hope, and charity."

Canon 11 of the same Session reads, "If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God: let him be anathema."

Righteousness with God for a sinner, according to Rome, is partly Christ’s obedience, partly Mary’s and the saints’ obedience, and partly the sinner’s own obedience, although accomplished with the help of God’s grace.

Leaving Mary and the saints out of the picture, this is the doctrine of the FV. This is why the men of the FV openly advertise their justification doctrine as useful for good relations with Rome, perhaps even overcoming the division of the Reformation. And this is why numbers of prominent Presbyterians in North America, who have embraced Shepherd’s and the FV’s doctrine of justification, are converting to the Roman Church.

But to this subtle doctrine the Reformation said no.

Not because the Reformers denied that faith worketh by love.

Not because the Reformers had a tendency to minimize the importance of faith’s working.

But because this subtle doctrine of justification, like every other form of the heretical teaching of justification by faith and works, thrusts the sinner’s working and works into the matter—the grand, divine act—of justification. On this view, God has respect in the act of justifying to the sinner’s own works, regardless that Rome and the FV loudly declare that the sinner does these works only by the grace of God. God has respect, specifically, to the sinner’s own loving of God and the neighbour.

The truth of the gospel is that in the matter of justification, all working and works of the sinner are excluded altogether, including the working of faith.

Although faith is always a working faith—a faith that enthusiastically loves—in justification, not the working of faith, but only faith’s relying on the merits of Christ, faith’s receiving the verdict of innocence, faith’s passively receiving the verdict of innocence, is in view, is operative, is allowable.

In justification, faith’s working is excluded.

In justification, a sinner’s relying on or proposing his working by faith is damnable. No one seeking to be justified by the working of his working faith is declared righteous.

The subtle error of the men of the FV is exactly that of Rome with one exception. Rome, more honestly, admits that the working aspect of faith in justification is meritorious. The men of the FV deny that, although the denial involves them in denying the meritorious character of the obedience of Christ. Apart from the startling denial that Christ earned righteousness and salvation, the denial of the merit of the working sinner by the FV is not a substantial difference from the error of Rome condemned by the Reformation. The essence of the error concerning justification both biblically and in the thinking of the Reformation was, and is, that the works of the sinner himself enter into the act and reality of justification, regardless whether one regards them as meritorious or non-meritorious.

I close with an analysis of the difference between the orthodox Protestant doctrine of justification and the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by the Scottish Presbyterian James Buchanan. His analysis of Rome’s doctrine will expose as well the doctrine of the FV.

"According to the Protestant doctrine, it [i.e., faith] is the means of Justification, simply because it receives and rests upon Christ alone,—because it apprehends and appropriates His righteousness as its only plea,—because it implies an absolute renunciation of all self-dependence, and consists in an entire and cordial reliance on Christ as ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,’—as ‘the propitiation for our sins through faith in His blood,’—and as ‘the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth in His name.’ But according to the Popish doctrine, faith justifies, not by uniting the sinner to Christ, and making him a partaker of Christ’s righteousness,—but by ‘working’ in him, and ‘sanctifying’ him,—by being, in its own essential nature as one of the ‘fruits of the Spirit,’ and by producing, in its actual operation as a vital principle which ‘worketh by love,’ a real inherent righteousness, which is, on its own account, acceptable to God, and which constitutes the immediate ground of his acceptance;—in short, by making him righteous, subjectively, so that thereby, and on that account, he may be reputed righteous, and obtain at once the pardon of sin, and a title to eternal life."

Scripture does not teach justification by the working of a working faith. Rather, Scripture teaches justification by faith alone, apart from all working, including the working of faith.

There is one practical benefit of the truth of justification by faith only as opposed to justification by the working of faith. That is that the guilty sinner is not discouraged by the unworthiness of his faith. The worthiness of unworthiness, the strength or weakness, and the greatness or smallness of faith have nothing to do with justification. Those who teach justification by the working of faith direct the sinner to his own faith for righteousness and for peace with God. This will rob him of assurance.

But the truth of justification by faith only, that is, justification by faith apart from faith’s own working and worthiness, directs the sinner to Christ alone and to the obedience of Christ alone.

In justification, the sinner must not look to his faith, but to Christ as presented in the gospel. Like the physical eye, faith in the matter of justification does not see itself, but only the object outside itself.

Still less may he depend on his faith, or anything pertaining to his faith.

Only upon Christ.

Thus being justified, he has peace with God.


Cordially in Christ,

Prof. Engelsma