Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 21 December, 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

Praying for Daily Bread     [download]

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 50; Matt. 6:19-34

I. The Meaning

II. The Calling

Psalms: 24:1-6; 7:6-11; 104:17-24; 103:1-7


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

The Holy Spirit in Ephesians (6)

The Mystery Revealed by the Spirit (I)   [download]

Ephesians 3:5-6

I. The Meaning of the Mystery

II. The Content of the Mystery

Psalms: 34:1-10; 7:12-17; 72:5-11; 87:1-7


Contact Sean Courtney ( for CDs of the sermons.


CPRC website:

Quote to Consider:

Charles Hodge on Ephesians 3:6: "The form in which the calling of the Gentiles was predicted in the Old Testament led to the general impression that they were to partake of the blessings of the Messiah’s reign by becoming Jews, by being as proselytes merged into the old theocracy, which was to remain in all its peculiarities. It seems never to have entered into any human mind until the day of Pentecost that the theocracy itself was to be abolished, and a new form of religion was to be introduced, designed and adapted equally for all mankind, under which the distinction between Jew and Gentile was to be done away."

John Calvin on Ephesians 3:6: "To lay claim to information which none of the patriarchs, prophets, or holy kings, had possessed, might wear the aspect of arrogance. To guard against this imputation, Paul reminds them, first, that in this respect he was not alone, but shared the revelation with the most eminent teachers of the church; and, secondly, that it was the gift of the Holy Spirit, who has a right to bestow it on whom he pleases; for there is no other limit of our knowledge but that which he assigns to us."

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

The sign-up sheet for the congregational dinner is on the back table. The dinner is planned for 9 January, at 7 PM, at Montgomerys in Ballymena.

Catechism: Tuesday, 11:00 AM - Beginners OT Class at the manse Tuesday, 4:30 PM - Jacob Buchanan Tuesday, 5:30 PM - Jamie & Debbie Murray

Midweek Bible Study will meet again on Wednesday, 7 January, 7:45 PM at the manse.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is "The Return of the King" (Revelation 22:21).

Offerings: General Fund - £449.80. Donations: £200 (CDs).

All the adults are invited to the manse on New Year’s Eve for devotions, board games, snacks, etc. Please let the Stewarts know if you plan to come.

Upcoming Lectures: 

Limerick, Thurs., 8 Jan., 7:30 PM - Prof. Gritters "Music’s Indispensable Place in (the) Reformation" 

Portadown, Fri., 20 Feb., 8 PM - John Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation 

S. Wales, Fri., 27 Feb., 7:15 PM - John Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation 

Limerick, Fri., 6 March, 7:30 PM - John Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation

Website Additions: 1 Spanish, 1 Afrikaans and 2 Portuguese translations were added.

PRC News: The new trio for the Philippines is Revs. Eriks (Hudsonville, MI), Smit (Lacombe, Canada) and VanderWal (Redlands, CA).

This is part 2 of the 27th e-mail by Prof. Engelsma on justification

Martyn Lloyd Jones (MLJ) also denied that the man of Romans 7 is an unregenerate man. Who is he then? He is a man under the conviction of sin because of the law. He is the man who is so dear to the Puritans: a man upon whom and within whom the Spirit works by the gospel with "preparatory grace" (often, for many years; for some, all their life). For the Puritans and MLJ, the spiritual condition of such a man is neither regeneration (he may still perish) nor un-regeneration (he is on the way to regeneration, if he responds rightly).

For another thing, one implication of MLJ’s explanation of Romans 7 and 8 is that MLJ rejected the law as the rule of gratitude of the Christian life. Since Romans 7 describes man under the law, MLJ concluded that the regenerated and justified sinner has nothing to do with the law any more, not even as a constant source of the knowledge of misery and as the rule of gratitude. This, at any rate, is his clear, emphatic teaching in the commentary on Romans 8:1-2. Addressing the justified believer, who is in Christ, MLJ announces, "You have sinned, of course, but you have sinned against love and not against Law. You may and you should feel ashamed, but you should not feel condemnation, because to do so is to put yourself back ‘under the law’" (277).

This is antinomism.

This is classic antinomism.

It makes no difference that he quickly exalts love over the law and urges a holy life motivated by love for Christ and that, seeing beforehand that his doctrine will draw the charge of antinomism, he repudiates the charge (11). To deny that the law is the rule of a holy life is antinomism. Period, or as they say abroad, "full stop." To add that the law no longer serves as the source of the Christian’s (necessary, healthy, profound) knowledge of his misery as a guilty sinner, who breaks God’s good commandments daily, is to aggravate the antinomism.

Now I understand the antinomism of the magazine that comes out of England, New Focus. When Don Fortner, I think, some years ago boldly wrote that the law does not serve as the rule of the Christian life, but that love is the sole rule, he was only following MLJ.

It also becomes clearer to me why MLJ was open to important aspects of the charismatic movement. One who dismisses the experience of Romans 7:14-25 as the normal Christian experience as long as the Christian lives is wide open to the enthralling prospect of a Christian experience that is all joy, all victory, all glory, all, yes, "higher life"—the Pentecostal baptism with the Spirit that far transcends the lowly experience of the forgiven sinner battling hard against indwelling sin.

That this man’s teaching goes without criticism, indeed is promoted as the veriest Reformed gospel in all of Calvinistic Christendom, by the Banner of Truth is astounding, and revealing.

For MLJ’s explanation of Romans 7 is heretical. To ascribe to an unregenerated man the goodness and spirituality of the man of the chapter (he wills the good, he hates the evil, he delights in the law of God according to an inward man, he desires deliverance, not from troubles, but from sin, he knows God in Jesus Christ, and thanks him) is sheer Pelagian, free-will heresy. By explaining Romans 7 of the unregenerated, Arminius first exposed himself in the 16th century.

As wicked is MLJ’s driving of regenerated, justified, sanctified saints to despair. Ours is the experience of Romans 7, as also the member who occasioned this instalment indicated in his own life. If the man of Romans 7 is not regenerated, I am not regenerated. Nor was Luther, by his own admission. Nor was Calvin. Nor was Paul, for Paul tells us plainly that he speaks in Romans 7 of himself, of himself toward the end of his sanctified life, himself being likely holiest of all the saints of God: I, I, I, I, I. God be praised, the apostle opens his believing soul to our inspection, so that we and all believers may know how it will be with us so long as we live.

Pelagius denied that the experience of Romans 7 was his. So did MLJ.

Very quickly, I confirm from Scripture and the creeds that the experience of Romans 7 is that of all believers and that MLJ was wrong. First, Psalm 32! This is the experience of David as a regenerated, justified, sanctified man. And all the many Psalms that intend to give the experience of the believer when they speak of guilt, exposure consciously to the anger of God, and the misery of transgressions and a corrupt nature. Also, Jesus’ instruction that we pray for the forgiveness of our sins daily.

The proof I emphasize is the teaching of the Reformed creeds. One great fault of MLJ was that he paid no attention to the creeds, did not consider his teaching to be subject to the creeds. This was an aspect of his independentism with regard to the church.

The creeds. The creeds. The creeds.

They would have saved him from his heresy.

I refer only to the Heidelberg Catechism. We believers learn our misery, which is necessary to live and die happily, from the law of God (LD 2). This law convicts the believer of his great misery of sin as long as he lives (LD 2).

As long as the holiest of saints lives, he has only a small beginning of the new obedience. Every believer, his lifelong, learns more and more to know his sinful nature, thus becoming the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin and righteousness in Christ (justification!) (LD 44).

What is the normal Christian experience? This, expressed when we pray the fifth petition daily, as Christ commanded us: "Be pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us poor sinners [do we hear this? ‘poor sinners’—poor sinners until the day we die] our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us" (LD 51).

Though we are not under the law, we are guided by the law, as an authoritative rule, regarding our life of holiness (LD 32-44). The Reformed faith, which is the truth of the Bible, is not antinomian.

With regard now to the exact point of the observation of the member of the forum, there is indeed now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. This "no condemnation" refers to our consciousness, or experience, as does the great theme of Romans throughout: it is the "no condemnation" of justification by faith as God’s verdict of forgiveness and righteousness in the believer’s consciousness.

That it reveals and expresses a "no condemnation" uttered at the cross and has its source in a "no condemnation" pronounced in eternity, I intend to show later.

"No condemnation." But how is this true in our consciousness?

MLJ does not tell us. He leaves the impression that the believer simply has the "no condemnation" from remembering that once upon a time, long ago, God forgave him and justified him. MLJ’s explanation of Romans 7 leaves the distinct impression that the way for the believer to the assurance of "no condemnation" is not deep humiliation over sin, profound consciousness of guilt, and flying to the crucified and risen Christ "out of the depths" (Psalm 130) for pardon and righteousness.

The truth is that I live in the assurance of "no condemnation," thus, that daily I know my guilt, as the man of Romans 7:14-25 knew it, my rightful exposure to the wrath of God, and trust in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, by which faith I hear God say to me, "Neither do I condemn thee, go in peace" (John 8).

Here is the Christian experience: the threefold knowledge taught by the Heidelberg Catechism—knowledge of my misery, knowledge of my redemption, and knowledge of my gratitude to God. I make progress in this knowledge. But I never graduate from any aspect of it.

This does not mean a "permanent state of guiltiness." Rather, a permanent state of righteousness, enjoyed only in the way of continual sorrow over sin and continual seeking of forgiveness and righteousness by faith in Christ.


"Simul peccator, simul iustus."

This is a struggle; this is wearying.

This is the reason why the justified believer, though he has peace with God, longs to be delivered from the body of this death, as the Heidelberg Catechism concludes that 44th Lord’s Day I referred to earlier: "till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us in a life to come."

Cordially in Christ, 

Prof. Engelsma