Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 13 February, 2011


"One generation shall praise thy works to another,

and shall declare thy mighty acts" (Ps. 145:4)


Morning Service - 11:00 AM

Man’s Loss of God’s Image    [download]    [youtube]

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:17-32

Text: Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3

I. The Meaning of God’s Image

II. The Loss of God’s Image

III. The Restoration of God’s Image

Psalms: 66:1-7; 89:13-18; 14:1-7; 51:4-10


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

God’s Message to Those Pining Away in Their Sins   [download]   [youtube]

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 33:1-20, 30-33

Text: Ezekiel 33:11

I. His Solemn Oath

II. His Serious Command

III. His Penetrating Question

Psalms: 39:5-12; 89:19-25; 37:22-28; 147:6-15


Contact Stephen Murray for CDs of the sermons and DVDs of the worship services.


CPRC website:

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Quotes to Consider:

Francis Turretin on Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11: "When God testifies that 'he has no pleasure at all in the death of the sinner, but that he should return from his ways, and live' (Eze.18:23), this does not favour the inefficacious will or the feeble velleity of God because the [Hebrew] word chpts (which occurs there) does not denote desire so much as delight and complacency. Thus God may be said not to delight in the punishment of the wicked inasmuch as it is the destruction of the creature, although he wills it as an exercise of his justice. So he is said to will the repentance of sinners approvingly and preceptively as a thing most pleasing to himself and expressed in his commands, although with respect to all of them he nills it decretively and effectively ... Although God protests that 'he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in his conversion and life' (Eze. 33:11), it does not follow that from eternity he willed and intended under any condition the conversion and life of each and every man. For besides the fact that conversion cannot be intended under any condition (because it is itself a condition), it is certain that here is treated the will of euarestias and of complacency, not the will of good pleasure (eudokias) (which the verb chpts proves, meaning everywhere to be pleased and to hold as grateful, to imply that God is pleased with the conversion and life of the sinner as a thing grateful to him and agreeing with his perfectly merciful nature, rather than with his destruction, and therefore exacts it from man as a bounden duty to be converted if he desires to live). But although he wills not (i.e., is not pleased with the death of the sinner, as it denotes the destruction of a creature), yet he does not cease to will and intend it as an exercise of his justice and as the occasion of manifesting his glory (Prov. 1:26; 1 Sam. 2:34). Take, for example, a pious magistrate who is not pleased with the death of the guilty, yet does not cease justly to decree their punishment in accordance with the laws. Nor is it the case that if God does not properly intend their repentance and salvation, does he to no purpose say to the reprobate who are invited to repentance, 'Why will ye die?' For he rightly shows them by these words what they must do to avoid death and that by their voluntary impenitence, they alone are the cause of their own destruction, not God. For although by the decree of reprobation, he had passed them by and determined not to give them faith, yet no less voluntarily do they sin and so obstinately bring down their own destruction upon themselves" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 229-230, 408).

Augustine: "And assuredly there was no injustice in God’s not willing that they should be saved, though they could have been saved had He so willed it. Then shall be seen in the clearest light of wisdom what with the pious is now a faith, though it is not yet a matter of certain knowledge, how sure, how unchangeable, and how effectual is the will of God; how many things He can do which He does not will to do, though willing nothing which He cannot perform; and how true is the song of the psalmist, ‘But our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased’ [Ps. 115:3]. And this certainly is not true, if God has ever willed anything that He has not performed; and, still worse, if it was the will of man that hindered the Omnipotent from doing what He pleased. Nothing, therefore, happens but by the will of the Omnipotent, He either permitting it to be done, or Himself doing it ... For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent God, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish. And if we do not believe this, the very first sentence of our creed is endangered, wherein we profess to believe in God the Father Almighty. For He is not truly called Almighty if He cannot do whatsoever He pleases, or if the power of His almighty will is hindered by the will of any creature whatsoever" (Enchiridion, xcv-xcvi).

Canons of Dordt III/IV:8: "As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in his Word, what is pleasing to him, namely, that those who are called should come to him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him."

Announcements (subject to God’s will)

New Standard Bearers are available on the back table today. Don’t forget that Standard Bearer subscriptions are due—£16.50. This can be paid to Rev. Stewart.

Catechism classes: Monday, 6:00 PM - Joseph, Jacob, Nathan & Alex; Monday, 6:45 PM - Zoe, Amy & Lea; Tuesday, 12:15 PM - Beginners NT Class

Tuesday Bible study: 11 AM, on II Thess. 2:8b on the destruction of Antichrist.

Wednesday Belgic Confession class: 7:45 PM. We’ll continue with Article 8 on fellowship as the vestige/footprint of the Holy Trinity.

Thursday’s Membership class is at 7:30 PM.

Stephen Rushton arrives in N. Ireland this Friday evening. He will be here next Lord’s Day, join us for Bible studies next week and return home on Thursday.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "Raising Our Children" (Ephesians 6:4) by Rev. R. Kleyn.

Offerings: General Fund - £383.07. Building Fund - £426.50. Donation: £21.70.

PRC News: Wingham PRC called Rev. Vanderwal. Rev. Van Overloop declined the call to Cornerstone.

Bound to Join: A Review and Defence (Excerpt 4)

Rev. A. Stewart


Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587) was another German Reformed theologian who had (at least) a hand in the formulation of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). The following quotation makes clear that Olevianus was of the same mind as his teacher, Calvin; his friend, Beza; and his co-worker in Heidelberg, Ursinus:

When God provides our eyes with the sight of an assemblage which is a member of the H. Catholic Church, the mark having been shown of true prophetic and apostolic doctrine (under which are embraced lawful administration of the sacraments and training in all godliness, Matt. 28:20), we ought to unite with that assemblage. For as He is Himself our Father, it is His pleasure that the Church be our mother, Isa. 54:1-2, Gal. 4:27-28, 31. In her we are both born and brought up right to the end of our lives. God is pleased by the Church’s ministry to quicken us by His Spirit, stamp remission of sins on our hearts and reshape us daily in the same unto His own image. On the other hand he who despises such an assemblage possessing the mark of a true Church, to wit truth of prophetic and apostolic doctrine—which happens when a man does not communicate in sound doctrine and in prayers and when he does not attach himself to the communion of saints through the visible witnesses of the Covenant, baptism and the sacred eucharist—cannot be sure of his own salvation. And he who persists in such contempt is not elect, Acts. 2:47.

After commenting on the Apostles’ Creed’s article on "the communion of saints," Olevianus explicitly affirms extra ecclesiam nulla salus:

138 Q. How do you understand the possession of the benefits of Christ in this life?

I understand it as follows: just as there is no salvation outside the Church, which is the body of Christ, so also all true and living members of the Church now possess full salvation, that is, forgiveness of sins.

German-Dutch theologian, Peter van Mastricht (1630-1706) writes,

Query, whether any Christian, if he can, is bound to associate himself with any particular, fixed true Church. The Schwenkfeldians, Libertines, Enthusiasts and other fanatics, with whom also act the Socinians, say No. The Reformed recognise that there may be a hidden Church, since you cannot join any Church [i.e., because persecution is so fierce, no visible, instituted church can function]. But where you can, they lay it down that you simply must.

The two quotes above from Olevianus and van Mastricht are taken by Heinrich Heppe, a nineteenth-century German theologian and church historian, to be representative of the orthodox Reformed tradition.

Richard Muller, the foremost figure in this field today, in his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, states that this is the standard position of the successors of the Reformers:

Extra ecclesiam non sit salus: Outside of the church there may be no salvation; a maxim from Cyprian (Epistles, 73.21) often cited by the scholastics, who accept it as true with the provision that the church is identified as the communio sanctorum (q.v.), or communion of saints, and by its marks, Word and sacrament (see notae ecclesiae). The maxim is also frequently given as Extra ecclesiam nulla salus or Salus extra ecclesiam non est.

Nineteenth-century Dutch theologian, J. J. Van Oosterzee (1817-1882) writes,

Indeed, the "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" is here the holy truth; men must belong to the little flock, if they will upon sure grounds solace themselves with the promise of salvation. The community of the saints is saving, not because everyone [who is a member of the visible church] is saved, but because he may be assured of his salvation, who knows himself a living member of the corpus mysticum.

Staying with the continental Reformed tradition but moving to the United States, we have the comments of R. B. Kuiper (1886-1966) in his work on the church, The Glorious Body of Christ:

In the first place, Scripture teaches unmistakably that all who are saved should unite with the church. The view that membership in the visible church is requisite to salvation has no basis whatever in Scripture. When the Philippian jailer asked what he should do to be saved, Paul said only: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." The apostle did not command him to join the church. However, when he did believe he was at once baptized (Acts 16:31-33). As soon as the Ethiopian eunuch confessed Christ he likewise was baptized (Acts 8:36-38). So were all who were converted at Pentecost. Now according to Paul’s words, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (I Corinthians 12:13), baptism signifies reception into the church. It is clear that in the days of the apostles it was universal practice to receive believers into the visible church.

What could be more logical? He who believes in Christ is united with Christ. Faith binds him to Christ. He is a member of Christ’s body, the invisible church. But the visible church is but the outward manifestation of that body. Every member of the invisible church should as a matter of course be a member of the visible church.

Extremely significant in this connection is Acts 2:47—"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Not only does the Lord Christ require of those who are saved that they unite with the church; He Himself joins them to the church. And the reference is unmistakably to the visible church. Does it follow that he who is outside the visible church is necessarily outside Christ? Certainly not. It is possible that a true believer because of some unusual circumstance may fail to unite with the church. Conceivably one may, for instance, believe in Christ and die before receiving baptism. But such instances are exceptional. The Scriptural rule is that, while membership in the church is not a prerequisite of salvation, it is a necessary consequence of salvation. Outside the visible church "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV, Section II).  ... to be continued