Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 3 January, 2010


"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and

things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom. 14:19)


Morning Service - 11:00 AM

God’s Purposes With Israel in the New Testament Age (12)

All Things Are of God!    [download]

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:9-31

Text: Romans 11:33-36

I. All Things Are Out of God

II. All Things Are Through God

III. All Things Are to God

Psalms: 90:1-7; 48:1-6; 89:13-18; 86:6-12


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

The Resurrection of the Body    [download]

Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 15:32-58

Text: Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22

I. The Meaning of It

II. The Calling of It

III. The Encouragement of It

Psalms: 36:5-11; 48:7-14; 73:23-28; 16:6-11


Contact Sean Courtney ( for CDs of the sermons and DVDs of the worship services.


CPRC website:

CPRC YouTube Site:

Quotes to Consider:

Robert Haldane on Romans 11:33: "Multitudes receive the testimony of God only sofar as they can satisfactorily account for all the reasons and grounds of His conduct, when measured according to the petty scale of their limited capacity. How unbecoming in such a creature as man! Shall he who is but ‘of yesterday,’ and ‘knows nothing,’ who is born ‘like a wild ass’s colt,’ pretend to penetrate the counsels of the Omniscient!"

Charles Hodge on Romans 11:33-36: "It is the radical principle of the Bible, and consequently of all true religion, that God is all and in all; that of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. It is the tendency of all truth to exalt God, and to humble the creature; and it is characteristic of true piety to feel that all good comes from God, and to desire that all glory should be given to God."

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

The sign-up sheet for the congregational dinner (8 January) is on the back table. If you plan to come but have not signed up yet, please do so today. The dinner is this Friday at 7 PM at the Ross Park Hotel.

The church visitors arrive this Friday morning. A tentative schedule for Prof. Dykstra and Mr. Vander Schaaf is on the back table. To have the men over for dinner, please write your name in the slots available on the schedule. Next Lord’s Day, Prof. Dykstra will preach for the CPRC, while Rev. Stewart preaches for the Limerick Reformed Fellowship.

The second offering taken this morning is for our building fund.


Monday, 6:30 PM - Zoe, Amy & Lea Campbell at the manse

Tuesday, 7 PM - Jacob & Nathan at the Buchanans

Tuesday, 8 PM - Mark & Lauren at the Hamills

Wednesday, 1 PM - Beginners OT Class at the manse

The Council will meet tomorrow night, 4 January, 7:30 PM at the manse.

Midweek Bible study meets this Wednesday at 7:45 PM at the manse. We will consider I Peter 3:18-22 on Christ’s preaching to "the spirits in prison."

Ladies Bible study meets this Thursday, 7 January, at 10:30 AM at the Murrays to study Lesson 3 of Keeping God’s Covenant.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "The Privilege and Necessity of Prayer" (Luke 11:1) by Rev. R. Kleyn.

Upcoming Lectures in Limerick:

Friday, 15 January - "Dispensationalism" (Prof. Dykstra)

Friday, 12 February - topic to be decided

Friday, 12 March - "The Real St. Patrick"

Offerings: General Fund: £751.50.

Website Additions: 1 Portuguese, 1 German and 3 Italian translations were added.

This is part 2 of the 36th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma on justification.

But the fear that justification by faith alone weakens the holy life is deeper and wider than the false church of Rome and the heretical movement of the Federal (Covenant) Vision. This fear underlies the doctrine of the conditional covenant as maintained by Dr. K. Schilder and the churches he established, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands ("liberated"; hereafter RCNl). These churches teach that the covenant of God with the children of believers depends for its fulfilment in the actual and final salvation of the child upon the child’s performing the condition of believing. To the charge that this doctrine compromises the grace of salvation, the response of Schilder and the RCNl is that only the doctrine of a conditional covenant and covenant promise does justice to the responsibility of man, specifically the responsibility of the child. What this amounts to is the fear that the teaching of a purely gracious salvation (in the covenant) fails to assure a responsible life, a life of faith and obedience. The argument for a conditional covenant by the RCNl and their various daughter churches throughout the world, including the Canadian Reformed Churches, is at bottom that for an active, zealous Christian life (in the covenant, on the part of baptized children) it is necessary to confess and teach justification by faith and works.

That this is, in fact, the position of the doctrine of a conditional covenant now is openly acknowledged by the movement known as the Federal (Covenant) Vision. In his book, The Call of Grace, Norman Shepherd, recognized by friend and foe alike as the father and premier theologian of the Federal (Covenant) Vision, argues for justification by faith and works on the basis of, and as implied by, the doctrine of a conditional covenant—the doctrine of a conditional covenant as taught by K. Schilder and others in the past and by the RCNl today. The obedience which Shepherd pleads for as part of the sinner’s righteousness with God is faith as the condition unto covenant salvation and the good works that faith produces, also as conditions unto final covenant salvation. Justification is by faith and works, Shepherd contends (as do all the men of the Federal [Covenant] Vision), because the covenant is conditional, that is, depends on something the sinner himself must do, and the conditions are believing as a work of man himself (although with the help of grace) and the good works of faith. And this dependency of covenant salvation, particularly covenant justification, on the sinner’s works is necessary to guarantee holiness of life.

Basic to the Federal (Covenant) Vision is the teaching of justification by faith and works. And the root of the heresy, as of all the other heresies necessarily taught by the movement, is exactly what the movement itself has indicated by its name: "Federal," that is, Covenant, Vision"—the doctrine of a conditional covenant, as taught by Schilder and maintained today by the RCNl in the interests of human responsibility.

I only note here that, although the doctrine of a conditional covenant is the hallmark of the RCNl and widely associated with these churches, most of the reputedly conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches today likewise are committed to the doctrine of a conditional covenant. This explains why they are deafeningly silent about the Federal (Covenant) Vision, and why those who do condemn the denial of justification by faith alone noticeably refuse to take hold of the error at its root, that is, the doctrine of a conditional covenant.

Fear that justification by faith alone threatens a responsible, zealous, holy life is, in reality, the fear that the truth of salvation by grace alone threatens a responsible, zealous, holy life.

This fear surfaced in the history of my own churches, the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC). In the late 1940s and the early 1950s a majority of the ministers in the PRC, directly and powerfully influenced by K. Schilder and the covenant doctrine of the RCNl, attempted to introduce into the PRC the doctrine of the conditional covenant (in knowing, deliberate opposition to the doctrine of an unconditional covenant with the elect children of believers alone, which the PRC had stood for from the beginning of their history and which all of the ministers had been taught by Herman Hoeksema). Their contention was (likely their main contention) that only this doctrine does justice to the responsibility of man. And this argument was powerful to sway many of the members of the PRC. The great fear, apparently, was that the truth of covenant salvation by sovereign grace alone, and therefore the truth of covenant justification by faith alone, are not sufficient to secure and motivate holiness of life. In order to move covenant children to believe and obey, they must be taught that God’s promise to them and salvation of them depend upon their works—their believing as a condition and their good works.

The great fear concerning justification by faith alone!

Justification by faith alone, a dangerous doctrine!

Threatening nothing less than the essential Christian life of zealous love for God and the neighbour in obedience to the good and holy law of God!

Let us do full justice to the fear and its argument. Justification by faith alone means, and openly, insistently teaches to the believing people, that the good works of those who believe the gospel from the heart, add absolutely nothing to their righteousness with God and that their carelessness, sins, and immorality detract absolutely nothing from their righteousness with God. It means, and openly teaches, that God’s verdict upon them, now and in the final judgment, depends not at all upon their holiness and good works. Justification by faith alone is unconditional forgiveness and unconditional imputation of the obedience of another, even Christ. The righteousness of the guilty sinner with God has absolutely nothing to do his own obedience to the law of God. With regard to his righteousness, and therefore the salvation that depends upon this righteousness, the law is excluded, completely excluded (not regarding Christ’s obedience to the law in his stead, but regarding any and all demands of the law upon him himself as conditions of righteousness and salvation).

"The righteousness of God without the law" (Rom. 3:21)!

Salvation, "not of works" (Eph. 2:8-9)!

What shall we say then to the apparently anguished fear that Paul’s dangerous doctrine in Romans 3 and 4 and in Galatians will and must lead to the dreadful antinomism described and combatted in James 2? How do we respond to Rome, the Federal (Covenant) Vision and the advocates of a conditional covenant? Closer to home, how shall we respond to the member of our own congregation who, loudly espousing justification by faith alone, lives like the devil?

Are we able to respond?

Or, must we hedge on justification by faith alone at the critical point? Must we correct it by making faith a condition and by adding the good works of the sinner to his righteousness with God, that is, by denying the doctrine?

What is the response to the fear of our confessions, and why?

What is the response of Scripture, that is, of God Himself, to the fear, and why?

Let us see, in the next instalment.

Cordially in Christ,

Prof. Engelsma