Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Bookmark and Share

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 11 March, 2007


"Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout

all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:21)


Morning Service - 11:00 AM

Decency & Order in Public Worship

I Corinthians 14:40

I. The Principles

II. The Applications

III. The Callings

Psalms: 95:1-8; 78:49-54; 87:1-7; 122:1-9


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 47; John 17

I. The Meaning

II. The Manner

III. The Witness

Psalms: 96:1-8; 78:55-60; 18:1-7; 113:1-9

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

CPRC website:

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

All are invited to the manse after the worship service this evening.

Catechism: Monday, 5:30 PM at the Murrays, 7:00 PM with the Campbells. Thursday, 7:00 PM at the Hamills.

Membership Class: Tuesday, 7:30 PM at the Hallidays.

Our Mid-Week Bible Study will be held Wednesday, at 7:45 PM at the manse. We will study I Thessalonians 2 on Paul’s message and motives.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day, 18 March (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "I Am the True Vine" (John 15:1-8).

In view to the Lord’s Supper on 25 March, we will have preparatory next Lord’s Day evening.

Last Week’s Offerings: General Fund - £747.55. Building Fund - £324.40. Donations: £50 (building fund), £50 (website), £6.20 (books).

CPRC Website: "The Covenant: God’s Tabernacle with Men" by Herman Hoeksema is now on-line in Italian. 2 Portuguese articles and 11 ecumenical creeds (Belarusian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Welsh) have also been added.

Advanced Notices: Lectures on "Homosexuality, What Does the Bible Teach?" 

(1) Friday, 23 March, 7 PM, Limerick Youth Service, Limerick 

(2) Friday, 11 May, 8 PM, Ballymena Protestant Hall


This is the 9th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma on justification.

Dear Forum,

I intend briefly to treat two distinct aspects of the central gospel-truth of justification in this instalment. The first is the truth, basic to the biblical doctrine of justification, that in the act of justification God imputes righteousness. I can be brief about this because I have already explained imputation and demonstrated it from Scripture, particularly from the end of Romans 3 and the beginning of Romans 4.

The reason why I return to this is that denial of imputation is an essential aspect of the related heresies of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and the Federal Vision (FV). According to the NPP, promoted in conservative circles both in Great Britain and in North America especially by the reputedly evangelical Anglican bishop N. T. Wright, and the FV, flourishing in some of the supposedly most conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches in North America, becoming righteous is not a matter of imputation. As I documented in a recent article on "The Covenant of Creation with Adam" in the Fall, 2006 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, these movements deny that Adam’s sin was imputed to the human race, that Christ’s obedience is imputed to sinners, and that our guilt was imputed to Christ. There may be the stray defender of the FV who is at present somewhat hesitant to swallow the denial of imputation whole-hog, but this is the position of the movement as such. Indeed prominent representatives of the FV mock at imputation as a shuffling around of the figures in a heavenly accounting book.

Denial of imputation by Reformed and Presbyterian ministers and theologians, and even by evangelical theologians, should be recognized for the radical break with the Reformation and all the Reformation creeds that it is. This is obvious and remarkable apostasy regarding original sin, the substitutionary atonement of the cross, and justification. It is a revelation of the weak spiritual condition of the churches to which these men belong that they not only have not disciplined these men, but also have protected them and approved their doctrine when laymen brought charges against them. Further, even when Reformed theologians in North America do not go on record as agreeing with the NPP and the FV, they write that there are good things to be learned from these movements and regard the men of these movements as basically good Reformed or evangelical brothers with a different viewpoint.

The movements deny imputation!

If there is no imputation, Adam’s guilt is not reckoned to the account of the entire human race. If Adam’s guilt is not reckoned to the race, humans do not come into the world totally depraved of nature, for the depravity in which all are conceived is judgment upon the race and every member, except Jesus. If the race is not thus sinful, why the need for the Saviour—the Saviour who is God Himself in the flesh? If the sin of the elect of all nations was not imputed by God to Jesus Christ, what was He doing on the cross? What was His death? And if the obedience of Christ is not imputed to the believer, how does the believer become righteous, and what is his righteousness with God?

Denial of imputation does not merely "correct" the Reformation at some point, but is the wholesale rejection of the Reformation. Denial of imputation is the creation of a new religion, a religion radically different from that presented in the Reformation creeds. Denial of imputation involves, well, a New Perspective on Paul—an entirely new perspective on the theology of Paul in its entirety.

We should be clear why the NPP and the FV deny imputation. We should understand the argument of the NPP and the FV. In fact, the reason for the denial of imputation is two-fold. The reason is spiritual. The men of the NPP and the FV object to the humbling judgment of the word of God upon them and all others by the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to the race, including the reality of total depravity. With this, the reason is that they are offended at the cross, every bit as much as was the old liberalism, which railed at the doctrine of substitutionary atonement as "butcher-shop theology."

But the theological argument is that salvation in the Bible, especially in Paul’s writings, is not the legal matter that the Reformation taught (as well as all the creeds by which these Reformed men are bound). Rather, according to them, salvation in Paul is a matter of being united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. In this living union with Christ, the believer shares everything that Christ has and is, including righteousness. He shares righteousness, not by a divine act of imputation, but by being part of Christ, who is righteous.

Union with Christ is salvation, not imputation.

This union with Christ, the NPP and FV teach, is the reality of the covenant. Both these movements are movements that emphasize the covenant, as I never tire of pointing out. This is a reason for their popularity in Reformed circles, where the covenant has always been held in honour, even when it was not understood.

In viewing the covenant as fellowship with God in Christ, the movements are right. In seeing union with Christ as a main teaching, even the main teaching, of Paul, the movements are also right. As you read the epistles of Paul, make a note of it, how often the apostle says that we are "in Christ," usually in these words, but in other words as well. Very often, the meaning is our living, spiritual union with Christ by the Spirit who dwells in us, although we were also "in Christ" in the eternal decree of election (Eph. 1:4) and, legally, in His suffering and dying in that He represented us at the cross.

The Reformation creeds do full justice to the living union with Christ. True faith itself, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, is a being "ingrafted into Him [Christ]," where the Catechism has its eye on John 15:1ff., the truth of our being united to Christ as branches are to a vine (Q. and A. 20). There is a very forceful statement of our living union with Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of the Lord’s Supper: Believing partaking of the Supper is not only to "obtain the pardon of sin and life eternal, but also, besides that, to become more and more united to His sacred body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone; and that we live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul" (Q. & A. 76).

The Westminster Larger Catechism confesses this spiritual union in Questions and Answers 65 and 66: "What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ? The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory. What is that union which the elect have with Christ? The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling."

I suspect that churches which have not done justice to the truth of salvation’s being essentially union and communion with Christ, and with God in Him, by a right doctrine of the covenant, have opened themselves up to being led astray by the NPP and FV, which emphasizes union with Christ.          to be continued ...