Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
Lord’s Day, 30
"Make a joyful
noise unto God, all ye lands:
Sing forth the
honour of his name:
praise glorious" (Ps. 66:1-2)
Morning Service - 11:00 AM
Administration of the Lord’s Supper
The Bread and the Wine of the Lord’s Supper
Catechism, Lord’s Day 29; I Corinthians 11
Psalms: 96:1-7; 119:65-72; 103:1-7; 23:1-6
Service - 6:00 PM
Proper Partakers of the Holy Supper
Catechism, Lord’s Day 30; Matthew 5
Partakers and Their Sins
Partakers and Their Desires
Partakers and the Keys
Psalms: 89:1-6; 119:73-80; 27:3-6; 51:14-19
cassettes of the worship services or CDs of the sermons, contact Sean
Quote to Consider:
John Calvin: "We shall have profited admirably in
the sacrament, if the thought shall have been impressed and engraven on
our minds, that none of our brethren is hurt, despised, rejected,
injured, or in any way offended, without our, at the same time, hurting,
despising, and injuring Christ; that we cannot have dissension with our
brethren, without at the same time dissenting from Christ; that we
cannot love Christ without loving our brethren; that the same care we
take of our own body we ought to take of that of our brethren, who are
members of our body; that as no part of our body suffers pain without
extending to the other parts, so every evil which our brother suffers
ought to excite our compassion. Wherefore Augustine not inappropriately
often terms this sacrament the bond of charity. What stronger stimulus
could be employed to excite mutual charity, than when Christ, presenting
himself to us, not only invites us by his example to give and devote
ourselves mutually to each other, but inasmuch as he makes himself
common to all, also makes us all to be one in him" (Institutes
Announcements (subject to God’s will):
After a week of self-examination, confessing members
in good standing are called to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s
Supper this morning. Your participation in the Lord’s Supper is in
part a witness that you repent of your sins, believe that Jesus Christ
is your righteousness, and desire to live a new and godly life. As this
heavenly food can be taken to one’s judgment (I Cor. 11:28-30) and as
the common reception of this food is a confession of doctrinal oneness
(Acts 2:42), the elders supervise the partaking of the sacrament.
Visitors from other denominations must request permission to partake at
the council meeting prior to communion.
Women’s Bible Study meets this Tuesday, 1 April,
10:30 AM at the Murrays.
Tuesday: Catechism at the Murrays at 6:30 PM
Membership Class at the Hallidays at 8:15 PM
Midweek Bible Study meets Wednesday, 7:45 PM, at
the manse. We will study II Timothy 4:3f. on "Itching Ears."
Offering: General Fund - £498. Donations:
£35 (website), £17 (CR News), £5 (CDs), £66 (S. Wales).
The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day
(8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "Now No Condemnation"
Next Lord’s Day morning an offering for the building
fund will be taken.
Upcoming Lecture: 25 April, in Limerick,
on "The Antichrist."
Website Additions: 1 French, 1 Ukrainian, 1
Italian, and 1 Russian translations were added, as well as the
Heidelberg Catechism in Slovenian.
PRC News: Rev. Slopsema declined the call to
Calvary PRC in Hull, Iowa.
This is the 19th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma’s
forum on justification.
Since this discussion of justification was occasioned
in part by the contemporary heresy in reputedly conservative Reformed
churches mainly in North America known as the Federal Vision (FV),
members of this forum will be interested to know that the controversy
over justification is raging in these churches. Recently, the
Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) approved the report of a special
study committee condemning the FV as contrary to the Westminster
Standards. Soon the United Reformed Churches (URC) must treat an
overture to their synod from a classis calling on the URC to condemn the
doctrine of Norman Shepherd, a former professor at Westminster Seminary
and member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), who is largely
responsible for the spread of the denial of justification by faith alone
in all the churches in North America where the denial is found. Already,
powerful voices in the URC have been heard warning the URC not to adopt
the overture, that is, not to condemn the FV as heretical. On the other
hand, Mid-America Seminary, one of the unofficial seminaries of the URC,
has recently published a statement that is surprisingly strong in
condemning the FV. The statement includes declarations to the effect
that the covenant of grace is made by God with Christ and with the elect
in Him—declarations that do strike to the heart of the controversy over
the FV. The statement itself informs the reader that the Board of
Mid-America Seminary insisted that its faculty (the authors of the
statement) produce such a statement.
These developments confirm my warning several years
ago that the reputedly conservative Reformed churches in North America
are full of the heresy—a warning that no one else was giving, and a
warning against which members of these churches reacted angrily at the
time, denying the charge.
I rejoice at every development that warns against and
condemns the FV. To the credit of the PCA, which is not known for the
commitment of its ministers to the "system of doctrine contained in the
Westminster Standards," that is, the five points of Calvinism, the
recent approval of the study committee report condemning the FV is in
harmony with the aversion to the denial of justification by faith alone
the PCA showed already some 25 or more years ago, when the FV came to
light in the heretical teaching of Westminster Seminary professor Norman
Shepherd. At the time in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the
controversy over Shepherd’s denial of justification by faith alone was
raging in Westminster Seminary and in the OPC, the OPC and the PCA were
involved in serious ecumenical relations that aimed at the union of the
two denominations. Although the OPC very much wanted the union, the PCA
voted the union down. It did so because the OPC refused to condemn
Shepherd’s denial of justification by faith alone, but rather defended
him and his false doctrine. The PCA took a good stand over the issue of
justification by faith alone. All of this the OPC has desperately tried
to cover up, but recent books by men of standing in the Presbyterian
community, including some who were involved in the controversy,
including O. Palmer Robertson and W. Stanford Reid, have exposed the
complicity of the OPC in the defence of Shepherd’s heresy of
justification by faith and works (see O. Palmer Robertson, The
Current Justification Controversy , and A. Donald MacLeod,
W. Stanford Reid: An Evangelical Calvinist in the Academy ).
One trouble with the PCA action is that it consists
merely of the approval of a study committee report. But it may serve
later as the basis for discipline.
The dealings of the synod of the URC regarding the
overture to condemn the FV will be significant.
One thing to be watched closely is whether the
condemnation of the FV by a church takes hold of the root of the FV in
its doctrine of the covenant. As I have noted before to this forum, the
root of the FV’s denial of justification and indeed all of the doctrines
of grace confessed in the Canons of Dordt and in the
Westminster Standards is its doctrine of a conditional covenant—a
covenant that is not governed by God’s eternal predestination. "Federal
Vision" means "Covenant Vision," and the vision of the covenant that
drives the men of the FV, as they themselves state, is the covenant
doctrine of Klaas Schilder and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
("liberated"). In his important book, The Call of Grace, Shepherd
sets forth, as the foundation of his and the FV’s rejection of
justification by faith alone and all the doctrines of grace, a
conditional doctrine of the covenant. From its establishment with
Abraham to the fulfilment of the covenant by Christ, the covenant is
conditional. According to Shepherd, God graciously establishes the
covenant with Abraham and every one of his physical descendants alike,
uniting them with Christ, and beginning to give them the blessings of
the covenant. But the continuation and perfection of the covenant, and
therefore final salvation, depend upon the individual’s performing the
conditions of continuing to believe and of being faithful to God by
obeying the law. Works, therefore, namely, covenant obedience and
faithfulness, are partly the means of justification, as they are part of
one’s righteousness before God in the covenant. This covenant doctrine,
as spelled out by Shepherd, the other, younger men of the FV are
enthusiastically developing into a denial of all of the doctrines of
grace, particularly in the sphere of the covenant.
For a church to limit its condemnation of the FV to
the FV’s heretical doctrine of justification is not enough. This will
not defend the gospel of grace, or protect the church. The churches must
take hold of the error at its root: the doctrine of a conditional
covenant. And this most churches and theologians who oppose the FV are
loathe to do.
The last two instalments in this discussion responded
to objections that tended to deny that faith—our faith, our faith as an
active knowing Christ and trusting in Christ—is the means of
justification. I showed that not only is this the teaching of the
Reformed confessions, but this is also the teaching of the Bible.
Now I continue my explanation and defence of
justification as taught in the Reformed confessions, on the basis of
Scripture, by considering the truth that justification is by faith
alone. In the controversy over justification, it has always been
that word "alone" that has exposed the false doctrine, defended the
orthodox doctrine, and divided the true church from the false church.
The word "alone" divided the Roman Catholic Church
from Protestantism at the time of the Reformation. In his sermons on
Galatians, Calvin said, "For indeed, even the Papists profess to be
justified by faith, but this is only half of the truth and it is the
rest of the picture which spoils the whole. Sure enough, they are
persuaded of the fact that a man cannot be accounted righteous before
God unless Jesus is the Mediator and unless that person rests upon him
for salvation. The Papists know this only too well, and yet they so
often say, ‘We are justified by faith but not by faith alone.’ This is
the point with which we take issue, and this is the principle matter
upon which we differ."
In light of the crucial importance of the word
"alone," regarding justification, which importance Rome and Protestants
are well aware of, it was significant that the basic document of the
movement and organization, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an
organization of which J. I. Packer is a prominent member, confessed
justification by faith, but not justification by faith alone. The word
was deliberately omitted, and thus the Roman doctrine of justification
was embraced, defended, and promoted among gullible Protestants.
Today, also the men of the FV confess justification
by faith. But they do not confess justification by faith alone.
In the days of the apostle, the Judaizing heretics
taught what amounted to justification by faith and grace. The Pharisee
of Jesus’ parable, after all, thanked God for his righteousness. But
they did not believe, nor did they teach, justification by faith
To the word, "alone," therefore, we must pay
attention. I have already said something about it and its force in
connection with other aspects of the truth of justification. But now we
will concentrate on the word, its meaning, and its significance for the
truth of justification.
This awaits the next instalment.
Cordially in Christ,