Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church


Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 30 March, 2008


"Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:

Sing forth the honour of his name:

make his 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

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 29; I Corinthians 11

I. Sacramental Consecration

II. Sacramental Names

Psalms: 96:1-7; 119:65-72; 103:1-7; 23:1-6


Evening Service - 6:00 PM


Proper Partakers of the Holy Supper

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 30; Matthew 5

I. Proper Partakers and Their Sins

II. Proper Partakers and Their Desires

III. Proper Partakers and the Keys

Psalms: 89:1-6; 119:73-80; 27:3-6; 51:14-19


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


CPRC website:

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 4.17.38).

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" (Romans 8:1).

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.

Dear Forum,

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 [2003], and A. Donald MacLeod, W. Stanford Reid: An Evangelical Calvinist in the Academy [2004]).

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 alone.

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,

Prof. Engelsma