Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 16 November, 2008


"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Ps. 146:5)



Morning Service - 11:00 AM

Hallowing God’s Name    [download]

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 46-47; Isaiah 40:12-31

I. The Meaning

II. The Manner

III. The Reason

Psalms: 147:1-8; 150:1-6; 8:1-9; 89:1-6


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

The Holy Spirit in Ephesians (1)

The Sealing of the Spirit   [download]

Ephesians 1:13

I. The Nature of the Sealing

II. The Timing of the Sealing

Psalms: 116:9-19; 1:1-6; 16:1-7; 23:1-6


Contact Sean Courtney ( for CDs of the sermons.

CPRC website:

Quote to Consider:

John Calvin on Ephesians 1:13: "Our minds never become so firmly established in the truth of God as to resist all the temptations of Satan, until we have been confirmed in it by the Holy Spirit. The true conviction which believers have of the word of God, of their own salvation, and of religion in general, does not spring from the judgment of the flesh, or from human and philosophical arguments, but from the sealing of the Spirit, who imparts to their consciences such certainty as to remove all doubt. The foundation of faith would be frail and unsteady, if it rested on human wisdom; and therefore, as preaching is the instrument of faith, so the Holy Spirit makes preaching efficacious."

George Smeaton: "... the impress of a seal implies a relation to the owner of the seal, and is a sure token of something belonging to him. From the three passages where the term 'seal' is expressly used, we gather that believers are God's inviolable property, and known to be so by the Spirit dwelling in them. The sealing implies that the image engraven on the seal is impressed on the thing, or on the person sealed. In this case it is the image of God impressed on the heart by the enlightening, regenerating, and sanctifying power of the Holy Sprit. By that seal believers are declared to be the inviolable property of God (II Tim. 2:19); and they are sealed to the day of redemption as something which is known to be inviolably secure as God's property (Eph. 4:30)" (The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pp. 44-45).

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

The November CR News, CDs on "The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church," and a letter from Rev. Tom Miersma (Spokane, WA) are on the back table.

Standard Bearer subscriptions are due. You may pay your subscription directly to the RFPA or pay £17 to Rev. Stewart.

Catechism: Tuesday, 4:30 PM - Jacob Buchanan

Tuesday, 5:30 PM - Jamie & Debbie Murray

Tuesday, 7 PM - Campbells at the manse

Thursday, 11 AM - Beginners OT Class

Midweek Bible Study meets this Wednesday, 7:45 PM at the manse. We will study I Peter 1:10f. on the OT prophets searching their own prophecies.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is "Grace for Today" (Matthew 6:34).

Ladies’ Bible Study meets next Tuesday, 25 November, 10:15 AM at the Murrays.

Offerings: General Fund - £406.35. Donation: £200 (CDs).

Upcoming Lectures: Limerick, Fri., 5 Dec., 7:30 PM, "The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church"

S. Wales, Fri., 12 Dec., 7:15 PM, "The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church"

Limerick, Thurs., 8 Jan., 7:30 PM - Prof. Gritters "Music’s Indispensable Place in (the) Reformation"

Portadown, Fri., 20 Feb., 8 PM - Lecture on John Calvin

Rev. Rodney Miersma of Loveland PRC (Colorado) is to fill the CPRC pulpit on 16, 23, and 30 August, 2009, when Rev. & Mary Stewart are in the U.S.

Website Additions: 1 Portuguese, 1 Slovenian, and 9 Italian translations were added this week.

PRC News: Rev. A. Brummel (Sioux Falls, SD) is preaching for the Berean PRC in Manila today. Rev. D. Kleyn (Holland, MI) is preaching in Tucson, AZ, today and next Sunday.

This is the 26th e-mail by Prof. Engelsma on justification

Dear Forum,

From some of you, I have received questions about various aspects of justification or about my explanation. I will try to answer all the questions, either on the forum or privately. Certain questions, for example, concerning justification at the final judgment, I reserve for later discussion on this forum.

One of you recently raised some (mild) objection to my regarding daily forgiveness of sins as repetition of justification, although he suggested, rightly in my judgment, that the difference between his own view and mine is not fundamental. He rather regards daily forgiveness, besought in the fifth petition of the model prayer, as "assurance of justification." Justification to him is a one-time act of God, never to be repeated.

The Reformed confessions do not, so far as I am aware, teach that justification is a one-time act of God in the consciousness of the elect, believing child of God. They do teach that the "state of justification" cannot be lost by anyone who has been justified: "although they can never fall from the state of justification," etc. (WC 11:4). This grand truth, by the way, is denied by the Roman Catholic Church, the proponents of the federal vision, and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands ("liberated"). All are aware of the denial on the part of the two first named parties. The same denial by the last named is not so well known. The "liberated" Reformed Churches and their daughters, the Free Reformed Churches in Australia and the Canadian Reformed Churches, teach that there is a justification of every baptized child of believing parents without exception at his baptism. This justification can be, and in many instances is, lost, if the child fails to perform the stipulated condition upon which the covenant, the covenant promise, and the blessings of the covenant, including justification, depend. According to these churches, many in the covenant can and do "fall from the state of justification."

The more bold, open, and developed denial of the Reformed creeds’ teaching that justification cannot be lost on the part of the men of the federal vision in most of the reputedly conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches in North America is nothing but the legitimate, inevitable development of the denial on the part of those churches that proclaim a conditional covenant with all the children alike, as, indeed, the men of the federal vision freely acknowledge.

When the Reformed confessions define justification as virtually the forgiveness of sins, they imply that justification, though perfect in every instance, is, and must be, repeated daily. Justification is not progressive and imperfect, as is the work of sanctification, but the perfect verdict can be sounded from the heavenly bench again and again, even as our conscience accuses us again and again.

I recognize that a Presbyterian, holding the Westminster Confession, might argue that Westminster distinguishes between justification and the (repeated) forgiveness of sins: "God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified" (11:5). I might as well argue, however, that, since all the Reformation creeds virtually identify justification with forgiveness, when Westminster states that "God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified" it is teaching that God does continue to justify those that are justified.

Questions and Answers 60 and 61 of the Heidelberg Catechism clearly present justification as repeated. Question 60 to the believer is, "How are you righteous before God?" The answer is that, though the believer’s conscience continually accuses him of transgression and depravity of nature, God "imputes to me" the righteousness of Christ. This is not the same as "assures me that once He imputed to me the righteousness of Christ." "Imputes to me" is justification. This happens, according to the original German of Q. 60, "when," or "whenever" (German: wenn) "I embrace such benefit with a believing heart."

Similarly, Q. and A. 61 has the believer saying that justification occurs when he, the believer, "receives and applies [the righteousness of Christ] to [himself] ... by faith only." Not: when once in the past I received and applied Christ’s righteousness to myself.

In addition, what those who insist on justification’s being a one-time act of God mean by (daily) "assurance of justification" seems to me to be exactly what justification is by definition: the forgiveness of sins in one’s consciousness so that he is certain of it. If (daily) "assurance of justification" is understood in the strictest sense of the phrase, that is, as (daily) assurance that one was justified once-upon-a-time in the past, "assurance of justification" neither does justice to the biblical teaching nor serves the need of the believer. In the fifth petition, Christ does not teach us to ask God the judge to assure us (today) of forgiveness in the past (when we were justified with the one-time justification). Rather, He teaches us to petition God’s forgiveness of our sins and declaring us righteous before Him today. "Forgive us our debts," that is, justify us, today. And this is the need of the believer, who is miserable with the guilt and shame of his damnable depraved nature and his grievous transgressions of "commission and omission" here and now. He stands as one who is ungodly before the tribunal this day. He needs, and implores, the verdict in his consciousness by faith every day anew. A one-time justification in the distant past does not meet the daily need of the sinful and sinning believer.

Speaking personally, though on behalf of most covenant children, who have been regenerated, justified, and sanctified from earliest childhood, if justification is a one-time act, when first one believes on Jesus, and if daily forgiveness is merely "assurance of [past] justification," (present) assurance of (past) justification (regarding present sins and sinfulness) is more important to me that that original, one-time justification. I cannot even remember when first I consciously and actively believed in Jesus and was justified. But I do remember distinct times in later childhood and young manhood, particularly when first I was to come to the Lord’s Supper, that my sins and sinfulness deeply troubled me, and I was forgiven. These acts of God in Christ to forgive and declare me righteous were precious to me. Similarly, today, in my old age, when I am more grieved by my sins and sinfulness than ever before, daily forgiveness and imputed righteousness by the verdict of God in the gospel are dearer to me than they ever were, including my early childhood, when presumably I was justified in the one-time act of God. It seems strange to me that "assurance of justification" should be more precious to me than justification itself, on the view now of those who insist that justification is a one-time act of God.

Even those who hold firmly to the position that justification is a one-time act of God and that subsequent forgiveness and constituting one righteous before God are only "assurance of justification" in the past must acknowledge that there are more than one divine act of justification. There is that one-time act in the consciousness of the elect child of God when first he believes. There is also the public justification of the elect believer at the final judgment. The final judgment will be justification, and for all that it is public it will also be a verdict that resounds in the soul of the believer: "Not guilty!"

Therefore, there can be no fundamental objection to the teaching that justification is a repeated verdict of God the judge.

I do not respond to the (mild) objection thus at length because I think the difference between us is fundamental. Nevertheless, I do think that there is practical importance regarding the peace of the guilty, but believing, sinner, in our receiving and enjoying the daily forgiveness of sins as nothing less than the wonder of gracious justification.

Cordially in Christ,

Prof. Engelsma