Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 18 November, 2007


"For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the

whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them

whose heart is perfect toward him" (II Chron. 16:9)



Morning Service - 11:00 AM Prof. Hanko

The Address of the Preaching

I Thessalonians 1:1

I. To Whom

II. The Reason

III. The Blessedness

Psalms: 84:1-2, 8-12; 106:17-23; 149:1-6; 89:31-37

Evening Service - 6:00 PM Prof. Hanko

The Battle for Naboth’s Vineyard

I Kings 21:1-16

I. An Important Battle

II. An Enduring Significance

III. A Costly Struggle

IV. A Final Victory

Psalms: 132:1-9; 106:24-33; 69:4-9; 16:6-11


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

CPRC website:


Quotes to Consider:

Luther: "Flesh and blood are an impediment. They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother ... They refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think: ‘If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody.’ ... But you now have the Word of God in church ... and this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to you."

William Perkins (1558-1602): "Thus every [preacher’s] task is to speak partly as the voice of God (in preaching), and partly as the voice of the people (in praying): ‘If you take out the precious from the vile, You shall be as My mouth’ (Jer. 15:19)" (The Art of Prophesying, p. 7).

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

We welcome Prof. & Mrs. Hanko and Bob Wendrich to our services. Prof. Hanko will be preaching for us today and the next 2 Lord’s Days.

There are 2 issues of the Standard Bearer on the back table today. The Beacon Lights are also available for subscribers.

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

Membership Class: Tuesday, 8:30 PM, at the Hallidays.

Midweek Bible Study on Wednesday at 7:45 PM at the manse. Prof. Hanko will lead a study on the special offices in the church.

Offerings: General Fund - £409. Donations: £50 (C. R. News).

Women’s Bible Study meets next week Tuesday, 27 Nov., 10:30 AM at the Murrays.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "A Beautiful Example of Fearless Submission" (I Peter 3:5-6).

The next lecture in Limerick is planned for Thursday, 17 January. Rev. Daniel Kleyn will speak on "The Antithesis: Living Antithetically In A Technological Age."

Website Additions: 1 French ("Defense of Calvinism as the Gospel"), 1 Filipino ("God So Loved ..."), and 9 Portuguese translations were added to the website.

PRC News: Rev. R. Kleyn (Trinity, Hudsonville) is considering the call from Calvary PRC in Hull, IA. A special meeting of Classis West is scheduled for 5 December for the purpose of examining Nathan Langerak, pastor-elect of South Holland PRC.

This is the 16th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma’s forum on justification.

Dear Forum,

It is gratifying that people in various parts of the world are asking to be included in this forum. Last week again several names were added including one in Croatia and two in North America. This shows interest in Reformed doctrine, specifically the doctrine of justification.

I am explaining what the Bible, and the Reformed faith which is based on the Bible, mean by the truth that God’s justification of the elect sinner takes place "by faith." In the last instalment, I considered the erroneous explanation that makes the sinner’s act of faith his righteousness with God. This is an especially subtle, dangerous error, because those who teach it are loud in their rejection of works as the basis and means of justification. By their emphatic rejection of works for justification and their insistence on faith, even faith alone, for justification, they deceive many. Rejecting works for justification and insisting on faith, they seem to many Protestants to be teaching a doctrine of justification that differs sharply from that of the Roman Catholic Church.

But this doctrine, that faith itself as an act of the sinner is his righteousness with God, differs as radically from the orthodox Protestant and Reformed truth about justification as does the doctrine of Rome. For the orthodox Protestant doctrine of justification by faith is not that faith itself as an act of the sinner constitutes his righteousness with God, whether in whole or in part. It is not the Protestant doctrine that God, in grace, has decided to regard the sinner’s act of believing as righteousness. It is not the Protestant doctrine that faith is the basis, or ground, of righteousness with God, any more than any other act of the sinner is the content or ground of his righteousness with God.

Nothing in the sinner, whether working, or repenting, or believing, is the content or ground of his righteousness with God.

All that this subtle error does is to substitute the sinner’s act of believing for his act of obeying the law as his righteousness with God. It is still something that the sinner does that is his righteousness with God.

Nevertheless, this form of the heresy of "self-righteousness" is popular with those who profess to be fundamentalists and evangelicals. Ask them this question: "Which of these statements is true: ‘We are justified because of our works’ or ‘we are justified because of our faith’?"

In fact, neither of these statements is true. Both are equally heretical.

The teaching that God regards the act of faith itself as the sinner’s righteousness is erroneous in the following respects. First, it makes God a liar. God decides to regard something as righteousness which is not righteousness. Righteousness with God for a sinner is the suffering of the full punishment of his sins required by the divine justice and perfect obedience to the law of God. The sinner’s act of believing is not this. It is not this whatever. The sinner’s act of believing is his knowing Jesus Christ as the saviour and his trusting in this Christ for salvation. Second, this teaching miserably diminishes and disparages the justice of God with regard to sinners. Now the divine justice is satisfied with a cheap decision for Christ (which is all that faith is in the thinking of those who teach that the act of faith itself is viewed by God as the sinner’s righteousness with God). Third, this teaching denies the cross of Christ, indeed the whole life and ministry of the Son of God in human flesh. Now it is not the obedience of Christ that constitutes righteousness for guilty sinners. Now it is not the obedience of Christ that is the ground, or basis, of righteousness with God. Rather, at least in part, it is something the sinner himself does, an act of the sinner himself, that constitutes righteousness with God and the basis of his justification.

The truth is that those who regard their own act of believing as their righteousness with God, and the basis of justification, sin against grace as much as those who regard their works of obedience to the law as their righteousness with God. Those who stroll into the divine court of judgment holding up their act of believing as the ground of their justification will be condemned as surely as those who hold up this or that work they have done.

As I have demonstrated in earlier instalments, the Bible never teaches that we are justified on account of, or because of, faith. Rather, it teaches that we are justified by, or through, faith. Faith is the means of justification. By means of our faith in Christ, we receive justification as a free gift. Faith is the means by which we receive (by imputation) that which is righteousness with God, that alone which God can regard as righteousness: the lifelong obedience and the atoning sufferings and death of Jesus Christ.

Our works are not the righteousness of justification. Our believing is not the righteousness of justification. Our repenting is not the righteousness of justification. Jesus Christ in His obedience in our stead and on our behalf is the righteousness of justification.

What then is the meaning of Genesis 15:6 and of the apostle in Romans 4:1ff., who quotes Genesis 15:6 and applies it to believers in the present age, when they teach that faith is counted for righteousness? Those who teach that the sinner’s act of faith is regarded by God as his righteousness appeal to these passages. They explain Genesis 15:6 as teaching that God graciously dispenses with the demand of justice that the sinner obey the law perfectly for righteousness and graciously decides that He will be satisfied with the sinner’s act of believing on His Son.

A glaring mistake of these false teachers is that they ignore other, related, clear passages of Scripture on justification that teach that righteousness with God in the matter of justification consists of the perfect obedience of the incarnate Christ (Rom. 3:24-26; 5:12ff.) and that the relation of faith to God’s act of justifying is that faith is the means, or instrument, in that God reckons the obedience of Christ to the guilty sinner by means of faith (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16).

Especially do these false teachers ignore the plain teaching of Scripture in Galatians 2:16 (which I carefully explained, particularly with regard to the Greek preposition ek, "out of," in earlier instalment) and other places in the NT that faith is the source of justification (justification out of faith) inasmuch as faith has Christ as its object, rests in this Christ, and finds (by imputation), as it seeks, its righteousness in Christ its object.

In light of these biblical teachings, as well as in light of the truth that the essence of faith is union with Christ, Genesis 15:6 is readily understood to teach that God counted Abram’s faith as righteousness with regard to faith’s object, namely, Jesus Christ. The object of faith, namely, the obedience of Christ, that is, Christ Himself as righteousness, who was future for Abram, but known and relied on by the father of believers—the object of faith—Christ— was counted as righteousness to Abram.

Here it is helpful to consider the preceding context. Genesis 15:1-5 is God’s promise to Abram of the impossible thing that he will have "seed:" "he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir ... so shall thy seed be." This was centrally the promise of Christ. Abram believed the promise of the Christ. Believing the divine promise of the Christ, he believed in Christ. Believing in Christ, he was justified by God’s imputing the righteousness of that Christ to him. This is the apostle’s further explanation of Genesis 15:6 in the last part of Romans 4.

One more truth about faith must be mentioned here, even though I reserve full treatment of it until later. That is that faith itself is the gift of God to the elect sinner. Those who make the act of faith itself a sinner’s righteousness with God necessarily view faith as an act that lies in the sinner’s own power, as his own contribution to salvation, as the fruit of his free, or freed, will. Of course! If the act of faith is our righteousness with God, it is something we ourselves produce and offer to God. But the Bible teaches that our faith, both regarding the ability to believe and regarding its exercise, is the gift of God.

That we are justified by faith, then, means that the obedience of Christ in our stead is our perfect and complete righteousness with God. God gives us this righteousness by imputation by means of our faith, which knows and relies on Jesus Christ as the object of faith.

This brings us to the consideration of the Reformation’s grand teaching that the sinner is justified by faith only.

But before we take up this aspect of our subject, I must respond to a correspondent who has argued that the faith by which the sinner is justified is not his faith at all, but rather the faith of Jesus Christ—to me, a very strange doctrine.

Cordially in Christ,

Prof. Engelsma