Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 18 October, 2009


"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and

things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom 14:19)


Morning Service - 11:00 AM

God's Purposes With Israel in the New Testament Age (5)

God’s Purpose in Israel’s Stumbling    [download]

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:23-46

Text: Romans 11:11

I. That Purpose Misconceived

II. The Immediate Purpose

III. The Ultimate Purpose

Psalms: 135:1-7; 38:14-22; 67:1-7; 18:43-50


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

"What Shall This Man Do?"    [download]

Scripture Reading: John 21

Text: John 21:20-23

I. Peter’s Question

II. Christ’s Rebuke

III. The Disciples’ Misunderstanding

Psalms: 122:1-9; 39:1-6; 34:11-18; 119:105-112


Contact Sean Courtney ( for CDs of the sermons and DVDs of the worship services.


CPRC website:

CPRC YouTube Site:

Quote to Consider:

John Calvin on Romans 11:11: "The Apostle asserts two things in this place,—that the fall of the Jews had turned out for salvation to the Gentiles; but to this end—that they might be kindled by a sort of jealousy, and be thus led to repentance."

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

We welcome Henry & Barb DeVries from Randolph PRC in Wisconsin to our worship services today and the next couple of Lord’s Days.

New Standard Bearers are available on the back table today for subscribers. If you would like to order a bound Standard Bearer of volume 85 ($30/£19), please contact Rev. Stewart.

The second offering this morning is for the saints in the Philippines.

Church Building: The downstairs walls have been completed, the ceiling in the far half of the building laid and the concrete steps leading to the first floor put in place. New photos are on-line (


Monday, 7 PM - Zoe, Amy & Lea Campbell at the manse

Tuesday, 7 PM - Jacob & Nathan at the Buchanans

Tuesday, 8 PM - Mark & Lauren at the Hamills

Wednesday, 1 PM - Beginners OT Class at the manse

Midweek Bible study meets on Wednesday at 7:45 PM at the manse. We will consider I Peter 3:8f., "be ye all of one mind," etc.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW) is entitled "In Praise of Sovereign Grace: Unconditional Election" (John 6:37).

Other Upcoming Lectures:

Portadown, Friday, 30 October, 7:30 PM - Calvin on Justification

Ballymena, Friday, 6 November, 7:30 PM - Calvin vs. Darwin

Limerick, Friday, 13 November, 7:30 PM - The Last Days

South Wales, Thursday, 26 November, 7:15 PM - Guidance

Offerings: General Fund: £433.

Website additions: 1 Filipino, 1 German and 1 Italian translations were added.

PRC News: Rev. Koole (Grandville, MI) leaves this week for Singapore where he will be labouring in the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church for six Lord’s Days. Classis West meets this week to examine Pastor-elect Cory Griess with a view to his installation in Calvary PRC (Hull, Iowa).

This is part 1 of the 34th e-mail from Prof. Engelsma on justification.

Dear European Forum,

In this instalment on justification, I consider the main and weightiest objection to the Reformation and biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. The outstanding enemies of justification by faith alone, the Roman Catholic Church, the Arminians and the men of the Federal (Covenant) Vision, appeal to Scripture itself against the doctrine. The passage is James 2:14ff., particularly verses 21, 24, and 25: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? ... Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?"

Seemingly, the Bible explicitly denies the fundamental Reformation doctrine that the guilty, shameful sinner is justified by faith alone, that is, altogether apart from and without good works that he performs.

At the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church and the theologians that rose to her defence quoted this passage against Luther incessantly. They so exasperated Luther by their refusal to enter into the interpretation of the passage in light of the teaching about justification elsewhere in the Bible, especially Romans and Galatians, contenting themselves with quoting the James passage, that on one occasion Luther rashly dismissed the book of James as a "right strawy epistle," a judgment that he did not maintain.

Still today, this passage is Rome’s main defence of its doctrine of justification by faith and good works, as well as its chief refutation of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone. Also the Arminians appeal to this passage as supportive of their teaching that one’s righteousness with God includes his own good works as well as the obedience of Christ.

In recent times, the men of the Federal (Covenant) Vision likewise appeal to James 2 in support of a doctrine of justification that maintains, like Rome and Arminianism, that the righteousness of the sinner with God includes not only the death of Christ for him but also the good works he himself does by the grace of the Spirit within him.

Basic to the right explanation of James 2:14ff. are two important principles governing all interpretation of Scripture. One principle is that Scripture interprets Scripture, or, to say it differently, any particular passage of Scripture must be interpreted in light of the rest of Scripture, especially those other passages that bear on the subject in the particular passage in view. The other principle is that Scripture is in harmony with itself as the one, unified, harmonious Word of God. Scripture does not contradict itself, teaching a truth in one place and teaching its opposite in another place. These two principles are implications of the more basic truth that all Scripture is breathed forth of God so that it is divine, not human, and therefore not to be criticized (II Tim. 3:16; John 10:35).

Today, even in reputedly conservative churches (where the Federal [Covenant] Vision flourishes), these principles are no longer believed by the theologians. Under the guise of "perspectivalism" and "paradox," theologians affirm contradictions in the Bible, for example, that James’ teaching on justification simply contradicts Paul’s doctrine in Romans 3 and 4, nor should we attempt to harmonize them. They are different "perspectives" on one and the same truth. The Presbyterian minister should preach Paul on one Sunday and James the next without any effort to show their agreement. (Of course, the result is that James’ "perspective" gains the upper hand, and soon Paul’s "perspective" is never heard in the church.")

In the past, Rome was not so unbelieving about the Bible as our contemporary theologians in the reputedly conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Rome attempted to harmonize James and Paul. Rome harmonized the two by declaring that both meant the same thing with justification: the sinner’s legal standing with God as forgiven and right with God. But James and Paul had two different kinds of works in view. When Paul in Romans 3 and 4 and in Galatians (and, in fact, throughout all his epistles) denied that one is justified by works, he was referring only to ceremonial works, typically "Jewish" works, for example, circumcision. James, however, has genuinely good works in view, that is, works that a renewed, believing child of God performs by the grace of the Spirit of Christ in him.

The teaching of the Bible, therefore, on justification (as God’s legal acquittal of the sinner and granting of a right standing with God that deserves eternal life) is, according to Rome, that the sinner is justified partly by the death of Christ for him and partly by his own (truly) good works, which he does by the Holy Spirit. The righteousness of the justified sinner with God is partly the obedience of Christ on his behalf and partly the sinner’s own good works, which he performs with the help of grace. But, according to Rome, no one is justified by ceremonial, Old Testament, "Jewish" works.

Several things about the Roman doctrine of justification are noteworthy. First, Rome does harmonize James and Paul. Second, the harmonizing hinges on the assumption that both James and Paul speak of justification in the same sense, but have two different kinds of works in mind. Third, on the Roman Catholic interpretation of James 2, justification is by faith and by good works. One’s own good works (done to be sure with the help of grace) are in part one’s righteousness with God. Forgiveness of sins, a right standing with God and eternal life depend, not only on Christ’s obedience in the stead of and on behalf of the guilty sinner, imputed to him by means of God-given faith, but also upon what the sinner himself does and must do. In the language of Romans 9:16, salvation is "of him that works."

Arminianism, which is the bastard offspring of Rome, agrees with the Roman doctrine of justification and interprets James 2 as does Rome.      to be continued ...