Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 19 October, 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

Marriage, the Mystery of Christ and the Church   [download]

Ephesians 5:31-32

I. Its Application to Sexual Sins

II. Its Application to Marital Roles

III. Its Application to Divorce and Remarriage

Psalms: 113:1-9; 145:15-21; 50:16-21; 45:10-15


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

Dead Faith (4)

Abraham Justified By Works (II)    [download]

James 2:21-24

I. The Key Words

II. The Great Work

III. The Three Conclusions

Psalms: 36:5-11; 146:1-10; 37:3-9; 119:1-8


CPRC website:

Quotes to Consider:

John Calvin on James 2:21: "The Sophists lay hold on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious, that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to every one; but that his object was only to shew that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification. When, therefore the Sophists set up James against Paul, they go astray through the ambiguous meaning of a term. When Paul says that we are justified by faith, he means no other thing than that by faith we are counted righteous before God. But James has quite another thing in view, even to shew that he who professes that he has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works."

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

Please leave the back two rows of chairs which are on the carpet for those with small children.

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 at the manse

Midweek Bible Study meets this Wednesday, 7:45 PM at the manse. We will study I Peter 1:7-9 on rejoicing with joy unspeakable.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is "The Return of the Gospel of Grace."

Ladies’ Bible Study meets next Tuesday, 28 October, at 10:15 AM at the Murrays.

Offerings: General Fund - £760.60. Donations: £213.45 (Limerick), $1,000 (website).

Upcoming Lectures: "The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church" 

Portadown Town Hall, Thursday, 30 Oct., 8 PM 

Ballymena Protestant Hall, Friday, 31 Oct., 8 PM 

Limerick School Project, Friday, 5 Dec., 7:30 PM 

Porthcawl, South Wales, Friday, 12 Dec., 7:15 PM

Website Additions: 25 Italian, 6 Afrikaans, 3 Croatian, 1 Portuguese, and 1 Tagalog (Filipino) translations were added to the website this week.

PRC News: Rev. R. Kleyn (Trinity, MI) declined the call to the Philippines. Rev. VanOverloop (Byron Center, MI) accepted the call to Grace PRC. Calvary PRC (Hull, IA) will call from their new trio of Revs. R. Kleyn, W. Langerak (Southeast, MI) and Smit (Lacombe, Canada). Trinity PRC’s website has a collection of fine resources on the diaconate.

This is part 1 of the 25th e-mail by Prof. Engelsma on justification

Dear Forum,

In the previous instalment, I explained that aspect of the doctrine of justification consisting of the basis of justification, namely, the substitutionary lifelong obedience and the substitutionary suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Shorthand for this is simply reference to the cross of Christ, but the cross as substitutionary satisfaction of the justice of the righteous God by the Son of God in human flesh in the place of and on behalf of the elect church.

I deliberately express this as I do: "that aspect of the doctrine of justification."

An integral part of the gospel-truth of justification is the cross of Christ as the necessary basis of God’s verdict in the consciousness of the elect believer by means of the God-worked faith of the believer, "not guilty!"

Such is the relation of justification and the cross that to corrupt the truth of the one is necessarily to corrupt the truth of the other, to deny the one is necessarily to deny the truth of the other.

Because Arminianism corrupts and thus denies the truth of the cross, it also corrupts and denies the truth of justification. Arminianism denies the cross by teaching that, in His love for and desire to save all men without exception, God sent Christ to the cross to die for all men without exception. Since all men are not saved, the clear and necessary implication of the Arminian doctrine of the cross, according to Arminianism’s own admission, is that Christ’s death was not substitutionary satisfaction. What it was on the Arminian view varies from heretic to heretic. The great Arminian exponent of the meaning of Christ’s death at the time of the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), Hugo Grotius, explained Christ’s death as God’s terrifying illustration and example to us all what God could do to us if He wanted to. This then moves us to repent and believe, so that we are saved. Most of the Arminians at the time of Dordt held this "governmental theory" of the death of Christ.

Regardless what theory defenders of universal atonement hold, they all deny, and must deny, that Christ’s death was satisfaction of the justice of God in the stead of those for whom He died. (If this is what Christ’s death was, all those for whom He died will be, and must be, saved, but Arminianism denies this.)

Denying the cross of Christ, Arminianism necessarily also denies justification. Unfortunately, this is not as well known as it ought to be. The reason in part is that the holy Synod of Dordt concentrated on the five errors concerning grace that the Arminians had opposed in their written objection to the gospel of grace, and these five errors did not include justification. Nevertheless, the heresy of the Arminians at the time of Dordt included a novel teaching about justification. The erroneous teaching was that in His act of justifying God accepts the faith of the sinner as the ground and basis of forgiveness. The sinner’s act of believing is his righteousness with God. Some work has to earn or merit righteousness with God. According to Arminianism, it is not Christ’s suffering. Therefore, it is the work of the sinner: his believing.

Although the Canons of Dordt do not devote a separate chapter to the Arminian error regarding justification, they do refer to the false doctrine of the Arminians concerning justification. Significantly, this reference, and condemnation of the error, occur in the chapter treating of Christ’s death. "Error 4" of the second head of chapter of the Canons exposes the Arminian error concerning justification. Occurring as it does in the chapter on the death of Christ, this exposure of the Arminian error concerning justification indicates that the Arminian error concerning justification is part of the Arminian heresy concerning the atonement of Christ.

"Error 4: [The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those ...] who teach that the new covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by faith, inasmuch as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact that God, having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace."

Dordt rejected this doctrine with appeal of one of the great passages on justification, which we have already considered in the course of this study of justification, Romans 3:24-25. The Canons continue: "For these contradict the Scriptures: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood (Rom. 3:24-25). And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church."

A heretical doctrine of the death of Christ necessarily involves a heretical doctrine of justification. This heretical doctrine of justification necessarily makes some act or work of the sinner himself his own righteousness with God.

Our age is one in which the heresy of universal atonement has triumphed among so-called evangelicals, charismatics, and fundamentalists. All also proclaim a heretical doctrine of justification, departing radically from the gospel of the Reformation and Holy Scripture.

The relation between justification and its basis in the cross of Christ also implies that error regarding justification entails error regarding the cross of Christ. If justification is conditioned on the faith and obedience of the sinner, so that his acts are partly his righteousness with God, also the cross of Christ was an atoning death for more people than are actually saved by it—a death for all, conditioned on their faith and obedience. And if Christ’s death was for all, although all are not saved, Christ’s death was not substitutionary satisfaction.

The denial of the cross by means of a false doctrine of justification is an error that is now being introduced into evangelical and even conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches today. In a way, it is a new heresy, although it is rooted in an old error.

I refer, first of all, to the "New Perspective on Paul." The leading and most influential proponent of the error is the English, Anglican theologian N. T. Wright. He is exerting tremendous influence upon conservative theologians in North America. Several years ago, I attended a conference sponsored by the Christian Reformed seminary in Grand Rapids at which Wright spoke for a day and a half on the book of Romans. Several hundred ministers and professors of theology from every supposedly conservative church and seminary in North America were present. No doubt, others besides myself were opposed to Wright’s teaching (among other errors, he said explicitly that his doctrine of justification meant, and was intended to mean, union and communion with the Roman Catholic Church—something he has also written in his books). But the vast majority agreed with him. The crowd gave him a standing ovation at the end (I sat, and scowled).

Wright denies that justification in Paul (Galatians and Romans) is God’s forgiveness of sins by faith alone (the Reformation got it wrong). In keeping with his denial of justification by faith alone, Wright attacks the doctrine that God punished Christ on the cross as "a crude theory," and openly teaches that Christ died for all men without exception. I document this from Wright’s book, What Saint Paul Really Said, in my book, The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers: Sovereign Grace in the Covenant (RFPA, 2005), and do not repeat all this here.     to be continued ...