Psalm 133

I’ve often wondered why Christian love and unity was compared with Aaron’s anointing or the dew of Hermon. Here are my insights plus that of the great commentator John Gill.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” Psalm 133.

Christian love from our anointing is a public demonstration (John 13:34,35) and personal reassurance of one’s calling (I John 2:27). In Christ we are all anointed as prophets, priests and kings so as to minister to each other. Christian fellowship, like the oil, is precious and refreshing like the dew to invigorate.

“David means the superior aperture of the garment, that which we call the neck or collar band; This anointing oil was typical of the grace of the Spirit, the unction from the Holy One; which has been poured on Christ, the head of the church, without measure; and with which he has been anointed above his fellows; and from him it is communicated to all his members (I John 2:27); to every one of which is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ; and who from his fullness receive, and grace for grace: and particularly brotherly love is compared to this ointment; because of the preciousness of it, which is true of every grace; and because of the extensiveness of it, reaching to head and members, to Christ and all his saints, the meanest and lowest of them; and because of its fragrancy and sweet odour to all that are sensible of it; and because of its delightful, cheering, and refreshing nature; like ointment and perfume it rejoices the heart; yea, the worst things said, or reproofs given, in brotherly love, are like oil, pleasant and useful, ( Proverbs 27:9 ) ( Psalms 141:5) ; and is as necessary for the saints, who are all priests unto God, to offer up their spiritual sacrifices; particularly that of prayer, which should be “without wrath”, as well as without doubting; and to do all other duties of religion, which should spring from charity or love; as the anointing oil was to Aaron and his sons, in order to their officiating in the priest’s office.” John Gill

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What is the Regulative Principle?

“The fact that men seek to worship God according to their own tastes, reveals the lust and excessive pride which has always been part of human nature. Such worship flies in the face of Holy Scripture.” – John Calvin, Sermon on Galatians 3:15-18

The Regulative Principle of worship states that only what God commands is done in worship, no more, no less.

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s day 35

Q. 96. What doth God require in the second commandment?
A. That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship Him in any other way
than He has commanded in His Word.

Reading of Scripture, preaching of the truth, singing of psalms, congregational prayer, offering, doxology (baptism/Lord’s Supper)

Full article

How does your church measure up?

Here We Stand.

Book Review “Here We Stand”, Commemoration of 500th anniversary of the Reformation, edited by Ron Cammenga, RFPA 2018, 197 pages, softback.

 

Just another book on the Reformation or so I thought! My initial wrong attitude was swiftly replaced by appreciation as I got into the book. What I particularly liked about it was that it majors on the main effects of this great work of God’s Spirit half a millennium ago. In fact the chapters outline the vitally important changes that occurred in this period of the history of the church. First there was the struggle for assurance and justification by faith, then the return to Scripture alone as the sole authority, then there was the priesthood of all believers, the recovery of right worship and the regulative principle, the refutation and exposure of the errors of the radicals and finally the vital importance of the Reformed confessions in the establishment of Reformed churches all over Europe but especially in the Netherlands.

There were other very important truths developed e.g. scripture interprets scripture, the Spirit and word are never separated, the doctrine of the covenant, the importance of membership in a true church. If I have one criticism it is that at least one of the  contributors mentions little of the politics of the time and the armed struggle that was undertaken  by many in the churches that had a significant bearing on the Reformation and the establishment of the Netherlands as a nation but then again perhaps that would have been majoring on a minor! The Reformation was primarily a spiritual battle and victory not a political one! I highly recommend this book as a succinct account of this marvellous period in church history.

Dr Julian Kennedy, Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena.

Baptism of infants of believers.

Powerful New Testament teaching that elect infants of believers are regenerate!

Therefore are to receive the NT sign of church membership!

  • Children of believers are models to adults of salvation in their humility and passivity (Christ)
  • Children of believers are said by Jesus to believe in him (Matthew 18:6)
  • Children of believers are protected by angels hence saved (Hebrews 1:3)
  • Christ came to save children (Matt.18:11)
  • Irresistible will of God to save them (Matt.18:14)
  • Jesus believed in the regeneration of elect children (quotes Psalm 8:2)
  • John leaped for joy in the womb.
  • Mary believed in the multi-generational covenant with Abraham (Luke 1:50,55)
  • Children of believers, even infants are in the kingdom of God hence born again (Luke 18:15)
  • Children of believers are Christ’s lambs with spiritual life needing fed (John 20:15).

From Belgic Confession class by Rev. Angus Stewart at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena.

Listen here: http://www.cprc.co.uk/belgic34t.mp3

Why men must lead in church and home.

Excellent message by Rev. J. Mathani of Cornerstone PR church on Genesis 2/3 and I Tim.2:11-15.

Biblical masculinity mandates that man is the primary leader/worker and the woman/wife the help.

The first fall, the fall of marriages and the fall of churches took/takes place when men fail to lead!

God’s command/instruction was first to Adam so he would then explain to her the truths and lead her in applying God’s word to every aspect of life. Man being made first mandates male leadership and the woman to follow. She was made for him. She was deceived while Adam looked on, and failed to intervene(Gen.3:6). Men are to lead in dating, marriage and sex in marriage.He should have led her away from sinning. Adam was condemned because he listened to Eve instead of God. 

The manner of leading is first to submit to God’s word then be able to share it and Biblical principles derived from it. He ought to have said it is not good to eat it. Lovingly lead like Christ.

Rev. Jonathan Mathani

Sermon 11th March 2018

Jerusalem, the true dwelling place of God.

 

It is clear from Deuteronomy 12:5 and 14 that God earmarked a city which would be the place he chose to be hallowed and worshiped by his people in the Old Testament. That place was Jerusalem, a picture of the New Testament church and ultimately the Jerusalem above, in heaven (Gal.4:26, Heb.12:22) which is the mother of us all. Jerusalem today is every true church where Christ dwells which has these characteristics: the true gospel of sovereign grace and whole council of God is preached, the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism are rightly administered and biblical church discipline is exercised (Belgic Confession 28). AND of course God dwells in the human temple of every true born-again believer by the Spirit of his resurrected Son and we are guaranteed a similar resurrection in him. May God give you a blessed Easter and may you rejoice in all you do (Deut.12:7).

God’s beautiful church

Comprehensive, challenging, glorious account of what God’s church should be…

Covenant Reformed News

March 2018  •  Volume XVI, Issue 23

Reformed Ecclesiology: Costly but Worth It!

A major reason for the widespread disinterest in ecclesiology and the low views that many hold regarding Christ’s church is that ecclesiology is often, from a very practical perspective, the most costly truth for evangelical Protestants.

Consider the various elements in the biblical, Reformed and confessional doctrine of the church: God’s election, gathering and preservation of the church; Christ’s sole headship over His church; the four attributes of the church (spiritual unity, true holiness, scriptural catholicity and biblical apostolicity); the three marks of a true church (faithful preaching, sacramental administration and discipline); the three offices of the church (pastor, elder and deacon), excluding lay preaching (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 158) and women office-bearers (I Tim. 2:11-15); covenantal or household baptism (Acts 16:15, 31-33); the catechetical instruction of the children of believers; close communion supervised by the elders; the regulative principle of worship (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 96); etc.

In our day of the drift and departure of many churches, even a brief statement of these ecclesiological topics is enough to scare many. “But my church falls a long way short of this!” many are compelled to confess. “There is no way I can honestly call my congregation a ‘pillar and ground of the truth’ (I Tim. 3:15).” Thus the believer feels the heavy burden of the difficult calling to engage in church reformation. This involves earnest praying to the Lord of the church, humbly protesting erroneous congregational or denominational doctrines and/or practices, and, if necessary, suffering at the hands of a church that does not want to be admonished regarding its departures from God’s truth. “There is no point even trying to reform my church,” many immediately lament. “There is no way that they will listen! My congregation does not even have proper biblical and Reformed procedures for protesting!”

Others, who are not even in a church or who realize that they need to leave their false or departing churches, know that they ought to join a faithful congregation. This also brings up a number of hardships, hardships which many, sadly, are not willing to bear for the sake of Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 14:25-35). “This would mean the loss of friendships!” laments one. “But then I’d have a much longer drive to church,” complains another. “Then I’d have to move house!” exclaims a third. “I would need to leave my country!” yells another, throwing his hands into the air in despair. “What would all this mean for my spouse, my children, my job, my relatives, etc.?”

“Sure, I would drive further for my dream job or move house for a better paying position. Admittedly, I would not see some friends and family so much, yet it would be worth it. But suffer these losses in order to become a member of a true church—never, that is way too much!” In short, many think that their earthly bread, worldly treasures and physical family count for more than spiritual bread, treasures in heaven and the family of God. The Lord Jesus teaches us true priorities: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

The cost of obeying Reformed ecclesiology is even borne out if one compares the relative unpopularity of the subject of Christ’s church (ecclesiology) with those, say, of salvation (soteriology) or the end times (eschatology). The latter attract greater attendance at lectures and more sales of books or box sets of CDs or DVDs than the former. Who wants to hear, watch or read about a difficult, if not “impossible,” calling regarding the church, especially when it may involve so many aspects of our lives? Ecclesiology is often, so to speak, where the rubber hits the road, where mere talk ends.

To help us all grasp the biblical perspective—that is, God’s perspective!—on all this, let us consider Psalm 87, a Zion psalm which is ultimately about the “Jerusalem which is above” (Gal. 4:26), which is manifested in faithful congregations.

In Psalm 87:1, we read, “His foundation is in the holy mountains.” The physical foundation that God laid for Zion bespeaks its firmness, its elevation and its fortification. The spiritual foundation of the church is her crucified and risen Saviour: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). The unconditional election of the church and her true spiritual members in Christ is also spoken of in this way: “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his” (II Tim. 2:19).

Psalm 87:2 asserts, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (cf. 78:67-68). Clearly, God loves the devout assemblies of His people more than the flat of one believer or the home of a Christian family. We should too, even to the point of moving house, if need be, so that we and our families enter “the gates of Zion” twice every Lord’s day with a good conscience, confident of the abiding presence of the living God with His worshipping and faithful church.

Thus we read in the Heidelberg Catechism, “What doth God require in the fourth commandment? First, that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained; and that I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, to hear His word, to use the sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord, and contribute to the relief of the poor, as becomes a Christian. Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by His Holy Spirit in me; and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath” (Q. & A. 103).

Psalm 137:5-6 is very forceful: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” That is, what is the point in using all one’s skill with a musical instrument or being able to sing like a prima donna, without love for, and membership in, a true church? Each child of God must be able to say that this is “above my chief joy.”

“Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (87:3). It will not do for us, as Jehovah’s people, merely to utter nice things or pleasant sentiments about the church. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God”—by Jehovah, by Scripture, by other believers and by me too! I must not only express this in words but also in very deed, by doing all I can to join a faithful congregation and serve in her as a living member.

Psalm 87:4-6 speaks three times of the new birth or the grace of regeneration: “I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there.”

Notice here that the new birth is spoken of in connection with the church: “this man was born there … And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her … this man was born there.” Elsewhere we learn that the elect are regenerated according to the sovereign will of the Triune God (John 1:13; 3:8; James 1:18) and in connection with the preaching of His Word (I Pet. 1:23-25).

Psalm 87:4-6 also indicates that it speaks of the New Testament church. Verse 4 refers to “Rahab” (or Egypt), “Babylon,” “Philistia,” “Tyre” and “Ethiopia”—Gentiles!

Out of the gift of spiritual life, through the new birth of each and every member of God’s catholic or universal church, comes congregational worship: “As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there” (7). What a beautiful scene: the church praising Jehovah out of renewed hearts!

The believer, addressing God’s beloved church, proclaims, “all my springs are in thee” (7). This is the Christian confession concerning the God who regenerates us in connection with His church. The God who gives us new life through the new birth also strengthens us with the bread of life (Jesus Christ) and the water of life (the Holy Spirit), through the two official means of grace (the preaching of the Word and the two holy sacraments) which He has placed in His church.

Admittedly, it is costly (to our sins and earthly-mindedness) to join, remain in and serve in a true church. Yes, it is costly but it is well worth it! It is cheap (being easy on the flesh and requiring no holy sacrifices) to remain outside the church or in a false or departing congregation. But is very costly for your witness (you have nowhere, or nowhere good, to bring anyone who is willing to hear the gospel) and for your own spiritual life, your spouse and your children (Ruth 1:20-21)! Remember that haunting Word of God: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6).   Rev. Stewart

“Ye Will Not Come to Me”

“Is not Jesus in John 5:40 (“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life”) expressing disappointment or frustration that some refused to ‘come’ to Him? Does not this text express a desire or wish of Christ that these individuals receive Him and so ‘have life’ and be saved (although ultimately these individuals perished)? Does not this verse imply that redemption and salvation were available to those who perished in their sins, if only they had come to Christ and received Him (i.e., a universal, hypothetical redemption available for all, upon condition of repentance and faith)?”

In the last sentence, the questioner describes a position known as Amyrauldianism. Shortly after the great Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), this error arose in France. It was taught in a somewhat different form in England and this view was represented at the Westminster Assembly by several delegates. It was advocated also in Scotland and is said to have been adopted by the Marrow Men. The view of the Marrow Men was condemned by the General Assembly of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was also rejected by the Westminster Assembly, although not by name. The Westminster Confession says that Christ died for “the elect only” (3:6; cf. 8:8).

The questioner asks whether John 5:40 does not express disappointment or frustration on Jesus’ part that they did not come to Him. Such a view, that of the well-meant offer, which holds that God earnestly desires to save the reprobate, immediately raises the question: Can the incarnate Son of God who is “very God of very God” be frustrated? He created the worlds and upholds them, giving life and being to every creature. He frustrated? He does whatever pleases Him (Ps. 115:3; 135:6)!

The answer to the reader’s question is, even on the surface, a resounding NO. Here Jesus states a simple fact concerning these hard-hearted Jews: “ye will not [i.e., do not wish or want to] come to me.” In the context, Christ explains that they cannot trust in Him because they seek honour from men not God (John 5:44), do not have “the love of God in” them (42) and do not even really believe the five books of Moses (46-47).

In brief, as our confessions teach, especially the Canons of Dordt, the preaching of the gospel comes with two things: 1) the promise that whoever believes in Christ will be saved; 2) the command that comes promiscuously to all men to repent of their sins and trust in the Saviour (II:5). For more, you could read my book, Corrupting the Word of God, which deals with the history of the well-meant offer, as well as theological and exegetical issues (available from the CPRC Bookstore for £16.50, inc. P&P).

You can ask, of course, “Doth not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in His law that which he cannot perform?” The answer is, “Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own wilful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 9). God does not excuse man from serving Him because of his own foolishness in disobeying God when He had warned him, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Prof. Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851
pastor@cprc.co.uk • www.youtube.com/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)

In the book which pre-eminently has as it’s theme the church, Paul describes the mysterious body of Christ made up of Jew and Gentile and alludes to the unsearchable, infinite resources that Christ possesses and which all believers have in him.

He is infinitely rich because he is divine and IS eternal life and blessedness. His riches are his glory and his fullness. We ought to extol him.

Full sermon by Rev. Martyn McGeown

Holy Spirit (B.C. and at Pentecost)

John 7:39

“Which they that believe on him should receive; the apostles, and others, that had believed in Christ, and had received the Spirit, as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification; as a spirit of illumination and conversion; as a spirit of faith and adoption; but on the day of Pentecost they were to receive a larger, even an extraordinary measure of his gifts and grace, to qualify them for greater work and service
for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; he was in being as a divine person, equal with the Father and Son, so he was from everlasting; and he had been bestowed in his grace upon the Old Testament saints, and rested in his gifts upon the prophets of that dispensation;
because that Jesus was not yet glorified; he had not as yet gone through his state of humiliation; he had not yet suffered, and died, and rose again, and ascended, and sat down at the right hand of God; for the Holy Spirit was to come upon his departure, and in consequence of his sufferings and death, and being made sin, and a curse for his people; and through his mediation and intercession, and upon his exaltation at the Father’s right hand; when being made, and declared Lord and Christ, this should be notified by the effusion of his Spirit;” (John Gill) see Acts 2:33.