Where We Can Go to See Signs and Wonders

Michael Horton

What does the Spirit do today?

All good gifts come to us from the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit. In every work of the Trinity, the Spirit is the one who brings the work to completion. He is especially associated with working within creation as the life-giving and fruit-producing agent of the Godhead. The Father speaks to us today through his word. Christ, the Incarnate Word, is also the content of the Father’s saving speech. The Holy Spirit, who inspired Scripture, is at work within us to understand and embrace the gospel and to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Not only at work within us, the Holy Spirit actually indwells us as the down payment on our final salvation.

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What is Arminianisms?

J. I. Packer

Within the Churches of the Reformation, the terms Calvinism and Arminianism are traditionally used as a pair, expressing an antithesis, like black and white, or Whig and Tory, or Roman and Protestant. The words are defined in terms of the antithesis, and the point is pressed that no Christian can avoid being on one side or the other.

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Five New Points of Old Heresy

Dr. Burk Parsons

Everyone has a creed. Even those Christians who claim that their “only creed is Christ” have a creed, because the very moment they begin to explain what they believe about Christ, they are in fact reciting their creed about Christ. In truth, it’s impossible not to have a creed. So, the question is this: Is our creed carefully formulated and written down, biblically and doctrinally orthodox, and attested to by faithful forefathers of the church? Or is it based on our own authority and clever invention, always changing according to the last internet post we read or according to our own doctrinal whims?

If indeed we are Christians, we will care what we believe and, therefore, what we confess in our creed, for what we believe is the very basis of whether we are biblically orthodox or whether we’re heretics. The historic Reformed creeds and confessions summarize and systematically articulate what the Word of God teaches us, to the end that we might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If we care about what we believe, we will care about the historic creeds and confessions of the church, and we will care about what happened in the Netherlands four hundred years ago and how the Reformed church responded. In truth, it’s impossible not to have a creed. Share

In truth, it’s impossible not to have a creed.

After the death of professor Jacobus Arminius in 1609, his students took some of his thoughts and many of their own and protested the long-established doctrines of the Reformed church. These protesters, or Remonstrants, drafted five points of doctrinal disagreement with the Reformed church. Their five points were nothing new. They were some of the same old Pelagian heresies dressed in seventeenth-century garb. In response to their unorthodox doctrinal formulations, a synod was held in Dordrecht in 1618–19 to combat their false teaching. The synod produced the Canons of Dort, which are consistent with the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). These documents are known as the Three Forms of Unity, and the Reformed church has heartily affirmed them through the centuries to the end that the church might continue to know and worship the one, true God who made us in His image, and not the god we made in ours.

Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.

Baptism Now Saves Us

The Reformed Baptism Form: The Author (2)
NEW BLOG POST | December 14, 2018

The origin of the Reformed baptism form can be traced both to England and to the European continent. During the years after the coronation of Bloody Mary in 1553, the pages of church history record the heartrending stories of ruthless persecution and martyrdom of faithful Protestants in England. Many Reformed saints who had first fled from the Lowlands now had to flee for their lives from England to parts of continental Europe.

Thus begins the second part of our story that traces the origin of our Reformed baptism form. In the year 1555, Petrus Datheen became a minister in Frankfurt, Germany at a church that John à Lasco initiated for refugees from the London Refugee Church.  Under the gracious hand of God’s providence God again led Datheen to follow John à Lasco for the good of his church. We remember that Datheen would use à Lasco’s liturgy to form and craft the beautiful lines of our Reformed baptism form. In Frankfurt the Lord blessed Datheen and his wife with a daughter named Christiana.  But this time of peace did not last very long. In 1561 Datheen had to flee again as a Reformed exile, this time because the Lutherans in Frankfurt would not allow a Reformed congregation in their midst.[1]

So Datheen and his family traveled with a group of Reformed exiles to Frankenthal, Germany, located in the Palatinate.[2] They found rest in this city because elector Frederick III was an earthly ruler who supported the work of the Reformation. Frederick would later take part in the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism.[3]

At this time Datheen drank deeply from the well of Reformed writing—John Calvin, as well as Caspar Olevenius and Zacharius Ursinus.[4] Datheen became especially acquainted with the latter two writers because it was in Frankenthal that he translated the beloved Heidelberg Catechism into Dutch.  Thus he was able to further immerse himself in the truths of the Reformation, but especially from the viewpoint of the comfort of the believing child of God. When one reads or hears the baptism form of which Datheen wrote so much, one cannot help but notice the comfort that it brings to the parents and to the church. Let us hear the prayer: “We thank and praise Thee that Thou hast forgiven us and our children all of our sins through the blood of Thy beloved Son Jesus Christ.” And how comforting is the following statement in the second section about the significance of being baptized in the name of God the Father: “When we are baptized in the name of the Father, God the Father witnesseth and sealeth unto us that He doth make an eternal covenant of grace with us. . .”

Although Datheen is neither the sole, nor the original author of the form, we are thankful for the role he did play in its creation, and that he desired for this piece of liturgy to comfort God’s people with the teachings of the Reformation. Our baptism form is firmly grounded in Reformation truth and written for the comfort of godly parents and the whole church. May this form continue to be preserved as the official form of Reformed Churches as was first declared at the Synod of Dordt.

To the conclusion of Datheen’s story as author of the Reformed baptism form we will turn next time.


[1] Hanko, Portraits of Faithful Saints, 232–233.

[2] Datheen produced sterling work during his ministry in the Palatinate. Recommended reading can be found in the very worthwhile book Portraits of Faithful Saints by Herman Hanko, 233–236.

[3] For additional reading, refer Portraits of Faithful Saints, 186.

[4]What wonderful years those must have been in the Palatinate! How God used Frederick, a godly prince, that “rare bird,” for the good of Reformers like Datheen and for God’s people, for whom Datheen wrote!



Press to Contniue

The Cannons which Blew Apart the Five Points of Arminianism

Click Image for more information on the 1618-19 Synod

Annual Reformation Lecture: The Synod of Dort.-

Held at Kellswater Reformed Presbyterian Church Hall on Thursday Nov. 1,  2018

The Speaker was Mr. Mark Fitzpatrick minister of Arann Reformed Baptist Church Dublin




Living out Lord’s Day 1: a Cuban story

By Gerda Vandenhaak

Posted on November 15, 2018

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11


We make plans, many plans and yet God has other plans for us. For 14 years, Luis had laid on his bed. He had broken his back in a motorcycle accident and now spent his days just lying on this bed in an eight-by-eight-foot room, built out of concrete blocks, in the back of his parents’ property.

Some years ago my husband Andy and I had made a trip to Cuba, and we became aware of the great need for Bibles and study books for the pastors there. So we began to make regular visits, providing those things, along with other much needed articles. We’d been told about Luis – we knew he had a Bible to read, but we were told he needed glasses. We had glasses for him, but could not find Luis. We had been told his house was within one kilometer of the hotel that we would be staying in.

We asked every one if they knew Luis, the man with the broken back. It took us three trips to Cuba before we met someone who remembered him and took us to his “forgotten prison.” He was overjoyed with his glasses and asked for his Bible to loudly read to us. His dirty mattress had no sheets. He wore rags. Just him, his Bible, his cot and one chair in this room. But his joy shone out of his eyes. Andy and I just cried, for him, and for his joy.

Two years later, someone gave us a copy of the Heidelberg Catechism….in Spanish! We decided to give it to Luis. We also took him four more books we had found at Value Village. How happy he was with those books. Then he opened the Catechism at Lord’s Day 1 and started to read.

What is your only comfort in life and death?

That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Luis started to cry. Tears were flowing down his face and he was praising God at the same time. “This is what I believe!” he kept saying.

We cried too. We had sometimes thought and said that all those old writings and confessions were so out of date and no longer applicable to our lives. And now this! We prayed together being so very aware of the hand of God.

Two years later we again stood at his bedside. Again we had more books and sheets for his bed, plus clothing for him. He could hardly contain his joy when he saw us, not because of us, but because of what he had to tell us: “I have studied this book and all that is explained to me in this Heidelberger. I also explained to the only friend who has visited me all those years!” And he went on to tell us that this friend now had completed the study and was attending church, for this friend had become a believer.

He told us that he now understood the plans God had had for him. That he had been privileged to help bring a friend to faith. It was not to harm him, but to strengthen him and others in their faith.

A year later, shortly after we visited him and knew his time on earth was coming to an end, he succumbed to bedsores. Thankfully, we had a chance to say goodbye to this faithful child of God. For now, he rejoices before God’s holy throne.   Reformed Perspective


Kellswater RP Church welcomes their new Minister

Ballymena Times
Published: 13:40 Updated: 17:39 Friday 25 September 2009

KELLSWATER Reformed Presbyterian Church is a congregation with a long and proud history having been established way back in 1760.

They are now looking forward to an equally exciting future under their new Pastor, Rev. John Coates.

The 42-year-old was born on the Shore Road area of Belfast but considers Glengormley to be his hometown and is a past pupil of the secondary school there.

Looking back, John is deeply thankful for the influence of his Christian grandmother who faithfully read the scriptures to him when he was a child and taught him about his need to be saved.

Young John also attended Sunday school at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church. However, when he reached his teenage years, John wrongly decided that worldly things were more interesting. He particularly remembers God Word speaking into his conscience as a 15-year-old but put this to the back of his mind, foolishly promising, ‘ I’ll get saved some day.’

But it would be another 15 years before John would surrender his life to Christ His Saviour.

Taking up the story, Rev. Coates said: “By this stage I was married and had settled down a wee bit. A friend of ours invited me and my wife to go to a Pentecostal Church on the Shore Road. We went along and the Pastor preached the Gospel and we found ourselves repenting of our sins and in tears seeking the Lord”.

John continued: “I knew from that moment, having wasted 30 years of selfishly living for myself that I wanted to spend the rest of my life sharing the good news that Jesus saves.”

For the next eight years, John, Janet and their young daughter, Aimee found a spiritual home at Ballycriagy Congregational Church where the preaching ministry of Ballymena man, Rev. Tom Shaw, made a big impression on them. A spell in the Faith Mission in Co Laois ended when the Coates’ returned to Glengormley to become members of a congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in north Belfast. And there under the ministry of the Rev Robert Beckett John entered theological training as student for the E.P.C ministry at the Reformed Presbyterian College at Knockbracken.

However during his third year of study, John became convinced of some distinctive principles of the Reformed Presbyterian church and made the difficult decision of completing his studies as a Reformed Presbyterian or ‘covenanter’ as they are sometimes referred to.

After graduating from college in May 2008, John spent time with various RP congregations in Ballyclare, Carrickfergus and Lisburn before receiving the ‘call’ to Kellswater.

Talking about what he would like to see happen there, the incoming Minister said: “I want to see the people of the Church growing in their knowledge of God and in all holiness. I want to see us pressing on towards the mark together.”

Remarkably, with Kells village having doubled in size over the last 15 years, John is also looking forward to reaching out with his congregation with the gospel message.

He looks forward to having fellowship with the other ministers in the area and who knows, perhaps seeing God moving mightily again as in 1859.

In his spare time, he likes to go out for walks with Janet and enjoys reading and keeping an eye on the fortunes of Manchester United and Crusaders FC. But he stresses that it’s only a glance for there is much work to be done and the labourers are few.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Go up Leaning on Jesus

Dear Friend,-I send you another line to tell you of Him who is altogether lovely. I have a very dear boy in my parish who is dying just now. He said to me the other day, “I have just been feeding for some days upon the words you gave me: “His legs are like pillars of marble set upon sockets of find gold’ (Song v. 15); for (said he) am sure He is able to carry me and all my sins.” You may say the same, if your eyes have been opened to see the beauty, faithfulness, freeness, and compassion of the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the hand of God can open your eyes to see your lost condition as it truly is. Flesh and blood cannot reveal Him to you, but my Father. Oh, call upon Him to do this for you! A spiritual discovery of yourself and of Jesus is better than a million of worlds to you, and to me also. Remember, you cannot be fair in yourself before God. Song i. 6 must be all your prayer: “Look not upon me.” Take yourself at your best moments, you are a vile worm in Jehovah’s sight, and so am I. Remember you may be “perfect in Christ Jesus.” Allow yourself to be found in Christ. Oh, what will come of you if you are found in yourself? Where will you appear? You will shrink back, and call on rocks and mountains to fall upon you and cover you. But if you are hiding in Jesus-if your eye and heart are fixed upon His wounds made by our sins-if you are willing to be righteous in His righteousness, to lie down under the stream of His blood, and to be clothed upon with the snowy fleece of the Lamb of God-then God will love you with His whole soul exceedingly. The pure, full love of God streams through the blood and obedience of Jesus to every soul that is lying under them, however vile and wretched in themselves. Have you tried-have you tasted the holy love of a holy God? Thy love is better than wine. It is better than all creature love or creature enjoyments. Oh, do not live-oh, do not die, out of this sweet, sweet, sin-pardoning, soul-comforting love of God! Remember, Jesus is quite willing to gather you under His wings (Matt. xxiii. 37). Put that beyond all doubt. Remember, also, the present is your only time to be saved (Eccles. ix. 10). There is no believing, no repenting, no conversion in the grave.-No minister will speak to you there. This is the time of conversion. We must either gain you now, or lose you for ever. Oh, that you would use this little time! Every moment of it is worth a world. Your soul is very dear to me-dearer far to Jesus. Look to Him and you will be saved.-Ever yours, etc.    December 8, 1841

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Entering Paradise: The Origin of Luther’s Doctrine

Entering Paradise: The Origin of Luther’s Doctrine

It is impossible to talk about Luther’s doctrine of justification without also talking about Luther’s experience of justification. It is never the doctrine which comes first but the experience and enjoyment of the blessings of God. This was especially and remarkably true in the case of Luther. His doctrine of justification was the fruit of his coming by grace and by faith to know his own justification before God.

He tells the story of his own spiritual pilgrimage:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through its gates.1

This means, too, that the Reformation did not really begin with the posting of his 95 Theses, but with the reformation of Luther’s own life; with a great and gracious work of God in Luther’s own soul. It did not begin with a protest against abuses in the church, but with a God-given and biblical answer to Luther’s own desperate question, “What must I do to be saved?” So it is always.

  1. Helmut Lehmann, ed., Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House: 1959-1967), vol. 34, pp. 336, 337, “Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings.” Many of the quotations from Luther’s works were gleaned from Robin A. Leaver, Luther on Justification (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House: 1975).

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (2)

Not Fishing in Front of the Net: The Importance of Luther’s Doctrine

As a result of his own experience Luther believed that the doctrine of justification was fundamental. It was for him “the sum of all Christian doctrine,” the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. He considered the teaching of this doctrine of far greater importance than reform of practice and ritual in the church, and insisted that the reform in other areas would follow if the doctrine were brought home to the hearts of God’s people:

We … beg and exhort you most earnestly not to deal first with changes in ritual, which are dangerous, but to deal with them later. You should deal first with the center of our teaching and fix in the people’s minds what they must know about our justification; that it is an extrinsic (external) righteousness—indeed it is Christ’s—given to us through faith which comes by grace to those who are first terrified by the law and who, struck by the consciousness of their sins, ardently seek for redemption…. Adequate reform of ungodly rites will come of itself, however, as soon as the fundamentals of our teaching, having been successfully communicated, have taken root in devout hearts. These devout people will at once recognize what a great abomination and blasphemy that papistic idol is, namely, the mass and other abuses of the sacrament, so that it will not be necessary to fish in front of the net, that is, first to tear down the ritual before the righteousness of faith is understood.2

Reformation often fails because those who seek it do not remember that reformation of doctrine is first and fundamental, especially of such doctrines as these. They cry against abuses but show little or no interest in the doctrines of the church, and are even willing to see those doctrines compromised and cast aside, as the doctrine of justification has been by many evan-gelicals.3 Luther was right. Reformation of doctrine will bring reformation of life, but attacking various abuses will not bring reformation at all, but will be as vain as the kind of fishing Luther describes.

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (3)

The Sweet Exchange: Luther’s Understanding of Justification

At the heart of Luther’s understanding of justification lies the “sweet exchange.” He explains it thus:

Therefore … learn Christ and Him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not, and have given to me what I was not.”4

That exchange of our sins for Christ’s righteousness, Luther understood to be by imputation. Our sins are charged to Christ and His righteousness charged to our account. Thus He was made sin for us and we were made righteousness in Him (I Cor. 5:21), the blessed result being that Christ is treated as Sinner in our place, and we treated as Righteous for His sake. Luther rejected the Romish teaching that righteousness is infused or planted in us and that on account of the resultant change of life we are justified. That, of course, is just another kind of work righteousness.

According to Luther, righteousness is given as gift, then to those who are in fact still sinners, and the one who receives that gift of righteousness is not yet cured of his sin. He is, when justified, at the same time both sinner and righteous (simul iustus et peccator):

We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at one and the same time.5

Luther, therefore, often referred to this righteousness by which we are justified as an “alien” righteousness, a righteousness which comes from beyond this world, and which is unattainable by any human effort or merit. It is not only the righteousness of Christ, but of God in Christ. God gives us His own righteousness and Christ is the bringer of it, exchanging it for our sins, a sweet exchange indeed.

Luther’s Doctrine of Justification (4)

The Wedding Ring of Faith: Passive Justification

The exchange of our sins for Christ’s perfect righteousness, according to Luther, takes place through faith:

By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are his bride’s. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned; he suffered, died, and descended into hell that he might overcome them all. Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by him in a mighty duel; for his righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, his life stronger than the death, his salvation more invincible than hell. Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom. So he takes to himself a glorious bride, “without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” cf. Eph. 5:26-27

of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, righteousness, and salvation. In this way he marries her in faith, steadfast love, and in mercies, righteousness, and justice, as Hos. 2:19-20 says.6

According to Luther, that faith by which we are justified is entirely a work of God, and in no sense a work of man. By way of emphasizing this he often described justifying faith as passive:

For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground. Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness, that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works.7

By the use of the word “passive,” however, Luther did not mean that justifying faith is without any activity at all. He did not deny that faith is believing and trusting, resting and relying upon Christ. Nevertheless, he believed that faith was first and foremost union with Christ, the marriage of Christ and the believer by which they become one flesh, the union through which the sins of the believer are actually transferred to Christ and the righteousness of Christ given to the believer.8

His emphasis continues to serve as a necessary antidote to the current teaching that makes faith another work. He was much nearer the truth than those who deny gracious justification by speaking of faith as a decision of man’s own will or by suggesting that faith is man’s response to a well-meant “offer” of salvation in the gospel. Of this Luther would have nothing:

For faith is a divine work which God demands of us; but at the same time He Himself must implant it in us, for we cannot believe by ourselves.9

  1. Luther’s Works, vol. 31, pp. 351, 352, “The Freedom of a Christian.”
  2. Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 9, “The Argument of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.”
  3. By the use of the word “passive” Luther also meant that the faith which unites us to Christ unites us to His suffering (the words “passive” and “passion” are related). Thus, too, justifying faith is far from inactive in that it shares, through union with Christ, in Christ’s suffering. That suffering, according to Luther, included not only sharing in Christ’s reproach and persecution, but in the agony of dying to sin and being killed by the law.
  4. Luther’s Works, vol. 23, p. 23, “Sermon on John 6:28, 29.”

R. Hanko