Sunteți pe pagina 1din 13
Toxic Teaching (Luke 11:45-54) Page 6 Warning: Babylon is looking good Page 11 Walking worthy
Toxic Teaching (Luke 11:45-54) Page 6 Warning: Babylon is looking good Page 11 Walking worthy

Toxic Teaching (Luke 11:45-54) Page 6

Warning: Babylon is looking good Page 11

Walking worthy (Ephesians 4:1-6) Page 14

THE “NEWNESS” OF THE NEW COVENANT: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Page 8) SPRING 2017 £1.50
THE “NEWNESS” OF THE NEW COVENANT:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
(Page 8)
SPRING
2017
£1.50

Philippians 1 v 9-11

The Evangelical Presbyterian is published quarterly by the Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Website For more information on the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, including details of our various congregations, please visit our denominational website at www.epcni.org.uk

Policy The views expressed are those of the editor and contributors and are understood to reflect generally the theological position of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, unless otherwise stated. Unsigned articles are by the editor.

Articles The editor is willing to accept articles for publication on the understanding that the submission of an article does not guarantee its publication. Contributors should recognise that all articles are also liable to editing and alteration without consultation. No material can be published unless the full name and postal address of the contributor is supplied. The preferred method of submission is electronically as a Word document.

Theme verses

Philippians 1:9-11

as a Word document. Theme verses Philippians 1:9-11 Sub Editors: Marcus Hobson Jeff Ballantine Heather Watson

Sub Editors:

Marcus Hobson

Jeff Ballantine

Heather Watson

Editor Andy Hambleton 37a Largy Road, Crumlin BT29 4RN

Phone: 07828 726130 Email: andyhambleton99@gmail.com

4RN Phone: 07828 726130 Email: andyhambleton99@gmail.com Book Reviews Colin Campbell Manager The Evangelical Book

Book Reviews Colin Campbell Manager The Evangelical Book Shop BELFAST BT1 6DD

Phone 028 9032 0529 Email: info@evangelicalbookshop.co.uk Website: www.evangelicalbookshop.co.uk

Subscriptions 2017 Collected: £6-00 By post inside the UK: £10-00 By post outside the UK: £22-00

Enquiries to the Evangelical Book Shop

Finance Anyone wishing to help the church’s work may send their gift to the Finance Committee C/O:

Rev J S Roger 16 Huntingdale BALLYCLARE BT39 9XB

The church can benefit from the Gift Aid scheme from taxpayers’ donations. Please ask for details.

Printed by Saxoprint. Design and layout by Derek Johnston

CONTENTS

03

First word

04

5 minutes with Warren Peel

06

Toxic Teachi ng Luke 11:45-54

08

The “newness” of the new covenant Jeremiah 31:31-34

11

Warning: Babylon is looking good Isaiah 47

14

Walking worthy Ephesians 4:1-6

16

Obituaries

18

From the churches

21

Praise & Prayer

22

Book reviews

24

Best of the blogs

FIRST WORD

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people

had gathered together that they were trampling one another,

he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven

of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up

that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard

in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms

shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12v1-3)

I wonder if you saw the recent news story about a Buddhist

man in Thailand, who married his pet snake because he

believed that it was his reincarnated girlfriend? The story

appeared in a number of national newspapers and other media

outlets in the UK, and understandably caused a great deal of

bemusement. You couldn’t make it up!

Except, of course, somebody had. The story turned out to be

completely false (the man featured in the pictures was in fact a

Muslim from Malaysia who trains firefighters to catch snakes).

This is just one example of what has been termed ‘fake news’;

news which is made up and disseminated, usually through

social media, in order to gain attention and profit. In the last

few months, fake news has been big news!

In the opening verses of Luke 12, Jesus speaks about a certain

kind of ‘fake news’: hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of which the

Pharisees were guilty broadcasted to those around them a

fictitious report of personal piety, in order to grab the attention

of onlookers and win their approval. And, like the fake news

stories of our day, hypocrisy spreads fast. Like yeast working

its influence over the whole lump of dough, hypocrisy exerts

its effects upon the whole heart.

of dough, hypocrisy exerts its effects upon the whole heart. It is for this reason that
of dough, hypocrisy exerts its effects upon the whole heart. It is for this reason that

It is for this reason that Jesus tells his disciples, “Beware!”

Jesus knows that his followers are not immune to the

corrupting effects of hypocrisy. It lurks in every heart, and

threatens to distort our Christian walk, witness and worship

into acts of showmanship, false-hearted empty gestures

engineered to glean admiration from those around us. As Jesus

says elsewhere, if this is the reward we seek, this is the reward

we will get, and that is all we will get (Matt 6v1-6).

Having called his followers to beware of hypocrisy, Jesus then

reminds them that a day is coming when all hypocrisy will be

overcome with the truth. “Nothing is covered up that will not

be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12v2).

The true state of people’s hearts will be uncovered. The veneer

of false piety which surrounds the Pharisaical heart will be

stripped away. God will judge the secrets of men by Christ

Jesus (Romans 2v16).

In the light of that day, may God give us hearts that are set

free from the ‘fake news’ of hypocrisy so that, by his grace, we

can worship him as we ought: in spirit and in truth.

4

Reformed Theological College

5 minutes with…

Warren Peel

Warren, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.

It’s my privilege – thank you!

First of all, let me ask you about life at the Reformed Theological College. What are you involved with teaching there? And our readers will be keen to hear about how John Roger is getting on with his studies there too…

I’ve been teaching New Testament language and literature for about 6 years now. I’m very thankful to the Lord for how he led me to study Greek, Latin and Ancient History while at school and university – an ideal preparation for the study of the New Testament. I’m pleased to report that John Roger is a model student. You may be aware that one dictionary definition of ‘model’ is ‘a small, artificial imitation of the real thing’, but of course that’s not the meaning I have in mind! John is a pleasure to teach – enthusiastic, hard-working, appreciative and spiritually- minded.

I am going to assume that the dictionary definition you have in mind for ‘model’ is ‘a person whose profession is posing for artists or photographers.’ This puts John in a whole new light… You also have done some lecturing on the book of Daniel for the Cornhill Training Course in Belfast. I wonder if you could share with us some thoughts regarding what the book of Daniel has to teach us about living as a Christian in the world today?

Daniel is written by a civil servant in the government of Babylon who had learned to ‘sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land’ (Psalm 137.4) – to live faithfully for God in a culture that was utterly godless. Again and again the book shows us how Daniel and his friends avoided the two extremes Christians

Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church

are always tempted towards when confronted by a hostile, godless world: compromise or withdrawal. They did neither of these things, but instead trusted the Lord because they believed he was sovereign even in Babylon. Every chapter illustrates this point, in vivid and memorable ways, whether it’s the stories of chapters 1-6 or the visions of chapters 7-12. We still live in Babylon today, and we’re tempted more and more to either compromise with the world or withdraw from it, and so we need to learn from Daniel how to avoid those twin temptations.

On a not unrelated point, you are Daniel and Amy McArthur’s pastor. Our readers will of course have been following the Ashers Bakery case closely over the past few months. I wonder if, as their pastor, you could tell us how to continue praying for and supporting them?

Daniel and Amy are a great example of Christians who live out these lessons of the book of Daniel: they trust that the Lord is in control no matter how it seems here on earth, and so honour him above all other considerations. They have been so encouraged and helped by the countless messages of support and assurances of prayer from Christians all around the world, and will be so thankful that their brothers and sisters in the EPC are praying for them. Pray for God’s ongoing grace for them to be able to focus on their first responsibilities in their family, in their church and in their work, without being distracted by the pressures of the ongoing appeal process and media attention. Pray that they will continue to speak and act, like Daniel in Babylon, with grace and respect and courtesy and so persuade those who oppose them by their winsomeness and integrity. And above all pray that God will use their stand to bring many to know him and to help turn back the tide of intolerance of righteousness that is growing in our province.

I recently noticed that you write for a blog called Gentle Reformation. For those who have not come across the website before, please can you tell us a little about it, and why we should all be following it?!

It’s a collaborative effort by pastors from mostly the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America to contribute something online that is orthodox in its theology, irenic in its tone, topical in its content, pastoral in its intent and wide- ranging in its scope. There’s a rota for each month, so that every day a different man posts something new. There is no assigned topic for the day – each man writes whatever the Spirit leads him to say, so you never know what you’re going to find when you visit! Cryogenics, mercy ministry, salvation in a dementia ward, the common sin of middle-aged believers, films, singleness, Katy Perry, the sin of gluttony, what to do if you struggle with your pastor’s preaching – everything under the sun is there! But it’s all written by pastors who want to build up the people of God. Some Reformed sites are orthodox but harsh, or a bit abstract and philosophical. GenRef is run by Barry York, a Pastor who now teaches Pastoral Theology at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh – he is a great example of a Pastor with a deep love of Jesus Christ and his Church, a keen mind, a perceptive understanding of culture and people and he is a great communicator. He is the model the rest of us aspire to follow in our articles! Since I only contribute once a month, I feel able to mention (especially as a testimony to Barry’s work) that GenRef was listed by Tim Challies as one of his top ten blogs for 2016. Do check it out!

(Editor’s Note: See ‘Best of the Blogs’ on page 24 for a couple of examples of blogs from GenRef which might be of interest to you…)

In the EPC we cherish our links with the Reformed Presbyterian Church; how can we be praying for you personally, your congregation at Trinity RP, and the denomination as a whole?

We feel the same way about our EP brothers and sisters. Personally, the longer I’m in the ministry the more I realise the truth of what Robert Murray M’Cheyne said: ‘My people’s greatest need is my own personal holiness.’ Or as someone else put it, ‘The life of the ministry is the life of the minister.’ Pray that God would make me worthy of his calling, as a Christian, a husband, a father, a pastor, and that he would ‘fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.’ (2 Thess 1.11). Our congregation has continued to grow steadily over the years under God’s blessing, and we have the wonderful problem now of being too big for our building – please pray for wisdom to know how best to deal with this growth, and for strength for our elders to be able to pastor faithfully the people the Lord has entrusted to us. And pray that our denomination will more faithfully seek to make disciples and strengthen disciples in these challenging days, trusting in the Lord and not in ourselves.

The final question has been sent in by one of our readers, a Mr J. Roger, of Ballyclare: “What is likely to come up on the Greek New Testament exam?”

That’s a great question. There is likely to be some translation of sentences from Greek into English; vocabulary will definitely be tested, as will grammar and syntax. I don’t want to give too much away, but the students would do well to concentrate on chapters 1-20 of the textbook in particular. I hope that helps Mr Roger of Ballyclare!

Many thanks again for your time, Warren.

of Ballyclare! Many thanks again for your time, Warren. Warren Peel read Classics at Oxford University

Warren Peel read Classics at Oxford University before studying theology at the Reformed Theological College in Belfast and at Queen’s University Belfast. Since 2012 he has been minister of Trinity RPC in Newtownabbey. After teaching Greek at the Reformed Theological College in Belfast for several years, he was appointed Professor of New Testament Language and Literature in 2014. He is married to Ruth and they have four daughters.

5

Toxic Teaching

Luke 11 v 45-54

I f you were to open the cupboard underneath your kitchen sink, I imagine that you would find there various kinds of cleaning fluids

for all sorts of household chores. Each would have written on the side of the bottle a series of warnings, telling you what will happen to you if you get this substance on your skin, or in your eyes, or if you swallow it. It will cause you all sorts of problems and irritations; it will make you sick, and it might even kill you. Often there will be little pictures, illustrating to you what these harmful effects will be. The words of Jesus in Luke 11v45-54 are a bit like those warnings. In the midst of a meal time with some Pharisees and lawyers, during which he has already criticised the nature of their teaching, Jesus is making clear what the harmful effects of false teaching are upon those who come into contact with it. And, like those bottles under the sink, with each warning, he introduces it with a little picture. The first warning is this: false teaching is hard to bear.

1) Hard to bear

is this: false teaching is hard to bear. 1) Hard to bear The picture that Jesus

The picture that Jesus uses here is of a man carrying a very heavy load. We are to imagine this poor chap, with this burden upon his shoulders. Sweat is pouring from his brow, his face is purple, and he is trembling under the enormous weight of whatever it is that he is carrying. Standing next to him is another man, watching this take place, and not offering any help whatsoever. Jesus says that the lawyers are like people who make other people carry heavy burdens, and do not offer any help at all: “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (v46) The burden that such false teaching imposes upon people comprises all the extra commandments that the Pharisees had come up with in addition to the requirements of God’s law (see v39-42), commandments such as the ceremonial washing of hands before every meal, and the tithing even of the herbs that your garden produced. They insisted that these things must be done if a person wants to be in the right with God. The result was that their hearers, the people who came into contact with their teaching, were left with this burden that is terribly hard to bear. People who come into contact with this kind of teaching, today as well as back then, spend their lives staggering around under an enormous burden of rules and regulations, thinking that they need to perform all of these tasks in order for God to accept them. “Only if I live a good, religious, well-behaved life will God be on my side!” It’s an impossible burden to carry. It is a million miles away from what Jesus is all about. Consider these words of Jesus, from Matthew chapter 11, and notice how radically different they are to what we read here in verse 46. Jesus says:

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is

heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my

easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11v28-30) Rather than loading his people with burdens, Jesus gives rest to his people. He gives us rest because he has carried our burdens for us. By his life of perfect obedience, he has fulfilled all of the requirements that God’s law calls us to fulfil. Jesus has kept the law meticulously, and he has done so on behalf of his people. He has carried that burden for us. What is more, Jesus has also carried the burden of our sin for us. For all the ways in which we have broken God’s law, Jesus has carried that burden of sin and guilt upon his own shoulders, and has paid for it all, once and for all, at the cross. Because he has done that for us, he can say to us, “Come to me, if you’re heavy laden, and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I wonder, do you feel like a burdened person, for whatever reason? You feel like that man whom Jesus is describing, carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders, and struggling to make their way forward. Perhaps it is because you’re under the impression that the way to earn God’s acceptance is by performing onerous religious duties. If so, hear the words of Jesus to you today. He says to you, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This brings us to the second harmful effect of false teaching:

2) Hostile to the truth

harmful effect of false teaching: 2) Hostile to the truth Once again, Jesus introduces this point

Once again, Jesus introduces this point with a picture. It is the picture of an ornate tomb. These lawyers would build expensive, impressive tombs for the prophets of the past. Of course, by doing so they were seeking to show off that they were sympathetic to the cause of the prophets. It was meant to convey solidarity with the great prophets of old. These were their heroes, and they were the ones following in the footsteps of the prophets. However, Jesus puts a very different spin on it. He says that this is indeed an act of solidarity, but not with the prophets themselves, but rather with the people who murdered the prophets. Jesus says,

“you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “by building these tombs for the prophets, you are, as it were, finishing the job. Your fathers killed the prophets, and you bury them.” In his commentary on Luke’s gospel, J.C. Ryle writes: “They professed to honour the memory of the prophets, while they lived in the very same ways which the prophets had condemned. They openly neglected their advice and teaching, and yet they pretended to respect their graves!” The point that Jesus is making is that those who twist and distort the Word of God, as these lawyers did, are in fact hostile to the truth. Their hostility is of the same essence as those who killed and persecuted the prophets of the Old Testament. Now, of course, these lawyers had not literally killed any of God’s prophets (at least not yet anyway). But, nonetheless, Jesus says that because of the way in which they were twisting the word of God and adding to the word of God, and encumbering their hearers with impossibly heavy burdens, it shows that underneath it all they were deeply hostile to the word of God, the truth. Yes, they were very religious. Yes, they quoted Scripture left, right and centre, I’m sure. But in their hearts they hated the word of God, just like those in the Old Testament who murdered the preachers of the word of God. Their hostility to the truth becomes manifest at the end of the passage, where their opposition to Jesus begins to intensify, leading eventually to the cross, where they would have the Word of God incarnate put to death. Needless to say, doing so would not go unpunished by God. Look at what Jesus says:

“Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation…” (v49ff) We might ask, why would the blood of all of those prophets be charged against this particular generation, the generation amidst which Jesus lived? As one commentator points out, Jesus is the focal point of all of God’s promises. All of the prophets pointed to him, and therefore, by rejecting Jesus, this generation was by implication rejecting all of the previous prophets as well. That judgment came in the year AD70, when the city of Jerusalem was besieged and conquered by the Romans, and the Temple was destroyed. But even that temporal outpouring of judgment is a mere foreshadowing of the final judgment. It reminds us what a serious thing it is to be hostile to the truth of God’s word, to have that word of God presented to you, and the message of Jesus offered to you, like this generation did, and then to turn your back upon it. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart! This brings us to the third harmful effect of false teaching: it hinders the gospel.

3) Hinders the gospel

false teaching: it hinders the gospel. 3) Hinders the gospel Once again, a picture is used

Once again, a picture is used by Jesus to illustrate his point. The picture is of a locked door. Jesus says, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those

who were entering.” First of all we should ask, what does the door itself represent? It represents entrance into God’s Kingdom. It means coming to him, and being forgiven and accepted. It means entering into a relationship with God. It means becoming one of his people. And if that is what the door represents, then what does the key represent? The key represents knowledge of the gospel. Jesus calls it the “key of knowledge”. The person who has the key of knowledge has grasped, at least intellectually, what the gospel is. They know how a person enters God’s kingdom. They understand how a person becomes one of God’s people and begins living in relationship with God. Jesus says, these lawyers had in their grasp the key of knowledge. Of course they did. They were experts in the Scriptures. They knew their bibles inside out and would study them every day. And yet, what did they do with that key of knowledge? Jesus says, they have taken it away. Dissatisfied with what the bible has to say about entering God’s Kingdom, they came up with their own spin on things. They made up all of these onerous religious rules for people to follow in order to try and work their way into God’s good books. They threw away the true key, and they tried to fashion an alternative one, made out of man-made religious observance. By acting in this way, Jesus says that they have actually done two things:

Firstly, they have failed to enter the Kingdom of God themselves. They have locked themselves out! They had the key, but they cast it aside. By so doing, they have shut themselves out of the kingdom of God. But not only that, what is worse still is that they are hindering others from entering also. Because of their role as teachers of the law, those who listen to them get influenced by their teaching. Other people, who went to these lawyers for help and instruction in coming to know God, instead find themselves locked out of the Kingdom of God also.

These are the harmful effects of false teaching. This is what it does to those who come into contact with it and drink it in. It is hard to bear, it is hostile to the truth, and it hinders the gospel. Thank God that, though these lawyers cast aside the key of knowledge, it has not been lost. It has been handed down to us in the Scriptures, and from its pages the Lord Jesus speaks to us. He says to us, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” That’s the key of knowledge, isn’t it? The way into the Kingdom of God is through faith in his Son Jesus. Nothing else. No other burden for you to carry. And if you know that, then you have within your reach the key of knowledge. What are you going to do with it?

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

THE “NEWNESS” OF THE NEW COVENANT:

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“Behold the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘know the LORD’, for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

T he above words inform us how God, through the prophet Jeremiah, announced the new covenant, an administration which

the author of the book of Hebrews applies to Christ (Hebrews 8:8-11). But precisely how is the new covenant new? This question is not as straightforward as it may seem, because the blessings of the new covenant were all enjoyed beforehand! Let me prove my point. Verse 33 promises the blessing of regeneration: “I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts”. Sometimes I’ve heard people say that the Spirit of God only rested upon folk in the Old Testament times, but in this dispensation He indwells them. That’s not true. Was Abraham not a man of faith (Hebrews 11:8)? How then could he have exercised faith if he didn’t possess the Spirit of faith? Could he have been “the friend of God” (James 2:23) without possessing a new nature? Of course not. By nature he was “dead in trespasses and sins”, just like the rest of us, and had he remained in that condition, he would have been God’s enemy, not God’s friend, so he must have been regenerate. And what about Moses’ words to the children of Israel:

“And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6)? Is that not the language of regeneration? Yet those words were spoken several centuries before this promise was given! David also prayed: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Strictly speaking

this is the language of renewal, not regeneration. However, it still proves my point that believers in Old Testament times experienced a work of grace in their souls. Joshua too is described as “a man in whom is the Spirit” (Numbers 27:18), so plainly, believers in Old Testament times enjoyed the blessing of regeneration.

The same thing can be said about the forgiveness of sin mentioned in

verse 34: “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more”. Didn’t Moses speak about this same blessing centuries earlier, when he described his covenant God as: “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and ”

transgression and sin

Didn’t he cry out: “To us belongs shame of face

belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him”? Is this not exactly the same blessing as Jeremiah promised here? How then is the new covenant new?

(Exodus 34:6-7)? And what about Daniel?

To the Lord our God

One final example. God also promised in verse 33: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. This is classic covenant language, but doesn’t it sound distinctly familiar? After all, God gave an almost identical promise to Abraham and his seed in Genesis 17:7, while Ruth included this element of truth in her confession to Naomi in Ruth 1:16. How then is the new covenant new, if it includes essentially the same blessings as the old covenant? (Incidentally, I hope by now you realise that the differences between the two dispensations are not so great as is sometimes made out. The fact is this: the people of God throughout all ages are “one people” and comprise “one olive tree”, not two, - see Romans 11, hence the similarity of blessings enjoyed throughout the two dispensations). Let’s now consider the newness of the new covenant, and as we survey the biblical material, we discover that scripture provides both a brief answer and a rather longer answer.

The brief answer is found in the particular Greek word for “new” that

is used in Hebrews chapter 8. There are two Greek words for new, one is “kainos”, which describes a renewal; the other is “neos” which describes something brand spanking new. Compare a model T Ford which has been completely reconditioned, with a new Ford Focus, just out of the factory. This illustrates the difference between these two words. It may surprise you to learn that it is the former word “kainos” that is used in Hebrews chapter 8 to describe the New Covenant. This implies that in the New Covenant God did not completely finish with His people and begin all over again; rather, He built on His previous covenantal dealings with them, by completing what He had already begun. Or to put it another way, He took up existing structures, renewed them and brought them to fruition. This means that in the New Covenant there is both continuity and discontinuity with the past. The “newness” of the new covenant lies along the following lines.

1) Fulfilment

In the New Covenant, salvation was actually accomplished, as opposed to being enjoyed on the basis of that which was to come. Hebrews 10:4 informs us that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins”. Yet David who used this sacrificial system could also say: “blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1), and again: “with Him is abundant redemption” (Psalm 130:7). How come? The answer is that believers in Old Testament times enjoyed these blessings prospectively. They enjoyed them on the basis of a salvation yet to be procured. We could say that they enjoyed “gospel blessings” in a period not characterised by “gospel blessings” (see Galatians 3:8).

However, in the New Covenant salvation was actually accomplished “once and for all”, for all of God’s people. That which some had already enjoyed in anticipation of a future work, now became a glorious reality. The prospective became actual; the typical became reality; shadows became substance. In the fullness of the time Christ actually came into this world, and at a particular point in history uttered those well-known words: “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Salvation was about to be accomplished, and all that now remains is for it to be applied throughout history. For further insight into the distinction between “prospective salvation” and “actual salvation” see Romans 3:25-26 and Acts 17:30.

2) Universality

Solomon said: “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This was certainly true with regard to the history of redemption, because in the wisdom of God the great commission was issued at precisely the right moment: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16v15). Psalm 76:1 describes the situation that prevailed in Old Testament times: “In Judah is God known; His name is great in Israel”. At that point, the scope of the covenant was largely limited to folk from the nation whom God had set His love upon, although a few Gentiles such as Jethro, Rahab, Ruth and Naaman were also gathered in, hinting at God’s ultimate purpose for the world. All of this was intentional of

course. God hedged in the Jews temporarily for Himself, separating them from the world, so to speak, in order to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. Only when He appeared, when salvation was about to be accomplished, and the Spirit sent, could a more open declaration of God’s will be made known. At Pentecost the time had come for the gospel to be preached everywhere. The friends of the Samaritan lady who encountered our Lord at the well made this very insightful comment: “Now we believe, not because of your saying, for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). This is a feature of the New Covenant that distinguishes it from the old - universality. It’s worth reflecting on the fact that, had we lived in this part of the world before Christ’s coming, we would almost certainly have been lost. Thank God for the universality of the New Covenant!

3) Perspicuity

Believers did of course know Christ in Old Testament times, because there never has been, nor ever will be, any other Saviour. Abraham “saw Christ’s day and was glad” (John 8:56). Moses “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26). However, believers in that dispensation saw Him “in a mirror dimly”, so to speak. They saw Him through the shadows, the prophecies, the types and the symbols. The sacrificial system spoke of Him, the furniture in the tabernacle spoke of Him, the prophecies spoke of Him, all of which were “a shadow of things to come”. But now the shadows have fled away and the reality has come. Types have given way to the antitype, prophecies have given way to fulfilment, symbols have given way to reality. BB Warfield likened the difference in perspicuity between the two covenants to “a dimly lit room filled with furniture, and the same room with all the spotlights on”. Others have used the comparison of the moonlight and sunlight to depict the same distinction. Hebrews 1:1 puts it like this: “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son”. We know the same Christ as Abraham and Moses knew, but from our vantage point in history we have the potential of knowing Him so much better. Which begs the question “do we know Him better?”

4) Immediacy

In the Old Testament dispensation believers were prevented from enjoying full and direct communion with God the way we can. The people had to learn about Him indirectly through the prophets. They had to draw near to Him indirectly through intermediaries like Moses or the High Priest. In other words, there was always something distant and remote about their dealings with their covenant God. For instance, at the giving of the law the people were told to keep their distance (Exodus 19). Only the High Priest could enter the “holy of holies and that but once a year” (Hebrews 9:7) Even among the prophets, Moses was the only one who spoke with God “face to face” (Exodus 33:11). Would you rather live in a house still under construction with scaffolding all around it, or a completed one with the scaffolding removed? That’s the difference between the two dispensations.

Today we know an immediacy in our dealings with God unknown in Old Testament times. The veil has been rent and Christ deals with us directly without the need of any prophets or priests. Intermediaries and go-betweens are now a thing of the past. The “beggarly elements” have disappeared and we now deal with Christ directly. These thoughts hint at the difference in immediacy between the two dispensations.

5) Spirituality

Believers in the Old Testament did of course possess the Spirit of God, otherwise they couldn’t have had any covenantal dealings with God at all. In fact, sometimes when I read the Psalms, I get the impression that the Psalmist knew a lot more about experimental religion than I do. And that was in the shadowy age!

But surely the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost must have made some difference to the experience of believers, in comparison to the saints of the Old Testament? While believers from the early dispensation did indeed enjoy the indwelling of the Spirit, they did not live in “the age of the Spirit”, as we do. There was a time when the Spirit “was not”, relatively speaking. There was a time when the answer to Christ’s prayer was yet future: “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). There was a time when it could be said: “the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). There was a time when the disciples were told to “wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). But we live in the post-Pentecost

era, the realm of the Spirit, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is there

is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

precisely the difference in spirituality between the two dispensations,

but our Confession of Faith states it as follows: “The covenant of grace

is held forth in more fullness, clarity and spiritual power to all nations,

both Jews and Gentiles” WCF 7:6. BB Warfield put it like this: “In this dispensation the work of the Spirit has come with a more prevailing and pervading force”. Greater spirituality is certainly a feature of the New Covenant, in comparison to the Old.

Theologians struggle to articulate

6) Reality

Without wishing in any way to the minimise the experience of God’s people in Old Testament times, it’s obvious that the incarnation

made all the difference in the world. Someone has said that “it was

a great day when man walked on the moon, but it was a far more

wonderful day when God walked upon this earth”. At that point the New Covenant became a historical reality, because the Mediator was present among men: “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all”. The prophecy of Isaiah came to pass: “The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light. And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Amazingly, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Our Lord described the hope of Old Testament saints when He said: “for assuredly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see and did not see it” (Matthew 13:17).

10

Compare that with what John could say: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life - the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 John 1:1-2). We could say that Abraham, Moses and others “read the book”, so to speak, but the disciples “met the Author”. What a great difference the coming of Christ has made to this world! And now that He has lived, died and risen again, we can read all about the significance of this saving activity in our bibles. The shadows have gone; the reality has come.

7) Finality

Old Testament covenants were preparatory and temporary; the New Covenant is final and permanent. Nothing less than the New Covenant was necessary, nothing more could have been done, nothing more is needed, and nothing can be added to it either in this world or the next. When our Lord uttered those marvellous words on the cross:

“It is finished” (John 19:30), He was asserting that salvation was accomplished. Even the enjoyment of the saints in eternity itself is but the outworking of this new covenant, because that’s when the bud becomes full flower: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Are you in covenant with God? He is only known through Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant. It is well with us if we can say: “My beloved is mine, and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16).

beloved is mine, and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16). Jeff Ballantine, a native of

Jeff Ballantine, a native of Co. Tyrone, has been a minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church for 25 years. He is currently ministering in Groomsport, Co. Down, having previously served in the Lisburn Road congregation.

Warning:

Babylon is looking good

Isaiah 47

I magine a nation in tune with the church: where the corridors of power are governed by a higher throne. Where God is honoured and His word obeyed. Where politicians are dignified. Where there is peace and security, and where the nation is zealous in their practice of religion. Would you like to live there? A nation with dignity, security and zeal for the things of God. Doesn’t it sound attractive? I wish I could use such words to describe our own land, but sadly that’s not the case. I wish I could use such words to describe Israel in Isaiah’s day, but again, sadly that was not the case. What is more tragic however is that these words could be used to describe Babylon.

Babylon ascribed glory to their chief god Marduk for their success. He and his son Nebo were honoured and even paraded in triumph annually at New Year. Their royals kept the faith, and they lived in luxury. Their citizens enjoyed the security of belonging to the most powerful nation in the world. Their education system was thoroughly religious, as we can tell from Daniel 1; their top students were fed with food sacrifices to their gods. The nation was zealous in their religion; from the very youngest to the oldest, they were united and they were strong.

Little Israel on the other hand was in a mess. There was a faithful remnant of God’s people, but they could not lead the nation back to the Lord. As a whole they were poor, weak, and spiritually cold. As Babylon ascended in power and glory, it would only become more and more attractive to God’s faithless people. Hence we have Isaiah chapter 47. It is a timely warning for Israel and for us, to remember that Babylon is going to fall. Her dignity will disappear, her security will prove empty and her religion simply cannot save.

Surely, this chapter is just as relevant for our nation today, and just as relevant for us as individuals, and as families and even as a church. There is a very present attraction to look to the world with its seeming success; a great temptation for us to seek dignity, security and even religion in what the world has

to offer. We need to be reminded that only in Christ will these things be found, and found to last. Verse 4 is the confession that Israel needs to make, because their deepest needs can only be met by the One that Isaiah calls: “Our Redeemer - the LORD Almighty is his name - is the Holy One of Israel.” Here He is contrasted with the attraction of Babylon.

1. The attraction of dignity

Such an attraction is the attraction of Buckingham Palace.

It is large, majestic, impressive; you can go and watch the

Changing of the Guard which is filled with pomp and glory. Uniforms are immaculate, helmets are polished, horses well groomed, and thousands from all over the world are attracted

to the spectacle. In verse 1 Babylon has enjoyed such a throne,

a throne of might and power, a throne which the world was

forced to respect. In verse 5 we can see that the Lord calls her to sit in silence, and therefore we can say that before this her throne was once a loud throne. Speeches were made and speeches were listened to. When Nebuchadnezzar summoned the people in Daniel 2 and 3 they came and listened. And when he hears that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego won’t obey his command he goes into a fuming rage! How dare they disrespect the throne, the king! Do they not see his position, his dignity? Everyone else did.

There was another side to this dignity in v.1, where Babylon was called “Tender and delicate.” Again in verse 5 we hear of her reputation as “The Queen of the Kingdoms.” This is the other side of royal dignity, the health and wealth of the Queen. Babylon too - she was given to pleasures; she was no despised widow, she was not despised as a barren woman, she was the Queen! She could say in her heart in v.8 “I am, and there is no one else besides me!” She had all the luxury her heart desired.

Remember that it was these very luxuries that were used to entice the young Hebrew men into the ways of Babylon in Daniel 1. In verse 5 “the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he

11

drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.” There the end of such enticement was made plain – come to Babylon, eat and drink like kings, be educated in all our ways, full grants for every Babylonian degree – and why? So that you might serve Babylon!

Let me tell you where that will end, says the Lord. You’re

tempted by this seeming dignity, tempted by the luxury and success of Babylon, but all is not as it

seems. For it will soon vanish. Babylon will not always have a throne; soon enough she will sit in the dust. She will no longer

be called tender and delicate, her veil will be taken from her, so too will her long skirt – because she’ll be put into the workhouse; she’ll become a slave and a captive. Instead of finery, she will go about naked. She will be reduced to silence and darkness. No more glory for her, no longer will she be called the lady of the kingdoms. Her luxuries will disappear and she will be left desolate.

she’s not a widow. Her future is secure – she’s got plenty of children! She has it made, we might say. She’s not worrying about what the future might bring, she is unsinkable! That’s attractive.

“Unsinkable” attracted many to the Titanic in 1912, that and of course the dignity and prestige of such a vessel! But the pride of unsinkable security was her undoing, and in a matter of hours after striking the iceberg, the ship, and tragically so many who sailed in her, were lost to the

Atlantic Ocean. Babylon’s downfall would be almost as quick. Cyrus would take over quickly and the kingdom would fall. Cyrus

Don’t be tempted to exchange the glory of Christ for the glory of the world.

would be God’s shepherd, God’s servant, even though he would never give God the glory for it. “…on a single day: loss of children and widowhood. They will come

upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and

all your potent spells.”

the kingdom would fall, and the Lord tells them why.

Their security would be breached and

It’s because they showed no mercy to God’s people (verse 6), not even to the aged. Because of their wickedness, because of their pride, because they never considered the one true living God who sees their every deed. Because Babylon herself acts as God, even taking on God’s words as they say “I AM, and there is no-one else besides me.” Therefore their own wickedness will come back on them and they will be left desolate in a sudden moment (v.11). They wouldn’t see it coming, they never expected it. Their security was so great, and so attractive - imagine living in a world where you simply didn’t have to take stock of what tomorrow might bring, compared to little Israel who knew their tomorrows would mean captivity!

Don’t be tempted to exchange the glory of Christ for the glory of the world. His dignity is heard in verse 4 – “the LORD Almighty is His Name”. We are all tempted to run after the attractions of this world. Perhaps the dignity of higher rank or position at work, or perhaps the dignity of team captain? Maybe you’ll be tempted down the road of increasing luxury,

be it luxury cars, luxury clothes, luxury food or luxury gadgets

– but guard your heart! Such luxuries are only for a moment,

don’t let them be the things that define your success! These things fade quickly - team captains don’t last long, clothes go out of style, food goes off and the new car becomes “last year”.

Israel were attracted to such things, but in that attraction there was an unholy discontent, there was an ungrateful and untrusting attitude to the Lord their God. They were tempted to abandon the unseen glory of God for the passing visible

glories of Babylon. We need to be reminded just as they were

– Babylon will fall. Our hope must rest in “Our Redeemer-the LORD Almighty is his name.”

2. The attraction of security

In a fallen world security has a great attraction. It’s not just Donald Trump who wants to build a wall. We lock our homes and our cars; we secure our phones and our computers. We live in a fallen world, and it’s just part of life - there’s a need for security. But not so much in Babylon! She’s not worrying about the future in verse 7; there she says, “I will continue forever - the eternal queen!” and she didn’t even consider her security or reflect on what might happen, after all – She is Babylon! In verse 8 she dwells securely, she says in her heart ‘I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.’ Her present is secure –

But Israel’s security was better than they had remembered. The Lord had entered into covenant with them, and He would be their God and they would be His people no matter what. It was God who had given them over to Babylon in verse 6 – that was to discipline them, to bring them to repentance, and to bring them back into loving fellowship with Himself. Though they may not have felt it; God still loved them, God still cared for them, and even in Babylon as Daniel could surely testify, He would be with them. Jesus Himself would come and stand in the flames of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace to preserve His children!

“I will never leave you or forsake you” says the Lord. Don’t be tempted by the security of this world, no matter how attractive it may seem. Money is a big attraction, as is education, social status, even friends and family. In a changing world we can be those who trust in the credit card, trust in the family rallying round, we can find ourselves trusting in people we know in high places – there’s an attraction to such tangible securities. But all such temporal security is eventually breached, and sometimes in a moment. But believer, we have an unbreakable and eternal security,

v4: “Our Redeemer- the LORD Almighty is his name.” Keep looking to Jesus; He cares for you. Look again to the cross - every threat, every calamity was put on Him, death itself was swallowed up in victory. Rest in Him, cast your cares on Him, trust in your Lord.

3. The attraction of religion

The way Israel’s religion was going was not attractive. God kept calling them back to Himself, but they continually refused to listen. They didn’t believe that God had their good at heart, they didn’t want to accept His plans, they wanted Him to obey them rather than they obey Him! They were striving with their Maker! They were stubborn hearted, half- hearted, and cold hearted – and in comparison, even the diabolical religion of Babylon was attractive.

Consider Babylon’s religion, their energy and zeal, their dedication, their commitment! Verse 9 speaks about “the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments.” They practised their false religion with great zeal, it wasn’t just an hour on a Sunday morning, they were

into it big-time! And in verse 10 they actually trusted in it. They believed in it sincerely. God challenges them to “Stand now with your enchantments and the

multitude of your sorceries, in which you have laboured from your youth - perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you

will prevail.” They won’t prevail of course, but that doesn’t take away from their passion in what they believe and practise. They have laboured in their religion from their youth – they had their Sunday Schools, YPAs, camps. They really worked at it! Even though they were tired (v13), they still read their magic books, and prayed to their gods. They watched the stars and made predictions every month, they paid heed to what their stargazers were telling them - their religion was to them a tangible comfort (v14), it was like a campfire they warmed their souls with!

Don’t be tempted to run after the comfortable gods of this age. Many people still read the stars and believe them, but it is a wicked sham – they cannot save, they cannot produce any spiritual good, they only cause spiritual harm as they turn people aside from the one, true living God. You may not ever fall for that, but you may be tempted to warm your soul by other fires. Gods of entertainment – the TV guide is your bible. Gods of luxury and wealth – where your Bible is the Amazon app, and your Sabbath is Black Friday. Gods of family – where your photo album is your bible. Just what is it that you turn to, to warm your heart?

These things in the right place can be wonderful blessings from God, but the temptation, the attraction, is to worship the created, rather than the Creator. “Our Redeemer - the LORD Almighty is his name - is the Holy One of Israel.” He is the Holy One. He alone is worthy of our hearts’ worship and adoration. He is a consuming fire. He is not a campfire that we have under our control. And perhaps that’s our greatest temptation

The temptation to worship the Lord God as if He were tame,

as if He exists just to fulfil our desires. To go to church with the thought: “I hope I get something out of this today” without considering that I owe Him

wholehearted devotion and worship. To read your Bible in the expectation that God will comfort you but not challenge

Keep looking to Jesus; He cares for you. Look again to the cross

you. To have wonderful and tender thoughts of Jesus as your Saviour without the vision of seeing Him as Lord of all. Isaiah reminds us that Jesus is “Our Redeemer - the LORD Almighty is his name - is the Holy One of Israel.”

He alone has all dignity. He alone is our keeper. He alone is the One True God. Don’t be tempted to lessen Him in any way, don’t be attracted to a Jesus who is less than the infinite, eternal and unchangeable Son of God. No other Jesus will do. He alone is Our Redeemer – and we need to be redeemed! He alone is the LORD Almighty – and we need to be kept! He alone is the Holy One of Israel – we must worship Him alone!

is the Holy One of Israel – we must worship Him alone! Robert Johnston is minister

Robert Johnston is minister of Knock congregation in East Belfast. He is married to Julie and together they are blessed (and kept busy!) with three young children; Ben (10), Luke (9) and Sophie (6).

So there was a very real attraction for Israel who were far from the Lord. Here was a practical religion that seemed

to work. They were zealous in it, and the rewards flowed Babylon was doing well. Their gods were being glorified and followed with enthusiasm, the nation was secure and they

enjoyed care-free living with luxury and dignity

far more than could be said for Israel. But don’t be tempted says the Lord, don’t fall for the siren of Babylon’s religion, because as successful as it seems, it’s all about to fall. The true and living God will soon move in judgement on all their wicked practices, and all their trust, all their passion and zeal, will prove to be useless. When the Lord bares His arm, they will see that the real God is not a camp fire with which to warm yourself, He is a consuming fire! And no one will be able to save them.

which was

‘Walking Worthy’

Ephesians 4:1-6

H ave you ever received a letter from an old friend whom you have not spoken to for years? Well, Ephesians is a letter that renews

an old relationship. Paul has been to Ephesus on several occasions in the past. In fact, during his third missionary journey he stayed there for almost three years. Paul knows many of these people, and many of them have been converted through his ministry. So this letter renews that old acquaintanceship, and it does so on a truly grand scale.

Paul begins by painting a glorious picture of salvation in the opening three chapters, and from the outset the apostle stresses that this salvation is, from beginning to end, the work of the Triune God. If you are a Christian, you are so, not because you gave your heart to Jesus, but because you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (1:4). And motivated by love, it has been God’s determined plan since before the world was, to make you his son or his daughter (1:5). And in time and in space, God the Father sent his Holy Spirit into your spiritually dead heart to give you life, and to unite you to his Son. And in Christ, ‘we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He has lavished on us’ (1:7-8a NASB).

Now, if the opening three chapters of Ephesians are more doctrinal in nature, the remaining three chapters are more practical, as Paul gets down to the nitty-gritty of Christian life. During the course of the coming articles our focus is going to be chapter four, where the apostle will have a lot to say about how we live as Christians.

1) How We Are To Walk

In this first article we are going to consider what has been described as the ‘preface’ to the second half of Ephesians (F. Thielman). We find this ‘preface’ in 4:1-6, and in these verses Paul explains two important and closely related ideas. Firstly, Paul explains how we are to walk as believers. When you think about it, you can actually tell quite a lot about a person from the way they walk, can’t you? A proud person may walk with their head up, and their nose in the air. A busy person may walk briskly, and with determination written across their face, and a shy person may walk with their head down, never looking anyone in the eye.

Well, how are we to walk as believers? How are we to walk in the

1414

light of everything that Paul has said in the previous three chapters? Well, the apostle tells us in v1 to, ‘walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called’ (NASB).

Friends, we are to walk in a manner worthy of our high calling as the redeemed of Christ. But what does that look like? Fortunately for us, Paul explains what he means. In a carefully crafted section of our passage (v2&3) the apostle tells us four things about the way we are to walk. Firstly, he tells us to walk ‘with all humility and gentleness’ (v2a NASB). Now, because we are so familiar with the Scriptures, we’re not surprised that Paul mentions humility. But the word Paul uses here is very rare in wider first century Greek literature, and

whenever it is used, it is always used in a negative light. In fact, just

a few years after Paul writes these words, the Praetorian Guard

will murder the Emperor Galba, and they will justify their actions by claiming he is, amongst other things, a humble man. You see, in the environment in which Paul operates humility is not considered a virtue.

Paul’s thinking is not governed by the world, by Greek and Roman ideas of virtue, but by Scripture, where humility, which is the opposite to having an exalted view of self, is prized. And Paul adds to this the idea of ‘gentleness’. Now when we think about this, what the apostle describes here immediately reminds us of the Saviour himself. We sometimes sing:

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness, no harshness hast thou and no bitterness:

make us to taste the sweet grace found in thee and ever stay in thy sweet unity.

Friends, we are to walk worthy of our calling, and to do that we have to be marked by humility and gentleness. As we shall see a little later, Paul wants us to walk this way particularly in relation to one another. As we live as communities of the Lord’s people, cheek by jowl, we are to have a humble view of self, and we are to deal with one another gently. Anything less is unworthy of our calling.

So to walk worthy is to be humble and gentle. But what else does it mean? Well, secondly, Paul tells us to walk ‘with patience’ (v2b). Now bearing in mind what the apostle has just said (v2a), and what he

is about to say (v2c), it is clear ‘patience’ here has the idea of being

patient in circumstances where you are sorely tested. Now even in everyday life, there are times when our patience is sorely tested, aren’t there? Imagine that you are in the car, you’re in a hurry, and for the entire journey you’re stuck behind a driver doing 20 mph when they could be doing 60, and there is no opportunity to overtake! In situations like that your patience is sorely tested, isn’t it? Well, there are times in church life when our patience is sorely tested by one another, and in those situations, Paul is saying we are to go the extra mile. We are to be patient.

This becomes even more clear when Paul gives us the next characteristic of walking worthy, because thirdly he says, we are to bear with one another in love (v2c). This final phrase is incredibly disarming, isn’t it? It closes the door to a grudging forbearance, and challenges us to love one another.

So to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, means that we are walking with humility and gentleness, with patience, and with forbearance. And fourthly, Paul tells us we are to walk this way ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (v3 ESV). Now that word ‘eager’ (ESV) or ‘diligent’ (NASB), shows us that this

walking requires effort on our part. We are not to be like dog walkers.

If you have ever had a dog, you will know what I mean. With a dog,

you walk a few yards, and then you stop. You walk another few yards, and then you stop again. And so it goes on! But that’s not what Paul has in mind. A better picture would be to think of lycra-clad power- walkers, who are vigorously striding down the street, and getting up a sweat. That’s what we are to be like as we seek to maintain ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ And notice, we are not seeking to establish unity, but to maintain a unity that has already been established by the Spirit of God.

2) Why Walking This Way Is Important

So Paul has shown us what it means to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. We are to walk with humility and gentleness, with patience and forbearance, and our goal is to maintain that unity already establish by the Spirit of Christ. So what is the other idea Paul explains here? Well, secondly, Paul explains why walking this way is so important. Think of those Lycra-clad power-walkers again. Why do they do what they do? Why do they stride down our streets so vigorously? Well, no doubt they are trying to lose weight and to keep fit. That’s why they do what they do.

Well, friends, why are we to walk in the way Paul has described? Now we might think Paul has already given us the answer, when he says we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (v3), and that is true. But Paul takes that idea of unity, of oneness, and he runs with it. In the remarkable passage that follows (v4-6), Paul uses the word ‘one’ seven times, and he builds up to a startling climax.

Let’s take a look at what the apostle says. We will move relatively

quickly through the first six ‘ones’ (v4&5), and then we will spend

a little more time considering the climax. So why is maintaining

this unity important? Well, firstly, because there is only one body (v4a). Paul is obviously speaking here about the body of Christ, the church. There is only one church, and we are all members of that

church. Secondly, there is only one Spirit (v4b). There is only one Holy Spirit, and we share him, because he indwells us all, and unites us into one body. Thirdly, there is only one hope (v4c). Through the gospel we have all been reconciled to God, and we all share the same hope of heaven and life eternal. Fourthly, there is only one Lord (v5a). Now notice that in v5 Paul picks up the pace, dispensing with all conjunctions and qualifying phrases (he also uses ‘one’ in three genders), and says, ‘one Lord.’ Friends, we are all saved by, and united to, the same Lord Jesus Christ. Fifthly, there is only one faith (v5b). We all believe the same thing. And sixthly, there is only one baptism (v5c). We are all stamped with the name of the Triune God.

It is an amazing passage, isn’t it, and it is so disarming! You cannot argue against Paul’s logic for maintaining unity. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. But the apostle isn’t finished. Seventhly, there is only one God. Paul says, ‘one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’ (v6). Now in the first place, the apostle probably has in mind the universal sovereignty of the first Person of the Godhead over all believers (if ‘all’ is masculine), although, it may also include his universal sovereignty over everything that exists (if ‘all’ is neuter). Now it is here that Paul reaches the climax of his argument for maintaining unity. Back in chapter one the apostle tells us that it is the Father’s will to unite all things in Christ both in heaven and on earth (1:10). That is the Father’s goal, that’s what he is working towards, and friends, the church has a ‘critical place’ in that plan to unite all things in Christ (Thielman). Friends, it is here in the church that the plan to unite all things shines at its brightest. He is Father of us all, we are all united in the Son, and we are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Friends, we are one, and it is our glorious calling in this world to reflect that oneness in practical ways.

Friends, can you see the glory of our calling? As we reflect upon this, you cannot help thinking of what Paul will go on to say in chapter five, and how Christian marriage is to reflect the mystical union between Christ and his church (5:32). Here in chapter four we have something similar, in that it is our great calling as a church to reflect the Father’s plan to unite all things in his Son. And remarkably, we are called to do this in our relationships with one another. May God grant us the grace to fulfil this high calling.

May God grant us the grace to fulfil this high calling. Rev. Andrew J. Lucas was

Rev. Andrew J. Lucas was born in London and grew up in Buckinghamshire. He studied theology at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales, and has been minister of Omagh Evangelical Presbyterian Church for the last ten years.

15

OBITUARIES

Mr Lawrence Dunlop

On Monday 21st November 2016, peacefully in hospital, Mr

Lawrence Dunlop was called into the immediate presence of his

Saviour. The Dunlop family were associated with the Evangelical

Presbyterian Church right from its inception and, indeed,

Lawrence was the first child to be baptised within the newly

formed church. Having been brought up in a Christian home he

wandered away for a time from the things of the Lord, but as a

young man he cried to the Lord for mercy and God drew him to

himself.

For many years Lawrence was involved in various business

ventures such as Farwell Industries and Adamsez where he

was highly regarded by his employees, many of whom were

present at his well attended funeral service in Stranmillis Church.

Lawrence was a man of strong convictions but also of great

kindness, and many are those who experienced his generosity

and thoughtfulness.

March 1957, and God blessed them with four children – Roger,

Heather-Joy, Jenny and Jonathan. Lawrence had a strong sense

of family and we know that his loved ones miss him very greatly.

We assure them all – his children, in-laws, grandchildren and

great-granddaughter - of the prayers and sympathy of the

Stranmillis congregation and of the wider church.

Lawrence was married to Thelma in

GNB

of the wider church. Lawrence was married to Thelma in GNB Mrs Letitia Jane Hoey Mrs

Mrs Letitia Jane Hoey

Mrs Letitia Jane Hoey passed into the immediate presence of her Saviour late in the evening of Monday 28th November. She had been a member in Ballyclare since 1954 along with her late husband Tom who died in 2001. Born into a farming environment, Letitia was to lose her mother

16

when just three months old. Her father, said to be a very go- ahead type of farmer, would remarry, and left a lasting influence on his daughter in that she shared his get-up-and-go outlook on life. She would train and make great achievement at Cornell’s Business School in Belfast and go on to work, albeit briefly, for the Imperial Civil Service, a career curtailed by the outbreak of war in 1939. Tom and Letitia would marry in 1943 and before long two daughters would arrive, Elizabeth & Catharine. This was to be followed some years later by a son, John. There are many happy memories of those days at the farm in Mallusk. With the family growing up Letitia would return to work, ending up as personal assistant to the factory manager at Michelin. Mrs Hoey will be remembered for the strong concern she showed for the children of the congregation, often enquiring about them. Her health had deteriorated during 2016 but she made strenuous efforts to be present for the baptism of one of the little ones on Sunday 20th November, and it was in the early evening of that same day that she suffered the stroke that would eventually lead to her death. Our sympathies go to Elizabeth, Catharine & John and the wider family. We mourn her loss but rejoice that we knew her and that she is with Jesus which is far better.

we knew her and that she is with Jesus which is far better. Mr James Grier

Mr James Grier

James Gillespie Grier was born on the 3rd March 1945, and the Lord called him home to heaven on the morning of 23rd December 2016. James heard the Gospel from his earliest days, from godly parents who spoke much of Christ. Whether it was on Saturday afternoon walks or Sunday evening, standing by the piano singing hymns or cuddling up on the sofa for Pilgrim’s Progress; he was encouraged to love and follow Jesus. When he was 13 years old, James professed faith in Christ under his own father’s (Rev WJ Grier) preaching in Botanic Avenue IEC. James was a high-flyer at school, and went on to study maths

OBITUARIES

and physics at Queen’s and then moved to Edinburgh to study to be an Actuary (the maths of insurance). In these early years James was a deacon in Botanic Avenue and occasionally preached there too. He also became an elder in Free St Columba’s in the Free Church of Scotland while in Edinburgh. Tragically his mathematical genius would never be employed, because in the strange providence of God James suffered a diabetic coma while in Edinburgh and the entire course of his life changed. He had to retire in 1976 at the age of 31. His subsequent life was overtly marked by weakness and suffering, but it was also marked by faithful devotion to the Lord. Though his usefulness in terms of Mathematics had come to a sudden stop, his usefulness in the kingdom of God continued to develop and deepen. He undertook simpler tasks like putting out chairs for the mother and toddler group, and he did it faithfully. He gave generously to the church, to missions and to various relief agencies. He did the business of prayer faithfully too:

prayer letters were always on his table in Palmerston, especially Catherine’s and Peter’s. He did serious Bible study too, reading through expositional commentaries and biographies supplied by his little brother John, and wearing out Bibles in the process! He loved the word of God, he loved it preached and he loved to read it. Virtually every time I went to visit James in Palmerston residential home, the Bible was on His lap – and there he was, reading away, listening to the very voice of God in His breathed-out Word. James loved church, he never missed; we knew something was wrong when James didn’t appear, he was brilliantly dependable. We may be tempted to think that after he had suffered so much James had perhaps some very good excuses to disengage from busy church life; but he loved the Lord, and being a faithful servant was not a hardship to be endured, but a relationship to be enjoyed. His good and faithful service stands as a challenge to us all, especially when in the Lord’s providence our plans in life are forced to change, and more especially when in the providence of God He gives us weakness instead of greatness. His life proved the truth of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

RJJ

that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” RJJ Mr Neal Killen On the morning

Mr Neal Killen

On the morning of Saturday 21st January 2017 Neal and

Deborah Killen were taking part in the parkrun at Ward Park,

Bangor. They regularly participated in parkruns, although this

was their first time at the Bangor venue. A short distance into

the run Neal collapsed and died. He had appeared to be in good

health and was very active. He was 48 years of age. It is difficult

to express the depth of grief and loss which we feel within the

congregation of Stranmillis. Neal, along with Deborah and their

children, Nathan and Julia, was actively involved in the life of the

church and we are simply reeling at Neal’s sudden homecall.

Neal served as a deacon in the church and was well known and

respected by all within the fellowship. He was very supportive of

the ministry of the Word and set us all a great example in terms

of prayerfulness and service. Converted in his teenage years,

Neal owed a great deal to the Crusader/Urban Saints movement

in which he had been actively involved for many years, serving at

a time as the Chairman of the Ireland Council.

Although holding a very responsible post in his place of work,

which involved him regularly travelling to the United States, he

never allowed the things of this life to take him over. He touched

many lives and, without being aware of it himself, was a spiritual

mentor for many younger Christians.

Our loss within Stranmillis is great but our thoughts and prayers

are especially with his family, whose sense of loss is greater than

we can ever understand. Please remember Deborah, Nathan and

Julia in your prayers. Please pray too for the wider family, Neal’s

mother, Mrs Wendy Killen, and his brothers, Roy and Ian.

‘For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’

(Acts 11:24)

GNB

and his brothers, Roy and Ian. ‘For he was a good man, full of the Holy

17

FROM THE CHURCHES

The Ladies’ Meeting, Finaghy

18

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5 v 8

The Ladies’ Meeting in the Finaghy congregation has been in existence for a long time. Its origins can be traced back to small gatherings in homes where ladies got together to knit small garments for the work of missions. Meetings on the church premises followed after the ladies sought approval from Rev. CE Hunter and the Session. Session minutes show that approval was given in January 1967. The Ladies Meeting has therefore now reached its fiftieth anniversary – a golden moment! The Ladies’ Meeting aimed to be a means of outreach to the ladies of the area and to bring them to faith in the Lord. Those aims remain to this day.

Phyllis Tinsley, its current leader, says, “We are thankful to the Lord that the Ladies’ Meeting has continued over the years and that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is still presented each week. In past years a large number of ladies have attended from the housing estate round the church with up to forty in attendance. We meet every Tuesday night during the season which runs from September to June – many of the ladies would like it to run every week even across the summer! I think this reflects the important role it has as a social outlet for the ladies, some of whom are well up in years, face loneliness and find it difficult to get out and about. The arrival of the minibus is always welcome! It is a lifeline for some, a highlight of their week - the fellowship, friendship, love and prayers for each other are very evident.

“We have a variety of speakers. Some are ladies giving their testimony to saving faith in Christ. We also have those engaged in full time work of various sorts. We are always keen to give opportunities to young men who are starting out on their preaching career, lay men and missionary organisations from near and far. We were delighted to have the ladies from Knock EPC conduct our meeting recently. Traditionally, our own minister speaks on the third Tuesday each month of the season.”

Here are comments from two speakers who have been coming to the Ladies’ Meeting for a long time:-

Ernie Croft “It is a blessing to be with the redeemed, the sincerity of praise and worship, and the spirit of God is evident in the meeting, and where loving thy neighbour is clearly practised.”

Mervyn Langtry, Clerk of Session, Finaghy EPC “I first preached at the Women’s Meeting in Finaghy in June 1974. It was the very first occasion I’d preached anywhere. My text was John chapter 6 verse 37. What really stands out in my memory is just how warm and welcoming it was. I’ve been privileged to be invited back at least once a year ever since, 43 years – and it’s still as warm and welcoming to-day.”

Phyllis goes on, “I’m always amazed that the ladies come out even on the coldest winter’s night and in all weathers. On the wettest of nights, when you think no one will come out, you look round and it’s a full attendance!

“One of the features of the meeting is the ladies’ generosity in

giving to the Lord’s work. This means we are able to give a little support to quite a lot of different people and aspects of the Lord’s work both in Northern Ireland and worldwide. If you glance down our financial statement for 2016 you’ll see we supported outreach in the Republic of Ireland, Uganda, Japan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Italy, South Africa, Poland, Israel and the Middle East, as well as organisations like the Helping Hand, the Haven and the Christian Institute locally. At Christmas we always have a lovely tea together, and an outing in June, but our primary aim is to present the gospel to the ladies of Finaghy as we long to see the Lord bringing them to faith in Him. Every week we are all challenged by God’s word to our own hearts, His presence is very evident in our midst and we give Him praise.

“We give thanks that the Ladies’ Meeting has been such a blessing to so many over its fifty years, and we want to acknowledge the debt we owe to those like Mrs Sadie Millar and Mrs Jean Gibson who did so much in years gone by to foster the wonderful togetherness we still enjoy today.”

foster the wonderful togetherness we still enjoy today.” FROM THE CHURCHES Ignite Ignite is the combination

FROM THE CHURCHES

Ignite

Ignite is the combination of the Senior YPAs in the denomination which meets every other month on a Friday night. Our format has been fairly consistent over the last few years. There is a relaxed atmosphere to begin, as this allows the young people to catch up with others they might not have seen since the last meeting. Sometimes, we would play a few games to get the teenagers involved with one another.

The meeting starts with singing a few choruses or hymns followed by either a testimony (given by a leader or one of the young people) or a book review. Reviews of books have been given in the hope that it would encourage reading. We would then have our talk. Over the last few years we have looked at different Bible characters and last year we looked at the life of the Lord Jesus.

Different speakers from both inside and outside the denomination have been invited to speak. This year we have been going through the book of James. This of course is a very practical book of the Bible and, in our last meeting, Phil McClelland from First Antrim Presbyterian was our speaker. Phil looked at James 3, and the theme of “Does your tongue need taming?” This passage came with several challenges, both for the Christian and the non-Christian. We were told that all of us have a problem with our tongues, as this is a result of the fall and sin. This can lead to a separation from

God and a poor witness to others, whether in school, college or University. However we were also brought the hope and encouragement that there is a solution for our hearts, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that if we turn to Him, believe and follow Him, the Lord Jesus can in turn help to tame our tongues.

We would always finish the night with supper, and we’re sure that all the mums and dads in the denomination don’t need to be told that their teenagers eat well. We can say the same for the family of some our leaders too, who can also put away a slice of pizza or two on a Friday night!

We usually have around 15-20 teenagers from the denomination who come along to our meetings. This year has definitely seen a younger age group of 15-16 year olds, with many maybe just coming for the first time. This has given the young people and leaders the opportunity to meet new faces and to build friendships with the other teenagers from other congregations.

At the time of writing we will have just one meeting left, along with a BBQ on 20th May at Andy & Mary Hambleton’s home to round the year off. It would be great to see more teenagers and young people from the denomination come along.

David Roger

South Sudan
South Sudan

At the time of writing, major fighting in South Sudan has stopped, but there is random violence and looting, bandits make road travel very dangerous, there are severe shortages of food and fuel, and inflation is at 600%. There are huge numbers of displaced people within the country as well as refugees who have fled to neighbouring Uganda and DCR. (Barnabas Fund February prayer notes)

Hundreds of pastors and evangelists from South Sudan (SS) have been trained in our (MERF) centre in Lockichoggio in northwest Kenya, near the border of SS. After four months of in-depth biblical training, the men return to their beautiful but war-torn country to proclaim the gospel of peace. (MERF News Jan/Feb 2017)

Andrew and Eunice (Moody) have watched how the situation in South Sudan has developed over the years and have felt burdened about the state of the church there. In 2016 they entered South Sudan twice to teach local pastors and do some medical work. They now hope to focus their ministry on building up and equipping the Christians in South Sudan. Andrew plans to be involved in training pastors from South Sudan either in the country, if the political situation allows, or in Ugandan refugee camps where there are currently over one million South Sudanese refugees. (Crosslinks issue 01/17)

19

FROM THE CHURCHES

Junior Camp Reunion

Junior Camp reunion on Saturday 18 February was a reminder of the great responsibility and privilege it is to care for the children of our church. Forty 8-11 year olds attended a sample day of camp held in Ballyclare EPC. It was lovely to see them renew friendships from last summer and relive memories as we watched camp slides together. The first- timers quickly fitted in and all seemed excited at the prospect of camp in the summer. Of course, craft and games were key features, along with quizzes, competitions and good food. The afternoon outing for swimming in the local leisure pool was a highlight, although “leisure” may not be the best word to describe what went on; some male leaders were heard to say that they would not need to exercise for a week. Despite being tired, the children engaged well in the final meeting and listened attentively to the wonderful story of Christ’s transfiguration. We sent them home happy, with brochures and booking forms, but we trust also with something of God’s word in young minds and hearts.

Heather Watson

of God’s word in young minds and hearts. Heather Watson Senior Camp reunion / YPA weekend

Senior Camp reunion / YPA weekend

A small group of just nine young people headed to the BB

centre at Ganaway, Millisle, on the Friday night of 10th February. Our speaker was Rev Robert McCollum from Newtownards RPC and he began a short series of talks on the theme “There’s a Psalm for that!” When the world is falling apart – turn to Psalm 2: recognise the rebellion and then listen for the laughter. When lacking self-worth – turn to Psalm 8, and see who made you and find Him who still is mindful of you! We all learned to turn to the Psalms for the

many circumstances we face in this life. Think about it: there’s

a Psalm for every situation!

We played games to break the ice, we enjoyed great food and lots of it, thanks to Irene our cook, we reached great heights on the climbing wall, we watched some rugby, we played

table tennis, pool and some full-sized snooker. The electricity went out in our accommodation and we had to move to another venue on the same site, but the Lord had it all sorted for us, and the BB staff were helpful too! We finished

in Groomsport EPC on the Sunday, where we heard of the

delights and duties of serving the Lord. And following another great Sunday lunch – we went home happy campers.

Rev Robert Johnston

20

lunch – we went home happy campers. Rev Robert Johnston 20 FROM THE CHURCHES Camp Matters!

FROM THE CHURCHES

Camp Matters! Essential Information
Camp
Matters!
Essential Information

Junior Camp: Dunluce School, Bushmills:

1-8 July: Heather Watson 028 9334 0634

Inters Camp: Moyallon Centre, Portadown:

30 June-7 July: Robert Johnston 07876 655001

Senior Camp: Ballyclabber RP Church, Coleraine: 8-15 July: Mark & Jacqui Thompson 07746 345389

*Booking forms are out* Get yours in church or online at:

www.epcni.org.uk

*Bookings are coming in* Don’t leave it too late to apply for a brilliant, fun-filled week with friends, with lots of time to study the bible and worship God.

If you’re too old for the above, there are still spaces for leaders and cooks (male & female) Speak to your minister if you can help.

Many hands make light work Could you help before camp with preparation of craft or visual aids? Could you help transport supplies or luggage for the start of camp? Could you lend a hand in the kitchen for a few hours one day? Could you come on the last day to help with the clean-up operation? Speak to one of the leaders-in-charge or anyone on a camp team.

Pray for camp Pray at home and in your church and come to the Camps Prayer Meeting on Monday 5th June 2017 in Knock EPC (starting at 8pm with a cup of tea). We’d love to have your support.

Thank God for the provision of a day of rest and worship in our weekly calendars. Pray that congregations would gather expectantly to receive God’s word each Sunday and that ministers and laymen would know the Holy Spirit’s help in preparation and His anointing as they preach

Pray that the Father of mercies and God of all comfort would minister to those who mourn the passing of loved ones. Ask that they would know His grace sufficient for every need. Praise God for the certain hope of heaven for those who are His. Thank Him for the testimony of Christian funeral services and pray that unbelievers will be troubled by thoughts of mortality and would seek and find salvation

Praise God for 50 years of fellowship, missionary support and outreach in Finaghy Ladies’ Meeting. Pray that the ladies’ meetings in other churches would also be a blessing to those who attend and be used to bring ladies into Christ’s kingdom

Give thanks for safe and happy camp reunions in February. Pray that something of the godly influence and teaching given would remain with those who attended. Pray that many would now apply for summer camps and that, as well as wanting a week of fun, they would have a hunger and thirst after righteousness

Please pray that camp teams of leaders and cooks would soon be complete and that God’s will would be sought in all plans and preparations. Uphold Mark & Jacqui in prayer as they take on the responsibility of Senior Camp for the first time, also remembering Robert as he takes over Inters Camp

21

212121

Praise God for the ongoing work of Ignite

and for the young people who attend.

Thank Him for the commitment of the

leaders. Pray for spiritual life and growth in

individuals and for mutual encouragement

in the things of God.

Give thanks for Christian lives from the

past which have inspired and helped you.

Pray that Christian biographies, including

Story-a-month Club, would stir children and

young people to love for God and zeal to

serve Him

Praise God for His mercy in sending

light to a dark continent at the time of the

Reformation. Give heartfelt thanks for the

Reformers, the truths they taught, the stand

they took and the benefits we still enjoy.

Pray that the Sunday School project on

Martin Luther will have been very useful in

reminding young and old of these things

Pray for Andrew and Eunice Moody as

they take up their new work in South

Sudan. Pray that they would know renewed

strength for the task as they wait upon the

Lord and that they would be of great help to

the needy Christian community in that land

22

22

help to the needy Christian community in that land 22 22 BOOK REVIEWS Title: Let the

BOOK REVIEWS

Title: Let the Children Worship

RRP: £6.99 Special ‘Evangelical

Presbyterian’ Price: £4.99

Author: Jason Helopoulos

Publisher: Christian Focus

Publications

Jason Helopoulos Publisher: Christian Focus Publications Let the Children Worship by Jason Helopoulos is a short,

Let the Children Worship by Jason Helopoulos is a short, easy to read book that is a much needed encouragement to all parents who face the weekly struggle of including our covenant children in the worship of God, while trying to maintain some form of peace in the pews. Perhaps most importantly and helpfully it brings us back to the importance of corporate worship and the privilege it is to meet together as the bride of Christ. It challenges the current popular idea that children need their own age- appropriate worship, and instead commends the biblical example of how children, even nursing babies, were included in the worshipping assemblies of God’s people. Including our children in the worship of the Living God has eternal significance and benefit for our children and the entire congregation. This book is full of practical advice not only for parents but for church leaders and, equally important, for the rest of the congregation who are essential in the part they play as the covenant family in helping to support parents, and in making children feel that they are part of the body of Christ.

Alison Burke, Ballynure

Jason Helopoulos is associate minister in Kevin DeYoung’s church, University Reformed Church (PCA). He is author of several books including ‘A Neglected Grace’, ‘The New Pastor’s Handbook’ and ‘Let the Children Worship’ and is a regular contributor to The Gospel Coalition.

Title: Revolutionary Work

Author: William Taylor

Publisher: 10publishing

Published: 2016

Pages: 119

RRP: £4.99

Special Offer for ‘Evangelical

Presbyterian’ Readers: £3-50

Offer for ‘Evangelical Presbyterian’ Readers: £3-50 We spend more time working than doing almost anything else,

We spend more time working

than doing almost anything else, yet work is often difficult, unsatisfying and frustrating. Sometimes our efforts feel never-ending, and the idea that we should be working for the Lord is often squeezed out. This book helps the reader develop a theology of work so that we might avoid some of the usual pressures and pitfalls we often face in the workplace, and come to appreciate our work and consider our careers appropriately.

The book is split into two sections. The first contains four short chapters looking at different aspects of ‘work’ from a biblical perspective. Chapter one takes us all the way back to the book of Genesis (chapter 2) and shows us the origin, dignity, responsibility, and necessity of work. Taylor shows us that work, as it was originally designed in creation, is good. He shows us that we are made to work and that it draws its dignity from the fact that our Creator is a worker. And he shows us that we should work diligently because we are responsible both horizontally, to those we work for and with, as well as vertically, to God, for how we carry out the work He has entrusted to us.

In chapter two we find ourselves in Genesis 3 where we confront our work as cursed, frustrating, painful, and even futile. The author doesn’t set out to be deliberately gloomy about the prospect of us finding fulfilment in our work here, but he does give us a large dose of realism in that whatever we end up working at, we shouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t always free from difficulties! This is liberating for the Christian and provides a helpful sense of perspective so that, we don’t become disillusioned when things are going against us. Our society seems to have many views on work, ranging from working in a boring job that we hate, to finding what really makes us happy and pursuing that. However, what the author sets out here is a biblical view of work, one that is more realistic, but ultimately one that is liberating. As Taylor puts it, ‘We do not need to be enslaved by our work or totally depressed by it. As we put our work in its rightful, God-given place, we will find real joy and lasting purpose as we work for God.’

In the third chapter, Taylor takes us through Ephesians 6 in which he teaches us that although we serve One who is higher than our boss at work, we should respect those in authority over us and in doing this, bring glory to God. In order to do this we should be conscientious at all times, not just when the boss is looking! He argues that in Ephesians 6, Paul says nothing about the kind of work we are to do, but has a lot to say about the way in which we are to do it and shows us that we should be motivated by a ‘boss’, goals and rewards that are not of this world. What is important is who we serve, the way we serve and the the kind of rewards we expect from our endeavours.

In the fourth chapter, Taylor shows us that no matter how important we think our work is, there is more important work going on, that of kingdom-building! God is doing His work, Jesus Christ is bringing in His harvest and whatever we do vocationally, there is Kingdom work to be done. The amazing thing about this is that God has given us ‘a privileged part in His great eternal work.’ Therefore, in any working life, we shouldn’t be tempted to be so career-focused that we neglect the work God has for us to do in His church.

The second section of the book is much shorter and deals with issues such as how to assess our talents, a passionate call for Christians to consider the Arts as a career path, and has a helpful section on how churches can help their members in this whole area of work. The final chapter of the book is taken up with frequently asked questions about work and contains some very useful advice on how to think about our career paths, how we use our money, using our money to support those going into or already in ministry, etc.

This book is certainly worth reading alone or in a group and would particularly benefit those thinking through their career options, someone on a gap year, or even the seasoned campaigner who wants to be reminded of how we can be wise and godly workers. It is very easy to follow, has short chapters and is practical. The reader will be blessed and encouraged by Taylor’s insights and wisdom and I heartily recommend it!

23

23

Best of the Blogs

A selection of online blogs and articles to challenge and

encourage you in your walk with God and his people…

Why the local church really matters (Tim Challies)

(www.challies.com/articles/why-the-local-church-really-

matters)

“As we prepare to worship God tomorrow, it may do us good to pause for just a few moments to consider the local church. What is the church? Why has God called us into these little communities? Does the local church really matter? It does!

The local church is foundational to God’s plan for his people.

In their book Church in Hard Places, Mez McConnell and Mike

McKinley offer 6 reasons that the local church matters.”

The Doctrines of Grace: Total Depravity: The T in Total (Tim Bertolet)

(www.placefortruth.org/blog/doctrines-grace-total-

depravity-t-total)

“What is the “total” in “total depravity”? When we speak of total depravity, we do not mean that every person is as quantitatively bad as they could possibly be. We do not mean that every person has committed every possible sin or that every person does all the heinousness of a Stalin or Hitler. We consider it to be God’s common grace and providence that in his creation God often restrains evil. He often allows unbelieving sinners to do projects and works of social good. A Boy Scout can be both an unbeliever who is totally depraved and a person who helps the old lady cross the street.”

John Calvin on the True Church (Sinclair Ferguson)

(www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/05/john-calvin-on-the-

true-church.php)

When is a “church” not a church? How do we recognize the true church of Jesus Christ? And how do we discern the false? Calvin’s answer, in the Institutes 4.2.1 - 4.2.12, to what was in his day - and remains - an important question, is, essentially: the ministry of the Word and of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the hallmarks of the true church. Where these are lacking, “surely the death of the church follows.”

Presbyterian Partiality? (Andrew Kerr)

(www.gentlereformation.com/2017/01/14/presbyterian-

partiality/)

“Let’s stop being impressed by status, rank & wealth. Let us refuse to permit outward appearances or circumstances to influence choices in churches. Pray for a heart that sees

2424

beneath the skin to the needy soul, recreated in God’s Image. If such shabby partial thoughts keep arising in our hearts, let us remember God’s choice, for we were clothed in rags & remember that in the Gospel we are heirs of grace & glory.”

The Greatest Inauguration Day Ever (Warren Peel)

(www.gentlereformation.com/2017/01/20/the-greatest-

inauguration-day-ever/)

“Why does the sinless Lamb of God go down into the Jordan and stand in the place where sinners stand? It’s precisely because he came into the world to stand in the place of sinners—to take our place. To live the life of perfect obedience that we can’t live and then to die to cursed death under the wrath of God that we deserve. He came to be our substitute. And here, as he begins his public ministry on ‘Inauguration Day’, Jesus formally accepts the task of being the Saviour of the world. He is baptized because he is identifying with those he has come to save. He is accepting the task of being the sin-bearer and is symbolically assuming responsibility for—liability for—the sins of his people.”

5 Ways Porn Lies To You (Tim Challies)

(www.challies.com/articles/5-ways-porn-lies-to-you)

“There’s a lot of porn in the world. When I first began to write the articles that would become Sexual Detox, this sin was still lurking in the shadows. Few people knew just how deep and deadly it was. Nearly a decade later, we get it. We know now that nearly every boy and a great many girls will be exposed to it, struggle with it, and even become addicted to it. So every now and again I like to return to the topic, hoping to offer hope. Today I find myself considering porn’s ugly lies.”