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Union with Christ Page 4 Joseph (Part2) Page 8 The Crucifixion: Mark 15 Page 11

Union with Christ Page 4

Joseph (Part2) Page 8
Joseph (Part2)
Page 8

The Crucifixion: Mark 15 Page 11

The Covenant of Works and the Christian Life, Part 2 (Page 13) SPRING 2019 £1.75
The Covenant of Works
and the Christian Life, Part 2
(Page 13)
SPRING
2019
£1.75

Philippians 1 v 9-11

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Theme verses

Philippians 1:9-11

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CONTENTS

03

First word

04

Union with Christ

08

He lost his coat, but kept his character. Joseph (Part 2)

11

The Crucifixion: Mark 15

13

The Covenant of Works and the Christian Life (Part 2)

16

From the churches

21

Praise & Prayer

22

Bookshop reviews

24

Best of the blogs

FIRST WORD

In a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to fight off the encroaching signs of middle age, I have taken to doing a fair amount of running recently. Of a Saturday morning I can often be found huffing and puffing my way around the country lanes surrounding Crumlin, struggling to keep going!

I n various places, the Bible uses the image of running as a picture of the Christian life. The Christian life is like a long distance race; we need endurance to keep going. Sometimes, when the going is particularly tough, we can feel like we just want to stop, and give up. Maybe that is how you feel even now.

In Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer gives us some good advice about how to keep on going in the Christian life, so that we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us”.

1) Remember those who have gone before you!

As Christians today, we are not the first ones to run this race. The writer says that we are surrounded by “a crowd of witnesses”. He’s talking about believers who have gone before us, and finished the race themselves. They have kept going to the end, through all the ups and downs of the Christian life. They persevered, and they reached the finish line.

That should be a big encouragement to us as we seek to live the Christian life. Remember those who have gone before you! In chapter 11, the writer tells us about many Old Testament believers who kept going to the end. Perhaps you can also think of older Christians who are now in heaven. Perhaps Christian parents, or older Christian friends, or ministers you know from years ago, and indeed the founding fathers of our own denomination. What a great thing that they kept going and finished the race! So keep going, just like they did! If they got to the finish line, so can you!

2) Lay aside every hindrance

Running long distances is difficult at the best of times, but imagine trying to run for miles and miles whilst wearing a pair of heavy jeans and a woolly jumper, and carrying a suitcase! Or imagine you ate lots of junk food and chocolate, and put on an extra couple of stones

food and chocolate, and put on an extra couple of stones which you have to carry

which you have to carry with you in the race. It would make it all so much harder. You need to lay aside those things.

In a similar way, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that

if we are going to run this race of the Christian life, we

need to lay aside certain things. He says, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.”

Perhaps the writer has in mind, first of all, things that are not wrong in themselves, but which become a distraction to us and keep us from running hard in the Christian life. And certainly, he wants us to turn away from certain sins which cling to us and trip us up and make us falter in the Christian life. By God’s grace, lay those things aside so that you can keep going strong as

a Christian.

Thirdly and finally, the key piece of advice that we must listen to is this: keep looking to Jesus!

3) Keep looking to Jesus!

If the struggles we face as Christians are difficult enough, then just consider what Jesus faced. For Jesus, remaining obedient to his Father meant going to the cross, where he would suffer the punishment for all of his people’s sin, once and for all. Yet Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame”. Now, Jesus is in the place of glory! He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Anyone who looks to Jesus in faith can know that all of their sin is forgiven because of what Jesus did at the cross, and one day they will go to be with him in glory too. They will cross the finish line, and enter into the joy of glory, with Jesus. Keep looking to Jesus, and all that he has done; he will get you safely home!

Union with Christ

W hen we hear the word “union,” perhaps we think of marriage, trade unions, plumbing or

even electricity. All these involve union. Marriage joins two people in heart, mind and body. Trade unions join workers together. Plumbing joins pipes. Electricity is about joining wires, united to a source of power. In all these things, when the union is broken, nothing works. The union is the all-important thing.

The words “union with Christ” describe a great Bible truth that is precious to all Christians. It is surprising how often union with Christ is mentioned in Scripture, especially in the letters of Paul. For example, in the book of Ephesians the words “in Christ,” “with Christ,” and “through Christ,” are mentioned 38 times. That’s a lot! In just six chapters! In Philippians the term occurs 21 times and in Colossians 22. This is surely evidence that in the mind of Paul, union with Christ is a central truth. The idea is also found in the Old Testament in the great covenant promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12, when he said, “In you (in union with you) shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

But, what does it mean to be “in Christ”, or in “union with Christ”? Here are some illustrations:

Christ is like our “home” where believers live. We live in Christ like we live in a house. Christ is where we find God’s salvation. Where we find all the blessings like forgiveness, peace, joy, assurance of God’s love and the promise of glory.

Or to look at it in another way, Christ is a great reservoir holding the blessings God has for his people, and because believers are joined to Christ and linked to Him, those blessings flow to us. We are joined to Jesus in such a way that all God’s blessings flow to us through Jesus.

When we turn on the water taps in our houses, water comes out because up in the mountains there is a reservoir, and our water taps are joined by hundreds of miles of pipes to that reservoir. You could say, our houses are in union with the reservoir. In the same way, we too as believers are joined to Christ, the source of our relationship with God, and the tap is always open for us to draw from Christ.

This is how our union with Christ works: When we are in trouble we cry out to God and because we are united to Christ, the power of God flows to us by the Holy Spirit, as we believe God’s promises. Through faith it reaches us, meets our need, whatever that need may be: comfort, protection, strength, etc. There is a real and living connection, by believing, and by the Holy Spirit. That is the essence of the Christian life.

Paul teaches this great truth in the first two chapters of Ephesians. He uses this term “in Christ” no less than 22 times in these first two chapters. Every time we see the words “in Christ” we can read “in union with Christ”. Take a look; it is mentioned in almost every verse! This is a most important truth because it is the basis of our relationship with God. Jesus said in John 15:5 “Without me you can do nothing.” You cannot have a relationship with God apart from union with Christ.

In this article we are going to trace our union with Christ through the ages, by asking and answering 4 questions from the Scriptures, mainly from Ephesians, Romans, Galatians, and the gospel of John.

1. Where did our union with Christ begin?

Now here is an amazing truth: God is involved with us, not just during our lives on earth, but he is involved with us from eternity past to eternity future. His relationship with us is eternal and our union with Christ is the basis of that relationship. Look at Ephesians 1:4 “He chose us in Christ,” that is, “in union with Christ” before the creation of the world, and looking ahead into the future, the book of Revelation 20 tells us that we shall reign in union with Christ for all eternity. Our union with Christ is the basis for our entire relationship with God, past, present and future. Amazing!

It is very important that we understand the meaning of this union, because it will help us to be patient in trials, confident of our status as Christians and optimistic about our future. It will change the way we think about ourselves day by day.

We have seen in Ephesians 1:4 that our union with Christ goes back before the creation of the world. But how can that be? We did not exist before the creation of the world. But the Bible says we were in God’s mind and plan and when he thought of us, he thought of us as being in relationship with him through our union with his Son, to whom he had given us before creation. Listen to John 17:2 where Jesus says, “Father, you granted me authority over all people so that I might give eternal life to all those whom You have given me.” Amazing words! Before the world was ever made God gave us to Jesus. Even before we existed! That’s not a theory, that’s what Jesus said. That’s where our union with Christ began, back in eternity, before the world was created. Eventually, when we would be born we would share in the blessings of his Son Jesus. We would share in what Jesus would accomplish by his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection. We would share in all the benefits that would come from the work of Christ. And that was all in the plan of God before creation. What an amazing thing it is to be a Christian!

2. What did our union with Jesus look like when Jesus came to earth?

When Jesus came to earth to carry out his work of redemption he represented us. When Jesus came to earth, he perfectly obeyed God’s law, so because we are united to Christ, God now looks on us believers as if we had perfectly obeyed His law. In Rom 5:19 we read “By one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” God dealt with our sins as if they were Christ’s sins. Remember, we had not yet been born or had yet committed our sins, but when Jesus came to earth, God looked on our sins as belonging to Christ because he had already united us with Christ.

When Christ died on the cross at Calvary, God thought of us as having died. Paul says “our old self was crucified with him.” (Rom 6:6) “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live.” (Gal 2:20) Do we know and experience this union with Christ in our lives on a daily basis? If today we live carelessly and selfishly, how can we say we are united to Christ? A life united to Christ should look like this: “I no longer live but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20)

When Jesus was buried, God looked on us as being buried with Jesus, and when Jesus was resurrected we too were raised up and we too were seated in heaven in union with Christ. That is the truth that Paul teaches in the following scriptures

Romans 6:4 - “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God the Father we too may live a new life.”

Ephesians 2:6 - “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1-3 – “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated. For you died and your life is now hidden in union with Christ in God.”

By the time Christ returned to heaven, even though we had still not yet been born, all the benefits of our salvation had already been achieved for us by Jesus. In the mind of God, all these blessings were rightfully ours, just as if we had earned them ourselves. Because of our union with Christ they were stored up for us in Christ, waiting to be applied to us in our lives when we believed.

3. What does union with Christ look like in our

lives right now?

Now that we have been born and we exist as real people in the world, our union with Christ is not just in God’s plan, it is now a present reality. It has happened. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (Eph 1:13-14)

In any union there is something flowing from one to the other, current flows in electricity, water in pipes, love in a marriage. Similarly, in our union with Christ there is a two way flow. Christ communicates with us through the Holy Spirit in Word, and we communicate with him by faith, believing his promises. So in this present life, in union with Christ, we continue to die to the old life of sin and rise up in union with Christ to a new life of righteousness. This began for us, when we first believed in Jesus. But for God it began way back in eternity.

All our living is to be done “in Christ.” We have no life of our own. There has been a dramatic change in the realm in which we live. We have entered the kingdom of Christ and the power of the kingdom affects every part of our lives. Every day, every hour. Everything we do must be done in union with Christ, by depending and trusting in Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Here are some of the things the NT says we have to do in union with the Lord:

We must speak the truth “in Christ.” We are to be strong “in the Lord” and in his mighty power. We are to rejoice “in the Lord,” to work hard “in the Lord.” Indeed we are told we can do everything “through Christ” who gives us strength. (Phil 4:13)

Jesus himself shows us what union with him should look like in our lives right now when he talks about the vine and the branches in John 15. He tells us that there is no fruit without union. (v5) Apart from Christ we can do nothing. Union produces great answers to prayer. (v7) Union shows we are Jesus’ disciples bringing glory to God. (v8) Union produces joy and love. (v10,11) If we are truly “in Christ,” these things will be seen in our lives.

Of course we must not forget that while we are here on earth we are also united with Christ in his sufferings. Therefore because of our union with him on earth we are ignored, belittled, shunned, and even persecuted.

4. What will union with Christ look like in glory?

We don’t get glory down here. But we do get glory in heaven with Jesus. Rev. 20:6 tells us that because of our union with him, we will be priests of God and of Christ and we will reign with him for a thousand years.

Paul also talks about what our union with Christ will look like in glory, in Ephesians 2:6-7: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” In Paul’s mind heaven will be like a great museum - to amazing grace. And we, who are united to Jesus will be the exhibits. Imagine the angels showing visitors around the exhibits! “Look here, this man was a murderer, a child abuser, but he repented and believed, and is now united to Christ. See how God’s mercy and grace have changed him.

“But let me show you another man. He was a self- righteous churchgoer but so proud and full of himself. Christ’s grace reached down, far down, to him too, and united him to Jesus.”

What an amazing God we have, that he should take sinners like us and unite us with his Son before the world began. And that in this life he should seek us out and lead us to repentance and faith in him. And that we will one day reign in glory in union with him. This great truth takes away our fear of death, and spurs us on to do everything “through Christ” who gives us strength.

“One with himself I cannot die. My soul is purchased by his blood, my life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Saviour and my God.”

“Christ is where we find God’s salvation. Where we find all the blessings like forgiveness, peace, joy, assurance of God’s love and the promise of glory”

joy, assurance of God’s love and the promise of glory” Norman Reid is retired from the

Norman Reid is retired from the active ministry of the EPC having served in the congregations of Crosscollyer St, Finaghy and Dublin. For the last 13 years of his ministry he was lecturing at the Dumisani Theological Institute, Kingwilliamstown, South Africa.

He lost his coat, but kept his character. Joseph (Part 2)

I n our last article, we began to think about Joseph’s life, considering his family background. We saw a sad and divided family, marked by foolish favouritism and hostile hatred. The result was almost unthinkable – Joseph’s own brothers plotting murder, selling him to passing slave traders, and covering up their sin with an elaborate story to their father Jacob. What will happen to Joseph now he’s a slave? Perhaps surprisingly we’re not told in the following chapter. Instead Moses, as he’s carried along by the Holy Spirit, tells us about the sin of Judah with Tamar his daughter-in-law. Faced with temptation and away from home, Judah sleeps with what he believes to be a roadside prostitute, but who’s actually Tamar. Illegitimate twins are born. It’s a sad and sordid story, which leaves us despairing of this family. However, it’s here for a reason. It’s drawing our attention to Joseph’s godly character. He’s faced with

precisely the same temptation with Potiphar’s wife. Far away from home, where no-one may find out, she tries to seduce him. In contrast to Judah, Joseph acts as a positive example of how to battle temptation. We face many temptations in life. We’re in a real spiritual battle (Eph.6:10-12) with the world, the flesh and the devil. In this battle, we must be on our guard, fighting the fight of faith. This is what Joseph does in Gen.39.

Guard your heart Satan is after you, but the Lord is with you

There are times in the Christian life when we are particularly vulnerable to temptation. We need to be aware that Satan and his forces are watching us, waiting to present us with opportunities to sin. He wants us to doubt God’s love for us, so that we will turn from God’s

way to his way, from serving God to serving self and sin. This is exactly the situation Joseph finds himself in. One day, he’s dressed in the special coat his father’s given him and going to check on his brothers; the next he’s in the clothes of an Egyptian slave and being inspected by potential owners. He didn’t see this coming when he was sharing his dreams with his family! What must be going through his mind? If you’ve ever watched a boxing match, you’ll have seen the boxers trying to “soften their opponent up” – hit him or her with body shots to exhaust them, before they go for the knockout punch. This is often how Satan operates. When we are in difficult circumstances, he wants to “soften us up” by targeting our heart. He wants us to ask ourselves, “does God really love me?” before he hits us with a knockout blow. This is what he suggested to Eve back in Eden, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes

will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen.3:4-5). God doesn’t want what’s best for you, Eve! He doesn’t really love you, why don’t you have this fruit and please yourself instead? But God does love us. And God is with us. No matter how difficult our circumstances may seem, he never abandons his people. That’s what was at the heart of the covenant promise he’d made to Joseph’s great-grandfather Abraham (Gen.17:8), his grandad Isaac (Gen.26:3) and his father Jacob (Gen.28:15) – “I will be with you”. It was still true for Joseph here in Egypt, God hadn’t abandoned him. That’s what Moses wants us to see in v.1-6, as five times he draws our attention to this truth, “the Lord was with Joseph”. It seems that Joseph understands this and is clinging to God’s promise. Because God is blessing his work, his master Potiphar notices him and he’s brought inside to work in Potiphar’s house rather than his fields. Inside the house, Potiphar sees that “the Lord was with him”. At first glance this might seem incidental, but ask yourself, how does Potiphar know the name of the Lord, Yahweh or Jehovah? It can only be because Joseph has told him and explained who is blessing his work. His heart is being guarded from bitterness as he clings to the truth that God is with him. This reminds us that the battle against temptation is the battle for faith. Faith in the promises of God. When we are facing difficulty and are particularly vulnerable to temptation, we must cling in faith to God’s promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut.31:6, Josh.1:5, Heb.13:5). As Jesus told Peter, Satan is after us, wanting to sift us and tempt us to bitterness and sin; but Christ is interceding for us, that our faith might not fail (Luke 22:31-32).

Guard your eyes Look at what’s physical in the light of what’s spiritual

I don’t know if you’ve been to the opticians lately. It can be quite an ordeal, can’t it? We look at red dots and green dots, big letters and small letters, lens 1 or lens 2, lens 3 or lens 4. The whole point is to diagnose if we need to have our vision corrected. As Christians, we’ve had our vision corrected. We’re able to look at the world through the lens of God’s truth and with the eyes of faith! This is what Paul tells us in 2 Cor.4:6, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Joseph is promoted over all of Potiphar’s staff. God is greatly blessing him, but promotion brings prominence. We’re told that Joseph is handsome “in form and appearance”. He’s extremely physically attractive. Egyptian women were renowned for being promiscuous and Potiphar’s wife notices him. She’s looking only at what is physical, living to please herself and fulfil her desires. So, she propositions him, “lie with me” (Gen.39:7). He’s good looking, her husband is presumably not around that often, why not? Isn’t the Bible so contemporary? Our western world has made a god of appearance and sex. People are obsessed with how they look, and what others think of their appearance. They spend lots of money on beauty products and treatments, gym memberships and supplements. They take multiple photos until they get the perfect one, then filter them until they look just how they want others to see them. In recent years we’ve seen huge spikes in the statistics on addiction to internet pornography. There are websites which exist to facilitate adultery! Why? The eyes of unbelief look only at what is physical. What does Joseph see when he looks at this scene? He too sees what is physical, but in the light of what is spiritual. Where

the eyes of unbelief see an opportunity to sin, the eyes of faith see an obligation to obey. In v.8-9 he refuses her advances. “My master…has put everything that he has in my charge…nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife.” He concludes his refusal with these words, “how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against…” – and we’re expecting him to say Potiphar, his master, her husband. But he doesn’t. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” You see Joseph is living his life aware of the presence of God. This great spiritual reality shapes how he views and lives all of life. God sees me, God hates sin, sin opposes God. Therefore, I cannot! There are many temptations around us. Like Joseph, we must guard our eyes. In faith we must look at what we can see, in the light of what we can’t. How do we do this? Like Joseph we remind

ourselves that we’re living our lives in the presence of God. When we’ve done well and are tempted with proud attitudes, we put on the glasses of Prov.3:34, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. When a filthy joke is made in school and we feel the pull of popularity to join in, we say “blessed is the man who does not stand in the path of sinners” (Ps.1:1). When our marriage is in

a bad place, and we feel the temptation

of lust we remember that our “body is

a temple of the Holy Spirit…you are not

your own, you were bought with a price” (1 Cor.6:19). We guard our eyes by looking at life through the Word of God.

Guard your feet Fight when you can, flee when you can’t

But Potiphar’s wife is relentless. She won’t take no for an answer: v.10 tells us that day after day she propositions Joseph, trying to entice him. I was recently reading an article about houses in England situated near the coast.

When they were built, they stood beautifully, but now they are hanging over the edge of cliffs, condemned and no longer habitable. Wave after wave has battered the coastline and eroded it. This is what temptation can be like. Initially we’re able to fight and resist it, but as wave after wave sweeps over us, our resolve is weakened, and we give in to sin. It makes the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ even more wonderful. The writer to Hebrews describes him like this, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). Christ was battered with all the waves of temptation that we are, and in a more intense way, for he never gave in. He felt the full force of temptation, yet he was without sin. What does Joseph do? He guards his feet. He fights the temptation by avoiding her! “He would not heed her to lie with her, or to be with her”. He stays away from her where possible. He knows something about his own weakness. He’s in danger! Maybe not on Monday when he’s feeling strong, but by Thursday he might be feeling battered and weak. He knows the truth Robert Robinson expressed so well, “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”. We too must guard our feet and keep ourselves away from temptation wherever possible. To do this, we need to know our own hearts. We need to think about the areas that we’re most likely to stumble and fall in, and the times when we face temptation that we find difficult to battle. However, as much as we guard our feet, there may come a point where we are faced with strong temptation. The only way to fight will be to flee! This is what happens to Joseph. On one particular day he is in the house, working. None of the other servants are there, and she grabs him, “lie with me”. He runs as fast as he can. He needs to get out of there immediately. He can’t fight, so he flees!

God promises us that he will not let us be tempted beyond our ability, but when temptation comes he will also provide a way of escape for us (1 Cor.10:13). This is Joseph’s way of escape, to flee! Sometimes it will also be our way of escape – it might mean we have to turn off the TV immediately, to walk away from the conversation when we’re about to overreact in anger, to close the novel when it takes an unexpected turn. Guard your feet – fight when you can, but flee when you can’t.

Guard your mind The love of God is better than the lies of men

Potiphar’s wife is left with Joseph’s coat in her hands. This is dangerous, as it might bring her under suspicion. So she concocts a story of lies, a reversal of what actually happened. She calls the house servants to tell them her fiction. He came onto me! As evidence, she’s got her ‘smoking gun’, Joseph’s coat. Look, he left it behind when I cried for help! When Potiphar returns home, she repeats the story (v.16-18). Whether he believes her is doubtful, as the punishment for attempted rape was usually execution. But Joseph ends up in prison (v.20-21). In Psalm 105:18 we’re given a picture of his experience there, his feet are in chains. He’s kept there for around 5 years. There’s a price to pay for his obedience, a big price. You see faithfulness to God often brings failure from a human perspective. Like Potiphar’s wife, the world may want to tell lies about us or what we’ve missed out on. For example, you’re a young person and all your friends in school are going out to a nightclub. You wisely guard your feet and stay at home. The next day in school all you hear about is what a great time you missed. But is that the truth? What you’re not being told about is the sore head your friend has from drinking too much, the shame they feel from what they did they wish they hadn’t, and the money they’ve wasted

on it all! Or when we stand up for God’s moral standards, we’re described as intolerant or full of hate. The lies of the world are real and they hurt. Wonderfully, the love of God is far better than the lies of men. In this dark and cold prison, Joseph is surrounded by love:

v.21, “the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy”. The Hebrew word translated mercy here means covenant love. God’s covenant promises have not failed, as difficult as Joseph’s situation seems. In fact, because of God’s covenant love there is a great purpose to Joseph’s imprisonment!

Perhaps you are facing the cost of obedience. Remember, God loves you. Not because you obey him, but in spite of the many times you’ve disobeyed him. He loves you in Christ, who battled every temptation perfectly. As you face temptation and fight for faith, look to Christ who has overcome. In him we have victory and deliverance. In him we can be more than conquerors. He has promised us help and strength and a way of escape from all our temptation. So guard your heart, your eyes, your feet and your mind – looking always in faith to Christ.

feet and your mind – looking always in faith to Christ. John Roger is the newly

John Roger is the newly installed Associate Minister at Stranmillis EPC. Last year, he completed his studies at the Reformed Theological College. He is married to Claire, and they have three children: Meredith, Ezra, and one on the way.

The Crucifixion:

Mark 15

One of my favourite ever TV programmes was a series called The West Wing, which followed the exploits of a fictional US President Jed Bartlet. The beauty of the West Wing was that each episode stood alone; if you had watched before, you could watch a single episode and enjoy it, but each episode also fitted in to the overall narrative.

In this article we want to consider the crucifixion of Jesus as

we find it in Mark 15, and as we are going to see, there are five episodes which we will consider on their own and then see how they tie together the narrative as a whole.

5 episodes:

Jesus and Pilate Pilate and the crowd Jesus and the Soldiers Jesus and the Crowd Jesus and Sin

Jesus and Pilate (v.1-5)
Jesus and Pilate (v.1-5)

On the previous evening Jesus had been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had been betrayed and arrested and faced the hostility of the Council, and now the following morning there will be more trials ahead; there will be no respite for Jesus.

A meeting is convened of the chief priests, the elders and the

whole council to decide what they should do with Jesus, and ultimately they decide to take him to Pilate. Why? Why take him to Pilate? Why not sort it out themselves? Because they themselves have no power or authority to kill Jesus; Pilate has the jurisdiction to issue the death penalty.

We notice that the charge has been changed; the charge the night before was blasphemy, yet now before Pilate the charge is treason for claiming to be the king of the Jews. Jesus answers them “That is your testimony, that’s what you say!” It’s ironic, isn’t it? Here they are accusing and abusing an innocent man, but the thing they are about to punish him for is actually true; he was the king of the Jews! Just because they didn’t understand, just because he wouldn’t be their type of king, the Jews rejected him - but it didn’t make him any less the king of the Jews.

The Chief Priests keep going and charge Jesus with a long list of offences, but yet Jesus remains silent and doesn’t answer. Pilate is amazed. Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of the suffering Servant; as the lamb before its shearers is silent so Jesus wouldn’t make any answer to the accusations that they make against him (Isaiah 53:7).

Pilate and the Crowd (v.6-15)
Pilate and the Crowd (v.6-15)

In v.6 we read about this strange custom that used to take place, that at the feast of Passover there used to be one prisoner who was released. Mark introduces us to this fairly worthless character called Barabbas, “the son of the father”, who had committed murder in the insurrection. He was a rebel and a convicted criminal.

The crowd come up and ask Pilate to do for them as he usually does: “We want someone to be freed!” So Pilate says, “Well, do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” Why? Because Pilate knew that the religious leaders had acted in the way they had only out of jealousy. He knows that is the reason Jesus is there. He knows that Jesus has done nothing wrong and yet the religious leaders want him dead. Yet the religious leaders aren’t happy that Pilate is trying to have Jesus released to them, and they stir up the crowd to have Pilate release for them Barabbas instead.

Pilate here makes the mistake of listening to the crowd. He listens to what they want, perhaps fearing the trouble that the religious leaders could cause if he didn’t listen to them. Pilate asks the most searching question of all in v.14: what crime has he committed? What has he done? Yet the crowd would provide no answer, and cry all the more, “Crucify him!”

Pilate does what the crowd wants; he releases Barabbas and has Jesus scourged and then delivers him to be crucified. Even in the midst of so much darkness there is so much light for us to hold on to. What are we shown here? In effect, Jesus dies the death Barabbas deserves to die. He deserved what he was getting, he was a murderer, and yet the innocent, sinless Son of God dies in his place. Barabbas’ physical salvation from death shadows our spiritual salvation.

You see, each of us is as guilty as Barabbas. Each of us has broken God’s law, each of us has shaken our fist in God’s face and told him we wanted nothing to do with him.

Yet, as Jesus was delivered to be crucified it was our death he was dying, it was the punishment that should have fallen on us that fell on him. Barabbas in a real way foreshadows the reality of our redemption. Jesus stood in his place.

Jesus and The Soldiers (v.16-20)
Jesus and The Soldiers (v.16-20)

Jesus’ humiliation continues, he has been humiliated at the hands of the religious leaders, he has been humiliated at the hands of Pilate, and now he is humiliated by the soldiers. The whole battalion comes together to mock him. Obviously the commander thought that this was too good an opportunity to miss to build morale and have a bit of fun. They put a purple cloak on Jesus, mocking his claim to be the king of the Jews. They twist together a crown of thorns and put it on him, again in mockery of the king. They salute him, spit on him and kneel down in front of him, all mocking his claim to the king of the Jews. Then when all of this is done they return his own clothes to him and lead him out to crucify him.

There are always only two responses people make to Jesus:

either we worship him, or else we mock him as the soldiers do. As we go into the world today with the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, there will always be these two responses: some will worship Him in all sincerity and yield their lives to him, while others will continue to mock and scorn Him.

Jesus and the Crowd (v.21-32)
Jesus and the Crowd (v.21-32)

Pilate had felt the full force of the crowd earlier when he had tried to have Jesus released, and now Jesus himself is going to feel the full force of the crowd. Before they get to the place of execution a man is compelled to carry the cross beam of the cross for Jesus, a passer-by called Simon, from Cyrene. Mark records this in v.25 with very little detail, other than simply that they crucified him; here he was hanging on a tree, suffering, bleeding and dying, and the execution squad beneath him is casting lots for his clothing.

From verse 29 onwards we see the vitriol that the crowd are pouring on Jesus. He was derided by the crowd. “Come down and save yourself, if you are so powerful, do it!” The religious leaders also mock him, that if he comes down then they will believe that he is the king of Israel. Even those who were crucified with him derided him. The constant picture we have of Jesus in these verses is one of total and utter humiliation. Mark is painting for us the death that is the lowest of the low.

But that’s the way it had to be, hadn’t it? That is what Isaiah’s suffering servant predicted, a man from whom we hid our faces, a man who was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53v3). This is your saviour, this is your king: not a great military hero, not a great warrior but a man hanging naked on a tree.

The religious leaders say, “Well, if he came down we would believe him,” but Jesus wouldn’t come down because he knew that this was the revealed will of his Father. He knew this was the cup that had to be drained.

In our modern world we have a tendency to think that our sin isn’t that bad, that our sin is really just a quirk of our own personality. Yet as we see Jesus hanging on a tree, mocked and reviled, we are reminded that it was our sin that drove Jesus to the cross, when all the voices of the crowd were crying ‘come down’. Truly I am a great sinner, but truly Christ is a great Saviour!

Jesus and Sin ( v.33-39)
Jesus and Sin ( v.33-39)

Finally, we want to focus on two things in this final section which show the defeat of sin in the death of Jesus. The first one is the temple curtain being torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain was the curtain which symbolised man’s separation from God due to sin. It was the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple; this was the curtain behind which the High Priest was allowed to pass once a year. This is the curtain that as Jesus dies is rent in two, thereby signifying that man can have free access to God now through the death of Jesus; for those in Christ no longer does that barrier of sin exist, no longer are they cut off from God.

The veil today is rent in Christ alone, only his death has removed that barrier. Only through his death can we come to God. There is no other way, for “there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.” This was true then, and it’s still true today.

Secondly, we see Jesus’ victory over sin in the cry of the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” An experienced executioner, a man familiar with death, sees in Jesus something unique. The whole purpose of Mark’s narrative is to get us to cry with the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God, truly this man was who he said he was!” This is the answer to the question that Jesus posed in Mark 8 to his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The answer today is the same answer as all those years ago. The answer on our lips is the same answer that the centurion gave: “Truly this man is the Son of God!”

the centurion gave: “Truly this man is the Son of God!” Trevor Kane is Minister of

Trevor Kane is Minister of Dumfries Free Church. He is married to Suzanne and they have three boys, Noah, Eli and Judah, and just recently had a little girl, Eva. In his free time he enjoys watching sport, especially football.

The Covenant of Works and the Christian Life (Part 2)

This series on the covenant of works and the Christian life aims to show that rich doctrine leads to worship. These articles are meant practically to provide deeper reasons to praise God. As noted in part 1, Paul’s most expressive exclamation of praise came at the end of Romans 11 in light of the dense theology of the previous chapters. So, even though these essays are doctrinal, they should be fuel for adoring Christ. Part 1 discussed what the covenant of works is, describing that it was an agreement between God and Adam whereby Adam could by his obedience obtain eternal blessings from God. Clearly, this arrangement was possible only before the Fall. Once Adam sinned, it was no longer possible for a mere human to earn God’s blessings. But in that original Garden of Eden setting, Adam could have

obtained the new creation by his works. In this regard, part

1 considered the biblical evidence for the fact that God made a covenant with Adam, as Westminster Confession of Faith 7.2 outlined by drawing on passages like Hosea 6:7; that

the reward for this covenant was an incorruptible state, as

1 Corinthians 15:35-58 presents; and that the condition of

that covenant for Adam was works-based obedience, as the early Genesis narrative itself details. In part 2, we now need to establish the theological value of that covenant of works. Therefore, this essay focuses on the wider biblical testimony of why it is important that God made the covenant of works with Adam.

The first theological point worth noting is that the covenant of works explains why we believe that all humanity is bound to keep the Ten Commandments. All Christians should love the Ten Commandments and strive to keep them to the best of our ability. Sometimes, however, we struggle to explain why we are bound to these ten laws that were written in stone on the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 20) when we think that the other types of laws about ceremonies and civil codes from the Mosaic covenant are no longer obligatory. The solution for this ‘problem’ lies in the covenant of works. Westminster Confession 19.1-2 explains it this way:

1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it. 2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man. We, as Presbyterians, confess that God gave a law to Adam in the covenant of works. That is likely unsurprising. But we may not always be aware that we also believe that this same

law that God gave to Adam to bind him to perfect obedience was given again to Moses in the Ten Commandments, as Westminster Confession 19.2 explicitly stated. No longer can we perfectly keep it in order to earn blessings from God, but the crucial point is that God has not changed the law. So, the reason why we believe that the Ten Commandments are still God’s rule of life for humanity is that they were built into us by creation. We, as those made in God’s image, have this moral law hardwired into our nature. Although the ceremonial and civil laws were joined to this moral law as part of God’s plan to explain Christ’s work in advance and to regulate the life of God’s people to preserve a distinct group through which the Messiah could come, those ceremonial laws were fulfilled and the civil laws expired because their temporary role in God’s plan came to completion in Christ (WCF 19.3, 4). The moral law, as summarized in the Ten Commandments, however, has been God’s will for human holiness since the beginning and is in no way temporary. This way of thinking helps us make clear sense of passages like Romans 2:14-16: ‘For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.’ Paul wrote that even those who are not part of God’s people in some ways know what God requires of them, even those ‘who do not have the [written] law.” They may not have the Ten Commandments as they were written for the Israelites, but they do have them ‘written in their hearts’ and so know ‘by nature what the law requires.’ So, the covenant of works helps us make sense of how to explain biblical ethics.

Second, the covenant of works helps us to understand the relationship of works and grace. In the covenant of works, Adam obviously needed to love God and express that by his works. Moreover though, in Adam’s specific case, he could obtain God’s blessing by works. He was the one human who could expect to be rewarded based on the works principle of inheritance. We as sinners, however, can never expect God to reward our obedience no matter how well we are doing, simply because a sinner by definition can never meet the condition in the covenant of works of ‘perfect and personal obedience’ (WCF 7.2). We who have broken God’s law can no longer hope to inherit from him by that law, but may now obtain blessings from him only by faith. This way of thinking is simply a restatement of what Scripture says in Galatians 3:10-12: ‘For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the

Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”’ Verse 12 contains that shocking statement that ‘the law is not of faith.’ If we do not understand this remark in light of Paul’s argument in Galatians, and the way we have articulated that point as the distinction between the law and the gospel as they are linked to the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, then we might detrimentally misunderstand that statement. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, did not mean that people with faith do not try to keep God’s law at all, nor did he mean that because faith has come God has done entirely away with the moral law. Rather, as the context of verses 10-12 clarify, that the law is not of faith means that we must choose between relating to God on the premise of, or primarily because of, law or faith. If we try to found our relationship to God upon the law, then we must have perfect obedience because that it what the law demands as a principle of inheritance. Faith-fueled best efforts cannot and will not earn God’s favour, and God forbid we ever try to present our good tries at obedience as the reason that God should love us. That attempt would be disastrous for us and insulting to our Creator. On the other hand, if we found our relationship with God on faith, we must know that we receive our heavenly inheritance entirely because of what God has done for us in Christ. That by no means entails that we do not after-the-fact strive after new obedience. It does mean that none of our sanctified good works are reasons that God lets us into heaven. Either we come to him by the law and, unless we offer perfect righteousness, are cursed, or we come to him by faith and we do not pretend that our good works are any sort of reason for God to be good to us. Romans 10:5-9 makes this same point: ‘For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ The covenant of works helps us to understand how these passages teach that there are two ways of relating to God: works or grace, law or gospel. We must choose only one as the foundation of our relationship with God. As sinners though, we can never actually meet the conditions of relating to God by works and would only receive God’s curse. All of this is perhaps best summarised in the words of Westminster Confession 19.6: ‘Although true believers

be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.’ This means obviously that we should come to God on the foundation of his grace, trusting that he will be good to us because we have had faith in Jesus Christ.

That second point that the covenant of works has theological relevance in helping us understand the distinction between the law and the gospel, however, forces us to ask the question about how God is just and good to grant us citizenship in heaven on the premise of grace, when he required Adam to render perfect obedience to the law if he were to obtain it for the human race. That leads us to the third and most important point about the theological relevance of the covenant of works, which is about how it helps us understand the work of our Saviour Jesus Christ. There are deep and profound reasons, as we would expect, that the Scripture speaks of Christ as ‘second’ or ‘last Adam’ in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, but since we already considered that passage in part 1 though, we will think about this second Adam theme by discussing Romans 5:12-21.

First, we must note the comparison between Adam and Christ. It is clear throughout these verses that Jesus Christ is the one who obtains blessing for us while Adam was the one who failed to do so and gave us only death. Verse 18: ‘Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to the justification unto life for all men.’ There is a dramatic contrast between the results of Adam’s work and Christ’s work. Adam’s work as our representative who broke the covenant condemned us all and slated us for eternal death. Christ’s work as the representative of all who have faith in him, however, brings about the ‘justification unto life.’ Justification is that act wherein God declares us righteous in his sight, and that declaration brings about the result, still because of Christ, that we have entitlement to eternal life. The ESV translated verse 18 to say ‘justification and life.’ A literal translation of the Greek phrase though would say ‘justification of life,’ as the KJV rendered it, but what does ‘of life’ mean? The KJV left the phrase unclarified, the ESV interpreted it to mean that justification and life are two somewhat distinct blessings, but I rendered it here “justification unto life,’ or even ‘the justification that results in life,’ to indicate that the result of justification is

life because in fact when God justifies us by faith in Christ, it does guarantee our eternal life (Romans 5:9).

Second, we can see that, despite the radical difference between the results of Adam’s work and Christ’s work, there is an obvious parallel between the role of Adam’s work and Christ’s work as representatives for what inheritance we will receive from God. As we saw in part from 1 Corinthians 15, Adam could have achieved the incorruptible, new creation state for us if he had obeyed. In Romans 5, although Adam disobeyed, Christ our mediator obeyed. It is ‘by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.’ (v.19) This indicates to us that Jesus Christ is the second Adam not simply as some new representative, but specifically as our representative who fulfilled the covenant of works for us. The emphasis in Romans 5 is undeniably upon Christ’s obedience. So, God did not change the rules by allowing us to come to him by grace instead of by law. Our heavenly blessings were still earned by someone’s perfect obedience, although certainly not our own or even the first Adam. Jesus Christ himself, the eternal Son of God, assumed a human nature in order that he could be born under the law and so fulfill the conditions of the covenant of works for us (Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 5:8; Philippians 2:1-11). Jesus Christ has earned grace for you. What is a covenant of grace for us in that God accepts us freely by faith, was a covenant of works for Christ in that he earned by his perfect righteousness every blessing that God grants to us by faith. This is certainly the richest theological relevance of the covenant of works in that it shows us the unshakeable foundation of our salvation lies in the fact that Jesus Christ, as the second Adam, earned, bought, and merited on our behalf every good gift that God will lavish upon us in eternity. Should this not lead us to worship?

upon us in eternity. Should this not lead us to worship? Harrison Perkins serves as assistant

Harrison Perkins serves as assistant minister at London City Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Free Church of Scotland. He and his wife Sarah are from Alabama, but the Lord moved them to the UK in 2016. While doing further studies at Queen’s University Belfast, Harrison served at a church in Northern Ireland, which quickly became and remains ‘home’ to him and Sarah, before taking the call in London in late 2018.

FROM THE CHURCHES

Junior Camp Reunion

Junior Camp enjoyed a superb day of fun in Ballyclare on Saturday 23rd February. We had a bumper turn-out of 46 boys and girls who simply loved the day. Meeting with the friends you made at summer camp is something they relish, and for a few new faces this was a preview of what camp is really like! From 10:30am to 4.30pm we packed in games, crafts, lunch, a photo slideshow reliving the highlights of camp 2018, and then hit the pool in Ballyclare. They simply love it! Then back to the church for our meeting where we revised the memory verses and the Lord’s Prayer and learned about Abraham too, and we sang our hearts out! And to cap it all off we had chicken and chips for tea. A wonderful day filled with God’s goodness. For more of the same, get your booking form in early for Dunluce School, 29 June—6 July 2019.

form in early for Dunluce School, 29 June—6 July 2019. 1616 Inters Camp Reunion Inters Reunion
form in early for Dunluce School, 29 June—6 July 2019. 1616 Inters Camp Reunion Inters Reunion
form in early for Dunluce School, 29 June—6 July 2019. 1616 Inters Camp Reunion Inters Reunion

1616

in early for Dunluce School, 29 June—6 July 2019. 1616 Inters Camp Reunion Inters Reunion was

Inters Camp Reunion

Inters Reunion was an action packed day from start to finish! We had 31 campers buzzing to be let loose to

experience Inters and we hope we gave them a day to remember. We landed at the We Are Vertigo Inflatapark and

went straight for the obstacle course

meets Gladiators on a giant bouncy castle and you’ll have

a fair idea how much fun was had! After a quick pit stop for lunch we moved on to the Adventure Centre for high ropes, soft play and much more. We headed back to Stranmillis for some more team games and then Jonny McCullough gave us some great insights into the impact that church camps have had in his life and shared his testimony, before Ross Jackson shared from God’s word with a faithful and clear Gospel message. He challenged and encouraged our young people already running the race as young Christians in the real world. The day finished with hotdogs and chippy chips before heading our separate ways, well fed both physically and spiritually. Special thanks to all our dedicated leaders who made the

day run smoothly and gave their infectious energy to make it

think Total Wipeout

a

great day!

If

you’re aged 11-14 and would like to join us in the Summer

for Inters 2019 please get your booking forms in soon as spaces are limited! Inters 2019 runs from Friday 28th June to Friday 5th July and we’ll be based at the Moyallon Centre near Portadown.

If you’re interested in helping and supporting with Inters camp this year you can help in several ways - we need leaders of all ages and experience who would like to be

involved in various capacities (speak to your minister in the first instance)… we need financial support as any gifts are much appreciated and help fund camp by enabling us

to continue to give campers memorable experiences

need practical help with set up and clear up at the start

and end of the week

support that Inters 2019 would be an opportunity to share the Gospel with our young people. Please get in touch with Andrew Johnston by emailing epcinterscamp@gmail.com or on 07773672449 if you would like to help.

we

and most of all we need your prayer

It is our prayer that God would continue to use Inters to

challenge, encourage and inspire our young people to walk with God in the midst of an increasingly hostile world, and strive to grow and mature in the knowledge and love of our Lord! To God alone be the Glory!

Note: Junior and Senior camps would also greatly value offers of help in the above ways.

Lord! To God alone be the Glory! Note: Junior and Senior camps would also greatly value

FROM THE CHURCHES

Senior Camp Reunion

The Senior Camp Reunion this year was held in the Faith Mission Centre, Portadown. The change in location was aimed at making the reunion more accessible for more people. This seemed to be effective, reflected in a rise in average numbers from the last few reunion weekends. A group of 20 teens took a break from GCSE revision to enjoy a combination of indoor and outdoor activities, “chill out” time, and importantly times of worship, Bible study and discussion. We had some excellent talks on Daniel from Philip Dunwoody (Dervock RP) – these talks were relevant, encouraging and challenging for all present, both campers and leaders. We all benefited greatly from Philip’s ministry and the discussion that it generated. We pray for lasting fruit from the seed that was sown. We also pray that God would protect and sustain the young Christians, like Daniel, living in an increasingly secular world. We look forward to the summer camp – to be held DV in Ovoca, Co. Wicklow, 6th-13th July 2019.

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just” Words of King Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by Daniel’s God.

King Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by Daniel’s God. Details of Summer Camps Junior Camp Date: 29
King Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by Daniel’s God. Details of Summer Camps Junior Camp Date: 29
King Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by Daniel’s God. Details of Summer Camps Junior Camp Date: 29
King Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by Daniel’s God. Details of Summer Camps Junior Camp Date: 29
King Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by Daniel’s God. Details of Summer Camps Junior Camp Date: 29

Details of Summer Camps

Junior Camp

Date: 29 June – 6 July Venue: Dunluce High School, Bushmills Age: 8-11 years old (on 30 June 2019) Cost: £100 (£90 if other family members are attending an EPC Camp) Leaders: Robert and Julie Johnston (075 1989 6063)

Booking: Please return completed camp form to:

Michelle Wright, 102 Grangewood Road, Dundonald, Belfast, BT16 1GB

Inters Camp

Date: 28 June – 5 July 2019 Venue: Moyallon Centre, Portadown Age: 11-14 years old (on 30 June 2019) Cost: £180 (£170 if other family members are attending an EPC Camp) Leader: Andrew Johnston (077 7367 2449) epcinterscamp@gmail.com

Booking: Please return forms to:

Andrew Johnston, 43 Cumberland Park, Belfast, BT16 2AZ

Senior Camp

Date: 6-13 July 2019 Venue: Ovoca Manor, Wicklow Age: 15+ years old (on 30 June 2019) Cost: £200 (£190 if other family members are attending an EPC Camp) Leaders: Mark & Jacqui Thompson (077 4634 5389) epcseniorcamp@gmail.com

Booking: Please go to www.eventbrite.co.uk and search for ‘EPC Senior Camp’ in ‘Dublin’.

FROM THE CHURCHES

The Moodys

Throughout February and March, a number of EPC congregations were pleased to have Andrew Moody (Crosslinks) come and speak at services and prayer meetings, giving an update of how the work in Uganda is going, and how to pray for him, Eunice and Joy. We rejoice to hear of all those who in January completed the Preachers’ Training Course. 153 people received certificates in January. It was encouraging to hear how the students developed through the course of the training, and how they didn’t want the time of study to come to an

end! We pray that this training will prove to be effective in the blessing of many others.

A significant change lies ahead for Andrew and Eunice,

who are planning to move further north in Uganda.

In God’s providence, the bishop of Madi and West

Nile Diocese was happy to give land in the Aringa Archdeaconry compound, Yumbe, so that a house can be built there. All being well, the house will be ready by June, and upon relocating Andrew and Eunice will be within 10 kilometres of the Bidi Bidi refugee camp – the second largest refugee camp in the world, with some 270,000 South Sudanese refugees living there. This move will pave the way for Andrew to start Preacher Training Courses in two areas of the Bidi Bidi camp. Please continue to remember Andrew and Eunice in the midst of these changes, as well as Joy as she approaches a key time in her schooling.

remember Andrew and Eunice in the midst of these changes, as well as Joy as she
remember Andrew and Eunice in the midst of these changes, as well as Joy as she
remember Andrew and Eunice in the midst of these changes, as well as Joy as she

FROM THE CHURCHES

Richhill EPC

When the attendance at Richhill services had become low by the middle of 2017, Presbytery felt it best to suspend services during the holiday months of July and August. However, with no evident prospects of an attendance upturn as September approached, Presbytery decided against resumption at that point but scheduled full consideration of a future mission work in Richhill for March 2019. Presbytery further decided to maintain the witness in the intervening period through a series of monthly evening services commencing in May 2018.

At the suggestion of some of the local people who were attending we decided to move the services to Sunday afternoons from January 2019 and at the same time we increased the number of services to two. These are held on the second and fourth Sundays of each month and our ministers have been conducting them in turn. In March 2019 we had a visit from Rev Mark Johnston, minister of Richhill 1984-1994, and it was good to see former members and friends on that occasion. The average attendance for the May-November 2108 period was 22, made up of people from the Richhill area and visitors from other EPC congregations. The afternoon switch increased this average to 26 but the number of local people has more than doubled between January and March 2019. We greatly appreciate the support of our own congregations which creates important activity and visibility around the church.

We advertise the services, speakers and subjects in the local press and visit the district with invitation cards providing information about the services.

There is also a large poster with the same information on the church notice board close to the footpath. We have a lovely site, building and facilities in Richhill and it would be wonderful to see it all functioning fully again to God’s glory. Session has also decided to run a Children’s Mission 29 April-3 May 2019 through Hope for Youth Ministries.

As scheduled, Presbytery engaged in a full consideration of the Richhill work at its April 2019 meeting and decided to continue the twice-monthly afternoon services. Richhill is due to return to Presbytery’s agenda in September 2019 and meantime EPC’s Church Development Committee will consider with the Richhill Interim Session potential steps to further advance the work. Included in Presbytery’s original proposal to begin monthly evening services was the awareness of our dependence on prayer: “that we commit all our congregations to pray about the situation”. So please pray for:

• Progressive response from the local community and continued EPC support

• The ministers who conduct the monthly afternoon services

• The effectiveness of advertising

• Travel to and from Richhill

• Security and maintenance of the building

• The Interim Session, in managing the day-to-day aspects of the work

• The Children’s Mission 29 April – 3 May.

• Presbytery, as its members continue to consider the future direction of the work.

ECB

The Tuwis

When the Tuwis hosted a drop- in coffee morning on Saturday 16 February in Stranmillis EPC, it gave an informal opportunity for friends and supporters to catch up with Catherine and Aphia, recently returned from the other side of the globe. For many, however, the star attraction was baby Emunah. Catherine had been in New Zealand completing a WEC training course when it became apparent that all was not well with her pregnancy. Emunah was born ‘dead’ and resuscitated, but needing multiple blood transfusions to combat life-threatening anaemia. God showed great kindness to the family in answer to the prayers of his people around the world, and what a joy it was to see Emunah, not quite a year old, bright and alert and enjoying her food while her parents chatted. For those who are not familiar with the Tuwis, they serve as WEC missionaries in Abéché in Chad, which

they serve as WEC missionaries in Abéché in Chad, which opportunity, Catherine has learned Bible stories

opportunity, Catherine has learned

Bible stories in Chadian Arabic which she shares with the women in their own homes. Now Catherine and Aphia are looking forward to returning to Chad in the near future, just as soon as Emunah

is able to drink enough fluid without

the need for it to be pumped through

a feeding tube. In the meantime, we

pray that God will be preparing the hearts of men and women in Abéché to hear and receive the words of eternal life.

is where Catherine (originally from here) met Aphia who comes from Vanuatu. Their ministry is one of evangelism. In a short video presentation, Aphia, who builds friendships through coaching football, told how the men love to discuss religion and talk about God. This gives occasion to invite them for further conversation over tea in a restaurant, or to come to his home to read the Bible, always with a desire to point them to Jesus Christ. While herself concentrating on learning Chadian Arabic, Catherine has been teaching level one English to adults, an occupation which has provided wonderful opportunities for new friendships with women. Unlike the men, however, the women show very little interest in religion which means openings for the gospel are more difficult. Where there is

FROM THE CHURCHES

Ordination of John Roger

Stranmillis EPC opened their doors to many friends and family members of John and Claire Roger on Saturday 19 January for the ordination of John to the Christian ministry and his installation as Associate Minister of Stranmillis EPC. Rev Gareth Burke, as Moderator of Presbytery, chaired the proceedings. Worship began with the singing of God’s praise in the words of Psalm 148. Prayer and further singing were followed by the reading of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:5. The simple but solemn act of ordination was then conducted, during which John answered the prescribed questions put to him by Rev Marcus Hobson, Clerk of Presbytery, and then signed the formula of subscription. The congregation witnessed the laying on of hands by the commission of Presbytery, a recognition of John’s God-given gifts and calling. Rev Andrew Lucas led the congregation in prayer. The singing of Psalm 121 expressed the assurance for John, Claire and all present that My help comes to me from the LORD by whom earth and heaven were made. Rev Stephen Roger, John’s father and minister of Ballyclare EPC, preached helpfully from 2 Timothy 1:13 on the responsibility of the minister to echo the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the need for the congregation to embrace that gospel. May both aspects be true throughout John’s ministry. The singing of Great is the gospel of our glorious God was a fitting way to end the service. Following the benediction, sincere words of welcome were spoken by Christopher Doherty on behalf of Stranmillis church, and presentations were made to Claire and the children, Meredith and Ezra. Likewise, Rev Andy Hambleton warmly welcomed John into the Presbytery of the EPC as a fellow worker in the gospel.

In his reply, John spoke of the privileges which had been his in bringing him to this day, greatest of all being the privilege of being a child of God. Thank you to Stranmillis for laying on refreshments which were enjoyed by those who didn’t have to rush away. Rev John Roger has now commenced his ministry in Stranmillis EPC and we uphold him, his family and the congregation at this time.

has now commenced his ministry in Stranmillis EPC and we uphold him, his family and the
has now commenced his ministry in Stranmillis EPC and we uphold him, his family and the
has now commenced his ministry in Stranmillis EPC and we uphold him, his family and the
has now commenced his ministry in Stranmillis EPC and we uphold him, his family and the

FROM THE CHURCHES

Surrendering to the Enemy

For over 20 years a ministry has been carried out in association with Crosscollyer Street church, reaching out to men and women struggling with addiction. Known as the Helping Hand, the work has seen God’s blessing, with people meeting regularly to worship and learn from the Bible. By God’s grace, some have been converted and their lives have borne fruit. Gerry, a long-term member of the Helping Hand group, wrote this article as an allegory of the conflict and U-turn that conversion involves. We are thankful to God that it expresses his own personal experience.

For 2000 years the battle has raged. Throughout the world our regiments have always been united in a common cause and, in obedience to our generals, we have fought side by side against a foe we could not see. Countless millions of our troops have perished. Millions of them have also surrendered, yet none were taken by force or captured at sword or gun point. In fact, our enemy never harmed a single one of us. Many of my own comrades have fallen all around me, but I must be with those who remain, fight with them, never abandon them and die with them. Our casualties are astronomical and they continue to mount, but the enemy’s war dead, according to intelligence reports, numbers just one.

I am just a lowly private trying to stay alive in this terrible, futile war. On one occasion, after a long and arduous campaign I found myself lying in a hollow smothered under dense foliage. I was trying to get my bearings when someone touched my shoulder. I recognised him as an old friend. He had been listed as missing in action but he explained to me that he had surrendered to the enemy. He had certainly expected prisoners to be treated humanely in accordance with the articles of war, but he found conditions in the enemy camp quite beyond his expectation. There were no barbed wire fences or watch towers and anyone could leave at any time. Those who did were not riddled with machine gun fire but were carefully watched over. None were recaptured by force but nearly all returned. Life within the camp was to everyone’s benefit with fellowship in communal songs of praise, prayer and help for those who were struggling.

I lost contact with my friend and re-committed to the losing

legions. I fought on for the next few years enduring the most appalling conditions. It’s an awful thing to give one’s self up to the foe, to abandon comrades, to give up our shared lifetime cause. But I came to the point where I could not go on. Covered from head to toe in mud and grime, exhausted and completely at an end of myself, I staggered out of the trees into a clearing. I fell on my knees and then onto my

face. Unashamedly, unreservedly, and unconditionally,

I surrendered.

Gerry Robinson

Crosscollyer Street

Give thanks to God for times of safety, happiness

and friendship at all three recent camp reunions.

Pray that there will be lasting fruit from the seed

that was sown. Pray that many children and

teenagers will apply for summer camps and that

these will be times of great usefulness to young

people living in an increasingly secular world.

Pray that all the needs for camp leaders and

cooks will be met and that each team will

know God’s help and guidance as plans and

preparations are made. Ask that those preparing

to teach God’s word will do so with dependence

upon His Holy Spirit.

Pray for wisdom and diligence for the POCVA

board of our church as they oversee the

implementation of child protection regulations

in the congregations. Pray that leaders will

be attentive to the physical, emotional and

mental needs of children in their care, while not

compromising the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank

God for His kindness in protecting from serious

incident and injury.

Praise God for his kindness to the Tuwi family in

regard to Emunah’s health and development. Pray

for her continued progress and for help for Aphia

and Catherine as they prepare to return to Chad

as a family. Thank God for those who are His in

Abéché and pray that they will be built up in their

faith. Pray that Aphia and Catherine will be used

to bring the gospel to men and women who are

still in darkness.

Pray for John Roger as he settles into his

new responsibilities as associate minister in

Stranmillis. Pray that he will faithfully echo the

gospel of Jesus Christ and that the congregation

will have hearts and wills to embrace that

gospel. Pray the same for every minister and

congregation in EPC.

Cry out to God for those (known to you or

not) whose lives are crippled and ensnared by

addiction. Give thanks for the Helping Hand

addiction support group in Crosscollyer Street

church and for those who have been helped

through it. Praise God that he is able to save to

the uttermost those who come to him through

Jesus Christ.

Praise God for the 153 students who have

recently completed the Preachers’ Training Course

with Andrew Moody in Uganda, praying that this

training will prove to be effective in the blessing of

many others. Join Andrew and Eunice in thanking

God for the provision of a site for a new house in

Northern Uganda and pray that the building and

moving in will go smoothly. Give thanks for the

planned training courses to be held in Bidi Bidi

refugee camp. Pray that the gospel would bear

fruit among the many South Sudanese refugees.

At times of sadness and trouble in our society

and nation, pray that people will turn to God in

repentance and faith. Pray that Christians will be

salt and light and will be ready to give a reason

for the hope that is in them.

will be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them. BOOK REVIEWS

BOOK REVIEWS

Title: Reformed Preaching:

Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People Author: Joel R. Beeke Publisher: Wheaton, IL: Crossway:

2018

Pages: 504 (Hardback) RRP £29.99, Our price £22.50

2018 Pages: 504 (Hardback) RRP £29.99, Our price £22.50 God’s Word remains at the heart of

God’s Word remains at the heart of Reformed faith and practice. We know that we cannot invent the truth, and so God must tell us what is true particularly in regards to how we might be saved. That is why preaching has always had a fundamental role in the life of Reformed churches. We insist that the Word of God be proclaimed so that we might know the true way of salvation and be reminded of the riches of God’s grace. Joel Beeke has issued us a reminder that preaching is supposed to address us as whole persons and not just one of our faculties. Although the title of the book is Reformed Preaching, the more specific argument is a case for Reformed experiential preaching that teaches people from the text of Scripture and uses that text to direct people to adore their God in affection and deed, as well as thought. Often the Reformed tradition can be seen as intellectually driven and bookish. Some people think we are overly insistent on doctrinal specifics and that we are too critical of others with whom we disagree. Beeke rehashes the reasons why that should not be the case. Doctrines are not simply facts to be known, but truths about God that should move our hearts. Further, we must be winsome in the presentation of truth in love even for those with whom we most stringently disagree. We are meant to teach people and move them by proclaiming God’s Word. This book is an excellent devotional guide for pastors to remind us about the full remit of our calling as we minister to people in Word. The book falls into three sections. The first outlines the case that Beeke makes for Reformed experiential preaching. He describes the major ideas and elements of this type of preaching. The main point is that, although we do not let our experiences govern and dictate our life of faith, the truth about God should in fact stir our emotions to have an experience of God in light of the truth. The second section, which forms the bulk of the book, collects examples from the history of Reformed churches of preachers whom Beeke thinks followed the same model of preaching that he advocates in this work. The chapters cover the early Reformation period, the puritan era, the Dutch Further Reformation, and various international figures from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. These overviews of the careers of various preachers will certainly be useful introductions to Reformed thinkers who

BOOK REVIEWS laboured in preaching the Word of God. Part three of the book shifts

BOOK REVIEWS

laboured in preaching the Word of God. Part three of the book shifts to describe some practical principles about how we might shape Reformed experiential preaching today. This book will serve as a terrific resource for the church. It will remind preachers that preaching is one aspect of pastoring, and obviously we do not pastor only people’s minds. We seek to see God’s people grow in their love for the Lord and their thrill at his glory. This book will also help us recover some of the riches of past preaching and help us reflect on how our preaching should look. We can take great pleasure in this work, as it should spark us to be more deeply aware of how we preach, and what we seek to achieve as we do so.

Title: John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life Edited by Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons Pages: 132 (Softcover)

£5.99

Gift edition RRP £14.99, Our price £12.50

£5.99 Gift edition RRP £14.99, Our price £12.50 John Calvin, who lived 1509-1664, is perhaps one

John Calvin, who lived 1509-1664, is perhaps one of the better-known theologians of bygone days among Presbyterians. He is often quoted in our sermons, and even nearly five hundred years later, we are still using and quoting his biblical commentaries to write our sermons. Calvin was a second- generation reformer, meaning he followed and built on the work of those churchmen who launched the Protestant Reformation like Martin Luther and Martin Bucer. Because he did have such an important role in training ministers, in the Geneva Academy, who would go and

preach the Scripture faithfully throughout Europe, and even

a few in South America, I think many perceive Calvin to have

been a lofty-minded, perhaps even ivory tower, theologian. But Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life shows that to be a very false portrait of the Genevan reformer. The title gives away his focus after all: equip believers to walk with Christ well. The five brief chapters of this work form a well- rounded discussion of issues we all face as Christians. Before diving into the actual content, I should note that this new edition from Reformation Trust is very well done. It is small enough to keep in your pocket if you want to read it as you ride

the train or take it to sit in the park to reflect upon it, or even if you just want a book that does not overrun your bedside table. But the important matter is what Calvin said. The first chapter looked at how God uses the Holy Scripture to work in us to make us more and more into the likeness of Christ. The Word of God is our call to righteousness. The second chapter addressed

a fundamental issue in keeping God’s law as Christians, which

is the matter of acting as living sacrifices. There is an ongoing need for us to deny ourselves and submit to what God has said in Scripture. This most often takes effort on our part. Chapter three deals with suffering in the Christian life. We must all bear our crosses, but Calvin pointed us to remember that God only gives us these crosses as matters of fatherly discipline. He does not afflict us just to afflict us, but to bring us into conformity to Christ and redirect us away from sin to the righteousness of Christ. This flows well into chapter four, which argued that we must keep our eyes fixed on eternal life. There is the new creation for which we wait, and that should make all the sufferings of this world fade away. Modern readers might think that Calvin overstated his point a time or two here, but I think his general point stands, and we should remember that Calvin did not live in the age of household plumbing but of plague epidemics. Perhaps few were as bright about the world then as we can be. The final chapter, however, balanced chapter four by explaining ways in which God does give us enjoyments in this life as part of his good blessing. It is our responsibility to be careful in not over- or under- using any of these enjoyments, as in fact discipline and moderation mean that Christians cannot outright forbid or glut themselves upon any lawful pleasure. Sanctification emphasises the priority of keeping things in their rightful place as reminders of the goodness of our Lord.

The surprising thing, now that we have considered the content of this pastorally minded work on the Christian life, is that this little book is actually an extract from Calvin’s most famous work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Even early on in the career of that larger work, these brief chapters were recognised as a treatise on Christian piety that stands alone in its own right, and it has been published separately. Now, there are a few important takeaways from this point. It shows that even Calvin’s most theological work never lost sight of the church. He was always concerned, even when writing theology deep enough to equip ministry students to have categories to understand the whole Bible, to keep his focus on the Christian’s walk with Christ. Nothing else explains why this richly pastoral little book actually comes from right in the middle of Calvin’s chapters on the doctrines of salvation. Second, and more directed to you readers, you should note as you work through this little volume how easy it is to read and how encouraging it is for your walk with Christ. It is practically minded, and thoroughly biblical and should be of real help to you. But if you find this little section of Calvin’s Institutes as helpful as I have, perhaps you might realise that the whole of Calvin’s Institutes is not beyond your grasp and that you should pursue that work in full as well. I am sure copies, not only of this little book, but also of Calvin’s Institutes can be found in the Evangelical Book Shop.

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Best of the Blogs

A selection of online blogs and articles to challenge and

encourage you in your walk with God and his people…

Covenant Evangelism (Jared Olivetti)

https://gentlereformation.com//2019/02/20/covenant-

evangelism/ “In the RPCNA, when parents bring their children for baptism, they take several vows, one of which regards our responsibility to bring the good news of Jesus to our children:

“Do you promise to teach your children of their sinful nature, of the plan of salvation which centers in Jesus Christ, and their own personal need of a relationship with Christ?” As we seek to be faithful to this calling of evangelizing those born into the covenant people of God, reformed Christians are often subject to pressures and trends they might not fully understand. In response to good conversations during a recent Sunday school class, here is an attempt to shine a light on those pressures and on God’s better way.”

Two Cheers for the Spirituality of the Church (Kevin De

Young)

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/

two-cheers-spirituality-church/

“I believe in the spirituality of the church. I believe it is a

doctrine with a rich Reformed pedigree and a doctrine that can be immensely helpful in today’s cultural and ecclesiastical climate. I also believe the spirituality of the church can, and has been, inappropriately applied. The doctrine has been variously understood and is not a quick fix for the problems vexing evangelical and Reformed churches.”

3 Important Questions for the Church about the Lord’s

Supper (Guy Waters)

https://www.crossway.org/articles/3-important-questions-

for-the-church-about-the-lords-supper/ “How Is Christ Present in the Supper? New Testament writers stress that Christ is present at the Supper he has appointed for his people. This is a running characteristic of covenant meals—the presence of God with his people for their blessing. Any understanding of the Supper that reduces it to

a bare memorial or a mere exercise of intellectual recollection of the meaning of the cross is inadequate. Of course, the Supper is an ordinance of remembrance, and recipients must turn their minds to the cross as they approach the Table. But when they come to the Table, they expect to meet their Savior.”

Cancer and God’s Sovereignty (Marissa Henley)

https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/2019/02/cancer-and-

gods-sovereignty/ “In October 2010, my view of God’s sovereignty went from theoretical to critical with one phone call. As a longtime Christian, I believed that God numbered all my days. But that idea remained hypothetical as I plowed through busy days as a mom of three young kids. I assumed the years stretched ahead of me for several decades. Everything changed when I received a cancer diagnosis on the day before my thirty- fourth birthday.”

Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say

Evangelism is Wrong

https://www.barna.com/research/millennials-oppose-

evangelism/#.XFxOFiZQCF0.mailto

“Sharing one’s faith—evangelizing—is a core practice among many religions. For Christians, it’s viewed as a mandate from Jesus himself before he departed earth: commanding his disciples to “spread the good news.” Yet, today, a number of factors are curbing many Christians’ enthusiasm for faith-sharing, including the decline of religion in America, a spreading apathy toward spiritual matters and a growing cultural suspicion of people of faith.”

How Union with Christ shapes our Identity (David Strain)

https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/how-union-with-

christ-shapes-our-identity/ “In this article, I want to begin to tease out some implications of our union with Christ, starting with the question of identity. How should our union with Christ change how we understand ourselves, our identity as human beings in the world?”