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God’s character and our calling - Joseph (Part 3)


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Philippians 1 v 9-11
CONTENTS
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Theme verses
Philippians 1:9-11
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Editor
God’s character and our calling.
Andy Hambleton Genesis 40 - Joseph (Part 3)
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FIRST WORD
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home
is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not
made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent
we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if
indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For
while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened
—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be
further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed
up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is
God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
(2 Corinthians 5v1-5, ESV)

A s I type these words, I am about to head off for a A body that does not grow old, and ultimately, a body
short camping trip with my family by the Antrim that will not even die. Wonderfully, that is exactly what
coast. In all honesty, we will not actually be staying in a is promised to us in the gospel! For those who have put
tent, but rather a wooden ‘glamping’ pod, so I guess it’s their trust in Jesus, there is something that they can look
not strictly speaking camping, but it’s close enough! forward to which is beyond this earthly “tent” in which
we groan and by which we are burdened, and which
In the opening verses of 2 Corinthians 5, Paul uses eventually will be destroyed. There is another body,
‘camping’ as an analogy of the Christian life. He refers to which Paul describes not as a tent, but as “a building
the body we now have as a “tent”, because the human from God, a house, not made with hands, which is
body as it currently exists is not a permanent dwelling eternal in the heavens”.
place. Even though I am very much looking forward to
my camping trip, I wouldn’t want to have a tent as my Paul is talking about the glorious, indestructible
permanent home! I’ll be quite happy to get back home, resurrection bodies that Christian believers will receive
and get back to my own bed, after the camping trip is when Jesus returns. The reason why we are able to
over! receive bodies like that is all because of what Jesus has
done for us. By his death and resurrection, he has dealt
Just as camping can be fairly uncomfortable at times, with all of our sin, conquered death, and secured life in
Paul says that life in our bodies can also be quite all of its fullness, for all of eternity, for all of his people.
uncomfortable at times. Our bodies as they now exist,
“the tent that is our earthly home”, can be destroyed, be Even though we don’t yet possess those resurrection
that by accidents or illnesses or simply by old age. In our bodies, Paul says that God has already given to his
bodies we groan, and we are burdened by them. Sooner people a gift which is a guarantee that, one day, they will
or later, our bodies let us down. Maybe recently you have have those perfect, immortal bodies. The guarantee is
been feeling weary or under the weather. Maybe you the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. Because the
feel burdened by your body. Perhaps you or someone Holy Spirit lives within us now, we know that we belong
you love has recently had to be in hospital undergoing to God. We know that, through Jesus, he has rescued
treatment for some illness or another. Or, worst of all, us from sin and death and hell. We know that we have
maybe you have had a loved one who has died recently, eternal life within us, even now. And we know that when
and the sad reality of human frailty and the weakness of Jesus returns, the work that he has begun within us will
our bodies has been hit home to you. be brought to its glorious completion, when he gives us
perfect bodies that are kitted out for an eternity with
That’s why the apostle Paul says in these verses that him.
whilst we are in this earthly tent, we long for something
better. We long that we could have a body that does not
get sick, and does not get tired.

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The Covenant of Works and the
Christian Life (Part 4)

T his series about the covenant of works is intended


to establish why this doctrine is valuable for every
Christian. This historic teaching that the Bible tells about
distinction between the law and the gospel, but also helps
us understand the differing ways that we relate to the
law in light of the gospel. For those who are not in Christ,
a covenant between God and Adam is not ephemeral the law is a judge that condemns them for their failure
nonsense, but is a meaningful aspect of God’s revealed to keep it perfectly, but for those who are in Christ and
Word that adds layers to important doctrines and to have already had their sins forgiven and their eternal life
how we live faithful lives. Part one presented biblical secured, the law becomes a guide for living the Christian
evidence that God did make a covenant with Adam, that life. We cannot depend on the law for favour with God,
this covenant’s condition was Adam’s perfect obedience, which is legalism, but Christians who stand righteous
and that this covenant’s reward was incorruptible life. The before God should see the law as a friend that will instruct
second instalment connected this covenant to the works of in the ways that God would have us live in this world. We
Christ, in that Christ by his perfect obedience fulfilled the must, then, be aware whether we relate to the law as
covenant of work for those who would have faith in him, a condition or as a guide, and our position in the gospel
so earning their citizenship in heaven, and connected it to determines that relationship. This final contribution reflects
why people universally are held accountable to God’s law, more broadly on some other applications of this doctrine.
in that the covenant of works built God’s law into human
nature and God later summarized that law in the Ten The first issue for us all in light of the covenant

Commandments. Part three drew connections between of works is that of assurance. If we properly understand

the covenant of works and preaching, making the case that the covenant of works’ relevance for our salvation, we
the covenant of works not only helps us understand the see how unshakable our salvation truly is. The premise of
the covenant of works between God and Adam was that

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clause of heaven’s housing contracts has secured our home
there. Once a title to a home is granted, that home belongs
to us entirely and no one can legally seize it, but Jesus
Christ has obtained the titles to heaven because he earned
them and has given one to every Christian.

We can further link assurance to the biblical


image of citizenship. Almost everyone in this part of the
world has a passport, and when you hold a passport it
guarantees your access to all the rights and privileges
of your country. You may go abroad, but your passport
ensures your safe return through your country’s borders.
It proves the claim that you have the legal right to reside in
your homeland. Paul raised this point in Ephesians 2:18-21:
‘For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the
Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but
you are fellow citizens with the saints and members
of the household of God, built on the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the
cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined
together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.’ Christ
has granted full access to God, which means that we are
no longer strangers and aliens in God’s kingdom, but are
actually citizens there. If you move to a new country, you
must pass a citizenship test to prove you deserve to live
there indefinitely. This citizenship test is like the covenant
of works. God set a citizenship test of perfect obedience
for Adam so he could prove that he deserved to reside in
Adam could earn incorruptible life for his people, as part God’s new creation. Adam failed that test, but Jesus Christ
one outlined. If Adam had earned this life for all humanity, passed it and earned the right to heaven for all whom
then that life could never be revoked. This is like when we he represents. Just like naturalised citizens pass their
purchase a house, have paid in full, and receive the title to citizenship on to their children, so too Jesus passes the
the property, which brings new meaning to Jesus’ words citizenship he earned in his incarnation on to his adopted
in John 14:1-3: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe brothers and sisters when they place faith in him.
in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many
rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to ‘Adam failed that test,
but Jesus Christ passed
prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place
for you, I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.’ Jesus contrasted
troubled hearts with trusting God, which shows that
it and earned the right
when we have faith in the Saviour, we should abandon to heaven for all whom
he represents’
fear and know that God has ensured our eternity. Christ
underscored that eternal assurance by supporting his claim
that they should trust instead of fearing with the reminder
that he goes to heaven to prepare a place, a home, for Paul raised the issue again in Philippians 3:19-21: ‘Their

them – for us – there. Jesus earned the right to all the end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in

property in heaven and distributes the titles to all who their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

trust in him. His perfect obedience that completed every

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But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Paul made significant use of three ‘more’ statements in
Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly this passage. Paul wrote, ‘Since, therefore we have now
body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables been justified by his blood, much more will we be saved
him even to subject all things to himself.’ This passage by him from the wrath of God.’ The point is that if we are
combines ideas that have been discussed throughout presently justified because of Christ, then that blessing of
this series. There are some who will go on to eternal justification even more so ensures that Christ will rescue
destruction, but Paul contrasted them with believers us from God’s last-day wrath. Paul reinforced this same
whose citizenship is in heaven. This point should of course point by arguing that because Christians are now currently
highlight that issue of assurance. Eternal destruction is reconciled to God by Christ’s death, this reconciliation
the opposite of heavenly citizenship, which Jesus has means that even more than that, our salvation is
earned for his people. The point is clear that heavenly guaranteed by Christ’s life. These verses tie together
citizenship grants the privilege of never enduring eternal Christ’s death and resurrection (which is surely the point
destruction. If we are citizens in heaven, then there is no of Christ’s life) and say that the blessing of justification
final confirmation needed, but rather we belong in God’s we presently possess in Christ absolutely, unquestionably
kingdom and have the right to go there because Christ guarantees our eternal life in heaven with our Triune God.
earned that for us by fulfilling the covenant of works. This
connection becomes clearer in the Philippians passage As we saw in parts one and two, however, it was the

when we note that Paul linked being heavenly citizens covenant of works that established the principles for

with the surety that Christ will transform our lowly bodies earning eternal life and incorruptible bodies, which means

into glorious bodies like his. We recall from part one’s that we should understand the covenant of works as a

reflections on 1 Corinthians 15 that this incorruptible body promising foundation upon which Christ has earned these

was part of the reward that God offered to Adam in the eternal blessings for his people. God cannot revoke these

covenant of works. Philippians 3 linked that blessing of an benefits that Christ has earned because God promised to

incorruptible and glorified body to our citizenship in heaven, give them to the one who would earn them for himself

which is granted to us by Christ. and those whom he represents, and of course that person
who earned them is our Lord Jesus. Paul, in another ‘more’
We should, therefore, see that the covenant of works is statement, outlined our proper response: ‘More than that,
an underlying structure that helps explain the certainty of we also rejoice,’ which should certainly be our reaction
our salvation. In a time when so many have compromised to the deep assurance of God’s love for us and of our
on the issue of salvation’s certainty by distinguishing unshakable hope. For Christians who are burdened as they
being right with God now in justification from our future struggle against their old nature to pursue godliness, rest
entrance into heaven which they claim requires good assured that Christ has earned your place in heaven. He
works, we must emphasize every biblical teaching that has merited eternal life for you according to the covenant
undergirds the message of assurance for those in Christ. of works, and has assigned your home and citizenship in
Paul could not have been clearer on this issue than he was eternity as members of his kingdom.
in Romans 5:6-11: ‘For while we were still weak, at the
right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely
For Christians who
are burdened as they
die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good
person one would dare even to die — but God shows his
love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died
for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his struggle against their
blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath
of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to
old nature to pursue
God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are godliness, rest assured
that Christ has earned
reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we
also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through
whom we have now received reconciliation.’ Christ did not
die to rescue godly people, but to justify the ungodly, which
your place in heaven
is a supreme indication of God’s love for his people. Further,

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The second issue upon which we should reflect in light doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.’ The law is
of the covenant of works is our call to obedience as part not a law of liberty if we are not in Christ, but for believers
of the Christian life. We have seen how the covenant of it is ‘the royal law’ of our loving king who is no longer our
works undergirds a supremely deep assurance by ensuring judge (James 2:8), and the law now calls us to what is best
that those who have faith in Christ cannot be rejected at for us, to a life pleasing to our Saviour. The covenant of
the gates of heaven because Christ has earned their place works helps us to understand the decisively certain nature
there, but Christians do know that we are not meant to of our salvation, but it also helps us know how we might
use this assurance as an excuse to sin. Paul addressed love God’s law as a guide to the life that is pleasing to our
this exact issue in Romans 6:1-2 in response to those who Saviour who merited our home in heaven.
may abuse the certainty of salvation outlined in Romans
5: ‘What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that
...but for believers it is
‘the royal law’ of our
grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died
to sin still live in it?’ There is a real call to fight against sin,
not to earn God’s favour nor even to maintain it, but as an
expression of gratitude for what God has done for us and loving king who is no
as a pursuit of what God always purposed for his people.
To point out what may be obvious to many, the fact that
longer our judge (James
God made the covenant of works with the very first man 2:8), and the law now
calls us to what is best
with the condition of perfect obedience shows us that God
had a committed desire since the very beginning of our race
to see holiness in those who are made in his image. God’s
desire did not change – as it never does – just because we
for us, to a life pleasing
have the certainty of salvation. Paul explained in Ephesians
1:4 that God’s purpose in predestination was that we
to our Saviour.
would become holy: ‘even as he chose us in him before
the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and
blameless before him.’ God chose us for holiness. We
would never become holy on our own, so God predestined
us to it. He ensured we would grow in that holiness by
sending the Son to earn our redemption, which includes
the gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14), who will work in
us the ability more and more to die unto sin and live unto
righteousness (Westminster Shorter Catechism 35). The
law of the covenant of works, which is summarized in the
Ten Commandments, becomes our friend in light of the
gospel, as long as we turn to it as a guide for life and not
as a condition unto life. We can avidly chase sanctification
according to the same law that God gave in the covenant
of works, precisely because Christ fulfilled that law for
us. God did not change his law in the New Testament, but
has given us clearer assurance that our eternity does not Harrison Perkins serves as assistant minister at
depend upon our keeping it, and yet we should still strive London City Presbyterian Church, a congregation of
the Free Church of Scotland. He and his wife Sarah
to keep it. James wrote in James 1:23-25: ‘For if anyone is
are from Alabama, but the Lord moved them to the
a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who
UK in 2016. While doing further studies at Queen’s
looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at University Belfast, Harrison served at a church
himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was in Northern Ireland, which quickly became and
like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of remains ‘home’ to him and Sarah, before taking the
liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a call in London in late 2018.

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God’s character and our calling.
Genesis 40 - Joseph (Part 3)

A s we meet Joseph in this third


instalment of his life, he is in a
I’m sure very few, if any, of us have
spent time in prison. But if you are a
...he is freed from
tough and perhaps, confusing, place.
It’s been 11 years since his brothers
Christian, you will have undoubtedly
faced a time of testing in your life (Mark
self or situation,
sold him into slavery. In that time he’s
been bought by a wealthy businessman
8:34, Acts 14:22, 2 Tim.3:12). Perhaps
it has been a short yet painful trial.
to live & shine
called Potiphar, risen to responsibility in Or maybe like Joseph it has gone on for God even in
his house, been the object of unwanted for many years. What we’re going to
attention from Potiphar’s wife, and see from Joseph’s experience, is that this dark place.
when he has rejected her advances, the key foundation that keeps us from
found himself thrown into prison under abandoning our faith or becoming bitter
false accusations. towards God in times of trial is knowing God’s character is faithful
who God is. It’s as we see God in his
We can only imagine what must be sovereignty, power and faithfulness that The Bible tells us that God has not
going through his mind as he sits in we are freed to relinquish control of our only created this world, but is actively
the cold, dark and dingy basement lives to him, and to walk in obedience at work in it, governing every detail
cell he finds himself in. Why has God to the faithful calling he’s given us as to accomplish his eternal plan. Even
let all of this happen to him? Did he Christians. That’s what happens to the smallest facets of life are under
misunderstand his dreams all those Joseph, though he is imprisoned, he is his sovereign power (Matt.10:29).
years ago? What’s happened to his dad freed from self or situation, to live & Crucially, the goal of God’s plan is his
and brothers? This is no longer the time shine for God even in this dark place. own glory and the (spiritual) good of
of intense temptation, but now of long his people. Yet while God has revealed
and painful testing. this goal of his plan to us (Isa.48:9-11,

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yet know it, God has planned for them doing. It’s his invisible hands which are
to be here (Ps.105:18-22). But what achieving his sovereign plans. This is
has brought them into prison? They’ve how it was for Joseph. How could good
committed an offence against the king come from this long prison stay?
of Egypt. Actually, the word translated
offence in v.1 is the same word You may remember the Grenfell Tower
translated as sin in the previous chapter tragedy back in 2017. 72 people lost
(39:9). Presumably in their position of their lives on that awful night. Those
influence, they’ve planned some sort who survived the fire told of their escape
of coup or plotted an assassination. route. As they left their flats and made
Normally, the punishment for offences their way down the central stairwell of
against Pharaoh was capital, but while the tower block, they could see virtually
Pharaoh is angry (v.2), he spares their nothing. Thick smoke filled the air. All
lives for now. And where are they sent? they could do was to cling onto the
To the “house of the captain of the handrail or feel their way along the wall
guard, in the prison where Joseph was which ran down that stairwell to safety.
confined” (v.3). This is how it is for Joseph. He’s looking
This reminds us of just how through the smoke of his circumstances,
comprehensive God’s sovereign plans and he can’t see what’s 1 step ahead.
are. Even the sinful actions of men are All he can see is this prison cell! His feet
under his providence. We have to be are in chains, at times his neck in an
careful in saying that. We can’t blame iron collar (Ps.105:18). This is a painful,
God for sin, it doesn’t originate in him, prolonged trial. How will he get through
he is not its author, as the Westminster it? He clings on to the handrail which
Confession of Faith reminds us in God has provided – what he has told us
Hab.2:14, Rom.8:28), we aren’t privy chapter 3, paragraph 1. As James about his character. He is a faithful God.
to its finer details. This in itself is a puts it, “God cannot be tempted with Faithful to his promise. Faithful to his
mercy of God – as finite human beings evil, and he himself tempts no-one” plan. Faithful to his people.
our minds couldn’t handle the plans of (Jam.1:13). But God can overrule the

He is a faithful
an infinite God (Isa.55:8-9). But this sinful actions of men to accomplish his
brings a tension into our lives. While we purpose. We see this pre-eminently in

God. Faithful
know that God is active, we can’t see the death of our Saviour, as the early
him at work. Even more difficult is that church affirms in Acts 4:27-28. God’s
we don’t know why he has ordained
specific situations, and when we face
plans also include the decisions of
rulers, like Pharaoh. “The king’s heart is
to his promise.
difficulty, it often leaves us confused or in the hand of the Lord” says Solomon
(Prov.21:1). While every decision a
Faithful to his
worse. Perhaps we can sum this up in
a little rhyme, God’s invisible hands are human leader makes is their decision
for which they are accountable, God is
plan. Faithful to
achieving his sovereign plans – and we
see both these truths through the bars sovereignly using them to accomplish his his people.
of Joseph’s prison cell. plan – even which prison a baker and
butler end up in! Perhaps you too are facing deep
Firstly, we see God’s sovereign plans difficulty in your life. Grief which you are
at work in Joseph’s circumstances in Yet there is often tension in the Christian still coming to terms with. Loneliness
Gen.40:1-4. Two men – a baker and a life. We know that God is working all from unwanted singleness or a difficult
butler – enter the prison where Joseph things for our good in our minds, but our marriage. Health problems which have
is being kept. They will be significant circumstances often seem to be saying gone on and on.
for his future. Although Joseph doesn’t the opposite! We can’t see what he’s

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Your circumstances seem filled with Despite his wife’s false accusations, foundation of God’s sovereignty and
smoke, you can’t see how this will end Potiphar trusts Joseph, and he’s put faithfulness. Knowing that God is using
or turn out for your good. Like Joseph, Joseph in a position of responsibility even our bad times for our good, frees
you must cling to this handrail –God over his fellow prisoners. One morning, us from self-preoccupation to serve
has told you that he is faithful. Though as Joseph makes his way round the others.
life may feel out of control, everything is other prison cells, he notices the sad

Rather, he’s
in his sovereign plan, being worked out faces of the butler and baker (v.6).
for his glory & your good. Cling to this Both have had dreams, which were

looking at others
handrail. very important in a culture laden with
superstition. Particularly significant
Our calling is to faithfulness were dreams that came in pairs, and
here are two different – yet seemingly
with love
Have you ever seen a hedgehog at
the side of the road? When they are
related – dreams. Yet the men can’t find
out what they mean!
and concern.
frightened, hedgehogs curl up into a ball.
They do this for their own protection – a What does Joseph do? Put yourself in
Secondly, Joseph is telling truth. It’s
potential predator will feel their sharp his shoes. He was 17 when sold into
not a coincidence that these men are
spikes and leave them alone. Sometimes slavery, now he’s 28. Most of that
unburdening their dreams to Joseph.
when we face difficulty or trial, we can time has been spent under lock and
God has arranged for this Christian man
behave like hedgehogs. We curl up into key. He could easily be fed up & bitter,
to be in this prison, to bring himself
ourselves, cutting ourselves off from wondering how God had allowed all this
glory. Look at Joseph’s response in v.8,
others. We’re sharp & spiky with people, to happen to him. After all, he was only
“Do not interpretations belong to God?
easily irritated and hard to be around. I going to check on his brothers looking
Please tell them to me”. In Egyptian
don’t say that to make you feel guilty – after the sheep! If the butler and baker
culture, there were many sorcerers or
we can all be like this. Yet as Christians, thought they had problems, they were
magicians who made a living out of
God has called us to live faithful and nothing compared to his! But he’s not
interpreting dreams. Dreams were held
distinct lives for him, that reflect his like that at all. Rather, he’s looking at
to be revelation from one of the plethora
glory (1 Pet.2:9-12). Wonderfully, this others with love and concern. “Why are
of Egyptian gods. But Joseph tells these
is what Joseph is doing in his prison your faces downcast today?” he asks
men the truth, these dreams have come
cell and we see that in his attitude (v.6).
from the sovereign God of Israel.
throughout the chapter.
What a witness it is to others when –
Joseph listens to the men as they explain
Firstly, he’s looking with love at the instead of being caught up in ourselves
what they dreamt the previous night.
world around him. It’s almost certainly and our problems – we are looking at
Both dreams relate in some way to the
Potiphar who is in charge of this prison this world in love. We can only do that
men’s former occupations – the butler’s
(see 39:1 and compare it to 40:4). when by faith our lives are built on the
involves a vine and Pharaoh’s cup,

10
and the baker’s cakes and Pharaoh’s It’s horrible! He hasn’t lost faith – he’s you might follow in his steps” (v.21).
basket. As Joseph interprets the butler’s expectantly hopeful of release, as he’s What an encouragement to us, that in
dream, the baker overhears a favourable an innocent man (v.15). Yet he’s patiently all our trials, we are following the steps
interpretation. In three days’ time the waiting for God’s clock to say this trial of our Saviour. He knows what it is to
butler will be released (v.13)! This only is over. He has entrusted himself to be sore under trial. He knows how it
whets the baker’s appetite to hear his a faithful God, and he trusts him to feels to want a trial to end (Luke 22:42).
own dream’s meaning. But it’s bad news vindicate him – in his time. Yet in faithfulness to God, he entrusted
for the baker. In three days he will be himself to the sovereign hand and plan
executed (v.19). That’s the essence of faith isn’t it? of God. And on the cross, he won a final
Trusting God for what we cannot see. victory over sin, death & Satan for all of
Just imagine yourself in Joseph’s shoes That’s what the writer to the Hebrew his people. It is this that enables us to
for a moment here. It would have been Christians emphasises in Heb.11:1. There walk in faithfulness to God. Like Joseph,
really tempting to change this message he encourages these believers under our Saviour knew that God’s invisible
or sugar coat it. He’d probably got to trials by saying, “Faith is the substance hands were achieving his sovereign
know the baker a little, perhaps he’d of things hoped for, the evidence of plans.
come to like him. Yet Joseph that knows things not seen”. If like Joseph, you are
he’s dealing with God’s truth, and in a dark place in life, cling in faith to
therefore, he must be faithful with it. your faithful God. It’s OK to want the
It’s God’s honour which is at stake. trial to be over – the cancer to be cured,
There is a similar temptation for us the relationship to be repaired, the child
to avoid the difficult part of God’s to be converted. God doesn’t ask us to
message, or to sugar coat what God enjoy the difficulty of the trial. But he
says about sin and judgement. It’s not a does ask us to trust his purpose, to wait
nice thing to have to tell people, it’s not on his timing. It’s never a vain thing to
going to make us popular. But we too wait on the Lord (Isa.40:31).
are called to be faithful with God’s truth.
Of course, as we think about Joseph’s
Thirdly, see that Joseph is wanting yet faithfulness, it’s only a pale shadow
waiting. When he tells the butler that of the faithful response of Jesus
he’s soon to be released, he senses to the greatest trial ever faced. As
an opportunity. “Only remember me Christ faced an infinitely greater John Roger is the newly installed
when it is well with you, and mention injustice, an innocent man hanging on Associate Minister at Stranmillis EPC.
me to Pharaoh and so get me out of a Roman cross, he entrusted himself Last year, he completed his studies
this house” (v.14). Though he is living to his faithful God, waiting for God’s at the Reformed Theological College.
faithfully for God in this prison, he vindication (1 Pet.2:23). Peter tells us He is married to Claire, and they have
three children: Meredith, Ezra, and
desperately wants out of there. that this is an example to us, “so that
Seth.

11
The Ascension
H ome is where the heart is. “Home” is a very emotive term;
when you think of home you will inevitably have certain
associations with it. It might be a certain meal that your
last time they come together. They have a question for Jesus,
a very odd question to our modern ears: “Lord, will you at this
time restore the kingdom to Israel?” What does this mean?
mother or father always cooked, it might be a game that you
used to play with your brothers and sisters. Home has those There are a couple of possible options. It could be that the
rich, deep connections for us. In a very real sense, what we disciples are envisioning days of religious revival, days of
have recorded for us in Acts 1 is the record of Jesus Christ’s mass turning to the Lord which the Messiah would usher in.
return home; his return to the Father in glory. It could be the disciples have still misunderstood exactly what
it was that Jesus came to do, and so now they imagine that
The Preamble (v.1-5) after his death and resurrection Jesus will rise up and drive
the hated Roman army out. Jesus is now ready to restore the
The first thing we notice here is that the book of Acts is the physical kingdom, the physical land to the children of Israel.
second part of another work. In his former book the author Whatever it was, it seems that their borders are not quite
recorded all that Jesus “began to do and teach”. Now, what broad enough.
we will have in the second book is the record of Jesus’ return
to the Father, after he had given commands through the Holy No longer would this kingdom be only for the ethnic Jew, no
Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. So, for Luke the longer would this kingdom be for the physical children of
sequel to his Gospel will bring to completion the history that Israel but would be for the Gentile also. Jesus, we are told
he has sought to undertake, the careful study which he has in verse 3, spoke to them about the kingdom. When the
compiled over many years. disciples heard this, instantly their mind went back to the Old
Testament idea of the land. Yet, Jesus’ response to them is
It stands to reason, then, that if we are going to understand very patient isn’t it? He patiently reminds them that it is not
the ascension properly then we have to understand Jesus’ for them to know the times and the seasons that the Father
life properly. It’s only when we see the rest of the life of Jesus has fixed by his own authority. It is almost as if Jesus says to
properly that the ascension makes sense. When we see Jesus the disciples, “don’t worry about it, all will become clear - but
being the eternal Son of God, it makes sense for him to return you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you
to the Father. It is only as we understand who Jesus is, what and you will have work to do.”
he came to do and where he came from, that the ascension of
Jesus with which Acts begins makes sense. Luke, the author The idea conveyed with power is explosive power; it’s the
of Acts, records all of this as a preamble, assuming that the same word from which we get our English word dynamite.
people who are reading the Acts narrative would be familiar But why did they need this power? Why did they need this
with Jesus, having read Luke’s first work. authority? Because there was work to be done; they were to
be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to
Jesus appeared to these apostles over the course of forty the ends of the earth.
days, giving them many proofs that he was really and truly
alive, and teaching them about the kingdom of God. During They would need to witness to the world about Jesus, about
this time, Jesus reminded them about the promise that he had his life, death and resurrection, and only the power of the
made to them; the promise of another helper, the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit would enable them to do this. Only the Holy Spirit
effectively applying the work of Jesus would enable them to
The Promise ( v.6-8) reach out.

In verse 6 we are told that when they came together, the As Christians, we ourselves have the same power within us
disciples didn’t realise it at the moment but this will be the that these disciples did, because we have received the same
12
Holy Spirit they did. If the Holy Spirit gave them power, he This assurance of the sending of the Holy Spirit is how Jesus
gives us power too. Why then should we be afraid of what could assure the disciples in the upper room discourse that his
people will think of us when we witness? Why should we be going away was for their good.
afraid of kings and lawmakers? We have the power of the Holy
Spirit living inside of us if we are Christians! For us, we may long to see Jesus (and one day we will do) but it
is for our advantage that he has returned to heaven, because
We see that there is work to be done; the apostles were not it is from there in perfect Trinitarian love that the Holy Spirit is
given this Holy Spirit merely for their own enjoyment and poured out and sent forth.
comfort and ease. Rather, they were given the Holy Spirit
to enable their mission. Likewise, as we reach out to people c) His victory
today we are reaching out in the power of the Holy Spirit. We
are reaching out in obedience to the command of Jesus to be As Christ’s enemies stood at the foot of the cross on Good
his witnesses - if we don’t do that then no one will! Friday, they thought they had won, but Jesus’ resurrection
and ascension prove that the victory is ultimately his. When
The Disappearance (read v.9-11) we looked at Mark’s account of the crucifixion, we saw how
keen he was to stress the humiliation of Jesus, and yet now
Finally, then, we want to consider the disappearance itself. As with his resurrection his exaltation begins, and his exaltation
Jesus is saying these things a cloud comes and takes him out is further heightened by his return to heaven. Jesus is a victor
of their sight. Here the imagery is clear, isn’t it? Jesus is being not a loser! Remember that the king you serve was crucified,
received by his Father. The cloud signifying God’s presence but he was raised the victor over the grave, and he has been
takes him from their sight. exalted to the right hand of God.

While the disciples were still looking up into the sky, two d) His reign
messengers came and asked them, “Why do you stand gazing
into heaven? This Jesus whom you saw leave will return in the Jesus today is on the throne - his ascension was an ascension
same way.” to the right hand of God. It was an ascension to power and
glory. Kings and rulers of our land come and go but the
Why does all of this matter? Why does the ascension of Jesus ascension of Jesus enables his enthronement. It also enables
that happened two thousand years ago make a difference to us to come before the throne of grace with assurance,
us living today? I want to argue that it matters to us in at least knowing that Jesus is at God’s right hand.
five ways, and I want us to close by looking at them in turn.
e) His intercession
a) Christ’s identity
What is Jesus doing today? He is reigning from heaven, but
Jesus’ ascension proves that he was who he said he was; it he is also interceding for his people. Jesus is ordering the
proves that he was the Son of God. The fact that it is the cloud universe, but he always lives to make intercession for his
that comes and takes him from their presence signifies that people (Heb 7v25). It is a touching thing to hear someone else
it is God who has received him, that it is God who has taken pray for you by name, and to hear their concern for you - but
him home. now imagine that person being the King of kings and the Lord
of Lords! Jesus intercedes for us on the basis of all he has
For us, there is the assurance that Jesus himself gives us in accomplished. He intercedes for us based on the fact that
John’s gospel that in his Father’s house are many mansions, his blood has been shed. What greater comfort is there than
that he goes to prepare a place for us. He can go and prepare knowing that Jesus reigns, yes, but that he also intercedes for
a place because he is the Son of God. If he goes to prepare a his people.
place for us, then he will surely one day return for us, that we
may be where he is. If it were not for his ascension then he
would be unable to return -because he had never left!

b) His sending

Throughout the gospel narratives Jesus assures the disciples


that he is leaving them, but that when he leaves them another
will be sent to help them: the Holy Spirit. This is the gift of the
Father which the disciples are to wait in Jerusalem for, this
is the power that is about to come upon them on the day of Trevor Kane is Minister of Dumfries Free Church. He is
Pentecost, and if Jesus doesn’t return to the Father then this married to Suzanne and they have three boys, Noah, Eli
gift, this helper, this power, will remain unsent. and Judah, and a little girl, Eva. In his free time he enjoys
watching sport, especially football.
13
Tuesday Afternoons at Crosscollyer Street 2018-19
During these sessions we invited some guest speakers concluded the session with an outing to the highly engaging
as an innovation to our existing pattern. Ed Underwood, Armagh Planetarium. We booked it as a private session
OneHundredFold, spoke to us about the role of technology in which gave us the Digital Dome Theatre, an instructor and
making the Gospel available to every individual throughout a tour of the Planetarium to ourselves. We followed with
the world. Allister and Jean Lucas, the local representatives lunch in the hall of Richhill EPC (ideal for such occasions) and
of the Daylight Prison Trust, gave us great insights into a concluding talk from Robert Beckett on The Three Heavens,
the Trust’s work of bringing the Gospel to prisoners and particularly the third heaven where God is and to where he
providing post-release and a range of other support. Mary calls us by his grace through the Saviour. Jim Stephenson
Gillespie (Trinity RPCI) presented an overview of the history kindly drove the minibus.
and work of the Gideons in distributing free copies of the
Bible worldwide. These occasions were very instructive Our Bible studies in Part 2 covered the lives of Ruth, Joseph
and well received and we plan another guest series with a and Caleb, and an illustrated survey of Passion Week as
different theme next session. Easter approached. We were privileged to have John Roger
contribute to the Ruth and Joseph sections. These Old
Our regular meetings are in two parts with refreshments Testament narratives are appealing in themselves but we
between. We introduced some singing of Psalms and found God’s personal dealings with these notable believers
hymns and even had a tentative sortie into the orchestra full of profitable application for ourselves and the church
and classical music during the interval! In Part 1, in the first today. “For whatever was written in former days was written
semester, we studied a selection of the many statues and for our instruction, that through endurance and through the
sculptures of Belfast. They appear in various parts of the city encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom
but the greatest concentration is in the grounds of the City 15.4)
Hall where the main themes are war, distinguished citizens,
landmark events, and the troubles. Rev Robert Beckett We record our appreciation of the consistency and
concluded the series with a talk on Belfast-born William faithfulness of those who come week by week, giving us an
Thomson (Lord Kelvin). From January-April 2019 we looked average attendance of 11 for the year.
upwards to the planets of the solar system and appropriately
Ernest Brown

14
Lord Kelvin of Belfast in the highest, on earth, peace, good will towards men.” For this
he was created a Baron by Queen Victoria. He also developed
a way to measure the flow of electricity and an adjustable
Tuesday 11th December 2018 marked the 111th anniversary compass for mariners. He designed a Tetrakaidecahedron - a
of the death of one of the world’s greatest scientists: William 14 sided three dimensional figure with minimum surface area.
Thomson, later to become Baron Kelvin of Largs. His statue It was not improved on until 1993 and became a model for the
stands inside the entrance to Botanic Gardens close to the Ulster Beijing Water Cube at the 2008 Olympics. Kelvinator Fridges and
Museum, and another one in the grounds of Glasgow University. Freezers are named after him. In all he patented 78 inventions
He is buried in Westminster Abbey beside Sir Isaac Newton. and published over 600 scientific papers.
Can you imagine the world today without radios or telephones? Thomson maintained a strong and simple Christian faith
Much of the development of telephones, wireless telegraphs and throughout his life. He lived at Netherall and attended the Free
broadcasting is dependent on the work in electric circuitry done Church of Scotland in Largs where his first wife’s brother Rev
by British scientist William Thomson in the mid-19th century. Charles Watson was the minister. He faithfully studied the Bible,
William Thomson was born in 1824 in 21-23 College Square and his Christian faith pervaded all of his work. He always began
East facing the school where his father, James Thomson, was his college classes with prayer and looked upon his scientific
a teacher of mathematics and engineering in the University work as a kind of worship. He believed science must be treated
Section of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. His father with reverence, for a close observation of the phenomena of
came from farming stock at Annaghmore near Ballynahinch. His nature brought one closer to understanding God’s works: “If you
mother died when he was six years old and he himself nearly think strongly enough, you will be forced by Science to a belief in
died at age nine years due to heart problems. He and his brother God, which is the foundation of all religion”. He believed study
James were educated at home by their father while the rest of of the scientific laws was the noblest privilege God granted to
the children were taught by their elder sisters. In 1833 the family man’s intelligence. The deeper he delved into Science and the
moved to Scotland when his father was appointed Professor more he studied its mysteries, the greater his veneration for the
of Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering at Glasgow Maker of it all. 
University. William began to study at the university at age 10 Kelvin is famous for his quotes, some of which reveal that he
and published his first science paper at age 16. When William was not infallible.
later graduated from Cambridge University in 1845 one of his “Radio has no future.” “X-rays are clearly a hoax”. “Heavier than
examiners commented “You and I are just about fit to mend his air flying machines are scientifically impossible.”
pens”. At Cambridge, Thomson was active in sports, athletics “In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.”
and rowing, winning the Colquhoun Sculls in 1843. He also took “Large increases in cost with questionable increases in
a lively interest in the classics, music, and literature; but the performance can be tolerated only in race horses and fancy
real love of his intellectual life was the pursuit of science. The women.”
study of mathematics, physics, and in particular, of electricity, “Suppose that you could mark the molecules in a glass of water;
had captivated his imagination. In 1846 at the age of 22 he was then pour the contents of the glass into the ocean and stir the
appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy in Glasgow where he latter thoroughly so as to distribute the marked molecules
remained 53 years. uniformly throughout the seven seas; if then you took a glass of
He married childhood sweetheart Margaret Crum in 1852, but water anywhere out of the ocean, you would find in it about a
her health broke down on their honeymoon and for the next two hundred of your marked molecules.”
decades Kelvin was distracted by her suffering, with his wife “The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he
dying in 1870. would never be caught.”
Kelvin would eventually remarry. He met Fanny Blandy in “Christianity without the cross is nothing. The cross was the
Madeira in 1873. In May 1874 he returned to Madeira. As he fitting close of a life of rejection, scorn and defeat. But in no
approached the harbour in his yacht, Kelvin allegedly signalled to true sense have these things ceased or changed. Jesus is still
the Blandy residence “will you marry me?” and Fanny signalled He whom man despiseth, and the rejected of men. The world
back “yes”. The couple married the following month. has never admired Jesus, for moral courage is yet needed in
His accomplishments were many and wide ranging including every one of its high places by him who would “confess” Christ.
determining the absolute lowest temperature possible to be The “offence” of the cross, therefore, has led men in all ages to
-273.15C. The Absolute Temperature (Kelvin) Scale was denoted endeavour to be rid of it, and to deny that it is the power of God
by the letter K in his honour. He formulated the Second Law of in the world.”
Thermodynamics and supervised laying the first transatlantic
telegraph cable. The first message sent was: “Europe and Rev Robert C. Beckett
America are united by telegraphic communication. Glory to God

15
FROM THE CHURCHES

Junior Camp Report


The week of Junior Camp 2019 was an Ephesians 3:20 & 21
week. The Lord did exceedingly abundantly, even more than
we had prayed for or thought possible. His power was at work
both in the lives of the 49 campers and in the lives of the 17
leaders and 2 cooks; and so the glory is His forever and ever
Amen.

We enjoyed perfect-for-camp weather; not too hot and no


rain to hold us back. The day at White Rocks beach was
superb, as was the day trip to Carnfunnock Country Park – a
longer bus ride, but made shorter by many donuts! (The donut
song!) Everyone enjoyed the swimmers and the shopping, the
afternoon bowling, sports day and the water games. A week
packed with fun activity.

On Sunday after church and tip-top Sunday lunch, we learned


about prayer from Crown Jesus Ministries. During the week
we learned about the life of Paul and the armour of God, as
well as gaining a biblical perspective on the dinosaurs and the
ice age. We also had a visit from David Burke who encouraged
us to think about being a missionary and learning a language
like Spanish.

Many thanks to those who helped in the clean-up operation


on the Saturday morning, and thank you to all who prayed
for us. The Lord was at work and the Lord saved and
strengthened his children.

16
FROM THE CHURCHES

Inters Camp Report


Inters 2019 was another action packed week with 34
campers joining us in Moyallon for great activities, challenging
talks and discussion groups, and lots of delicious food! The
weather was changeable all week which meant we could
do lots of outdoor activities as well as some strategically
planned indoor activities! The usual favourites of ultimate
frisbee, volleyball, dodgeball and capture the flag made an
appearance, along with a visit to the Tayto Factory, water
sports, speedboat trips, obstacle courses, roller skating and
much more!

Colin Moore opened God’s Word each day with talks on the
life on David, and Henry Berry shared in the evenings on
the life of John Paton. We also had Pamela Gaiya sharing
some real life experiences from the mission field, and Phil
Hartin who provoked some really helpful insights on Social
Media. The talks were challenging, inspiring and thought
provoking for all. Discussions in dorm groups used Life
Explored resources to prompt some really good discussions
and searching questions.

We had a great team of leaders and cooks who went above


and beyond to make camp run smoothly and be safe and
enjoyable for everyone. Thanks to each and every one for
everything they did!

Thanks also to you for your prayers and support with


encouraging messages and visits throughout the week. God
is good and has blessed Camp again this year. We continue
to pray that the seeds of God’s Word sown at camp will
continue to be watered and grow in the hearts and minds of
the campers and their families at home.

17
FROM THE CHURCHES

Senior Camp Report


Therefore encourage one another with these words
1 Thess 4:18

Senior camp 2019 ventured south to Co. Wicklow, staying at


the Scripture Union facilities at Ovoca Manor. The Centre is in
the quaint village of Avoca, once the film set of the TV show
Ballykissangel, and provided a great location to explore the
local area. Some of the activities included games on Brittas
Bay beach, Glendalough, water-sports in Bray, and a trip
to Dublin Zoo. While at the Centre we enjoyed some of the
on-site activities including bush craft, orienteering and high
ropes. The Lodge, where we stayed, provided a nice setting
to relax with scenic views of the surrounding Wicklow hills.
We had 17 campers and a team of six leaders, and two
cooks. We also had two dedicated bus drivers, a first for
senior camp, and a very positive addition to the team. Andy
Hambleton delivered talks on “Last Things First” – a study on
what happens after death and at Jesus’ return. The memory
verse from 1 Thess 4:18 related to this theme. We also
considered “Hot Topics” in the evenings – practical issues
such as gender identity, abortion, euthanasia, social media,
and career choices were discussed. Encouragingly all the talks
generated much discussion and many questions amongst the
campers and in evening discussion groups. The young people
were challenged, encouraged and equipped by the truth of
God’s word. As camp finished and we headed back up north
many of the campers expressed their disappointment that
the week was over so soon – they had a great time! We look
forward to the reunion weekend which will be in the Faith
Mission Centre in Portadown 13th-15th March 2020.

18
FROM THE CHURCHES

Voices of Thanksgiving
On the evening of Wednesday 5th June a good sized
congregation representing various EPC Churches met in
Stranmillis Church to hear Dr Jack Whytock share about the work
of Dumisani Theological Institute, King Williamstown, South
Africa. Dr Whytock, who was accompanied by his wife Nancy, is
a former Principal of Dumisani and together the Whytocks have
edited a volume entitled ‘Voices of Thanksgiving’. This volume,
which celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the founding of
Dumisani, is an interesting and colourful presentation of the
history and work of Dumisani and is well worth reading. Copies
were available on the night. Following on from an address on
‘The changing of the guard: The Bible School movement in Africa
today’ Dr Whytock shared with us regarding some of the current Reids and Whytocks outside Stranmillis Church
developments at Dumisani and encouraged us to continue
supporting this excellent and strategic work in the Eastern Cape.
It was a delight to have Norman and Angela Reid with us, and
Norman, who served on the staff of Dumisani for many years,
From Stranmillis to
closed the meeting in prayer. Cornerstone
GNB
On the evening of Sunday 23rd June the Stranmillis congregation,

The Shorter Catechism – with many others from throughout the province, came together
to say ‘farewell’ to Ben and Esther Smith and Reuben who are
Congratulations to Elijah about to begin a two year study programme at Cornerstone

and Moses Underwood


College in the Netherlands in preparation for going to Moldova
to engage in Mission work at the ‘Casa Mea’ homes. It was
appropriate that William Brown, deputy Director of UFM, took
During the morning service on Sunday 16th June Rev John Roger part in the service as Ben and Esther are recognised missionaries
presented Elijah and Moses Underwood with some books from of UFM. We are delighted that Ben and Esther will be joining
the Evangelical Bookshop in recognition of their successful with Jackie Burton (SIM) of Stranmillis who is already studying at
completion of the repetition of the whole of the Shorter Cornerstone, and we pray that they will know much of the Lord’s
Catechism. It is a significant achievement to be able to repeat blessing in these days of change and preparation for future
the Catechism and it is our prayer that the boys, along with service. Following on from the service an informal reception
the other children in the congregation, will not only be able to was held when Dr Sid Garland passed on a gift on behalf of the
accurately repeat the Catechism answers but will come to love Stranmillis congregation, and an excellent supper was enjoyed by
the truths of which they have been learning. Well done Elijah all.
and Moses!!
GNB
GNB
Ben and Esther cutting the cake at their reception
Elijah and Moses with Mum and Dad – Ed and Kate - and their
Sunday School teachers – Ruth Burke and Emma Jackson

19
FROM THE CHURCHES
Obituary: Mrs Mary Doyle, 9 May, 1932 – Coming to faith
26 June, 2019

Crumlin member Mrs Mary Doyle went to be with the Lord


on Wednesday 26 June 2019, following a decline in health
during the final months of her life.
Mary was born and raised in Netherbury, a village in the Before getting to know Christ, I was troubled with many
heart of Dorset. Having moved to Bournemouth to seek thoughts as to the meaning of life. I tried ways to sup-
employment, Mary met a quiet Irishman by the name of press the deepest questions of my soul, but I failed. I had
Sammy Doyle. Romance blossomed between the two, friends preaching to me, yet I was too blind to see and
followed by an engagement and marriage. A few years too deaf to hear.
later, Sammy and Mary were blessed with their daughter
Jacqueline. Following a visit home to Crumlin a couple of My life has completely changed after coming to Belfast
years later, Sammy announced to Mary that they were due to the cultural differences. I no longer had the oppor-
moving back to Ireland as he had taken a new job at tunity to numb myself with the entertainments back in
Langford Lodge. Mary herself worked for many years as Kuala Lumpur. I was consumed by the emptiness in my
a cook in Crumlin High School. Sadly, Sammy died in 1986 heart. I broke down mentally because I couldn’t answer
when Mary was just 54. what is the purpose of life, the purpose of education,
It was impossible to spend time in Mary’s company the purpose of work, the purpose of marriage and most
without realising how much she adored her family: her importantly, the purpose of creation. I couldn’t find any
daughter Jackie and son-in-law Billy, her four grandchildren meaning.
(Melanie, Jenny, Stephanie and Timmy), and her eight great-
grandchildren (Jonah, Maisie, Lily, James, Anna-Joy, Sienna, I suddenly wanted to go to church one day, so I asked for
Jenson and Isaiah). a friend’s suggestion. I was shy at first. I left quickly after
Mary trusted in the Lord Jesus as her Saviour during service because I couldn’t cope with the awkwardness as
a mission in Crumlin in 1963, recognising the need for everyone seems to know what they’re doing yet I felt like
forgiveness of her sin. From that time, it was her new
an outsider. But God kept me going.
identity in Christ that underpinned the way she lived. She
I then came to know about the International Bible Study
had a strong and yet simple faith. She was obedient in
on Friday night, and I thought to myself, why not give it
following Jesus’ example of loving and caring for others,
a try.
she prayed faithfully over the years and she gave of herself
sacrificially with her time, energy and finances.
She spoke with great joy about her church family at Crumlin I went to Stranmillis EPC as a non-believer. I was skepti-
EPC. When she was able, she faithfully attended Sunday cal about what was preached. I tried to reason everything
services and prayer meetings and looked forward to the that was taught. I couldn’t understand. I could see but
fellowship at the Senior Citizens’ Lunches. She loved her not see, hear but not hear. I thought Christians were nice
years serving at Mums and Toddlers with the little ones because they’re nice. I never had thought it’s because of
and was always willing to help with any catering needs the God behind them. That these are the works and fruits
and the preparation of the communion elements as part of of the Holy Spirit. Until one day, God decided to open my
her service to the church and ultimately God. She trusted eyes.
in Christ to the very end despite her declining health
particularly over the last year, even in her final days she was I started to see the Gospel in the people’s lives. I was
ready to meet her beloved Jesus. intrigued by how they talk about Christ. It is as if they just
In the final months of her life, Mary went to live with Jackie had a meal with Jesus this morning. I started to wonder,
and Billy, who cared for her with great devotion. Mary is whether I can share the same feeling towards Jesus, to
greatly missed at Crumlin, and her family remain in our have Him as my Saviour?
thoughts and prayers. Thanks to God, I happened to come across this book –

20
FROM THE CHURCHES

Following Jesus by Andrew M. Randall.


It helped me to understand the Bible better, and how to live
as a Christian.
I started to pray. It felt awkward to me at first, because I had
never done it on my own.

These words really speak to me. “Ask, and it will be given to


you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to
you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Suddenly I realized, I didn’t see because I didn’t ask. Yet, God
has been gracious and merciful enough to put the Spirit in me
Praise God that He is a God of grace who deals
to help me do it.
I thank God for all that has happened. I had never thought of with individuals to bring them to Himself. Thank
becoming a Christian. It is truly a miracle to me. him for those He has used to influence you for
good along the way and pray for His grace and
Vivian Ang.
mercy towards those who are not yet in Christ.

Bookshop News
Pray for all the meetings for children and young
people in our congregations, that young hearts
may be gripped by the Holy Spirit as they hear
Staff matters God’s word. Pray that leaders and helpers will
have love for God and for the young people they
In August Carol Baird left her role as our book-keeper. teach.
We thank Carol for more than ten years of service in the
bookshop and we wish her a long and happy “retirement”! In
April we were delighted to welcome Gary Richmond onto the Remember before God young people who have
bookshop staff. Gary is a member of Hamilton Road Baptist moved to further and higher education. Pray for
Church in Bangor, where he serves as a deacon. helpful friendships, protection from the evil one
and hearts and wills that are submissive and

Edinburgh - Mound Books


obedient to God.

Give thanks for the weekly Thursday evening


As many of our readers will be aware, we have recently
launched a new bookshop in Edinburgh on the site of the services which have continued in Foyle and for
former Free Church Bookshop which closed in January 2018. safety in all journeys to and fro. Pray for each
This is the culmination of two years of speaking with our person who has attended and for wisdom in
friends in the Free Church of Scotland. We opened on 16 knowing the future direction of the work.
September and have been encouraged by how it has gone so
far and we believe it can thrive in the future.
Thank God for those who attend the fortnightly
We are grateful to Presbytery and the wider denomination Richhill Sunday services. Pray for a continued
for their enthusiasm and support for this new work, and we sense of God’s presence and blessing and for the
would ask for your prayers as we seek to establish this new
honour of His name each time they meet. Ask for
bookshop in the heart of Scotland’s capital city.
His leading and provision for the way ahead.
On Saturday 26 October we provided a bookstall at our first
Scottish conference at St Columba’s Free Church in Edinburgh Pray for Ben and Esther Smith and little Reuben
as we seek to serve and build up our relationship with the
as they adjust to life in the Netherlands, study at
local churches.
Cornerstone and prepare for work in Moldova.
Our staff is made up with Adam, Mary Jane, and Elise who are
supported by regular visits from Colin and Gary, while Peter
Grier has also been helpful in filling in when we’ve needed an
extra person in Edinburgh.

21
BOOK REVIEWS
Title: Sanctification, New Studies
in Dogmatics
Author: Michael Allen
Publisher: Zondervan
Pages: 302
RRP: £25.00 Our Price: £18.75

The New Studies in Dogmatics,


in which Allen’s book is the third
released volume, is a series that
intends to provide historically
informed, exegetically attuned,
Rejoice that through the ministry of Casa Mea
and theologically rigorous
men and women like Gheorghe have known reflection on some of the major topics of Christian doctrine.
spiritual transformation and great improvement in Allen’s work on the doctrine of sanctification certainly meets all
their living conditions. Pray that God will continue those criteria and will no doubt become a major source for future
to provide for the work, guide and strengthen the theological development of this doctrine. In reality though, this
staff and bring more Moldovans into His kingdom. book is not really just about sanctification in the narrow sense
of soteriology, but is actually a full dogmatic account of holiness
generally speaking.
Remember Jackie Burton, also at Cornerstone,
That this work gives a dogmatic account of holiness in general
asking that she will continue to grow in grace can be seen in how Allen began his reflections in topics that are
and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and logically prior to our need to think about categories of salvation.
know His leading for her future. Pray that many Although the first chapter locates the broader discussion within
more of us will share her burden for unreached the economy of the gospel, it is clear that location is necessary
places where people live in poverty. mainly because we as sinners can only exist within the need
for the gospel, not because there are no considerations about
holiness that come before the gospel. This is clear in how the
As abortion law in NI is liberalised, pray that the
second chapter deals with holiness and the doctrine of God. Allen
lives of unborn children will be protected and that outlines both how God’s holiness is an attribute in the ontological
Christians will reach out in compassion to women sense affirmed by older dogmatics and a characteristic of God in
who have unwanted pregnancies or have had the narrative of history, particularly Israel’s recorded in Scripture,
abortions. Thank God for health care professionals as emphasized in more recent Old Testament studies. Allen
who have spoken up for the value of human brings both these points together in a masterful account of
God’s holiness. Chapters three and four then deal with holiness
life and ask that He will keep them strong in
in connection to creation and covenant. These sections cover
continuing to stand up for Him.
how God made the world with holiness and uprightness, and
this is particularly the case with the human race as made in
Thank God for men who faithfully serve our the image of God. Humanity as God’s image is brought into a
congregations as ministers. Pray for them to covenant relationship with God because God formed this race
remain true to their calling, and uphold them for communion with him, but on the premise that Adam kept the
before God as they prepare, preach and pastor. law, which of course was about maintaining holiness. Yet, it was
also about deepening holiness and achieving a higher state for
Pray for God’s rich blessing on their families.
the human race beyond probation in confirmed and imperishable
holiness. These chapters show how we need to frame our
considerations about sanctification in the light of biblical concerns
about holiness that are broader simply than just soteriology.
The subsequent chapters, however, then move on to discuss
categories more directly related to salvific categories of
sanctification. Chapter five shows how the Son of God took
on a human nature in order to correct the problem of Adam’s
covenantal violation. There needed to be a faithful Adam to
restore human nature so that there was even the potential

22
BOOK REVIEWS
for real holiness. Chapter six then deals with our union with eschatological consummation for creation now in the economy
Christ as the matrix within which we receive all the benefits of grace, nature as such did not need grace to reach this
of salvation, and we can participate in these saving benefits consummation in the first estate. I think Allen’s appropriation
because we are linked with God’s true holy one, the incarnate of Thomas Aquinas in this work is brilliant and needed, but
Christ. Then, chapter seven deals with the relationship between at this point, because Thomas argued something slightly
justification and sanctification, arguing that God justifies us different than Allen, there could have been a bit more precision
so that there is the legal foundation for further sanctification. in the way Allen expressed his view. That said, having read
Allen mustered profound exegetical and historical arguments this section several times over, the case Allen made is in fact
that we should maintain the logical priority of justification correct, and I am simply addressing an issue of clarity. I have
over sanctification in the ordo salutis (order of salvation), and registered this criticism because I think the broader topic of
that even though both are received in union with Christ, there the nature-grace relationship is important, and will become an
is no reason why we should discount an ordered relationship increasingly important point in future discussions connected to
between these benefits of salvation. Chapter eight deals with multiple theological loci. That criticism, however, even though I
the relationship of nature and grace, to which I will return think it tremendously important, does not at all undermine that
below. Chapter nine deals with grace and responsibility, which this is a brilliant book that should be read and studied by all.
argued that we must understand that God’s grace is what There is in fact a long list of strengths to this book, and I will
enables our good works, but those good works are still efforts end by describing some of these. First, this book is thorough
on our part that we need to pursue. The last chapter dealt with and thoughtful. Allen could easily have written a much shorter
grace and discipline, demonstrating discipline has a formative account focused narrowly on discussions involved in one
role in the Christian life as we pursue sanctification. point of salvation. Instead, he essentially wrote an entire,
There are tremendously good things about this book, and I although brief, systematic theology concentrated through the
will close by noting those strengths. First, however, I want lens of sanctification. The fact that he brought in theology
to note the one reservation I have about this volume, which proper, creation, and covenant theology as a category (not
relates to chapter eight and the discussion of the nature- just as a consideration for the covenant of grace) created a
grace relationship. The topic of this chapter is regeneration, highly integrated understanding of holiness that resembles
or the new life God gives to people in Christ. The first part of a biblical theology of holiness arranged in topical chapters.
this chapter is an excellent discussion of the new covenant This book will expand any reader’s understanding of holiness
promises in the prophetic literature and the book of Hebrews in general, which will also further intensify our sense of need
that God will bring about transformation and renewal in people to be sanctified in the Christian life. Second, this book is richly
that he saves. He then highlights an older tradition that at informed. It draws from the best of patristic, medieval, early-
least begins with Thomas, that there has always been a higher modern, and modern sources. Many theologians may cite some
end to nature (even as it was created) than simply the first of these past writers, but Allen has shown that he did not
state of Eden. Adam was meant to “be fruitful, multiply, and simply mine these works for quotes, but that he understood
fill the earth,” indicating a goal to expand Eden. This innate the development of theology across the periods at a structural
eschatology indicates, “Nature, for itself, has an end prior level. Then he was able to bring that deep understanding of our
to and other than that of grace. Nature can seek perfection theological past to bear in creating a magnificent constructive
and yet be intrinsically incomplete.” (215) These statements account of the doctrine of sanctification. In this sense, this
argue that nature did not properly need grace to attain its book represents everything theology should be. Third, Allen has
eschatological purpose. When God did introduce the economy extended sections of exegesis in this book. So many dogmatic
of grace after Adam’s Fall, Christ secured the consummate new works default to describing history and might drop a few verses
creation, not simply a return to the first condition of creation. here and there, but Allen has dug deep into theological and
My hesitation is not with the concepts that Allen argued here, exegetical sources. He made broad use of biblical studies and
as he well tied them to the eschatological goals of the covenant offered really insightful treatments of passages, not stopping
of works. My hesitation is that he made a few inconsistent at mere linguistics, but exposing the real theological meat
terminological slips that could prove important if not clearly of Scripture. This is a profoundly biblical book in this regard.
understood. On pages 217-225, Allen discussed how grace not Overall, this book should delight the hearts of theologians,
only deals with sin, but also secures the higher end of creation biblical scholars, pastors, and even lay persons. It is truly
that creation was always meant to reach. I think Allen should Reformed in its understanding of God, metaphysics, creation,
have been clearer that while grace now brings about that and soteriology. The one caveat noted above is but a small
eschatological destiny, it was not that creation needed grace section likely inconsistent with a richly Reformed full account
as nature to reach that eschatological destiny, specifically of holiness. It is a dense read, but how could a book on holiness
before the Fall. I do believe this was Allen’s point, but I think he not be? It is one of the most important topics we could consider
could have stated slightly more clearly that as grace achieves and Allen has done a masterful job in guiding us through it.
23
the status of a favored religion. You no longer needed to fear

Best of the Blogs arrest, torture or imprisonment simply for being a believer in
Christ. All across the city, the churches and the believers were
emerging from the only life they had ever known--fear of
opposition--and enjoying the fresh air of freedom. Alexandria
The Ministry of Presence (Tim Challies)
was famous for its rich tradition of Christian thinkers; now
www.challies.com/articles/the-ministry-of-presence/ more than ever, men were considering and expressing
“There are a lot of people… who plan to go to church on their faith. And so even if you were the humblest disciple
Sunday, but won’t actually get there. As they read these in the city, you’d know something of the debates that soon
words, they have every intention of going. When the weekend began to swirl around the believing community. A highly-
begins, they’ll be looking forward to it. By Saturday evening respected Presbyter--a mature, seasoned man who was an
they will still intend to go. If you call them they’ll say, with able preacher and popular pastor--was beginning to have a
all honestly, they plan to be there. But they won’t have done serious conflict with the city’s Bishop….”
much to prepare for it—to stop their tiring and distracting
activities, to remind the family to make sure they’ve got
The Church is a Means of Grace (Jared Olivetti)
something to wear, to get to bed at a reasonable hour, to set
www.gentlereformation.com/2019/09/18/the-church-is-a-
an alarm. By the time Sunday morning rolls around and the
means-of-grace/
service begins, they will be nowhere to be seen.”
“Recently we had the joy of seeing our two oldest kids make
their profession of faith before the elders and then the
Deep Theology (Sinclair Ferguson)
congregation. It has been a joy to give God thanks for blessing
www.ligonier.org/blog/deep-theology/
His Word to their hearts and bringing them to this point.
“Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be within
While we give credit to Him alone, both of their testimonies
hours of death—not as an elderly person, but as someone
made it clear how powerfully God uses His church as a
condemned to die although innocent of every crime? What
means of communicating His grace for our salvation and
would you want to say to those who know and love you
sanctification.”
best? You would, surely, tell them how much you loved
them. You might hope you could give them some comfort
Subvert the Sacraments (Keith A. Mathison)
and reassurance—despite the nightmare you yourself were
www.tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/09/subvert-the-
facing. You would want to open your heart and say the things
sacraments/
that were most important to you. Such poise would surely
[Note to reader: this article is written in the style of C.S. Lewis’
be praiseworthy. Of course, it would be human nature at its
Screwtape Letters, as a ‘training manual for demons’.]
best—because this is what Jesus did, as the Apostle John
“Our Enemy has given the sacraments to the church as
relates in the Upper Room Discourse.”
something His followers like to call “the means of grace.”
Your goal is to do everything in your power and then some to
The Church and the Offices of Christ (Barry York)
prevent the Christians from understanding the sacraments
www.tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/the-church-and-the-
and observing them in such a manner as to strengthen their
offices-of-christ-2019-09/
faith in our Enemy.”
“If asked on a quiz, you could probably state what the three
marks of the true church are: the pure preaching of the
gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the
faithful exercise of church discipline. But why these marks,
and how should they affect you as you worship with your
congregation week by week?”

Origins of the Creed (James Renihan)


www.reformation21.org/blog/2019/09/origins-of-the-creed.
php
“If you were a Christian living in the great port city of
Alexandria, Egypt in the year 320, your life would likely be
full of excitement. Less than 10 years before, the great
Emperor Constantine had defeated his enemies, ended
Roman persecution of Christians, and granted Christianity

24