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Preaching the Song of Solomon The Lawful Use of the Law Ministry in Lockdown

Page 8 1 Timothy 1:8-11 - Page 12 Page 19

The Covenant of Grace and the Christian Life


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Philippians 1 v 9-11
CONTENTS
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Christian Life (Part 2)
Theme verses
Philippians 1:9-11

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FIRST WORD
Over recent weeks, the image of the rainbow has
become a picture of hope in the midst of the difficult
days in which we now live, as the coronavirus
pandemic continues to cause havoc and heartache
across the world. Drawings of rainbows have appeared
in the windows of many homes in an attempt to
bring some brightness and optimism despite the
circumstances and challenges which we now face.

A s Christians, we know that the rainbow does indeed


carry significance as a sign of hope in an uncertain
and threatening world. We’ll get to the rainbow a little
later, but first an illustration may help us to put the
rainbow in its full biblical context. Kingdom by the work of the Holy Spirit, then the final
act of the drama will reach its dramatic culmination as
Imagine that you have planned an evening out at the
Jesus returns.
theatre to watch a play. On your way to the theatre, you
are overtaken by a fire engine, speeding down the road To this covenant promise of preservation, God then
with its lights flashing and sirens blaring. Up ahead, you adds the sign of the rainbow. Why is the rainbow an
see a huge plume of smoke rising into the air, and as you appropriate sign for the covenant of preservation?
turn the corner your fears are realised: the theatre has
burned to the ground! At that moment, you know that For two main reasons:
your plans for the evening have gone up in smoke. The
theatre is destroyed, and so the play is cancelled. 1) When the rainbow appears. A rainbow can only
appear when rain is falling! At the very moment when
The story of the bible presents us with a “theatre” in which it may look like the world is going to be destroyed by
a “drama” will take place. The theatre is Planet Earth, the another flood, the sign of God’s preservation is there,
drama is redemption, and the main protagonist in this as a reminder of what God has promised in his covenant
grand story is Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. with Noah.

In Genesis 7-8, Planet Earth underwent its greatest 2) How the rainbow appears. As many have pointed
calamity yet: God’s judgment upon a sinful world in the out, the word that is used in Genesis is simply the word
form of a global flood. From this, only eight people were “bow”, as in the weapon. God’s “bow”, however, is not
saved: Noah and his family. But imagine Noah’s fears pointed down at earth; it is hung up in the sky. God, in his
the next time that storm clouds gathered. He would grace, has hung up his warrior’s bow of judgment so that
inevitably think, “Is this the end of the world? Is God the world can be preserved.
judging us by sending another global flood – only this
time he hasn’t warned us?!” However, it is important that we remember that this
period of preservation will not continue indefinitely.
In order to comfort Noah (and others) in such times, God When Christ returns, the world will again undergo a
graciously entered into a covenant with him. In essence, great calamity which the New Testament compares to
the promise of God at the heart of this covenant is found the flood, only worse: “The world that then existed was
in Genesis 9v11: “I establish my covenant with you, that deluged with water and perished. But by the same word
never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for
flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction
the earth.” of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:6-7).

This covenant with Noah is sometimes referred to as Today, we can be thankful that the rainbow still carries
the ‘covenant of preservation’. In this covenant, God the same significance that it did in Noah’s day. By God’s
promises to all living creatures on the earth (believers, grace, the theatre of the world is being preserved, and
unbelievers, and even animals!) that the theatre of Planet the drama of redemption is playing out; the final act is
Earth will not be destroyed – by a flood or anything else indeed already underway. But one day, God’s judgment
– in order that the drama of redemption can go ahead as will visit this earth again, when Jesus returns. The only
planned. In time, the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will take to way to be safe on that day is to be found in Christ, upon
the stage and accomplish his work of redemption. When, whom God’s judgment for sin has already fallen at the
at last, all of those whom the Father has chosen and cross. If you haven’t yet done so, come to Jesus, and be
for whom Jesus died have been gathered in to Christ’s safe in him.
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The Covenant of Grace and the
Christian Life (Part 2)
P art one of this series on the covenant of grace
discussed how this thing called the covenant of grace
is God’s one plan of salvation to save sinners by the work
Testaments. The fact that Jesus Christ is the one Saviour
no matter what era of biblical history we are reading has
profound relevance for how we read our Bibles. Certainly,
of Jesus Christ. We who are rebels before God all need the way that God instructed his people to order the
someone to rescue us from the penalty of our sins if we outward arrangement of their corporate lives looks very
are to avoid spending eternity in hell. As Westminster different in the Old Testament compared to the New,
Shorter Catechism 20 explains, ‘God, having out of his as is very clear in how the Old Testament religious life
mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to was structured around repeated sacrifices, but our life
everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver is structured around the preached Word on the Lord’s
them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them Day. Still, even though God’s people appeared differently,
into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.’ The covenant the substance of the covenant remained the same. The
of grace is then the way that God has arranged to provide substance, the essential heart, of the covenant of grace
that rescue that we all need. In explaining what this one was always that God promised to be God to us by the work
covenant of grace is, part one emphasized that this means of Jesus Christ. The Westminster Confession of Faith 7.5
Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of all of God’s people, captured this point well: ‘This covenant was differently
whether those people lived before Christ came or live after administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the
his life, death, and resurrection. Passages like Romans gospel; under the law it was administered by promises,
4, wherein Paul appealed to Abraham and David as the prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb,
examples of how we are justified, assumes that those Old and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of
Testament saints were saved in the same way that we are the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come, which were for
if they exemplify our salvation. that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation
of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in
Part two makes an immediate application of this principle the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission
about the continuity of salvation in Christ across both of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old

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you may or may not need extra tools to help you eat it, for
example you need a spoon if your ice cream is in a cup. In
this situation, the “substance” is the ice cream. Whatever
way that you receive that ice cream, it is ice cream and it
is the thing that you actually want. The ice cream is the
purpose, so it is the substance. On the other hand, the
cup and the cone are two different administrations of the
substance. The cup is a way that delivers the substance,
but it looks different from the cone, which still delivers ice
cream. Although every analogy has its shortcomings, the
point is that the covenant of grace works much like this
illustration. Christ is the substance and both the Old and
New Testament administrations deliver Christ to God’s
people, even though those administrations look and work
differently.

Now, we must turn to God’s Word to explore how Scripture


displays this principle and how this principle then helps us
read our Bibles. The first example, once explained, I hope
very clearly demonstrates how we are supposed to see
Christ’s presence in the Old Testament, but the second
example is provided to show how this principle also helps
make sense of difficult passages. The first example comes
from 1 Corinthians 10:1–6:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our


Testament.’ The crucial point, of course, is that even though
fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the
the Old Testament administered the covenant differently
sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and
than in the New Testament by using religious practices like
in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all
animal sacrifices, Christ was always the substance.
drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the
This article is pressing towards applying the continuity spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was
of the covenant of grace to its relevance for how every Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not
Christian can read their Bible with Christ always in view, pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
but before I examine two crucial passages, I want to 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we
illustrate this language of ‘substance’ and ‘administration.’ might not desire evil as they did.
These terms, I believe, are also
supremely useful for Christians as The fact that Jesus Christ To set some context, Paul’s
argument in 1 Corinthians 8–10
is the one Savior no
they read their Bibles because they
was that Christians need to be
help us understand how Christ is
ready to give up their rights to
present in all Scripture. We can think matter what era of biblical protect the consciences of fellow
about the relationship of substance
and administration through the history we are reading has Christians. As 8:9 says, “But take
care that this right of yours does
analogy of buying ice cream at an ice
cream shop. One of the important
profound relevance for how not somehow become a stumbling
block to the weak.” In chapter 9,
decisions that you have to make
we read our Bibles Paul used his own example of how
when you buy ice cream at a shop is
he gave up his genuine apostolic
whether you want it in a cup or in a cone. Now, whichever
right to have financial support for his gospel ministry to
way that you get your ice cream, it is still ice cream. On the
defend the principle that they should give up their rights if
other hand, it is given to you in a very different way and

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it helps keep their brothers and sisters strong in faith. In
10:1–6, Paul continued that emphasis that Christians need
to be concerned about helping other people in the church
to remain faithful. Too many people have understood this
passage to be about how the reader should be fearful that
they might fall away from salvation, but Paul’s concern in
1 Corinthians 8–10 was primarily the opposite: you may be
sacramental way, but that would likely take us too far off
strong in faith and godliness but you should be concerned
course.
about whether your actions might be the thing that drives
your fellow church member away from godliness and The real point that needs to be further underscored about
away from the church. If you have faith in Christ Jesus, you how this passage helps us see how the covenant of grace
should trust that you are one of God’s elect, but you do not enables us to read our Bibles better, is that Paul explicitly
have infallible knowledge about whether or not the person placed these Israelites in a relationship with Christ. Did you
in the pew next to you has true faith or not. notice that in verse 4? ‘For they drank from the spiritual
Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.’ This
This context leads us into Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians
Israelite community – the Old Testament church – received
10:1–6. His point in these verses was that some among
the same spiritual food and drink that Christians do, which
God’s people in the Exodus period proved not to be
actually needs to be what Paul meant for his argument
among the true believers, but still each one of us should
to make any sense as an exhortation to Christians.
be concerned that we do not become the reason why
Importantly, Paul did not in this verse refer to the Lord’s
someone else becomes unfaithful.
Supper by the spiritual food that Old
It is crucial that we recognize the ...you may be strong in and New Testament people received.
weight of Paul’s summary point in
verse 6 that these Exodus events faith and godliness but you He meant the blessings that are
received directly from Christ. This
‘took place as examples for us,’
meaning Christians. This purpose
should be concerned about point is clear because ‘the Rock,’
which directly gave them that food
brings new weight when Paul said whether your actions might ‘was Christ.’ Paul’s assertion that
that ‘our fathers’ were in the cloud,
passed through the sea, were be the thing that drives the Rock was Christ, whatever
complexities there may be in it,
baptized into Moses, and had the
same spiritual food and drink as
your fellow church member is so important because it shows
that inspired authors of Scripture
we do. Paul wrote to Gentiles that away from godliness and clearly believed that God’s Son was
the Israelites were our fathers. This
relationship is possible only because away from the church. operating as the Saviour in the Old
Testament. Christ was distributing
the church is the extension and
saving blessings to God’s people, even if not every person
fulfillment of Israel. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:29: ‘And if
among those people truly partook of those blessings. The
you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs
same can certainly be said today of the church, but crucially
according to promise.” Christians are genuinely in the
we can understand how Paul saw Christ as the genuine
lineage of Abraham and also have ancient Israelite
source of Old Testament salvation.
believers as our fathers in the faith. The first point that
we then need to note that helps us read our Bibles more Readers of this magazine should be familiar with their
clearly, is that the Old Testament is not about a different ministers preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and
people of God. The church is Israel, and the Israelites Paul’s clear point that Christ was the source of saving
are our fathers. We should read the Scriptures as being blessing in the Old Testament clarifies why Reformed
about God’s one unified people. We could explore how preachers have so long pointed to Christ in every passage
Paul made the connection between how every Israelite of Scripture. Christ is the scope of all Scripture. He has
(including the babies) was baptized as they crossed the always been the Saviour of God’s people. God may
Red Sea, which would further underscore how God’s Old have called, justified, and sanctified believers in the
and New Testament people were structured in the same Old Testament on credit, whereas now he grants those
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which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a
removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God
for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right
hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having
been subjected to him.

benefits to believers on debit, but the point remains that The most debated portion of this passage is the reference
Christ and his work have always been the reason and in verses 19–20 to how he [Christ] proclaimed to the
source for salvation for everyone who had genuine faith. spirits in prison during the days of Noah. If we pay close
Paul’s point about Christ’s presence in the Old Testament attention though, it is Christ who proclaimed truth to
not only indicates the Son’s preexistence as God’s Son and imprisoned spirits, and did so ‘while the ark was being
his role as the only way to salvation across all time, but prepared.’ Peter’s use of ‘the spirits in prison’ simply refers
it also points believers today to how they can and should to people who remained under the penalty and power
read their entire Bible. The New Testament is explicit and of sin. Christ himself went and preached to these people
clear about Jesus and his work, as Westminster Confession while Noah built the ark. This may sound weird, but Paul
of Faith 7.6 says, ‘Under the gospel, when Christ the said in Ephesians 2:17 that Christ himself also preached
substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this to the Ephesians, even though Jesus never physically
covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and went to Ephesus. Christ has always personally preached
the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and through his ministers: through Paul in Ephesus, through
the Lord’s Supper, which, though fewer in number, and Noah in Noah’s days, and through your pastor today.
administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, Christ announced the truth about himself through Noah’s
yet in them it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and preaching, so that people could believe in him then. So also,
spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; as verses 21–22 say, baptized believers appeal to Christ for
and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore their salvation as well. This is true because God’s covenant
two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one of grace spans every era of redemption since the Fall
and the same under various dispensations.’ Still, every Old because Christ is the substance of the covenant of grace.
Testament passage is also about Christ because God’s Knowing that Christ is the covenant’s substance helps us to
promises that are distributed in Christ are the substance of see God’s one plan of salvation and to read our whole Bible
the covenant in the Old and New Testaments. with Christ in view.

Paul’s assertions in 1 Corinthians 10:1–6 that confirm


Christ as the substance of the covenant are relatively clear
once we grasp the underlying reality of the covenant of
grace, but other passages require more pointed thinking
about the application of the covenant of grace to make
sense of them. At the same time, the covenant of grace
is often the implicit premise that brings some portions
of Scripture into the sharpest focus, as is the case with 1
Peter 3:18­­–22.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous Harrison Perkins serves as assistant minister at
for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, London City Presbyterian Church, a congregation of
the Free Church of Scotland. He and his wife Sarah
being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the
are from Alabama, but the Lord moved them to the
spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits
UK in 2016. While doing further studies at Queen’s
in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when University Belfast, Harrison served at a church
God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the in Northern Ireland, which quickly became and
ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight remains ‘home’ to him and Sarah, before taking the
persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, call in London in late 2018.

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Preaching the Song of Solomon
(Part 2)

M y first article set the scene and


my overall approach to this
Song, and over the next 3 articles I
I remain unconvinced by any such
methodology. We do find such helpful
structural analyses of a book like
How it all begins

1) Chapter 1 verse 1 is at least fairly


want to focus more upon the actual Revelation, but here in Solomon’s easy: ‘The Song of Songs which is
text and the story line itself. So, in song it is difficult to detect any Solomon’s’ gives us both a title and a
this second article I shall deal with real flow of storyline. We do find summary as well as a human author;
how the Song begins, and then in however, recurring poetic pictures although, as with all scripture, we
the next articles move on to how the of varying sizes and shapes. So, it’s mustn’t move away from thinking of
song progresses and how it ends. As important not to expect or look for the Song of Solomon as God’s word.
there is so much content and detail any simple chronological storyline, He is the primary author - the Holy
in the text we can only focus in on a or a too neatly divided up structure Spirit himself. That always means
fraction, but hopefully even that can of any sort in these 8 chapters. It’s therefore: authority, inerrancy,
whet appetites for what is a most much more about word pictures and relevancy, sufficiency (2 Timothy 3
glorious portion of God’s holy word. scenes, as befits a song of love; lots :16,17), and even perspicuity.
of feeling and emotion and lots of
Having said that - it is important highs and some lows too. Such poetry As mentioned previously, Solomon’s
to note that I don’t think the Song is given in a very simple, homely, former book (Ecclesiastes) spoke of
really does have an overall and easily pastoral setting. Scenes of everyday another, (albeit rather depressing)
recognisable or consecutive story rural life and familiar situations are superlative - the vanity of vanities—
line to it. Rather, there seem to be poetically described, and none of the so how wonderful now to enter into
multiple scenes and pictures which much more epic and grand drama the Song’s opening verse where we
some have tried to group together that is described in other parts of the are introduced to “the Song of songs”.
or arrange into various series. Again, Bible. We surely move from a meaningless

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kisses of his mouth.” intimate kisses upon the mouth.
So she bursts forth with her desire to All are kisses from Christ, all are from
the bridegroom (the beloved) that he his word to his church— as someone
might physically express his love for has aptly said the two testaments
her — she wants an assurance of his are like the two lips and we need both
love to be given to her—to feel his for a complete kiss.
love upon her by means of a kiss. The
kiss here, is an expression, a sign, of Why does she desire this kiss?
a close and intimate and special love Because she loves her saviour
between two lovers. It is not so much so (1 John 4:19) - the work of the
the kiss of greeting (see 1 Peter 5:14) Holy Spirit in a believer’s heart has
- nor is it the kiss of allegiance (see generated this intense desire for
Psalm 2:12) but it is the kiss of love. more and more from the word out
of God’s mouth. We cannot do this
So, how might we understand these ourselves— we cannot generate this
kisses of Christ to his Church? Well soul pleasure ourselves— He must
the kiss from the mouth implies do it, but we must desire it—which
surely God’s word to us, God’s word is why she cries out “let HIM kiss
about his love in Christ towards his me — let HIM do it…” that must be
Church and that love supremely seen our longing each Lord’s Day meeting,
in the death of the saviour for his and also at the beginning of our own
church. As this truth is spoken out personal daily devotions— “let him
from God’s word to us, it is like a kiss even me, even us in our church—
seal, a kiss of love from Christ to his with the kisses of his mouth!!!” A
people. It produces intense delight prayer for a powerful experience of
and joy and assurance in the Christian the word of God to us and in us.
soul as we engage with God’s word 3) Next we move onto the second
about his love in Christ to us. Much as statement which explains the reason
life without God in the world, to a life a physical kiss between two people in for her intense desire. “For thy love
now transformed by the grace of the love will assure and seal - then surely, is better than wine.” It is because
new birth into a wonderfully new and like the Shulamite here, this is what of something she already knows —
joyful experience of loving fellowship all of God’s people desire — to have she has been granted a wonderful
with the living God. From the height repeated reminders and expressions knowledge which many others are
of vanity, we pass on to the height of Christs love for us, and these will sadly ignorant of. Because of what
of praise and song. Such is the come from God’s mouth, from his she (the bride) knows she therefore
experience of the bride of Christ. word and that central doctrine in his desires these kisses of Christ to
word about the cross. Notice in the come to her. This knowledge that
2) We then move on into the opening text that she desires multiple kisses Christ’s love is superior to any and
themes which start in the feminine - repeatedly she desires this kiss - every earthly or material pleasure,
voice - of the bride (the identified in all of its varied aspects, the rich represented in the emblem here of
Shulamite woman of chapter 6:13) — expressions and descriptions found wine, which indeed does gladden the
which we will view as being the voice throughout God’s word—she desires heart of man. Good wine has always
of the Church (the elect people of God them all, not necessarily applied been recognised as one of God’s good
in all ages). The opening statement intimately upon her own mouth - gifts to people out of his creation,
of the Church’s song in verse 2 she doesn’t say that - for there are even though there are grave dangers
of chapter 1 has two wonderful also other kisses— of friendship in its abuse; but little wonder our Lord
statements to it, and the second upon the cheek, there are kisses of made this emblem his first sign at the
one gives the reason for the first. reconciliation, there are kisses of wedding in Cana of Galilee. Wine is so
She begins her singing on a high and fatherly or parental love maybe upon full of symbolism - and even though
strong note of the theme of intense the forehead. Multiple and different the increased alcohol content of our
desire: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of love as well as the more modern wines are cause for much
care, the more minimally alcoholic

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content of biblical wine made its any worldly activity (cf. Ecclesiastes All this is an ongoing activity—
use much more acceptable and chapter 2). pouring out—an ongoing blessing
widespread and therefore to be seen when the name (which describes the
as being a blessing and an enjoyment. We come back to the picture of wine majestic character of the person) is
But even back then, too much had again in verse 4 (“we will remember sounded forth. This name and all that
its dangers as Lemuel was warned thy love more than wine”) where it is it means displaces and removes all
(Proverbs 31:4). the same love of Christ that is to be other ugly smells and foulness —
So, we can surely see how Christ’s remembered far above any earthly just as an air freshener or freshly cut
love is better than wine—for we can pleasures as are symbolised in wine. flowers will radiate their smells. The
never have too much of that - we No wonder Christians can call the ointment also points us to its healing
can never imbibe too much of his Sabbath a delight! properties, to soothe wounds, to
word, or of his presence. So, wine brighten and to refresh. Whatever our
can represent the very best that In verse 3 the bride had then sung mood or condition, Christ’s name is
the world can offer - and we are about her beloved’s fragrance. the ointment to deal with it. It never
appreciative of all earthly and physical “Because of the savour of thy good runs out, never needs to be replaced,
delights and pleasures— the smell or ointments, thy name is as ointment “it soothes his sorrows, heals his
bouquet, the taste, the appearance poured forth…” That sweet smelling wounds and drives away his fears.”
and colour, its warming effect and so ointment that is found all about his
on— BUT, compared to the spiritual person—he is the anointed one What a description too of our
blessings found in the word of God (the Christ) with a fulness of the Saviour’s own earthly life, for it was
about the love of Christ—well, there measure of the Holy Spirit upon indeed also poured out unto death.
is no comparison. The preaching of him. These ointments are symbolic This beautiful fragrance was poured
God’s word should surely be to all of his characteristics—full of grace out for his bride who now sings. So,
Christians of far greater delight than and truth. So the bride is powerfully not surprisingly at the end of verse
any rich fare (with or without wine) at attracted to his being BECAUSE of 3 we find this response: “therefore
the Sunday dinner table. these fragrances upon him - we can do the virgins (believers) love thee!”
know the scent of his beauty and That’s why we love the Lord for his
The more worldly we are the less perfection in all his attributes— such life was poured out for us.
we will value this love of Christ in indeed those wealthy Kings of old
his word, and the more we will seek also added to their bodies (as many With such precious thoughts and
after mere earthly pleasures. We are still do today) beautiful smells and pictures whirling away in our minds
to set our hearts on things above, made liberal use of oils to give their then indeed we too long that Christ
where Christ is. Christ’s love, unlike physiques a shining, radiant, perhaps draws us (verse 4) to be ever nearer
wine, both completely satisfies and youthful appearance. to him. Here in verse 4 it is for a
endures. It is without cost, freely more permanent experience of the
given, freely and abundantly available. But as Solomon has already told us Lord - that we might come into his
How many miss out on the Word, in Ecclesiastes 7:1, a good name is very chambers. She doesn’t come
by infrequent attendances upon the better than precious ointment, so alone but with all the elect of God—
Lord’s Day meetings. the bride explains here in verse 3 “draw me - and we will run after
how Christ’s very name is known thee.” That longing after Christ is like
Unlike wine, Christ’s love never and understood in the ointment that Mary Magdalene’s intense desire
goes off, nor becomes stale or sour continually pours forth from him. So, to cling onto him in the garden of
and vinegary, it never corrupts or as his name is heard and spoken of resurrection.
becomes bitter. On the contrary, it is like the pouring out of a glorious
it only ever improves. As his first fragrance: “How sweet the name of So, these many word pictures
sign, our Lord reminds us - His love Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear”. That come tumbling out in verse after
(unlike earthly wine) never runs out captures this imagery so well. It is verse, and multiple ones even in a
- there is an inexhaustible supply - also why, when this precious name is single verse. All are given for our
only we must desire it. This lesson abused and debased and scorned, it is careful and studious meditation
King Solomon had also found in his so hurtful and painful for his bride. and consideration - to do our souls
previous book of Ecclesiastes- for good - to meditate much upon our
he never ever found satisfaction in

10
Lord and our personal and corporate some are on their way to join in fully than for the things of this passing
relationship with him. with the bride - but as yet they are world? Attraction to the beauty
not part of the invisible church, the of our saviour? Painful awareness
Verse 4 then is a great prayer for us regenerated. They seem to admire of our sinful natures — but
to close on: “Draw me, we will run the bride and her intense love for the prayers for more and a deeper
after thee: the King has brought me King from a distance, but the bride understanding and knowledge of
into his chambers; we will be glad knows what she herself is really Christ - acknowledgement of sin
and rejoice in thee, we will remember like deep down and certainly she but realisation of newness of life. All
thy love more than wine…” A prayer knows what she is like in her natural themes tumbling out of the bride’s
that the Lord would draw us/me, that condition - a blackened soul - but song - and we’ve hardly even begun!
we would run after him, follow after she also then knows she has been
him. As often in this book, we find redeemed, so she has also been
great appropriateness at the Lord’s made comely (lovely or beautiful).
Supper: “we will remember thy love That surely is the testimony of every
more than wine” - how symbolic to born-again believer, made lovely by
see through the very emblem of the and in Christ.
wine that great love of the Lord for So, in the opening of the song we
us. That’s what we remember. have found the bride’s longing for
the word of God wherein Christ
Conclusions: makes his felt presence known - she
loves his name - she longs for more
So, the song has opened with the of his presence- even more than
singing of the bride, the Church. She any earthly delight. She is painfully
continues up to the end of verse 7, aware of her natural condition and
but in verses 5-7 we find another new her failings. Such is every Christian
Neil Beatson. After over 25 years of
picture. A different note is now struck and such is the true Church of Jesus
pastoral ministry in Africa (mainly
as she explains to the daughters Christ.
South Africa, but also a few years in
of Jerusalem her pitiful past and Next time, we’ll pick up some more
Tanzania) Neil and his wife returned
indeed her sorrowful present state themes and pictures as the song
to Ireland 5 years ago. After a couple
as well. Who are these daughters of moves on, not so much forward, but of years of medical locum work in
Jerusalem? They certainly seem to as the song changes its mood and its the South of Ireland, Neil became the
have an association with the bride. scenery. minister of Erne West Evangelical
They perhaps represent part of the church two and a half years ago. Last
visible church, nominal Christians So again —is this your song? Is year, Erne West Evangelical Church
perhaps, with some sort of an this our song? Desire for the Word was incorporated into the Evangelical
attachment to the church. Perhaps of God to our souls, even more Presbyterian Church.

11
The Lawful Use of the Law
1 Timothy 1:8-11
(Part 2 of series)

In the first article in this series looking at the letter of 1


Timothy, we focused on the first seven verses, which
show to us the context in which this letter was written and
That’s why the apostle Paul, having just talked about how
foolish these false teachers are in how they handle God’s
sent. Young Timothy is the minister of the church in the law, then includes this little paragraph in verses 8 to 11
cosmopolitan city of Ephesus. He has been sent there by the where he explains the right way to handle the law.
apostle Paul because the church in Ephesus is going through
a very difficult trial. Some false teachers have got into the The very first thing that Paul says is that the law is good.
church in Ephesus and are seeking to drag it away from the Given how complicated and controversial the law of God can
truth. In verses 3 to 7, Paul has described that teaching to be, sometimes people just want to forget about it, and only
us: think about “grace.” There are many Christians like that. As
soon as God’s law is mentioned, alarm bells start ringing in
Firstly, its content is false. Rather than the true gospel of their head, and their response is to say, “but we’re saved by
grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus grace, and not by the law – so let’s not get ourselves tied up
our Lord, these teachers are teaching different doctrine, in thou shalt nots!” They treat the law as if it is a bad thing,
myths, and endless genealogies. Secondly, the effect of something unpleasant, irrelevant, and to be avoided.
this teaching is fruitlessness. Rather than the stewardship
from God, and love issuing from a pure heart and a good If that is your response to the law, then you’re missing out!
conscience and a sincere faith, this teaching diverts people Paul says the law is good! In Romans 7, he expands on that
into speculations and vain discussions. Thirdly, the false and he says, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy
teachers themselves are fools. Paul says that there is and righteous and good.”
one particular area in which their foolishness is especially
evident. That is, their handling of the law. They desire “to be However, Paul adds a caveat at the end of verse 8: “if
teachers of the law, without understanding either what they one uses it lawfully”. So, Paul is saying, if you use the law
are saying or the things about which they make confident unlawfully, you can do enormous damage with it, just like
assertions” (1:7) the false teachers in Ephesus were doing. The law is good,
but you have to use the law in the right way for it to be good
How a bible teacher handles the law of God is very often for you. So, here’s the key question: how do you use the law
a ‘litmus test’ of whether they really are a faithful bible lawfully?
teacher or not. What do they do with God’s law? How do
they teach it and apply it? Do they treat it legalistically, as There are basically three different uses of God’s moral law:
if these are the things you’ve got to do to earn your way
into God’s good books – like a ladder so you can climb up to 1) The law as a kerb
God? Do they apply the law of God wrongly, calling people to
submit to laws that are now fulfilled in Christ? Do they add When you’re driving along in your car, there will be a kerb
to God’s law, putting extra, made up, rules on top of it that on either side of the road. The kerb is there to keep you
are found nowhere in the bible, like a latter-day Pharisee? generally on the right track. The kerb doesn’t transform you
Or do they just cast aside God’s law because “if you’ve got into a brilliant driver, but it does just enough to keep you
grace, who needs law?!” pretty much on the right track. If you’re driving along and
your wheel hits against the kerb, you get an uncomfortable
How someone handles the law of God goes a long way to jolt and you realise that you need to readjust quickly and get
telling you what kind of teacher they really are. One of the back on track.
Puritans, Samuel Bolton, said that handling the law properly
is “the greatest knot in the practical part of divinity.” Or, to use a similar image, imagine that you are tenpin
Similarly, John Newton wrote that “ignorance of the nature bowling. There is a gutter on each side of your lane, and if
and design of the law is at the bottom of most religious you don’t bowl straight the ball ends up in the gutter. But,
mistakes.” if you want, you can ask for the barriers to be put up, to

12
prevent the ball going into the gutter. The barriers act as a messy hair, the bags under my eyes, the unshaven face. The
kerb; they don’t transform you into a brilliant bowler, they mirror doesn’t tell any lies, does it? The mirror tells it like it
just keep the ball pretty much on the right track. is, warts and all!

This is the first use of the law of God; the law as a kerb. It is This is the second use of God’s moral law. The law is a mirror.
sometimes called the ‘political’ or the ‘civil’ use of the law. James uses this picture in James 1:22-24 when he writes,
God’s law stands there as a warning and a restraint against “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving
evil behaviour. When a society shapes their civil laws around yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a
the standards of God’s law, it acts as a kerb. Society is kept doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in
pretty much on track, because the right kerbs are firmly in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once
place. When people in that society act in a deviant way, they forgets what he was like.”
hit up against the kerb of the law, and they get a sudden
uncomfortable jolt, and hopefully that will be sufficient for When we look at what God’s law says, it tells it like it is.
them to realise they need to readjust how they are living. It shows us God’s perfect standards, because his law is a
perfect reflection of his perfect character – the God who is
(That is one of the reasons why it is so concerning to see holy and righteous and pure and good and unchangeable.
a society where there is the stated intention of casting But the law, as a mirror, doesn’t just teach us what God
aside what God’s law says, when it comes to matters like is really like, reflected perfectly in his law. As well as that,
marriage or abortion. It is removing the God given kerb from the law makes us look at our own reflection, and teaches
society. If you take the kerb away from the high street, all us what we are really like. The fancy word for this is the
that will result is that people will be hurt and people will be ‘pedagogical’ use of the law. That is, the law acting as a
killed. And when a society removes the kerb of God’s law teacher, teaching you what God is really like, and what you
from how they conduct themselves, people will be hurt, and are really like.
people will be killed, even in the womb.)
If we stay away too often from looking closely into God’s
At the start of verse 9, Paul tells us why we need God’s law, we can start to kid ourselves into thinking that we
law. He says, “the law is not laid down for the just but for are pretty decent people, especially if we only compare
the lawless, and disobedient…” Don’t misunderstand Paul ourselves to the worst kinds of people out there. We start
there. He’s not saying, “we Christians don’t really need the to feel pretty pleased with ourselves. “Haven’t I done
law, but those nasty unbelievers do.” No, he’s saying all of well?! I’ve not been in trouble with the police, and I’ve got
us need God’s law! By nature, we are all sinners, and sin a nice family, and an honest job. Aren’t I quite the moral
is lawlessness. Sin is rebelling against God, the lawgiver, upstanding person?!” But then, we look into the mirror of
and living by our own standards instead. Even if you’re a God’s law, and it teaches us the vast difference between
Christian, you are simultaneously justified and a sinner. We what God is really like in his moral perfection, and what we
still have sinful tendencies within us. The law is good for us are really like in our sinfulness.
too, because we are still prone to lawlessness.
That’s what Paul is doing here in this list of sins that take
Now, of course, with this first use of the law, it does nothing up verses 9 and 10. You may have noticed, that list of sins
to transform the person on the inside. The kerb by the is loosely based around the Ten Commandments. The Ten
roadside doesn’t transform you into a brilliant driver, and Commandments are the summary of God’s moral law, and
the barriers at the bowling alley don’t transform you into a Paul wants to show that as sinful people, we all break all ten
brilliant bowler, and likewise the civil, political use of God’s of the Ten Commandments.
law as a kerb doesn’t transform citizens in that society into
godly people. That’s not what this use of the law is about. The first six items in Paul’s list are all to do with our
The law as a kerb is simply there to keep society pretty relationship to God, which is what the first four of the Ten
much on track, warning of punishment and restraining evil Commandments are about. Lawless, casting aside what
behaviour. his law says. Disobedient, stubbornly refusing to live by his
For that inner change, we need to look elsewhere, and that’s commands. Ungodly, with no reverence for the true God.
what we come to in the second and third uses of the law. Sinners, breaking his commandments and falling short of his
The first use of the law applies to society externally, but the standards. Unholy and profane, mistreating sacred things.
second and third uses of the law touch the heart, and shape We are people who sin in terms of our relationship to God.
the life. But, as well as that, we also sin in terms of our relationship to
others. And the rest of Paul’s list roughly follows the rest of
2) The law as a mirror the Ten Commandments. Those who strike their fathers and
mothers break the fifth commandment. Murderers break the
I wonder what greeted you this morning when you got up sixth commandment. The sexually immoral and men who
and you looked in the bathroom mirror. I can only speak for practise homosexuality break the seventh commandment.
myself, but it’s not a pretty sight. The furrowed brow, the Enslavers (that is, those who kidnap people and force them

13
into slavery) break the eighth commandment. Liars and Do you see this intriguing dynamic between God’s law and
perjurers break the ninth commandment. God’s gospel? The law (as a mirror) sends you to the gospel.
And then the gospel sends you back to the law (as a map, or
This is what the law of God in its second use, as a mirror, guide). The law and the gospel are not enemies – they are
does. It shows us what we are really like, warts and all. It friends. They work together!
tells it like it is. We are lawbreakers, by nature. We have
broken every commandment. We have sinned both in our This is how the eighteenth-century Scottish preacher Ralph
relationship to God and in our relationships with other Erskine described, in poetic terms, this dynamic between
people. the law and the gospel:

By teaching us this, the law shows us that our only hope “When once the fiery Law of God
before God is in Christ. Luther says, “[the law of God] is a Has chased me to the Gospel Road
mighty hammer to crush the self-righteousness of human Then back unto the holy law
beings. For it shows them their sin, so that by the recognition Most kindly Gospel-grace will draw.”
of sin they may be humbled, frightened, and worn down, and
so may long for grace and for [Christ].” Or, in the words of the Puritan author, Samuel Bolton:

The law, as a mirror, shows us the ugliness of our sin, and “The law sends us to the gospel, that we may be justified,
teaches us that we need Jesus. And when we look to Jesus, and the gospel sends us to the law again, to enquire what is
we see that he is the one who fulfilled the law perfectly (his our duty in being justified.”
‘active obedience’). He fulfilled the law, firstly, by obeying all
of its precepts. He was born under the law, and lived under Notice how this relationship between the law and the
it perfectly. Every one of the Ten Commandments, as well gospel is worked out by Paul here. In verses 8, 9 and 10 he
as every other command of God, Jesus obeyed, because we has been talking all about the law. And then, in verse 11,
haven’t. He did it for his people, in their place. And he fulfilled seamlessly he starts talking about the gospel. He say that
the law, secondly, by suffering all of its penalty (his ‘passive all of those standards of the law that he has mentioned are
obedience’). He went to the cross, and took upon himself “in accordance with the gospel.” He’s saying, what God’s law
the condemnation of God’s law for our breaking of it. When commands of us, God’s gospel requires of us.
a person trusts in Jesus, all of this is given to them. They are
forgiven for being a lawbreaker, because Jesus suffered the We should always remember that it is only in the power of
law’s penalty in their place. And they are accepted by God the Holy Spirit that we are able to live in obedience to God’s
even as one who has kept the law perfectly, because Jesus law. If we try and obey God’s law in our own strength, we’ll
obeyed the law’s precepts in their place. [hallelujah!] never get anywhere. The law just becomes an impossible
burden that crushes us. But when we come to Jesus, he
Let me ask you, have you learned what the law as a mirror gives us his Holy Spirit, who lives in us and empowers us,
teaches us? Have you looked into God’s law and seen and gives us new strength and new desires to live a new life
something of what God is like in his moral perfection, and of obedience to God.
how far short you fall as a lawbreaker, guilty in the sight
of his law? And so, have you fled to Jesus, trusting only in Paul says to the Romans, “God has done what the law,
him and what he has done, so that you can be forgiven and weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son
accepted by God? When used as a mirror, that’s what the in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin
law of God teaches you to do! in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the
law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the
3) The law as a guide flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

If you’re driving along in your car and you want to know the And so, with hearts indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, and
right way to go, you might get the map out, or the sat nav, overflowing with gratitude for what Jesus has done for us,
and that will guide you in the right way to go. In a similar it becomes a delight for us to live our lives pleasing God,
way, AFTER the law has done its job as a mirror, and you looking to his law as the guide for how to do that.
have come to Jesus in repentance and faith, the question
is, “what now?!” How do you now live as someone who is
forgiven and accepted by God? What is the right way to go?
How can you know that? The answer is, very simply, go and
look at the law again! Only this time, you’re looking at it as
a map (or ‘guide’) as well. You don’t stop using the law as a
mirror when you become a Christian. But you start using it
as a map as well. It guides you in the right way to go.

14
FROM THE CHURCHES

Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary –


serving Europe
Did you know there is a Presbyterian seminary in England? Presbyterianism with tens of churches in the city itself.
Since 2013, Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary Would it not be wonderful to see our towns and cities full of
has been training men to faithfully preach the Gospel and evangelical churches once again? John Knox once prayed that
deeply care for the flock of Christ: “holding fast the faithful his tongue would be ‘governed to speak God’s truth’. When
word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound Robert Morrison was asked shortly after his arrival in China
doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” if he expected to have any spiritual impact on the Chinese,
(Titus 1:9). he answered, “No sir, but I expect God will!” We pray that
these characteristics, and more, would be instilled in WPTS
The aim of the seminary is to train men from across Europe students.
to plant churches or to help existing Gospel works. Under
God recent graduates of the seminary have begun new Serving the wider church
works in Sunderland and Zurich with more planned in We are keen to serve the wider Church as well as train
the future. If you know men in Northern Ireland seeking future ministers. Each year we hold a yearly conference that
affordable tuition for the ministry, then WPTS is a worthy is open to all. This year our conference is on Evangelism
option. – looking at what the Gospel is, what evangelism is, and
how we evangelise. Topics include ‘friendship and personal
Doctrinal commitments evangelism’, ‘today’s false gospels’, ‘prayerful dependence
WPTS unashamedly holds to the inerrancy of Scripture and on our sovereign God’, ‘teaching our children: catechesis and
to the Westminster Confession of Faith. It believes that God youth work’. The speakers include Revd Dr Geoff Thomas,
has revealed how we are to worship Him. It also believes Revd Dr David Strain, Revd Dr Peter Naylor, Revd Dr Bill
that God has given the Church an unambiguous mission – to Schweitzer, and Revd Andy Young. The conference will run
make disciples of Jesus Christ – and the means to do so: on a pay-as-you-can basis and will be held 15-17th October.
the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer. Furthermore, We are delighted that the Evangelical Bookshop, headed
it officially holds to a literal understanding of the historical by Colin Campbell, will be running the official conference
account of Creation - that the days mentioned in Genesis are bookstore. The website for the WPTS conference is www.
six ordinary days. reformedconferences.org

Faculty, tuition, podcast Prayer and support


The faculty includes Revd Dr Ian Hamilton, Revd Dr Bill God has been pleased to bless the seminary thus far.
Schweitzer, Revd Dr Peter Naylor, Revd Dr Kevin Bidwell, There are moves to purchase a building for the seminary,
Revd Richard Holst, and Revd Dan Peters. These men are finances permitting. We would like to have many Christians
either serving in local churches or have recently retired. The regularly praying for the work of the seminary – that it
benefit of studying under these men is that the tuition is would be a conduit for great good under God. We are also in
not merely academic. Rather students receive a full-orbed need of financial support. If you would like to share in this
training for a future in pastoral ministry. A range of courses strategic ministry, as a church or an individual, then please
is offered to students including a Master of Divinity (MDiv), do not hesitate to call us on 0191 261 0526. We trust that
a Bachelor of Divinity (BD), and a Master of Ministry for it will see men trained in the seminary who, like Knox and
ruling elders and deacons. The seminary will soon offer Morrison, are “bold in our God” (1 Thessalonians 2:2) in
a monthly online class to the wider Church through its exalting the excellencies of God, in preaching the Gospel to
Westminster School of Theology. Perhaps you like listening those without hope in the world, and in edifying the saints.
to podcasts? The seminary has its own podcast entitled
“Communicating the Glory” which has featured guests such
as Revd Joel Beeke, Geoff Thomas, and Maurice Roberts.
More information about seminary courses, including free
lecture audio, can be found on the seminary’s website:
www.presbyterianseminary.org.uk.

Historic location
WPTS is based in a location with a rich Presbyterian heritage
– Newcastle upon Tyne. Did you know that John Knox
ministered in Newcastle for a number of years before his Benjamin is originally from N.Ireland, worked at the
time in Edinburgh? Robert Morrison, the Bible translator and Christian Institute for almost ten years, and is now
pioneering Presbyterian missionary to China, also plied his a student at Westminster Presbyterian Theological
trade there. Newcastle used to be a powerhouse of English Seminary

15
FROM THE CHURCHES

“Holding fast the faithful word”


Titus 1:9

Purpose Programmes
Commitments We offer a range of courses
We equip men to hold fast
· We teach the Westminster Standards. accredited through
to God’s faithful Word,
· We rejoice in God’s character. Greenville Presbyterian
with a particular focus on
· We trust God to work through His Word, Theological Seminary,
preparation for planting
the sacraments and prayer. including Master of
churches in the UK and
· We worship God as he has taught Divinity (MDiv).
continental Europe.

Faculty
Revd Dr Ian Hamilton · Revd Dr William Schweitzer · Revd Dr Kevin Bidwell
Revd Dr Peter Naylor · Revd Richard Holst · Revd Dan Peters

0191 261 0526


For more information about our www.wpts.org.uk
courses and how to support us,
contact@wpts.org.uk
please get in touch:
We are based in Newcastle upon Tyne

ReformationUK Conference 2020

EVANGELISM
David Strain • Geoff Thomas • Andy Young
Bill Schweitzer • Peter Naylor • Donald John Maclean
Matthew Roberts • George Curry

15-17 October 2020


All Saints Presbyterian Church
N E WC A S T L E
reformedconferences.org.uk
16
FROM THE CHURCHES

Junior Camp Reunion


For 56 boys and girls Saturday 8th February was a day to
remember. It wasn’t just a packed day in terms of our numbers;
we packed the day full of fun and friendship and fellowship with
the Lord Jesus Himself. We had the use of Ballyclare church
halls again which makes for an excellent venue when you want
to play games, make crafts, enjoy a bumper camp 2019 slide
show, eat lots of nice food and learn from God’s word together.
So it was, from 10.30am to 4.30pm we had a sort of mini-camp
which was a great introduction for many soon-to-be campers!
The children were an absolute delight and it was our privilege
not just to have great fun with them in the halls and at the
local swimming pool; but also to teach them all about the God
of grace as we looked at the story of the runaway son. Pray for our camp children who will sorely miss our usual camp week this
summer. Camp is a spiritually significant week in many of their young lives. Pray that the Lord will bless them and keep them and
cause them to grow in the faith.

leaders away when there are so many potential health risks


Inters Camp Reunion both to individuals and the further potential impact on the
families of campers and leaders alike, even if the situation
changes between now and then. I understand this will be
Inters Reunion 2020 was an action packed day from start to
disappointing news for all those who were hoping to come,
finish! We had 25 campers buzzing to be let loose to experience
but we will commit to arrange either a day away or a weekend
Inters and we hope we gave them a day to remember. We
away as circumstances permit nearer the time. If you’re
arrived at Blair Mayne in Newtownards and went straight for
aged 11-14 and would like to join us for Inters 2020 please
the high ropes and climbing wall, then we played some crazy
email epcinterscamp@gmail.com or text 07773672449 with
golf. We headed back to Groomsport for some lunch and some
your name, DOB and contact details and we will add you to the
volleyball, then Colin Moore shared from God’s word with a
mailing list to receive full details when arrangements are made.
faithful and clear Gospel message. He challenged, inspired and
encouraged our young people already running the race as young
We trust and pray that you and your family know God’s faithful
Christians in the real world. The day finished with hotdogs and
protection in these challenging and uncertain times, and that
chippy chips before heading our separate ways, well fed both
many would look to God to find true hope and salvation. Our
physically and spiritually.
mighty God is in control even when we sometimes do not
understand the reasons why these things happen or what the
Special thanks to all our dedicated leaders and cooks who made
future holds. It is our ongoing prayer that God would continue
the day run smoothly and gave their infectious energy to make
to use Inters to challenge, encourage and inspire our young
it a great day!
people to walk with God in the midst of an increasingly hostile
world and strive to grow and mature in the knowledge and love
Sadly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation we have taken
of our Lord! To God alone be the Glory!
the difficult decision to cancel Inters Camp this year. We feel
that it would not be responsible to take our young people and

17
FROM THE CHURCHES

Senior Camp Reunion News from Ballyclare


When we planned the Senior Camp reunion for 13th-15th Sunday 16 February was a special occasion in Ballyclare
March 2020, little did we realise the national, and indeed
EPC as the evening service included the ordination and
worldwide, significance that would emerge for those dates. It
turned out to be one of the final weekends of ‘freedom’ prior installation of deacons in the congregation. Kenneth Kelso,
to schools and businesses closing, as we entered a period of Stephen Logan, Shaun McFall and Axel Schmidt were
lockdown for the COVID19 pandemic. For the 20 campers, the installed having been re-elected to office, while Stephen
reunion weekend in Portadown Faith Mission Centre provided
a final chance to get together as a group of young people McCartney and David Roger were ordained as deacons
for some time. There was lots of chat about this new virus for the first time. The congregation rejoice that God has
that was all over the news, the associated uncertainties and provided them with these six men to serve the cause of
anxieties that lay ahead, for example with school and important
Christ among them and pray that the deacons will know
exams. In God’s providence, it was a perfect time to put things
in the perspective of His Word, opened so skilfully for us over God’s joy and enabling in their service.
the weekend by Pete Wright, Youth worker from Hill Street
Presbyterian in Lurgan. We looked at a broad overview of the Supper followed the service and gave opportunity to
Bible over 4 interactive talks, considering the perspective of acknowledge with thankfulness the role played by Andy
God’s big story, and spent valuable time discussing existential
McMinn over his many years as a deacon. Presentations
questions in smaller groups. Of course, we also had time to
catch up with one another (campers, leaders, cooks and even were made to Andy and Hazel in appreciation of the many
drivers!) over a cuppa and home made traybake, and had plenty tasks undertaken by them both, often in unseen ways.
of fun together with a variety of activities including roller
blading and trampolining. It was a blessed time together. Flowers were also presented to a much loved and

Unfortunately, it is looking increasingly unlikely that our longstanding member of the congregation, Mrs Phoebe
planned summer camp to Fivemiletown in July will go ahead. Herron, who had celebrated her 90th birthday the
We are hopeful to be able to run something later in the year, previous day.
should social distancing and and other restrictions allow. We
trust in a sovereign God who does everything for a purpose,
glorifying His name, and advancing His kingdom. We pray for
the young people at this difficult time of uncertainty, and ask
that God will keep them close to Him until camp can meet
again.

“God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne”
Psalm 47:8

18
FROM THE CHURCHES

Ministry in Lockdown!
During the COVID-19 lockdown the ministry of the local Each of the congregation receives a phone call each week
church has had to undergo a rapid readjustment in order to and more often if required. Texts also encourage those
adapt to the unusual circumstances in which we now live. who are able to access sermons available online from
Below, each of the ministers gives a brief update on how our other congregations. I have also been busy helping to
the ministry of each congregation is continuing to function co-ordinate a community aid scheme for those with major
during this period of lockdown. health issues, or who are elderly with no local relatives to
provide support. Several of our folks are getting dinners
Ballyclare: delivered several times each week and also assistance with
shopping. Three of our folks have had major health issues
We are running three online services each week hosted on
and one who may have Covid-19 especially needs prayer.
both Facebook and YouTube. I’m told we have a number of
The reversal of government policy allowing off-licences to
eastern and middle-eastern followers but everything is
open has had a serious detrimental effect on several of our
geared at maintaining normality for our own folk as best
folks from Helping Hand. Our nation is in bad shape when
as possible. Part of that then is the online prayer-time,
alcohol consumption is decided to be an essential business.
straight after the Bible Study on a Tuesday night, which has
In general, nearly all our folks are coping well and the crisis
been a real blessing, though has had its technical moments.
has drawn them closer together and in dependence on the
Some of our Sunday School teachers are producing their
Lord. We are very grateful to God that this pandemic is
own video lessons each week and I hear these are well
happening in sunny April and not in early December. He truly
received. We’ve also managed to get the Children’s Talk
is gracious.
in the Sunday morning service up to an interactive status
thanks to great co-operation from parents. Also, over the Crumlin:
last three weeks we’ve been able to run what we’re calling
‘virtual tots’ to try & provide something for what has been Sunday services are broadcast live on Facebook at 11:30am
quite a thriving mums & tots group. This includes the normal and 6pm, and the devotions for our prayer gathering
talk and singing slot and whilst the singing isn’t all in phase are broadcast at 8pm on a Wednesday. For those not on
the children seem to appreciate it for what it is. Importantly Facebook, these videos are also distributed via a WhatsApp
then we are endeavouring formally and informally to keep group, which also includes a number of people not directly
in touch with the congregation and this includes the many connected to our church, but who have requested to
phone-calls, WhatsApps & texts that people are making. A receive the sermons. Prayer points for the week are
number of our folk are now effectively shut-ins and we have shared within the church family on WhatsApp. Also, each
tried to provide for them to receive online but have ended up morning (Monday-Friday) a short one-minute devotional
using DVDs and CDs. The latter are slowly starting to reach video (“1:1:1”) is shared via the church Facebook page and
beyond the congregation which is encouraging. We have also WhatsApp group. The online response to the teaching has so
written out to our Junior YPA group over the Easter weekend far been encouraging.
and are excited at the prospect of sending out a video-letter
to all our young people’s groups this weekend. In addition to this, each household receives a phone call
every fortnight, though more frequently for those with
Crosscollyer Street: particular needs at the moment. It is encouraging to see
how the church family are looking out for one another at this
In Crosscollyer Street EPC only a few people use computers time.
or iPads, but most have mobile phones. As a result, we
communicate with everyone twice a week by text. Usually Erne West:
two texts each weekend with one providing information for
prayer and the other brief sermon notes. Each Wednesday Since we are so much a farming community, life isn’t much

a text updates information to be used as prayer topics. different. I go into the church building at the usual time on

19
FROM THE CHURCHES

Ministry in Lockdown!
Sunday and preach to an almost empty Church (excluding Between the elders and deacons, we aim to phone everyone
my wife) - the sermon is then put up on the website as in the congregation once a week, and we also encourage
per usual. I preach for longer than usual as I’m only doing phone calls between our members. It’s been encouraging to
one sermon now. Then I’ve sent out a couple of pastoral hear how they are phoning one another, and remembering
emails with a comment on the theological implications of one another in prayer. We’ve also been able to do some
what is happening and also suggestions of podcasts etc walk-bys, and keep our distance, sometimes that little bit of
- and I know most people are finding other services and in-the-sun interaction is just what the doctor called for!
livestreaming services online and so on. Also, I am phoning
weekly most folk to check up all is well, but there are very Friday club post video links and worksheets every Friday on
strong family units here - so we don’t have isolated people Facebook. These are going down well and the children are
on their own. enjoying the competition between one another. The Ladies
Bible study group have started to use Zoom for their study
Finaghy: in the Book of James. Some letters are also being written,
and received – which is a great blessing. Sometimes there
A Sunday morning service is put on Facebook, along with are surprises in with the letters – which is just brilliant!
a short Bible study on a Thursday night (our normal prayer
meeting night). These are also available on YouTube. Currently we’re planning how we can better use the church
Remembering those in the congregation who live alone, and façade – hoping to post scripture texts so many can see it
those who can’t access the Internet, we seek to minister to as they walk by on their daily exercise walk at Stormont.
people by phone, and a newsletter, and CDs.
Omagh:
A local residents’ group have been using the church hall for
storing and parcelling up food parcels for people in isolation We record a short Bible Study for Tuesday evenings
which also gives us a bit of contact with the community (available via YouTube) and encourage our folk to watch the
around us. video and pray at the usual time of 8pm (prayer points are
also provided). We ask our folk to pray on Wednesday and
Groomsport: Friday along with the rest of the denomination. We also
record two messages for Sunday. We keep the congregation
I endeavour to record two sermons for Youtube every Lord’s informed of prayer needs via phone and text, and also
day. We also use WhatsApp the rest of the time for keeping encourage our folk to make use of the church library (books
up to date, and then on Tuesday night I list a number of & DVDs).
requests there for prayer. Since I rely on others to help me
record, this is the best I can do at the moment. Stranmillis:

Knock: In Stranmillis we hold 3 online gatherings for the whole


congregation - two Sunday services and our midweek
Knock is using YouTube for Sunday sermons and midweek meeting on a Wednesday evening. Our midweek is split into
addresses. We’re using our Facebook page to direct people two parts - the online Bible Study, and then a number of
to our sermons as well as posting other helpful articles and smaller groups of 12-14 people who meet for prayer over
verses of Scripture. We use WhatsApp for prayer points and Zoom. While we are missing seeing one another, we’re very
also for directing people to various articles and sermons, thankful for the technology that has facilitated these times.
and also the occasional bit of fun is thrown in there as well!
We also deliver CDs of sermons every week to those without We are also trying to maintain contact with some from
internet connection, these folks almost always come to the outside our congregation who have attended various
door for chat – and it’s good to keep in contact (without ministries of the church, and appreciate your prayers
contact!). for this.

20
FROM THE CHURCHES

Obituary of Mrs Livingstone (Knock EPC)

Praise God that every aspect of the coronavirus


pandemic is under his sovereign control and
that in all circumstances we can be sure of his
goodness, wisdom and power. Praise him that all
things work together for good to those who love
him, who are the called according to his purpose.
On Tuesday 25th February 2020 Mrs Betty Livingstone left
Thank God for the provision of the NHS and for
this fallen world and passed peacefully into the immediate
all key workers who contribute to our well-being.
presence of Christ her Saviour. Martha Elizabeth Davison
Thank him for medical and scientific research that
was born in 1927 and so shared her year of birth with the
brings benefit to society.
Irish Evangelical Church (now EPC) which she loved and to
which she was fiercely loyal. Pray that God in his mercy will bring an end to the
coronavirus outbreak.
She attended Botanic Avenue congregation where the Rev
W.J. Grier was the Minister, and it was under his faithful Thank God for those who rule over us and pray
ministry that she came to saving faith in Jesus Christ as a that they will do so with wisdom, uprightness,
14-year-old girl. She was faithfully shepherded by Christ humility and a recognition of need before God.
for some 80 years; a testimony she could share with family Pray that believers working in politics will be an
some days before she died. influence for good.

She met her husband-to-be, James Murray MacKenzie Thank God for all ministers of the gospel. Pray for
them and their families as they find themselves
Livingstone, when the young people from Lisburn Road
working under changed circumstances. Ask
congregation met together with the young people from
for God’s blessing on every opportunity to
Botanic. The Lord gave them over 60 years of marriage
communicate his word across the internet, using
and blessed them with children, grandchildren and great-
CDs, by phone etc.
grandchildren. Mrs Livingstone was also blessed with a
lifelong friend, Persis Elizabeth (Lily) Crozier, who also moved Thank God that he equips men to serve as
to the Knock congregation when they both moved to East deacons and elders, thanking him especially for
Belfast. the newly ordained deacons in Ballyclare. Pray
that all who hold office in our congregations will
The last season of her life on earth was spent in the care of show godly leadership.
Adelaide House and on one particular visit, she insisted that
I get up and preach! The other residents were keen as well, Remember in prayer those who are anxious about
and so I began a monthly service. Even in those final months matters of health, education or finance at this
it was evident that her Good Shepherd’s goodness and mercy time of uncertainty. Pray for those who suffer
from mental illness, loneliness or addiction. May
were following her all the days of her life; she now dwells in
God’s children be strengthened by his word, and
His House forever.
may many others seek him and find him.

21
BOOK REVIEWS
Title: WHERE IS GOD IN A CORONAVIRUS WORLD?
Author: John C. Lennox
Publisher: The Good Book
Company.
62 pages.
RRP £2.99 Our Price: £2.50
ISBN 978-1-78498-569-1

Lockdown and loss


Where is God in a coronavirus
Give thanks to God for every young person who world? This is a question that
attended a church camp reunion in the spring and many of us are asking as we face
lockdown, isolation and the loss
heard something from his word. Pray for camp
of loved ones. As a doctor, I’ve
leaders rethinking and planning future events.
seen first-hand the devastating impact of coronavirus on
patients, colleagues and their loved ones.
Pray for God’s hand to be upon all the children Prof. John Lennox wrote this short book in the space of
who have not been able to attend Sunday school, a week, and his intention is to remind us of our ultimate
children’s meetings, YPA etc. Give thanks for all source of comfort and hope. As he does so, he actively
endeavours to stay connected with these children encourages us to ask the big questions rather than to shy
and their families and pray that parents will away from them.
recognise something of the love of Christ in these Coffeeshop conversations
efforts. Perhaps recalling the days when we could still meet in a
coffeeshop, Professor Lennox asks us to think of the book
Pray for the manager and staff of the Evangelical as though we were discussing this question together.
Bookshop sharing the difficulties of many small He doesn’t give trite answers to difficult issues but takes
time to consider key passages in God’s word, aided by
businesses under lockdown restrictions. Pray
quotations from authors such as C.S Lewis, and also
that Christians and others who find themselves
engages with prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins.
confined at home will read helpful books and be
The book initially feels like a conversation with a university
blessed. professor. However, as the conversation progresses, it
warms, especially as it moves towards discussion of Jesus
Praise God that in the corona crisis there has been on the cross and the difference that the Gospel makes.
widespread effort to preserve life and protect Professor Lennox poignantly uses the crown shaped nature
the vulnerable. Pray that there will be a similar of coronavirus to remind of the God who became flesh, who
response in the face of demands to legalise wore a crown of thorns for us.
assisted suicide and liberalise abortion law and I was particularly struck by his final chapter entitled “The
practice here. Difference God Makes”, which encourages us to think
practically and prayerfully about our response to the
Thank God that missionaries are finding new coronavirus pandemic. He exhorts us to follow government
advice, to love our neighbours, and to view all of this with
opportunities to reach and teach people all over
the hope of eternity. These would be excellent points to
the world despite restrictions. Pray for those
ponder in our families, homegroups and churches.
mentoring students doing online Bible courses,
praying with people or answering questions about Initially, my impression was that this book would most
faith on Facebook Chat etc. Pray for the Holy appeal to someone who would enjoy a stimulating
Spirit to work. conversation in the imagined coffeeshop. But that is not to
say that it lacks compassion and realistic awareness of the
Pray for Muslims earnestly seeking to know God, suffering that individuals and families will experience.
that they will meet with Jesus as Saviour and It will deepen our understanding of why we can speak of
Lord. Thank God that he is able to open blind eyes hope and feel a sense of peace in a world of uncertainty
and unstop deaf ears. and fear, and encourage us to turn afresh to the God who is
not taken aback by this, and who will work all things for the
good of those who love Him (Romans 8.28).

Reviewed by: Jenny Balmer, doctor, curate’s wife and member


of Enderby Parish Church, Leicester
22
BOOK REVIEWS
Title: Kiss the Wave: embracing God in your trials This book has helped turned my eyes from thinking I ought
Author: Dave Furman not suffer and praying for my own comfort, to refocusing my
Publisher: Crossway, 2018 heart and mind of the good God of the gospel. I pray it will
RRP: £11.99 Our Price: £5.99 do likewise for many.

Dave Furman is a church planter (Peter Grier)


in Dubai (United Arab Emirates),
and although his story appears
at several key points in the book, Title: Love thy body
it does not dominate the book. Author: Nancy Pearce
This book is centrally focused Publisher: Bakerbooks
on helping us grapple with the RRP: £12.99 Our Price: £9.75
God of the gospel more, so that
Dave’s story can be our story Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body
– of being sustained and even is a perceptive and thoughtful
finding deep-rooted joy in the midst of horrific pain, that analysis of the hot-button culture
never seems to cease, and which leads to emotional and war issues (including abortion,
relational distress. In fact, I nearly at times lost sight of Dave euthanasia, same sex marriage,
while reading the book, which in my eyes, was not actually and trans... issues). Pearcey digs
the most helpful. Nonetheless, the book is an absolute beneath the controversies to the
delight, refreshing, simple and a treasure to ponder, even for worldview that lies underneath
someone who reads an awful lot. them. Tough reading, but an excellent resource. The chapter
on Abortion is chilling and makes us realise afresh what
Dave’s writing feels like a powerful collection of quotations a truly terrible social evil it is. A friend pointed out to me
of many ‘greats’ of recent Christian writing, combined with the other day that it would be much easier for him and his
huge chunks of Biblical wisdom and comfort, and finely wife to kill an unborn baby than to cut down a tree in their
honed into a soothing package of goodness. It is easy to pick garden; for the former, they hardly need any permission at
up and read in one go, or perhaps better, taken chapter by all, while for the latter it is quite a job to get a permit. That is
chapter and processed over two weeks of devotions. a really chilling thought.

Each chapter starts with a short story from someone Dave


knows who has deeply suffered, followed by a connected Title: Confronting Christianity
meditation on some of the most beautiful and encouraging Author: Rebecca McLaughlin
truths of scripture. Because of Dave’s own story, you know Publisher: Crossway
these are not just glib comforts trying to stick a plaster over RRP: £17.99 Our Price: £13.50
a gaping wound, but treasures that will help sustain you and
shape your perspective even in the darkest of times. Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting
Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for
I think of my prayers during Coronavirus season. Simplified, the World’s Largest Religion is a
they could perhaps be summarised often as: “God bless me. marvellous resource. McLaughlin
May I not suffer. May no-one I know suffer. May everyone mixes Christian insight with
have their jobs. Would you make clear the future?” Reading well-informed cultural analysis.
this book, I am forced to abandon the centrality of myself I particularly appreciated the
and my will in my prayer life, and replace it with something chapter in which she argues that
oh-so-much better. To finish, I must say that although I Christianity is “the most diverse movement in all of history.”
come from the author’s theological perspective (a reformed It is very striking that our secular liberal societies have to
one), I am very glad that he (perhaps unlike some reformed work very hard to try to engineer the diversity that occurs
authors) at the end does acknowledge that amidst his quite naturally (or supernaturally) in the Christian church.
ultimate trust that God is sovereign over all suffering
and uses it for His glory and our good, it is the devil who
is responsible for such evil, which is a glimpse of hell-ish
things to come. Those words in the final chapter were very
necessary ones, which make it easier for us to approach this
God, knowing He is not going to cruelly delight in suffering,
pain and endless tears.

23
Best of the Blogs
A selection of online blogs and articles to challenge and has revised and edited Matthew Henry’s guide on prayer,
encourage you in your walk with God and his people… entitled A Way to Pray, helping us model our prayers on
Scripture. Below is the prayer for a time of infectious disease.
Is Everything Sad Going to Come Untrue? Why We Need I have also included prayers from the Prayer Book from two
Eschatology Now More than Ever (Michael Kruger) different eras…”
www.michaeljkruger.com/is-everything-sad-going-to-come-
untrue-why-we-need-eschatology-now-more-than-ever/ Psalm 89: Promise, Struggle and Reality (Robert Godfrey)
“In my opinion, some of the most overlooked portions of the https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/psalm-89-promise-
entire Lord of the Rings trilogy are the chapters right after struggle-and-reality-2020-04/
the final battle in The Return of the King. In these chapters, “The throne of this great and ruling God rests on
Tolkien expresses a vision for cosmic renewal that closely righteousness and justice. He is always holy and right in all
mimics the one laid down in the biblical accounts themselves.” He does. At the same time, He is loving and merciful. Here
again, perhaps, we are to think of God’s holiness in heaven
When Children are Anxious (Karen Sleeman) and His mercy on earth. This revelation of the character
www.biblicalcounselling.org.uk/fear-anxiety/when-children- of God encourages us with His holiness and love by which
are-anxious/ He governs our lives always. We need to remember that
“Many children in the UK are anxious. This is not surprising. especially in times of crisis. What a remarkable God we have.”
We live in a broken world which leaves all of us feeling
vulnerable and uncertain of the future, especially in our COVID-19: A Prolonged Sabbath in a Culture of Productivity
current situation. The strangeness of lockdown and social (Laura Cerbus)
distancing, and (for older children) the constant news updates www.morningbymorning.org/2020/04/14/covid-19-a-
about coronavirus cases, deaths, and possible outcomes, all
prolonged-sabbath-in-a-culture-of-productivity/
mean we need to help our children navigate their fears of
“Perhaps, in this time of quarantine, we will finally have
what might happen.” time to tackle the project that’s been on the back burner
for much too long. Perhaps great works of literature or art
A Parenting Challenge for Lockdown (Rebecca van will be produced during this time. If so, let’s offer our work
Doodewaard) to God, thanking him for the space and soil for these things
https://gentlereformation.com/2020/04/13/a-parenting- to grow. But perhaps we won’t. Perhaps we’ve entered into
challenge-for-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR3sYmrt3ExQ2kOgrFgK6 a prolonged Sabbath — a rest from our striving to prove
o07VMbk-mDQKtjbBH4kqH00qpfQArrlIrlbAiU our own worth. If so, we can give up the false guilt that our
“You know,” my grandmother told me, “we laughed a lot culture puts on those who aren’t producing anything. We can
during the war.” The first time I heard that, I was surprised. rest in the love of the Father, who created and redeemed us,
“The war” was World War Two; “we” were my great not because of what we are capable of doing, but because of
grandparents and their eight children living in the Nazi- his love. Full stop.”
occupied Netherlands. The German invasion destroyed his
business, and the family went from comfortably middle class
to near starvation. The government shipped children, my
grandmother included, away from their parents to the country
to keep them alive. I hadn’t thought that laughter would be
something that stood out from this time.

Help from the past & Coronavirus (Darren Moore)


https://www.gr-uk.org/vlogs/help-from-the-past-amp-
coronavirus-part-1
“I have been both asked and thought myself – what and how
should we be praying during this Coronavirus pandemic?
Often saints from the past can help. O Palmer Robertson
24