I arrived with Mark Johnston and Ian Hamilton a the conference venue in Elizabethtown, PA this afternoon. It was wet. With that and the vegetation, and to a certain extent the housing, it could have been like the west of Scotland. Dreich, except it is warm and dreich.
However, what was warm and not dreich was the preaching of Ian Hamilton and Liam Goligher this afternoon and this evening respectively. The theme of the conference is “The Gospel: What It Is and Why It Matters”. Ian gave the opening sermon speaking on 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 and the gospel minister. This summary does not do it justice, but he was eager to show how in the midst of deep concern for the church, Paul leads his readers to Christ. Doctrine is always pastoral. (Indeed, as Ian said, “Hebrew syntax should be taught pastorally” – a warning to students of the Bible never to forget what they are doing.) Christian preachers are always being led in “triumphal procession” whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. There is glory in a preacher’s condition in Christ, and amazing grace in his calling in Christ.
Laim Goligher took up a well known passage, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20, yet he dealt with it in a fresh way, looking at it redemptive historically. Matthew presents Jesus as the true and faithful Israel. In his Gospel, the first verse is intended to take us back to Genesis and the first Adam in Eden over which he had dominion, yet had failed. Jesus came as the Son of Adam and with a new Eve, the church, is reaching the nations making disciples, teaching, baptising (“the sacraments are signs and seals of God’s intentionality in the world”). The message was to keep preaching in season and out, whether people want it or not.
Both were powerful, moving, searching and encouraging addresses. A good start.