Category Archives: The Seven Churches

Report on Mission Ukraine!

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The way, the truth and the life!

My apologies for being so long in writing this report following our mission to Ukraine. I was unwell with chest an infection when I returned, laid me low for about two weeks. However, back on the grid now as we say.

We, Peter Cotton and myself, travelled to Ukraine on Saturday 8th July as planned. The journey was pleasant. Our first week of the mission was spent in Kiev, the capitol city of Ukraine. We were yoked with Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church there. The Pastor, Sergey and his wife Olga looked after us very, very well. We were accommodated in the church premises and joined Sergey and his family for meals daily. The Ukrainian cuisine is somewhat different to ours in the West but very nice. Some of the literature we distributed was designed by Pastor Sergey and was linked to their Reformation 500 celebrations that they are having. We gave out over 5000 pieces of literature, including a number of New Testaments. On our first Lord’s Day there we joined with the believers in Church although we couldn’t understand what was being said. Sergey interviewed us after the service, asking us for a report of how things were in the West. Their interest was mostly in the LGBTQ stuff that’s going on. They find it unbelievable, so do I. Ukraine still has a very strong family tradition. We began for real on Monday morning outside the railway station, very busy. Lots of tracts taken and a surprisingly good number of conversations, most of them limited by the language barrier, but good nonetheless. On Tuesday we went into the city centre of Kiev to preach, at University Square. We were told a good number of folk there would understand English. We were pleasantly surprised at the number we did indeed connect with. I had no sooner began to preach when this young man came up to me threatening me with all sorts of violence. In perfect English. We encountered the same young man later in the week, totally different. Peter was able to share the gospel with him and give him some literature. I think perhaps the first time he was under the influence of ‘something.’ Whilst preaching another young man, again with good English came to me saying he had appreciated what had been said, he took a New Testament. Another man phoned Pastor Sergey asking for information as result of one of our tracts given. A very good number of people sat around the Square, and some evidently listening. So each day through the week that was the pattern, early at the railway station giving out many tracts. Then down into the city to preach the gospel. We had one day off when Sergey took us sight-seeing in Kiev, some of the historical sights, mostly of a religious nature. The religious idolatry in the country is huge (but we’re not lacking in our country either). We visited one monument, quite sad, it was erected in memory of the millions of Ukrainians who perished in Stalin’s forced famine in the 1920’s. I was quite surprised at the liberty we experienced in preaching, I thought it would have been quite hard. One encounter we had with a young American man who went passed me when I was preaching, he was mocking, I told him to repent and believe the gospel. A while later he passed by again, cursing and swearing at me. I told him to go wash his mouth out with soap and water, at which he turned and threw his cup of hot coffee all over me. But, a good number of Christians encouraged us too. Our last Lord’s Day there I was invited to preach at Grace Reformed Church with Pastor Sergey translating, it was a joy. That evening Peter and I went down to Kiev again, this time to Independent Square where traffic on a Sunday is closed off. It’s like Vanity Fair, all sorts of bands, clowns and acts going on (we’re pretty used to it in the West). But there was something about it that made me very happy. Because freedom to the people of Ukraine is quite a new commodity. For years they have lived under the thraldom of Russian/Communist oppression. It would be an even greater joy to me if they were obeying the Lord on the Sabbath Day, maybe that will come later. We found a corner to preach and had a most wonderful time, lots of tracts and New Testaments taken. One very good and lengthy conversation with a serious young Dutchman. We went through the apologetic thing with him and preached Christ to him, he also took a New Testament.

On Monday we travelled down to Ternopil, about six hours train ride south west from Kiev. A smaller town, and much more religious. Pastor Volodymyr at Grace Baptist Church is our link there. Again the week was pretty similar, tract distribution in the mornings and preaching over and through lunchtime. And again many good conversations and New Testaments taken. On one of the occasions when I was preaching I noticed a man with a camera filming the scene. I didn’t think much of it, but he was from the local press and his video clip ended up being broadcast on the local media (can’t imagine that ever happening here). Volodymyr also took us out for a day’s sight-seeing. He took us to a Catholic shrine about 45 miles from Ternopil. He told me that people walk there from Ternopil (with an overnight stop along the way) to this shrine, in order to obtain forgiveness of sins. It just filled me with such sadness. Something like a hundred thousand people will gather there at times at this shrine. Again preaching in Ternopil we had three Muslims from Egypt listen to us, and again, very good English. One, in particular, showed a good interest. He asked for a New Testament in English, which we gladly gave him. Finally, one day in the Square in Ternopil we encountered an American couple sitting holding up a sign ‘Do You Want to Learn English.’ So I went over to them and asked, “excuse me, but do you think you could teach a Scotsman to speak English?” They were rolling about the place laughing. I think they were from a church, using the language thing as a form of outreach.

So that’s pretty much the bones of it, a good mission, very worthwhile. I couldn’t bring to mind never mind record all the conversations had over the fortnight. On boarding the plane to come home I had one Ukrainian tract left. An elderly Ukrainian lady sat next to us, she must have been in her eighties. She was flying to Boston, in the USA on her own, bless her. She gladly received our last Ukrainian tract. It was a joy to have Peter’s fellowship in the gospel and that too of local Christians who warmly embraced us and the work we were seeking to do. My sincere thanks to all who support us financially, prayerfully and by words of encouragement, thank you. I hope this finds you all very encouraged in the Lord in your own sphere of service. I look forward to returning to Ukraine next July, Lord willing. God bless you all.

(James R Hamilton, August 2017)
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Why Creeds & Confessions?

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“Our creeds serve the purpose of preserving and transmitting the truth from generation to generation. That truth, as under the promised guidance of the Holy Sprit as it has been elicited from the Scriptures, formulated, systematised, and that, too, over against every form of the lie, which also appeals to Scripture, though falsely, that truth need not be and may not be discovered anew by each generation. It need not be because God establishes and calls his church in the line of continued generations so that each generation grows up and becomes heir to the heritage of the preceding one. But it is also true that the attempt to discover and to formulate the truth may not be begun anew by each generation: for to do so would not only be a waste of effort, but also a flagrant denial of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the church of the past. And for the transmission of this heritage of the truth from one generation to the next our confessions serve as a means”

(Synod of Dordt 1618-1619)
(James R Hamilton, June 2017)
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On Following Jesus!

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“King and Judge are in the prophetic delineation (description) of the figure of the Messiah practically synonymous. Nor does it require profound study of the life of Jesus to discover the vigorous exercise of this function in all his intercourse with his followers. The very conception of “following” can be understood only from this background. The solemn manner in which Jesus puts his “I say unto you” by the side of, or even apparently over against, the commandment of God, goes far beyond the highest that is conceivable in the line of prophetic authority (Matthew 5:20-43). The verses:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

in this same chapter are by no means a Jewish-Christian accretion (addition) to the original Gospel but in perfect consonance with the Messianic attitude of the speaker. While distinguishing his precepts from those of Judaism as “light” and “easy” Jesus still retains for them the figure of “burden” and “yoke,” and this especially significant in view of the then current phrase, “taking the yoke of the law upon one’s self,” which designated the passing of the young man under the full regime of the law. It is nothing but the deep-seated Messianism of Paul that makes him speak of “being under the law to Christ” (1Corinthians 9:21). The Christless Gospel is perhaps sometimes simply a product of the desire for a Gospel that shall have less of subordination in it. The overemphasis on the autonomy and spontaneity of the Christian life may have contributed towards bringing the Messianic idea into disfavour. As in so many other instances, this would be a case of a principally irreligious tendency presuming to take to task and endeavouring to correct what is deeply religious. Such a sentiment, at any rate, is quite in line with the conception of the modern Jesus, from whom much of the spirit of authority has evaporated. But it would hardly be congenial to the mind of Him, who in the plerophory of Messianic exousia (appearing) spoke the words:

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

The sentiment we are criticising does not lead toward, but away from Christ.”

(Geerhardus Vos)

(James R Hamilton, 5th June 2017)
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A Particular Gospel!

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The act of preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel.

“Any departure from the strict view of the extent of the atonement is to be seriously dreaded because it almost uniformly indicates a lurking tendency to call into question the sovereignty of divine grace altogether. Here it is invariably found to open a door for the influx of the entire tide of the Pelagian theory of human ability, in the train of that Arminian notion of the divine decrees which is apt to be its precursor” (Dr John Kennedy). But a departure there has been in our modern theologians and preachers. Not only has Amyraldianism crept iin but also Arminianianism. The Calvinism espoused in Western evangelicalism is a soft, even effeminate Calvinism.

Preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel. The Reformed church has ever insisted that the particular promise of God must be promiscuously preached so that all who hear may know that promise. In the preaching of the gospel God promises salvation only to those who believe, God does not, and will not promise salvation to unbelievers. Neither does God promise salvation to those whom he does not intend to save. The promiscuous preaching of God’s particular promise is accompanied by the command for all men to repent and believe in Christ, “but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). He, in whom alone is salvation to be found, “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The promiscuous preaching of God’s particular promise is not hyper-Calvinism.

It is important to know and remember that the earlier Reformed theologians and preachers used the word offer in their proclamation. But what’s of equal importance is to know and remember what they meant by the use of that word. They did not mean to express a desire or intention on God’s part to save everyone who hears the gospel. Rather that through the preaching of Christ widely proclaimed, that all the hearers would be confronted with the command to repent and believe. “But in that proclamation, only those chosen and ordained to be redeemed by Christ will actually repent and believe the gospel. They alone are so called that they are attracted and created new and begotten. They alone are those for whom God not only strikes their ears by his word preached through men but also attacks their hearts, opening them, writing his law in them, changing them and inflaming them to love him” (Heinrich Heppe). And, “there are no decrees of God which men or any creature can frustrate. They are altogether effectual and have a most definite outcome” (Heinrich Heppe).

The preaching of the gospel is a means, a means God uses to save his elect, but also to bring judgment on the unbelieving. Hardening is in God’s hand and will, just as much as mercy is (Romans 9:14ff). Furthermore, it is unlawful for the clay to quarrel with its Potter, “nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour” (Romans 9:20)? And, “every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). If that is not a sign of reprobation, then what is?

“Indeed many, as if they wished to avert a reproach from God, accept election in such terms as to deny that anyone is condemned. But they do this very ignorantly and childishly, since election itself could not stand except as set over against reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts into salvation; it will be highly absurd to say that others acquire by chance or obtain by their own effort what election alone confers on a few. Therefore, those whom God passes over, he condemns, and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children. And men’s insolence is unbearable if it refuses to be bridled by God’s word” (John Calvin). The general proclamation is enough to take away any excuse from the reprobate, although it is not enough for salvation. Reception of the gospel and rejection of the gospel take place on the basis of God’s will, not man’s will or works.

The act of preaching is a general proclamation of a particular gospel.

(© James R Hamilton, 24th May 2017)
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