This year’s Reformation Bible Conference, held at Hilltop Chapel in Sheffield, on 6-7 January, was a spiritual feast. The theme was ‘Christ our Head, Husband and Bridegroom’. Two questions at the beginning of the conference epitomised where we were heading: ‘Who is the master of our life?’ and ‘Where do our chief affections lie?’
Rev. Dr Kevin Bidwell (minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church) thrilled us with some of the attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ, as found in Psalm 45. We learned of Christ’s majesty, eternality, sovereignty and might. We heard of his grace and his gladness towards his royal bride, the church.
We were then directed to the attributes of the bride, who has been redeemed and exalted at the right hand of the Son in glory, for eternity. These great privileges should lead her to joyful obedience.
Rev. Warren Peel (minister of Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church, Newtownabbey) spoke of Christ being the Head of his body, the church. Mr Peel preached from Ephesians 5:15-33 outlining Christ’s great love for the church and the church’s response to this love.
We heard that marriage is meant to be a mirror of this relationship between Christ and his church; the most intimate, loving relationship possible. Mr Peel helpfully reclaimed the terms ‘love’ and ‘submission’ from the world’s definitions of these terms.
Women were exhorted to submit to their husbands, because they were ultimately submitting to Christ (Ephesians 5:22). Men were particularly singled out to heed the call of Christ, not only to sanctify their wives (v.26), but to nourish and cherish them, as they love their own bodies (v.28). Mr Peel gave eminently practical marriage advice throughout, before lifting our eyes to Christ, who gave himself for his bride throughout his life and in his substitutionary death.
Rev. Richard Brooks, former minister of York Evangelical Church, preached on the ‘Beatific vision’ (Isaiah 33:17) and on ‘Coming to Zion with singing’ (Isaiah 35:10). Our appetites were whetted at the divine prospect of the divine presence of Christ, which is undergirded by his divine promise.
Mr Brooks also told the biography of a man who exemplified this longing for his Head, Husband and Bridegroom, Samuel Rutherford.
The first minister of Hilltop Chapel in Sheffield, Stanley Gower, was a contemporary of Rutherford and they served together at the Westminster Assembly. The time in the conference given over to prayer for reformation would have pleased these men.
A freewill offering was taken up for a Presbyterian church plant in Manchester. There was no charge for those who attended and Sheffield Presbyterian Church kindly provided a free lunch. A scenic walk followed by a carvery enhanced the fellowship. Over 80 people attended from across the UK, with many of the attendees being below the age of 25. Put this conference in your diaries for next year if you want to do your soul good!