Mr. McGeown is a member of the CPRC and currently a student at the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
I have a tingle of happiness in my own soul” were the words of Prof. Hanko as he welcomed the congregation on Wednesday, 2nd August, 2006 to Ballymena Leisure Centre, which had been rented as the venue for the official organization of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland. That tingle of happiness echoed in our souls. Organization as a church with officebearers (Titus 1:5) is the goal of mission work and is something for which the Fellowship had been praying and working for four years.
Those in attendance had come from near and far, especially the UK, Ireland, and America, reflecting the catholicity of the church and the close bond between the CPRF and the PRC. Many others who were not able to attend sent greetings.
Prof. Hanko took as his text II Timothy 2:19: “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The context is plain. Heretics had infiltrated the church, and Timothy had witnessed the faith of some being overthrown. There was the possibility that Timothy would be discouraged by this. Timothy needed to hear this tremendous word: “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure.” A foundation implies a building, and the building implied here (and made explicit in other texts: Eph. 2:20,Matt. 16:18) is the church, the church in two senses: the church organic, the sum total of the elect, called, gathered, and preserved by the sovereign, irresistible grace of God, and the church institute, which manifests itself in the world. The church, we were reminded, is the strangest institution in the world, having her origins in heaven, not on earth. She does not really belong in the world. The church is hated because she preaches that the world’s deeds are evil. The church has many powerful enemies, and is like a small flock of sheep huddled together on a mountain, seemingly defenseless, surrounded by howling wolves.
Because the church is built on Jesus Christ Himself, she has an indestructible foundation and is safe. Notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, the foundation of God standeth sure! We are weak, so God gives a seal, a guarantee, a mark of authenticity. Because of our weak faith we need seals, and God graciously gives them. The seal, “God knoweth them that are his,” speaks of election, the doctrine that is widely ignored or denied today. Election is the seal. The church must preach it. The church must confess it. The true church always fights the battle for sovereign, particular, irresistible grace, rooted in election.
This is the battle that the CPRF has been fighting over against the false and departing churches and the ungodly world, and by God’s grace will continue to fight.
The calling of the text is therefore to believe and be comforted by the fact that God’s work will never fail, that the elect will surely be saved, and because of that hope we must “depart from iniquity,” especially the iniquity of false doctrine and of ungodly conduct that causes the enemies of God to blaspheme.
After that stirring message from God’s Word, the officebearers were approved, ordained by the laying on of hands, and installed, the form of installation being read and oaths taken. The formula of subscription was then signed by the three men (Brian Crossett and Philip Rainey [elders] and Ivan Reid [deacon]), and they were committed to God in prayer. Several remarked how impressed they were at the decency and order (I Cor. 14:40) of Reformed church polity.
Mr. Henry Boer, elder of Hudsonville PRC, brought greetings from the consistory of the calling church, and Mr. Gary Kaptein from the DMC brought greetings from Synod. It was fitting that Synod repeated in part the form of words that had been used when the CPRC had originally organized in 1996.
Mr. Ivan Reid, newly appointed deacon, thanked Prof. Hanko for his ceaseless devotion to the work in the British Isles, recounting how he had first met Profs. Hanko and Engelsma when in 1984 a small group of Reformed believers had asked the PRC to “come over and help [them]” (Acts 16:9). He then presented Prof. Hanko with a handmade book containing photographs of Northern Ireland and the saints here, which was received with observable delight.
The Leisure Centre closed at 10 P.M., but the discussions and fellowship continued in the car park outside until reluctantly the congregation dispersed.
It is with great gratitude to God that a discouraged group of just over seven families (Acts of Synod, 2002) has been preserved and increased to the point where we can organize again as a church, larger, more unified, and better grounded in the faith than before. God is building the walls of Zion in our midst. We are encouraged, the enemies of the truth are dismayed, and God is glorified. Our prayer is that God will build the walls higher, stronger, and thicker through the means of faithful preaching, the two sacraments, and the admonition of elders, and that the Reformed faith will prosper in Ballymena, in the UK, in Ireland, and all around the world. Finally, we earnestly desire, are thankful for, and are assured of, the continued prayerful support of our friends and brethren in the Protestant Reformed Churches.