On September 9, over a hundred people spent their Friday night at Providence Presbyterian Church on the Northwest side of Pittsburgh: seminary, college, and high school students; residents from the Reformed Presbyterian Home; a van full of people from New York; many members of local churches, RP and otherwise. They stayed until nearly 10:00 PM on Friday, then they all came back on Saturday!
We were gathered for the Westminster Conference, put on by the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. It’s a conference where participants get a taste of what our seminary professors have to offer. The lectures contain a good measure of scholarly work mixed with plenty of pastoral teaching and application, giving us plenty of food for the mind and heart.
This year continued the theme on the means of grace. Last year we heard lectures on the Preaching of the Word; this year, we learned more about the Sacraments.
Barry York, RPTS President, opened the conference on the Sacraments as a Sign Tekmaria of a true church: where God’s people are, there will be the Sacraments. These signs and seals are not only means of grace for us from our Lord, but they are means for us to show our love to him. By participating in them, we are marked out from the world, and we show our dedication to Christ.
The rest of Friday evening focused on baptism. C.J. Williams showed us how circumcision transitioned seamlessly to baptism as the one pointed forward and the other backwards, but both pointing towards the work Christ and the promise of salvation to those who place their trust in him. Jeff Stivason taught on the efficacy of baptism as a seal of the grace that the Holy Spirit confers directly on us that we might look to Christ for the cleansing of our souls.
Saturday’s lectures transitioned to the Lord’s Supper. Rick Gamble reminded us that the Lord’s Supper is a spiritual feast for the partaker. Through our union with him, Christ offers himself to us just as he did to the disciples. Through Paul’s negative example of communing with demons in 1 Corinthians 10, Keith Evans helped us see that we truly commune with the Lord at his Supper. And ours is a superior communion, for the true God has come to us and invited us to his table. And finally, David Whitla closed the conference with an exhortation to come eagerly to the Lord’s table, with preparation and expectation to experience Christ and to know him better.
After the conference, many of us looked forward to participating in or observing some of sacraments even the next day. A quote from Robert Bruce’s Sermon on the Sacraments (provided by Dr. Whitla), expresses well what we were encouraged to think on and hope for:
For by the sacrament my faith is nourished, the bounds of my soul are enlarged: and so, whereas I had but a little hold of Christ before, as it were between my finger and my thumb, now I get Him in my whole hand; and still the more that my faith grows, the better hold I get of Christ Jesus. So the sacrament is very necessary, if it were no more but to Christ better, and to get a closer apprehension of Him, by the Sacrament than we could have before.
Thanks to Nick Wang for the photos and Tori Mann for writing the article. Tori Mann is an MTS student at RPTS, where she is studying theology and biblical counseling. She also works for the seminary at the Biblical Counseling Institute, and is a member of Covenant Fellowship RP Church.