Discussion panel with (L to R) John MacArthur, Ian Hamilton, Stuart Olyott (hidden) and Iain Murray
Someone once said that it is better to travel than to arrive. I suppose that depends on where you are going. Be that as it may, the journey to the Banner Conference with some neighbouring pastors was a good time of fellowship in itself, even though we sometimes got so caught up in conversation that we took a wrong turn and ended up getting lost in the Cotswolds.
The Conference started with a sermon by Gerrard Hemmings on "God is love" (1 John 4:8). The preacher probed the trinitarian aspect of God's love and then focused on John 3:16 for a reflection on on wonders of God's self-giving love for a fallen world. This was a wonderful way to begin the conference. Gerrard's message was aptly illustrated and well applied. It was a reminder that we carry out our ministries against the background of a God who so loved the world.
Sinclair Ferguson spoke in the evening on Christ the Conqueror. He began by saying that his text was the whole Bible. Then he conducted a little Bible Quiz. 1. Why did the Son of God appear? 2. What did Christ do to the principalities and powers at the cross? 3. Why did Christ partake of flesh and blood? (Answers found in 1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:15 & Hebrews 2:14). Ferguson argued that the triumph of Christ is at the epicentre of the gospel. This is what motivated the early church to take the Christian massage to the nations. If the preacher fastened onto one particular text, it was Genesis 3:15. Ferguson proceeded to trace the theme of the "seed of the woman" triumphing over the "seed of the serpent" throughout the whole Bible. This was a thrilling exercise in panoramic redemptive-historical preaching. Fresh light was shed on Old Testament history from Cain and Abel to the book of Esther as the epic conflict developed.
With the coming of Christ, the Seed of the woman, the war became all the more intense. Christ confronted and defeated Satan in the temptations in the wilderness (Luke 4). Jesus bound the strong man and spoiled his goods by casting out demons. "Why" asked Ferguson "do we find unprecedented demonic activity in the gospels? Why was Jesus confronted by a man possessed by a legion of demons?" The answer is that in the Gospels we have the account of the last battle in the age-old conflict between Christ and the devil. Satan tried to deflect Christ from the cross (Matthew 16). When that strategy failed, the devil schemed to have Jesus crucified in such a demoralising way that it would crush him. Satan entered Judas who betrayed his Master. The devil stirred up the leaders Jesus' own people to cry out for his blood. But Christ triumphed over Satan by his death and resurrection. He is Christus Victor. But we cannot have Christus Victor without Christus Propitiator. Jesus triumphed over the devil by bearing our sins to silence the accuser of the brethren.
With this sweeping "biblical theology on fire" in mind, Ferguson urged us to fulfill the Great Commission. We must evangelise because Christ is triumphant. He will conquer and save. This also has a pastoral application. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. His redeeming love will conquer all. "If God is for us, who can be against us?"