That said, the conference was not a total Calvinfest. Lindsay Brown, well known for his work with the student body IFES gave the opening sermon on Hebrews 2:1-3, focusing on our “so great salvation”. In a time when many seem to have lost confidence in the gospel, the preacher urged us to consider: 1) God is the author of salvation:, 2), We have been saved from sin and death, 3) We have been saved for forgiveness, adoption and eternal life. The richly illustrated message proved an attention grabbing and encouraging start to proceedings. Brown also gave a most helpful talk on ‘Calvin and Mission’, which demonstrated that the Reformer had a deep and abiding interest in missionary work.
Sinclair Ferguson gave two addresses, both based on Colossians 3:1-17, entitled, ‘Union with Christ: Gospel Foundations’ and ‘Union with Christ: Gospel Implications’. The theme of union with Christ was undoubtedly close to Calvin’s heart, but Ferguson’s aim was to expound the Scriptures rather than consider what the Genevan preacher had to say on the subject. After setting out the architecture of the doctrine in the first message, the theologian explained how we must deal with sin and pursue holiness in the light of our union with Christ.
For me, conference highlights were two the addresses given by Garry Williams. In ‘John Calvin in the Valley of the Shadow of Death’, we were helped to see that Calvin was no untouchable colossus. He was a man with like passions as ourselves, experiencing intense suffering in his personal life, family, ministry. He faced suffering with fortitude, trusting that God, his sovereign Lord and loving Father was able to work all things together for good. Then in ‘John Calvin and the Judgement Seat of Christ’ we observed the Reformer in controversy as he responded to Cardinal Sadolet's letter to the citizens of Geneva. Calvin was a model controversialist. He was a courageous advocate of the truth and a careful analyst of doctrinal differences. Both emphases are important as we do battle for the truth as it is in Jesus.