Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Ordination/Inauguration Service: Lawrence J. Bilkes

Written by John Wilbrink
On Friday, October 3, 2003 the members of the Ebenezer Free Reformed Church at Dundas, Ontario, gathered together with many visitors from other congregations of the denomination from as far away as British Columbia. They came to witness the ordination and the installation of Candidate Lawrence J. Bilkes whom the Lord sent to labour in our congregation after a period of vacancy of more than six years. Dr. Lawrence W. Bilkes of Abbotsford, father of Candidate Bilkes, was privileged to conduct the service as his father, the late Rev. G. Bilkes, had done for him approximately 32 years earlier.

Dr. Bilkes read from Ezekiel 33:1-9 and took as the text for his sermon particularly verse 7. Dr. Bilkes chose ÒGodÕs Call to be a WatchmanÓ as the theme for his sermon. To fulfill this call, a minister of the Word has a threefold task; he must hear the Word at the mouth of the Lord, warn the congregation from the Lord, and give an account of his ministry to the Lord.

A minister must hear the Word at the mouth of God. He adds nothing to the spoken or written words of God, but he ministers it. He is subject in everything to the prophetic Word that is the written Word of God. This hearing requires more than the sound entering the ear. It also requires an understanding of the Word in the heart so that it can be rightly divided to the congregation. The Word, when rightly divided, will be a Word of instruction, admonition, comfort and reproof, according to everyoneÕs need. It must be a Word that warns the congregation in a way that is pleasing to God, and not man. When a minister divides the Word in such a way, he will also be able to render an honest account to God of his ministry. The ministry is a work performed in human weakness. Nevertheless, when it is done diligently and prayerfully looking to God for help and ability, the Lord will be found to be a faithful and present help.

Dr. Bilkes then led in the reading of the Form of Ordination at the end of which he directed the questions of the form to Candidate Bilkes who responded, ÒYes, truly, with all my heart,Ó thus taking upon himself the office of Minister of the Word. Rev. L.J. Bilkes then kneeled under an open Bible held by the elders of the congregation during which time all ministers of the Free Reformed Churches of North America, who were present, came forward to Òlay their handsÓ upon Rev. Bilkes, exhorting and encouraging him with words from Scripture.

After the prayer of thanksgiving and singing Rev. L.J. Bilkes entered the pulpit to deliver the inauguration sermon. He continued with Ezekiel 33, reading verses 10 to 20, taking verse 11 as the text for the sermon. Thereby he took on the ministry to which the Lord has called him. The theme chosen for the sermon was ÒGodÕs Call to Repentance,Ó which was divided into three points: 1.) sincere reassurance behind this call; 2.) earnest command in this call; 3.) powerful motive attached to this call.

In his exposition of the text, Rev. Bilkes pointed out that Israel thought that God had a death sentence on them while they had a life-wish. In reality, God declared that He does not take delight in the perdition of sinners. On the contrary, He is grieved. He delights in their life and salvation. He is sincere in such a declaration as is evident in that God uses an oath. GodÕs sincerity is further witnessed in our world. The globe is a monument of GodÕs good pleasure. This is an earnest message to repentance, to turn from sin and evil ways, unto God. Our inability to obey this command of ourselves should drive us to Him who makes the demand, pleading that He will give what He demands, as the name Ezekiel indicates (meaning God strengthens), or to put it in the language of the New Testament: "Him hath God exalted with his right hand ... for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). When this urgency becomes reality, God's precept (command) becomes a prayer, ÒTurn me unto Thee, and I shall be turned.Ó The powerful motive attached to this call is in the form of a question: Òwhy will ye die?Ó A person will not escape His judgment if he/she does not turn. Such an end would be terrible and foolish, because Òthe house of IsraelÓ has received promises of divine blessing and life (cf. Ezek.36: 26-28).

Following the service, addresses were given by Elder Procee who welcomed Rev. Bilkes and his wife Ellen to our congregation with the wish that the Lord would bless them and their labours among us in His name. Rev. Procee, our counselor, commended Rev. Bilkes to the love and care of the congregation, exhorting him to deal honestly with the souls entrusted to his care. Rev. Pronk addressed Rev. Bilkes on behalf of the Theological Education Committee and the churches of the FRCNA denomination with the wish that the Lord would use him mightily in the churches as a faithful watchman. Dr. J.R. Beeke, President of the Puritan Reformed Seminary, addressed Rev. Bilkes on behalf of the seminary. He exhorted our pastor to Òfear God,Ó Òforget selfÓ and Òfaint notÓ as he labours in the office to which he was called. Many letters of congratulations were received from ministers and consistories of various churches of our own as well as neighbouring denominations.

As a congregation we must say that the Lord has blessed and prospered our way. In spite of our unworthiness the Lord has answered our prayers. It is our desire that Rev. and Mrs. Bilkes will soon feel at home in our congregation and that the Lord would enable our pastor to preach the Word Òin season and out of seasonÓ so that through the applicatory work of the Holy Spirit, GodÕs people would be edified, sinners would be saved and His Holy Name would receive the honour and glory which is due unto it.

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