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A Visit To South Korea

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Date June 22, 2006

In November I visited South Korea. My main purpose was to take part in an Induction service of a Korean minister who for the past two years has been studying some of our Seminary courses by distance learning. The Rev Dr Y C Whang has also become known to our ministers by his attendance at our School in Theology.

Korea is very hilly and so there is a very heavy concentration of population in Seoul the capital. It is a city of many churches and is one of the safest urban areas in the world. Oriental courtesy and friendliness are everywhere apparent to the visitor. Through the kind arrangement of Korean friends I was given the privilege of preaching eight times in three different churches in the city and also of giving a lunchtime theological lecture at the Reformed Theological Seminary. I spoke of course through an interpreter. The overwhelming impression a Western visitor has when attending the churches in modern Korea is how very young the persons are who go to these services. There was hardly a grey hair to be seen!

The Induction Service

The Induction service was held on Saturday November 26th during the afternoon. My translator was the Rev Changwon Shu who is minister of the Samyang Presbyterian Church. He is well known to many of our ministers as he and his family lived in Scotland during his training. Dr Whang’s church is known as the Good Fruit Presbyterian Church and is located on the south side of the city. My sermon was on the text, ‘Preach the word’ (2 Tim.4:2). I also preached at the two services next day. These services are held in the morning and afternoon and the congregation for the most part remains on the premises and takes lunch together. This was an edifying experience as some two to three hours were spent in discussing the word of God. I found myself on the occasion speaking informally about the great subject of revival. Korea, as is well-known, had a remarkable revival in the year 1907. This wonderful work of grace broke out in what is now North Korea, in the capital city of Pyongyang, and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Korean Pentecost’ (those who wish to know more about that revival should read The Korean Pentecost, by William Blair and Bruce Hunt, which was published by the Banner of Truth). It was a mighty work of divine power which transformed Korea from its former pagan condition into what is today one of the most evangelistic nations of the world. Korea sends out missionaries into all corners of the globe.

Need of Teaching

Like many other young churches however Korean churches supremely need more solid teaching. Preaching which is both doctrinal and at the same time lively is, in our view, the most vital contribution which we from Western churches can give to our brethren in these rapidly developing countries of the East. It was partly with that thought in mind that I ventured to take as my theme for a theological lecture to the students a few days later the great subject of Christ’s Propitiation (Rom.3:25). It was encouraging to see some two hundred theological students gathered for this occasion. Our visit to Korea was enriched by meeting former friends whom we had known in this country. Two fine Korean ministers who are preaching the doctrines of grace came to see us and gladdened our hearts with reports of their industry and their steadfastness in the truth.

Pagan Past

One day was spent in visiting a preserved town in the country, a typical Oriental village, with its quaint roofs and wooden images with hideous carved faces located on each side of the front gate of houses. These ugly images were thought to ward off evil spirits. Happily now since the Gospel of Christ has brought light into the old pagan darkness these images are now largely found only in museums. Today a high percentage of the population of South Korea makes the claim to belong to the Christian faith.

We wish Dr Whang and his congregation God’s richest blessing as he now pursues his labours in the Gospel with his dear people. Our prayers go out to him and to the Rev Changwon Shu, who, with his congregational helpers, is promoting Reformed Christian doctrine. This they are doing by making translations of our finest Western theological writers into Korean. In addition the doctrines of grace are being made known though the annual conferences of the Korea Institute of Reformed Preaching. The speaker in February 2006 was Dr Joel Beeke of Grand Rapids.

May God bless Korean churches and Korean people worldwide. And may the day speedily come when North Korea, where there is fearful persecution of Christians, will likewise open its gates wide to the Gospel of God’s grace. Korean believers deserve our warm affection and our regular prayers.

Taken with permission from the Free Church Witness Special Issue.

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