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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
Pastor’s sermon at the vigil service of the late Dr S H Tow, Calvary Pandan B-P Church,
11 March 2019
Dr Tow Siang Hwa (aka S H Tow) is now resting in peace and in bliss. For sure, he is now in heaven with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
When I was told to take the Monday night vigil service, I was wondering what to speak on. Since Dr Tow was both a physician (helping women give birth to their babies) and a pastor (helping people to be reborn), I thought it good to consider what Jesus said here in John 3:3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
All of us are born into this world, but in no time we die. There is a Chinese saying, “Sheng lao bing si”. We are born, we grow old, we get sick, we die.” This is what Psalm 90:10 says as well, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Our lifespan is just about 70, 80 years; some may live to 90 (like Dr Tow), but the days are full of toil and trouble, problems and pain, stress and distress, disease and death.
Why is life like this? It is because of sin. What is sin? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are all born in sin, and as we live we break God’s law. What is the consequence of sin? It is death, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Death is not the end. After death comes judgement: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27).
In fact, born in sin, we should have died at childbirth. In fact, I was all but dead when I was born. My mother had a difficult time giving birth to me. It was in Kerdang Kerbau (KK) Hospital. Dr Tow was the gynaecologist. He had to use the vacuum machine to suck me out. My mom said I was all blue—not breathing. Thankfully I was revived and I survived—all by the grace of God.
Birth is celebrated. We are happy when babies are born. The more the merrier! KK Hospital was known for that. It was called Birthquake Hospital because it broke the record for the number of babies born in the 1960s. In 1964, there were 39,598 births. I was one of them. In 1966, it broke the record with 39,856, and entered the Guinness Book of Records as Birthquake Hospital—the world’s largest maternity hospital. Dr Tow led the hospital to achieve that.
As a medical doctor, Dr Tow saw a lot of death as well. In Chapter 27 of his autobiography—Footprints in the Sands of Time—“Come Quick! Untimely Death, Timely Help” (p159), when recounting the sudden death of a man who had just a few days earlier celebrated the birth of his daughter, he quoted 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Indeed, in Adam all die. We should be thankful we did not die at birth. But sooner or later we will have to face death. No running away from that (“Sheng lao bing si”). What then is the meaning of life? Why live when at the end we die? This is bad news.
Know that God allows us to live so that we might hear the good news that we can all be saved from our sins and be delivered from death. To be saved from sin and death, we must be born again. We are born to die, but if born again—we live forever. What does it mean to be born again? For sure, it does not mean we go into our mother’s womb to come out again. Jesus was speaking of a spiritual birth, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). It has to do with believing in the Lord Jesus Christ who suffered and died for our sins on the cross and on the third day rose from the dead. Jesus the Son of God became the Son of man, born of a virgin and lived for 33½ years on earth. When He was on earth, He kept the Law of God perfectly for you and for me so that He might earn the righteousness we need to enter into heaven. Finally, as the sinless Lamb of God, He was sacrificed on the cross, crucified for our sins, the Just for the unjust. He bore our sins on the cross and suffered the pains of hell and death for you and for me. He shed His precious blood so that our sins can all be forgiven and washed away. Jesus died and was buried, but on the third day He rose from the dead just as He promised. And now He is Life-Giver—the only Saviour of the world. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25–26). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). This is the good news: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
That was why Dr Tow became a Minister of the Gospel. He answered the call to serve the Lord in the days of the John Sung revival. In Chapter 29 of his book—“Goodbye to the Chair” (pp166–7) and Chapter 30 “Clinic of Soul Concern” (pp171–2), he testified, “In 1938, at the age of thirteen, I heard the call of Christ: Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Mark 8:34). God’s servant Dr John Sung gave the challenge. Readily I responded, together with a dozen others. The beloved servant of God laid his hands and prayed for us. Thus the call of God was sealed. Thirty years later, the time came for me to leave the University for the ‘way of the cross.’
“As the apostle Paul supported himself by tent-making, so I set up the Tow Yung Clinic (a partnership of Christian gynaecologists) to support my Gospel work. My Christian partners provided spiritual and moral support.
“So says the apostle Paul, and I say the same: I also am a debtor. As a recipient of the free salvation of grace of God, I have a bounden duty, nay a royal privilege to be a labourer together with God, repaying my life debt. …
“What Tow Yung Clinic has done is to offer a better way, something beyond medical science which is able to defeat our chief enemy, who wields the power of disease and death. Our greater joy beyond compassionate and quality medical care, is to introduce the Saviour, the Divine Physician: the only Man who took on the Devil, and destroyed him who has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). That fearsome evil spirit holds all mankind in his grasp, without exception.
“Our Saviour is ever victorious. On the cross, He defeated the Devil; from the grave He rose triumphant. To Christians, He has given a mandate to go and proclaim the message of hope to all our condemned race. Jesus says, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:17, 18).
“We have been delivered from the Devil’s power, should we not tell the rest of the dying race, ‘Come to Jesus, accept His offer of victory over death, and receive His life more abundant, life which knows no end?’
“Only Jesus can meet the need of the soul, the real person within us. Our focus must shift from body to soul. The best medical science, aided by the latest and most advanced technology can, at best, add some years of life, merely postponing the inevitable.”
This is what Dr Tow wants you to know: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31). “[H]e being dead yet speaketh”: Believe and be saved. May you be born again.
Delivering babies is good, but winning souls is better: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Prov 11:30). As a Christian, you may pray to be born the third time. This is the call to full-time Christian ministry. Nothing better than to direct people to Christ and the kingdom of God. For this reason, he took a great interest in the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC). Dr Tow was President of the FEBC Board for 12 years (1977–89). He knew the importance of training young men and women for full-time ministry and did his best to help and support FEBC. I am thankful that at a time when FEBC faced its greatest crisis in the years 2007-14, when its very existence was threatened, he stood with and for the College and upheld the doctrine of the verbal and plenary preservation of the Holy Scriptures which teaches that the divinely inspired Scriptures are providentially preserved to the jot and tittle (Matt 5:18), so that today we can say with complete certainty that we have a Bible in our hands that is totally infallible and inerrant, 100% perfect without any mistake, and preach from it with full confidence and final authority—“Thus saith the Lord,” “It is written.”
We can thank God that there is a school of prophets today that is truly training servants of God to be pastors, teachers, evangelists and missionaries, especially in these last days of rampant apostasy and compromise, sprouting false gospels and false churches. There is a great need for more men and women to be trained to counsel and comfort with God’s truth, and also “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3). Is the Lord calling you to serve Him full-time? Answer His call today. Know that it is a real privilege, a high calling to be God’s child; and an even higher calling to be His servant. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7). JK
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