A great Christian man has left us. For those of us who had the privilege of knowing him, Dr. Robert Reymond was a renowned theologian. He wrote dozens of books including his masterpiece, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith.
He was also a fine seminary professor whose courses covered the gamut of the Bible and its teachings. Dr. Reymond lived and breathed the Bible, and he cared deeply for his students. I and other former students observed that he would often say at the end of his lectures, “Now Brothers, did you understand that? Are there any questions?” He was so concerned for us that we got our theology right, and not teach false doctrine to Christ’s sheep.
Dr. Reymond was also very fair and gracious to those who had opposing viewpoints–although he did not suffer fools gladly. I can tell you this firsthand, as I entered Knox Seminary an Arminian Southern Baptist. But by the time I graduated, I was a Calvinistic, Reformed, paedobaptist Presbyterian.
I still remember taking his course on “Ecclesiology and Eschatology” (i.e., the doctrines of the church and last things). This course was one of the things which led me to embrace paedobaptism. At the time, I remember thinking that I would just endure the lectures on baptism, and then be on my merry way.
But that’s not at all what happened. He very fairly presented the credobaptist position from his New Systematic Theology. After he did that he paused and asked, “Now Brothers, am I missing anything? Is there any other argument you can think of as to why only believers should be baptized?”
I couldn’t think of any. Even though he had an intimidating presence, we all knew that he would gladly entertain any further arguments. But after he waited, we proceeded to watch him soundly and systematically dismantle these arguments, and present his case for why babies should be baptized. I had entered into that classroom fully convinced in my mind, but left not so sure. I still had to do a lot more reading, discussing, arguing, and studying to do on the subject, and I know Dr. Reymond wouldn’t have it any other way. But on that day, the first domino had fallen on my journey into Presbyterianism.
Bob Reymond was also a very gracious man. One night during the seminary semester, I went to Barnes and Noble, one of my favorite hangouts, to catch up on some reading. As I was deep into one of my textbooks, I suddenly felt a heavy force land on my shoulder. I was so startled I almost spilt my coffee. I looked up to see what is was, and standing right behind me was Dr. Reymond, saying in his trademark baritone voice, “Hello, Brother!” It turned out that he and Mrs. Reymond were just a few tables away, and he invited me to join them, which I gladly did.
All of that to say, by the time I graduated with my Master of Divinity in 2006, I held this man in very high regard. Little did I know, though, that it wouldn’t be long before I saw him in a whole new light.
In 2007, I became involved with a church plant, Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) at the invitation of another one of my former professors, Calvin Beisner. I would occasionally fill the pulpit (as I was a PCA licentiate at the time). But much to my delight, Dr. Reymond preached for us as well from time to time.
At first glance, one might think his sermons would be dry–after all, he preached from a manuscript, and he read in a monotone voice. But nothing could be further from the truth: his sermons were deeply biblical, profound, encouraging, and a great comfort to listen to. Whenever he preached, we were always moved and taken up to the gates of Heaven.
Later that year, we got even better news: Dr. Reymond was going to come and be our pastor! Now, he would not only preach for us every morning, he would also teach our Sunday School class. It was like being in seminary again, only better.
A few months later, in February 2008, I got married to the lovely Stella Choe. And it was here that I came to admire and respect Dr. Reymond even more. Shortly after we married in Willow Grove, a suburb of Philadelphia, we went on our honeymoon in the Bahamas. We don’t know how it happened, but Stella suddenly became very sick.
At first, we thought that maybe it was just something she ate, or she was just seasick. But after several weeks we weren’t so sure. It was very discouraging for both of us. As for me, I became very frustrated and anxiety-ridden, and even more-so when over the next several weeks, the results of every single medical test came back negative (for those who have been there, you will know that not knowing what is wrong adds to the stress exponentially).
I was beside myself, and didn’t know what to do. Nothing could have prepared me for this…let alone for my wife.
But it was at this point that I learned the value of having a good pastor, and what it means for him to be a shepherd of your soul. Dr. Reymond lived just five minutes away from us, and so he would often pay us pastoral visits, sometimes bringing his wife with him as well. He was so kind and sympathetic to our situation–and not just to my wife, but also to me. He knew just what to say not just to bolster me up and encourage me, but he also taught me how to better minister to my wife. These visits helped us immensely as he showered us with grace, and showed us the love of Christ.
Over the next few months, I was also privileged to serve with Dr. Reymond and the other men on Holy Trinity’s leadership team. Since we lived just a few minutes apart and our meetings were further south, we would often carpool together. He would always inquire about Stella’s health, and ask how I was doing, and give me little tips on how to be a better husband.
But on these car rides, his humility came out in spades, as he would ask, “So, how’s my preaching?” I was floored the first time he asked me that! What was he asking me for? I was just a former student of his and an aspiring pastor, and he was a world-renowned theologian and author! Then again, it shouldn’t have surprised me: he had already shown me, and was still showing me, what it meant to live out the Christian life.
That June, Stella and I prepared to leave for Atlanta, where I was to serve a one-year internship at Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I felt much more prepared to begin this new chapter of my life after having been ministered to by Dr. Reymond.
Just over two years later, I was taking my ordination exam on the floor of presbytery to serve as pastor of Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ocala, Florida. As I finished my exam, one of the presbyters in the front rows smiled at me, and gave me a thumbs-up.It was Dr. Reymond. This especially meant a lot to me and Stella, as he and the contingent from Holy Trinity had a long drive home. But he wanted to stay and see me through.
And now, he has gone to Heaven to be with the Lord he loved so much. As he often said to us, so now we say to him, “On your way, Brother!”