This article was prompted by what I read at the beginning of this week but subsequent events overtook me and I had to set this topic aside to deal with other pressing articles.
May the Lord bless what I have written here to all your hearts.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
Why God blessed the Free Presbyterian Church in the 60s and 70s as He is not doing today!
“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,” Acts 2:14-16.
On the second day of the New Year, I read from Acts chapter 2. What a chapter this is! It is ever thrilling to read of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the assembled believers, gathered in the upper room. How appropriate for that to be the venue for the gathering. It was there that the Last Supper had been celebrated. “And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And in the evening he cometh with the twelve,” Mark 14:13-17.
But the Upper Room that evening became a place of grief and sorrow. That occasion was marked not just by joy but also by great sorrow for there they learned that one of their number would betray the Saviour.“And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?” Mark 14:18-19.
The Saviour and His band of disciples went from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane and to further sorrow for both the Saviour and His disciples. Within a short time, He was to taken out of Gethsemane, from their midst, handed to the Roman authorities and cruelly crucified.
But now, fifty days have past. They were days when there was a lifting of the dark cloud that had weighed heavily upon them until the Saviour’s resurrection. It was followed by seasons indescribably precious as the Saviour manifested Himself to His believing band. Forty days after His resurrection, the Saviour ascended to His Father’s right hand, there to intercede for His elect people. His final words to His disciples are noteworthy. Luke records them for us in his account in ‘The Acts of the apostles’. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight,” Acts 1:8-9.
That promise was duly fulfilled some ten days later and we have the account of that in the chapter I read a few days ago.
What I noticed as I read these familiar words, was something that, though I have read the verses quoted at the beginning of the article many, many times, in my home and in the pulpit, I never observed before.
It was the first words of Peter that caught my attention in a fresh way.
I. Note that these are the first words spoken by Peter under the power of the Holy Ghost.
In truth, these are actually the Words of the Holy Ghost, spoken by Peter for verse 4 says: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” What Peter said was an ‘utterance’ granted by the Holy Spirit. That is important for us to note because on that wonderful day, it was the beginning of the age of the Holy Spirit when He was poured out upon the people of God to a measure never known by previous generations of believers. Please examine the record of His first words.
II. God would have His people answer the slanders of the devil.
Before coming to the vital truths of the gospel and an explaining of events centred upon Jesus of Nazareth at Calvary and the resurrection which followed, the Holy Ghost put in the heart and mind and mouth of Peter, words of protest and a denying of the wicked assertion of the mockers who had gathered to see what was happening. A multitude had gathered as news of the events in the Upper Room circulated. Amongst those who gathered there were, as is always the case, those that made light of the holy manifestation of God’s power and indeed, His mercy. “ Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine,” verse 13, That was their view of the wonderful fulfilling of a prophecy of old.
But before going on to explain the prophecy, Peter was directed by the Lord to rebuke and challenge the mockers. He was of the same mind as Jude. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ,” Jude verses 3-4.
There are times when the simple message of the gospel must take second place to a rebuking of the devil and his agents and a silencing of their mocking and sneering. Until that is done, preaching the gospel would be unprofitable. As there must be a putting down of the weeds and briars and a breaking of their dominance of the soil, there can be no sowing of good seed with a real hope of a harvest!
Please remember that the Holy Spirt led Christ to confront the devil before He began to preach the gospel! David laid claim to the throne of Israel by slaying Goliath!
Let every evangelical take note of these opening words of Peter, given him by the Holy Ghost, on the glorious day of Pentecost.
III. Whenever this style of preaching has been adopted, God’s blessing has accompanied that witness.
Controversy and battle with the enemies of God does not hinder evangelism! How often I heard ‘evangelicals’ say of Ian Paisley in his heyday, ‘If only he would stick to the gospel and leave popery and ecumenism alone.
Had they been around on the day of Pentecost, they would have found fault with Peter for his attacking the mockers before he said anything else.
Contending for the faith is no hindrance to soul winning. Please note how the chapter ends: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” verse 47.
Is that happening today? Many here in Ulster can recall such blessing taking place in days of contention and controversy some fifty years ago? Why is it not happening today as it did then. What is absent? HOLY GHOST CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH! That is absent to a large degree today from our pulpits. There is no real challenging the issues of today, the schemes and deceptions of the devil. Oh yes, abortion is denounced and sodomy is denounced, but in general terms. The names of those who support it and promote it are rarely mentioned? Are the politicians who speak ‘loyalty’ out on one side of their mouth, while supporting, turning a ‘blind eye’ to those who openly promote such wickedness within their own political ranks. I have no need to elaborate on the deceit within the ranks of the Democratic Unionist Party, for I have done that many times and my website bears testimony to that.
I recall, just after I was saved, an old uncle of mine, Uncle Willie Hawthorn, who was converted prior to the days of the first World War, relating to me the words of Ian Paisley back in June 1963, when he led a protest at the City Hall in Belfast. He was protesting at the lowering of the flag in sympathy on the occasion of the death of Pope John 23rd. He asked the question as he preached: “You ask where is Pope John now? I will tell you. He is in HELL!!”
My uncle, attending the protest and rejoicing in such courage and readiness to speak the truth, joyfully told how Dr Paisley’s voice rolled around the centre of the Belfast as he shouted out this truth. Dr Paisley and some others were taken to court and fined at that time as a result of the protest, if I am not mistaken.
The Free Presbyterian Church needs to realise that these are the circumstances in which the Lord is pleased to bless the witness of His people. It is not only taught in the Holy Scripture but there are those alive within our ranks who recall living through such times of CONTENTION and BLESSING!
I rejoice that there are young men in our pulpits who have rejected the mealy-mouthed philosophy of some who should know better, and have sought to again witness as in the days of past blessings, days which church history testifies to in the lives of the apostles, the Covenanters and the martyrs. The ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) is universally admired amongst evangelicals but how many take note of his lifelong battle with the growing apostasy of the Baptist Union in England until he separated from it, encouraging others to do likewise.
Brethren, Acts 2:14 would tell us that CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH and the CONVERSION OF SINNERS are indissolubly linked together in the purpose of God for His servants.
The AUTHOR of REDEMPTION was also a PROTESTOR!
“Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them. For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not,” Jeremiah 11:6-8.
The Lord faithfully indicated the harvest of such rebellion.
“Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them,” Jeremiah 11:11.
Oh! how this needs to be preached today.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
6th January 2023