The Holy Spirit, Absolutely Essential in Planting Vanguard Churches

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 30, July 16, 2020

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them . . . “ -Acts 4:8

I am amazed at the keen interest from around the country as people are inquiring about Vanguard Presbytery and the possibility of Vanguard church plants in their cities. Clearly one of the ideas with which people are resonating is the Office of Evangelist. Even a cursory look at the book of Acts makes clear that God raised up evangelists who served as the spearpoint of planting churches. From around 47 A.D. to 57 A.D. God used the Apostle Paul to begin a church planting movement in four Roman provinces (Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia Minor). Paul lived for another ten years or so before being executed by the Roman Emperor but during those last ten years Paul was basically in “legal trouble” the entire time. 

So how was Paul and the other apostles able to do what they did? After all, the Roman Empire ruled Jerusalem and the rest of the Middle East. The Judaism of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes was prevalent in the Jewish world. Paganism and debauchery were rampant everywhere in the Roman world. Luke, the writer of Acts, however reports the remarkable transformation of the first century Roman and Jewish world. Even a cursory reading of Acts reveals the source of power for the early church.

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit as he explained the ministry of the apostles (Acts 4:8). After Peter and John’s release from prison the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (4:31,32). After again appearing before the Sanhedrin, the apostles referred to the Holy Spirit whom God had given those who obey Him (5:32). When the elders and apostles, who were to focus on prayer and preaching, saw the need for mercy ministry, they appointed men who were filled with the Holy Spirit to become the first deacons (6:3). When Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin and explained and defended the message of the gospel, the members could not stand against the wisdom and Spirit with which he spoke (6:10). Stephen also rebuked them for resisting the Holy Spirit (7:51). They stoned him to death for his words and Luke tells us that he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he died (7:55). As the gospel message moved to Samaria God poured out the Holy Spirit on these new believers (8:14-17). The Ethiopian eunuch‘s conversion came as the Holy Spirit led Philip to preach to him (8:29). At Paul’s conversion Ananias assured Paul that he would regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit (9:17). Luke attributes the remarkable growth of the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria to the Holy Spirit (9:31). The first Gentile to be converted was the work of the Holy Spirit (10:19). Barnabas, Paul’s friend and missionary associate, was a good man, having the fullness of the Holy Spirit (11:24). The missionary work of Paul and Barnabas at Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe was due to the leading of the Holy Spirit (13:2,4). Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit when he confronted the magician Elymas (13:9). The new believers in Pisidian Antioch, in spite of severe persecution, were filled with the Holy Spirit (13:52). The deliberations and decisions made by the Jerusalem Council were attributed to the Holy Spirit (15:28). The Holy Spirit forbid Paul from preaching in Bithynia and Asia (Acts 16:6,7). The men in Ephesus, who previously had only heard of John’s baptism of repentance, received the Holy Spirit (19:6). The Spirit told Paul through Agabus and other prophets that he would be arrested in Jerusalem. Nonetheless Paul went there anyway (20:23, 21:4,11). Luke tells us that the elders of the church of Ephesus were appointed by the Holy Spirit (20:28).  

Make no mistake, the source of spiritual power, my friends, which caused thousands of conversions and transformation throughout the Roman and Jewish world, so clearly stated in the book of Acts, is the Holy Spirit. 

Our nation is currently in moral free fall. The distrust of the police, the hatred of various groups, the division in our nation are the result of the sinfulness of mankind. We live in a post everything western world. None understand. None seek for God. All have turned aside. There is none righteous. Not even one. The throats of unbelievers are like an open grave. They flatter with their tongues. With their lips they keep deceiving. The poison of snakes are in their mouths. Their feet are swift to shed innocent blood. They leave a path of destruction and misery everywhere they go. They have no idea how they can truly find peace in the world. They have no fear of God. Wrath and indignation are upon everyone of them because they do not obey the truth of God but obey unrighteousness. They are helpless, ungodly. They are constantly storing up wrath for themselves. Their thoughts will be judged by Christ Jesus. Every careless word they speak will be judged. They will be judged according to their deeds, whether good or bad. They are dead in their sins. They are in the domain or kingdom of darkness. They are alienated from God, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. They are living according to the course of this world, according to the spirit of this age, according to the prince of the power of the air. They live according to the flesh and they indulge their own fleshly minds with wild imaginations and myths. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They see evidence of the Triune God everywhere around themselves every day of the week, but they jam that knowledge into the dungeon of their minds and continue to live with wild speculations and lofty notions of grandeur. They will believe anything but the truth as it is in Jesus. They are full of immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and carousing. They are filled with unrighteousness, wickedness, evil, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, inventors of evil. They are arrogant, insolent, boastful, disobedient to parents. They are untrustworthy, without understanding, unloving, unmerciful. 

They are deceived. They somehow believe that even though they are fornicators, idolators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers they will inherit the kingdom of God. They have convinced themselves that though they have consciously and willfully alienated themselves from God, though they have always been hostile in their minds against the truth, though they are consistently engaged in vile deeds, they still somehow believe that God will look the other way at their sin. On top of all this, the devil himself has blinded the minds of these unbelievers so that they cannot possibly see the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. 

So, with all these references of Scripture before us, painting a most vivid, bold, and unrelenting portrait of the inability of anyone and everyone to believe the gospel; please tell me why believers still think we can effect change in our nation by largely remaining  prayerless. Do we really think our planning, programs, proposals, and personality can change the hearts of sinful men who are rushing headlong to perdition?  

I know the effort of planting churches for Vanguard Presbytery will absolutely fail if the Holy Spirit does not show up. The bottom line is quite obvious. Brethren, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon our ministries. Do you really believe that? Do you act like you believe it? Are you desperate? Are you given to personal holiness, quick and daily repentance, contrition, and confession? Are you sensitive to the leading of the Spirit? Are you aware of when you grieve, quench, or resist Him?

What must you do? Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. If you are being led by the Spirit then you are free from the law. If you belong to Christ then you have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Ask the Spirit immediately to show you your sin. Repent. Bathe afresh and anew in the blood of Jesus, ask for the Holy Spirit’s filling, and move on in your daily life. You will get the unction of the Spirit. You will receive the divine swagger. Your words will become effectual in conviction, conversion, and sanctification in the lives of those who hear you and watch you. This is what I must have in leading a church planting movement. Please pray for me, asking the Holy Spirit to empower me and the evangelists who are working with me to plant churches with new converts. 

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