“And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak,” 1 Kings 22:13-14.
I count it a truly great privilege to be asked to speak tonight as we mark, in a small way, an event that we may never fully appreciate until we stand before the Lord. I believe that the Lord performed a great mercy to Ulster, and later, further afield, when He raised up the Free Presbyterian Church as a witness for the truth of God in this apostate age.Maybe I could just make clear, for the sake of the younger ones here tonight, what the Bible means by apostate.
The Greek word from which we get our English word ‘apostate’ or ‘apostasy’ appears in two places in the New Testament.
“And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs,” Acts 21:21.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
The words are ‘forsake’ and ‘falling away’. An apostate is one who, having professed belief in the gospel of Christ and the testimony of the Bible, repudiates it in the manner of Judas. Christians may fall and sin, as did Peter, but they are recovered by the mercy of God. That is NOT apostasy. We must be careful when we employ the term and not wrongly accuse one who is in fact a child of God but who has stumbled and fallen but has not utterly renounced and abandoned the truth of God.
A verse that has ever been a great comfort to me is found in Micah 7:8. “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.”
I can hardly convey to you just how I feel tonight. It seems only yesterday that I was the youngest student minister in the FPC. Two months after I became a student, the FPC marked its 14th anniversary. That means that I have passed this milestone 56 times.
One of the first things I did after starting to attend the FPC on 12th April 1964, was to acquaint myself with the history of its beginnings and the blessings of God upon it. God wrote those events upon my heart and gave me a desire to continue in that spirit! I stand before you tonight an old man but I still have that burning desire to continue on as I was prompted of God to do back some 57 years ago.
The two verses I have as a text will help me tell the story of 1951. How so? Because God never changes nor do His ways! His purpose and will back in Micaiah’s day was exactly the same in Crossgar in 1951.
I. MICAIAH LIVED AND MINISTERED IN A DAY OF APOSTASY.
1. The king of Israel was Ahab.
Of him it is said: “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him,” 1 Kings 16:33. Ahab’s chief aim was to destroy the religion of Jehovah and replace it with Baal worship.
The ‘spirit’ of Ahab was at work in Ulster in 1951. The liberal, modernistic views of ecumenists who had come to power in all three major Protestant denominations had all but cast overboard every vestige of gospel doctrine in the land. Evidence of their dominance is seen in that in 1948, the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist denominations all joined the World Council of Churches and became foundation members of that apostate organisation.
The aim of the WCC was succinctly put by a prominent Lutheran delegate just before its inaugural meeting in Amsterdam. Here is a quote from Dr Paisley’s booklet on the WCC:
Could the real objective of the council be stated with greater clarity than by Dr. C. F. Nolde, a delegate of the United Lutheran Church and an important ecumenical figure? Just before Amsterdam this gentleman said: "In a popular sense the first meeting of the Church Council could be spoken of as a reversal of the trend which began at the Reformation."
Such a statement leaves us in no doubt as to the real design of the WCC.
This was the spirit of Ahab, or more correctly, the spirit of the devil, at work!
2. The leader of the worship of Jehovah was a king given to wavering.
Yes, Jehoshaphat was a genuinely saved man and saw the Lord work wonderful deliverances for him but he sadly offended the Lord by his foolish disobedience. Here is the Lord’s reaction to his affiliation with Ahab. “And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God,” 2 Chronicle 19:1-3.
The judgment mentioned in the passage above was the result of his joining with Ahab. He had not exercised SEPARATION from Ahab as he should. “Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab,” 2 Chronicles 18:1. The consequences of this are seen here in the words of Jehu the prophet. But he did not learn his lesson. “And he (Ahab) said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramothgilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses,” 1 Kings 22:4.
What a stupid thing to say in the light of Jehu’s rebuke from the Lord, 2 Chronicles 19:1-3.
But he yet again acted contrary to God’s Word. “And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: and he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish,” 2 Chronicles 20:35-37.
This tendency sadly was a feature of many evangelicals in Ulster in 1951. Separation from the ungodly and their associations and groups was not a doctrine practised as set forth in the Bible.
As was the outcome of this failure on Jehoshaphat’s part so it was here.
“Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel. Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD,” 2 Chronicles 21:4-6.
What unscriptural unions, denominational as well as marriages, have been formed and sanctioned in Ulster through the influence of Ecumenism?
There were a number of evangelical bodies who were preaching the basics of the gospel in Ulster in 1951. The Baptists, the Brethren, the Reformed Presbyterians, the Evangelical Presbyterians and there were those amongst the Pentecostalists who preached repentance and faith in Christ.
However, I think that with very few exceptions there were none who stood against the ‘Ahabs’ of that day! One of the exceptions was of course the late Pastor Willie Mullan, of whom I have the fondest memories and of the times of fellowship I had with him.
3. Sadly, many yielded to the same pressure that faced Micaiah.
“Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.”
Back then, all too many evangelicals fell into line and failed to speak out against the wickedness of the day and take a stand against it. It was for this reason that the Lord raised up the Free Presbyterian Church in order that the witness of evangelistic Calvinism, carried over from Scotland by our forefathers might continue.
II. THE FREE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH FROM THE FIRST SWORE ALLEGIANCE TO GOD’S WORD ALONE.
1. This was the position of the FPC from the beginning.
We stood where the prophet stood on the issues of the day! “And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.”
2. The statement of Faith of the FPC declares this!
In the statement on Baptism we read these important words. “The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, under Christ the Great King and Head of the Church, realizing that bitter controversy raging around the mode and proper subjects of the ordinance of Christian baptism has divided the Body of Christ when that Body should have been united in Christian love and Holy Ghost power to stem the onslaughts and hell-inspired assaults of modernism . . .” From the very beginning there was an awareness of the failings of the people of God ‘to stem the onslaughts and hell-inspired assaults of modernism’ and there was a determination to reverse that sad trend. The FPC was a church which sought to ‘take a stand’ against the attacks of hell.
3. To this position every elder and minister swears allegiance at his ordination to his office!
This was a solemn oath taken before God and His people and ought never to be forgotten by any! One day all who signed that oath will be examined by the Lord Jesus with regards their keeping of it!
III. SADLY, THERE HAS BEEN A SLIDING AWAY FROM THAT POSITION AND STANCE.
There never was a period lasting 70 years, recorded in the Bible, during which the people of God remained faithful to God and His Word. Rather, drifting started very soon after the blessing of God fell upon His people. Galatians and 1 Corinthians and Jude all served to illustrate this truth.
1. The words of the faithful prophet were not welcomed!
Micaiah’s stand was most unpopular. He angered king Ahab. He was physically abused. “Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek,” verse 24. And it did not end there. “And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son; and say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace,” verses 26-27.
To stand as did our forefathers is to court unpopularity, even amongst fellow believers and today, amongst fellow Free Presbyterians!!
2. However, the prophet was unbowed.
“And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you,” verse 28.
I want to bear testimony tonight to the abuse that Ian Paisley endured for many years as he unflinchingly stood for the whole Word of God in this land. Sadly, that may have been forgotten by many following the controversies of the year 2006 and all that followed the sad events of the bringing of Sinn Fein/IRA into government.
I have not and cannot forget the faithfulness and courage of Ian Paisley in the early years of my acquaintance with him. I actually lived in his home for some six months in 1965 and I saw and heard first hand what insults and disparagements were heaped upon his head continually.
Without shame or apology I say that what I saw in the man I greatly admired and sought to emulate. Indeed, in 2007, at a Presbytery meeting in the midst of all the division the power-sharing issue brought amongst us, I said to him: “I must say that if anything I have said or written recently has offended you, I can only plead that I learned to fight at your feet. You taught me how to war for God!”
3. Am I wrong in saying that the ’spirit’ that rested on Ian Paisley in the early days has departed to a great degree from our pulpits!
I don’t think so. The FPC of today is far removed in its public stand and witness from what it was in its days of blessing in the 60s and 70s. There was hardly a Sabbath evening back then, when Ian Paisley’s pulpit , and indeed the most of the other FPC pulpits, did not thunder out a warning to the people who gathered to hear the latest development in the sell-out of gospel liberty in our land!
I can recall yet ever so clearly the messages I listened to in my nine months sitting in Ravenhill before I went forth to preach myself.
The spiritual and moral issues are not challenged today as once they were. Only ‘safe’ controversies are entered upon. Nothing is said that may offend some of our own. Such considerations should never be part of our deliberations as to what should be opposed and denounced! The Bible decides what we are to be against. Back in 1988, the Free Presbyterian Church entered a solemn covenant before God “to be for all that God is for and against all that God is against.” It marked the 300th anniversary of the signing of the National Covenant in Scotland on 28th February, 1688.
What we signed back then in 1988 hangs in the porch of this church. Just check the signatures on that Covenant and see how many remain faithful to what they signed!
I fear that all too many have forgotten that oath! Such a thing has been very common throughout the ages. “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number,” Jeremiah 2:32.
We must hang our heads in shame at this fact!
Today, there is too much consideration given to what others will say or think rather than the old slogan of those early days. “What saith the Lord?” That is all that should be considered by God’s man.
May Micaiah’s words again become the slogan and the wont of our pulpits. “As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.”
That is my earnest wish and prayer on this 70th anniversary of the day the Lord led us out of bondage into gospel liberty and power.