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The Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Part 5

The church was also keenly involved in missionary work overseas. There were two annual missionary conferences in the church, the second being for the ladies of the church. My father and mother both had years when they organised these conferences as missionary secretaries, drawing on people from all around the world when they were on home leave. Often my parents would provide hospitality for them. There was one couple, Ian and Brenda McCulloch who were serving in Argentina and a single lady called Irene Wade who was in Brazil. These were sent out from Edgmond Hall.

My mother kept an autograph style book in which she asked every missionary who came to our home to write in it. John 3:16 in the language of the people group where they worked.

There was a rich supply of ministering brothers in the meeting. Much ministry was open and spontaneous, especially on the Sunday morning meetings. Teaching meetings shared with prayer times were arranged for midweek. Annual conferences were arranged for study of key subjects by itinerate speakers, especially on the second coming, the tabernacle including a scale model, and other such themes. I was “encouraged” to attend the midweek meeting regularly from about the age of thirteen or so. Prior to that there had been a children’s meeting during the week that drew large numbers.

Dad was the “starter” for the Sunday morning meetings. The old organ that had to be pumped up by foot pedals to produce sounds was not used on a Sunday morning for the breaking of bread service as it was considered to be too worldly. Instead when a hymn was requested my dad would start the singing by humming out the start! An organ was however allowed in the rear hall for other meetings which I always struggled to understand as there seemed to be two rules applying! After a few years an electronic organ was purchased and used for all the main meetings.

Games evenings and walks for the youth fellowship on the beach, the Downs etc, were all great fun, especially for one like me who was so sporty and energetic.

I also took part in the Young Sowers League. This was a study of books in the New Testament involving reading and writing out answers to questions and quoting the Bible reference. There were different levels of reward, leading up to a New Testament, then a Bible and lastly a Topical Bible Concordance. This took me years to complete but I managed to in 1965, aged fourteen.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Part 4

The daily life of the church consumed us as a family. And I have to say I loved it!

Because of our doctrinal emphasis we were separated from the world. We were not allowed TV, to visit cinemas, play games on a Sunday etc. The church programme filled the gaps! I would attend six services on a Sunday as I grew up in my teens.

There was Boy Covenanters at 10, Breaking of bread, main meeting at 11, an interdenominational Boys Bible class in town at 2, pre evening service prayer meeting at 6, evening service at 6:30, either outreach in the summer, or youth fellowship at 8. In the summer there was an open air and tract distribution in the surrounding villages at 6:30 and an open-air service on the sea front promenade at 8, after the hotels emptied for their evening walk. There would often be crowds listening and it was there I played trumpet with my friends who also had trumpets, trombone, accordions and a saxophone. It was there I first preached as well. My great friends Nick and Nigel Prentice both played trumpet and we would often play together as a trumpet trio, especially around Christmas time in the hotels etc. Nick and Nigel will appear later in my story.

In the months of May and September special outreaches were arranged for the pensioners who came to Eastbourne on their holidays. Nick Prentice’s dad, an elder of the church alongside my father and several others, organised for the local council to bus the people up to the church from their hotels for an hour’s evening meeting. We would sing the old, familiar hymns, have testimonies, choir pieces and then a short evangelistic word. This continued for years until the council stopped the events, being unable to continue to provide the necessary bus transport. Many people responded over the years and many of them returned year by year. It was one of the most successful outreaches I have ever witnessed.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Part 3

Our whole lives, Dad and Mum, my younger sister Joy, and I, were all devoted to the life and work of the church.

We had a large church with about 150 to 200 “in fellowship” I suppose. It was known as the Brethren Cathedral of the South Coast. There were famous ministries associated with Edgmond Hall. This included Eric Hutchings Hour of Revival, an evangelistic style of outreach, along the lines of the great crusades by Billy Graham and others. He also had a radio studio in town that broadcast for many years. He and his wife lived just a couple of streets from where we grew up.

A few steps from us in the opposite direction was Ransome Cooper and his wife. He had come from New Zealand and been involved in ministering among a group of new churches allied with the Brethren as I recall. My parents revered him and his name will appear later in my story.

My parents were close friends of Dick and Betty Saunders who ran The Way to Life Crusade, based in Hailsham, a few miles out from Eastbourne. This was similar to Eric Hutchings’s ministry, involving tent crusades and daily radio ministry.

Dr Frederick Tatford was an elderly, distinguished man who was the editor of the Prophetic Witness magazine. This was a magazine devoted to the exposition of the second coming of Christ and with a very strong Pre-Millennium Rapture emphasis. He was the Director of the Atomic Energy Association. He had a son, Brian, who went abroad to France to be a missionary there and to raise up churches. When I was in Hazebrouck last I saw a book on Brian Tatford and the work he had begun in France which it seems was geographically close to the Hazebrouck church.

An even older man who visited frequently was Harold St John. I know little about him, except he was revered. His daughter was Patricia St John, a missionary in Algeria, I think. If not there, then definitely elsewhere in North Africa. She later found fame as a children’s author writing such books as “Treasures in the snow”, “Tanglewood Secret” and a book of short stories that we used to read to our children as they were going to bed. Other titles escape me.

Just a short walk down the road from the church building was the UK headquarters of The Slavic Gospel Association. This was a ministry to people and churches behind the Iron Curtain at the time.

Bob Summers was a lovely man, and I think I am right in saying, he was a board member of The Wycliffe Bible Translators.

So, you will see what an active, evangelistic, missionary minded church we were part of.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Part 2

I want to start with my parents.

Dad and Mum – John Phillips Vine and Edith Irene (Amos) Vine – were a massive influence on my life. They were both brought up in the Open (Plymouth) Brethren movement.

Dad was an only child and his father was one of the founder members of Edgmond Hall, the church where my family worshipped. His wife, Ruby, my best grandma, was great fun and always supported my sister and I in giving us games, and exciting things to play with every birthday and Christmas.

Mum had one brother, Alan, who became my dad’s best friend at school. He married Hazel and they had three children, Myrtle, Jenny and Philip with whom we were quite close. It was no surprise that Dad and Mum married with Dad and Alan being such great friends, sharing games like football, hockey, cricket etc. During the war they were evacuated and Mum asked if she could go to the same family as her brother, so the three of them were a proper unit.

Mum’s dad was a Christian Colporteur. His job was to travel around selling Bibles and Christian literature. He later had a Christian bookshop in our town, Eastbourne, on the south coast. I can remember going up to the first floor of his shop and seeing walls of second hand books. I would have loved to have developed my relationship with grandad but it was not to be. I am sure though that I got my love of books from him. Grandad died when I was in my early teens and I have often thought how great it would have been to have spent more time with him.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Part 1

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit; a personal reflection.

For some time now I have been wanting to write about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I have delayed putting pen to paper – actually, fingers to keyboard – not really knowing how best to tackle the project.

Then I came up with the idea of sharing my story and using that to introduce the subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

I need however to share some caveats before I start.

First of all, I am not a theologian. I love the Bible but I have had no formal training in Hebrew, Greek, hermeneutics, and exegesis etc. I have never been to Bible school or done any kind of formal study of Scripture. In many ways I wish I had done some of these things, or been in a position where I could have had an opportunity to. However, the direction of my life turned out differently.

Secondly, I do not want to portray my experience as the definitive one for when we talk about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. That is why I have entitled this article “a personal reflection”. Nonetheless my testimony has been significantly linked with my understanding and experience of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

I have charted my course through life and key events and people for my readers to discover some of the key themes that will relate to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I may not necessarily note them all, or underline for my readers every association, but I think many threads can be discovered.

Thirdly, as part of my personal journey I wanted to share some of the richness of church life that I personally enjoyed and immensely benefitted from. I do not think my experience was in any way unique, but rather it was reflective of much life and blessing in many assemblies and communities of the Lord’s people at that time. So, if there are occasions where I have expressed disappointment with church life, they must be set against a backdrop of many positive things. This is not intended in any way to be a criticism. It is my own story and my observations and conclusions.

Lastly, I wanted to preserve some of my impressions and memories of my life, especially in my formative years, in case they may be of interest to my family and also to others following behind. As my memory begins to fail me, it seemed important to me to record these things. It makes me so grateful to the Lord for His blessing upon me, all the days of my life. I will be including people whose names will mean nothing to most readers – if anyone even gets to read it at all! However, these names and events remembered have come flooding back to me that I wanted to record them. As I have said above, this is not because I think I am anyone special, or have any right to be listened to, but rather to give glory to the Lord and to acknowledge His goodness to me.

The Gospel of God – Part 45

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.
Being spiritually dead.Regeneration.
Being enslaved.Redemption.
Being unclean.Sanctification.
Being powerless.The Holy Spirit.
Being in the Old Covenant.The New Covenant.

Through the ages God’s dealings with man(kind) have always been by a covenant relationship. Examples would include the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.

This is not the place where we can study this theme more fully. Suffice it to say that the law given by Moses includes those covenants already mentioned and viewed in the light of the New Testament as being “Old”.

The book of Hebrews is the most helpful when we want to have a fuller discussion of this great theme.

The writer – many think it would be Paul – says this;

“In that He says, “A new covenant” He has made the old obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away”. Hebrews 8:13.

This is in the light of majestic prophecies from the Old Testament that have now been applied to Christ who has fulfilled them. The clearest comes from Jeremiah.

“Because finding fault with them, He says: Behold, the days coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –

not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall by My people.

“None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more”. Hebrews 8:8-12.

The key thing to see is that what was originally an external covenant and one that required keeping from both sides was impossible for the people to do.  That is why the very first words we read regarding Jeremiah’s great prophecy was that he laid squarely at the door of the people the reason why the covenant was continually being broken – He found fault with them. Hebrews 8:8.

God fulfilled both sides of the covenant agreement so we can be in the agreement as we are in Him.

The New Covenant is where we read and see the power of God to change us inwardly.

This is well described in the other marvellous prophecy of the Old Testament.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them”. Ezekiel 36:25-27.

This wonderfully declares that the Lord will give us a new heart as we believe Him.  This will enable us to walk in Him. He will cause us to walk. This is no longer our efforts to live as we should but is dependent on the activity of the Holy Spirit in our new hearts, as we believe Him.

What was once external – the external law and commandments – is now internal, the law written on our hearts and in our minds.

God the Holy Spirit fills the life of the believer so that He is indwelt by Him. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon a few and a limited number of people for a particular task or purpose. In the New Covenant the Holy Spirit lives within us. This is an amazing truth and revelation!

Jesus was teaching His disciples this the night before He was arrested and taken from them. He was explaining about the unique work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, our Advocate.

“Jesus answered and said to him, (Judas, not the disciple who would betray Jesus) “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him., and We will come to him and make Our home with him” John 14:23.

Jesus, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit – We – will make Our home with him!

When Jesus was teaching them, He was describing a different order of relationship.

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you”. John 14:17.

Jesus by the Spirit is certainly with us, He leads us, guides us, comforts us etc, but the greater truth is that He is in us!

This is the marvel of the gospel in its culmination.

We who were sinners, born in sin and in slavery to the devil, have been redeemed and reconciled to God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and He now lives within us!

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love Me, a sinner condemned, unclean!

How marvellous, how wonderful and this my song shall ever be, How marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviours love for me!”

The Gospel of God – Part 44

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.
Being spiritually dead.Regeneration.
Being enslaved.Redemption.
Being unclean.Sanctification.
Being powerless.The Holy Spirit.

After Jesus had been raised from the dead He appeared to many groups and individuals of his disciples as we have seen in a previous part of our study. After ten days He ascended to heaven where He received the Holy Spirit from His Father and whom He poured out upon His waiting people.

Jesus had promised them this, that they would know power to live.

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. Acts 1:8.  

The Greek word for “power” is the word “dynamis” from which we get our English words like dynamite, dynamo, etc.

The power that the disciples needed was a power to live. This promise must not be taken to mean that it refers specifically to the receiving of certain supernatural gifts, like speaking in foreign languages, languages otherwise unknown to the speaker. These are amazing gifts and the New Testament gives several lists of such gifts. This is not primarily what is in view here however.

The power that the disciples needed was supernatural power to live by the life of the Holy Spirit that they had received.

Up until this time they were still struggling to understand Jesus and certainly did not understand the power released in the resurrection. The contrast between the days when Jesus was appearing to them, and the immediate days after Pentecost is immense. By the coming of the Holy Spirit they had been transformed from a group of fearful men and women, locked up in the upper room, doubting, confused, afraid, and riddled with guilt and shame, to an altogether different group. Now they were filled with the Holy Spirit and were boldly preaching Him in the very place, and among many of the same people, who, only a few days ago, were crucifying Him. Those who had deserted Him and had run away at the scenes of the cross, were now fearlessly declaring His claim on their lives, and His power to transform all who would receive Him.

Nearly all of the disciples – or apostles as they were later named – experienced martyrdom for their faith. The only rational explanation of this remarkable transformation is that God had given them divine power to live.

They had been regenerated by the power of God. They went on to preach the gospel and share their faith all over the then-known world as Jesus prophesied that they would.

When Jesus was crucified the Bible teaches that we were crucified with Him. Not only did He die for us, in our place, as our substitute, He also died as us, for our freedom and deliverance, from self and sin.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Galatians 2:20.

“Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Romans 6:11.

“There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”. Romans 8:1.

“The normal Christian life” is not just the title of a very helpful book written by Watchman Nee; it is an expression that should describe the experience of every believer.

Are we all living the quality of life described in the New Testament, or have we settled for something “safer”. There is provision for all of us to be in something new and radical and that is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us?

The Gospel of God – Part 43

Redemption, we have seen, is about Christ’s great work in delivering mankind from the power of the enemy and from our own sins, and setting us free to belong to Him. He has paid the price to buy us back to God.

There is however another aspect in the Bible about our redemption and that is concerning our inheritance. Through Christ’s work we can know that in Him we have an inheritance. This is most beautifully seen in the small book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

Naomi was a Jew married to Elimelech, they had two sons and they lived in Bethlehem. When famine hit the land, already struggling under the rule of various judges, the family moved to Moab for food.

Soon tragedy struck. Elimelech died leaving Naomi a widow. Her two sons took wives from the Moabite women but incredibly then her two sons in law both died leaving Naomi with her two daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth.

Hearing reports that there was food back in Bethlehem Naomi decided to return encouraging her daughters in law to remain and re-marry. Orpah did but Ruth clung to Naomi.

This is a wonderfully moving piece of prose:

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if anything but death parts you and me”. Ruth 1:16,17.

This was an amazing response from a heathen woman to her mother in law’s faith.  

So eventually both Naomi and Ruth return and the Lord gives them wonderful favour back in Israel. Cutting a long story short Ruth falls into the hands of a kind landowner whom she falls in love with. Little did she realise but Boaz was a close relative of her.

In ancient Israelite society the following well defined legal obligations fell to the next of kin, known as the (goel), or kinsman-redeemer.

Family lands could not be sold out of family possession. A destitute relative could sell inheritance land to pay debtors, but landless people were effectively reduced to servitude. It fell to the goel to redeem lands, and family members by payment of outstanding debts. Where no goel existed, the land could be sold outside the family, eventually reverting back in the Jubilee year.

Remarkably Ruth had been led to Boaz, who was unbeknown to her at first as her goel, kinsman redeemer. Once he had clarified his leg position Boaz wasted no time in taking Ruth as his wife. In so doing he established her inheritance.

Boaz says, “Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day”. Ruth 4:10.

Ruth’s faithfulness at a time of unfaithfulness results in God giving her a son, Obed, and she has a privileged position in the lineage of David and Christ (she is the great-grandmother of David). Ruth 4:13-17.

Christ is our goel!

He has become one of us, and has taken us up for himself by spiritually marrying us. He has cleared our debts, and given us an inheritance in Him.

He is our kinsman- redeemer.

The Gospel of God – Part 42

Listen to King David’s words when the ark had been brought back to Jerusalem and he was alone with God:

“And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name – and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land- before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nation, and their gods?” For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God”. 2 Samuel 7:23,23.

The word “redeem” or “redemption” is the word used when one would buy out a slave to grant him his freedom. The release would be in response to a price being paid. The death of Christ is stated as the means of our redemption.

“In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. Ephesians 1:7.

 “Knowing you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”. 1Peter 1:18,19.

“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Romans 3:24.

 “Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good work

s”. Titus 2:14

“Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption”. Hebrews 9:11,12.

Note the refences to the blood that was shed to redeem us. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for all. He has taken us out of the hand of the enemy, set us free from bondage, and made us His very own.

Like many Biblical truths there is an immediate relevance of these great things but also a future fulfilment when the Lord Jesus will return and set up His kingdom.

This is the time when we will receive a new body with which to live in the new earth that God will make.

“In whom (Christ) also, having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory”. Ephesians 1:13,14.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”. Ephesians 4:30.

“And not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body”. Romans 8:23.