June 2016 • Volume XVI, Issue 2
Fearing Man and Forgetting God (3)
“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that
thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the
son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the
Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and
laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared
continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor,
as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the
oppressor?” (Isa. 51:12-13).
Since the fall, fear is a part of human life in our
disordered world for everybody, every day, in many different
ways and to varying degrees. Scripture speaks of fear as
especially involving the “heart.” “Though an host should
encamp against me, my heart shall not fear” (Ps. 27:3; cf.
Deut. 20:3; 28:67; II Sam. 17:10; Isa. 7:4; 35:4). Since
“out of it [i.e., the heart] are the issues of life” (Prov.
4:23), we must keep it diligently from all misplaced fears.
There are people who are, sadly, crippled by sinful fears.
We need to get this issue of unbelieving fear straight, for
expelling it is a vital part of Christian godliness and a
major theme in the Bible.
In our day, the fear of man is practically institutionalized
in the form of political correctness (PC). PC is against the
freedom to witness boldly of Jesus Christ in all spheres
according to the full revelation of His Word. PC is the fear
of man writ large. PC is the fear of offending man with the
gospel, and it encourages people to get offended very
easily. PC involves the fear of law cases (and being sued)
and the fear of losing your job or business for the sake of
the truth, especially when Scripture opposes the secularist
ideology and the popular sins of the day. PC, to use the
language of Isaiah 29:21, “make[s] a man an offender for a
“The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Prov. 29:25). The one
whom you fear is your master, the one who controls you.
Through embracing PC, one becomes a creature, and even a
slave, of the anti-Christian elite. In the language of the
book of Isaiah, one becomes a citizen and devotee of
Babylon. Think of how awful it would be to have people with
this carnal mind as ministers, elders, deacons and members
of the church institute! Yet this is happening in more and
more places, sadly.
First, in order to keep His people from fearing man and
forgetting Him, Jehovah reminds us of His work as the
Creator of the universe: “And forgettest the Lord... that
hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations
of the earth” (Isa. 51:13).
The Babylonians stretched out their empire in the Middle
East (in accordance with God’s eternal decree) but Jehovah
stretched out the entire heavens. Soon He would roll back
their empire! The Babylonians laid the foundations of their
transient empire (in God’s sovereign province) but the Lord
laid the foundations of the whole earth! In little time, the
Almighty would smash the foundations of their kingdom!
Second, in order to keep His people from fearing man and
forgetting Him, Jehovah reminds us of His work as the
Creator of Israel: “And forgettest the Lord
thy maker” (13).
Here the Most High declares, “I made you My people in
accordance with My unconditional election of you. Yet you
forget Me! How could you?” Likewise, in the New Testament,
God’s true church witnesses, “For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Third, in order to keep His people from fearing man and
forgetting Him, Jehovah reminds us of His work as the
Redeemer of Israel: “But I am the Lord
thy God, that divided
the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name”
(Isa. 51:15). The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob divided
the Red Sea so that His ransomed people could pass through
safely, whereas the Egyptians were drowned by the roaring
waves. In answer to the prayers of the spiritual Israelites
(9-10), Jehovah would redeem Israel from the Babylonian
captivity, just as He did from the bondage of Egypt.
The result is described figuratively: “The captive exile
hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die
in the pit, nor that his bread should fail” (14). The full,
spiritual, gospel reality of this is redemption from the
bondage of sin, Satan, death and hell through Christ’s
blood. We must not be like foolish Israel in fearing man and
forgetting God given the greatness of the Lord Jesus and His
All by themselves, the words of this article and those in
the previous two issues will not enable us to remember the
Lord our God or strengthen us against the fear of man. The
great truths of God’s glorious names, His creation of heaven
and earth, and His formation and redemption of the church
will not console us apart from the glorious, inward work of
the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ brings God’s Word to
our hearts with power: “I, even I, am he that comforteth
Our heavenly Father commissions true preachers of the gospel
with these words, and the Spirit blesses His elect,
according to His eternal purpose: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my
people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,
and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her
iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s
hand double for all her sins” (40:1-2; cf. 61:2).
When Jehovah says emphatically, “I, even I, am he that
comforteth you” (51:12), it is as if He is asking us, “Do
you really think that I, the great Creator and Redeemer of
the church, could really be asleep or forget you?”
By now you should feel the force of our text: “who art thou,
that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and
of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and
forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the
heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast
feared continually every day because of the fury of the
oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the
fury of the oppressor? … But I am the Lord
thy God, that
divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name” (12-13, 15)! Rev. Stewart
“Ye Shall Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit”
A lady in England asks, “Why does the apostle Peter, in
Acts 2:38, use the future tense when he says, ‘ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost’? I am puzzled because we
must already have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit in
order to repent and trust in Christ ‘for the remission of
The questioner adds this to her question: “It [i.e., the
text] is used here [in my local church] to imply that no one
is saved until they are baptized—that they have to do
something to contribute to their salvation, a thoroughly
Arminian idea. The pastor and other preachers can be
Reformed in preaching to Christians but they become Arminian
when addressing non-believers.”
Let us have the text, Acts 2:38, clearly before us: “Then
Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of
you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Before I answer the lady’s question, I want to make a few
points about the e-mail that accompanied her question. I
have received many such e-mails and letters over the years,
and heard similar sorry tales on our many visits with saints
in the British Isles. When I hear accounts from them of this
sort of distortion of the Scriptures, it always fills me
with sorrow. My wife and I literally wept when we left homes
where we ministered to a few saints who faced similar
problems to those of the questioner. There is no church in
their area where the gospel of sovereign grace is faithfully
preached. In the local churches, Arminianism is rampant and
the doctrines of sovereign grace are corrupted by unfaithful
shepherds who shear the sheep rather than feed them. We
frequently pray for these scattered sheep who know not where
to turn to hear the glorious gospel of free grace.
Godly saints who love the Lord, confess that their salvation
is a gift of grace, and rely wholly on their Saviour, Jesus
Christ. But, in many areas, the sermons in the churches are
a mixture of Arminianism and God’s grace. No wonder they
are, as the questioner is, “puzzled” by the preaching. Men
who claim to be ministers of God’s Word trouble the hearts
and minds of godly saints with confusion and contradiction.
Pentecostals interpret such a passage as this as teaching
the “second blessing.” Though a man or woman is saved, they
claim that the believer needs more to attain the second
outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will enable him or her to
speak in tongues (i.e., utter gibberish), prophesy, perform
miracles and experience the constant bliss of unclouded
communion with God.
While certainly, in the apostolic era, when the Scriptures
were not completed, God gave special signs to some by which
signs the truth of the gospel was verified, that is not the
Peter simply uses a very common biblical expression that
explains the power of faith and its relation to salvation.
You will find the future tense used repeatedly in Scripture
where faith is set forth as the instrument of receiving
First of all, one does not need to be baptized to be saved,
contrary to the impression the lady received in her church
(“Acts 2:38 ... is used to imply that no one is saved until
they are baptized”).
If one does require baptism to be saved, unborn babies
cannot be regenerated and infants dying in infancy, even
though born of believing parents, cannot be saved (contra
Luke 1:15, 44; Canons I:17). If a minister preaches that
baptism saves, then he has adopted the Roman Catholic and
the “high church” Anglican heresy of baptismal regeneration.
However, I do not think that the people to whom the lady
refers actually hold this. From her correspondence, it
appears to me that their error springs from a more Baptist
and Arminian approach to the text: baptism as a work that we
do that adds or contributes to our salvation.
Second, Peter is using here the common expressions of
Scripture to define the relation between faith and our
conscious experience of that salvation. One can find
instances of this throughout Scripture. God sovereignly
begins the work of salvation in the hearts of the elect.
This is regeneration, and God gives the gift of faith in
But the efficacious calling is a part of salvation. This is
the reference in the text, for Peter is preaching and God
uses the external call in working His internal call in the
hearts of His elect. By that sweet and irresistible call,
God brings His people to conscious faith in Christ as He is
set forth in the gospel. That gift of faith brings the child
of God to the cross and Christ crucified, in whom our
salvation is perfect and complete. By faith in Christ, we
come to repentance and the assurance of our salvation,
through the Holy Spirit.
The call of the gospel, heard in the preaching, demands
faith in Christ from all who hear. The wicked refuse and are
damned (John 12:48). God, by His Holy Spirit as the Spirit
of Christ, works faith in the elect so that they believe and
are saved. Always “it is God which worketh in [us] both to
will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Anything
else is a damnable lie (Gal. 1:6-9).
Why do preachers not preach this simple and God-glorifying
gospel? That way, they will not puzzle and disturb Christ’s
saints but comfort and edify them! Prof. Hanko
For a more in-depth look at how the Holy Spirit works in the
life of the believer, order
The Work of the Holy Spirit by
Profs. Engelsma and Hanko. It is just £5.50 (including P&P)
and is available from the CPRC Bookstore.
If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News
free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please
contact Rev. Stewart and we will
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