Sunday – February 23, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 6: 8-16 “Stephen the Man”

Sunday – February 23, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 23, 2020

Acts 6:8
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”

Stephen was described as a man who was both “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3) and as one who was “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5). His ministry to Hellenistic widows seems to have put him in contact with a great many Hellenistic Jews. Through Stephen, among the Hellenistic Jews, God accomplished many “great wonders and signs” (6:8). Feeding the widows gave Stephen a much greater exposure and the opportunity to function in a way that was similar to the twelve apostles. The mention of Stephen’s ability to perform “signs and wonders” is very significant. Up to this point, only the apostles were said to have worked signs and wonders. Since the twelve apostles would remain in Jerusalem after the church was scattered (Acts 8:1), it would seem that Stephen (here) and Philip (Acts 8) would serve as apostles to a more diverse group.

We are not told how the power to perform signs and wonders came upon Stephen. Had we been told, we would probably find this viewed as a formula by which saints are to manipulate or persuade God into acting as we would desire. Every indication is that both Stephen and the apostles were surprised by his ability to perform such miracles. It was not because Stephen “prayed through” the right formula nor because of the apostles, of their training, of discipleship, or ordination that these signs and wonders were performed. The simplest explanation for the mighty power which Stephen possessed was that the sovereign God had purposed to make him an apostle, in His own time, and in His own way.

In previous sermons in Acts, many have been saved. Here (and for the first time), the preacher is put to death. God prospers some sermons in the salvation of many, but He also uses sermons for other purposes, as here. We also see that there is an evangelistic thrust, resulting from this sermon. This is an evidence of God’s sovereign control. Those who are saved are not the audience of Stephen, but the Samaritans and Gentiles who will be saved because of the persecution resulting from Stephen’s death. Without knowing it, these Jews are propelling the gospel beyond Jerusalem to the very places from which they have come. Many will be saved because of the sermon and the death of Stephen. And the one who was a part of Stephen’s death—Saul—will be God’s chosen instrument to reach the Gentiles.

No wonder Stephen, a man who was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” did not fear death and did not revere the physical temple in Jerusalem. He was a man who “saw” a better temple and whose hope was not earthly. He was free to die, as were the saints of old, because of His faith in God and the promises which were sure to come. May we be more like this great man of old whose life and ministry were short but significant.

Sunday – February 16, 2020 Book of Acts –Acts 6:1-7 “Waiting on the Widows”

Sunday – February 16, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 16, 2020

Acts 6:2-4
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

Someone has said, “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it because you will spoil it!” I often tell the new members class, “I promise that if you join this church, we will at some point offend you.” Or, as some wag put it, “To dwell above with the saints we love, O that will be glory! But to dwell below with the saints we know, well, that’s a different story!” To have been in the early church would have been a wonderful experience to see God was working in powerful ways. But the early church was not a perfect church. We’ve already seen the problem of hypocrisy, with Ananias and Sapphira. Now Luke shows us another problem that occurred in the midst of this phenomenal growth: a complaint arose that threatened to split the church.

It is significant that the apostles did not say, “It’s time that we divide the church up into the First Hellenistic Church of Jerusalem and the First Hebrew Church of Jerusalem.” They never considered division as an option. Even though these two groups had diverse backgrounds and even different mother tongues, they wanted to work this problem out in a spirit of unity, not division.

Not even the apostles could do it all. They were gifted and called to the ministry of prayer and preaching the Word. They were not control-freaks, who had to direct every aspect of church ministry. They were willing to delegate responsibility to other godly men who could deal with the problems.  One key to solving church problems is to recognize and implement the division of labor on the basis of spiritual gifts. No one man or group of men, however gifted, can carry on the work of the local church. It is only when every member gets involved in serving in accordance with his or her gifts that the church will be strong.

The church is primarily an organism—the living body of which Christ is the head. But all organisms are organized. It is a mistake to over-emphasize organization to the neglect of organism. It is also a mistake to over-emphasize organism and neglect proper organization. The solution was the blend between apostolic direction and congregational participation. The apostles did not choose these seven men; they delegated that job to the congregation after giving the necessary qualifications. The congregation brought the seven back to the apostles, who validated the choice by praying and laying hands on them. The church is not a democracy, but wise elders will involve the congregation on important decisions. The entire church must be functionally under the headship of Jesus Christ, seeking to honor Him and follow His will.

Sunday – February 2, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 4:32 to 5:11

Sunday – February 2, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 2, 2020

Acts 4:32-34
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

I once heard of a group of untaught Christians who took our text so literally that they were seriously thinking of taking the life of one of their members who had committed a serious sin. While I appreciate their zeal to do what the Bible teaches, I think they have misapplied Luke’s account of Ananias and Sapphira. On the other extreme, there are many more who would like to simply set this passage aside. Actually, there are many who would like to set aside our text and its implications because it exposes a good deal of shoddy thinking and outright sin in the church. Let’s face it; none of us are really inclined to add this passage in Acts to our list of “happy texts” in the Bible.

Luke tells us that “great grace was on them all” (Acts 4:33). While “great power” seems to be restricted to the apostles, who performed many signs and wonders, “great grace” appears to be evident among all the saints. God was showering His grace upon the Jerusalem church, at least in part due to the unity of the believers, as evidenced by their caring for one another in their financial needs. For various reasons these were not easy times for those living in Jerusalem, the result being that many of the saints in Jerusalem were in financial straits. It is not merely generosity which prompts those with financial resources to give, however; it is a deep unity among the saints.

Barnabas is an excellent example of what Luke has just described. Verses 32-35 provided us with a general statement regarding the health of the church in Jerusalem. Verses 36 and 37 provide us with an excellent example of the attitude of the saints in the church toward the needy and toward their own material possessions. Barnabas had a piece of property which he sold, and then brought the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as they saw fit. This is the way it was supposed to be, the way Luke had just described it in more general terms.

Giving is a by-product and outgrowth of Christian unity. Our text begins with Luke’s description of the church at Jerusalem as being of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). Sharing flows from unity, and it also enhances unity. The term “fellowship” is frequently used in reference to sharing financially with others. Our text helps us to understand why “fellowship” is often financial but always is partnership. Our union in Christ makes us all partners, so we should desire to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sharing should not be limited to material possessions. We should also be liberal in giving our time, our energies, and our spiritual gifts to those whose needs we can meet.

Sunday – January 5, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-40 “Peters Interpretation of Pentencost”

Sunday – January 5, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 5, 2020

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The number one fear that people have is the fear of speaking in public. It ranks ahead of the fear of death! The fear of speaking in public would increase if a person knew that he would be speaking to a hostile audience. And, you have no time to prepare your message. The opportunity presents itself and you’re on—without any notes! This was the situation facing Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The sound of the rushing wind from heaven had drawn a large crowd, which then heard all the apostles speaking of the great deeds of God in the many different native languages of the crowd. This perplexed them as they asked, “What does this mean?” (2:12).

Peter will now take his stand, along with the rest of the apostles, and give them the explanation of Pentecost, its meaning, and its implications. Peter did not hesitate to tell his audience what Pentecost did mean. He quickly turned their attention to the prophecy of Joel. Peter was claiming what these Jews had witnessed was the outpouring of the Spirit. But there was much more to it than that. The question was not so much the source of this phenomenon, but the meaning of it. In the context of Joel’s prophecy, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a sign which was to precede the coming “day of the Lord”. The “day of the Lord” was not only the day when the kingdom of God would be established on the earth and God’s promised blessings would be poured out on His people, Israel. It was to begin with judgment.

Peter did not know how soon these judgments would take place (since Joel does not indicate such). He was not claiming that they had been fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost; rather, he is saying that these things would precede “the great and glorious day of the Lord.” Since the prophecy had begun to be fulfilled, as evidenced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it is reasonable to assume that the rest will come to pass in due time. Peter’s point is that the outpouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel has happened. The Messianic age has begun.

There is a coming day of judgment for us, one way or the other. That day of judgment may come before our death or it may come after, but there is a day of judgment (Hebrews 9:27). To the threat of eternal judgment is God’s offer of salvation, to all who will “call upon the name of the Lord.” By admitting your sin, and by trusting in Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah and your Savior, you will be forgiven, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and look forward to the coming kingdom of God and all of its blessings. Have you, in simple faith, done this? I pray that if you have not, you will, even now.

Sunday – November 24, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 1:3-26 “Getting Ahead of God”

Sunday – November 24, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 24, 2019

Acts 1:23-26
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

As I approach the study of the first chapter of Acts, one question overshadows all others, and it is this: Just whose name would be on the foundation in place of Judas? Who was the twelfth apostle? In the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation we read these words: The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). Is the name “Matthias” the name which we will find on the twelfth foundation stone? Some would say, “Yes”; others, an emphatic “No!”

Only one chapter is devoted to pre-Pentecost matters, this tells us something. Of all that could have been said that fits into this category, Luke chose to take up the greatest part of the chapter with an account of the selection of the twelfth apostle. The mystery is that as important as this incident seems to be, Matthias is never specifically mentioned again. The rest of the Book of Acts, and the Epistles as well, virtually ignore Matthias. Why then is the selection of Matthias given such editorial priority? While we are preoccupied with this question, Luke does not seem to have been so troubled by the issue, never choosing to pronounce on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this action.

The feeling that we must pronounce on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this selection of Matthias reveals a serious fallacy in our thinking. What real difference does it make whether the apostles were “right” or “wrong”? We seem to think it makes a great deal of difference. But does it? Do we believe the plans and purposes of God collapse when men fail to do the “right” thing? Do we really believe God’s purposes are achieved only when we do the “right” thing? If the Book of Acts underscores any truth, it is that of the sovereignty of God, who works all things in accordance with His will, whether or not men believe or obey. Much of what the Spirit of God accomplished in the Book of Acts was in spite of men.

God can just as easily use the “wrath of man” to accomplish His will as He can the obedience of man. The Gentiles will hear the gospel, and many will come to faith on account of the Jews. Not because of their faith and obedience, mind you, but ultimately because of their stubborn unbelief. As Paul will clearly teach in Romans 9-11, and as Luke will clearly demonstrate in the Book of Acts, it was the rejection of Messiah by Israel that made the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles possible. God was not obliged to use Matthias just because the one-hundred and twenty “rightly” chose him, any more than He would have been prevented from using him if they had “wrongly” selected him. The selection of Matthias is a key to the message of the entire work, the message that God was sovereignly at work, through His Spirit, to accomplish His will in ways in which men would never have conceived and which they would not believe even if they were told.

Sunday April 22, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:12-20 “Calling the Dirty Dozen”

Sunday – April 22, 2018 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday April 22, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:12-20 “Calling the Dirty Dozen” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 22, 2018 Download / Print

Luke 6:12-13
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…”

Do you ever look around at all the hurting, needy people in the world and feel overwhelmed? I do. Every day on the news we hear about people in desperate need: victims of war, disease, crime, poverty, family and personal problems. Even if we limit it to Temple City or to the people who attend this church, we encounter a pile of needs. We all know that God is the only final answer to those needs. As Job lamented, “Man is born for trouble as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7). The suffering, sickness, sorrow, and pain that we all encounter should cause each of us to realize our own alienation from the holy God and our desperate need for reconciliation with Him before we die.

People need to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. God has many ways He could have used to dispense His truth to this hurting world. He could have used the angels who would have been more obedient and efficient at getting the job done than His followers have been. He could have spoken directly from heaven to every person on the globe. No doubt God had many other options. I can’t tell you for sure why He chose to do it the way He did, but the method of Jesus for ministry was prayerfully to choose a few men to minister to the needy masses.

You don’t have to be flashy or famous or influential in the worldly sense to be used by God. We all know about Peter, James, and John, but what do we know about James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, or Judas the son of James? And yet these men were a part of the twelve apostles who will sit on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel. Although they were not outwardly well known or as influential as Peter was, they were faithful men who served according to their gifts. Just as Jesus chose the twelve, He has chosen us to be His instruments to testify to others of His grace and to build up the saints through the exercise of their gifts. That’s what God requires of you and me.

Let me ask, do you see the masses and their great needs? Are you burdened for them with compassion as Jesus was? If you feel overwhelmed by the great needs, then look to the all-sufficient Master, who has grace and power to spare. It’s His job to heal and save them. But how does He do it? Through choosing faithful men and women to multiply His grace to others. He chooses common men and women from a variety of backgrounds and conscripts them into His service. If you’ve trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He has appointed you to serve in His cause.

Sunday – September 20, 2015 Revelation 3:7-13 “Philadelphia: Church of the Open Door”

Sunday – September 20, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – September 20, 2015 Revelation 3:7-13 “Philadelphia: Church of the Open Door” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 20, 2015 Download / Print

Revelation 3:8
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

The apostles were instructed to wait until the Spirit came upon them, empowering them to carry out the Great Commission. When the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2), the result was Peter’s powerful sermon which God used to save many. In the Spirit’s power, the apostles performed miracles, which provided yet more opportunities to proclaim the gospel (Acts 3). But as the apostles continued to heal and to preach in the name of Jesus, the Sadducees and other Jewish religious leaders became increasingly concerned, so that they began to persecute the apostles (Acts 4 & 5).

The gospel was advancing in a way that partially fulfilled the Great Commission, but this was far less than what our Lord had commanded. For one thing, the gospel was spread only as far as “all Judea and Samaria.” For another, the apostles had not yet come to terms with the fact that the gospel was the good news of salvation for Jews and Gentiles, without distinction. Up to this point in time, it was assumed that in order to be a Christian, one must either be Jewish, either by birth or by becoming a Jewish proselyte. The failure of the apostles to aggressively fulfill the Great Commission seems to have been fueled, to some degree, by their belief that the gospel should not go to the Gentiles.

There were certain excuses for the apostles’ inaction which could have been used. For example, because they believed the Gentiles should not be evangelized as Gentiles because they were considered unclean. In the Book of Acts, God has already dealt with Peter on this matter and now through Peter, God will open the door to worldwide evangelism. Peter was the one to whom the “keys to the kingdom” were given by our Lord (Matthew 16:19). God opened the door to those who would hear his message. It wasn’t Peter who persuaded Cornelius and friends to believe; God did. Peter was an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, but the Lord Jesus, who has the Key of David, opened the doors that had previously been shut.

We live at a time when people are obsessed with methods. They wish to know the methods of those who are successful. This is not altogether a bad thing but we should take note that the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, and Cornelius were not saved because of some slick evangelistic approach. They were saved because God prepared their hearts and drew them to Himself by faith. More important than having the right method is preserving and proclaiming the right message. We are not to modify the message of the gospel to make it more palatable. Our task is to proclaim the gospel that God has given us in His Word. If salvation is “of the Lord” – and it surely is – then let us spend more time in His Word and in prayer, asking God to prepare the hearts of lost people and open the door to their hearts with the message of the gospel we take to them.