Sunday – March 8, 2020
Word On Worship – Sunday – March 8, 2020
Sunday – February 23, 2020
“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 – January 20, 2019
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?” It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?”
The man who put the question to Jesus seems to have assumed that he was among the “few” who were being saved. He may, like his fellow Israelites, have thought that the “few” being saved were Israelites, while the “many” who were not were Gentiles. Jesus has some very distressing words for those who would think such thoughts. Jesus first shocked His listeners by indicating that they were not already on the inside, so far as the kingdom is concerned. Then, He went on to say that many of His fellow-Israelites who were not on the inside would not ever be in the kingdom.
They believe that mere association with Jesus was sufficient to save them. They had eaten in His presence. He had taught in their streets. Wasn’t this enough? No. John the Baptist, followed by Jesus, required the followers of Jesus—those who would be truly be saved—to identify with Him. This is what baptism was all about. Did the Israelite(s) think that being a Jew saved him/them (choose sing. or pl. for both)? He was wrong. Baptism was a public testimony of the Jew’s break with his culture, and with the legalism and ritualism of Judaism. It was a profession of identifying with Jesus as the Messiah. Identification with Jesus was, to put it in the terms Jesus is using in our text, passing through the narrow door.
May I press this point a little more personally? How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? Nothing could be further from the truth. You are only saved by identification with Christ. Association with Christ (by going to church, reading the Bible, or whatever) isn’t enough. It wasn’t the truth for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It isn’t enough for you either.
Sunday – January 11, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship
2 John 4-6
“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”
John is obviously concerned about the truth. He uses that word five times in the first four verses (19 times in his three letters!). For John, the concept of truth centers on the person of Jesus Christ. The heretics were deceiving people about the person of Christ, saying either that He did not have a real human body, or that “the Christ” came upon the man Jesus at His baptism and left just prior to His crucifixion. These errors went against the person of Jesus that John had seen, heard, and touched as we learned in 1 John 1:1-4. Wrong views of the person of Christ invariably spill over into wrong views on His work on the cross. If you deny the true humanity of Jesus, then He could not be the substitute for the sins of humans. So it is essential to hold to sound doctrine on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Christianity is not based on the religious speculations of philosophers but rather upon the revelation of God in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The apostles spent three years with Jesus and they bear witness in the New Testament to His life, teachings, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. They make it clear that He is God in human flesh. The church of Jesus Christ is, therefore, a community of those who “have come to know the truth.” John personifies truth with reference to Jesus Himself, who claimed to be the truth in John 14:6. John says the truth “abides in us and will be with us forever.”
Contrary to the current postmodern thinking, the New Testament affirms that truth is both absolute and knowable. The truth centers in all that the Old and New Testaments affirm about Jesus Christ. To know Him personally is to be in the truth. This does not mean that you must become a theologian to be saved. To be saved, you simply must recognize that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior. Trust in Him and He will save you. But it does mean that as a believer, you should grow in your understanding of the truth about Jesus Christ and salvation. Sound doctrine on these matters is crucial. What makes those who are truly saved different from the rest of the world is the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. When John talks about “some of your children walking in truth,” the word walk implies that truth is something that every believer must continually grow in over time.
Sunday – December 28, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship
1 John 5:14-15
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
Over the years, I have to admit my “prayer batting average” is pretty low. I have prayed for the salvation of people who have not gotten saved. I have prayed for the restoration of sinning Christians, who have not repented and been restored. I have prayed for the reconciliation of many Christian marriages that have broken up. Many people have tried to encourage me by telling me, “God gives people free will.” But if God cannot subdue a sinful person’s will, then He can’t do anything! That means that sinful man, not God, is sovereign! If God promises to answer our prayers, then He has the power to answer them!
Many who do not know God pray, but they are not seeking God’s will in prayer. Rather, they are trying to use Him (whoever they conceive Him to be) to get what they want. But biblical prayer is not trying to talk God into giving us what we want. Rather, it is submitting our will to His will. It is praying, as Jesus instructed the disciples in Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
It would be the height of stupidity to pray for your will to be done as opposed to God’s will. Yet we do that very thing when we “command” God to give us what we think will make us happy or to take away painful things in our lives. For one thing, it would mean that you know better than God what is best for your life. But He knows everything and He has assured us that He loves us far more than the best earthly father loves his children. So it only makes sense to submit to and pray for His will for your life and for others.
But, the difficulty is, how do we determine what God’s will is so that we pray in line with it? Are we talking about His will of decree or His will of desire? God’s will of decree is what He has determined to do. In this sense, God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). Here’s the difficulty when it comes to praying for God’s will: It is God’s will of desire that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet, we know that in His decree, God has willed to save only His elect (Rom. 9:9-24). So it would be going against God’s will of decree to pray, “God, save everyone in the world.” But, we should pray, “God, save my loved one,” and, “Save my neighbor.” The problem is, I cannot know in advance whether or not He will do it, because I do not know His will of decree. So I ask, but I have to say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”