Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 3p (sermon at 3:45); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Monday, February 28, 2022

2022.02.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 2:40–47

Read Acts 2:40–47

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Peter add to this original response (Acts 2:40)? How had some received this word of response (Acts 2:41a)? What happened to them? What was added (Acts 2:41b, cf. Acts 1:15)? How did they continue (Acts 2:42)? In what four things of the apostles did they continue? Then what came upon whom (Acts 2:43a)? And what were done through whom (verse 43b)? How many of those who believed were together (Acts 2:44a)? What did they have in common (verse 44b)? But what did they do as needs arose (Acts 2:45)? How often did they continue where with one accord (Acts 2:46)? And what did they do from house to house? What effect did this have upon their meal times? What was their general attitude toward God (Acts 2:47)? And reputation with others? And what did Who do daily?

What are they like, who are saved from out of a crooked generation (Acts 2:40)? Christ shows that His church is not full of the worthy but of the repentant by making the first iteration of it almost entirely out of those (Acts 2:41) who were complicit in His murder! Truly, by His Spirit, our Redeemer is a great Giver not only of remission but of repentance.

What did the new believers’ repentant, Spirit-filled lives look like? This is an important question for everyone who wishes to be repentant and Spirit-filled—which is to say, for every true Christian. And what we see in this passage is that this repentance, this change of mind, reorders believers’ life priorities, financial (material) priorities, time priorities, and heart priorities.

First, repentance unto life reorders believers’ life priorities. The apostles’ doctrine (theology/ teaching), the apostles’ fellowship, the apostles’ breaking of bread, and the apostles’ prayers are all public exercises of the ordinary means of grace… i.e., exercises of public worship. These are the things in which they continue steadfastly (i.e., to which they are devoted). It was this public worship, in particular, to which God responded by bringing fear upon every soul. 

Only through the apostles were wondrous signs done (Acts 2:43b), but the rest of the three thousand exhibited the Spirit in this tangible way: they prioritized the public worship of God above all else. We too should exhibit the Spirit in this tangible way. A repentant, Spirit-filled life will be expressed in devotion to public worship via the ordinary means of grace.

Second, repentance unto life reorders believers’ financial priorities. “All who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44). This is marvelous, since earlier in the chapter much was made of the different ethnicities and backgrounds of those who heard and responded to the pouring out of the Spirit. But now it was that very Spirit Whom they had in common, and Who had given them Christ in common, so that they considered any gift from the Lord to have been given for the purpose of the good of His people.

In our original nature from Adam, we are selfish, but when we receive a new nature from the Last Adam, we come to prefer others to ourselves (cf. Philippians 2:2–5). Thieves no longer steal, but work hard with their hands so that they may have something to give to others in their time of need (cf. Ephesians 4:28). This was not some form of communism—or else there would be nothing to sell as needs arose in the manner described in Acts 2:45 (cf. Acts 5:4).

Third, repentance unto life reorders believers’ time priorities. There was only one day per week that they were required to be gathered. This is established in the fourth commandment, which gives us six days for all that labor and work that is ours, and reserves only one day not for work exertion but for worship exertion. But one wonderful side-effect of being eager to meet one another’s needs is that they were able to meet together more often.

In fact, Acts 2:46 tells us that they met daily with one accord in the temple. We do not imagine that they had to pressure one another to do so, or that there was any question about what they would spend their extra time upon. They were glad to meet whenever they could. Now, believers in this era—especially in what we sometimes call the first world—have much more discretionary time than before. If our churches are full of repentant, Spirit-filled believers, we will find them desiring to gather as often as possible in these congregational exercises of the means of grace.

Finally, repentance unto life reorders believers’ heart priorities. One who has not been satisfied with God in Christ finds his heart inhabited by the hideous conjoined twins of covetousness and grumbling. He desires and does not have; he neither gives God thanks nor glory (cf. Romans 1:21), and he is continuously in conflict with others (cf. James 4:1–3). 

But these believers were delighted with the fellowship that they had in Christ Himself in the public worship (Acts 2:46a), and when they returned home that fellowship would continue even over simple meals (verse 46b–c). No longer did they crave more and more material or fleshly things, and this simplicity (“humility”) of heart went hand in hand with gladness.

Glad and thankful hearts overflowed in words and songs of praise (Acts 2:47). And as one might expect of someone who is cheerful and thankful and content and generous, all who knew them thought graciously (and gratefully) of them. 

The Lord responded to their praise of Him by using their praiseworthily worshipful lives to add daily to the church those who were being saved. Surely, we who believe desire to live such lives and to see Him respond and use us as He continues to save. Let us seek from Him repentant, Spirit-filled lives.

Which of these four aspects above do you find most needful of growth/improvement in your life? Who can cause this to happen? What does He use to do so? What is your plan for availing yourself of this as you look to Him grow you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, what a blessed effect You produced in that first great congregation that You began to gather at Pentecost. And we thank You that You grant unto us the same repentance by the same Spirit even today. Forgive us for when we aim at less than a repentant, Spirit-filled life. Grant unto us to work out our own salvation, by Your Spirit’s working in us the desire for such a life and the practice of such a life, for we ask it through Christ, Who is our Life, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Reside?” or TPH429 “Come Thou Fount”


Sunday, February 27, 2022

Paradise with God or Perish without Him (2022.02.27 Evening Sermon in Exodus 15:22–27)

God offers them Egypt or Elim/Eden, Perishing or Paradise—and the choice hinges upon whether they are willing to desire Him above all.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

God's Reorientation Therapy (2022.02.27 Morning Sermon in Acts 2:40–47)

When God grants repentance to people, He reorients their mindset, and reorders their life priorities, financial priorities, time priorities, and heart priorities.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Why Should I Fast?, pt 2 (2022.02.27 Sabbath School)

Why Should I Fast? in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness."—2 of 2

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Don't Suffer a Fool or Be One (Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 26:1–12)

Pastor leads his family in a selection from “the Proverb of the day.” In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that fools bring misery upon those beneath them, those who entrust things to them, and especially upon themselves. In Christ, God offers forgiveness and repentance from folly, but a proud fool is being hardened to a state that becomes utterly hopeless.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

What Repentance Reorients (Family Worship lesson in Acts 2:40–47)

What is so significant about the conduct of this first congregation of the gospel church? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Acts 2:40–47 prepares us for the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the though the first congregation of the gospel church was composed so largely of those who had murdered Christ, the repentance that Christ gave them by His Spirit reordered their life priorities, financial priorities, time priorities, and heart priorities. Thus may all who come to Christ rest upon Him to do to them and in them!
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.02.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 2:42–47

Read Acts 2:42–47

Questions from the Scripture text: How did they continue (Acts 2:42)? In what four things of the apostles did they continue? Then what came upon whom (Acts 2:43a)? And what were done through whom (verse 43b)? How many of those who believed were together (Acts 2:44a)? What did they have in common (verse 44b)? But what did they do as needs arose (Acts 2:45)? How often did they continue where with one accord (Acts 2:46)? And what did they do from house to house? What effect did this have upon their meal times? What was their general attitude toward God (Acts 2:47)? And reputation with others? And what did Who do daily?

What did the new believers’ repentant, Spirit-filled lives look like? This is an important question for everyone who wishes to be repentant and Spirit-filled—which is to say, for every true Christian. And what we see in this passage is that this repentance, this change of mind, reorders believers’ life priorities, financial (material) priorities, time priorities, and heart priorities.

First, repentance unto life reorders believers’ life priorities. The apostles’ doctrine (theology/teaching), the apostles’ fellowship, the apostles’ breaking of bread, and the apostles’ prayers are all public exercises of the ordinary means of grace… i.e., exercises of public worship. These are the things in which they continue steadfastly (i.e., to which they are devoted). It was this public worship, in particular, to which God responded by bringing fear upon every soul. 

Only through the apostles were wondrous signs done (Acts 2:43b), but the rest of the three thousand exhibited the Spirit in this tangible way: they prioritized the public worship of God above all else. We too should exhibit the Spirit in this tangible way. A repentant, Spirit-filled life will be expressed in devotion to public worship via the ordinary means of grace.

Second, repentance unto life reorders believers’ financial priorities. “All who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44). This is marvelous, since earlier in the chapter much was made of the different ethnicities and backgrounds of those who heard and responded to the pouring out of the Spirit. But now it was that very Spirit Whom they had in common, and Who had given them Christ in common, so that they considered any gift from the Lord to have been given for the purpose of the good of His people.

In our original nature from Adam, we are selfish, but when we receive a new nature from the Last Adam, we come to prefer others to ourselves (cf. Philippians 2:2–5). Thieves no longer steal, but work hard with their hands so that they may have something to give to others in their time of need (cf. Ephesians 4:28). This was not some form of communism—or else there would be nothing to sell as needs arose in the manner described in Acts 2:45 (cf. Acts 5:4).

Third, repentance unto life reorders believers’ time priorities. There was only one day per week that they were required to be gathered. This is established in the fourth commandment, which gives us six days for all that labor and work that is ours, and reserves only one day not for work exertion but for worship exertion. But one wonderful side-effect of being eager to meet one another’s needs is that they were able to meet together more often.

In fact, Acts 2:46 tells us that they met daily with one accord in the temple. We do not imagine that they had to pressure one another to do so, or that there was any question about what they would spend their extra time upon. They were glad to meet whenever they could. Now, believers in this era—especially in what we sometimes call the first world—have much more discretionary time than before. If our churches are full of repentant, Spirit-filled believers, we will find them desiring to gather as often as possible in these congregational exercises of the means of grace.

Finally, repentance unto life reorders believers’ heart priorities. One who has not been satisfied with God in Christ finds his heart inhabited by the hideous conjoined twins of covetousness and grumbling. He desires and does not have; he neither gives God thanks nor glory (cf. Romans 1:21), and he is continuously in conflict with others (cf. James 4:1–3). 

But these believers were delighted with the fellowship that they had in Christ Himself in the public worship (Acts 2:46a), and when they returned home that fellowship would continue even over simple meals (verse 46b–c). No longer did they crave more and more material or fleshly things, and this simplicity (“humility”) of heart went hand in hand with gladness.

Glad and thankful hearts overflowed in words and songs of praise (Acts 2:47). And as one might expect of someone who is cheerful and thankful and content and generous, all who knew them thought graciously (and gratefully) of them. 

The Lord responded to their praise of Him by using their praiseworthily worshipful lives to add daily to the church those who were being saved. Surely, we who believe desire to live such lives and to see Him respond and use us as He continues to save. Let us seek from Him repentant, Spirit-filled lives.

Which of these four aspects above do you find most needful of growth/improvement in your life? Who can cause this to happen? What does He use to do so? What is your plan for availing yourself of this as you look to Him grow you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, what a blessed effect You produced in that first great congregation that You began to gather at Pentecost. And we thank You that You grant unto us the same repentance by the same Spirit even today. Forgive us for when we aim at less than a repentant, Spirit-filled life. Grant unto us to work out our own salvation, by Your Spirit’s working in us the desire for such a life and the practice of such a life, for we ask it through Christ, Who is our Life, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Reside?” or TPH416 “Your Hand, O God, Has Guided”

Friday, February 25, 2022

Perishing or Paradise? (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 15:22–27)

What is so significant about this event that Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3–4 look to it as a warning of the choice between heaven and hell? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Exodus 15:22–27 prepares us for the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord presented His people with the perishing that they deserved (as Egypt had perished) but also with the paradise that He offered them (as Elim exemplified).
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.02.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 15:22–27

Read Exodus 15:22–27

Questions from the Scripture text: Who brought whom from where into where (Exodus 15:22)? How long did they go? What didn’t they find? To where do they come in Exodus 15:23? What couldn’t they do? Why not? So, what did they call that place? What did the people do in response to whom (Exodus 15:24)? And what did he do (Exodus 15:25)? How did the Lord respond to him? And what did Moses do with the tree? What else did the Lord make for them? What four things did He say they must do (Exodus 15:26)? And if they did, what did He say He would not do? Why? To where do they come in Exodus 15:27? What do they find there? What do they do there?

We get introduced to something horrible in this passage, just three days after the glorious song with which this chapter began. The Hebrew word for ‘grumble’ appears for the first time in the Bible in Exodus 15:24. It is going to dominate chapters 15–17 and Numbers 14–16. Elsewhere, this word appears only once in Joshua 9:18. Grumbling is a great sin against God under any circumstance. The people may have assured themselves that their grumbling was “against Moses.” But, Moses was given to them by God. And every time we indulge in a grumbling spirit, it is not ultimately against whatever it is against which we tell ourselves that we are grumbling. Ultimately, all grumbling is against God.

Of course, the first use of the word is not the first instance of the sin. The people had already grumbled against Moses when pinned against the Red Sea in Exodus 14:11. There and here, the Lord responds with remarkable patience. “Yahweh showed him a tree” (Exodus 15:25). The Lord could have just made the waters sweet miraculously, but He gives His servant an opportunity to gain esteem in the Israelites’ eyes by making him the agent of the sweetening of the waters.

The sweet water doesn’t come “free,” however. It comes with a test (end of Exodus 15:25). All they have to do is walk with the Lord according to His Word, and He will heal them of everything (Exodus 15:26). The implied threat, however, is that if they are Egyptians in their conduct, then they will receive as the Egyptians did in their consequences. 

The Lord, for His part, here calls Himself “Yahweh Who heals you” (end of verse 26). He is encouraging them to embrace Him as Savior, to walk according to His Word, and to enjoy His provision and protection. And He immediately brings them to a place where there is not just one well, but twelve wells in the wilderness. Isaac had been extraordinarily blessed to dig four wells in Genesis 26. Here, they obtain not four wells but twelve, and that without digging at all! 

Our God has identified Himself to us as our Savior. We know that He Himself can never change, and the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ can never be undone. But will we embrace Him and His identity, or will we go from providence to providence, allowing our circumstances to dictate whether we respond with a grumbling spirit? Let us remember that one aspect of the Lord’s dealing with His people is His testing us. He puts us in circumstances to bring out of us whether there will be the contentment of faith or the grumbling of unbelief. Let us look to Him to give the faith and its contentment, lest what comes out be the bitterness of our old man and his grumbling.

In what situation right now are you tempted to grumble? How might it change your response to remember that the Lord gives such situations to His people to test what will come out of them? How can you know for sure that this situation is ultimately for your good?

Sample prayer:  Lord, when Your people grumbled against You, an entire generation of them fell in the wilderness. But we are still quick to grumble when our experience turns difficult or bitter. Forgive us! Have mercy! Take away the grumbly hearts of our former nature, and give us the contented heart of Christ! Count His contentment for us as our righteousness, wipe away our guilt by His sacrifice, and make us to be good by giving us from His own goodness, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, Lord” or TPH429 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Thursday, February 24, 2022

After the LORD Delivers You (2022.02.23 Prayer Meeting sermon in Psalm 40)

The Lord Jesus perfectly responds to God, proclaiming His glory and the necessity of our responding to God with praise and proclamation.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Ideal Church-Plant Conditions (Family Worship lesson in 1Thessalonians 1:1–7)

Why is the apostle so thankful and encouraged as he prays for the Thessalonians and writes to them? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Thessalonians 1:1–7 prepares us for the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when the marks of Spirit-given faith, hope, and love appear in our lives or others’ lives, we may take encouragement from a work of the Spirit that was purposed from eternity and will be fulfilled in glory!
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.02.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 1:1–7

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: Who sent this letter (1 Thessalonians 1:1a)? To whom (verse 1b)? In Whom were they a church? With what two things do they greet them (verse 1c)? From Whom do this grace and peace come? What do they give to Whom for whom (1 Thessalonians 1:2)? What do they do in their prayers? What three things do they remember (1 Thessalonians 1:3)? In Whom did the Thessalonians have these three things? In Whose sight do Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy remember them? What do they call them in 1 Thessalonians 1:4? What do they know about them? In what way did their gospel not come to them (1 Thessalonians 1:5)? In what way did it in fact come? By Whose help? With what effect? And what do the Thessalonians know about them? Knowing them, of whom did the Thessalonians become followers (1 Thessalonians 1:6)? In what conditions had they received the Word? With what affection? And who else followed whom (1 Thessalonians 1:7)? 

When the Thessalonians received the Word, they were being attacked by unbelieving Jews and other evil men (cf. Acts 17:5). The hostility was so bad that when Paul and Silas moved on to Berea, Jews from Thessalonica went there and stirred up crowds to attack them and drive them away (cf. Acts 17:13–15). But after Paul, Silas, and Timothy had moved on, the new Thessalonian church had to endure the ongoing opposition and affliction in their hometown.

Were these what we might call ideal circumstances for a new church plant? Well, yes they were. Because they were the precise circumstances under which the Lord brought this church into being. By coming into being under such circumstances, it was clear that “the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1b) had come about not so much by the wisdom or efforts of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy (verse 1a), but by “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 1b). By coming into being under such circumstances, it was clear that the graces of the Thessalonian believers were the fruit of “your election by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

This is a powerful encouragement when praying for someone: if there is evidence that God has elected them! And this is powerful encouragement when writing a letter like this one to edify someone: if there is evidence that God has elected them!

When we see evidence of God’s grace in others, we should be encouraged as we pray for them and encouraged as we try to build them up in the Lord. And we will be more and more encouraged if “we give thanks to God always” (1 Thessalonians 1:2) for such people. Our thanksgiving will not only rise up to God as a right response to Him, but it will also remind our thoughts (1 Thessalonians 1:3) that these are people in whom God is at work, because it pleased Him to choose to do so (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

So, what does evidence of election look like? There are three things that it looks like in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. You can’t actually see faith, hope, and love; but, you can see work, exertion (labor), and endurance (patience). They’re doing things that you can’t make sense of, except that they’re believers—“work of faith.” They’re doing so with an effort that doesn’t really come from anything but love—“labor of love.” And they keep on doing it in the face of difficulty, so much so that it’s clear that they are certain to come out victorious in the end—“patience of hope.”

The gospel is words, but in faithful preaching and hearing, it doesn’t come by itself (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). The Holy Spirit comes with it (verse 5c), exercising His power (verse 5b) and giving us that assurance (verse 5d)—that faith and hope and love—that changes the hearer. This is how it was for the Thessalonians, and in the end of verse 5, the apostle reminds them that this was how it had been for Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy as well.

Not only did it produce the same fruit in the Thessalonians that it had produced in Paul and his companions (1 Thessalonians 1:6), but it went on to produce the same fruit in “all who believed” (1 Thessalonians 1:7) Philippi (Macedonia) and Corinth (Achaia). The inevitable conclusion is that it ought to produce that fruit in all of us who believe as well. 

When you and I see in ourselves, or in others, grace that has no other logical explanation, it gives us cause for thanksgiving, and encouragement in prayer and ministry. For, it is God Who determined to do this in His electing purposes, and it is God Who has proceeded to do this in His almighty power!

What evidences of faith, hope, and love are there in your life? From where could these have come? How should this affect the mindset with which you pray? The mindset with which you pursue growth in Christ? Thinking about someone else for whom you pray, and/or to whom you minister, what evidences do you see in them? How does this affect your mindset toward them?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how marvelous is Your free, electing love and Your almighty, saving power! Forgive us for our discouragement about ourselves and other genuine believers. Grant unto us to see the evidence of Your work, and to take our encouragement from the fact that it is You Who are doing it—which we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH427 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A Glimpse of God at His Temple (Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 8:1–21)

What does God show about Himself at the inauguration of the temple? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Kings 8:1–21 prepares us for the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-one verses, the Holy Spirit displays to us our God’s holiness, mercy, glory, faithfulness, and nearness!
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.02.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 8:1–21

Read 1 Kings 8:1–21

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom did Solomon assemble (1 Kings 8:1)? To do what? When did they assemble (1 Kings 8:2)? When they came, who took up the ark (1 Kings 8:3)? What all did they bring up (1 Kings 8:4)? Who else was there (1 Kings 8:5)? What were they doing? To where did the priests bring the ark (1 Kings 8:6)? Upon what do 1 Kings 8:6b–1 Kings 8:7 especially focus? What extended out (1 Kings 8:8)? What could be seen where? What was in the ark (1 Kings 8:9)? What happened when the priests came out (1 Kings 8:10)? What effect did this have (1 Kings 8:11)? What filled where? Who speaks in 1 Kings 8:12? Where had the Lord said He would dwell? But what has Solomon built (1 Kings 8:13a)? For what purpose (verse 13b)? Then to whom does Solomon speak (1 Kings 8:14)? What kind of words? What was the assembly doing? Whom do the words bless, while Solomon blesses the people (1 Kings 8:15)? What had the Lord spoken and done (1 Kings 8:16-20)? For what had Solomon built this temple (end of verse 20)? For what had he especially made a place (1 Kings 8:21)? What was in it?

As the temple is inaugurated, the Lord displays to His people His mercy and holiness, His glory, His faithfulness, and His nearness/presence.

First, the Lord displays His mercy and holiness. This mercy can be seen in that He has provided substitutes to die and burn in their place. It’s important that Solomon assembles the elders and heads and chiefs in 1 Kings 8:1. Just as with the consecration of the firstborn who have to be redeemed in Exodus 13, so here when the people see that an innumerable multitude of sacrifices must be offered by their own federal representatives (1 Kings 8:5), they realize that it is they who deserve to die. It is they who deserve God’s wrath. Each of us needs to learn this about ourself. 

The number of the sacrifices necessary for coming near in this earthly temple communicates the great holiness of God. For us to come near to Him in the presence of His glory in Christ, we need an infinite sacrifice (cf. Romans 1:18, Romans 3:25). This is how great His holiness is. And it is communicated also by the fact that only the priests could ever again see the poles of the ark from the holy place (1 Kings 8:8), and only the high priest could ever see the ark itself (1 Kings 8:7). And the place where he would see it contained not only the ark but the giant cherubim that would communicate to the high priest the holiness of God. Even though he is high priest, he would know himself to be tiny and earthly before even the temple furniture in the holy of holies—let alone before the God Whose holiness that furniture declares.

But the greatness of this holiness proclaims all the more the greatness of His mercy. For it is God Himself, in the Person of the Son, Who has died and Who suffered, upon the cross ,the burning fury of the wrath of God against our sin. In this, God has demonstrated His love for us. Jesus Christ has propitiated. He has so entirely endured God’s wrath against our sin that God is only and entirely propitious—favorable—toward us now.

Second, the Lord displays to His people His glory. His glory is related to His holiness. To simplify a little bit, we can think of His holiness as His other-ness, and of His glory as the incomprehensible greatness of that other-ness. The most common word for His glory, which 1 Kings 8:11 uses, is a word that means “heavy.” We can borrow a modern physics word and think of it in terms of density. The intensity of the reality of God is so great that apart from His own protection, it is utterly destructive to any creaturely thing that even attempts to be in its presence (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Due to the wondrousness of His glory, it’s really no wonder that the glory of the Lord filling the house of the Lord rather literally squeezes the priests out of the holy place (1 Kings 8:10) so that they could not continue to minister (1 Kings 8:11). 

And yet even this was only an anticipatory glory, a mere shadow of the glory to come when Christ Himself is the temple of God unto us, and the priest of God for us, having offered Himself as the sacrifice in our behalf (cf. Hebrew chapters 7–10). How marvelous, then, that the Lord is outfitting His people to be able to stand before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (cf. Jude 24). Those whom He justified, He also glorified (cf. Romans 8:30)! And He has done this because He predestined us not merely to be forgiven but to be conformed to the Son so that at the last, the Lord Jesus in His glory would appear as the firstborn among many brethren who have derived that very glory from Him (cf. Romans 8:29).  

Third, the Lord displays to His people His faithfulness. He has made promises, and now He has kept them. He spoke with His mouth (1 Kings 8:15). The Lord doesn’t have an actual mouth, but the Spirit gives us such anthropomorphic speech to emphasize the reality of those words. And the Lord has fulfilled His Word which He spoke (1 Kings 8:20). “Your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My Name” (1 Kings 8:19). “I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:20). The Lord spoke, and the Lord fulfilled.

Also, the Lord entered into covenant with His people, and the Lord has sustained that covenant. The ark itself is known as “the ark of the covenant.” It’s almost as if God’s covenant with His people “survives” their rebellion because just as He had done for Noah, so God has done for His covenant: He put it in an ark of safety. It is interesting to note in 1 Kings 8:9 that the only things left in the ark are the two tablets. Gone is the jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that had budded. But these tablets are still called, in 1 Kings 8:21, “the covenant of Yahweh, which He made with our fathers.”

This also helps us understand the ceremonial law that looked forward to Christ, and the civil law that belonged to Israel as a nation-state (“as a body politic,” to use the Westminsterian term). They are implications and applications of the moral law for being in covenant with God as a redeeming, sanctifying Savior. The tablets only had “the Ten Commandments” (though Scripture says “ten words” to refer to them). But these commandments are expressive of the character of God Himself and the difference that makes for us both as redeemed creatures (Exodus 20) and as redeemed sinners (Deuteronomy 5). The Lord isn’t just faithful to us. Far more importantly, He is faithful to Himself!

Finally, the Lord displays to His people His presence/nearness. Here, we focus especially on 1 Kings 8:12-131 Kings 8:21. The Lord dwelling “in dark cloud” (1 Kings 8:12) does not mean that He is somehow a creature who prefers moist locations of low luminosity. Rather, it communicates the impossibility of our being in His presence. 

However, here we are at a temple built for Him to “dwell” among His people (1 Kings 8:13). And this isn’t just a wishful desire of Solomon’s, for the Lord’s display of Himself in the glory cloud has already taken up residence (1 Kings 8:11)! Whatever else this house (literally, 1 Kings 8:101 Kings 8:111 Kings 8:131 Kings 8:16 and the same word in the original of 1 Kings 8:61 Kings 8:181 Kings 8:20) is, it is “a place for the ark” (1 Kings 8:21). The holy, holy, holy God of incomprehensible and unapproachable glory is making a way for His people to come near. And indeed in Christ, we pass even through the veil into the holy of holies—through the new and living way that is His flesh (cf. Hebrews 10:19–20). How marvelous will be that declaration at the end: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:4)!

So as we see the Lord in 1 Kings 8 displaying His mercy and holiness, His glory, His faithfulness, and His nearness/presence, we are the better enabled to see how great indeed is the greatness of Who Christ is and of what He has done for us and of what He is doing in us and for us! 

How do you come near to God on earth? Where are you really coming near to Him and how? In what way will you at last be in His presence? What will it be like then? What will you be like then? How has this been purchased for you? How are you being brought into what was purchased? What are some of the ways that you ought to be responding to the God Who has done this and is doing this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how completely other You are and incomprehensibly great You are! And yet, You have brought us near through Your unfathomable mercy in Christ—faithfully doing all that You have promised. You displayed this already in Solomon’s temple, but how much more in the Lord Jesus, Who is the reality of which tabernacle and temple were mere shadows. Forgive us for when we draw near to you casually, which makes light of Who You are and what You have done for us in Christ. How marvelous is Your mercy that even for those who commit such heinous sin as this is, You have atoned for our guilt by Christ’s cross and are glorifying us so that we may enjoy Your glory forever! Do this work by Your Spirit, we pray through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP122 “I Was Filled with Joy and Gladness” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

God's Pathway for Blessing His People (Family Worship lesson in Deuteronomy 6:1–9)

How does God bring His people into the blessing for which He has redeemed them? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Deuteronomy 6:1–9 prepares us for the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord brings us into full blessedness by making us knowers and lovers of Him. This He does by penetrating our hearts with His Word, via saturating our lives with His Word.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Deuteronomy 6:1–9

Read Deuteronomy 6:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What had Who commanded Moses to teach (Deuteronomy 6:1)? To whom? So that they may do what? Where? What would they do to Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6:2)? Who is He to them? What would they keep? Who would keep it? How long? With what result? And what other results (Deuteronomy 6:3)? How can they know this would happen? What is the command in Deuteronomy 6:4? To whom? What is the declaration in verse 4? What are they commanded to do in Deuteronomy 6:5? With how much of their heart? With how much of their soul? With how much of their strength? What shall be where (Deuteronomy 6:6)? What shall they do with the commandments in their heart (Deuteronomy 6:7)? In what manner? To whom? In what four situations shall they talk about them? What does that leave? What two other things are they to do with the Lord’s words (Deuteronomy 6:8)? And on what two places to write them (Deuteronomy 6:9)?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and first song all come from Deuteronomy 6:1–9 so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Oh, Blest the House

In this passage, the prospering of the entire nation of God’s people (Deuteronomy 6:1Deuteronomy 6:3), and of generations of God’s people (Deuteronomy 6:2), is connected directly to the day-by-day, moment-by-moment living of each particular household among that people (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Yahweh Himself is the point of all things’ existence (Deuteronomy 6:4). And this is true, in a special way, of those to whom He has given Himself as their very own covenant God in order that they would love Him with every part and aspect of who they are and what they have (Deuteronomy 6:5). 

Surely, you who have been redeemed by Christ and His blood, you whom God has taken to Himself as His very own covenant people, you to whom God has given Himself as your very own covenant God… surely You with to make all of your living into a loving of Him with all that you are!

But what does it look like? Is it an emotional ecstasy that you experience as you go about doing whatever you otherwise would have done? Is it an volitional exercise, in which you do those things but offer your will in them unto the Lord? Is it merely measured by doing the right things with as much effort as possible? It is all of these things, but Deuteronomy 6:6-9  teach us that He Himself has made it all about His words: His words in the heart, His words in the hearing (and speaking), His words on the hand, His words in the head, and His words on the house.

Heart. “These words shall be in your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). The “heart” was used of the control center for the intellect, emotions, and will. God’s word must control the basic instruction set at the center of who we are, determining everything else about us. God’s word must be the non-negotiable, inalterable architecture of our “CPU.” However accurately we think about Him, mushily we feel about who we think He is, or diligently we obey His words, it isn’t love unto Him unless these things are in control of our identity, our being, our life. So when we read on our own, or consider His Word in family worship or public worship, we ourselves must be formed and shaped by His Word. It’s not enough to have that Word direct various other things about us. It must be in our hearts.

Hearing. The fundamental command in Deuteronomy 6:4 was to “hear” … “these words which I command you today” (Deuteronomy 6:6). How can the words get to the heart unless they are first received? God’s primary method for our receiving them is hearing. Yes, there is benefit to reading God’s Word, and we are commanded to do so in Scripture (cf. 1 Timothy 4:13, Revelation 1:3). But God especially uses the hearing (cf. Romans 10:14–15). So here, the command is “hear” in Deuteronomy 6:4 and then “you shall teach them diligently” (Deuteronomy 6:7a) and “you shall talk of them” (verse 7b). God’s plan for getting His words into our hearts is that we hear His words from a preacher. And God’s plan for getting His words into our children’s hearts is that they hear His words not only from a preacher but also from their parents.

Where should our children hear the Scriptures from us? Everywhere. “When you sit in your house” (verse 7c), we should not “relax” from being “on” with God’s Word. That’s specifically where we should be verbalizing it. Where we make it auditorily available to our children. And when we go out—"when you walk by the way” (verse 7d)—we are not to “tone it down” because we’re “in public.” No, that also is a specific place that we should talk of God’s words. We mustn’t deprive our children based upon location (and who knows who else might get to hear those words as they eavesdrop upon us?).

When should our children hear the Scriptures from us? All the time. But especially “when you lie down” (verse 7e). Speaking to them from Scripture isn’t just something that we are to do throughout the day, but we should have a special time of it at the end of the day. And especially “when you rise up” (verse 7f). We should have a special time of speaking God’s words to our children at the beginning of the day. This habit of stated times of discussing God’s Word with them is what facilitates saturating the rest of the day with that Word. The bookends of the day determine the manner in which we live through all the time in between.

Hand. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand” (Deuteronomy 6:8a). God’s words should determine what we are going to do and the way in which we are going to do it. But that needs to be evident to more than just ourselves. The words are to be “as a sign on your hand”—there should be a clearly evident connection that someone who hears those words and then sees what your hand does. Our children should be able to tell that the things that we are always talking about with them from the Scripture are the very things that determine what we do and how we do it. In this way, not only do you tell them the role that God’s words should have in their lives, but by observation of this “sign on your hand” they are also able to see what that looked like in your life, so that they can apply it to theirs.

Head. “They shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (verse 8b). Put your finger upon the bridge of your nose. Because you have binocular vision, the way that you see anything else will be affected, shaped by the presence of your finger. God’s words should be like that to us: affecting how we see anything and everything. But again, for our children, that should be evident to them. It’s strange to see someone who has always worn glasses around you without them, or who has always had a beard with it shaved off. And our seeing things according to God’s words should be so normal to our children, that they would find us strange-looking indeed if this ever were not the case.

House. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9). The Scripture-saturation of our lives should be evident to all who come onto the property or enter our home. These signposts in verse 9 are like fair warning that you won’t be toning anything down for outsiders. I had friends growing up whose parents liked to say, “my house, my rules.” But the believer should be someone who could consistently say, “my house, God’s rules.”

In some circles these days, someone who lives as described above may be accused of “bibliolatry.” But here in Deuteronomy 6:1–9, we can see that this is God’s own description of what it looks like to love Him with all that we are. A divorcing of God from His Word could certainly make someone what might rightly be called a “bibliolater.” But there is no level of intensity or frequency of discussing and following that word that is too much, any more than there is any level of loving the Lord that is too much. The Scripture-saturated life is simply how we love the Lord.

What is your thought life like? What are your days like? What might those who live with you conclude about the place of God’s words in your life? Based upon an honest answer to those questions, how might you better love the Lord?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us Your own words by which to love You. Forgive us for when we let something else be at the center of our heart or life, and grant that Your Spirit would make us so full of Your words, that our children would hear and see that, as also would anyone else who enters our house. For we ask this in Him Whose Name is itself the Word, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or TPH548 “Oh, Blest the House”


Monday, February 21, 2022

O Yahweh!—the First Corporate Worship Song (2022.02.20 Evening Sermon in Exodus 15:1–21)

After displaying Himself in Israel's salvation, Yahweh gave Israel a song about it in which their hearts might be penetrated with the knowledge of Who Yahweh is—not only to Israel corporately but also to each Israelite individually.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

The Hope of the Promise (2022.02.20 Morning Sermon in Acts 2:39)


Man’s hope depends not upon his own profession, but upon God’s promise, the sign of which is baptism.


(click here to DOWNLOAD video/mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

2022.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 2:39–41

Read Acts 2:39–41

Questions from the Scripture text: What had the Lord already given them (Acts 2:39a, cf. Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32; Psalm 110:3)? Who else could come into these promises (Acts 2:39b, cf. Joel 2:28, Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6)? What did Peter add to this original response (Acts 2:40)? How had some received this word of response (Acts 2:41a)? What happened to them? What was added (verse 41b, cf. Acts 1:15)?

“For the promise” is such a comforting phrase at the beginning of this passage. Jesus had come as Lord and Christ to wash them clean from the guilt of their sin—as He had promised. Jesus had come as Lord and Christ to pour out His Spirt to give them repentance over-against their weakness and wickedness—as He had promised. This salvation of such sinners as they are is something that God had planned all along and promised all along. 

“Salvation is according to God’s plan and promise, and it is therefore by God’s provision and power.” This is what baptism affirms that God is doing. And by making that baptism the visible ordinance by which one is added to the number, the Lord communicates to us that the ordinary place where He makes that provision and exercises that power is in His church.

God had promised to pour out His repentance-giving Spirit. God had promised to save fallen sinners. God had promised to have special regard for the children of those whom He was saving. God had promised that this salvation would go out and gather in a remnant from all the nations. This was “the promise” that Peter had preached from Joel 2. But the little-p promise was just one instance of the big-P Promise that had begun in Genesis 3:15, but was most emphasized in places like the covenant that He established with Abraham and the new age of that covenant that He had promised in Isaiah. God would extend His mighty arm and save!

Baptism is an indication that He has done so in Christ. That Christ’s death has atoned. That Christ has taken His seat on the throne and poured out His Spirit. And that in His church, He is carrying out “The Promise” as His Spirit works repentance and faith. It says “you’re in the church.” This doesn’t mean that “you’re in Christ”; in fact, it only further affirms that what you need most of all is the reality of Christ and His Spirit of which water baptism is a picture. But to those who look to Christ as their water baptisms tell them to have this faith in Christ strengthened and confirmed by their water baptisms. 

When faith sees any believer’s water baptism, and remembers that I too am baptized, it can and should say: “He to Whom I am looking for my salvation has really done in His life that accomplishment of salvation upon which I rest, and is really doing in my life by His Spirit that application of salvation for which I hope. However sinful I am, it is not something for which His death cannot atone, and it is not something which His Spirit cannot overcome.”

So, the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for themselves. Yes, they had crucified Him who is both Lord and Christ. But He declares His Lordship and Christ-hood in the water baptism with which they have been baptized. He gives repentance. He gives forgiveness. Even to such as they are! It is not something that they must do, for it is not something that they at all can do. And so, just like their salvation, their water baptism is something that is done to them not by them. 

But what of their children? Seven short weeks ago, they had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children” (cf. Matthew 27:25). . . 

The passive nature of baptism offered them hope for their children. 

The little-p promise from Joel had included sons and daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). Yes, there was an expansion promised that would come out of Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:32), but there was a specific promise touching your sons and your daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). And Christ’s enthronement prophecy in Psalm 110:34–35 especially emphasized not only the willingness with which His people would come but also how like dew at the dawn, He would receive children, first thing in the morning on the day of His power (cf. Psalm 110:3).

The apostle has been preaching texts that teach them that by taking them into His church, where He ordinarily works His salvation, He takes their children into that church, and He offers to them the same salvation through faith. And this has been an essential component of the big-P Promise all along (cf. Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:21). 

One promise, through the ages, still in effect despite the curse they had pronounced. What a relief! For, they could no more give their children repentance and remission than they could give it to themselves. But the One Who does give it, and the One Who is doing so in His church, is taking their children into His church as well. 

Now, parents can use the means of grace—day by day in the home and week by week in the assembly—that Jesus is saving them. Parents call their covenant children to repentance and faith not in fear and anxiety but in confidence and hope. The children needed more than a dad and mom who love Jesus, and lead them in family worship, and give them the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and especially bring them to the public worship for the public administration of the ordinary means of grace. 

Their children needed more than this, infinitely more. They needed the Holy Spirit to give them spiritual life and repentance. And their children’s water-baptisms fueled their hope in this very thing. Would it be in fear that these parents of covenant children followed God’s prescriptions? No. By the mark that the Lord had put upon them, it would be in hope and confidence and joy that He Who had marked them as holy (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14) would use His means to bring them into a holy standing through justification and holy living through sanctification. Rather than agonizing over a moment of conversion that they might slip a dozen times into doubting, they would be watching for the fruit of a faith that they had every confidence that the Spirit was producing.

So the apostle says, “For the promise is to you and to your children.” Not “to you and your children, if you are faithful enough and they are faithful enough that they come to faith.” But rather “to you and your children, concerning whom you trust that the Holy Spirit will be faithful, so that they believe.”

And the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for the nations. For, the Lord is calling a remnant from all the nations (cf. Joel 2:32) just as He had on this particular day called to Himself a remnant of some three thousand from among the Jews (Acts 2:41). Jerusalem, Zion, was just a starting place. Christ’s kingship would spread to the ends of the earth. This too appeared in Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32), Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6), and the recent context in Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8). Again, the little-p promise that the apostle had preached was an instance of a big-p Promise that had always included the nations (cf. Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:8; and the many pictures of all the nations streaming in or praising the Lord in Psalms, Isaiah, etc.). 

This is a great reason for a church that is biblical and spiritually alive to keep membership rolls. For, these are a celebration of the fulfillment of Christ-promises and Christ-prophecies. Three thousand souls were added to their number that day. And the Lord was in the process of saving them (present participle in the original). Rejoice! And, when just one is added to the number, the Lord Jesus teaches us to rejoice with heaven (cf. Luke 15:6–7, Luke 15:10). Membership rolls and counts didn’t begin by men trying to consolidate control or prompt self-praise. They began as a testimony to the faithfulness, power, and goodness of the Lord Christ—and that’s how they ought to continue.

So, what hope do you have? Are you a believer? Then Christ has done that by His Spirit Whom He gave. Are you a church member child who doesn’t yet believe or don’t know if you do? Then your hope must be that Christ Who has given you the mark of His membership and washing and Spirit will give you the inward, eternal reality of that washing and Spirit. Are you an outsider altogether? Then cry out to God that He would call you to Himself as part of that remnant that He is calling by His Spirit.

Which of these four aspects above do you find most needful of growth/improvement in your life? Who can cause this to happen? What does He use to do so? What is your plan for availing yourself of this as you look to Him grow you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, what a blessed effect You produced in that first great congregation that You began to gather at Pentecost. And we thank You that You grant unto us the same repentance by the same Spirit even today. Forgive us for when we aim at less than a repentant, Spirit-filled life. Grant unto us to work out our own salvation, by Your Spirit’s working in us the desire for such a life and the practice of such a life, for we ask it through Christ, Who is our Life, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Reside?” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”


Saturday, February 19, 2022

2022.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 2:39–41

Read Acts 2:39–41

Questions from the Scripture text: What had the Lord already given them (Acts 2:39a, cf. Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32; Psalm 110:3)? Who else could come into these promises (Acts 2:39b, cf. Joel 2:28, Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6)? What did Peter add to this original response (Acts 2:40)? How had some received this word of response (Acts 2:41a)? What happened to them? What was added (verse 41b, cf. Acts 1:15)?

“For the promise” is such a comforting phrase at the beginning of this passage. Jesus had come as Lord and Christ to wash them clean from the guilt of their sin—as He had promised. Jesus had come as Lord and Christ to pour out His Spirt to give them repentance over-against their weakness and wickedness—as He had promised. This salvation of such sinners as they are is something that God had planned all along and promised all along. 

“Salvation is according to God’s plan and promise, and it is therefore by God’s provision and power.” This is what baptism affirms that God is doing. And by making that baptism the visible ordinance by which one is added to the number, the Lord communicates to us that the ordinary place where He makes that provision and exercises that power is in His church.

God had promised to pour out His repentance-giving Spirit. God had promised to save fallen sinners. God had promised to have special regard for the children of those whom He was saving. God had promised that this salvation would go out and gather in a remnant from all the nations. This was “the promise” that Peter had preached from Joel 2. But the little-p promise was just one instance of the big-P Promise that had begun in Genesis 3:15, but was most emphasized in places like the covenant that He established with Abraham and the new age of that covenant that He had promised in Isaiah. God would extend His mighty arm and save!

Baptism is an indication that He has done so in Christ. That Christ’s death has atoned. That Christ has taken His seat on the throne and poured out His Spirit. And that in His church, He is carrying out “The Promise” as His Spirt works repentance and faith. It says “you’re in the church.” This doesn’t mean that “you’re in Christ”; in fact, it only further affirms that what you need most of all is the reality of Christ and His Spirit of which water baptism is a picture. But to those who look to Christ as their water baptisms tell them to have this faith in Christ strengthened and confirmed by their water baptisms. 

When faith sees any believer’s water baptism, and remembers that I too am baptized, it can and should say: “He to Whom I am looking for my salvation has really done in His life that accomplishment of salvation upon which I rest, and is really doing in my life by His Spirit that application of salvation for which I hope. However sinful I am, it is not something for which His death cannot atone, and it is not something which His Spirit cannot overcome.”

So, the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for themselves. Yes, they had crucified Him who is both Lord and Christ. But He declares His Lordship and Christ-hood in the water baptism with which they have been baptized. He gives repentance. He gives forgiveness. Even to such as they are! It is not something that they must do, for it is not something that they at all can do. And so, just like their salvation, their water baptism is something that is done to them not by them. 

But what of their children? Seven short weeks ago, they had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children” (cf. Matthew 27:25). . . 

The passive nature of baptism offered them hope for their children. 

The little-p promise from Joel had included sons and daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). Yes, there was an expansion promised that would come out of Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:32), but there was a specific promise touching your sons and your daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). And Christ’s enthronement prophecy in Psalm 110:34–35 especially emphasized not only the willingness with which His people would come but also how like dew at the dawn, He would receive children, first thing in the morning on the day of His power (cf. Psalm 110:3).

The apostle has been preaching texts that teach them that by taking them into His church, where He ordinarily works His salvation, He takes their children into that church, and He offers to them the same salvation through faith. And this has been an essential component of the big-P Promise all along (cf. Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:21). 

One promise, through the ages, still in effect despite the curse they had pronounced. What a relief! For, they could no more give their children repentance and remission than they could give it to themselves. But the One Who does give it, and the One Who is doing so in His church, is taking their children into His church as well. 

Now, parents can use the means of grace—day by day in the home and week by week in the assembly—that Jesus is saving them. Parents call their covenant children to repentance and faith not in fear and anxiety but in confidence and hope. The children needed more than a dad and mom who love Jesus, and lead them in family worship, and give them the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and especially bring them to the public worship for the public administration of the ordinary means of grace. 

Their children needed more than this, infinitely more. They needed the Holy Spirit to give them spiritual life and repentance. And their children’s water-baptisms fueled their hope in this very thing. Would it be in fear that these parents of covenant children followed God’s prescriptions? No. By the mark that the Lord had put upon them, it would be in hope and confidence and joy that He Who had marked them as holy (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14) would use His means to bring them into a holy standing through justification and holy living through sanctification. Rather than agonizing over a moment of conversion that they might slip a dozen times into doubting, they would be watching for the fruit of a faith that they had every confidence that the Spirit was producing.

So the apostle says, “For the promise is to you and to your children.” Not “to you and your children, if you are faithful enough and they are faithful enough that they come to faith.” But rather “to you and your children, concerning whom you trust that the Holy Spirit will be faithful, so that they believe.”

And the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for the nations. For, the Lord is calling a remnant from all the nations (cf. Joel 2:32) just as He had on this particular day called to Himself a remnant of some three thousand from among the Jews (Acts 2:41). Jerusalem, Zion, was just a starting place. Christ’s kingship would spread to the ends of the earth. This too appeared in Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32), Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6), and the recent context in Luke-Acts (Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8). Again, the little-p promise that the apostle had preached was an instance of a big-p Promise that had always included the nations (cf. Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:8; and the many pictures of all the nations streaming in or praising the Lord in Psalms, Isaiah, etc.). 

This is a great reason for a church that is biblical and spiritually alive to keep membership rolls. For, these are a celebration of the fulfillment of Christ-promises and Christ-prophecies. Three thousand souls were added to their number that day. And the Lord was in the process of saving them (present participle in the original). Rejoice! And, when just one is added to the number, the Lord Jesus teaches us to rejoice with heaven (cf. Luke 15:6–7, Luke 15:10). Membership rolls and counts didn’t begin by men trying to consolidate control or prompt self-praise. They began as a testimony to the faithfulness, power, and goodness of the Lord Christ—and that’s how they ought to continue.

So, what hope do you have? Are you a believer? Then Christ has done that by His Spirit Whom He gave. Are you a church member child who doesn’t yet believe or don’t know if you do? Then your hope must be that Christ Who has given you the mark of His membership and washing and Spirit will give you the inward, eternal reality of that washing and Spirit. Are you an outsider altogether? Then cry out to God that He would call you to Himself as part of that remnant that He is calling by His Spirit.

Which of these four aspects above do you find most needful of growth/improvement in your life? Who can cause this to happen? What does He use to do so? What is your plan for availing yourself of this as you look to Him grow you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, what a blessed effect You produced in that first great congregation that You began to gather at Pentecost. And we thank You that You grant unto us the same repentance by the same Spirit even today. Forgive us for when we aim at less than a repentant, Spirit-filled life. Grant unto us to work out our own salvation, by Your Spirit’s working in us the desire for such a life and the practice of such a life, for we ask it through Christ, Who is our Life, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Reside?” or TPH416 “Your Hand, O God, Has Guided”

Friday, February 18, 2022

2022.02.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 15:1–21

Read Exodus 15:1–21

Questions from the Scripture text: Who did what in Exodus 15:1? What action of Yahweh occasioned this song? What has God shown about Himself (Exodus 15:2Exodus 15:3)? In relation to whom (Exodus 15:2)? Whom did God throw in (Exodus 15:4)? What happened to them (Exodus 15:5)? What did this show (Exodus 15:6)? What part of His excellence had He sent forth (Exodus 15:7)? What initial display of power had the Lord made (Exodus 15:8)? And how had Egypt thought that this would end (Exodus 15:9)? But what happened instead (Exodus 15:10)? To whom does Exodus 15:11 compare Yahweh? What wonder had He done (Exodus 15:12)? What did this show to whom in Exodus 15:13? And what effect would it have upon whom in Exodus 15:14-16? Allowing what to happen (Exodus 15:16-17)? Whose arm? Whose people? Whose place? Whose dwelling? With what ultimate conclusion (Exodus 15:18)? What data does Exodus 15:19 repeat? What does Exodus 15:20 call Miriam? Who, specifically, follow her? What does she lead them in singing (Exodus 15:21)? 

This hymn is organized into three stanzas: Exodus 15:1-6Exodus 15:7-11, and Exodus 15:12-17. Some have called it “the Song of the Sea,” but it would more accurately be titled “the Song of Yahweh.” At the end of each stanza (Exodus 15:6Exodus 15:11Exodus 15:16-17) is some conclusion about Him Himself using a doubling of the language, “O Yahweh!”

So stanza one concludes, “Your right hand, O Yahweh!”

And stanza two concludes, “Who is like You, O Yahweh!”

And stanza three concludes, “In the place/sanctuary, O Yahweh!”

The occasion for the song is the drowning of Pharaoh and Egypt, but the point of the song (and of the occasion) is for Yahweh to make Himself known. The Lord Himself had told them as much in Exodus 14:4Exodus 14:17-18. And the song captures that this has been a display of the Lord Himself.

So, in Exodus 15:1-6, the Lord has displayed the glory of His hand. He is powerful, unstoppable. If He happens to be your strength, song, and salvation (Exodus 15:2), then you know that you will make it through and be saved, because this must all end with you praising Him. So the stanza concludes, “Your right hand, O Yahweh!”

And, in Exodus 15:7-11, the Lord has displayed that He alone is God. No one else’s purposes (Exodus 15:7Exodus 15:9) can overcome, because the exhalation from His nostrils is stronger than the most powerful forces of the creation (Exodus 15:8Exodus 15:10). So the stanza concludes, “Who is like You, O Yahweh!”

Finally, in Exodus 15:12-17, the Lord has displayed that He has taken a people for Himself. Yes, this is bad news for Philistia and Edom and Moab and Canaan (Exodus 15:14-15). But they’re not the point here. The point is the Lord’s mercy to the people whom He is redeeming (Exodus 15:13a–b, Exodus 15:16), the people whom He is bringing all the way home to Himself (Exodus 15:13c–d, Exodus 15:17). Everyone deserves wrath, but the story of history is God patiently enduring those who are perishing out of a desire to display His mercy in those whom He lovingly elects to save (cf. Romans 9:22–23).

It seems that it was part of the Israelite culture, if not the broader ancient-near-eastern culture, that women would take up victory songs in honor of their kings. This was famously an issue for Saul and the Philistines with David (cf. 1 Samuel 18:6–9; 1 Samuel 21:11; 1 Samuel 29:5). Once Moses and the men have sung the song (Exodus 15:1), the women answer antiphonally with Miriam the prophetess leading them (Exodus 15:21). Whether this was done line by line, stanza by stanza, or by the whole song, we cannot tell merely from the first line that verse 21 gives us. But the antiphonal singing communicates the same in any of these cases: what the Lord is for His people as a whole, He is to each of them particularly. He is not just Israel’s Redeemer. He is each Israelite’s Redeemer.

We would do well to see in His great redemption through Christ a display of Himself and Who He is to His church and to each Christian. And we would do well to see this also in every “small” deliverance in our lives. Let our hearts—and our voices—be ever ready to declare His praise. And, let us especially relish the opportunity to do so in the assembly of His people.

What great deliverance has the Lord given you? What smaller deliverances? In each of these, what are some of the things that He has shown about Himself? How/when do you respond with praise?

Sample prayer:  Lord, Your mighty hand has saved us, for You alone are God, and You have taken us for Yourself as Your people. Forgive our sluggishness to praise You and frequent coldness, even as we do so. We look forwward to the completion of Your work in us, when Your praise will properly thrill us, and overflow through our mouths from out of our hearts. Grant that Your Spirit would be doing this work in us, unto Your great glory, which we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH98A “O Sing a New Song to the Lord”

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Sweeter Silence and Stronger Hope (2022.02.16 Prayer Meeting sermon in Psalm 39)

The Lord uses affliction to train us into sweeter silence and stronger hope.
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2022.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 4:16–18

Read Colossians 4:16–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the Colossians to do with the letter first (Colossians 4:16a)? Where else were they to do this (verse 16b)? What else were they to read (verse 16c)? To whom were they to speak (Colossians 4:17)? What were they to tell him to do? Who wrote out Colossians 4:18? What did he want them to remember? How did he greet them in closing?  

Having sent a number of greetings already, the epistle closes not with greetings but with reference to several components of public worship: the reading of Scripture, the ministering of the Word, prayer, and benediction.

Public (congregational) reading of Scripture. We’re familiar with 1 Timothy 4:13, which commands Timothy to “give attention to reading.” Many, probably rightly, think that he’s referring to reading in public worship. It’s even clearer in Colossians 4:16. First, this epistle was to be read among (“with”) the Colossians, not just by them. The preposition is even clearer once they send this letter on. It is to be read in the church of the Laodiceans. The Laodiceans already had a letter, possibly (probably?) what we now call Ephesians, and they were to pass it along for reading in worship as well. This is also evidence that the New Testament books were being recognized as Scripture as they were written (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 3:15–16; 1 Timothy 5:18b with Luke 10:7).

Ministry of the Word. The congregation is to encourage Archippus to “see to the ministry which [he had] received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17). Considering Colossians 4:12-13, though Archippus may have been a preacher already, it seems that he is currently filling Epaphras’s shoes in that faithful pastor’s absence. It is biblical and good for a congregation to encourage its minister to keep on in and focus upon his ministry.

Prayer. There is an assumption in Colossians 4:18 that this is a praying congregation. Paul, nearly blind now, is writing the greeting in his own hand (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 19). The difficulty for him to do so adds a personal intensity. But before the final blessing, he takes the opportunity to give a prayer request in his own hand. “Remember my chains.” It’s easy to forget the difficulty of others’ circumstances (hence the emphasis on giving and receiving of news in Colossians 4:7-9). Here, the Spirit emphasizes to us that we remember those who are imprisoned for the gospel, as well as those who preach the gospel. Paul is both.

Benediction. Although the apostle craves their intercession, the last word is a word of blessing. This, is a pattern throughout his epistles, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. It is one final reminder that the Lord Jesus is Yahweh, Who blessed His people—most famously, perhaps, in Numbers 6:22–27. He came in order to secure our blessing, and having risen and ascended to glory, He now pronounces that blessing upon us. 

These four things being integral parts of the public worship, we can see how the apostle has closed his letter in a way that especially commends to them the public worship of God. To us, too, he has done so. Just as Colossians was to be passed onto the Laodiceans, and Ephesians was on its way to Colossae from Laodicea, so also now these letters have come to our own churches, where they are read and preached as holy Scripture. Where we remember others together in prayer. Where we have the Lord’s blessing pronounced upon us. What a glorious thing is the congregational worship of Christ’s church!

How does your life, and your household’s life, reflect the importance and blessedness of public worship?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your gift of the public worship in the congregation, and for prescribing to us in Your Word what we should do in that public worship. Truly, You have filled it with that which is good and glorious! Forgive us for how lightly we sometimes take it, and by Your Spirit make us to be diligent and zealous in it, we ask through Christ, AMEN!


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Spirit-ual Skill for a Spectacular Temple (Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 7:13–51)

What are we to make of this part of the making of the temple? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Kings 7:13–51 prepares us for the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty-nine verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that He sustains and superintends the building not only of Solomon’s great, strong, beautiful, detailed, and costly temple—but also of that eternal temple of which even such a temple as Solomon’s was a mere shadow of a hint.
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2022.02.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 7:13–51

Read 1 Kings 7:13–51

Questions from the Scripture text: Who brought whom from where (1 Kings 7:13)? Who was his mother (1 Kings 7:14)? Who was his father? With what was he filled? What did he cast in 1 Kings 7:15? What were their dimensions? What did he make in 1 Kings 7:16, with what dimensions? What did he make in 1 Kings 7:17? What did they adorn? What else did he make for the pillars and capitals (1 Kings 7:18)? What shape and size were the capitals of the hall pillars 1 Kings 7:19, cf. 1 Kings 7:22)? How many total such capitals were there (1 Kings 7:20)? Where did he set up the two (1 Kings 7:21)? What were their names? What did he make in 1 Kings 7:23, of what shape and size? What decoration was below the brim in what arrangement (1 Kings 7:24)? Upon what did the sea stand (1 Kings 7:25)? How thick was the material of the bowl (1 Kings 7:26a), what was its shape (verse 26b), and what was the volume of the bowl (verse 26c)? What else did he make of what dimensions (1 Kings 7:27)? What was their design (1 Kings 7:28-32)? What were their wheels like (1 Kings 7:33)? Its supports (1 Kings 7:34)? Its top (1 Kings 7:35)? How else was it decorated (1 Kings 7:36)? How different were the carts from each other (1 Kings 7:37)? What else did he make 10 of, and of what size (1 Kings 7:38)? Where did all of these go (1 Kings 7:39)? What else did Huram make (1 Kings 7:40)? What did he make altogether (1 Kings 7:42-45)? Of what? Where did he make them (1 Kings 7:46)? How heavy (1 Kings 7:47)? What did Huram’s bronze objects complete (1 Kings 7:48)? What were the various items all together (1 Kings 7:48-50)? What was finished (1 Kings 7:51)? What did Solomon bring now, and where did he put them?

The bulk of this passage (1 Kings 7:13-47) concerns the work of Hiram. The NKJV translates his name “Huram” even though it’s spelled just like the king’s name. This is probably to differentiate him from King Hiram of Tyre, and as 1 Kings 7:14 shows, he really couldn’t be more different. His daddy was a skilled bronze worker, but not royalty or a warrior. His mother was a Naphtalite widow who went and married outside of Israel—not a spiritually recommended thing to do, especially considering that the very wealthy port city of Tyre is closely identified with rampant wickedness throughout much of Scripture.

But none of this really mattered. The necessary thing was that he be “filled with wisdom and understanding and skill.” This reminds us of Bezalel and Aholiab (cf. Exodus 31:1–3; Exodus 36:1) and the fact that all true wisdom and skill (in the regenerate and unregenerate alike) comes from the Holy Spirit. There are no coincidences, and it was the Lord Who had coordinated this for this house that would point forward to Christ’s infinitely glorious dwelling as God with His people.

The bulk of the passage is spent detailing (and there are so many details!) the work that Huram was brought in to do. Intricacy is matched here by immensity. The two twenty-seven-foot tall pillars get most of the press, but the twelve-thousand-gallon “sea” is nothing to sniff at either. 

Why include such monumental (literally) pillars, with such intricate capitals, if they aren’t part of the load-bearing structure (1 Kings 7:21)? Why set the sea up on the backs of twelve bronze oxen (1 Kings 7:25)? Even though we’ve moved away from such architecture and agriculture, we still have phrases that help us understand. “She’s a pillar.” “He’s an ox.” And the pillars’ names communicate the same: Jachin (“Yahweh has established”) and Boaz (“strength”). If I can write this reverently, “Yahweh is the load-bearing structure of His people.”

This goes back to the original plan for the temple. In  2 Samuel 7:122 Samuel 7:132 Samuel 7:16, the Lord had used “Jachin’s” same root verb for what He would do with David’s throne. The house that Solomon built would not last forever, but the Lord would establish a kingdom and temple in Christ that would indeed be established forever. Jachin!

If you are a believer, then you now know that your life is hidden with Christ in God (cf. Colossians 3:1–4). Your inheritance cannot be diminished, defaced, or stolen (cf. 1 Peter 1:3–5). The Name that you pray about will most certainly be hallowed; the kingdom that you pray about will most certainly come; the will that you pray about will most certainly be done. The temple of Christ’s body was destroyed, and He rebuilt it three days later (cf. Mark 14:58, Mark 15:29; John 2:19–22). There it now sits upon the throne of glory. Here it will soon return. And the dwelling place of God will be with His people (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3). Jachin!

What circumstances in your life seem chaotic and unstable to you? Why and how can you have stability in strength instead? By what practical means can you embrace this stability and strength?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You established something far more wonderful and strong than Solomon’s temple. You have established Yourself as our temple, our stability, and our strength in Jesus Christ. Forgive us for when we look to things below for purpose or power, and grant unto us that life that is from above by the ministry of Your Spirit, in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP122 “I Was Filled with Joy and Gladness” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

How to Stand against the Devil (Family Worship lesson in Ephesians 6:10–18)

How are we to stand against the Devil? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Ephesians 6:10–18 prepares us for the first portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses, the Holy Spirit teaches us that thought the devil wars ferociously against us, yet we can stand in God’s strength by His Spirit’s use of His Word and prayer.
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2022.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 6:10–18

Read Ephesians 6:10–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call the Ephesians saints in Ephesians 6:10? What does he command them to do? In Whom? And in what? What does he say to put on (Ephesians 6:11)? How much of it? So that they might be able to do what? Against what/whom? What didn’t the apostle and the Ephesians wrestle against (Ephesians 6:12)? Against what did they wrestle? What, again, were they to take up (Ephesians 6:13)? How much of it? That they might be able to do what? When? And then what? And then what? What command does Ephesians 6:14 repeat? With what are they to gird their loins (waist)? What is to be as a breastplate to them? What footwear should they put on (Ephesians 6:15)? How does Ephesians 6:16 begin by telling us the importance of this item? What is it? With it, what will they be able to do, to what, from whom? What is the next piece of equipment to take (Ephesians 6:17a)? What is the helmet? What is next? Whose sword is it? What is the sword? What are believers to do always (Ephesians 6:18)? With all of what two things? In Whom? Being what unto this end with all what? And all what? For all of whom?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and first song all come from Ephesians 6:10–18 so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Soldiers of Christ, Arise.

One of the things that is sometimes missed in the apostle’s teaching about the spiritual war is that we are given marching orders. Our Commander in Chief has identified the location and nature of the battle, and has given His great order: “Stand!”

But where, against whom, against what, and how? The context in which this battle occurs has been established by the preceding sections. In Ephesians 5:8–16, the apostle discussed being light against the darkness by the fruit of the Spirit. And then in Ephesians 5:17–21 he talked about how the great thing that is needed to live wisely in the evil days is to be filled with the Spirit. Now, he brings us back to that thought in Ephesians 6:13’s “evil day.” Before, he had said to “walk” three times (Ephesians 5:1Ephesians 5:8Ephesians 5:15), and now he indicates just how difficult this is by changing the command to “stand” three times (Ephesians 6:11Ephesians 6:13Ephesians 6:14). What has changed? He has told us where the battle is especially taking place: marriages, parent-child relationships, everyday work. For the kingdom of light to advance, ground must not be lost in any of these areas. How often we have heard of those who thought themselves advancing the kingdom but failed to stand in their marriage, parenting, and employment/finances!

So, against whom are we doing battle? Coming out of Ephesians 5:22–6:9, our flesh will say “spouses,” “parents,” “children,” “bosses,” or “employees.” But it is a great mistake to think that flesh and blood is our great opposition. It is the devil himself (Ephesians 6:11) whose very organized army (Ephesians 6:12) is taking aim at us. And they do so not so much in the earthly circumstances, but rather attacking who we are in Christ. The “heavenlies” in verse 12 are the place where we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) where He has been raised and seated (Ephesians 1:20), and we have been raised and seated together with Him (Ephesians 2:6). This is where the manifold wisdom of God is displayed in Christ (Ephesians 3:10).

Our marriages, parent-child relationships, and everyday work are where we slip the most. Where we fall the most. And where maintaining the display of Christ’s resurrection life in us is most at stake. This is the place where the devil has instructed his well-organized, wicked, forces to attack. This is the place where we must summon not all of our strength, so much as all of the Lord’s strength, if we are just to stand!

Finally, how are we to do battle? Some Christians marvel at others whom they think to be “real spiritual warriors” or “in real spiritual warfare.” Dear Christian, that’s you. You are under attack all day, every day. And it is by the Lord’s strength that you are to be strong, just so that you can stand. And keep standing.

Having been briefed on the enemy and given our orders, Ephesians 6:14–16 proceed to describe our equipment. We notice that although it is in the Lord Himself and His powerful might that we are to stand, there is a duty placed upon us to put on this armor. 

We are told to gird with the belt and put on the breastplate. We are told to put on the shoes and take the shield. Yes, it occurs only by God’s grace, only by God’s power. But that does not remove from us either responsibility or activity. Rather, it emphasizes that responsibility because the God in Whom we are told to be strong has told us to do this, and it narrows the central focus of our activity to those particular things that this God has told us to do.

A second thing to notice about our equipment, even before getting to the pieces of the armor themselves, is that these are corporate commands. We are not surprised, since this fits perfectly with what the apostles spent much of chapter four drilling into us about how believers grow up into Christ our Head. But, in our fleshly individualism we are forgetful both of the needs and the needfulness of others. So, it bears pointing out that these are pieces of armor that we put on together, as part of the body of Christ. This corporate aspect is especially noticeable in the shoes and the shield. The shoes of the gospel of peace almost certainly refers us back to the beautiful feet of the one who announces good news of peace in Isaiah 52:7, and in this book we have learned that we all address one another with this glorious truth (Ephesians 4:12–16), especially in that corporate worship where we address one another with the Word in songs by which the Lord fills us with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18–21). If you’re missing corporate worship, you are not the beautiful-footed gospelist of Isaiah 52:7 whom we now see as the sure-footed soldier of Ephesians 6:15.

The shield of faith is also one that must be corporately wielded. Of the Roman shields, this was the large one that was used together with the rest of your unit to make an impregnable enclosure. This is confirmed by the fact of its primary use being against fiery darts. Under a hailstorm of pitch-coated fiery arrows, these shields need to be used together in unison. How many a believer has found it nearly impossible to resist doubt and temptation by himself, and then he has gone into the assembly where we all lift together the shield of faith, and the Lord has guarded and delivered him there! 

And it is precisely that shield of faith in which we cling to the truth of God, His Word as the belt by which all the pieces are held together. And also to the righteousness of Christ, through which no attack can wound us. It is by the exercise of faith that His perfect truth also makes us wiser in the truth and ourselves more faithful and true. It is by the exercise of faith that Christ’s perfect righteousness that has been counted to us begins to be reflected in the righteous way that we live. It is no longer we who live, but Christ Who lives in us. The life that we live, we live by faith in the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself for us!

So, while it is ultimately true that what we are really being told here is “put on Christ,” it is helpful to see that Christ has given us specific actions by which He will graciously make that an experienced reality in our lives. And first and foremost, those actions are the clinging together to His Word and His righteousness, as He has given to us to do in His corporate worship. It is this that will be the means by which we come to live as children of light in our everyday lives. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God!

In considering all of this armor, we must conclude that in the providence of God, the Christian’s mind is immensely important. As we battle a world whose days are evil, the way not to be conformed to it is to be transformed instead by the renewing of our mind (cf. Romans 12:2). Here, the apostle tells us what God employs for guarding our minds: His salvation. Our minds tend to be wrapped up in ourselves, our circumstances, even our enemies—almost anything but our Savior, the state of salvation into which He has brought and is bringing us, and the saving work by which He has done so.  But these are the very things with which our thoughts ought to be obsessed, if our precious minds are to be protected and preserved! This is the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Romans 13:11).

Those who belong to the light and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12, cf. Ephesians 5:6–15) are those who keep the eyes of their mind sharply focused upon the rapidly approaching completion of that salvation which Christ has won (Romans 13:11). The unassailable reality of who Christ is and what He has done for us guards our minds by the unassailable certainty of what He shall soon have finished doing in us and to us. This is part of why the helmet and the sword are so closely connected here. With respect to the battle for our minds, we are like David standing over the giant whom he had just knocked down; we have no sword of our own, and must reach instead for that superior sword that belongs to a far superior Warrior (cf. 1 Samuel 17:45, 1 Samuel 17:50–51; 1 Samuel 21:9). The sword of the Holy Spirit Himself (Ephesians 6:17b)!

What’s interesting in the transition to Ephesians 6:18 is the manner in which this sword is to be wielded—really, the manner in which all of the armor is to be worn. We have seen in Ephesians 6:14-16 that there is a strong emphasis on the necessity of participation in corporate worship and the specific activities that God has commanded in it: hearing the truth of Word read and preached, addressing one another with it in songs of the gospel of peace, taking up together at the Lord’s table the breastplate of Christ’s alien righteousness and the shield of faith as the corporate meal shows forth His death and affirms the covenant in His blood.

But now in Ephesians 6:18, the apostle highlights prayer as the means by which this armor that is taken up in the public worship is applied at all times. “Praying always.” The main place that the Spirit leads us to employ His Word is before the face of God Himself. Everything that the Bible tells us about who God is, and what He has done, we are to be constantly bringing back before Him in prayer, acknowledging everything that the Bible tells us about who we are, what we are like, what God requires of us, and what we need in order to do so. 

All prayer. All supplication. What God tells us about Himself and about ourselves in the word of God must become the substance of our praying, for this praying is to be “in the Spirit” Whose sword has just now been mentioned in Ephesians 6:17. This is to be the constant condition of the Christian, as he tells us to pray “with all perseverance,” which he calls “being watchful” (literally, staying awake). The one who is not “praying always” from the Word of God, having God as his constant companion and God’s Word as his constant conversation, is asleep in battle! 

And the apostle immediately gives us an example of what Word-saturated prayer will be like. It will focus upon what God focuses upon: all of His saints. It will be broad and blanketing in its scope, thinking much upon the whole of Christ’s body. But this broadness will also aim with specificity at those things that Christ Himself has highlighted as necessary. So, guard your mind by being obsessed with Christ’s finished and ongoing work. Accumulate a thorough knowledge of Scripture, that becomes the substance of a constant conversation with God your constant companion. And pray especially for those who have been called to minister that Word to God’s people in all places.

Where and with whom do you spend the most time. Whom will you be tempted to think of as the enemy? But who really are your enemies? What does the enemy want you to do? What will it look like to stand against him? How will you be able to stand against him? How does singing thoughtfully and heartily in public worship help you cling to God’s truth? How does it help you cling to Christ’s righteousness? When we hear, pray, sup, and ‘amen’ together, what are we taking up? With what do your thoughts tend to be consumed? How can they be more consumed with Christ? How do your prayers reflect a care for the church as a whole? How do they reflect a focus on Christ’s plan for His church?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are our Commander and our Champion, but we are prone to fight the wrong battles or to fight in our own strength. This isn’t just foolish, but wicked, and we look to You to forgive us and reform us, which we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH540 “Soldiers of Christ, Arise!”