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

Saturday, April 30, 2022

2022.04.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 6:3

Questions from the Scripture text: What do the apostles tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? 
The purpose of the diaconate is to free up the ministry of the Word. The work of the diaconate is to oversee whatever earthly/temporal necessities would otherwise get in the way of that ministry. But this requires answering complaints, addressing needs, leading the congregation in sacrifice, handling money. And deacon is a new leadership position in the church that has Christ as its High Priest in the age of the Holy Spirit. So what kind of men must they be to do this work and hold this office?
Men. The apostles use a male-specific word. There are no qualified women, because “man” is a qualification. 

Of good reputation. Literally “of good witness.” The character of such men testifies to them, and those who genuinely know them testify about them. 

Full of the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? First and foremost, it means that the deacon is a man who believes in the message that the Spirit has been proclaiming since Pentecost: that Jesus is Yahweh from Joel 2:28–32, Who became the Christ, Who pours out His Spirit, and upon Whose Name all that call will be saved. If the deacon is to do his work for the sake of this preaching, he must hold to and believe this preaching. Two of the great evangelists in the forthcoming chapters are from among the seven men chosen in this passage.

The Spirit produced a devotion to public worship (Acts 2:42, Acts 5:42a) and family worship (Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42b). Men who have this Spirit will long for consistency, excellence, and fruitfulness of both. The Spirit produced the love for the brethren that produced the sharing that the deacons would oversee (Acts 2:44–45, Acts 4:34). 

But surely, as the apostles taught in public and in every house, they taught about the difference that the Spirit makes in the believer's life. The New Testament gives this part of the apostolic message most famously in Galatians 5:22–26. He produces in us fruit. Not fruits, plural, but singular in verse 22. The nine aspects named here are all of a single fruit—the Spirit fruit. While the unbeliever may seem to possess one or more of these aspects, he rarely demonstrates them all superficially, and more importantly, they are neither truly his in the heart and nor especially aimed first at the Lord. Believers will have all of the fruit, and more importantly have them first and foremost toward the Lord, and in increasing measure.

Love—wholehearted desire for the good of the object, first and foremost the desire that God would receive His due glory, and then one’s neighbor as oneself. Joy—especially flowing from love for God, because of delight in the absolute confidence that He will, indeed, receive that due glory. Peace—the resting that this God bends all things toward that glory and our good.

And how does one whose heart is ruled by love, joy, and peace act toward others? With patience—necessary, because others are sinners, and love/joy/peace means bearing long with their sin. And with kindness—that countenance, and word choice, and tone, and manner that communicates a desire for others’ good; kindness is an outward manner that displays love. And goodness—actions that aim to fulfill this desire for the good of others. And faithfulness—saying what you mean, keeping your promises, fulfilling your obligations; never needing to compromise, because your wellbeing can’t be improved beyond that perfect good that the Lord is already doing you.

Finally, how does one whose heart is ruled by love, joy, and peace act toward himself? Primarily by distrusting our heart, actually. Distrusting our heart’s opinion of ourselves, and distrusting our heart’s emotions desires. 

Gentleness, in many ways, is distrusting our heart’s overinflated view of ourselves. The word translated ‘gentleness’, is actually meekness. Meekness toward God: submissiveness to obey God’s Word and submissiveness to accept His providence. And meekness toward man: recognizing that any good we have is a gift, esteeming others better than ourselves, and preferring their interests to our own.

And self-control acts upon a distrust of our heart’s emotions and desires. It begins with the recognition that our feelings are not to be trusted, and that even when our desires aren’t wrong (as they often are), they constantly tend toward disproportion. So, self-control is really Scripture-control by Spirit-control. It measures feelings and desires against the Bible, and acts not according to the impulses of our hearts but according to the revealed will of God.

But there is something more that must be done if these fruit are going to appear and thrive and grow. Their counterparts must be executed. In order to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), we must crucify the flesh (Galatians 5:24).

Since all believers have the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9) and are led by the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:14), all men should be aspiring to the qualifications of the office of deacon! 

Full of wisdom. The Spirit doesn’t just give character and knowledge but skill in employing that knowledge. This is not unlike the “able men” aspect of Exodus 18:21 (where “fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” correspond to what we’ve already seen above). Stephen himself is going to use this word to describe Joseph’s favor and ability in the presence of Pharaoh (cf. Acts 7:10). A deacon must be a man whom the Spirit has not only given spiritual graces but also skill and proficiency in earthly matters as well. He’s full of wisdom. 

What an encouragement that the Spirit is producing such men! And women. And boys. And girls. Not all to the same extent as a man whom the church would recognize as called to be a deacon. But still, it’s the same Spirit doing the same work! We ought to be recognizing and acknowledging His graces in all our brothers and sisters. And when one begins to stand out, we should be preparing to recognize them as a deacon. When God gives us such officers to us, we should not think, “I could never be like that” but “thanks be to the same Spirit Who made them like that, that He has now also given such men to us to lead us as He grows us to be like that, too.”

What men do you know who have all of these qualifications? How has the Lord been growing you in similar ways? What is one way (hint: this passage is all about it) that God has provided to help you grow more?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us Your Spirit to convince us of Christ and grow us in His grace. And thank You for giving Your church men in whom You have done an exemplary work of grace. Forgive us for so often being content not to grow either individually or as a church, and not seeking more fervently to have such officers and avail ourselves of them. So, work in us by Your Spirit, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Friday, April 29, 2022

Slave-Saints of the Savior: Apostleship as a Model for Christian Identity (2022.04.27 Midweek Meeting sermon in Romans 1:1–6)


As the apostle identifies himself and his calling, he is already teaching believers to define themselves by their relation to Christ.

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

How to Respond to God's Getting Our Attention at Sinai (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 20:1–2)

How should Israel have responded to God’s getting their attention at Sinai? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Exodus 20:1–2 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God was teaching Israel (and us) to heed His Word, to honor His servants, to worship His Name, to embrace our covenant relation to Him, to persist in repenting, and to depend upon Him for that repenting.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.04.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 20:1–2

Read Exodus 20:1–2

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks (Exodus 20:1)? How many of these words? Whom does He declare Himself to be (Exodus 20:2)? Whose does He declare Himself to be? From what place has He brought them in order to bring them to Himself? From what condition has He brought them in order to bring them to Himself? 

God is terrifying. That was one of His main points in chapter 19, and though we may come to Him safely and even boldly through Christ (cf. Hebrews 4:16), it is no less true about Him now that He is a terrifying, consuming fire(cf. Hebrews 12:18–21, Hebrews 12:28–29). 

Considering the terrifying leadup to our passage today, we want to know the right response to such a God and such a display of His power and glory. Here, we see at least six: heed His Word, honor His servants, worship His Name, embrace your covenant relationship to Him, persist in your repentance, and depend upon His power for your persistence.

Heed His Word. “and God spoke all these words, saying.” After a display like in chapter 19, you take seriously whatever God does next. And what God does next is speak. This is His own preferred way of communicating Himself and displaying Himself. Psalm 138:2 says “for You have magnified Your Word above all Your Name.” He makes us to see no form but rather to hear His voice (cf. Deuteronomy 4:10–15, Deuteronomy 4:24). We should respect the sound of His Word like we would the sight of His glory.

So, believe everything He teaches. Obey everything He commands. Come with reverence, submission, adoration, and intent to every time you read, pray, sing, meditate upon, hear read, or hear preached His Word. And we must teach our children to do the same and teach their children in the same way (cf. Deuteronomy 4:14).

Honor His servants. In Exodus 19:9, Yahweh had said that one of the reasons for speaking to Moses in the hearing of Israel was so that they would believe Moses forever (implying whenever Moses spoke God’s Word). Now, in our passage today, that moment has come. Yahweh is elevating His servant before the people (cf. Joshua 3:7, Joshua 4:14).

This is not just for pastors and elders but even parents. Hebrews 13:7a commands respect for those whom the Lord has given us to teach us authoritatively, but it does not use one of the New Testament words for the teaching office in the church. God, Who gives conduct-transforming faith by means of His Word (cf. Hebrews 13:7b), does so through parents just as much as through elders and apostles (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14–17). Like Christian congregations with their ministers, Christian children should honor their parents not only with respect for their position but especially as the word-speaking servants of God, whom He has given them.

Now, for ministers and parents both, those who are appointed speakers in the Lord’s behalf must resist the temptation to crave admiration for themselves. This would be in the same vein, but infinitely worse, than the best man at a wedding trying to allure the bride (cf. John 3:27–30). But, let the messenger seek that honor that will help the listeners hear him gladly, because it is by God’s Word on his lips that they who are the Bride hear the Groom!

Worship His Name. “I am Yahweh,” the Lord begins in Exodus 20:2. He had revealed Himself to Moses on this mountain before, and had revealed His Name in some detail (cf. Exodus 3:13–17). He is the alone eternal God, the uncreated Creator. He is not defined by other aspects or entities; rather, He gives definition to all. And He has revealed Himself especially by covenant, as the God Who takes certain people to be His own covenanted people, and to whom therefore He is their own covenant God. He has introduced Himself as a consuming fire, and begins by declaring His Name, so let us reverence and adore that Name!

Embrace your covenant relation to Him. The Name is glorious: “I am Yahweh.” Therefore, the identification is wondrous, “your God.” If He is the independent I AM, Who is over all and defines all and undefinable by any, is it not truly amazing (mind-stopping in its magnitude) that He proceeds to identify Himself with creatures? And this marvelous identity will take bodily form in the incarnation!

Some think that it’s gnat-straining to quibble about saying “my God” as an exclamatory throwaway. But the fact that He is “your God” to His people is one of the great marvels of Scripture, one of the great marvels of all reality. So, considering it to be gnat-straining is itself a violation of the third commandment! 

Rather, we should rejoice that He is ours. And fulfill the obligations of being a member of His corporate people, since He is ours. And reject all incompatible allegiances, since He is ours. And value as small by comparison all other blessing and honor to the blessing on honor of having Him as ours. And be and live holy, since He is ours. And hate all sin and unholiness, since He is ours. 

Persist in your repentance. “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” At the time that He says this, Egypt is not a great power. It is a ruin (cf. Exodus 10:7). It is a display by its destruction that all that opposes God in pride must also be destroyed (cf. Exodus 18:10–11). The cries of the Israelites (cf. Exodus 2:23–24) have been replaced three months ago by the great cry of Egypt (Exodus 12:30). But as we have already seen, it is one thing to get the Israelite out of Egypt, but an altogether different thing to get Egypt out of the Israelite (cf. Exodus 16:3, Exodus 17:3). 

Now God makes a new display of His greatness and glory and reminds them that He has brought them out of Egypt. He is not just saying that He has brought them out of what the Egyptians had been doing to them, but also that He brought them safely out of what they deserved to have God do to them. Is this not true of us? When He reminds us of that from which He has saved us, isn’t He calling us to live in the manner for which He has saved us?

Romans 6:20–22, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”

Romans 13:11–12, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”

Depend upon His power for your persistence. “Out of the house of bondage.” If Egypt was too strong, against whom they were powerless, then how much more powerless they are against sin! And yet God is about to declare His moral law to them. How can they keep it? Because He speaks to them as One Who has already saved them. He speaks to them as One Who has brought them into covenanted union with Himself as their God. He speaks to them as One by Whose power they are enabled to live in the way required of them as His people.

For whom ought the greatness of God to be most terrifying? For whom ought the greatness of God to be most strengthening and gladdening? How much has your life been a responding to the greatness of God? What means has He given you by which to live more consciously as a response to Him? What use are you making of those means?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You and praise You that You have spoken to us, revealed Yourself to us, made Yourself ours, and redeemed us. Forgive us for living in response to so many lesser things rather than in response to these great realities. And by Your own redeeming power, grant that Your Spirit would complete the work that You have begun in us we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP5 “Listen to My Words, O LORD” or TPH5 “Hear My Words, O LORD”

 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Sanctification in the Lord, by the Spirit, at the Heart of Marriage (Family Worship lesson in 1Thessalonians 4:1–8)

What is God’s will for me? What is God’s will for my marriage? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Thessalonians 4:1–8 prepares us for the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God’s will for every part of a believer’s life is sanctification. This means that just as important as the question of whom to marry is the question of how to approach marriage. In this, sanctification is to be prioritized, passions of the heart and flesh resisted, parents consulted, Christ to be pleased, and the Holy Spirit to be depended upon.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.04.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in 1 Thessalonians 4:1? What two things does he do to them? In Whom? That they should do what? How much? What things had they received, in which he was now urging and exhorting them to abound? In what form (1 Thessalonians 4:2a) had he delivered this prescribed walking and pleasing God? Through Whom were these commandments given (verse 2b)? What is God’s will for them (and for you!, 1 Thessalonians 4:3a)? Upon what part of this sanctification does he zero in (verse 3b)? What is the first verb in 1 Thessalonians 4:4? What is it that they should know—how to obtain his own wife (vessel, cf. 1 Peter 3:7, commonly used term for wife) in what two ways? What manner of obtaining a wife is opposed to sanctification and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:5a)? Who take wives in this way (verse 5b)? Why do they do it that way? What is being done to a father or husband when a daughter or wife are romanced (or worse) without their knowledge (1 Thessalonians 4:6a)? Who will avenge such defrauding (verse 6b)? In how many cases? When/how have the Thessalonians heard this before (verse 6c, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:2)? What is at stake in obtaining a wife the right way (1 Thessalonians 4:7b)? Who has called us to this holiness (verse 7a)? What does the apostle anticipate will be the response of some (many) to such teaching (1 Thessalonians 4:8a)? But Whom are they really rejecting? Whom has God given us (verse 8b, as an indication both of His desire for us and power toward us to accomplish that desire)?

When the apostle begins “finally then,” he may or may not be concluding an initial plan to finish his letter with this section. But what he is surely doing is underscoring the importance of what follows in these eight verses. 

Increase more and more in walking to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3a).
In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, he had reminded them that the evidence of the authenticity of the apostolic team’s ministry included that they speak “not as pleasing men but God.” And when he commended them in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 for receiving the Word as the Word of God, and for persevering under persecution in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, he reminded them that persecutors “do not please God” (1 Thessalonians 2:15) and would therefore suffer the complete wrath of God. 

Now, he tells them to “increase more and more” in walking to please God. They were urging and exhorting them to this in the Lord Jesus now (1 Thessalonians 4:1a). They had delivered this to them before (verse 1b). The method of delivery had been commandments upon the authority of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:2). And this is “the will of God for” them: sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Sanctification. Walking to please God more and more.

Especially in the area of sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6).
There are so many areas of walking in holiness that the apostle might treat, but here, he emphasizes especially taking “one’s own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:4b). It was common in rabbinic usage to refer to the wife as a “vessel,” and the former Pharisee is almost certainly doing the same here. Another apostle certainly does so in 1 Peter 3:7. And this form of the verb translated “possess” means “take possession,” but not so crassly as that sounds in English. We might say “obtain his own wife.”

The concern here is for forming marriages in an upright and pure way. There are many ways that one might “defraud” the father of the bride, or a woman’s future (or current!) husband, as 1 Thessalonians 4:5b warns against. And if you think such a dad or husband is furious and dangerous, you’re not even beginning to glimpse the fury and danger with which you should really be concerned (verse 5c)! But the worst way is sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3b) and passion of lust (1 Thessalonians 4:5a). Giving in to sexual lust is the fruit of not knowing God (verse 5b). Not knowing that He created us. Not knowing that He created them from the beginning, one man and one woman for the purpose of marriage (cf. Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9). Not knowing that marriage exists not only so that we may image God well, but also as a picture of and help unto the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. If we stir up romantic affection for someone other than our spouse, or harbor a fleshly desire for someone who is not our spouse, we despise God Himself. That’s what 1 Thessalonians 4:5 is saying. 

To give in to lust is to set one’s desires upon (or even mix one’s flesh with) someone who is not your own vessel. God forbid! A father or a church (or in this case an apostle) must urge and exhort and deliver to and command the young (and old) people that they restrict their romantic desires to one spouse, ever, until death parts the two. Those who do not are literally exposing those entrusted to their care to the vengeance of God!

And how many of us, even now, wish that those over us in church and home had held before us the knowledge of God as the author of marriage and the avenger of marriage?!

By the call and authority and power of God Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).
One obstacle to this command is how difficult it is to overcome the willfulness of the flesh that refuses to be commanded. But the God Who called us unto Himself in our salvation “did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (verse 7). We must remember that it is impossible for an unbeliever to grow in holiness. But let us also remember that it is impossible that a genuine believer will not grow in holiness. This is what God has called us to in our salvation!

“Therefore, he who rejects this does not reject man, but God” (1 Thessalonians 4:8a). Just like the Word of the gospel was not the word of man but God, so also the command of sanctification is not the word of man but God!

A second obstacle to this command is how powerful romantic and sexual desires can be, and how pleasant the payoff seems to feel in the moment. But God has not left us without resources for this battle. He “has also given us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8b). If one of the great reasons for the gift of the Spirit is sexual purity, then we should not expect to maintain it without using all of God’s means (including Word, sacrament, prayer, secret worship, family worship, public worship, the Lord’s Day, parental accountability, elder accountability, spouse accountability, etc.). Yet, the use of the means of grace must not be in the vain hope that this is a fool-proof “technique” for sexual purity. Rather, the means must be used in conscientious awareness of the Holy Spirit Who gave those means and the hope that He is using them to work out in us the fellowship and life of our resurrected Lord Jesus!

Indeed, this is the only path for any sanctification. And especially in this most important area of sanctification which the apostle here so urgently underscores to us.

What is “the will of God” for you? Why must this happen? How can this happen? How are you pursuing it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise and thank You for calling us to Yourself. We praise and thank You for preparing for us beforehand good works that we might walk in them. We praise and thank You for telling us so plainly what Your will for our life is—that we be sanctified. O forgive us, for we are ashamed of how easily our hearts give in to stubborn willfulness or passionate affection and desire. In this way, we have powerful, passionate moments of atheism. Forgive us! And deliver us! For, You have given us Your Holy Spirit for this reason—that He might apply Christ to us, in Whose Name we also ask this, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred”


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Eight Ways Man-Made Religion Tempts Us and Traps Us—and How We Can Resist Them (Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 12:25–33)

What was that sin that Jeroboam son of Nebat caused Israel to sin? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Kings 12:25–33 prepares us for the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in order to keep God Himself as the Pleasurer and Prescriber of our worship, we must watch against Scriptureless self-talk, Pragmatism, Populism, Creativity as self-expression, fleshly Convenience, Traditionalism, personal investment by Involvement, and Holy days other than God’s.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 12:25–33

Read 1 Kings 12:25–33

Questions from the Scripture text: Who built up what, where, in 1 Kings 12:25? Where did he go/build after dwelling in Shechem? Where does the speech in 1 Kings 12:26-27 take place? What end result is he worried about (verse 26b)? In what way is he worried that this will happen (1 Kings 12:27a)? What sequence of events does he think that this obedience to God’s worship commands will produce (verse 27b)? How does the king come up with his new way of worshiping Yahweh (1 Kings 12:28)? What did he end up making? How does he make it sound like he’s really just interested in making things easier for them? With what words does he remind them that this is a many-centuries historic and traditional way of worshiping Yahweh (cf. Exodus 32:4–5)? In what southernmost and northernmost towns of the northern kingdom did he set this up (1 Kings 12:29)? What did this thing become (1 Kings 12:30)? What else did he make (1 Kings 12:31a)? What else did he make from among whom (verse 31b)? And not from whom (verse 31c)? What else did Jeroboam start (1 Kings 12:32a)? When (verse 32b, cf. Numbers 29:13; 1 Kings 8:2)? Whom did he install for this (1 Kings 12:32c)? How does 1 Kings 12:33 summarize his action? From where was all of this devised?

Why would anyone who had gotten such a marvelous offer as in 1 Kings 11:38 proceed to create religion “from his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33)? There are important lessons here for guarding against our heart’s turning to wicked worship?

Poor self-talk (1 Kings 12:26). Verse 26,  Jeroboam spoke fear in his heart. And not just fear of the unknown, but fear that directly contradicted the promises of God to him (cf. 1 Kings 11:29–39). He ought to have known in 1 Kings 11:40 that Solomon couldn’t carry through on that threat. And he ought to know now that Rehoboam could not take back the ten tribes from him. But instead of recounting to his heart the Word of God, he instead spoke his fears to himself. 

Pragmatism (1 Kings 12:27). Jeroboam’s fears made orthodox worship practice seem undesirable. Oh, how this has afflicted generations of pastors and church leadership boards! Many have thought, “if we just worship how God says then everyone will leave, and if we disciple only by the program that God has established in His church, then no one will do it, and no one will grow.” 

They may not have said it in exactly those words, but Jeroboam almost does. He basically says that if the people worship the way that God has said to, then he’s going to lose his throne and his life. Rather than consider what worship God says is right, he went with the worship that he thought he could use to get “good” results.

But why would the people of the northern kingdom be willing to adopt such false worship? Didn’t they know that false worship had gotten the previous inhabitants of the land exterminated by Yahweh? Now, we have important lessons for guarding against accepting and even appreciating wicked worship.

Popular demand (1 Kings 12:28a). Where our translation says “asked advice,” it’s actually a doubling of the word for “consult.” He “consulted consultations.” Except in Hebrew, this sort of doubling is extremely emphatic. He did all of the polling, market research, etc., until there was no more to be done. He found out what people liked and didn’t like so that he could customize the worship to their preferences. Beware the church that is interested to know how you want them to worship (unless they want to correct you for that). What a believer needs is a church that wants the people to worship the way that their God says.

Creativity (1 Kings 12:28b). Of course, by the end of the chapter, the creativity is off the charts, but here is where it starts. Jeroboam made two calves of gold. Beware of valuing “creativity in worship,” which is a reasonable working definition for “idolatry.” Creativity in worship “arts” often goes hand-in-hand with creativity in worship “theology,” which is one of the reasons that the “calves” thing works.

Bulls, like bunnies and eggs, were symbols of fertility. Several ancient near-eastern religions included metal or stone figures of their male fertility god (usually the most powerful/active of their pantheon) standing on the back of a bull or even twin bulls. But Yahweh is “invisible,” so there’s no one on the back of this bull. And He’s not just invisible but immense, so perhaps He is thought to be straddling the entire northern kingdom from Dan in the north to Bethel in the South. And then, this bull isn’t stone or bronze but gold. Worship like the pagans? They weren’t worshiping like the pagans. They were using the smallest little connection to show how opposite the LORD is! Or so they could have creatively thought. Many such justifications can be made when we get “creative” with our thinking about how we should worship. 

Convenience (1 Kings 12:28c). “It is too much for you.” Worship is hard work. Elderly, disabled, and those with domestic chaos know that it can be hard work getting there. The recent covidification of many churches has tempted a multitude to fall in love with the convenience of virtual worship. Jeroboam couldn’t Zoom you in, but he could at least save you a trip to Jerusalem! 

And once you get there, it can be hard work, especially if you worship God’s way. Singing in which the congregation are “the praise team.” Praying along with extended, led prayer—even if it’s well led—not only keeping up with your thoughts but stirring and lifting up your heart. Listening to a sermon that is explaining all about the Scripture text, and why it means what it means, and what we’re supposed to do about it is a lot more work than being entertained by jokes and stories or pumped up by you-can-do-it-ism. Churches that sell convenience are similar to Jeroboam, and it can be very tempting to go for it.

Tradition (1 Kings 12:28d). Here’s another stroke of genius. Jeroboam quotes Israel’s first high priest, Aaron, “Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” It’s right out of Exodus 32:4 (including the plural, which is in the original in both texts). Like Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:32-33), Aaron had also instituted a new feast, even explicitly calling it a “feast to Yahweh” (cf. Exodus 32:5). So, it had the sentimentality of four hundred years of “church tradition” behind it. And it celebrated a great act of redemption: the exodus from Egypt. 

It’s ancient; it’s been done by “good men”; it’s unto the right God; it celebrates a great moment of His redeeming work. But for the rest of the life of the northern kingdom, we will be hearing just how much God hated it.

Involvement (1 Kings 12:31). There were (for now) Levites in the northern kingdom. But one of the ways the people got sucked into Jeroboam’s worship plans was by involvement. He made satellite campuses (small group meetings?) on the high places (verse 31a) and opened up church office far beyond the narrow strictures of the conservative movement (verse 31b). Now people of all sorts could become priests, not just Levites! He even brought them all to Bethel for a special commissioning ceremony for all the local group leaders (end of 1 Kings 12:32). 

Holidays (1 Kings 12:32). A new feast—what fun! A great time for getting the whole family together, and celebrating deliverance from Egypt and atonement from sin! But where did the significance of the 15th day of the 8th month come from? Not God. Sure, it was the man whom God had very specifically called to rule over ten tribes. But men are just men, and designating holy days is the purview of God alone. 

In these nine verses, we’re reminded of just how easily we can get sucked into inventing religion, and how easily we can get sucked into accepting and approving of manmade religion. So, let us be constantly reminding our hearts from Scripture that God is good, and that God is God. And thus using the Spirit’s means, let us seek that He would convince us to let God alone be God and trust that this is always for good!

How are you countering poor self-talk with Scripture self-talk? How do you go about preparing for and putting forth the hard work necessary for biblical worship? If our hearts are tempted to value manmade worship or religion, of what can we remind ourselves to help resist that?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for showing Yourself God by creating for us the worship style and worship calendar by which You are rightly praised and by which You do us good. Forgive us for being tempted to think that our creativity in worship could bring a better result, or for being tempted to enjoy worship that is designed to cater to us. By Your Spirit, make us content with the religion that You have designed, and make us to rejoice that it is You Yourself Whom we have in it, in Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH151 “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Our Glorious God's Strong, Steady, Joyous City (Family Worship lesson in Psalm 48)

How does God strengthen, steady, and gladden us? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Psalm 48 prepares us for the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us to gain strength and gladness by observation and consideration of how the glory of God is at the center of His people’s life.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.04.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 48

Read Psalm 48

Questions from the Scripture text: What sort of Psalm is this (superscript)? For (“of”) whom was it written? Who is great (Psalm 48:1)? What is to be done greatly? Especially in what place? What else is it called? What does Psalm 48:2 call its height? Who rejoices in it? What two things does verse 2 call it? Who is the great King, Whose city it is (cf. Matthew 5:35)? Who is in her palaces (Psalm 48:3)? What do people know about Him? With what command does Psalm 48:4 begin? Who assembled? How did they pass by? What did they see (Psalm 48:5)? How did they respond to her scope? How did they respond to her strength? What took hold of them (Psalm 48:6)? How badly? What sailors have gone through the same fear (Psalm 48:7)? With what two senses does Psalm 48:8 describe the certainty of the Psalmist’s faith? Where have believers’ faith seen this; what two things is this place called? In the city, what has their faith known about the city? In the midst of what, in this city (Psalm 48:9b) do they think upon what (verse 9a)? What (Psalm 48:10a) determines the quantity and quality of the praise in verse 10b? Where is this praising done? How does verse 10c name the mightiness of the actions of God? With what are these actions full? Who is to rejoice in Psalm 48:11a? And who specifically are to be glad (verse 11b)? Over what (verse 11c)? What five commands does the Psalmist give in Psalm 48:12-13 (cf. Psalm 48:4a)? What are we to observe now? With what structures/images are her defense and beauty described here? Who, really, is her defense and beauty? Why are we to spend so much effort observing and meditating upon this (Psalm 48:13c)? Whom, then, do we see (Psalm 48:14a)? Whose is He (verse 14b)? For how long? What will He do (verse 14c)? For how long?

Great is Yahweh and exceedingly to be praised (Psalm 48:1a)! This is the glorious God, Who will be our God forever and ever, and Whom we know that if He is ours then, surely He will be our guide even until death (Psalm 48:14)! These are the bookends of the Psalm, but the perhaps surprising theme of the Psalm is the location where the Lord’s glory is displayed: His church!

In the Psalm, it’s the city Jerusalem, but there are several hints that this city is something broader and higher and more enduring than the hill that had once been Jebusite. It’s not the city of a great man, but the city of the great God (Psalm 48:1a–b). It’s not a moderately high hill but of a dizzyingly beautiful height (Psalm 48:2a). It’s not just the joy of Israel, but the joy of the whole earth (verse 2b).  It’s location is true north (verse 2c). God Himself is in her ramparts (Psalm 48:3a). God Himself mans (Gods?) her defenses (verse 3b). Unlike Jerusalem, which has seen almost constant chaos for 2500 years, this city is established forever (Psalm 48:8e). The worship in its temple (Psalm 48:9) is attended by praise-ers from the ends of the earth (Psalm 48:10b).

It's not “spiritualizing” or “metaphorizing” to see Jerusalem as the nascent church. For there is a heavenly Jerusalem here in Psalm 48 before the “Jerusalem from above” of Galatians 4:26 and the New Jerusalem out of heaven in Revelation 21:2. Although much further along, the visible church today is still a nascent form of that glorious city. This visible/invisible distinction isn’t an invention of theologians but a reality in the Bible.  Many would scoff to hear that we are to see the glory of God greatly displayed in His church. They’ve been to church!

But Jerusalem then, and the visible church now, is a local expression of something worldwide, an earthly expression of something in heaven, a temporal expression of something eternal. What we are to see, there, however is not how much it falls short of what the city points to, but how marvelously glorious it is that God Himself is in her! In this way, Psalm 48 strikes the same chord as Psalm 46. With such a glorious God as this, Who displays His great glory in such a great Heaven as that, even in our small and weak “city” now has great glory. This God is our God Psalm 48:1. This God is our God, Psalm 48:8. This God is our God, Psalm 48:14!

Who can resist Him? The nations may rage like the kings gathered in Psalm 48:4 and the fleet of Tarshish in Psalm 48:7, but they will be reduced to a madness of panic (Psalm 48:6a), a helpless agony of pain (verse 6b), and the sheer terror of a sailor whose great ship is being shattered to smithereens beneath him (Psalm 48:7)! 

Jerusalem and her temple, and the earthly church now, exists for the worship of God. It is the place where He is praised (Psalm 48:1). It is the place where what is heard of Him (Psalm 48:8a) comes to be known by experience (verse 8b). It is the place where His steadfast, covenanted love is dwelt upon (Psalm 48:9a). It is the place where praise seeks to conform itself to the greatness of the Name of God (Psalm 48:10a–b). It is the place where His almighty power comes and gives righteousness (verse 10c). It is the place where the daughters are not feeble but rejoicing, exulting in the strength of Him Whose judgments determine how all things end (Psalm 48:11).

Or is it? Was Jerusalem such a place? It was supposed to be, but generation to generation forgot their God. Is the church such a place? In many places, praise God, it is. But are there not many places in which God Himself is not the glory of the church? It is so easy to have earthly structure and institution without heavenly reality and focus and joy. So the church must not give up her glorious calling, even in the midst of her current smallness and weakness. 

This is why the Psalm is filled with commands of contemplation and communication. Behold (Psalm 48:4). Walk about, all around, and count (Psalm 48:12). Mark well (Psalm 48:13a). Consider (verse 13b). The reality of God’s genuine presence in the church is one that might easily escape notice. Even worse, that reality is one that rather easily recedes from view. And then what? If God is all her glory, then if she ceases to have Him or to revolve around Him, whatever else she has is utterly worthless, regardless of how much men value it. By multiplication of focuses and activities, the church suffers the greatest subtraction there can ever be: the loss of the glory of God Himself. Therefore, those commands of contemplation are for the purpose also of communication: “that you may tell it to the generation following” (verse 13c). 

What heritage do we seek to leave for the next generation? God Himself! God’s glory as the only and infinite glory of His church. God’s power as her only defense. And therefore God’s institutions as her only program. The church shall never perish; her dear Lord to defend, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end!

Then, we will see His great glory as the only glory of the church.

And then, nothing will ever be able to shake us, because this glorious God is our God. Forever and ever. He will be our guide—even to death.

How is God the greatness and glory of your church? In what activities, especially, do you get to contemplate Him and His glory? To whom, and how, are you communicating this greatness of His glory? When are you most needy of remembering how glorious is the God Who is His church’s defense and guide?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your exceedingly glorious greatness! Your almighty power is an impenetrable defense and makes Your work be established forever. Grant that we would think upon Your lovingkindness in Your worship, so that our praise would arise in accord with the greatness of Your Name. And make us faithful to tell of You and Your glory to the generation that is following us. Help us thus to praise You and know You in Jesus’s Name, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP48B “Within Your Temple” or TPH48A “Great Is the LORD Our God”


Monday, April 25, 2022

Terror at the Bottom of the Fiery Mountain? Jesus Takes Us to the Top of a Better One! (2022.04.24 Evening Sermon in Exodus 19)

God is making us into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, which is utterly dangerous to come near Him to do, unless we come near in Christ.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

The Work of the Deacons: Oversee Earthly Things Needful for the Worship, Discipleship, and Evangelism of the Church (2022.04.24 Morning Sermon in Acts 5:42–6:7)


The Lord has attended, in part, to our earthly needs by giving us Spiritual men to oversee our ministry to one another in those needs. Deacons labor to address these needs so that inconvenience or inconsistency do not become obstacles to spiritual growth.

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

How Should Men Lead Their Families? — 3 of 3 (2022.04.24 Sabbath School)

"How Should Men Lead Their Families" in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness." — 3 of 3. Recap of introduction, plus the father as prophet in the home.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 5:42–6:7

Read Acts 5:42–6:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the apostles doing daily (Acts 5:42)? In what two locations? What did they not stop doing? What was still happening (Acts 6:1)? What arose? Among which two types of Jews? Why—what was happening? Who summon the multitude in Acts 6:2? What do they say is not desirable to leave? Why would they have to leave it? What do they tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? To what two things would the apostles keep giving themselves (Acts 6:4)? How did the congregation respond (Acts 6:5a)? How many of them? Whom did they choose? How does it describe Stephen? What is specifically noted about Nicolas? What do they do with these men (Acts 6:6)? What do the apostles do with them first? Then what? What spreads as a result (Acts 6:7a)? And where do the disciples multiply, and how much (verse 7b)? And from what specific group (and how many) do they see new converts (verse 7c)? How is this conversion described?

Up to this point in the church, the work of the apostle had also included the Work of the Deacon. Wherever the apostles were, if someone knew of a need and had sold something in order to supply that need, the benefactor would come lay the money at the apostles’ feet (cf. Acts 4:34–5:2). 

But the number of disciples was multiplying (Acts 6:1), and as happens with finite people and increasing tasks, mistakes were made. The Jewish widows of Greek background and culture fell through the cracks in the daily distribution, while the Jewish widows of Hebraic background and culture were always taken care of. Perhaps, there was even grumbling that all of the apostles were of Hebraic background. 

The language of “serving tables” in Acts 6:2 doesn’t imply that the twelve were themselves purchasing the money and distributing the food. But even the oversight of this good work was not to be compared to the more necessary duties involved in maintaining that worship and discipleship that was the core ministry of the church (Acts 5:42Acts 6:4, cf. Acts 2:40–43). Overseeing such an increasingly extensive and sensitive distribution was something that others were needed to do. Acts 6:3 makes plain that this new office is an office of overseeing the ministry of the church in these temporal things. 

The qualifications of a deacon were therefore similar to the qualifications of judges in God’s church ever since Exodus 18. In Exodus 18:18 and Deuteronomy 1:9–12, the same problem had arisen. There were just too many Israelites in that newly founded church, and they had too many complaints. 

So it doesn’t surprise us that the qualifications are similar. The new deacons must be men. There is a generic word for human sometimes translated “man,” but the apostles use the male-specific word in Acts 6:3. And these men were to be of good reputation—not just men who claimed to be godly, or about whom an individual had claimed that they were godly, but men about whom the wider congregation generally acknowledged that these claims were true.

In Deuteronomy 1:13, the qualifications were “wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men.” In Exodus 18:21, the list had been “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.” The last three qualifications in that list cover the same character as “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” in our passage. The Spirit first and foremost gives knowledge of God, faith in Christ, and the justification and sanctification that come out of faith-forged union with Christ. The fear of the Lord, which the Spirit gives, is the beginning of that wisdom in Acts 6:3

The speech as a whole is gladly received (Acts 6:5a) and the instruction immediately carried out. The list in verse 5 is probably in order of prominence, as we will hear more about Stephen and Philip until the end of chapter 8, as the Spirit authenticates their diaconal ministry with Word and sign. Here, Stephen is called “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Nicolas being from Antioch implies that he has a Greek culture background, and the same is probably true of Stephen, since his “home synagogue” seems to have been the one in Acts 6:9.

What are some needful things that deacons can handle in order to free up the ministry of the Word? What sort of men should deacons be? Which men should aim to be like this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving Your church deacons to attend to the needful things. And thank You for giving Your Spirit to work into men the character of Christ. Grant that all of the men of our church would have such a character, and that we might especially have deacons who do their work well, so that the ministry of the Word can spread—in Christ’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”


Saturday, April 23, 2022

2022.04.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 5:42–6:7

Read Acts 5:42–6:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the apostles doing daily (Acts 5:42)? In what two locations? What did they not stop doing? What was still happening (Acts 6:1)? What arose? Among which two types of Jews? Why—what was happening? Who summon the multitude in Acts 6:2? What do they say is not desirable to leave? Why would they have to leave it? What do they tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? To what two things would the apostles keep giving themselves (Acts 6:4)? How did the congregation respond (Acts 6:5a)? How many of them? Whom did they choose? How does it describe Stephen? What is specifically noted about Nicolas? What do they do with these men (Acts 6:6)? What do the apostles do with them first? Then what? What spreads as a result (Acts 6:7a)? And where do the disciples multiply, and how much (verse 7b)? And from what specific group (and how many) do they see new converts (verse 7c)? How is this conversion described?

But up to this point in the church, the work of the apostle had also included the Work of the Deacon. Wherever the apostles were, if someone knew of a need and had sold something in order to supply that need, the benefactor would come lay the money at the apostles’ feet (cf. Acts 4:34–5:2). 

But the number of disciples was multiplying (Acts 6:1), and as happens with finite people and increasing tasks, mistakes were made. The Jewish widows of Greek background and culture fell through the cracks in the daily distribution, while the Jewish widows of Hebraic background and culture were always taken care of. Perhaps, there was even grumbling that all of the apostles were of Hebraic background. 

The language of “serving tables” in Acts 6:2 doesn’t imply that the twelve were themselves purchasing the money and distributing the food. But even the oversight of this good work was not to be compared to the more necessary duties involved in maintaining that worship and discipleship that was the core ministry of the church (Acts 5:42Acts 6:4, cf. Acts 2:40–43). Overseeing such an increasingly extensive and sensitive distribution was something that others were needed to do. Acts 6:3 makes plain that this new office is an office of overseeing the ministry of the church in these temporal things. 

The qualifications of a deacon were therefore similar to the qualifications of judges in God’s church ever since Exodus 18. In Exodus 18:18 and Deuteronomy 1:9–12, the same problem had arisen. There were just too many Israelites in that newly founded church, and they had too many complaints. 

So it doesn’t surprise us that the qualifications are similar. The new deacons must be men. There is a generic word for human sometimes translated “man,” but the apostles use the male-specific word in Acts 6:3. And these men were to be of good reputation—not just men who claimed to be godly, or about whom an individual had claimed that they were godly, but men about whom the wider congregation generally acknowledged that these claims were true.

In Deuteronomy 1:13, the qualifications were “wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men.” In Exodus 18:21, the list had been “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.” The last three qualifications in that list cover the same character as “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” in our passage. The Spirit first and foremost gives knowledge of God, faith in Christ, and the justification and sanctification that come out of faith-forged union with Christ. The fear of the Lord, which the Spirit gives, is the beginning of that wisdom in Acts 6:3

The speech as a whole is gladly received (Acts 6:5a) and the instruction immediately carried out. The list in verse 5 is probably in order of prominence, as we will hear more about Stephen and Philip until the end of chapter 8, as the Spirit authenticates their diaconal ministry with Word and sign. Here, Stephen is called “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Nicolas being from Antioch implies that he has a Greek culture background, and the same is probably true of Stephen, since his “home synagogue” seems to have been the one in Acts 6:9.

What are some needful things that deacons can handle in order to free up the ministry of the Word? What sort of men should deacons be? Which men should aim to be like this?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving Your church deacons to attend to the needful things. And thank You for giving Your Spirit to work into men the character of Christ. Grant that all of the men of our church would have such a character, and that we might especially have deacons who do their work well, so that the ministry of the Word can spread—in Christ’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”


Friday, April 22, 2022

The Priesthood that Couldn't Come Near: Only in Jesus Can We Come All the Way to God (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 19)

Why was it so urgent that the people not even touch the bottom of the mountain? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Exodus 19 prepares us for the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us to marvel at the display of God’s power not only in what He’s saved us from, but especially in what He’s saved us for. He is making us into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, which is utterly dangerous to come near Him to do, unless we come near in Christ.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

Word of Life: Jesus Cleanses from Sin! (2022.04.20 Prayer Meeting lesson in 1John 1)

The Word of Life, the Word of fellowship with God, the Word by which we walk, and the Word Who cleanses us from all sin.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

2022.04.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 19

Read Exodus 19

Questions from the Scripture text: How long has it been since what (Exodus 19:1)? To where did they come? From where did they come (Exodus 19:2)? Before what did they camp? Who went up to Whom (Exodus 19:3)? Who called him? from where? To whom was he to speak? What two things did God call them? What had they seen (Exodus 19:4)? How had He borne them? Where (to Whom) had He brought them? What two things must they do now (Exodus 19:5)? Then what will they be? Who are His already? What kind of kingdom will they be (Exodus 19:6)? What kind of nation? How does the end of the verse emphasize this message? For whom does Moses call in Exodus 19:7? What does he lay before them? Who answer in Exodus 19:8? What do they say they will do? How much of it? Now Who speaks to whom (Exodus 19:9)? How is Who coming to him? Whom does He want to hear? In order that they will do what with Moses? For how long? What did Moses relay to Yahweh? Now what does Yahweh tell Moses to do to whom (Exodus 19:10)? On what days? And do what? To be ready for what (Exodus 19:11)? Who would come down? Where? In whose sight? What is Moses to set for them (Exodus 19:12)? So that they don’t go where? Nor touch what? What will happen if they do? How won’t he be killed (Exodus 19:13)? How instead? What are they to listen for? Then do what? From where does Moses come in Exodus 19:14? To whom? What does he do to them? What do they do? What does he tell them to be ready for (Exodus 19:15)? And not come near whom? What day is it in Exodus 19:16? What time of day? What three things are on the mountain? What sound do they hear? What amplitude? How do the people respond? What does Moses do to the people in Exodus 19:17? To meet with Whom? Where do they stand? What was happening to the mountain in Exodus 19:18? Why? What was the smoking like? What happened to the mountain? What was blasting all this time (Exodus 19:19)? And what happened to the sound? What did Moses do? Who answered him? How? Who came down (Exodus 19:20)? Where does Yahweh tell Moses to go in Exodus 19:21? To do what? Against what is he to warn them? What would happen to them? Also warning whom in particular (Exodus 19:22)? That they would do what? Lest what happen? How does Moses respond (Exodus 19:23)? And how does Yahweh answer (Exodus 19:24)? Whom does He say to bring now? Whom does He (again) warn against doing what? Where does Moses now go (Exodus 19:25)? And do what?

Nearness to God is dangerous. We just don’t realize the greatness of His holiness, or the position that it puts us in to be “his special treasure” (Exodus 19:5), or “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). So, as the Lord gathers His people to Himself at Sinai (“I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself,” Exodus 19:4), this chapter anticipates that meeting. And the primary thing that this chapter communicates, in anticipation is just how dangerous it is to be near this God because of just how holy He is. This occurs through the relaying back and forth of a number of messages between Moses and God.

If you obey, you will be treasured, Exodus 19:3-7. Verses 3–6 are a unit, bookended by “thus you shall say” in verse 3 and “these are the words which you shall speak” in verse 6. Moses lays before the elders in Exodus 19:7 the offer made in Exodus 19:5. The offer, however, is something that only Jesus can succeed at. The entire books of Isaiah and Hosea will be about Israel’s failure to be unto the Lord what the Lord brought them out into the wilderness to be. But Hosea will be about the Lord’s rectifying this for Himself, and Isaiah is even more specific: He will send His true (and suffering!) servant to be the true Israel. The offer that Moses relays not only still stands but has been completely secured in Jesus!

All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, Exodus 19:8-9.  Verse 8 by itself is bookended, “all the people answered” and “Moses brought back the words of the people.” The message is simple, “we’ll do it all!” The follow-through is (again) impossible (cf. Joshua 24:19). Once more, the end of Exodus 19:9 repeats “So Moses told the words of the people to Yahweh.” Yahweh promises in verse 9 to come near, in thick cloud, and speak in such a way as to show the people the folly of their resistance to Moses’s leadership. This itself portends how Israel would fail in their promise to do what Yahweh says. They will not be loyal to Him or His servant.

Take heed not to touch, Exodus 19:10-15. With the delivery of the people’s message completed in Exodus 19:9, Yahweh now gives Moses a new mission. “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow… and let them be ready for the third day” (Exodus 19:10-11a). Yahweh is coming on the third day (verse 11b), and even the consecrated people mustn’t touch the mountain (Exodus 19:12) or even touch anyone executed for touching the mountain (Exodus 19:14). And Moses delivers the message (Exodus 19:14-15).

Go down and warn the people again, Exodus 19:16-25. The third day arrives. And it’s just as terrifying in verse 16 as the Lord Yahweh had implied in Exodus 19:9. But there is not just thick cloud; there are thunderings, lightnings, and the trumpet that was to summon them (end of Exodus 19:13) is increasingly loud so that all of the people tremble! The mountain smokes, but that’s not as scary as the Yahweh-fire that produced it, and the mountain quakes greatly (Exodus 19:18). Between the warnings and the phenomena, we might think that the people are sufficiently terrified. Moses sure thought so, but Moses himself wasn’t sufficiently terrified.

We have the last set of bookends in Exodus 19:21-25: “Go down and warn the people” (verse 21) and “Moses went down to the people and spoke to them” (verse 25). Yahweh calls Moses up in Exodus 19:20 to give him a new message. What is that message? Same as the old message (Exodus 19:21-22, cf. Exodus 19:12)! Ironically, Moses’s own protestation in Exodus 19:23 that the repetition isn’t needed is itself proof that it is needed. Moses talks back to Yahweh! The same Yahweh Who has given all of these warnings and displayed all of these phenomena!

In great mercy, Moses is not incinerated. Rather, Yahweh silences him with one word, “Away!” And then repeats the command in Exodus 19:24.

The warning is necessary. God is holier and mightier than can be imagined. It is dangerous to draw near to Him.

When do you come near the Lord? How can you do so safely? Even when you do so safely, how can you do so rightly? In what ways might you tell God that His instructions aren’t necessary?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how holy and powerful You are! And how creaturely and small and even sinful we are! All blessedness comes in drawing near to You, but in our sinful selves, we would be destroyed by Your glorious presence. Thank You for giving us Christ. For His sake, forgive us, and by Your Holy Spirit, conform us to His image, we ask in His Name, Amen!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent, Who Will Abide” or TPH230 “Holy, Holy, Holy”


Thursday, April 21, 2022

2022.04.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 3:11–13

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:11–13

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does the apostle appeal in 1 Thessalonians 3:11? And to whom else? To do what? And what does he ask the Lord to do to them (1 Thessalonians 3:12)? And make them abound in? Toward whom? And whom else? Who abounds in love to them? What will the Lord establish by this abounding (1 Thessalonians 3:13)? In what two things will He use this love to establish their hearts? Before Whom? At what event? With whom will the Lord Jesus come? 

The apostle has just finished saying (1 Thessalonians 3:10) that they pray night and day to see their face and perfect what is lacking in their faith. Now, he gives us a window into the content of that prayer by pronouncing a benediction to the same ends as he closes off this portion of the letter. In the benediction, we see the particulars, principles, and purposes of his requests.

Particulars: that they would see one another soon, 1 Thessalonians 3:11. The verb “direct” is a singular verb so that the subject “our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus Christ” is treated as one joint Actor. Paul, Silas, and Timothy hope to come. But they are under no illusion that they determine their own futures. God alone does that. And this God is not only the Father but the Lord Jesus Christ. To Him, we may make particular requests, “direct my way to them.”

In requesting such particulars, you don’t have to explicitly say, “if it be Thy will.” But if you pray to God as God over all. And as the good Father of yourself, His child. And the Lord, upon Whose Name you have called for salvation. And Jesus, Who saves you from your sin. And Christ, Who is the Son of David and sits upon the throne of heaven… If you pray to God, acknowledging Him to be all of these things, you ask for particulars with the implicit acknowledgment that however He is pleased to answer is right and good.

Principles: that the Lord would increase their love, 1 Thessalonians 3:12. Loving God and neighbor is the sum of the law. The completing of what is “lacking in their faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10) occurs by their increasing and abounding in love. But even if Paul was able to get there, it wouldn’t really be he who perfected their lack, but the Lord Himself. Since it is the Lord who will accomplish this, the apostle recognizes in prayer and benediction that it can happen even if he never gets back to Thessalonica. The Lord will do it. Using part of the description of the Son, Paul reduces the extended title of the two persons in 1 Thessalonians 3:11 simply to “the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, but it is the same God. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord is the One who gives them more love toward one another, more love toward all, and even the apostle’s love toward them. 

Purpose: perfection in the last day, 1 Thessalonians 3:13. This increase of love has an end (both a purpose and a termination point). One day, there will be no more increasing to do, because their hearts will already be established blameless in holiness. Not just before men, but before God. How holy will believers be in the last day? Even God will not find anything in them to fault or blame, even in their hearts! This is the endgame: the Lord Jesus Christ, come again, and every one of His saints being actually saintly! Won’t that just be heaven? Yes, that’s exactly what it will be! And it is the ultimate purpose unto which we are to do all of our praying.

What are some details for which you’ve been asking the Lord? What would those details accomplish, and how else might God accomplish them? What ultimate purpose do they serve? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding us that You are One God in three Persons, and that the Father and the Son are One. Forgive us for when we think that we direct our own ways, or when we pray for things that do not serve the ultimate purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ, come again, with all His perfected saints. Continue to make our love increase and abound, we ask, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH469 “Who Are These Like Stars Appearing”


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

2022.04.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 11:41–12:24

Read 1 Kings 11:41–12:24

Questions from the Scripture text: What is written in what book (1 Kings 11:41)? How long did he reign (1 Kings 11:42)? With whom did he rest (1 Kings 11:43)? Where was he buried? Who reigned in his place? Where did Rehoboam go (1 Kings 12:1)? Who else went there? Why? Who heard it (1 Kings 12:2)? Where was he? Why? What did the people do (1 Kings 12:3)? Who came with him? To speak to whom? What did they say who had done (1 Kings 12:4)? What did they ask Rehoboam to do? And what would they do? What does Rehoboam tell them to do (1 Kings 12:5)? Whom does Rehoboam consult in 1 Kings 12:6? What does he ask? What do they tell him to be (1 Kings 12:7)? What do they tell him to do? What do they say will happen? What does Rehoboam do to that advice (1 Kings 12:8)? Whom does he consult instead? What are the differences between his question in 1 Kings 12:9 and in 1 Kings 12:6? How do they advise to answer in 1 Kings 12:10? And further in 1 Kings 12:11? Who come when according to whose direction (1 Kings 12:12)? What did the king do (1 Kings 12:13)? And reject? According to what did he speak (1 Kings 12:14)? What did he say? To whom else did he not listen (1 Kings 12:15)? Why did this happen? In order to fulfill what? Spoken by whom? To whom? What did who see in 1 Kings 12:16? How did they answer whom? Where did Israel go? Over whom did Rehoboam reign (1 Kings 12:17)? Whom did Rehoboam send in 1 Kings 12:18? Who did what to him? How did King Rehoboam respond? With what lasting outcome (1 Kings 12:19)? Who hear that who has come back (1 Kings 12:20)? What do they do to him? Who followed the house of David? With whom did Rehoboam assemble them (1 Kings 12:21)? How many men of what kind? To fight whom? In order to do what? What came to whom in 1 Kings 12:22? To whom was he to speak (1 Kings 12:23)? What did Yahweh tell them to (not) do (1 Kings 12:24)? Why? What did they do? According to what? 

God’s Word and God’s will are what the Scripture explicitly tells us to see here: “for the turn of events was from Yahweh, that He might fulfill His Word, which Yahweh had spoken” (1 Kings 12:15) and “this thing is from Me” (1 Kings 12:24). So… what does it look like, when the Lord is not just judgment, but specifically displaying that judgment? One sort of display is giving men over to homosexuality (cf. Romans 1:18–32). But here are several more:

Hard-heartedness by leaders, 1 Kings 12:1–4, 1 Kings 12:11–15a. Jeroboam had been turned against Solomon, when he was put in charge of overseeing the hard labor that the people now complain about in 1 Kings 12:4 (cf. 1 Kings 11:27–28). Now, when the people are going to Shechem for the coronation, they select Jeroboam as a representative (1 Kings 12:2) for establishing better relations with the new king (1 Kings 12:1). We may note that no one in the account even questions whether Solomon is guilty of this. He had made a good start (cf. 1 Kings 9:20–23), but a change in policy seems to have coincided with his heart turning from Yahweh.

But what does Rehoboam end up doing? Answering the people not just harshly but with an intent to be even harsher than his father (1 Kings 12:13), using the exact harsh words of the youth (1 Kings 12:111 Kings 12:14). He was deaf to the people’s cries (1 Kings 12:15a). 

Refusing good advice from elders, 1 Kings 12:5-8a, 1 Kings 12:13. Wisely (it seems at first), Rehoboam asks for time (1 Kings 12:5). But considering the elders’ good answer (1 Kings 12:7) and Solomon’s established policy (1 Kings 12:4), it seems that by this time, rejecting these elders’ advice is a family tradition. An unteachable leader is a curse to himself and to those under him. Inability to take receive wisdom from the elderly is a sign of judgment.

Seeking advice from the young, 1 Kings 12:8-10a, 1 Kings 12:14a. One trembles to type that out in early 21st century America. The culture as a whole prizes the opinions and admirations of the least stable, least experienced demographic. And so much of the church has just followed suit! But here (and more explicitly in Isaiah 3:4, Isaiah 3:12), we can see that this is an indicator of divine judgment. Shall we take the young, put them in control, and have them led by someone whose mindset more approximates theirs than that of godly parents? God forbid! But the text joins the rejection of the elders’ advice to the solicitation of the young men, with the ominous descriptor, “who had grown up with him” (twice! 1 Kings 12:81 Kings 12:10). 

Pandering egalitarianism, 1 Kings 12:61 Kings 12:9. It’s a small thing, linguistically. To the elders, he had literally said, “[what] is advised for returning to this people a word?” But then to the young men he said, “How should we answer?” Did you catch the difference? He has already aligned himself with them, inviting them to consider themselves co-regents. On the one hand, he was fine with stomping the rest of Israel. But on the other hand, he was also glad to indulge those whose admiration and approval he craved. Rather than rule over their folly, he was willing to purchase their favor by blurring the distinction between himself and his friends. Authority exists as an institution from God for restraining sin, and diminishing it can be a special display of divine judgment.

Clueless lack of self- and situational awareness, 1 Kings 12:16-21. After verse 16, you’d think Rehoboam wouldn’t be stupid enough to send chief tax-collector Adoram (1 Kings 12:18a), let alone go with him (verse 18b). Even worse, the 180,000 chosen men that remain to the house of David are about to be exterminated by the rest of Israel. Sometimes, arrogance is not only a complete lack of self-awareness but causes such blindness that you become unaware of much of the rest of the reality around you. This too can be a special display of God’s judgment.

Selective mercy for the sake of believers, 1 Kings 12:22-24. Verse 22–23 is a bit of a surprise—God’s Word mercifully intercepts the impending disaster. But verse 24 is even more surprising: Rehoboam actually listens! Why is God so merciful to a house under judgment, and a man of such extreme folly? For the same reasons as previously highlighted in 1 Kings 11:34, 1 Kings 11:36. The Lord has a special eye toward the elect in Christ, even when His wrath is breaking out against wickedness in the course of history. The house of David must be preserved. Jesus Christ must surely come from it. The accomplishing and applying of His redemption can never be canceled or set aside, even for moments of providential punishments. Whatever comes upon nations or churches, wherever there are elect the Lord sees to it that He does them good in the midst of it.

Where have you seen instances of some of the above displays of the judgment of God? Where have you found temptation or danger of those displays in yourself? What hope can you have, if you find yourself in the midst of a nation or church that is under judgment?

Sample prayer:  Lord, truly the same folly by which You tore the kingdom away from Rehoboam now seems to reign in so much of our own nation and its churches. Have mercy, O God! And forgive us for our own domineering over those under us, or refusing the good advice of elders, or of idolizing or pandering to youth. Send Your merciful Word, and grant unto us to listen to it, for we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP99A “Let the Nations Tremble” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage”


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

2022.04.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 47

Read Psalm 47

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is this Psalm assigned? For (of) whom was it written? With what command does Psalm 47:1 start? Who is commanded to do it? What are they to do (verse 1b)? To Whom? With what voice? What does Psalm 47:2 call God? What is His character? What is His position? How high? Over what? What will Yahweh do to the peoples and nations (Psalm 47:3)? Under whom and what? What will He choose (Psalm 47:4)? For whom? Why? Where has God gone (Psalm 47:5a)? With what? And what else (verse 5b)? What command is given four times (!!) in Psalm 47:6? To Whom? What line does Psalm 47:7a repeat? What command does verse 7b repeat? With what must God’s people sing? Over whom does God reign (Psalm 47:8a)? Upon what does God sit (verse 8b)? Who have gathered unto Him together (Psalm 47:9a)? Of which people (verse 9b)? What belong to Whom (verse 9c)? What does all of this show (verse 9d)?

Clap and shout, Psalm 47:1–4. People from all nations were created to praise God, and one day people from all nations will do so. These verses celebrate victory, triumph. It is marvelous that those who have been subdued (Psalm 47:3), are the ones clapping and shouting (Psalm 47:1). The grafting of the nations into Israel (cf. Romans 11:16ff)  is anticipated here (Psalm 47:4) as the way in which they all come to be blessed in the Seed of Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18, etc.). Yahweh’s new subjects are not dejected but exultant. They think it not a misery but rather the greatest mercy and joy that they have become subjects of King Jesus. His awesomeness and His reign have made them royalty (Psalm 47:3). 

So we too should rejoice to have been subdued by King Jesus and subjected to King Jesus. Anything in us that resists to be reigned, we consider an enemy, and we rejoice that He will be victorious. God Himself is the inheritance of Jacob, and He is what (Whom!) we have, if we are Christ’s.

Sing praises! Psalm 47:5-7. In Psalm 47:5, we find that Yahweh Himself is the exultant One, and His people’s response is clear: sing praises! The command appears four times in Psalm 47:6 and a fifth time in Psalm 47:7! The emotion here moves from the triumph of victory to adoration of the Victor Himself. He has saved us so that we might not stop at being the “winners” of history but as a means unto making us “worshipers” throughout eternity! 

Let all of our rejoicings, all of our triumphing, all of our gratitude stir up the coals of love and adoration unto God. Song exists for this outpouring unto Him!

Gather, Psalm 47:8-9. This shouting of triumph and singing of praises is most properly and fully fulfilled not as individuals but in a great, corporate assembly. There are all the princes, all the great houses with their shield, and all gathered around one throne. Indeed, they are gathered not to the throne so much as to Him Who sits upon it.

This ought to stir up in us three longings. One is that we would long to lift the morning and evening spiritual sacrifice with the house to which His providence has appointed us. That shield belongs to God. Family worship isn’t just necessary for the health and function of a family; it is the great purpose of a family. 

Second, we should long for the corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Here is that royal priesthood and holy nation to which we have now been appointed, and it is especially when we are gathered that we are at the throne—indeed, it is then that we come to heavenly Zion, the angels gathered for feast, to the general assembly of the church of the firstborn (cf. Hebrews 12:22–24).

Finally, we should long not only for our exit from this world, but for the return of Christ. Only then, will the entire assembly be completed, His glory ultimately displayed, and all of our shouting and praising be perfectly sanctified. Come, Lord Jesus!

How should you feel about being ruled by Jesus? How should you feel about your flesh’s continued resistance to Jesus? How should you respond to Him? At what three times may we do this more fully?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your almighty grace, in which You overthrew our resistance and blessed us in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham. Truly, You have made Yourself our inheritance, so that we rejoice now with Jacob that we have received the portion of the Firstborn, even of Christ! And, You have gathered us to Christ, the Son of David, Who sits on the throne of heaven as the King of glory! Sustain us by Your Spirit as we gather daily in our homes, weekly in Your assembly, and ultimately on that last great day. Even so, with the Spirit, Your bride here says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Which we ask through Your own, matchless Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP47 “All Nations, Clap Your Hands” or TPH47A “O Clap Your Hands”

Monday, April 18, 2022

How Should Men Lead Their Families? — 2 of 3 (2022.04.17 Sabbath School)

"How Should Men Lead Their Families" in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness." — 2 of 3. Recap of introduction, plus the father as prophet in the home.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

God's Solution for the Church's Wickedness and Weakness (2022.04.17 Evening Sermon in Exodus 18:13–27)

God's Word corrects man's wickedness, God's ways resolve man's weakness, and God's wisdom enables us to trust that even when men are doing wrongly, God is always doing rightly.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Purpose of Deacons: to Free Up Public and House-to-House Ministry of Prayer and Word (2022.04.17 Morning Sermon in Acts 5:42–6:7)


The Lord gave the church deacons to free up the ministers of the Word for prayer and preaching and teaching, both in public and from house to house.

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

2022.04.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 5:42–6:7

Read Acts 5:42–6:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the apostles doing daily (Acts 5:42)? In what two locations? What did they not stop doing? What was still happening (Acts 6:1)? What arose? Among which two types of Jews? Why—what was happening? Who summon the multitude in Acts 6:2? What do they say is not desirable to leave? Why would they have to leave it? What do they tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? To what two things would the apostles keep giving themselves (Acts 6:4)? How did the congregation respond (Acts 6:5a)? How many of them? Whom did they choose? How does it describe Stephen? What is specifically noted about Nicolas? What do they do with these men (Acts 6:6)? What do the apostles do with them first? Then what? What spreads as a result (Acts 6:7a)? And where do the disciples multiply, and how much (verse 7b)? And from what specific group (and how many) do they see new converts (verse 7c)? How is this conversion described?

The Purpose of the Deacon (free the Apostles for their work). The work of an apostle was intense. Daily, they were preaching not only in the temple but also from one household to another (Acts 5:42). There was much evangelism and public preaching to do, and much discipleship and household pastoring to do. But all of the evangelizing and discipling occurred by the same basic function: teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. This is the sum of the message of the Bible. In Him is the essence of all that we are to believe about God, and He is the only ability and great reason for all of the duty that God requires of man.

To this was added the ministry of prayer, to which they also gave themselves continuously (Acts 6:4). Indubitably, this included private prayer, but the implication is that verse 4 is tied to that ministry that “did not cease” in Acts 5:42. Prayer is an act of worship, and there is a right way of doing it. The disciples of the Pharisees and of John the baptizer knew this, and so did Jesus’s disciples. 

After hearing Jesus Himself pray, the disciples had asked Him to teach them to pray as well (cf. Luke 11:1–13). Jesus not only gave them a model prayer but taught them about persistence and the laying hold of God’s good gifts—especially the Holy Spirit, Who helps us to pray according to God’s Word (cf. Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23–27). Leading in public prayer and training households in prayer was an apostolic duty that continues to be the duty of elders—teaching the men in every place to pray, among the other parts of discipling them (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8). 

What were the apostles (and now elders) to give themselves to? Where? How much? What was one thing that was necessary for this to happen? How can you encourage it in your own congregation?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for redeeming us and taking care of us, body and soul. Please promote the care of our souls in the church by freeing up the pastors for prayer and the ministry of the Word. Unto this end, please give us good deacons, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH404 “The Church’s One Foundation”


Saturday, April 16, 2022

2022.04.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 5:42–6:7

Read Acts 5:42–6:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the apostles doing daily (Acts 5:42)? In what two locations? What did they not stop doing? What was still happening (Acts 6:1)? What arose? Among which two types of Jews? Why—what was happening? Who summon the multitude in Acts 6:2? What do they say is not desirable to leave? Why would they have to leave it? What do they tell the people to seek (Acts 6:3)? How many? Of what three qualities? What would the apostles appoint them to do? To what two things would the apostles keep giving themselves (Acts 6:4)? How did the congregation respond (Acts 6:5a)? How many of them? Whom did they choose? How does it describe Stephen? What is specifically noted about Nicolas? What do they do with these men (Acts 6:6)? What do the apostles do with them first? Then what? What spreads as a result (Acts 6:7a)? And where do the disciples multiply, and how much (verse 7b)? And from what specific group (and how many) do they see new converts (verse 7c)? How is this conversion described?  

The Purpose of the Deacon (free the Apostles for their work). The work of an apostle was intense. Daily, they were preaching not only in the temple but also from one household to another (Acts 5:42). There was much evangelism and public preaching to do, and much discipleship and household pastoring to do. But all of the evangelizing and discipling occurred by the same basic function: teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. This is the sum of the message of the Bible. In Him is the essence of all that we are to believe about God, and He is the only ability and great reason for all of the duty that God requires of man.

To this was added the ministry of prayer, to which they also gave themselves continuously (Acts 6:4). Indubitably, this included private prayer, but the implication is that verse 4 is tied to that ministry that “did not cease” in Acts 5:42. Prayer is an act of worship, and there is a right way of doing it. The disciples of the Pharisees and of John the baptizer knew this, and so did Jesus’s disciples. 

After hearing Jesus Himself pray, the disciples had asked Him to teach them to pray as well (cf. Luke 11:1–13). Jesus not only gave them a model prayer but taught them about persistence and the laying hold of God’s good gifts—especially the Holy Spirit, Who helps us to pray according to God’s Word (cf. Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23–27). Leading in public prayer and training households in prayer was an apostolic duty that continues to be the duty of elders—teaching the men in every place to pray, among the other parts of discipling them (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8). 

But up to this point in the church, the work of the apostle had also included the Work of the Deacon. Wherever the apostles were, if someone knew of a need and had sold something in order to supply that need, the benefactor would come lay the money at the apostles’ feet (cf. Acts 4:34–5:2). 

But the number of disciples was multiplying (Acts 6:1), and as happens with finite people and increasing tasks, mistakes were made. The Jewish widows of Greek background and culture fell through the cracks in the daily distribution, while the Jewish widows of Hebraic background and culture were always taken care of. Perhaps, there was even grumbling that all of the apostles were of Hebraic background. 

The language of “serving tables” in Acts 6:2 doesn’t imply that the twelve were themselves purchasing the money and distributing the food. But even the oversight of this good work was not to be compared to the more necessary duties involved in maintaining that worship and discipleship that was the core ministry of the church (Acts 5:42Acts 6:4, cf. Acts 2:40–43). Overseeing such an increasingly extensive and sensitive distribution was something that others were needed to do. Acts 6:3 makes plain that this new office is an office of overseeing the ministry of the church in these temporal things. 

The qualifications of a deacon were therefore similar to the qualifications of judges in God’s church ever since Exodus 18. In Exodus 18:18 and Deuteronomy 1:9–12, the same problem had arisen. There were just too many Israelites in that newly founded church, and they had too many complaints. 

So it doesn’t surprise us that the qualifications are similar. The new deacons must be men. There is a generic word for human sometimes translated “man,” but the apostles use the male-specific word in Acts 6:3. And these men were to be of good reputation—not just men who claimed to be godly, or about whom an individual had claimed that they were godly, but men about whom the wider congregation generally acknowledged that these claims were true.

In Deuteronomy 1:13, the qualifications were “wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men.” In Exodus 18:21, the list had been “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.” The last three qualifications in that list cover the same character as “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” in our passage. The Spirit first and foremost gives knowledge of God, faith in Christ, and the justification and sanctification that come out of faith-forged union with Christ. The fear of the Lord, which the Spirit gives, is the beginning of that wisdom in Acts 6:3

The speech as a whole is gladly received (Acts 6:5a) and the instruction immediately carried out. The list in Acts 6:5 is probably in order of prominence, as we will hear more about Stephen and Philip until the end of chapter 8, as the Spirit authenticates their diaconal ministry with Word and sign. Here, Stephen is called “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Nicolas being from Antioch implies that he has a Greek culture background, and the same is probably true of Stephen, since his “home synagogue” seems to have been the one in Acts 6:9

The ordination of a deacon is seen in Acts 6:6. Now, it’s not money that is laid before the apostles but men who are laid before them. Their last “distribution” with respect to material goods is officers who will oversee their use.

Then the apostles pray. It is not enough hat these would be men in whom the Holy Spirit has already done work. The work depended upon the Spirit’s continued work in them and ongoing work through them. 

The gift of the Holy Spirit’s specific empowering, calling, and helping them was then signified in the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 8:17, Acts 9:17, Acts 13:2–3, Acts 19:5–7; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2). 

The success of a deacon is seen in Acts 6:7. His goal is not merely to see the money distributed wisely but to see God’s blessing upon the work that he has freed up the minister of the Word to do. The Word of God spread. The number of disciples, which was already a multitude, now multiplied greatly. From among the priests, who had been arch enemies, a great many became obedient to the faith. This is the goal unto which a deacon labors.

Who are to oversee the management of the earthly things of the church? What kind of men should they be? What should they especially be trying to do for the ministry of the Word and prayer? What are they hoping that the result of all of this would be?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for redeeming us and taking care of us, body and soul. Please promote the care of our souls in the church by freeing up the pastors for prayer and the ministry of the Word. Unto this end, please give us good deacons, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH404 “The Church’s One Foundation”