Saturday, April 22, 2023

2023.04.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:20

Read Acts 20:20

Questions from the Scripture text: What didn’t the apostle keep back (Acts 20:20)? How much of it? In what two ways did he convey these helpful things? In what two places? 

What must a complete ministry of the Word include? Acts 20:20 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that biblical shepherding is primarily a ministry of the Word, which must include both preaching and teaching, and must occur both in the congregational assembly and in each particular home. 

Since keeping back nothing helpful means fulfilling entirely the ministry of the Word, what does the apostle remind these elders that he has done with that word?

The ministry of the Word includes the whole range of application and instruction. There are many New Testament words for the ministry of the Word. The two that the Spirit uses here covers the gamut. “Proclaimed and taught” is what we mean when we frequently say “preaching and teaching.” They sound similar, but there is a very important distinction. 

In preaching, the minister is a messenger, a herald, an ambassador. He addresses you directly with something personal. It demands response. Even more, the Lord Himself is addressing you through the minister. The Scriptures are always living and active, but it is especially in that proclamation from heaven that we experience them that way (cf. Hebrews 4:12 in the context of Hebrews chapters 2–4, 12). 

In teaching, the minister is an educator. He instructs and explains. He communicates doctrine and facilitates understanding of how it fits together. There is a body of knowledge that every person needs, and the Lord’s way of giving it to them is not merely (or even primarily) through personal study. Someone who does “personal study” of Acts 20:20 should come to the conclusion that Jesus has provided him with instructors, and he must seek to be instructed by them. 

Neither of these—the preaching or teaching—should be left out of any ministry of the Word. If there is preaching without teaching, then ministers are culpable if the Lord’s flock turns out to be empty-headed. If there is teaching without preaching, then ministers are culpable if the Lord’s flock turns out to be cold-hearted. Either one of these conditions is spiritually deadly. A deficient ministry of the Word will produce a body that is either cancerous (overgrowth of that which is not true) or comatose (everything in place but inactive).

The ministry of the Word must be conducted in the context of both discipling institutions that the Lord has established. There are two great institutions that the Lord has ordained, within which His Word is ministered: the church and the household. As the apostle reminds the Ephesian elders of his own exemplary ministry, he emphasizes that his ministry neglected neither one of these institutions. He preached and taught “publicly and from house to house.” 

To the church, the apostle preached in the assembly of the people—in the gathering of the congregation. As we learn from the chapters of Hebrews referenced above, this is especially an element of the public worship of God. As they gather, believers are to hear the Lord Jesus declare God’s Name to them as His brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:12). In the public worship (cf. Psalm 95:1–7c), they are to hear His voice (cf. Psalm 95:7–11; Hebrews 2:1, Hebrews 3:7–4:15, Hebrews 12:22–29). 

But Acts 20:20 tells us that the apostle’s ministry in the assembly was also one of education and instruction. The preaching in the public worship must be doctrinal preaching. It is by hearing and believing Jesus, Whom they hear via the preacher, that members of the congregation are brought to faith (cf. Romans 10:14–15). Jesus tells them particular things about Himself that they believe from Him, in response to which they believe upon Him. And it is through the renewing of their minds that He transforms believers (cf. Romans 12:2). His Word, by which He makes His people holy, is a Word of truth (cf. John 17:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). 

Then, there is the ministry from house to house. In the day and time of the author, ministry in the assembly has fallen on hard times, but ministry house-to-house has fared even worse. It is nearly non-existent. Morning and evening family worship has ever been the duty of husbands and fathers in the church (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6–7; Ephesians 5:26, Ephesians 6:4). Day by day, they are to lead their family through the Word of God, with a special view toward their family’s spiritual Sabbath care (cf. Exodus 20:10). 

Now in Acts 20:20, the apostle reminds the elders of his own ministry in each house. They are to continue this house-to-house ministry in his absence. Both preaching (addressing the household in behalf of God) and teaching (seeing to the household’s assimilation of Scripture content and doctrine) are ministries that elders are to oversee and participate in. Obviously, the most frequent shepherd in the home is the father/husband, but what he does is to be facilitated and overseen by the elders.

What has God given you that is able to give every sort of help that you need in the Christian life? Which do you have a greater need to get more of and attend more to: preaching or teaching? How is the elders’ ministry in the assembly being combined with their ministry in your home? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your sufficient, effective, instructive Word. Grant that nothing helpful from Your Word would be missing from the ministry that we sit under. Thank You for calling and gifting shepherds among Your flock—and specifically for the ones that You have given our congregation. Grant that our congregational assemblies, and each of our Christian homes, would be places where Your word is proclaimed and taught—which we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

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