Saturday, April 29, 2023

2023.04.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:21

 Read Acts 20:21

Questions from the Scripture text: To what sorts of people did the apostle minister (Acts 20:21)? What two categories make up the whole of what is helpful? Unto Whom is this repentance? Unto/into Whom is this faith? Whose is He?

What does a faithful ministry declare to whom? Acts 20:21 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a faithful ministry declares all of God's Word to all of God's people. 

We began considering, in Acts 20:20, how an apostolic shepherding ministry is first and foremost a ministry of the Word preached and taught, in public and from house to house. That thought is completed in Acts 20:21 as the apostle reminds the Ephesian elders of the tone of his message, the audience of his message, the content of his message, the aim of his message, and the focus of his message.

The tone of his message: solemn testimony. “testifying.” The word used here is a derivative of the word for “witness” or “testify” from which we get the word “martyr.” It has a prefix attached to it that increases the solemnity of its meaning. His preaching and teaching to them was always weighty, never light.

The audience of his message: every sort of person. “to Jews, and also to Greeks.” Here are the bookends of humanity. People of every sort. From within the church and from without. Those who have had the Word and those who are new to it. Those who grew up in the faith, and those who had to be converted to it. Of every linguistic background, national background, and religious background. Once these have come into the church, they became objects of his special, ministerial attention. He didn’t stick to “favorites” in the church, or avoid those that were less pleasant to deal with. Anyone whom the Lord added to the flock received a full ministry.

The content of his message: the whole of Scripture. “repentance and faith” is another one of those “bookends” type statements that covers the whole. “Faith and repentance” is another way of saying “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.” It is what the Scriptures principally teach. In other words, the apostle had taught them the whole Bible. This will be covered again when we come to Acts 20:27. But the “whole counsel of God” can be summarized as “repentance and faith.” Everything in the Bible falls into one of those two categories.

The aim of his message: personal response. The apostle was not just telling them the duty that God required; he was calling them to set their entire minds toward God in doing that duty. Each man’s mind is set either upon God or upon a creature. All unrighteousness and ungodliness of men is a function of suppressing the truth about God in unrighteousness. All righteousness and godliness is a turning back toward God, a change of mind to live not just by truth but by THE truth, rather than the lie (cf. Romans 1:18–25). Personal response in repentance. That is the aim.

But it is not just the truth of God’s divinity that requires a response of godliness in repentance. The truth of God’s salvation requires a response of faith. Faith is toward Jesus Christ—Yahweh Savior, Who came as the Christ. Faith is not just agreement but dependence. Not just agreement with Who Jesus is, but dependence upon Him to be that. Not just agreement with what Jesus has done, but dependence upon what He has done for us. Not just agreement with how His Spirit applies it to us, but dependence upon His Spirit to apply Him to us. Personal response in faith. That is the aim.

The focus of his message: God Himself. Repentance and faith are personal responses. Even more than that, they are responses to a person. Though every detail of how we are to obey is important, the point of the commandments is that they are applications of the implications of the character of God. Repentance is not merely repentance in the abstract. It is repentance toward God. 

Similarly with faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not merely a collection of ideas and benefits upon which we depend, but a Person upon Whom we depend. Indeed, this vital connection, this union, that we have by this dependence is behind the pronoun “our.” For those who believe, He is “our” Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is not merely faith in the abstract. It is faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

How has your application of God’s commands responded to the reality of Who He is? How has your dependence upon Christ responded to the truths of what He has done to save? What ministry has God given you to keep giving you repentance and faith? What use are you making of it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your sufficient, complete Word. Grant that by Your Spirit we would live in repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, which we ask in His 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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