Saturday, May 25, 2024

An Opportunity to Make Good Use of Our Baptisms [2024.05.25 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald]

Hopewell Herald – May 25, 2024

Dear Congregation,

Tomorrow, Lord-willing, we are looking forward to the administration of a covenant baptism—which is no more than to say the administration “of a baptism.” All baptisms are covenant baptisms. Whether it happens upon addition of a household to the visible church (by profession of faith) or addition to a household of the visible church (by birth, adoption, or some other means), baptism is a covenant sign.

All baptisms are covenant baptisms. And all baptisms are household baptisms. This is something that is often missed by those who protest that there may have been zero children in the households of Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Stephanas. Even granting the extremely unlikely idea that there were no children in any of these households, focusing upon the individuals upon whom the sign was placed misses that the nature of the sign is that it is a covenant sign, applied to households.

Most of you know and believe this, but there is another important point that we might miss if we stop at “covenantal” sign and “household” sign. Baptism is a “congregational” sign. It belongs only to the visible church. Although the sign and seal itself will only be applied to little Providence tomorrow, it will be administered to the Hopewell ARP Church. Each of us is to receive it as God’s once again placing His sign upon our church, and therefore as an opportunity for every single one of us to continue making ongoing, spiritual use of our own individual baptism—administered to us however long ago.

In placing a seal upon His visible church, the Lord affirms to us the reality of His commitment to and bond with the visible church on earth. He confirms His commitment to do with us as a church according to all of His Word with respect to the church on earth, and He reasserts that we are obligated to fulfill all of His Word concerning how the church on earth is to conduct itself toward Him.

And we ought to take note that He gives, as this seal, a sign that displays those great spiritual realities that are our only hope of fulfilling these obligations—our only hope of enjoying not only the benefits of being members of the visible church, but of the infinitely greater benefits of being members of the invisible and eternal church.

The sign and seal that are put upon Providence tomorrow will call him, all his life long, to faith in Jesus Christ to be sprinkled by His blood shed at the cross; to faith in Jesus Christ, only by union with Whom, he is ever able to walk in newness of life; to dependence upon the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, which Spirit Christ has poured out to give us faith and to make it flourishing and fruitful faith.

And as we observe this baptism, and receive again this seal upon our congregation, we too will be called to faith in Christ, with all its attendant graces. Baptism is an act of corporate worship. It is corporate; the entire congregation is involved. It is worship; Christ Himself has instituted it and is the One marking His church on earth through the action of His ordained servant.

So, make good use of your own baptism, tomorrow, at Providence’s baptism. Or, as our catechism puts it, “improve” your own baptism, tomorrow:

Westminster Larger Catechism 167. How is baptism to be improved by us?
The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into Whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.
(emphases mine)

Looking forward to this part of the public worship, and indeed the whole of God’s public worship, with you tomorrow,


Audio lessons to help you prepare for the Lord’s Day:

▪Theology Simply Explained — CC94, God's Remedy for Anger 
▪Theology Simply Explained — WSC33, God's Justifying of the Ungodly 
Psalm 119:17–24, “God, by His Word, Our Joy and Counselor
Isaiah 58, “How the Lord Trains Us to Find Pleasure in Him
1John 4:7–11, “True Love's Source, Standard, and Seal
Matthew 8:23–34, “Who Is Jesus, and Why Did He Come?
Numbers 11, “Content and Confident in God

LORD'S DAY – May 26, 2024 

9:50 a.m. Breakfast Line Opens

10 a.m. Sabbath School
We are preparing our minds and hearts for public worship by studying our Confession of Faith from Scripture, affirming that Scripture is our only ultimate authority, but also discovering that what we confess is thoroughly Scriptural.

11 a.m. Public Worship

Children’s Catechism for May 26. Q94 What does the sixth commandment teach us? To avoid angry passions. [CC 94 Simply Explained: “God's Remedy for Anger”]

Shorter Catechism for May 26. Q33 What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. [WSC 33 Simply Explained: “God's Justifying of the Ungodly”]

Songs for May 26 morning service: 
ARP119C “That I May Live and Keep Your Word” [mp3]
ARP44A “O God, We Have Heard of Your Works” [mp3]
ARP65A “Praise Awaits You, God” [mp3]

Scripture Text for first portion of worship service
Psalm 119.17-24

Scripture Readings and basis for confession of sin and petition for help
Isaiah 58 
1John 4:7–11

Sermon Scripture text and topic
We will be hearing the sermon from Matthew 8:23–34 about “God, Who Came to Save Us

Lord’s Supper! (Please see the section at the end of the Worship Booklet on how rightly to prepare for and take it).

1 p.m. Coffee Fellowship and Catechism Class

1:30 p.m. Fellowship Lunch
Memory Verse for May 26, Matthew 8:27, So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

3:00 p.m Evening Praise and Preaching
We will be singing at least ten Psalm selections and hearing the sermon from Numbers 11 about “Contentment with God and Confidence in His Spirit

Hopewell this Month

Hopewell’s Presbytery Prayer Focus for May
Riverside ARP in Prattville, AL

May Psalm of the Month
ARP44A O God, We Have Heard of Your Works

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, May 29, Midweek Prayer Meeting. 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel. We will hear a sermon from Romans 15:13–16 then pray until 8:15 p.m.
• Thursday, May 30, Session Meeting, 6p.m. in the Fellowship Hall.
• Saturday, June 22, Men’s (and future men) breakfast, 7a in the Fellowship Hall 

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