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Because of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, true life now—and eternal life forever—is yours to know and enjoy. What the Scripture reveals about Him is worth more than all knowledge, all riches, and all happiness in this world.
Throughout the book of Acts, a repeated emphasis has been placed on two things: the activity of the ruling, risen Christ through His apostles to accomplish His program, and the preciousness of the Bible—then just the Old Testament—to the early church. On this latter point, it is most evident the earliest believers were Bible-saturated people, as the Scriptures easily weave in and out of their preaching and prayers like one would expect from those who knew them intimately. The lengthy narrative which focuses on Stephen in Acts 6:8-7:60 is no exception, as these themes are heavily present. Because of the length of this section, it is divided into three parts. This week focused on the man (6:8-15) and the messenger (7:1-53), while next week will focus on the martyr (7:54-60). Read more
The Word faithfully preached and taught is a primary means of grace for God’s people. God has ordained that men and women of His churches hear from Him not merely though their personal reading of Scripture, nor just hearing it read publicly but having it proclaimed and explained to them, ideally by those men who have been formally trained to preach the Word. Our church is in a transition time as we look for an elder to labor at weekly preaching. As we do, it is vital that we understand both who he should be and the deathly importance of the primary work he must do. Counseling, shepherding, rebuke, comfort, and all other practical aspects of his ministry flow out of his decisive, gracious, persistent, thorough, Spirit-empowered preaching of the Word each week. This week’s message explored the importance of that public ministry. Read more
God is a God of symmetry, harmony, and order. As such, the church which is the Body of Christ must reflect this order—not merely for the smoothest and most maximized usefulness to the furtherance of His kingdom, but to present clear testimony to a watching world that the God we serve produces unity and purposeful organization free from pettiness. As God’s work in the creation week took His initial, unformed creation and produced a beautifully lavish and precise world (which even then would require the active dominion of man to bring out of it all the good God placed in it), so His creation of the church as a unified Body under one Head would require a structure and pattern to enlarge its effectiveness and beauty. Acts 6 demonstrates how the first church responded to God’s call to properly order His church, and the blessings that flow from that orderliness. Read more
As God’s people pursue His ways in a fallen world, they can expect to find persecution and opposition. While Israel experienced this to an extent in the Old Testament, I believe it does not parallel the depth and extent of persecution the church has experienced p to the present hour. This is, of course, because with the first coming of Christ and His present heavenly session as eschatological king and Lord, the “last days” have come and Satan is energizing the world and the flesh in a new and harsh way. Because God’s people are tasked with furthering His program and advancing His kingdom with His authority and enablement, because the church is the physical representation of Christ’s body on earth, it is attacked by Satan, his demonic hosts, the fallen world system, and even the remnants of believers’ fallen humanness. All of these resent the government of God through His Christ, and all seek to mount an (ultimately unsuccessful) war against Him. Read more
Jesus’ utmost will for His people is that they glorify Him through holy lives—lives that reflect surrender to His lordship, dependence on His counsel, and committed faith in all His Word as the rule of life. Indeed, this makes sense, for God’s plan in creation—to have a world filled with surrendered image-bearers who worship Him comprehensively and joyfully—is restored in and through Christ now and in the future. God means to have a “new humanity” that will gloriously fulfill this mandate, and the church is the current group of people expressing that humanity. This is why God hates sin particularly in His people—they have the knowledge, the ability and the inclination to choose obedience instead, and it goes against their very new nature and His stated design for them and their lives (e.g., Eph. 5:26-27; Col. 3:10, 12a; 1 Thess. 4:8). Further, unholy Christians cannot be effectively used by God for evangelism—the unsaved will not be drawn to something that looks like them and their wicked culture, at least not for any saving, God-exalting reasons. Our distinctiveness is the whole power of our gospel witness. Because this is God’s plan for His people, it is not surprising that Satan opposes this with great fervor and force. Acts 5 describes the first concerted attack of Satan on the purity of the church, how God responded, and how He once again favored the broken, repentant church. For context, the outline begins in chapter four. Read more