Monday, July 21, 2008

Small Group Questions - Acts 8

Acts 8:1-8
Why do you think God allows the church to suffer persecution? Thus far, the church has remained in Jerusalem, but persecution has scattered them in the regions of Judea and Samaria (v. 1b). Is this the way you expected the great commission to be fulfilled (Acts 1:8)?

Notice that Stephen is not condemned (v. 2), but is honored, despite all the consequential persecution. How would you respond to Stephen’s actions?

Saul, who later becomes Paul, is the one ravaging the church. What can we learn about our enemies and how might we treat them in light of that?

Relevant Scriptures:

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. (Luke 21:12-13)

When facing persecution and suffering, do you see yourself with the opportunity to bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Statement to consider:

“God spurs the church into missionary service by the suffering she endures. Therefore we must not judge too quickly the apparent setbacks and tactical "defeats" of the church.” (John Piper)


In light of our experiences, does persecution strengthen or weaken our witness/faith? What sort of attitudes should we have when we face persecution?

What dangers do we face when we become complacent in our ease, comfort, and prosperity? What state do you think the church is in now?

Acts 8:9-24

What are your impressions of Simon?

Simon, evidently believes, is baptized, and even follows Phillip (v. 13). But what do we learn about him? What was the object of Simon’s faith?

What does verse 22 reveal about him with regards to his faith? Is there a faith that does not save?

Relevant Scriptures:

When Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23–25)

What similarities are there between the passages above and the passages in Acts?

Statement to consider:

Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Saviour is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God. (Horatius Bonar)


What are your thoughts on the above statement? Is there a tendency for us to misplace our faith unto something other than the Gospel? Even have faith in our faith?

Acts 8:26-40

What are the barriers that Phillip had to face when evangelizing the Ethiopian eunuch?

Phillip explains the meaning of the Scriptures, how important is this when we evangelize? Does theology matter when we attempt to reach the lost?

Statement to consider:

All true theology has an evangelistic thrust, and all true evangelism is theology in action...In the last analysis there is only one means of evangelism: namely, the gospel of Christ explained and applied. (J. I. Packer)


Why is it so difficult to evangelize people different than you? How are we to approach evangelizing our neighbors, especially in a diverse city as Chicago?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Of His Fullness

"Because He gives us our being. "It is He who has made us." We think it a great kindness in a man to spare our life—but what kindness is it in God to give us our life! We draw our breath from Him; and as life, so all the comforts of life are from Him. He gives us health, which is the sauce to sweeten our life. He gives us food, which is the oil that nourishes the lamp of life. If all we receive is from His bounty, is it not reasonable we should glorify Him? Should we not live to Him, seeing we live by Him? "For of Him, and through Him, are all things." All we have, is of His fullness, all we have is through His free grace; and therefore to Him should be all. It follows, therefore, "To him be glory forever!" God is not our only benefactor—but our founder, just as rivers which come from the sea empty their silver streams into the sea again"

-Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pg.

Thus far I, with the help of Thomas Watson's writings, have examined what it means to glorify God. Now the proceeding question arises: "Why must we glorify God?" If, as Christians, it is our prime duty to grorify God, we must give a proper account as to why it must be done; otherwise, we grorify in ignorance. But, on the contrary, God calls us to a reasonable faith and service, fully exposed in the light; He calls us to see, and not to remain in our blindness. To know the reasons why we glorify God also gives Him glory.

Our existence is given by the Lord of glory. We did not come into existence by blind chance, as the evolutionist propose, but it was God, the omnipotent one, who created us by His might. Not only did He sovereignly create us, but He also sovereignly sustains us; as Watson says, "we draw our breath from Him." So, in every moment of our existence we remain dependant upon our creator. All our necessities come from Him, even our luxuries. How dare we resist Him if this is so? And oppose Him to His face, as if He had not the power to do as He pleases, when we do not get want we want from Him. But let us examine this precious truth that we may think and live accordingly; God's life giving and sustaining kindness ought to be a significant reason to give Him glory. Out of His fullness we have our being.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger on Baptism

My road to Reformed Theology has been a bumpy one. Perhaps the greatest obstacle for me to overcome has been on the issue of baptism: paedobaptism or credobaptism? Which is scriptural?

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, infant baptism has never appeared strange to me, but upon my conversion, in a Pentecostal church, it suddenly became a foreign practice. I guess it was a reaction to the faulty understanding of Catholicism's view on the sacrament of baptism. Thus, embracing infant baptism, as the Reformed have always taught, has been unsettling in my theology. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger's lecture on the sacraments have been invaluable and revolutionary in my thinking, especially with the covenantal aspects of the sacrament of baptism. The link below is Dr. Kim Riddlebarger's, also the Reformed, response to the common Baptist objections and criticisms to infant baptism, or paedobaptism.

Baptist Objections to Infant Baptism and the Reformed Response

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Golden Obedience

Subjection. This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for His service. Thus the angels in heaven glorify Him; they wait on His throne, and are ready to take a commission from Him; therefore they are represented by the cherubims with wings displayed, to show how swift they are in their obedience. We glorify God when we are devoted to His service; our head studies for Him, our tongue pleads for Him, and our hands relieve His members. The wise men that came to Christ did not only bow the knee to Him, but presented Him with gold and myrrh. Matt ii 2. So we must not only bow the knee, give God worship, but bring presents of golden obedience. We glorify God when we stick at no, when we fight under the banner of His Gospel against an enemy, and say to Him as David to king Saul, "Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine." I Sam xvii 32.

A good Christian is like the sun, which not only sends forth heat, but goes its circuit round the world. Thus, he who glorifies God, has not only his affections heated with love to God, but he goes his circuit too; he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience.

-Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pgs. 8-9.

Now we turn to Thomas Watson's final reflection of what it means to glorify God, namely, those who glorify God, like the angels, are zealously awaiting God's divine ordination; like a weened child ready to honor his parents with his duty. God's commands have, for the willing saints, become joyous duties; rather than dull, burdensome punishments. Must we only glorify God in our doctrines and affections, and not through our service? No, our doctrines and affections ought to compel us to serve God heartily; they fuel our service to Him. Those who want to separate these facets of what it means to glorify God will inevitably fall into sorrowful errors, or even destructive heresies. Let us, therefore, confer with the Holy Scriptures that we may be safeguarded from the many faulty theologies that serve to rob God of His divine glory.

There is, of course, a tendency to strictly serve God, even with a zeal, but become unconcerned with doctrines. Much like the Apostle Paul's rebuke to his kinsmen in his epistle to the Romans; he says, "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." Rom. 10:2. But one may object that there is nothing sinful in seeking to serve God, even without knowledge. Yes, that may be, but our sinfulness will inevitably arise out of our ignorance. We will inescapably, out of the depravity of our nature, seek our own glory, which ultimately is nothing but vainglory. Therefore, it is necessary that we also seek knowledge of God; the ground from which all our labors tend to. The golden obedience of believers must be drawn out of the ground of Divine knowledge.

How then shall we serve God? There must be right and wrong ways to be obedient unto God. Let us again examine the service of the heavenly angels. Their obedience are particularly godly because of their complete dependence on God. They are those who serve; paradoxically, they are also the beneficiary. God remains the giver. The saints ought to serve in like manner. Giving God His due glory. Not to us, oh Lord, but to your name be the glory.