January 8—Read Acts 22
In the beginning of this chapter, Paul is telling the mob gathered at the Castle of Antonia the story of his conversion. In verse 16, he says that Ananias said to him, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Rev. Nathan Langerak used this verse and Lord’s Day 26 as his text for a sermon on baptism. One thing brought out in this sermon is that baptism, as a ceremony of washing, shows us our need for cleansing. By bringing their child to be baptized, parents are saying that child deserves to go to hell, because that’s what we all deserve. We all have our original guilt and pollution, as well as our own actual transgressions we commit throughout our entire lives. In addition, the washing of baptism teaches us the power of our salvation. The power of this cleansing is the blood and Spirit of Christ. The Spirit is the agent who uses the power of Christ’s blood to cleanse us from our sins. God uses baptism to assure us that salvation rests solely on the perfect work of Christ.
Sing or pray Psalter #427.
January 9—Read Acts 23
Prof. Kuiper preached on the beginning of Acts 23 and 24, titling his sermon Speaking Truth: Living by Faith. The wicked Jews here have brought Paul to trial with all kinds of false accusations, similar to those brought upon Naboth, Jesus, and Stephen. We are all prone to lie and say whatever is convenient for us at the time. If you’re a witness in a court of law you must swear to tell the truth, because they expect people to want to lie. The captain embellished the story in Acts 23:27, where he claimed he rescued Paul, when the truth was that he bound Paul and only released him once Paul told him he was a Roman.
We all need to remember a few principles regarding lying. First, lies and deceit are the works of the devil. Second, God will judge us according to every idle word we have spoken, so do we live today as if we’re ready to stand before God in the day of judgment? Third, the power to speak truth is in Jesus Christ, so we must place all our trust and hope in him.
Sing or pray Psalter #407.
January 10—Read Acts 24
Today we go back to the sermon by Prof. Kuiper that was discussed yesterday. Prof. Kuiper set forth three principles to follow for living by faith regarding lying and deceit. First, we must always show love for the neighbor. We all know that everyone has weaknesses, so there’s no need to convince others of that. Second, there’s a time to be quiet when we can’t promote the honor of our neighbor. Maybe the neighbor has rendered himself indefensible by his actions, but instead of heaping more judgment upon him unnecessarily, it is better to remain silent. Third, we must have a sincere love for the truth. What we love in our hearts will always manifest itself in our speech. We must always be ready to bear witness of the truth and defend the gospel. Paul’s love for the truth is evident in his speech in this chapter. He boldly speaks the truth in contrast to the wicked, lying Jews who accuse him. Like Paul, we must always be ready to bear witness of and seek the truth, not our own earthly advantage.
Sing or pray Psalter #164.
January 11—Read Acts 25
Rev. den Hartog points out a few striking contrasts in the scene set before us today. First, there is the pompous pageantry of the world over against the apostle Paul, a prisoner, whose hands were probably tied behind his back. He may have been small and disfigured, but he stood there as the faithful servant of God, despised by the world and falsely accused. Second, the Jews claimed Jesus was dead, but Paul proclaimed him to be alive. The court of the world is utter foolishness. They are blinded to the truth that stares them right in the face. As the church is accused in the world, she has the blessed hope that she knows Christ is her Lord. Being justified by Christ, we have no reason to fear the world’s false accusations. Finally, we have the contrast of the kings of the earth with all their accusations, and Paul, a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Being citizens of that incorruptible kingdom, we must all be prepared to be persecuted for Christ’s sake, that God’s name might be glorified.
Sing or pray Psalter #194.
January 12—Read Acts 26
Verse 18 was mentioned in a number of the Standard Bearer articles I looked at in preparation for this devotional. Paul is recounting to Agrippa how God confronted him on the way to Damascus, commanding him to repent and to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. This verse further explains what God will use Paul to do. It reads, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Prof. Engelsma displays how this command is in direct contrast to much of what is called evangelism today. The supposed evangelism of most churches says little or nothing about a holy God, his righteous law, sin, guilt, and punishment. Evangelism to them is just telling everyone God loves them. In reality, however, evangelism is bringing people’s sins before them and calling them to repent. Jesus Christ himself is preached as the message of evangelism. He’s preached as the eternal Son of God come in the flesh, so that his precious blood could blot out all our sins. What a comfort!
Sing or pray Psalter #63.
January 13—Read Acts 27
Rev. Schipper wrote a great article summarizing this story and applying it to our lives. Paul here advised the centurion not to leave Crete until the weather got better, but the ship captain didn’t listen. Sure enough, when they got out to sea a huge storm hit them, and it seemed they would never see land again. However, Paul calmly assured them that they would all survive, because God had told him this the night before. Paul’s whole outward life was one of service. He served God by his calmness, his confidence, and his cheery words. Paul had also demonstrated his service by the way he’d carried himself throughout the journey.
How about our lives? Are they ones of service? Do we dare pray before we eat in public places? Do we speak up when we hear others swear and blaspheme God’s name? How can we witness to people if we’ve never demonstrated to them that we are different? The crash will one day come in our lives, just as it did in Paul’s, but when our lives are pleasing to God we can rest assured that we will come safely to the shore.
Sing or pray Psalter #82.
January 14—Read Acts 28
We don’t worship John Calvin or put him on a pedestal, but we have great appreciation, as Reformed people, for his work. He didn’t try to squirm away from the true meaning of a text. Prof. Hanko wrote that an example of this can be seen in his commentary on Acts 28:27, which declares God’s sovereignty in salvation regarding election and reprobation. Here’s what Calvin had to say:
“We gather from this that the Word of God is not declared to all so that they may return to soundness of mind, but the spoken words ring in the ears of many without the effective power of the Spirit, only so that they may be rendered inexcusable. But here the pride of the flesh rashly cries out against God; just as we see many protesting that it is in vain, yes even absurd, for men to be called, unless they possess the ability to obey. For even if the reason why God appears to the blind, and speaks to the deaf, is hidden from us, yet His will alone, which is the rule of all justice, ought to be like a thousand reasons to us.”
Sing or pray Psalter #310.
January 15—Read Colossians 1
In Rev. Smit’s book, The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he explains that the first group of three virtues listed in Galatians 5 is inward looking, and that love is the king of all virtues. In contrast, the second group of virtues is evident in our outward dealings and communication; and longsuffering, as the head of this second group, could be considered the queen of all virtues.
Other Bible versions often translate longsuffering as patience, but Rev. Smit explains that the two are separate. Colossians 1:11 makes this clear, for there we read, “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” In this verse we see patience and longsuffering listed as separate virtues. The two are closely related, but there is an important difference. Patience is a very broad term. It talks about our attitudes toward things that are happening in our lives. Longsuffering is more specific; it’s patience with people. God is longsuffering to us, and he shares that wonderful attribute with us
that we might reflect his longsuffering in our dealings with one another.
Sing or pray Psalter # 311.
January 16—Read Colossians 2
In verses 10–15, Paul talks about the sign of baptism, which has replaced circumcision in the New Testament. We baptize our children soon after they are born, an act the Baptists condemn. Prof. Huizinga explains that one reason they object is because they believe someone who’s baptized must have an active faith so they can receive instruction and give a credible confession. However, how can the church baptize anyone then? There will always be hypocrites amongst us. Second, Baptists say there’s no explicit command in scripture requiring the baptizing of infants; but the children of believers were included in the covenant through circumcision, so why would that suddenly change now? Third, they say there isn’t an example in the New Testament of an infant being baptized. That’s true, but the Bible only records the baptisms of new converts, and we do read of whole houses being baptized; wouldn’t there have been children there? Infant baptism, which we are privileged to give our children, is a beautiful sign and seal of the covenant, and we must be prepared to defend it with God’s word.
Sing or pray Psalter #1.
January 17—Read Colossians 3
Our monthly Sunday night Bible study recently examined the subject of stewardship. We learned there are five parts to a biblical understanding of stewardship: ownership, responsibility, accountability, warning, and reward. Colossians 3:23–24 states that we “receive the reward of the inheritance.” We discussed whether we are also rewarded in this life, and, if so, what evidence of that reward do we see in our lives? The verses above speak of our reward in heaven, but it’s also true that we receive a reward of grace in this life, as we read in the Heidelberg Catechism. We also talked about how the evidence of that reward can be seen in a will to flee sin and grow closer to God. Can you think of other ways that we see evidence of this reward in our lives? Can you think of any specific instances in your life where God has given you this evidence?
Sing or pray Psalter #35.
January 18—Read Colossians 4
We find in a Standard Bearer article by Prof. Decker the following definition of missions: “Missions is that work of God in Christ by which through the official ministry of the Word by the Church He gathers His elect in the New Dispensation out of all nations of the world, both Jew and Gentile, with a view to the realization of the manifestation of His glory in the New Heavens and Earth.” This demonstrates that missions is emphatically and exclusively the work of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. In Colossians 4:3 Paul asks the Colossian church to pray “that God would open unto us a door of utterance.” The same truth is all throughout the Canons. Decker writes, “In the first head of doctrine the Canons show from the Word of God that God elects sovereignly His church in Christ. God sends Christ to make atonement for the elect (Canons II). God out of His good pleasure brings the elect to conversion (Canons III, IV) and God preserves the elect unto everlasting life (Canons V).” God chooses to work through men to speak his word, but it is he who opens the door and accomplishes it.
Sing or pray Psalter #176.
January 19—Read Philemon
Rev. Lanning preached a short series on this book. He began this series by explaining that Philemon was a man in Colossae who had a slave named Onesimus who fled to Rome, where he met Paul and was converted. Paul and Onesimus agreed that Onesimus belonged with Philemon, so he was sent back to his master with this letter in hand, telling Philemon to receive him again as a servant and now also as a brother in Christ.
The focus of the first sermon was on Philemon’s hospitality, which is set as an example before the church. Philemon’s family was well-known and dearly beloved in the church. The church worshipped or performed some other functions in Philemon’s house. Someone who is hospitable opens up their homes and themselves to those who are not naturally part of it. Philemon saw that the Lord Jesus Christ had opened the doors of his house to him, and he had a deep desire to do the same for others. Is that desire ours as well? God shows hospitality to us for his own glory, and shall we now not receive one another?
Sing or pray Psalter #159.
January 20—Read Ephesians 1
A sermon by Rev. Kortering gives us a brief history of the Ephesian church. Paul first stopped in Ephesus on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19). He made a hasty visit to the synagogue, where the people were interested, but he had to go on quickly to Jerusalem. Soon afterward Apollos visited the city and preached the baptism of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1–3). Then Paul made Ephesus the center of his activities during his third missionary journey. In all, he stayed and preached in Ephesus for two years. This is where Demetrius, the silversmith who made shrines to Diana, caused the people to rise up in anger because he saw his trade threatened (Acts 19:23–41). The church in Ephesus had a special calling to testify of Christ and his love over against the heathen rites of Diana, around whose temple arose a village of criminals, since no one could be arrested within a bow shot of its walls. God blessed these efforts, for soon the worship of Diana fell off, and in A.D. 262 the temple was consumed by fire and never rebuilt. What a wonder that the church flourished in the midst of such apostasy!
Sing or pray Psalter #237.
January 21—Read Ephesians 2
According to the Bible study sheet on stewardship I mentioned earlier this month, responsibility is the second part of a biblical understanding of stewardship. We have a responsibility to live according to God’s commandments and do all to glorify his name. Ephesians 2:10 commands us to walk in the good works that God pre-determined that we would perform. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30 teaches us that we must use wisely all that we have been given. And, of course, we have the command not to steal in Exodus 20:15.
There are many ways that we can be guilty of stealing. One person wondered if we are stealing by doing enough work to do the job and provide for our family, but nothing more. It’s not that we don’t do the work, but that there’s never a striving to improve in any area. We thought that, if we are truly doing our work to the best of our ability, there will inevitably always be an aspect of that work that we will be striving to improve. What do you think?
Sing or pray Psalter #236.
January 22—Read Ephesians 3
Rev. Smidstra, in a sermon on the last couple verses of this chapter, gives us some examples of things we ask of God. These verses are talking about true spiritual needs, not trivial things. We ask for strength and grace to carry out our callings with cheerfulness and a self-sacrificing attitude, much like the Ephesians. We ask God to keep our children in the midst of this wicked world. We ask God to bring us joy after a difficult loss. We ask God to heal our broken relationships. We also ask him to fill us with zeal for him when we are in a spiritual low point, and to give us victory over our besetting sins.
We ask these things believing that God can do infinitely above what we ask or think. Rev. Smidstra said it’s like trying to pour the Pacific Ocean into the communion cup—the cup overflows and is swallowed up. God’s work of salvation is the greatest work that he has done, and if God is willing and able to do this, then he can do anything else in our lives.
Sing or pray Psalter #209.
January 23—Read Ephesians 4
In Ephesians 4:5, Paul says there is “one baptism.” Prof. Huizinga says there are two grounds on which we base infant baptism. The first is the covenant. We believe our children are included in the covenant, and baptism marks entrance into that covenant. Children of believers must receive the sign of the reality, because they already have the reality. The second ground is circumcision. There is essentially one covenant that God has with his people throughout history, so, just as the sign of circumcision was administered to children, the same must be true of the sign of baptism. The sign of the covenant has simply changed from a bloody sign to a non-bloody sign.
Our calling is to baptize our infants and to regard and rear our children in accordance with that baptism. We must not half-heartedly nod to the questions of baptism and then leave our children to themselves. If we don’t rear them, the world will do it. Our children will rise up and hiss at us on the day of judgment if we don’t train them in the fear of the Lord. Our children won’t praise God unless we raise them in accordance with their baptism.
Sing or pray Psalter #215.
January 24—Read Ephesians 5
After we understand that everything is God’s and that we have the responsibility to glorify him in our work, the third part of stewardship is accountability. Just as the servants in the parable of the talents, one day we will need to give an account for how we’ve used everything we have been given. Ephesians 5:15–17 says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” To walk circumspectly is to be watchful, cautious, and prudent. We live in the last hour. The end is near, and we must not waste the time we have to glorify God’s name and spread the gospel.
Rev. Haak did an excellent keynote speech on this passage at one of the past teachers’ conventions. He really hammered home the fact that we have so little time here on this earth, and we will all be held accountable in the last day for how it was used. Every moment that goes by is one less that we have to do the work God has called us to do.
Sing or pray Psalter #426.
January 25—Read Ephesians 6
Have you ever been to a church prayer meeting? I haven’t, but Rev. denHartog says they were a great benefit to his family and the other church members when he was a missionary in Singapore. These meetings were held once a week especially for the purpose of praying together. They were opened with prayer and singing, after which biblical instruction was given about prayer. Then there was an announcement about current things in the church to pray for, followed by suggestions from the members themselves. The chairman of the meeting then led in prayer before passing that responsibility on to other members.
In Ephesians 6:18 the church is exhorted: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” The word of God urges us to pray and pray often. This verse brings out the necessity of praying for one another. It’s easy to get so caught up in our own lives that we forget about situations in the church that we should pray about. Do you think having prayer meetings like this could assist us in this calling?
Sing or pray Psalter #425.
January 26—Read Philippians 1
In Philippians 1:21, Paul confesses, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Rev. Lee wrote in a Standard Bearer article that this is an astounding confession for two reasons. First, Paul here was a prisoner awaiting sentence, not knowing whether he would live or die. However, he was not wishing to die; he was not suicidal. That’s why the verse starts with, “For to me to live is Christ.” As Rev. Lee puts it, “Paul was content with life and lived a purposeful life in Christ.” Second, death is a dissolving of our earthly body and relationships. It causes great sadness for those we leave behind. However, Christ was the focus of Paul’s life. It was because of this that he could say to die was gain. We can understand this by trying to replace Christ in the first half of the verse with earthly things. It doesn’t make sense, does it? But when we read the verse the way it is, we understand the joy of going to heaven to be with Christ, the one who conquered death for us on the cross.
Sing or pray Psalter #263.
January 27—Read Philippians 2
After discussing how we are to be good stewards with our time, money and resources, talents and abilities, the gospel, wisdom, and relationships, our Bible study looked at how it applies to leadership and authority. This was interesting, because I don’t think I had thought about some of these things before as directly related to stewardship. Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” We see here that humility is key. One who is humble will look at himself as the chief of sinners and put others’ needs before his own. One who has been placed by God in a position of authority is called to servitude, not given power. The world attacks the truth that the man is the head of the home, because they don’t understand that to be head of your home means that you serve your wife and children, putting their needs before your own. It’s responsibility, not power. All power belongs to God alone.
Sing or pray Psalter #223.
January 28—Read Philippians 3
There are many pictures teaching how Christians must live, but Rev. Haak points out that the man running a race in Philippians 3:12–14 is one of Paul’s favorites. There’s nothing passive about the Christian life. It’s not just “let go and let God,” but it’s running a race. An athlete is very disciplined and exercises even when he doesn’t feel like it. Similarly, the Christian prays, reads his Bible, gives to the church, etc. even when he doesn’t feel like it. The one focus and goal of this race is Christ. We look toward that prize, not behind us, just like a football player who will slow down if he looks back.
Haak pointed out three things that we must not look back at in the Christian life. First, we can’t look back at the world, like Lot’s wife did. Second, we can’t look back at our sins, failures, and defeats. We must learn from them, but not focus on them. We must confess them and move on. Third, we must not look back at our past victories, because the moment we pause and think “that was a pretty good last mile” is the moment we falter.
Sing or pray Psalter #175.
January 29—Read Philippians 4
Prof. Dykstra preached a sermon on this chapter titled “Learning Christian Contentment.” Paul is writing to the Philippians here, thanking him for the gift they gave him, while making it clear that he’s not trying to get another one out of them. Our society is characterized by astounding greed and pleasure-seeking. With all the wealth around us in these last days, it’s more important than ever to learn contentment, because things will change. This contentment isn’t natural, but a gift from God. It’s not simply a satisfaction with the circumstances we have in life now, because Christian contentment remains even when our life is extremely hard. Contentment comes by bending our will to God’s will. We must truly believe that God’s way for us is always the right way, even when it’s not the way we wanted. Lest we say, “Paul is an apostle, but I could never learn contentment like him,” Paul points out that he has only learned contentment through Christ. Instead of looking to self, we must believe on Christ and trust that he will teach us Christian contentment.
Sing or pray Psalter #389.
January 30—Read 1Timothy 1
Timothy is called Paul’s “son in the faith” in the beginning of this chapter. Rev. Spronk preached that Timothy was Paul’s spiritual son, because they were united in the faith. They both had the same hope in Christ Jesus. These are the things that create a spiritual family. Just like an earthly family, a spiritual family has different relationships. Paul and Timothy had a father-son relationship, because Paul preached and Timothy believed. God uses the means of preaching to bring some into the family of Christ.
The implication here is that, as Paul’s son, Timothy had to follow the instructions in the epistle. Timothy had the right to be Paul’s spiritual son only as long as he held to the same true faith as Paul. If Timothy followed false doctrine he would no longer be Paul’s spiritual son.
The apostolic blessing found in verse 2 is “grace, mercy, and peace.” It’s only in that way that Paul could have been saved out of darkness, that Timothy could have been Paul’s spiritual son, and that we can all be part of that same spiritual family.
Sing or pray Psalter #388.
January 31—Read 1 Timothy 2
We are called to pray for our politicians, even when their policies are contrary to the word of God. Do we do this, Rev. Bruinsma asks? Maybe we hear it occasionally in congregational prayer at church, but many of us don’t feel the need to include it in our personal prayers. However, we are exhorted in passages such as 1 Timothy 2:1–4 to pray for our magistrates.
So why don’t we tend to do it? It’s easy for us to feel justified in speaking ill of and even mocking wicked magistrates, but ironically, we do the same when we act this way towards them. Also, praying for politicians can make us feel uneasy about upholding the necessary distinction between church and state. Finally, some may question whether the antithesis is being properly upheld if we pray for wicked men.
Although these objections set before us some things to be on guard against, we must pray for our leaders because God has given them their authority, because we desire his name to be glorified by them, and because it’s our desire that their decisions work together for our salvation and final redemption.
Sing or pray Psalter #331.
February 1—Read 1 Timothy 3
Article 23 of the church order, by its reference to Article 16, lists an elder’s first duty as seeing to it that everything is done decently and in good order. In other words, the elders are first involved in the government and discipline of the church. Prof. Cammenga explains that this can be seen from the use of the Greek word episkopos, which means “overseer” or “superintendent,” to refer to elders in the New Testament. Many passages of scripture make this plain as well. 1 Timothy 3:5 says, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” In Acts 20:28, elders are commanded to “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…” This oversight includes the material goods of the church, as well as the congregation’s spiritual life. Oversight of material goods includes the general fund, the church building and grounds, as well as the church’s official records and archives. Committees are often formed to help the elders with this work. Involved in the elders’ calling to administer oversight of the congregation’s spiritual life is the command to exercise Christian discipline.
Sing or pray Psalter #276.
February 2—Read 1 Timothy 4
Prof. Engelsma used 1 Timothy 4:13 as his text for the convocation of the 2007/2008 seminary school year. He told about a Reformed church that called a minister who informed them that he never worked on Mondays, that he’d be at his cottage on weekends, and that he expected at least five weeks of summer vacation. Prof. Engelsma advised the consistory formally to withdraw their call, telling the minister that “he was no undershepherd of Christ, but only a hireling.” True ministers of the word are consumed with the work of reading, exhorting, and teaching. They don’t “expect” and demand long vacations.
The same must be true of us. The world we live in has become extremely entitled, and it’s so easy for us to fall into that sin as well. We talk about how we “deserve” more time off. We justify our selfishness, stating that this is what we “need.” The word of God has taken a back seat in our lives. Instead, may the word of God be our life. May we bring that word to one another, “for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (v. 16).
Sing or pray Psalter #270.
February 3—Read 1 Timothy 5
A couple days ago, we looked at an old article by Prof. Cammenga about the calling of elders in the church. 1 Timothy 5:17 is another verse mentioned in this article. Here we read, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” This verse deals again with the elders’ calling to have oversight of the church. Closely connected to that is their calling to have supervision of their fellow officebearers. All of the pastor’s ministerial labors are subject to the elders’ oversight. In addition, the elders are called to have mutual oversight of one another. Cammenga also brings out the calling of the elders in regard to evangelism. This work is generally carried out by an evangelism committee, but under the supervision of the consistory. Finally, the elders assist in the pastoral work of visiting those in need and providing counsel for those who are struggling spiritually. Although most of us aren’t in these positions of authority, we must always remember that it’s our calling as well to watch over and care for each other, always looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ.
Sing or pray Psalter #172.
February 4—Read 1 Timothy 6
After we understand that everything belongs to God, that we have a responsibility to use our talents wisely, and that God will hold us accountable for how we use the things he’s given unto us, then we need to hear about the consequences for those who aren’t faithful stewards. 1 Timothy 6:9–10 is one passage that talks about this. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Those who love money, and refuse to look at it as God’s, will go down to destruction. In the parable of the rich man who built bigger barns and thought he had nothing to worry about (Luke 12:16–21), we’re reminded that we can’t take our riches with us when we die. Finally, Romans 2:5–9 warn that tribulation and anguish will be the reward for all those who don’t obey the truth and who live for self.
Sing or pray Psalter #88.
February 5—Read Titus 1
Rev. Rodney Kleyn preached a sermon on the qualifications of an elder, and of every mature believer, found in Titus 1:6–9. These can be summarized as one who’s blameless, godly, self-controlled, and enjoys studying the scriptures.
An elder must be blameless, first, because his work in the home is essentially the same as his work in the church; so if he can’t rule rightly at home, how could he rule rightly in the church? Second, he must be an example to the congregation. We must remember that the way we live has an effect on others. Third, an elder is answerable to God.
Not just in behavior, but also in character, the man must be an example. He must not be self-willed, depending on himself and working for himself. He must be one who’s not quick-tempered and who doesn’t fight easily. He must not be given to wine. He must not be greedy.
Other positive qualifications are mentioned, but, above all, we see the elder is a man who loves the word of God. He must exhort and convince the gainsayers. Arguing can often drive a person harder into his position, but lovingly stating the truth can breed understanding.
Sing or pray Psalter #62.
February 6—Read Titus 2
Titus 2:15 reads, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” As Rev. VanOverloop points out in a Standard Bearer article, the “things” referred to in the beginning of this verse are the scriptures. Titus is commanded to use them to speak, exhort, and rebuke. He must speak the truth faithfully and boldly, even in the face of opposition. Secondly, Titus must exhort, or “stand alongside,” the Christians on Crete. He must identify himself with them and make sure the word he speaks is to himself as well. Third, Titus must warn the Christians of sin’s consequences and call them to action in repentance. Paul tells Titus to do these things “with all authority,” the authority of God’s word.
The same command that comes to Titus here comes to us. Paul’s final command to Titus in the verse is “Let no man despise thee.” Titus can’t really prevent others from despising him, but he must not allow that reaction to damage the work God has given him. Similarly, we are all called to speak God’s word when we have the opportunity, without worrying what men may do unto us.
Sing or pray Psalter #60.
February 7—Read Titus 3
Lord’s Day 24 teaches us about the proper relationship of justification and good works. Here we learn about how works righteousness teaches that our works earn all or part of our salvation, how our good works are rewarded, and how our works are the inevitable fruit of justification. There are many who claim that there would be no incentive to perform good works if they didn’t contribute to our salvation, so the third question addresses this. In a sermon on this passage, Rev. Smidstra lays out three ways to refute this notion. First, our experience demonstrates that this is not true, because if it were we would have careless and profane Reformed men all around us. Second, passages like Titus 3:7–8 make it clear that justification produces good works. Third, if this were true it would make our theology inconsistent, essentially divorcing justification and sanctification. God implants good works in us as the wonderful fruit, not the root, of the Christian life.
Sing or pray Psalter #280.
Originally published January 2020, Vol. 79 No. 1