by Joel R. Beeke; TABLETALK MAGAZINE
Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations.—Acts 20:18–19, KJV
In 1688 conflict erupted between the city authorities of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the Reformed minister Wilhelmus á Brakel (1635–1711). The government paid the salary of ministers and had a role in confirming their calls. 1When the civil magistrate refused to approve an otherwise duly called pastor, Brakel preached a sermon titled “The Lord Jesus Declared to be the Only Sovereign King of His Church.”
The government responded by prohibiting Brakel from preaching and suspending his salary. Brakel believed the government had no right to exercise such control over the ministers of Christ, so he ignored his suspension and kept on preaching. For some weeks he lived outside the city, commuting to Rotterdam to fulfill his ministerial duties. He said he would rather face exile, and even death, than stop preaching the Word of Christ. However, when Brakel’s consistory asked his permission to let another minister preach until the controversy cooled, Brakel submitted to the authority of the elders. In so doing, he demonstrated that he was not a revolutionary. Yet it took the influence of William of Orange (Willem III) to prevent Brakel from being sent into exile.2
Brakel later said of the ministry: “There must be self-denial, that is, a willingness to sacrifice one’s honor, goods—yes, even one’s life. . . . The servant of Christ . . . should let Paul be his example.”3 Today we can learn from Paul’s description of his ministry in Acts 20:19 that the Lord calls pastors to do His will with lowliness of mind and heart, compassion, and faithfulness.
Just as Jesus Christ set His face toward Jerusalem to fulfill His Father’s will (Luke 9:51), the Apostle Paul knew that he, too, must go to Jerusalem, and he knew what it would cost him (Acts 20:22–23).4 He gathered the Ephesian elders, his dear friends, for one last meeting (Acts 20:17, 25, 38). Luke refers to Paul’s audience as elders and overseers, the men called to shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:17, 28).
Paul spoke to the elders as a veteran minister addressing fellow servants in the Lord. He bid them to follow him as he followed the Lord (1 Cor. 11:1).5 The first thing he said about his ministry in Acts 20:19 is that he served the Lord “with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations.”The Lord calls pastors to do His will with lowliness of mind and heart, compassion, and faithfulness.SHARE
The heart of this Scripture is “serving the Lord.” Literally the Greek text says “serving as a slave of the Lord.”6 “Slave” and “Lord” indicate a relationship of authority and submission, or one man doing the will of another. We do not serve according to our own will; rather, the Lord calls pastors to do His will in a life of obedience to His holy Word. We are not masters or owners, only stewards entrusted with the revealed mysteries of God and the care of the blood-bought church of Christ. Matthew Henry (1662–1714) said of Paul: “He had made it his business to serve the Lord, to promote the honor of God and the interest of Christ and his kingdom among them. He never served himself, nor made himself the servant of men, of their lusts and humors . . . but he made it his business to serve the Lord.”7
Paul gives us three words about authentic ministry: humility, tears, and temptations. Let us examine what it means to serve Christ in these three ways, drawing from Paul’s entire speech in Acts 20:18–35.
SERVING GOD IN HUMILITY
Humility is not an outward show of wearing old clothes or walking around with eyes on the ground. Humility is “lowliness of mind.”8 It is a quality of the heart, a mindset, an attitude, and a perspective. Ministers in particular need to hear Paul’s words in Romans 12:1–3:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
True humility is giving all you are to doing the will of your Savior, having a sober and just estimate of yourself and your abilities as a minister, while remembering that anything you have of real value or use is a gift from God. John Dick wrote of Paul, “Elevated to the highest rank in the Christian Church, more learned than any of his brethren, and possessed of great natural talents, and of miraculous powers, he was not elated with an idea of his superiority, nor haughty and overbearing in his intercourse with others.”9 Paul is a model for us all, for humility is the heartbeat of service in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:1–4). Augustine (354–430) said the first thing in the Christian life is humility; the second, humility; and the third, humility.10 The humility of Christ’s slave is evident in Acts 20 in the following ways:
1. He loves obedience more than life. Rather than being puffed up with his own importance, the slave of Christ is satisfied to do his Master’s will. Paul says in Acts 20:22–24: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”Humility is a quality of the heart, a mindset, an attitude, and a perspective. SHARE
Paul did not consider his life as precious or “of great value.”11 When he understood that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem to glorify God, he did not protest, saying: “But Lord, they want to kill me there. I have an important ministry among the gentiles. The churches in Asia and Greece need my theological wisdom and my practical guidance. Surely someone else could go.” Instead, Paul saw himself as a servant “for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). Nothing was more precious to him than to submit to the will of God. Nothing was more important than completing the work that the Lord Jesus gave to him. Thomas Manton (1620–77) said, “Life is only then worth the having when we may honor Christ by it. . . . Paul loved his work more than his life, and preferred obedience before safety.”12
In this way Paul denied himself, took up his cross and followed Christ, who, “being found in fashion as a man, . . . humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Christ is God; yet Christ is also God’s servant par excellence. If He, whom we rightly call Lord and Master, washed the feet of His disciples, how much more should we be willing to undertake lowly and difficult tasks? Henry wrote of Paul, “He was willing to stoop to any service, and to make himself and his labors as cheap as they could desire.”13
Gisbertus Voetius (1589–1676), a leading theologian of the Dutch Further Reformation, wrote voluminous theological disputations in Latin while seeking to reform the church and society of the Netherlands. Voetius has been compared to the English Puritan John Owen in stature and influence, yet Voetius took time every week to teach catechism to orphaned children.14 He did not regard that work as something too lowly for someone of his standing but gladly obeyed the Bible’s call to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27).
2. He delights in giving more than in receiving. Paul says in Acts 20:33–34, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” As Apostle to the gentiles, Paul started many churches in centers of wealth, but not with the idea of making himself rich in the process. He gladly preached the gospel for free, earning his own way as a tentmaker if no one was able or willing to support him. He was willing to spend his own money on these churches, much as parents support their children (2 Cor. 12:14–15). So, Paul could say to the Ephesian elders, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, KJV). How precious these words are from Christ’s earthly ministry, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Proud people are like black holes in outer space. They think they deserve glory, honor, and power for what they do, but whatever they manage to get simply disappears into their darkness, for they are never satisfied. They are like Haman, who was a great prince in the Persian Empire but was “full of wrath” when one man refused to bow to him (Est. 3:1–5). By contrast, people of humility are like the sun. They constantly shine forth light and warmth, blessing those around them. They do not covet glory and honor for themselves; they give freely, willing to “spend and be spent” for Christ’s sake. In doing so, they attract people as the sun attracts objects with its gravitational pull, and they create beautiful, ordered families, churches, and societies.How precious these words are from Christ’s earthly ministry, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”SHARE
Are you the man in Jesus’ parable who tries to get the best seat at a banquet? Or do you try to honor others rather than seek it for yourself? Do you preach against this world while still coveting what’s in it? Does your heart lust after praise and recognition, wealth and riches, or any other form of glory or praise from men? Beware, for the love of the world will leave you groveling at the feet of the devil. Rather, “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5)—that is, the true humility, or lowliness of mind, of one who is the slave of God.
THE TEARS OF THE SLAVE OF THE LORD
It may seem strange to hear Paul talking about tears in ministry as an essential component of serving the Lord. Aren’t we supposed to be serving the Lord in the strength of His might? God call us to be men of valor, not crybabies, right? First Corinthians 16:13 commands us to “stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” So, what does biblical masculinity look like?
There are times when life’s pain wrenches tears from our eyes and groans from our souls. Christ Himself “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death” (Heb. 5:7). What’s more, the Holy Spirit groans within us as we await our redemption from all evil (Rom. 8:23, 26).
However, the Bible does not condone pity parties or self-centered whining for sympathy. Paul was far from saying: “Poor me. I’m going to Jerusalem. Isn’t it horrible?” In Acts 20:24, Paul says, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul ran his race in life with the elevated joy of a runner headed for the finish line and the victor’s crown (1 Cor. 9:24–25). Like Eric Liddell (1902–45), the missionary to China and Olympic champion, Paul ran with his head back, feeling God’s pleasure in sacrificial obedience.
So then, why should we run with tears? Acts 20:31 tells us, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Paul did not shed tears for himself; he wept for the precious souls whom he called to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.15 Charles Simeon (1759–1836) said, “With this humility of mind he had blended compassion for their souls; so that . . . he had wept much on their account, both in his addresses to them, and in his supplications in their behalf.”16
In this, Paul was an authentic representative of his Lord. When Jesus carried His cross to Calvary in weariness, pain, and misery and shed His blood, He did not pity Himself; nor did He ask pity of others. He said to the women around Him, “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves,” knowing that God’s severe judgment would fall on Jerusalem (Luke 23:28). Yet when His friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Christ was not a stoic; He was ruled by love.
When Paul speaks about tears in ministry, we see that ministers of Christ must be people of heartfelt compassion for God’s people and for those not yet saved. Let us look at how that works in more detail.
1. We weep for God’s people. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” Paul had to confront some difficult problems in the Corinthian church. He did so boldly, but not coldly. Many of his epistles were stained with tears. We are not talking about a mere rhetorical device here; we are talking about a heartfelt love for the flock of God. We are one body in Christ. When one member suffers, all suffer, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 26 says. The Holy Spirit commands us in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” He does not say, “Have a measure of sympathy.” He says, “Weep.”
We may feel that such emotion is not appropriate for a minister, but Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:11, “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.” A minister’s heart must be open so the church may see the affections of Christ moving us to action. We are not making a display of ourselves; we are displaying the humanity and compassion of Christ to His people, His sense of our great need and His sorrow for our sins. Because of our union with Christ, Christ’s sufferings and death abound in us, so that His life is manifested in us and brings comfort to others in their sufferings (1:3–6; 4:8–12). The display of Christ’s suffering in us as ministers is a profound mystery, but it is also powerfully real. Is it possible that what hinders us from weeping is not our dignity as men but our lack of conformity to Christ?Ministers of Christ must be people of heartfelt compassion for God’s people and for those not yet saved. SHARE
A man once visited the church of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–43) when M’Cheyne was not there. The visitor asked a member of the church what the secret of M’Cheyne’s power in ministry was. The church member walked the visitor to the pastor’s study. He then said to the visitor: “Kneel down by the pastor’s chair. Bow your head. Fold your hands. Now weep.” Then he took the man to the pulpit and said, “Now stretch out your hands and weep.” May God grant us tears in our secret prayer and in public preaching.
2. We are brokenhearted for the lost. In Philippians 3:18–19, Paul says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” It is horrible to hear men speak of sin and judgment and hell with utter detachment. Paul grieved and wept over the lost, even the enemies of Christ.
In Romans 9:1–3, Paul says: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to teach the truths of divine election and reprobation, but not without “great heaviness and continual sorrow” for his unsaved Jewish relatives and countrymen. Likewise, our Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). The Savior willingly traveled the way of suffering and death to fulfill God’s eternal plan. He did all according to “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” so that, as the church later prayed to God, the people would “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 2:23; 4:28). The Savior wept over Jerusalem. How can we be like Him?
George Whitefield (1714–70), one of the greatest evangelists of all time, was immersed in the writings of the Puritans. God used Whitefield’s preaching to revive the church and to save thousands of sinners. Tears were a significant aspect of his preaching. He said, “You blame me for weeping, but how can I help it, when you will not weep for yourselves, although your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction.”17 Francis Schaeffer (1912–84) said, “We must proclaim the message with tears and give it with love.”18
The Christian life is not just marked by tears. We are asked to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). If your heart is cold and your eyes too dry, pray for God to fill you with the Spirit of Jesus, who both fills us with the compassionate love of God (Rom. 5:5) and imparts that joy in the Lord that makes us strong in His service (Rom. 14:17).
THE TEMPTATIONS OF A SLAVE OF THE LORD
Ministers are mortal, so they must daily battle temptation and trial, in the form of attacks from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Daily devotions, self-denial, and personal discipline, and the love and prayers of a supportive family and the elders of the church, are the best resources for fighting temptation, but so is the wisdom of the Puritans, who offer a full armory of weapons with which to fight the three-headed enemy.The Savior wept over Jerusalem. How can we be like Him?SHARE
Paul seemingly had a specific temptation in mind in Acts 20:19–20, speaking about “temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.” Alexander said Paul speaks of “temptations, not in the restricted sense of allurements or inducements to commit sin, but in the broader sense of trials that include troubles or afflictions that are a test of character.”19 In other words, Paul is referring to temptations that rise out of opposition to the Word of God. The Apostle could say that he had held back nothing profitable to his hearers, rather than modify his message to appease such opposition. John Chrysostom (d. 407) said that in so doing, Paul is a model of “love and bravery . . . both generosity and resoluteness.”20
Experienced ministers of the gospel understand the weight of the words of Proverbs 29:25: “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” The fear of man, and a correspondingly weak faith in the Lord, is a snare that has caught the foot of too many preachers. Paul writes in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” People-pleasing has ruined many slaves of the Lord (Eph. 6:6), for it strikes at the heart of our allegiance. We must ask, Are we the slaves of the Lord or slaves of men? We cannot serve two masters.
Acts 20 describes three things that tempt God’s servant: opposition from the world, from the church, and from our own souls.
1. Opposition from the world. In Acts 20:19, Paul speaks of “temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews.” The Holy Spirit told Paul that “bonds and afflictions” waited for him in Jerusalem (Acts 20:23). Likewise, throughout the world today, preachers face persecution from militant Hindus, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Buddhists, and Communists. Indeed, we also face hostility from nominal Christians. Just as Judaism and early Christianity seemed to be branches of the same religion, so Christian ministers today face opposition from groups claiming to be Christian while holding to a fundamentally different gospel. These include Roman Catholics as well as liberal Protestants, not to mention sects and cults such as Mormonism.
The temptation here is for gospel ministers to soft-pedal or be silent about offensive elements of biblical truth to curry favor with one’s hearers. But Paul says in Acts 20:26–27: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Some parts of God’s revelation will offend your listeners. Knowing that, will you preach the whole counsel of God? Will you speak out against the sins of our time and place? Satan will tempt you to pass quietly over the controversial points or to reshape them so they do not offend rebels against God. The devil wraps this temptation in fine words such as sensitivity and tolerance. Those are fine words but not excuses for failing to preach the whole counsel of God. In the end, the question is whether we preach everything God has revealed for the good of our hearers’ souls or only what seems to promote our prosperity.21We must ask, Are we the slaves of the Lord or slaves of men? We cannot serve two masters.SHARE
It should also be said that ministers should avoid the opposite temptation, which is to substitute controversial ax-grinding and hobbyhorse riding for the preaching of the gospel. Paul’s concern was to preach what was profitable for his hearers. Is a steady diet of “what’s wrong with our country today” or “this week in American politics” truly profitable for our people? Paul’s aim was to preach Christ and Him crucified as the very heart and soul of the whole counsel of God. We should be willing to brook any amount of criticism or opposition if we are truly preaching Christ.
2. The temptation of opposition in the church. Paul says in Acts 20:28–29: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” This echoes what Jesus says in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Ravening wolves are out to destroy the flock of God, not to build it up, maintain it, and protect it from harm (John 10:11–15). Many false prophets are guilty of making insignificant items to be as important as the true fundamentals of the faith.
The devil, who embeds these wolves in the flock, whispers in our ears: “These men are part of the church. Look at the good they are doing and the souls they are winning. They love the Lord Jesus. Look how orthodox they are in other doctrines. So do not destroy the peace of Christ’s church by opposing what they say.” The love of peace and unity in the gospel has caused many good men to brush heresy under the rug.
Alexander Whyte (1836–1921) was a godly Scottish Presbyterian, a preacher of vibrant orthodoxy. But when so-called higher criticism of the Bible began to undermine biblical authority in the Free Church of Scotland, Whyte actually defended the right of those who held such views to teach at Presbyterian schools. Though it is true that these men cloaked their new ideas in a dress of piety, speaking of “Believing Criticism,” Whyte was strangely blind to the devastating effects this doctrine would have on the faith and saw it merely as “a new theological method” that should be permitted in the spirit of progress.22 The churches reacted by no longer requiring men to subscribe to their confessions except in the most general way.23
Thomas M’Crie (1772–1835) had warned against such liberalism as early as 1820, saying, “A vague and indefinite evangelism . . . [will] degenerate into an unsubstantial and incoherent pietism, which after effervescing [or bubbling up] in enthusiasm will finally settle into indifference; in which case, the spirit of infidelity and unbelief . . . will achieve an easy conquest.”24 Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881), though not really evangelical or orthodox himself, offered his own assessment, saying, “Have my countrymen’s heads become turnips when they think they can hold the premises of . . . unbelief and draw the conclusions of . . . evangelical orthodoxy?”25 So let us stand firm, brothers, against the temptation to overlook heresy in the church. Preserving peace at the cost of truth will only destroy the real unity in the gospel, which is “the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13). Perhaps one of the greatest heresies we face today is that many think that careful definition and exposition of Christian doctrine is not relevant to the needs of the times in which we live.
2. The temptation of opposition from our own souls. The most sobering temptation is implied in Acts 20:30: “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Imagine the horror that the Ephesian elders must have felt when Paul said that. It was the same when Jesus said to His disciples, “One of you shall betray me” (Matt. 26:21). It would be like standing in a meeting of pastors and saying, “Some of you will fall away from the faith and draw others away from Christ.” Brothers, the greatest opposition to the Word of God that we must fight is opposition arising from our own souls. Therefore, Paul’s exhortation to the elders in Acts 20:28 begins, “Take heed to yourselves.”Paul’s aim was to preach Christ and Him crucified as the very heart and soul of the whole counsel of God.SHARE
Let us be honest. Within us all remains what Paul called “flesh” in Romans 7 and Galatians 5. The essence of flesh, according to Romans 8:7, is “enmity [or hatred] against God.” John Owen (1616–83) said long ago:
As every drop of poison is poison, and will infect, and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn; so is every thing of the law of sin, the last, the least of it—it is enmity, it will poison, it will burn. . . . “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He is so in himself, eternally excellent, and desirable above all. . . . Against this God we carry about us an enmity all our days.26
Part of us will always recoil at sound doctrine, for biblical truth glorifies God and humbles man. John Calvin (1509–64) said of Paul, “Knowing his own infirmity, he did mistrust himself.”27The temptation is to assume that we will always be faithful to the Word, which is only another form of trusting in ourselves that we are righteous. Over a long ministry, we shall often be tempted, even inclined, to compromise, to sell out, to betray the gospel for the sake of personal advantage. O brothers, how necessary it is to obey Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
We must serve the Lord with humility, for we are sinners saved only by the grace of our Lord Jesus. We also have good reason to serve with tears of compassion, for we ourselves are brands plucked from the burning by the pierced hands of our Savior. The frailty of our own human nature compels us to be watchful, to examine ourselves, and, by grace, to keep ourselves in the faith of Christ and the love of God.
The Lord calls pastors to do His will with lowliness of mind, compassion, and faithfulness. He calls us to serve the Lord in humility, tears, and temptations. That is what we learn from Paul’s words in Acts 20:19. We have this calling from a glorious Lord, who is worthy of our faith and of such faithful service.
Let us conclude with the encouraging words of Paul in Acts 20:32: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Cling to the Word, brothers. The Bible will be light in your darkness and a well of salvation in your dryness. You have a high calling, but it is attainable because God gives us what we need to do what He commands. Do you need to grow in humility, or compassion, or the determination to fight against temptation? Meet with God daily in prayer and in meditation on His Word. Look constantly to Christ as the author and finisher of our faith. Seek ever to be filled with the Spirit, and to walk in the Spirit.
God our heavenly Father, who hath called thee to His holy ministry, enlighten thee with His Holy Spirit, strengthen thee with His hand, and so govern thee in thy ministry that thou mayest decently and fruitfully walk therein to the glory of His Name and the propagation of the kingdom of His Son Jesus Christ. . . . Bear patiently all sufferings and oppressions as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, thou shalt receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
- “Church Order of Dort,” in Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, and Church Order, ed. Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage, 1999), 179 (Art. 4). This article was given as an address at the Ministers’ Conference of the United Reformed Churches in North America at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich., on May 12, 2011. ↩︎
- W. Fieret, “Wilhelmus á Brakel,” in Wilhelmus á Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout (Ligonier, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992–95), 1:lxxi–lxxiv. ↩︎
- Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 2:134. ↩︎
- “In his journey to Jerusalem and Rome, Paul mirrors Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the way he prepared his disciples for his absence in Luke 9–19.” Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2007), 623. ↩︎
- “The Ephesians both remember and know that Paul’s life has been an example. This is how a minister should serve the Lord.” Bock, Acts, 626–27. ↩︎
- The verb “serving” (douleuōn) is cognate to “slave” (doulos). “He literally calls himself a slave.” Simon J. Kistemaker, Acts, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1992), 725. ↩︎
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 6:211. ↩︎
- The Greek term is tapeinophrosunē, literally “low mindedness.” “It is sometimes rendered lowliness (Eph. 4, 2) or lowliness of mind (Phi. 2, 3).” J.A. Alexander, Acts, Geneva Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth, 1984), 241. ↩︎
- John Dick, Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, 2nd ed. (New York: Robert Carter, 1845), 320. ↩︎
- “In that way the first part is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility: and this I would continue to repeat as often as you asked for direction, not that there are not other instructions which may be given, but because, unless humility precede, accompany, and follow every good action which we perform . . . pride wrests from our hand any good work on which we are congratulating ourselves. . . . Wherefore, as that most illustrious orator, on being asked what seemed to him the first thing to be observed in the art of eloquence, is said to have replied, Delivery; and when he was asked what the second thing, replied again, Delivery; and when asked what was the third thing, still gave no other reply than this, Delivery; so if you were to ask me, however often you might repeat the question, what are the instructions of the Christian religion, I would be disposed to answer always and only, ‘Humility.’” Letter CXVIII (AD 410), Augustin to Dioscorus, 3.22, in Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 (repr., Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1989), 446. ↩︎
- Greek timian. ↩︎
- Sermon I on Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet, 1870–75), 20:184. ↩︎
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary, 6:211. ↩︎
- Joel R. Beeke, Gisbertus Voetius: Towards a Reformed Marriage of Knowledge and Piety (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage, 1999), 15. ↩︎
- “His tears were expressive of his tender concern, for the souls of men, of the compassion with which he regarded those who were perishing in their sins, and as well as of his sympathy with the disciples, in their common afflictions, and in their sufferings for religion. He was not a man of stern unfeeling temper; but in him a tender heart was conjoined with a vigorous understanding.” Dick, Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, 320. ↩︎
- Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible (1847; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1988), 14:506. ↩︎
- Joseph Belcher, George Whitefield: A Biography (New York: American Tract Society, 1857), 507. ↩︎
- Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity, 1972), 71. Interestingly, Schaeffer wrote this as an act of public repentance for the kind of militant, angry fundamentalism he had earlier embraced in the 1930s. He had learned that the Lord’s work must be done in a different way. ↩︎
- Alexander, Acts, 242. ↩︎
- Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 44, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, vol. 5, Acts, ed. Francis Martin (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2006), 250. ↩︎
- “Those who are influenced by selfish considerations are in constant danger of forsaking the path of rectitude. Instead of preaching those doctrines which would be profitable to others, they are tempted to preach such only as are profitable to themselves.” Dick, Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, 322 ↩︎
- Michael A.G. Haykin, “The Piety of Alexander Whyte (1836–1921),” in A Consuming Fire: The Piety of Alexander Whyte, Profiles in Reformed Spirituality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage, 2006), 8–10. ↩︎
- K.R. Ross, “Declaratory Acts,” in Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, ed. Nigel M. de S. Cameron (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993), 237–38. ↩︎
- John Macleod, Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History (repr., Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth, 1974), 314–15. ↩︎
- N.M. de S. Cameron, “Believing Criticism,” in Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, 69. The omitted words are “German” and “Scottish.” His contrast may not be racial so much as Lutheran versus Reformed. ↩︎
- “The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers,” in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1851), 6:177. ↩︎
- John Calvin, Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles, vol. 2 (repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1996), 241. ↩︎
Dr. Joel R. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich., and editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books. He is author of numerous books, including Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism.