A man and a woman baptised - their story and you

Text Acts 16 Date 19/04/15 Place Childs Hill Baptist (Baptism)

We are going to baptise two young people tonight. In a short while they are going to say something about their story and then one by one I am going to go down into the water with them and I am going to immerse them in the water and then they are going to rise and step out. They are going to be symbolically washed clean. Symbolically, they are going to die as they sink and then rise again as they come up from under the water.

Now whenever there is a symbol or a symbolic action there is potential for misunderstanding and so without words we will not be entirely sure that everybody understands.

Take for example if I shake my head left and right. For most people that means “no”. There are parts of the world, however, where it means “yes” and nodding the head means “no”. To be absolutely sure then you need to say which you mean.

Or take two fingers. A man in a pub indicating to the barman he wants two beers may be understood. In a similar way George Bush Senior apparently ran into trouble in 1992 in Australia when he tried to make a sign for peace.
In this country people often wear red poppies in November to remember the war dead. In 2010 David Cameron wore one in China, however, and it caused offence as in the nineteenth century Britain defeated China in two opium wars (opium coming from poppies).
I really want you all to understand what this mean then when these two are baptised. The best way to do that is if we turn to Acts 16 in the New Testament. There we are told about two people who are baptised in the Macedonian city of Philippi, the first a business woman and the second a tough jailer, probably a retired Roman soldier.
1. Consider Lydia and her experience, that of these two young Christians and your own
We can say four things about Lydia from the text, things that are true to some extent of these two young people too.
1. This woman prayed and worshipped but was unconverted, as with these two and may be you
Luke, the writer of Acts, explains how Paul and his team travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. He says we stayed there several days. On the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. There were not enough Jewish men for a synagogue in Philippi but a group of women used to meet by the river to pray. We sat down says Luke and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira (back in the direction from where they had come) named Lydia, a dealer in expensive and much prized purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. She was not Jewish but she had been attracted to the Jewish faith and regularly worshipped the true God. This all happened before she became a Christian.
Now our two young friends could tell you something similar about themselves. They have both been coming here pretty much all their lives. They have been used to coming here every Sunday to worship God and they come from homes where God is worshipped and where there is prayer. However, it is only in recent months that they have actually been converted themselves. You see, you can worship God and pray and yet not be converted. Conversion is a different thing.
Perhaps you pray and worship God. That's good. But it is not the same thing as conversion. The two must not be confused. We do not baptise people just because they pray of worship God. We try to baptise only the converted.
2. This woman's heart was opened by God to respond, as with these two and may be you
Let's think about Lydia's conversion then. How does Luke describe it? He says in verse 14 The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. As Paul spoke about the Lord Jesus Christ and the need to repent from sin and trust in him something happened. Her heart which had been closed to God began to open and she was able to respond to the message. The Lord worked within to enable Lydia to respond. That is how it is when someone is converted. It is secret and unseen, It is God's work, but it results in the person hearing the message of God and responding to it. That is what has happened to these two.
Has it happened to you? We pray that it will.
3. This woman and others were baptised, as these two are going to be tonight; what about you?
We then read in verse 15 that she and the members of her household were baptised. Lydia was not married but people worked for her and they too had clearly heard the message as well and Hod had enabled them to respond and so they were all baptised. This is the norm in the New Testament. People hear the good news – that God will forgive all their sins if they trust in Jesus Christ – they are enabled to respond to the message by God an then they are baptised. There is nothing in the Bible about baptising babies or baptising anyone before they have responded.
All who respond get baptised. If you have heard the message and God is at work in your heart then I urge you to be baptised too.
4. This woman did good, as these two must also do and you
The final ting we read about Lydia is where Luke says she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." He says And she persuaded us. Almost here first act as a Christian was to do something to help these preachers who had come to her city. It was an act of kindness and concern. We don't know where they had lived before but Lydia was sure she could provide them with something better and so that is what she did. A true Christian will always do good of some sort or another.
Gwion and Courtney, tonight you are being baptised but now you need to find something to do to help God's people. You can't put up preachers in your home and there is no need at the moment but I am sure there are other things you can do and you must. So must all who are baptised.
In verses 16-24 Luke goes on to tell us the story of how Paul and his companion end up in jail in Philippi. The little group of Christians continued to meet week by week down by the river. One day on the way there Paul and the others were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future and who earned lots of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She made quite a nuisance of herself until one day Paul had had enough and he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" Immediately the spirit left which was good news for her but made her owners unhappy as their hope of making money was gone. Because of that they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, These men are Jews, anti-Semitism was alive and well in those days as it is now and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice. Philippi was a Roman colony and the Philippians were very proud of their Roman citizenship – something that Paul later uses to the new church's advantage. In verse 22 we read that The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
So by midnight that night there they were, hands and feet in shackles, stuck in a strange prison far from home and in the dark. But they weren't discouraged. In fact, they were singing hymns we learn. It is not long after this that we read about more conversions and baptisms too. So
2. Consider the jailer and his experience, that of these two young Christians and your own
1. This man was in despair, as these two have been and may be you
So (25) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. No doubt they were learning from what was sung. The jailer was perhaps listening too at first. Then (26) Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. As far as he was concerned this was a disaster. Not only was there an earthquake but as far as he could see in the gloom all the prisoners were about to escape and he would be held responsible. There was nothing for it but to take his own life. Now he was in despair.
Now I don't suppose either of our two friends have come close to thinking of killing themselves but they know what it is to be tempted to despair. They know what it is to come under conviction of sin – to realise that you are a sinner and that unless God does something very dramatic there is no hope. Do you know what it is to be in that position? It is not easy to go through such a thing but it can be good for you. We certainly all need to come to an end of ourselves. We cannot solve our problems ourselves – any more than the jailer here.
2. This man wanted to know how to be saved, as these two did and may be you
Paul can see what the jailer is about to do and so he shouts out (28) Don't harm yourself! We are all here! The jailer then called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas and after bringing them out asked his famous question (30) Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Now what exactly he meant by this question is uncertain. No doubt he had heard Paul and Silas singing and realised that they were not in jail because they were criminals but for preaching their message about Jesus and the resurrection. He was also in the midst if an earthquake. He asked the very best question you can ask, though - what must I do to be saved? It's a question that these two began asking when they were still quite young. It's a question that you ought to be asking too. Have you ever asked it? What must I do to be saved from sin and death and hell?
3. This man was told to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved, as were these two and now you
With that great question we have an even greater answer. 31 They replied, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household. The jailer knew Pal was in the prison for preaching about Jesus, who he said had died on a cross but had been raised to life. Now the man is told that all he has to do is to trust in this man Jesus who is God. And that is all these two have done and all you need to do too. Just trust in the Lord Jesus. Believe on him. If you do that, you will be saved.
4. This man and others were told other things from God's Word, as these two have been and now you
Of course, that is not all that they said. In verse 32 we read Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (which probably refers to the other prisoners). We do not know exactly what they said any more than we do what was said to Lydia. When we read the rest of Acts and other parts of the New Testament we can make a good guess that Paul focused on Christ and his death and his resurrection and then on repentance (turning from sin) and faith in Jesus Christ, then living a life pleasing to God through him.
There are many things you need to know – God made you, only God can save you. He has revealed his will in the Bible. God will one day judge you. The only way to be sure of being safe on that day is to trust in Jesus Christ. Gwion and Courtney know these things. They have helped them to come to the point where they trust in Christ. You too must trust in Christ.
5. This man did good, as these two have and you must too
Verse 33 says that At that hour of the night gone midnight the jailer took them and washed their wounds. Previously he had not cared about them but now he does. Why? He has been converted. Before he is even baptised he has begun to do good, as is the case with these two I'm sure.
6. This man and others were baptised, as these two are going to be tonight; what about you?
Next it says then immediately he and all his household were baptised. Just as it was with Lydia so with them, so with all believers in the New Testament. That is how it should be with all believers.
Are you a believer? Then get baptised. It is a matter of obeying God. You say, I wouldn't want to have a big crowd like this watching me. Fine, we could do it quietly some other night with just a few present – we have done that. The issue is obedience. You say you are a Christian – then get baptised!
7. This man did good and was glad, as these two must also do and you too
The final verse I want to look at is verse 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God - he and his whole household. The man continued to good, like Lydia. We are not saved by doing good but if we really are saved then we will do good. Gwion and Courtney. We expect to see you doing good – more and more. This man was also filled with joy because he had come to believe in God. I am sure you are filled with joy tonight and if you look to Christ you will continue to be filled with joy. Joy is one of the blessings of those who trust in Christ.
I won't say more. I trust I have said enough to make clear what is going on tonight. Trust in Jesus Christ. He alone can save you.

Christ precious to believers

Text 1 Peter 2:7 Date 13/04/15 Place Leicester University (First session, Banner Ministers Conference)
Let me begin by saying that I count it a great privilege to stand here today and preach at the opening session. I'm very thankful to the organisers for asking me to speak. I've been coming to Banner conferences for over 30 years and have missed very few since I started. I was not here last year as I was kept from attending by a heart condition. In fact it was a year ago tomorrow that I underwent a quadruple heart bypass op and I count it a great privilege to be over that and to be able to preach to you today.
Now when I was asked to speak to you I had that happy experience of knowing just what I wanted to speak about. Not only that but having now reached this point I'm just as enthusiastic to speak on the subject as I was when I chose it. It hasn't gone cold on me. The title is the one that you have seen in your programmes Christ precious to believers.
I want to speak on that great text found in 1 Peter 2:7 Unto you therefore who believe he is precious. I am conscious that it is the first text that Spurgeon ever preached on in a formal church setting. As with so much in the remarkable life of that remarkable man, the circumstances were rather unusual. A man from the Cambridge Village Preachers Association asked the teenaged Spurgeon to walk out to the village of Teversham near Cambridge accompanying a young man who Spurgeon supposed would be the preacher on that occasion. As they walked along and talked, however, it became clear that the other young man had no intention of preaching nor any ability to do so either and so it was Spurgeon himself who had to preach and this was the text he preached - Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.
He once said of that occasion “I do not think I could have said anything upon any other text. Christ was precious to my soul, and I was in the flush of my youthful love, and I could not be silent when a precious Jesus was the subject.”
Spurgeon went on to preach on this same text at least six more times. Many years later he said
If a raw recruit could speak upon anything, surely this theme would suit him. If one were dying this would be the text, if one were distracted with a thousand cares this would be the text because its teaching is experimental - its meaning wells up from the inner consciousness, and needs neither a clear brain nor an eloquent tongue.”
I was quite encouraged when I read that statement!
Resources. I should say that apart from Spurgeon there are plenty of helps on this text. There are two sermons by the short lived Puritan Andrew Gray. Samuel Davies and Octavius Winslow also published sermons on it and there is an outline by Charles Simeon. The eighteenth century Baptist John Fawcett wrote a little book on it. You can find that online or in a reprint by Joel Beeke's RHB.
Context. So here is our text - Unto you therefore who believe he is precious. We need to begin, of course, with the context.
Perhaps we should say first that Peter likes the word precious. He uses it in verses 4, 6 (different word) and 7. Also 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth (more precious) than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1:18, 19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ …. 2 Peter 1:1, 4 speak of a faith as precious as ours and God's very great and precious promises.
The text comes in 1 Peter 2. By this stage Peter has introduced his letter and said something about the holy lives he wants his readers to live. Next he speaks of coming to Christ in terms of coming to the living Stone. Believers are rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him and they too are like living stones which, he says, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices, etc. He draws all this from the Old Testament and quotes three Scriptures – two from Isaiah (8 and 28) and one from Psalm 118. These speak of God laying a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone and of Christ as The stone the builders rejected who has become the cornerstone, and, A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall because of their disobedience. These believers Peter writes to are not like these unbelievers but are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that they may declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light. Having been not a people, … now they are the people of God; having once … not received mercy, … now they have received mercy.
Now it is right in the middle of all this that Peter says to his readers, of the Living Stone, Christ, Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. This in contrast to unbelievers who stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for.
So two things. Firstly, notice who Peter is speaking to and of – you who believe. Secondly, and this is the main thing, notice what he says to them about Jesus Christ the Living Stone - to you who believe, (he) is precious.
1. I want to speak to you this evening chiefly as believers
This is a conference for ministers. Most of us here are prospective ministers, ministers, retired ministers or something similar. Quite rightly a lot of what will be said in this conference, I guess, will be spoken to us as ministers. Helps for us as ministers in the ministry, warnings for us as ministers in the ministry, reminders for us as ministers in the ministry and so on.
Now in this first session I don't want to speak to you as pastors or elders as such but as Christians, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. Like Peter, I want to speak to you who believe. Now I know that the two overlap and in many ways can't be separated but you understand what I mean. Iain Murray makes the point somewhere that when Dr Lloyd-Jones died he died as a Christian. When towards the end he was asked if he missed preaching he explained that he did not live to preach. He once said “To know God is life eternal. Our work is important, our work is a privilege, but brethren, you should never make it the greatest thing. I did not live for preaching.”
We come to this conference partly because we're ministers. We want to meet fellow pastors and learn from each other. We want to hear messages that help us in some way in our ministries as pastors or whatever. But we also come as ordinary Christian, believers in need of encouragement and help and sometimes warning. Like the Sea of Galilee we constantly give out and if we are to go on doing that we need to take in as well. One of the best ways to do that is at a conference like this.
The question is sometimes asked “Who pastors the pastor?” It seems to me that it is not difficult to answer. It's a little like who cooks for mothers … fixes the mechanic's car … heals the doctor?
Who pastors the pastor? The pastor, of course (the clue is in the name!). However, when we say the pastor must pastor the pastor, we do not mean that he cannot get help, that he must do it all on his own. No, he has many helps available and one thing he needs to do is to get to conferences like this one and take the help that is on offer.
So I want to speak to you all this evening as believers. I don't know how long you've been a believer? Fifty years, 40, 30? I don't know how long you resisted the gospel before you came to faith. I don't know what doubts and fears you may struggle with from day to day. But I do know that you're a professing believer and I know that this verse is for you. It is to you who believe that Peter speaks here in Scripture. It is for you who, like me, have by the grace of God, come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. So if you have ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says.
Fawcett says that true faith endears Christ to the soul. It enthrones Christ in the heart for that is where he dwells in his people. His fellow Baptist John Gill similarly says that one of the characteristics of faith is that it “makes Christ precious to souls …” it “beholds the glories of Christ's person; the riches of his grace; the treasures and wonders of his love; which render him altogether lovely and the chiefest among ten thousand.”
Here is a way to test your faith. If you find what I have to say boring, it could, of course, be that I've not made it interesting. But it could be that you just don't find speaking about how precious Christ is to believers interesting. If you don't find it interesting then that suggests something is very wrong.
2. And I want to remind you that to you who believe Jesus is precious
Peter actually speaks very succinctly here. Literally “to you therefore precious (is), you who believe”. You know the word he uses for precious or honour. It's that word time. Preachers tend to know it even if their Greek is not very good as it is the word translated honour in 1 Timothy 5:17 where Paul says that elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of a double dose of it. I remember being with a member of my congregation once. His wife's parents were Greek Cypriots and they had a calendar on the wall in modern Greek. It had adverts and although my Greek is not great I could pick out the word time in one of the adverts, where it was clearly serving as the word for price. I pointed it out to my friend. He knew the word. “Yes” he said “that's what my father-in-law wanted to know about when I asked if I could marry Liza”. How much do you earn? What are you worth? That was the question, a very un-British question. So here is a word that can mean price, precious, earnings, value, honour. Now Peter says here that to those who believe in him that Jesus, the Living Stone, is that. He is precious, valuable, worthy. One paraphrase (GNB) has This stone is of great value for you that believe.
I want us to spend the rest of our time thinking together about the question of in what ways, Christ is precious to those who believe. That is a good thing for us to do for a number of reasons.
Why this is worthwhile
1 Because this is one of the ways in which we worship him – by reciting how very precious Jesus is. Isn't that what the psalmist is often doing – going over God's character; who he is and what he has done? 1 Peter 2:9 speaks of believers being a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that they may declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light.
2 Further, by doing this we remind ourselves of just how great our Saviour is, which is not only for his glory but also for our good. Vaughan Roberts has rightly written that “The rehearsal of great truths about God simultaneously brings praise to him and encouragement to us.”
3 We need, Peter tells us (Chapter 3) to revere Christ in our hearts as Lord and Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. In Song of Solomon (5:9-16) when the Beloved is looking for her lover and charges the daughters of Jerusalem to tell him how faint she is with love, they say to her How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful of women? How is your beloved better than others, that you so charge us? She is more than ready to give the reason for the hope she has. My beloved is radiant and ruddy, she says outstanding among 10,000. His head is purest gold; his hair is wavy and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves by the water streams, washed in milk, mounted like jewels. His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume. His lips ... His arms ... His body … His legs …
She could speak of her precious lover very openly. Can we? We ought to be able to tell people how precious he is to us.
Why Jesus is precious to believers
Here is the leading thought then – to you who believe he is precious. As Peter says earlier in his letter (1:8) so I say to you - You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. But let's flesh that out. Why do you love him? Why do you believe in him? In what ways is he precious to us? To say he is precious is to state the obvious. We need to put some colour into that outline.
There are clearly many ways to do that.
John Fawcett comes up with some 17 different heads under which he looks at this - his History, his Person, Names, Offices and Characters, Blood and Righteousness, etc. Samuel Davies more briefly says Christ is precious in himself and in his office, precious to the angels and to his Father.
Strictly speaking I suppose we should be looking for ideas in the surrounding text. There are three things there. Why is Jesus precious to the believer?
1 Because he is precious to God. He is the living Stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone, rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him.
2 Because he is our glory. Like living stones, we are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through him so if we trust in him we will never be put to shame. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that we may declare his praises.
3 Because of his mercy towards us. He called us out of darkness into his wonderful light so that although we were once not a people, now we are God's people and though once we had not received mercy, now we have.
The theme of this conference is suffering so next I want to take something from Fawcett. He says
Christ is precious to believers because of his Chastisements. This may seem a strange thing to say but if we have any maturity in Christ we know that even these work together for our good and are another reason why Christ is precious to us. We can say with Paul (Rom 5:3, 4) Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Fawcett says
An ungodly man, in affliction, is like a ship at sea in a storm - without pilot, without anchor, without cable, chart, or compass, or even the most distant view of the haven of rest and safety. It is far otherwise with the afflicted believer. The stormy winds and raging waves of the ocean, in all their fury, beat upon his little bark, and he sometimes cries, All your waves and your billows are gone over me; my strength and my hope from the Lord have perished! But in this distress he is still supported, when he is enabled to reflect, that his God and Father sits upon the floods, and rules the raging of the sea; that all the waves thereof are at his direction, and though they seem to threaten his ruin, they shall answer the purposes of his final safety, by bringing him nearer and nearer to the haven where he would be. He has much satisfaction from a review of his chart and compass; he perceives that he is in a right course, though for the present - the sea is rough and stormy. His anchor is good, his pilot is able and skilful; he confides in him who sits at the helm, with the greatest security, and, at some seasons, the wished-for port of peace and rest appears in view. He then rejoices in prospect of the triumph which will attend his safe arrival, when he shall ride into the harbour, amidst the acclamations of those who are waiting to receive him - to partake of their unmingled joy, and live in eternal repose!”
Fawcett's Baptist contemporary Samuel Pearce wrote a hymn that included theses lines
So in darkest dispensations Doth my faithful Lord appear,
With his richest consolations To reanimate and cheer,
Sweet affliction, sweet affliction, thus to bring my Saviour near
Is Christ precious to you because of his chastisements?
To help us to take this further I want to do what may seem an odd thing to do. I want to turn to a hymn, to John Newton's How sweet the name of Jesus sounds. Newton based his hymn on Song of Solomon 1:3 where the Beloved says Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! It could easily have been based on this verse before us. It may seem strange to go to a hymn for sermon divisions but Newton was preacher and a great pastor who knew the power of contemplating the preciousness Christ. So, again, why is Jesus precious to believers?
Because he is the answer to our every need. The hymn gives us firstly an idea of what contemplating the preciousness of Christ can do for us. He begins “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear. It makes the wounded spirit whole, And calms the troubled breast; ’Tis manna to the hungry soul, And to the weary, rest.”
So here is a way to find soothing in sorrow, healing when wounded, an antidote to fear, wholeness for the wounded spirit, etc, etc.
Are you sorrowing or sad? No doubt there are some like that today. There is soothing for your sorrow in a contemplation of the preciousness of Jesus Christ.
Are you wounded? Your weaknesses have been exposed; you are unsure what to do but you must know it is to the precious Saviour you need to turn.
Are you fearful? There are all sorts of fears – fear of failure, of rejection, of the future. When we see how precious Jesus is, it drives away our fears.
Have you been wounded in your spirit, wounded in action? People have said harsh things, either directly or you have got to hear them? Oh you are so hurt. Where can you turn? Think of the preciousness of our Saviour.
Are there troubles? Again, it is in Jesus and his preciousness that the answers lie.
Are you weary? Often we come to a conference like this feeling weary – hopefully not of the work but often in it. The one who gives rest to the weary is Jesus Christ. Come to me he says all you who are wearied and burdened and I will give you rest. That is one of the things that makes him so precious.
Some of you perhaps you are neither sad nor wounded, troubled nor weary but you are hungry for God. What better way to sate that hunger than by fixing your mind on the preciousness of Christ.
Is Christ precious to you because you see he is the answer to every need?
Because he is our rock, our shield, our hiding place and treasury. “Dear name, the rock on which I build, My shield and hiding place, My never failing treasury, filled With boundless stores of grace!”
Our rock. Here in 1 Peter 2 he is called a rock that makes men fall. In the Old Testament God is often thought of a rock of salvation. In 1 Corinthians 10:4 Paul says of Israel in the desert that they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Christ is to believers their solid support, the rock on which they build, the source of their refreshment.
Our shield and hiding place. Shield, hiding place or refuge are also favourite words for the Psalmist to use when thinking of God. Shield goes back to Abraham's time. Psalm 84:9 says Look on our shield, O God; look with favour on your anointed one. Jesus protects us. He keeps us safe from harm and so he is precious to us.
Our never failing treasury. He truly is our precious and “never failing treasury, filled with boundless stores of grace”. Isaiah 33:5, 6 says The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. What treasure is yours if you are Christ's.
Is Christ precious to you because he is your rock, your shield, your hiding place and treasury?
Because of his blood and righteousness. One verse in Newton's hymn is not much sung these days. “By Thee my prayers acceptance gain, Although with sin defiled; Satan accuses me in vain, And I am owned a child.”
He is talking about justification. Fawcett says that Jesus is precious because of his blood and righteousness. 1 Peter 1:18, 19 says For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. It is because he was righteous, completely righteous and because he died in our place that there is hope for us. How precious his blood, how precious our Saviour! The more we think of his death the more grateful we ought to be.
Is Christ precious to you because of his blood and righteousness?
Because he is our shepherd, husband, friend; prophet, priest and king. “Jesus! my shepherd, husband, friend.” Newton takes just three of his many names and titles here. Hundreds of others could be added. Let's think just of these, however.
Shepherd. In the New Testament Jesus is called the God Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd. As Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) he is the model pastor who we are called to emulate but as our Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20) and Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14) he saves us by laying down his life and knows us intimately, watching over our coming out and going in with care.
Husband. Hosea 2:16 speaks of a day when God's people will call him my husband. They will no longer call him my master. In 1 Corinthians 11:2 Paul says I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. We too have been promised to a precious husband, with whom we will be forever. What privileges are ours!
Friend. This name also goes back to Abraham, as James reminds us. In John 15:15 Jesus says to his disciples I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother
In another of his hymns Newton says “One there is, above all others, Well deserves the name of friend; His is love beyond a brother’s, Costly, free, and knows no end: They who once His kindness prove, Find it everlasting love!
“Which of all our friends to save us, Could or would have shed their blood? But our Jesus died to have us Reconciled, in Him to God: This was boundless love indeed! Jesus is a friend in need.”
Is Christ precious to you because he is your shepherd, husband and friend?
Newton goes on to speak of Our prophet, priest and king. There is the threefold office of Christ then. The fact he has this threefold office makes him very precious to the believer.
Christ reveals to us all that we need to know for our salvation. He is the greatest prophet, the one who reveals most clearly all these things. Remember how the disciples hearts burned within them as he spoke to them from the Scriptures on the road to Emmaus. All the crowds who heard him agreed that no-one ever spoke like him.
His work as High Priest is especially precious to us – his making the sacrifice that removes all our sins and his constant intercession in heaven for us are very precious indeed.
He is also our king, the one who conquered and subdued us and who rules and defends us from our enemies. What more precious to a people than to have a king who rules well.
Is Christ precious to you because he is your prophet, priest and king?
Because he is our Lord, our life, our way, our end. Newton again “My Lord, my life, my way, my end, Accept the praise I bring”. In Scripture he is called the Lord of Lords, the Lord of glory and the Lord our Righteousness. Think too of John 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life. In Revelation he declares himself to be the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Amen of God. And so for the Christian he is our way our life and our end as well as being our precious Lord.
Is Christ precious to you because he is your Lord, your way, your life, your end?
Because this is how we want to die and how we want to live. As he comes to a close Newton has us sing “Weak is the effort of my heart, And cold my warmest thought; But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought. Till then I would Thy love proclaim With every fleeting breath, And may the music of Thy name Refresh my soul in death!”
Clearly, if even the best preacher here today should tackle this verse Unto you therefore who believe he is precious and even if he were allowed to go on throughout the conference night and day still it would not be possible to properly present the preciousness of Christ. It is impossible for our weak hearts to expound and impossible for our warmest thoughts t convey the preciousness of Jesus to the believer. However, a day is coming when we will see him a she is and when we will praise him as we ought to. What a glorious day that will be!
Is Christ precious to you because though your praise is poor now you will one day praise him as you ought?
Conclusion. Two final thoughts.
Fawcett: “If Jesus Christ is so superlatively precious in himself, we have reason to be ashamed that we love him no more.” How feeble our love often is. Fawcett refers to Foxe writing of an Italian called Mollius who was sometimes observed to be in heaviness, and to weep bitterly. When friends enquired into the cause of his trouble, his usual answer was, 'O! it grieves me, that I cannot bring this heart of mine to love Jesus Christ more fervently.' “May we not” says Fawcett “justly be ashamed that we have this precious Saviour so little in our thoughts?” How little we think of him. It ought not to be like that.
"Is it possible that we should spend any day of our lives without thinking on what Jesus Christ has done for us? His astonishing love, in becoming incarnate, sojourning more than 30 years in this wretched and miserable world, as a man of sorrows, for our sakes; his fulfilling all righteousness for us; his enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself; and his laying down his life in our stead - are subjects of contemplation upon which our minds should perpetually revolve.”
If we thought of him more, we'd speak of him more and we'd pray to him more.
A story (probably authentic) is told of John Newton in his old age. His servant would stand behind him in the pulpit in order to trace out the lines of his sermon as his sight was very bad. One Sunday morning he came to the words in his sermon, “Jesus Christ is precious,” and wishing to emphasise them he repeated, “Jesus Christ is precious.” The servant thinking he was getting confused whispered, “Go on, go on, you said that before”. Newton, looking round, replied, “John, I said that twice and I am going to say it again!” Then with redoubled force he sounded out the words, “JESUS CHRIST IS PRECIOUS!”
The words bear repeating. Let me say it again, Jesus Christ is precious.

The striking example of the Tabernacle women

Text Exodus 28:8 Date 12/04/15 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

I would like to turn your attention tonight to a text found in Exodus 38:8. It comes in the midst of the description of the articles made for the Tabernacle in the closing chapters of Exodus. It says of the chief architect of the Tabernacle, Bezalel and his assistant, Oholiab, that
They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
The Tabernacle was the predecessor to the Temple built in Solomon's time. It was the special place of worship that the Israelites were commanded to make while they were still in the desert. It was to be a sort of pattern of heaven and the true worship of God and each part was full of spiritual meaning. It consisted of the most holy place of all where the ark was kept with the commandments in it and the Holy Place where the map and the table and the golden altar of incense were found. There was also a courtyard with a bronze altar where the sacrifices were made and other activities took place.
The verse itself raises three obvious questions and two less obvious ones.
1. What was this bronze basin that they made and what was it for?
This is explained back in Exodus 30:17-21 where we read that
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a bronze basin, (older versions use the word laver) with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come."
We also read in Exodus 40:30-32 how Moses
placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses.
This basin then was a place of washing for the priests. We are not sure how large it was or exactly where it was but it was somewhere between the Holy Place and the altar also made of bronze. Bronze is an alloy consisting mainly of copper with the addition of other metals (usually tin).
Much of the make up and ritual of the Tabernacle taught about cleaning in different ways – usually cleansing by fire and by water. This basin (later replaced in the Temple by a huge basin called a sea series of 10 basins on stands) was specifically in order for the priests to go through a cleansing ritual by water. It speaks of cleansing.
When we come to the New Testament, the only symbolic cleansing ritual that remains is baptism. The need to be clean in God's sight, to be pure and holy, remains nevertheless. The New Testament talks about the washing of rebirth, a new birth that is vital in order to enter the kingdom.
2. Who were these women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting?
The text does not actually mention women but it is clear from the word used that these were females who assembled or served.
We are not totally sure who these women were. The only other possible biblical reference to them seems to be at the end of the wicked days of the judges. We read in 1 Samuel 2:22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
Some have suggested that these women had no official role but were only godly women who liked to gather at the entrance to the tent of meeting and assist in what ever ways they could. Think of Anna mentioned in the New Testament who never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.
They may have served, however, in a much more official capacity. They could perhaps have served as doorkeepers at the tabernacle, assisting those who came in and out during the day and perhaps watching the door at night.
All this is conjecture, of course. These women may simply have congregated at the tent of meeting where Moses would meet with God in order to bring their offering of mirrors for use in the making of the basin. All we know for sure is that these were devout women.
3. How could their mirrors be used to make a bronze basin?
As for these mirrors, it is important to remember that the silvered glass mirror we know today didn't come in until the nineteenth century. Back in Moses' day people used highly polished copper or bronze or other metal for their mirrors. They would take a piece of metal usually round or oval and either make it with a metal handle or insert it into a wooden or stone one to form a hand mirror. Often the reverse side would be highly decorated, the idea being that there should be beauty on both sides – crafted beauty on one and the beauty of a woman's face on the other.
It is highly unlikely that these mirrors were simply arranged to form a series of reflections for the priests to look into when they came to wash. As one writer points out, they came to wash their hands and feet not their faces! No these would have been bronze mirrors that were melted down to provide the material that when reshaped and remoulded would have been formed into the bronze basin used at the tabernacle.
4. Did Moses have a lesson or an observation in mind when he made note of this fact?
This is not the first reference of this kind that we have in this part of Scripture. Back in 35:20-29 we read this
Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses' presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewellery of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the LORD. Everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair, ram skins dyed red or the other durable leather brought them. Those presenting an offering of silver or bronze brought it as an offering to the LORD, and everyone who had acacia wood for any part of the work brought it. Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun - blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. And all the women who were willing and had the skill spun the goat hair. The leaders brought onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. They also brought spices and olive oil for the light and for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense. All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do.
Particularly notice the way people gave up their brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments and the way the women spun blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. In these acts there were great sacrifices and a willingness to part with things that the world hold in high regard in order to provide for a better ideal.
We know that Egyptian women would carry their mirrors with them to the pagan temples but this was not going to be the pattern in Israel – not because Moses made a commandment against it but because the women themselves were keen to give up their luxuries.
Matthew Henry says “These women parted with their mirrors … for the use of the tabernacle. Those women that admire their own beauty, are in love with their own shadow, and make the putting on of apparel their chief adorning by which they value and recommend themselves, can but ill spare their looking-glasses; yet these women offered them to God”.
He suggests that what lay behind this was either a spirit of repentance for the way perhaps they had abused them - “to the support of their pride and vanity”. Perhaps they were now convinced that their use of these mirrors was superficial and wanted in a new way to devote themselves to the service of God. “They thus threw away that which, though lawful and useful in itself, yet had been an occasion of sin to them.”
Alternatively, “In token of their great zeal for the work of the tabernacle; rather than the workmen should want brass, or not have of the best, they would part with their mirrors, though they could not do well without them.”
It is probably one or other of those two things that Moses is pointing to now. These women were certainly motivated by piety to do what they did. They turned their back on their own pleasure and denied themselves in order to serve the Lord and in so doing they have left us with a great example of sacrifice and other worldliness.
5. Is there a lesson for us here as well?
Now we are not involved in building a tabernacle like that of Moses. We all have plenty of mirrors at home, I'm sure, but it is hard to think of a project where they could be donated in a way that would do some good.
There are lessons here, nevertheless. In 1 Peter 3 the apostle writes to wives and says (3-5)
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.
There are lessons here not just for women. The principles of repentance and zeal should continue in all and the example of these women should make us stop and think whether there is something we might do that has a similar stamp.
How are we spending our money, our time, our energies? Is the world creeping into our lives and into our thinking in a way that is drawing us away from the Lord? If so, we need to think again and see how we an better use the resources the Lord has committed to us to bring glory to his name.
If we are really devoted to God then it will show itself in specific acts of sacrifice. We won't all act in the same way but there will be something in us all. Remember how Hannah devoted her son Samuel to the Lord's service or how Mary used the expensive alabaster jar of perfume to anoint Jesus at Bethany in preparation for his burial.
If we are devoted to the Lord we will be encouraged to make such sacrifices and we will increasingly find ourselves weaned away from what the world holds dear. Personal vanity will grow less and less.
Perhaps one more lesson we can learn is the surprising one that F B Meyer draws out. Isn't this a call to us to abandon morbid introspection. Yes, there is a place for self examination but if we are constantly naval gazing, always thinking about ourselves, then that cannot be good. Rather, like these women we need to forget about ourselves and fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
These women became so interested in the service of the Tabernacle” says Meyer “that they were weaned from their mirrors. The better expelled the worse; the higher cast out the lower. Go out of yourself, find some work to do for God and man; seek in the laver the removal of the stains of human sin; find your centre in God and his plans; and you will abandon the habit of morbid self-scrutiny. For every look at self, take ten at Christ ….”