The sermon text for this Lord’s Day brings Luke’s account of the ministry of John the Baptist to an abrupt end. John preached the truth and it offended the petty, immoral ruler, Herod Antipas. Herod rejected John’s message and imprisoned him. The other gospel accounts tell the story of the John’s subsequent execution. John was the first in a long line of Christ’s followers who have been persecuted and sometimes martyred simply for speaking the truth. Opposition to Christ the King and the truth of his Word is not an exception to the Christian life. We must never let the world intimidate us into silence.
The hymns selected for this service remind us of the spiritual conflict that rages and the consequent difficulties faithful Christians must face. They also call us to stand for the truth, taking our place in the long line of faithful man and women who trace their heritage back to the fearless prophet, John the Baptist.
PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Call to Worship: Daniel 3:16-18
Note: The people of God have been under threat of persecution in every place and in every generation. Daniel’s three friends guide us toward the proper attitude. We know that God can deliver us, but he might choose not to. Either way, we will remain faithful to him.
Hymn 588 A Mighty Fortress is our God
Note: Martin Luther’s majestic hymn reminds us that the Church will face opposition from the evil. Regardless of his raging opposition, we know the outcome of it all: “the body they man kill; God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”
Worship through Giving
Response: Psalm 116b
Hymn 221 The Church’s One Foundation
Note: John the Baptist announced the arrival of Jesus Christ, the “church’s one Foundation.” We who embrace Christ in faith are part of the great church made up of “elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’ver all the earth.” This hymn reminds us that the church throughout history suffers opposition from within and without (verses 3-4). Even so, we have this confidence: “the church will never perish.”
Hymn 589 Soldiers of Christ, Arise
Note: In the ongoing conflict that rages, we must put on the “full armor” of God (the meaning of “panoply,” cf. Ephesians 6:11) in order to “wrestle and fight and pray.” But remember, we do not stand alone in the battle; we are “strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty pow’r.”
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
Hymn 585 Am I a Soldier of the Cross?
Note: Isaac Watts wrote this hymn to encourage introspection. “Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?” The conflict is real. We cannot ignore it or leave it to others. We respond to Watts’ question, “I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy word.”
Message John the Baptist: Rejected and Imprisoned
Pastor Steven Thomas
Hymn 4 Praise Ye Jehovah
Note: This hymn of praise acknowledges the fact that we stand in a line of Christian “heroes” who have served faithfully in the past: “battle-scarred victors at rest from the fray.” And it declares our determination to stand with them, “praying, contending, proclaiming, defending” the faith of our fathers. We praise Jehovah for “glories awaiting, prizes He giveth and crowns to be won!”
Prayer Response: Steve Eubank
Benediction: John Miles