Read - Acts 8v9-25
Message - Scott Woodburn
We can rejoice at the extraordinary impact of the Gospel in Samaria but sadly, not everyone believed rightly. In Samaria there was a magician by the name of Simon. His abilities were so amazing that the people associated Simon's power with God Himself (v10). Where did Simon's power come from? Perhaps he was just a really talented trickster or perhaps his abilities came from a more sinister and satanic place. Regardless, he amazed the people (v11).
Then one day a preacher called Philip came to town. The people received Philip's message by faith (v12). Signs and great wonders were performed (v13) and Simon was amazed. Indeed we are told that Simon believed and was baptized and continued to follow Philip. Wonderful! Another saved man! Sadly, not quite.
Later as Simon witnesses the mighty works of the Apostles he offers them money so that he too might be able to perform mighty acts (v18-19). Peter's response is fierce. He rebukes Simon with the words "may your silver die with you" (v20), literally he says "to hell with you and your money!". Simon saw the gift of God as something to be bought and something to be used. His heart wasn't right before God (v21) and now Peter urged him to repent and if possible to be forgiven (v22).
According to Peter, Simon is still in his sinful chains (v23b) and is full of bitterness (v23a). The magician's spiritual condition is dire. He has professed faith in Christ but he is not a true believer. The Gospel was another mighty trick that Simon could perform. The Holy Spirit was "something" to used for fame and profit. Simon had heard the Gospel but he had not received it by faith.
Simon asks Peter to pray for him so that nothing of what Peter has said will come true (v24). Tragically however there is no evidence that Simon prayed for himself and repented of his sin. What are we to make of Simon the Magician? John Trapp once said "a man may go to hell with baptismal water on his face." In other words, just because a man professes Christ and is baptized, doesn't mean that such a man is truly born again.
The visible church has always been a mixed body with the wheat and the tares growing together. Brothers and sisters, we should not be surprised when there are those within our fellowship who do not truly believe. All is well for many years and then from nowhere we see a heart bound to sin and a spirit of bitterness. We are surprised by such a man's actions or such a woman's words and we weep when by their actions churches are divided. Christ warned us about such individuals. We would recognize such false Christians by their actions (Matthew 7v16).
The true Christian has been declared righteous by God Himself (justification) and is growing in Christlikeness everyday (sanctification). The true Christian knows that God is not "something" to be used for fame or fortune. Instead they have received Christ by faith and they know that Jesus is their greatest treasure. This isn't worked by magic but by the grace of God, the power of the Gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit.
Q104 What do we pray for in the fourth petition? In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray, that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.
Read - Exodus 5:3-9
Message - Alan Burke
To the mocking of Pharaoh Moses and Aaron had in effect threatened pharaoh. Their threat was if he didn’t let them go there would be consequences (3). To pharaoh this was an idol threat and he was going to make them pay for it. He blamed Moses and Aaron for his workers strike, they may have been worshiping the Lord, it may have been the reason how Moses and Aaron got an audience with the most powerful man in the world, but Pharaoh was going to make an example of them. Their worship of the Lord may has well been some kind of industrial action for all Pharaoh cared, it was rebellion by his workforce as they were taking it easy, and it was contemptible to him. These people were not free, they were his slaves and only he could allow them to rest from their burdens.
If pharaoh didn’t make it clear with his sarcasm and mockery towards Moses and Aaron (2), he does now. The same day he gives a decree (6) is to drive a wedge between Moses and the people, it is a cool calculated move that was intended to break the peoples will, that will stop a possible uprising for they would blame Moses not pharaoh, it is a clever move by pharaoh.
Moses is called a liar, he is discredited, he was welcomed as their saviour but now he would have been seen as fool who had cause them much more suffering, but there cries of suffering had come to the Lord already, they had cried out and he had heard. But by causing their pain and suffering to increase pharaoh was in direct opposition to God, he was an enemy of God, he made them work harder but his own heart was hardened.
Things had gone from bad to worse for the people of God. Did God not say that he would be with Moses? That he would set his people free? And here it looks like if anything God is just making it worse. Yet this wasn’t the end of it, even though Pharaoh sought to thwart the purposes of God, he did not, and he could not. For God would achieved his great plan of salvation and has now down through the incarnation, how the only begotten Son of God became man, to die in our place so that we might be saved from a greater bondage, the bondage of sin.
What can we expect to reap for obedience to God? Some false teachers will tell you that you can expect health, wealth, property, that faith and obedience will transform your life. But lets be honest, what can you expect for following Christ is not an easy life thats for sure.
Jesus told his disciples to expect to be mistreated; “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22). That can be in many ways, in the work place for believing what we believe, at home, how we are misrepresented in the media, how we are mocked for believing what we believe, and in many countries that is seen in the violence and persecution that believers faced.
But why is it like this, why can we expect to be mistreated, to be hated for belief in Jesus Christ. Because Satan the enemy of God’s people is at work, he was at work behind all that was going on for the Israelites in Egypt, he was using pharaoh to try to thwart the purposes of God. The same Satan who tried to thwart the purposes of God as he tempted Jesus to abandon his mission (Matt. 4:1–11; Lk 4:1–13), and Satan continues to work today, he is still a prowling predator, he is a deceiver, he attempts to lead God’s people astray, but do not forget this truth that he is a defeated enemy and know that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-38),
Q 103 What do we pray for in the third petition?
In the third petition, (which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, (Matt. 6:10)) we pray, That God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, (Ps. 67, Ps. 119:36, Matt. 26:39, 2 Sam. 15:25, Job 1:21) as the angels do in heaven. (Ps. 103:20–21)
Read - Acts 8v9-25
Message - Scott Woodburn
Who is the Gospel for? The Sunday School answer is that the Gospel is for everyone, but perhaps in the quiet of our hearts we might answer differently. The Gospel isn't for the alcoholic. It's not for the murderer. It's not for the wife beater. It's not for the really, really bad. May God forgive us if we have ever limited the reach of His Gospel. The Gospel is for all who the Lord calls.
As the Gospel is preached in Samaria we shouldn't underestimate the scale of what is happening. Jews and Samaritans didn't see eye to eye. They didn't mix. They didn't see each other as brothers and sisters. They worshipped in different places and while the Samaritans aren't quite Gentiles, they're also not quite Jews. Yet the Gospel of Christ is preached and Samaritans in great numbers are saved (v12).
There is much discussion about this passage. I'm certain when I say that the Scriptures speak here of true conversion. The Samaritans had believed the Gospel and truly they were saved and yet, they had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit (v16). Some take this passage to show that we should expect a two-fold experience of the Holy Spirit. First, we believe the Gospel and then, at a later stage, we experience what some call the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". I would humbly disagree.
If Pentecost was a unique event, then so too is this moment in Samaria. The Apostles hear of what is taking place in Samaria and they travel to investigate (v14). Finding an authentic work of God they pray for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit (v15) and with the laying on of hands the Spirit falls upon the Samaritans (v17).
What's going on? The Gospel is leaving Jerusalem and moving into the surrounding nations. The Gospel of grace has been proclaimed since Genesis primarily in a Jewish context but now this same Gospel is going to the world. Soon the Gentiles will hear it but now in Samaria the Gospel has come to the Samaritans, to these "lesser Jews". How should the Samaritans be received by the church which, at this stage, was from a predominately Jewish background? They should be received as brothers and sisters in Christ.
No divisions. No super Christians and slightly lesser Christians. Jesus has come and broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2v14). His Apostles arrive in Samaria and lay hands on these formally untouchable Samaritans. By faith in Christ they have been saved and now with Apostolic confirmation it is made clear that these men and women are part of the family of God and they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The news of this would have been incredibly shocking to those from a Jewish background, Christian and non-Christian alike. The Gospel was for everyone who called on Christ - even unclean Samaritans. It is still the same. Do not write anyone off. Do not withhold the Gospel from those who are not like you. Do not doubt the power of the Gospel to save right across this world in every nation, tribe and tongue.
Q102 What do we pray for in the second petition? In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come,” we pray, that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.
Read - Exodus 5:2
Message - Alan Burke
Moses and Aaron came before the most powerful man in the world, Moses a fugitive from the law because he was a murder and Aaron a slave, property of pharaoh and here demanded on the Lord’s behalf the release of the entire people of God. It may have only been for a three day retreat in the wilderness but the absurdity of their question, and the absurdity of who they are shouldn’t be lost on us even though many of our past and present MLA’s make Moses look like a trusted upright member of the community who had never done anything wrong.
Pharaoh responds by asking…
“Who is the Lord?"
Don’t imagine for a second though that this was serious question from Pharaoh. This is a response that was full of cynicism, full of distain towards Moses and Arron.
I can imagine pharaoh laughing out loud at it all. The absurdity of who the question had come from, never mind the absurdity of the request. The reply of Pharaoh is akin to him saying; ‘what are you fellas on, are you off your head, what madness is this, there is no lord BUT ME, I am your lord.’
Pharaoh did not know their God, nor did he care, because to Pharaoh he was the god of the Israelites, he was the one that ruled over them, why would they not worship him.
Who is the Lord?
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he is the unchanging God, the self-existent God, the creator God the sustainer of all that exists, the eternal God in his existence, he is the Lord Yahweh, who knows and cares about the suffering of his people. This is the Lord who pharaoh was rejecting, the Lord who Pharaoh did not recognise but one day he would.
There are many spiritual and religious, who even call themselves a Christian, yet the truth is they do not know who the Lord is. They may have heard about him, they may know stuff about him, in a normal year they may make their annual pilgrimage to sing Christmas carols with an idea of God that is more like the guy who comes down chimneys, rewarding people whether they are good or bad.
The problem is, for those who may be spiritual, who are religious, for those who do not believe that God exists, for those who hate him, for those who don’t want to know him, they have just as it was for Pharaoh as Paul explains in Romans, are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:8). There are lots of reason that people give, but ultimately it’s because they don’t want to believe, because fallen sinful people don’t like being told how to live, we don’t like it when sin is called sin, we hate when hell is talked about they don’t need a saviour because they don’t have anything to be saved from, they don’t want a God to tell them how to live because they want to be the God of their lives, and like pharaoh the heart is the issue, he doesn’t want to believe in God.
Is that you today? Have you some excuse because you don’t want to believe? If it is then repent, because one day you shall bow the knee and with your tongue confess who the Lord is and it will either be today and you will be saved from your sin or it will be in judgement before the Lord. One day all will recognise him as the LORD.
Q 101 What do we pray for in the first petition?
In the first petition, (which is, Hallowed be thy name, (Matt. 6:9)) we pray, That God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; (Ps. 67:2–3) and that he would dispose all things to his own glory. (Ps. 83)
Read - Acts 8v3-8
Message - Scott Woodburn
As chapter eight begins the church is experiencing great persecution at the hands of a man called Saul (v3) and yet the story of the Gospel doesn't end. The Lord governs all creation with a wise and providential hand and even the persecution of His church is used by the Lord for good.
How can this be so? The persecution in Jerusalem scatters the church here, there and everywhere and wherever the believers ended up, they preached the Word (v4). Philip ends up in Samaria and immediately set about preaching Christ (v5). The Samarian response was wonderful. The crowds listened intently to what was being said and the message was confirmed by signs and wonders (v6).
Unclean spirits were driven out and the paralyzed and lame were healed (v7). The Gospel had arrived in Samaria and the result was great joy (v8). Today, if we could somehow put joy into a bottle we would make an absolute fortune. This year was supposed to be radically different from 2020 and yet in the past week our lockdown has been extended. When we do meet, we keep our distance and talk about Granny who has received her vaccine. Every day seems like the last one. Homeschooling tests our patience and family bond. We grow angry when we see the number of cars heading for Newcastle and wonder if we are the only ones taking Covid seriously. Oh what we would give for a bit of joy!
My friends the joy in Samaria came as a direct result of the Gospel. The problems those men and women faced didn't suddenly disappear. Those healed of demons and physical ailments still had to get on with life. Work needed to be done. Families needed to be fed. Leaky roofs needed to be fixed but still, Gospel joy had come.
I pray today for that same joy to return abundantly to our lives. Even in the midst of our problems may the extraordinary gift of the Gospel ring in our souls. Christ has made an end to our sin and His resurrection is a certain guarantee that we too will stand again on this earth. We have been blessed by the gift of the Holy Spirit who strengthens our legs for days like these and even if the world is turned upsidedown we know that nothing can pluck us from Christ's hand.
Christmas may be an increasingly distant memory but brothers and sisters "joy to the world! The Lord is come!"
Q100 What doth the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us? The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven,” teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.
Read - Exodus 5:1
Message - Alan Burke
Many of us have seen the transformational power of God in the lives of those whom we love and know. We have seen it when someone comes to faith, when they are saved from their sin by the power of God, when God by his Spirit works in their lives and we have experienced that work in our own lives. When it happens we can look and wonder and marvel at the grace of God. But we all know that it’s not plain sailing. Moses was an example of God’s power at work but it was far from plain sailing.
Chapter four finished with the people of God responding to the word of God, hearing how the was concerned about them and had seen their misery. And what was the result of it? They bowed down and they worshipped (4:31). What a sight this would have been for Moses. I’m sure at this stage he was humbled, as well as encouraged at the power of God at work before him and the response of the people. But the task that lay ahead of Moses was only beginning, now it was to Pharaoh that Moses and Aaron went.
It is clear though from what they say, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go”, that they go to Pharaoh not fearful, filled with uncertainty about what would greet them, instead they are men who go with confidence. They believed like never before that now was the time, God was going to work.
The Moses of excuses, the who am I Moses, the ineloquent Moses, the Moses who just wanted God to send anyone but him, had been transformed. All of this was by the work of God in his life, he had been called, equipped and sent by God and God had been at work bringing him to pharaoh that day. It was by the transformational power of God that continues from the moment that he believers, to the day he returns or that we die and go to be with him which ever comes first, it is a term that we may not be too familiar with but it’s called sanctification.
Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, (Eph. 4:23–24) and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness (Rom. 6:4,6, Rom. 8:1).
Sanctification means making a person holy, as God gradually works in us by his grace, by his goodness, wrought in us by his Spirit where we are more and more made into the likeness of God, where we gradually learn to hate sin, cease from sin, love more, practice holiness, it is God’s transformational work in us.
And this process should be seen in us just like it was in Moses! There will be times when it is more clearly seen than others, but we should at least be able to look back and see how God has been at work in us. Moses was about to face the harsh reality of how it wasn’t plain sailing there would be highs and many lows on the way but God was at work in the life of Moses just as he continues to be in the lives of all who believe.
Q 99 What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?
The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; (1 John 5:14) but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’ s prayer. (Matt. 6:9–13, Luke 11:2–4)
Read - Acts 7v54-8v2
Message - Scott Woodburn
The Christian understands that death has been defeated and heaven awaits and yet because we are human death hurts and stings and we shrink from it. I remember once long ago preaching about death and boldly proclaiming that "I am not afraid". That sticks in my head and I wish I had said it differently. It is true that I am not afraid of what comes after death. I am certain that when death is over I will be in heaven with Jesus. I am confident that my experience in that place will be beyond my comprehesion.
Yet humanly speaking I do not yet want to die. Do I long for the suffering brought on by illness? No. Do I want my life to end quickly and tragically? No. Do I want to miss seeing my children grow up? No. I do not yet want to die.
Still, I hope I am no fool. I know that I will die. I know that it will come and I know that it might come sooner than I would like. Yet even with the sting of this knowledge there is the sweet balm of Christ. Stephen's sermon enraged his listeners (v54) and they would stone him to death (v59). Someone called Saul, watched the garments of those stoning Stephen (v58) and he approved of what was happening (8v1).
I can't imagine the brutality of Stephen's end. I do not want to experience the pain he went through. I suspect, like many, I would much prefer to die warm and full of years in my own bed. Yet I am moved by Stephen's end. He is alone but he is not alone. Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit who strengthens him to meet his death (v55a). He gazes heavenward and sees the glory of God (v55b). The Lord dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6v16) and yet with eyes of faith, Stephen sees the glory of God. And look! There at the right hand is Jesus (v55c)!
A brutal death had arrived for Stephen but turning from the angry faces of his murderers he sees the grace filled face of Christ. Stephen prays that the Lord would receive his spirit and that God would not hold the sin of Stephen's murder against his murderers. With this prayer of mercy uttered, Stephen falls asleep (v60).
Luke's Holy Spirit inspired recording of this event is wonderful. Even in the middle of thrown rocks, unbridled fury and human sin, the Christian's death is like falling asleep. The Christian does not have to take the advice of Dylan Thomas by raging against the dying of the light. We can indeed go gentle into that good night by faith in Jesus.
I do not want to die. I am afraid of what the journey to death will be like. I do not want my wife and children to weep. I do not want the preacher to say how "good" I was. Yet I will die. It is appointed and so this I know...the Lord has caused me to be born again to a living hope. I have repented of my sin and received Christ by faith. I am redeemed and will not see hell. I am saved.
When the enemy of death visits me (and my friends I trust this is true of you as well) I will go to be with Jesus which is better by far.
Q98 What is prayer? Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.
Read - Exodus 4:27-31
Message - Alan Burke
Seriously where is all going to end? Will life ever return to the way it was? Have you heard about the new strain? Will the vaccine be effective? Will we be able to afford it? What if the doctor tells me it’s serious? What are you worrying about the day? Remember Moses, his excuses, well there was one that he gave and he was worried that he wouldn’t be believed (4:1).
From a human perspective, it is may be easy to understand why Moses worried after all it wasn’t like he was a trusted upright member of the community. But the problem was that he had heard but he hadn’t listened, he had failed to trust the word of God even though the word of God is the truth of salvation, it alone has the power to save. And here we are told how Aaron and Moses and after some catching up head to Egypt and gather the elders of the people telling them what God had said and preforming the signs, and they believed.
Just as the Lord had promised Moses, as he had assured him of what would happen and Moses didn’t believe it or rather didn’t want to believe it because he had made it about himself, they believed, they believed the message that Moses took to them.
Remember those excuses by Moses, those attempts to wrangle out what God was calling him to, how he worried, how he protested?
What was it all for?
What use was it?
How many of us though live our lives worrying about the future before it gets here? Were worried about covid, jobs, our house, the weather next week, that interview that’s coming, what September is going to look like, will life ever get back to normal, worried about retirement, the kids growing up, worried about your health?
You spend your time worrying what if this or what if that and by the time it comes its nowhere near as bad as we thought it was going to be but the problem is that when that day comes we forget we were worried about it because we are worrying about something else.
Stop wasting your time, remember, and not just recall to mind, but remember and know each day that God is in control, he is at work right here and now by his providence, I know that is hard to grasp at times, but that is the truth. And remember “…do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:34).
Moses could really have done with being reminded of that.
But why were the people moved to worship? it was because they heard how the Lord was concerned about them and he had seen their misery (31). I do not not know you face this day, I do not know your hardships but I know that just like the Egyptians God has seen heard, and has compassion, he has not left you or forsaken you even though nothing may seem further from the truth. Will you worship, in the midst of it all, will we worship as a people who have many more reasons to be that the Israelites in Egypt?
Q 97 What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’ s supper?
It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’ s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’ s body, (1 Cor. 11:28–29) of their faith to feed upon him, (2 Cor. 13:5) of their repentance, (1 Cor. 11:31) love, (1 Cor. 10:16–17) and new obedience; (1 Cor. 5:7–8) lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves. (1 Cor. 11:28–29)
Read - Acts 7v51-53
Message - Scott Woodburn
The late Stanley Rea was a man of prayer who would always call upon the Lord to save the lost. I can hear his encouragement yet telling me that I had just preached a "strong" sermon and that the congregation no longer had any excuse about the demands of the Gospel. I miss Stanley in many ways but I especially miss his zealousness for the work of the Lord. He understood the gravity of sin and that a lost eternity was terrible indeed.
As Stephen finished his sermon he turned to face his accusers directly. Despite his eloquent sermon, full of grace as he recounted the work of God, the assembly had not fallen on their knees in repentance. Unsurprisingly they had refused to listen. Stephen called them a "stiff necked people" (v51a), language used by the Lord Himself when describing the Israelites to Moses (Exodus 32v9). They will turn neither to the right or the left, they are stiff necked and will not see what the Lord has done.
Stephen continues by stating they are uncircumcised in both heart and ears (v51b). This is an extraordinary claim. To be circumcised was a mark of your identity. You were a Jew, a follower of the one true God, you were part of the team. Yet it is possible to be a Jew outwardly in the flesh and not to truly know God inwardly. A true Jew, a true Believer will have his/her heart circumcised by the Spirit (Romans 2v29). These men were not true to what they professed. They resisted the Lord as their forefathers had done long ago (v51c).
The true prophets of God had always known persecution (v52). Those who had announced the coming of Christ had been killed (v52b) and when Jesus finally arrived He had been murdered as well. He was the Righteous One who came to His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1v11).
The tragedy of these accusations was that those listening to Stephen could trace their family history back to those who had received the law at Mount Sinai (v53). God had brought these people out of captivity and had promised them a land and a future. Yet even as the Lord delivered the tablets of stone by the hand of angels (v53), these people didn't keep it. Even as Moses was returning, the people were worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32).
Spiritual blindness is a terrible thing. It shuts the eyes to the plain teaching of Scripture and it closes the ears to the Gospel of grace. Men and women walk through the gates of hell utterly unaware of the tragedy of their condition. I pray that in these days of trouble many will realise their condition and call upon the Lord. Only the Spirit can soften hard hearts and lead the lost to Christ and so we pray...Father God, may the Spirit be much at work in these dark days. May the blind see their need of Jesus and may you open their ears to receive the call of the Gospel. Unstiffen necks. Soften hearts. Save the lost we pray! For Christ's sake, amen.
Q96 What is the Lord’s Supper? The Lord’s Supper is a Sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.
Read - Exodus 4:19-23, Romans 1:18
Message - Alan Burke
Moses didn’t want to go to Egypt, he had made excuse after excuse finally asking God to send someone else (4:13). There was no doubt that fear of what awaited him played a part in his unwillingness, after all Pharaoh wanted him dead. We as readers already know that Moses doesn’t need to fear Pharaoh because he had died (2:23) making the path clear for Moses to return yet Moses wouldn’t have known this, that is until God reassured him that he had nothing to fear for everyone who wanted to kill him are dead.
Then Moses took his wife and sons and started his journey to Egypt. But he went with his staff, the same staff that had accompanied him through many years shepherding the sheep of his father in law had now became the staff of God. What was once ordinary had become extraordinary by the work of God, it was a symbol to Moses that although he had some way to go in his faith, God would equip him, for all that lay ahead, for the staff was a symbol of the authority of God, of his saving power.
On his return to Egypt, Moses would use this very staff to preform the the signs God had given him. But they would not make a believer our of pharaoh, instead God by them would harden his heart. These verses act as a summary of what will take place and look to how because pharaoh would not release the people of God that he would face judgement, his own first born son would die.
It may be difficult for us to grasp but God was going to harden the heart of Pharaoh, yet elsewhere we are also told that pharaoh hardened his own heart, meaning that his heart was doubly hardened. In the hardening of pharaohs heart, God was sovereignly at work but not in a way that removed Pharaoh’s own responsibility, because ultimately his heart was hardened to the word of the living God because of his sin. He had suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). And when he heard the word of God he rejected it.
Pharaoh would ultimately let the people of God go. But the point should not be lost on us that this was entirely God’s work. He was redeeming his people out of their bondage, for they were not a nation like those that surrounded them, instead they were as God’s firstborn son, he had chosen them not by their own doing by his grace alone.
In the Gospel of Matthew, quoting from Hosea 11:1, Mathew makes clear how the prophecy “Out of Egypt I have called my son (2:15), was fulfilled when Jesus and his family returned to Judea. Matthew understood that Jesus was God’s son, he is the true Israel who did what the nation of Israel failed to do as God’s perfect son. This was confirmed when Jesus was baptised, and the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love” (Matt. 3:17). The promise of sonship was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
It is through faith in this son, Jesus Christ that we can become sons of God the children of the living God. It is the work of Christ, bring the slaves of sin into the liberty of sonship. Jesus is “the firstborn among many brothers” as we are reminded in the book of Romans (Rom. 8:29)—“many brothers” because every believer is a child of God. As the Bible also says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). To know Jesus as Savior is to know God as Father. All of that which happened in the Exodus was all part of his plan to redeem his people and bring salvation to the ends of the earth, to bring salvation to you and I though the Son.
Q 95 To whom is baptism to be administered?
Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; (Acts 8:36–38, Acts 2:38) but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized. (Acts 2:38–39, Gen. 17:10, Col. 2:11–12, 1 Cor. 7:14)