23 May 2021: “Set apart”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
23 May 2021

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.


Today is Pentecost Sunday, sometimes referred to as Whit Sunday, on which we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2).

We are planning a Special Celebration re. opening up after Covid on Saturday July 31st 2021.

Elders and Deacons

Please pray for us as we meet tomorrow (Monday 24 May), 7pm


Childhood memories of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s

“When I was a child, the biggest Church festivals were Christmas, Easter, Harvest Festival and Whitsuntide … Whereas Christian churches still celebrate … these … the general population here in Britain seems to have forgotten all about Whitsun … Younger people … unless they are churchgoers, don’t even know the word Whitsun.

I asked a few friends about this and we all had the same memories of Whitsun. It was huge! On Whit Sunday you wore your very best clothes. If you had a new summer dress and new shoes, to replace last summer’s things you’d grown out of, they were worn for the first time to church on Whit Sunday morning … There were often parties and parades … and in many towns in the north there were Whit Walks … Whit fairs … chapel parades … including brass bands and choirs; girls attending are dressed in white …

The name is believed to be a contraction of “White Sunday”. Whit Sunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter, when Christians celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit to the first followers of Christ … A high point on the calendar at one time for everyone, in and out of church, Whitsuntide is now known simply as Spring Bank Holiday (Whit Monday was officially renamed Spring Bank Holiday in 1972).

Another view to the background of the name: based on the Holy Spirit bringing understanding and wisdom to the Apostles, some argue that Whitsuntide may have its origins in the Anglo-Saxon word “wit”, meaning “understanding”.

Anonymous; written 2 years ago


Consuming Fire” – Tim Hughes


Reading: Romans 1:1-17

Paul, … set apart for the gospel of God …

Romans 1:1


Today is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent birth of the Church. To commemorate that birth we continue to look at Romans, a church in the making and the vital work of the Spirit in that process and development. In this first chapter the apostle acknowledges the work of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Paul … set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His Son, who as to His earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rom. 1:1-4

Alongside the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ it is the work of the Holy Spirit that is prominent in answering the question about what it means to be a Christian! It was the Spirit that enabled Paul to live up to his calling, to be a servant of Christ Jesus, and an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

(1) God’s Initiative

“Paul a servant, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God”. It’s all God’s initiative and Paul by God’s grace and the Spirit’s enabling responded.  If we rise above all the mess of this world and see things from God’s perspective we will be very encouraged. For God has His purposes and plans which He is bringing about. Part of that plan and purpose was the transformation that took place in the life of Paul and his being set apart for the gospel. We have been looking at how God called Saul of Tarsus and turned him into His servant, the called apostle, and this week we will look at God setting him apart for the work He had called him to.

(2) “Set apart”

Paul uses a word that means, “to mark off by boundaries”; (figuratively) “limit”; “exclude”; “appoint”; “divide”; “separate”; “sever”; “rail off”; “place apart”; “set apart”.

This happened when God set Paul apart from his mother’s womb,

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.

Galatians 1:15-16


The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

Jeremiah 1:4-5

It became a reality in Paul’s life when he was confronted by the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus:

“Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

Acts 26:16-18

“… the turn of the ages effected by Christ meant that the ideal of separation from the Gentiles now became for Paul separation for the sake of the Gentiles”.

James D. G. Dunn

The same word is used in Acts 13:

While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13:2-3

It was the same with the nation of Israel for being set apart was a vital part of its life, e.g.

You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

Leviticus 20:26

However, we know that many times Israel erred badly from this and embraced the ways and values of the nations from which the Lord had set them apart from.

(3) God’s Intervention

Now putting these two truths together that Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb and yet it didn’t become a reality until he met the Lord on the road to Damascus brings out the remarkable truth that God is very much in control in this world. Here we have a man who was actively destroying the church of Jesus Christ and yet set apart by God from his mother’s womb:

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles …

Gal. 1:13-16

What are we to make of this intervening period when Paul ran amok in destroying Jesus’ church? We can only say that God has given us free will and everyone can do whatever they please, which is why the world is in the mess it is in. But … God intervenes and does His work according to His will, His sovereign will and transformation takes place. Paul following his own (and maybe his parents) will and desires became a Pharisee (in Hebrew means ‘separated one’) but following Christ’s intervention in his life became set apart for the gospel. We must never despair to the point of losing hope when we see the ferocious activities of a Saul of Tarsus for it might be a “But God …” is just around the corner and we are all going to learn that this one too is set apart to God from his mother’s womb!

Such is true of each one of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we too have been set apart for His namesake and for His glory. Such shouldn’t lead to pride on our part but deep heartfelt praise:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.

Eph. 1:3-6

(4) “Come out from” and “Go into” … the world

We can learn the lessons of Church History when believers have gone too far with this doctrine and have completely separated themselves from the people of this world. For sure the apostle Paul was set apart for the gospel and separated to God. And yet he was set apart for ministering, witnessing and preaching to the Gentiles. We must live holy lives that are set apart to God that we might also live lives that witness to all those who don’t know Him. We are in the world but not of the world, we must get the balance right between these:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? … for we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate”, says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”  and, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters”, says the Lord Almighty.

2 Cor. 6:14-18

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

There is a balance in that, yes we are to be set apart to God, separate from the world in that we don’t embrace their sinful ways, but at the same time we are called to be salt and light in the world.

Questions for Discussion

  1. When did the reality of being set apart to God register with you?
  2. Does the church go too far in separating itself from the world?
  3. Can we receive Jesus Christ as Saviour but not Lord?
  4. Explain how Paul was set apart to God from his mother’s womb and yet persecuted the church?
  5. Are we called to live in monasteries so we can live set apart lives?
  6. Going into the world, how do we protect ourselves from becoming like the world in its sinful ways?

Quote for Week

“We do not need to wait for the Holy Spirit to come: He came on the day of Pentecost. He has never left the church”

John Stott

Verse of the week

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we worship You and thank You for setting us apart and for the gift of Your Spirit who teaches us all things and reminds us of the words of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for the enabling of Your Spirit to live holy lives separate from the world. Thank You also for the power of the Spirit who enables us to go into the world with the Gospel of Your Kingdom, the Good-News of Jesus.

Help us, Your Church, to get the balance right of being in the world but not of the world; that we might live holy lives before You and all people and that we might be ever ready to give an account of the hope within us. Help us to respect all people and love them with the love of Christ.

Lord build Your church to be Your light in the darkness of this world, in Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.