Summary: What does the preacher have a right to expect from his listeners?
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 21
Are You Really Listening
You have the right to expect that your church’s pulpit be filled by prepared men preaching prepared sermons. You have the right to expect preachers who have prepared themselves spiritually and have also spent many hours preparing their sermon. You have the right to expect preachers to pour themselves out in preaching the Word of God to you. But what does the one who is speaking have a right to expect from their listeners?
Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century preacher, said that the hearer needed to prepare even more than the preacher! “We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted! But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than the preacher.”
As one who speaks regularly I can attest that some-times I feel that I am not getting through when I speak, only to find out later that I did. But it is also true that sometimes I think I am connecting, only to find out later that I did not. But generally speaking I believe that it is true to say that those who receive the most are those who come prepared to respond to the message.
You will remember that in our last study of the Book of Acts we left Peter as he left Joppa headed to Caesarea and the house of Cornelius. At Caesarea they met Cornelius and those whom he had gathered to hear Peter’s message. It would be wonderful if every preacher, when he stood up to preach, should find the reception that Peter found gathered in the house of Cornelius.
“And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. (25) As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. (26) But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” (27) And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. (28) Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (29) Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”
Cornelius had been prepared by God, and Peter had been prepared by God. But they were not the only ones who had been prepared. In verse thirty-three after rehearsing for Peter the circumstances that led to his request (vv. 30-32) he says, “So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”
Cornelius had prepared his whole household, and now they were anxiously waiting to hear from Peter. God had prepared Cornelius, the preacher and Peter and the audience. When you go to church, don’t you want to receive a good message? If so, the best way is to come with a prepared heart.!
First, The Preparation Of Peter.
Peter has received a vision from the Lord that has opened his eyes about his prejudicial view concerning the Gentiles (10:9-16). It was God who opened his eyes that he should not deem anyone as beyond reach by the Gospel (10:28). God gave new truth to Peter and then gave him an opportunity to act on what he had learned. Just as his vision is over the couriers arrive from Cornelius requesting him to come to Caesarea (10:17-22).
I believe that it is often the case that the Lord shows us some new truth and then gives us an opportunity to act on what we have learned. This new truth in our lives may have come in personal bible study, or a class or a sermon, but when God has challenged our hearts, He often provides situations or circumstances that call upon us to put those principles into practice.
Peter had learned the lesson well and he responds to the welcome into Cornelius’ house by saying, “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (v. 28).
Second, The Proclamation Of Peter. (10:34-43)
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. (35) But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (36) The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— (37) that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached.”