A Pattern For Missional Proclamation
Charles Spurgeon - the great prince of preachers of the 1800's- established a college for preaching to educate and train men who felt God's call to preach. At this college there was a regular practice the students enjoyed every Friday afternoon. The students, instructors, and Mr. Spurgeon himself would all gather together. At that meeting each Friday a random student was chosen and given a passage of Scripture which he then must preach extemporaneously, on the spot, with no preparation. For many of these young preachers, this on-the-spot sermon served as their very first sermon before an audience of people. Pretty foreboding if you ask me. On one of these particular Friday gatherings, a student was given the passage in Luke 19 where the account of Zacchaeus' conversion is recorded. The young preacher got up from his seat, walked up to the platform and here's the entirety of his 3-point sermon: "Mr. President and brethren, my subject is Zacchaeus, and it is therefore most appropriate to me. First, Zacchaeus was little of stature, as am I. Second, Zacchaeus was up a tree; so am I. Third, Zacchaeus made haste to come down; and so will I." And at that he took his seat.
I remember my first sermon before a congregation. I was 15 years old. It was "Youth Sunday" at FBC Wimauma, FL. I was asked by our pastor to deliver the Sunday morning sermon. That was 30 years ago and I still remember the text I preached from - Acts 3, which was Peter's second recorded sermon he spoke from Solomon's Portico. I worked on that message for several weeks, preaching it in my room, preaching it on our family farm to the pigs and cows. I timed it to see how long it took me - right at 30 minutes. But when I got up to deliver the sermon at 11:30 that morning, it only took me 10 minutes to preach it. We were out of church and headed home at 11:45! Wishful thinking today, right?
Today we're looking at Peter's very first sermon. If you'll remember, just before Jesus ascended into heaven he reminded the 120 followers in Jerusalem that he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. And last week we saw that 10 days later the Holy Spirit was in fact poured out in power upon those gathered. The Holy Spirit manifested himself upon them in these sensory ways - sound, sight, and touch which resulted in them speaking in tongues. The explosion of power with which the Spirit came upon those 120 disciples was so loud, it attracted thousands of Jewish pilgrims in the city for the festival of Pentecost - the sound attracted them to the location where they were gathered. And when they got there, they heard the mighty wonders of God communicated in their own language from these Galileans.
And the idea we came around last week was that the Holy Spirit came upon them in power - not primarily to give them an ecstatic, sensory experience - that was a secondary result. He came upon them to empower them for the mission Jesus had given them in Acts 1:8: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Again, what we're going to look at today is Peter's very first sermon. It's a sermon he gave in response to the question that was circling through the crowd of pilgrims gathered outside who had just heard them speaking in their own language. The question that was swirling around was "What does this mean?" And Peter's sermon is in response to that question.
We regard Pentecost as the birthday of the church. And I don't want us to miss the importance of this fact: The first act, the first ministry of the church was a sermon. This points to the primacy and central role that preaching has in the life of the church. Preaching, Biblical proclamation is THE primary means God has ordained for the advancement of his kingdom in this world. If we cease to preach, we cease to be the church.
I do hope you have your Bible open. It's a lengthy text and because of it's length I didn't print it on the outline this week because it would have taken up most of the sheet. But we will read it in it's entirety.
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
There's no way I'll be able to communicate to you in our time together all of the truth contained here, but I felt it was important to cover this entire sermon on one Sunday and here's why: what I want us to focus on here are the basic elements contained in this message. And as we consider the three primary elements of the first sermon of the Christian church, what I submit to you today is these three elements should be a part of EVERY sermon preached from a Christian pulpit. That's why I've entitled the message The Pattern of Missional Proclamation.
One of the things that is so amazing about this sermon is that 50 days earlier, Peter gave the most infamous denial of Jesus ever; the most infamous denial of Christ in history. You'll remember from the gospels that Peter was first among the apostles - he was first in everything: first to walk out on the water, first to open his mouth, first with his sword - second to the tomb only because he couldn't run as fast as John. Him being first at everything resulted in a huge presumption about himself. He told Jesus, basically, "Look Lord, I don't know about the rest of these boys, but you're looking at a man. Though all of the rest of them leave and forsake you, I NEVER will." Of course that presumption was a springboard for his plunge as that evening, using curse words he hadn't spoken in years, he denies the Lord before a servant girl.
But now, amazingly, 50 days later he's the apostolic spokesperson giving the inaugural sermon of the Christian church on the day of Pentecost. Something magnificent must have happened to Peter for this to have taken place - it's called the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Now the scene in Jerusalem was not particularly inviting for this type of sermon. They had just killed his master a month and a half earlier with this slow torturous execution. And now, in the very same city there are thousands of people gathered around. But in spite of the potentially hostile environment, Peter stands up and boldly proclaims the good news of Jesus. And in so doing I believe he presented for us a pattern for missional proclamation. Three elements of his sermon I submit to you should be a part of every Christian sermon. First of all, it is...
I. It Is SCRIPTURE-Rooted
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
As Peter addresses their question, "What does this mean" and also addresses the mocking assertion that they are all drunk, he answers them by quoting from Joel 2:28-32. He gives clarity to the experience by pointing to it's biblical, scriptural, prophetic origin. What they just experienced and what the crowd had just witnessed was nothing less than a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
And what was the prediction of Joel that was fulfilled in Acts 2 at Pentecost? Verse 17: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Acts 1:17a The prophesy of Joel was that the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh, all humans, all nationalities and races and peoples. Before this day of Pentecost there was no provision for the abiding presence in the life of Old Testament believers. That's why David prayed in Psalm 51 - "Take not your Holy Spirit from me." In the Old Testament the Spirit of God came upon believers in unique ways for specific purposes. But the New Testament promise is that the Holy Spirit would be an abiding presence in the life of a believer throughout his life. That's what Jesus had told the disciples in this same Upper Room 50 days earlier: 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
This Pentecost event of the Holy Spirit coming in power upon and inside of believers was the dawn of a new age - the age of Grace. So the dawn of this age was the sending of the Spirit - but Peter also mentions the dusk of the age which will include incredible cataclysmic events:
19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. Acts 1:19-20
That's the end, the dusk of the age of Grace. The sending of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh is the dawn of the age of Grace. But in between the dawn and the dusk is this promise that Peter quotes from Joel 2: And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Acts 1:21
We are in the age of grace right now. The Spirit has come in power, he indwells every believer empowering us for ministry; the great and awesome Day of the Lord has not yet occurred and so we repeat the invitation that Peter repeated - everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved - everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!
And so here we have Peter, in his inaugural sermon, reaching back into the Old Testament and grabs the perfect Scripture, and holds it forth before the people. How could he do that? How could he so masterfully apply these four verses from the 2nd chapter of Joel to this event at Pentecost. I would suggest it's because not only was he full of the Holy Spirit, but he was full of the Scripture.
Remember, this was an on-the-spot, extemporaneous sermon. He hadn't prepared his remarks, he didn't have his notes in front of him from the 20 hours of study and research he had done the week before. This was simply an overflow of the truth of God's word that had already saturated his life. I surmise that what happened was Jesus had pointed Peter to this Scripture and Peter had set it to his heart. Remember, Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days after his resurrection and before his ascension. And during that 40 days he was communicating to them from the Old Testament Scriptures all the things concerning himself. Acts 1:3 says as much: He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3
So Peter was saturated with Bible because Jesus had poured it into him, throughout his earthly ministry but also following his resurrection. And can you imagine the intensity with which Peter and the other disciples listened to Jesus after his resurrection? I mean, there's no doubt Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived and he was spellbinding during those three years of his ministry. But following his resurrection, here he is, the one who was dead and is now alive speaking to you about the kingdom and the things to come. You would be hanging on his every word.
My point is, the reason Peter's sermon was Scripture-rooted is because Peter was Scripture-saturated. Joel 2 is not the only Scripture he quotes. He also quotes passages from Psalm 16 and Psalm 110 in this sermon.
And in so doing Peter sets the pattern for authentic Christian preaching - it must be rooted in the Scripture.
Unfortunately there is much so-called preaching today in what are alleged to be Christian churches that are virtually devoid of Biblical content.
Instead they are speeches that could be heard from a motivational speaker or talk show host with just a cursory mention of a verse from the Bible here or there. And so, if we are going to be a church on mission we must understand that our proclamation of the good news - whether that's here from this pulpit, or in Providence, RI or in BA, Argentina must be Scripture-rooted. That is authentic missional proclamation.
Now, in order for that to happen, we must be like Peter, Bible-saturated. Which is exactly why we focus on Disciplemaking as a church. The textbook for disciplemaking is the Bible. And so our process of making disciples through D-groups is preparing us for missional proclamation. We must be saturated with the Word of God; we must be people of the Book.
One of the things I'm so thankful for is that in our children's ministry and our youth ministry, Tiffany and Christina respectively are leading our children and youth to read, study, understand, memorize and apply God's word in their lives. In so doing we are by God's grace producing a generation of missionaries. So Peter's sermon was Scripture-rooted. Secondly, the Pattern for Missional Proclamation is that...
II. It Is SAVIOR-Centered
Jesus of Nazareth
Peter's sermon is centered on Jesus. He is the focal character. Peter doesn't make himself the focal person, nor the disciples - and not even the Holy Spirit - the third person of the Trinity. And just an aside here - unfortunately some, I think wrongly so - make the primary emphasis of their teaching and preaching the Holy Spirit. Now, no doubt about it the Spirit is God; He is the third person of the Trinity. But the role of the Holy Spirit is to point people to Jesus, to inform us of Jesus, to glorify Jesus. Jesus said this regarding the work of the Spirit in John 16: He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14
So Jesus says the ministry and the role of the Holy Spirit is not to point people to himself, but to point people to Jesus. And that's exactly what we see Peter doing in this sermon. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter points the thousands of people gathered there to Jesus. And there are three aspects of Jesus' nature, his character, his work that Peter pointed to...
A. His VIRTUOUS life
Peter lifts up the virtuous life of Jesus and in so doing communicates the Divine nature of Jesus. Look at verse 22: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know
Jesus’ miraculous works were not modern day fables or fairy tales – they were actual events that the people who were gathered there that day had been personal witnesses of. Some there were perhaps some who were miraculously fed by the multiplication of the loaves and fish; some there were healed or had family members healed; some there knew of those who had been dead that Jesus had raised to new life.
Peter affirms that they know this Jesus of Nazareth performed mighty works of God in their midst. And Peter says these works were God’s way of giving attestation to the nature of Jesus. That word for “attest” in the original language of the Bible refers to giving proof, providing evidence. God was proving to the people that Jesus was no ordinary man. God is endorsing Jesus. And these people could not claim ignorance. He says, “as you yourselves know.”
This is one aspect that must be a part of our proclamation of Jesus. It is vital to the gospel narrative that we communicate the divine nature of Jesus. The reason being that only a divine Messiah would possess the necessary credentials take upon his own body the punishment for sin. Which leads to the next aspect of Peter’s testimony regarding Jesus…
B. His VICARIOUS death
23:this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. In this sentence Peter answers the question that would have been on the minds of all those gathered there. What question is that? “We know of Jesus’ messianic claims” they would say, “We know of his miraculous works and signs and wonders. It was all very spectacular and intriguing to us. But, he died. And he was killed, no less, by the Roman occupiers whom we hoped he would overthrow.”
So Peter tells them that Jesus being delivered up to the authorities and being crucified by them was not some failure in God’s plan for the Messiah – it WAS God’s plan for the Messiah. Jesus, Peter says, was crucified according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Therefore, Jesus’ death did not contradict his messianic claims but rather his death was the fulfillment of those messianic claims.
So what was the purpose of Jesus’ death? Why was it God's predetermined definite plan to kill him? All the Jewish people had to do is read Isaiah 53, written 700 years earlier to discover the answer to that question. It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt. Is 53:10
Jesus died as an offering for guilt; he died as John said in his first epistle as a propitiation - an atoning sacrifice - for sin. His death was a vicarious death; he died in our place. That must be a part of New Testament, Missional proclamation and preaching. But the third thing Peter communicates regarding Jesus...
C. His VICTORIOUS resurrection
Peter wanted his hearers to know about the virtuous life of Jesus – that demonstrates the mark of God on his life; Peter wanted his hearers to know about the vicarious death of Jesus. But the good news of Jesus would not be good news if there was no victorious resurrection from the dead. You see, every other Jewish Rabbi; every other world religious leader that has existed throughout the annals of human history has died – just like Jesus. Their hearts quit pumping, their lungs quit breathing. But unlike Jesus they remained dead. Jesus alone has been resurrected from the dead.
Just this past week I had a young man ask me, “how do you know that Christianity is right and all the other world religions are wrong?” I replied, “That’s an easy question – because Jesus is alive. He’s been resurrected from the dead. His grave is empty – he’s not there. And Peter, who preached this message, and all the other apostles went to their grave and were martyred declaring with staunch insistence that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. Here’s how he put it in verse 24: God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Then, in verses 25–31, Peter shows that the resurrection of Jesus fits with Old Testament prophecy and the obvious conclusion is that Jesus is the son of David (v. 30); he's the Messiah (v. 31). Again, utilizing the Word of God, the Scriptures to present his case.
So we see in Peter’s sermon this pattern, this model for missional proclamation. It is Scripture-rooted - and like Peter we must be Bible-saturated. His sermon is Savior-Centered. He doesn't offer some psychology-based self improvement methods for their problems, he offers Jesus as the only solution to their problem. What is their problem? It's the same as us - and we see it in this last point. Peter's sermon is...
III. It Is SINNER-Applied
In seminary I had three different preaching classes. And in each one there was an emphasis placed upon application. My professors wanted us young preacher-boys to understand the importance of applying the text, applying the sermon to the lives of those who are hearing it. Personal application of a sermon is what James had in mind when he wrote in James 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not just hearers only.”
So for instance when from time to time I have us ask the question “So What” – that is an attempt to apply the truths I’ve just preached to our lives. We also see it as part of Peter’s first sermon. He personally applies the truths of the gospel to his hearers – and by extension as we read this summary of his sermon he applies it to us as well. It is SINNER- applied. How does Peter apply these truths to the lives of those who are listening here? First of all, he exposes…
A. Our CONDITION
Let me ask you a question: did you kill Jesus? Did you kill the Lord of glory? Now your first reaction is probably a feeling of denial, perhaps even a sense of resentment. How could I possibly question your guilt in something that’s 2,000 years removed away from where you are? But I’ll ask it again – did you kill Jesus? Did you kill the Lord of glory?
I ask you that because I think your initial reaction would be the way hundreds, perhaps thousands of people would have reacted when Peter told those gathered that day that they were responsible, they were guilty of killing Jesus – this Jesus he had just lifted up as being confirmed and attested by God and resurrected from the dead. He said it twice. First in verse 23: 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Then he repeats it again in verse 36: 36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
So twice in this sermon Peter makes personal application to his hearers by exposing their condition – they are guilty of killing the son of God.
How can Peter say that? Remember he is talking to several thousand Jewish people in Jerusalem. Many of these people had nothing directly to do with the death of Jesus. Even if many of them were among the mobs that shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" you know that in a crowd this large there were a good number who did not do that—they weren't even there on that day.
But Peter doesn't seem to be worried about that. Twice he says, “You’re guilty of killing Jesus; His blood is on your hands.” How can Peter say that?
He can say it because everybody in that crowd was involved in the crime against Jesus that brought him to his death. What was the essence of the crime that brought the end of Jesus’ life? The essence of the crime against Jesus was the rejection of God in Jesus' life. Think with me carefully about this. It is tremendously important and has major implications for us today.
Jesus was handed over to be crucified on the grounds of blasphemy. He claimed to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70–71). He claimed that God was endorsing him as Messiah (Luke 22:67–69). But the Jewish rulers rejected his claim to be the son of God; they rejected his claim to be the Messiah. They called him a blasphemer. They rejected the attestation of God in Jesus’ life; they rejected his deity; they rejected God’s endorsement of Jesus.
Follow me here – put on your thinking caps: if a person rejects the true role of God in the life of Jesus, that person votes for the charge of blasphemy. And to cast your vote on the side of blasphemy—to reject God's endorsement of Jesus—is to say in your heart, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
So when I ask you, “Did you kill Jesus?” – I was not asking you if you were present 2000 years ago on Good Friday voting against Jesus and sending him to his death. I'm asking, "Do you join God in his affirmation of Jesus, or do you stand against God in the life of Jesus? Do you agree with God about Jesus? Or do you reject his endorsement of Jesus?"
And I dare say that all of us at one time or another in our lives have been guilty of rejecting Jesus as the son of God and Lord of Glory and thereby we have joined in with the crowd yelling, “Crucify him, crucify him.”
So Peter makes personal application here – he nails them, and us in the process. We are guilty of the death of Jesus. His blood is on our hands. And in so doing his personal application exposes our lost condition. But Peter's personal application doesn't end there. He also applies it, calling for
B. Our CONFESSION
This final application of Peter is actually in response to a question asked by those in the crowd. In verse 37: Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And what was Peter’s response? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…” That's their personal confession of faith.
First he tells them to repent. The word “repent” is a rich New Testament word. It speaks of a complete change of purpose; a turning from sin and your own personal pursuit and a turning to God. Repentance is an essential component of genuine conversion. Both John the Baptist and Jesus himself called for people to repent and the call to repentance is repeated multiple times throughout the book of Acts as the gospel goes out into Jerusalem and beyond. And the call for people to repent today is still as valid.
And as a testimony to the authenticity of their repentance, he called upon them to be baptized. In other words, there’s no such thing as a secret disciple. For these hearers of Peter’s message Baptism would mark a public break from Judaism and complete identification with Jesus Christ. Such a public act would weed out any conversions which were not genuine.
And notice the response to the invitation to repent and be baptized: So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41
Welcome to the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem. Can you think of a better name? They were First; they were all baptized, they were a church and they were in Jerusalem!
Seriously though, what an incredible first day of ministry, right? Three thousand conversions. And I love the fact that Luke says “Three thousand souls.” These are people, created in God’s image who are going to live somewhere for eternity. And that day 3,000 souls crossed from death to life; 3,000 souls went from a destination of hell to a destination of heaven.
And this is a fulfillment of what Jesus promised just before his death. Notice what he said in John 14:12 - “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
Notice what happened…a larger company was won in a single day than Jesus had secured in three years of public ministry. Isn’t that incredible?
This is why He said to wait for the Holy Spirit. Wonderful things happen when we are under the control of the Spirit.
The mission of Christ continues through His church today!
We have the same mandate upon us that those early disciples had upon them in the upper room. We have it embroidered upon this drapery: Make Disciples of All Nations.
That’s our mandate – to be witnesses for Christ. He's called us to witness for him.
Illustration: I heard about a man who was accused of some wrongdoing and was brought before a judge. When the judge asked if he had an attorney to represent him, the man answered, “No, I can’t afford one.” The judge replied, “Well, don’t worry about that. I’ll appoint a lawyer to represent you and I will choose a real good one.” “I appreciate that, judge,” answered the man. “But if you really want to appoint somebody to help me, what I need most is not a real good lawyer, but several real good witnesses."
And that’s what Jesus is looking for in us – good witnesses. What’s a good witness? Someone who follows the pattern of missional proclamation that Peter followed in this inaugural sermon of the Christian Church. Our Witness must be:
Last Thought: As we CONSISTENTLY proclaim the good news of Jesus we can ANTICIPATE God’s harvest!