Was Peter preaching or sermonizing in the book of Acts?
The sermon is under attack. Its accusers claim that it is ineffective or out of date. In contrast to such criticism, the sermon is heavily emphasized and utilized in many Christian meetings to communicate biblical data to the masses, as one blogger points out,
“The Sermon is so central to many groups that its delivery is one of the main duties of a professionally trained and salaried individual, the pastor.”
With his essay the blogger highlights not problems with sermons, but specific problems affecting today’s sermons in our modern context. The post in turn draws attention to biblical anecdotes, the effectiveness of a good sermon, and even how to benefit as a listener.
The post offers a highly insightful and well reasoned presentation in defense of the sermon. It may even surprise you that this brother’s idea of a sermon allows for questioning and verbal interaction. In the end, the post itself rests upon the premise that sermons are biblical, and have precedent through scriptural reference. I would like to view sermonizing from a different vantage point. Since Peter’s message in the book of Acts is the premise by which the author has defended the sermon I would rather consider the nature of Peter’s messages in Acts.Was it extemporaneous, or was it carefully planned as the author states in the following?
To be clear: what I mean by “sermon” is an extended lecture on a biblical text or theme, prepared in advance by one individual who delivers it orally to a group of people. Unlike a discussion, the presentation is asymmetric (primarily from the teacher to the congregation, though it may be interrupted by questions). Unlike a meditation, it develops its content with an argument that usually takes some time to present. Unlike an extemporaneous address, the teacher devotes effort to preparing it in advance.
Is this what Peter had in mind when he presented his messages in the book of Acts? My observations of the oratory given by Peter lead to another conclusion. Peter’s ‘sermon’ was not a sermon at all. It should be noted that the schema in which we process the idea of a ‘sermon’ must be addressed. A sermon from the perspective of modern day pulpit preaching comes to mind, and the presentation places the deliverer in front of his audience. This same schema connotes planned preparation and crafted rhetoric. Reading such contemporary perceptions back into the texts of scripture can easily lead us astray.
What I would like to offer for you is a series of posts highlighting points from the book of Acts, providing evidence of genuine apostolic doctrine in action. While this blogger in questions conclusions result in a case for careful preparation prior to confronting a congregation with rhetorical structuring and systematic exposition, what I have found is that Peter was more of an spirit inspired opportunist than and evangelist than a trained exegete or sophist.
What do you think? Do you think that Peter’s messages in Acts were prepared sermons? What indicators in the text lead you to this conclusion or disagreement?
This post is part of a series.
- Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Intro – Part 1
- Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Obedience – Part 2
- Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Systematic or Consistent? – Part 3
- Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Worth dying for – Part 4a
- Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Worth dying for – Part 4b
- Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Summary and Conclusion – Part 5