Did Peter promote an educated faith with no practical experience through sermons?
In the first post of this series on the messages of Peter in the book of Acts, we surveyed the dilemma of New Testament preaching versus modern sermonizing. Then, in the second post we evaluated the characteristics of today’s sermons and began to look at how they measure up to what was communicated by Peter and the other disciples during the feast of Pentecost.
I concluded that the messages of Peter were not sermons but evangelistic messages. I also concluded that it was not a diligently prepared sermon by our contemporary exegetical standards, but prepared through obedience and first hand practice walking with the Christ creating an outpouring of biblical truth that was confirmed in the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah. A natural outpouring of truth came from walking in truth for the 1st Century disciples.
Now, we turn to the continuation of the series and begin reviewing the characteristics of the messages that Peter delivered during and after his Pentecostal message. We look to these entries to evaluate the validity of Peter’s message in a context that was pregnant with expectation of a Messiah to free Israel from Roman rule. The implications of differentiating what Peter announced from modern sermonizing and New Testament preaching are monumental to the Christian witness.
Unless the Church itself can see the importance of a living and breathing relationship with Christ, sermons and sermonizing will continue to provide Christians with an educated faith born out of no practical experience. You cannot proclaim what you have not lived like Peter does in the book of Acts. The second characteristic of modern sermons being systematic in organization presents a dilemma that reduces the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
While the Holy Spirit himself may be a competent exegete in many cases the mere fact that Christ implored his followers to trust the Spirit to give them the words they would need makes more sense during the incidents in the book of Acts.
(Luke 21:14-16) “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”
Reading this verse and others like it in the New Testament remind me to be confident that I can trust in Christ, His Spirit in me, and the ability to proclaim the truth of Christ to those that would resist its message. It also reminds me of Stephen as he ventured into the hostile crowd with boldness to claim the blasphemous message that Yeshua was Lord.
Or is it more plausible that young Stephen sat down to pen his message, meditating beforehand the covenantal history of Israel and how it all culminated in the coming of Christ, penning it in such fashion that it would most certainly get him killed? It is not convincing that Stephen sat down to write a systematic exposition entitled, “How to get stoned, a martyrs manifesto.”
To answer the question of whether or not what Peter did in the book of Acts must be defined by the readers understanding of the word systematic. What we begin to learn from the evidence is that Peter presents a coherent and thorough message in all applications – just the same as Stephen. But it is not systematic in the nature of modern sermon preparation.
So to illustrate consistency on behalf of Peter we need to evaluate his messages in Acts. It is inspiring to note that Peter was prompted in each circumstance by a preceding miracle. Those miracles were:
- Acts 2:14-39: The miracle of tongues
- Acts 3:11-4:4: The temple beggar was healed
- Acts 4:8-12: Arrested for healing the beggar
- Acts 5:29-32: Freed by an angel
- Acts 10:34-43: Cornelius hears from a heavenly messenger
Peter consistently responded to prompting from the power of the Holy Spirit. His message came from what dwelled within him and his desire for obedience compelled him to be a true witness. Peter goes on to show us just how important it was to prove his credibility as a witness. As we dig deeper in the analysis of the Acts messages the words witness and testimony become obvious and purposeful.
Can someone properly prepare a systematic and coherent message for a miracle they are not aware is going to happen? Place yourself in the shoes of Peter and the other disciples, would you be empowered to proclaim a message that might get you killed? Would that message be something that required hours in the study and ample time to present? Or is it likely that experience and obedience facilitate eloquence when the Holy Spirit moves the mouths of men?
Please check back for the next entry exploring the message of Peter’s preaching in Acts in this series how preaching in the New Testament is more about the Gospel than rhetoric in Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Worth dying for – Part 4a
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