Peter preached a gospel message that later cost him his life! What sermon would you die for?
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 how began to look at how they measure up to what was communicated by Peter and the other disciples during the feast of Pentecost. In the third post the contrast behind modern systematic exposition and 1st century preaching is breached. In this entry, the crux of the dilemma is brought into light as we explore the message that was worth dying for. Sadly, it is also a reminder of why pulpit preaching is powerless and a pale manifestation of preaching “Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)
Webster’s dictionary defines systematic as: using a careful system or method : done according to a system
I have insinuated that today’s pulpit preaching is not comparable to the New Testament gospel proclamations in the book of Acts by Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. I have also stated that defining those messages as systematic in defense of the careful, planned, and systematic presentation of sermons from today’s pulpits is erroneous. Succinctly, it is justification for a form of sermonizing that is intended to teach but merely weakens its hearers. Did Peter go to his pastoral library, crack open his papyrus version of Bibleworks, layout his Rabbinical commentary sets, and then craft one of the most powerful messages ever to be spoken on planet earth?
The rationalization of sermonizing as a continuation of New Testament preaching creates an atmosphere that frees the church an understanding of Christian living with no practical experience of such. It also facilitates the oppression of the gifts of the spirit in the primary meeting of the church gathered.
Of Sermon introductions and miracles
As established previously, each message Peter gives is preceded by a miracle. The miracle prompts a springboard for Peter to proclaim his account of its power and why it has happened: The following table illustrates the miracle, passage, and emboldened similarities in each message:
|Pentecost: Acts 2:14-39||Temple Beggar: Acts 3:11-4:4||First Arrest Beggars Healing : Acts 4:8-12||Second Arrest Apostles freed from prison: Acts 5:29-32||Cornelius: Acts 10:34-43|
|(14) But 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.(15) For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.||(11) While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s.(12) And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?||(8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders,(9) if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,||(29) But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.||(34) So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,(35) but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.(36) As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),|
What is common: Peter introduces each message with an explanation of the miracle. Namely, Jesus Christ is the introduction to each passage and becomes the sole motivation for a gospel proclamation. The fifth message provides an exception to this rule due to the audience primarily requesting his presence and message, but the similarities remain. Each message is prompted by the opportunity provided from the general interest of the crowd.
The primary topic of all New Testament preaching
The centrality of Peter’s messages in the books of Acts is always Jesus. As we find in modern pulpits today, systematic, expositional, and rhetorical presentations are full of content but lack in substance. Equating sermonizing with preaching is unfair to the truth of the Gospel, and undermines the obligation ALL Christians have to the task of preaching. The table below reveals that the crucifixion applies to each audience in its own right, regardless of the miracle performed, Peter does amend his vernacular, but only to personalize each address.
|Pentecost: Acts 2:14-39||Temple Beggar: Acts 3:11-4:4||First Arrest: Acts 4:8-12||Second Arrest: Acts 5:29-32||Cornelius Acts: 10:34-43|
|(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–(23) this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.||(13) The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.(14) But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,(15) and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.||(10) let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by him this man is standing before you well.||(30) The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.||(37) you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed:(38) how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.(39) And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,|
The fidelity of gospel truth remains centered in the person it is about. Sermons of today are informative and helpful when learning theology. Preaching is unique to the message of the apostles and the good news of Jesus Christ crucified. Many ministries today establish their faithfulness to truth and exegetical preaching with the slogan “Christ and Him Crucified.” This might sell books and pack sanctuaries, but it is not what the New Testament has in mind. As we continue to evaluate the messages of Peter we will see what he thought of Christ and Him Crucified.
*Message comparisons and charts are inspired by the author of Gospel Preaching in Acts – The Preaching of Peter. The whole of this author’s work pertaining to preaching in Acts is worthy of reading in it’s entirety at http://loveintruth.com/amf-docs/gpia-contents.htm. It is refreshing to see his conclusion formed in these words, “There is a belief among some today that true preaching is a one-way discourse, from a man standing in a pulpit and declaring the truth. The evidence is that this is not the way it took place in Apostolic times. Occasions such as evangelistic Bible-studies have proved to be an effective way of communicating the Gospel, and maybe these are closer to the New-Testament pattern than our present-day Gospel sermons. Even Peter’s Pentecost address involved some kind of dialogue (2:37-38). We must not consider our ‘traditional’ mode of Gospel address as a tradition that goes back to the Apostles—it certainly does not.”
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