How would you feel the moment a messenger of God told you the man you helped kill was alive and made King?
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. In the third post the contrast behind modern systematic exposition and 1st century preaching is breached. In the first part of the fourth post the discussion turns to the message that is worth dying for and sheds light on why pulpit preaching is powerless and a pale manifestation of preaching “Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)
Peter has remained consistent in his presentation thus far. He has had five opportunities to preach Christ and at each one he has done so extemporaneously. In five different sets of circumstances he has introduced the message of a crucified/murdered Jesus of Nazareth on the heels of a miraculous event. Now we turned to the reciprocal portion of the message. The power of the miracles witnessed by the audiences in each message rests on the resurrection of Jesus. Each column gives an accurate portrait of the message Peter preached. The emphasis is on the fact that God raised up Christ – and he said so five times.
|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|
|(24) God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held (25) “For David says concerning him: [quotation from Psalm 16](32) This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.||(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.||(40) but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear,(41) not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.|
Peter’s preaching returns the glory of the events meant for ill (Gen 50:20) to the powerful provocation of Christ’s resurrection. Now that Peter has set the tone of his reasoning he begins to provide details that reveal the why of the miracles that started these messages in the first place, the miracles that came beforehand. These miracles are a direct result of the power given to the Christ through His exaltation. Condemnation is barely a sufficient feeling for the emotions the hearers would be experiencing at the sound of this. Peter does not just draw on his personal observations of the risen Lord, he provides witnesses to validate his testimony. See the underlined for these references:
|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|
|(33) Being 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.(34) For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,(35) until I make your enemies your footstool.’ (36) Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”||(16) And his name–by faith in his name–has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.||(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.(11) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.||(31) God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.||(42) And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.|
Labeling New Testament Preaching as rhetoric is false advertising!
As a firm believer in the effectiveness of a strong oratory it is a hard sell to accept New Testament gospel preaching as rhetorical. Especially in the terminology of “lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.” Even without focusing on the obviously negative the absence of figures of speech and compositional techniques are enough to dissuade that label for me. In the following table the final evidence demonstrates the obvious speakers call for a response, sans rhetoric?
|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 10:34-4|
|(39) 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?” (38) And 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. (39) For 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.“||(17)”And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. (18) But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. (19) Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, (20) that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, (21) whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. (22) Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. (23) And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ (24) And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. (25) You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.‘ (26) God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”||(12) ” And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.“||(31) God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.(32) And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”||(43) To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”|
Without dismissing the subtle nuance involved in calling a message rhetorical or not, I would like to encourage readers to review the differences in pulpit preaching of today and New Testament preaching of old. The purpose of the exercise should be to determine whether or not there is a justification for calling today’s practice of sermon delivery preaching.
Even if the similarities do exist, is it fair to conclude that today’s sermonizing is equivalent to the messages Peter delivered in the book of Acts? Was his message prepared, systematic, rhetorical, and presented as a modern sermon? Can an argument be made that what Peter did was much like what most modern Pastors do in churches every Sunday across the land?
Up next: Peter the Pulpit Preacher: Summary and Conclusion – Part 5
*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