Defining Our Message
On Pentecost, after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers. They came forth giving praise to God in tongues, that is in new languages. It all created such an uproar that a crowd gathered. Many declared that although the Apostles were all from Galilee, they were hearing them proclaim the glory of God in their own native tongue. However, some thought the Apostles were merely drunk. Then Peter stepped forth to preach the very first sermon in the name of Jesus!
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Joel 2:28-32)
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, that is, Gentiles put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ (Psalm 16:8-11)
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’ (Psalm 110:1)
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
When we look at Peter’s first sermon and other sermons preached throughout the book of Acts, (3:12-26; 4:8-14; 5:17-32; 7:1-60; 8:30-38; 10:35-48; 13:15-43; 16:30-34; 17:1-4; 17:16-34) we find some common characteristics that we should learn from.
First, we see that the Apostles base their message in the scripture. Peter explained the gift of the Holy Spirit from a passage in the Prophet Joel. He explained Jesus’s resurrection and ascension through the Psalms. Some of the sermons in Acts build a very full description of God’s covenants with Abraham, Moses and King David. They draw the connection between prophetic scriptures and the events of Jesus’s life and ministry. These lay the basis for understanding who Jesus is and what he has done for us in his death and resurrection. It explains that Jesus fulfills the prophetic testimony and is God’s unique, Christ/Messiah (anointed/chosen) means of salvation. Where as the Apostles had only the Old Testament Scriptures we have the addition of the New Testament, which primarily gives us the testimony of the Apostles.
Second, we find that sermons are based on scripture and are brought to life by the testimony of the Apostles. They declare as Peter does here, that they have met Jesus and he is alive. It is easy to recognize the significance of the testimony of those, who like Peter, walked with Jesus, participated in his ministry, saw him crucified, buried and resurrected from the dead. What then could be the importance of the testimony of those who did not see his crucifixion and resurrection? To answer that, we need only look to the Apostle Paul. Though he did not see those events, he nonetheless declares that he met the risen savior on the road to Damascus. (Acts 22:1-23) He can describe the power of Christ in that encounter and in his life that was changed. (Acts 26:20)
We too, share our testimony just as the old Easter hymn voiced it:
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He’s always near
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart
Third, the gift of the Holy Spirit comes with the gift of salvation. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would give the power to be witnesses of Jesus to his disciples. That means the Holy Spirit in us gives us something to tell. It is through the Holy Spirit that we personally know Jesus and experience his life giving power that transforms our lives. This is what we give witness to, guided and motivated by the Holy Spirit.
Fourth is the multiplying effect. The purpose of these sermons is to invite others to faith in Christ. Sermons end with an invitation to the listeners to repent of sin and profess their faith in Jesus by being baptized, then they too would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost alone, about 3000 became believers in Jesus.