By Ron Halbrook
The message, method, and manner of our preaching must match the New Testament model. The kind of preaching needed then is needed now! This preaching alone will save the lost and strengthen the saved. Peter’s preaching was guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit. It proves an inspired model for gospel preaching in our generation and in every generation, in our country and in every country, to our people and to all people until the end of time.
The miraculous power of the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles of Jesus Christ in Acts 2:1-13. The Spirit came on the day of Pentecost with indisputable evidences and inspired the Apostles to speak “the wonderful works of God” in many languages. When the crowds asked what the meaning of such marvelous events could be, Peter explained in verses 14-21 that “this is that which is spoken by the prophet Joel.” Joel foretold a great outpouring of miraculous powers which would signify the beginning of the Messiah’s kingdom and its divine provision of salvation. Then, Peter proclaimed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, proving him to be “both Lord and Christ” (vv. 22-36). When the people cried out wanting to know how to receive salvation from their sins, Peter told them to repent of their sins and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and “with many other words” he urged them to obey the gospel (vv. 37-40). Three thousand souls “gladly received his word” by obeying it, were “added to the church” of Christ, and began serving him day by day (vv. 41-47).
Let us consider some key elements of Peter’s preaching so that we can learn to preach like Peter today.
The Inspired Word
1. Peter preached the inspired Word of God. The Apostles spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance” and spoke “the wonderful works of God” (vv. 1-4,11). Peter called upon the people to hear “my words,” “these words,” “many other words,” and “the apostles’ doctrine” because the words he spake were the very words of God himself through the Spirit (vv. 14,22,40,42). By inspiration, Peter quoted the inspired words of the prophets Joel and David, explaining their meaning and application (vv. 16-17, 29-30). In other words, the Spirit explained his own prophecies through Peter!
The inspired Word was in the men then and is in the Book now (Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Tim. 3:14; 1 Pet. 1:2425; 4:11; 2 Pet. 1:12-15). We make our appeal to the inspired Word by preaching the Scriptures. We do not have to be personally inspired in order to read, understand, believe, obey, and preach the inspired Word. We must not preach human theories, creeds, and doctrines. Our preaching must not be a hodge-podge of social, political, and economic opinions. The content of true gospel preaching is not long personal experiences and illustrations strung together with a verse of Scripture here and there, but much Scripture with a few appropriate illustrations. Peter did not preach in the trendy, “pep talk” language of motivational psychology, and neither should we today.
Confirmed By Miracles
2. Peter’s preaching was confirmed by miracles. The miracles included a sound like “a rushing mighty wind,” “tongues like as of fire” upon the Apostles’ heads, and the Apostles preaching in foreign languages which they had never learned (vv. 1-11). On that day the Apostles alone received this baptism of total immersion in the Spirit’s power (Acts 1:4-5,26; 2:1). Peter explained that God promised this outpouring of miracles as a means to confirm the truth of the following proposition: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (vv. 16-21). Jesus’ preaching had been confirmed “by miracles and wonders and signs” (v. 22). The testimony of the Apostles regarding the resurrection of Jesus was confirmed by the miracles “which ye now see and hear,” Peter affirmed (vv. 32-33). On the basis of this evidence, men can “know assuredly” or beyond all reasonable doubt that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). Many other “wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (v. 43).
Both the inspired Word and the signs which confirmed it were in the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, and the record of both are in the Bible now. That inspired, confirmed Word has the same power to save souls today which it had then. By the end of the first century, “all truth” had been revealed and confirmed, and therefore the process of revelation and confirmation ceased (Jn. 16:13; Mk. 16:15-20; 1 Cor. 13:8-13). When we preach the same word of the truth of the gospel today which Peter preached then, that word carries the same seal of divine confirmation and authority now which it carried then, whether the subject is water baptism or Jesus’ resurrection.
There are no new miracles today because there is no new revelation needing confirmation. Peter did not preach the theory of continuous revelation and confirmation, whether through Roman “popes,” Mormon “apostles,” or Pentecostal “preachers.” Peter performed miracles but never preached that sinners must “speak in tongues” or perform other miracles as the evidence of personal salvation. Neither did he project himself as some great-one, build a personal following, beg personal donations, and crown himself as kingpin over a complex of human institutions like Oral Roberts, Jim Baker, and Jimmy Swaggart have done.
Convicted Men of Sin
3. Peter’s preaching convicted men of sin. Peter quickly got to the point that his hearers were lost and God was offering to save them (v. 21). He did not stop with the general point that all men need to be saved, but charged his hearers with specific and horrible sins, including the murder of the one God sent as his own Son, the world’s Savior, and their Messiah (vv. 22-24,36-41).
God designed true gospel preaching to convict men of their sins in order that he might save them from their sins. The preaching of John, the forerunner of Christ, directly addressed the sins of his hearers (Matt. 3:1-12; 14:4). When Jesus proclaimed that God’s kingdom was near, he repeatedly and specifically pointed out the sins and false doctrines embraced by men, and warned, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). His lessons on hell are the most graphic known to the world. Jesus promised to send the Spirit to guide the Apostles into “all truth,” which would be the means of reproving “the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16:7-13). Just as Peter preached on Pentecost, Paul preached “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come” (Acts 24:25).
If we preach like Peter today, we must preach on sin in a manner which is plain, pointed, and specific. We can not avoid this duty. To “tone down” our preaching to generics, to “preach principles but leave the application to the audience, ” is to compromise with sin, to ease the conscience of the sinner, and to send the lost on their way rejoicing in their sins. True gospel preaching does not flatter people, pump up their self-esteem, and reinforce their ego after the manner of the positive-mental-attitude philosophy. Peter’s preaching cut people to the heart, made their consciences burn with guilt, and caused them to cry out, “What shall we do?” Perhaps people do not cry out like that anymore because we do not preach like Peter did anymore!
Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ
4. Peter preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He argued that the death of Jesus was no accident but fulfilled the purpose of God. He showed that the resurrection of Jesus was prophesied, that the Apostles witnessed the resurrected Lord, and that the miraculous events of Pentecost confirmed the truth of their testimony (vv. 22-36). The presentation was logical and the conclusion inescapable, “that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
These great facts are the heart and core of the gospel. They help to define our lost condition, showing that we are desperately lost in our sins and wholly dependent upon God to provide the way of salvation. The suffering of Jesus underscores both the justice of God and the awful sinfulness of our sins. The gift of God’s Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins manifests God’s amazing grace and his love for the sinner (Jn. 3:16). The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning miracle, proving beyond all doubt his divine Sonship, confirming that he is fully God as well as fully man (Rom. 1:3-4). His victory over sin and death is the firm foundation of our hope for the same victory (1 Cor. 15:1-4,54-58).
Peter did not preach human philosophies which flatter man’s vain intellect. He did not tell the gospel message as a beautiful “legend” or as a “myth” of self-sacrifice. He believed Christ was a person, not a “process” in humanity. The gospel is based on firm facts, not on flimsy fables. When we preach the facts of the gospel as Peter preached them, our preaching will have the ring of certainty and truth.
Rightly Dividing Old and New Covenants
Peter’s preaching rightly divided the old and new covenants. Declaring, “This is that,” Peter applied the prophecy of Joel to the events of Pentecost (vv. 16-21). “This is” the beginning of “the last days,” the new era foretold by the prophets under the old covenant. The beginning of the new age was signified by a great outpouring of the Spirit’s power “upon all flesh” (on Jews in Acts 2, on Gentiles in Acts 10). The Spirit would provide a new revelation of God’s will. The Old Testament system would be replaced by the New Covenant of salvation in Jesus Christ. “This is that” would call to mind the fulfillment of the prophecies of the coming New Covenant, the reign of the Messiah, the final sacrifice for sin, and the new kingdom of God (Jer. 31:31-34; Psa. 2; Isa. 53; Dan. 2:44).
David spoke of the coming Messiah in Psalm 16:9-11 in regard to his death, resurrection, and vindication by God. According to Psalm 110:1, the Messiah would rule at God’s right hand until he conquered every enemy. Peter conclusively argued that this new dispensation had begun (Acts 2:25-36). All spiritual blessings promised and prophesied by the Spirit were made available on the day of Pentecost for all mankind and all generations to come (vv. 38-39).
Peter did not confuse and confound the two covenants, and we must not. He did not preach that the Jews could be saved by keeping the Old Law, or that anyone can be saved by the Ten Commandments. He never bound the Law of Moses on the Gentiles. Various elements of the two covenants are mixed in many systems of religious error today, including Catholicism, Protestant denominationalism, Masonry, and numerous cults and sects. The New Covenant does not include the Old Covenant temple, priesthood, robes, animal sacrifices, incense, instrumental music, Sabbath, feast days, etc.
Establish Truth by Appeal to Evidence
6. Peter’s preaching established truth by an appeal to evidence and proof. As noted earlier, miracles confirmed the truth of the word preached on Pentecost. In referring to these miracles, Peter said, “as ye know,” and, “as ye see and hear,” in full confidence that his hearers were capable of examining and understanding the evidence presented (vv. 22,33). When he appealed to fulfilled prophecy as proof that he taught the truth, Peter quoted the prophecies and compared them to the events at hand on Pentecost (vv. 16,29). Peter argued, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (v. 32). The Apostles reported the facts of an historical event, proving conclusively that Jesus was risen from the dead. Their eyewitness testimony could not be shaken then, nor has it ever been shaken since then.
When Peter presented the conclusion that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ,” he said this truth could be known “assuredly” (v. 36). Jesus himself taught that the truth can be known with certainty by honest hearts willing to examine evidence (Jn. 7:17; 8:32). Having provided eyewitness testimony confirmed by the word of the prophets, Peter believed that the truth could be defended before “every man that asketh you a reason of the hope” (2 Pet. 1:1619; 1 Pet. 3:15).
Peter did not preach that this message should be accepted by “a blind leap of faith,” but by faith based on evidence and proof. Peter preached none of the popular excuses of men seeking to escape the demands and duties of truth: “truth cannot be stated in reasonable propositions and words”; “we cannot understand truth alike”; “truth does not matter”; “what is truth for one person is not for another”; “I do not have to prove my religion is right”; “truth is unknown and unknowable.”
The Remission of Sins
7. Peterpreached the remission of sins. Salvation or remission of sins is the promised blessing of the Messianic age (vv. 21,38-39). This blessing restores us to fellowship with God for time and eternity. We see in this blessing the power and glory of the gospel, the reality of God’s love, mercy, and grace! With “the remission of sins” comes also “the gift of the Holy Ghost,” full fellowship with God and the enjoyment of every blessing included in that fellowship. “The promise” of ages past is now available “in the name of Jesus Christ.” He has all authority and is the only Savior.
Peter preached the conditions ofpardon in a simple, clear, and forceful manner (vv. 21,37-40). Having made clear God’s provision and offer of the gift of salvation, Peter made crystal clear the terms and conditions which man must meet in order to receive the remission of sins. Man must I call on the name of the Lord,” but it was not at first clear how he calls. So, the question was asked, “What must we do?” Peter showed them that they must truly open their hearts to “hear” the gospel and believe it (vv. 22,36-37). Then, he commanded each one to “repent” and to “be baptized” in water (v. 38). By thus accepting God’s offer to save them, they would save themselves from the destruction and punishment of sin (vv. 21,40).
The promised blessings of the gospel age did not consist in social services, political rights, economic reforms, material prosperity, or physical healing, but in “the remission of sins. ” Peter did not promise that men could be saved by their own good name or by the authority of some man-made religion, but only “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The simple conditions of pardon preached by Peter do not match the messages of popular preachers today: “pray through”; ‘ shout and get baptized in the Holy Ghost”; “faith only”; “just receive Jesus as your personal Savior in your own way”; “sign a card saying you want Jesus to save you”; “shake the preacher’s hand”; “raise your hand while all heads are bowed”; “enroll in catechism classes”; “infant baptism.”
The Gospel Invitation
8. Peter preached the gospel invitation. After men who were convicted of their sins cried out asking what to do, Peter told them what to do but did not stop there. He was not merely supplying academic information, sharing an opinion, or putting up a “trial balloon” to see what someone thought about it. He fully believed that souls would go to heaven or to hellfor eternity, depending on whether they accepted or rejected the gospel. Peter let it be known that God calls all men to be saved through the gospel. “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (vv. 39-40).
This invitation was not an addition to the gospel, but was inherent in the gospel. Peter invited and urged with great zeal that men would accept God’s call rather than be lost in hell. Men must be made to see that there is no neutral or middle ground with God – we are either for him or against him. The invitation should press the demands of the gospel upon the consciences of our hearers, and ecourage them to answer the call of God, just as Peter did on Pentecost.
The Church of Christ
9. Peter preached the church of Christ. Three thousand honest souls obeyed the gospel. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (vv. 41-42). The preaching of Peter taught people that our love, dedication, and loyalty to Christ include the duties and privileges of the local church. Baptism was not preached as an end within itself, but as a new birth and a new beginning. These early Christians learned from what Peter taught them that they must meet together as a church, study the apostolic word, join in public prayer, commune at the Lord’s table, and give into the treasury of the church so that it could effectively function.
Men who do not understand Peter’s preaching claim that each man has his own religion “at home,” that we should I ~preach Christ not the church,” and that “doctrine doesn’t matter.” The church of Christ is not a human denomination, but is a divine reality and an essential part of God’s plan of redemption. To be ashamed of the church is to be ashamed of God’s wisdom which designed it and of Christ’s blood which purchased it (Eph. 3:10; Acts 20:28). If we preach the church like Peter, we must preach that it is a distinctive body separate from every other religious body, institution, or organization.
Many Other Words
10. Peter preached many other words, the apostles’ doctrine. On the day of Pentecost and as long as he lived, Peter continued to exhort people “with many other words” to obey the call of God. “The apostles’ doctrine” which he preached was not some human creed devised by the Apostles, but was the very words given to them by the inspiration of God. The effect of such sound teaching can be seen in Acts 2:40-47. Sinners obeyed the gospel and “were added to the church daily.” Saints grew in serving the Lord, encouraged one another, and exerted an influence for good upon the lost. If we persist in preaching like Peter, declaring all the counsel of God, we will be a blessing to saints and sinners alike.
Are we truly preaching like Peter? If not, now is the time to begin!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 3, pp. 77-80
February 6, 1992