Always Prepared

Acts 3:11-26          Sermon Resources     |     1 December 2019

 

Our passage this week brings us to the second of Peter’s sermons recorded in Acts. Both of these sermons are prompted by a remarkable event, previously the coming of the Holy Spirit and presently the healing of a crippled beggar. Peter uses these occasions to preach the gospel. We’ve noted before the boldness that this kind of preaching required. Peter seems fearless as he addresses these large crowds in the very city that just weeks before had killed Jesus. There is a particular courage that the Holy Spirit gives ordinary people as they seek to be faithful to Jesus.

This week I want to note another aspect of Peter’s preaching – that he was prepared. I believe there is little chance the sermons recorded here and at Pentecost simply happened spontaneously. I believe that Peter was preparing himself for what he might say if the opportunity arose. As matter of fact, Peter will later write these words:

 

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”   1 Peter 3:15

 

Peter tells us that all believers should be ready to put to words the hope that they have in Jesus. He says that our lives should be so saturated with hope that those around us have no explanation for it. And therefore we are to be prepared to explain to them the reason for that hope, and not in a jamming-it-down-their-throats kind of way but in a spirit of gentleness and respect.

As we consider exactly what this looks like to always be prepared, we need to look no further than the life of Peter himself. We’ll see that long before Peter was instructing us to be ready, he was living it out himself. Specifically, I want to note three things that he was ready for in this sermon. He was prepared to offer: (1) a clarification, (2) a confrontation, and (3) an explanation.

 

#1 Clarification

Once again we see a crowd forming after a miraculous event. The people are utterly astounded as they ran together to Peter and John (v.11). Peter immediately seeks to clarify what they had just witnessed and asks why do you stare at us? (v.12) This is an interesting question when we remember that Peter had earlier specifically asked the crippled man to look at him. But now Peter knows that the crowd should not be looking at them at all. He says the man’s healing was not due to his own power or piety (v.12). These are two formidable temptations for anyone in Peter’s position.

Not by my power

Certainly some would have been tempted to let others believe that they themselves had power. There is a real temptation in Christian ministry to be spectacular – to let others marvel the abilities (real or imagined) you have. Even Jesus faced this temptation. Do you remember that scene after his baptism? The devil brought Jesus to the top of the temple and suggested that he throw himself down so that he could be rescued in a dramatic way by the angels (c.f. Matthew 4:5-6). Peter, like Jesus, resisted this temptation.

Nor by my piety

Peter makes clear that the man’s healing was not done by his own piety. Here is the second temptation, to conclude for yourself or to let others conclude for you that ministry success is due to your own godliness.   When James says that, “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (c.f. James 5:16), he is simply proclaiming the gospel. We have been made righteous in Christ, and as we grasp the reality of that righteousness, we will be motivated to pray. The power, then, is not in ourselves or our own righteousness, but in the One to whom we pray. Peter understood this. He does not attribute the man’s miraculous healing to his own righteousness and he won’t let others think that either.

Peter diverts the crowd’s attention from himself and directs it to where it belongs – on Jesus. This was exactly what John the Baptist did as well pointing others to the one whose sandals he was not worthy to untie. These great men of history served as sign posts pointing to Jesus. What testimony for our self-absorbed culture.

Peter says that it was in his name—by faith in his name (v.16) that the man was made well. See the specific focus here on faith. It wasn’t enough for Peter simply to speak the name of Jesus, faith was necessary in the name of Jesus.

 

#2 Confrontation

Here is many people’s least favorite topic in the world– confrontation. Peter was prepared not only to clarify but to confront as well. These are very bold words he speaks and not for the first time. Recall that he spoke in a similar way in his Pentecost sermon. Notice that Peter’s confrontation of the crowd is both direct and gentle.

Direct

Peter does not shy away from the truth but lays it out quite plainly. He says the one true God, that is the God who revealed himself to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, had glorified his servant Jesus (v.13). This is the one, says Peter, that you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him (v.13). Jesus is the Holy and Righteous One and yet you denied him (v.14). He is the Author of Life but you killed him (v.15). However, God certainly had the last word as Jesus was raised from the dead (v.15). Peter directly deals with where the people had erred.

Gentle

But see as well the gentleness and the love of Peter’s confrontation. First, he is very gracious in acknowledging that they acted in ignorance as did their rulers (v.17). This is a very generous assessment indeed.   If we carry this reasoning out to it’s natural conclusion, we see a warning as well. The people had behaved in ignorance the first time, but now that Peter is plainly sharing the truth with them, they can no longer claim ignorance.

The gentleness and love Peter is evident throughout the sermon. He wants to see them repent that their sins may be blotted out (v.19) so that they may participate in the times of refreshing that come from the presence of the Lord (v.20). Even in the last line of the sermon he says that Jesus was sent to them first in order to bless them so that they may turn from their wickedness (v.26).   Peter wants to see them blessed. He wants to see them restored. This should be our goal in confrontation as well.

 

#3 Explanation

Finally, we see Peter is prepared to explain or reason with the crowd. Notice he is no longer is talking about the crippled beggar. He is laying out the gospel and preaching Christ and how does he do that? He goes to Scripture! He says that God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer (v.18). This was one of the stumbling blocks for the Jews. How could God’s Messiah suffer? Wasn’t he was supposed to be a victorious king stomping on the heads of Israel’s enemies? But their thinking was wrong. Peter points them Moses (v.22), to all the prophets beginning with Samuel (v.24), and to Abraham (v.25) to show them that Scripture was indeed pointing to the suffering of Christ. The coming of the victorious Messiah and the time of restoring all things (v.21) would not be now but later.

He reminds them of who they are – that they have inherited these promises of Scripture since they are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with [their] fathers (v.25). Do you see this expression of the covenantal understanding of their identity? God began a good work way back with the people of the Old Testament and he continued that work with Peter’s audience, and yes, he continues it today as well as we are formed into the people of God. It is the same work done by the same God in the same way. That is to call a people out of the world to belong to the true God by faith. The people of the Old Testament had access only to the shadow of that which was to come, but now we have come to possess the reality to which the shadow pointed – Christ crucified! This is one whom Peter bold and passionately presents in his preaching.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Read 1 Peter 3:15. What does this verse call us to do? In what ways do we see Peter doing this in our Acts passage?
  2. In what ways are you tempted to believe your own power or piety can bring about lasting change?
  3. How do you tend to handle confrontation? Do you tend to be too blunt? Or do you hide from confrontation altogether?
  4. Explain how Peter models being direct but gentle as he confronts the crowd. In which area – directness or gentleness – do you most need to grow?
  5. How does Peter explain to the crowd who Jesus is?
  6. What practical things can you do to always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have found in Jesus?
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