The First Sermon

Acts 2:22-41    |    Sermon Resources   |    10 November 2019

 

It is the day of Pentecost and a large crowd has gathered in Jerusalem to witness a dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Some in the crowd are asking questions – What does this mean? Others are making statements ­– They must be drunk! In the midst of it all Peter stands up and begins to address the crowd. This is the very first sermon ever preached in the church. Last week we examined the first part of that sermon and now we continue. Before the end of the day over 3000 people will come to faith in Christ. Truly this was one of the most remarkable sermons ever preached.   The book of Acts is full of sermons – about a quarter of the book is comprised of sermons or speeches given by Stephen, Peter, or Paul – and even compared to this standard Peter’s sermon here is unique.     So what made this sermon so remarkable?

 

#1 Peter was courageous.

A large crowd of people had gathered around the house where the disciples were staying. This crowd must have been huge. We know that 3000 people are about to become Christians and so it seems likely that the crowd was even larger than this.   Jerusalem was no stranger to large crowds. Remember that just 50 days earlier a large crowd was gathered with violent intent as they shouted Crucify! Crucify! And so here is little Peter standing up in the midst of another large crowd. What is he thinking?   Did he forget what happened last time? Is this courage or is it stupidity? Were some of the disciples thinking to themselves, Just be quiet Peter! Let’s lay low and take it easy until these people go away!

This really is a bold action of Peter and is all the more remarkable when we remember that in the face of danger just a few months earlier, he had run away. He didn’t stand up and speak, he turned around and ran as fast he could! When the Jewish authorities came to arrest Jesus, Peter didn’t’ stand up and fight, he abandoned Jesus in a time of dire need. Peter had his moment to take a stand and he blew it big time. Certainly this had to weigh on him, I am such a mess up! Will Jesus ever forgive me? Will God ever be able to use me again? Will I now limp my way through the rest of my life?

Furthermore, you have to wonder how much experience Peter had in speaking to large groups of people. Was this the largest crowd he had ever addressed? Later the Jewish authorities would be amazed because he was an “uneducated, common” man (c.f. Acts 4:13).   They had no explanation for how this “country bumpkin” (my translation!) could be so persuasive.

So Peter exhibits courage just in standing up and speaking, but consider as well the content of what he had to say. He is exceedingly direct. He says Men of Israel Jesus was a man you knew (v.22). He was clearly attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that happened in your midst (v.22). You yourselves know (v.22) this happened and so there is no excuse for what you did. Twice in the sermon he reminds them that they crucified and killed (v.23) Jesus (see as well v. 36). These are bold words to speak when you are surrounded by a few thousand people who didn’t have the best track record!

 

#2 Peter was clear.

Peter has a clear focus for his message and it is not to expound on the wonders of the Holy Spirit they had just witnessed, it’s to present Jesus as the one who is both Lord and Christ (v.36). Peter’s sermon here, along with the other sermons in Acts, models for us how to preach the gospel. When we set out to share “the gospel,” what exactly are we supposed to share? What does this mean? We look to sermons like this one as an example for us. So what are the key components the gospel as presented by here?

-1- Jesus’ Life. Peter begins with the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth who performed many mighty works and wonders and signs (v.22). This was Peter’s starting point, in part, because this was what his audience knew – you yourselves know (v.22). As we share the gospel, we might need to start with another point of connection before we arrive as Peter’s starting point.

-2- Jesus’ Death. Notice that Peter attributes Jesus’ death to both God and man. On the one hand, the crowd was responsible because they crucified and killed Jesus by the hands of lawless men (v.23). On the other hand, everything unfolded according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (v.23).

-3- Jesus’ Resurrection. Peter says that God raised him up because it was not possible for him to be held by death (v. 25). He cites the words of David found in Psalm 16:8-11 to show that Jesus’ resurrection was part of God’s plan as well. He asks them to reflect on the fact that David’s tomb is with us to this day (v.29). The insinuation is that Jesus’ tomb is not!   He says we all are witnesses of this fact (v.32).

-4- Jesus’ Exaltation. Jesus was exalted at the right hand of God and as a result the promise of the Holy Spirit has been poured out (v.33).

-5- Jesus’ Identity. Peter tells his audience that that we can know with certainty that Jesus of Nazareth is both Lord and Christ (v.36).

With this clarity we see as well Peter’s confidence. Clarity and confidence often go together. At one point in the sermon he specifically tells them I say to you with confidence (v.29). And the end result is that they too might have confidence. He wants them to know for certain (v.36) who Jesus is.

 

#3 Peter was compelling.

The great task that Jesus had given Peter and the rest was to be his witnesses. This is our task as well – to give witness to Jesus through our words and the entirety of our lives. And just like Peter we cannot control what others will do with that witness. Will they turn to Jesus as well? Will they mock us – or worse? Our job is to be faithful to the message we have been given: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus is with us today. It’s God’s job to take care of the rest. And God really “took care of the rest” after Peter’s sermon on this day.

We are told that the crowd was cut to the heart and asked what shall we do? (v.37) This is every preacher’s dream isn’t it? To deliver the sermon and then to see a wave of people immediately turn to the Lord.   Repent and be baptized Peter tells them (v.38). There are two gifts Peter says they will receive: the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (v.38). These two gifts always go together. There is no receiving salvation from sin apart from receiving the Holy Spirit and no receiving the Spirit apart from salvation. Peter clarifies exactly who these gifts are for: you and your children and all who are far off – ultimately everyone whom the Lord God calls to himself (v.39). Peter himself will learn later the full truth of these words when he sees that God intends to call even the Gentiles to himself. Notice that this was not the entirety of Peter’s sermon as Luke tells us that with many other words he bore witness to them (v.40).

In the end those who received the word were baptized (v.41). Peter told them that they would receive the gift of Holy Spirit (v.38) but notice here Luke says they received the word. The Spirit and the Word go together as much as the Spirit and salvation go together.

About three thousand souls were added to their number on that day. This was a compelling sermon indeed!   Peter was faithful to do his part to give witness to Jesus and the Lord used that to call to himself a great multitude of people. As we look back on this historic day we say, Lord do it again! Lord do it again!

Discussion Questions

  1. How has God used the preaching of his Word in your life? Can you think of some examples of ways you have been changed through preaching?
  2. In what ways do we see the boldness or courage of Peter in this passage? Where in your life do you need to be more bold or courageous?
  3. What does Peter have to say about Jesus?   Is there anything that particularly stands out or is surprising to you?
  4. As you read this passage in what way would you say Peter has a living and active relationship with Jesus? What does this living relationship with Jesus look like in your life?
  5. How do the people respond to Peter’s sermon? When you came to faith in Jesus, was it a single event as described here or was it more of a process? Explain.
  6. What is the promise of verse 39? How is this a source of encouragement for you?
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