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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Acts part 7: It's all about Jesus

Building the right foundation part 7

 Acts 3:1-4:4

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 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.
And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 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. 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. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 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.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.


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Amazing things were happening daily in the experience of the apostles. The disciples just beginning a journey of discovering what the church is and how the Lord Jesus will build it. The church of course is people and is made up of converts many of whom were being added daily to the number. This brought great joy and with it also came a multitude of opportunities and also difficulties as we shall see in a future studies. Luke has carefully compiled a series of happenings from the early days for his readers to understand how the church came into being and developed from just a handful of people to a multitude in just a few decades. He simply records the story without comment. This account before us has great significance for the future of the infant church. To understand this event better we ought to read it a few times, each time asking questions of the passage. The first question must always be what the intention of the author was. As we have said previously both the gospel and Acts were written by Luke in order that Theophilus might understand who Jesus is and how the church came into being. That simple fact tells us that it is history and so we have an account of an incredible day before us to look at. Another important question to ask is: what is the main theme of the event? And finally what does this mean for us today, remembering that Luke was the vehicle by which this book was brought into being by the Holy Spirit of God.
The passage that we read is all about an ordinary day in the life of a large number of people. Many people pride themselves in reading the last paragraph of a book before they begin reading the it. We are going to do that today in order that we might understand what it was that God was doing on that particular day. It was just an ordinary day when 5000 men happened to be converted. The first question I would ask of the passage is:
How does God arrange it in order that so many are added to the church?
Related to that question I ask:
What part does the miraculous healing play in the conversion of so many?
Finally I ask:
What was the content of Peter's preaching?


  • How does God arrange it in order that so many are added to the church?
It was just an ordinary day in Jerusalem, by now it was 3:00pm and everything was just as normal as could be. Worshippers were gathering at the Temple for the prayer meeting. A man who was lame was as usual being carried by his friends to the Temple entrance known as the Beautiful Gate. This was possibly the Nicanor gate which was ornamented with fine gold and was probably the gate through which the women would go to worship. Jewish law stated that the poor should be cared for and so the way into the Temple was a sensible place for the man to be laid by his friends. Worshippers ought then to see the need and care for the man. It is a little bit like the collections outside of the supermarket, have you ever noticed that you are not approached on the way in? The reason being that on the way out you will feel more guilty due to the evidence of your wealth by the goods in your shopping trolley. Thus you are more likely to give some money into the collection box. For the man this was yet another normal day when he was about the business of making his living in the best way that he could. The disciples were also about their normal business, they were about to pray and they just happened on that day to go through the Beautiful Gate. If they had been through that gate before they would most certainly have seen this man there but this day was different. The ordinary day was about to take a turn that would affect the lives of many. Imagine that if Peter and John were to have just walked past the man what a difference that would have made. A chance meeting (or was it???) produces great reward for so many. What will God do through our chance meetings?
The man asks Peter and John for some money but they have none. It just so happened that their pockets were empty but their hearts were full! Peter looked at the man and said to him, look at us! Do we look like we have money, we do not but we do have treasure that is of far more worth than a few pennies. The man looked on in expectation, hoping for some money but he got more than he bargained for. I can give you no money said Peter but this I will give you!
Notice now what he said to the man! He said “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. Peter called upon the Jesus to heal the man and in doing so declared Him to be Messiah or the Promised One of God. The healing was ultimately all about Jesus. Peter in effect said to the man look at us we are impotent but Jesus is sufficient. Peter fully believing in the healing lifted the man by the right hand and the miracle was complete. The result of this was a man who now was walking, jumping and praising God. And who can blame him?
This caused a great crowd of people to be interested in what had happened. Their ordinary day had now taken on a whole new dimension. They were amazed and filled with wonder and the man himself hung on to Peter and John determined to be with them in the temple and not miss out in the frenzy. The crowd ran to hear a sermon, that is what happens when God is at work in mighty ways.
By this amazing event God brought many under the sound of the gospel. The miracle is important but it is secondary to the purpose that God had worked it for. A miracle never saves anybody but the declared truth of God does!
We must rely on the Word of truth rather than the method that God might use to attract people to the gospel!


  • What part does the miraculous healing play in the conversion of so many?
We have to be careful of expecting wonders to happen, if they do it is always with the set purpose of amazing others in order that they desire to find out why it has happened. This healing was a signpost to Jesus. It is clear from the flow of this passage that the healing is important but it did not bring anybody, even the lame man to repentance and faith. He had to go into the portico to hear what Peter had to say.
There are many Christian groups who are wanting miracles to happen at all times, often believing that if amazing things happen then people will be converted. Think again of the events that we have before us, Peter could so easily have drawn attention to himself. He could have written a book telling of the great things that he had done. He could have asked the man to stand up in the portico and declare that he was healed by this follower of Jesus which is what many do today. But that is not what Peter and John did, they showed themselves to be helpless but Jesus to be all sufficient, firstly for the healing of the man and then as we shall see for the salvation of a large number of people.
We must be careful of these people on our TV screens that will for a (small?) sum of money send you a handkerchief or bottle of blessed holy water which will due to their blessing upon it heal all known diseases. That is heresy and certainly was not the case here in this account. Peter immediately brought the man to Jesus who was then healed. It was this very thing that attracted the attention of all of those who were to be converted but as we shall see next time it also attracted those who would reject the gospel truth.
In every way this miracle of healing was effective in bringing many under the sound of the gospel.
In what ways does God attract people to the gospel today. I would say in exactly the same way as He did on that day. We might not be experiencing miraculous healing etc on a regular basis but He has promised to draw people to Himself for salvation until the end of the age.
How does He do that if not through signs and wonders?
I would say that He draws others to Himself through the miracle of new birth. When somebody is converted they have been raised from spiritual death, had spiritually blind eyes opened, ears that were once deaf to God's voice are now hearing and those who were crippled by sin are now walking with God. When a friend, family member, neighbour or acquaintance sees this in somebody then it is impressive and they are naturally inquisitive. A convert never answers the question “what has happened to you?” with I am just trying to be a better person! A truly converted person must than speak of Jesus as the author of their new life. At this some will be impressed and want to know more but just as in this event there will also be skeptics who will never believe even though a lame man walks right before their eyes.
Christians we are what we are because on one perfectly ordinary day our routine was interrupted by God intervening in our experience and just like Peter and John we ought to give all of the glory to Jesus:
You see it is all of Jesus!
  • What was the content of Peter's preaching?
Simple really: it was all about Jesus. Peter was experientially learning the truth that there is no salvation found anywhere under heaven other than Jesus and Him crucified. Therefore he addressed firstly the crowd and spoke of what it was that drew them to that place at that time. What they had seen he told them was nothing to do with the apostles own hidden powers or their piety but it is purely a work of God.
He begins by proving his orthodoxy by going back to the forefathers of the Jewish faith who's God had glorified Jesus. This means that God the Father was giving glory to Jesus whom they had both denied but had delivered Him into the hands of Pilate. Peter relates some of the titles to Jesus that were reserved for God alone; the Holy and Righteous One. Their is none that is holy nor righteous excepting God Himself, there is no doubt in this very declaration that Peter is saying that Jesus is God and that they had demanded He should die. Peter said that the very author of life which they would have understood as the Creator had been rejected by his audience. This same Jesus had been raised from the dead and Peter was not afraid to say that he was a witness to this. This is the key to all that was happening on that day. It was by faith in Jesus that Peter was now strong enough to stand in their presence and it is this same Jesus who had healed the man.
Even though they were ignorant of the truth they were guilty, but the true wonder of the day is that grace was also available. Through Jesus' sufferings repentance is offered which then results in sins being blotted out. We ought at this point bring to light the old covenant requirement that without blood sacrifice there is no forgiveness for sin, Peter was declaring that the blood of Jesus is sufficient for the forgiveness of sin and that is the real miracle of the day. God had sent Jesus to His people to bless them by turning them from their wickedness and saving them. This caused the religious leaders to be angry and so they arrested Peter and John. But many repented and were saved; 5000 men plus women and I am sure some children.
The content of Peter's sermon Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of Life sent by God to save his people!


It is all about Jesus!
He is the One who saves, we are simply His servants who are called to on any ordinary day speak of Him in order that somebody's ordinary day might be a day when the greatest miracle of all might be accomplished in their life and they become a true member of the church of Christ.



Monday, 17 August 2015

Acts part 6: Devoted to the fellowship



Building the right foundation part 6


Acts 2:42-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

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It would easy at this point to make all sorts of assumptions as to how church should normally function from this passage of scripture. In fact for many individual Christians and their churches do use this passage as a paradigm for their church practice with some very interesting results. This has given rise for some to believe that we must celebrate the Lord's supper every time that we meet together. Others expect there to be accompanying signs and wonders every time that the gospel is preached. For some to have all things in common must mean that God expects us to live in communes. For others it is obvious that we must sell all, take a vow of poverty and give all that we have to those less well off.. Whilst others believe that we ought to be in meetings every moment of the day and of course they must be in homes where we break bread or have communion. Happiness is the hallmark of the church and thus we then gain favour with all people. The result of all of this is that when either one or all of these are put in place then people will become Christians and then we will become just like the early church which was both powerful and effective.
It might be easy to come to those conclusions but they are totally erroneous. None of them in fact hold any licence from the passage that we read. To try to understand what God the Holy Spirit would teach us from our passage we need to look once again at the background of Acts.
As we said in our first study that Acts was written by Luke and is his second historical book. Luke was a Gentile believer who researched firstly the life of the Lord Jesus. This history is the gospel according to Luke. Luke's gospel ends with Jesus commanding His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for God's promise to come upon and His ascension into heaven. All four of the gospels are narrative which means that they are primarily a record of events and are not intended primarily to teach the doctrines of the faith. They are a record of events and as such they do not usually comment on the rights or wrongs of the recorded events. Each incident must therefore be assessed in the light of the truth of scripture from the teaching passages.
Acts is also narrative in which Luke records the events accurately and just as they happened. That is what makes him an excellent historian. Our modern historians would do well to take note of Luke in this, they tend to put a spin on events and interpret them within their own political or social framework. Sadly as Christians we come to the narratives of the bible with a similar mindset. We are so used to delving into the teaching passages and searching for the depths of truth found within that when it comes to the narratives and also the parables we tend to look under the theological microscope at the passage and then we develop theologies out of historical events. The result of this is the parody that we looked at earlier, we end up attempting to replicate the unique happenings of a specific day in history. When we do this we are simply jumping to the conclusion that because it happened like at that time then so it must happen in just the same way 2000 years later. Of course it is possible that this be the case but it is not to be expected. The events of this particular Pentecost were unique and authenticated the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church after Jesus' ascension as we saw last time therefore can it be expected to happen just like this ever again? The answer to this must be yes if it is taught by scripture in other places but is dangerous for us to take this passage in isolation and build up a belief system that demands the signs, miracles etc that accompanied this event.
Luke's purpose for writing his gospel was to prove that Jesus was the Christ and that an orderly account was needed for his friend Theophilus to this. In Acts he was once again writing for the benefit of Theophilus, his purpose for writing on this occasion was to show that the church came into being following the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He therefore begins his account by recording how the church began with a few disciples in Jerusalem. His focus being upon the Apostle Peter in the first half of the book after which Paul takes centre stage. The reason for this is that Jesus had said to the disciples that they were to take the gospel out first to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and then on into all of Judea, Samaria and following into all of the world. It only takes a cursory reading of Acts to see that Luke is recording events that follow that exact pattern. The book ends up with the gospel reaching Rome which was the capital of the then known world.
Why am I saying all of this now part way into our study of “Building a right foundation?”
We must safeguard ourselves from making gross errors due to a poor hermeneutic which is simply the method of bible interpretation. We must build the foundation of the church on solid ground and not experiential events. In the light of this let us consider what this event resulted in.
  • 3000 were saved.
  • The converts committed themselves to something.
  • Their number continued to increase.
3000 were saved:
Last week we considered the 3000 who called upon the name of the Lord and were saved. We saw that they were obedient to Peter's exhortation in that they were baptised which was a public demonstration of their trust in Jesus and their commitment to Him as Lord and Saviour.
Becoming a Christian is the most radical, life changing experience known to man. Paul tells us that when we are converted then we are a new creation and that we are no longer under the condemnation of God. We are forgiven all of our sins of the past, the present and the future. All the wrong that we have ever done has been transferred from our account and has been paid in full through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the most amazing truth that is imaginable and on that day for 3000 people discovered it to be true. They were immediately serious about belonging to Jesus and so they made a public declaration to that effect. The way to do this was baptism which is a simple way of saying that I have had an exodus that is similar to that of the nation of Israel many years previously. They had by the death of a first born been released from slavery in Egypt and had gone through the water of the Red Sea into the safety of God's covenant care as the people of God. Our exodus is from sin which has been accomplished by the death of the first Born Son of God and so it is logical and theological that we demonstrate that truth by being baptised which is simply a picture of belonging as was the passing through the Red Sea for the Israelites Baptism does not buy our salvation as some think but it is simply our way of declaring that we are saved.
Are you baptised?
The converts committed themselves to something:
This is another proof of what had happened in the heart of each of these converts. They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and to fellowship, the breaking of bread and to prayer. Each of these are what God had taught His people to do throughout the Old Testament period and so it should be no surprise that these new converts immediately became committed to them.
Let me explain a little more. God has given His word to His people formerly through the prophets, priests and kings. Therefore what Moses wrote in the first five books (which is often referred to as the Law) was to be known and embraced by the people of God. They were never to let it out of their mouths and their thoughts or their sight. See passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
The New Covenant had now been accomplished and so alongside the Old Testament scriptures comes the apostles teaching both of which are the foundation of the church. The church is built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles. See Ephesians 2:18-22. it is therefore to be expected that these new converts committed themselves to the apostles teaching, it is part on the DNA of faith. You cannot be a Christian if you are not devoted to the study of the Word of God! D.L.Moody said that: “he had never yet met an effective Christian that was not a student of the bible.” As Christians we must be devoted just as were these first believers and every good saint that is recorded within scripture. How these new believers responded was perfectly in line with what God prescribes throughout the bible!
Are you devoted to the study and understanding of the bible, is it in your DNA or is it easier to read the latest facebook posting or the daily news than it is your bible? If it is then something is terribly wrong and you need to put it right.
They were also committed to fellowship. Again this is no surprise. Fellowship is at the heart of the people of God. You do not have to read very far into the Old Testament before you discover that God called a family who were to be special to Him. That family which was to become Israel loved to be together. Despite all of their inconsistencies they were a people who were known for their pride of being Israelites and for their united relationship with God. They had somewhat lost their way by the time of these events but fellowship as one family was always God's expectation of them. In this they were supposed to model the perfect family which is the company of all believers. These new believers immediately bonded together which is what becoming a Christian does for us.
In the time of the Judges Ruth demonstrated this perfectly when she said to her mother-in-law that she was intending to go to Bethlehem with her! Her declaration was simple but profound. She simply said that Naomi's people would from then on be her people and that Naomi's God would be her God. This is in line with the teaching of scripture which tells us that when we belong to God then we automatically belong to each other. Jesus taught this also when He told His disciples that their Christian identity would be seen by outsiders as they truly loved each other.
There can therefore be no room for hatred and disunity in the church.
Love is our witness, love first of all for Jesus which will always result in love for each other and for every other believer that lives. Look around this room for one moment and see if this is true of you.
Is there anybody here that you do not love as Jesus has loved you?
DEAL WITH IT!
Is there any other Christian that you do not love as Jesus has loved you?
If there is DEAL WITH IT.
But you must be realistic in this also that the Lord told us that we must live at peace with all people as far as it is possible with us. Sometimes others make it impossible. Some have done you harm and it is not wrong to deal with that biblically also. Remember that Paul had to rebuke and turn away some because they had done much harm to him or the gospel! Sometimes we have no other choice but to reject those who you us either individually or as the church.
These new believers were also committed to the breaking of bread. This could mean either eating a meal together which was also one of the marks of belonging to the Israelite nation and is consistent again with belonging to the church. It could also mean the celebration of the Lord's Supper. My guess is that on this occasion it is referring to the Lord's Supper and if that is the case then again there is no surprise that it is consistent with God's directives for His people. There are many feasts that God has gave for His people to celebrate. Most of them conclude with a feast, not least of all the Passover which celebrated the death of an innocent victim on behalf of the people of God. Consider the passover meal which includes the eating of the sacrifice made in order to celebrate the nation's freedom from Egyptian oppression. Jesus is our passover and so it is no surprise that believers devote themselves to eat a meal of bread and wine which acts as a memorial to what He accomplished on the cross. Again we would expect new believers to devote themselves to this celebration.
Are you devoted to the breaking of bread as were these new believers?
Prayer is our way of communicating with God. He has always expected His people to speak to Him. Again we should not be surprised at their being devoted to prayer. It was lovely for us to be together in prayer a few weeks ago. It was amazing the unity that we all felt on that occasion. Prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian and also for the church.
If we want to stay in true fellowship together then we ought to pray much together.
We can learn much and be inspired by how their new found faith affected these 3000 people.
Are you inspired?
Finally:
Their numbers continued to increase:
The Lord added to their number daily! That is enough said! God was at work in and through them. The signs, wonders and actions of the believers are all secondary to what God had done in their lives. 3000 and now more were saved, that is a miracle. It is not at all ordinary! It is death to life, a whole new creation being repeated time and time again but each time it had the affect of more souls being rescued for heaven. This in turn causes the whole company of heaven to rejoice and also the saved one not only to rejoice as never before but they also fully embrace the church and all that this means! They were committed to the things that God expects of His people the result of which was that God blessed them. On that occasion it was with conversions an a massive scale. For us it may be different but I am not sure that we can say that God blesses our efforts if they are as poor as it might seem!
Are you continuing in the way that you started your Christian life?



Remember what you were like when first converted, have you still got the same vibrancy and enthusiasm to do things right? If not then let us together go back to basics!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Acts part 5 Peter's amazing sermon.

Building the right foundation part 5

 Acts 2:14-41

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 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. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
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?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised 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. 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.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

If I were asked to put a title to Peter's sermon I might just entitle it: “Truly Understanding Pentecost.” The sermon seems to be Peter preaching off the cuff in many respects. After all when did he prepare? He seems to have been able to explain what was going on from his former understanding. It is often thought that Peter was some sort of blundering buffoon when he was with Jesus, he often opened his mouth only to put his foot in it! But on this occasion he was thoroughly capable of clearly and accurately explaining what was going on. As we consider this most amazing sermon we can see that it was:

  1. Biblical.
  2. Powerful.
  3. Effective.

We will look at these points in turn and hopefully be inspired to want such preaching in our church. The whole point of us considering our “Building the right foundation” series is that we go back to the beginning of the New Testament church and discover how we ought to operate as the church here in east Cornwall. The weekly sermon ought to be instructive and powerful and having great effect upon all who hear it. It is a sad thing when we hear of boring or pointless sermons that have to be endured. Peter's congregation on that day had been amazed at the events, they were perplexed and confused and asking questions about these strange happenings were all about; therefore the disciple who fully understood had a responsibility to tell all who were interested. Peter stood up as their spokesman and on their behalf explained what was happening. It is clear that the others who had been recipients of God's gift on that day were fully supportive of what Peter was declaring. I am sure that they were in their spirits praying for and urging him on as he clearly explained or preached the truth. The result of this sermon of Peter's was that those who were confused at it's beginning by it's conclusion were fully informed and also blessed of God. We should always have this as our aim for all sermons preacher from our pulpit. A sermon is purely an explanation of God and His purpose for all situations of life. To be preached is a most positive thing and is not a dictatorial diatribe as many believe it to be. It is also more than a homily which suggests a moralistic thought for the day. The sermon is the food and drink that we all need for us to be able to survive the week ahead therefore it ought to be well done as was Peter's.

We see firstly that his sermon was:

Biblical:

Peter here teaches us at a base level something important about preaching is that he appeals to scripture alone in order to explain the events that had just taken place. Before we go any further please understand that we can and must trust the bible to address all of the confusions that we or others might have concerning God's work in this world today.

The bible must always be our prime source for preaching and teaching just as it was for Peter.

The next problem that we might have is: whereabouts in the bible do we go for help? Peter had no problem appealing to three different passages for his explanation. Firstly he appeals to the prophesy of Joel and then to Psalms 16 & 110. The question that this raises is why he chose those passages.

This sermon is recorded by Luke and as such is inspired by the Spirit of God. As preachers today we cannot claim that our sermons are inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way but we can say that if they are true to bible truth then they are under the inspiration of scripture and are helpful for directing the hearers to an understanding of God's truth. Even Paul was aware that not all that he said was truly Spirit inspired because he warned the Galatian church that if he or an angel of light were to preach another gospel then let them be accursed. Our preaching must be biblical and accurate in order that it be helpful. Any sermon preached that is not either biblical or true must be discounted; it as anathema to God.

Why does Peter choose Joel's prophesy?

A quick explanation as to what Joel was prophesying helps us greatly in this matter. Peter did not simply suck his favourite passage from his thumb and twist the passage to mean something for which it was never intended. Sadly that is exactly what many preachers tend to do. Peter took into account the context and content of Joel's prophesy. Joel was prophesying in Israel at a time when they had been taken over by an enemy from the North. The enemy had stripped the land bare and left the people without food and wine.

Remember God's promise to His people before they went into the land was that it would be a land of security and of plenty and as long as they remained faithful then the people would be safe and secure there. The land would supply all that they needed. Clearly things had changed and they were no longer safe in their own land and they were starving. They were in fact under God's judgement due to their sinful ways. God through Joel explained their situation to them and then appealed for them to repent upon which restoration would come and they would then be once again safe in the land. After a time in captivity that partially came true and they returned to the land but it was never the same.
Joel had said that God would fully restore all that they had lost but only a fraction of the nation ever returned and the land never fully belonged to them again. They longed for the day of the Lord that Joel spoke of when they would once again be the people of God who benefitted from His blessing. They expected an Anointed One to come who they called Messiah, (which is where his quotes from the Psalms comes in!) He would restore all things. His day would be marked by signs and wonders where God's Spirit would be poured out which would be authenticated by men and women prophesying and signs of fire, smoke and darkness to herald the day. We do not have time today to consider all of these things but personal study of the Exodus would help to understand why these signs are so important. The result of this day would be that anybody who called on the name of the Lord would be saved.

Peter rightly declared that the events on that day of Pentecost were the fulfilment of Joel's prophesy!
We also must ask why he quotes Psalms 16 & 110. This is as proof that as he declares Jesus is the Messiah who by God's appointment would bring about the salvation of all who call upon the name of the Lord. Peter is applying Old Testament truths to both the amazing event of the day and also to authenticating Jesus as Lord. They all knew that Jesus had been crucified, all Jews were looking for Messiah. They were guilty of crucifying Jesus and now Peter is declaring Him to be the Messiah that David spoke of. Scripture not only explains the situation but it also condemns sin. Peter uses these passages to apportion what the death of Jesus really means to his hearers.

People often ask the preacher what right he has to condemn others as sinners. The honest preacher must say in truth that he has no righteousness of his own therefore he has no right to judge others but it is the truth of scripture that condemns sin it also offers a way of escape from condemnation. We must refrain from giving the impression that we are holy Joe's but that we declare the truth only from the scripture, the preaching of which will accomplish the purpose for which God sends it. We are all sinners in receipt of grace which was freely given when we called upon the name of the Lord which ought to cause us to preach Jesus:


Powerfully:

It is good to remember here that before this event the disciples were a fearful bunch who were hidden away in a room awaiting God's gift. But now they have experienced something that is so powerful and wonderful that they can do no other than tell all who will listen that these amazing things are attributed to Jesus.

The people were confused and thought that what they saw and heard was the effect of drunken revellers. Peter could not leave them in confusion and simply had to tell them the truth. We would do well to take a lesson from Peter here. Just consider that our salvation is just as powerful as was Peter's. Faith in Jesus is confusing to others: why then do we leave them in confusion rather that explain what it means to be a Christian.

Perhaps the reason that we do not hear of many calling upon the name of the Lord is simply because we do not tell many about Jesus.

As we read through Peter's sermon another outstanding feature is his passion. He holds nothing back, he accuses his hearers of crucifying Jesus who is both Lord and Messiah. He tells them that Jesus is God's Anointed One and they are guilty of His death. Peter was not afraid to say it as it was but he does so with passion and authority.

Can you feel the passion of the preacher?

Peter is full of passion for the message. He preached powerfully. Look at verse 40: Peter used many other words and he bore witness to Jesus. He exhorted them to respond to the message. He was preaching with great passion and desire to see the people respond. He was not afraid to plead that they call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

I get somewhat wearied by some of the preaching that I hear. It may be theologically clear and accurate. I do know where to go to hear a good sermon but it is so often without the power that Peter here is displaying. Our preaching is so often cerebral and empty. We might not be able to fault the truth contained within and we might be thrilled by the great teaching but if it is dead formality then it produces dead and formal Christians who belong to dead and formal churches.

At the Mustard Seed we need passionate and powerful preaching and teaching that is thoroughly biblical and without compromise. Peter demonstrates that this can be the case and he also shows how it can be achieved. Preaching and teaching is fundamental to the church and as such we will build our church when our preaching is true, powerful and passionate. Then it will be:

Effective:
The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Word of God preached will be effective in that it will accomplish that for which God intends. That was clear on the day of Pentecost, 3000 souls were won for heaven. Peter's word was received by them, they were baptised and saved. They clearly called upon the name of the Lord and were converted. The word accomplished it's purpose on that day as it has always done. Sometimes there are many conversions and on other occasions it seems to be falling upon deaf ears. The one thing that we can say is that the word is always effective. This is true also for us today even though we see so few conversions. God's purpose for is for us is that we declare the gospel to unbelievers. The results of gospel preaching are His sovereign work, He brings about conversions by His choice.

We must be committed to preaching the truth which is fully effective. There was another amazing result from Peter's preaching that must not be overlooked, not only were 3000 saved but they were also baptised. This simply means that they were immediately obedient. Baptism is an outward declaration of belonging to the people of God. These new converts were immediately obedient to God's command. In this there is little wonder that the early church were effective; obedience is the evidence of a work of God's grace in the individuals heart. Remember again back at the time of the Exodus God promised that the people would prosper if they were obedient. The church prospered in those early days because they were obedient.
Why is our church struggling?

Is it due to yours or my disobedience? Are you baptised and have you declared your commitment to the people of God in this place. We will come back to this in weeks to come but if you are not baptised and want to know more then talk to one of the leaders and we will explain what it means. Being baptised is simply a demonstration of your obedience to Jesus' command which is to all who have called upon His name and have been saved.

Peter preached biblically and as such has set in place a pattern for gospel preaching for the church. If the bible is not central to all of our teaching then we are being disobedient to God's calling. Peter also preached powerfully and with great passion and was not afraid to be persuasive in his presentation of the gospel. He fully explained the gospel and gave an impassioned call to repentance. He had been a recipient of grace from the Lord Jesus and knew what it means to be repentant and in receipt of forgiveness. This was the motivation for such preaching, our experience of salvation is no less powerful and effective.

Do we have the same desire that Peter had?


Peter's gospel preaching also came with clear instruction to be obedient. He told them that they must be baptised, I wonder why baptism is relegated to a personal choice for believers in much of our preaching? It was am imperative to Peter and was taken seriously by the new converts. As we re-set the foundation of our church we must bring this principle to the fore of what we teach. Have you been obedient to the clear instruction of scripture and been baptised?