Study 9 PETER’S SERMON ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 2:14-36
It has been rightly said that Peter’s pronouncement on the Day of Pentecost “was homiletically correct as well as doctrinally sound. His theme needed skilful development, and before getting to the heart of his subject it was necessary for him to adjust to the excited minds of the people to whom he was giving the message.” This helps all those who preach the gospel, and to begin with notice that Peters sermon was in three distinct parts – introduction, development and application. Each of these parts carries a pronoun for its title: the introduction explains “this” (verse 16); the development proclaims “him” (verse 23); the application concerns “you” (verse 36). Here then is a model gospel address. The Book of Acts is the textbook on gospel preaching: there are 22 sermons or speeches – 9 by Peter, 9 by Paul and one each by Stephen, Philip, James and Ananias. Take a look at Peter as he preached the gospel at Pentecost:-
1. THE METHOD HE ADOPTED
There is clear, down-to-earth instruction here for preachers of the gospel, the good news that God gives to sinful men and women. There are five important things to notice about Peter’s preaching:
- 1. It was short and straight to the point. His speech was vital and urgent, with no unnecessary words (1 Corinthians 2:4). There was no pointless repetition. Notice that it was directed to the mind, giving instruction; to the heart, producing enthusiasm; to the conscience, resulting in conviction; and to the will, leading to decision.
- 2. It was simple, plain and clear. All in the congregation could understand exactly what he was saying, because although he was proclaiming the glorious “new” message of the gospel, it was against the historical background which his hearers would be familiar with. It was a case of the masses of the people hearing Peter gladly (Mark 12:37); because Peter spoke with great simplicity (2 Corinthians 3:12). He also spoke clearly and loudly – see verse 14!
- 3. It was instructive and informative. Peter’s preaching was not merely ’emotional evangelism’. Actually there is no such thing mentioned in the New Testament, although there is much of it about today. In the New Testament the appeal of the gospel is always an appeal to the mind, the heart, the conscience and the will (Isaiah 1:18). The great need today is for a teaching evangelism. This is true because God commands it (Acts 5:42) and because of man’s need of being taught the truth (1 Corinthians 2:14).
- 4. It was scriptural. Paul’s injunction to Timothy was to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2); and Peter certainly did this here. Many words in his sermon are quoted from the Old Testament. His sermon was full of the prophetic word. This is a convincing method of preaching – to show that all fulfilled prophecy has been literally fulfilled. Notice also that Peter’s preaching was in its right dispensational context and setting. He was familiar with God’s programme for the days in which we are living. He was not expecting the conversion of the world, or the kingdom of God to come on earth now, but the calling out of the Church to be the Bride of Christ (Acts 15:13-18).
- 5. It was bold, fearless and without apology. This was a distinctive characteristic of New Testament preaching; it was done with holy boldness, as the result, of course, of the experience promised in Acts 1:8. Look up Acts 4:13 and Acts 4:29.
2. THE MESSAGE HE PROCLAIMED
This is clearly stated in verse 36 – “Jesus…both Lord and Christ”. Peter did not preach religion, a religious system or even a creed, but he preached a living Person, the Person of God’s own Son and the work which He accomplished for guilty men and women. He preached the mighty acts of God; what God had done in His Son for the salvation of men and women. Notice:
- 1. He preached His incarnation (verse 22) in the words “Jesus of Nazareth was a man…” He was the God-man, the man who was “accredited by God”, a phrase which indicates His deity.
- 2. He preached His crucifixion (verse 23), which declares divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and which tells us that the Lord was born to die for a purpose (1 Peter 3:18).
- 3. He preached His resurrection (verses 24 and 32). Peter showed that this was predicted in the Old Testament (verses 25-28), and this was always the great emphasis of apostolic teaching and preaching (Psalm 16:8-11). Compare Acts 17:18.
- 4. He preached His ascension (implied in verse 33). Look up and compare John 20:17; Acts 1:9-11; Ephesians 4:8-10.
- 5. He preached His exaltation (verses 33 and 36). What a triumphant conclusion this was to a great sermon! Thank God we proclaim a living and glorious Lord – look up Hebrews 7:25!
3. THE MIRACLE HE WITNESSED
This is outlined for us in verses 37-41. As the result of Peter’s preaching many who heard him were “cut to the heart” (verse 37) and asked the question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter at once gave the answer – ‘Repent of your sin, identify yourselves with this Lord Jesus Christ by open commitment to Him, and receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (verses 38-40). About three thousand people were converted and declared their allegiance to the Lord Jesus by being baptised, by following on to know the Lord, and by entering into fellowship with His people (verses 41-47).