I want to encourage you now to open your Bible to the second chapter of Acts. We come to a really monumental moment in our study of the Book of Acts, and it’s not the first one because there have been many already. The coming of the Holy Spirit, and the launching of the church on the day of Pentecost we’ve already looked at at the opening part of this chapter. We pick up the narrative now in verse 14. This is still on the day of Pentecost, but Peter preaches his great sermon. This is the first Christian sermon. This is what launches the church.
Pulling back a little bit and getting a bigger picture, the Book of Acts is about the expansion of the church. It’s the church born in chapter 2, and expanding all the way through chapter 28 and the ministry of the apostle Paul. It expanded through a most unique means. It expanded through preaching, preaching. Somehow, in our culture, preaching has become a secular term for a way to describe somebody saying something to you repeatedly that you don’t want to hear. “Oh, you’re preaching at me.” But preaching is God’s chosen means for the expansion of the gospel and the church, and it starts right here in chapter 2.
It is a strange thing in a sense, preaching is. No other religion does it. Preaching is unique in the church, the Christian church. No other religion has ever made the regular, frequent assembly of its people to hear long episodes of preaching. Only Christians do that. It is ours uniquely, but it began with the Old Testament prophets who were preachers, and then it continued with the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, who was a preacher. And then, of course, the greatest of all preachers, God had only one Son, and He was a preacher, the Lord Jesus Christ. And now, as we open the Book of Acts, we find that there is another generation of preachers, namely the apostles. And they will be followed by the prophets in the church, and all of them are preachers. The church, born on the day of Pentecost, expanded over the world by preaching, the preaching of the apostles, and those who accompanied the apostles.
Just a footnote, I hinted at it this morning. When the truth is rejected, preaching fades away. When the Bible is denied, preaching fades. When sound doctrine disappears, preaching is hard to find. When truth is rejected, usually what comes up in religion, even in Christianity, is ritual and ceremony. And you get smells, and bells, and gestures, and robes, and preaching disappears. Because preaching is words, and words are life. According to John 6:63, “Words are life.” In Romans chapter 10, “Salvation comes by hearing the Word preached.” How will they hear without a preacher? In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul says that, “I don’t come to you with human wisdom. I come to you preaching, and my message is the same. I’m determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.” Paul gives instruction to Timothy and all others in 2 Timothy 4:1, “Whoever ascend to ministry to preach the Word.”
Preaching is words spoken, and the first Christian preaching was done by the apostle Peter on the day the church was born. I think it would be very instructive for you to hear his sermon. It is not recorded, except in words on the pages of Holy Scripture. But listen to his sermon. Let’s follow it.
Peter, taking his stand with the 11, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; 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 bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the male of the Lord will be saved.’ Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
“For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’ Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
“For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he has himself said: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
That’s the first Christian sermon. First apostolic sermon. On the day the church was born. It’s the first sermon in the Book of Acts. And there will be sermons all the way through. There will be preaching in chapter 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and on and on, all the way to chapter 28, the final chapter. And all these sermons will be proclamations of Jesus Christ based upon the Scripture. Proclaiming the gospel by explaining the Scripture. We have already considered the fact that the great transformation of the apostles came not only when the Holy Spirit came upon them, but when Jesus explained to them that He was the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.
And so, here is Peter with prolonged quotes out of the Old Testament, as well as brief references toward the end of his sermon. The whole history of the church, then, was launched and has continued to be carried on the preaching of faithful men who proclaim Christ as they interpret Scripture. There are always efforts to halt preaching, Biblical preaching, expositional. And by that, we mean explaining the Scripture. There are always efforts to replace preaching with music, with liturgy, with ceremony, with small group discussions, with home churches, with media. But preaching is God’s method, and God’s means. Preaching is explaining the Bible and proclaiming its truth. It is as David Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: Biblical logic on fire. Preaching Scripture, extracting theology in the power of the Holy Spirit is the greatest source of exposing people to the truth. Unbelieving people, as well as believing people. It has always been preachers who have brought down fire from heaven. It has always been preachers who have launched revivals. The clear proclamation of an argument for the truth from the Bible by a man who is passionate, and bold, and clear is what God has always used to expand the church.
I had an illustration of this, being in Louisville last week for the “Together for the Gospel.” There were about 7,000 or 8,000 men there. And they were there for one reason: they were there to hear ten hour long sermons, preaching. Preaching is God’s means. It’s the Holy Spirit’s means. If you are a minister of God, you are at some level, then, a preacher. That is why at the Master’s Seminary, we major on teaching men how to preach from Scripture. So, on Pentecost, it was a sermon preached by Peter that was the Holy Spirit empowered means to launch the church. And what started there still goes on today.
In chapter 1 of the Book of Acts, just for a quick review. In chapter 1 of the Book of Acts, the Lord equipped the believers to finish His task. In chapter 2, the Holy Spirit came to empower them. Chapter 1, He gave them what they needed to know, taught for 40 days, over a period of 40 days, things concerning the kingdom. He gave them the information they needed. He continued to explain the Old Testament, and its meaning, and His fulfillment of it, and the future. So, in chapter 1 came the instruction; in chapter 2 came the power. The coming of the Holy Spirit, and the sound when the Spirit came, and the sight of, like flames of fire coming down and resting on the believers, gathered a crowd. And then, speaking in all the languages of all the people who were there, the wonderful works of God drew their attention to the thing being from heaven, because they’re talking about the wonderful works of God: sight, and sound, and languages, speaking of the wonderful works of God.
And all of that is to set the stage for a sermon. All of that draws the crowd, gathers the people. Something divine is happening. Something heavenly is happening. Something is pointing to God. And the first ministry in the church’s life was a sermon, a sermon. An exposition of Old Testament texts. The first part of the sermon was from Joel 2. The second part was from Psalm 16. And then there were other references as well. It was the sermon; it wasn’t the sound. It was the sermon; it wasn’t the sight. It was the sermon; it wasn’t the languages that was the main event. Everything else was just to draw the crowd to hear the sermon.
The sermon was powerful. And as a result, verse 37 says, “When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart.” And verse 41 adds that, “Those who received Peter’s word were baptized; and that day there were added about 3,000 souls.” 3,000 souls on the day the church was born, pierced by a sermon, came to faith in Christ, and became the first generation of the church. This first sermon is a model sermon. With all the elements of apostolic preaching, it is based on Scripture, based on divine revelation, based not in a general way, but in a specific way, on specific scriptures, and the specific words of Scripture. It also is designed, and this is very important in apostolic preaching; it is designed to prove that Jesus is Messiah and Lord, as promised in Scripture. He is the promised Messiah and Lord. It also demonstrates that Jesus is God in the flesh, and this sermon features the salient facts concerning Jesus: His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His second-coming. It is a sermon about Christ. From His arrival as God in human flesh, to His final coronation in the glory of His return.
The sermon concludes that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. As in all great preaching, it is based on Scripture, and it is a reasoned argument. It is an argument aimed at the mind. It is not aimed at the emotion. It is aimed at the mind. It is an effort to persuade people that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, to persuade the Jewish people who had just cried for His death, and watched Him be crucified 40 days earlier, or so.
Frequently, throughout the Book of Acts, you will read that the preachers were preaching, and the people were, here’s the key word, “persuaded.” Preaching is for the sake of persuasion. It is to change people’s mind. It is to change how people think. It is to change what they believe. Preaching is to be a reasoned argument toward a conclusion. Preaching is a Spirit-powered, intellectual battle. In fact, I would like to think that the goal of preaching is an intellectual conquest, to persuade the hearers of the truth in such a way that they see the reasonableness of it, they see the inescapable reality of it, and they embrace the truth of it.
Maybe as effective as any place to see this pattern in preaching is to consider the apostle Paul and his unique ministry, because there’s so much about his preaching contained in the Book of Acts. In chapter 17, it says in verse 2, according to Paul’s custom, and this was the apostolic pattern, he went to them, them meaning those in Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. So he went into the synagogue of the Jews in Thessalonica, and for three Sabbaths, reasoned with them from the Scriptures. He was an expositor of Scripture. He reasoned with them from the Scripture. This is an intellectual argument. And what was the goal of it? Explaining and giving evidence that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead; and saying, this Jesus, who I am proclaiming to you, is the Messiah. And some of them were what? Were persuaded.
Preaching is persuasive speech at its highest level. Because what’s at stake is so critical. Chapter 18, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, and he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, and so forth. They were of the same trade, so Paul worked to earn his way along. It was a leatherworker, or you could say a tent-maker. Verse 4 says, “And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to do,” what? “Trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” This is all about changing their thinking. This is persuasive speech. Go to chapter 19. He comes to Ephesus. Verse 8, “He entered the synagogue again, and he continued speaking.” He continued speaking. I’ll say more about this idea of continued preaching. Speaking out boldly; that would be preaching. That’s what preaching is. It’s speaking out loud, boldly. For three months. For three months. And what was he doing? Reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
You can even look at the end of the Book of Acts. Chapter 28:23. They had set a day for Paul. People came to him. He’s a prisoner in Rome. They come to his lodging, a prisoner in a house, in large numbers. And what’s he doing? He’s explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, both from the Law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning until evening. All day long. And some were being persuaded. Others refused to believe.
So, in Ephesus, Paul was doing that in the hall of Tyrannus, and he did it for two years. There are some traditional sources that say, every day for two years, he would go from the fifth hour to the tenth hour for a five hour period of explaining the Scriptures reasonably to persuade concerning Christ. That’s a lot of persuasive preaching. But it was persuasive preaching that basically was the Spirit’s means to advance and expand the church. No wonder it was said that all in Asia heard the Word of the Lord. He was a relentless preacher. Relentless.
Now you can go back, if you will, to chapter 2. And with that sort of broad look at what preaching is, and how it’s to be reasonable, and a reasoned argument, and its objective is to persuade people about the truth concerning Christ, you now will see an example of this from Peter. He has one goal, and that is to persuade the unbelieving Jewish population of Jerusalem that Jesus, whom they crucified, is in fact the Messiah. And that is something they must believe, or there is no salvation.
Here’s a few things that introduce something of the nature of preaching. “Taking his stand with the 11.” So, he stood up. Rabbis typically taught doing what? Sitting down. He took his stand. Maybe like Ezra, who actually had a pulpit made. He took his stand with the 11. Here’s another element of preaching. I’m giving you an illustration of it now. “He raised his voice and he declared to them, ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.’” There it is again. It’s all about the words. It’s speaking the words of God in a voice that everyone can hear. That’s preaching. That is the physical reality of preaching: speaking words in a voice that everyone can hear. The theological component is explaining the meaning of Scripture as it points to Jesus Christ.
So, he announces something that they had not heard: a sermon. We don’t have an illustration in the New Testament of a Pharisee, a Sadducee, a rabbi, or a scribe preaching a sermon. John the Baptist was a preacher, but there hadn’t been a prophet for 400 years, so while there were certainly rabbis who went around and taught their sort of convoluted machinations, preaching like this was new. So this was a very, very unusual event. Now remember, the crowd has been gathered by the sight, and the sound, and the miracle of languages, and it’s all been directed toward God. And so, they know this is kind of a heavenly enterprise. And into that steps Peter with the sermon.
It has three parts. It has an introduction, a theme, and an appeal, and that’s what all sermons should have. An introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. Pretty obvious. The introduction is explaining Pentecost. The body of the sermon, or the theme, is exalting Christ. And the appeal is exhorting people. That’s what you do in a sermon. I’m giving you a seminary lesson today. The introduction, you capture the moment, and the moment becomes your introduction. And then, you move to the main theme, and you explain that. That’s Christ. So, the introduction is explaining Pentecost. The theme is exalting Christ. And then you conclude by appealing to the people, which is what he does in verses 37 to 40. The main body, of course, exalting Christ.
Now, we’ve already looked at the introduction. You’ve forgotten, I know. It’s several weeks ago. But we already looked at the introduction in verses 16 through 21 where Peter, starting in verse 15, says, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.” It’s early in the morning. These people aren’t drunk. They were saying that the phenomenon, sight and sound, and speaking these languages was an indication these people were drunk. And Peter says no. So, he captures the moment. Everybody knows what’s going on. It has their attention, and he turns it in the direction he wants it to turn. That’s the essence of a good introduction. You capture people where they are and move them to where you want them to be. This introduction actually was wonderfully designed and presented by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that happens. It would be wonderful, for example, if I came on a Sunday morning, and I wanted to preach a message on the sovereignty of God and how God overrules everything in the world, and just before I started to preach, there was a great earthquake, and you were all rattled to the bone. And I would say, “Now, let me tell you how to respond to that.” God doesn’t do that very often, so I have to kind of come up with my own illustrations.
But on the day of Pentecost, on the day of Pentecost, God provided the opening illustration, the opening launch introduction. All Peter had to do was explain it. And what he says is: “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.” This is simply a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. So, he immediately connects what was happening to the Old Testament. And what was happening was evidence that they had entered the last days. “And it shall be in the last days I will pour forth My Spirit.” Well, the Holy Spirit had just been poured forth. That launched the last days. This is monumental. You just happened to be here at the initiation of the last days. What are the last days? The days of Messiah. Messiah’s arrived. These are the last days. They will go on until the final, verse 20, “great and glorious day of the Lord.” That’s a day of darkness. That’s a day of judgment. During these days, from the beginning, when the Spirit is poured out, till the end when the whole world starts to disintegrate, and there are wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth below, and blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke, and the sun is turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, and the great, glorious day of judgment comes, and all the Jews knew the day of the Lord was the day of judgment. Between now, the arrival of the Spirit and the day of judgment, it’s time for everyone to call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
So, his introduction is explaining Pentecost, and he explains it by saying it’s the fulfillment of Joel 2:28 to 32. And it’s time for everyone to call on the name of the Lord, because if the Messianic age has begun, then the Messianic age is going to come to a culmination. We don’t know how long it’s going to last, but it’s going to end in terrible judgment. That’s how you preach. You tell people the Messiah has come. The Savior has come. The Holy Spirit has come. The gospel has been accomplished. The good news has been accomplished by Christ, and now we are waiting final judgment in this time between the arrival of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the establishment of the church, and the judgment of the world. This is a time for salvation. This is a time to call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
So, the sermon begins with a wondrous declaration that the Messianic age has begun with the coming of the Holy Spirit, but also with a terrifying description of final judgment: blood, and fire, and smoke, and the familiar sun and moon which come and go every day will change dramatically. The first sermon is not some kind of three points in a poem. It’s not some kind of ditty. It’s an announcement that the Messiah has come, and the age of the Messiah has come, and it has begun by the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and will end in terrifying judgment. And during that age, you must call on the name of the Lord to be saved. This is the Messianic era.
This is how the apostle Peter preached, and this is how all the apostles preached. They were saying that the Messianic age has come, the Messiah has arrived, and He will save now, but He will judge later. So, all the apostolic preaching has a note of good news and a note of terrifying future judgment. As all good preaching does, all faithful preachers are preachers of good news, and they are at the same time preachers of judgment. And if someone is a preacher of good news and doesn’t preach judgment, he’s not a faithful preacher. He’s an unfaithful preacher.
So, let me sum up, if I can, just this much: preaching is the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, heralded in words, of careful convincing argument, appealing to the mind of the hearers with the goal of persuading sinners that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation by which they can escape coming judgment. It’s preaching. Preaching.
So, that was the introduction. It’s the Messianic age. The Messiah is here. You should know that because of what you just saw. You just saw the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit. You just saw that. And he goes on to quote the whole passage of Joel. Some of the other things, the other phenomena would occur through the prophets as well. There would be sons and daughters who would prophesy. There would be visions, and there would be dreams. This is it. You should know that this is what Joel said would happen. You’re here. You’ve seen it happen. The Messianic age has begun, which then forces the question: if this is the Messianic age, next question, who’s the Messiah? Right?
Well, they had already decided who it wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t the Galilean carpenter whom they had rejected fully, and turned over to the Romans to be executed. He didn’t do anything to defend Himself. He didn’t do anything to deliver the nation from Roman occupational power. It wasn’t Him. But Peter’s going to prove to them that, in fact, it was. So, you go from the introduction, which we already looked at. I’m just reviewing. Explaining Pentecost, and introducing final judgment, to the theme, which is exalting Christ.
Now, I want to take a little bit of time for this. I don’t really care when I stop. I know you care when I stop, but I don’t really care when I stop. But I’m saying that in a positive sense. I don’t have to carry on too far because we’re going to take this sermon as it comes. I don’t want to rush through. It’s too critical. So, I want you to know how Peter handles the immediate question: if this is the Messianic era, and if what we’re seeing is what Joel prophesied hundreds of years before, would launch the Messianic; if this is the inauguration of what culminates in final judgment, then who is the Messiah? Is the next question. And I want you to turn to verse 22 if you’re not there; look at it, if you are. “Men of Israel, listen to these words.” That’s preaching talk. What preachers say. “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know. This Man,” and he goes on.
He declares, does Peter, that the Messiah is Jesus the Nazarene. The very ones the leaders had rejected. The very ones the people had scorned, and ignored, and treated with indifference, and unbelief, and ultimately crucified. The Galilean whom they deemed a demon-possessed, insane, an imposter, a blasphemer, empowered by Satan. Peter says it’s Jesus the Nazarene. Why does he say that? Because that’s exactly what they put over His head on the cross. He just turns it on them. Peter’s words confront the true blasphemy. Jesus wasn’t the blasphemer. They were. Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus, literally, of Nazareth, which is what was on the cross over His head. The name by which He was commonly known.
And then, Peter moves into exalting Christ, and he looks at Jesus Christ in four ways: His life, His death, His resurrection, and His exaltation. So, he preaches Christ. Preaches His life, His death, His resurrection, His exaltation. And what’s the point of that? To prove, to make a reasonable argument that persuades people that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah. And on that day, 3,000 people were persuaded.
But again, the very words that Peter uses all have so much meaning. Literally, I could be buried in verse 22 and never escape. But I’ll be kind to you. Look how verse 22 begins. “Men of Israel, listen to these words.” Israel. You know, you might be able to understand it if he said, “All of you people who don’t live in Israel and weren’t a part of crucifying Jesus, let me tell you: salvation’s offered to you.” Right? But this is grace upon grace, and mercy upon mercy. They have just killed the Messiah, and he’s still talking to the men of Israel. Christ came in the beginning to Israel. Salvation, first of all, was for the Jews. They were so hateful of Christ that they chased Him, finally, to His death. Jerusalem became the most guilty city on the planet, maybe in some ways the most guilty city in the history of the planet. In fact, the Bible calls Jerusalem “spiritual Sodom and Egypt” to emphasize its guilt. To say men of Israel, is to speak words of grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. For all the three years of his ministry, our Lord had addressed them, and addressed them, and done miracles, and spoken words, and gave them evidence of who He was, and offered them salvation, and forgiveness of sin, and the way into heaven, and the door to the kingdom.
And you know, you might think that somehow, when they rejected Him, the door slammed shut forever in their faces, but it did not. 40 days after they screamed, “Crucify Him,” 3,000 of them were welcomed into salvation. Grace. Grace. Maybe the greatest illustration of grace ever. If that’s the greatest sin ever, then that’s the greatest grace ever. Jesus of Nazareth, he says, the name by which the Lord was commonly known, the very name, as I said, that was written in letters over His head when He was hanging on the cross. Peter loved to use that name. He loved to use that name. He loved to use the name that they used to heap scorn on Jesus. He loved to use the name by which they mocked Him. “Jesus of Nazareth? That no-place town in Galilee?” peter loved to use that name.
Chapter 3, Peter goes into the temple. He runs into a man who is lame from birth. He sits at the gate every day. The gate he called beautiful, and he begs because he’s disabled severely. Peter, so everybody can hear, says, verse 6, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Walk.” And he’s just grabbing that statement that’s over the cross that they used to mock Him, and pushing it right back at them. Jesus of Nazareth.
He gets arrested along with John in chapter 4. And he’s filled with the Holy Spirit, so he stands up to preach. Of course. “Rulers, elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man,” the man that we just read about, “as to how this man has been made well, then let it be known to all of you,” now he’s talking to the leaders,” and all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” he says it again, “whom you crucified, this man has been healed.” Chapter 10, I think it is, Peter says again in preaching, verse 38, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Our Lord never called Himself Jesus of Nazareth. He always called Himself the Son of man, didn’t he? Always referred to Himself as the Son of man. Peter wants to use that because it takes their assessment, which they intended for mockery, and turns it right back, and extends by means of those very same words meant to be an attack, an offer of grace, a rebuke.
So, back to chapter 2 and the sermon. “Men of Israel.” There’s grace in that. “Listen to these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God.” What a great statement. Apodeiknumi in the Greek. It has some shades of meaning. What does it mean, attested? Well, it’s used for exhibiting or putting something on display. First Corinthians 4:9, it appears in that manner. To put something on display. So, God displayed Jesus. In Acts 25:7, the same word is used of proof, to bring evidence. Second Thessalonians 2:4, it’s used of proclaiming. All three are true. The nuances of that word make it a perfect word. A man God put on exhibition, a man for whom God brought evidence, a man of whom God proclaimed the truth. All are true of Jesus. He was God’s exhibition. He was proven by massive evidence to be who He was, and He was the one whom God proclaimed. God exhibited Him, God validated Him, and God proclaimed Him. All of those are true. God exhibits Him in human flesh, proved Him by infallible evidence through the miracles, and declared Him through His own Word, out of the mouth of the Messiah in personal testimony to be the Son of God, the Savior, the Promised Christ.
So, God displays, proves, and declares Christ to be Messiah. This Jesus of Nazareth. Now, how did God do that? How did God put Him on exhibition? How did God validate Him? And how did God declare Him to be the Messiah? Here it is, back to verse 22: “with miracles and wonders and signs.” With miracles and wonders and signs. Now you know where you are, right? All the miracles. These three words represent three aspects of our Lord’s miraculous works: their nature, their appearance, and their intention. Their nature: they were miracles; they were supernatural. Their appearance: they were wondrous. Their intention or purpose: they were signs; a sign is to point to something. Their nature, miracles, mighty works; their appearance, wonders, terasi, speaks of something startling, something that grabs your attention, something that is completely out of the ordinary. And intention, signs, smeion, points to spiritual truth. Pointed to the spiritual truth of who He was. All the miracles Jesus did had these features. They were mighty, powerful manifestations, miraculous manifestations of the power of God, to create wonder in order to point to spiritual truth.
And they were inescapable. If you keep reading in verse 22, go to the end of the verse. God is validating, exhibiting, validating and declaring Jesus to be the Messiah through “miracles, wonders, and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.” It was inescapable; they all knew. When he says to them, which God did your midst and you yourselves know, this is a really serious indictment of the Jews. This is an indictment of the sin against evidence, the sin against evidence that was replete, that was consistent, that was daily on exhibition. They couldn’t plead ignorance. They couldn’t say, “We didn’t know. We didn’t know about the miracles. We didn’t have the proof.” They did. They had it again, and again, and again, and again. They sinned against light. The most severe of all sins. That’s why our Lord said, for example, to the city of Capernaum, it’s going to be better for the people of Sodom, the home of sexuals who tried to rape the angels in Sodom, going to be better for them in hell than it’s going to be for the people in Capernaum, Jewish religious people in the synagogue, because of the works that were done there. If the works that were done there had been done in Sodom, they would’ve repented.
So, they sinned against light. They couldn’t plead ignorance. There was no excuse. God did the work through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Jesus never claimed that what He did was His own; He said, “I only do what the Father tells Me. I only do what the Father shows Me. I only do what the Father wills Me to do. I only do what I see the Father doing. The Father works and I work.” Remember chapter 5? That whole chapter is about that. And He did it in your midst, and they had seen it all.
Now, do you see the reasoning in this sermon? This is a powerful, indicting sermon. I’m telling you, you have seen the beginning of the Messianic age, which means the end is inevitable. The beginning is hopeful; the end is disastrous. Now is the time that everyone should call on the name of the Lord and be saved. This is the Messianic age. The Messiah is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, who was attested by God, who performed through Him miracles and wonders and signs, which you all know. He’s got them pinned down. Really, it’s impossible for them to escape the reality of what he is saying. They have seen the phenomena that indicates the Messianic age has begun. And Joel’s prophesy has been fulfilled. They have seen the miracles. In John 10:37, Jesus said to the Jews, “If I do not do the works of My Father, don’t believe Me.” If these aren’t the works of God, don’t believe Me. “But if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I am the Father. And their reaction? They were seeking to seize Him, arrest Him. Of course, they never denied any of His miracles ever.
Peter begins his sermon, then, with this: the life of Christ, a life of signs and wonders and miracles. Then in verse 23, he turns to the death of Christ. “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” The life of Christ in verse 22, the death of Christ in verse 23. And oh, by the way, in verse 24, the resurrection of Christ. And that runs all the way down to verse 32. Verse 33, the exaltation of Christ. Final verse, 35, the return of Christ to establish His power over His enemies, set up His kingdom. So, he preaches Christ, and it’s powerful, it’s indicting, it’s convicting, it’s persuasive.
I don’t have time to go to the second point about His death, so we’ll do that next time, and that’ll be a couple of weeks from tonight. What I’ll try to do, and it’s a good time to do it: we will look at His death and resurrection. So, we’ll do that the week after Easter. Let’s pray.
Lord, we again come to say thank You for the revelation of Holy Scripture, which is heaven-sent, heaven-revealed, heaven-empowered. We can’t sometimes even contain the exhilaration and the joy that comes when we’re so impacted by its powerful truth. We thank You for it. Thank You for the supernatural event that occurs when the Word of God is preached. Thank You for choosing that means, and thank You for raising up faithful preachers through all the history of Your church, and we pray that You will continue to do that, and You’ll help us to continue to train preachers, to continue to train provide preachers to carry the gospel. We thank You, Lord, for including us in the kingdom. The world passes by on the outside; we’re here because You reached down and gave us life. We bless Your name. Thank You for the sweetness of our fellowship, the joy of our worship, and the privilege of our salvation. May we be faithful and obedience to You. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
So, now you maybe have a little more insight into why I do what I do, and how important it really is, and what God has designed for it. You need to pray that the Lord will keep the flow coming. You know? We talk a lot about the state of the church, just in general in the world. There was a time when the church was consumed with psychology. Small groups were in. There were books being written on the death of preaching, and there were no preachers anymore. People are not called preachers; they’re called lead pastors, and they have other different kinds of names for them. Small groups were in a church in the home, the fathers were going to be the shepherds of their families. There was a downplay of preaching. There was a rise in psychology, and people going into Christian psychology as a primary means of ministry in the church. And to be honest, the years that that went on, we lost a whole generation of preachers because they were chased into other things. We’ve also lost a lot of preachers who were gifted by the Holy Spirit, and perhaps called to do that, but got in the wrong school and got the wrong education, and their confidence in Scripture was undermined. And when your confidence in Scripture is undermined, you can’t preach. You just can’t. You can talk and make suggestions, but unless you have confidence, absolute confidence in this Book, you can’t preach. So, this is a good time in the history of the church right now to see the Lord wrapping His arms around some preachers who are faithful to the Scriptures, and you need to pray that the Lord will continue to do that, and bless the seminary as we endeavor to polish off some of these preachers that the Lord’s going to use in the future. So, the next couple of messages in this sermon are really going to be powerful and very instructive for us, so just put that on your calendar for two weeks from tonight.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.