PETER’S SERMON (Acts 2)
Bible reading: Acts 2: 14-24, 36-41
- Do you have a phobia… or two?
- Moths, earwigs, heights, open spaces, being enclosed, spiders…
Some people have a phobia about crowds…
- As a young child, I hated them… but as a teenager, I loved them!
- These days, I prefer to be among fewer people and avoid crowds if possible… entering my ‘second childhood’, perhaps?
And how about standing up and speaking in public?
- Some people hate to be ‘out at the front’
- I love it… most of the time!
But it is far from easy to be up front…especially if the audience is liable to be hostile or abusive
And what about the crowd in Acts chapter 2?
- Noisy… mainly men… from different nations… excited… temperamental
- The good, the bad and the ugly… genuine pilgrims, merchants, vagabonds, thieves, rich, poor, sightseers… but nearly all purporting to be religious
- And the Roman soldiers on full alert!
So here is Peter and the other disciples facing the crowd
- A daunting task lay ahead of them… scary… intimidating
- So how was Peter—an ordinary fisherman—going to cope?
He had a number of vital advantages:
He had encountered the resurrected Jesus… To make any progress in our witnessing, we must have met Jesus Christ personally.
He knew the Scriptures and God’s eternal promises that He will be with us to strengthen and help us in every situation.
He had been empowered by the Holy Spirit… to be a Christian, we must have the Spirit of Christ in us… but God will also pour out His Spirit on us for special tasks…see later.
We can strive with all our might… but without the Spirit’s enabling, we might as well not bother!
It was a large crowd… but consisted of lots of individuals, all of whom needed to hear the truth about the One who is the Truth…
- God knows each one by name and calls us by name
- The mass conversion that we read about in this passage was really one conversion multiplied 3000 times
So Peter began to address the crowd…
- Was this really the same Peter, who a few weeks earlier had denied Jesus three times!
- Yes, he was a changed man… wonderfully transformed…
It is worth noting that failing God or being disobedient does not spell the end of our usefulness for Kingdom work
- Peter had made a mess of things… he was prone to act instinctively… even the Apostle Paul had to rebuke him once
- But God knows the heart… and used Peter way beyond his ‘natural’ abilities, intelligence or talents
- SO THERE’S HOPE FOR ALL OF US!
Not everyone took the disciples’ message seriously…
- Some people made fun of them…
- There will always be opposition… and mockery is one of its cruellest manifestations
- Think how Jesus was mocked and taunted and despised…
We normally associate this kind of behaviour with failure… but it’s a paradox that opposition usually indicates that we are on the right track
- Opposition shows that the message is having an impact
- It’s better to receive scepticism and disdain than to be met by apathy!
It is clear that Peter knew the Scriptures (see verses 16-21)…
- He quotes accurately from key OT passages to support his argument
- It’s a pity that more Christians cannot do the same…
- A survey conducted about 15 years ago found that only one in four professing Christians ever read the Bible… Hard to believe, but apparently true.
It worries me that some churches seem to emphasise worship (great!) but have a light touch when it comes to Bible teaching (not great)…
- Of course, the opposite can also be true… that we emphasise Bible teaching but fail to worship God wholeheartedly
There are many different styles of worship… some happy-clappy, some more sober… some active, others passive…
- But every form of worship should be honouring to the Lord and not just a means of giving the service a lift… or making us feel excited
- Jacob worshipped God as he leaned on his staff just prior to his death
- Paul and Silas worshipped God when they were in a dungeon
Worship of God should not be confined to gatherings with other believers… it is personal as well as corporate…
- The personal worship of God is a moment-by-moment attitude of mind for an individual
- Corporate worship is drawing together these individual expressions of love and adoration into a unified whole… or should be!
And then Peter cries out… “Listen to this”…
- He speaks with authority… he has something worth hearing… about Jesus Christ!
- The Gospel message about Jesus is something worth hearing…
- It is a message of hope but also of warning
- It is not just warm and cuddly… God is love but also a God of justice, who hates sin
The Bible speaks much of heaven… and the word is used constantly by Christians and non-Christians alike…
- But when we refer to Hell, we use euphemistic expressions like ‘going to a lost eternity’ and ‘separated from God for ever’
- We need to be clear about what the Bible actually says and not be unduly swayed by dramatic pronouncements or myths
Certainly, we should never speak of Hell with dry eyes… but either we believe and accept Bible truth… or we modify and amend it to soften its impact
- If we emphasise the God of love too much, people can be careless about their eternal destiny
- If we emphasise the God of judgement too much, people will see Him as a tyrant… and Christianity as a threat rather than a deliverance
Peter uses a three-point sermon…
- The need for repentance
- The need for forgiveness through baptism
- The need to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
First, the need for repentance
- Repentance is at the heart of conversion
- It involves more than being sorry… it is a deep work of the Spirit in a person’s life
Repentance operates when we understand our need of a Saviour (literally, one who saves us)…
- But acknowledging that we need a saviour obviously means that there is something from which we are being saved
- And that “something” is our own sin
Someone once commented to a Christian who was witnessing to him… “If you want me to believe in your saviour, you will first need to show more evidence of being saved yourself!”
- Because “being converted” involves more than repentance… as we find out by examining the other two elements of Peter’s message…
Second, the need for forgiveness
- Repentance cannot stand alone…we also need to receive God’s forgiveness through Christ
- Baptism is a public acknowledgement that we have not only turned to God but also accepted the free gift of eternal life that became available through Jesus’ death on Calvary
Accepting our need for forgiveness is not always easy…
- Some people refuse to repent because they reject the notion that their lives are sinful… so they do not see “being forgiven” as necessary…
- “I’m not a wicked person” and “I’m as good as the next man”
Here’s a question to consider: “Is everyone a sinner from conception or do you become a sinner by sinning?” or “Are newborn babies already sinners?”
In other words…is sin always present in the human heart or does it become ‘active’ the moment we turn away from God?
- Put another way: Is sin a “genetic condition” or a “disease”? Do you INHERIT it or CATCH it!
- Either way, every person needs a way of dealing with it… and that way is THE Way, Jesus Christ
At the other extreme, a minority of people consider that they are “too far gone” to be forgiven… they can’t believe that God will forgive all their past deeds, let alone the present and future ones
But forgiveness is a precious gift of grace… we receive it from God… we acknowledge it through baptism… and we extend it to others…
- Forgiveness does not come naturally… it is a work of the Spirit in us and through us
Third, the need to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
- We once bought our son a present…but he moaned so much about it that we took it off him and gave it someone else!
- Jesus breathed on the disciples and asked them to receive the [gift of the] Holy Spirit: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” John 20: 23
There is a difference between the “gift” of the Holy Spirit and “the fruit” of the Spirit…
- The gift is when God’s blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others
- The fruit is the indwelling work of the Spirit in the believer to transform our lives and character
The GIFT can be temporary and withdrawn… it is for a purpose and if we fail to fulfil that purpose, we lose the gift or it becomes redundant
- Samson was given a gift of great strength… but only as long as he honoured God with it
- Solomon was given the gift of wisdom… but once he became proud and boastful, the gift was withdrawn
You may know of Christians who were once mightily used in Kingdom work but somehow lost their way and their effectiveness…perhaps because they thought the gift was for them and not for others!
By contrast, the FRUIT is a lifelong work, as the Spirit of Christ gradually changes us into His likeness…
- We need to respond by allowing Him to transform us…the fruit is not automatically grown
- Fruit grows as it is fed and nurtured… if we neglect the Bible and prayer, and fail to walk in step with the Spirit, little wonder that the fruit becomes tasteless
ALSO NOTE…It is a sad fact that we can repent and receive forgiveness… we can allow the Spirit to grow the fruit within us… but fail to be “filled” with the Spirit for special acts of service because we doubt God or our ability to cope
- There are many lovely Christian people, whose lives demonstrate fruit … but their churches are in decline because they have declined the gifts for fear of being labelled ‘charismatic’ or ‘extremist’ or shaken out of their comfort zone
- So they lose the special anointing that they would have received from the Lord… What a tragedy!
FINALLY, note that Peter says that the Gospel is for everyone called by God… “For you and your children and all who are far off”
- On that day, 3000 people repented, received forgiveness and were filled with God’s Spirit
Was such an event a “one-off”… or can it be repeated in a different form today?
- That is for you and for me to decide before God
- In answering the question, please ask yourself whether your life and the life of your church is functioning like a two-edged sword… or like a blunt knife!
- If the latter, perhaps we have something important to learn from Acts 2