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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:Christ uses Peter's passionate Pentecost preaching
Text:Acts 2:40-41 (View)
Occasion:Pentecost
Topic:Preaching
 
Preached:2007
Added:2007-12-28
Updated:2008-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 36:1-2
Psalm 38:8 (after the law)
Hymn 36:3-5
Hymn 37
Psalm 57

Reading: Acts 2:1-41
Text: Acts 2:40-41
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Many years ago, Christian preachers were regarded as some of the most important people in the world. A long time ago, you could buy a newspaper and there would be sermons from local ministers printed in it. Preaching that took place in churches on Sunday had a huge influence in how people thought about things. It hardly needs to be said that today things are quite a bit different. A number of years ago I remember reading about a survey where the question was asked: whom do you trust? The survey showed that people trusted politicians and criminal defense lawyers far more than they did Christian ministers. In fact, ministers of the gospel were near the bottom of the list keeping company with the prostitutes and drug dealers. The men who preach and preaching itself has little credibility today.

Yet here in this church, we still insist on preaching. About half our worship service is taken up with it. We say that we believe that preaching is the most important thing that happens in our worship services. The pulpit is front and center because we believe that preaching is to be central. Why is that? It’s part of our tradition, but it’s a tradition that’s Biblical. The Bible teaches us that the Lord Jesus works through the preaching of the gospel. The classic passage here is Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them.” And then verse 17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” When the Scriptures are preached, Christ works with his Word and Spirit to create faith and repentance. He does it to work mind-blowing change in the lives of sinners like you and me. And we see this happening in our text for this Pentecost Sunday as well.

On that first Pentecost after Christ’s ascension, amazing things happened. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church. The believers started speaking in different languages so that Jews from all over the world could understand and believe the good news about Christ. When this happened, Christ’s enemies began to mock and insult the disciples, saying that they were drunk. Peter stood up and used the opportunity to deliver his first sermon. It was a long one, but it was effective. The author of Acts, Luke, tells us that some of the people were cut to their hearts by what Peter said. They believed the gospel and they asked what they had to do. He told them to repent, to have a new way of thinking, a change of heart. But not only that, they also had to be baptized and they would receive the Holy Spirit. In our text, Peter continues preaching. I preach God’s Word to you this Pentecost morning with this theme:

Jesus Christ uses Peter’s passionate Pentecost preaching to produce faith and repentance in the covenant people.
We’ll consider:
  1. Peter’s message (verse 40)
  2. The response (verse 41)
The first thing we need to carefully consider here is the identity of the people to whom Peter was speaking. Verse 40 says that Peter warned “them” and pleaded with “them.” Who are “them”? The answer to that is earlier in the chapter in verse 5, “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” In other words, these weren’t just plain vanilla Roman-empire type people. These were God’s covenant people. These were the people to whom God had made the promises of a Messiah who would save them from their sins. And when Christ came into the world, these were the people he primarily worked and preached among. And what did they do with his teaching and preaching? Some believed, but not very many. The rest of them decided to kill him by handing him over to the Romans to be crucified. Those are the people that Peter was preaching to on that Pentecost morning.

In his preaching, we can take note of his style and his content. With respect to his style, in the first place Peter was emphatic. Luke doesn’t tell us all the words that Peter used, instead he summarizes. He tells us that Peter warned them and pleaded with them. He didn’t preach as if he could care less about his listeners. He didn’t say, “Well, you know, here’s the message, you can take it or leave it, it’s up to you. I don’t really care what you do one way or another.” No! He preached with feeling. Peter preached because he cared. We know from elsewhere in Scripture that Peter was a man with strong emotions. Christ used those emotions as Peter was preaching. He would have preached strongly and passionately. He warned them, “This is the wrong way to go! You can’t go down this road of unbelief!” Peter was a preacher who cared and today, preachers have to be the same way. One of the Puritans said that he always made it his goal to preach as a dying man to dying men. Ministers of the gospel must still care deeply not only about what they preach, but also about those to whom they preach. That’s the kind of preaching that Christ used on the first Pentecost and he will continue to use today.

Peter was emphatic, but he was also persuasive. The words that he used that day cut people to the heart. We can attribute that persuasive power to the fact that he preached the Word of God. Most of Peter’s Pentecost sermon is made up of quotes from the Old Testament and applications and interpretations of those quotes, showing how they relate to what happened on Pentecost and what happened with Christ in his death and resurrection. Peter wasn’t persuasive because he was a clever logician who knew how to put a proper syllogism together – he was a relatively unschooled fisherman – rather it was because he preached the Word and Christ spoke through that means. Today too, persuasive preaching that will be used by Christ must simply be the preaching of the Word. That preaching may often involve the use of logic, reasoning and rhetoric (the apostle Paul especially used those tools), but at its root it always has to be the preaching of Scripture.

Peter was emphatic, persuasive, but also authoritative in his style. He made bold declarations such as the one in verse 36, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” He made bold commands such as the one in verse 38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.” Peter, along with the other apostles, had been deputized by Christ to be his heralds and ambassadors, officially and authoritatively proclaiming the gospel and its demands. With his authoritative style, Peter was acting as a representative of Christ, in a very real way we can say that he was being the mouth of Christ at this moment. Today, preachers have likewise been deputized to be Christ’s representatives, to be Christ’s mouth. Ministers of the gospel should never shy away from boldly declaring what Scripture declares and commanding what Scripture commands.

Okay, but now you say, “What does that have to do with us? We’re not preachers. We haven’t been called to be ministers of the gospel.” That’s true. Two points: what we read here about Peter’s style does affect how we regard the preaching of the gospel. We should expect and even demand emphatic, persuasive and authoritative preaching from our pastors. If my preaching doesn’t fit with that apostolic style, I want to know about it and I want to change it. And when we do get preaching in that style, we should accept it and thank God for it.

A second point is that even though we’re not called to be ministers of the gospel, we are all called to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus, both in how we talk and in how we live. When people see our lives and hear our words, no one should have a good reason to mock Christ or his church. They may still do that, but we should never give them a good reason to do so. In our being good witnesses for the Lord, out of thankfulness for what he’s done and love for him, we too have to show that we care deeply about other people. If others don’t see our love, they will not easily be drawn to the Lord. If outsiders see a church full of people who couldn’t give a rip about them, they’re not going to want to come here and be among us as we worship and fellowship. In our care for others, we’re called to follow Peter, not because Peter was such a great man – Peter was a sinner. We’re called to follow him because he followed Christ and because Christ was working through him. And more than anybody else in Scripture, the Lord Jesus loved people and cared for them. Because we have union with him, like Peter did, we too will love people and show this in our words and deeds – in our witness.

Since we’ve looked at Peter’s style and how Christ used that, let’s now look at the content of his message, at least as it’s recorded for us in our text this morning. Luke only gives us a short summary of what Peter preached at this exact moment: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” We can see two things in these words.

First off, connecting with Peter’s authoritative style, this is a command. Peter tells the people what they have to do. He doesn’t give them an invitation. He doesn’t say, “Won’t you please consider Jesus? I invite you to come forward and give your life to him.” No, instead, Peter says, “Let yourselves be saved from this crooked or corrupt generation.” Be saved! That’s God’s command. You might disobey, but you’re not allowed to disobey. If the people didn’t listen, if we don’t listen, there would be bad consequences.

The second thing we can see here with the content is that Peter told the people to be saved “from this crooked or corrupt generation.” Those are special words with an Old Testament background. In the Old Testament, in passages like Deuteronomy 32:5 and Psalm 78:8, these words were used to describe the people of Israel in times of unfaithfulness. When the people of Israel abandoned their faith and broke the covenant, these words described them. The same thing was happening on and before that Pentecost morning. In the ultimate act of rebellion, God’s own people had killed his Son. Then to add insult to injury, many of them turned their backs on the good news. Peter told the people who would listen to be saved from these evil people. After all, these people had broken the covenant with their unbelief and unwillingness to listen. The Lord Jesus himself said it so clearly in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” The people of Israel had been given so much; they were so rich with promises. Turning their backs on all that would arouse God’s covenant wrath and his curses. If people did not believe Peter’s preaching, the message of Christ proclaimed through the mouth of this apostle, they would be in serious trouble with God. They had to be saved from God’s wrath against covenant-breakers. The way they could be saved was by believing what Peter was preaching, or better: who Peter was preaching.

Verse 41 tells us that there were some who did indeed believe the message. They accepted it for what it was: the Word of God. They recognized the voice of the Shepherd and they were glad to hear it and warmly welcomed it, responding with a true faith. They repented. In other words, they had a change of thinking, a change of heart about their sins. They had a change of heart about who Jesus is. They were sorry that they had put him on the cross and recognized it for the wrong that it was. They repented and believed. We’re told that the number of people who accepted the message and were baptized were about three thousand. Suddenly, through the preaching of Peter, Christ made his church explode with new spiritual life and numerical growth.

Today, Christ continues to use the preaching of the Word to bring people to faith and repentance. When that message is preached, it forces us to consider what we’re going to do with it. Should we ignore it? Should we pretend that we didn’t hear, that it wasn’t clear enough? Should we think that the message is for somebody else and not for us? Or shall we accept it in faith and believe it as the Word of God?

In the Old Testament, God had his special covenant people with the Jews. Today, we are part of his special covenant people. Almost all, if not all of us, have received the sign and seal of God’s covenant in holy baptism. Like the Jews of old, God holds out rich and wonderful promises to us. All he says is: believe me and believe in my Son whom I sent. We’re called to listen carefully to the preaching of the gospel as it comes to us time and again. Listen to it and believe it!

If we refuse to listen, let it be clear that serious trouble is in store. The promises of the covenant are beautiful and wonderful, but the curses are more terrible than you can imagine. Though it’s not nice to hear, it would be irresponsible and unloving of me to leave this out, especially since this was an important part of what happened on that Pentecost morning in our text. All of us need to hear both the promises of God’s Word and also its warnings.

One of the most powerful passages of warning is found in Christ’s words in Matthew 10. For any number of reasons, we often think homosexual behaviour to be a rather disgusting thing. We know that the Bible condemns it, just as it does other sins. But somehow we have this idea that it is pretty much the worst sin that a person could do. But the Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 10 that there is a sin worse than sodomy, worse, much worse than homosexual behaviour. There is a sin that will receive far harsher punishment, that will receive the blunt end of God’s wrath rougher than any other sin.

Christ sends out the twelve to the lost sheep of Israel, to their towns and villages. He didn’t send them to the Gentiles, but to the Jews, to God’s covenant people. As the twelve preached, they could expect two responses: people would either listen or they wouldn’t. Verses 14 and 15 of Matthew 10 describe what would happen with those who did not listen, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” Then listen carefully to these words, “I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Sodomites will get off easier in God’s wrath than those covenant people who were blessed with so much and yet turned their backs on the preaching of Christ.

Let’s make this concrete. You could have a person who was baptized and raised in the church. He sat under the preaching of the Word for many years. He was taught catechism by the minister. But as he got older, he decided that religion wasn’t for him and he wasn’t interested in being a Christian and all the commitments that involves. He remained a moral person. If there was a survey, he’d say that he disapproves of homosexual behaviour and abortion and all sorts of other societal evils. Christ says that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the homosexuals than for that man if he dies in his unbelief.

Or one more example, just in case we’re feeling a bit smug. After all, we haven’t left the church. We keep a pew warm here every Sunday. Imagine someone like yourself. But as he sits in church each and every Sunday, the gospel hits a brick wall. He will not believe the good news. It goes in one ear and out the other. He goes to church because that’s the thing to do if you want to stick in our community or some other reason. Christ’s words also apply.

Loved ones, let that be a solemn warning for all of us. Believe the gospel now, accept the gospel promises signed and sealed to you in your baptism. As often as you hear that good news, accept it and believe it. Let yourself be saved from this crooked generation.

When we do that, the promise of the good news becomes a reality. That reality is glorious and it includes what we read in John 1:12. John says that the Jews on the whole did not receive Christ. Then in verse 12, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” Let those words apply to us!
Let us pray:

Eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We are so rich with your covenant promises. Father, you promised to adopt us for your children and heirs. You promised to provide us with everything good and turn away all evil or turn it to our benefit. Lord Jesus, you promised that you would wash us in your blood from all our sins and unite us with yourself in your death and resurrection. Holy Spirit, you promises to dwell in us and make us living members of Christ. LORD God, who are we and who are our children, that you should give us such beautiful promises? We thank you for the regular preaching of those promises. We thank you for the good news that we can hear each Sunday. Help all of your covenant people to embrace that good news and accept the promise. Help all of us to be saved from a crooked generation that turns its back on your promises. Lord God, give us more grace with your Holy Spirit so that we would listen to the preaching of the gospel and believe it. Grant that the gospel may be preached here faithfully, emphatically, persuasively, and authoritatively. We want to hear the voice of Christ here. May the preaching of our Saviour penetrate our hearts and bear fruit in our lives. Lord God, may none of us fall under your covenant curses, but may each one of us receive the blessings promised. We pray it, not for our own benefit, but for the glory of your name and in Christ our Lord. AMEN.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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