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AM Bible Study Archives
"The Church's First Sermon"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
August 22, 2007
Theme: In this passage, Peter proclaims the essential content of the gospel that the church is to preach.
This chapter should be seen in three parts. In the first part, which we have already studied, we saw the coming of the Holy Spirit to establish the church (vv. 1-13), and heard Peter's explanation to his kinsmen of the events that they were then seeing (vv. 14-21). In the second part--which we study this evening, we see the actual sermon that Peter preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. It's the first gospel sermon ever preached by the church (vv. 22-40). And in the third part--which will be our subject in our next time together--we will see the nature of the church that the Holy Spirit formed as a result of the preaching of the gospel (vv. 41-47).
The sermon of Peter stands out in at least three important respects. First, it is a sermon that was the product of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). And though it was introduced by a mighty display of the Spirit, and though it closes with the promise of the gift of the Spirit to those who believe, the Spirit Himself is not the main focus. The main focus is Jesus Christ--as it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to "testify" of Him (John 15:26). We also see here the ministry of the Holy Spirit of bringing conviction in the hearts of those who hear the gospel of Jesus Christ when it is preached (John 16:8-11).
Second, it is a sermon that gives us the basic content of the kerygma, that is, the preaching of the gospel. C.H. Dodd (The Apostolic Preaching And Its Developments [London: Hodder & Stoughton Limited, 1936], pp. 21-23) summarized that content as preaching (1) that the age of fulfillment has dawned, (2) that this has taken place through the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, (3) that by virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel, (4) that the Holy Spirit in the Church is a sign of Christ's present power and glory, and (5) that the call is now given to repent, accept the offer of forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, and the promise of salvation unto eternal life in Jesus' name (see Acts 13:16-41; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; 1 Timothy 2:16).
And finally--and quite contrary to much preaching today--this first great sermon lays confident apologetic emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. In fact, with this chapter, the keynote is set throughout much of the Book of Acts as being that of the resurrection of Christ. And as it was an emphasis in the church's message to the world in that day--a day even closer to the event it proclaims--it should be our emphasis to the world just as much today!
Note carefully this sermon, and see . . .
I. ITS SUBJECT: THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 22-24).
A. With the words, "Men of Israel", Peter formally begins his sermon. Note that his subject is a Man--Jesus of Nazareth. But it was a Man who had been attested by God to the men of Israel of that time by "miracles" (literally "powers"; which point to acts that demand attention), "wonders" (which are meant to impact the senses with the fact that something of a work of God was being done), and "signs" (which are meant to signify a message). These things Jesus did, as Peter asserted, "as you yourselves also know" (see John 3:1-2; 5:36; Acts 26:26).
B. This Man was taken by unjust hands and was crucified and put to death. But Peter affirms at the same time that this was done "by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God". Jesus' death was, in every respect, under the sovereign rule of God as the fulfillment of the promise of Scripture (see Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).
C. Peter very boldly affirms that this same Man--who had been crucified and killed by them--had been raised up by God. Peter says that God "loosed the pains [or literally "birth-pangs"] of death". Just as birth-pangs are a particular kind of pain that leads to joy, so Jesus was loosed from the "pangs" of death to the joy of resurrection. And this was because it was "impossible" that He should be held by death; since He had no guilt for sin that death could claim against Him (see Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
II. ITS AUTHORITY: THAT IT IS THE FULFILLMENT OF SCRIPTURE (vv. 25-35).
A. In thus emphasizing Jesus' resurrection, Peter was showing how God had clearly marked Jesus out as the Messiah (Romans 1:1-4). And because Peter spoke to Jewish people, he didn't hesitate to show how the resurrection of Jesus was the fulfillment of Scripture. First, in verses 25-31, he points to Psalm 16:8-11, and to David's words concerning the hope of the resurrection. He affirms what the men of Israel could not help but know--since it was very possible that they could see David's tomb from where Peter was preaching: that David could not have been speaking of himself. Because David was "a prophet", and because he spoke from the knowledge of God's promise to him concerning a son who would come from his own body (Psalm 89:3-4; 132:11) and who would rule on his throne endlessly (2 Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Chron. 17:11-14), he, "foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ".
B. Just as the promise was made through David concerning the Christ, so God has raised Jesus--as Peter affirms, with the other apostles, that "we are all witnesses"--and has seated Him at His own right hand in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1 (also see Paul's use of this same verse with respect to Christ in Acts 13:35-37.) Peter affirms, again, that it was not about himself that David spoke in this psalm, but of the Christ. And the proof that Jesus Christ truly has been raised and was now seated at the right hand of God was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, according to the promise of the Father (John 14:26), that the men of Israel had just witnessed.
III. ITS OBJECTIVE: THE SALVATION OF THOSE WHO HEAR AND BELIEVE (vv. 36-40).
A. Peter calls forth a response to the message of the gospel just preached. First, he calls for the men of Israel to put the pieces of all of this together and "know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (v. 36). It would be hard for us, as Gentiles, to imagine the horror that would have come over the Jewish men as they realized--by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit--that they had crucified the long-awaited Messiah; and that God had raised Him to glory.
B. Knowing this, the men of Israel were "cut to the heart" (not always a good thing, as in Acts 7:54; but a mark of conviction here), and asked what they should do. Peter answers by calling for three things:
1. They should "repent". This means "to change their minds" regarding Jesus; and certainly must have included a call to change their minds about their own condition before God.
2. They should "be baptized". Formerly, people were baptized with the baptism of John; but now they were to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ". This was "for" (or perhaps better, "with reference to") "the forgiveness of sins". It was a response to a faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf.
3. They should then expect to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit--just as the disciples had.
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Peter closes with the glorious word of encouragement: "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call". The promise of God's saving grace through Jesus Christ is universal in its reach. It even includes the Gentiles (Eph. 2:13).
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