The First Sermon ever given in the Church age illustrates the Gospel so clearly and reminds us that becoming a Christian is a transaction. Sanctification takes a lifetime; conversion takes a moment.
The First Sermon
Last Lord’s day we discovered some wonderful truths behind the events of the last Pentecost.
It was a fulfillment of the Lord’s own promise found in Acts 1:8 - you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusualem and beyond.
That’s exactly what’s taking place in chapter 2.
The Pentecost of Acts chapter 2 begins with the descent of the Holy Spirit - the baptism and electrifying supernatural signs of the Holy Spirit’s coming were all part of God’s plan for the creation of the N.T. Church.
And then, the preaching of the power of God through languagers previously unlearned by the speaker were further prrofs that this was indeed the last Pentecost.
It was the last of the Old and the beginning of the New.
If you were with us last Lord’s day, we looked at the audiences responses:
Three of them:
1) amazement and confusion - 2:12. And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13. Then the third response - 13. But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
That reaction became the introduction to Peter who, now stands toward the front of Solomon’s porch where they are gathered with the multiudes below and around them - and he begins the first sermon of the New Testament church
The very next thing that happens is the very first sermon is preached.
Now first sermons are traumatic experiences. Maybe you can remember your first public speaking experience - speech class, a personal testimony to a group of college students - for many, it’s a nerve wracking experience.
I can remember as a teenager preaching my first sermon during the Teenagers Sunday Night Live. That’s when the teens of the church took the evening service hostage and left no survivors. I remember being terrified as I preached on Nehemiah building the walls of Jerusalem.
I remember the audience being especially kind to me afterward. And by the way, your desire to learn and study is the greatest compliment you can pay me or anyone else who fills this pulpit. I have had remarks from guest speakers and visitors about how many Bibles are opened and wonderful rapport.
It makes a difference my friends - and I commend you!
It wasn’t so for Robert Strand of Grand Junction, Colorado.
READ ROBERT STRAND - GAS!
An audience, in many ways has an affect upon the preacher. I can remember in college, preaching at that little chapel every Wednesday night - to about 6 or 7 faithful, country people - the same man slept through every sermon I ever preached. It became my passion to try and preach him awake. Nothing worked, until I used an illustration from world war II. That man taught me the effectiveness of an illustration - I never forgot it - in fact I’m doing it right now on you.
The truth is, preaching the truth of holy scripture is a wonderful and holy calling - it is the priority of the New Testament mandate - “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
And so throughout the Book of Acts, this new form of communication called preaching will be accomplished over and over again.
In Acts 4:2 they “taught the people and proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 5 they “Kept on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Acts 8 records that “those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
Their ministry echoed the ministry of Jesus Himself - who began His ministry as we read in Matt 4, “Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, fo the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Mark writes that Jesus came, “preaching the gospel of God.”
The Apostle Paul picks up the banner and states, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech - we preach Christ crucified.”
History is filled with the blessing of God following on the heels of clear and bold preaching. The Reformation awakened the centrality of preaching - Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and Knox thundered the truth without apology.
In fact, one of the results of the Protestant reformation was that churches were re-designed so that the pulpit occupied the primary place on the platform - denoting the centrality of preaching the scriptures to the N.T. church’s mission.
In our land today, at the very time our own generation is in need of clear preaching and teaching of the Word, Biblical preaching is losing it’s priority in the church.
Listen to the advertizement of one very large MEGA CHURCH
John MacAurthur wrote these insightful words:
I every so often receive in the mail invitations to other churches in our county:
You rarely read the “p” word - preaching. Or the “e” word - exposition.
In fact, so the marketing strategists tell church leaders - you don’t want to intimidate or convict anybody - in fact, when an unbeliever can come in to your church and feel perfectly comfortable and find everything enjoyable and interesting - you have arrived - you can now be called a “user friendly church.”
If you want to build a church don’t deliver verdicts - don’t be intolerant - you’ll never pack em in that way.
Get with the times!
Well, just what kind of sermon launched the New Testament church. Isn’t it safe to believe that the sermon that began the church is the kind of sermon the church needs to continue delivering.
Let’s go back to the very first sermon ever preached in the New Age of Grace. Let’s pick it up at verse 13. But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
14. But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, 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. 15 “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.
Now, the third hour of the day was about 9:00am. The first meal of the day was not until the fourth hour and on the Sabbath, a larger meal was served at the sixth hour, around noon. Peter is, in effect saying, “Listen - no one’s drunk here - why we haven’t even had breakfast yet and lunch is three hours away.
The criticism was absurd and Peter began his sermon by letting everyone know that drunkeness was out of the question!
Now notice how his sermon begins to expound on the Old Testament Scriptures. 16. but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel. 17 ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; 18 EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT AND THEY SHALL PROPHECY.
Now stop here. In some circles today, they are teaching that Pentecost has fulfilled the prophecy of Joel.
Didn’t Peter say in verse 16. But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel . . . your sons and daughter’s will prophecy . . .your young men shall see visions...etc.
So, they say, “That’s what’s happening today - the Spirit is being poured out - this is the fulfillment of the Prophet. How wonderful to be living in these last days of special outpouring.” Oh?
Might I remind them not to put a period where Peter simply takes a breath and then keeps on preaching. Look at the next verse 19 ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE, AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BENEATH, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. 20 ‘THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. 21 ‘AND IT SHALL BE, THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.’
I don’t think you want to be on planet earth during these days - the prophecy of Joel is actually talking about the events on earth related to the second coming of Christ - those events are taking place during the tribulation and they are spelled out in the book of Revelation.
In fact, let’s turn to Revelation chapter 6
And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun becmae black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts it unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14. And the sky was split apart like a scrollwhen it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and thr strong and every slave and free men, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Turn over to 8
Rev. 8:6. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. 7. And the first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and all a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (skip to v. 12.) And the fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and night in the same way.
Notice the fulfillment of smoke along with fire as Joel prophecied - look at chapter 9:18. A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths. 19. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads; and with them they do harm. 20. And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worhsip demons, and the idols of gold and silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can niehter see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of the murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
Now we know from other passages in Reveleation that there are many who do indeed call upon the name of the Lord and are saved.
Back to Acts 2!
So what was Peter saying when he referred to Joels’ prophecy in relation to Pentecost.
Well, for one thing, in vs. 16, Peter did not say Pentecost was the actual fulfillment of Joel 2 - and we know that simply becuase the all the terrible things in his prophecy did not occur - thank the Lord.
Peter is simply saying, in effect, “This is that same Holy Spirit that Joel wrote about. He is now here.” And the power that He will have to perform all of Joels’ prophecy is the same Spirit who is right now empowering us to speak in unlearned languages.
That Holy Spirit Who will one day be poured out on all people (notice v. 17 - “all mankind”, has now been poured out on some people - the 120 who were speaking in unlearned languages!
Now at this point Peter re-introduces the King who will sit upon the throne of David when the prophecy is finally fulfilled.
Look at verse 22.“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— In other words, Jesus Christ did things only God could do - and His miracles had a divine purpose.
For those who say we should be able to heal and raise from the dead, etc. ect. becuase Jesus did all of that overlook the basic principle of this verse - Jesus did those things, not simpy for the doing but for a the reason behind the doing.
He broke the bread and fish into 5,000 meals, not becuase people were hungry but so that he could validate his claim he would then utter - “I am the bread of life”
He raised Lazerus from the dead, not becuase Lazerus was his good friend and He didn’t want to see Mary and Martha grieve, but to validate his claim that he would then make, “I am the ressurection and the life.”
In fact, if Jesus healed people simply becuase they were sick - then He becomes the cruelest person to have ever walked the face of the earth - why? Becuase while he was on earth, He didn’t heal everybody.
He often retreated to a town that had a leper colony - yet we read of him healing only one leper in that city - and the leper colony remained after Christ’s ascension - why didn’t he heal them all?
Christ carefully selected miracles of varying kinds to carefully prove He was indeed the Messiah - and according to Peter, the Israelites knew it.
So much so that Jesus could say the words in John 15, “They hated me without a cause.”
Now Peter drives his audience toward the verdict! And the verdict is, “Guilty”
23. this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
36. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified.
How’s that for user friendly preaching - how’s that for making unbeleivers comfortable?!!
True preaching declares truth propositionaly - the Spirit of God moves through the declaration and exposition of Biblical truth.
Now, just in case they think they had everything to do with it - and before you go out and blame the Jewish nation for being soley responsible for having killed God in the flesh - make careful note of Peter’s next words - 23. This Man was delivered up by the predetermined plan (boule - counsel) and foreknowledge of God (yes) you nailed him to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death - but it was part of the plan, before the foundation of the worlds by the counsel of the Triune God. And get the rest of the plan - v. 24. And 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.
Now Peter goes on to expound on the passages, from David’s pen that directly relate to the resurrection and ascension of the Messiah.
Peter is drawing the net around his Jewish listeners. . .
You crucified Him, God crowned Him.
You entombed Him, God enthroned Him.
You cast Him out, God caught Him up.
You executed Him, God exalted Him.
That’s the truth, whether you like it or not.
Notice the result here. 37. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, (the word translated pricked/pierced is the greek word for “stun” - they were literally stunned with the realization that they had cricified their Messiah - they were guilty before God. Now notice 37b. they said to Peter
and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
What a terrific question. It sounds much like the Philippian jailor who said, “What must I do to be saved?”
The answer to that question is the most important answer in all the world. In fact, my friend, if someone were to ask you - “How do I become a Christian - how can I be saved?” - what would you say?
A legalist would say - you gotta stop doing all those bad things!
A moralist would say - you gotta start doing a lot of good things!
A religionist would say - you need to start going to church/reading your Bible!
A philanthropist would say - you need to give money and things away!
A pluralist would say - you need to develop own religion - hope for the best!
My friend, most of the answers you would hear could be categorized in two camps - one category could be defined by the word “process”. Becoming a Christian is a process - you feel bad about your life - you decide to turn over a new leaf - you start attending a Bible study - you start attending a church - you become a Christian over a process of time.
This Book teaches that becoming a Christian is a “transaction” - not a process. It is a moment in time event when you bow your heart to Christ and confess your sin and ask Him, on the basis of His work alone to save you. Some point in your life you recognize the Biblical truth that you can’t save yourself - and nothing you do will ever earn heaven - and then you cry out to the One you now recognize as the only Savior you’ll ever need.
The first word out of Peter’s mouth as he answers them is . . . 38. And Peter said to them, “Repent.”
Metanoew - change your mind - before salvation, you think your pretty good and Christ is rather unessecary - now you change your mind - you realize you’re a sinner and he’s altogether necessary.
Now the next part of verse 38 has been especially troubling to many. “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins...”
Now those who believe in baptismal regeneration, or that you must be baptized by water in order to complete your salvation will use this as one of their primary proof-texts.
I want to provide two answers to that errant theology.
First of all, you might circle the word “for” - for the forgiveness of your sins.”
The word is “eis” - a little Greek preposition that often times demands an expanded translation for the sake of the English reader.
You can translate it as a preposition of expectation - stay with me - you would translate it - “You are to be baptized for the purpose of the forgiveness of your sins - if you are baptized you can expect your sins to be forgiven.
For those who believe that - baptism becomes sacremental.
OR You can translate it as a preposition of explanation. It’s translated that way by A.T. Robertson, Repent, and be baptized on the occasion of, becuase of your sins which have been forgiven.”
For those who believe that - baptism is not sacremental but memorial.
I believe that both ordinances of the church are memorial not sacremental. The Lord’s supper is a table of remembrance - the water of baptism identifies the beleiver with the past death and burial of the Lord.
So you can interpret Acts 2:38 with a little Greek grammar under your belt.
(you have that deer caught in the headlights look - your glazed)
There is another way to arrive at a correct answer. You don’t have to know a Greek preposition from a computer chip. It’s a principle of Biblical interpretation called, “The analogy of scripture”. Oh terrific - no my friends - this is one of the most important principles!!!!!!!!!!! Ot simply means this - “No passage of scripture, when correctly interpreted, will ever contradict another passage of Scripture.”
So, is salvation, faith in Christ plus water baptism? What does the rest of scripture say?
“To as many as recieved Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God John 1:12
“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works (baptism is something you do in obedience to God - it is a work) lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Just how important is handling Acts 2:38? Well let me carry it a little further - you have a section in your notes that reads,
Why is Baptism Unimportant to Salvation? (change that title to If Water Baptism Is Necessary for Salvation, then:
1) You disregard the meaning of the new covenant - Ladies and Gentlemen, the new coveneant is not water plus blood - it is blood alone.
I Cor. 11 This is the new covenant in my blood...
Eph. 1:7. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgivness of our trespasses, according to His grace.
Romans 5:9. Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved form the wrath of God.
I John 1:7 The blood of Jesus God’s son cleanses us from all sin
2) You destroy the purpose of Christ’s incarnation - came to die - and Hebrews 10:10 states, “By this sacrifice we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Why come to die if you can be saved by water?
3) You dilute the meaning of Christ’s last words - in Matthew 28 we read the command of Christ to his disciples to go and make disciples and then to baptize them! Disciples made public their identification with Christ through baptism - disciples - not infants - believers who placed their identity in Christ.
4) If water baptism is necessary for salvation, you decrease the integrity of Paul’s ministry - he’s a failure - In I Cor. 1:17 Paul boldly stated, “I came not to baptize but to preach.”
5) Finally, if water baptism is necessary for salvation, you diminish the essence of the gospel I Cor. 15 defines the gospel as the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ saves; not Christ plus water; not Christ plus good works; not Christ plus morality or ritual or religiosity. Christ alone.
In Acts 2:38 I believe that Peter is saying, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ becuase of the forgiveness of you sins.”
Why then is Baptism so Important in the life of the Believer that Christ would command us to be baptized?
I mean, if it isn’t necessary for salvation, why is it necessary?
-it reveals a break with the old life - for the Jewish nation, this was a traumatic, life-changing event - to be publicly baptized as a follower of Christ was to completely turn away from Judaism and the Old Covenant. They were going to say, “In the past, the forgiveness of our sins was related to our sacrifices - we are now saying, the forgiveness of our sins is related to our savior who was sacrificed once and for all for all our sins.”
-it obeys the command of Christ - baptism follows salvation, it doesn’t cause it. But don’t forget, Peter here commands it. And Christ commanded the New Testament church in Matthew 28 to baptize (baptizomia - to immerse) disicples - those who come to faith in Jesus Christ. (is this a command you need to obey?)
-it identifies the believer not only with Christ but with His church. We’ll look at that more later on in chapter 2.
We have to stop here for now.
There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages. Our services have an informal feeling. You won’t hear people threatened with hell or referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome. As with all clergyment, our pastor’s answer is God - but He slips God in at the end, and even then doesn’t get heavy. He never uses the H-word. Call it Lite Gospel. It has the same salvation as the Old Time Religion, but with a third less guilt.”
In an effort to appeal to people’s interest, the church today emphasizes a great many different programs, methods, and approaches. Not all of these things may be harmful. Some in their proper place, may even be helpful. But what has too oftne been sacrificed in the flurry of activities and programs is the priority of preaching.
While I know little or nothing about their doctrine - I’ve read everything from “the most exciting church in town” to one flyer that asked, “When’s the last time you had fun in church?” The one that really got me was the church ad that promised a “donut recess” . . . now that was tempting.
ROBERT STRAND - GAS!
In the middle of a service and just before the sermon, one lady in the congregation remembered she had forgotten to turn off the oven at home. Hurriedly she scribbled a note and passed it to the usher to give to her husband who was in the choir. Unfortunately, the usher misunderstood and took it to the pulpit just as Pastor began to preach. He stopped, unfolding the note, and read aloud, "Please go home and turn off the gas."