Another Look at Acts 2
Text: Acts 2:38-41

When we come to a sermon from Acts 2, preaching about that first preaching, we expect first principles. Here is the hub of the Bible, Acts 2:37ff, the conclusion of the first gospel sermon. We need more. The context is at least Acts 1-3, not too long, familiar, studied. On the other hand, quite long, unfamiliar, in need of study. We have here the firs two recorded gospel sermons--one longer, one shorter. Acts is exciting: resurrection, empty tomb, 40 days, great commission, meet with apostles, ascension, and Jesus says "don't preach, don't move a muscle, don't head out under your own power, but go to Jerusalem and wait. Wait for the spirit. Pray while you wait, but wait." So Acts 2 brings the HS on the apostles, the first gospel sermon, 3000 baptisms. It is often called the birthday of the church on earth.

Now Peter was the speaker for this sermon, in fact both sermons, in Acts 2 and in Acts 3. We can learn from Peter's preaching. Basic, but some things we have not recognized. So this is another look at Acts 2.

I. The Power was of the HS
We typically neglect the first part of Acts 2 in our study. I tell you that the weakness and lack of evangelism and conversion in the church today is not a problem of our doctrine. It is a mistake made through our omission and neglect of the power of the HS. Read Acts 1:5 again. This is for the apostles, but vs. 8 then makes them witnesses with power. My witnesses. Witnesses of JC. Grasp my point--the power of Pentecost was the HS. The power of the early church was the HS. The power of the 20th c. church is the HS. Church is always weak, wayward, and missing in action when it tries to go under its own power. It will not work. Acts of apostles, Peter and Paul, HS. Read Acts and look for the HS. I think you'll be surprised. He is there throughout. The NT, esp. Acts, is full of the HS. John 13-17, every promise of JC to the apostles was to be communicated by the HS. All you have, all you are will come out of the soil of the HS.

Now consider this matter of witnesses. The Bible word for soul winning is witness. This may be technical, but listen, study, think. This has been abused, but we must be biblical. The idea is testimony, and it can be abused, so we swing to another extreme and fight it. I am not a lawyer, I am a theologian. Apostle was told he would not be witness until HS got there. He could have been a witness in any court of law before that, telling of JC. The HS help him in witnesses, but not in the legal sense. Legally, he was already a qualified witness. Someone object that we can't witness because we are not eyewitnesses. But in Bible even eyewitnesses couldn't be witnesses. Don't do it until the HS shows up, but they had already seen it firsthand. So think. Witnesses is not just facts, but faith. Faith comes by the HS (Word), and facts come by eyewitnessing. Some of the apostles had known Jesus for years, and there were 3 close years, and the purpose of the HS coming was not to make them eyewitnesses. He empowered them, not with facts, but with faith. Study Acts 1 in choosing another apostle. What is wrong with us, we think to give the facts, get an intellectual grasp, that is evangelism. But that is facts without faith. These were witnesses because of power and faith. We can share faith. That is martus. Our word is martyr. Witness is more than spectator and testifying. More to Bible than that. Not just eyewitnesses. Eyewitness can say what car ran into what other car. But this is more. There is no faith in eyewitnessing--only the facts. Can do a good job, tell the truth. But this is not martus. Martus is I am convicted, my life is changed, I am willing to live and die for this faith.

The HS was sent for faith, not just power. They had seen him walk on water, Lazarus raised, etc. This is faith. There is more to evangelism than facts. Go wait for the power, pray, think about the significance of this changed life, be a martyr. Be my witnesses. Not just in facts, but in faith. JC truly was the son of God. John 20:30-31. You can have faith, be a martyr, live a life like Jesus. Matt. 28:20. That is the place and power of the HS. He calls us, strengthens us, says with us. If the church could ever grasp this--it is not numbers, programs, but it is of God and the HS. Then the church will have energy, fire, hope, faith, something never seen before. The HS came. This is God's message. These are not just spouting off. This is God's word. We have a message from God. Proclaim it. JC, God Incarnate has invaded time and earth, died on the cross, been resurrected. Something has happened. The gospel is more than an ethic, moral, philosophy, here is the grace of God. The church is of faith, not just of fact.

II. The Content was the Scriptures
Notice they did not start preaching until the HS arrived. Peter already knew this information, he had been there. We must be honest. This is hermeneutics, interpretation. We have the idea that the more Scripture there is, the better the sermon. No necessarily true. It may be, or it may not be. Some sermons in the Bible were almost all Scripture, some had virtually none. The power of the sermon is Scripture, but do you know what is quoted in Acts 2. A sermon can be biblical without 1000s of quotes. The power of the sermon may be scripture, but if the listeners don't know scripture, they don't know where we are. There is nothing magic about Scripture. The power of the Bible is in knowing it, believing, it, and living it. All the Bible you really have is what you live.

Ps. 16 is quoted. You must know Ps. 16 to understand Acts 2. We haven't really tried. Peter preaches the Scriptures, because Christianity is more than subjective feelings. This is not superficial. Acts 1:3-4 is knowable. Infallible proofs, 40 days. Acts 3, no one denied that the cripple was healed. They were upset, but the healing was real, miracle was evident. We must use Scripture, but we must know and understand what it says and means. If Scripture is used without meaning, that is prooftexting, useless, worse than useless.

We must be honest with the Bible. Peter preached to the Jews. 1 Cor. 9--became as Jew to the Jew. Jew knew Bible. Acts 2 and 3 start with Abraham. Those listening knew the truth of what he was saying. Acts 21-3 are to the Jew. Acts 10 is to Cornelius. Cornelius did not know Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. He did not know OT. No need to quote scripture to pagan. Cannot understand. MMLJ are different, different audiences, same subject. Matthew is to Jews, filled with Scripture. Why?

Person to whom yous peak much determine the message. Christian, non-Christian. Take JC to a man where he is, take the word and apply it to people where they are.

III. The focus was on JC
I have not preached the sermons in Acts topically. We must read, study. What is their general content? We preach better than we practice. How shall we study? Can we preach what they preached? Are we restoring? How can we get back to first principles?

Every sermon in Acts is focused on JC. That is the focus, Acts 2:22. Peter's first sermon was JC. Paul's first sermon, likewise. What is your task in evangelism? Communicate JC. "But they already know about JC." No they don't. That is our mistake. Start with JC. Keep on. End up with JC. When get off JC, you get off. What's wrong with church? ; Want to preach other stuff, line up people to our views. "Did he preach the gospel?" Evangelism becomes proselyting. Get people to look at things as we do. No, Peter's message is JC.

Then, the focus is on the cross. Acts 2-3 are about the cross. 1 Cor. 1-2, know the cross, JC crucified. Preach Christ, get the church. Acts 2. In Acts, preach X, get the church. We try to preach the church and get Christ, and it won't work. Not plant Acts to get Acts. Plant MMLJ. Then get Acts. Plant Acts, get the epistles. We try to convert from the epistles. Need to know the Bible, use it to focus on Christ. Church is result of gospel, Acts is that record, and epistles are for church to be strong. Get in order. Gospel, Acts, letters. The power to live the epistles is in the gospels.

IV. Motivation was the resurrection
Peter ended both sermons with the resurrection. This is not just a better creed, a better doctrine, a better understanding of the Bible with nicer people. This is not a better ethic or morality. The uniqueness of Xnity is the resurrection. We are unique when we understand it and live it. 1 Cor. 15. He was resurrected, so must we be. That is our baptism. Either resurrection is true, or JC is a hoax. Grasp that reality, it is our faith, what we are because of him. We live because of him. Because of his resurrection, we can be resurrected.

The risen Savior is the topic of every sermon in Acts. Every sermon needs the resurrection of JC. That is motivation, power, direction. Everything in the church is built on doctrine, but JC resurrected as the son of God is the central teaching. Acts 2:22ff. This gets us to Ps. 16. Then note vv. 27,31,36, leading to Acts 3:15ff. The power of the sermons in Acts 2-3 is the same power that works in sermons today, resurrection power. This is invitation, you can be different.

How can we preach today as then? Here is evidence, demands a verdict. Not just facts, but faith. Will you change, will you be different? If JC is resurrected, you must shape up or ship out. If JC is who he claimed to be, risen Savior, Bob must wrestle with that and live life accordingly. Accept or reject. This demands a response. Preaching is not teaching, because preaching demands a change. Don't get rid of the invitation, but don't think the invitation will work without preaching. Ask for a decision, response. Acts 2:37ff. Acts, change as they did.

Some here need to change. It is more than knowing what the Bible says, live what the Bible says. Do what you know to do. Be restored, be baptized, come back, come home.

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Last updated March 20, 2005.