Peter’s First Sermon

Believe it or not, one of the funniest things you can ever hear is a bunch of preachers telling “war stories” – a lot of genuinely funny things can happen in the ministry. But some of the funniest of those stories have to do with “first sermons.”Billy Graham’s first sermon lasted a little over 7 minutes and it was a combination of 3 30 minute sermons he had memorized sermons just in case he was asked to preach. Another preacher tells about his first sermon – in a country church where a herd of goats burst through the back door just as he was getting started.

But in the last part of Acts chapter 2 we have recorded for us the first sermon Peter  – and it was a huge success! This chapter has to do with the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers on the day of Pentecost. In verses 1 through 12 the experience  was described, which we looked at in our last study. So in this lesson we want to think about the explanation  of that experience that God gave through Peter in verses 12 through 36 . Then in verses 37 through 47  we will see the effects of the experience .

So let’s look now at the explanation of the event which we find in verses 12 through 36.

The need for an explanation is brought out in verse 12: when the crowd heard the Christians speaking in tongues.

So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “whatever could this mean?”

So first there is an explanation by the skeptics  in verse 13.

Others said, “they are full of new wine.”

It is always interesting to see the answers that skeptics can come up with. But actually those kinds of explanations usually take more faith to believe than the truth would evolution is a prime example. Someone has said that to believe that everything we see around us is the result of gradual changes in animal species over extended periods of time is as logical as it is to believe that that Webster’s dictionary is the result of an explosion in a print shop!  But (as always), God makes the truth available. So with all that as background,  in verses through 36 we find the explanation by the “Spirit” (through Peter)

The exposition is given  in verses 14 through 21 . And the first thing that Peter deals with is a correction that needs to be made in verses 14 and 15 

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you,and heed my words. (15) For these are not drunk as you suppose, since it is the only the third hour of the day.

Here the false view is explained. Remember that all of this took place at the feast of Pentecost. And as a part of that feast they didn’t eat or drink until the 10th hour of the day, so there had to be some other explanation, so in the next verses he gives that explanation:and that explanation is given by means of a comparison  with things that the Scripture had said. Isn’t it interesting that this first sermon was based on scripture!And it set the pattern for the kind of preaching that should have been followed to this day.

Look at Peter’s text in verses 16 through 21:

But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel(17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams (18)And on my menservants and My maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. (19) I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in 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 coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. (21) And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Here Peter quotes almost verbatim from Joel 2:28 through 32. And this quotation has been the source of much misunderstanding down through the years. There are many sincere people today who say that these verses are describing the day in which we live – and insist that “signs and wonders” should accompany any legitimate working of God’s spirit.

And it is true that the day of Pentecost was similar to the first part of Joel’s prophecy. Look at verses 17 and 18:

(17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy  (18)And on my menservants and My maidservants I will pour out my Spirit in those days; and they shall pr 

But actually, it is interesting to notice that Joel said nothing about speaking in tongues. And if you look at the rest of the passage carefully you will see that there are a number of things that are not occurring in our day  – “wonders in heaven above and in earth beneath blood and fire and vapor of smoke, the sun turning to darkness and the moon into blood etc. So if we insist that these verses are to be the norm for the church age we have a problem on our hands. The late S. Louis Johnson finds an explanation for that seems to settle the matter.  He believed that what Peter is saying here is “this is the  kind of thing that Joel was talking about for the last days. In fact, what we have here is a kind of a summary of the church age in which we live – pouring out of the Spirit in the beginning of it; blood and fire and vapor of smoke at the end of it. And to try to make the whole thing normative for the whole age is to twist the scripture.

Another thing that makes Joel’s prophecy a good comparison of what we are talking about here is the wonderful invitation that is given in verse 21: Look at it again:

And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. 

This was something entirely new and different for Israel. Up to this time the only way to come to God was to convert to Judaism. “But now, “God says, “anyone – Jew, Gentile, white or black or brown – can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.” And that is the most wonderful feature of this age in which we live.

Now we have been looking at the exposition  in Peter’s sermon, but in verses 22 through 36  we find the application  that he makes from it. Without taking the time to read all those verses, let me just summarize the application that Peter is making here: The whole point of the application is down in verse 36:

Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 

The purpose of this whole sermon was to convict these Jews of rejecting Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. Now we might wonder why so much information would be needed to accomplish that, but keep in mind that we have had 2,000 years of this kind of thinking, but it was completely new to them. And so verses 22 through 36 give the scriptural evidence for believing that this carpenter from Nazareth was the Messiah. And that evidence falls into three categories: First, verse 22 reminds them of the miracles that He had done in the presence of many of these very people. And remember that this was the purpose of the miracles that Jesus did. Even though  He could have demonstrated that by making the sun blink on and off, or something similar, in His grace and kindness He always did things that were helpful to people, the real purpose was of the miracles was to demonstrate that He was the Messiah.

The second category of evidence that Jesus was the Messiah was the resurrection, which Peter describes in verses 23 through 32. Peter very wisely quotes from Psalm 16:8 through 11 to demonstrate (a Psalm of David, whom every Jew would reverence) to demonstrate that the resurrection was one of the characteristics of the Messiah. And again, many of people hearing this message had seen Jesus after His resurrection.

The third category of evidence that Jesus was the Messiah was His ascension, as referred to in verses 33 through 35 – and no doubt these men had at least heard about that, even if they hadn’t seen it for themselves.

Now we have seen Peter’s explanation of the event that had happened Pentecost , so in verses 37 through 47 the third section of the chapter, we find the effects  of the whole event. And the first and most obvious effect is in verses 37 through 40 

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren,” what shall we do?” (38) Then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins;  and you shall receive the gift of  the Holy Spirit (39) For the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off, as many of the Lord our God will call.”(40) and with many other words he he testified and exhorted them, saying “Be saved from this perverse generation.”

The conviction of these men is clearly stated in verse 37: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Now we have to think carefully here, because there has been a tremendous amount of misunderstanding and misapplication of the answer that Peter gives to this question. And as always, the context is the key to a correct understanding. What has Peter been talking about? The crucifixion of Jesus and the proof that He was the Messiah. So when these men said “what shall we do?” they were asking, “what shall we do about this terrible mistake that we have made?”  There is another question very similarly worded in Acts 16:31:

And he (the jailer at Philippi) brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (31) So they said, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your  household.”

Here the context is salvation from sin. And the answer is specific: “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” Period! But the question in Acts 2 is different question entirely – and so is the answer. The men in Acts chapter 2 wanted to know what to do about the specific sin of having crucified their Messiah. And to THAT question, Peter said “repent and be baptized.” And this is clarified down in verse 40, where he says ‘be saved from this perverse generation.”

When John the Baptist came announcing the coming of the Messiah he baptized people as a sign of their belief that He was about to come. so now, after the Messiah has come, Peter uses that same practice as a demonstration of their belief that the Messiah HAD come just as John had prophesied. That is also why he said, “repent” – change your mind about thinking that Jesus was just a carpenter from Nazareth and start believing that he was the Son of God, the Messiah.

A question that often comes up is about the phrase FOR the remission of sins.” But that word “for” is a translation of the Greek article “eis” which can also be legitimately translated “because of.”  In Matthew 12:41 this same word is translated in the phrase “the people of Ninevah repented because of the preaching of Jonah.  So clearly, baptism is not a means of having your sins forgiven, it is a testimony that your sins have been forgiven.

So the first effect of Peter’s sermon was “conviction,” but the second effect was conversion described in   verse 41

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; about three thousand souls were added to them.

Unlike many other preachers, Peter’s first sermon was probably the most effective one he ever preached. But the secret was the same as for every good sermon: it was a matter of teaching the Bible and leaving the results in the Lord’s hands.

The last 8 verses of the chapter give the third effect of the day  of Pentecost, and that was continuation  of the newly established body of Christ (the others were “conviction” and “conversion”) But those verses actually fit better with the information so we will leave them for that study (remember that the verse and chapter numbers are not inspired)







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