Acts 2 14-40, Peter Testifies the Hell out of the Pilgrim at Pentecost
Ill: Once when I was younger and less reserved, I was involved in a church plant evangelistic outreach ministry. There were several methods on the table—tract distribution, lifestyle evangelism, developing and sharing personal testimonies to how we were converted. I had the crazy idea of sharing the Gospel with people who don’t know it and then inviting them to church.
To my surprise, all were against me. Basically, the sentiment was that sharing the testimony of the finished work of Jesus to sinners was out of date. It had a time and place where it was appropriate, but not now.
One response stuck with me though, It was, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” My response was less than pious. I said, “Have you ever considered what sort of pervert sits around trying to figure out how many possible ways there are to skin cats!?” Maybe the tone and demeanor were wrong, but I stick by the principle. There may be all sorts of ways Hill-Billys have for cat-skinning. But the Lord has one way of bringing lost sinners into his kingdom.
I’m not denying that there are various avenues, channels, and situations in which we share the Gospel. But what I fear is that there are few outreach ministries these days that have a theological compass guiding them. They do good works, bring aid, help out the hurting, but don’t bring the healing to the most basic and long lasting problem—that is– Divine reconciliation and salvation from damnation!
Somewhere along the line the sinner needs to hear the historic facts of the Gospel, the promise of eternal life in Jesus, the call to believe. The word must cut to the heart! It must convict them of their great need for Jesus. It must demand repentance from sins and trust in Jesus alone for salvation. That is a basic fact to the Christian faith.
The point of this passage is that we as a church preach Christ in our outreach. Witness to Jesus is our outreach! Where that’s done is very flexible, but we must witness to Jesus.
Why witness to Jesus?
1) Peter’s Message Witnessed to Jesus
Background to the Text: In Luke 24:45-49 and Acts 1:8 The Lord Jesus commanded his disciples to bear testimony/witness to him. The reason being is that the “Uttermost parts of the world” need to hear the Gospel testimony.
(FCF THESIS)This is the basic human condition. We are sinners who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus, because in the testimony, God the Holy Spirit applies what Jesus did to sinners. All the world is in the same situation. So Jesus told us to go to all the world and testify in 1:8.
The church in Jerusalem had to be nervous about the task. Last week we looked at verses 1-13 at the miracle of the gift of tongues. In that miracle God showed that he would bring about the witness to the nations. So that miracle was a fulfillment of the prophecy, and showed how God would bring about the witness to all nation.
Here’s how it all comes together. God says, God into all the world and witness. We say how? He says, Look at Pentecost! The missing part of our theology that makes us nervous is that we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit! He is really working in the church.
Knowing this, Peter stands up to preach the hell out of em’– He calls for conversion! Notice in 21, 39, and 40, there are calls to the people urging conversion! He says, “Be saved from this perverted generation!” (40). That’s the summary effect.
Verse 40 is the key passage because it tells what Peter was doing and why. He “testified” for the purpose of their conversion! He bore witness to Jess so that they would convert.
Peter was not saying, “Flee this perverted generation into Your Best Life Now. Seek salvation in a shack behind your house. Men of Israel, here is the five step plan to improve your marriage! Vote Joseph Bar-Jacob for Sanhedrin in the north Palestine district….”
Many preachers today use their pulpits as soapboxes for partisan politics. Others for life-skills for the workplace. Some for the young professional, others the hipster, the suburban family life, etc. They all have one thing in common— The witness to the bare facts of the Gospel is disappearing from the pulpit in America. I digress.
Here’s my Point: The church must preach Christ. Why did Peter do this? There is one way to bring people in: witness to Jesus! God says, I’m going to work in this means. Go out and preach it, and I will bless it. So, Peter goes for it.
2) Peter Did not Deviate from the Gospel
We don’t make up the witness. The witness is the work of Jesus in the Gospels. The rest of the Bible either looks forward to it (OT), or explains it (i.e. Paul’s Epistles), but the whole Bible deals with the Gospel.
The testimony/witness to Jesus is not about us! It is not about your conversion story. It is not a matter of compelling adventures of your life. No the Gospel is facts with promises! Facts: Jesus died for the sins of all who believe in him. Promise: Believe and be saved!
Notice how Peter does not deviate from these basic facts. He shows the Gospel of Jesus in the miracle, the work of Jesus, and the OT prophecy.
a) The Miracle: in verses 17-21 Peter says this event is a miracle Joel predicted. It came about to show that Jesus is true. It is a self-authenticating miracle. It suspends the laws of nature for the purpose of bringing you to repentance.
b) The Work of Jesus: in verses 22-24 Peter briefly summarized the facts of Jesus’ work. We all are responsible for the crime of sin which cause his death, and must believe in him to be saved.
c) The OT Prophecy: Peter showed that the OT Psalm 110 pointed to God speaking to God who would earn salvation for God’s people as an anointed king/messiah. Jesus is the anointed “Lord and Christ.” He is the God King who earned our salvation (36).
Peter gave the basic content of the Gospel from these three directions. The miracles, the work of Jesus, and the OT types and foreshadows all point to Jesus. They don’t point to Peter. They don’t point to lifeskills. They don’t point to partisan politics. They don’t point to anything but Jesus. Peter did not deviate from the Gospel. Why not? See point three.
3) The Witness is Effective because of God’s Promise
Peter had no power over the people. He simply spoke. He probably got their attention with his opening joke. “These men are not drunk, … It is only 9am!” They day is young. But it does not say that Peter won them over with his winsome personality.
Look at verse 37, the witness “cut them to the heart.” God worked in them by the testimony to Jesus. They thought, “I killed Jesus. I may not have been here. I may not have been involved. But I sinned against God and he died for my sins. I need what Jesus did” and so they ask Peter, “what must we do” (37).
Peter called to convert by repent and be baptized (38-39), and, “Be saved” (40). Pretty general terms. Nevertheless, the point comes across. It was not Peter, but God!
Jesus told Peter, “bear witness to all the world” and brought about the fruit of the witness.
We can speak to the ear, but Jesus speaks to the heart! He cuts deeper than we ever can.
False teaching is probably the worst thing that can happen to the church, because true doctrine brings life! Pervert the doctrine and destroy the effectiveness of the church.
When you imagine the Devil, you probably think of him hanging out with druggies, and criminals. He does not worry about them. He already has them under his thumb. He focuses on the church, and teaches falsehood. It makes sense. The greatest weapon of the church is the Gospel of Jesus, the word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Take away that weapon and we’re done in!
False teaching is the #1 most dangerous thing for the church. A close second to false-teaching, though, is lax teaching. Lax- not meaning dumb, but dumbed down. Maybe even ignoring any controversy for the sake of gaining numbers. More people can sign on when the bottom line requires you to believe less. It is less embarrassing to the Christian to say their affiliated with churches who don’t believe anything. They are accepting etc.
I think this one is much more pervasive than false teaching. The real danger is that most churches don’t teach much of anything theological. They don’t teach Jesus. It is not that what they are teaching is wrong, its just not the Gospel.
We need to focus on the Gospel, because of the promise of the Lord Jesus to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses to [all nations].” He didn’t say, may. He said will. And by the Power of the Holy Spirit he does today. Therefore, we must share the basic witness and promise of the Gospel.
Again, I’m not denying that there are various avenues, channels, and situations in which we share the Gospel. Nevertheless, somewhere along the line the sinner needs to hear the historic facts of the Gospel, the promise of eternal life in Jesus, the call to believe. The word must cut to the heart! It must convict them of their great need for Jesus. It must demand repentance from sins and trust in Jesus alone for salvation. That is a basic fact to the Christian faith.