The Theology of the Sermon – Acts 2:14-36

We have had several people visit our church, who had been members of very good Baptist churches in other parts of the country.

In several cases those people agreed with our doctrine 95 to 100 percent,

And yet those people are not attending our church.

In fact they aren’t attending any church.

One explanation for their sinful neglect is that our church was not quite like their church back home.

Ours is smaller, our Sunday School is different, or we don’t have the same music program.

But more often than these, it is that our preacher is different from the great preacher under whom they were saved and baptized.

What those people need to realize is that no two sermons, and no two preachers, are alike.

I used to collect books on preaching and pastoring, hoping to find some sort of special magic formula.

Philip Brooks, the man who wrote “O Little Town of Bethlehem” has a series of lectures on preaching, which is now considered a classic.

In the introduction to those lectures, he asked,

“What, then, is the preaching of which we are to speak? It is not hard to find a definition.

Preaching is the communication of truth by a man to men. It has in it two essential elements, truth and personality. Neither of those can it spare and still be preaching.”

Did you catch that? Every sermon contains a little bit of the personality of the preacher.

And that may explain why you like to hear some preachers and you don’t like to hear others.

If for some reason you don’t like the preacher, then you won’t like his preaching.

Even though two sermons, preached by two different men may come from the same scripture,

The personality of the preacher makes each one unique, either in its content or its delivery.

And if you find two sermons or two preachers exactly alike, you’ve found an anomaly or a plagiarist.

Before we get into Peter’s Pentecostal sermon itself, let’s think about the theology of sermons.

As you know, the Lord has revealed Himself to men through a number of different means.

The first in preference and importance, is the revelation that we have through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The second is like unto it: the written Word, the Bible.

The only thing that supercedes the written Word is the Living Word.

And until the day that the Lord Jesus returns, our faith and practice must be founded on the Bible.

Within the Bible are the types and ceremonies of the Old Testament.

Then there is the meager revelation that we have through the study of creation.

And there are miracles and perhaps other evidences of the Lord as well.

But today, as a corollary to the Word of God itself, is the preaching of the Word of God.

Someone might say that this is just the opinion of an over-inflated preacher,

But that is not the case: this is what the Bible declares.

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” – I Corinthians 1:17-23.

Paul exhorted pastors in every age when he told Timothy, “Preach the word, instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

In his book “On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons,” John Broadus pointed out that preaching is a uniquely Christian business.

A few cults have copied us, but the major religions of the world do not have preaching:

Not Roman Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Satanism, nor any of the rest are known for their preaching.

The people of Israel had some preaching through their prophets, but there are no prophets today, and the Jews aren’t known for their preaching.

This sermon delivered by Peter was the first of its kind in many ways.

It was the first real Christian sermon.

And in that regard let’s think about three things: the SITUATION, the SPEAKER and the SERMON.

First, the SITUATION.

The disciples had caused quite a stir when they left their hiding place and scattered across the city.

At first, when the visitors began to hear the gospel in their native tongues they were more caught up in the language than the message, but quickly that began to change.

The disciples were witnessing, the hearers were wondering, some people were arguing, and others were shouting that the disciples must be drunk.

It was a cacophony of languages and sounds; it was pandemonium, a wild uproar of noise and clamor.

And unlike our little congregation here, the crowd was not very sympathetic to the message.

Many of these people were the same ones which had cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him.”

The visitors which had arrived since the Passover, specifically for Pentecost, were confused by the witness of the 120.

People’s ears were hearing things that their hearts were not particularly enjoying.

Many of the people in the throng that morning were priests and scribes of the Sadducean sect.

And then there were lots of Pharisees as well, who were just as guilty of the crucifixion as were their more liberal cousins.

But then on the other hand there were probably some who were looking for the consolation of Israel.

There were righteous men and women like Anna, Zachariah and Simeon.

These many visitors were among the most religious in the world, so many of them were good people.

You might say that the people to whom Peter arose to speak, were a diverse and mostly antagonistic crowd.

But when he was done there were just three kinds of people left:

There were those who had been broken by the Spirit through the preaching of the Word.

That group numbered at least 3,000.

But you can be sure that there were at least as many, and perhaps twice as many, who rebelled against the message.

In the next few months the city of Jerusalem was nearly completely evangelized,

But the city was not won to Christ, as we see from the persecution that was raised against the church.

In addition to these, there was probably a third group of people:

There were probably a few thousand people, who wondered about what they heard.

They were not antagonistic to the truth, but they were not convinced that it was the truth either.

The end of the chapter describes the great victory and the souls that surrendered to the Saviour.

But I’m sure that Jerusalem wasn’t unlike Athens when Paul preached there.

“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed.”

Praise God, not only for those who cleave, but also for those who leave, still thinking about the message.

The sermonic situation on the Day of Pentecost was somewhat unique.

And that brings us to the SPEAKER.

It would be interesting to learn whether or not Peter was pre-selected to be the preacher that day.

It appears that he was, but that is only an assumption.

We remember that he had the habit of taking the bull by the horns, and opening his mouth before anyone had a chance to speak.

I don’t doubt that the Holy Spirit controlled this situation and this sermon,

So I have no doubt that Peter was the right man to speak that day whether the church voted on it or not.

But let’s think about a couple of things:

Based upon what little that the Lord has revealed to us, it appears that Peter sank about as Spiritually low as any of the disciples with the possible exception of Thomas.

Peter publically denied his Saviour, and we aren’t told that anyone else did that.

But, Peter was forgiven and restored by the Lord while up there on one of the beaches in Galilee.

“Lovest thou me, Peter? Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”

Secondly, Peter was not a Boanerges; he was not one of the sons of thunder.

The Lord named James and John “Boanerges” which seems to indicate that they were loud.

Perhaps they were better physically equipped to preach to a crowd of many thousands of people.

I have no proof of that, but it is a possibly.

Third, we know that by Judean standards Peter was an unlearned and ignorant man Acts 4:13.

Also, at the time of his denial of Christ, he was known by his speech to be one of those Galileans.

The speech of a Bostonian is considerably different from someone from Alabama or Mississippi.

And it might be the pot calling the kettle “black,” but the one usually thinks that the other talks funny.

Most of the people who heard Peter preach that day would have said that he talked like a hilly-billy.

But his vocabulary, his diction and his enunciation were not the important part of the sermon.

And they should not be considered too highly today either.

I try very hard to follow proper rules of grammar, but I probably break at least one rule every message.

I also try to use words that push back our vocabulary envelop just a little bit.

But if another man should stand on this pulpit, with nothing but a 6thgrade education, he should be respectfully heard if he’s preaching the Word of God.

Peter was probably not the sliver tongued, golden throated preacher that some might have preferred,

But he was God’s man for that moment, and God blessed him.

There could very well have been members of the church who were better public speakers than Peter,

But it doesn’t appear to have been God’s will that they be the preacher on the Day of Pentecost.

In other words, sometimes there are smarter, more eloquent members of their church, but who are not pastors of those churches.

Sometimes God chooses the foolish things and the things that are naught to bring to confound those who think that they are wise.

And in that regard there is something else to consider about Peter and to remember today:

Peter had still a lot of things to learn.

He was not THEOLOGICALLY complete, HOMILETICALLY prefect or even POLITICALLY correct.

For example, it will take special revelation before he’ll even think about preaching to gentiles like us.

And then even after that, he held gentile Christians at arm’s length, until he was rebuked by Paul.

There were many things that Peter had to learn and other things to unlearn as he grew in the office to which the Lord called him.

And similarly, when you find the perfect preacher you better lock him up, because you’re going to eventually loose him, and you’ll never find another one.

Christ Jesus has been the only perfect pastor or preacher.

But Peter was the man of that hour, and the Lord blessed Him and used Him.

Now, without getting into its theme, think about the SERMON.

First, it was not a classic, and it probably could be criticized in a number of different ways.

I have been preaching the word of God for over 30 years, and I have yet to preach a message which I considered a great sermon.

When I was in my second year of Bible school, we had a homiletics class.

All of the young men were ordered to preach original sermons, and most were pretty pathetic.

Even the best of the class were critiqued and worthy of extensive criticism.

But those outlines were copied and distributed to the class,

And over the years I have reworked and re-preached some of those outlines.

If they come from the Word of God, even weak and thin sermons can be used by the Lord.

Any weak and thin left over soup can be turned into something delightful with a little work and some more ingredients.

So how did Peter’s sermon go?

Well, he began where the people were.

“Ye men of Judean, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem.

These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.”

Peter made contact with his audience at a specific point of reference.

This can’t always be done, but when it can, it should.

It was similar to the Lord Jesus’ use of parables to make an application.

“Behold the lily of the field; the fig tree; and the red sky in the morning.”

“These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.”

Secondly, Peter quoted scripture and explained it.

His was a Biblical sermon, not a philosophical discourse and not a pontifical diatribe.

He took a scripture and applied it to the people who were in his audience, and finally he exhorted them.

In this way, the first Christian sermon of the post-ascension period was a prototype of every good Christian sermon.

Thirdly, Peter was preaching with fire in his belly, which was a part of his personality.

There are times when I know that I’m more worked up and animated than other times.

I think that I had more fire last Sunday night, than I do this evening.

The reason was the way that message related to me personally.

Peter preached with the power of Holy Spirit that morning.

And the Lord blessed it with great conviction and souls born again.

Ah, how I wish that was true of more of my messages.