The Preaching of Peter and The Permanence of the Results
John Lightbody, Uddingston
(4) THE PREACHING OF PETER (Acts 2).
Helpful lessons are to be gleaned by considering the message preached by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. We are chiefly impressed by his familiarity with the sacred writings. How thoroughly equipped he was with a well stored mind. He was not slow to quote at length from Joel 2, and he readily extracts portions from Psalms 16, 132, 110. A comparison with this and much present day preaching will reveal another reason why much that is given out to the hearers is totally ineffective. How often the message consists of a recital of anecdotes and if these were extracted from the sermon there would be little gospel left. We would make a special appeal to our younger brethren at this juncture. If God has fitted you to announce the glad tidings in a public way, take heed to the apostle's exhortation to his son in the faith, “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4. 2). This, of course, is only possible as we obey an earlier injunction given to the same young man, “give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4. 13). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3. 16), so wrote the. apostle to the Colossians. We should constantly remind ourselves that there are claims and promises made concerning the Word of God that cannot be attached to stories, for, “the word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4. 12, J. N. D.). We are not suggesting that illustrations are not permissible, but let these be few and make full use of the inspired Scriptures. When the greatest Preacher that the world has ever seen was here among men, He was confronted on one occasion with such a crowd that the place of assembling was too small to receive the hearers, and at such a time the Evangelist says, “He preached the Word unto them” (Mark 2. 2). Surely He is worthy our imitating in this matter. It is important to observe vv. 22-24 in the account of Peter's Pentecostal message. In v. 22 he speaks of the life of Christ. In v. 23 he refers to the death of Christ and that from two standpoints. (1) As an act in the Divine plan, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (2) As an act of human guilt, “Ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” In v. 24 He announces the resurrection of Christ. We suggest that this is a good pattern after which to model our gospel preaching. The effect of this kind of preaching is given to us in v. 37: the hearers that day were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “men and brethren, what shall we do?” There is a great difference between a disturbed conscience and stirred emotions One fears that many of the spectacular campaigns which are prevalent to-day do no more than produce the latter. May those of us who occupy the public place of witness learn these helpful lessons from this first century preacher.
(5) THE PERMANENCE OF THE RESULTS.
It is but right that we enquire. What did all the foregoing produce? The answer is given in vv. 41-47. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers, etc. Obviously the apostles did not consider their responsibility had been discharged when they made known the gospel. Those who responded to their message immediately became pupils and were quickly initiated into something which involved responsibilities as well as offering privileges. Here again we pause and ask, “How does this compare with present day practice?” We have observed in recent months attempts being made to unite the various ecclesiastical bodies for a spell of gospel activity in some of the bigger cities and towns. Let us credit the effort with success and immediately the challenge comes, Can the converts follow the example of the three thousand in Acts 2 and enjoy the same privilege—and share in the same responsibilities? It seems difficult to conceive that such teaching will be given at such united efforts since those who have combined do not themselves practice the apostles’ doctrine either because they know it not or because the reception of it would be an admission of the unscriptural position which they occupy. The New Testament commission does not find fulfilment in the preaching of the gospel only, but includes the important injunction, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28. 20). It is a delightful thing to see fruit as the result of a gospel effort— we are indeed far estranged from the Divine heart if we cannot rejoice at the sight of new born babes. It is surely desirable that such should not be stunted, but grow and develop, and behave in a manner worthy of the heavenly family; hence the reason for baptism, the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, etc. If converts are allowed to remain with the initial experience of conversion, without further instruction such as the apostles gave, then it is not surprising that in a short time many “turn back and walk no more with Him.” The three thousand in Acts 2 “continued steadfastly” for the full commission was not only given but obeyed by them We feel it necessary to stress this matter, for it is God's provision for the continuance and establishment of the work which begins with salvation. Our meditation on these two chapters is at an end, and as we draw to a close we would make an appeal: let us be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures to see if these things be so. If we find them there may the Lord by His grace enable us to follow the pattern thus given at the beginning of the dispensation.