How should we proclaim the gospel ‘Jesus Christ as Lord’ to those who are perishing? (Part 1)
Jesus is the glory of the gospel and our hope for salvation. In 2 Cor. 4:5-6, Paul explains the role of the evangelist.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In this post and the two following, I aim to show the manner in which we should proclaim the gospel ‘Jesus Christ as Lord’ to those who are perishing. Hopefully, as a result, you will be sharpened and delighted to obey our Lord and tell the gospel to the world for the joy of the nations and the glory and majesty of Christ.
In this post, we will take a closer look at Acts 2:14-41. The following two posts will focus on the practical application of preaching like Peter did at Pentecost in any culture, present and future.
Before you read any further, read Acts 2. The coming of the Holy Spirit in vv. 1-12 is important to the context of Peter’s sermon, especially where God shines light into the hearts of those listening in v. 37 through the Holy Spirit. In vv. 12-13, Luke tells us that “all were amazed and perplexed [at the behavior of those filled with the Holy Spirit, see v. 4], saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” Upon hearing the mockers, Peter stands before the crowd with the other apostles and addresses them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words” (v. 14). He then politely rebuffs the mockers’ claim and preaches the gospel to the whole assembly, first by quoting and expounding Joel 2:28-32.
Peter begins with Joel 2:28-32 concerning the Spirit that the Lord will pour out on all flesh (v. 17) and continues by explaining the resurrection and lordship of Christ by referring to Ps. 16:8-11 and 110:1. This is the first thing we should notice about Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. It was centered on the Scriptures. In Luke 24:27, Jesus explains to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” that the Scriptures tell about him–”he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Peter understood that before he preached at Pentecost, so he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus to the crowd by expounding three Old Testament texts.
Should we preach the Word when we proclaim the gospel also? Yes, when we preach the gospel, our focus should be primarily on what the Bible says about Jesus. Heb. 4:12 teaches, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God uses his Word to shine in our hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Paul, in fact, adds in Rom. 10:17, “. . . faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In other words, the Holy Spirit will not ‘cut to the heart’ any sinner who does not hear the gospel proclaimed “through the word of Christ” in a way that the glory of Christ is shone.
Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was also Christ-centered in purpose and scope. In a few verses following his exposition of each of the three Old Testament texts, Peter says several things about the nature, ministry, and gospel of Christ. In vv. 22-24, he boldly preaches:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–this is Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Peter describes Jesus’ ministry as “attested by God with mighty works and wonders and signs.” These authenticated the authority of Jesus–that he was truly the Son of God. He continues then by explaining not only did Jesus die on the cross at the hands of lawless men, he was also “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and was raised on Easter Sunday, “because it was not possible for him to be held by [the pangs of death].” Peter then refers to Psalm 16:8-11. David says of the Lord, concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption” (v. 27, 31).
Later Peter says in vv. 32-33, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” The coming of the Holy Spirit was promised by Christ and is affirmed by his resurrection as true. After all of that, Peter caps the sermon by quoting Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” saying, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made [Jesus] both Lord and Christ,” and the One sitting at the right hand of the Father will either call you his bride or the Father will break the knees of his enemies to make them his footstool.
What happens when the Holy Spirit confirms the Word of the gospel effectually in the hearts of those who hear? Verse 37, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” What did Peter say?
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself (vv. 38-39).
They believed. Through the preaching of the gospel, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [shone in their] hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” We should all preach the gospel like Peter did in Acts 2:14-41. He boldly proclaimed the truth of the gospel, the basic facts of the news, shortly after Jesus was killed by the lawless sinners he was preaching to. Jesus died for our sins, and Peter was filled by the Holy Spirit and made confident to tell the world.
Following Peter’s sermon, vv. 40-41 says he continued to bear witness of Jesus and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 3,000 believed that day. It did not end there, either. Verses 42-47 say they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship . . . “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”