September 29, 2013 “Proclaiming the Gospel” Acts 2:14-36
Maple Glen Church Pastor Louis Prontnicki
Introduction: I’m going to take a two-week break from our study in the Book of Numbers and look at some important aspects of our life in Christ, from Acts 2:14-47
Today I. Proclaiming the Gospel (vv. 14-36)
Next Sunday: II. Responding to the Gospel, Individually (vv. 37-41)
III. Living out the Gospel, as a Church (vv. 42-47)
There’s nothing someone starting to talk about Jesus and the need to be saved from our sins to make other people agitated, nervous, and looking for the exits, right? To talk about our need of Jesus to be Savior and Lord will often either squelch a conversation or will get people upset with you.
If you’re not a follower of Jesus, you don’t want to hear that you are a sinner who needs to repent and surrender your life to God.
But if you are a disciple of Christ, you know that God not only commands you to tell others about the gospel, but that your friend desperately needs to hear it and believe it!
Bottom Line: proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ can create tension, fear, and anxiety.
So what I want to do this morning is to take a look at how the Apostle Peter proclaimed the truth about Jesus, and help us learn from what he did. Remember, Peter had his fears and anxieties about declaring who Jesus was; in fact, about 9 weeks before this proclamation in Acts 2, Peter was afraid to even acknowledge that he knew Jesus! So let’s learn from the example of a former chicken and coward for Christ, whom God transformed into a bold evangelist! So let’s pray.
What are the elements of Peter’s message, and the manner in which he proclaimed them, that should be the same for us, when we tell other the good news of Jesus Christ?
1. It should be Relevant: Peter’s message is relevant in two ways:
A. Peter starts with people’s curiosity and their questions.
Ac 2:5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
“….we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.’”
Peter addresses these questions… and skepticism! He sees their questions and their mocking as an opportunity. He says: 15 “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…”
One of the best ways to open a door for sharing the gospel is to take advantage of people’s curiosity and questions. Examples: A person says to you, “I noticed you were reading your Bible on the train” “I see that you pray before you eat” “I see you each Sunday morning going to church” “You seem to do a lot of entertaining.” So start with people’s questions and curiosity.
Peter’s message is also relevant because
B. Peter knows his audience:
14 “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem”, 22 “Men of Israel, listen to this…”
Peter knows their mindset, their worldview, what they believe and what is new to them. He knows that this audience knows both the Bible and knows what just happened 50 days ago, when Jesus was crucified and then raised from dead. He can start there with them, just as you can start with some people and know that they believe the Trinity or that Jesus was sinless, etc.
By contrast, the Apostle Paul, in Acts 17, in the Greek city of Athens, knew his audience did not know the Scriptures, so he started by talking about their altar to an unknown god, and Paul even quoted one of their own poets.
So you’ve got to know who you are talking with, to make the gospel relevant to them.
Application: Be up on what’s happening in the world, what the top books and movies are (read reviews in World Magazine); but also be a good listener to each person’s heart. The Gospel is extremely relevant to each person you meet; you just have to figure out how!
2. Be Reasonable. What Peter says makes sense to his audience; it appeals to what they have already experienced. Note how Peter appeals to common knowledge, e.g., v. 22 “as you yourselves know” and v. 29 “David’s tomb is here today”; and v. 33 “what you now see and hear.”
Peter isn’t asking them to turn off their brains as they listen to these spiritual realities. No. He is engaging them where they are with what they already know is true, and building on that knowledge. Now keep in mind that for some people in our culture, the message of the Gospel seems as reasonable as telling them that the world is flat! They have you pigeon-holed as someone who believes the world is 6,000 years old, and that you are a fun-hating, ultra conservative member of the Tea Party! So it might help if you can establish some reasonable common ground to stand on. Talk about your profession, your hobbies, your reading interests, and how you approach these things from a Christian world-view. Examples: Lynn started a neighborhood book club. My interest in genealogy sometimes leads to sharing the gospel.
Show people that you’ve got a brain, and that the gospel is reasonable and intellectually sound.
If the “front door” to people’s minds is closed and locked to the gospel, try using a “side door.”
Our evangelism should be relevant and reasonable.
3. Be Biblical. Peter’s speech is permeated and enriched with Scripture.
Peter uses Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:17-21) to explain what the crows just experienced with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit with many languages. Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11 (Acts 2:25-28) and Ps. 110:1 (Acts 2:34-35) to show that David had to be talking about a future Messiah, and not himself, and that Jesus had just fulfilled these Scriptures, by His resurrection from the dead.
One of my seminary professors used to say with a smile, “You know, it’s a curious thing how more people seem to get saved by reading the Bible than by reading any other book.”
We need to infuse our sharing about Jesus with lots of Scripture, because God has promised to use His Word (Isa. 55:11 “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”)
Ask God for help in memorizing Scripture, in context, so that you will be able to handle this double-edged sword, and have it penetrate people’s hearts. Heb. 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Ask God to infuse more Scripture in your sharing!
4. Have Boldness. Peter does not pull his punches; he is hard-hitting: (“You put Jesus to death” v. 23; “You crucified this Jesus” v. 36.) And a bit later, when they people ask Peter in v. 37, “What shall we do?” the apostle goes right for the jugular: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.”
If a person goes to see a doctor and the doctor knows that this patient has cancer, he needs to be bold and tell him, right? If you have a business and you go see your accountant, and the accountant knows that the business is going to go broke unless some major changes are made, he needs to tell the business owner, right?
How much more with the gospel, when each person outside of God’s grace in Christ is spiritually bankrupt, and needs a heart transplant. We have to tell them, right?
But don’t confuse this boldness with being insensitive to others and stream-rolling over them with your gospel presentation! No. We need to have a holy and a loving boldness.
When we share the Gospel, our message must be Biblical, and we must ask God to give us a holy boldness. Ask Him to take away your fear of man; die to yourself and follow Christ!
5. Christ-Centered: In Peter’s message he focuses on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection in particular is the keystone to the truth that God’s work of salvation in Christ has been accomplished and that Jesus Christ is Lord! Furthermore, Peter doesn’t use the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues to make much of himself and the other apostles, but directs all the glory to Jesus Christ as Lord:
v. 21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ v. 22 “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs” v. 33 “Exalted to the right hand of God” v. 36 “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
The lesson here is that we must make much of Christ as we seek to share the gospel. Too often I have focused too much on my conversion story or on what Jesus has done for me, when I should have portrayed more of the glories of the person and work of Jesus Christ, as God, Emmanuel, Risen Savior, King of Kings, High Priest, Alpha and Omega, Good Shepherd, Elder Brother, Coming Judge, and so much more.
Ask Jesus Christ to be more of your Treasure, your Joy, your Heart’s Desire, and then when you speak to others, you will naturally speak of Christ to them.
6. Climactic. Looking ahead in the passage, we see Peter has a strong punch line, yet he waits for their response before “giving an invitation:” vv. 36-38 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In proclaiming the Gospel, our message must center on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and, if the Lord allows for it, we should bring it to a climatic conclusion, by lovingly challenging people to respond to the gospel. This is sometimes a weak point for me; I shy away from “closing the deal.” Yet keep in mind that sometimes a climatic challenge may be something like, “Would you be willing to read the Gospel of Luke for the next 24 days?” (Then hand them The Essential Jesus.) If the person isn’t ready to surrender to Jesus, what might they be ready to do?
Ask God to make you bold and loving to challenge others, but don’t try to “pick the fruit” if I the fruit is not ripe yet. Wait for the Spirit’s timing.
I encourage you to use these six aspects of proclaiming the gospel as a check list to spur you to cry out to God for His help. Are you seeking to be relevant and reasonable? Is your message a Biblical one and are you ready to declare it boldly? Is Christ exalted in what you share, and as God allows, do you bring your proclamation to a climax by issuing a challenge to repent and believe?
“Pastor, I don’t have the gift of evangelism.”
Well, neither do I; in fact, few people do. But we are all called to be His witnesses, His ambassadors, are we not? And what God command us to do, He will also give us the grace we need to do it.
“Pastor, I’m an introvert.”
That’s great, because God usually uses introverts and quiet people to impact other introverts and quiet people!
“Pastor, I just don’t know how to start a conversation about the gospel with other people.”
You don’t need to know how to do that. You just need to know how to ask one or two questions in a caring way, and then be a good listener. If you are willing to love people by listening to them, God will open up doors of opportunity for you to share the good news, as He sovereignly designs them to happen.
“Pastor, I don’t proclaim Christ to others because… well… I’m not sure I believe in Him as Savior and Lord. I tried it, but it hasn’t worked for me. Or I’m angry with God for what He did.”
Thanks for your honesty. God knows your heart and your struggles. Why don’t we get together and you tell me about your journey and your hurts. I don’t promise that I’ll have all the answers, but I know Someone who does and Who can help us both. When is a good time for you?
Let us declare His glory among the nations! Ps. 96:3