The Spirit poured out upon the early church like a mighty rushing wind. Supernatural events began to take place. Men were speaking in their own language and they were being heard in the listener's own language. What an amazing event. In the midst of this awe and wonder there were still some critics. If you want to avoid criticism then, “Say nothing, do nothing, be nothing” (Anonymous). If you want to be used of God then criticism is going to come. The best explanation the critics could come up with to make sense of the situation was that all of the people drank too much of that new wine. In response to this accusation the Spirit called Peter to step forward. You know that same Peter that a little over 50 days ago denied that he even knew Jesus. This time he was not alone but had a helper. With the anointing of the Holy Spirit he was called forth. Let’s consider the task that Peter was called to.
The Holy Spirit called Peter to stand up and with a bold, authoritative presence to preach the Word of God to everyone that was assembled together. There is some modern “wisdom of the day” that says that this type of preaching is outdated. They state that in our postmodern culture you need to try new forms of communication like communicating for a change, having a conversation or instructing. The problem is that they reject the authority that comes along with preaching. That is contrary to what we see take place in the early church. What we witness is Acts 2 is that Spirit-empowered preaching is the primary vehicle that God uses to build His kingdom. It is not surprising when we understand the significance of preaching in God’s plan of redemption that Satan is bringing confusion in this area. He wants us to adopt other modes of communication rather than preaching. Satan wants to convince us to use our own methods to “build” God’s Kingdom rather than God’s methods. With so much at stake here let’s then examine some distinctive marks of biblical preaching.
Drive by the Text
In Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-41 you will notice that his message is driven by explaining the Old Testament Scriptures. biblical preaching is driven by the biblical message. The source of the preaching is from the text of Scripture not an episode on Netflix. The Word of God is what changes people's lives not our timely illustrations or “relevant” applications. Preach the Word! John Piper refers to biblical preaching as being “expository exultation.” To exposit is to explain the text and in doing that you exalt the glory of God. The text is that vehicle that drives our preaching.
All Are Called
A main part of Peter’s message was he was explaining how Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled at the very moment he was preaching. Within this he shared something that was very profound. On two separate occasions quoting Joel, Peter emphasized that all people now prophesy (Acts 2:17-18). He was drawing attention to a distinct difference between the Old Covenant era and the New Covenant era. In the Old Covenant there was a select few people called to receive a Word from God and share it. Now, all people have a Word from God. All people are called to speak the truth of the Scriptures now. So, our preaching must equip the people for their task with an understanding that “Everyone is Called.”
Spurgeon famously said, “that whatever text you preach from find the fastest road back to Christ.” It is the delight of the Father and the Spirit to glorify the Son. Our sermons should reflect the same delight as well. Peter was very Christ centered in his message. First he clearly articulated that Jesus was the Lord of Psalm 110. Then he stated some essential truths that we refer to as the Christ events of history. Here is what he shared:
It is essential to continually repeat these Christ events of history in our preaching as it fits within the context of the text we are preaching. If our preaching is not Christ centered then it is simply not preaching. Biblical preaching hides behind the cross of Christ.
The Gospel Call
I am a Calvinist and am not afraid to state it (Although many of the self proclaimed “true” Calvinists will say I am a New Calvinist which to them means I am really not a Calvinist. Honestly I am okay with not being associated with many of these Hyper-Calvinists myself). By Calvinist I do believe that God is responsible for the elect being saved by choosing to love them before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and sending the Holy Spirit to regenerate (John 3:7) and until we are fully glorified in Heaven. Salvation is all of grace. Now, as a Calvinist I hear a statement from others who say that they subscribe to the same theology and it really concerns me. When talking about taking the gospel to the unreached they will make a statement like, ‘It does not matter what you do because if they are God’s elect then they will be saved.” Let me interpret what they really mean by this. They are saying that we don’t have to pray for anyone or preach the gospel to anyone we can just go home and watch television and God will save who he is going to save. This is a terribly wrong application of such a precious doctrine as election. In the Bible this doctrine is directed at the believer to provide them deep assurance that God chose to love them before He formed the world so there is nothing that we can do to undo God’s love. When it comes to reaching the unreached God’s message is not sit idle but go make disciples. To truly understand theology we must understand the intended application as well. If we use election as an excuse to be lazy, we are sinning and need to repent.
Now, with that said look at what Peter does. He calls people to to be a disciple of Jesus. He does not stop without giving them application of what they can do to become a follower of Jesus. Let’s consider essential elements of the gospel call:
Faithful biblical preaching will have a clarion gospel call.
One final word on preaching from my mentor Bob Johnson. This is directed at the preachers. We are not that great. We have not preached a perfect sermon and we never will. Don’t make our aim at preaching an awe inspiring phenomenal message but make our aim at being faithful. Labor to be faithful to these elements and allow others to speak into our lives about areas we can improve in our preaching. We are not that good. The Holy Spirit is though. So, let’s get over ourselves and rely on the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God as it is faithfully preached.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.