How Peter Exemplified Gospel Preaching
On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter set a magnificent example for preaching the gospel. In his sermon Peter simply explained what Jesus had accomplished in his death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God. Peter made it beautifully clear that Jesus was now enthroned as our Lord and King, having purchased our salvation for us and having freely given us this salvation because of his everlasting love for us.
All this is now perfectly clear to me. But that was not always the case. Though I grew up in a Christian home and my parents taught me the Bible from my earliest years, the gospel was not clearly explained because my parents did not understand it. The legalism I have been describing in previous blogs so seriously distorted their understanding of the gospel that it, legalism, became a dominant force in our home and in our church where my Father was pastor. My fear is that this is often the case in many other Christian homes and churches. In fact I am convinced that this is so frequent that it may be regarded as the rule in most Christian homes and churches. My 12 year experience on the mission field convinced me sadly that this is a world-wide phenomenon. Legalism is almost universal even in Evangelical homes and churches.
My home and church, therefore, were not exceptions. The sorrows that invaded my family grew out of this dreadful legalism and the sorrows that are invading so many of our Christian homes today have much the same source. I can trace the legalism of my home to the Wesleyan tradition, but legalism has taken root in many other theological and church traditions. It has its advocates in most churches, even those whose creeds specifically deny legalism. This varied legalism has many faces but the same devastating effect, undermining our profound sense of God’s love for us and disabling our ability to love Him in return. If we do not believe that He loves us and keeps us in his love, we cannot obey his command to love him and to love each other. We cannot keep any of his commandments and do not see any compelling reason why we should.
So, did something happen on the Day of Pentecost that could change that? It certainly did! The HOLY SPIRIT came! This is why Peter’s sermon was so powerful – leading to the conversion of “about 3000”. It is my opinion that the coming of the Holy Spirit is dreadfully undervalued. I hear many making this same complaint, but I see almost nobody doing anything that can overcome this flaw in our teaching/preaching/nurturing institutions. This remains a sad commentary on our present practice because the HOLY SPIRIT and the HOLY SPIRIT ALONE is the only one who can convince sinners that Jesus accomplished everything necessary for taking away our sin and giving us perfect salvation. It is only the HOLY SPIRIT who can convince both little children and maturing adults that they belong to God eternally, irrevocably and joyfully. Believing this wonderful reality enables us to give ourselves “with reckless abandon” to the service of Christ and his church.
Without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we are all “narcissists”. That means that we are sinfully grown in on ourselves, our nature completely intertwined with self-centeredness. We are self-worshiping, self-serving, self-preserving to the point that we interpret all of reality from the narrow view-point of our own petty little egos. The HOLY SPIRIT is the only one who can cure that “disease”. It is not really a disease, though our psychiatric establishment wants to call it that. It is not “disease” but “sin”, the product of Adam’s fall.
Because the Holy Spirit was in Peter and in the words of his sermon, those words were like a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting skillfully into the very souls of the 3000 who were listening (Hebrews 4:12-13). Peter’s grand and simple sermon lies at the foundation of the church today. The Almighty God in the person of the Holy Spirit used that sermon to launch the church for this age, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God and to lead us into the eternal communion dawning in the church. What a joy it is for us to receive the Holy Spirit and to be enabled to work alongside Him as He brings us new life.