Peter: A Prototypical Preacher
On the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2). He addressed his audience, the “Men of Israel,” and he recited the relevant Scriptures for the context of what people were experiencing. The promise of God through the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Joel was coming to fruition. The Holy Spirit was now indwelling God’s chosen people (Acts 2:17), causing them to speak in native languages known to the festival pilgrims at Jerusalem (Acts 2:7–8). Peter joined the eleven preachers and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in prototypical fashion.
A prototype is someone or something that serves to illustrate typical qualities of a class. Peter was exemplary in manner and matter of preaching. He was a man of God with a message to proclaim. There are a number things we can learn about preaching from Peter. Let us consider a few.
First, a preacher must be born again of the Spirit. It may seem remarkable for this to be the first point, but unregenerate unbelievers fill innumerable pulpits in America. Few would claim to be unbelievers, but without the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11), they occupy a position in the church without a calling from God (Gal 1:15–16).
The preacher must be filled with the Holy Spirit, in order for the Word of God to go forth with power. The Spirit will not accompany the preaching of an unregenerate man. The biblical accuracy of the evangel depends upon the Spirit of truth, both for the ancient writer of Scripture (prophets and apostles) and for the preacher of the Word in every era. Simply put, preaching is a work of the Holy Spirit, requiring the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Second, preaching is an open air public event. It may seem remarkable for this to be a point requiring emphasis. There is far too much resistance to street preaching in America by Christians. Those who object to public preaching must be questioned about their knowledge of the Book of Acts and their desire for the relegation of preaching to the confines of a church building.
Knowing the common rejection of the Gospel, it becomes scandalous for the foolishness of preaching to be made a public spectacle. Paul encouraged Timothy that approved workmen are not ashamed of the Gospel (2 Tim 2:15), for he knew it was the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Rom 1:16–17). We must not be ashamed, either. How will people on the street, who never set foot in a church building, believe a message they have never heard? How will they hear without a preacher? Where do preachers come from? What is the preacher’s message?
Third, a preacher must begin with the Word of God. Peter pointed the people to the prophecies of Scripture. His key text was Joel 2:28–32 (Acts 2:17–21). After reciting this passage in the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter went on to explain the text.
In explaining the text, Peter immediately began to preach Christ, “Jesus the Nazarene” (Acts 2:22). Peter met his audience in a place of familiarity. Biblical illiteracy, and ignorance of the identity of Jesus Christ, limits the starting point for today’s public preacher of the Gospel. Peter’s audience did not need a starting point in creation, covenants, or the history of Israel. They needed to understand the man recently crucified. Peter identified Jesus in a way they all understood. Today’s public preacher may serve better by preaching from the point of creation, and continuing through the history of man, along with the problem of sin, before coming to the Savior.
Fourth, a preacher must reveal God. God is revealing Himself through His Word. A preacher must accurately represent God to his audience. Peter did this by noting the, “predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).” People today will be surprised to learn of “God with a plan.” Even many Christians, persuaded by the false teaching of Open Theism, will find this surprising.
The implications are significant. God showed Himself through Jesus’ miracles, wonders, and signs (Acts 2:22). Peter was saying, “Everything about Jesus was ordered by God through eternal decree.” This included the murder of Jesus, who, “you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death (2:23).” A preacher must preach the immoveable God. Nothing thwarts the Almighty, who is sovereign over all people and events (Ps 115:3; 135:6). He has established Himself in the heavens, and He is working all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). This includes the resurrection (1 Cor 15).
“God raised Him up again,” is the climactic point in Peter’s sermon (2:24). This required further explanation, so Peter recited Psalm 16:8–11. It was prophesied in the Scriptures, by David, the prophet/king, that Messiah would be raised from the dead (2:31). Unique to Christianity is the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ and subsequently all people (Jn 5:28–29), either to be with the Lord or to suffer eternal damnation in hell and the lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). Preachers must preach the resurrection of the dead to unbelievers.
“God has made Him both Lord and Christ” is the resolution of Peter’s sermon. In theological preaching, God and Christ must be central. The message must be rich in content, pertaining to our understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ, in relation to God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). Here is what is lacking in so much preaching, today. The so called, “moralistic therapeutic deism” pervading the pulpit must be forsaken. The preacher must have utmost confidence in the saving power of the Holy Spirit (Jn 10:44; Acts 16:14), planting the seed of the Word in peoples’ hearts (Jas 1:21). The Word is Christ, and He is Lord of all (Acts 10:36).
Fifth, a preacher must make an appeal to his listeners. Peter preached to inform his audience. His appeal was for them to be certain about Jesus Christ being Lord and Messiah (2:36). The preacher must be sure of His objective in what he wants his audience to know and to do. Gimmicks of response are unnecessary. These are matters of the heart. It is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin, and who convinces hearers in the matter of believing.
In summary, we considered five points from Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. We have proposed it to be prototypical for today’s preaching. A born again, Spirit-filled preacher goes to where the people are gathered, and he expounds the Word of God, in order to make known the revelation of God, as it relates to Jesus Christ. His aim is to display Christ as invaluable, which is evidenced by His being central to the sermon message.
In conclusion, we must look to the Scriptures to learn the task of preaching. The Bible is a book of preachers and preaching. It is for our instruction and edification. Modern concepts of preaching must be set aside. People do not need a conversation about Jesus. They need a man, apt to teach, who is certain about the identity and function of the Savior of sinners sent from God.
Peter’s sermon is prototypical. It has the key elements required for Christ Jesus to be proclaimed. Preachers, today, would be wise to follow Peter’s example, which no doubt was learned by three years of practical training at the feet of Jesus. Peter’s sermon was Christ-centered, text-driven, and evangelistic. It held the key aspects of the Gospel: the death; burial; resurrection; ascension and enthronement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
May God grant you the passion to preach Christ and Him crucified to people in the church and in the marketplace where they gather. May the Spirit direct your steps to proclaim good news of God’s predetermined plan of salvation for His people. May Christ be made known and exalted for all who have ears to hear, and may you follow the example of Peter, a prototypical preacher.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
April 30, 2021