Old and New
The Modern Sermon
The contrast between the modern sermon and those of the
apostles is often startling. We may note 3 things about the modern sermon which
are completely different:
The basic authority cited in the modern sermon is psychology. No
preacher today would begin a sermon without having notes from various magazines
dealing with popular psychology. Once his thoughts were outlined then, and only
then, would he look into the Bible for quotations which support his view.
Style is much more important than substance. This is simply a
reflection of our society; if you have something to say, it must be said in an
entertaining way. We won't listen to anything else.
Today's sermons are inoffensive to the point of being meek. The
thought that someone might be offended is anathema.
Contrast: the Ancient Sermon
Let's take a look at the very first sermon to see the
Acts 2:14-40 NASB
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to
them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known
to you and give heed to my words. (15)
"For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; (16) but this is what was spoken of through the
prophet Joel: (17) 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE
LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND
YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE
VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; (18)
EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF
MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. (19) 'AND
I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND
FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. (20) 'THE SUN WILL
BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS
DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. (21) 'AND IT
SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.' (22) "Men of Israel, listen to these words:
Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and
signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves
know-- (23) this Man,
delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed
to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him
to death. (24) "But God raised Him up
again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to
be held in its power. (25) "For David
says of Him, 'I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND,
SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. (26) 'THEREFORE
MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN
HOPE; (27) BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY
SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. (28) 'YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE;
YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.' (29) "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the
patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to
this day. (30) "And so, because he was a
prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, (31) he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection
of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER
DECAY. (32) "This Jesus God raised up
again, to which we are all witnesses. (33)
"Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having
received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth
this which you both see and hear. (34)
"For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE
LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, (35)
UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET."' (36) "Therefore let all the house of Israel
know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom
you crucified." (37) Now when they heard
this, they were pierced to the heart,
and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we
do?" (38) Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you
will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39)
"For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off,
as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." (40) And with many other words he solemnly testified
and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse
The ancient, by contrast
The first and major contrast is that Peter relies upon the
Scriptures completely. To be specific:
Peter considers that prophecy is to be used as a part of his
persuasion, not as something so obscure as to be irrelevant.
The concepts of sin and right and wrong, as defined in the
Scriptures, are clearly assumed in his message.
The nature of the character of God is presumed to be revealed,
and in this instance known to his audience. Paul, by comparison, often has to
Peter no doubt would have appreciated the advantages of
modern psychology somehow. But not having such things, he had to make do with the
classic paradigm of antiquity. First, you establish the facts. Second, you
assist your audience in drawing the proper implications from those facts. Third
you exhort them to action in accordance with those implications. Peter was not
afraid to introduce Christ as the "rock of offense" or the
"stone of stumbling."
We will take a look at this in more detail. I propose to
begin with prophecy; then discuss death, burial and resurrection — and what you
should do about it.
Before we get too much into this, would you notice Peter's
instruction to his hearers: "listen carefully." Peter makes the
assumption that he can make a detailed, logical argument to his listeners which
they will follow. Outside of the college classroom today it is not at all
certain that this is still true.
Prophecy of the Last Days
Peter is not afraid to use prophecy quite boldly. In
particular the passage he opens with (from Joel) concerns itself with both the
first and second advents of our Lord. There are three points from this prophecy
we may see these profitably:
The first is the patience of God. This prophecy is over 400 years
old at the time Peter used it. Apparently God intends prophecy to extend over a
great period of time. While this should give pause to those who participate in
"This Week in Bible Prophecy", it should tell the rest of us that we
really don't know the times and days of fulfillment. God is patient, not dead.
The second is God's eternal purpose. From the very beginning the
redemption of man is planned. Prophecy reflects this.
This particular prophecy also shows to us the unity of God and
Christ. By applying this prophecy to Jesus of Nazareth as its fulfillment, we
see such unity.
Prophecy by David
David's prophecy, as used here, tells us two things that
David knew 1000 years before the coming of Jesus:
David knew of the resurrection. This, of course, implies that he
knew that the Messiah was going to die first. The implications of this
concerning God's eternal purpose are clear.
David also knew of the Lordship of Christ. How could the son of
David be superior to David? Only if he were God! Therefore the Christ must be
God – but he must also die. Therefore the Christ must also be man.
These two points are essential to the Christian faith — and
are outlined by David 1000 years before Christ.
The Uses of Prophecy
The modern believer often has little use for prophecy except
as an exercise in intellectual chewing gum. But prophecy does have its proper
For the unbeliever prophecy exists to help the Holy Spirit
convict the world of sin and of judgment. It is a plain fact of prophecy that
someday the judgment will come, and it will apply to all. We should not be
afraid to state that fact.
For the believer, the existence of prophecy is a source of
strength and encouragement. To know that prophecy has been fulfilled tells you
that the documents you are using are indeed inspired by God. They are therefore
also a source of instruction for the believer.
Death, Burial and Resurrection
Why does Peter talk about the death of Christ? Because it is
essential to the faith – that's why. It is essential for at least these three
By his death Christ pays the price of atonement for our sins.
This gives us the measure of how precious our celebration is, and also the
measure of great is the love of God.
It is not just atonement. God intended to pay the price for the
sins — but he also intends that we be reconciled to him. It is not just payment
but a return to fellowship with God that he desires.
The death of Christ is the ultimate example of sacrifice, which
should therefore be the highest point of our imitation of Christ. This may not
occur to you or to me, but there is one point we can imitate on a regular
basis. Note that our Lord not only forgave those who crucified him (some of
whom became Christians a few weeks later), but he also asked God the Father to
forgive them as well. You may forgive; but do you ask others to forgive?
Why is burial so important? So that you'll note that Jesus
was dead. You know this because the apostles knew this; look at their
So why is it so important that you know that Jesus was dead?
Because it's a physical death we have a physical resurrection. The tomb was
empty. The physical body was gone. The disciples knew the difference; they knew
they were not talking to the ghost of Jesus.
If Christ has a physical resurrection, then his promise that
we too shall have the physical resurrection makes sense. Please do not be
deceived by the modern tendency to "spiritualize" this. The sense of
the Scripture, the teaching of the church for almost 2000 years, is the same:
the physical resurrection of the dead. Without it, Christianity makes little
Let's be clear about that: if there is no physical resurrection
of Jesus Christ, then all true Christians are fools — or as Paul put it for the
King James, "we are of all men most miserable." Those who treat the
resurrection body as if it were nothing but a glorified ghost have missed the
point entirely. We are explicitly told that Christ is the author and sustainer
of the universe. That author, that sustainer says that we will rise from the
grave in physical form. You need to trust that, or you don't. You can't explain
When does this happen? At our Lord's return.
Interestingly, the fact that Christ has a physical body
implies that it some point he must go away. He can't just fade in and out like
a ghost. The physical body implies the Ascension. As Christ told us, he had to
go away so that the Holy Spirit might come. So I hope you see that his
departure in the physical body was a necessary prerequisite to the coming of
the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the church.
This Perverse Generation
So, what do I want you to do about it? The same thing Peter
wanted: that you save yourselves from "this perverse generation." I
wonder what Peter would've thought of our generation; perhaps we give his
generation the relative excuse of being even more perverse (and perverted). How
do we do this?
Recognize the times. Look at the world around you: ask yourself,
is this a time where virtue reigns? Or is it not a time when Satan does? If so,
should we not realize what were living in? Do we cooperate with it or do we
Make the choice. Recognize that the world is going to pressure
you to live like everybody else, to get along and go along. That pressure is
going to come to you in the form of not making a decision. But the old saying
goes, "not to decide is to decide." Decide.