PETER’S MODEL FOR EVANGELISTIC PREACHING
(SERMON #4 ON EVANGELISTIC PREACHING)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, May 18, 2008


We have an unusually long text this evening. It is the Apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. I am going to read the entire sermon and then comment on it. Concerning this sermon, Spurgeon said,

I suppose that the sermon of Peter, on the day of Pentecost, was one of the most celebrated discourses that was ever delivered, for it was the means of bringing three thousand persons to conviction, to conversion, to profession of faith, and to union with the visible church (C. H. Spurgeon, “Heart Piercing,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume LIV, page 353).

Here, then, is the full text of Peter’s sermon, beginning at Acts 2:14 and ending at verse 42:

“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:14-41).

Now, having read the entire sermon Peter gave on the day of Pentecost, I will give you three observations; first, concerning the sermon itself; second, concerning the reaction to the sermon; and third, the application of the sermon.

I. First, the sermon itself.

This has to be one of the greatest sermons ever preached! It is the first evangelistic sermon given after the ascension of Christ back to Heaven. Three thousand who heard it were converted – and brought into the full membership of the local church at Jerusalem! Therefore, I have no doubt that this was the greatest evangelistic sermon of the Apostolic Age. But that should alarm modern preachers, because in many ways it was so unlike modern preaching, so different in many ways to what passes for evangelistic preaching today.

Note that it did not begin with the love of God for sinners. In fact the love of God is never mentioned in the sermon! It is all about doctrine and law. It is all about the doctrines of the Gospel, and the sins of the people. No love is mentioned! That should strike us! When do we hear such sermons today? And yet, in the three Great Awakenings, and in other times of revival, sermons like this were quite commonly preached by George Whitefield, John Wesley, Howell Harris, Christmas Evans, Jonathan Edwards, Asahel Nettleton, Timothy Dwight and so many other great and powerful evangelistic preachers!

Even in modern times it has been so. Probably the greatest evangelistic sermon I ever personally heard was “Payday Someday” by Dr. R. G. Lee. I heard it in person twice. It is one of the most famous evangelistic sermons of the twentieth century. But there was very little in it about the love of God! It was all about the wrath of God – the certainness of God’s judgment upon sinners. It was not a sermon on the love of God at all! Dr. Lee preached, in no uncertain terms, that lost people would be judged and damned if they did not trust Christ. And yet many thousands of people responded to it. Dr. Lee preached it hundreds of times, all around the world.

The most famous of all evangelistic sermons in the English-speaking world is Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It is even taught in most secular colleges, as an example of Puritan preaching. Most colleges teach it! Thousands have been saved through it. Yet I do not recall that there is one word about the love of God in it! He simply told sinners to flee to Christ in the last few sentences. The rest of it was pure law and judgment of sin!

Peter had a great deal more of the Gospel in his Pentecost sermon, yet, like the evangelistic sermons of Jonathan Edwards, and Dr. R. G. Lee, Peter’s sermon does not mention God’s love. The emphasis is on man’s sin, not God’s love. That is where modern evangelistic preaching goes wrong. This is not the manner of modern evangelistic preaching. And I think it is a flaw. For without heavily pressing down on man’s sin, the Gospel will not seem necessary to a lost person. 

Also, note that it did not begin by meeting a “need” of the people or by giving them a “purpose” for their lives. These things are very prominent in modern preaching, but they are not found anywhere in Peter’s sermon. He just thunders at them about their sin, and about the Gospel of Christ,

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:23-24).

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

Then, too, we should notice the prominence of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ in the sermon. He mentioned the crucifixion twice (see Acts 2:23, 36), and the whole second half of the sermon is devoted to Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:25-36). Where do we hear so much about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ today? It is generally assumed that people know about these things, so they are passed over quickly, or not even mentioned. How different this is from Peter’s preaching!

How often do preachers devote whole sermons to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection? Perhaps there is a sermon or two on these subjects once a year – at Easter. But at what other times of the year are the actual events of the crucifixion and resurrection the main topic of the message? Very few times. Very few indeed! What a terrible pity! What an indictment on modern “evangelistic” preaching! It is a shame that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are mentioned far more often in Episcopal and Catholic churches than in ours! Shame on us for failing to preach the Gospel! Shame on us for not preaching whole Gospel sermons!

In fact, where do we actually hear evangelistic preaching at all in these evil days? Nearly all of our preachers dwell on “teaching the Christians” rather than preaching the Gospel! Their sermons may be “Bible-centered,” but they are not “Christ-centered.” Oh, may I never fall into the trap of teaching “believers” when my church has so many lost people brought in by personal work each Lord’s Day. Oh, may I say with the Apostle Paul,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Someone may object by saying, “This will produce weak Christians!” I say, “Nonsense.” Hard law and gospel evangelistic sermons, preached Sunday after Sunday, have produced in our church some of the finest, most devout Christians I have ever known! Carnality and weakness are produced in a church when people are not reminded constantly of Christ’s death for their sins, as well as the fact of their sinfulness. All but two of the members of our church were converted in our church by hearing hard law and Gospel preaching, including my own wife, Ileana. 

Again, there were no jokes in Peter’s sermon. Not one! No funny stories were told to “loosen up” the audience. You can’t imagine Peter telling a joke! How different this is from modern preachers, who can’t seem to preach an evangelistic sermon without introducing it with a joke or two. Peter never did that. Jonathan Edwards never did that, Wesley, Whitefield and Spurgeon never did that. All of them, like Peter, were in dead earnest! They were far too serious to tell a joke, when the souls they were speaking to were in danger of eternal Judgment! Richard Baxter said,

I preach as a dying man to dying men.

That is the way Peter preached at Pentecost, and that is the way I must preach if my evangelistic messages are to move people to be converted and become holy men and women in our local church.

Also, Peter’s sermon did not call for a physical response, or “decision” of any kind. He certainly did not ask them to raise their hands, come forward, or say a so-called “sinner’s prayer.” He simply told them to repent and then be baptized. He left it in their hands, without any modern appeal to make a “decision.”

Peter undoubtedly told them more about the Gospel at the end of the sermon, when

“with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward [corrupt, perverted] generation” (Acts 2:40).

We are not told exactly what he said afterwards, but it was surely an amplification of the short exhortation he gave in verse 38. The words he gave after the sermon were a sort of application of what he had preached, giving them further instruction about salvation, because the next verse says,

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

The words “added unto them” refers to their addition to the local church at Jerusalem, which is again emphasized in verse 47,

“And the Lord added to the church [at Jerusalem] daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

These then are some of my thoughts on Peter’s sermon itself. They are thoughts that guide me as I preach. But I must give one last thought. Look at verse 14.

“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them…” (Acts 2:14).

He “lifted up his voice” when he preached. He cried out and preached loudly to them. I believe that loud preaching is the hallmark of all real evangelistic preaching. People cannot be “taught” to be Christians in a soft voice. They must be “preached” into conviction and conversion, and this requires that the preacher today must lift “up his voice” and preach without fear the law and judgment of God, as well as the Gospel of Christ. Bible teaching in a soft voice does not tend to convert sinners! No wonder our churches are filled with millions of lost people! Peter had no “PowerPoints” on a video screen! No great preacher ever relied on such a contraption or device! The weapons of our warfare are spiritual – the power of the Holy Spirit acting upon the plain preaching of the Word of God! God told Isaiah,

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

This advice from the prophet was followed by Peter when he “lifted up his voice” (Acts 2:14) and did exactly what God told Isaiah to do,

“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

We would be far better off if we followed the evangelistic preaching style of Oliver B. Greene instead of the dry “teaching” of so many who pass themselves off as Gospel preachers today, but who never stir the hearts of sinners as Oliver B. Greene did (he can still be heard on radio in many places, although he has been dead for several years). Though I do not agree with Dr. Greene’s employment of “decisionist” invitations, I thoroughly agree with his serious, loud, penetrating preaching style. What else but such preaching is likely to arouse this sleeping generation from their sins? How I pray that God will raise up a new generation of young men who will "lift up" their voices, and preach with white-hot fervor as Peter did on the day of Pentecost! Those are some of my thoughts on the sermon itself – which Peter gave on the day of Pentecost. But now I must go on to the second point.

II. Second, the reaction to the sermon.

I don’t think that all the people Peter preached to that day experienced real conversion. Not all of them were pierced in their heart. Not all of them were awakened to their dangerous position, the fact that they were sinful, just as sinful as those Roman soldiers who crucified the Saviour. But many of them were convicted like that when Peter said, 

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

They immediately saw that they had rejected Jesus Christ, who had died on the Cross to save them. This reaction, this piercing of their hearts, when they realized that they had been instrumental in His crucifixion by their rejection of Him, pricked their hearts with great conviction.

Today preachers should lay down the law on this very subject: He died for your sins, but you have rejected Him. God has made Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), but you have rejected Him.

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The pricking of their hearts, the piercing of their consciences, by Peter’s fearless preaching, moved them to cry,

“Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

This gave Peter the opportunity to tell them,

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you” (Acts 2:38).

Peter used one word – “repent” – which means “a change of heart.” He told them that their hearts must be changed – that they must stop rejecting Christ, and receive a complete turnaround in their hearts. He meant, “Change the way you think about Jesus! Turn to Him! Trust Him! Stop trusting yourself, and trust Christ!” They must stop loving the world and turn to Christ. They must turn from sin to the Saviour. They must receive a deep change of heart from God! This is what repentance means.

When God grants you repentance, you will instantly be saved, because your heart will stop being self-centered. You will come to Christ and trust Him, instead of trusting yourself!

Note that this was no superficial repentance. Oh, no! When they trusted Jesus instead of themselves they were immediately converted, cleansed by His Blood, and saved. Then they were baptized and joined the local church in Jerusalem, as is evident in Acts 2:41; 2:47. Any repentance and conversion that does not move a person to become a faithful member of a local church is a false conversion, a false repentance! The genuine conversions that followed Peter’s sermons took them into the local church as members. All “decisions” that do not produce solid church members are utterly false! They are not real conversions!  

III. Third, the application of the sermon to you.

My preaching must confront you with the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Christ, which alone can save you from sin and Hell.

My preaching must bring you face to face with your guilt, especially your sin of rejecting Jesus. And what a horrible sin that is! This is “law” preaching,

“For by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

If your rejection of Christ does not pierce your heart, what will? Peter’s whole sermon comes down to a denunciation of their sin of rejecting Christ (Acts 2:36).

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

That must be felt by you as well. You must be pricked, that is pierced, in your conscience for your sinful Christ rejection. Their response,

“What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

is exactly what you must feel. You must be convicted of sin or you will not listen to or obey the counsel of the deacon and the pastor, when they speak to you in a quiet place after the sermon.

It is my prayer that your conscience will indeed be pricked, that you will earnestly cry out, “What shall [I] do?” and that you will then come to Jesus, and find salvation, rest and peace “through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). May it be so with you. Amen.

 

CLICK HERE FOR SERMON #5 IN THIS SERIES ON EVANGELISTIC PREACHING.

 

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“A Crown of Thorns” (by Ira F. Stanphill, 1914-1993).


THE OUTLINE OF

PETER’S MODEL FOR EVANGELISTIC PREACHING
(SERMON #4 ON EVANGELISTIC PREACHING)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

Acts 2:14-41

I.   First, the sermon itself, Acts 2:23-24, 36; I Corinthians 2:2;
Acts 2:40, 41, 47, 14; Isaiah 58:1.

II.  Second, the reaction to the sermon, Acts 2:36, 37, 38.

III. Third, the application of the sermon to you, Romans 3:20;
Acts 2:36, 37; Romans 3:25.