Jack Graham - The Message
When God's spirit fills our lives, we share our faith. We share our faith in Jesus Christ. You shall be my witnesses. That's what Jesus said when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. But I know sharing our faith, witnessing can be difficult. Maybe we wonder about being rejected or we fear we don't have the words to say. And yet, when the Holy Spirit is in us and He is, if you are a believer, and when the Holy Spirit fills you, you don't have anything to fear. You can speak with courage and boldness. We can allow the Holy Spirit of God to take control of our lives. That's why it's called the filling of the Spirit. And that enables us empowers us to share the good news of Jesus Christ effectively. So today we're going to look back at a message that I preached more than 15 years ago. But I don't want to take you back just 15 years ago. I want to take you back all the way to the Bible, and we're going to reflect upon the truth of God's word in a message entitled simply "The Message".
On the day the church was born, Simon Peter, the big fisherman, stood before that congregation and proclaimed this message: Jesus saves. It is the message that every one of us must share who name the name of Christ. Now I know it sometimes can be difficult and we're all fearful of sharing our faith at times. I read just this week that we had basic fears, and one of the top fears that people face today is the fear of public speaking. It's right up there with the fear of death. So it's sort of like, okay, I make a speech or I die. Which one? And whether you're making a speech or just simply talking to someone about your faith, you know how difficult that can be and how fearful we can become.
And Simon Peter was no stranger to fear. He himself had denied the Lord and had shrunk back in the face of the cross. But now he is filled with the Spirit of God and his life is passionately committed to telling that good news. It's the message that we all can share. And what we have in the second chapter of Acts in 22 verses is the sermon that Simon Peter delivered that day and 3000 people were saved. He took a text, he explained the Scriptures, he exalted the Savior, he exhorted the sinners to come into faith in Christ, and God did the rest in the powerful work of His Spirit.
I know what some of you are thinking: "Graham, it takes you about 30 or 40 minutes to deliver a message, and Simon Peter did it in 22 verses"! But I want us to get right to the heart of this message. In verse 14 the Scripture says, "But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them". I love that. This man is no longer shirking his responsibilities, no longer running and hiding in the shadows, but he's standing in the face of the very individuals who helped to crucify the Lord, and he's standing with authority. He's fired up! He's impassioned and he said, "Listen up, everyone. Listen to me"!
This is not an egomaniac, but rather a man full of the Spirit of God who has a message to share. And so he "lifted up his voice and he addressed them". And then down in verse 21: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be (What? Say it!) saved". Verse 22, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders, and signs that God did through Him, in your midst, as you yourselves know—This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men! God raised Him up, loosing the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it".
Look down in verse 32, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing". Then look at verse 37, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.'"
Everyone! It's amazing! Everyone now has the possibility, the potential of knowing God. Not an elite cultural status, not a super religious group. No longer separated from God by distance, we are now wide open in the presence of God because of what Christ has done for us! And what we see in this message is that it is God conceived. This is a God conceived message. It is Christ centered and it is Spirit controlled. And that should be the content and intent of every message that we share personally and every message that we share publicly. That it would be God-conceived, Jesus-centered, and Spirit-controlled. What are we to share? How are we to say what God wants us to say? We can do it exactly like Peter did.
You say, "Well, Peter was an apostle". He wasn't always an apostle. He was a career man. He was a fisherman. He was unlearned and uneducated but this boldness came from the power of God, the power of Jesus in his life. And not only did Peter speak, but all around him spoke with him, and he became the voice, the vehicle that God used on that day to proclaim the Gospel. How did he do it? How are we to do it? Number one, simply explaining the Scriptures. This message is not heavy on oration; it is a heartfelt simple proclamation. In it we really see the humanity of the preacher. You know, preaching is truth delivered through personality. And God uses us all when we simply proclaim the wonderful works of God and the Gospel of Christ.
Peter, who's now the coward, is courageous. And this is really a model sermon for every preacher. It is a lesson in homiletics for all who will hear it, in both content and intent. It was powerful; it was practical; it was personal and it was persuasive. It was aimed primarily to the heart and not just at the head. He proclaimed the facts and with the force of the Gospel delivered the goods. With all of his might he professed Jesus as Lord, and that everyone, all people, must repent and receive Christ. And here we are impressed with the passion of the preacher, and the power of the message. We do not reach people or impress people with our eloquence or entertain them with our theatrics or persuade them by our personality.
It is the message, the message, the message that must stay on point! And God used this man and the message. The spirituality of this preacher is clear. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. And may God always when we speak His name, anoint us in this appointed service. He was immersed and saturated with the Spirit of God, controlled by the Spirit of God, and therefore, God used him mightily. And that's the anointing of the Spirit. What is the anointing of the Spirit? The Bible says "We are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit". And this anointing, this unction from above is given to all who will proclaim. And notice that this message was delivered in the atmosphere, in the context of Pentecost and prayer as that 120 at first had gathered in the upper room, they waited on God, they prayed. The Spirit of God came upon them and they began to proclaim the good news of Christ, the wonderful works of God.
Let's get to the heart of this message because it was explaining the Scripture and you will read these verses as chocked full of Scripture. It begins by explaining what was happening as they were speaking in these languages and some were accusing them of being drunken. He said we're not drunk but we have had a drink at Joel's place. And he speaks of the prophet Joel and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and that we have drunk of God's Spirit and we are filled now in His Spirit. And now he shares the Savior. He explains the Scripture and he exalts the Savior. And that's simply what we are to do: to tell people about Jesus.
Who is this Savior? He's a recognizable Savior, we read, for verse 22: "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with mighty works, wonders and signs, that God did through Him in your midst". The word attested there means He is a proved Savior, He is a demonstrable Savior. God said, The Father said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". And the miraculous life of Jesus Christ is living proof that He is who He claimed to be. Peter was saying, "You know this story. This thing was not done in a corner in a secret someplace. You know that Jesus went public and for 3 years He has been proclaiming this message. And by signs and wonders and powerful works God has demonstrated His deity and His Messiahship". It is the miracle life of Jesus Christ! He spoke, therefore, of the incarnation of Christ, the coming into flesh of God in Christ, by powers and signs and miracles; beginning with the miraculous virgin birth.
And then of course, the miracles that Jesus performed against the powers of darkness, against death itself. He raised the dead, He healed the sick, He touched the leper, He changed lives. And so He is a recognizable Savior. But not only that, a rejected Savior. He went on to say, "You crucified the Lord of glory". Now remember, this was the same crowd that cried out for the crucifixion of Jesus; turned Him over to those who put Him to death. And He said, "God planned it; He ordained it". Don't get the idea that the cross was an afterthought, that the cross was an accident, that things aren't going well so let's go to the cross. No, God planned it from the very beginning. "The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world".
And Jesus was not a victim of violent crime; He voluntarily laid down His life on the cross. He said, "No man takes my life; I lay it down of Myself". "And greater love hath no man than this, but that a man would lay down his life for his friends". Well, Simon Peter said, "Look, Jesus died for you. He took the pain, He took the penalty of death. He took the explosive power of judgment and He died". He said, "You crucified Him! You are responsible"! And lest you think the "you" here is just about them, no, the "you" is about you, the "you" is about me, because it was our sin that nailed Him to the cross.
When Mel Gibson was producing and directing the great film The Passion of the Christ, when it came time to choose the character, the soldier who would drive the nails into the Savior's hands, he chose himself to portray that soldier and the hand that you see, driving the nails into the body of Christ are the hands of Mel Gipson. Why? Because he gets it! That we all deserve death. We all deserve judgment. It was our sin that nailed Christ to the cross. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". When we were without strength, Christ died for the ungodly! "But God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
Therefore the greatest sin of all is the sin of rejecting God's love, rejecting God's grace. And a person can never ever be saved until he is first shattered by his own sin and the horror and the hellishness of his own sin! I remember as a young pastor sitting around a group of older pastors. And one of the men, as we were discussing preaching and proclaiming the Gospel, one of the gentlemen in that room said, "I don't think we ought to be telling people that they're sinners". And he went on to explain. He said, "People already know they're sinners and just heaping more guilt on their heads and so forth, and preaching this hard nosed message of you are sin, people don't need that. They already know that they're sinners".
And I listened to that for a little while, but even in my young heart, I knew that was wrong, so I walked in where angels fear to tread, and I said, "Absolutely people know that they have sinned, but what most people don't know is the seriousness of that sin! What most people don't know is the consequences of sin! So we tell them the bad news because it's the bad news that makes the good news so very good! And the good news is that He died on the cross but on third day He rose. And therefore, we speak of a risen Savior! He says death could not hold Him"! Verse 24: "God raised Him up, loosening the pains of death because it was not possible for Him to be held by it".
You say, "A resurrection? That sounds impossible"! Let me tell you what is impossible! It is impossible for death to hold our Savior! He is unstoppable! He is unshakeable! He is unchangeable! And He is alive! He came out of that grave! And that is the message that we proclaim! This is the message that gives people hope! In a world of dead religion, this is the message of life! So we proclaim a risen Savior and He is a reigning Savior. Drop down again to verse 32, God raised Him up. We're witnesses of these things, and verse 33: "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit".
You see, He is now exalted at the right hand of God. He is the reigning Savior! Angels adore Him! The Saints of all ages worship Him! "For at the name of Jesus one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God"! Everyone, one day, either in faith or in judgment, will bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ! Every atheist, every cynic, every secularist will bow down one day and declare that Jesus is Lord! Every Muslim cleric will one day say, "Jesus is Lord"! Every Buddhist priest will one day say, "Jesus is Lord"! Every New Age spiritist will one day say, "Jesus Christ is Lord"! Every church going hypocrite will one day say, "Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God"! Because He is Lord!
And this is the message that we proclaim: That He is a recognized Savior, attested by the power of changed lives; that He is a rejected Savior who died on the cross for our sins; that He is a risen Savior, alive forevermore and a reigning King who is coming again! So when the people heard this message, we're told that they were stabbed to the heart. It cut them wide open, piercing the heart. Simon Peter had raised a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane to defend Jesus, and he failed miserably and was rebuked by the Lord for his actions. But now he raises a sword of a different kind. He wields the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God and he cuts them through.
People tell you they don't believe the Bible. Give them the Bible anyway; it cuts them whether they believe it or not! And they were cut to the heart. They said, "What will we do"? And Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, for the remission of sins". And then there's not only conviction of sin, but there's conversion of life. This conversion takes place, one, by repentance (verse 28) repent. Now repentance is the missing word in the contemporary church. And yet Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you will all perish".
Now what is repentance? Literally it means the changing of the mind, the changing of the heart. But it is a picture, it's a word picture. Here's an individual, a man who turns his back. In fact we are born with our backs towards God, and we're walking away from Him, living our own life, enjoying our own pleasure, doing our own thing! We're walking away from God, away from God, ultimately to judgment. But then we come face to face with Christ and His cross and His resurrection, we hear the Gospel and we turn around, repenting of our sin and now having received Christ, we're walking with Him, we're walking toward Him. We're living a brand new life! That is repentance! It is a turning to God from our sin.
But not only is there repentance, but there is remission of sins. He said the forgiveness of sin, the remission of sin. Now it's unfortunate that some take this passage (Acts 2:38) and teach that baptism, water baptism is somehow required for salvation itself. No, baptism does not save; baptism is a symbol, it is a sign of the inner cleansing that takes place by the blood of Christ. So when this verse says: "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sin" it doesn't mean in order to commit sin, or in order to be forgiven rather, but it means because of... The Greek word eis E-I-S, a little preposition. It means in or at, for, because of, in lieu of.
We use for in a similar way, different ways. For example, if you saw a poster in the post office that said: Wanted for murder, you wouldn't go apply for the job, would you? No! You would know that man was wanted because of his crime. And in that sense the word is used for the remission of sin, because of the forgiveness of sin, because Christ has cleansed our life. You say, "How do you know that"? Read the rest of the Scripture. In fact when Peter preached on numerous other occasions he never again mentioned the issue of baptism in this sense.
And baptism is not the acts or the means of salvation, but rather it is the symbol, the sign that salvation has taken place. But what he's demonstrating here is repentance brings us to the remission of sin, the forgiveness of sin. That's good news. That we are forgiven fully and completely. That the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin. And then there is regeneration, for he said, "Then you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". No one can be saved apart from the incoming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9 says, "If anyone has not the Spirit of Christ He does not belong to Christ". And when the Spirit of God enters in, He regenerates us. That means we're given a brand new life, and He becomes the witness of the Spirit, the work of God in us. The witness of the Spirit is that deep down understanding that you know that you know that you know that you know because of the Spirit of God bearing witness with your spirit that you are a child of God! That is regeneration.
So there it is! There's the response to the message. Repentance, forgiveness, the remission of sin, and regenerated life! So there was conviction of sin, there was the conversion of life, and then there was the confession of faith, because verse 41 says that "those who received his word were baptized and there was added that day about 3000 souls". Later these and others would scatter across the world, starting in their own Jerusalem. We get to a little bit more of this in subsequent messages but just do a little math with me in closing.
In Acts chapter 1 120 believers gathered in the upstairs room. The Spirit of God came and filled them. They proclaimed the wonder works of God, Peter preached, the message and the invitation was given and 3000 (verse 41 of chapter 2) 3000 were added. Some suggest that 3000 was the measure of the number of men who were saved; that women and children also would have come to Christ that day so it may have been many more. But 3000 we know were added.
And then in Acts chapter 2, verse 47 we're told that people daily came to faith in Christ. Every day, every day, it was everyday evangelism, people coming to faith in Christ. And then in Acts chapter 4, verse 4, we're told that 5000 men were added in one day to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts chapter 5, verse 28, the entire city was captured for Christ, as thousands were coming into the kingdom of God. And then in Acts chapter 6, verse 7 we're told that the number of the disciples multiplied greatly! They've now moved from addition to multiplication! Ultimately it just said there was a great multitude! All because of the message of Jesus Christ, the message that Jesus saves!