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Robert Jeffress - The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached

Robert Jeffress - The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached
TOPICS: Unstoppable Power

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". The world has seen many great preachers throughout the centuries. For example, Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards. I could go on and on. But only one preacher holds the honor or delivering the greatest sermon of all time, and his name is the apostle Peter. My message is titled "The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

Every pastor remembers his first sermon. I remember mine. I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, and I preached my first sermon here at this church. Not in here, obviously, not in the historic sanctuary on Sunday morning. Instead, it was a Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. in what we used to call The Embree Hall, a chapel that no longer exists here. And that's where we hosted every week our Good Shepherd Ministry. It was a ministry to under-privileged children. They would bus the children in every week, and the leader of that ministry, James Newman, invited me to preach at the Good Shepherd Chapel. He knew I had just surrendered to the ministry and I don't know if he thought this would be an encouragement to me or a dose of reality, but he invited me to come preach to those kids, and my sermon topic was on 1 Kings 18, about Elijah's contest on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and praying for God to show himself and how the fire of God came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.

The only thing I remember that day was, unlike Mount Carmel, the fire of God did not fall on Embree Hall that afternoon. We were all relieved when it was over. You know, I thought of that this week as I read about another first sermon. It's found in Acts chapter 2. It's the first sermon that the apostle Peter ever preached. In fact, it's the first sermon that was ever preached in the newly birthed church, and it had far different results than mine. If you have your Bibles, turn to Acts chapter 2 as we look at "The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached". Look at verse 14: "And Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them".

Many of us have stood there, on those southern steps going up to the temple area where Peter is thought to have stood and preached. Isn't it interesting that God chose Peter to be the one to deliver the first message? Isn't it amazing that God chose Peter to be the leader of the apostles? I mean, think about Peter. He wasn't qualified. He was a human gaffe machine. Did you know that? I mean, he was always putting his foot in his mouth; in fact, his foot was in his mouth more than it was on the ground. Mistake after mistake after mistake. Not only that, it was Peter who had denied Jesus Christ not once or twice, but three times. And yet, God chose him. Never think that because of some past mistake, you're put on the shelf and can never be used by God again.

If you find God's forgiveness through Christ, he can use you in a powerful way, just like he used Peter. And you know, every sermon, to be effective, should have one message that could be summarized in a single sentence. We call it the main idea, the central idea, of a sermon. And here, the central idea is very clear. Peter is going to declare that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, as evidenced by his life, his death, and his resurrection from the dead. The first three-point sermon there: his life, his death, and his resurrection from the dead. Let's look at it. First of all, he says, "Consider Jesus's life". Verse 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".

Jesus Christ has been attested to you. That Greek word, apodeiknymi, literally means to show forth the quality of something. For example, how do you testify, apodeiknymi? How do you judge the quality of a diamond? Their four C's: the carats, the color, the clarity, the cut. I might add a fifth C: the cost. But that's how you judge the worth of a diamond. How do you attest to, judge, Jesus Christ? Peter says, first of all, consider his miracles, what he did while he was alive. He said, "You, yourselves, know about this".

Remember, Israel wasn't that big. It was about the size of New Jersey, so everybody kind of knew everybody or knew somebody who knew somebody. And people had heard for 3 years about his miracles, feeding the 5000 and then the 4000, casting out demons, walking on the water, raising Lazarus from the dead. It was well known. And what Peter is saying: These things are like a giant neon sign in heaven that is blinking, "Messiah, Messiah, Messiah". He's attested to be the Messiah by his life. Not only that, consider his death. In verse 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 you put Him to death".

Now you know today, we say things like "We all nailed Jesus to the cross," "Our sins nailed him to the cross," and that's certainly true to a certain extent, but Peter wasn't speaking figuratively. He was speaking literally. He was saying to this group assembled before him, "You are the ones responsible. You nailed him to the cross". And, in fact, they had. Some of those listening were probably Roman centurions who were keeping peace in the temple area. Fifty days earlier, they had participated in the Crucifixion. He was talking to the Jews who, 50 days earlier when Pilate said, "What shall I do with Jesus?," they had all yelled together in unison, "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him". And yet, here is Peter standing up, saying to that same crowd of people, "You godless people, you're the ones who nailed him to the cross".

How do you explain the transformation from that cowardly disciple to the courageous defender of the faith he was 7 weeks later? The answer is he had seen the resurrected Jesus, and that changed his life forever. But then he says in verse 23: "But it was all according to the predetermined plan and the foreknowledge of God". Look, Jesus's death wasn't accidental, it wasn't a case of some bad men getting hold of a good man and crucifying him. This was all part of God's plan. That word "predetermined" means appointed or designated. It was according to the foreknowledge of God. By the way, in the Bible, foreknowledge doesn't just mean to know something ahead of time.

Of course, God knows things ahead of time. The reason God knows the future is because God has planned the future. This was all part of God's plan. And here we see the mystery of God's sovereignty and human responsibility. Does God will for people to do evil? No. Does God make people do evil? No. But God can take the evil that people do, evil by the which... by the way that they will suffer for. God can take people's evil acts and use them, work them, together for good. I mean, does he will those things? No, but he uses those things to accomplish his purpose in your life and in the world. That's what Peter was saying. This all happened according to the predetermined plan of God. But the largest neon arrow from heaven pointing to Jesus as the Messiah is not his life, it's not even his death. It's his resurrection from the dead.

Look at verse 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". And then he quotes from a Psalm, Psalm 16, a thousand years before the time of Christ, that prophesied of Christ's Resurrection. He quotes the Psalm that says: "I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE: FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE". David is talking about how he has hope, why? Verse 27: "BECAUSE YOU, GOD, WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES". You're not gonna leave me in the grave. In the Old Testament, Hades usually means just the grave. David said, "I FIND HOPE THROUGH MY LIFE BECAUSE I KNOW IN MY DEATH YOU ARE NOT GOING TO ABANDON ME TO HADES, NOR ARE YOU GOING TO ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY".

Your holy one. Who is that? That's the Messiah. David was looking forward a thousand years to the Messiah, his descendant, who would sit on his throne forever and ever, and he said, "God, you're not going to allow your holy one, the Messiah, to even undergo decay in the grave". You say, "Pastor, aren't you reading a lot into that? How can you get all that out of that Psalm written a thousand years beforehand? Isn't that reading a lot into it"? Peter didn't think so. Look at his explanation, verse 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".

In other words, David obviously wasn't just talking about himself, because we know where his grave is, and his body is still rotting inside that grave. One day, he'll be resurrected, but not yet. And so, verse 30: "Because David was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on the throne, David looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay". He wasn't in that tomb long enough to begin to rot. "God raised him up again, to which we are all witnesses".

Why is it that Peter centers on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? Two reasons. First of all, Christ's Resurrection was the signal proof that he was the Messiah. The Resurrection was the signal proof that Jesus was the Messiah. Remember in John 2:19, Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up". In Romans 1:4 Paul said, "Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power," how? By his Resurrection from the dead. Anybody can walk around claiming to be God, but only somebody who is God can raise himself from the dead. It's the signal proof that he is truly the Messiah.

And by the way, notice in verse 32, it says: "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses". What did he mean, "We're all witnesses"? Remember, he's speaking just 50 days after the Resurrection. He's speaking to people, he said we all know about the Resurrection, every one of us. Some knew about it because they had seen the resurrected Lord. For 40 days after his Resurrection, he walked on the earth, was seen by many, hundreds, perhaps thousands. At one appearance by itself he appeared to more than 500 people, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15. Many had seen him.

Not only that, many others had seen him 10 days earlier ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives. But the greatest evidence for the Resurrection was one that everybody knew about in Jerusalem: that tomb was empty. They could all go there, just as many of us go there. And well, they could go to that tomb and they could see 10 days later, there was no body in that tomb. It was empty then, it's been empty for 2000 years. And notice how Peter concludes the sermon, verse 36: "Therefore let all of the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ; this Jesus whom you crucified". And what was the response to that message, the results?

Look at verse 37: "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart". That word "pierced" means to cut. That's what the Word of God does. Hebrews 4:12, "The Word of God is alive, it's active, it's sharper than any two-edged sword". It's like a surgeon's scalpel when we hear the Word of God, it cuts us in order to heal us. "They heard and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do? This message deserves a response, but what are we supposed to do?'" And Peter responds by giving the first evangelistic message and invitation in history. He says in verse 38, here's what you do: "Repent, and let 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".

See the pattern there? When you repent and believe, you receive the Holy Spirit. You don't wait for the Holy Spirit; he comes when you believe. "Repent, and be baptized". What does that mean to repent? Metanoeo, the Greek word, to have a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. That was the whole Christian message. "What must I do for the forgiveness of my sins"? It was to repent, believe, trust in Jesus, and then he says, "And let each of you be baptized for the forgiveness of sins", some people get hung up on that. They say, "No, wait a minute, is he saying baptism is what saves us, washes away our sin"?

Of course not. There's nothing in that water that is holy. Comes out of a tap, just like the water we use. There's nothing holy in that water that washes away your sin. It is a picture of what God has done for you when you trust in Christ. That's the last step that signifies the whole salvation process. When Jesus said, "Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," is the way you make a disciple go round, just start dunking people? No, baptism is just shorthand for saving, for introducing them to faith in Jesus Christ. That's what he's saying here. But don't underestimate the importance of baptism. It is a command. It's a command for every Christian. "Let every Christian be baptized because of the forgiveness of his sin".

As I've said before, from this point on there's not one example of a Christian who is not baptized, not one. Every Christian is baptized. And there is a model for baptism that we find here. It's always believe, repent, and then be baptized. Believe and be baptized. Every time, somebody believed and then they were baptized. There is not one example in the Bible of somebody who was baptized first and then believed later on. There is no instance of somebody being sprinkled and then later growing up and believing. It always starts with belief and then baptism. That is scriptural baptism. You believe first, and then you're baptized.

Secondly, notice the mode of baptism here. It is by immersion. We'll see when we get to Acts 8 and Peter... or Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch. He takes him and puts him down in the water and brings him up out of the water. Jesus went into the water and came up out of the water. That's what the word "baptize" means, baptizo, it means to immerse. Notice what happened here. This is the pattern we see here in verse 41: "So then, those who received Peter's word were baptized; and that day there were added three thousand souls".

Church, it started with 120 that morning. Now, there were 3000 more who had believed and were baptized. By the way, what were they added to? They were added to the membership rolls. Later on, verse 47: "The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved". They knew who was converted. They knew who was a part of the church and who wasn't. That helped them care for the members of the church, it helped them hold them accountable. That was the purpose of membership in the early church. They went out from this point on into the whole world to share the gospel, making not just converts, baptizing them, but disciples, teaching them to observe all things that Christ had commanded them.

And notice how they grew, not just in number, but in spiritual maturity as well. In Acts 2:42, I wish I had the time but I don't, but look at this: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer". Now, what was the result of all of that? Look at verse 46: "Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved". So this isn't about being a Baptist. This is about following what the Bible says: believe and then be baptized.

Here's what I have found in 45 years of pastoring: Christians who have never been scripturally baptized have something missing in their life. Sometimes, they can't even pinpoint what it is. It's not following Christ's command. You cannot be complete as a disciple until you follow Jesus in the whole area of baptism. I've told this story many times before. Every time I tell it, somebody says, "That spoke to me, and that's what convinced me I need to be baptized". I told you all about my mom, how she got saved at the Billy Graham crusade when she was a young woman with my dad and she came here to the church the next Sunday, joined this church the same day Billy Graham joined our church. But she came from a denomination where she'd been sprinkled. She had never been truly baptized. So she was excited about joining a church until it was explained to her she needed to be baptized. And she said, "Oh, I've already done that. I was sprinkled". No, you need to be baptized.

And Mrs. Griswold took my mom under her wing and discipled her and showed her in the Bible about why a Christian needs to be baptized. And she finally was convinced that's what she wanted to do, so she made the day, appointment to be baptized. Her parents, my grandparents, were strong leaders in their Methodist church and when they heard she was gonna be baptized, they were less than excited about it. And they loved my mom. My mom adored them, wanted to please them, but they considered it a slap in the face that their daughter would feel the need to, what they said, be "rebaptized". And so they refused to come to the service. It really hurt my mom, but she knew that's what God wanted her to do so she was baptized.

Well, over the years, my grandparents started to warm up to our church and they started coming down here and attending as they had opportunity to do so, and they grew to love our church and appreciate our church. My grandfather lived about 8 years after my mom died and went to heaven. And one day shortly before he died, I went up to see him in Van Alstyne. And he was laying in bed, resting most of the time, but we were talking and just out of nowhere he said, "Do you know, Robert, the best thing your mother ever did was to join the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and if I were physically able, I would walk down that aisle of that church this Sunday and get baptized". Now, he wasn't physically able to do that, and he died shortly after that, but many of you are able to do it. And I'm just saying to you, as a pastor, there's something that will always be missing in your life if you don't follow the Lord's command to be baptized. And the reason to do it is not because this church requires it. The reason to do it is because God requires it. He commands it. Repent and let each of you be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
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