Adventures in Acts: Peter’s Third Sermon

J.R. Waller, MBA

Key Points

  • In this “Adventure in Acts” we look at Peter’s third sermon and learn how to apply the techniques of his witness to our own sharing of the gospel.
  • The essential ingredient of effective witnessing is that it is done solely in the name of Jesus.
  • When we get the message right, the efficacy of God accomplishes the rest.
  • Christians are with Jesus spiritually. We are all witnesses of Jesus just as much as Peter and John were. Therefore, we can speak freely and confidently about the gospel.
  • Jesus and his witnesses give people what they cannot live without - life itself. There is great power in salvation.
  • None of us know who God truly impacts this side of heaven. Therefore, we must allow God's will to define our witness more than the reactions of those we witness to.

10) Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.Acts 4:10 (KJV)

Acts 4 – Background to Peter’s Third Sermon

At the beginning of Acts chapter 4 we find Peter and John on the eastern side of the Temple’s Outer Court in Jerusalem, also known as Solomon’s Colonnade.

The lame man, who had been healed in the previous chapter, is still present with them. (Acts 3:11)

Also by their side is a large crowd, no doubt assembled as a result of Peter’s second sermon in Acts chapter 3.

Eventually the priests, the Captain of the Temple and Sadducees interrupt Peter and John.

These were, “grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:1-2)

The powers that be weren’t happy in the slightest that Peter and John were preaching in the name of Jesus. So, they arrested them. (Acts 4:3)

The Bible doesn’t give any details about any discussion taking place between the rulers and Apostles. All it says is that the rulers “came upon them” and “laid hands on” the Apostles. (Acts 4:2-3)

After a night in captivity, Peter and John were brought before the rulers, elders and scribes in Jerusalem – known collectively as the Sanhedrin.“Peter and John were in the governmental and intellectual center of Israel.”

The Sanhedrin, which in Hebrew means “together, seat” was a supreme judicial, legislative and executive council or court of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

It was as much an aristocratic body as a learned one, and can be thought of as a Supreme Court of sorts.

Therefore Peter and John were in the governmental and intellectual center of Israel.

Some seventy-one people would have been present at the Sanhedrin. Among them the Bible mentions Annas the High Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others. (Acts 4:5-6)

The members asked Peter and John, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (Acts 4:7)

They wanted to know in who’s name they had healed the lame man (who was also present at the hearing).

Peter responds with what is known as his third sermon. So powerful were Peter’s words (he was “full of the Holy Ghost”) that they resulted in the release of he and John from the hands of the Jerusalem rulers. (Acts 4:8, Acts 4:23)

In this “Adventure in Acts” we’re going to look at Peter’s third sermon in greater detail.

We’re going to see the power that comes through a clearly articulated gospel, and learn how to apply the techniques of Peter’s witness to our own sharing of the good news of Jesus.

Only One Name, Only One Redeemer

12) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.Acts 4:12 (KJV)

There is power behind God’s word wherever and whenever it is preached. Acts 4 and other passages throughout the Bible give us ample evidence of this fact. (Heb. 4:12)

However, the essential ingredient of effective witnessing is that it is done solely in the name of Jesus.

Jesus came “that we may know him that is true.” (1 Jn. 5:20) There is no objective truth in the universe other than Jesus, and a gospel without Jesus is of no effect for it is a gospel most untrue.

Jesus is the gospel. He is the only way, the true God and eternal life. (Jn. 14:6, Jn. 11:25-26, 1 Jn. 5:20)“The essential ingredient of effective witnessing is that it is done solely in the name of Jesus.”

Peter’s response to the rulers about there being “none other name…whereby we must be saved” is one of the more well-known apologetic verses in the Bible about Jesus being the only way to heaven.

The rulers were fearful about Jesus’s name being involved in Peter and John’s preaching and witnessing because it drew a line in the sand and caused people to decide.

They knew that it was powerful in a way no man made religion could ever emulate. Deep down, like so many, they were not really in denial about Jesus. They knew he was true and they didn’t like that.

As such, just like Peter, we Christians are not to listen to any other name than God’s and what he has told us in his direct revelation in the Bible.

When people ask us by what authority we preach and teach salvation, and through what means people are to be saved, all of it comes from God himself and by him alone. His authority backs us up. (Matt. 28:18, Jn. 17:2, Gal. 1:1)

It is only by Jesus’s death on the cross that sinners can be adopted into God’s family. (Rom. 8:15)“We do not leverage celebrity, personality or anything other than the pure gospel and our citizenship in heaven when sharing the good news.”

Thus the most effective witness is the person who lets God do the work, and who knows that he or she is merely a messenger. God knows who is to be saved, and we can rest in that as we witness. (Eph. 1:5)

Thus we do not leverage celebrity, personality or anything other than the pure gospel and our citizenship in heaven when sharing the good news.

We can speak to what he has done for us and what he can do for others, but in the end God does the saving. (1 Cor. 3:11)

This simultaneously takes the burdens off our shoulders, and adheres us to a great responsibility and honor – that being that God would use us as the conduit to bring his children to him.

Nevertheless, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that salvation is God’s work. In addition it is critical that we deliver the correct message.

Getting the Message Right

Peter’s third sermon shows us the importance in getting the message right.

For example, when Peter says that “Neither is there salvation in any other” he is echoing what Jesus himself said and taught. (Jn. 14:6, Jn. 3:36)

He was not adding or taking away from God’s word in his preaching. (Deut. 4:2, Matt. 5:18, Prov. 30:5-6) Because of this God’s word was presented clearly, reasonably and powerfully. Peter was a help not a hindrance to getting the gospel message across.

Like Peter, we must hearken back to God’s word and the words of Jesus alone to ensure the gospel is clearly presented.

Lest we worry that God’s word is not enough, that we need something “extra” to make it more appealing or that we must help God when he alone is only and fully capable of saving souls, may we remember the results of Peter’s witness.“Like Peter, we must hearken back to God’s word and the words of Jesus alone to ensure the gospel is clearly presented.”

Some 5,000 people present after Peter’s second sermon became Christians by believing on the name of Jesus to save them from their sins.

Notice, these 5,000 were saved in spite of Peter and John being taken away by the rulers. “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed.” (Acts 4:4)

“Howbeit” means “rather” and “on the other hand.” It underscores the fact that so powerfully clear was the gospel presented that people believed in it regardless of the opposition faced and the arrest of Peter and John.

That speaks to God’s authority and the strength of his pure gospel message.

Therefore, get the message right, and the efficacy of God will accomplish the rest.

Speak Freely and Confidently

Preaching the one name of salvation, and presenting the right gospel message are both excellent qualities for an effective witness. However, the way we deliver the gospel message also matters.

For instance, when it came time for Peter and John’s questioning we see that “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Moreover, “they could say nothing against” what had been done. (Acts 4:14)

Peter and John’s combination of boldness, authority and conviction mattered more than their socioeconomic backgrounds and their closeness to Jesus left those opposed without answer.

Sometimes we think witnessing goes in one ear and out the other. Other times we confuse boldness with bravado.“Boldness applies to both the extrovert and the introvert. Both can be bold in their own way.”

We think we have to go full bore at someone with the gospel; our effectiveness measured in decibels.

However, “boldness” applies to both the extrovert and the introvert. Both can be bold in their own way.

In fact, boldness actually means “freedom in speaking” and “openness.” Such a way of communicating does not require gusto to be effective.

What matters is presenting a clear message with confidence, so much so that others know we are with Jesus and that we speak truth.

And by what well do we draw from to obtain such confidence? Certainly not from ourselves, but from God’s spirit in us, from our illuminated mind. (Ps. 119:130)

And it is from all of us who have been given understanding no matter our backgrounds, that God’s message makes foolish the wisdom of the world. (1 Cor. 1:27)

Let what you know be the channel for your confidence, not loud words or articulate speech. God’s word by itself is more than sufficient to overcome any objections the world can throw at us.

Sometimes people read Acts and think that because Peter and the Apostles walked with Jesus they could be more effective and confident witnesses.

However, let us not easily fall into what I call the “distance trap.”“Let what you know be the channel for your confidence, not loud words or articulate speech. God’s word by itself is more than sufficient to overcome any objections the world can throw at us.”

This is when we let the distance in time between events in the Bible and our own times dictate how we witness.

A couple thousand years can make the past feel unapproachable and irrelevant to our current day. So we alter God’s word and try gimmicks to make scripture more compelling, when in fact we do not need to do so at all.

This is because God’s word never changes, but it is also because we are in fact just as close to Jesus, if not more so, than Peter and the Apostles were. (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:22-24, Rom. 8:9-10)

Thus Peter’s convictions are just as much his as ours. Though we might not walk with Jesus physically, we live with and through him spiritually. It’s the greatest gift we have. We are born again and in him. (Gal. 2:20)

Christians are with Jesus spiritually. We are all witnesses of Jesus just as much as Peter and John were. Therefore we can speak freely and confidently.

Salvation’s Power

Peter invokes a great truth when he mentions to the rulers that, “even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.” (Acts 4:10)

Made whole means to be saved. Peter understood that mankind’s spiritual needs are more important than his physical ones. The lame man served as an example of this.

While his ability to walk was restored, he was also “made whole.”  He was transformed from the inside out.“Peter understood that mankind’s spiritual needs are more important than his physical ones.”

Again, God is the only name whereby we must be saved because only he can actually save, redeem and transform us.

All men are corrupt, and they must put on incorruption through salvation in Jesus. (1 Cor. 15:53) There is none righteous. (Rom. 3:10)

Yet, Jesus was made to be sin on our behalf, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

We are made righteous only through Jesus. That’s the power behind salvation and the gospel message.

Peter knew that this power was backing him up. Peter’s message was purposeful. He wanted Jesus to “be known unto you all.” (Acts 4:10)

People are still saved and made whole by the same clear gospel message today, only adding to the validity of God’s word.

Jesus taught this when he mentioned that man shall not live by bread alone. (Matt. 4:4) We can only live through God’s saving grace. (Eph. 2:8-9, Jn. 6:63)

Ultimately, Jesus and his witnesses give people what they cannot live without – life itself. There is great power in salvation.

God’s Will Is Greater Than Reactions

Notice how the powerful and clear gospel message stopped Peter and John’s accusers in their tracks.

First, they “marvelled.” (Acts 4:13) Then they realized they could not deny what they heard and knew, for they said “we cannot deny it.” (Acts 4:16)

Their only recourse was to accept or suppress, and they chose the later.

Their reaction is the same that many still give today. They reacted with hostility to Peter and John.

Adverse reactions to the gospel happen and Christians have to be comfortable with that.“To us what constitutes a “bad” versus “good” response to the gospel is based merely on how we think someone is reacting, when it is only God who really knows someone’s heart.”

We must remember that God’s word is always effective, and we must be willing to let its effectiveness play itself out as God wills. (Is. 55:11)

Moreover, God’s spirit is described in the Bible as a sword, and swords pierce. (Eph. 6:17) In fact, the word of God is “living and active” and even sharper than a sword. (Heb. 4:12)

Thus we cannot be surprised when people react to God’s message or when we experience trials as a result.

The results of our witness can be either positive or negative. Some will double down and guard themselves from ever accepting God’s truth. Others will take the sting gladly and accept Jesus.

Yet we must be aware in every instance that we are not God. We do not see what is going on inside someone’s soul.

All we have is merely perception. To us what constitutes a “bad” versus “good” response to the gospel is based merely on how we think someone is reacting, when it is only God who really knows someone’s heart.

Additionally, we have to be willing to accept that being a witness can bring harm to us as much as delightful victory. That means looking beyond what we think and instead submitting to God’s will in salvation.

In the case of the rulers, “they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18) Trying to silence the name of God was the only option they could muster.

It’s the same today. How many today say things similar to, “let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name”? (Acts 4:17)“Let’s allow God’s will to define our witness more than the reactions of those we witness to.”

Nothing has changed. Again, Peter and John are more than relevant examples for us. They were in the same environment many of us find ourselves.

They were in the Temple among their own who would not believe. It was hostile, and anything could happen.

The rulers marveled then reacted harshly. Surely this might have been discouraging to the Apostles, yet, in time James would set up the first church in Jerusalem and many more would be saved there.

Moreover, the rulers, even with their best fearful persuasion, could not stop God’s gospel from progressing forward. (Acts 4:21)

None of us know this side of heaven who God impacts. Therefore, let’s allow God’s will to define our witness more than the reactions of those we witness to.

Conclusion

In this “Adventure in Acts” we looked at the details of Peter’s third sermon.

We saw first hand the power that comes through a clearly articulated gospel, and we learned how to apply the techniques of Peter’s witness to our own sharing of the good news of Jesus.

We learned that the essential ingredient of effective witnessing is that it is done solely in the name of Jesus.“In the end, like Peter and John, may we do none other but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Next, we studied the importance of communicating a correct and clear gospel message and realized that we are all witnesses of Jesus just as much as Peter and John were because we are with Jesus spiritually. Therefore we can speak the gospel freely and confidently.

After that we studied how Jesus and his witnesses give people what they cannot live without – life itself. This is the underlying power in salvation.

Toward the end of the lesson, we looked at ways to manage our expectations when witnessing.

This included learning that none of us know this side of heaven who God truly impacts.

Therefore, we rested in knowing that we can allow God’s will to define our witness more than the reactions of those we witness to.

In the end, like Peter and John, may we do none other but “speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Soli Deo gloria!

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Image Credits

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1793) by James Malton, English, 1761-1803. Hand-colored aquatint in black on ivory wove paper. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mrs. Isaac K. Friedman.1932.1244.13.

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