In the book of Acts we see the greatest expansion of Christianity in all of history. In Acts 17:6 we are told, “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;”
The Gospel was spread from India to the British Isles in less that 30 years after the death of Christ. This was done without airplanes or automobiles. They had no telephones and no internet. They walked or took slow sailboats to get from place to place. They were subject to the weather, robbers, and many other hindrances. While they were doing this they were persecuted, put in prison, and many of them were killed.
With all of our advantages of travel and communications we can’t turn the world upside down like they did. The world is no more resistant to the Gospel message now than it was then. Do you suppose it may be because they did something differently?
I want to look at the message that started this great movement of God. It is found in Acts 2:12-36.
First we need to understand the context. The great events that happened in the church meeting at the beginning of this chapter had taken place. Those present had been filled with the Holy Spirit and had been given the ability to speak in languages they had not learned. As they went out into the streets of Jerusalem they began to speak in these languages. We know that there were at least 15, (maybe as many as 17) languages spoken at this time.
This confounded the visitors of Jerusalem and they accused them of being drunk. This was not a reasonable accusation because when have you ever heard someone who was drunk speak clearly, let alone in a language he had never learned.
Peter started his message by explaining that they were not drunk and that it was too early in the day for this. He told them that what they were seeing had been prophesied by Joel. He finished this part of the message by telling them that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
He then starts introducing the Lord so they can call upon Hm. In verse 22 Peter gives the credentials, of Jesus of Nazareth. He reminds them that the miracles, wonders, and signs had not been done in secret and that they were well aware of them.
In verses 23 through 31, Peter talks about the resurrection of Christ and the prophecy of David concerning this event. He points out that David was not talking about himself because he was still in his tomb and he had seen corruption. He points out that Christ’s death was God’s plan from the beginning.
To the Jewish mind of those days, the explanation of Peter was showing the deity of Christ. Remember, David called the one he was speaking of “thine Holy One.” He also told them that it was not possible for death to hold Christ. The bottom line in this part of the message is that Jesus of Nazareth is, in fact, the Messiah.
Verses 32 through 36 drive home a very hard point. He reminds them that they are witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. They shouldn’t have needed any more proof than this of who He was. This man they had crucified and whose resurrection they had witnessed was now seated on the right hand of God and they would face Him one day in judgment.
Verse 35 is the punch line that should make everything clear to those who want to understand. This Jesus, whom they had crucified, was, in fact, both LORD and Christ.
Let me simplify what was said in this message. After clarifying what was happening with the preaching in multiple languages, Peter set out to show the trouble they were in before God. They had heard Jesus teach like no other man before Him. They had seen His miracles. In spite of this, they had refused to believe what He said about Himself. They had cried for the death of the Messiah they were supposedly waiting for.
What did Peter do differently from the way we preach when trying to reach the lost for Christ? The first thing you will notice is that there is no mention of the love of God. There is no mention of the blessings of Heaven. Peter didn’t tell them that God had a wonderful plan for their lives. He didn’t take them down the Roman, or any other, road. He didn’t have a planed sales presentation that was designed to get a response.
These were people who knew who God was. They knew that Messiah was coming. They knew that the Scriptures were the Word of God. They didn’t need to hear these things. They needed to know that prophecy had been fulfilled before their eyes and they had refused to see it.
I would also like to mention that there was no invitation. I am not saying that invitations are wrong, I would not preach a Gospel message without one, but none was needed here because the message brought real conviction and repentance.
There are two verses that express what I am trying to get across. The first is Romans 2:4 which says, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Until the lost see the goodness of God they will not understand their sin. The word “goodness” here means moral excellence. It is speaking of God’s absolute separation from sin.
Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…”
The goodness of God is a character issue. He cannot even stand to look on evil and iniquity. Do we really understand what this means. When I was pastor of Bellingham Baptist Church in Bellingham Washington I was discussing the Rapture with one of my men. He said something that kind of shocked me. he said it was scary. I asked him what he meant he said that we would be around people who don’t sin. Think about that! We don’t know what is like to be around someone who doesn’t sin. If just being around a human who doesn’t sin makes us uncomfortable, how would we feel around a holy God?
The second verse I want to look at on true repentance is 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
Romans 2:4 leads us to repentance, but it does not make us repent. This second verse tells us what actually causes true repentance. Godly sorrow is a true sorrow for offending a holy God. Te sorrow of the world is just being sorry for getting caught. The world’s sorrow may cause an outward change for a time. Godly sorrow actually causes a change from the inside out that will not be repented of. In other words, godly sorrow causes us to have a permanent change that will not go away.
What is wrong with the way we present the Gospel today? Our emphasis has changed. This is not really something new. I remember a bumper sticker from back in the 70’s that said “Jesus is the answer.” What was meant by this is that Jesus is the answer to all of your problems. The idea being presented is that if you are having difficulties in your life, come to Jesus and He will make it all better.
Ask the Apostle Paul if this worked for him. Listen to his own testimony:
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:22-28)
Does it sound like all of his problems went away when he came to Christ? What about the more than fifty million Baptists that were killed during the Dark Ages? Did coming to Christ solve their problems?
There are Christians around the world today suffering for their faith. Try telling a Muslim in Saudi Arabia that Jesus will solve all of his problems. In case you don’t know, it is a capital offense to convert to Christianity in Saudi Arabia.
What is wrong with putting the emphasis on love? In our society love is seen as all goodness. We think love never punishes. This gives a totally distorted view of God and His love. Those who come to Christ because they were told God loves them will think they don’t need to change anything in their lives, they will think that they don’t have to search the Scriptures to see what God expects from the and then do what He says.
Let me talk a little about the love of God. It is not all about forgiving, it is about protecting His creation. We have already seen that God cannot stand evil in His sight. Listen to the attitude He commands His people to have toward evil:
Amos 5:15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
This is not a suggestion, it is a command. We are to hate that which is evil and love that which is good. It also says we are to establish judgment in the gate. The gates of the city were where the affairs of the city were conducted. As we conduct the affairs of our lives, be they personal or societal, we are to establish judgment. This destroys the idea that we are not to judge.
Psalms 97:10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Again we have a command to hate evil. We are not to be concerned about what is politically correct, we are to hate evil. This will bring opposition from the wicked, but God knows how to deliver us from them.
The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. The result of this kind of fear is seen in Proverbs 8:13.
“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”
All of those who fear the Lord will hate evil as God does.
We all know that God shows His love by His plan which provides salvation to all who come to Him with a repentant heart. Do we realize that He also shows His love by the condemnation of those who will not come to Him for salvation?
You might say, “How is that a demonstration of love?”
First let me tell you what evil means. Evil is that which destroys. Sin is evil because it destroys God’s creation. Remember, before the fall there was no death. Creation was not designed to deteriorate. In spite of the fact that God knew sin would come into His creation, and through sin there would be death and destruction, He chose to create man. I can only guess at why, but it seems to me that He wanted man to be free to love Him or not to love Him. Without freedom of the will love is meaningless. Love must come from a choice.
If God truly loves the world like we are told in John 3:16, why would He destroy anyone by sending them to hell? The answer is simple, it is because of His love for His creation. Anything that harms it must be condemned. He loves people enough to offer them free salvation in Christ, and He loves the rest of creation enough to remove those who will not come to Him for salvation by sending them to the Lake of Fire.
While God is love, love is not the guiding characteristic of God. God’s love, as with all of His other attributes, is governed by His holiness. Those we want to bring to Christ must know that God is holy and cannot stand sin. Because of His holiness He must punish it. Emphasizing God’s love over His holiness turns everything upside down.
The essence of Peter’s message on Pentecost was that the people their had sinned against God. They had rejected the Messiah and had cried for His crucifixion. They, therefore, stood guilty before God and deserved condemnation.
The result of this kind of preaching is seen in Acts 2:37. Those who heard were pricked in their hearts. This tells us that there was real conviction of sin because they had “godly sorrow.” They really understood that they had offended God, and in so doing they stood guilty and condemned before Him.
The conviction was strong enough to cause them to ask “What shall we do?” This is a sign of real repentance. It didn’t require Peter to have a long drawn out invitation and to put all the pressure he could on them to come to Christ. The Holy Spirit did His work and these people sought the way of salvation. It resulted in 3,000 souls being saved and changed.
In the old-time revivals people heard this kind of preaching. It caused them to fall on their faces in tears crying out to a holy God. They sought His forgiveness, not because they had been caught in their sin, but because they knew their sin separated them from God and required His judgment.
The noise in the revivals of old was not amen, hallelujah, and praise the Lord. It was tears of sorrow and crying of anguish because of sin. It was caused by godly sorrow and broken hearts. It was a turning to God for mercy. The result was not just the salvation of souls, it also resulted in bars and houses of ill repute closing. Whole towns were change. Things happened outside the church house as well as within.
In the Great Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 the churches swelled with new converts—over 100,000 in one six-month period. In Cardiff the police reported a 60% decrease in drunkenness and 40% fewer people in jail at the New Year of 1905. In Glamorgan the convictions for drunkenness decreased from 11,282 in 1904 to 5,615 in 1907. Profanity was reduced so much that in the coal mines that the pitponies dragging the coal carts in the tunnels did not understand their commands any more and stood still, confused. The change was real and affected whole communities.
Yes folks, something is dreadfully wrong with modern evangelism. It is costing men their souls. It is causing professing Christians to live like the world. It is causing church doors to close. It cannot be pleasing to God.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved