Listening With Discernment
This week in our study over the Book of Acts, we looked at Peter's sermon at Pentecost. As a preacher and teacher of God's word, this text holds great significance for me. However, as Christians, we are all called to submit ourselves to sound biblical instruction (Acts 2:42, Proverbs 4:2, Titus 1:9, etc.). Therefore, this passage is important for every believer, because it gives us a great practical example of what that looks like.
Besides simply looking at the content of Peter's message (which is highly profitable itself), let us step back and look at a few important lessons we can learn from the methods Peter uses to preach and teach the Gospel message. By doing so, hopefully we can draw out some guidelines to help us recognize what good teaching looks like, so that we can seek it out and gain from it.
The first thing that should stand out to us is the large amount of scripture that is quoted within the message. Peter's method for teaching people about God is to use scripture. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we live in a time and a culture where people are rejecting the faithful proclamation of God's Holy Word and seeking teaching that is built upon the personality of a charismatic and/or entertaining "preacher." As preachers, should we seek to connect with our audience and to be engaging with our message? Absolutely! However, our ability to entertain a crowd is nowhere mentioned within the qualifications for elders that we see listed in scripture. As believers, if our church attendance is based upon how many of our preferences are met, then we have fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of gathering corporately. Good music...check. Trendy atmosphere...check. Puppet shows for the kids...check. Cool people...check. Are these really the things that matter in God's kingdom? We must ask ourselves, are we rejecting good teaching only to have our ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:3).
Beyond simply quoting a bunch of scripture, Peter handles the scriptures properly. There is no short supply of biblical "prooftexters" who bend and twist God's word to suit their message. There is a fancy term for this...it's called eisegesis. Eisegesis is when we interject our own meaning into the text. The problem with eisegesis is that the Bible is God's holy, authoritative, inerrant, infallible, and inspired word; and as such, it can only have one meaning...God's meaning, given to the human authors through the divine inspiration of the Spirit. True indeed, there can be numerous applications of that meaning, but the meaning remains the same. In other words, the meaning informs the application, not the other way around. To infer or interject something foreign into the text is to reject God's word. There is no way around that. On the other hand, a good Bible student seeks to draw out the meaning from the text through careful study of the passage within the greater context of the book, and the Bible as a whole. We call this practice exegesis, and it is the responsibility of every faithful student of scripture. Good hermeneutics (that is principles and methods for interpreting meaning) demands that meaning drives interpretation. When our interpretation drives the meaning, we have fallen into error. The sad truth is that from many pulpits, "preachers" are proclaiming their truth, instead of heralding God's truth to their people.
Finally, we should notice that Peter's preaching gives God's Word room to work. What I mean by that is that scripture promises it will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), rather it accomplish that which it was sent forth to do. Too often when we preach and teach from God's word, we (preachers) can fall into the trappings of trying do the work that only God can do. No matter how masterfully I articulate the message of the Gospel, no matter how convicting my message may be, no matter how powerful and moving my illustrations may be; I have no power to change the hearts or minds of men in the areas that really matter. Scripture teaches us of the deep rooted and far reaching effects of sin in our lives. The Bible says we are dead in our trespasses. Only the miraculous work of God can bring the dead to life. My point is that, our job as preachers and teachers (and even as believers sharing our faith with others) is to plant and water the seeds that lead to heart change and new life...but God is the one who ultimately reaps the harvest. He doesn't need us to do his work, but it is his will to use us to accomplish his purposes in his grand plan of redemption. So we must be faithful and obedient, while also knowing well and accepting our role in all of it. Trying to do more than we are called to do can be as damaging to ourselves and our ministry, as it is to others. Finding balance is the key.
I hope these lessons from Peter's sermon can help each of us in our search for faithful Bible teaching and sound doctrine, as well as assisting us as students of God's word. None of us get it right all of the time...but we should continue to strive after that elusive goal, not allowing ourselves to become distracted by things that seek to steal God's glory and give it to men.
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 5 - Peter's First Sermon
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. What does Peter teach in his first sermon?
2. How does Peter use Old Testament prophecy?
3. What approach does Peter take with preaching?
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