The heart of Christianity is the gospel. This is the good news that although we are sinners under the wrath of God, He has reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son Jesus.
This message is powerful! Paul declares, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It has the power to change the most horrible sinner into the holiest saint.
Its original preachers were powerful too! Jesus’ apostles heralded the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. These men converted pagans, planted churches, refuted heretics, and confronted kings. They even validated their message by performing miracles!
Sadly, modern preaching lacks much of this power. It is rare for a sermon to truly change a person’s life. Few churches in America are growing; most are stagnant or dying. The message and messengers of the gospel seem to have lost their power.
Perhaps it is time for us to reevaluate our preaching. What if our sermons aren’t as powerful as the apostles’ because we don’t preach the way they did?
The book of Acts is filled with their sermons. Here are four themes that define their preaching ministry. To what extent do they define yours as well?
Theme #1: Fulfillment of Prophecy
The apostles often quoted the Old Testament. They argued that Jesus had fulfilled its prophecies in His own ministry and was still fulfilling them through the ministry of the church.
Peter tells the Jews at the temple, “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days” (Acts 3:24). He tells the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, “All the prophets testify about him” (Acts 10:43).
Paul testifies to King Agrippa, “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen” (Acts 26:22).
Theme #2: Resurrection of the Dead
The apostles often referred to Jesus’ resurrection. They cited it as irrefutable evidence that He truly was the Son of God. By raising Him from the dead, God validated His claims and vindicated Him against His enemies.
Peter felt compelled to replace Judas, “For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:22).
Paul declares to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, “What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us…by raising up Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33). He testifies before the Sanhedrin, “I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6).
Theme #3: Call for a Response
The apostles often called for a response at the end of their sermons. They exhorted their listeners to respond in faith and obedience to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Peter tells the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins” (2:38). He tells the Gentiles gathered with Cornelius, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins” (10:43).
Paul explains that “to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).
Theme #4: Final Judgment
The apostles often warned of the final judgment. They upheld Jesus as the judge of all mankind and showed contempt for those who refused to listen to them.
Peter says, “He commanded us…to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Paul tells the Athenian philosophers, “He has set a day when he will judge the world…by the man he has appointed” (Acts 17:31).
When the Jews persecuted Paul and Barnabas, they “shook the dust from their feet in protest against them” (Acts 13:51). On another occasion, Paul “shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads!’” (Acts 18:6).
What stands out to you about the apostles’ preaching? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
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