Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 15, 1971
NUMBER 48, PAGE 1-3b

Pentecostal Preaching

Vaughn D. Shofner

The angels of God rejoice "over one sinner that repenteth" (Lu. 15:10), and there is reason for immeasurable joy in the heart of one who has reason to hope that in this valley of tears he has had the honor of opening the gate of the heavenly realm to a multitude of sinners. Evidently, such surges of joy swelled the heart of the apostle Peter on the Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. As we give attention to the record of that sermon, we reap some information and encouragement that will strengthen us in our fight against evil.

We are relentlessly attacked with countless temptations and trials which are contrary to Christianity, but perhaps the apostles and other early disciples of Christ traveled a way fraught with far greater burdens. When Peter was invested with the apostleship he was also clothed with martyrdom. He who said to him, "Feed my sheep, feed my lambs," said also to him, "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (Jn. 21:16-18). However, in order to animate him to great victories against a world of opposition, and to sweeten the bitterness that would accompany his preaching, the Lord allowed him the greatest pleasure a gospel preacher can experience. The Lord caused at the sound of Peter's voice, those fortresses to fall which were erected to oppose the establishment of the church, and his first gospel sermon in fact astonished, alarmed, and obtained three thousand conquests to Christ.

Gentle reader, we can see in that sermon the noble freedom of speech which today is still so very becoming to a gospel preacher, and without which one may gain followers, but never obtain converts. Sad it is, but too often a weakness of faith attends our best known and most used preachers, and softens the words of condemnation which are used by the Lord. Too often a well grounded fear of the censures which church members murmur against the gospel preachers who reprove the popular vices, is a muzzle on the mouth of freedom of speech. Far too often a fear of those social persecutions which the world always raises against all whom heaven qualifies to to destroy the empire of sin, will damp the courage of preachers and destroy freedom of speech. And far too often preachers in the silent study whose minds are filled with an apprehension of the tremendous majesty of God, and who resolve to relentlessly attack evil, are intimidated in the assembly when they see hearers who are steeped in sin, but are tolerantly close to the speakers because of social and kindred ties.

But none of these considerations influenced the apostle Peter. His faith did not falter. He had conversed with Christ himself; he had accompanied him on the holy mount, and "heard a voice from the excellent glory," saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (2 Pe. 1:17). He had seen the Lord after his resurrection, laden with the spoils of death and hell, ascending to heaven in a cloud, who was received into the bosom of the Father amidst the acclamation of countless angels. Peter had no dread of reproaches and recriminations, for the purity of his intentions and the sanctity of his life frustrated them. Peter exhibited no quaver of step, no shrinking from the sufferings which superstitions were preparing for Christians, for such timidity would have cost him remorse that would have wounded too deep, and tears too many. Persecuting tyrants could invest no punishment so severe as that inflicted by his own conscience at the time of his former fall, so he chose rather to die for Christianity than for apostasy. 0 God, grant the prudential power within thy providential care that is needed to animate preachers today to imitate thy chosen example!

A person animated with any passion, has in the features of his face, and in the tone of his voice, an expression that helps to communicate his sentiments to his hearers. Error thus preached in a lively manner by a preacher who is affected with it himself, will seduce unguarded persons. But what a dominion over the heart does that speaker obtain who preaches truth, and who is affected with the truth which he preaches. The eloquence of the apostle Peter is announced by the emotions of his auditors; "they were pricked in their heart." They said to the apostles, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" (Ac. 2: 37). Such are the impressions which a preacher deeply affected with the excellence of his subject, and emboldened by the justice of his cause, makes on his hearers.

I readily admit that the miracle that attended the Pentecostal preaching of Peter gave weight and dignity to his sermon, and I am just as ready to admit that the miraculous power of that day cannot be expected to accompany the preaching of today. The gifts of tongues which had been communicated to all the apostles was transcendent of human power, and every pretended miracle of our time that is not above the power of human beings should at once be doubted. Of all the sciences of the world, that of languages is the least capable of instantaneous acquisition. The miracle that accompanied the preaching of Peter was entirely different from the pretended miracles of today. It was wrought in the presence of those who had the greatest interest in knowing the truth of it. Without this, the miracle would not have caused them to embrace the gospel plan in favor of which it was wrought. To cover the failures of pretended miracle workers today, the advocates claim that there is lack of faith on the part of the one who desires and needs the help of the miracle. However, Paul expressly says, "Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (I Co. 14:22).

The apostles, and other true miracle workers, did not choose their own partisans and disciples as their only spectators. Philip performed miracles in Samaria, in the presence of the celebrated magician, who not being able to discredit them, offered to buy the power of working them (Ac. 8:7,9,18). It was in the city of Ephesus, where the Jews had a synagogue, that the imagination of the populace was so aroused by the miracles wrought by Paul (Ac. 19:12). In Jerusalem, in the presence of persons "of every nation under heaven," in the very city where Jesus had been crucified, the apostles exercised the gifts of tongues.

In the sermon under observation, there are stinging reproofs; and in the souls of the auditors, a pungent remorse. The apostle reproves the Jews with these words, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Ac. 2:22,23). No person can describe the agitations which this produced in the hearts of the audience. They had lifted up their bloody hands toward heaven, and had prayed for a recompense for murder. They had displayed the spoils of Jesus as trophies of a victory are displayed. Peter showed these madmen their own conduct in its true light: "ye have taken, and crucified, Jesus, who was approved of God."

Peter reminded them of the benefits which Jesus Christ had bountifully bestowed on their nation. He reminded them of the grandeur of Christ. He told them of their unworthy treatment of Jesus, of their eager outcries for death, and the whole was an ocean of terror to the hearers, and each reflection of their past was a wave of overwhelming distress. "They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

Gentle reader, such was the power of the sermon of Peter over the minds of his hearers. 0 how powerful is the sword of the Spirit in the hands of men of God! I am sure that if Peter were preaching in person to the people of this age, this man who was so extremely affected with the sinful condition of the people of that memorable Pentecost, I am sure he would be more explicit in enumerating sins and more plaintive in his plea to turn from them than many of the preachers of today; and I believe he would tear away the miserable veils with which this generation conceals the depravity of its actions, and list understandably the countless excesses of this nation. And I am afraid he would condemn spiritual Israel for criminal neglect in allowing brutish immorality, atheism, and the many forms of godliness which deny the power of God, to spread in so many places unchallenged.

Gentle friend, May we throw ourselves at the foot of the throne of Jesus whom we have so often insulted; and who in spite of our insults still invites us to turn from evil and come to him. May the emotions of our hearts, and all that we have, and all that we are, form one grand surge of penitence, and may the day of salvation, the day of complete gladness of heart, succeed that great and notable day of the Lord!

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