Acts 3 sermon example
A Model of Mission-Minded Ministry
1. Engage in Team Ministry (3:1)
Luke begins this passage by telling us, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.”
Though it may not seem like much at first, it is significant that the passage begins by telling that these two apostles were together at the temple. And though Peter quickly moves to the foreground, Luke nonetheless, does not let us forget that John is there. Verses 3, 4, 11 and 12 all remind us that these two were there ministering together. This shouldn’t surprise us considering Jesus himself sent out his disciples in pairs of two.
And throughout Acts, we continually see working together as a team – when Peter stood up to preach at Pentecost, Luke says he stood up with the eleven (2:14); later in chapter 8, Peter and John work together again; when a missionary team to reach the Gentiles is formed, the Holy Spirit sets apart 2 people (13:2); as we continue to read, from what we can see, Paul never traveled alone; even as a prisoner in Rome, Luke himself was wit Paul (27:2).
From Jesus’ ministry with his disciples, to the example of the apostles, to the plurality of elders and deacons in churches, when we look to the rest of the New Testament, it seems the normal pattern for ministry is a team model.
I can say from experience that this is not only the pattern, but practically speaking, is incredibly helpful for ministry. When I go to a conference and stay in a hotel with someone else, I almost always have a great time. But when I go by myself, I often struggle. You see, sitting alone at night in a hotel means I have to fight against the temptation to watch things on television I shouldn’t watch, and would never think of watching with someone else in the room. Yes, being a pastor doesn’t mean you get a pass on those kinds of temptation. In fact, from all that I have read and heard, I think the temptation becomes greater.
That’s just one small example of how helpful team ministry is. We could also talk about its benefits in, sharing Christ, making decisions about church programs, sharing burdens of ministry.
But notice the birthplace of team ministry. Luke says, “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer.” Team ministry begins with Christian praying together. Pastor Derek Thomas says of these early disciples, “Prayer is what they relied on, and you can’t get away from it. We saw it [earlier]: that they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Prayer was one of those marks of the early church, of the early community. They did everything by prayer. That’s why Paul will say, ‘In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.’”
As we move forward as a church, we must grasp this concept of team ministry. We have to see the value of working with others, allowing ourselves to be held accountable to one another, depending on each other varied gifts and abilities. And it all must begin with us, shoulder to shoulder in prayer at the throne of grace.
2. Meet Physical Needs (3:2-10)
“And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
The passage hardly needs any explanation. You can imagine this man who was living out his day as usual, asking for pious Jews attending the temple to show mercy and give him money, probably to buy food. What he couldn’t imagine the incredible mercy was to be shown by two of Jesus’ apostles. I can only imagine Peter stopping at the man’s request, calling him to fix his gaze on them instead of looking from person to person, desperately trying to make eye contact with someone, hoping they will take pity on him. Instead, Jesus’ apostles call for the power of the risen Christ to heal this man who was crippled from birth. So overwhelming was the realization of what had happened, Luke tells us the once lame man “began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
During the early part of the last century, as the world moved beyond the first Great War, some church denominations moved from preaching a gospel of forgiveness to a gospel of help. The emphasis moved from preaching Christ to doing good deeds in the name of Christ. Thus, some churches were quick to feed the poor and clothe the naked, and if the opportunity presented itself they might present the gospel. The immediate need became dominant with the greater, eternal need.
Then many churches reacted to this by not doing anything to help the physical needs of others. They made the gospel and nothing but the gospel their focus.
As this passage shows, God’s desire for our ministry lies in-between these two extremes. The model we have from the apostles is of a ministry that works to alleviate the burdens of another person. But it is not just meeting their physical needs, But rather meeting their real or perceived needs through Gospel driven deeds.
Pastor Tim Keller explains, “It will not be enough for Christians to form a culture that runs counter to the values of the broader culture. Christians should be a community radically committed to the good of the city as a whole. We must move out to sacrificially serve the good of the whole human community, especially the poor. Revelation 21-22 makes it clear that the ultimate purpose of redemption is not to escape the material world, but to renew it. God’s purpose is not only saving individuals, but also inaugurating a new world based on justice, peace, and love, not power, strife, and selfishness.”
In this way, mercy ministries are not to be separated from the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus does not advocate that we feed the poor and heal the sick, then send them on their way. No, on the contrary – as we see in this passage – preaching the gospel and healing people’s bodies are closely associated. Jesus himself didn’t just preach. He preached God’s word and then acted through deeds driven by love for others.
Yes, we must preach the gospel, But as Jesus shows us, we must also work for the common good of our city, and show our neighbors we love them sacrificially, whether they believe as we do or not.
3. Present a Complete Message (3:11-26)
If you listen to much of what passes for Christian teaching today, you may actually find it difficult to hear the gospel. You may hear parts of the gospel, you may even distortions of the gospel, but you actually have to work really hard to hear the biblical gospel. Here, Luke helps us see the essentials of the gospel message – the kind of message that we must proclaim.
A. Confront Sin (3:13-15)
Peter is not hesitant to confront the sin of his hearers. He doesn’t start small either –
No, he goes right for the heart of the matter. “[it was Jesus] whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him… you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”
Just yesterday the Bay City Times reported that an international Catholic study committee presented its findings that they now say that original sin doesn’t exist. I cannot help but scratch my head at that, because the Bible is so clear that the opposite is true – In Romans 5, Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned,”
Sin is at the heart of the problem – literally. Peter identifies the wicked acts of his hearers, but those acts were simply the rotten fruit of a sinful heart. You see, the Bible says the gospel is not about solving our personal problems; the gospel is not about making lives easier; the gospel is not fundamentally even about us - It is about God’s gracious action to save sinners from judgment. In order to see how this can be called good news, one must first be confronted with the reality that he or she is a sinner.
B. Proclaim Christ
After the man is healed, everyone is staring at Peter and John. Many of us today would have begun pulling out our business cards, or handing out promotional dvd’s of our apostolic ministry.
We would have been quick to get people to look to us and what we did.
But the apostles knew better. Peter and John knew that they were simply the clay pots God had chosen to use for his glory. Thus, instead of promoting himself, Peter deflects the glory to God and preaches a Christ-centered sermon. It was Jesus – the Holy and Righteous One (3:14), the Author of life (3:15), who suffered and died according to the prophets (3:18), and was raised back to life and glorified by God (3:13). And it was by the power of his name that this was healed.
I know it seems almost unthinkable, but so many today who claim to preach the gospel, do not actually preach Christ – who he is and what he did according to the Scriptures. But this is the gospel. Without Jesus – without his work on the cross and resurrection from the dead – there is no Christian faith. We must tell about him living a life of perfect righteousness before God (a life we cannot live because of our sinful hearts); about him dying the death we deserve (bearing God’s wrath against our sin); about God raising him back to life as Lord of all creation.
C. Offer Forgiveness
In light of their sin, and in light of what Christ has done for us, Peter tells them, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things”
This morning, consider the kind of sins you have committed. Consider some of the more obvious sins – lustful thoughts or other sexual sin; lying and deception; abuse of drugs and alcohol. Think about some of the less obvious, but in many ways more destructive sins – pride; bitterness; lack of love for God’s people; failure to trust God;
But what could be more heinous than killing Jesus? I mean of all the sins I have committed, I would do them against fifty times over rather than be one who stood there in the crowd yelling ‘crucify him! crucify him!’
And yet, Peter says even the worst of sins can be forgiven. That says nothing about the offensiveness of our sins, but everything about the grace and mercy of God. Regardless of the sin, God promises to forgive because Christ’s death was sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath against the sins of the world. All we must do is repent and believe. Repentance is simply a change of mind that results in a change of one’s life. It means turning away from sin towards God. It means believing Christ is our savior, and believing that the promise of life he offers is better than the promises of sin.
D. Contextualize the Message (3:22-26)
“…which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.  Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.  And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’  And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.  You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’  God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Peter not only presents the essentials of the gospel, he does so in a way that appeals to the specific audience he’s talking to. Peter is addressing his fellow Jews who, though in wrong ways, clouded by misunderstanding and selfishness, have longed for the promised Messiah. Thus, he seeks to show them that Jesus was that Messiah.
Likewise, as we have said before, we must contextualize our message to the lost. That means we must understand our audience and present these essentials of the gospel in a way that shows how Christ brings fulfillment to their desires.