Updated: Oct 23, 2020
The Authentic Gospel: Lessons from Apostolic Sermons - Part 2 by Rick Caldwell
The “new gospel” either adds to or removes words from the pattern of apostolic preaching found in the book of Acts in order to make the “message” more palatable and less injurious to unrepentant sinners. Even though different audiences, both Jews and Gentiles, were under consideration for the apostles and their companions, there remained a discernible pattern of preaching that is definitely worthy of the attention of anyone who ventures to faithfully preach the gospel. As a quick review we have already covered the following lessons about apostolic gospel preaching:
1. Gospel Preaching Emphasized God’s Fulfillment of Promises
The gospel is a consummate fulfilment of God’s promise of the Messiah in the Law and the Prophets and a vindication of His faithful character. Any consternation or skepticism about the specifics of the Old Testament impugns God’s character.
2. Gospel Preaching Emphasized Jesus’ Death Through The Lens of Man’s Treason The ultimate representation of man’s hostility toward God is the crucifixion of the very One who explains Him (John 1:18). The implications of the crucifixion of Christ Jesus extend beyond the nation of Israel and is a reflection of the depraved nature of mankind. We should never presume that we would have responded contrary to the Jews and the Gentiles in Judea without God’s restraining grace.
3. Gospel Preaching Emphasized The Spirit’s Reproving Ministry
The gospel proclamation is bankrupt without the incontrovertible exhibition of the sinner’s guilt before a holy God. The Holy Spirit convicts, makes the facts of sinner’s sin apparent, through the gospel proclamation and thereby revealing the necessity of grace.
for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5 NASB)
There are two noteworthy aspects of 1st century apostolic preaching that must be explored: (1) Christ Jesus as Lord and (2) repentance and pardon. Any gospel presentation that fails to address the sufficiency of Christ as Lord to save and the conditions of the terms of peace with God is woefully deficient. Let’s explore these two remaining items together.
Where is Christ Jesus now? If we ventured to point sinners to the cross, they would find no one there- only a tattered, blood-stained remnant of Christ’s seminal work; however, Christ would not be there to welcome them. So, where do we find Him? In the Fourth Gospel, the crushing of the prince of darkness is associated with Jesus being “lifted up.” (John 16:11)
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:31-32)
Jesus uses deliberate ambiguity in regard to the this term “lifted up.” He uses it to mean not only to be lifted up on the cross, by means of the cross, but also to be lifted up to glory. In fulfillment of the Davidic prophecies (see 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and 1 Chronicles 17:11-14), the apostle Peter presents the Messiah as the consummate “anointed one”; prior kings were types and shadows. The Messiah was to be recognized by His resurrection from the dead. God has exalted to the throne as sovereign Lord and Christ the crucified Jesus. The gospel is a proclamation that Jesus is King. He has sovereign authority to bring his foes into judgment.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)
The apostle Paul also makes the connection between Christ’s humiliation and subsequent exaltation.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11)
In Acts 2, it is also apparent that the audience understood the terrifying implications of being responsible for crucifying their Messiah.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)
It should not escape our notice that Peter’s first mention of pardon came in conjunction with God’s demand for repentance.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19)
The apostle Peter proclaimed to them God’s promise of pardon upon their repentance (change of mind) and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter’s proclamation does not attach any saving efficacy to the rite of baptism; it was simply to be an outward profession of their inward change of mind and their reliance on God’s promise, which was fulfilled through the person and work of Christ Jesus. J. A. Alexander explained the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” means “by his authority, acknowledging his claims, subscribing to his doctrines, engaging in his service, and relying on his merits. (Alexander, 1857)
In conclusion, it is important to understand that apostolic gospel preaching included: God, Christ as the risen Lord, man’s sin, and repentance and faith as the terms of pardon. We also see how the tri-personal God is involved in various aspects of the proclamation: the faithfulness of God’s promise, Christ’s fulfillment of the promise, and the Holy Spirit convicting sinners of their sin and being a seal for those who believe. I pray that those who are flirting with the “new gospel” will abandon that enterprise and return to the model affirmed by the apostles. Does your words match those of the apostles? What biblical warrant do you have to modify their words? Consider the significance of the apostles’ words from an excerpt of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer in John 17.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;
that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
Alexander, J. (1857). The Acts of the Apostles. New York: Charles Scribner.
Rick Caldwell is a Bible teacher at Lakewood Church of Christ in Atlanta, Georgia. He is actively involved in various church ministries and initiatives, especially initiatives that focus on the urban context. He has over 20 years experience in the information technology field and currently resides in Woodstock, Georgia with his wife Maricruz. Check our Rick's YouTube channel here.