The New Thing in Sermons

In the Old Testament, the prophet was a person who did the speaking for God.  Not necessarily predicting future events, the prophet acted as the spoken voice of God on earth.  During Jesus’s earthly ministry, he was found daily in the temple or synagogue reading and teaching.  While his sermon on the mount may have turned the Pharisees’ world upside down, he was regarded as a rabbi in most Jewish circles.  In Acts chapter 2, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preaches something entirely new.

Peter’s sermon marks a turning point in the transition from Judaism to Christianity.  I like to call it the first Christian message.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter proclaims our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He declares that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, and that he was raised up because death could not possibly hold him.  Jesus himself had said that no one is able to take his life, but that he freely gives it away.  Twice in John chapter 10 Jesus says that he has the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again.  The Jewish leaders may have thought that their Jesus problem ended on the day Jesus was crucified, but Jesus earthly ministry was only the beginning of the Christian movement.

Acts chapter 8 tells the story of the Ethiopian eunuch.  Phillip is able to begin with the passage he’s reading in Isiah and preach the Gospel of Jesus.  The whole Bible is about how a holy and righteous God deals with a sinful, fallen and broken people.  Jesus is at the center of that story.  The Old Testament is definitely a big part of that story as well.  Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.  Christianity cannot be divorced from Judaism; they are not two different things entirely.  The brass serpent that Moses lifted up, the substitute sacrifice made by Abraham of the bull, the Passover in Egypt: all of these make more sense after reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus.  Christianity is a continuation of the same story.  Peter is clear about God’s plan when he says of the crucifixion “definite plan and foreknowledge.”

From Acts 13 through the rest of the book the focus shifts to the Apostle Paul and his carrying the Gospel message to the Gentiles (anyone not a Jew).  God’s Word is for everyone that will hear it, and we know that the kingdom will be  made up – is being made now – of people from every tribe, tongue and nation.  On this side of Easter, the resurrection is the new thing in godly, Christian sermons.  And it’s the story that will never grow old.

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