6 Vital Elements of the Gospel Message (Peter got it Right)

Peter’s gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost contained at least six vital elements that must mark our gospel preaching.

When presenting the gospel, we do not consciously address each of these points, but rather our gospel message should be seasoned throughout with these truths. Otherwise our gospel message will be lacking, and will be less than gospel.


This article gives an overview of Peter’s evangelistic sermon in Acts 2:14-42. Peter’ gospel message on Pentecost was:

  1. A Confirmed Message
  2. A Christ-centered Message
  3. A Convicting Message
  4. A Calling Message
  5. A Comforting Message
  6. A Converting Message

1. Peter’s Gospel was a Confirmed Message (2:16-36)

Peter stood not on the shifting sands of personal experience as a platform from which to preach the gospel. As he stood up in the streets to preach the gospel, Peter stood firmly on the 39-book foundation we call the Old Testament. Yes, he affirmed himself and the other disciples as “witnesses of these things”, but only after he fired off his sermon from the launcher of the Word.

Scripture was Peter’s arsenal as he hurled missile after missile of gospel truth into the ears of sinners.

Too much “gospel” preaching today is based on personal experience, clever story-telling, and emotional manipulation. Peter drew all his gospel arrows from the quiver of the Word.

When we stand to declare the gospel, whether on the streets, at the doorstep, or in the pulpit, our gospel presentation must swim in Scripture. God’s Word carries an earth-shaking authority—an eternal weight of glory—impossible to match by the feather-weight wits of even the cleverest preacher.

When we preach the gospel or witness to sinners, we must not start with our personal experience, the way we see things, or the sinner’s felt needs. We must start with God’s Word, which we believe to be “the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”1

We agree with the Philadelphia churches, “The authority of the Holy Scripture … dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself).”2

Ours is not to defend the gospel but to declare the gospel.

“Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.” -Charles Spurgeon

Peter unleashed the lion of the gospel from God’s Word, and that gospel conquered 3,000 of its worst enemies that day. The power of the gospel is in the gospel itself, not in your experience of it. Your personal testimony has power to save no one. The gospel of Christ has power to save anyone.

Apostle Peter Scripture-drenched his gospel sermon. So must we.

Old Testament Scripture Confirms the Gospel

In his gospel sermon on Pentecost, Peter quotes from the following Old Testament Scriptures…

  • Joel 2:28 (Acts 2:16-21)
  • Psalm 16:8-11 (Acts 2:25-35)
  • Psalm 132:11 (Acts 2:25-35)
  • Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:25-35)

Christ did not just step into the world, unannounced. He fulfilled around 350 Old Testament prophecies in His first coming. Peter enlarged on several of those prophecies, showing how Christ fulfilled them.

Our gospel presentation must be rooted firmly in Scripture. There is no authority or saving power in telling people our personal salvation testimony. There is full authority and saving power in God’s Word (I Peter 1:23-25).

The Triune God Confirms the Gospel

God the Son, Jesus Christ, confirmed His own gospel with divine power (Acts 2:22). Peter reminded them of the “miracles, wonders, signs” that Christ had done in front of them.

God the Father confirmed the power of the gospel, as Peter affirms in Acts 2:24,30,and 32.

  • Acts 2:24, “Whom God [the Father] raised up”
  • Acts 2:30, “God [the Father]…would raise up Christ to sit on his throne”
  • Acts 2:32, “This Jesus hath God [the Father] raised up”

God the Holy Spirit confirmed the gospel: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” - Acts 2:33

As Peter launched out into the deep to preach the gospel, the Word and Testimony of the Triune God of glory filled his sails, careening him forward with majestic power. That majestic power of God and His Word trumps your little personal testimony any day. Get your sails full of that wind and surge forward into the deep, fishing for souls.

2. Peter’s Gospel was a Christ-centered Message

Much of modern preaching focuses on man and his felt needs. Peter’s gospel preaching focused on Christ.

“No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.” -Charles Spurgeon

Our gospel presentation must paint Christ to the sinner—Christ in all His cross-work and resurrected glory. Peter preached the Person and work of Christ (Acts 2:22), the cross of Christ (Acts 2:23), the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:24-32) and the Lordship of Christ (Acts 2:33-36). Peter did not preach Christ as a historical religious figure who can be flattered with your religious imitation of him. Peter preached Christ as the glorious living Lord of glory.

3. Peter’s Gospel was a Convicting Message

This was no feel-good sermon. In his gospel preaching, Peter confronted sinners about their sin and personal guilt (Acts 2:23b,36). This preaching discovered and uncovered their sin, and it hurt. But they never would have seen their need of Christ otherwise. True gospel preaching will prick the sinner’s heart, and will confront them head-on with their sin.

The word “pricked” speaks of “the puncture of a spear”. Peter’s gospel preaching stung sinners’ hearts, evoking a sharp, painful emotion in the hearers. When God stabs the sinner’s heart with the spear of conviction, the sinner will come running, crying to Christ for salvation.

4. Peter’s Gospel was a Calling Message

When Peter preached the gospel, he called sinners to immediate repentance (Acts 2:38). “Repentance” means “a change of heart and mind that leads to a change of lifestyle.” “Repentance” speaks of a turning from sin to Christ.

These believing Jews were to be publicly baptized in the name of Jesus—the Jesus they had publicly executed a few weeks ago.

The gospel is not a neutral lecture to inform sinners. It is a dynamic, authoritative message to transform sinners. The gospel demands immediate response from the sinner. The gospel calls sinners to repent and repent now.

5. Peter’s Gospel was a Comforting Message

The gospel promises “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38b) to those who obey it. “Remission” includes:

  • pardon: deliverance, forgiveness, liberty
  • release from bondage or imprisonment
  • letting (sins) go as if they had never been committed
  • remission of the penalty

But who is this remission for? This is the gospel of free grace to the worst of sinners.

The gospel invites even the worst of sinners—Jerusalem sinners—to have their sins washed away.

Peter is saying “This Jesus—whom you killed a few weeks ago—invites you to repent and believe on Him, have all your sins forgiven by him, and be baptized in His name to permanently associate with Him and His people.”

We have heard sinners say, “If I stepped in church, lightning would strike me.” No. If you’ll run to Christ, all God’s wrath-lightning struck Christ on the cross, and there will be no more of that lightning left for you!

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18)

Every sinner who heard Peter preach that day could say, “I can be rid of this awful agonizing guilty burden—this sin of murdering the Son of God. There is hope! I can be forgiven!”

If they were forgiven, there is hope for any sinner to be forgiven.

6. Peter’s Gospel was a Converting Message (Acts 2:41-42)

Today, many churches and preachers pronounce sinners to be “saved” though the said converts never come to church again. They’re dead wrong.

According to the pattern of Scripture, a salvation that does not cause the convert to “continue steadfastly” is a counterfeit salvation.

Like an irresistible magnet, God’s inward work of regeneration pulled these converts to attend church on a regular and frequent basis. They continued in “the apostle’s doctrine.” The apostles could preach any doctrine in all of Scripture and these converts would love it and obey it.

If more of our church members were actually converted, they would not be offended and angered over the “apostle’s doctrine.”

They would not be offended by the sincere preaching of sovereign grace, holiness, repentance, and the Lordship of Christ etc.

When Peter preached the gospel on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls were saved, and every one of those 3,000 converts followed Christ in believer's baptism, and continued steadfastly in the local church, taking heed to the apostle’s doctrine. That’s true conversion.

Conclusion

When we declare the gospel to sinners, may we declare it as Peter did, as a confirmed, Christ-centered, convicting, calling, comforting, converting message.


Footnotes
  1. The Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith, 1742, 1.1. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/phila.htm

  2. Ibid., 1.4.