But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said to them, You men of Judaea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem…
Here we have the report of a sermon preached within a few days of Christ's ascension, addressed to men many of whom knew Jesus Christ, all of whom had heard of His work, His life, and His death, and setting forth the apostolic estimate of Christ, His miracles, His teaching, His ascended condition and glory. We cannot realise, unless by an intellectual effort, the special worth of these apostolic reports contained in the Acts. Men are sometimes sceptical about them asking, How did we get them at all? how were they handed down? This is, however, an easier question to answer than some think. If we take, for instance, this Pentecostal address alone, we know that St. Luke had many opportunities of personal communication with St. Peter. But there is another solution. The ancients made a great use of shorthand, and were quite well accustomed to take down spoken discourses, transmitting them thus to future ages.
I. THE CONGREGATION assembled to listen to this first gospel discourse preached by a human agent was A NOTABLE AND REPRESENTATIVE ONE. They were all Jews or Jewish proselytes, showing how extremely wide, at the epoch of the Incarnation, was the dispersion of God's ancient people. The Divine seed fell upon no unploughed and unroken soil. Pure and noble ideas of worship and morality had been scattered broadcast throughout the world. Some years ago the judgment of Solomon was found depicted on the ceiling of a Pompeian house, witnessing to the spread of Scriptural knowledge through Jewish artists in the time of Tiberius and of Nero A race of missionaries, too, equipped for their work, was developed through the discipline of exile. The thousands who hung upon Peter's lips needed nothing but instruction in the faith of Jesus Christ, together with the baptism of the Spirit, and the finest, the most enthusiastic, and the most cosmopolitan of agencies lay ready to the Church's hand. While, again, the organisation of synagogues, which the exigencies of the dispersion had called into existence, was just the one suited to the various purposes of charity, worship, and teaching, which the Christian Church required.
II. THE BRAVE, OUTSPOKEN TONE OF THIS SERMON evidences the power and influence of the Holy Spirit upon St. Peter's mind. notes the courageous tone of this address as a clear evidence of the truth of the resurrection.
III. Again, the tone of St. Peter's sermon was remarkable because of its ENLARGED AND ENLIGHTENED SPIRITUALITY. It proved the Spirit's power in illuminating the human consciousness. St. Peter was rapidly gaining a true conception of the nature of the kingdom of God. He enunciates that conception in this sermon. He proclaims Christianity, in its catholic and universal aspect, when he quotes Joel as predicting the time when the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.
IV. Let us look somewhat farther into the matter of this earliest Christian sermon, that we may learn THE APOSTOLIC VIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME. What was the conception of Christ's life, work, and ascended state, which St. Peter presented to the astonished multitude? We must not expect, indeed, to find in this sermon a formulated and scientific system of Christian doctrine. St. Peter was as yet far too near the great events he declared, far too close to the superhuman personality of Christ, to coordinate his ideas and arrange his views. Yet his discourse contains all the great principles of catholic Christianity as opposed to that low view which would represent the earliest Christians. as preaching the purely humanitarian scheme of modern unitarianism. St. Peter taught boldly the miraculous element of Christ's life, describing Him as "a man approved of God by mighty works," etc. Yet he did not dwell as much as we might have expected upon the miraculous side of Christ's ministry. And that for a very simple reason. The inhabitants of the East were so accustomed to the practices of magic that they simply classed the Christian missionaries with magicians. The apostles had, however, a more powerful argument in reserve. They preached a spiritual religion, a present peace with God, a present forgiveness of sins; they pointed forward to a future life of which even here below believers possess the earnest and pledge.
V. Again, the sermon shows THE METHOD OF INTERPRETING THE PSALMS AND PROPHETS popular among the pious Jews of St. Peter's time. St. Peter's method of interpretation is identical with that of our Lord, of St. Paul, and of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He beholds in the Psalms hints and types of the profoundest doctrines of the Creed. He finds in the sixteenth Psalm a prophecy of the intermediate state of souls and of the resurrection of our Lord.
(G. T. Stokes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: