After the ascension of Jesus, the apostle Peter quickly became one of the most prominent voices in the New Testament church. In the power of the Holy Spirit, this largely uneducated fisherman became an eloquent and forceful preacher of the good news about Jesus.
As a testimony of God’s redemptive mercy, Peter was chosen by God to preach the sermon on the Day of Pentecost, only 53 days after he denied his Lord. In the Spirit’s power and anointing, Peter, who had been fearful of a woman while warming himself at a fire outside the house of the high priest now boldly proclaimed the message of the Savior.
In appendices to this course, we have included a variety of well-known approaches to presenting the plan of salvation, such as the ABC’s of Salvation, The Romans Road and the Four Spiritual Laws. But, I have found the simplest and most effective approach to simply sharing Christ with a nonbeliever is patterned after the apostle Peter’s preaching in the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Mark.
In the Book of Acts, Luke records simple proclamations of the gospel by Peter in chapters 2,3,4,5 and 10. When these presentations are analyzed, they show that in each presentation Peter addresses two basic truths: who Jesus is and why He gave His life. A similar presentation of these two points is found in the Gospel of Mark, which was almost certainly Mark’s record of Peter’s apostolic preaching.
The Day of Pentecost
Peter preached his best-known sermon on the Day of Pentecost. The key components of the passage relating to who Jesus is and why He gave His life are in italics.
"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your holy one to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. "And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to Him with an oath to seat one of His descendants on His throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nod did His flesh suffer decay. "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear." For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified."
Through these phrases and statements, Peter clearly proclaimed who Jesus is and why He gave His life. Following are the portions of his sermon that answer each of those questions:
- A man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst
- God has made Him both Lord and Christ
- Predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God
- God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power
- This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
- Having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear
Other Sermons in ActsThe following key points are found in four other passages in Acts. The wording below is from the NASB.
- His servant Jesus
- The Holy and Righteous One
- The Prince of life
- The Christ
- His Christ would suffer
- That your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord
- Heaven must receive
- Bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways
- Jesus Christ the Nazarene
- The Stone which was rejected
- The chief corner stone
- Crucified, whom God raised from the dead
- Salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved
- Put to death by hanging Him on a cross
- The one whom God exalted to His right hand
- Grant repentance to Israel
- Forgiveness of sins
- Lord of All
- Jesus of Nazareth
- Anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power
- He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him
- One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead
- Put Him to death by hanging Him on the cross
- God raised Him up on the third day
- Through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins
Who and WhyThe apostle Peter’s preaching in the Book of Acts always answers two basic questions:
- Who was Jesus?
- Why did He give His life?
1) Who was Jesus?To nonbelievers with no Christian background, I suggest first focusing on the question, “Who was Jesus?” in a historical context, speaking of Jesus incarnate in human form 2,000 years ago, before progressing to “Who is Jesus?”—the living, resurrected Christ.
When sharing the message of Jesus with a nonbeliever, it is important not only to communicate who Jesus was but also who He was not.
In recent years, Jesus has received a lot of attention in the media. Cover stories about Jesus have appeared in almost all major national news magazines. Television programs and miniseries have been made about Him.
But accounts of Christ’s life by secular media almost always present Jesus as a fictional character. Even when He is shown as a historical person, He is depicted as a great teacher or even a prophet—but only a man.
Jesus was much more than a teacher and prophet. He was God in human form. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died for our sins and conquered death by rising again to offer us forgiveness of sin and the gift of everlasting life.
If Jesus Christ was not who He claimed to be, if He is not the crucified and risen Son of God, then as the apostle Paul declared, our faith is useless. Paul wrote, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
2) Why did He give His life?The Jews and the Romans cannot be blamed for Jesus’ death. His life was not taken from Him. He gave it. Jesus said, “The Father loves Me because I give My life, so I can receive it again. No person takes it away from Me, but I give it because I choose to give it. I have the authority to give it, and I have the authority to take it again.” The sins of all mankind are responsible for Jesus’ death.
John the Baptist announced why Jesus came to earth when he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Why? The existence of the cross clearly establishes two facts:
- We’re sinners.
- There was nothing we could do about it.
The reason Jesus gave His life is because each of us has sinned and is separated from God. The punishment for sin is death. This kind of death is not physical. It means our spirit, which lives forever, will be in everlasting punishment in hell. Jesus explained that hell is like a “lake of fire,” and that everyone who goes there is separated from God forever and burns in fire that never ends.
But God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus was born as a man, but He lived His life without sin. Men lied about Him and judged Him guilty of things He had never done. Then they hanged Him on a cross to die. Jesus never sinned, but He was punished for sin. So death had no power over Him, and He came back to life after three days. Now He offers everlasting life to anyone who receives Him.
It is significant that like Peter, Paul communicated the same two truths at Thessalonica. A description by Luke summarizes Paul’s teaching in the synagogues on Sabbath days. Luke’s summary of Paul’s teaching essentially answers the same two questions:
“As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.”
A simple presentation of the gospel should include these two facts about Jesus. Both are essential to understanding the grace of God that was manifested through Jesus’ death on the cross, His resurrection and His consequent purchase of the redemption of all mankind. He accomplished what John the Baptist prophesied He would do—“take away the sin of the world.”
 Acts 2:22-36
 Acts 2:22-36, 3:12-26, 4:8-12, 10:34-43
 1 Corinthians 15:17
 1 Timothy 2:5
 John 10:17, 18
 John 1:29
 Romans 6:23
 Mark 9:47, 48; Revelation 20:15
 Mark 8:31; 9:31; 14:27,28
 Acts 17:2-3
 John 1:29