This is the final installment on “Characteristics of Preaching from Peter” from Acts 2.
X. Preaching is Repetitive and Persistent (v. 40b)
Notice verse 40 says, “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’”
It is not uncommon to hear people complain about the length of a sermon, but also, its repetitiveness. For instance, a complaint can be: “How come we’re only hearing (which by the way is an exaggeration) on such and such and not on this?”
When some people talk like that, I’m compelled to explain what exactly is verse-by-verse exegetical or textual preaching, and how to possess expository listening skill. I would like to explain to people that what controls and moves preaching is not the preacher’s personality or charisma or even a certain topic but the very texts of Scripture!
If I would to define what preaching is (along with other points that I’ve already given), I would say preaching means proclaiming the truth and the message of God with clarity and authority. Please listen carefully. When I say authority, I am not speaking of the internal authority – i.e., the authority that is given to preachers to preach like in 2 Timothy 4:2, which says, “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” Though that is true, the authority that I am speaking of is external, which is outside of a preacher, which is none other than the authority of Scripture itself. That is why I can boldly preach God’s truth because His truth/the Scripture itself is already authoritative!
People may say, “Wow. That was a strong message” or “Your preaching is strong and powerful,” but I quickly remind people that the reason why I preach strong message is because the message itself is already strong! All I do is to simply tell it as it is. In other words, I do not have to make the message strong; it already is! So, the focus of preaching is not so much on the preacher, but the very text itself!
- NAU 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
Again, I don’t have to make the message strong and power; it already is. The Word of God is already strong and powerful.
- NAU Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
- NAU 1 John 2:14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
As I already mentioned, it is not uncommon to hear people complain about the length of a sermon, but also, its repetitiveness. But preaching is repetitive; and it must persistently be repetitive. When you read through the Gospels, it is common to hear Jesus uses expressions like “Again, I say to you” or “Again, truly, truly, I say to you.” The point is – his teachings were repetitive and persistently repetitive. Also, just listen to Paul’s repetitive language in one of his letters:
- NAU 2 Corinthians 4:8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
His main point or theme is same, but he says it differently with repetition, reiteration, reduplication, and redundant. Every good teacher knows that repetition is good. It is profitable.
I used to sit under a pastor who would preach similar theme for what I thought to be a long time. And I used to complain, “How many times do I have to hear that stuff? Man, I get it from the first time.” But the Spirit of God had to convict me and break me and made me realize my sinful disposition that I really didn’t get it though I thought I knew it all. I had to come humbly before God and admit that it was my pride and self-righteousness that hindered me to hear what God was trying to say. And it was my pride and self-seeking attitude that proudly boasted that I “got the message” when in fact I didn’t.
- NAU 1 Timothy 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
And what is the primary prescription that Peter gives his listeners to do? In verse 38: repent. And now notice once again Peter’s repetitive prescription in verse 40: Peter kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” Once again Peter is reiterating repentance. Biblically, repentance means turning from something to something. Here, Peter’s point is: be saved from this perverse generation! Again, Peter is reiterating repeatedly our duty to repent.
The adjective perverse in Greek is skolios, where we get scoliosis from, which means bent, crooked, dishonest; thus reference to something that is unrighteous. What Peter is saying is simply echoing what Jesus said during his earthly ministry. For instance:
- NAU Matthew 12:39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;
- NAU Matthew 12:45 “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
- NAU Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
- NAU Mark 9:19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
As you can see, God’s Word always brings responsibility upon his hearers. When people refuse to obey, there is always consequence. And such generation that Jesus and Peter condemned came into its fruition when thousands from that generation were perished during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
“Be saved from this perverse generation” is not only a message of salvation, but also, a message of sanctification. It is a call to separation. On this regard, John Calvin wrote:
For which cause he commandeth his hearers to separate themselves from them, lest they entangle themselves in their wicked and pestiferous fellowship. Whereas he saith, Be ye saved, he signifieth unto them that they shall surely perish if they couple themselves with such a plague. And surely experience doth teach us, how miserably those men are tossed to and from who cannot discern the voice of their pastor from the voice of other men; and again, what an hindrance softness and sluggishness is to a great many, whilst they desire to stand in a doubt. Therefore he commandeth them to depart from the wicked if they will be saved.