The Preaching Of Simon Peter
April 8th, 1998 @ 12:00 PM
THE PREACHING OF SIMON PETER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-8-98 12:00 p.m.
This week the theme "God’s Witness to the World"; and today it is what God miraculously did through His choice servant, Simon Peter. Reading the background of the text, chapter 2 in Acts:
When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them divided languages as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Then the second part:
There was a certain man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian regiment. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, Cornelius, send men to Joppa, and send for Simon, whose surname is Peter.
[Acts 10:1, 3, 5]
Then when Peter came:
He opened his mouth, and said, In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. For those Jews heard those Gentiles speak with languages, and magnify God. Then Peter answered, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
[Acts 10:34, 46-48]
So began the dispensation of the sovereignty of God, this one in which we live.
Simon Peter was chosen to open the door of salvation to the Jew. At Pentecost, a marvelous, glorious, religious celebration of the Jewish people – at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down, and in a fire and with a language, He fell upon each one of those apostles. And Simon Peter stood up as the representative of the Lord God in heaven, and he opened the door of salvation to the Jew. As we shall see in the tenth chapter, Simon Peter stood up and opened the door of salvation to the Gentile, to us.
First he opened the door of salvation to the Jew. The Lord’s Spirit had guided Israel through the centuries before, and now had come to the climactic word from heaven itself: "You are chosen to be in the kingdom of Christ." Oh, what a day! What a day! And the Jew was invited into the dispensation in which we live. And that day three thousand of them were baptized into that kingdom, into that church [Acts 2:41]. And then for the next years that followed after, the gospel was preached to the Jew; and the Jew preached the gospel to his fellow Jew. What a mighty, mighty beginning of the church of our living Lord! It began with the Jew.
I’ve often said, I read in the Bible about the Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Gergesite, and the Canaanite, and all the rest of those "ites"; but I never saw anybody who ever heard of anybody who ever saw any of those "ites." But the Jew, he’s here. Walk up and down the streets of the city of Dallas, and you will see him. And he will continue here in this earth, and finally in the great tribulation, in the Revelation, finally we shall experience in this world the greatest revival it has ever known. It will be led by one hundred forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists; twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel [Revelation 7:1-8]. And so comes the climax of human history: the Jew now, yesterday, tomorrow, and at the climactic denouement of the world. And Simon Peter was chosen of God to open the door to the Jew.
Second: Simon Peter was chosen of God to open the door to the Gentiles. It took place in Caesarea, where Cornelius was the head of the Roman army that governed the nation of Israel. And it was a sublime occasion. Cornelius is a Roman, he’s a Gentile; and one of the unusual things I read in the Bible, wherever in the Bible a Roman soldier is presented, he is always done in the finest and kindliest and most gracious of terms. It’s an amazing thing to me. At the baptism of John, there are some of those Roman soldiers, wanting to be baptized. In the ministry of Jesus, there was a centurion who came to the Lord asking for the healing of his servant; and Jesus graciously acquiesced. At the cross a Roman soldier was there, speaking that, "This must be the Son of God" [Matthew 27:54]. And, of course, in the Book of the Acts, there the Roman soldier is taking a vital part in the spreading of that gospel. There is Claudius Lysias, the friend of the apostle Paul; there is a Roman soldier who befriends a little boy, the son of Paul’s sister; and then, of course, there is Julius, who is the captain of the ship, and he preserves the life of Paul on that final trip to Rome. That’s a remarkable thing to me: always presented in the most gracious of lights.
Then, of course, Cornelius, introduced to us in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and the words in this Bible of commendation and appreciation for the good life of Cornelius are without compare.
I cannot help but turn aside here for a moment to speak of a good, good, good man. Can he be saved because of his goodness? Dear me! How the whole world would answer, "Yes." These scientific evolutionists say we’re but a part of the inevitable progress of humanity. And the liberal preacher standing in his pulpit, saying things of sugar and spice and everything nice, and lavender, and perfume, and Chanel No. 5, all are in the kingdom of God. But the Lord God in heaven says just the opposite: we are lost; and underneath are all of the judgments of the Lord God upon our lives. We can’t be saved in our own righteousness and in our own goodness. "We all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23].
And that was Cornelius: as wonderful and as fine of a man as he was, he was not saved; he was lost. And the Lord God took pity upon him, and brought to pass one of the most unusual revelations and outpourings of His Spirit as you could ever think for – and that includes us. The group that gathered there in the household and in the court of Cornelius represented everybody. Some of them were Greeks, some of them Italians, some of them Romans, some of them Judeans, some of them Cappadocians; they were from all over, there at the invitation of Cornelius to Simon Peter, to bring to them, Gentiles, the message of the Lord God in heaven.
So Simon Peter stood up and he began to preach. And always the same message: Jesus, Jesus born of a virgin; Jesus in His earthly ministry; Jesus dying for us on the cross; Jesus raised from the dead; and Jesus the author and hope of our ultimate salvation. And as he preached, as Simon Peter preached to those Gentiles in Caesarea, the same sign happened as had happened at Pentecost: the Holy Spirit came down upon each one of those Gentiles, and they praised God in their native language; each one of them filled with the Spirit, honoring God in the language of their birth. And Simon Peter looking upon it, said, "Can any present water, that these should not be baptized the same as we? And they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Gentiles" [Acts 10:47-48]. Opening the door to the Gentiles – and what a glorious moment that must have been!
I’ve lived through moments like that. Preaching one time in the Caine Road Baptist Church in Hong Kong, while I was preaching, just pouring my heart out in my sermon, down came one of those Chinese, and another, and another, and another, and finally there were more than seventeen of them down there in front of me; and I quit preaching. And I turned to the pastor of the church, and said, "What is this? Why are they there?" And he replied to me, "They just can’t wait until you are done your sermon. Each one of them has given his heart and his life in trust to the Lord Jesus, and they’ve come forward openly and publicly to witness to His love and grace." That’s what happened: on the Gentiles the Holy Spirit of God poured out, as at Pentecost upon the Jew.
And that brings to us one of the most marvelous facets of the Christian faith that you could ever know: anybody is welcome. Everybody is welcome. No matter where they live, no matter their culture, no matter their background, no matter their color, no matter their sex, all are welcome. The door was opened to the Gentiles in that pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Caesarea.
One time I went to the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC. And as I sat there in the congregation, I looked right over there, and there sat Charles Evans Hughes, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He’d been governor of New York; he lacked just a few votes being president of the United States. One of the most distinguished looking men I ever saw in my life, there he sat. And as I looked at him, I remembered the day when he joined the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC. He stood there at the front of the congregation to be presented as a candidate for membership; and by his side stood a Chinese laundryman. And one of the executives in that Baptist church came up to that Chinese and said, "Now you stand over here. You stand over here." And Charles Evans Hughes overheard him, and he turned and said, "Nay, nay, leave him alone. The ground at the foot of the cross is level." No matter who we are, where we come from, our background, our education, our culture, our color, we all are welcome into the household of faith, into the kingdom of God in the love and grace and salvation of the Lord Jesus.
And may I close with a leaf out of my own life? Ever since that outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the Gentiles in Caesarea in the household of Cornelius, all over this world, all over this world there are revivals. There are outpourings of the Holy Spirit all over the world, now! There’s never a time since then that somewhere in this world there was not a great revival, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God. There was a time when I preached literally all over this planet, all over this earth. I took off the month of August every year for over forty years, and preached up and down the continents of this earth.
For example, in Japan, I started up there at the top. And in those cities, in city auditoriums I preached the gospel. Oh! the outpouring of the Spirit of God! When I’d give the invitation, down the aisle would come throngs accepting the Lord as their Savior. And I’d look at them, three hundred of them or more down there, and I’d say, "I’m afraid you don’t understand. All of you go back to your seats, all of you." Then I would explain again the way of salvation and present the invitation, and down the aisle would come those same hundreds accepting the Lord as their Savior – the outpouring of the Spirit of God in this earth. And there in Mali, an African nation on the southeastern side of the continent, preached, proclaimed, give the invitation; and in their way, here and there and there and then there and there and there, they would come and kneel and bow down; the pouring out of the Spirit of God.
And while I speak of revival in the earth, let me speak of the outpouring of the Spirit of God here in this place where we stand. So I was called to be pastor of the church fifty-four years ago. And I followed the mighty man of God, George W. Truett, the greatest preacher our Baptist people have ever produced. He stood here for forty-seven years behind this very pulpit. And he was dignified, and austere; he never made a gesture, he never moved, he just was used of God to deliver the saving message of the cross, standing here in this place. Then they called me as pastor of the church. Law me! They called me! I preached all over this thing; up and down, back and forth. I often think one of the reasons that I succeeded following that great preacher is nobody in this earth ever thought to compare me with Dr. Truett. I was no little Truett. You could hear me ten miles. And you know what I did? Leading our church – the greatest Sunday school attendance in the world in any congregation, in any church, was about fifteen hundred – and I began, and the Holy Spirit worked with us; and we had two thousand, and three thousand, and four thousand, and five thousand in Sunday school, and six thousand in school, and seven thousand, and eight thousand in Sunday school. The world never saw anything like it, never!
And you, I wonder if any of you [were] here at that time? The first Sunday that I was here, the first Sunday after they called me as pastor of the church, I preached here and poured out my heart. And when I got through preaching, I kneeled down here on the right side of the pulpit and began to pray. You never heard anything like it, what happened. There were three thousand people here that day. They thronged the church; they stood around the balcony and the lower floor. And they burst into tears. I never heard anything like it: three thousand people crying, the sound of it, weeping before the Lord – revival in our day, in our generation. And somewhere in this earth, all over the earth, there is a revival going on, there is an outpouring of the Spirit of God. And that will continue until Jesus comes for His own.