Jesus chose Peter to be the leader of the apostolic company and entrusted him with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:16-19). After giving them instructions about how He wanted them all to be witnesses of Him to the whole world (Acts 1:8), we first see in the book of Acts that Peter led the believers in choosing the necessary replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26).
In Acts 2, we read of Peter’s preaching the first apostolic message in obedience to Jesus’ directive for them to be His witnesses. This premier gospel message has many instructive features that we need to learn from so that we will be the witnesses of Christ that we should be.
Peter as a Witness in Jerusalem
Peter preached to men who were devout Jews (Acts 2:5) from every nation, but before he did so, they all heard supernaturally produced testimony to the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11). Because the Spirit has chosen not to give us any more information about what that testimony included, we cannot be certain of what specific content they received through this precursor to his message.
Following this initial supernatural testimony, Peter explained to his hearers what they had just witnessed signified (Acts 2:14-21). This means that his hearers received a lengthy two-part precursor to his actual message.
When we look at Peter’s message (Acts 2:22-36), we see that it was preeminently a God-and-Jesus message that highlighted that God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him (Acts 2: 22; 32, 36). When the people responded by asking him and the rest of the apostles what they should do in light of what he had preached to them (Acts 2:37), Peter instructed them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38-39), just as Jesus had commanded the apostles to proclaim to the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Lk. 24:44-49).
Peter then extensively warned them after his message and urged them to be saved (Acts 2:40). Because the Spirit has chosen only to give us a brief summary of this lengthy exhortation after Peter’s message, we again note that God has not given us an exhaustive record of the witness that these people received on this occasion.
Three thousand people from among his hearers joyfully received his message and were baptized (Acts 2:41). This vast multitude of people was genuinely saved not by hearing just “a simple gospel message” that only told them that Jesus is God and that He died for their sins—they actually received a very lengthy witness that climaxed with an emphatic proclamation of Jesus as the God-resurrected and God-exalted Christ (Acts 2:36)!
What Being a Witness of Christ Does Not Mean
Although we do learn many things from this premier message about what being a witness of Christ entails, the inspired record of Peter’s first witnessing of Christ in Jerusalem (Acts 2) also teaches us many key truths about what being a witness of Christ does not mean:
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean that we should necessarily give people as short and simple a message as possible. These people heard a four-part vast testimony (Acts 2:11; 2:14-21; 2:22-36; 2:38-40) that plainly declared to them many profound truths (cf. Acts 2:11, 33, 36, 38), including truth about the day of the Lord (Acts 2:16-21) that Bible interpreters even today have difficulty fully understanding and explaining.
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean talking only or mainly just about Jesus Himself. In fact, Peter bore vital testimony many times in his message to what God the Father did in relation to Jesus (Acts 2:22, 24, 30, 32, 33, 34, 36).
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean talking only or mainly about the Crucifixion of Jesus. Although Peter, naturally, did testify of the Crucifixion (Acts 2:23), he emphasized the Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ far more than he did the Crucifixion (Acts 2:24-36).
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean talking only or mainly about Jesus as God. Although what Peter preached did testify to the deity of Jesus, he also testified that Jesus was the Christ whom God approved (Acts 2:22), worked through (Acts 2:22), raised (Acts 2:24, 32), and exalted (Acts 2:33, 36).
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean talking only or mainly about Jesus as Savior. Peter did testify to that truth, but he climaxed his message with a declaration of Jesus as the God-exalted Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), which statement is not reducible to testimony merely about Jesus as Savior.
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean talking only or mainly about believing on Jesus. Peter emphatically demanded that his hearers also repent (Acts 2:38).
- Being a witness of Christ does not mean talking only or mainly about getting saved. Although Peter did provide testimony to them about being saved (Acts 2:21) and did urge them to be saved (Acts 2:40), he also demanded that they be baptized (Acts 2:38).
The inspired record of Peter’s testimony of Christ in Jerusalem that is recorded in Acts 2 provides us with vital instruction about being a witness of Christ. Let us all profit fully from this glorious passage!