KICKING BUTT AND TAKING NAMES
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
— Acts 3:11-26, ESV
When someone is on a roll it is was once common to say they are “kicking [blank] and taking names.” Since we’re Southern and Christian, I’ll be polite and just say “butt.” But however you want to say it, Simon Peter was getting it done in this sermon.
The great Apostle was not actually kicking with his foot, but preaching with his mouth, having taking his foot out of his mouth since Pentecost. And he offers no names of anyone in his audience in particular, only the persistent personal plural pronoun, “you.” “You delivered … you denied … you killed,” etc.
His righteous indignation takes a u-turn in the middle of the message, however, and propitiates into a magnanimous offer of free grace and mercy, making this a practically perfect gospel sermon. Put on an extra pair of pants. Perk up your ears. Let us receive the blows, then bend our knees and bow our heads before God and the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ must deal with sin.
Peter and John, by the power of God, had just performed a miracle and made a crippled man walk. Peter, by the same power, now preaches with the proffer of another miracle. This is a far greater miracle, one that can cure the soul, not just the body, one that can enable a person not just to walk, but to walk with God.
The great commission the Lord gave to His Apostles was not to perform miracles, but to make disciples (ref. Matthew 28:18-20). He gave them the power to do miracles, too, and to use them as He had, as a sign pointing to something greater, as a living parable of the eternal gospel. The attention gained from the lame man walking gave Peter a platform to preach, and preach he did, kicking butt and taking names.
He begins by boldly confronting the people with their sin and depravity. One is a symptom of the other. We sin because we are sinners, by nature (“ignorance”) and by choice (“wickedness”). The particular sins he called attention to included denying the Lord, choosing a murderer over the Lord, and killing the Lord. No laundry list could be more lurid.
The question now is who’s “you?” Is this some culturally conditioned critique that counts only for the Jerusalem Jews of Jesus’ day? Or, could the “you” be you? It is, if you are not a Christian.
Unconverted people are guilty of many sins, but chief among them is their denial of the deity of Christ and His lordship over them. If they really believed He is God, they would worship Him and follow Him. But non-Christian people prefer the things of this world, power and money and sex, things that will ultimately kill them, over the things of God. And, unbelievers still have blood on their hands, the blood of Christ, that only faith can wash away. Lost people go through life unforgiven, unchanged, and prefer to be unchallenged by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That’s why the gospel must challenge sinners with their sin. If people do not see themselves as sinners they will never seek to accept forgiveness from the Savior. The gospel, rightly preached, gives them this chance.
The gospel of Jesus Christ must be delivered with compassion.
When you call someone a sinner, say it with a smile. We can only read Peter’s words, not his face or body language, but I do not think he had his nose in the air or his fist hammering down. Like the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter loved people, especially his fellow Jews. He touted their common ancestry, took some common ground, and talked to them with compassion.
Peter remembered when He had denied the Lord, when He had pressed Jesus to do things in a more worldly way instead of a spiritual way, where he was when Jesus died, hiding and weeping in bitter tears. Peter saw himself as a sinner, redeemed, preaching to sinners in need of redemption.
“Brothers,” he said relationally, “I know you acted in ignorance.” In other words, I know you just don’t know.” But he was telling them in this moment, in this sermon, a sermon that kicks butt and takes names, a sermon that still talks to us now about the gospel and how to preach it, witness it, share it, as one sinner telling another sinner compassionately how to get rid of their sin. And only One can take it away.
The gospel of Jesus Christ must be centered upon Christ.
The most important name Peter names in this sermon is the name above all names, the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is the center of this sermon, as He should be in every sermon, for Jesus is the glue who holds the world, the Bible, and the gospel together. Peter preached the gospel straight on by telling who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.
Jesus is the “servant” predicted by the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah (ref. 52:13-53:12). Jesus is “the Holy and Righteous One,” a name reserved for God. Jesus is the Savior, because Jesus Christ is Lord!
Jesus came to us, appeared in Israel, and allowed Himself to be “killed” on the cross at Passover. On the third day, He was “raised from the dead.” “By faith in His name” the Apostle Peter performed a miracle and preached the gospel, so that the greater miracle of salvation could be received by all who have “faith in His name.” Jesus is the gospel and when one trusts the gospel they are trusting entirely in Christ.
Many so-called gospels have been preached through the ages. In our present day the social gospel is getting wide publication. By no means am I against efforts made, especially in the name of God, to eradicate society’s injustices. But, the only thing that can really cure the causes of injustices, namely sin, is the true biblical gospel of Jesus Christ preached and accepted. Peter preached it, par excellence, and also instructed his congregation on how to accept and apply the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ must demand repentance.
Like John the Baptist before him, and like the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Simon Peter preferred the word “repent.” He exhorted the crowd to have “faith in His name,” to believe, trust, and willingly obey Jesus Christ. Such faith is an empty shell, however, if it is not conjoined with repentance, the change of mind that changes the heart that changes the will and results in “turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
A gospel sermon has no kick if it does not name the names of faith and repentance. It kicks too much, however, when other ingredients are added in. Faith and repentance are the only right and biblical responses to the gospel that results in salvation. This is because faith and repentance are gifts of God’s grace that God gives through the preaching and acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When you add layers of sacramental religion, like the Roman Catholics, you confuse people at best and offer a false gospel of works at worst. The same is true for the so-called altar calls of Baptists and others. The kicking and converting gospel can never be about anything you do for God, but about what God has done for you through Jesus Christ.
And, when one truly believes, they truly repent. And, when one truly repents, one engages in the religious rituals and activities of the church, good works toward others, and the repeating of the gospel to the lost and unchurched so that they might be saved. The gospel is alive, but faith without repentance and works is dead.
The gospel of Jesus Christ must promise the world.
Finally, look at how the gospel properly preached not only preaches, it teaches. It packs the punch of gospel power to save the soul, but also instructs the mind on how God’s plan of salvation unfolds, giving followers of Christ the world, and then some. Peter does not name the names of justification, sanctification, and glorification in the sermon, but he preaches and teaches them just the same.
The moment a person believes the gospel and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they are justified, forgiven of all sins forever, “your sins [are] blotted out.” Also, “times of refreshing” come as the Holy Spirit enters you to sanctify you, make you holy, set you apart, empower you for worship and service in the kingdom of God. This the church will do until “the time for restoring all things,” the second coming of Christ, appears in glory with a new heaven and earth.
Through the gospel you can be absolved of all the sins committed in this world. Through the gospel your life in this world can have meaning, purpose, power. Through the gospel you can inherit a better world, a new heaven and earth, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Peter preached all of this and more, in this complete, kicking sermon.
I new a guy once who loved to preach so much he said he’s preach at the drop of a hat, and he’d even drop the hat. Well, Peter dropped the hat for this sermon. Peter punched all the buttons. Peter kicked butt and took names. We would do well to receive the blows in order to accept the name above all names, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. Then, when we kick the bucket, we will rejoice because God has named our names and written them in the Book of Life.