Peter had been preaching Jesus Christ in response to the gathering crowd. A man had been healed in the previous chapter, and many came expressing their amazement. Then Peter preached Jesus, the crucified Son of God, to the people. The Jewish priests, the temple guards, and the Sadducees came and arrested Peter and John, taking them into custody and putting them into jail. Then our text is given, "But many of those who heard the message (word) believe..."
Here we have some gentle but important reminders to those who preach the Word of God to the people.
First, preachers should preach Christ. This is what Peter did; he preached Christ. But what does it mean to preach Christ? Does preaching the crucified Christ simply mean to recount the historical crucifixion of Christ? No, the text says the people believed the message or word about Christ. Peter said several significant things about the crucified Christ. He called Jesus the "Prince of Life (3:15)", he referred to Christ's resurrection (3:15). Peter talked about the power of Jesus' authority and the faith engendered in Christ by the working of God's grace (3:16). He referred to God's foreknowledge and prophetic word (3:18), and he implied God's sovereign power to fulfill this prophecy regarding Christ (3:18). He talked about repentance and forgiveness of sin (3:19). He talked about eschatological hope and judgment (3:20-23). What a powerful sermon! Here we learn that to preach Christ means to preach the doctrine of Christ. It is sad to observe that many modern preachers feel and act like doctrine is the obstacle (even enemy) to ministry and preaching. But we must preach Christ by preaching all that Christ is and has done. It is only by such method will sinners be saved.
Second, people come to believe in Christ through the preaching of the Word of God about Christ. When preachers preach Christ to the people, the Spirit of God is pleased to move in a sovereign way for the salvation of sinners. The salvation of one sinner is evidence of the sovereign power of the Spirit of God, but when many are brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then we are seeing the sovereign work of God in great expressions of joy. But people come to the saving knowledge of Christ by virtue of the preaching of Christ.
Third, it is clear from our text that the Spirit calls people to believe in Christ in a saving fashion. Salvation is linked to believing in Jesus Christ and all He is and has done. This implies a great inner change in the mind and heart and will of the sinner. Only the Spirit of God can make such a change, but this change does occur because of the work of the Spirit through the preaching of the Word of God. People are called to believe the message about Jesus, and they will express that belief in personal trust in Him. Ministers must remember that the ministry of the Word deals more with exclamation marks rather than questions marks. The question marks of doubt and cultural sensibilities will never save the soul. The preacher must not put his finger to the wind to see which way the social wind is blowing before he speaks. He must have a "thus says the Lord" tone to his preaching. He must know the Word, and he must preach the Word authentically, earnestly, lovingly, and prayerfully.
Finally, the ministry of preaching always has two effects: some believe and some don't. This has always been true in the context of preaching the truth. Some believe, some have faith, and some don't. The minister in his preaching cannot determine who will believe and who won't. This is the doing of God in the sacred hall of the individual soul. This is the mystery of the working of God in the lives of people. The minister cannot determine who will believe, but we say with Paul, "How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)" Thus, we need preachers.
So, preacher, go forth in the joy of the Lord! "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things! (Romans 10:15)" May God bless your work this day for His own glory!