Preaching God's Love in Acts?

What was the emphasis in the evangelistic preaching of the Apostles as recorded in the book of Acts? Does the record of Acts support the notion that the central focus of Christianity is one's love relationship with God and personal life enhancement? Or did these disciples of Christ focus on something else?

The list below includes every instance of evangelistic preaching in the book of Acts, a summary of content, and an analysis of emphasis.

1. Pentecost, Acts 2:14-39

Peter notes the manifestations of the Holy Spirit that all had been witnessing, then ties them to the fulfillment of prophecy of Joel about the last days. He then preaches Jesus as the Messiah--attested to by miracles and by the resurrection which was prophesied by David--and the guilt of the crowd for the crucifixion.

The emphasis is on forgiveness of sin by Jesus the Messiah. There is no mention of God's love or a relationship with Him.

2. Peter at the Gate Beautiful, Acts 3:12-26

After Peter and John healed a man lame from birth, Peter placed the blame for Jesus' death on the shoulders of the listeners. He then appealed to fulfilled prophecy and told them either to believe and return and thus receive forgiveness and times of refreshing, or be destroyed.

The emphasis is on forgiveness of sin by Jesus the Messiah. There is no mention of God's love or a relationship with Him.

3. Peter before the High Priest, Acts 4:8-12

Peter attributes the healing of the man lame from birth to Jesus the Messiah, whom the Jews had crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead. He quotes prophecy and says there is no other means of salvation but through Jesus. Peter then refuses to be silent about the Gospel.

The emphasis is on forgiveness of sin by Jesus the Messiah. There is no mention of God's love or a relationship with him.

4. Peter's Defense a Second Time before the Council, Acts 5:29-32

Peter proclaims the resurrected Christ as Prince and Savior who brings forgiveness of sin and gives the gift of the Holy Spirit. He accuses the Council of putting Jesus to death. They are so infuriated they want to kill the Apostles. Instead, on the advice of Gamaliel, the believers are flogged and released.

There is no mention of God's love or any kind of tender relationship with Him.

5. Stephen's Defense before the Council, Acts 7:1-60

Stephen recounts the history of the Jews in which they constantly rebel, rejecting God's deliverer. He accuses the Jews of being stiff-necked, resisting the Holy Spirit just as their forefathers had. He accuses them also of betraying and murdering the Righteous One, the Messiah. They are so filled with rage they murder him.

Emphasis is on the guilt of the Jews. There is no mention of God's love.

[Note: When God speaks to Saul about his future during the events surrounding Saul's conversion (Acts 9), there is no mention of an intimate relationship, only that Paul would suffer much for the sake of Christ.]

6. Peter's Message to the Household of Cornelius, Acts 10:34-43

Peter talks of the ministry of Jesus, His miracles, death on the cross, and resurrection. Peter tells the Gentiles it is his job to solemnly testify that Jesus is the One appointed by God to judge the world, that Jesus' coming was prophesied, and that belief in Him brings forgiveness of sin.

The emphasis is on Jesus, the prophesied Messiah who either brings judgment or forgives of sin. There is no mention of God's love.

7. Paul's Message to the Jews in the Synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, Acts 13:16-41

Paul preaches Jesus as the anticipated Savior, affirmed by John the Baptist, crucified by the Jews, who rose from the dead in fulfillment of prophesy. Paul then proclaims forgiveness of sin and freedom from the Law for all who believe.

Paul proclaims Jesus the prophesied Messiah crucified and resurrected. His emphasis is on forgiveness amidst warning.

8. Paul at the Areopagus in Athens, Acts 17:22-31

Paul discloses the nature of the "unknown God," One who is responsible for all creation, and in whom we all depend for our very existence. He calls all men to repent, because God has appointed a judge, a man who has risen from the dead.

Emphasis is on the nature of God, and the reality of judgment. There is no mention of relationship or God's love.

9. Paul's Defense before the Jews in Jerusalem, Acts 22:1-21

Paul gives his testimony, detailing his persecution of Christians motivated by his zeal toward God, his conversion on the road to Damascus, and how his sins were washed away in Jesus' name. When he mentions his mission to the Gentiles, however, the Jews protested violently.

Emphasis is on Paul's personal encounter with Christ, his own forgiveness from sin, and his subsequent mission. There is no offer of personal relationship with God or mention of God's love.

10. Paul's Defense before the Sanhedrin, Acts 23:1-6

Paul says he is on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead. There is no mention of the love of God.

11. Paul's Defense before the governor, Felix, Acts 24:10-21

Paul establishes his innocence regarding the Jews' charges, then affirms the Law and the Prophets and the general resurrection of both righteous and wicked, a belief for which he says he is on trial.

There is no mention of God's love or even of forgiveness.

12. Paul before Felix and Drusilla, Acts 24:24-25

Paul speaks of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come which frightens Felix who then sends Paul away. There is no mention of God's love or of a personal relationship with Him.

13. Paul's Defense before the Agrippa, Acts 26:1-29

Paul gives his testimony, noting the importance of the resurrection. He tells of the commission Jesus had given him, proclaiming the Gospel with a goal of deliverance from Satanic darkness to receiving forgiveness and an inheritance from God. Paul claims his message is the same as the prophets regarding the Messiah's suffering and resurrection.

Emphasis is on the resurrection of Christ, prophetic fulfillment and forgiveness, and Paul's responsibility to preach the Gospel. There is no mention of love or a relationship with God.

The love of God is never mentioned a single time in the entire book of Acts.

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Greg Koukl

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