As mentioned in the previous post that one reason Luke’s account of the Acts of the Apostles is of vital interest is that it is effectively the only book in the New Testament which includes apostolic preaching (to the unconverted) as opposed to the pastoral teaching contained in the various epistles. I made the following comments in my first book which I believe still hold true:
Once one reaches the Acts of the Apostles, the crucified and risen Jesus is central to the Good News message. Indeed, Acts is vital in that it indicates how people were called to gospel salvation in terms of what is required of them and once again just as importantly what is not. Examine every sermon in Acts meticulously, including Paul’s and you will note that “justification” for example is mentioned but once (13:38b/39). In the apostolic evangelistic preaching of Acts, people were not brought to salvation by apprehending “justification by faith alone”, or by “renouncing any effort to be righteous and resting in the Saviour’s merits” or “looking to the finished work of Christ and appropriating it to myself” or “believing that Jesus had died for me as an individual” or “praying the prayer of faith, asking Jesus to come into my heart” but simply by acknowledging and believing that Jesus Christ is Lord, turning from their sinful ways and being baptized for cleansing of past sin: nothing more, nothing less (cf. Acts8:36,37 & 17:30).
The teaching on how the Christian goes on to grow in the faith and in holiness and participate fully in the life of the Church is provided by the epistles. Of course, none of the apostles’ writings are specifically evangelistic, being pastoral letters written to the churches, but even allowing for this change of genre (evangelistic preaching to pastoral letter) it cannot be the case that what is essential to saving faith could be excluded from all the evangelistic sermons in the Bible and can only be deduced from the Pauline epistles! It is a serious point, and one of many that eventually found me out as a Calvinist Evangelical. Of course, the Lord’s ethical teaching in the gospels along with the pastoral epistles must be drawn upon to fill out the picture of what it means to commit one’s life to Christ. But in terms of what one is required to believe or emotionally experience to become a Christian, and who within the broader Church are to be regarded as such, nothing can supplement the requirements of initiation as preached in Acts. Likewise, if the gospel as one currently perceives it does not match the heralding angel’s description of “Good News of great joy that shall be to all people” (Lk2:10), be assured one has not yet fully grasped the implications of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. Angelic messages of Good News and great universal joy lead to joyous outcomes for humanity, albeit not necessarily for each individual. Any eschatological depiction that does not reflect that Good News requires revisiting, however revered its formulator may have been. [Excerpt from “Fellowship of the Secret” chapter one]
In subsequent posts I will be commenting on each of the sermons contained within Acts but perhaps the most important point about aspects of the gospel proclamation which many believers regard as vital to conversion yet are nowhere to be found within the sermons is best verified by the reader carefully going through Luke’s account of the Acts of the Apostles themselves.