How many times is the love of God explicitly mentioned in the book of Acts?
Let that sink in for a moment. In all the sermons and speeches throughout 28 detailed chapters, not once do the Apostles mention the love of God. So what do they consistently and clearly proclaim?
Resurrection and repentance.
Unfortunately, neither resurrection nor repentance is central in the mindset of modern evangelicalism. Think about it. How often do those two words enter your head when asked to define or describe the gospel? We focus on the crucifixion, but overlook the resurrection. We love to talk about faith, but ignore repentance.
Yet, there is no gospel without resurrection and repentance.
The message of Acts is that Jesus has risen from the dead. This justifies His claim to be the Christ—not only the prophesied King of Israel—but indeed the Lord of all the world. As a consequence, He now “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The resurrection of Jesus Christ demands the response of repentance.
A Gospel of Resurrection
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the book of Acts. Without this reality, the book unravels into nothing more than magic and myth. Without the resurrection, we might as well seek nirvana or serve Baal, Zeus or Gozer the Gozerian. The resurrection makes futile the attempt to classify Christian faith as fantasy or fiction. Unlike the claims of Buddha, Joseph Smith and Mohammed conveniently lacking historical substantiation, Christianity alone is historically grounded in an evidential demonstration of the universal lordship of Jesus of Nazareth.
Not only is the resurrection the climax and culmination of the gospel accounts, but it forms the heart of the apostolic testimony throughout the book of Acts. Being a witness to the resurrection was a requirement for apostleship (Acts 1:22). That Christ was raised was at the crux of Peter’s messages at Pentecost (Acts 2:31-33) and the Portico (3:15). It was central to the apostolic witness before the Jewish council (Acts 4:10, 5:30) and the summary of the apostolic witness (Acts 4:33). The resurrection was at the heart of the unifying message to the Gentiles (Acts 10:40) and Paul’s missionary endeavors (Acts 13:30-37, 17:3, 17:18, 17:31-32, 23:6, 24:15-21, 26:6-8, 26:23). Again, without the resurrection, the book of Acts and the apostolic witness make no sense.
The testimony of the Apostles was not that God changes lives or that He loves you (as true as both of these are). The Apostles witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. They claimed to have seen, touched and heard from a man risen from the dead. He wasn’t reincarnated. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t merely resuscitated only to die again at some future time. He was resurrected, raised from the dead, clothed with a new body—incorruptible, imperishable, immortal.
The resurrection changes everything. It is a foretaste of the future—a vindication of Christ—and evidence that what is wrong will one day be made right.
A Gospel of Repentance
“Repent or face the fiery fury of a fierce God.”
What do you think of when you hear that kind of message? Do you picture those wackos at Westboro who picket military funerals or the unwashed and unshaven man clinging to a sandwich board while yelling at pedestrians in Times Square?
Or do you picture Jesus?
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15).
Acts picks up where the Gospels leave off, and the message of Jesus becomes the message of His Apostles: Repent, for heaven is here, and hell is coming.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 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 (Acts 3:19–21).
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30–31).
The evangelical church does not like to talk about repentance. After all, it is politically incorrect to tell someone that they are depraved. But this only demonstrates the depths of the darkness into which we have plunged. And unless we understand how bad we are, we will never really understand how good God is.
The proper response to the gospel of resurrection is repentance. It is a call to lay down our arms, surrender to our Sovereign, humble ourselves, turn from sin and accept His peace treaty and all of its provisions.
Repentance as a Response to Resurrection
The Church was founded on the belief that the resurrection demonstrates the lordship of the Son of God. If Jesus has risen from the dead, then that historical fact is sufficient evidence that He is who He said He was. And if He is truly Lord and God, He has every right to claim absolute rule over every life. Slow down and read that sentence again, for it will truly change your life if you believe it. If Jesus is Lord, He has absolute and unbounded authority over all things—including you.
Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Therefore, He is Lord. Therefore, He has the right to tell you what to do and what not to do with your body, money, leisure, marriage, family, possessions, speech, consumption, technology and time.
The good news of Christ’s resurrection demands a response. It demands a life of repentance as we slowly but surely recognize that the reign of Christ is truly good news.