How many times do you think the word love is mentioned in the Book of Acts? I often use this as a warm up question when teaching about evangelism. The answers usually range from somewhere in the teens to over 100.
Before you answer, here are a few Acts facts to consider:
- Acts has 28 chapters (the average book in the Bible has 18 )
- Acts chronicles the spread of the early church over nearly 30 years, from Jesus’ final words and his ascension into Heaven all the way through the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment near the end of his life.
- Acts includes 13 presentations of the Gospel to a variety of people – crowds, individuals, Jews, Gentiles, ordinary citizens, high-ranking government officials, etc.
So how many times it the word love is mentioned in Acts?
Here’s the answer: 0. Zero. Z-E-R-O. Seriously. Do a word search in your Bible software. It’s OK, I didn’t believe it the first time I heard it.
So what’s the point? Does that mean love isn’t important? Of course not. God displays perfect love throughout his Word and his love for us is displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus the Son on the cross. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mention God’s love when sharing the Gospel.
But it does tell us some important things about evangelism. The history of the early church should certainly provide a model for how we should go about sharing the truth of the Gospel. The primary model used in Acts was to lay out the facts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and miracles and to highlight our need for him and his forgiveness. There are calls for repentance. But God’s love is never directly mentioned and there is no hint at universalism (the notion that everyone goes to Heaven).
Preaching God’s unconditional love without the need for repentance and faith in Christ is not a Biblical model. It can give people a false sense of security, as in, “God loves me without conditions? Great! No need to change anything. I’ll get back to mocking/ignoring him now.” That is the terrible place to be, as even those who consciously rebel are conceding that they are out of line with God.
People need to understand the bad news (they are sinners against a perfect and Holy God and rightly destined for an eternity in Hell) before they realize their need for the Good News (Jesus took the punishment for our sins and we can be completely and eternally forgiven and reconciled to God if we put our faith in Jesus).
Also note that the Gospel presentations in Acts rebut the myth that Christianity involves faith without reason. Each time the message is given it is based on facts, logic and appeals to reason. At no point is the message to have blind faith.
Acts 17:29–31 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 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.
Read Acts for yourself and see what I mean, or read about Preaching God’s love in Acts.
Hat tip: Greg Koukl – Stand to Reason
7 thoughts on “Love in the Book of Acts”
I was reading an article on Katy Perry about her Christian upbringing, her homosexuality and staunch support of the killing of the least of us. I wondered if someone asked her if God loved her, what her answer would be? I’m confident that it would be yes. Also, I can remember someone posting on FB a meme of Bruce Jenner in drag, and “Loved by god” printed on it. And, it seems I remember him actually affirming that he is loved by God. In this current age, once someone believes that they are loved by God, the average evangelical’s gun is then empty. “God loves you”, says the evangelist. “I know, ain’t it great” answers the doomed.
How does one combat this? Certainly not by preaching the hatred of God I wouldn’t think. My answer is to continue to talk about our condition, and our need for repentance. In any case, great article. I’d recommend a little book, if you haven’t read it, called “The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink. He addresses this well.
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Great book! Read that last year. Wish I would have read it right after becoming a Christian.
The Apostles weren’t feminized, that’s certain. Nowadays, if you preach the gospel with boldness, it is likely you will be accused of insensitivity and even hostility.
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Wow you have a point there with the word love and how it doesn’t appear in Acts.
Wow, this is good! A couple of years ago I decided to read through the entire book of Acts one morning. It had a very powerful effect on me, to say the least. The preaching in the book of Acts just gets right down to the brass tacks, no foolishness, right to the point. And unfortunately, we don’t see much of that kind of preaching today.
I know several men who came to faith in Jesus Christ during the Jesus movement of the late 1960’s/1970’s. I would characterize all of these men as “Book of Acts” believers, if you will. Their testimonies are very powerful, and it is apparent that Acts left a deep and abiding impression on them. When you are around them you can really sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.
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I would wager that churches/pastors who feel they must have sophisticated programs in order to attract people aren’t really stepped in Acts.
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correction: “aren’t really steeped” in Acts.