Love in the Book of Acts

heart.gifHeartHow 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.”

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.

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15 thoughts on “Love in the Book of Acts”

  1. Ha! Glad to have a kindred spirit.

    I should blog about infant baptism sometime . . . seems un-Biblical to me, though not the kind of thing I’d leave a church over.

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  2. Fascinating. I’ve never thought about it. Another important point in discussing love in the Bible, is to show how often “eros” shows up in the NT. I once did a search and came up with zero. It is possible that I’ve overlooked a salient point, such as, perhaps Greek isn’t the only language of the NT, but I think that type of love is never mentioned. Considering how some speak of the Bible being about love, just what kind of love is important to understand.

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  3. Neil, It’s great how you use your blog for God. When I first started learning about the internet in college. I didn’t realize it could be use to teach people about God. I thank God that you continue to enlighten me. Our church read the book of Acts, I glad we did.

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  4. Hi Neil,
    Allow me to step into the conversation.
    http://www.grace-of-aiken.com/Infant%20Baptism.htm
    For an argument for Biblical infant baptism. 🙂 Yes, you can still come worship with us if you don’t believe that.

    I’m glad that you pointed this truth about love out. So much focus is given to it that I feel many people get the impression “that of course God loves me, I’m just so stinking wonderful, why wouldn’t He love me???”

    Well, if He doesn’t love you, it’s because you are a stinkin’ rotten sinner that deserves hell and His wrath. But out of His grace, He chose to save some through the atoning work of His Son… Why? For His glory and the Son’s glory, He saves some. Hallelujah. That’s the part I really love. For His own glory, He chose to save some of us! Not because of anything in us, but because it would bring Him glory. That is sweet music to my ears. That is when the love for us becomes evident, after we have been saved. Again, not because of any specialness found in us, but because we are found in HIM.

    This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
    He is pleased with us, because of the righteousness given to us by the Son. Again, bring in the Hallelujah singers! Yea!

    OK, back to my sermon writing for my flock. 🙂

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  5. The Ancient people understood their sin. That’s why they had gods for everything. They saw their sins everywhere they looked. Unfortunately, we have lost our sin awareness. We’re, in the words of Calvin, totally depraved!

    And in the words of the master,

    if the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

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  6. Timothy,
    I read parts of your link on infant baptism, but confess I didn’t read it all. I don’t agree with it, but won’t break fellowship over it.

    I was a little disturbed though by your repetitive comments that He saved some of us, that He saved some.

    I’ve always been taught (and could probably find verses to back it up) that He saves all who come to Him.

    We have to choose. The Gift He gives is free, but we have to accept it. And it is offered to all.

    Otherwise, what’s the purpose? If I’m not one of the chosen, then I might as well enjoy myself here on earth, nothing I can do will save me. The good news is that I CAN enjoy myself here on earth, because of what He’s done for me.

    Maybe we’re talking semantics. I’d say that all Christians are chosen, but everyone can choose to believe. Maybe you’d say the same from a different angle.

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  7. Most excellent post. I’ve been on a journey for years now trying to understand that word “love”. I have learned one thing for sure, the modern understanding, and the biblical understanding are not even close. But the modern understanding does do a lot to turn the gave-my-only-son-so-you-don’t-have-to-perish love into never-mind-the-the-costly-sacrifice-let’s-just-give-lost-people-free-stuff love. My church has a food bank and an English as a second language program. But they get some funding from outside sources that prohibits the sharing of the gospel. I can’t think of anything more unloving than that.

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    1. There are reasons that most pregnancy centers, such as the Care Net location we’re involved with, don’t take a penny of money from the gov’t. Too many strings. Only Screwtape could entice a church to promise not to share the Gospel.

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