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.
Hat tip: Greg Koukl – Stand to Reason