In reading through Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, you notice that social justice is a major theme woven throughout the book.  To him and others, being involved in social justice is one of the primary ways of brining “heaven to earth.”  In fact, Rob Bell says:

       Taking heaven seriously, then, means taking suffering seriously now.  Not because we’ve bought into the myth 
       that we can create a utopia given enough time, technology, and good voting, choices, but because we have 
       great confidence that God has not abandoned human history and is actively at work within it, taking it 
       somewhere.  Around a billion people in the world today do not have access to clean drinking water.  People 
       will have access to clean water in the age to come, and so working for clean-water access for all is 
       participating now in the life of the age to come.  (page 45)

Being involved in bringing about “social justice” means, as Rob Bell says, “taking suffering seriously now” and seeking to rid the world of injustices.  Now that sounds like a very noble cause, but is that the primary calling for the followers of Jesus?  How can we really know if this is what we are to labor for and spend our time and efforts on?  The clearest way to understand what Jesus wants his followers to do is to look at the very last commission, or words, that He spoke to them before He ascended back to heaven.  Then the next logical thing to do would be to look in the book of Acts and see HOW these followers of Jesus understood His last instructions for them.  The book of Acts is almost like a commentary on helping us understand what exactly Jesus wants us to be doing.  If anyone understood what exactly Jesus meant when He gave His commandments, surely it was those whom He personally commissioned, who walked with Him in the flesh, who saw Him resurrected from the dead, who received the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and in Paul’s instance, who was converted by a vision from the Lord and then taught directly by Him.  Don’t you think that would be a good place to start?   Is it best to start with our own ideas of how we should follow Jesus’s commands, or would it be best to see how the first disciples and apostles understood Jesus’s commands and then follow their example as they followed the Lord Jesus Christ?

If this concept of bringing heaven to earth by ending injustices is one of the central themes of Jesus’s teachings, then we will clearly find it being taught by the first disciples and apostles.  So let’s go through each account of where the gospel was preached in the book of Acts and see exactly what kind of message these believers told the rest of the world.  We’ll even look at some of the results in the people’s lives as a result of believing what these disciples of Jesus preached.  Also, since Rob Bell seems to believe that the “reconciliation of all people” is so clearly taught in the Bible, we’ll see if we can find it mentioned in any of apostles’ preaching. 

We’ll start out by looking first at the commands that Christ gave to his disciples before he ascended to heaven.  After preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God for three and a half years, fulfilling what was written about him in the prophets, He was crucified and rose from the dead.  These are His last instructions for those who were there following Him, those who called Him “Lord.”

In Matthew, Jesus says:

       And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore 
       and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy 
       Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the 
       end of the age.”  (Mat. 28:18-20)

So, Jesus says:
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus.
Therefore, make disciples of all nations
Baptize them.

Teach them to observe everything Jesus commanded.

In Mark, Jesus says:

       And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes 
       and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will 
       accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;  they 
       will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay 
       their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mark 16:15-18)

Here Jesus says:

Go into all the world.
Proclaim the gospel to the whole creation
Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
Those who believe not will be condemned.
Cast out demons.
Speak with new tongues.
They will pick up serpents with their hands.
If they drink deadly poison, they won’t be hurt.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

In Luke, Jesus says:

       and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and 
       that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from 
       Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  (Luke 24:46-48)

We are told that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be PROCLAIMED in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

In the gospel of John, the commission given to the disciples is not recorded. 

There we have the last commands of Christ.  This is what Christ wants his followers to be about doing until “the end of the age.”  If we can understand what Jesus means for us to do in these commissions, then we can be faithful to our Lord and do His will.  So instead of working our way through each commandment in the commission, let’s just go through the book of Acts in a basic way and see what the Apostles spent their time preaching and doing.

Here’s the first sermon we find preached in the book of Acts after the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out.  Starting at verse 32, it says:

       “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.  Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, 
       and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves 
       are seeing and hearing.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to 
       my Lord, Sit at my right hand,  until I make your enemies your footstool.’  Let all the house of Israel therefore 
       know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Now when 
       they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what 
       shall we do?”  And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ 
       for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and 
       for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  And with many 
       other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked 
       generation.”  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three 
       thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking 
       of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done 
       through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were 
       selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by 
       day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and
       generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day 
       by day those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:32-47)

It would probably be helpful for you to go back and read the whole chapter.  But in this second chapter of Acts, we have the Holy Spirit being poured out on the believers who were waiting in the upper room in prayer.  After the Spirit is poured out, they go outside and start declaring the “wonderful works of God.”  Peter then gets up and preaches the above message.  What does he preach?

He preaches Christ, a man approved by God with miracles signs and wonders.
He peaches the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, as prophesied by the prophets.
He preaches that Christ is at the right hand of God until God makes His enemies His footstool.
He preaches that the one whom they crucified is the one whom God has made both Lord and Christ.

Then the men who heard him were “pricked in their hearts,” and they cried out to Peter “Men and brethren, what shall we do.”

What does Peter tell them?  Does he tell them about the new meaning for heaven and earth?  Does he tell them that everyone will be saved?  No, he tells them to:

Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin.
He tells them that in doing this, they will receive the promised Holy Spirit.
He tells them this promise is for everyone that God calls.
He then exhorts them with many more words, telling them to “save themselves from this crooked/perverse generation”. 

Peter did exactly what Jesus told them to do in his last commands before He went back to heaven. 

What were the results of Peter’s obedience?
Three thousand people became believers and were added to the disciples.
The new believers continued in the apostles teaching, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The believers willingly had all things in common.
They sold their possessions and parted them to the believers who were in need.

Notice they didn’t all gather together to form a bunch of non-profits to address the injustices in the world.  But they did do something else.  These new believers “naturally,” out of the fruit of being saved, parted with their goods and met the needs of the brethren.  They were the “sheep” of Jesus, and they were naturally fulfilling the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mat. 25:31-46).  They were giving to Jesus by giving to the brethren in Christ.

Let’s continue on to chapter three.  As we continue on, I want you to carefully look to see if the disciples made social justice, bringing clean water to the world, environmentalism, or redemptive art a focus of the gospel they preached and lived.  Surely, if Jesus commanded it, it will be evident in the book of Acts, as we follow their lives and see what they said and did. 

Chapter three begins with Peter and John going up the temple at the hour of prayer.  They see a man being laid at the gate of the temple who was born lame.  This man would daily ask for money from the people going in and out.  Then we read:

       And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  

       And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 
       But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of 
       Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet 
       and ankles were made strong.  And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, 
       walking and leaping and praising God.  (Acts 3:4-8)

Peter does exactly what Jesus told them to do and he heals this man.  Peter then uses this opportunity to preach the gospel to the Jews who were there.

Peter says:

       “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant 
       Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 
       But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  and you killed 
       the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  And his name – by faith in his 
       name – has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the 
       man this perfect health in the presence of you all.  And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as 
       did also your rulers.  But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he 
       thus fulfilledRepent therefore, and turn again, 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.  Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your 
       brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.  And it shall be that every soul who does not listen 
       to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’  

       And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these    
      days.  You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to 
      Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’  God, having raised up his servant, 
      sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”  (Acts 3:26)

Again, let’s highlight what Peter says to these Jews who, living at that time, would have been aware of what happened to this man named Jesus.

He accuses them of delivering over and denying Jesus in Pilate’s presence.
They denied the Holy and Righteous One, asking for a murderer to be let go instead.
He tells them that God has fulfilled what He spoke through the prophets by the suffering of Christ.
Then he tells them to repent so that their sins might be “blotted out” or forgiven. 
He tells them that Moses said if they don’t listen to Jesus, they will be destroyed.
He then concludes by saying God wants to bless them by turning them from their wickedness.

Have you ever heard a gospel message like that?  If you are reading this and go to Mars Hill, have you ever heard Rob Bell preach like this?

Peter confronts these men with their sins.  He does so by speaking directly to the sins they have committed.
He tells them of the suffering of Christ prophesied by the prophets.
He tells them to repent so their sins can be forgiven.
He tells them that they will be destroyed if they don’t listen to Jesus and that God wants to turn them from their wickedness.

Does it sound as if these men will be reconciled to God if they don’t repent and do what Jesus says?  Or, does it sound like they will be destroyed?  Can you imagine Peter saying such a thing to a crowd of people?  What if the single mother that Rob Bell talks about in his book – the one who works so hard to bring up her children – what if she is in the crowd?  Here you would have Peter condemning someone whom Bell thinks God might just ask to run the world.  And where is the social justice aspect of Peter’s message?  All he does is preach the gospel to these people and tell them to repent and turn to God, which implies faith, so that their sins can be forgiven. 

Again, what you have is Peter being faithful to do what Jesus told them to do…the same thing He tells us to do. 

       Moving on to chapter four, we find Peter and John being tried/questioned before the High priest and others.  
       They are angry at them for preaching “through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”  (Acts 4:1)

When they ask Peter by what power or name he has done the miracle of healing the lame man, he says:

       “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, 
       whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him this man is standing before you well.  
       This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there 
       is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be 
       saved.”  (Acts 4:10-12)

Peter tells them that they rejected Jesus and that “there is salvation in no one else.  There is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which we MUST be SAVED.” 

So there is a message to be preached.
A Person and a Name to be believed in so that we might (MUST) be saved.

Notice there is no explanation that Jesus might be secretly saving people and they just don’t know, as Rob Bell would have us believe.  The disciples are taking what Jesus said seriously and preaching about a person (Jesus) who people must know about and believe in to be saved, to have their sins forgiven. 

At the end of chapter four, we read:

       Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the 
       things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the 
       apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and 
       brought the proceeds of what was sold  and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as 
       any had need.  (Acts 4:32-35)

The apostles are continuing to preach about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  What do we see with those who have believed their message?  We see them sharing their goods with other believers, so that no one would lack anything needed.  They were meeting each other’s needs.  These believers, in giving to other believers, were again giving to Jesus, because they were giving to the BRETHREN of Christ.  They are fulfilling the “sheep” in Matthew 25.  Notice they have still yet to start one non-profit to address the injustices in the world. 

In Chapter five, we find the High Priest and the Sadducees taking the apostles and throwing them into prison.  But God intervenes and sends an angel to set them free.  The angel tells them:

       But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and  
       stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”  (Acts 5:19-20)

What are the “words of this life”?  It’s the same word that they have already been preaching.  It is the death and resurrection of Christ for our salvation.  It is a message that says, “If you want to enter this life, you must repent and believe what Jesus has said.”  If they do not believe this message, they will not have life and their sins will not be forgiven.  There is no universalism in their message.

The apostles confirm their message again by saying before the council:

       “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right 
       hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to 
       these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Acts 5:30-32)

Peter again confronts these men with their sins and tells them Christ was given to give men repentance and forgiveness of their sins.  What was the council’s reaction to the good news of the gospel?

       When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  (Acts 5:33)

Some people just don’t want to be confronted with the fact that they have sinned and that they must believe in Christ to be saved.  If you don’t like that response, you could always just tell them that God will eventually save everyone, so it’s ok.

Chapter five concludes by saying:

       Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the 
       name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching 
       Jesus as the Christ.  (Acts 5:42)

The apostles continued to do what Jesus told them to do.  Everywhere they went, they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In chapter six, we find something very interesting as it relates to social justice.  It says:

       Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against 
       the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  And the twelve summoned 
       the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to 
       serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and 
       of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the 
       word.”  (Acts 6:4)

There was a dispute between the Hellenist (Greek) believers and the Hebrew believers.  The disciples had sold many of their possessions and laid them at the apostles’ feet to be distributed to those believers who were in need.  Yet there was a complaint that Hellenist widows were being neglected in the “daily distribution.”  Notice that the daily distribution was taken up for the widows among the believers.  The apostles didn’t start soup kitchens all over Jerusalem to feed all the poor widows everywhere.  They were taking care of the family of God, the brethren of Christ.  And what did the apostles say? 

“But we will devote ourselves to social justice, ridding the world of evils, and try to save this world that God is 
going to destroy.”  No, they didn’t say that, as some would have you think they did.  They said they would 
devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry (preaching) of the word.”  The apostles knew that it was 
through prayer and preaching the word of God, the word of salvation through Jesus, that men would be saved 
and reconciled to God.  They knew that this foolish message, that so many today see as unimportant for the salvation of men, was the only way that men could be saved and have their sins forgiven.  As you read through 
the book of Acts, you will see the apostles continuing to labor and be faithful to the commands of Christ.

In chapter eight, we find a disciple named Philip preaching Christ to those in the city of Samaria. 

       Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.  And the crowds with one accord 
       paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did.  For 
       unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed 
       or lame were healed.  So there was much joy in that city.  (Acts 8:5-8)

The people of that city used to follow a man name Simon, who was a sorcerer.  He bewitched the people so that they were fooled and called him “the great power from God.”

The scripture says though:

       But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus 
       Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  (Acts 8:12)

They believed the good news about being saved through Jesus Christ and they turned to God and were baptized.  Then if you continue reading, you find that when the apostles hear of their conversion, they send Peter and John to come down and see these believers.  The apostles lay their hands on these believers and they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17).  When Simon, the sorcerer, sees that the Holy Spirit is given through the laying on of hands, he offers the apostles money so that he might have the same power.  Peter says to him:

       But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God   
       with money!  You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.  Repent, 
       therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be
       forgiven you.  For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”  (Acts 8:23)

Wow, sounds pretty unloving, eh?

Can you imagine someone saying to Rob Bell, “You have distorted the word of God; your heart is not right before God.  Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” 

Most people today would say, “That’s so unloving.  Jesus said to just love people.”  After all, Simon (like Rob Bell) was also a “baptized believer.”  How could the apostles say such a thing to a man?  They were doing the right, and ultimately loving, thing to this man.  They were rebuking him so that he might repent of his sin and wickedness and be forgiven by God.  The love of God doesn’t always look like some think it should.

Continuing on in the chapter, we find the Spirit of God telling Philip to go to Gaza.  There he finds the Ethiopian eunuch traveling in his chariot.  The Spirit of God tells him to “join himself” to this chariot.  As he does, he finds the man reading from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.  It is that great chapter that foretells the coming of the Messiah.  It tells of Christ suffering for our sins so that we might be justified in God’s sight.  It truly is an amazing chapter, one of the crown jewels of the Old Testament.  Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, to which the eunuch says he does not.  So, as the scripture says:

       Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.  (Acts 8:35)

Philip preached to him that in Jesus, there is forgiveness of sins.  The eunuch even understood that he needed to be baptized, as Jesus said in Mark 16:16. 

       And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what 
       doth hinder me to be baptized?  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he 
       answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  And he commanded the chariot to stand 
       still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.  (Acts 8:38)

Again, be it disciples or apostles, we find they all continued to be faithful to do what Jesus commanded to be done in his last, “great commission.” 

In chapter nine, we come to the conversion of Saul.  Notice what the Lord Jesus tells Ananias His mission for Saul is:

       But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the 
       Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my 
       name's sake.  (Acts 9:16)

Saul was a chosen vessel of God to “bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”  Saul was to “bear His name”?  We later find Paul doing that very thing.  He is telling people about the name and person of Jesus so that they can be saved.  Neither Jesus nor Paul take the stance that Bell does, that somehow people can believe in Jesus and not know they are believing in Jesus.   Furthermore, Paul did not try to alleviate the world of its suffering, but he was called to personally suffer for Jesus.  That is another concept that is almost foreign to the church today.  The fact that God is not so much calling you to, in the words of Bell, “enjoy His good world;” but He is calling you to suffer for His name’s sake in this fallen world that we live in. 

What did Paul do when he was converted? 

       And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.  (Acts 9:20)

He went to those who did not believe in the Son of God and preached from the scriptures that Christ is God’s Son and that only through Him can you be saved.  Paul didn’t become an advocate for social justice or teach the reconciliation of all men.  He too was faithful to the commands of Christ.

As we continue on to chapter ten, we find another one of the great sermons in the book of Acts.  This one, however, is preached to a Gentile.  Not just a Gentile, but a Gentile who already believed in the One true God.  He worshipped the God of the Hebrews and lived a life of prayer and alms giving (giving to the poor).  By Rob Bell’s understanding, this man was already participating in the age to come.  He was already bringing heaven to earth and participating in the kingdom of God.  Yet in God’s eyes, though this man was favored before God for his faith, God still sent Peter to preach to him, so that he could have his sins forgiven.  Here is what Peter preached:

       “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)  
       That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the 
       baptism which John preached;  How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: 
       who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.  And we 
       are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and 
       hanged on a tree:  Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;  Not to all the people, but unto 
       witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.  
       And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be 
       the Judge of quick and dead.  To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever 
       believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”  (Acts 10:36-43)

What a great sermon!  What a faithful God!  God, who is rich in mercy, made sure that this faithful centurion was able to hear about Jesus Christ.  God was not hindered, as Rob Bell implies, by the possibility of the missionary getting a flat tire.  Sometimes, God does get what God wants. 

Notice again what was preached.  Peter starts off by saying that God preached “peace by Jesus Christ.”  Jesus Christ is the true peacemaker, as He has made peace between God and man, for those who believe.  Peter then tells of the death and resurrection of Christ.  He tells them that Jesus commanded them to preach and testify that it was HE who has been ordained by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead and that “through His name whosoever believes in him shall receive forgiveness of sin.”

It’s the same focus
It’s the same message
Over and over and over again. 

We’re now ten chapters into the book of Acts, and we’ve still yet to see the emphasis on social justice, environmentalism, or “redemptive art.”  However, since Bell tells us these things are so important and one of the main focuses of Jesus, surely we’re soon to come across them being taught.  Let’s continue on and see.

In chapter 13 of the book of Acts, we find Paul preaching in a Jewish synagogue.  It’s a rather long sermon, but we’ll highlight a couple of things he says:

       “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the 
       word of this salvation sent.”  (Acts 13:26)

       “And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.  And when 
       they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.  
       But God raised him from the dead:”  (Acts 13:28-30)

       “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in 
       the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”  (Acts 13:33)

       “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the 
       forgiveness of sins:  And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be 
       justified by the law of Moses.”  (Acts 13:38-39)

Paul preached:

God has sent a word of salvation
He preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
He preached that through Jesus is the forgiveness of sins.
Paul continues to obey the last instructions of Jesus to his disciples. 

In Acts chapter 16, we find that Paul and Silas have been cast into jail.  While in jail, they sing praises to God.  Then suddenly, there is a great earthquake, and all the jail’s cell doors come open.  The jailer awakens out of his sleep to find all the cells open.  He pulls out his sword to kill himself, when Paul stops him and tells him that they are all still there, that they haven’t left.  The man falls down trembling before Paul and Silas and says:

       “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, 
       and thy house.”  And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.  And he took 
       them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.  
       (Acts 16:30-33)

The man asked what He must do to be saved.
Paul tells him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The man is then baptized. 

In chapter seventeen, we find Paul reasoning in another synagogue. 

       Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a 
       synagogue of the Jews:  And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days 
       reasoned with them out of the scriptures,  Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, 
       and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.  (Acts 17:1-3)

Continuing on in chapter seventeen, we come to the famous sermon that Paul preaches on Mars Hill.  Here, preaching to the men of Athens, he says:

       “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN 
       GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.  God that made the world and all things  
       therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;  Neither is 
       worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and 
       all things;  And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath  
       determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;  That they should seek the Lord, 
       if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:  For in him we live, 
       and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.  
       Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or 
       silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now
       commandeth all men every where to repent:  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge
       the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men
       in that he hath raised him from the dead.
       (Acts 17:31)

Paul tells them that they “ignorantly worship” the unknown God.
He tells them this God does not dwell in the temples they make.
Nor the idols they make with their hands.
This God has determined the times we should live in.
He is not made of gold, silver, or stones, the artwork of men’s hands.


This God has “winked” at your times of ignorance.
But now this God commands that all men everywhere repent.
Because He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness
By a man whom he raised form the dead.

Pretty straightforward!  He calls out their sin of idolatry.  He tells them God doesn’t dwell in the temples or their idols, which are the work of their hands.  He tells them this one God has made everything, and He’s going to judge everyone by a man whom He raised from the dead.  And he tells them that God commands them to repent. 

Not exactly your “seeker-sensitive” message!  But again, Paul is being faithful to do what Jesus told us to do. 

In chapter twenty of Acts, we have recorded what Paul told the elders at Ephesus.  He tells the elders what he has spent his time doing:

       And when they came to him, he said to them: You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time 
       from the first day that I set foot in Asia,  serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that 
       happened to me through the plots of the Jews;  how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was  
       profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of 
       repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Acts 20:18-21)

Paul continually preached that men are to repent to God and have faith in Lord Jesus Christ.

In chapter twenty-four, when Paul is before Felix, we find Paul preaching:

       And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, 
       “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”  (Acts 24:25)

In chapter twenty-six of the book of Acts, we find Paul again recounting and telling us more details about his conversion experience and his commission by Jesus Christ:

       “And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  But rise and 
       stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness 
       to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your 
       people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from 
       darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place 
       among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’  (Acts 26:15-18)

Paul was sent to the Jews and the Gentiles to open their blind eyes, that they might be turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and be among those who are sanctified by faith. 

In other words, it’s the great commission all over again.

So there’s a bird’s-eye-view of what takes place in the book of Acts. 

After reading Rob Bells book, Love Wins, we have to wonder why the apostles did not focus their time and energies on ridding the world of injustices, why they did not create non-profits to clean the environment or bring clean drinking water to everyone, why they didn’t promote sustainable development, and why they didn’t see the importance of believers creating “redemptive art.”  Since, as Bell says, Jesus so clearly teaches us to do these things so that we might bring heaven-on-earth, we have to ask, “Were the disciples of Jesus just disobedient to the commands of their Lord?  Or, were they so dense that they just couldn’t understand what His commands actually were?”

I don’t believe that, and hopefully you don’t either.  If anyone understood what Jesus primarily wanted us to be doing, it was the first disciples and apostles, the very ones who walked and talked with Jesus Himself.  In reading through the book of Acts, we can clearly see how they understood the commands of Jesus and what they did in order to obey them.  What they did was exactly what Jesus told us to do in His last instructions before He ascended to heaven.  They spent their time doing exactly what Jesus said, so that men would have their sins forgiven through Jesus Christ.  As I said in my critique, they were helping to rid the world of the greatest injustice of all, the injustice of the sins that men commit against God.  They were peacemakers in the truest sense, as they were ambassadors for Christ, helping men to be reconciled to God.  Instead of being focused on social justice, they focused on helping men to be justified in God’s sight.  What they gave men was not some temporary benefit that only lasts this short lifetime.  They gave men the living water of Jesus Christ that not only benefits them in this life but also in the life to come. 

If we are to follow their example and obey the commands of Christ, then we are to spend our time and energies doing the exact same thing they did; brining the good news of the salvation in Jesus Christ to the whole world. 

       For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of   
       preaching to save them that believe.  (1 Cor. 1:21)

       Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  
       (1Co 1:25)

       Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, 
       that he may be wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the 
       wise in their own craftiness.  And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.  
       (1Co 3:17-20)