The sermons in Acts were not given in a vacuum. When Peter preached Acts 2, he did it under the assumption that salvation was only for the Jews! And not even all the Jews, but only those Jews and Jewish converts “whom the Lord God would call.” (Acts 2:38)
The Jewish religion was steeped in the doctrine of election. From its very inception, God made certain the Israelites knew that He had chosen only them from all the families of the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6, Amos 3:2). This was the very problem the Pharisees faced when they confronted John the Baptist. They thought they were safe, because they were children of Abraham.
Election was not something unknown in the days of the apostles. Far, far from it. Election was in and behind everything the apostles said and did. Jewish election was even widely known among the Pagan Gentiles, who knew all too well from listening to the Jews that none but the Jew could be saved. This idea of Jewish exceptionalism gave the Roman state huge headaches. The Jews refused to go along quietly with Roman occupation, even though Roman occupation meant great wealth and a better life. And the reason they refused to go along with Roman occupation was because they believed themselves to be the chosen people. All of Palestine and Roman territories east of Jerusalem were drenched in Jewish predestination. Everywhere where there was a synagogue, you’d better believe election was being taught.
Hence the name for Gentile converts to Judaism – “the far off ones”. Such converts were even required to sit at the back of the synagogue during service. This was the background against which Acts was written. This was the background against which Acts was preached.
Eph 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were near, and peace to you who were far off. (Jews and Gentiles)
Wanting the believers in Rome to know what gospel he preached, Paul composed an epistle of which chapters 9, 10 and 11 were included. If election and particular atonement were not part of the gospel preached, then why did Paul preach them?
John 10:26 you do not believe because you are not My sheep
John 10:11 I am the Shepherd, the Shepherd came to lay His life down for the sheep.
Recall the clash between the Pharisees and Christ. It was over this very idea, “we are of our father Abraham.” Christ’s warning was the same as that of the Baptist’s. It was that election according to the flesh meant nothing, for God can raise even stones up to be children of Abraham. Rather, there was another election, an election even of Jews and Gentiles, an election unto salvation in Christ. This is what angered the Jewish leaders, and this is why they gave Paul and the Galatians such grief. This other election, this election in Christ, it silenced forever everything that made the Jews different from their Gentile neighbors – the sacrifices, circumcision, the Temple, etc. The Jewish leaders hated this. Paul himself hated it before he was converted (Phil 3). Everything he had counted as his righteousness were things that separated him from the non-elect, reprobate Gentiles. A Hebrew of Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised the eighth day, etc, etc.
People who read election and particular atonement out of Acts are treating the book as an a-historical work of myth and legend. They are treating it like the Hindu books of the dead or the writings of the Tao. But the events recorded in Acts really did happen, and they happened to real people who lived at a real moment in time, within a real culture that was heavily influenced by a real religion. These facts are also part of God’s word, because it was in the fullness of time that God sent forth His Son, a fullness in which the Jewish religion, culture and society had reached its pinnacle.