Did the Apostles Teach Limited Atonement in Acts?

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.

About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church http://www.gospeldefense.com/about.html
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Did the Apostles Teach Limited Atonement in Acts?

  1. MARK MCCULLEY says:

    f course we know that the apostles were not Arminians, but from the book of Acts we can’t tell if yet if they are “Reformed”, so you can present gospel without any reference to the doctrine of election

    but we know for sure that the thief on the cross had never heard about election

    and we know for sure that the apostles never heard what Jesus said about election, and even if they did, what Jesus taught about election is not a model for us

    sarcasm alert

    Acts 16: 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

    mark: and we have no idea what word they spoke to them, and how “seeker-friendly” it might have been, but we know for sure that they didn’t talk about the new birth, which is an act of God not of man, and a secret thing. And we also know for sure that they didn’t talk about the atonement, so it’s safe for us to simply teach the gospel that Jesus is raised from the dead and Lord (NT Wright assures us) and not need to get into doctrines about the atonement, and for sure they said nothing about election, and since you can’t be sure what they did say, you can’t be sure that you ever need to talk about election either, so the safest way is to not teach it…_

    .Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

    Acts 4: 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand andyour plan had predestined to take place.

    Acts 13: 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

  2. Paul says:

    I’ve been enjoying reading your blog during the past few days. Would you be so kind as to share any links with me to other notable blogs and/or useful resources? Perhaps those you read yourself? I would appreciate it very much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s