A question was posed to me by a pastor in Indonesia: If the atonement of Christ is so important to understand, why don’t the Apostles preach about it in the book of Acts? See here:
@Doulos2Christou I don’t know Christus Victor, but the gospel according to Acts never included atonement. If so crucial why not? Thoughts?
Implied (consciously or not) is the idea that the detailed meaning of the atonement is not a necessary part of the preaching of the gospel – or rather people don’t need to get those details nailed down before they can be saved.*
First of all, I disagree with the premise, i.e. that the atonement was not included in the preaching/teaching in the book of Acts. Perhaps it is not discussed explicitly and in detail, but the assumption of the Apostles was that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – their preaching and teaching was based on the completed work of Christ.
Chapter 2:22-24 is a glimpse into the meaning of the cross, but then see verse 40 where Luke summarizes by saying “with many other words he testified and exhorted them…” all that Peter said is not written in vss. 14-39; beyond that Peter was preaching and exhorting them according to the whole truth about Jesus and His work. We can safely assume that in speaking with Jews as a Jew, Peter took time to explain the greater passover, the greater sacrifice, and the propitiation of the Father’s wrath – all heavily foreshadowed in the Old Covenant and Old Testament writings on which the Israelites of Peter’s day were raised.
But that aside, we also must not assume that for something to be a core part of the gospel that it has to be explicitly written about in the book of Acts.
1) The Holy Spirit fall on them at Pentecost and enliven the mission they have been given by Christ. They go instantly from being a scared little huddle to a powerful cadre of preachers willing to be imprisoned, mocked, and killed.
2) The church of Jerusalem is formed, grows in number, and gets persecuted.
3) Saul is converted and becomes Paul – and his ministry as an Apostle begins,
4) The persecutions intensify and as a result, the Christians begin scattering, which in God’s plan has the effect of spreading the word to the Gentiles.
5) All of these circumstances give rise to the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, to both Jew and Gentile. Many churches are established throughout the Roman empire.
In watching this video tape, we get snippets and summaries of the preaching and teaching of the gospel. The goal Luke has in mind is not to lay down a systematic theology of the cross, but rather to record how the Holy Spirit moved in the first generation of believers. This is done by, among other themes, the record of the general preaching and teaching of the Apostles. In other words, Acts is descriptive rather than prescriptive; demonstrative rather than normative.
In contrast, the epistles are like the commentary and “behind the scenes footage” for the video. Herein the Apostles take the time to detail the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In the epistles, the gospel is examined in detail from the Old Testament, the life and work of Jesus, and the direct revelations received as God revealed the mysteries kept secret in ages past.
In the epistles, (especially Hebrews which I bet was written by Luke), we get the fuller picture of the cross work of Christ, and therein we derive our doctrines of the atonement. The epistles are surely no less authoritative than Acts in demonstrating the theology of the early church, right?
Thanks for thinking,