The Mission of God in the Story of Acts
This summer we will explore the mission of God in the story of Acts. The first few posts will adapt some of our new Acts curriculum to show how Acts 1 helps connect the mission of God to Luke's purpose in Acts. Following our work in Acts 1, we will take a deep dive into Peter's Pentecost sermon, paying special attention to how he connects the Bible to his world, calling others to pursue all of life as ministry.
Luke 1:1 –4
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
These verses allow us to answer two important questions for reading any story:
Why did the author write this story?
Who are the main characters in the story?
Why Did Luke Write?
The introduction to Luke’s Gospel provides us with the overarching purpose of Luke-Acts, answering the why question. Luke wrote so that his audience may have certainty concerning the things they had been taught about Jesus (Luke 1:4). In his Gospel, Luke accomplishes this by compiling a narrative focused on Old Testament promises God has fulfilled in Christ (1:1). His main concern is to convince his audience of the saving work of God in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus (see Luke 24:44–53).
In the second volume of Luke’s narrative, Acts, he begins by saying “In the first book,” (a reference to the Gospel of Luke) “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach…” In Acts, then, Luke is writing to show how God continues to fulfill his promises. This is his story. The redemptive narrative doesn’t continue apart from the work of Jesus, but now continues through Jesus as the risen and ascended king. Thus, Luke continues his original purpose from the Gospel of Luke, now seeking to convince his audience of the saving work of God through the ascended Jesus and the descended Spirit.
Who are the Main Characters?
In Acts, God is the main character who moves the story along through the continuing work of the risen Lord Jesus and the Spirt. But Luke is interested in more than simply showing that God is still acting. Luke wants us to see how God is accomplishing his purposes, and how we can identify with his mission and embrace his purposes. In other words, we find that part of God’s action is to cast us as meaningful characters in the story. As the story unfolds, God is gathering an ensemble cast to take the stage and enact redemptive history. God continues to fulfill his promises through us as the risen Lord Jesus continues to fulfill his mission through our ministry empowered by the Spirit. God invites us to join the story as loyal vice-regents to the risen king Jesus.
Within the grand biblical narrative, you are a character in the story and God is working through you to move the story along. Take a moment to think about where you’ve been the past year and where you are going in the near future. How do you anticipate God working to renew your relationship with him, renew relationship with others, and fulfill his mission through the work where he is sending you?