Several related themes run throughout the narrative of the Acts. One of the most prominent themes has to do with God, who is the primary mover and agent of action in this story. The God of Israel fulfilled promises to Israel that God had made in an earlier day. At Pentecost, God enabled the followers of Jesus to overcome the obstacles to proclamation by giving them the Holy Spirit. God empowered these believers to overcome difficulties and opposition by filling them with the Holy Spirit. God moved both Cornelius and Peter to act when religious custom prohibited a faithful Jew like Peter from going to Cornelius’s house. God provided direction and encouragement during Paul’s ministry. Thus, the Lukan perspective makes it clear that behind everything in the narrative were the purposes and actions of God.
Closely related to the theme about God and God’s purposes is the theme of salvation for all people. The quotation of the prophet Joel in Acts 2:17-21 emphasizes that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (author’s translation). While Jewish understandings of this declaration considered this to refer only to God fulfilling God’s purposes to create and bless the Jewish people as God’s people, the narrative offers a different understanding. In Acts, God directed persons like Peter and Paul to proclaim the message of God’s saving purposes to persons both inside and outside the traditional Jewish categories. In addition, the...
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