The Cross and the Resurrection | Part IV

Question 4: In the book of Acts there seems to be a greater emphasis on Christ’s
resurrection than the cross. Shouldn’t we follow the early church’s example and
emphasize the resurrection over the cross? (Issue: Proportionality in biblical
interpretation)

Interpreters of the book of Acts have long recognized the centrality of the
resurrection—or better, the exaltation of Christ through his resurrection and
ascension—in Luke’s presentation. (So much so, in fact, that some scholars have
questioned whether Luke even has a theology of atonement!)

While it’s true that the resurrection is prominent in Acts, those texts must be
understood within the larger framework of the book. Luke’s primary focus in Acts is the
progress and triumph of the gospel. Within this scheme, we see the apostles time and
again in evangelistic and apologetic situations. When one is proclaiming the message of
a crucified messiah—particularly within a few years of his death—the resurrection
(and, in Luke’s writings, the ascension) becomes the fundamental apologetic point for
supporting the claims of Jesus. Here, then, we find a central focus of the theology of the
book of Acts: it is through the exaltation of Jesus that God confirms his status as Lord
and savior. Far from marginalizing the cross, this focus authenticates its reality.

This very point is made by Mark Seifrid: “In focusing on Jesus’ resurrection and
exaltation Luke provides an apology for the claims of the gospel, supporting rather than
diminishing the understanding of Jesus’ death as a vicarious atonement” [Dictionary of
the Later New Testament and Its Developments (IVP, 1997), 272].

Therefore, an emphasis on the resurrection is precisely what we’d expect to find in such
contexts, and it is in keeping with Luke’s overall purpose in writing his two‐volume
work: to provide assurance to his readers that the foundation of their faith is secure
(Luke 1:1‐4).

For part one of this series, click here.

For part two of this series, click here.

For part three of this series, click here.