The Theme of Christ’s Resurrection In Acts
On a certain day one of the brothers and I were making much of Jesus Christ at a local college campus when one of the students came up and said, “Christianity is a death cult, you Christians worship death.” I do not know where, or from whom this young man got his information, but it could not be any further from the truth. Christianity is a religion of life, we serve a risen Lord; in fact, without the resurrection we are like the apostle Paul said to be pitied. (cf. 1 Cor 15:16-19) Christianity centers on the person of Jesus Christ:
(1) His bodily resurrection as witnessed by the apostles.
(2) The promised bodily resurrection of all the dead in Christ at his return.
Christ’s resurrection is therefore a major theme in Acts, because it is the apostles witness of the resurrection of Christ and his promised return that motivates believers to spread the gospel.
The Acts of the Apostles which is a narrative history of the first century Christian Church begins with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. The theme of Christ’s resurrection is a thread that holds together the entire narrative of the book and is paramount in the many speeches found therein. Why is the resurrection so very important? Liefeld said in his book (Interpreting the Book of Acts), “The resurrection and the ascension are important, among other reasons, because they signal God’s vindication of Christ.”
“To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and not only this verse but the entire passage of Acts 1:1-11, which includes Jesus’ resurrection, ascension and promised return announced by angels. In verse 3, the “these” that the Lord presented himself alive to after his suffering were his chosen apostles, as understood from verse 2.
The betrayer Judas Iscariot had died and the disciples understood from scripture (Psalm 109:8) that he was to be replaced. The one to replace Judas had to meet certain qualifications; that being he was a follower of Jesus Christ throughout his ministry and he was a witness to Christ’s resurrection. (cf. Acts 1:22) You and I are not witnesses of Jesus Christ; we were not with him from the baptism of John, we are not witness of his resurrection, and we were not with him until he was taken up into heaven. His chosen apostles are his witnesses and it is their witness that we who believe in him must give to unbelievers and believers alike.
The apostles waited in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit. It is from this point onward that the apostles began to preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first of which is Peter’s sermon recorded in Acts 2:14-36, with verses 24-32 specifying his resurrection from the dead. In Peter’s second sermon in the temple he once again spoke of Jesus death and resurrection. (cf. Acts 3:15) In Acts chapter 4 Peter and John were arrested by the Sadducees for preaching the resurrection in Christ Jesus, then they preached Jesus resurrection to the rulers who arrested them. (cf. Acts 4:2, 10) After this, in Acts 4:33 it says that the apostles were proclaiming the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Once again in chapter 5 the apostles were arrested and they once again proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus to the rulers of the people.
After this we have a departure from Jerusalem, the gospel began to go out to other places, even being proclaimed among the gentiles as Peter proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the gentiles and they believed. (cf. Acts 10:40) In Paul’s first missionary journey he preached in the synagogue the resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 13:30-37). In Athens among both the Athenians, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers he preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (cf. Acts 17:18, 32) When Paul was on trial before the Sadducees and Pharisees he said, “I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:6) Finally in his defense before Agrippa he proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The apostles at Jesus arrest fled for their lives. What made these frightened men boldly go into the temple, synagogues and public arenas preaching in the name of Jesus Christ the resurrection from the dead? They saw Jesus, the Lord who promised eternal life to everyone who believes in him walk out of the grave alive. Therefore, we too should not fear men, but have our hope in the resurrection because the Son of God Jesus Christ is risen.
 Walter L. Liefeld, Interpreting the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Bakers Books, 1995), 81.