Friday, May 4, 2012


Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Today we embark on a wonderful journey through a precious portion of God’s inspired Word. The Book of Acts is entitled, “The Acts of the Apostles.” The book could most properly be called “The Act of the Holy Spirit,” for it is He who empowered and strengthened the church in its growth and expansion.

Acts 1:8 is a key verse in the book. Jesus’ parting words to His disciples serve both as an overview and outline of that which takes place in the book. The “Acts of the Holy Spirit” continue to this day (Acts 29). The mandate given by the Lord Jesus on that day still stands. Christ’s witnesses still proclaim His message. They do so by the sufficient means He has provided in the indwelling of the person of the Holy Spirit.

It is good for us to re-consider the straightforward instructions of the Lord Jesus regarding our witnessing efforts. There is much confusion in our day. Perhaps a re-write of Acts 1:8 might be helpful. Here goes: “You are strong, and wise, and powerful in yourselves. I want you to look to church growth experts, establish many programs, and carefully choose your music. Do whatever it takes to make Me and My message attractive to folks. I’ll leave these matters up to you. But make sure you do your best. I’m depending on you. You can do it. I know that a lot of folks are not going to accept the message I’ve given to you. I know, I know—the message of the cross is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Do whatever it takes to make the message more palatable. Dress it up with promises of health, wealth, and prosperity. If need be—don’t talk about sin—it only makes people uncomfortable. Add some degree of human works and efforts to the message—people like that. By all means be culturally relevant—that should help. And don’t expect too much success. But that’s okay.”

I don’t know about you but I much prefer the inspired version! It is a simple formula that Christ has given to us. A Mandate > The Means > A Message. What is the mandate? “Be My witnesses.” The noun form of Greek term translated “witnesses,” is “martur,” from which we get the English, “martyr.” It means “one who can or does aver what he has seen or heard or knows.” The verb means simply “to bear witness to.” The disciples were eye-witnesses to Christ’s resurrection (Cf. Acts 1:22). We have not seen that (His resurrection), but we are witnesses to His work in our lives. Every born-again believer in Christ has experienced the reality of the saving and transforming influence of the Risen Christ. He is therefore a witness, personally, to Christ’s power to save. The mandate given to the disciples applies to all of us. We are to be His witnesses. We need to start close to home. And work from there to wherever God might sovereignly lead us (Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the remotest parts of the earth). The concept of witnessing is really quite simple, share with others what God has made known to you.

He has not left us powerless in the task. And it would be foolhardy to attempt it in our own strength. “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Jesus promised “that (they) would receive power.” That power came to them by the Spirit. He would empower them to do that which they could never otherwise do. Peter is a great example of the Spirit’s ability to empower a witness. Before Jesus’ sufferings and death, Peter had boldly declared his unwavering commitment to stand by Jesus. But then he denied Him. He failed as a witness. He denied Jesus not once but three times. He denied Him, not before leaders or soldiers, but before bystanders and slave-girls. “I do not know the man,” he said (Matthew 26:72). That was Peter’s experience when he depended on his own strength. Note the transformation the Spirit made in Peter’s life (Acts 2:4). Empowered by the Spirit He spoke boldly of the death and resurrection of Christ to a crowd of thousands (Acts 2:14-41). Later, when threatened by the religious leaders, he responded, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen or heard (Acts 4:20).” It was by the Spirit that “with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33; Cf. Acts 4:31). We are to witness by our walk and our words (Colossians 4:5-6). We can do neither apart from the Spirit’s instruction, leading, and empowerment. Every born-again believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, to be filled with Him is to be equipped and empowered as a witness of Christ.

The mandate and the means are directed towards the declaration of a message. As those “sent-forth,” the Apostles taught many truths (Cf. Acts 2:42; 6:4). But preeminent in what they declared was the message of Christ’s death and resurrection. They were His witnesses, declaring the message of His work. Time and time again this is the repeated truth that they declared—“Christ died and rose again” (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 4:10; 4:10; 4:33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, etc.). This message is, in fact, the gospel message, the good news (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It is the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11). It is powerful to save (Romans 1:16). It is the good news, of which, we are to be not ashamed (Romans 1:16). Some consider it to be “foolishness,” but we see it for what it truly is—“the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Others distort it (Galatians 1:7-8; 2 Corinthians 11:4); we are to defend it at all costs. The good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is the message by which we have saved, it is the message given to us to declare. It is a glorious, powerful, and life-changing truth. The proclamation of the gospel was preeminent in the ministry of the Apostle Paul: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

No mandate under heaven is more important than the mandate that has been given to us. No means of accomplishment for any task can measure up to the provision that has been made for us in the person of the indwelling Spirit. No message can rival the glorious and powerful good news in its ability to save and transform. What happened in the book of Acts? The Spirit, working through the Apostles and the church, unleashed the message of the gospel—it spread throughout the land, from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and ultimately to the remotest part of the earth. It did so in the midst of opposition and despite persecution. It kept on spreading and ultimately reached you. And you were saved. And you’ve been given a mandate. The same one. The Acts of the Holy Spirit continue to this day. The mandate still applies. The means is still available. The message is still powerful to save. And God is still saving souls. He privileges us to be a part of it. He works not according to our ability, but our availability and willingness to depend on His provision. “You shall be My witnesses,” He said (Acts 1:8).

Pastor Jerry

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