Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A GOOD TESTIMONY (Acts Chapter 22)

Acts 22:1, “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

Possessing a clear testimony of how God has intervened in one’s life is a necessary and useful tool when it comes to witnessing to others.  The Apostle Peter spoke of the need for us to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone” (1 Peter 3:15).  There are certain essential elements to a clear and God-honoring testimony.  Above all else it should honor the Lord Jesus and speak to the glory of His finished work on the cross (Cf. Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 2:4).  Beyond that, it should tell of the change He has brought about, by His grace, as a result of one’s salvation.

Paul’s testimony can be found at least five times in Scripture (Cf. Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-21; 25:2-23; Galatians 1:11-17; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).  It was used variously by him in his own defense (Cf. Acts 22:1-21 and 25:2-23), to articulate how he himself came to receive the truth (Cf. Galatians 1:11-17), and to clarify and contrast his message—the gospel of grace--with that of the false teachers (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:1-17).

While there are certain particulars that are highlighted in each of these various accounts, the general outline is consistent.  Paul spoke of his life before he was saved, how he was saved, and what happened as a result.  This was his pattern, and it is a good pattern for us to follow. 

Paul made special effort to establish common ground with his audience.  He identified them to be his “brothers and fathers” (Acts 22:1).  They were Jews, he was also.  On a previous occasion he had worked to establish common ground with a Gentile audience by identified himself with his listeners to be “God’s offspring” (Acts 17:29).  If we go back far enough or dig deep enough we can find some shared common ground with anybody.  Paul spoke to “them in the Hebrew language” (Acts 22:2).  He loved and prayed for his Jewish brethren (Cf. Romans 9:1-3; 10:1).  He spoke to them in their language and when they heard that they quieted themselves so that they might listen (Acts 22:2).

Paul spoke to them of his life before he came to know Jesus.  He was a Jew.  He had been educated in the law by a well-respected Jewish teacher (Cf. Acts 22:3).  As with his listeners, he had been zealous for the law (Cf. Acts 22:3) and was himself involved in the persecution of believers (Cf. Acts 22:4).  The high priest and elders knew all about his efforts (Cf. Acts 22:5).  He was doing their bidding as he traveled on his way toward Damascus (Cf. Acts 22:5).  Before his salvation Paul had been in the same place in which his listeners now were.  Religious, but without true salvation.  Paul had been a persecutor of Christians before he was saved.  Most of us don’t identify with him in that, but we do in another way—we’ve all sinned (Cf. Romans 3:23).  By grace Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus.  What was your own “by grace” experience though which He made known to your need for salvation?

Paul spoke to them about how he came to know Jesus.  It is abundantly clear in Paul’s testimony that salvation did not happen as a result of anything that Paul himself did or was doing.  Jesus Christ revealed Himself to Paul (Saul) when Paul was seeking to do harm to His church (Cf. Acts 22:6-7).  The Risen Christ spoke to Paul.  Paul was blinded by the brightness of the light, so he was sent to Ananias who healed him (Cf. Acts 22:12-13).  Paul’s testimony was unique in some respects, but in any true salvation experience there is a point of commonality with Paul—“by grace” Jesus makes Himself known.  In sharing your testimony speak to how Jesus worked to make that happen.

Paul spoke to them about what happened as a result.  He was brought into a new relationship with Jesus, experienced His forgiveness, and was called by Him to a new purpose (Cf. Acts 22:16).  Paul didn’t do anything to earn or merit anything he received, it was all by the grace and mercy of Jesus (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:13-14).  What have you received and experienced as a result of God’s grace visited upon you in salvation?  A good testimony will speak to such things.

Paul understood his ministry to be to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Cf. Acts 20:24).  It was that message and ministry that had worked to give rise to the opposition and resulted in his current predicament. In defending himself Paul “did not shrink” from declaring the truth before the legalists (Cf. Acts 20:25).  Paul spoke of how God saved him by grace.  A good testimony will work not to draw attention to oneself, but to the grace of God and the glory of Jesus and His “by grace” salvation (Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3, 8-9).

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