Empowered Witnesses (Acts 1:6-8) | Jared Betts

Empowered Witnesses (Acts 1:6-8) – YouTube

The Command to Witness

In our text today, we come face to face with Christ’s commission to His church. It comes after Christ speaks with the Apostles about the kingdom of God, and the outpouring of the Spirit upon them, which elicits a question on their part, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” This is not an outlandish question, because Isaiah,[1] Ezekiel,[2] and Joel[3] speak of the Spirit being poured out upon the people of God before the Messiah establishes His earthly Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God, however, is simply the realm where God rules, and it extends far beyond the physical Kingdom which is expected during Christ’s millennial reign on this earth after His return. The Kingdom Jesus frequently spoke of is the realm of divine rule in the hearts of men and women. It therefore should not surprise us that He says to them:

“It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.”

Yes, the Father has fixed a day in which the Messiah will return to establish His millennial reign on earth, but they are to be carried away with trying to discern the exact timing of such an event. Rather they are to be consumed with the commission, which is beautifully revealed in Matthew 28:18-20:

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Luke 24:46-49:

46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:8:

but you will 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.”

What is the purpose of the church? It is to glorify God by obeying the commission. It is to declare the gospel, not only so people are saved, but so that God will be worshipped. No Christian is exempt from this command. Every believer is to be a witness for Christ.

What does it mean to be a witness? To be a witness is to be what is known in the Greek as a Martys (Mar’-toos), from which we get our word for Martyr. A Martys is one who testifies or can testify to the truth he has seen, heard, or knows.[4]

John 15:25-27:

26 When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

What does it mean to testify? It means to bear witness to the truth. To affirm that which is true because one has either seen it, or heard it, or experienced it, or knows it because they have been taught it by divine revelation or inspiration.

This begs the question, can we truly be witnesses if we were not eyewitnesses? Absolutely! Consider the definition again of a witness and of one who testifies. A witness is one who testifies or can testify to the truth he has seen, heard, or knows. Consider what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:16-21:

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

Peter here is speaking of the time he, along with James and John, witnessed the transfiguration of Christ on the mountain. Peter asserts that he was indeed an eyewitness of such an amazing event. Not only did he see Christ transfigured before his very eyes, but he heard the Father declare from heaven that Jesus Christ truly is the eternal Son of God. Peter, however, tells us that “we have the prophetic word made more sure”, which means we have something better, something more reliable then his eyewitness account; we have the Word of God. Our witness is not based on our testimony of God, but on what He testifies of Himself. We are to be His witnesses as we take what He has revealed of Himself and declare it among people.

The Need to Witness to the World

We need to discuss the necessity of witnessing. Why must we preach Christ crucified and risen again to the unbelieving world? The world is dead in sin,[5] cut off from the life God,[6] condemned already to forever perish under His wrath,[7] and incapable of doing anything to save themselves.[8] Ignorance of the gospel will not save them.

They need to come face to face with the reality of who God is, for it is because of who He is that their situation is so severe. He is Holy. He is a consuming fire, and it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands.[9] Exodus 34:6-7 tells us that He is:

“Compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”

They need to see that they are the guilty, just as we would be apart from Christ. They need to see that they do not measure up to who He is. He is nothing like them. Because of their sin, they miss the mark of His glory entirely. Because of His being Holy, they deserve eternal death separated from His love. They need to understand that unless they turn from themselves to trust in Christ, they will forever experience the full weight of God’s fury upon them. A.W. Tozer said:

“To make converts, we are tempted to play down the difficulties and play up the peace of mind and worldly success enjoyed by those who accept Christ. We will never be completely honest with our hearers until we tell them the blunt truth that, as members of a race of moral rebels, they are in a serious jam, and one they will not get out of easily. If they refuse to repent and believe on Christ, they will most surely perish.”

The world needs to hear who God is as He has revealed Himself in His Word. All confidence in themselves needs to be completely stripped from them, so that they may seek confidence in another; Christ, and Him crucified and risen for them.

They need to here that God has condescended and become a Man on our behalf. That as that Man, He lived according to the glory of God, and that as that perfect Man, He died for our sin, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God. They need to hear that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. They need to hear that they can be brought near to God through the blood of Christ. They need to see their need for salvation, and to know that they can be saved from the wrath of God through faith in Christ alone.

Romans 10:9-13 says:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Paul goes on to lay out the logic that if faith in Christ is the end goal, then preaching Christ alone is the means to that end. Romans 9:14-17 says:

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

If you desire to see people saved, you must preach Christ! It was Charles Spurgeon that said:

“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that…I will not believe that you have tasted of the honey of the gospel if you can eat it all by yourself.”

As Leonard Ravenhill poetically asked:

“Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?”

Witnessing to a Hostile World

Now, there are a couple of apparent problems that we face when we consider our commission. I say apparent, because they are not actually problems at all. They just appear to be problematic from the worlds point of view.

The first issue is that this world we are called to witness to about Christ is hostile to Him and all who associate with His name. Fallen humanity is at enmity with God. Meaning they are opposed to Him. The only god the non-believer seeks is one that resembles them and approves of them. God is light and in Him there is no darkness.[10] Mankind loves that which is not found in God, darkness. Humanity in its fallen state, therefore, hates the light and will not come to it so that the evil deeds they love are not exposed.[11] The light of God enrages them. What did unregenerate man do with the Light of the World when unrestrained by God? They crucified Him!

Consider Christ’s words to His apostles in Matthew 10:16 and verse 22:

16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…22 You will be hated by all because of My name…”

Jesus said in John 15:18-20:

18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

Jesus prayed for His people, including us, in John 17:14:

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Paul reminds Timothy that:

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”[12]

Paul said to the Corinthians:

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.”[13]

In other words, our witness of Christ to the world carries with it the stench of death. It is repulsive to them. They hate it, yet Christ commands us to preach Him to them, crucified and risen again!

This brings up the second apparent issue. The message we are to carry into this world at war with Christ is seen as foolishness to those who are perishing. Not only is the message perceived as foolishness, but the means through which it is given is seen as foolishness as well. Preaching is deemed moronic. Consider what 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 says:

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

It pleases God to save people through what is perceived to be by foolish means and a foolish message. As Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 1:25:

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Embrace His message and employ His means in proclaiming it, and rest assured that He is calling people to Himself through you making yourself a fool to the world.

The Promise of Empowerment

From the world’s perspective, Christians have every reason to cower at its commands. This is because the world is proud and thinks more highly of itself then it ought to. From a worldly perspective we have every reason to be intimidated by the unregenerate world. From God’s perspective, however, we have absolutely no reason to fear the world for not only are we in Christ, but He is in us. As 1 John 4:4 says to us in Christ, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Luke tells us in Acts 1:8 that Jesus says to the Apostles:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”

Power here is the Greek word Dunamis, from which we get our English word for dynamite.Yes, the Apostles, and those closest to them, were endowed with a power from on high which manifested itself in miraculous signs and wonders. Such works were to confirm the message they proclaimed as they laid the foundation of the church.[14]

One of the greatest works of power the Spirit did among them, however, was not miraculous signs and wonders, but rather to generate courage in the hearts and minds of untrained and uneducated men drawing them to boldly proclaim the message of Life in Christ to a world at war with Him. Jesus said to them in John 14:16-20:

16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

John 14:26 says:

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

John 16:13-15 says:

13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

The Apostle’s received a power from on high compelling them to proclaim the truth of Christ to His perpetrators saying:

22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power…This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.”[15]

Peter boldly says again in his second sermon to the people after they marvel at the healing of a lame beggar:

12 Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.”[16]

It should be of no surprise to us that as he preached this message, that suffering for the sake of Christ became a reality. Acts 4:8-14, however, says to us:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” 13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.”

The world eventually threatens them to speak no more of Christ, but their response is simple. Acts 4:19-20:

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”[17]

The Apostles then pray that God would give them more confidence to proclaim Christ among a hostile world, and Acts 4:31 says:

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

When faced with further suffering and threats, Peter and the Apostles boldly say in Acts 5:29-32:

“We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, [a]whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Acts 5:42 says:

“They kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

The world strives to snuff us out, but in the end it finds itself fighting against God, because Christ is building His church through us, His people, with the proclamation of His gospel, and the gates of hell cannot overpower it.[18] Spurgeon said:

“Reckon then that to acquire soul-winning power, you will have to go through mental torment and soul distress. You must go into the fire if you are going to pull others out of it, and you will have to dive into the floods if you are going to draw others out of the water. You cannot work a fire escape without feeling the scorch of the conflagration, nor man a lifeboat without being covered with the waves.”

Vavasor Powell said:

“The saints are to bear a threefold testimony to, and for Christ and His truths: Breath-testimony, Life-testimony, and Blood-testimony.”

Be Witnesses to the World

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.[19] It is the exclusive means through which Christ saves His people whom He has purchased with His own blood. Our conclusion should therefore be like Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”

How can we be good witnesses for Christ? First, know the message you are to proclaim. Become absorbed with the gospel. 2 Timothy 2:15 says:

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

Colossians 3:16 says:

            “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…”

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to keep every thought captive in Christ so that we might destroy “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”

Spurgeon said:

“We might preach ‘til our tongue rotted, ‘til we exhaust our lungs and die – but never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convert the soul. So it is blessed to eat into the very heart of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in scriptural language and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is Bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows from you.”

Second, live in a manner consistent with the message you preach. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says:

15 Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”

Finally, think about what Paul states in Acts 20:24:

24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”

Ask yourself, what will you do when your witness for Christ costs you your dearest friendships? What will you do when your witness for Christ costs you your relationship with your family? What will you do when your witness for Christ costs you your job? What will you do when your witness for Christ costs you your freedom? What will you do when your witness for Christ costs you your life?

What is the biblical response to all of these questions? Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him. We are called to lose sight of ourselves, and to embrace the suffering which comes for the sake of Christ and His gospel, and we are to follow Him entrusting ourselves to His Lordship over our lives. Realize that the world can do nothing to you that your heavenly Father is neither aware of, nor can it do anything that He has not determined to come to pass. Understand that God cares far more for your inner person being sanctified into the image of Christ, then your outer person being physically preserved. Romans 8:28-29:

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…”

We can trust God! If God is for us, who is against us?[20] Who can separate us from His love? Can tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?[21] No! As Paul says:

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Do not fear this world, rather entrust yourself to Christ as you champion His name throughout it, for that is what you are commissioned to do, and that is what He will empower you to do. William Booth said this:

“Not called!” did you say? “Not heard the call,” I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face – whose mercy you have professed to obey – and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.”

[1] Isaiah 32,44

[2] Ezekiel 36

[3] Joel 2:28

[4] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; G3144

[5] Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3

[6] Ephesians 2:12

[7] John 3:18;36

[8] Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16

[9] Hebrews 10:31; 12:29

[10] 1 John 1:5

[11] John 3:19-20

[12] 2 Timothy 3:12

[13] 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

[14] Hebrews 2:3-4

[15] Acts 2:22-24,32

[16] Acts 3:12-15

[17] Acts 4:19-20

[18] Matthew 16:16-18

[19] Romans 1:16

[20] Romans 8:31

[21] Romans 8:35

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