Witnesses Introduction: New series, a survey of Acts, called Church Empowered.
Church Empowered – Message 1
September 20, 2020
- Acts 1:1-2; C/R: John 16:28; 20:17; 1 Timothy 3:16
- Title: The Acts of the Apostles (Which ones? Peter and Paul)
- Author: Luke, physician (Colossians 4:4), likely a Gentile and a companion of Paul.
- Recipient: Theophilus – likely a Roman official, not known whether he was a Christian Luke was instructing or an unbeliever he was trying to persuade. (also, Luke 1:3-4)
- Purpose: Report the expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman world; it is an accurate, but not a complete, account of the first three decades of the church.
- Date: A.D. 62-64 (End of Paul’s imprisonment; Acts 28)
Today’s title is Witnesses.
- Theme verse: Acts 1:8 (NLT)—“…And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere…”
- Jesus had finished His work of providing salvation, but now His disciples must tell others what they had seen and heard so they too, could believe and be forgiven.
- Jesus has called each of us, just as He called His disciples, to be His witnesses.
Introduction to passage at Acts 1:1-2 (NLT)—1In my first book [Luke] I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2until the day He was taken up to heaven after giving His chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit.
- Greek word translated apostle means “messengers or ambassadors sent to teach.”
- During His time on earth, Jesus taught the small group of men He had selected (disciples) through words and actions. (Greek disciples means “learners or students.”)
- Following His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus provided additional instruction, perhaps reviewed what was most important, relying on the Spirit to help, to prepare His disciples to become witnesses (apostles) to the lost world He was leaving.
- The remainder of this passage points out what witnesses like them, and us, need to carry out Jesus’ crucial assignment of telling Good News.
A witness requires… (Acts 1:3-11)
#1 - Proof of resurrection. (Acts 1:3. C/R: Luke 24:39-43; John 20:19; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8,14-19)
- Acts 1:3 (NLT)—During the forty days after His crucifixion, He appeared to the apostles from time to time [not continuously], and He proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive. And He talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
- The apostles needed to be convinced of the truth of Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness of sin and spending eternity in God’s kingdom, because the message they preached would arouse fierce opposition from some and could cost them their lives.
- They needed to know beyond doubt that Jesus had been raised from the dead just as He said He would, for it would be foolish to suffer and even die, for merely embracing wise teaching from a dead philosopher.
- For forty days, Jesus proved that He was alive, by entering a room through a locked door (John 20:19), showing His crucifixion wounds (Luke 24:39), eating and drinking with them (ghosts don’t eat; Luke 24:41-43), appearing to Peter, James, the other disciples, more than 500 followers, and then Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
- The result was that the apostles became convinced that Jesus had been resurrected to life, which confirmed all that He told them about God and heaven and eternal life—and it gave them the boldness to preach the gospel and even the willingness to suffer for it!
- The resurrection is crucial to our faith; Paul said at 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (NLT)—17And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
- It is the resurrection that proves that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus as sufficient to forgive sin, including our individual, personal sins (Romans 4:25).
- APP.: Do you believe in Jesus’ resurrection? Does it prove to you that God will forgive the sins of whomever trusts in His Son’s sacrifice?
A witness requires…
#2 - Power from the Spirit. (Acts 1:4-8a. C/R: Ezekiel 36:25-27; Matthew 10:20; John 14:26; Romans 8:16)
- Acts 1:4-8a (NLT)—4Once when He was eating with them, He commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before. 5John baptized with water, but in just a few days  you will be baptized [passive voice] with the Holy Spirit.” [by God]
- The disciples remembered Jesus telling them about the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room as they ate the Passover supper on the night He was arrested.
- Jesus referred to Him as the Greek paraklētŏs, which means “one who comes alongside,” an advocate, comforter, counselor, encourager, intercessor.
- He told them the Spirit would never leave them (John 14:16), would teach them, remind them what Jesus had taught (John 14:26), and even speak through them (Matthew 10:19-20).
- They had undoubtedly experienced the Spirit when they first came to faith (John 14:17), but now they would experience Him more fully and permanently.
- Did they fully understand? I don’t think so, would you? And besides, there was something else on their minds…
- Acts 1:6 (NLT)—So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
- They still wanted Jesus, the Messiah, to overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to her former freedom and glory, and to make them leaders in the restored kingdom.
- APP.: Are we consumed with our own wishes, wants and ambitions in this world, pre- occupied with our preferences, so we are not focused on what God is calling us to do?
- Acts 1:7 (NLT)—He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”
- In other words, “don’t be consumed with what God will do in the future, focus on what I am telling you to do in the present.” (APP.: Does this relate to you?)
- Acts 1:8a (NLT)—“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
- This miraculous power [Greek dunamis] includes the ability and the strength to accomplish what Christ has called them—and also you—to attempt.
- APP.: Have you experienced power from the Spirit? For what purpose? What resulted?
A witness requires…
#3 - Purpose to pursue. (Acts 1:8b. C/R: Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 1:1-3)
- Acts 1:8b (NLT)—8b “And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere [map #1]—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, [map #2] and to the ends of the earth.” [The Great Commission is also found at Matthew 28:19-20.]
- A witness is simply someone who tells what they know, what they have seen and heard.
- A witness for Jesus is someone who tells the truth about Him from personal experience.
- This was the primary purpose for which the empowering Holy Spirit was sent.
- Jesus calls all believers to be His witnesses in this world; it’s our responsibility and our privilege to be entrusted with inviting people to be forgiven and enter God’s kingdom.
- There is a sense in which we do not get to choose whether or not to be witnesses.
- We are witnesses, the question is how effective are we? Are we willing to suffer to do it?
- So many Christians were put to death because of their testimony for Jesus and refusal to deny their faith, that Greek word, martus, translated “witness” came to mean “martyrs.”
- Many were drawn to faith in Christ by observing how Christians met their death calmly and with joy, by being filled with the Spirit’s power.
- 2nd century theologian Tertullian: "theblood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
- APP.: Have you ever told anyone (testified) about your experience with Jesus?
- APP.: Will you ask God to reveal to you someone you can tell what you’ve witnessed?
A witness requires…
#4 - Promise of return. (Acts 1:9-11. C/R: Zechariah 14:4; Luke 24:50-51; John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16; Hebrews 9:27-28)
- Before returning to heaven, Jesus left the apostles with a final, dramatic experience which provided powerful motivation for carrying on His work.
- Acts 1:9-11 (NLT)—9After saying this, He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him. [Another proof He was no mere human!]10As they strained to see Him rising into heaven, two white-robed men [angels] suddenly stood among them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go!” [Zechariah 14:4 promises the Messiah will return to the Mount of Olives.]
- No one knows when Jesus will return, but we know He will, so we must live in anticipation that it could be today, serving Christ faithfully. (“Maybe today!”)
- Being witnesses for Jesus is a wonderful privilege but also a great responsibility.
- We can trust that the Holy Spirit provides all of us everything we need to fulfill Christ’s call on our lives to tell others what we have heard, seen, and experienced.
- Every week in the Discussion Guide and in Family Talk, we will offer spiritual practices to build into your life to help you grow in your relationship with God.
- Today’s Spiritual practice: Name at least one way the Spirit of Jesus has worked in your life. Ask God to reveal someone you can share this with.
- Memory verse: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)