Thursday, October 28, 2021
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
As we continue our study of the characteristics of a REAL church, we move from an emphasis on intake to outflow. For the last two days we have rejoiced in the presence and the power of Jesus Christ. Today the focus changes to the activity that is produced because of His presence and power. That activity is called witnessing.
Scary stuff isn’t it – to think that we are the witnesses to the reality of the presence and power of Jesus Christ to a world that in general does not accept Him. But that is the purpose for which God has left us on this earth following our redemption.
Let’s define what a witness is. The Greek word used here is martus, pronounced mar’-toos, and has a legal, historical, and ethical sense to it. Let me explain.
From a legal and historical position, a witness is one who has first-hand knowledge of an event by having been a spectator of it, and is able to relate accurately what he knows to be true. In the book of Acts, when it came time to choose a twelfth Apostle to replace Judas, the requirements were that it had to be someone who had been a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 1:21-22) This is the basis for not only our qualification as a witness but also for the subject matter of our witnessing – it’s all about the resurrection of Jesus.
When we witness to another person who does not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the conversation should center on the defining distinction of the Christian faith – the resurrection of Jesus. What a liberating concept. We are set free to passionately pursue the purpose of God to be a powerful witness because all we have to talk about is the presence of Jesus. He is the risen Lord, and He lives within us. We are the witnesses to His resurrection. We don’t need to debate theology with people; we simply relate the resurrection power of His presence in us. Witnessing is not winning an argument, or displaying superior knowledge. Witnessing is the outflow of the presence of Jesus Christ in us.
There is also an ethical sense to the word martus. This means that there is a consistency and integrity to the witness, so that what is said holds true in the visible activity of life. In Thayer’s Greek Definitions of the New Testament he states that a witness is one who “after Christ’s example has proved the strength and genuineness of his faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death.” The word martus is the word from which we get the concept of a martyr – a person who is willing to die for what they believe.
This is challenging. Are we willing to go to death to be a consistent witness to the resurrection presence and power of Jesus Christ in our lives? Are we willing to suffer any loss for the sake of gaining the glory of Christ’s physical presence because we are already living out the reality of His spiritual presence?
Here’s how Hebrews 11 describes it – “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Please notice a life changing statement in that passage – none of them received what had been promised. None of them had the resurrection presence and power of Jesus dwelling in them, and yet they stood the ethical test of what they believed. Yet we who are now the recipients of the promise, with the resurrection power of Jesus Christ living in us, seem to be avoiding any pain and suffering by avoiding being a witness. Something is wrong. Something needs to change.
We must consider this truth – to be a witness is to be a martyr: maybe not in physical death, but certainly in worldly dependence. We have the presence and the power of the resurrected Christ abiding in us. Let us shout aloud, “Death to self. Death to the world. Christ is Alive! I am alive in Him!”