1. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave His disciples a promise and a charge...
a. "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" - Ac 1:8
b. "you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" - ibid.
2. The charge to be "witnesses" for Christ has been appropriated by many...
a. In their efforts to share the gospel of Christ with the lost
b. That in doing so they are "witnesses for Christ"
c. In so doing, they use "witnessing" as a synonym for evangelism
[But is "witnessing" an accurate term for our evangelistic efforts? Can we "witness" today like the apostles did in carrying out their charge? Let's first review...]
I. WITNESSING FOR CHRIST TODAY
A. AS COMMONLY PRACTICED...
1. After telling others how to receive Christ, one is encouraged to share their own experience in "accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior"
a. This sharing of experiences of one's own conversion is called "witnessing"
b. Used to convince a prospect of the power of the gospel to transform one's life
2. New converts are often encouraged to quickly develop their own "witness"
a. That is, a personal testimony proclaiming how their lives were changed
b. For example, their testimony or "witness" might describe:
1) Their actions and attitudes before they accepted Christ
2) Circumstances that surrounded their conversion
3) Changes that took place in life after receiving Christ
c. Of course, the more remarkable one's story (witness), the better
B. JUSTIFICATION FOR SUCH WITNESSING...
1. The New Testament speaks of people being witnesses a. E.g., in our text: "you shall be witnesses to Me" - Ac 1:8
b. This passage is taken to mean that all Christians were to "witness" for Christ
2. Yet consider the following questions:
a. Are the "witnesses" in our text referring to all Christians, or a select few?
b. What were they to bear witness to? Their own conversion, or something else?
c. Does the text imply that all Christians are to be "witnesses"?
[To help answer this question, let's examine more closely...]
II. WITNESSING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
A. WHO WERE TO BE WITNESSES FOR CHRIST...?
1. The context of Ac 1:8 reveals it was the apostles - Ac 1:1-11
a. They are specifically mentioned in verse 2
b. Note the pronouns used throughout the text (to whom, them, they, you)
c. They were "Men of Galilee" (many disciples were from other regions)
2. To be such a witness required very specific qualifications - cf. Ac 1:21-22
a. One had to have been with the apostles
b. From the time of Jesus' baptism until His ascension to heaven
c. Because of what they were to bear witness
B. WHAT WAS THEIR WITNESS FOR CHRIST...?
1. They bore witness to Jesus' resurrection - cf. Ac 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:30-32; 13:30-31
2. They also bore witness to His life - Ac 10:38-42
3. The apostle Paul was a special witness - Ac 22:14-15; 26:16,22
4. The focal point of apostolic witness is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!
C. WERE THERE OTHER WITNESSES FOR CHRIST...?
1. The Greek word for witness (martus) is also used as a designation for those who have suffered death in consequence of confessing Christ - Complete Word Study Dictionary
2. Used of Stephen, Antipas, and others - Ac 22:20; Re 2:13; 17:6
[But the term "witness" is never used of one who simply tells others about Christ, or of their own conversion experience. Is this a distinction without a difference? Does it really matter, along as Jesus is glorified...?]
III. APPRECIATING THE DISTINCTION
A. BETWEEN THE CONTENT OF THE WITNESS...
1. The modern witness: provides testimony involving one's own conversion
a. Personal testimony that describes the change in one's life
b. The more dramatic, the better
1) Prone to exaggeration, even fabrication
2) Especially if one can "sell" their testimony through appearances, videos, books
2. The apostolic witness: provides testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus
a. Eyewitness accounts based on empirical evidence - e.g., 1Jn 1:1-2; Ac 10:40-41
b. Evidence that has been confirmed by:
1) The number of witnesses
2) The credibility of the witnesses (their life, teaching, suffering, even death)
-- The former is subjective evidence, the latter provides objective evidence B. BETWEEN THE PURPOSE OF THE WITNESS...
1. The modern witness: to have you place your faith in Jesus on the basis of another's conversion experience and manner of life
2. The apostolic witness: to have you place your faith in Jesus on the basis of historical facts that Jesus was raised from the dead and thereby declared to be the Son of God - Ro 1:4
-- The former produces faith based on emotional appeals, the latter produces faith based on historical evidence
C. BETWEEN THE STRENGTH OF THE WITNESS...
1. The modern witness: what if those upon whose "testimony" we came to believe later disappoint us?
a. Whose "conversion" proves to be less than real or short-term?
b. Will not our own faith be shaken?
2. The apostolic witness: their testimony forever remains unchanged
a. Sealed by their manner of life, their exemplary teachings, their own blood!
b. Faith based on their testimony is therefore more durable!
-- The former leaves one open to great disappointment, the latter provides the foundation for a life of strong faith in Christ
1. Jesus acknowledged that people would come to believe in Him through the words of His apostles...
a. As He mentioned in His prayer - cf. Jn 17:20
b. Therefore He equipped them with infallible proofs and the power of the Spirit - Ac 1:2-3,8
2. As impressive as many modern day testimonies may sound...
a. Beware of those who may be improperly motivated to enhance their story
b. Be aware that "remarkable transformations" take place in many different religions (they can't all be true)
Place your faith instead in the witness Christ Himself has given to you and all: the testimony of His specially chosen witnesses, the apostles! - 1Jn 1:1-4
Just as important, have you heeded what they proclaimed...? - cf. Ac 2:36-39
1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up [to heaven,] after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over [a period of] forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," [He said,] "you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 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."