Study 8 WITNESSES
CALLED BY A NEW NAME
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Acts 1: 1-11
One of the great and deeply significant names given to Christians is the name ’witness’. The word appears many times in the Bible, particularly in the Book of Acts. In Isaiah 43:10-12 the Lord twice says of His people, “You are my witnesses”, and just before His ascension the Lord Jesus said - Acts 1:8. We shall confine our study to this verse and it will help us to understand something of the privileges and responsibilities of witnessing. There are five lines of truth:-
1. THE PEOPLE GOD CHOOSES
Who does the Lord choose to be His witnesses? It is most encouraging to notice that He does not choose angels or supermen, but ordinary men and women - “You …you… you…” (Acts 1:8). In the first instance He chose Peter, James and John, and other ordinary men and women from the rank and file of life. How often we come face to face with the principle made clear in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29! God does choose noble and mighty people to be His witnesses, but “not many…” Most are ordinary people like ourselves, and this brings us to the important point that God expects every Christian to be a witness; God has, or should have, witnesses everywhere - in the home, in business, in hospitals and factories - wherever there is a Christian there should be a witness. The people He chooses are those who He saves by His grace.
2. THE PLAN GOD ADOPTS
What is the function of the witness? What is a witness? To witness means to give a testimony that is based on personal knowledge. He must tell not what he thinks or supposes or overhears, but what he knows from personal experience. He must give first-hand evidence - look up and compare John 3:11; 9:25; Acts 22:15. God’s plan, therefore, is that every one of us who loves Him and belongs to Him should tell what we have seen and heard and what we know of Him and of His grace. But notice that our testimony must centre on the Person of Christ Himself - “You will be my witnesses…” We are not to witness to a denomination, a movement, a society, a system, a creed, but to the glorious Person of our Lord Himself. Notice also that witnessing should not be only a matter of telling, but primarily it is to be a matter of living. We should of course use our lips in the service of our Saviour - after all, we so easily talk about everything else and everyone else. Why not about Him? - look up Psalm 107:2, and compare Mark 5:19. But it is our consistent lives that are to witness for Christ - “You will be my witnesses…” What we are is more important than what we say, but if our lives are witnessing for Him then our saying will be powerful.
3. THE PLACE GOD INDICATES
Where are God’s witnesses to go? We have already noticed that He wants them everywhere, but in Acts 1:8 a very definite geographical setting is indicated – “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” - compare Matthew 28:19. This means that some witnesses must leave their homes and go to other places, other lands, in order that they may obey the Lord’s commission. Notice the following:-
- (1) In the light of Acts 1:8, as His witnesses every one of us should be willing to go anywhere for the Lord. Whoever we are, whatever our age and whatever our circumstances, we should be willing to be the Lord’s witnesses in the place of His choice.
- (2) In the light of Acts 1:8, people of any age should be exercised about being the Lord’s witnesses. The need is great and there are millions of people who have never heard of Christ. On every continent the Lord needs His labourers, and those of us with health and strength should be challenged.
- (3) In the light of Acts 1:8, all who would be His witnesses must begin in Jerusalem. That is to say, we must begin at home by living consistently for the Lord where we live or work. Going abroad will not make us witnesses!
God’s great heart of love yearns over the whole world, and His method for evangelising it is to send out living witnesses (Romans 10:13-15).
4. THE POWER GOD SUPPLIES
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses …” No-one can be an effective witness without the power of the Holy Spirit. Look up and compare Luke 4:18 with Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:4. How did Hudson Taylor become such a bold witness in China? How did William Carey labour for the Lord so effectively in India? What is it that has sustained Billy Graham in his ministry throughout the world? How was it that Peter and Paul were such vital witnesses? How does anyone witness effectively for the Lord? - look up and compare Zechariah 4:6 with Acts 1:8.
5. THE PERIOD GOD GIVES
How long do we have left to evangelise the world? - until the Lord Jesus comes again! Compare Acts 1:8 with verses 9-11. All the signs of the times tell us that His coming is very near. If you and I would be His effective living witnesses we must be on the job at once; the matter is urgent, the time is short, the need is great, millions are lost, and the Lord Jesus says to each one of us - Acts 1:8!