It is a command, not a suggestion. When Jesus Christ spoke to his disciples before he ascended into heaven, he said to them:
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. (Acts 1:8)
There are a several things to consider just in this one verse of Scripture that teaches us about being witnesses for Jesus Christ. First, notice that the power to witness is when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. We know that God is all-powerful. He wouldn’t be God if he wasn’t all-powerful, rather, he’d be a figment of our imagination which he is not. He has proven the power that he has by the very creation in which we exist. Out of nothing he created all things by his spoken word. Then he fashioned man out of the dust of the earth.
I understand that there are those who may read my writings and might suggest that there is no God, just the gods that we have made up because we need a crutch to lean on in life. However, it is not for me to prove to anyone that God exists. Rather, it would be for the atheist to prove that he does not exist. Romans 1:18-23 clears this up:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Please don’t mistake me. If you are one who doesn’t believe in God, understand that you have chosen unwisely and have no understanding of God or of creation. There is no theory out there that can match the power of God’s created order nor is there anything that can thwart the knowledge of his sovereignty. He has made himself known so that they are without excuse. What men do is replace this all-powerful God with images of men or birds or animals or crawling creatures or whatever else they can think in order not to be accountable to him for their sin.
This is why Jesus Christ commands us to be his witnesses in the world. He wants those of us who have believed to tell others of how they can believe in him and be forgiven of all their sins. However, we need to understand that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to be upon us to be his witnesses. We can witness in our own power, but what type of results will we see? Paul the apostle said that whether the gospel is preached in vain or in truth, it is still being preached. How many more could be saved if we go out with the power of the Holy Spirit upon us? I dare say that it is wise for the soul-winner to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to seek this filling on a daily basis. In so doing, I believe that we will witness the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those with whom we share this blessed Good News that Jesus is still able to save today!
The second thing that I notice in this verse is that we will be Jesus Christ’s witnesses. This is key throughout the Book of Acts, the fifth book in the New Testament. Whenever you see the apostles witnessing in the Book of Acts they do not speak of themselves so much as they speak about Jesus Christ. The order of their message goes something like this: 1) God created everything; 2) God sent his Son, Jesus Christ to save sinners; 3) You crucified Jesus Christ; 4) God raised him from the dead; 5) Jesus gives eternal life; and, 6) there is nothing you can do to stop this Gospel from reaching the world. Read the Book of Acts and this is what you will find in every sermon that is written down by Dr. Luke.
As witnesses, then, we need to follow what the apostles did in presenting the Good News that Jesus Christ truly is the Lord and Savior of all who believe in him. How do we do this? By starting with creation.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
This is where the Gospel begins! It begins with the revelation that this all-powerful God created everything. The Bible doesn’t say that God used evolution in creating the heavens and the earth. Let’s not be foolish to try to make that argument from silence. The Bible doesn’t record that there are other life forms on any other planets. The Bible does teach us in Genesis 1 that God created man on the sixth day of creation. Man, therefore, is a created being. We are not gods nor are we God. We did not make ourselves.
Next, man has sinned. Sin means that whether it is in thought, word or deed, we have wronged God by breaking his commands in some form or fashion. None of us are innocent.
There is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10)
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Because of this, we have fallen way short of meeting the standards of a perfect, holy God. He has no sin. He is perfectly innocent while we are not. Adam messed that up for everyone in the Garden of Eden, again, according to Genesis. None of us are able to meet the perfection of God because we miss the mark, we fall short of the glory of God.
But in his loving of his creation, God sent his one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfectly sinless life in order that we might believe in him and be saved from our sinful ways.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
The blessedness of believing what God has done on our behalf through his Son, Jesus Christ! He loves us so much that he could not let us continue in our sin, therefore sending his one and only Son to seek and to save those who are lost in their sin. He knows that:
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
So our sin brings death, but Christ Jesus brings eternal life! Because we have missed the mark by our sin and we have fallen short of God’s glory, God made a way for us through his Son Jesus Christ in order that we might be saved from our sin and the wages of sin which is death. Now this does not mean that you don’t die physically. It’s evident that men die and it is because of sin. But what it does mean is that our spirits, our souls, have eternal life. Eternal death is eternal separation from God in a place called the lake of fire. All who do not believe end up being there for eternity. Again, God has made a way through his Son, Jesus Christ, to be saved from that eternity so that we can have eternal life with him.
What do we need to do to be saved from our sin?
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. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
How can this be? How can something so simple, like believing in this message that Jesus Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures save anyone? Why would he be willing to die for all of mankind if we are so unworthy because of our sin?
The only answer that can truly be given is this: LOVE. He loves us enough that he is willing to save anyone who calls on his name. He loves us enough that his message is made simple so that even the smallest of children may believe and be saved. This is how much this all-powerful God loves the crowning work of all of creation: you and me!
Finally, I notice that through the power of the Holy Spirit, this eternal Good News that Jesus Christ saves is to be the message we share everywhere. He says to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world. The Gospel is first to the Jew then to the Gentiles:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
This Good News that Jesus Christ saves today is received by both Jews and Gentiles. It is first to the Jew because they are God’s chosen people who from whom the blessing of salvation came through their father Abraham. Then it is to the Gentile as this Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, came to seek and to save all. This is the mystery of the people of God: reconciling Jews and Gentiles to God first and then to each other. And how is this accomplished? Through the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ for salvation to all who believe.
There’s power in this message to transform lives. There’s power in this message to take that which is lost and to save it. There’s power in this message to make sinners into saints. There’s power in this message to take people from darkness and place them in the Light. And this is why we are to be his witnesses so that every tribe, nation, and tongue will know and will believe unto salvation.
For this reason also, God highly exalted Jesus Christ, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)