The church turned the world upside down in but thirty years.
The message of the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension spread like wildfire throughout the ancient world of the first century. Every time the political or religious powers of the day tried to stop the spread through rioting, torture, imprisonment, and execution, the church only grew faster.
It makes me wonder what a local group of believers could do with the same Spirit of God at work in our lives in but thirty years.
The book of Acts is our history. It’s the story of the church.
Yes, it is flawed and broken. It is important that we remove the rose-colored glasses from our eyes when we say things like “we need to be like the church in Acts”. The church in Acts was no better than the church you attend today. It was full of imperfect people who sinned in profound ways and disagreed often.
But nonetheless, it is our history.
By meditating on the truths in the book of Acts, we can find the confidence to be witnesses for Christ in our modern age.
The book of Acts begins with a reminder from the author (Luke), that this is a continuation of his gospel.
I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach – Acts 1:1
He goes on to tell Theophilus that Jesus gave instructions to his apostles (v. 2). His apostles, when with him after the resurrection, likely sought to rise up and overtake Rome, restoring Israel through means of political intrigue or violence. They found themselves a leader who could never die, and they wanted to bring about the restoration of their nation.
They essentially wanted to become central in society, back on top (v. 6).
Jesus shoots that down so quickly (v. 7).
He calls them to do something unique instead.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
This is a well-known verse if you have a little bit of a church background. But realizing that it is the answer to their question about having their nation restored makes it that much more powerful.
He calls them to be His witnesses.
They are not to try and cling to earthly power and prestige. Rather, they are to give of themselves for the benefit of others, telling others persistently about the message of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but that fills my heart with joy and excitement. I say that because the book of Acts ends abruptly. Like much of Scripture, we are to find ourselves in the ongoing story. This mission Jesus gave His church extends to us today.
I have to ask then, are you a witness for Jesus?
Do you testify about Him?
Or do you witness more often about your favorite hobbies and sports teams, your favorite movies and tv shows, your favorite political candidates?
The church is not to be on top of or central to a society but rather the church thrives when it is humbly serving said society from the margins, pointing the society to Jesus.
I’ve been studying the history of the church and man that’s so clear.
Margins, not the middle.
Anyway, do you testify?
I want to share with you a helpful teaching of Tony Merida, and then I’ll expand on it a bit.
In his commentary on Acts, he talks about a witness in this way:
The people who witness: all believers
The path of a witness: suffering
The power of a witness: the Holy Spirit
The people in need of a witness: the nations
The passion of a witness: Jesus
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to be a witness. You may not be in vocational ministry or serve as a missionary in a foreign land, but you are called to point others to the love of God in the cross of Christ. Do you see this as your core identity? Before you are a father or mother, businessman or businesswoman, you are a witness for Jesus. That is the primary reason you’re alive today.
To be a witness for Jesus, we have to be willing to suffer. We don’t speak up for Christ as much as we should because we are not fans of suffering. But by studying the book of Acts, we see that when suffering is imposed upon the church, the church has explosive growth (see Acts 8:1).
If you want to speak for Jesus, but don’t feel capable or equipped, remember that the Spirit of God resides in you as a follower of Jesus. By prayerful reliance on and submission to the Spirit of God in our lives, we will have the courage and boldness necessary to speak up often about our Lord and Savior.
Acts 1:8 is a command from Jesus to His church, and by extension to you and me today. We are commanded to reach all of the nations for the Lord. We are to desire the salvation of those in China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Our worldview should extend beyond the borders of the country we reside in. Our longing for the Kingdom of God should not be limited to only certain people groups.
Lastly, we are the most effective witnesses for the Kingdom of God, for the message of Jesus, when we are most passionate about Jesus. What do you talk about and post about the most? Yes, people may know you’re a Christian. But what fills your social media feeds and your conversations? Often the modern Christian gets far too entangled with and enamored by the affairs of men, with the affairs of politics and pundits. Or we focus entirely on our own worlds. We are not to be obsessively concerned with the kingdoms of men. We are to be filled with a passion for our Risen Savior.
Brothers and sisters, you are a witness.
That is your primary identity.
Listen to the Spirit.
Get to work.
In His Name,