Summary: Jesus wants us to be witnesses for Him, who effectively share the good news of His grace with others.
Becoming an Effective Witness for Christ
Intro: [Get picture of a BMW] Has anyone here ever owned a BMW? Has anyone here ever wanted to own a BMW? Well, it may shock you to know that Jesus gave His disciples a BMW before He went back to heaven. Well, sort of. In Acts 1, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until God gave them the Holy Spirit. Then, in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses….” Jesus created in them an expectation. You might call it a BMW expectation (Be My Witnesses). Sorry to let you car lovers down like that, but the expectation of Jesus for us is that we would become effective witnesses who tell others what they have seen and heard and experienced from the Lord. The BMW Jesus gave to His followers was the expectation to “Be My Witnesses.” Another BMW says, “Be My Worshipers” and another “Be My Warriors.” So, what are we talking about today? Here it is in a nutshell:
Prop: Jesus wants us to be witnesses for Him, who effectively share the good news of His grace with others.
Interrogative: How can we do that?
TS: Well, as we look at how Paul handled himself before the Sanhedrin, we can pick up a few clues about being an effective witness for the Lord.
I. Effective Witnesses Show Respect to Others (Acts 23:1-5)
1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!" 4 Those who were standing near Paul said, "You dare to insult God’s high priest?" 5 Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ’Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’"
-I am taking the liberty here to broaden the principle of respect beyond what we see in this particular passage. Paul made every effort to honor God’s commands, which included not speaking evil about those God had chosen to lead His people. It didn’t matter whether they were right or wrong. Even David continued to honor King Saul, who had become a wicked and selfish man, because God’s word said, “Do not touch My anointed one.”
-Now, one might wonder how Paul could say he did not know the high priest. Paul had been a Pharisee and had interacted with the Sanhedrin at various times in his life. He knew that it was the high priest who presided over the Sanhedrin. There are various explanations for Paul pleading ignorant about the high priest’s identity. Paul may have been away from Jerusalem for quite some time, and may not have been familiar with the current high priest. However, in reality it hadn’t been all that long since he had been there. It is unlikely that he was dishonest about the fact that he did not recognize the high priest. Another possibility is that Paul had very poor eyesight and could not see who told them to hit Paul in the mouth. However, this is pure speculation. It is quite possible that this was just a time when Paul’s human imperfection revealed itself. After getting smacked in the mouth, he kind of lost his cool and basically cursed the high priest and challenged his right to judge because he was prescribing punishment before hearing a case. When Paul said he did not realize it was the high priest, that may have been his way of apologizing and retracting his comment. He really did want to show respect to those in authority, even if they were in the wrong, because he knew it pleased God.
-This high priest, Ananias, was famous for being both vicious and violent. He had been appointed by Herod, king of Chalcis some ten years earlier, but was deposed by King Agrippa in A.D. 59. Some years later he was murdered by assassins during the Jewish uprising of A.D. 66. Not a great spiritual leader, but still someone God wanted Paul to respect by reason of his authority and the role he filled.
-So, the particular principle we see here is that we should respect those whom God has anointed to lead His people. However, respect is really something we should attempt to show to all people – and I believe that is how Paul tried to live. At the very least, we can show respect to other people as those who bear the image of God. We can value them as human beings for whom Jesus died.