Summary: "Witnesses" — it is that word which defines for Christ’s disciples their role and responsibility. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit came to equip the disciples to carry out their work of witness.
“Ye shall be witnesses”
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC, has a guard 24 hours a day. Every hour on the hour, 365 days a year, a new soldier reports for duty. When the new guard arrives, he receives his orders from the one who is leaving. The words are always the same: "Orders Remain Unchanged."
The same could be said of the orders that Jesus gave to His disciples. Just before He ascended to heaven, He told His followers, "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
In a definitive statement made moments before His ascension our Lord Jesus indicated to His disciples what their responsibility to Him was be during the period before His return to earth.
That statement has been recorded for us by Luke. In a day of confusion with regard to the Church’s task in society, our Lord’s mandate should be carefully considered and carried out by us who profess to be His disciples.
"Witnesses" — it is that word which defines for Christ’s disciples their role and responsibility. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit came to equip the disciples to carry out their work of witness.
These words unfold to us and impose on us, the final directions of the Son of God as what we are to do in His absence.
I. THE STRATEGY OF OUR WITNESSING
"Ye shall be witnesses unto Me." These words give us Christ’s plan for His people in their propagation of the Gospel.
It is not a mere bickering over words to stress that Christ did not say to His disciples, "Ye shall witness about Me." Rather, He said, "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me."
The distinction between these alternatives is just this: often we think of witnessing as involving only a verbal communication of the Gospel. But that is too limited a definition of Christian witnessing. Instead, we must grasp the fact that the Lord Jesus looked upon His disciples as My witnesses in every aspect and area of their lives. Of course, that involves and includes words, but it requires much more: it comprehends the believer’s entire life.
We are not seeking to get people to accept only a creed. We are not attempting to get people intellectually convinced of the superiority of Christianity. We are concerned to show that our faith is both relevant and related to all and every phase of a person’s life. All our life, our relationships, habits, and goals should be a witness unto Him. It is not just a matter of telling; it is a matter of living.
We want people to receive Christ as the Way as well as the Truth; as a result, in life we must demonstrate and declare our witness for Christ.
II. THE SUBJECT OF OUR WITNESSING
Christ indicated the strategy of our Christian witness. He also indicated the subject of our witness. "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me." Christ, then, is the One who delegates us to be witnesses, but Christ also is the subject of our witnessing.
We are not going to inform people as to who we are or what we do. The text doesn’t tell us to do that. In John’s Gospel 1:6-9, we see that John is a witness of the right kind. He came to bear witness of the Light and Jesus Christ is that Light. John isn’t attracting people to himself. He witnessed well. He spoke well of Christ
The secret of his good witness is found in, John 3:30 where he says, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
A young preacher was called to a church which was attended by quite a number of college and university professors. After he had preached for several months, he sat down and wrote a letter to his Christian father, telling him about the problems he was having with his ministry. He said he was beginning to get nervous, and that he was not going to be able to continue his ministry, and that his problems were caused by the attendance of the college professors. He said to his father, "When I am preaching on biology, I see the biology teacher to
front of me, and I wonder if my statements are correct When I preach on science, I see the science professor, and I wonder if I have made any mistakes in my statements." He continued in this line at some length, in his letter. Then he closed by saying, "Dad, I don’t know what I am going to do. I cannot continue on with the ministry. Have you any advice to give me?"
His dad wrote him a letter, and in it just said, "Preach Jesus Christ to that crowd in front of you. They likely don’t know much about Him."