In Acts 1 we find the last words and actions of Jesus before He ascended into heaven. After His resurrection, Jesus spent forty days with His disciples. They were convinced He had been raised from the dead, convinced He was the Son of God, and convinced He was the Messiah. They watched Jesus do miracles, explaining to them over and over again how it was not His time to restore the kingdom, but instead, it was His time to serve and die for the sins of the world.
The disciples, as well as the Jews, had been waiting and hoping for a Messiah for hundreds of years. Many believed Jesus was the Messiah, but they had trouble understanding why He had not yet restored the kingdom of Israel. In His final days with them, Jesus commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem. They asked Him if this was the time when He would restore the kingdom of Israel, if He would do what they had been waiting for.
He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” – Acts 1:7
It was not time. Jesus did not scold the disciples for asking what was to come; He reminded them who was in control. It was not time for the kingdom of Israel to be restored. It was time for something different.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” – Acts 1:7
Witnesses. It was time for the disciples to be witnesses to the world of who Jesus was. It was time to tell everyone what He had done. It was time to share the redemption from sin available through Christ with the farthest parts of the earth.
This wasn’t what the disciples had planned. It was better. For if the kingdom of God had come then, the gospel would not have been shared with the world and hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and across centuries would not have known the saving power of Christ.
That wasn’t all. The disciples would not be sent out on their own strength. Jesus would leave them, but He would send the Holy Spirit to empower them, encourage them, and strengthen them. With the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to share the message of Christ with the world. The message of salvation was not only for the Jews, it was for all people! They were the ones chosen and appointed to take the most precious, most hopeful news to the farthest corners of the earth.
The Greek word for “witness” is martys. In Greek, this word means “one who affirms or attests” and in this case, in Acts 1:8, it refers to “witnesses of a divine message”.* Martyrs is also where we get our English word, “martyr.” These disciples were the ones hand-picked by Jesus to affirm the divine message He had given them. They were the ones God chose to tell the entire world about the Good News of Jesus Christ. What an incredible appointment!
Jesus appointed them to be witnesses of the gospel. They had no idea what was to come. They did not know many of them would die for their faith. They had no way of predicting the persecutions to follow, the struggles they would face, both in their lives and in the lives of believers after them. What they did know was they had a message that needed to be shared with the world, no matter the cost. Regardless of the way it would be received, they would take the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. To their city (Jerusalem), their nation (Judea), to those they despised (Samaria), and to the furthest parts of the world.
The response to the message of Christ did not stop the disciples from delivering it. They were His witnesses.
As we study the Book of Acts together over the next several weeks, we’ll see how the disciples carried the gospel to all of these places, to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the farthest corners of the world. The Holy Spirit would come upon them and empower them, allowing them to continue to be Christ’s witnesses.
As we learn more and more about their stories, may we be emboldened to do the same. In Christ, we have the same power they did. The Holy Spirit has empowered us, in the same way, to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to our cities, to our nations, to those we despise, and to the farthest parts of the world. We have been given the same privilege and the same calling as the disciples. May we be His witnesses today and every day!
* Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Week 1 Challenge:
The early church was a committed group of believers who consistently met together and held everything in common. This week, commit to meet with a group of believers consistently for the next three months. Plan together and come up with creative ways to make meeting a consistent practice in your life.
Week 1 Reading Plan:
Week 1 Memory Verse:
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