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Believers' Response: Proclaimed Among the Nations

Acts 1:8 

"but you shall 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."

Most of us have a favorite subject: ourselves. When we hear of someone being sick, we immediately think of an illness we once fought. If someone has a new grandchild, it is hard to resist the temptation to pull out the 8 X 10's you've got in your purse to show them your grandchildren, isn't it? Have you ever noticed how easy it is to have a "what's in it for me" attitude?

Jesus' prophecy in Acts 1:8 flies in the face of that natural attitude. Notice that I called His statements a prophecy. This passage is not a command, telling Christians what they should do it is a prophecy telling us what we will do when empowered by the Spirit. This text says, that when the Spirit's power falls upon the disciples they will be witnesses both here and there. Amazing! Those of you with a strong Biblical background know that the prophecy was fulfilled. God's people stopped talking about themselves and started talking about Him and they did it throughout the world. It is part of the "mystery of godliness" that people will be so consumed with the gospel that they spread the news everywhere.

This morning I want us to consider the witnessing patterns of the First Century Church, first notice:

The Completed Work of Jesus. 

The great High Priest never sat down on the Day of Atonement until his work was finished. Using the imagery of the Old Testament Priest, Hebrews 1:3 depicts the completed work of Christ "When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;" (NASB) Jesus' work is not in process, it is finished!

His completed work made Salvation Possible

Acts 4:12 makes it crystal clear. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." 

His completed work also made evangelism a priority. 

Let's look at the context for Acts 1:8: And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you shall 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 1:6-8 NASB)

The disciples asked a question about the end times and Jesus redirected their attention to a task at hand. It is easy to become fascinated with a future that no one can control and miss today's opportunity.

Please also notice:

The Controlling Work of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit Precedes the Witness. If you are going where He directs, you will never go there alone, nor will you get there first He will be there!

If you showed up for visitation night, and I gave you an assignment to witness to a Christian killer, how thrilled would you be? That's what happened to Ananias. Listen to his response in Acts 9:13-16 But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name." 15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." 

Ananias went and Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul.

The Holy Spirit also Convicts of Sin

John 16:8 says: "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;" It is not our job to convict the sinner, God can do that Himself. But it is our job to proclaim the good news.

The Holy Spirit also changes the Sinner. We cannot change anyone, but the redemptive power of Christ can. In John 3:5-6, the evangelist quotes Jesus as he witnesses to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 

So far, we've seen the Completed work of Christ and the Controlling work of the Spirit, now its time to focus on our duty:

The Continuing Work of the Witness

After Saul's conversion, he was Filled with the Spirit a direct fulfillment of the prophecy in Acts 1:8. "And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 9:17)

After the filling, Saul received personal training

Look at Acts 9:18-19 "And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus," Saul stayed with the disciples. What do you think happened while they were together? A daily lifestyle of evangelism is more often "caught" than "taught."

Lastly, notice that Saul proclaimed the Gospel

"and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying," He is the Son of God." (Acts 9:20) Saul didn't wait until he was an expert, nor did he rely upon others to do the evangelizing, he jumped right in himself.

Tom Stringfellow tells a wonderful story about watching one of his friends, Gary develop as a witness. They were visitation partners for several months and Gary watched several people come to Christ.

Gary and his wife were cultivating some friends, hoping to see them come to Christ. He invited them over to his home for lunch one Saturday afternoon with the intention of directing the conversation toward spiritual matters. He told Tom that he should casually "drop by" about 2:00 because he would have them ready for him to present the plan of Salvation and pray the sinner's prayer with them.

"Gary," Tom said, "that sounds like a fine plan. I'm so glad you've worked with this family and are concerned about their souls, but there's a problem." "What's the problem?" Gary asked. "Well, there's a football game Saturday afternoon and I'll not be coming by your house." "You mean you'd miss an opportunity to lead someone to Christ over a football game?"

"You've watched me lead numerous people to Christ over the past few months, haven't you?" "Well . . . yes." "You know the plan of Salvation as well as I do, don't you?" "Well . . . yes." "Then you share the gospel and you pray the sinner's prayer with them. I'll be by the phone if you need me."

Tom did get a call that afternoon, but not at 2:00. At 4:00, Gary called him to report that not only did the husband and wife accept Christ that day, but the two teenage children did too. The entire family of four was reborn in Gary's living room. (Parakaleo: The Heart of Deacon Ministry, p. 46-48)

As a Spirit filled man, Gary received the training he needed, then became a himself, and Tom tells me, he continues to witness to this day. 

This sermon was heavily influenced by the Lay Evangelism Schools and lectures by Boyd Hunt at Southwestern Seminary.

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