The Witness of the Apostles
Acts 4:13-22 click here for audio
Our study together in the Book of Acts is very helpful because it helps us to learn how a true church should be. We can easily pick out the character traits of a true church by observing such activities as preaching, praying, giving, worshipping, witnessing and fellowshipping.
The early church was committed to doctrine. They were committed to prayer. They were Spirit-filled, Spirit-anointed, Spirit-empowered. They were God-centered; Christ-centered and Scripture-centered.
The Early church was not perfect. We will see that as we go further into Acts. They were continually learning. They had to adjust to demanding situations as they occurred. They continued to learn as they followed the Apostles and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
One of the things they learned at the beginning was the growing hostility from the world around them, and particularly from their Jewish rulers. That’s the subject of Acts 4. Notice again vv.1-4
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
The religious rulers were GREATLY DISTURBED, GREATLY ANNOYED because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
They arrested the Apostles Peter and John and kept them in jail overnight. Here is the beginning of persecution against the church. History records the massive killing of Christians simply because of their faith in Christ. Persecution has been common with the church for as long as there’s been a church. It’s been said that the 20th century had more Christians martyred than all previous centuries combined.
Today, many Christians are persecuted.
According to one source – “Over 200 million Christians in the world face persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Every 5 minutes, a Christian is martyred for their faith.”
This is what Jesus said would happen.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Peter and John were bold to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of persecution they were committed to speak for Christ. If that meant jail time, they were ready. They were confident witnesses for the Lord Jesus. That’s what I want us to think about in this message. How to be a good witness for Christ, a strong powerful witness for Christ.
You may think “being a witness” that’s for preachers, evangelist, and missionaries. Not just them, it’s for all who name the name of Christ. The place where a witness for Christ is most needed is in your home. Doing the best you can to shield your family from wrong influences will not overcome and subdue the nature of the unredeemed heart. Your family needs a Witness for Christ. Your friends may be some good friends, yet in the mix is someone who needs a witness. It was Christ who said,
“….Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you,…” (Mark 5:19)
What’s required to have a powerful witness?
1. We witness after being with Jesus v.13 (come and see / go and tell)
“recognized that they had been with Jesus”
When I think of boldness - I think of Peter standing and speaking concerning Christ without apologizing; speaking clearly and confidently of that which he had experienced. He’s not telling something that happened to others; It’s his own experience. He didn’t get this boldness from reading books, and from the schools and universities of his day.
Sometimes people think when they need to be heard by others they need to pull out their degrees. I’m not belittling education and degrees, I have a few myself, but boldness in Christ does not come from much learning.
It comes by “being with Jesus”. This was seen by the religious rulers. We see in v.13
“Now when they saw the boldness…….”
Paul could have leaned on his educational credentials for boldness. He counted it all as loss for the sake of Christ.
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c] blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him…. Praying for boldness to speak
19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
The Apostles Peter and John were bold- and the way they became bold to witness for Christ was to spend time with Christ in prayer and in the Word.
Later on in the chapter - the church is praying – talking to God - see v.24 “…lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord…..” v.29 “And now, Lord look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”
After Peter and John were released from jail….released from the court of the Sanhedrin…they did not decide to “shut down” and “move on”. They SPENT TIME WITH JESUS…they had a prayer meeting……a prayer meeting is MEETING WITH THE LORD…. TALKING AND COMMUNION WITH THE LORD JESUS…. They prayed for boldness to speak the word…to keep on proclaiming the Gospel message.
These are challenging times to be a Witness for Christ. One things for sure - There’s never a time to give up. For every challenge, the Lord will match Holy Spirit boldness for us to be faithful witnesses.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2. WE witness through ministries of Compassion
Peter and John stopped to help a man who had been lame all his life. (v.22 tells us “he was more than 40 years old.” )
This started back in chapter 3:6 “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Peter could have walked on by. John could have walked on by. He was a landmark for all to see. So common to see him there, but what was uncommon is to see someone tell him “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Peter and John were going up at the hour of prayer. They will pray and spend time with Jesus in prayer, but they didn’t keep Jesus in the prayer closet. Jesus was with them wherever they went. This opportunity to help a fellow human being was the very thing Jesus would do.
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Peter and John gave a bold witness for Christ and those who opposed them could not give a WITNESS against them. Look v.14 “But seeing the man…..nothing to say in opposition.”
They had nothing to say against them.
vv.15-16 “But when they had commanded them to leave…..what shall we do with these men?
For a notable sign has been performed………..WE CANNOT DENY IT.”
THE MINISTRY OF COMPASSION – may not stop persecution, but it will make it very hard for someone to discredit your WITNESS.
The GREATEST CREDIT to our witness is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Empty Tomb! Jesus is Alive and in the power and person of the Holy Spirit, the Lord continues to do his ministry. It’s a ministry of compassion.
The religious rulers – they could say nothing! They admitted a “notable sign has been performed through them”. This is “evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”
They asked, “WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THESE MEN?” “This puts us in a bad predicament.”
A ministry of compassion puts your opponents in a hard predicament. It’s hard to be unkind to someone who is being loving and compassionate.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you
let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
A Powerful Witness comes from
· Holy Spirit Boldness
· A Ministry of Compassion
3. We witness in the authority of the Name of Jesus
A powerful witness must witness in the name of Jesus.
We have seen this already.
Acts 3:6 “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk..”
Acts 3:16 “And his name—by faith in his name---has made this man strong…”
Acts 4:7 “….by what power or by what name did you do this? “
Acts 4:10 “let it be known to all of you…. by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…”
Acts 4:12 “…there is no other name under heaven given…”
Matthew 28:18-19 see connection - authority and name
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
We witness in the NAME of Christ; in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord…
We don’t witness in our name…. we don’t witness in the name of the church….
We don’t witness in the name of the Baptist…
The President of the United States puts his name….signs his name on a document…it carries a lot of weight and authority…laws are passed….certain things take place under the power of the pen; the power of the president’s signature…..
There is NO GREATER authority than the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord said in Matthew 28:20
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - this is not speaking of how many you have in church on Sunday, it’s referring to church discipline. When the church follows the procedure given in Matthew 28
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
The church gives a powerful witness to an unbelieving world when it holds its members in check. Discipline is never to be done with a vindictive spirit; an axe to grind; it’s always to be carried out lovingly with the goal to restore a brother or sister. The authority is IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
THERE’S NO GREATER NAME THAN THE NAME OF JESUS….
19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Don’t be intimidated by others. Your witness for Christ is given in the authority of Christ. You are authorized by the King of kings; and the Lord of lords to speak on his behalf.
4. We witness in obedience to God
v.19 listen to you rather than to God, you must judge
a) Obey God rather than men
you go ahead and make your judgment about that….. you decide what should be done….
WE have already decided what we will do --- for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard
We witness in OBEDIENCE TO GOD - we don’t need your permission! We don’t need your approval.
ILLUST: I had a conversation with a school principal, and he was scolding Baptist for sending missionaries to other parts of the world for the purpose of making converts…. He said “we have no business doing that…they have their own beliefs….” I reminded him of what Jesus commanded His disciples….to “go into all the world and preach the gospel…make disciples….” To this day, I don’t know if he has ever come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.
We don’t need the governor’s permission, the president’s permission, the Supreme Court’s permission….. WE ARE GIVEN A MANDATE TO SPEAK OF WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD…
TO TELL OTHERS WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE!
Joe Kennedy, a high school coach, would pray with his players after a football game at the 50 yard line….this was not a mandatory prayer….He would go by himself to the 50 yard line and kneel….he was fired and as of this year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to hear his case.
That’s the attitude of many judges and courts – no coach, no school official, no authority figure is to do anything that will show they have allegiance to Christ. It might be a POWERFUL WITNESS to young people influencing them to embrace the Lord Jesus.
It is wrong to use our “beliefs” as an excuse to “break the law”. But when a law is passed that violates the laws of God, then we are to obey God rather than men.
Daniel- prayed 3 times a day - a law was passed making it illegal to pray to God, Daniel continued to pray 3 times a day….even though he knew it would put him in the lion’s den….he continued to pray….and you know the story…..God took care of those hungry lions….
See Acts 5:25-29 “we must obey God rather than men”
b) Negative consequences - threats - v.21 “further threatened them…” next chapter—more than threats acts 5:40 “they beat them” “flogged them” whipped them with a whip
There is a cost for being an obedient WITNESS for Christ. you can go to jail.
You can lose your job.. be fired!
You can be sent to jail like Kim Davis, a Kentucky county court clerk. She refused to issue marriage license to gay couples. It required her signature, and she was not about to do that. It violated the Word of God. What do you do? Cave in….give in… or take a stand?
What do you do as a Christian who owns a bakery, or you own a photography business and you are asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding? Or take pictures?
You can be fined! You can lose your business!
Obeying God has some negative consequences!
In 2015 21 Egyptian Christian men were beheaded by ISIS on the shores of Libya – why? they refuse to denounce their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
c) Positive consequences – v.21c “they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened…
People were being saved because of the witness of the Apostles… see Acts 4:4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
No one wants to be “locked up”. I’ve met a few people “locked up”. I can assure you they don’t like it one bit. Peter and John were locked up for at least one night…. Later on.. we’ll read of Paul the Apostle….Paul and Silas will be “locked up” for preaching the Gospel of Christ…
Here’s the positive part -- the Word of God is NOT “locked up”…
2Timothy 2:8-9 God’s Word is NOT Bound !
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!
You can lock up an apostle…. But there are thousands giving Witness for Christ…
And here’s this man who was lame for 40 years…..
READ v.22 he was a WALKING witness of the power of God! His testimony was convincing!
Just seeing him… the critics could say nothing in opposition….
Man’s testimony- “let me tell you what happened to me” Let me brag on Jesus!
My life was empty until I met Jesus.
There was deadness in my soul. In my limbs. In my heart. Christ change all of that!
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart!