Acts 1:8 “but you will 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.” (NASB)
These words, according to Luke (the author of the Book of Acts), are the last words spoken by Christ immediately prior to His ascension into heaven. It strikes me as obvious that these words, being His last words spoken, are of tremendous importance. A simple reading of the text and a little digging in study reveal how much weight these words carry not only to the apostles but to us as well. Let’s explore this verse in a little more detail.
“but you will receive power…” Jesus is stating that power will be received. That seems simple enough. However, let’s dig a little deeper. The pronoun “you” refers to the apostles (and eventually us), so the antecedent for “you” was the apostles that He was addressing at the time and us in a futuristic sense. The verb “will receive” is a futuristic imperative verb for obviously the Holy Spirit had not yet arrived but would arrive very soon after Christ’s ascension. Being an imperative “will receive” is spoken as a certainty or perhaps a command. It does not read you ought to receive, should receive, could receive, or might receive. It is an emphatic statement. “you WILL RECEIVE power.” (emphasis is my own)
Additionally, let’s look more closely at the word “power”. This word in the Greek is “dynamis” and refers to a supernatural power not of a person’s own being. So the power that we will receive is the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
So, when do we receive this power? “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” I really can’t state it any more simply than that.
“and you shall be My witnesses...” Here, the conjunction “and” tells us that there is more to the event being described than merely receiving power, there is something else included. The verb “shall be” is, again, an imperative future tense verb. It is a commandment for this future event. Remember, the Holy Spirit did not arrive until Chapter 2 of Acts. But the Scripture is clear. It does not say we would be, could be, or should be witnesses. It says we shall be His witnesses.
Let’s look at the word witnesses. That word in the Greek is “martys” and is the root from which we get our English word martyr. It refers to a witness or profession of faith (a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) even unto death. Plainly stated, we are to be faithful in our witness for Jesus even if it costs us our lives. My favorite story of such great faith is about a man known as Polycarp who was a student of the Apostle John. Polycarp had been arrested and attempts to coerce him to renounce God were initiated with great force and ferocity by the Roman empire. Polycarp, it is said refused to relinquish his witness for Jesus Christ and burned at the stake, unrestrained.
“Eighty and six years have I served Him, and he never did me any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior.” –Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, and Bishop of Smyrna. Such was the faith of Polycarp and how seriously did he take the commission to be a witness for Christ.
“…both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,” Jesus was telling the apostles to be His witness first in Jerusalem and in Judea/Samaria. In today’s terms we can be His witness in our neighborhoods, our cities, and our county.
“…and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ Jesus expected the apostles to carry the Gospel to the corners of the world as it was known to them. It has been considered that some of this group may have traveled as far as Ethiopia and India which is quite astounding considering that foot travel was most likely their mode of transportation. But let’s not forget that the apostles were not the only ones spreading the Gospel. According to Acts 2:9-11 there were sixteen nations represented, or more, at Pentecost who, undoubtedly, spread the Gospel in their own lands.
The Great Commission, as it is known, is NOT an option. It is an imperative commandment. These are the last words spoken by Jesus! However, Acts 1:8 is not the only place that this commission to spread the Gospel is recorded. It is also recorded in the following texts.
Matthew 28:18–20 (NASB95)
18 And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Mark 16:15 (NASB95)
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Luke 24:47–49 (NASB95)
47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 “You are witnesses of these things.
49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
John 20:21–22 (NASB95)
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
That is five references of the Great Commission in five successive books. The last reference in the Book of Acts being the words of Jesus immediately prior to His ascension. It makes me wonder. Of all the things that Jesus COULD have said, why did He choose this particular time to drive home the importance of the topic of witnessing to others? Could it be because witnessing was important to Him?
In September 2o12, I was ministering in a church deep in the jungles of Uganda, Africa where 31 souls were saved. The Holy Spirit placed the thought in my head and on my heart. “You have traveled 8000 miles, lost a great deal of sleep, done without food, and suffered the separation from your family to minister to these people.” I agreed that it was so. “Why then,” the small voice in my spirit said, “Why don’t you minister to the lost back home in the states?” I was busted on countless counts of neglect that I was not even aware that I was guilty of. Some four months later, my Pastor asked me the question, “When was the last time you led someone to Christ?” I chimed in that it was two months prior that I had led someone to Jesus. “And before that?” he asked. I had to think about that one for a moment and I remembered the 31 saved in Africa and presented that information. “Well…” he began, “what are you doing now to lead people to Jesus?” I realized that I was not actively, consistently, persistently doing anything to lead anyone to their salvation. I was busted again for my neglect confirming the lesson that I was supposed to have learned in Africa. Since May 19, 2013 my boldness has increased and not several but many have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It was nothing that I did of my own accord or my own will. I merely said, “Yes, Holy Spirit, I will be available to use your power and witness to those whom You send to cross my path. It was really that simple. You must realize that I am not “SUPER WITNESS” or any such thing by any stretch of the imagination. I merely rely on a close walk with God through Witnessing, Prayer, Bible Study, and Discipleship in conjunction with the POWER of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in preparing me and people to cross my path, the ability (provided by the Spirit) to discern their need for Christ, and the boldness (provided by the power of the Holy Spirit) to share the Gospel of Jesus with them. Again, it really is that simple.
I’ve presented all of this to ask each and every one of you ONE question.
When was the last time that you witnessed to someone and led them to salvation in Jesus Christ?
In His Grip,
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