“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 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’” (Acts 1:6-8).
Power is cool, isn’t it? All the comic book superheroes have special powers. All the TV good guys have unique abilities to crack cases, solve mysteries, and perform incredible feats. We vote for political candidates who promise to heal the planet and stem the tide of human depravity. We want to believe that someone somewhere has some kind of ability to do something monumental to alter the affairs of humanity for the good – as we define good.
What must the apostles thought when Jesus promised them, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (v. 8). Did they imagine they’d fly or have X-ray vision or be able to cast out Romans and demons? Did they think they’d walk on water, raise the dead, or feed and heal the multitudes? No, Jesus told them exactly what kind of power He would give them – the power to be His witnesses.
The word Jesus used is translated interchangeably as “martyr” or “witness.” A witness is someone who has firsthand knowledge of a person, a thing, or an event and who tells what he or she knows. A Christian witness, by definition then, has experienced the new birth that Jesus promised in John 3. A witness doesn’t just have a theoretical understanding, but has experienced the life-changing grace of God in Christ. A martyr dies because of their witness about Christ. All of Jesus’ disciples, who became His apostles lived as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ and died directly or indirectly because of their witness. Even John, the beloved disciple, suffered cruelly for his witness to Christ.
So, why did Jesus grant His apostles a special, supernatural power to be His witnesses? It was because, on our own, that is, in our flesh, no one would ever follow Christ. Christians are saved by grace alone. We’re born again in Christ alone. We take every step and draw every breath through faith in Christ alone. There is no moment in the Christian life when we can accomplish anything for the glory of God apart from His grace to us in Christ.
We can never look back over our lives as Christians and count all the things we did for God’s glory. To do so, by definition, would be boasting in ourselves. Instead, the normal Christian life is one of self-denying and self-dying in pursuit of extolling the majesty of Christ. All our boasting is in Christ alone. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. We want to honor Christ.
From the very first moment, of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring, all of Christ’s disciples were changed. Instead of hiding afraid in upper rooms, they charged into the public arena and boldly declared the wonders of Jesus Christ. Everyone saw the difference. No one understood it, but they all saw it and knew that something was up.
So, Jesus’ promise of power in the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for the apostles. It was for the whole church. The Holy Spirit resides in everyone who is truly born again. He empowers us to live as witnesses to His saving grace; and we don’t have to work it up either. We just walk in fellowship with Christ and the change His Spirit works into us makes the difference.
By the way, you don’t have to go to some remote village in a distant land, the name of which you can’t pronounce, to be Christ’s witness. If God calls you to go, then, by all means, go; but all you really have to do is to make much of Christ and give glory to God wherever you are. God will take care of the geography.
One last thought, I’m not going to ask for an “amen,” or that you like and share this post to get a blessing from God. I just pray, if you love the Lord Jesus, that He’ll bless you with His grace to live as His witness.