God gives the Holy Spirit to believers to empower them to witness boldly. Witnessing is sharing and showing your faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Determine to rely on the Spirit’s power as you witness.
The Story Continues
As I traveled on a train from Kiev to Donetsk in 1995 I opened my Bible to the book of Acts. Eager to share the gospel in Ukraine, I read through Acts with renewed enthusiasm. As the train rhythmically swayed down the tracks, I became absorbed in Luke’s account of the birth and expansion of the church. Over the next several hours I marveled again at how the Holy Spirit empowered ordinary men and women to turn their world upside down (see Acts 17:6). In a small way, our short-term mission team was continuing the story of Acts. You don’t have to travel to another country however, to participate in the ongoing story of Acts. The Holy Spirit can empower you to witness boldly right where you live.
Promise of Power (Acts 1:4-5,8)
The book of Acts opens with a brief account of the events between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:3-11). After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples at various times “over a period of forty days” (Acts 1:3). During that period, He spoke to the disciples “about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Jesus used the Old Testament (Luke 24:27) to help the disciples understand the necessity of His death and resurrection (Luke 24:45-46). He also commissioned the disciples to share His message of salvation with all nations (see Luke 24:47 and Matt. 28:19-20).
Imagine being among the first to hear Jesus say, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). How would you have felt? What would you have thought about such an enormous assignment? Perhaps you would have felt overwhelmed. Perhaps you would have thought, “I am inadequate for such a task.” How then, did Jesus prepare a group of ordinary human beings for the enormous task of sharing the good news with the world?
On one of the specific occasions when Jesus appeared to His disciples, He shared a meal with them (v. 4). During the course of that meal, Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift promised by God (see also Luke 24:49). The gift promised by God is the Holy Spirit. The disciples had heard Jesus speak about the Holy Spirit during His farewell address in the Upper Room (see John 14-16). The Holy Spirit is essential to the task of sharing the good news with the world. That is why Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. He told them that in a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (v. 5). As a result of this baptism, the disciples would be empowered to take the gospel to the world.
Just before His ascension from the Mount of Olives, Jesus unveiled His simple plan for reaching the world. He instructed the disciples to share the good news in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The book of Acts tells the story of how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to other parts of the world in a thirty year period. The story of Acts also teaches us that evangelism should have no geographical or ethnic boundaries. We owe Christ to all people (see Rom. 1:14). The greatest crime we can commit is to withhold the gospel from others.
Sharing the gospel with others is the responsibility of every believer. However, we cannot effectively share Christ with others apart from the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The divine work of evangelism can only be accomplished in dependence upon divine power (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit plays a key role in every aspect of evangelism. He guides believers as they communicate the message of salvation with unbelievers (see Luke 12:12). The Holy Spirit also convicts unbelievers “of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He persuades unbelievers to place their faith in Jesus for salvation. You can count on the Holy Spirit to empower you to share the gospel with others. But, can the Holy Spirit count on you?
Gift of Power (Acts 2:1-6)
After the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9-11), the disciples returned to Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). They gathered in an upper room (Acts 1:13), along with other believers, and spent time together in prayer (Acts 1:14). Peter also spoke to those assembled concerning choosing a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-22). Matthias was chosen as Judas’ successor by means of prayer and the casting of lots (Acts 1:23-26).
As the Day of Pentecost approached, Jews from every nation made their way to Jerusalem (see v. 5). Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was one of the three annual feasts which Jewish males were expected to attend in Jerusalem (see Deut. 16:16). The name Pentecost literally means fiftieth. Pentecost commemorated the completion of the grain harvest and was observed fifty days after the Passover. God strategically chose Pentecost as the day to send the gift of power that would enable the disciples to initiate a great spiritual harvest.
The day of Pentecost came ten days after the ascension of Jesus. On that day, the disciples and other believers (see Acts 1:15) were again assembled together (see Acts 1:13) in one place (v. 1). As they prayed, an overpowering sound like the blowing of a violent wind (v. 2) suddenly announced the Holy Spirit’s arrival. The sound was so intense that it caught the attention of those outside the house where the believers were assembled (see v. 6). Along with the sound, they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire come to rest on each of those present (v. 3). Both wind (see Ps. 104:3) and fire (see Ex. 3:2) are associated with God’s presence.
All of those present were filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 4). God’s gift of power is for all believers, not just a select few. The Holy Spirit empowered the believers to speak in foreign languages not previously known by them (v. 4). Imagine the bewilderment of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost when they heard the believers fluently “declaring the wonders of God” (v. 11) in their own languages (v. 6). The Holy Spirit certainly hastened the spread of the gospel on the day when Jerusalem was crowded with Jews from every nation.
The Holy Spirit still empowers and uses ordinary people to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have thought, “Surely, God can’t use someone like me to tell others about Jesus.” The same Holy Spirit who empowered men like Billy Graham to preach to millions can empower you to effectively share the good news with your neighbor. God needs lots of someones just like you and me to reach the people that may never attend an evangelistic crusade or darken the door of a church. The question is, will you make yourself available for His use? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to declare the wonders of God to others in words they can understand?
People of Power (Acts 2:17-18)
Luke recorded the responses of those in Jerusalem who heard Christ’s followers speaking in other languages. Some of the people who witnessed the remarkable events on the day of Pentecost were bewildered (v. 6). Others were “utterly amazed” (v. 7) and likely stood around with their mouths opened wide. Still others were curious (vv. 8-11) and asked one another, “What does this mean?” (v. 12). And, as always, some scoffed and said, “They have had too much wine” (v. 13).
The charge of drunkenness became the occasion for Peter’s first and perhaps most influential sermon. Peter, filled and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, stood up and addressed the crowd of people (v. 14). He dismissed the charge of drunkenness as unreasonable, pointing out that it was too early in the day for someone to be drunk (v. 15). Peter then offered an explanation of what had happened.
Peter anchored the miraculous events of Pentecost in the Old Testament (vv. 16-21). He told the crowd that what they had witnessed was the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Joel 2:28-32. Joel spoke of a time when God would pour out His Spirit on all people (v. 17). As a result, they would all prophesy, or proclaim God’s saving message (v. 18). The time Joel had spoken of had finally come. The Holy Spirit was now available to empower all of God’s people for service, without regard to sex or age (vv. 17,18). The Holy Spirit, Peter said, was responsible for transforming ordinary people into people of power.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a person of power? Wealth and material possessions make some people feel powerful. Others feel powerful because they occupy positions of authority. But, as a believer, you have the greatest power of all available to you. And, the best part is, you do not have to be wealthy or in a position of authority to tap into this power. The Holy Spirit resides within you and stands ready to give you the power to have a part in advancing the gospel.
Results of Power (Acts 2:36-39)
As the crowd continued to listen attentively, Peter spoke about the life and works of Jesus (v. 22). Many of those listening knew of the “miracles, wonders and signs” (v. 22) which Jesus had performed through God’s power. Many of them also knew about the recent arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, which was part of God’s divine plan to redeem sinful humanity (v. 23). Death, however, could not hold Jesus (v. 24). Peter presented various proofs to support the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead (v. 25-35). Peter called upon his listeners to know with certainty that God declared Jesus, whom they crucified, both Lord and Christ (v. 36).
When Peter finished preaching, the people who heard him were cut to the heart (v. 37). The Holy Spirit had used Peter’s words to pierce their religious armor. Stunned by the pain of conviction, the people asked Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? (v. 37). Peter had a twofold answer to their question.
First, Peter told his listeners to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ (v. 38). Peter’s words ring with the urgency that says, “Do it now.” Repentance means more than feeling sorry for past behavior, it involves turning away from our sin and turning to God through Jesus. Second, Peter told his listeners to be baptized. . .in the name of Jesus Christ (v. 38). Baptism was a way of publicly acknowledging that they had indeed repented and believed in Jesus for salvation. Those (v. 39) who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus for salvation will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 38). Remarkably, about three thousand people responded to Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost (v. 41).
The day of Pentecost began like any other day for Peter and the other followers of Christ. By the end of the day however, their lives would never be the same again. The Holy Spirit empowered these ordinary people for the divine task of sharing the gospel of Christ. As a result of their witness, the church was born and a fire ignited that has swept across countries and centuries.
How did this day begin for you? As a believer, you have the same power available to you that transformed the followers of Christ on the day of Pentecost. You too, can expect people to respond positively to the gospel when they see the results of the power of God’s Spirit in your life and hear your testimony. Will you allow God’s Holy Spirit to govern and guide your life today? Will you allow Him to use you to share Christ with someone today? If so, by the end of this day, your life may never be the same again.
Remember: You Can Participate in the Ongoing Story of Acts
Be Aware | Multiplied millions of people are still waiting to hear the message that has changed our lives. Many of the people you see every day have not had the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Christ.
Be Sensitive | Ask God to remind you daily that Jesus died for every person you see. Someone prayed, “Lord, help me see in those I meet, on country road or city street, not just people passing by, but those for whom Jesus came to die.”
Be Available | God uses ordinary people like you and me to share the gospel with others. Allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to share the good news with others.