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And you will be my witnesses

Posted by on Oct 7, 2011 in discipleship, missional, scripture | 4 comments

And you will be my witnesses

After his resurrection and just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told the eleven remaining apostles (and perhaps others, such as the 120?), “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV) Jesus made similar statements at other times and to other people before his ascension. At one, according to Paul, Jesus spent time with over 500 people. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

In this post, I want to consider Jesus’ statement, “You will be my witnesses…” While people often focus on the geographical statements of “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth,” I would like to examine the idea of being Jesus’ witnesses.

While the word translated “witness” eventually came to mean “martyr” (i.e., someone who is killed because of their beliefs), it didn’t not have this meaning when Luke wrote the book of Acts. Instead, a “witness” is someone who attests to something. It is similar to a courtroom “witness” today, but the legal implications are not necessary.

There two questions that I would like to consider:

First, does Jesus’ statement (really, a command), “You will be my witnesses,” only apply to those who heard him, or does it apply to disciples of Jesus today?

If we look at the examples and incidences in the Book of Acts and in other writings of the New Testament, it seems that others (besides the original eleven, 120, or even 500) understood themselves to be “witnesses” of Jesus Christ.

For example, consider this passage from the Book of Acts:

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly [to Jews in Antioch of Pisidia], saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:46-49 ESV)

As a result of the Gentiles “rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord,” the word of the Lord began spreading throughout the region around Antioch in Pisidia. The work of all disciples as witnesses to Jesus Christ is made even more apparent by Paul in his letter to the church in Thessaloniki:

And you [the believers in Thessaloniki] became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 ESV)

Again, we see that both the word of the Lord and the faith of the Thessalonians had “sounded forth” through the region around their city. So, at least from these two passages, it seems that other believers (beyond the original eleven, 120, or even 500) considered their role to include being witnesses of Jesus Christ.

The second question is this: what does it mean to be a “witness” of Jesus Christ today?

In Scripture, we see several different examples of disciples of Jesus Christ being his witnesses. The different people “witness” about Jesus Christ in different ways. I think we should expect differences today as well.

But, what are some of those different ways that followers of Jesus Christ can be his witness today? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that question. (And, if you want to discuss the first question, feel free to do that as well.)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-7-2011

    Well I think the book of acts is a good reference to begin with

    Some people think witness is only the way we live

    Some think only specific “witnessing” (proclaiming the gospel in speech) to someone and or groups of people

  2. 10-7-2011


    I wanted to say I think its both

  3. 10-7-2011

    Faith with out works is dead. When Jesus walked demons called out. It shook the spirit world. The same spirit is alive in us. I was at a club one night while in the world. A stranger came up to me and said “you should not be here”. I was not walking with God but I was saved.

    When we walk in the spirit it touches peoples lives. We do not point to ourselves. We point to our heavenly Father.

    Now when I speak and minister people I am not even trying to reach begin to get touched. Again that is Bible. It should just be happening if people are really saved and walking it out.

  4. 10-8-2011

    Excellent questions!

    My thinking is we are called to be “witnesses” in a different way than what the first disciples were called.

    The first followers had somewhat of a different “First Mission”; they were to witness to the fact they saw a dead man walking. Second, after the life transformation through the Holy Spirit, their lives were to tell others of the impact Jesus had on their way of life, or philosophy.” This combination of “witnessing” proved to be a very powerful catalyst for bringing people into the kingdom of Christ.

    I see our witnessing more on philosophical side: meaning our lives and beliefs should be the witness of a resurrected Savior. Are we willing to believe something to the point of death? Are we showing a maturing in our wisdom and lifestyle that makes people question their own life?

    Marc S.