Lessons for Witnessing

The New Testament Church

Lessons for Witnessing

 

Acts 3:1-5 (ESV) ~ Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

 

This is the church’s first recorded miracle. God was now ready to reach another great harvest of souls. It was now time to attract the attention of the people, so He reached down and healed a single man, a man whom everyone knew, and filled the man so full of the Holy Spirit that he just went wild with excitement and joy. Such a miracle and behavior naturally attracted the attention of the public.

 

Note: the miracle was more than just a miracle. It was a sign, a demonstration of two things.

  • Jesus is alive. His power is just as active upon earth today as it was when He walked upon earth.
  • Jesus is now working through His followers. Through them, He is reaching out to save and heal the world. His followers are now His instruments, His emissaries, His ambassadors, His representatives, His messengers, His witnesses to a world lost in suffering and death, sin and shame.

 

In this first recorded miracle of the church, God is demonstrating His power, and bearing witness through His followers. In so doing, He has given us some of the greatest lessons on witnessing to be found anyplace.

Jesus is now working through His disciples. This is one thing Jesus wants people to know. His presence and His power are still at work, still available to men. His great love and concern for the world is still being manifested through the lives of His disciples. In fact, Jesus has…

  • No feed but our feet
  • No hands but our hands
  • No voice but our voice

 

If we do not go and do and speak the work of God, His work does not get done. Note four significant lessons.

  • Jesus works through those who are faithful in prayer
  • Jesus works through those who look and see the desperate need of the suffering, both those who suffer in spirit and body. How many years had this man been sitting there begging? He had been a cripple for over forty years. Imagine! Forty years or more, a cripple from birth, never having walked a single step. Had he been carried and placed at the temple’s entrance to beg…10? 20? 30?
    • He was not even looking up at Peter and John when he asked for alms (Acts 3:4). Years of having people look the other way had taught him he was different and did not fit in. From the first, even as a small child, he had probably grown into a shy, withdrawn, embarrassed person, a person unable to look people in the eye.
    • The point is this: the man was hurting within as well as without. He was a living picture of so many in the world . . .
      • persons who are wounded and suffering so much (both within and without) from the neglect of men—from an unconcerned and selfish and hoarding world—from a world that will not let go and share what it has with those who do not have.
    • But even more critical …
      • persons who are suffering so much from the neglect of God’s people, the very people who profess to know the love and care of God for all, and yet who act just as unconcerned and selfish and hoard just as much as the world.
    • The needs exist and abound. They are all around us. Jesus can work only through the people who see the desperate needs of hurting men.
  • Jesus works through those who fasten their eyes upon the need. It is not enough just to see the desperate needs of the world—just to see a person hurting and suffering. A person must stop and fasten his eyes upon the need. The word for “fastening his eyes” (atenisas) means fixed attention; an earnest, intense gaze, continuous, stedfast attention. It is seeing the need and focusing upon it. It is continuing to focus one’s . . . sight, concern, attention. Peter looked and saw the man in need and would not look away. He could have looked away and just passed by the man. Most people did, but not Peter. He was now indwelt by the Spirit of God, and he was on earth to meet the needs of the world for the Lord. Therefore, he fastened his attention upon the man, being full of concern and compassion.
  • Jesus works through those who reach out to meet the need.
    • It is not enough to see the needs of the world.
    • It is not enough to fasten one’s attention upon the needs of the world.
    • Just seeing and being concerned over the needs of the world does not meet the needs. Peter acted; in fact, he did something dramatic. The need existed; it was there. He knew the Lord cared, and he was the representative of the Lord. It was up to him to show the Lord’s care.
    • The words of Peter demonstrated that…
      • he had a sure confidence that he himself belonged to God; he was God’s representative.
      • he had a plan to help the man.
      • he had an expectancy, a genuine faith that God would help him to meet the need.
      • he had a willingness to act, to reach out by faith and meet the need.

 

John 4:35 (ESV) ~ Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
 
Pastor Andy Lambert


The New Testament Church

The New Testament Church

 

Acts 2:43-45 (ESV) ~ And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

 

Godly Fear in the Church:

  • The early believers were a people who stirred souls with godly fear. Fear doesn’t mean terror or fright. It means …
    • A godly fear, a fear of God, of His displeasure and judgement
    • A holy sense of God’s presence
    • A consciousness that God is working
    • A reverence for God and for what is happening
    • A sense of awe and wonder
  • In verse 43, we see what stirred the public to be so aware of God, to be in awe of what was happening, it was the signs and wonders being done. Notice that there were many as well.

 

Mark 16:20 (ESV) ~ And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

 

 

Church Unity:

  • The early believers were a people who were together and who shared in ministry. It is critical for the church to pay close attention and heed what is being said in this point.
    • The professing believers were true believers. They were those “that [truly] believe”
    • The believers were “together” (ēsan epi to auto PWS: 4319). This means they were together in the same place because they were of the same call, mind, and purpose. It does not mean just being in the same location and place. They would not have been together unless they had been of the same spirit and purpose. This is critical to God’s call.
    • The believers sold their possessions and goods and used the money to minister to the poor and needy.
      • Why would they go to such a drastic extreme to minister? There is one critical reason: Christ commanded it. The church too often denies and ignores it, but denial of the truth does not do away with the truth.
      • Acts 2:44-45; Matthew 19:16-30
      • A rich person is anyone who has anything to put back beyond meeting the true needs of his own family.
    • What Christ demands is that we give all that we are and have to meet the needs of those in such desperate need. We are to hold back nothing. This is often the great complaint against Christians, that we just do not believe, not really. The evidence of our unbelief is seen in the insistence of Christ, the demand that we give all we have to feed the starving and meet the desperate needs of the poor and lost of the world. But we don’t. Gandhi, the great leader of India’s independence, is said to have never embraced Christianity for this very reason. How many others have rejected Christ because of our hypocrisy?
    • Just imagine how long ago the world would have been reached with the gospel if professing believers had been honestly committing their total lives to Christ, giving all they were and had to His cause of world evangelization!

 

Pastor Andy Lambert


After Pentecost

After Pentecost

 

Acts 2:14-21 (ESV) ~ But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

 

This is the first part of the first sermon ever preached in the new church, after Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, that is, after the coming of the Holy Spirit. If we would uncomplicate ourselves and preach what Peter preached today, what a difference would exist in men’s lives, in the church and in the world.

 

Immediately following “Pentecost”, the believers were infilled. They were so full of the Holy Spirit, so full of God’s presence and joy, they could only act excited, speak about the wonderful works of God, express joy and rejoicing in what God had done, demonstrate absolute confidence, assurance and conviction of God’s presence and eternal salvation, and bear testimony to all who would listen

 

  • Such behavior required an explanation. It was not common behavior, not among a people who lived in a world of trial and uncertainty, struggle and survival, pain and hurt, suffering and death; a people who knew their world was such, but who evaded the fact and did all they could to escape the reality of it.
    • A person who demonstrated absolute confidence, assurance, and conviction of God’s presence and of eternal salvation had to explain himself.
    • Some in the world were amazed at such behavior and wished to know what it meant. An answer was required.
    • Others mocked, jokingly suggesting that such behavior was crazy and foolish, just like the behavior of a drunken man; and they, too, were due an answer.
  • A spirit-filled person is not under the influence of a man-made, induced excitement. Peter stood to his feet with the eleven other apostles: they all stood before the thousands who had gathered (Acts 2:41). Peter spoke at the top of his voice. Note the authority and forcefulness of Peter! What a difference the Spirit had made in this man—the man who had been so up and down in following Jesus:
    • “Be this known”
    • “Hearken to my words.”
    • “It is but the third house (9am) of the day.”
  • Peter declared that they were not deluded; they were not acting and speaking foolish things like a drunken man. What was happening was just what Scripture predicted. It was the work of God, just what God had promised to man. It was the glorious gospel (good news) promised by God.

 

Look at verse 16: “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:”

 

  • These are the last days, the days of God’s last work on earth. Standing there before the throng of thousands, Peter declared:
    • Today, this day, the great prophecy of Joel begins to be fulfilled (Joel 2:28-32).
    • Today, this day, begins the last days of earth’s history.
    • Today, this day, begins the last days of God’s work on earth.
    • Today, this day, begins the last days, the final age of God’s plan for human history.
    • Today, this day, begins the last days, the dispensation of God’s grace, the age of the gospel.

 

  • The last days include the great outpouring of God’s Spirit.
    • The word “pour” (ekcheōPWS: 2969) means to pour out, to pour forth, to shed forth. It means that God gives His Spirit . . .
      • to dwell in the believer (John 14:17; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
      • to abide with the believer forever (John 14:16).
      • to fill, to overflow, to abundantly fill the believer (Ephes. 5:18).
      • to give very special manifestations of Christ to the believer (John 14:21).
    • God pours out His Spirit upon all flesh …
      • upon son and daughters.
      • upon young men and old men
      • upon His slaves, servants, and handmaidens.
      • upon all social classes
      • upon all economical classes
    • God pours out His Spirit with very special gifts . . .
      • the gift of prophecy: proclaiming and predicting the truth. Note this gift is given to both men and women. This was part of the Scriptural promise.
      • the gift of seeing visions, especially among young men. The Greek word “visions” (horaseis PWS: 4236) means appearance (Rev. 4:3) or an ecstatic revelation (Rev. 9:17). In Scripture the Greek word is used for both what a man can envision (see, imagine, think, cause to appear) within his own mind and what is given him by God through a special revelation (Rev. 9:17).
      • the gift of dreaming dreams, especially among older men. The idea is that a dream is given by God.
    • God pours out His Spirit only upon His servants and upon His handmaidens. This is the emphasis of this verse, the reason for repeating what has just been said. Note that the verse is a summary statement: no one receives God’s Spirit, no one, not until they become His servant or His handmaiden.
    • God gifts His servants and His handmaidens with one very special gift—the gift of prophecy. Again, the point is primary, to stress what is so important. The gift of prophecy, of proclaiming that God’s very own Son has come into the world to save sinners, is the primary gift of God’s Spirit. Every one of God’s servants and handmaidens are gifted to prophesy.
 

As we mentioned earlier, this was the first sermon preached for the New Testament Church. The plan of salvation is just as easy and plain in this sermon. (Verse 21 ~ “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

 

  • The last days include the days of great salvation. Throughout the last days, during the whole period, man can be saved by doing two simple things:
    • He has to call: to sense the need to be saved.
    • He has to call upon “the name of the Lord”: to know and believe that Jesus is the Lord and to be ready to submit to His Lordship, to serve Him as Lord.

 

Acts 2:42-47 (ESV) ~ And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

  The early church and early believers of the FIRST New Testament Church were a people who continued steadfastly, persevere, endure, stick, persist (A person doesn’t quit, back off, fade away or slip back.) in four things:

  • In doctrine:
    • The teaching, the instruction of the apostles. This would include both what Christ taught and His death and resurrection and ascension or exaltation. It would be the same teaching and instructions…
      • that are shared in the New Testament.
      • that the disciples wrote to various churches and bodies of believers.
    • The teaching would be no different. There is only one message, only one Word that saves and roots and grounds people in the Lord—the Word of God Himself, the message of the New Testament. On the day of Pentecost, the persons who were saved needed to be grounded in the faith. And the only message that could ground them was the message found in the New Testament. It was that message, that doctrine they were taught.
    • Note a striking fact: we can be saved and rooted and grounded in the very same message. God has given us the very same doctrines and instructions to root and ground us. We can have a true, dynamic apostolic experience and maturity in the Lord. We can grow and know the Lord as intimately as the early believers knew the Lord. In fact, we come short if we do not, for we have the very same doctrine, teachings, and instructions that they had.
  • In Fellowship:
    • The fellowship wrought by the Spirit of God means more than the association existing in secular groups such as civic clubs and community bodies. There is a vast difference between community participation and spiritual participation. Community participation is based upon neighborly association. Spiritual participation is based upon a spiritual union wrought by the Spirit of God.
    • The distinctiveness is this: the Holy Spirit is within the Christian believer. The Holy Spirit creates a spiritual union by melting and molding the heart of the Christian believer to the hearts of other believers. He attaches the life of one believer to the lives of other believers. Through the Spirit of God, believers become one in life and purpose. They have a joint life sharing their blessings and needs and gifts together. Note several things about fellowship that are taught by this passage:
      • Fellowship is being experienced by the new believers because they join other Christians in learning the Scriptures (apostles’ teachings) and in worship (prayers and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, Acts 2:41-42).
      • Fellowship forbids an unattached Christian life. Their fellowship is maintained because they “continue stedfastly” in the Scriptures and in worship. An unattached Christian life is just impossible.
        • Christianity is first an individual matter, but then it becomes a social matter. The Christian is attached to Christ individually, but he is also attached to other believers. He walks with other believers in the Scriptures and in worship.
        • Christianity is first a spiritual organism, but then it becomes a spiritual organization. The Christian has an inward life, but he also takes on an outward form of life. He becomes a living organization with other Christian believers. He sits at the feet of the apostles’ teaching and joins right in with other Christians as they worship together.
        • Christianity makes the true believer a saint (one who is set apart unto God), but Christianity is made up of saints—plural. Christianity is not just one person; Christianity is many persons—saints. The word is often used in the New Testament, but it is never used in the singular. Christianity is Christianity because the saints study the Scriptures together and worship together.
        • Christianity demands that a believer personally live out such virtues as kindness, longsuffering, and love; but the believer can do this only in association with others.
        • Christianity means that the Spirit of God has entered the believer’s life, but it also means that the Spirit of God has placed the believer into a corporate body (the church), into Christian society itself. The Spirit of God indwells the corporate body of believers as well as the individual.
      • Lord’s Supper:
        • The phrase “breaking of bread” means the early believers observed and remembered the Lord’s death. They set aside some time to observe what churches call communion, or the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist. Note they observed the Lord’s Supper daily (Acts 2:46). Why did they observe it so often?
          • The Lord’s Supper was the one ordinance Christ had given to symbolize His death. And it was His death that had saved them. Because of His death, they were now…
            • Reconciled to God
            • In Fellowship with God
            • Infilled with the Spirit of God
            • Bearing all of the Fruit of God (Galatians 5:22-23)
          • All they now were and had was due to the death of Christ. They wanted to remember and thank God for His great love demonstrated in the death of His Son, and to do it often.
        • Prayer:
          • The early believers were a people who persevered in prayer—the idea is church prayer, united prayer with the whole body of believers.
          • Through prayer they were brought into the most intimate fellowship and presence of God. They could get no closer to God than when they were drawing nigh to God through prayer.
            • Psalm 145:18 (ESV) ~ The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
            • Psalm 73:28 (ESV) ~ But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
            • Hebrews 7:19 (ESV) ~ (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
            • Matthew 18:20 (ESV) ~ For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
          • Through prayer they received things from God. They received His provision for both their souls and lives.
            • Matthew 21:22 (ESV) ~ And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
            • John 16:24 (ESV) ~ Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
 
Pastor Andy Lambert