But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem…
Our Lord did not cut short the apostles' speculations to stop there; he gathered up the broken ends of their energy and fastened them to our immediate work. If the planets were to stand still, they would be drawn into the central fire and consumed. It is necessary to their well-being that they should be flung with all their force on a path of activity. So, unless Christians are thrown out into a course of vigorous action, they will be drawn into an orbit so narrow that action will be no longer possible.
I. THE QUALIFICATION FOR THIS SERVICE.
1. Although the apostles were saved, they were not fit to work any deliverance in the earth by their own wisdom or strength. Their demand for fire might have consumed the adversaries, but it could not have converted them. Wanting the Spirit even they were inclined to persecute, and for the same reason their self-styled successors have persecuted in all subsequent times.
2. The Spirit is like the air. We could not live without air — the sun would not warm us but for it. The sun's heat sustains life; but the atmosphere communicates that heat. The earth, again, is dependent for its supply of water on the air, which obtains it from the ocean and pours it on the land. So the disciples in every age obtain grace from the Lord through the ministry of the Spirit.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS SERVICE.
1. Whom Christ saves from sin He employs in the world. The liberated captive is sent to fight against his former master. Christians have need of Christ and Christ has need of them. The simple fact that they are on earth not in heaven is proof that there is something for them to do here, and if they are not doing it they are either no Christians, or Christians that grieve Christ. A broken limb hurts more than a severed one, and Christ is hurt by those members of His who do not witness for Him.
2. This is an honourable but difficult function. In the case of a witness the real strain comes in cross-examination. You are set down in the market-place having lately worshipped in the house of prayer. Those whom you meet know this, so that there is no need for you to preach. The cross-examination takes place here. It is not now, what do you believe? but is your life consistent? The cross-examiner generally begins on some apparently indifferent theme, but the questions are so linked to the main subject that if, in answering them, anything escapes which clashes with the original evidence the good confession of the witness is thereby destroyed. Over-reaching, unfairness, unkindness to dependents, untruth, evil-speaking, expose the Christian profession to scorn.
III. THE SPHERE. "Beginning at Jerusalem."
1. The charity that will convert is one that begins at home, but does not end there. If it essay to reach the heathen by leaping over many ranks of unslain enemies in our own hearts, and of blasphemers in our own streets, it will never reach its mark, or reach it with a force already spent. The gospel is like a fire; it must be out; but like light and heat it cannot reach the distant circumference without passing through the intermediate space and kindling all that it touches on its way. Unless our love greatly disturb a godless neighbourhood at home, it will not set on fire a distant continent.
2. Besides, while a great mass of our home community remain unchristian, specimens of our population, cast up in foreign lands like drift-wood, will counteract missionary effort. A preacher with the pure gospel will not influence much the native mind if followed by a fellow-countryman with poisoned rum.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.