But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem…
I. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE APPOINTED TO BE CHRIST'S WITNESSES. These words were spoken to the Church, not merely to eleven members of it. You are all subpoenaed to appear, and must all be ready when you are wanted to depose.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE MADE CHRIST'S WITNESSES BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST. Any poor weakling might say, "I a witness! I cannot speak, I am a child!" or like the poor woman, "I could die for Christ, but I cannot speak for Him." He might say, "I shall be puzzled, contradict myself, not hold out all through the cruel cross-examination; besides, I am nobody, who will take notice what I say?" But our loving Master, to still this trepidation, has left to each witness, the promise of necessary power. But power is of various kinds, and this is not of the kind that you, perhaps, think necessary. There is physical power, the power of knowledge, and the power of wealth, and rank; these would, you think, help to make you influential witnesses. But its most influential witnesses have been totally without these. Instead, He gives the power of faith, love, prayer, courage, all powers in one, in the gift of the Holy Ghost. Let me but have the Holy Ghost helping me to realise the life of Christ in my life, and I am unconquerable, for who can resist God?
III. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CHRIST'S WITNESSES TO TELL WHAT THEY PERSONALLY KNOW ABOUT HIM. Your mission is to speak "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." If you only tell what another man knows, and so merely circulate second-hand impressions, you may stand down, for these things are not evidence. Not as echoes, reflectors, copying machines, are you worth anything, but simply as yourselves. The first disciples had to give out from their own personal knowledge information of those facts respecting Christ on which all the saving value of the Cross depends, and the truth of their testimony has passed successfully through the test of the most subtle and searching cross-examination. No more evidence is wanted as to these facts; but we, the successors of these same witnesses, being under the same law, have, on the same principle, to tell all the truth that we personally know of "this same Jesus." The world says in a thousand ways to each one of us: "What has He done for you? Do you know Him?" Yes. "Is He real?" Yes. "Where does He live?" With me. "When did you speak to Him last?" Just now. "When did you meet Him first?" Many a long year ago. Oh! "I know whom I have believed," and He knows me. One of the later Puritans was one day catechising a row of young disciples. When they had answered the question on "Effectual Calling," he said, "Stop; can any one say this, using the personal pronoun all through?" Then with sobbing, broken breath, a man stood up and said: "Effectual calling is the work of God's own Spirit, whereby convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing my will, He doth enable and persuade me to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to me in the gospel." Let but each Christian personally, and from his heart say the same, then "One will chase a thousand, and two will put ten thousand to flight," and one single congregation would have in it the life to shake London.
IV. WE ARE WITNESSES FOR THE PURPOSE OF REPEATING THE WORDS WHICH WE BELIEVE CHRIST HAS SPOKEN. The witness does not make the message any more than the telegraphic wire makes the telegram; all he has to do is to transmit it in its integrity.
V. WE ARE TO BE CHRIST'S WITNESSES, NOT ONLY BY WHAT WE SAY, BUT BY WHAT WE ARE. What are you? If you are only a ceremony, or an insipid imitation, or a manufactured article; if some man of the world with whom you do business can show some excuse for saying of you, "That a Christian! it needs no Christ to make a Christian like that, — I could make as good a Christian myself, any day!" then, whatever you are, you are of no use to a "Christian Evidence Society." A good farm is the best witness to a farmer; a good painting to an artist; a good book to the author; cures are the best witnesses to doctors; and Christ's cures, His miracles wrought in souls, are His most effective witnesses. It is but fair and reasonable to expect that His people should bear this kind of witness.
VI. CHRISTIANS ARE TO WITNESS BY VERBALLY PREACHING THE GOSPEL. Preach in the house, in the nursery, in the schoolroom: all who can. Preach as Brownlow North was said to preach, like one who had just escaped from a sacked and burning city, his ear still stung with the yell of the dying and the roar of the flame; his heart full of gratitude at the thought of his own wonderful escape.
(C. Stanford, 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.