FILLED TO SPEAK
By: Hardy W. Steinberg
What people pray for is sometimes an indication of their priorities. It can help them know if the kingdom of God or personal concerns come first (Matthew 6:33).
In the early days of the Church, when believers were persecuted, they prayed not for protection but for confidence in witnessing (Acts 4:29). Jesus’ last instruction became their priority: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
THE IMPORTANCE OF WITNESSING
Witnessing should be a priority activity for the Church.
A. It is important because the Bible has the only message of salvation. Peter, in his answer to the Sanhedrin, emphasized this, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul stated the same truth (Romans 10:9).
God’s plan of salvation is not just a good way among many; it is the only way. People who do not accept Christ will not be condemned in the future; they are condemned already (John 3:18).
B. Witnessing is important, evidenced by Satan’s vigorous resistance to witnessing efforts. From the beginning believers were repeatedly threatened and assaulted. The Book of Acts is a record of Satanic opposition. Elymas’ effort to turn Sergius Paulus away from the faith illustrates Satan’s efforts (Acts 13:6-12).
THE CONTENT OF WITNESSING
Two important ingredients in the witnessing of early believers are a model for us today.
A. Scripture was recognized as authoritative. The prayer of the persecuted way was: “Grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence” (Acts 4:29, NASB). The result of answered prayer: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31, NASB; see also Romans 10:17).
Witnessing was saturated with the Word of God, not with personal opinions. Beginning with Peter’s response to questions on the Day of Pentecost and continuing throughout the Book of Acts, Scripture was always the core of communication with the unsaved.
B. Testimonies of personal experience were sometimes an effective method of witnessing. Paul gave his personal testimony before a hostile crowd (Acts 22:1-24), before Felix (Acts 24:10-26), and before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-29). These testimonies, based on biblical experience, were a powerful form of communication. Jesus recommended personal testimony (Mark 5:19).
Personal testimonies are still important and should not be reserved just for congregational gatherings but for one-on-one interaction with the unsaved.
THE PERSONNEL FOR WITNESSING
A. Witnessing for Christ was not only the preoccupation of apostles but of all believers. It is sometimes assumed that those who were scattered following the martyrdom of Stephen and “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4) were apostles. The opposite is true. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). Those who went everywhere preaching were laypeople.
B. The witness of laypeople is not only essential but effective. The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus witnessed is a great example (John 4:28-30,39-42). She was a new convert, but her simple testimony (John 4:29) resulted in many accepting Christ.
THE URGENCY OF WITNESSING
Jesus made it clear that witnessing was not optional but mandatory (John 4:35).
A. Witnessing is urgent because of the uncertainty of life. Biblical proverbs emphasize this (see Proverbs 27:1 and 29:1). Believers must never assume the unsaved will always be there. Tomorrow may be too late.
B. Witnessing is urgent because of the uncertainty of opportunity. Philip had only one opportunity to witness to an Ethiopian officer. Had he missed it, the officer might never have been converted (Acts 8:26-39).
When the Lord instructed Ananias to go and witness to Saul, fear filled his heart. He could think of reasons why he should not go, but he was more concerned with obeying than with his personal welfare. The result was Saul’s conversion (Acts 9:17,19).
Fleeting opportunities still exist. Recognizing them and responding to them are urgent.
The need for witnessing today is greater than ever. Those living a Spirit-filled life will obey the prompting of the Spirit. Those whose priorities are self-centered will quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The prayers of God’s people must still be, “Grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Acts 4:29).
(The above material appeared in the June 1992 issue of the Advance Magazine.)
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