This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
We are at present examining the spiritual weapons which God has placed at our disposal as believers in Jesus Christ for spiritual conflict. In Ephesians 6:12 we are told that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the world rulers of the present darkness, spirits of wickedness in the heavenlies. And in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 the apostle Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of Satan’s strongholds. So the Scripture reveals that as Christians we are involved in a spiritual conflict with satanic forces that are spiritual forces. And that the weapons provided by God are appropriate to the conflict—they are spiritual weapons.
In previous studies we have dealt with three different types of weapons. We’ve dealt with those spoken of in Revelation 12:11, the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. We have dealt with the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit. And in the previous study we dealt with the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom as the means used by God to bring this age to a close.
Now in our present study the weapon that we are going to deal with as indicated in your outline is the weapon of personal testimony. Let me say that there are two words used almost interchangeably in the King James Version. The word testimony and the word witness. And they are two different translations of the same basic word. So if you testify, or if you give witness, it’s the same.
As a matter of fact, I’ve just come from a situation where I have been testifying, giving witness, because I was the solitary witness of a street accident that took place on Christmas Day of last year. It was very interesting really. I had two attorneys, one on either side, and the court reporter in the middle. And almost every time one attorney asked a question the other attorney said that that question was not to be allowed. And for a little while I was the center of everything. I’m sure God ordained this just before I brought this message because it makes it so vivid to me. I was the only person that actually saw the accident happen apart from the two persons involved in the accident. And I had to be extremely careful that I didn’t say anything by inference or go beyond what I could say legitimately. I had to describe carefully what I actually saw, and be as accurate as possible about time, distance, visibility and everything else involved. And so this little incident which has just concluded has borne it upon me how absolutely vital in human affairs is the role of personal testimony. In the court of law, a witness has to speak from direct personal experience. Every time I said “I think” or “I would understand,” they disallowed it. You have to state what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard. This is one of the basic pillars of justice, and God has made provision for it in His kingdom.
In the business of God’s kingdom, in the preaching of the gospel, and in the forming of the church of Jesus Christ there is an absolutely unique place, a place of unparalleled importance for personal testimony, which means that every Christian is under an obligation. It’s like a legal obligation to speak from direct personal experience what God has done in each one of our lives. We’re not to offer theories, we’re not to offer opinions. That’s not necessary. We are to speak from direct experience what we have seen and what we have heard. These are two key words: what you saw and what you heard. And in this study I think you’ll notice that these words recur again and again. They’re the essence of testimony.
Let’s look at the opening Scripture in your outline which is in the first chapter of Acts. Acts 1:5 and then verse 8. These are the last words spoken by Jesus on this earth before He ascended into heaven, and I think that gives them special significance. He was preparing His disciples for the time when they would be without His personal presence on earth, and He was telling them of what He expected them to do and how He would make provision for them to do it effectively. And His provision depended upon their receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He spoke to them about this and then He immediately spoke to them about the primary purpose for which the gift of the Holy Spirit would be given to them. And we find this in these two verses. Acts 1:5:
“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost [Spirit] not many days hence.” (KJV)
And actually it was about nine or ten days later in the upper room in Jerusalem that the hundred and twenty disciples there were baptized in the Holy Spirit. So God kept His promise. Now in verse 8 of Acts 1 you have the primary purpose clearly stated for which the baptism in the Holy Spirit is given.
“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost [Spirit] is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me ...” (KJV)
There is the primary purpose for the baptism: it’s to make us effective witnesses. Let me read the rest of the verse and then pause to comment on certain aspects of it.
“... and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (KJV)
Have you ever paused to consider what were the last words that the disciples heard from the lips of their Lord before He was taken up out of their sight? The last words were “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And this I believe should be the primary thrust of all Christian activity as long as this age endures; it’s to get the gospel out by personal testimony until every area of the earth has been reached. Every tribe, every tongue, every nation has heard the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I believe we are only fully in line with the will of God and the purposes of God in our lives when we are in line with this purpose.
The last words that ever they heard from the lips of their Lord were “the uttermost part of the earth.” And I cannot but believe that those words remained in their minds. And indeed I believe in a certain sense they were the motivating power of the early church. And when the early church lost the vision of the uttermost part of the earth, they lost their motivation, they settled down, they became an institution, and the life of the Holy Spirit virtually ebbed out of the church. And any time the life of the Holy Spirit comes back into the church and any time the Spirit of God is poured out upon the church again, that motivation will return. Men and women will catch the vision, it’s the uttermost part of the earth. Our job is not complete until this testimony of Jesus Christ has been carried to the uttermost part of the earth.
To me, Pentecost could be likened to a great big rock thrown into the midst of a pond. There’s a tremendous splash, there’s a tremendous repercussion, and so it was in Jerusalem. Within a few hours all Jerusalem was made aware that something supernatural and totally new had taken place. This was the splash. But after the splash has subsided in a pond, that is not the end of the consequences of the stone being thrown in. What happens then? From the place where the stone landed, ripples move outwards in all directions in a circle until what? They reach the margin of the pond. And this I believe is the divine strategy.
Pentecost was the stone thrown into the pond. Don’t let’s get absorbed only by the splash, the immediate repercussion. There’s a purpose beyond that which is the outspreading ripples of supernatural power and testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. The process is not complete until the ripples have reached the edge of the pond which is the outermost part of the earth. This is a perfectly practical, reasonable way to finish the job, bring the gospel to every nation. Preaching has a vital part to play for which there is no substitute. But the basic activity is not preaching, it is witnessing. It is speaking from personal experience that which we have seen and heard. Not all Christians are called to be preachers. In some ways I’m inclined to think we have enough preachers, we just don’t have good enough preachers. But what we do need is every Christian being an effective witness by the power of the Holy Spirit. And each Christian testifies to others whom he is in contact with. Of those others some are converted, baptized in the Holy Spirit, they testify personally to others with whom they are in contact. Of those others some are converted, baptized in the Holy Spirit, they testify to others, and you can see there’s a perfectly practical, simple plan by which the testimony of Jesus Christ can be transferred till the whole earth has heard. And I believe this is the plan of God. I don’t believe He has ever changed His plan. I don’t believe there’s any other plan that will do it. And I believe that God is waiting for the church to catch the vision and get in line with His purposes. And if our thinking is in line with the thinking of God, I believe we will always have this thought, the uttermost part of the earth. Until every nation has had an opportunity to hear and every generation, the work is not done. And nothing else has priority over that.
This is very true about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In the course of about thirty years, I’ve seen thousands of people receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In some cases, their lives have been radically and wonderfully transformed. In other cases it’s made very little difference. They’ve all had the same experience, God has given them all his Holy Spirit. What is the difference? Why in some cases this is a life-transforming experience that makes an impact, that goes on and on, and why in other cases is there virtually no real impact? And my answer would be the people that— those who make an impact are the ones who realize the purpose for which the baptism is given. The people who make no impact have received the same experience, but are not using it for the purpose for which it was given.
I have said many times the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not designed to form little spiritual “bless- me” clubs where people get together, enjoy the gifts, prophesy at one another, shake hands with one another when they leave and say, “God bless you, brother. See you this same time next week.” And wherever these little spiritual “bless-me” clubs form and become the terminus of spiritual activity, that group is really totally ineffective. Nothing of any real consequence will ever come out of a group like that. But the people that keep the vision of the uttermost part of the earth are the ones that turn the world upside down. There’s no difference in the experience, the difference is in our reaction to the experience. Do we get in line with the purposes of God? Or do we just go on living as if nothing had happened? I have, as I said, seen thousands of people baptized in the Holy Spirit.
I’ve moved amongst Spirit-baptized people for thirty years, and there are some of them that no one in their street knows that anything has happened. It hasn’t even got across the road. And there are others that are turning the world upside down. Not people of special gifts or abilities, but people who realize what the experience is for.
Let me say one other thing in this connection. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is given to make us witnesses to a person. Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, Jesus said. Not to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Not to speaking in tongues. Not to a denomination. Not to a church. But to Jesus. Jesus said in John 16:13 and 14, “When he, the Spirit of Truth is come, he shall glorify me.” The supreme purpose of the Holy Spirit in the church is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Many, many people have got off the track by testifying about the baptism, testifying about tongues, testifying about prophecy. All these things are good, they have their place in the teaching of the Word of God, but the center of our testimony is not a thing, it’s not an experience, it’s not a denomination. It’s a person. And again, if you check on the people whose lives and testimonies are affected, I believe you find they all have this in common: they’re not primarily interested in a thing, or a movement, or a group; they’re interested in a person. And that person is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many years ago in a Bible school in Britain when the students came down to the classroom one morning they found written on the blackboard this sentence which you have there in your outline. “The man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.” Lots of us are not good at arguing, proving things logically. And when we get into that realm we often get defeated. But when you say, “I was there when it happened. It happened to me,” there’s no arguing in that. They can call you a liar, but that’s all they can do. There is no way to get around this statement. God doesn’t heal today. Well doesn’t He? He healed me. I had this and this disease, I was that and that length of time in the hospital. Here I am well. Medicine didn’t do it, doctors didn’t do it, God healed me.
Now almost anywhere in the world people will listen to that kind of testimony. Very, very rarely will a person refuse to listen to a real practical personal testimony of what God has done in your life. Many of us have been cheated out of testifying because we feel somehow that we shouldn’t keep talking about the same thing. This is a deception of the devil. It doesn’t matter if you talk about the same thing every day of your life. If you find somebody new to talk to about it, it’s still effective.
I remember a friend of mine who’s a business man, Spirit-baptized businessman, a fine Christian. He told me this story. He had been an alcoholic and his wife had prayed many years for him and he had wonderfully come to the Lord, been saved, been baptized in the Holy Spirit. And he was a salesman and he was in an area where there was a bar. And as he was there the Lord was speaking to him saying, “Go and witness to that man.” And he was saying back to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t have anything to say to that man.” And the Lord said, “Go witness to that man.” And he said, “Well, Lord, what am I to say?” And about the third time the Lord said, “I didn’t say preach to him; I said witness to him.” And he understood that He didn’t want my friend to go and preach a sermon, but just tell him. So he went up and said, “You know, I was an alcoholic. The Lord changed my life.” And the man was listening to him immediately.
I realize many times how I make this mistake myself. I think, “Well, I’ve given my testimony five hundred and fifty-three times. Surely that should be enough.” It is never enough. I’ve had the privilege in the United States of giving my testimony publicly—which is still a unique and wonderful privilege—I suppose hundreds of times. Never has it failed to produce an effect. Never once. I’ve preached sermons that didn’t have much apparent effect, but I have never given my testimony of what God did in my life without its producing any effect. And I venture to say to each one of you, you will never give your testimony without some results. Never. You may not see the result, but there will always be a result.
So remember, that’s your business in life. First and foremost, you’re a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, to speak what you have seen and what you have heard. You don’t have to be a brilliant preacher. You just have to be able to speak from personal experience. If you don’t have personal experience, then you’re not qualified. But everybody who has a personal experience, everybody who has received peace of heart and mind, everybody who knows his sins are forgiven has a testimony.
In the eighteenth century in Britain the Methodists turned Britain upside down by testifying. It was unheard of in those days. In the county of Cornwall there was a man who said that he knew his sins were forgiven. And this may seem fantastic, but the whole area was turned upside down by one man being so presumptuous as to say that he knew that his sins were forgiven. They accused him of blasphemy. They pressed him into the British Navy and he was left with his wife and children without anybody to care for them. But that man’s testimony turned the area upside down. And it will be so. You can read many, many places in the New Testament where one testimony changed the entire situation. At the end of our outline I will give you an example. Now let’s look at some other Scriptures and line this up with Scripture. In John 9:5, Jesus says:
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (KJV)
As long as I am in the world. When did He leave the world? At the time that we were reading about in Acts 1 when He was taken up from them, He left. He was no longer in the world in that sense. What is the answer now? How is light supplied to the world now? The answer is through His disciples. Matthew 5:14:
“Ye are the light of the world.” (KJV)
Jesus is no longer personally present. We all agree with that. But the world has a light. Who is the light? Ye are the light. Those that believe in Jesus are the light of the world. Anybody that’s ever taught language, the English language at any rate, will know that the word the in front of light makes it unique. There is no other light. Ye are the light and the world has no other. Jesus did not say “ye are a light.” He said “ye are the light.” If the church does not give light, the world is in darkness. There is no other source of light.
I would like to illustrate this from a passage in the Old Testament concerning the tabernacle in Exodus 26:35. I will read the verse and then give a little explanation about the background. These instructions are given to Moses about the placing of certain items of furniture in the holy place, in the tabernacle.
“And thou shalt set the table [that’s the table of shewbread] without the veil, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and thou shalt put the table on the north side.” (KJV)
Now the tabernacle is one of the most important revelations of Scripture. There must be, I would say, a good thirty chapters in the Bible that relate to the tabernacle in one way or another. Therefore, it must be of importance. It is not something from some remote part which has no relevance to us as believers. The tabernacle contains in pattern, in outline, in type and shadow, probably all the great truths of redemption. And I certainly am not going to seek to interpret all these to you just now.
Let me just mention that there were three main areas in the tabernacle. The Outer Court, which was surrounded by a linen fence but which was illuminated by natural light—by the sun by day and the moon and the stars by night. Then there was the Tabernacle, or tent itself, and this was divided into two sections. The innermost section, which was the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies—which was screened off by the second veil. The outer section of the tabernacle which was called the Holy Place.
Now the Holy of Holies was entered only once each year on the Day of Atonement by the high priest bringing the sacrificial blood typifying the sacrifice for the sins of the priesthood and of the people. But into the Holy Place, as the writer of Hebrews says, the priests entered regularly every day.
Now inside the Holy Place there were only three items of furniture. Immediately in front of the second veil was the Golden Altar, the incense. And this was there, in a sense, for that which lay beyond the veil. Because only with the incense from off the altar could the high priest pass through the veil. So we’re left with two other items of furniture in the Holy Place which were in regular use in the Holy Place. And they’re mentioned in the verse that I read to you, the Table of the Shewbread which was on the north side, the Candlestick (or I prefer to say the Lampstand) which was on the south side. The entrance to the tabernacle was on the east so the north was on your right hand, the south was on your left hand. As the priest walked into the first section of the tabernacle, on his right hand would be the Table of Shewbread and on his left hand would be the Lampstand with its seven lamps.
Now these of course are all types or patterns of things that concern us as Christians. The Lampstand typifies the church. If you want a Scripture for that, just look in Revelation 1:20. And of course, you will realize that the Lampstand plays a very important part in the book of Revelation.
“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (KJV)
So a Candlestick or a Lampstand in Scripture, I would say invariably, I cannot think of any exception, in some way or another always points to the church. The church is typified by the Candlestick.
Now the Candlestick was on the left hand side, (I prefer to say Lampstand) the Table of Shewbread was opposite on the right hand side. The showbread, I believe, typifies the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death. For confirmation of this, turn to John 6:48–51. Jesus is speaking and He says this:
“I am that bread of life. Your fathers [He’s speaking to the Jews] did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. [The manna that came from heaven, though it was supernatural food, was not the bread of life, it could not give them eternal life.] This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. [This is the source of eternal life. Verse 51:] I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever [he will have eternal life]; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (KJV)
Now this is typified in the Tabernacle by the shewbread. Jesus, the bread of life, giving His life on the cross for the world. He is the only source of eternal life. There is none other. Without Him, there is no life.
Now consider the function of the Candlestick or the Lampstand in relationship to the Table of Shewbread. And remember that in that section of the Tabernacle there was only one source of light. And that was the Lampstand. If the Lampstand did not give light, the whole place was in total darkness. It was covered with at least three thick coverings which would have excluded all natural light. So this is a representation of truth, “ye are the light of the world.” If the Candlestick gives light, there is light. If the Candlestick does not give light, then there is no other source of light.
Where was the Candlestick located? Immediately opposite the table with the shewbread. What was the light to do? It was to illuminate the shewbread on the table. Transfer this into terms of the church and Jesus Christ, what is the church in the world for? For one supreme function. To be the light of the world, to give light. If the church does not give light, then there is no light, the world is in darkness. Upon what is the church cast its light? Upon one thing only. The shewbread, Jesus, the bread of life giving His life on the cross for the world.
And to me this is become a very vivid picture of why we are here. We’re here to give light. To give light upon what? Upon Jesus, the bread of life and His sacrificial death on the cross. This is the supreme purpose why every believer is here in the world. Everything else in our lives is secondary to this supreme purpose, to be the light of the world, to cast light upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. And we have to bear in mind our responsibility. If we do not give the light, then there is no light. Apart from us, the world cannot see Jesus. He depends upon our testimony. That’s the only way that we can cause the world to see Jesus.
Now we can go just a little further with this and it’s perfectly in line with Acts 1. Jesus said “ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” Now because of the nature of the Lampstand, without going into details, its fuel was pure olive oil. And in order to give light it had to be filled with the olive oil. Now all through Scripture again this is an unvarying type. The olive oil is a type of the Holy Spirit. But even if there was oil in the lamp, or the Lampstand, it did not give light unless one other condition was met. What was that? It was set on fire. And this of course is exactly applicable to the church. The church as the Lampstand cannot give light unless two conditions are made. First, it’s filled with the Holy Spirit. Secondly, it’s set on fire.
Now some Christians say they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and I won’t argue, but they aren’t set on fire. There’s no fire there. And it’s a principle of physics: no light without heat, no fire—no light. What’s God’s pattern for the church? Be filled with the Holy Spirit, set on fire, testify to Jesus. That’s what you’re here for. Don’t get distracted, don’t let anything else become primary. This is the primary purpose of God for the church.
Let me just illustrate this from John 12:31–32. Jesus is speaking. He’s speaking about His death upon the cross which was to take place within a few days from the moment that He spoke these words.
“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (KJV)
This contains two truths. First of all, at the cross—through the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ—the prince of this world, Satan, was cast out. His authority, his power, his claims were finally completely terminated. It’s at the cross that Satan’s territory ends. Beyond the cross he has no claim because every claim of divine justice and every charge and accusation that Satan could bring against you and me were settled once and for all at the cross. That was where the prince of this world, Satan, was cast out. His authority terminated, his territory ended.
All right, that’s the first part of the truth, but now Jesus says secondly, “I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me.” We have to replace the negative by the positive which Christians are always very slow to do. The trouble with the majority of religious people is they major in negatives. This is really the religious attitude of mind. Jesus says the prince of this world will be cast out at the cross, his power will be dealt with. What have we got to do now? Uplift Jesus. And when Jesus is uplifted, He will draw all men to Himself. I believe this. I believe that if every true Christian would make it his supreme object in life to uplift Jesus in his words, in his testimony and in his activities, in his prayers, I believe the whole world would right now be feeling the drawing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say the whole world would come to Him, but He said the whole world would feel the drawing power. And I am convinced that at any time all believers all over the world will do this one thing, uplift Jesus, the whole area where they are will feel the drawing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that this is a spiritual law which is just as true and unbreakable as any law of physics in the natural world. The purpose for which we are here is to uplift the Lord Jesus Christ and when we uplift Him, He, by the Holy Spirit, will begin to draw all men to Him.
Now let’s look at some examples of faithful and effective testimony in the Scriptures. Let’s begin with John the Baptist. Turn to John’s gospel, chapter 1, reading first of all verse 5. The King James Version of verse 5 says:
“... the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (KJV)
But the word comprehend is not a clear translation. Most of your modern translations have something to this effect, “that darkness did not put it out,” “the darkness was not able to extinguish it.” And I believe that this is the truth. Wherever light comes into darkness, light has the victory. Darkness can never overcome light. Light always overcomes darkness. No matter how great the quantity of darkness, if you light one little match, as long as that match burns, in that area light defeats darkness.
These are great simple truths that some of us are too sophisticated to appreciate. But I love preaching to Africans in some ways because you can be simple. And when I had my students in our college in East Africa, I would sometimes ask them this question in the assembly hall where I’d speak to them. I would say, “Now, if this room were totally filled with darkness, how would we get rid of the darkness?” And I’d leave them to ponder a moment or two on that question and I’d say, “Would it be any good opening the doors and windows and letting the wind blow the darkness out?” And they’d say, “Oh no, sir.” Well I’d say, “How about sending for some brooms and sweeping the darkness out?” And they’d say, “Oh, no.” Well then I would look really puzzled and I would say to them, “What should we do to get rid of the darkness?” Up would go some hands, “Please sir!” I’d say, “Yes.” “Switch on the light.” I said, “What would happen to the darkness?” “It will go.” And I used to say to them, “Where will it go?” And I never got anybody that could answer that question. In fact, I can’t answer it myself. It may sound simple, but to me, it’s profound. But I am not concerned with where the darkness goes. The truth is, there’s only one remedy for darkness. What is that? Light. Wherever light comes, darkness must yield. The darkness can never overcome the light.
Now let’s relate this to John and to Jesus. John 1:6–8:
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” (KJV)
Of course, the Light was Jesus. John was not the light, but he was sent for one supreme purpose which was, what? What was the whole purpose of John’s ministry? To bear witness of Jesus. Now look what Jesus said about John in John 5:33–35. He’s talking to the Pharisees and He says:
“Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” (KJV)
Now where the King James Version says light in John 5, it should be lamp. It’s not at all the same word as the word used in John 1 of Jesus as the light. Jesus is the light; John was a lamp. A burning and a shining lamp. How did John become the lamp? By bearing witness of the light. And this is true of everyone that bears witness of the light. You become a burning and a shining lamp by bearing witness to the light. You cannot be the light; in that sense, that is Jesus. But you bring light as a lamp by bearing witness to the light. And notice, before John could shine, he had to burn. A burning and a shining lamp. And I like the words of Jesus. He says of these religious— I don’t know what you would call them, but they remind me of people that I meet not infrequently. They’ll go anywhere, hear any preacher, attend any convention, but never get set on fire. And He said to these Pharisees, these religious people, “You were willing to rejoice in his light. You were willing to enjoy the light while it was there. But you never got set on fire. And the day the light was withdrawn you were as cold and as dark as you ever were.” And there are not a few people even within what I would call the charismatic movement that will rejoice in somebody else’s light, enjoy listening to some preacher, get blessed and happy, rejoice in the light, but never get the fire. And without fire you cannot bring light. You have to burn before you can shine.
Now let’s look at the example of the apostles and you’ll see this theme of witness run through the book of Acts. Acts 4:17–20. Here we are confronted with the first head-on clash between the apostles and the institutional religion and its leaders. And because of this new move of the Holy Spirit, as usual, the leaders of institutional religion began to get scared. I heard my good friend Harald Bredesen say this once—he said, “Religious leaders are always scared of anything they cannot control.” And no one can control the Holy Spirit, so religious leaders are always scared of the Holy Spirit. Now, that is my comment added on to Harald Bredesen’s statement. And you’ll see the moment the power of the Holy Spirit really began to move in Jerusalem the religious leaders got together and said, “We’ve got to do something to stop this, what can we do? We’re going to lose our authority. And so it says in verse 17 that they came to this conclusion.
“But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” (KJV)
What name? The name of Jesus. You’ll notice that even then, nineteen centuries and more ago, the unbelieving Jews did not like to take the name of Jesus in their lips. They said “this name,” but they didn’t want to name the name of Jesus. And that’s been true ever since until the present day when a change is coming. And for the first time for about nineteen centuries you hear Jews mentioning the name of Jesus without spitting or cursing or expressing their disapproval. This is one of the great indications of the change that’s coming in the heart of the Jewish people. But you see, these leaders, even then, less than a year after the death and resurrection of Jesus would not utter the name of Jesus. They said “this name.” This man. Anything but give Him His name. So verse 18:
“And they called them [the apostles], and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” (KJV)
What were they afraid of? The name of Jesus. And hell is always afraid of the name of Jesus. You know what I discovered in the Army? As a soldier when I was converted and began to lead my Christian life in front of those people, I discovered that in an Army barrack room you could talk about God and no one would turn round. If you began to talk about Christ, people would get embarrassed. But if you began to talk about Jesus, there would be a dead silence. See? There’s power in the name of Jesus. And these people on the other side realized it. Stop them mentioning the name of Jesus. That’s the way to stop this thing. So they told the apostles this. Now I want to give you the answer of the apostles. Verse 19 and 20:
“But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (KJV)
That’s testimony. I cannot help saying what I have seen and heard. That’s what it is to be a witness. Now turn onto the fifth chapter of Acts and we read about the second clash between these leaders and the apostles. Acts 5:29–32:
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (KJV)
To me, that’s reasonable. I cannot think of any situation in which you ought to obey men rather than God. To me, this is illogical. But I find a lot of people today that are more busy obeying men than God. A very far reaching principle when you can say with your whole heart, “I ought to obey God rather than men.” Verse 30:
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior ...” (KJV)
Notice what he is doing? Uplifting Jesus.
“... for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost [Spirit] whom God hath given to them that obey him.” (KJV)
Notice the order. “We are His witnesses and when we give witness, the Holy Spirit bears witness too. But if we don’t give witness, the Holy Spirit has nothing to confirm.” Notice those three statements given in your outline because they’re the basis of witness. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. We are to obey God rather than men. We are His witnesses of these things.
You see, I learned from this incident in which I had to serve as a witness even this morning. That I am morally and legally obligated to say what I’ve seen and heard. If I don’t do it, I’m not fulfilling my duty as a citizen. And as Christians we are legally and morally obligated to say what we’ve seen and heard. We are failing in our responsibilities if we do not do it.
Notice what Peter says in Acts 10 when he’s speaking in the house of Cornelius, and reading verses 39–41, he’s been telling Cornelius and his household about Jesus. He says:
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly: not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us ...” (KJV)
Notice the importance of being a witness. God had his witnesses chosen before him. They were witnesses of two aspects of Jesus, of His earthly life and ministry and of His resurrection from the dead.
Now turn back to the opening chapter of Acts and see what importance the apostles themselves attached to this. When Judas fell, and vacated his apostleship, it was determined that another would have to be appointed in his place. And this is described in these verses in Acts 1:21–22. Peter is speaking. Note the qualifications for being an apostolic witness.
“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” (KJV)
The apostolic witness had to go from the time of John’s baptism in Jordan to the time of the ascension of Jesus. It had to be a person who had been present all through that period. Secondly, there was one specific thing of which he had to give witness, which was what? The resurrection. This is the center of all testimony. Jesus isn’t dead; He’s alive. I know it. All testimony centers around His resurrection. So these special witnesses, the twelve, had to have witnessed the whole earthly ministry of Jesus from the baptism in Jordan to the ascension from the Mount of Olives, but the one specific thing that they had to bear testimony to was His rising from the dead.
Now look in Acts 4:33:
“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all.” (KJV)
You see, one thing the world needs to know is that Jesus is alive. Who’s responsible to tell them? You and I are. How do we know? Because we know Him alive. A dead man doesn’t forgive sins. A dead man doesn’t heal the sick. A dead man doesn’t baptize in the Holy Spirit. We know He is alive. We are obligated to tell the world that Jesus is alive. The false theologians are very busy telling the world that God is dead. We should be just as busy telling the world that Jesus is alive.
All right. Let’s look at the example of Paul and this will probably conclude this study. Paul again is another beautiful and wonderful example of the power and the importance of personal testimony. And I’m just taking a few excerpts from the twentieth chapter of Acts and following chapters in relation to Paul as a witness. Acts 20:20–21, Paul is reminding the elders of the church at Ephesus of his ministry throughout the period that he was in Ephesus, which was probably two and a half years. And he says:
“And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you ...” (KJV)
This again is a vital aspect of being a witness. You’re not free to keep anything back. If I would give testimony in this case of this accident that I witnessed, and deliberately keep back something that I knew, I would be an unfair and illegal witness. And as believers we are not free to keep anything back. If Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit and causes people to speak in tongues, we are not entitled to withhold that piece of testimony. No matter what may be the attitude of your religious group, you are a witness. You wouldn’t feel right in a court of law deliberately suppressing part of your testimony because you think there might be people in the court that would be opposed to it. You’d be a coward in plain language. And furthermore, your conduct would be unethical and even illegal. And it’s exactly the same in the spiritual realm. If you know that Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit, causes you to speak in tongues, you have no right to suppress that testimony because people might object to it. It’s cowardly and unethical to do it.
I met a lady, in fact she was in one of these meetings, she was having problems. But I discovered the root of her problem was she had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, was working with a group who was opposed to it and was afraid to tell them. I said, “Lady, your problem will go on until you do the right thing. You’re obligated to God and to man to tell them the truth.”
All right. I’m going to go on reading in Acts 20:20. Somebody called this Acts 20/20 vision. It’s rather a good one.
“And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (KJV)
Notice first of all, the negative: he kept back nothing. Then the positive: he showed, he taught, he testified. Where? Publicly and from house to house. What did he testify about? Repentance and faith. Centering in? God and Jesus Christ. This is the perfect pattern of testimony.
Acts 22:14–15, he’s on the steps of the temple telling this Jewish mob how he came to know Jesus as Messiah. And he is relating the moment in Damascus when Ananias was sent to him to lay hands on him and pray for him that he might receive his sight after he had been without sight for three days. And Ananias came into him and in verse 14 this is what Ananias said.
“The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One [which is a title of Jesus, the Righteous One], and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” (KJV)
Notice how absolutely legally correct the language is. You saw Him, you heard His voice, and now you’re to be His witness to all men of what? Of what you saw and what you heard. This is the essence of testimony. And the supreme purpose for which Jesus appeared to Paul was not to make him a preacher, but to make him a witness. Primarily a witness; secondarily a preacher. And this is the order in every person’s life. Whatever other ministry you have, it is secondary to your responsibility to be a witness.
Turning on to Acts 26, Paul is describing the same event. And incidentally in the book of Acts, which only has 28 chapters, we have Paul’s personal experience with Christ three times. If that isn’t sufficient evidence that it’s all right to go on giving the same story, provided it’s true. Acts 26:16, Paul is now describing the moment on the Damascus road when Jesus appeared to him and spoke to him from heaven. And Jesus said in Acts 26:15:
“... I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee ...” (KJV)
What purpose? To make him a minister, a servant and a witness of the things which he had already seen and of other things which God was going to show him in due course. Of course, in due course, Paul received a unique revelation about the church which was granted to him uniquely out of all the apostles. And he was to be a minister, or a servant, and a witness of all that he had seen. And you’ll remember in our previous study we spoke about being a servant of the Word. Not the master of the Word, but the servant. A servant of the revelation that God gives you. You have to serve that revelation.
And then in Acts 26 we have a little further on Paul’s own statement about his testimony. How he responded to the call of Jesus to be a minister and a witness. Reading from verse 19 through verse 23, and he’s speaking to King Agrippa. And incidentally, King Agrippa received a pretty powerful testimony that day himself.
“Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” (KJV)
Now here we have given by the inspiration of Scripture, through the lips of Paul, the perfect pattern of personal witness. And I’d like to show you the seven successive phases. First of all, there was a vision. There was a direct personal experience of Jesus Christ. If you have no personal experience, you have nothing to speak about. He says I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.
He had a vision and secondly, he obeyed it. Lots and lots of people have a vision and don’t obey it. I’ve met lots of Christians that told me about visions and revelations they have had in the past, and if I were to look at their lives from then until now I would have to say they could not say as Paul said, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. It’s one thing to have a vision, I know many, many people who have had a vision or a revelation of one kind of another, but many are not obedient to the vision. Paul was speaking probably twenty or thirty years after his initial experience with Jesus Christ on the Damascus road, he said, “I’ve been obedient.”
The third aspect of his testimony was that just like the stone thrown into the pond, it was an ever- widening ripple. He started where he was, which was in Damascus. From Damascus he moved to Jerusalem, which was the center of his nation and the religious life of the Jewish people. From Jerusalem he went through all the coastal regions of Judea and from Judea he went out unto all the Gentiles. The extending circles of testimony.
And then again notice his faithful continuance. Verse 22, having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day. It’s one thing to get a vision and get excited about it. It’s another thing to be plodding faithfully along with the same vision twenty years later. Lots of people get all worked up and excited when God speaks to them in a meeting or through a prophecy, but when it becomes the humdrum daily duty of being faithful, that’s another matter. I wonder how many of us could say, “I continue unto this day”?
Witnessing to small and great. Paul didn’t despise the small and he didn’t fear the great. He had the same testimony for everybody. Whether it was the man who swept the road or the Emperor Caesar in his palace, Paul didn’t change his testimony.
Notice two final aspects of Paul’s testimony which are of vital importance. He related directly to the Scripture. His testimony did not end with himself; it directed people beyond himself and his experience to the truth of the Word of God. And every good testimony should do that. People should not be left hitched onto you, but hitched onto the Scripture which you have proved true in your experience. And through the Scripture he directed them one step further, to Jesus Christ Himself. And particularly to one thing, His resurrection.
This is the pattern, let me go through it quickly and we close: Vision, obedience, extending circles of ripples, faithful continuance, to small and great, confirming the Scriptures, and centering or terminating in Jesus Christ.