As I write this, I just learned that a dear Iraqi brother trained by our ministry in Iraq two months ago was kidnapped as he traveled to Baghdad. Our last training session dealt with the fear believers face in a Muslim country–a very real fear born out of a desire to obey Almighty God and share His Gospel even though it could mean death. The participants’ fear turned to joy as they explored the truths of God’s Word inductively on the subject of suffering.
As we saw last month, according to John 20:31 the Gospel of John was written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life in His Name. But does it stop there? We get life–eternal life–just like that? No, beloved, with this life come certain responsibilities. Let’s see what God says regarding one of those responsibilities. Maybe it will help us better understand the willingness of these Christians to lay down their lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Let’s begin in Acts with Jesus’ last instruction to His apostles after His resurrection from the dead and just before His ascension to the Father. You can tell by their question that the disciples were eager to know when “the kingdom” was going to be restored to Israel. God’s chosen people were living under the oppression of the idol-worshipping Roman Empire. As you read, circle or color every pronoun: they, them or you that refers to the apostles.
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Remember whenever you study God’s Word that the most essential thing you can do is to observe the text carefully and repeatedly. Asking the 5 W’s and an H–who, what, when, where, why and how–helps you do that. So read it again–aloud. (Reading aloud helps you remember it.) This time draw a circle around any phrase that indicates time or sequence of time. This tells you when. Then read it again and double underline any reference to where.
Now what did you observe? List on another sheet of paper everything of importance you learned about the disciples from circling the pronouns. Note anything that answers the 5 W’s and an H about them.
Now stop and consider who was talking to them in this passage and what the text tells you about Him. Underline or color in yellow every reference to the Lord Jesus.
Did you notice that Jesus said “My witnesses”? Jesus was going to the Father, as He had told them in John 14:1-7, and the Father would send the Spirit. (By the way, when I come across a reference to the Spirit of God in my Bible I mark it with a purple pen and color it yellow. There is much confusion about the Spirit of God today. Doing this helps me discover what God says about Him.)
The Greek word (the New Testament was written in Greek) for witness is a word that means “one who has information or knowledge of something, and hence, one who can give information, bring to light, or confirm something.” This is where we get our word martyr. Giving the Gospel can cost you your life–and if it doesn’t cost you your life, it often involves being willing to lay down your life in one way or another so that others might have life! Read John 3:36 and fill in the blank: If you don’t believe in the Son, the ____ of God abides on you.
So what do people need to believe? What is the message of Jesus’ witnesses? The Gospel that Paul says in Romans 1:16 is the power of God unto salvation. Let’s discover that truth for ourselves by observing what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Read it in your Bible and mark every reference to the Gospel and its synonym Word, including the pronouns which and what. When I mark Gospel in my Bible, I draw a red megaphone and color it green. It will be easy to spot, and you won’t forget it. Remember, dear child of God, the Bible is to be studied; it’s your textbook for life.
Now read the passage again; this time underline or color code every reference to Christ, including the pronoun He. When you finish, do the 5 W’s and an H. What did you learn from marking Gospel? Be thorough. What did you learn from marking the references to Jesus Christ? Now read the passage one more time. This time color code in blue the author, Paul, and color code in orange the recipients, the ones to whom Paul is writing. (I do this in every New Testament epistle.) Then list what you learn from marking Paul and the Corinthians.
Now think about what you just learned. As the apostles were called to be Christ’s witnesses and given the Spirit, so are we! And it is our privilege and responsibility as His witnesses to let people know that Jesus Christ (Messiah–the promised one, John 1:41) died for their sins. This means they are sinners (Romans 3:23, 5:12) and need a Savior. So Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for them (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 2:14-15). Therefore their sins are forgiven (Hebrews 10:14-17). And what is the proof of this? Jesus died and was buried but rose from the dead (Romans 4:25) and was seen by many at different times.
Isn’t this a message worth living and dying for? Remember, for the child of God, physical death means to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, which is far better! (Philippians 1:20-21, 2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
Until next month, faithful student, why don’t you read through the Book of Acts and mark all occurrences of Gospel and witness in their every form. Notice the elements of the Message the apostles give as they go into all the world. Then let us go and do likewise. If you can’t go to the world, watch how God will bring the world to you. Don’t miss your opportunity!