Audio Worship "My Witnesses" Acts 1.1-11

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1590

June 4, 2023

Acts 1.1-11             Click here for audio worship!

Dr. Ed Pettus


“My Witnesses”


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”


  • Deeds and Teachings


Every person who professes Jesus as their Lord and Savior is given a great responsibility. We are called ambassadors for Christ, called to be ready to give a defense of what we believe, called witnesses who give testimony to the Gospel message of salvation in Christ. Witness is the term used in our reading for today in Acts 1.8 where Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them and they will be Jesus’ witnesses everywhere they go. The same is true for us, for we have also received the power of the Holy Spirit and with that power comes the command to give testimony to the Gospel. But what are we to say? What power is given by the Holy Spirit? I want to lift up three areas of witness that Luke includes in these eleven verses that open the book of Acts.

He begins with a review of sorts; in his first book he laid out all that Jesus did and taught (1.1). The first book is Luke’s Gospel. Secondly, he speaks of the kingdom of God (1.3). Third, he reveals the command to wait for the promise (1.4). I want to submit that these are three areas of information and story telling from which we draw to build our testimony as witnesses to the end of the earth. Also, what a great resource at our fingertips, to have a gospel from the same author as the acts of the early church. Our witness includes the deeds of Christ, His teachings, His promises, and the stories of those who took all these things into the world.

The first witness is to Jesus’ deeds and teachings. Some of His teachings have become so deeply embedded in our culture and in what makes a good human attribute that everyone uses them without any thought to the origin of the concept. I’m thinking of the term Good Samaritan. It has become a phrase used by anyone and everyone who thinks of doing something to help someone in need. That is our story, the parable that Jesus taught to shape our actions as a people of the Bible and disciples of Jesus. We tell the story – giving witness to the teachings of Jesus that make for a better community and society when we act as neighbors to those around us and even far away. None of us even have to go to Luke to know the message of the phrase Good Samaritan. But we should know the story in more detail than the world does or does not. Go back and read it again in Luke 10.25-37.

Jesus taught lessons on the Sabbath day, teaching on that particular day in the Synagogues and also teaching about keeping the Sabbath (4.31-32; 6.1-5). He taught the Lord’s Prayer, another well known prayer that people have learned for many years (Luke 11.1-13). Luke shares a multitude of parables that Jesus taught. Luke 15 includes three that are also in the popular culture – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, known as the Prodigal. Think of all the non-believing people have used the line “the prodigal son returns”? They probably have no clue that this is something Jesus taught. It just rolls of the tongue as a common knowledge phrase.

Jesus also performed many deeds of healing and deliverance and blessing. Luke 4.33-37 records a time he drove out demons and in chapter 4.38-39 He healed the sick. Luke 7.44-50 tells us of His forgiving sins. When John the Baptist sent some of His disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, He told them to report back to John about His deeds and teachings,

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7.22-23).

We are witnesses to these things because the testimony has passed on to us for generations. These are our stories now, about what Jesus has done and taught. We are charged with taking the stories to others, of reminding one another about them, of integrating them into our hearts and minds that we might grow in the grace of God and in faith and love.


  • Kingdom of God


The next item from Luke in Acts 1 is that when Jesus appeared to them He spoke “about the kingdom of God”. We do not much about the kingdom of God in Acts, only six uses of the phrase, but Luke’s gospel has thirty-two mentions of the kingdom of God. Again, we turn back to Luke’s Gospel to see what it means to be witnesses to the kingdom. Jesus uses the term in Luke 4.43, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. It is part of what He taught in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come”. The kingdom of God may not be as specific as we would like in Jesus’ teachings, but I will share with you my understanding of the kingdom of God. It is a realm where Jesus is King, Lord, and Savior to His people. It is a way of living and thinking that is deeply entrenched in the Bible and the way the Bible understands all things. It is the very person of Jesus Christ as in the thought that the kingdom has come near because Jesus has come near. When Jesus says repent for the kingdom is at hand, it is Christ who is at hand. He embodies the kingdom and what it means to live in God’s kingdom. It is to live in obedience to God’s commands and to walk in His paths, to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

But often Jesus is mysterious in His teaching about the kingdom of God. He gives us hints to what the kingdom is like for it is not a kingdom that we can see or touch as in kingdoms of earthly nations (Luke 17.20).


Luke 13.18-21, 18He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

The kingdom of God is unlike any worldly kingdom. It is heavenly and yet compared to earthly things it provides for the birds of the air and the bread we eat. It is God’s provision for those who are called according to His purpose.

What I believe this means for us as witnesses to the kingdom of God is that we show people there is a better way to live than in the kingdoms of the world. There is a better way to think and act than what the world has to offer. We truly live in two different worlds, either that of the world or that of the kingdom of God and we see that division daily in the news and in the things of the world. As witnesses for God’s kingdom we have a way of life to offer, God’s way, God’s kingdom, God’s Son.


  • Waiting for the Promise


The third phrase from Acts 1 is about promises. 4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” The particular promise here is for the Holy Spirit...Pentecost. The promise of the Father is the Holy Spirit coming in Acts 2. We no longer wait for that promise for God has kept His promise. We could stop here and just note all the many promises that God has made and fulfilled. But there are other promises for which we still wait. Mainly the promise of Jesus’ return.

25“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21.25-28).

But I also consider daily promises, convictions we hold that Jesus gave us such as Luke 6.38,

give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Or in Luke 11.9-103, 9And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” These are the promises we live by, the ways of the kingdom of God and the testimony we give to others as witnesses commissioned in Christ to share with others.


  • My Witnesses


So, we are witnesses to what? According to Acts 1, what Jesus did (deeds) and taught (commandments, parables, stories, etc). Witnesses to the kingdom of God and life in that kingdom. Witnesses to the promises of God. We learn about all these things from the Gospels and from the Bible in general. We can learn from the early church how they were witnesses in a culture that opposed God and His truth in Jesus. The world has not changed much in a broad sense of believers and non-believers. The witness to Christ is still the most important news and the good news to the world, and to the nations or to any way of thinking that reflects worldly kingdoms that are opposed to Christ.

I’ve been thinking about living in the mindset of the kingdom of God and how vastly different that is from those who think in terms of the kingdom or kingdoms of this world. I remember specific conversations I have had with some people and I have marveled at the differences of view points because of kingdom thinking or their lack of kingdom thoughts. Those of us who come from a particular understanding of the kingdom of God think differently about everything compared or contrasted with those who have no concept of kingdom of God thinking. It is certainly true between Christians and non-Christians, but I have also had conversations with professing Christians who are left of center and have some strange notions about things. They seem to disregard the kingdom of God altogether and adopt the kingdom of the world philosophies. Our witness these days is to the world and to some parts of the church as well! Because of that, this seems like a daunting task for us, especially when parts of the visible church are so inundated with the kingdom of the world thinking.

But the good news is...we have the good news. We have the truth, and the One who is Truth. Our witness is true and will overcome all other witnesses to lesser kingdoms. Let us strive toward building our witness through faith, prayer, study, and reaching out with the good news to as many people God as places in our lives. Jesus has a long line of witnesses and we are a part of that line. Thanks be to God.