Witnesses Unto Me

Photo by Maan Limburg on Unsplash

Acts 1:8-10But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy {Spirit} 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. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

What does it mean to be a “Witness” for the Lord?

Is it just to tell others how to be saved, to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Certainly, we must tell others about Jesus. But being a “witness” for Jesus means to stand out and stand up for what our Lord taught. Jesus Himself is known as:

Revelation 1:5 … the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood

Word Study: Our Lord Jesus is the faithful witness”. The word translated witness in Revelation 1:5 and in our opening text in Acts witnesses is the Greek μάρτυς mártys, {pronounced mar’-toos}. Mártys originally meant “a witness, one who can bear record to a truth”. When the word was first used, mártys is not yet associated with anything dark.

When Jesus came to this earth, our Lord “the faithful witness” was hounded, hated, and ultimately HUNG on a Cross for our sins.

Being a faithful witness means that, like Jesus, there is a degree of suffering and shame that goes with it. Jesus is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), and His followers are to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). And yet, the world walks in darkness. The testimony of Christ is that:

John 3:19 … Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Jesus is Light. God’s Word is Light. But people, dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13), do not want light, but darkness. As The Faithful Witness {mártys} Jesus was HOUNDED, HATED, and HUNG for being the Light. We who are His need to understand that – as He suffered – so we may suffer.

Did I mention that mártys not only means “witness”, but it is also where we get our word MARTYR?

To be a witness for Jesus means to stand out and stand up, just as Jesus did. To stand against the darkness, and to let God shine through you. Jesus told us:

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy {Spirit} is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me..

Jesus did not expect His disciples to witness in their own power, but to see the power of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given so that we could be witnesses”, mártys, martyrs for Jesus. The way of Christ has been very easy in America in the past. Up until a few years ago, we were built on a Christian heritage. But after years of coasting by the Church and pushing by the darkness, America has entered an age where we are, as a nation, in full blown paganism.

We are in much the same state that the early Church was in. But Beloved, God is with us. Scripture says that our Lord Jesus:

Hebrews 13:12 … that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.

Jesus was cast out of the city of Jerusalem, crucified on a hill we call Calvary, found in Golgotha. He did this so that we might be saved and become sons and daughters of God. If our Lord suffered, we most likely will have to suffer. The Apostle wrote:

Romans 8:14-17 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Witnessing Faithfully Comes With
A Degree Of Suffering

Our witness, our mártys for Jesus may come with suffering. However, there is coming a day when we shall be glorified together with Jesus. And we do not go through this alone, but God the Holy Spirit goes with us, empowering us for what is to come.

As we have studied in the Book of Acts, there is always resistance to the Light of Christ. This is natural in a fallen world.

The first mártys in the early Church to give his life for Jesus was called Stephen, a Deacon and a faithful believer in the early Church. The Encyclopedia Brittanica notes:

His defense of his faith before the rabbinic court enraged his Jewish audience, and he was taken out of the city and stoned to death. His final words, a prayer of forgiveness for his attackers (Acts of the Apostles 7:60), echo those of Jesus on the cross.”

As Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), Stephen prayed “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). The Apostle Paul – then known as “Saul”, was at Stephen’s execution. When Paul later gave his witness or mártys outside the Temple in Jerusalem, he spoke his calling from God:

Acts 22:12-21 … one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One {Jesus Christ}, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15 For thou shalt be {Jesus’} witness {mártys} unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. 17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20 And when the blood of thy martyr {mártys} Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

It’s interesting that the King James translators translate the word mártys first as “witness” when applied to Paul, but as “martyr” when applied to Stephen. The Apostle Paul was indeed a martyr for our faith. In 2 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul speaks of his martyrdom for our faith:

2 Corinthians 11:24-25 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep

Jesus told Ananias, I will shew Saul/Paul how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. Paul did suffer, and was eventually beheaded by Caesar for his witness for Jesus. But Paul would not be the first Apostle martyred. Right after Stephen was martyred, we read:

Acts 12:1-2 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

The Apostle known as James the Greater, brother to the Apostle John, was the first Apostle martyred. As Christianity was deemed illegal in the Roman Empire, many Christians would die for standing up for Jesus. In the Book of Revelation Jesus tells the Church at Pergamos:

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr {mártys}, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Pergamos (Perganum) was the first Roman town to build a Temple to the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. The Church at Pergamos would not acknowledge anyone as “Lord” but the Lord Jesus Christ, even though the Christian “Antipas” was brutally murdered for not worshiping Caesar.

Around 64 AD Roman Emperor Nero started a fire in Rome, and blamed the fire as something the “Christians” did. The Roman Historian Tacitus wrote:

Their execution {the execution of Christians} was made a matter of sport: some were sewn up in the skins of wild beasts and savaged to death by dogs; others were fastened to crosses as living torches, to serve as lights when daylight failed. Nero made his gardens available for the show and held games in the Circus, mingling with the crowd or standing in his chariot in charioteer’s uniform.”

A Martyr Called Valentine

It might surprise you to know that we – every year – celebrate the martyrdom of a Christian on February 14th. I came across a USA Today article entitled, “What’s The Story Behind Valentine’s Day? (February 11, 2022)”. As a source, the article cited Repertorio de Medicina y Cirugía (The Journal Repertory of Medicine and Surgery), an academic journal. I thought the story was not only very interesting, but enlightening.

A Roman Pastor named Valentine of Terni angered the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius decided he did not want his Roman Soldiers to marry, as he thought marriage diminished their efficiency at killing in the battlefield. A married man might not charge as hard, or fight as well, if he thought he would be taken from his wife. So Claudius forbade all Roman soldiers from marrying. Valentine did not agree with this. Our God designed marriage in the Garden of Eden. Marriage is one man and one woman, bound together in covenant before God. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them” (Genesis 1:27-28).

God says that …

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whore mongers and adulterers God will judge.

The Bible tells us that “seducing spirits”, the forces of darkness, led by Satan, are constantly working against the Light of Christ. Even some so called “believers” depart from the faith. What do they do?

1 Timothy 4:2-3 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Marriage is honorable. Marriage is of God’s design. The Apostle Paul, though he himself was never married, wrote:

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain {their lust}, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

When Claudius came out with his order, Valentine refused to obey it. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II. Valentine was cast into a Roman prison. The prison was overseen by a Roman Prefect (Regional Governor) named Asterius. Asterius had a daughter who was born blind. When Valentine prayed for her, her sight was restored. This so impressed Asterius that he, along with 46 members of his family, gave their lives to Jesus Christ.

The Emperor had both Valentine and Asterius beheaded on February 14, 271 AD.

We must stand together proclaiming the truths of God’s Word as immutable and unchangeable.

Our Lord Jesus said:

John 14:15 If ye love Me, keep My commandments.

John 15:10 If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.

Many who profess Christ as Savior and Lord today have nonetheless backed away from the written truths of our God as found in the Scripture. What made King David so blessed in his life was that he was a witness to the truth of God’s Word. David unashamedly witnessed:

2 Samuel 7:28 … O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true

Psalm 119:160 Thy word {O Lord} is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

Though most people today think of “Valentine’s Day” as a time to celebrate your spouse or significant “other”, Valentine’s Day should also remind us that to stand strong for Jesus in this fallen world brings with it the possibility of persecution and death. It was the Medieval writer Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote a poem called Parlement of Foules (Parliament of Fowls). This poem is the first references to the idea that St. Valentine’s Day was a special day for lovers. Michael A.G. Haykin, a Professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, notes:

What seems clear, though, from all that we can determine, is that Saint Valentine was a martyr — yes, a lover, but one who loved the Lord Jesus to the point of giving his life for his commitment to Christ.”

Let us be as Jesus was.
Let us be as the early Church was.
Let us be as Stephen was.
Let us be as Paul was.
Let us be as Valentine was.

Let us stand together, loving Christ and loving others. Let us be Christ’s Light, no matter what the cost. May God the Holy Spirit and His Word drive these truths deeply into our hearts. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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