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(Acts 1:8–14) Jesus' Last Words

(Acts 1:8–14) Jesus' Last Words

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 1:8–14

A person's last words are his or her most important. That's why Jesus' challenge before He ascended into heaven is called the "great" commission: "Go and make disciples of all men." Are you obeying His last command?

Delve into the significance of Jesus' promise to His disciples and the transformative role of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, Chapter 1. Explore the concept of being witnesses for Christ, both through our actions and words. Discover how the early church's focus on character and testimony shaped its effectiveness and relevance in a changing society. Gain insights on living as witnesses in a post-Christian world and the importance of prayer and devotion in fulfilling our calling.


We began our discussion last Lords day by looking at the promise of our Lord to His disciples found in the Book of Action, chapter 1. While the disciples stood on the mount of Olives with their resurrected Lord, with the wind twisting their garments and deep emotion tugging at their hearts, they heard their beloved Teacher deliver His final words. He told them not to try to anticipate the timing of the coming of the Kingdom, but to anticipate the coming of the Spirit.

And when the Spirit has come upon you Acts 1:8 reads, you shall be My witnesses.

You notice he did not say to them, “When the Spirit comes upon you you shall begin to witness.” Jesus Christ is concerned with who we are before He ever commands what we do. The church in America is primarily ineffective, not becuase it isn’t doing anything - the church today is making more noise than ever - but it’s making very little forward motion. We’re busier than ever - in fact, in the last 10 years, there has been more information written on the creativity and organization and procedure of the church than in the previous 50 years.  The church has been the topic of news more often in the last few years than in the previous 25.  The church is today has manuals on everything from tele-marketing to group therapy.

If you were to ask the average pastor, “What does your church do”  you’d get everything from strategy schemes to mission statements - you would get such a long winded answer - you’re next question would be, “Do you have any excedrin?”

George Gallup said just a few years ago, “Never before has the church made so many inroads into society, and yet at the same time, made so little difference. Much of the problem centers around the fact that we have forgotten one important principle - we have have forgotten who we are. We have mistaken motion for movement. We have replaced the Person with the program.

That’s why I find it fascinating that Jesus Christ did not say in verse 8, “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall develop methods and strategies and purpose statements - “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall begin a door to door canvass - you shall begin an evangelistic campaign for the greater Jerusalem area.”

No. . .no!  Jesus said, “There is a Person coming, and when the empowering Person descends - here’s the priority - it happens to be a life-time occupation - here’s what happens when He comes -“You shall be My witnesses.”

You say, “Stephen, you mean you’re not suppose to witness or campaing or  canvass . . .”  no I’m not saying that.

While we will have opportunities to witness, Jesus informs us that we are to be witnesses.    Jesus says, in effect, “I’m giving you something altogether more demanding.” You can’t go out on Thursday night or Saturday morning for an hour of visitation and say, “I did it.”  You can’t put a fish on your bumper and say, “Wow, am I a testimony or what?” You can’t put 100 bucks in the plate and say, “I did my part.”

Jesus Christ is telling us that we have a life-long occupation - witness. Has it ever ocurred to you that Jesus never told you to become salt and light? (Would somebody please volunteer for salt duty...)

John 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth.”

What does salt do?  It creates thirst; it prevents decay; it cleanses; it flavors food.  It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t say we were sugar . . . although I wish we were sweeter.  I taught my kids how to eat oatmeal this past week.  Not the pre-made kind - but the kind you boil and then sit for a while - then you put it in a bowl and put some butter in it and a pinch of salt - and then the part my kids liked - see, at first they didn’t want oatmeal - no way; yuk.  But we got to the sugar part - where you lightly sprinkle brown sugar over the top, then add a little milk - and walaa.  They ate three bowls apiece.  Why?  It was sweet!  Dad this is good - I can taste the sugar.

You never would say, I loved that meal becuase I could taste the salt.  Unlike, sugar, salt is good only in so far as it draws attention to the food.  And by the way, salt is not for collecting, it’s for sprinkling.  What we happen to have in here is a collection of salt - that’s okay - we’re supposed to gather together and sharpen our saltiness - but the world can’t be contacted from in here - as the title of one book reads, “we need to get out of the saltshaker and into the world.”

Jesus, also, never asked any Christian to consider becoming light!  John 5:14, “You are the light of the world.”  The purpose of light is to dispel the darkness so you can see your way.

You, ladies and gentlemen are salt and light - see - what you do flows out of who you are!   Now back to the key word in Acts 1:8  you need to circle/highlight it - right in the middle of the verse is the word - “witness”.

It happens to be a key word throughout the Book of Action - it will appear in some form or another 29 times.

This word sweeps us into the drama of a courtroom with the gallery, the jury, the person standing trial, the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney.  The courtroom drama is carried along by the cross-examination of the witnesses.

This word, chosen by God to represent who we are, implies that the Christian is a witness called to take the stand in a trial.  Who’se on trial?   Jesus Christ.  In this metaphor, the Defense Attorney is the Holy Spirit; the prosecutor is Satan.  The world is the jury who must decide on the basis of testimony as we the witnesses, testify to the truth of the Lord.

Now let’s play this drama out a little further.

In any courtroom proceeding, one of the primary attempts of the prosecuting attorney is to discredit the testimony of the witness - how do you do that?  By discrediting the witnesses character.  How that witness lived, talked, acted outside the courtroom has direct bearing on their testimony inside the courtroom.

Much of the church’s testimony is descredited in court by it’s lack of character.

As Warren Weirsbe said it so well, “The church that once told the world to repent is now being told by the world to repent.”

Jesus Christ is giving us the responsibility to live in such a way that our testimony as witnesses will not be discredited.  The question becomes, “If you were called to take the stand today in the defense of Christ, would their be anything in way you live that would hinder your credibility as a witness?”

There are actually two ways you serve as a witness:

You might notice in your study notes that I’ve suggested two ways to witness:

1)  First, through the way you live.

2)  Through the words you speak.

To ask me which way is more important would be like asking a pilot which wing on his airplane is more important.  You need both. And when it comes to speaking - the words you speak must be carefully considered.    We, the witnesses of Jesus Christ, are living in a day that has become “post-Christian”. That is - the Bible and Judeo Christian values and ethics are no longer the standard.

In fact, to begin a statement by saying, “The Bible says” no longer commands respect or attention.  According to research published in the International Christian Digest, in the 30’s, 40’s and even the 60’s - 65% of Americans respected the Bible as the standard of authority.  In the 1990’s, barely 30% believe that the Bible is anything but a collection ancient legends and stories.

George Hunter, the dean of Asbury Seminaries School of World Mission and Evangelism has written that we have several things in common with the early church as we testify of Christ and the gospel - therefore we can learn from them: (Christianity Today, Dec. 16, 1991)

1) they faced a population with little knowledge of the gospel

Our society doesn’t know what it means to be washed in the blood of the Lamb. . .they need to come to cross of Calvary. . .

When the man stood up on Donahue a few years ago and shouted, Jesus is the Answer,  the crowd responded with, “What’s the question.”

It isn’t enough today to slip a tract under someone’s windshield and think - that’ll learn ‘em!  I’m not saying there isn’t power in the Word of God, I’m simply saying you cannot approach people today without understanding they don’t even know the basics of what the Bible does says anymore!

In a rather humorous way, David Jeremiah told the story of a Sunday School calass - I found that same story in one of my library books - let me read it to you:

Our generation would have never gotten the message.

In fact, when you approach an unbeliever with the words, “God said in the Bible”,  only one out of  three Americans even knows what that means.

2)  Their society was a pluralistic society with many gods and many religions.

20 years ago, this would have been ridiculous to apply to America - sure there are other religions in America - but they can’t make inroads - we’re too solid - In America it’s apple pie and chevrolet and God.

Well, the first two haven’t changed, but now it’s many gods.

Much of what is happening around us is coming at the same time the evangelical community of  believers seems to be least interested in doctrine.  Doctrine divides - love unifies.

Down with stuffy theology - down with the walls - up with love and unity, hugs and kisses and down with all that theological stuff that divides.

And so my wife can talk to a lady this past week who said she was a Mormon and she was trying to be a good Christian.  How does Mormon and Christian end up in the same phrase.

Evangelical Catholic - how did those two terms ever end up side by side - the protestant reformers who protested the deification of Mary and the necessity of the sacraments for salvation must be rolling in their graves.

While our society at large seems interested in experiminting with spiritual things the believing community, at the same time is confused about true spirituality.

3) the witnesses of the first century faced a hostile society with the potential of persecution

As Tim Downs explained in length, we, the Bible believing community are becoming viewed as more and more radical and right wing and politically incorrect - to hold to the Bible and to publicly declare the truth of the Bible will eventually reach the courts as another form of creating emotional distress.   

I talked with a friend of mine who is a staff pastor in one of our countries leading churches and radio ministries that emenates from the pulpit of that church.  He told me, “Stephen, our ministry retains 3 lawyers just to handle the lawsuits brought against us by people who’ve taken issue with the Biblical content of our program; and who claim we have no right to say what we say.”

Eventually, we may have to say, “We will obey God rather than men, we will continue to preach and teach the Bible.”

How do you reach the first and the 20th century????? Jesus Christ said, you can’t!!!!!

So I’m going to send my Spirit to empower you so that He through you can.

Now what’s the plan?!!!!!  the last part of verse 8 reads, “And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem (that’s your own city or community), and in all Judea (that’s reaching out further into your own country), then move into Samaria (that’s a different culture yet on the same continent as yours) and finally even to the remotest part of the earth - that’s every culture.

But wait a second - that’s really not the plan - that’s geography, not stratetgy!

But that’s the genius of our God who knew that strategies would come and go - that effective methods would change and develop.

He simply said to go - and through the empowering, enlightening Person of the Holy Spirit - you will develop your strategies - for the jungles of the Amazon and for the cities of Brazil; in Cary and through the hills of Tennessee; into the concrete jungles of New York and L.A. - He simply said to go.

Now his words in Matthew 28 give us a gigantic clue by giving us the product.  In other words, if you want to know if you are accomplishing the plan - take a look at the product -  In Matthew 28 He said, “Go and make disciples”

What’s the product?  Disciples - other witnesses.

But, Lord won’t that take a long time?  Wouldn’t it be quicker to tell us to go and win souls - go out and elect conservatives - we are to make disciples.

The church in America has, for the most part forgotten the plan.

We’re to start in Jerusalem - that’s home - that’s the toughest place to reach - they know you - they grew up with you - they work with you - start there.

But don’t stop there!

We have 900 families in this church - that represents a little more than 2,000 people.   in one year we’d reach 900 people.  (and if they and we did it again, just one person reached in one years time)

in six years we’d reach 30,000 people

in 11 years, we’d reach one million people.

in one generation, we’d reach the population of planet earth

So what’s the response of the disciples?  Go back to Acts 1:9, “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.  And as they were gazing intently into the sky, while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them”.   11.  And they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”  Modern day vernacular, “Why are you just standing there looking?  He’s coming back, but remember,  He told you to go to Jerusalem and wait.  So go back and wait.”  12.  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.  And

when they had entered, they went up to the upper room - the words upper room in the original is one word which was used specifically for the study and prayer room of a rabbi.  There is a good chance that perhaps some rabbi or even a member of the Sanhedrin, who had come to Christ following the resurrection, lent his study to these men.  You notice what they were doing?  13.  And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James,the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.  These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to” - writing church growth manuals, discussing how they could make disciples in thirty days or less.”  Writing their memoirs, “I knew Jesus Personally; I was there when He went up!”

No -14.  These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”   How simple - none of the baggage; none of the stuff that we get so carried away with.  They just prayed.

And out of that prayer meeting would come men and women ready for Pentecost.  When the Spirit of God would move in and impact that whole city for Christ.  These were they who would turn their world upside down.

Where is your Jerusalem?  Where is it that God has placed you, a witness on the stand, to testify in defense of the Lord thorugh your life and with your lips?

During Vince Lombardi's years at Green Bay, the Packers were humiliated by an opposing team.  The packers did everything wrong.  The very next day at practice, Coach Lombardi stood up with a football and said, "Gentlemen, I've seen enough.  We're going to start over, right at the very beginning!  The object I am holding in my hand is a football."  One of the jokesters on the team is supposed to have said:  "Please Coach, don't go so fast."

The church must return to the basic truth - according to this passage, you are not a computer technician, salesman, executive, painter, secretary, teacher - that’s what you do - what you have in that seat where you are seated is a witness; a person, called to take the stand, in courtroom of your influence, who testifies for the name and cause of Jesus Christ.


A pastor was teaching a class of Sunday School children, and he asked them, “Who broke down the wall of Jericho?”  A boy answered, “I didn’t do it!”  The pastor turned to the Sunday School teacher and asked, “Is this typical?”  She replied, “Pastor this boy is an honest child - I really don’t think he did it.”  Such a resonse realy upset the pastor and he went straight to the Sunday School superintendent and told him what happened;  the superintendent sia,d “Well now, I’ve known the boy and his his teacher for a number of years and just can’t picture either one of them doing such a terrible thing.”  In total disbelief, the pastor called an emergency deacon  meeting and reported the entire story.  After a moment of akward silence, the chairman spoke up and said, “Listen Pastor, just find out how much it cost and we’ll pay the damages.”

In a previous generation, at least the major stories of the Bible were generally known by the public.  Let me read you a true story of the difference it made:

During World War II, after Hitler had marched his way across France, demanding the unconditional surrender of the Allied forces in Europe, thousands of British and French troops dug in along the coast of northern France in a last-ditch effor to hold off the German forces.  Trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, they knew they would soon be obliterated by the Nazis.

British soldiers began sending a message across the English Channel.  Just three words;  “And if not.”  Was it a code - some secret message?  No.  It was a reference to the Old Testament episode when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood before the pagan Kings’ fiery furnace and said, “Our God is able to save us, and if not, we will remain faithful to Him anyway.”  As unbelievable as it seems today, that message was immediately understood by the British people.  In the days that followed, fishing boats, pleasure cruisers, yachts, and rowboats set out from the shores of England, and rescued 338,000 Allied troops.

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