AS THE JOURNEY COMMUNITY was walking through the book of Acts, we stumbled over something I had suspected, but never noticed before. It had already become clear to us that the constant theme of the testimony of this book was the Witness of Jesus as Messiah. This was the purpose of receiving the “power” mentioned in Acts 1:8, and so also the reason for all the gifts of the Spirit (this brought to our community an amazing unity around the issue of gifts). But it was Chapter 5, verse 32, that really rocked my world on the meaning of “apostolic”, and the place of this influence in the church.
Peter said, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (emphasis added)
Now, we had read in the first Chapter of Acts how the eleven Apostles chose Judas’ replacement as an eye witness of the life of Jesus – This was a requirement for those who were considered: that he had witnessed Jesus’ life from His baptism to His resurrection – He had to be a qualified eye witness! (by the way, this position of apostleship was referred to as a diakonias in 1:17, 25; 6:4; They were humbly serving as witnesses) This is the strictest sense of “apostle” used in Scripture, but not the only sense. The point is that the eye witnesses of the physical life of Christ here on earth did not all die!
According to Peter’s statement in 5:32, the Holy Spirit of God is an eye witness – and an “apostle” in the same sense of the original twelve! AND, He is given to everyone who obeys God. How does one “obey God” – Jesus taught that to do the work of God is to believe in the One He has sent (John 6:29). It is the witness of the Holy Spirit Himself, as an eye witness of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that brings us to faith in the first place; Then that same “Witness” comes to live in us who believe – bringing into our lives the same “apostolic” witness that the original twelve were commissioned with.
The punch line is that we cannot really “witness” to Christ from ourselves – this is why it is so uncomfortable when we are trying to convince people by logic or some other proof. Our witness of Jesus Christ is our treasure, and it is connected to the way we finally heard the Spirit of God and believed Him – we believed HIS witness! Our “testimony” is not what we ourselves know about Jesus, it is what the Spirit of God Himself is saying to us about Jesus… when we are listening. So, when we speak by the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we speak from an eye witness authority of “these things” as Peter said it. This is the true power of the Church…it always has been.