Two days ago we talked about the Gospel of the Kingdom. Yesterday we talked about the response that the apostles requested from those who believed that Gospel.
We have one more subject to cover. What did the apostles use as proof of the Gospel? Why should anyone believe that Jesus is God’s anointed King and begotten Son, as described in Psalm 2? You can’t just walk up to someone who knows nothing about Jesus and tell them that he is the Lord of the living and the dead and will judge them all on one dreadful day.
Well, you could, but no one would believe you.
Witnesses of the Resurrection
The apostles were not only called to be proclaimers of the Gospel. They were called to be witnesses of the resurrection.
“You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses … ” (Jesus, Acts 1:8)
Witnesses of what?
- Acts 1:21-22: “From among these men that have accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us … must one be appointed to be a witness with us of the resurrection.”
- Acts 2:32: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”
- Acts 3:15: “[You] killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.”
- Acts 4:33: “With great power the apostles testified of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
- Acts 5:30: “God has exalted him to his right hand as Prince and Savior to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins. We are his witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Getting the picture?
The apostles were commissioned as witnesses of the resurrection because the resurrection was the proof that Jesus is the Anointed King, the Son of God.
Paul, a servant of Jesus the King … separated for the Gospel of God … concerning his Son, King Jesus our Lord, who was made from the seed of David in regard to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection of the dead. (Rom. 1:1-3)
Paul emphasized the fact that the apostles—the original ones who were present during Jesus’ goings in and goings out—were witnesses of the resurrection:
God raised him from the dead, and he was seen on many days by those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people [i.e., the Jews]. (Acts 13:30-31)
The Gospel of the Apostles
The apostles had one consistent message in their preaching (to the lost).
- God raised Jesus from the dead.
- We are witnesses of this.
- The resurrection is proof that he is the Messiah, the eternal King who will rip apart governments with his iron rod of love, and the begotten Son of God.
- Therefore, repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
I have written a booklet, close to 40 pages, that goes through each one of the proclamations the apostles made to the lost in the Book of Acts to show you this little outline in Scripture. It’s called The Apostles’ Gospel, and it’s available on Amazon.
What About Today?
This is a good question because we don’t have anyone among us that accompanied Jesus in his travels in the first century.
John’s Gospel offers two strong proofs that we can offer to the lost:
Love one another. As I have loved you, so love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. (Jn. 13:34-35)
Neither do I pray for these alone [i.e., the apostles present with Jesus], but also for those who will believe through their word, that thay may all be one, as you Father, are in me, and I am in you, that they may also be one with us so that the world will know that you sent me. (Jn. 17:20-21)
The most powerful proof we have today that he is resurrected is for him to be resurrected in us. Jesus is supposed to be literally “re-incarnated.” He is supposed to be alive in the flesh again, living where all earthly life lives: in his body.
What will make the world believe that the life in us is the life of the One sent by Almighty God?
Our unity, which will be apparent by our unearthly love for one another, says Jesus.
In the first century, the church had the apostles to testify that Jesus is the risen King. When they fell asleep, they were left only with their other witness: their love and their unity.
It was remarkably powerful:
You were examples to all who believe in Macedonia and Achaia, for from you sounded the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith towards God is spread around, so that we do not need to say anything. (1 Thes. 1:8).
It doesn’t get much better than that!
The Church as Witness
The church is the alternative to the apostles’ witness of the resurrection. Jesus re-incarnated in his body, held together by the perfect bond of unity, which is love (Col. 3:14), is as powerful a testimony as the apostles’ testimony, and it is the witness of the resurrection that replaced the apostolic witness.
Jesus described it like this:
You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. … Let your [“your” is plural] light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:13-16)
“This little light of mine” just isn’t going to do it. “This huge light of ours, set on God’s holy mountain (Heb. 12:22-24), that couldn’t be hidden if we wanted to hide it” is the light that will change the world by testifying that Jesus is the Psalm 2 King, sent by God to rule eternally over all kings and all peoples.
Isaiah exhorts us to walk and rejoice in this:
Arise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of God has risen upon you! For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and great darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon you, and his glory will be seen on you. The Gentiles will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Is. 60:1-3)
Elephant in the Room
I’d like to leave this blog with that wonderful ending. I’m not very good at crafting comfortable exits like the one I just gave you. Now that I managed to pull one off, I can’t leave yet.
Because of the elephant.
The obvious question I have not addressed is what we do when what know as the church is famous for the opposite of unity or love? Our division, disagreement, dissension, and general “dissing” of one another is renowned. We are not famous for loving one another, we are famous for the evil we say about each other. Worse, we are also famous for being hateful towards sinners.
Obviously there are exceptions. There are whole churches that are exceptions. There are many people that are exceptions.
It remains true that we are famous for division, disputes, and hateful behavior that makes sinners feel hopeless.
So what do we do if there is neither the apostles nor the church to present a witness?
I’ll leave that until tomorrow so you can enjoy today’s foray into the Scriptures and like me for one more day. Some of you aren’t going to like me much after the next post.