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What is the significance of Jesus saying, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)?

you will be my witnesses

Before Jesus’ ascension, He told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This came after His disciples questioned when Jesus would “restore the kingdom to Israel” (verse 6). First, Jesus reminded them that “it is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (verse 7). Then, He revealed both the gift and responsibility they had. Acts 1:8 holds immense significance as it encapsulates the entire book of Acts and carries implications for today.

The Greek word translated as “witnesses” is martyres, which primarily conveys the idea of someone testifying at court. The English word martyr comes from the same Greek word; Christ’s witnesses testified through suffering and were willing to die. The disciples had personally witnessed the resurrection and had spent 40 days learning from Jesus about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Consequently, they were to act like witnesses in a court, testifying on behalf of Jesus and all He had accomplished. Acts 1:8 is similar to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18–20. If Christians could be characterized by one other word, it might be “witness.” We are called to testify of Jesus both in our words and conduct.

Christian history affirms the truth of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8. The rest of the book of Acts details the expansion of the Christian faith, starting with the Day of the Pentecost when 3,000 people joined the fold (Acts 2:41). By the time of the conversion of Paul, the gospel had spread to Samaria and Judea (see Acts 8 and 12). Peter also preached to the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10). Receiving the Holy Spirit’s commission, Paul and Barnabas carried the message of the gospel beyond Jewish borders. The disciples achieved their mission. They were witnesses, just as Jesus foretold.

Around 2,000 years later, we are likewise called to be witnesses in our modern context. We still bear the responsibility to testify of Jesus’ resurrection and His offer of forgiveness of sin. The universal sinful human condition can only be remedied by turning away from a rejection of God and being reconciled to Him through the redemptive work of Christ. As regenerated believers, it is both our duty and privilege to bear witness to Jesus.

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What is the significance of Jesus saying, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)?
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This page last updated: May 9, 2024