Jesus — The message of Pentecost
By Randy Hurst
Immediately before His ascension to heaven, Jesus promised
His disciples they would receive the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to be His
witnesses. He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon
you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
On the Day of Pentecost, the multitude was amazed because
they heard those who had been filled with the Holy Spirit speaking in the
languages of the nonbelievers who were gathered. When they asked, “What does
this mean?” (Acts 2:12). Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood and explained that what
had just happened was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy concerning the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Then he clearly and boldly preached about Jesus,
and about 3,000 people were added to the Church that day.
Soon after, Peter and John were going to the temple to pray,
and a man lame from birth was healed at the temple gate. Peter again used the
opportunity to proclaim Jesus, and about 5,000 believed the message.
The priests, captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees
were so disturbed at their preaching they put Peter and John in jail. The next
day the rulers, elders, scribes and high priests challenged them, asking, “By
what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). Then Peter, filled with the
Holy Spirit, spoke boldly about Jesus: “There is salvation in no one else; for
there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we
must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Beginning at the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost
and during the days following, the early Christians’ message was simple and
clear. They proclaimed Jesus. Today this same message — Jesus —
must be clearly communicated to the spiritually lost.
Be ready to respond
Jesus used only three metaphors — salt, light and
branches — to reveal the nature of what His followers were to be. These
three things share one primary quality. All have an effect beyond themselves.
Salt affects whatever it touches. Light shines upon everything within its
reach. Branches extend the life of the vine to the fruit that is produced. As
salt, light and branches have an effect beyond themselves, followers of Jesus
are to make an impact on people within our sphere of influence.
The Bible clearly teaches that personal witnessing is not
the responsibility of just a few people in the church who are especially gifted
for evangelism. Being a witness is our Lord’s plan for every one of His
followers. Evangelism is not listed in the New Testament as a spiritual gift
for only certain people. We are all responsible to share our faith with those
outside the body of Christ.
The apostles Peter and Paul taught the early Christians to
be effective witnesses by being responsive to nonbelievers. Peter wrote,
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the
reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Conduct
yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that
you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5,6).
The Holy Spirit is working in nonbelievers’ lives, and He
allows us the privilege of entering into that work. Because the Spirit is at
work in the circumstances, minds and hearts of people, we should be ready to
respond to them when He gives us opportunities. An essential part of effective
witnessing is listening — being alert for opportunities to bring Jesus
Christ into the conversation.
What constitutes an adequate witness that enables a
nonbeliever to make a decision concerning our Lord’s offer of salvation? The
most effective approach I have found is to share two simple truths the apostle
Peter always included in his preaching.
In the Book of Acts, Peter’s preaching always focused on
Jesus’ identity and the purpose of His mission on earth. He always answered
these two basic questions: Who was Jesus? and Why did He give His life?
Being prepared to discuss these two questions will equip any
Christian to share Christ simply and clearly with nonbelievers.
Who was Jesus?
In recent years, cover stories highlighting Jesus’ role in
history have appeared in almost all major national news magazines. Television programs
and miniseries have focused on His life. But accounts of Christ’s life by
secular media invariably question or outright deny the historical reliability
and accuracy of the four Gospels. Jesus is sometimes presented as merely a
mythical figure. If He is depicted as a historical person, He is portrayed as a
great teacher or even a prophet — but only human.
Jesus was much more than a teacher and prophet. He is God
the Son — He always existed, but became God in human form. He was
conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died to
pay the penalty for our sins and conquered death by rising again to offer us
the gift of everlasting life.
If Jesus Christ was not who He claimed to be, if He is not
the crucified and risen Son of God, then as Paul declared, our faith is
useless. Paul wrote, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, NIV).
Why did He give His life?
John the Baptist announced the purpose of Jesus’ mission on
earth when he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the
world!” (John 1:29).
The Jews and Romans cannot be blamed for Jesus’ death. His
life was not taken from Him. He gave it. He said, “The Father loves Me, because
I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me,
but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I
have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17,18).
The cross stands as a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for a lost
world. He gave His life for two essential reasons. First, because we are all
sinners. Second, because we could do nothing to remedy our sinful state. We
could not save ourselves — so He became our Savior!
Jesus was born as a Man, but He lived His life without sin.
When He died, death had no power over Him. That is why Peter could say, “God
raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was
impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). Now He gives everlasting life to
anyone who calls upon His name and receives Him as Savior and Lord.
More than words
Many Christians believe if they know the right words, offer
the right arguments and are persuasive enough, they will be effective
witnesses. But reaching people for Christ involves more than just saying the
right things. The right words should not be shared with a wrong attitude, such
as a proud, judgmental or condemning spirit. A contradiction between what we
say and how we say it sends mixed signals that hinder the effectiveness of our
Peter and Paul both taught that proclaiming the message of
Christ effectively requires more than words. They also emphasized the
importance of the way in which we should communicate.
Peter wrote, “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the
reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your
good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15,16, NIV). Concerning
unbelieving husbands he wrote, “If any of them do not believe the word, they
may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the
purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1,2, NIV).
Paul wrote to the Colossian believers: “Conduct yourselves
with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your
speech always be with grace … so that you may know how you should respond to
each person” (Colossians 4:5,6).
The Holy Spirit enables us to be our Lord’s witnesses not
just through what we say, but also by how we say it and who we are.
People don’t separate the message from the messenger. Our
lives should illustrate the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
and our love should reflect the love of our Savior. Reaching the lost should be
preceded by loving the lost. Genuine, tangible, Christian love will open the
door for the message.
Witnessing is not a matter of merely acquainting people with
the Christian religion. It is introducing them personally to a relationship
with Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised enables us to be
His witnesses in the world. The message of Pentecost — Jesus — is
still the message we must proclaim today. Every person must be confronted with
the reality of who Jesus truly is and why He gave His life for us. They must be
given an adequate witness and the opportunity to accept His offer of
forgiveness of sin and everlasting life. But our witness must go beyond words.
The Holy Spirit’s empowerment gives us more than the
boldness to speak about Him. It also provides whatever we need to make us the
kind of Christians whose lives bring credibility to our message — to
honor Him with our lives!
All Scriptures NASB, unless otherwise noted. Italics added
by the author.
RANDY HURST is commissioner on evangelism for the Assemblies
of God and director of AG World Missions Communications.
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