Calvary Baptist Church Exhortation
Sunday April 19th 2020
“Witnesses of the Resurrection”
Text: Acts 10:39-43
By: Elder John Robert Lee
The early chapters of Acts are the first testimonies to the public of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the implications of that great, unique event. The Apostles repeat over and over, at various times and in various ways: “..you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15).
In our text, the Apostles remind the Jews, as they preached in Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down in power on the disciples and the Church was born, that they had been present when Jesus went about doing good, performing mighty works and teaching great truths about God and Himself: “And we are witnesses of all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem..” (vs 39a). They were with Him. They saw and heard.
They go on to also let the listeners know that they had witnessed the humiliation, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus of Nazareth: “They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree” (vs 39b), which was recognized in the Old Testament as a great curse on someone.
And then they go on to make what must be still the most astounding declaration in human history: “..but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” (vs 40, 41.). I have always loved that image of our Lord eating and drinking with His friends after He rose from the dead. Try to imagine this, put ourselves in their place! Your Master whom you had walked with, talked with, listened to, watched do mighty works, saw crucified and buried, now in front of you, alive!!!! But this is what happened! This is what they were witness to. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter, in the first great sermon of the church, asserted and affirmed fearlessly, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32.)
But their testimony and witness go on to declare the great Commission, the great Gospel given them by Christ to take to the whole world: “And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the One appointed by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name.” (vs 42,43). This Risen Jesus is Lord, Judge and Saviour, appointed and anointed by God.
Here, in these early chapters of Acts we find the heart and root of the Gospel of the Grace of God in Christ alone, and here already we have the promise of God’s coming Judgement on the world and the new creation that He is making through Christ. Justification, being made righteous, forgiveness of sins, redemption through His blood, reconciliation to God is proclaimed here in these testimonies. Everything that follows in the New Testament – the history of the early Church, the great epistles, the great prophecies – all have their foundation here.
Indeed, as Peter was to make clear from those earliest days of the Gospel proclamation “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12.) And the Apostle Paul, in the great Resurrection chapter of his letter to the Corinthians will say, absolutely, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…but in fact Christ has been raised from the dead..” (1 Corinthians 15: 14-20.)
The message of Easter which was recently celebrated, the announcement again to the world by today’s witnesses, the faithful Church, changes everything. The world used to speak of “B.C. and A.D.”, “Before Christ and Anno Domini, the Year of our Lord.” These days they use “B.C.E. – Before the Common Era.” Secularisation has led to the removal of these designations. But no matter what the world does in its unbelief, it remains true that the world before Christ has gone forever and has been changed irrevocably by Christ’s Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, with the promise of His return as King and Judge. Death the last enemy will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26), death “shall be no more: (Revelation 21:1-4).
In these days of contagion and pestilence, when fear, anxiety, social collapse, death are in every corner of planet Earth, the Church, today’s witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, must take courage, and with boldness, preach the Saving Gospel of Christ the only Lord and Saviour. While this world plunges deeper and deeper under God’s judgement, we look to the Return of Christ, the new heavens and new earth to which we are going. Believers are witness to “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:4-7.)
Today we stand in the shoes of the Apostles and early Church as witnesses of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that it means, represents, promises, warns of. Therefore beloved brothers and sisters, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labour is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58.)