Acts by Gary DeLashmutt (1995)

Elements of Effective Witness

Photo of Gary DeLashmutt
Gary DeLashmutt

Acts 2



Remind of Acts’ mandate (1:8).  The early Christians were effective in carrying out this mandate.  In fact, several thousand people came to Christ through their witness in the first few days!  This is a testimony not only to the power of the Holy Spirit (LAST WEEK), but also to their effectiveness in being his witness.

Therefore, we should examine how they communicated about Christ.  In Acts 2,3, Luke records two successful examples.  Although each example has some unique elements (as we will see), they embody the key elements of effective witness.  Let’s keep a finger in both of these passages and discover these elements.

A demonstration of God’s power

In both cases, it began with a demonstration of God’s power.  In chapter 2, as we saw last week, he enabled them to speak in foreign languages to Jewish pilgrims.  In chapter 3, he enables Peter to heal a paralytic (read 3:1-11).  Both events draw a crowd, and then Peter capitalizes on this to share a message.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could begin meetings like this with bona fide miracles? I’m not completely sure why God doesn’t do this more often, although we have some explanation of why this is not the case.  Even in Acts, it isn’t the norm.  We obviously can’t tell God what he has to do in this area, and we certainly don't want to fake miracles (like so many have done).

The fact is, though, we do have something very similar!  We have the powerful testimony of God’s power to change our lives!!  This is the normative display of God’s power that attracts people to Christ (read Matt.5:16).

I had to consider Christianity because of the change I saw in my friends. They had a new peace and joy, they had a new freedom and a new sense of purpose. I didn’t admit it to them, but I saw it and it worked on me.  And when I was willing to admit I wanted to change, they were the ones I knew had the answer.

Most of you are here today because you have seen a similar change in someone’s life. 

WARNING: It needs to be an attractive change.  Becoming a self-righteous, nasty fundy is not what God has in mind.

PEOPLE-ORIENTATION: actually love and enjoy people for who they are vs. PEOPLE-USING/AVOIDING

HONEST ABOUT OUR FAULTS (because of our weakness & God’s grace) vs. DEFENSIVE & FALSE FRONTS

If you are a Christian and you are allowing the Lord to work in your life, people see a change in you!  You may not realize it because you are measuring yourself to older Christians, but it is happening and people are noticing. 

>> Because of this, we need to do what Peter did...

Give the credit to Christ

In both cases, when people were attracted by the power of God, Peter took the opportunity to launch into a monologue about Jesus Christ. 

In Acts 2, they asked him for an explanation (2:12), and he answered by explaining that Jesus was responsible for what they had seen and heard (read 2:14-16,32,33). 

In Acts 3, the people were struck, but no one asked for an explanation (3:11).  But Peter offered one anyway (read 3:12,13a,16).  He wasn’t about to take credit for what happened--he gave the credit to Christ.

Many people come to Christ without ever seeing a miracle, but no one has ever come to Christ without hearing the message!  Regardless of what happens, then, we’re going to want to do what Peter did here--tell people about the difference Christ makes.

Some people will actually ask why you’re different, what’s going on here, etc. (like the people in Acts 2).  Others will be struck, but will not ask (like in Acts 3). They are too shy to ask you about what they see in your life.  They will wait until you tell them the difference Christ has made in your life.


Is it arrogant to claim this?  Just the opposite!  It is arrogant not to give credit where it is due.

GINGER: “I’ve noticed you have a great family life--that’s something I’ve always wanted.”  What if I replied, “Thanks, we really enjoy our family.”  This is stealing the credit!  I need to say, “Well, we would never have the marriage or family we have if we had not met Jesus Christ.  He’s the One who has given us the ability to love each other...”

Don’t shy away from the supernatural explanation!  People will assume a natural explanation (RELIGION; WILL-POWER; NATURAL GOODNESS) unless you tell them differently.  They need to know that it’s the living Jesus Christ--and that he can do the same for them.

>> This is what a “witness” is.  The word (marturion) is a legal term meaning to testify to what you have seen and heard.  We need to tell people what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.  And when we do this, we need to be ready to do something else...

Offer evidence for your belief in Jesus

Read 2:22-24.  Peter is explaining what has happened with Jesus Christ.  Even when they put him to death, it couldn’t hold him.  Then he goes into some Old Testament scriptures (read 2:25-29) where David predicted the resurrection of the Messiah (read 2:30-32).  He did the same thing in 3:18,21b-25.

What is he doing?  He’s offering evidence for his assertion about Jesus.  Because it is such an  extraordinary claim, one that ran against the grain of their expectations about the Messiah, he anticipated the need to supply evidence.  This is the kind of evidence they would have appreciated because they were steeped in the Old Testament and believed it was God’s Word.

We need to be ready to do the same thing when we share the amazing claim that Jesus Christ is alive and has changed our lives.

BUMPER-STICKER: “GOD SAYS IT, I BELIEVE IT, THAT SETTLES IT.”  I suppose this may make some impact on people who respect the Bible and know what it says.  But for the vast majority of people in our culture who neither know what it says nor believe it is uniquely inspired, this is really unhelpful.

This is a matter of respect--people have questions and their questions deserve good answers.  We can’t simply insist people see things our way or write them off as hardened sinners. 

This is why Peter (same guy) says 1Pet.3:15 (read).  The word translated “make a defense” apologia, the word from which we get the term “apologetics”--the defense of the Christian faith.  Out of love and respect for others (not to show off or “win”), we need to have answers for people’s questions.  We need to be aware of many lines of evidence so we can offer that evidence which is most helpful to the person with whom we’re talking.

Some Christians say, “I don’t need to study apologetics--I don't have a problem with doubt.”  Well, I’m glad you don’t--but that’s not the only reason you should learn apologetics.  I don’t think Peter had much of a problem with doubt either--but he  knew this material because he loved people and knew they had evidential questions.

There are many lines of evidence.  Christianity is unique in this area of predictive prophecy--both fulfilled (like Daniel 9, copies over 100 years before he came) and unfulfilled.  There is also excellent historical evidence for Christianity, as well as rational and philosophical cases that Jesus is the way to God.  Promote Christianity, The Faith That Makes Sense which communicates several lines of evidence.

>> Sometimes this is the key (RICK MORRIS).  But whether people need evidence or not, we need to be sure to offer them something else...

Highlight God’s grace

We need highlight God’s grace.  That is, we need to make it clear that God is loving, God is forgiving, and God wants to have a relationship with us.  This is what Peter did.

Read 2:36,37.  They thought they’d had it!  But in spite of their complicity in Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter tells them God is prepared to offer them an amazing gift. Read vs 38.  We’ll look at the conditions in just a moment, but notice the offer!  In spite of what they’ve done, God is still prepared to completely forgive them!  He adds that God wants to live inside them, and give them eternal life (see 3:19-21).

This is good news (gospel)--this is what arrests people and draws them.  It’s important to get this news out as soon as possible--because most people think the God of the Bible is only interested in judging them, not in forgiving them and having a relationship with them.  They usually think Christianity is all about keeping certain ethical rules, having a judgmental attitude toward others, etc.  So as soon as possible we need to correct this misconception with the message of grace.

Sometimes I share this and people have no response, or they say “I don’t believe in Christianity.”  That’s OK--I know God’s Spirit is going to take that message and drive it into their hearts, and he’s going to remind them of it when they are willing to admit their need (ME).

Explain how to come to Christ

Notice also that Peter gives them specific instructions on what they need to do to receive this gift.  This is also a key to being effective.  People don't necessarily understand what they need to do, or that they need to do anything.  On their own, they will rarely draw the right conclusion.

“Repent” simply means to change your mind about living in alienation from God.  It means to “turn back to God” (see 3:19). They need to personally speak to God, admit their alienation from him, and ask him for forgiveness and the gift of his Holy Spirit.  They probably think he’s too busy, doesn’t really want to hear from them--but we need to say, “God wants to forgive you, and you can actually speak to him and he’ll hear you...”

What about “and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?”  Baptism simply symbolized the cleansing of God’s forgiveness which is mentioned next.  It was particularly appropriate for these Jews, who were familiar with John’s baptism which communicated the necessity of forgiveness for even God’s chosen people.  But it is not a requirement for salvation.  Not only does this contradict the clear teaching of the rest of scripture (like Gal.2:16 in the context of circumcision)--it also contradicts Peter’s own preaching in 3:19.  Notice that the same two gifts are promised, but the only condition is “turning back to God.”  If Peter believed that water baptism was required for salvation, how could he have omitted it here?

Read 2:40.  Sometimes we have to explain this more than once.  People often just don’t get it the first time.  They may not come to Christ in your presence, but you have told them how to come to him so they know ho when/if they decide to (ME).


I know this causes a lot of irritation with non-Christians.  They sometimes say, “Why don’t the Christians keep their own beliefs to themselves like the rest of the world?”  When you have something this great, and find out that God is loving and personal, and that there’s evidence that it’s true--it’s really selfish to keep it to yourself (CANCER CURE).

While I’m at it, I can’t resist urging those of you who have never met Christ...”be reconciled to God!”