July 29 - August 4
Models for Witnessing
MODELS FOR WITNESSING ABOUND EVERYWHERE. A woman in mainland China leads hundreds of house churches. A dentist in the Philippines establishes more than fifty churches. A church in Texas provides services for deaf people. And a family leaves their country to work among a nonentered people group.
The list of modern witnessing "heroes" is endless. But they all have one thing in common. They serve as witnesses according to their own spiritual gifts, natural talents, and opportunities God places before them, all with a good measure of creativity.
Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example of what it is to witness. The commitment to witnessing manifested by early Christians is also an example for those of us living in the time of the end. It is easy to think that a champion like Paul is a model for witnessing. But what about a deacon? Or a refugee couple from Rome? As we study the book of Acts, we find dynamic models for witnessing that we can follow.
The models for witnessing we will consider this week do not exhaust biblical patterns. But they may inspire us to search for new models.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. StephenFaithful Unto Death (Acts 6:5, 6, 8-15; 7:57-60).
II. The Scattered OnesSharing Wherever They Went (Acts 8:1-5; 11:19-21).
III. Philipthe Evangelist (Acts 8:5, 26, 40; 21:8, 9).
IV. MarkHelpful in Ministry (Acts 12:25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39).
V. Aquila and PriscillaAlways Hospitable (Acts 18:1-3, 24-26).
MEMORY TEXT: "For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord" (Acts 11:24, NKJV).
What words do Acts 6:5, 8 use to describe Stephen?
We do not know exactly what Stephen was doing when the church chose him to be one of the seven deacons. But based on the description of him in Acts 6, we may safely assume that, personally, he had been doing what a person needs to do to sustain a healthy relationship with Christ.
Later, a dispute with Stephen led those who "were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke" to lie against him, to cause further tensions, and finally to kill him (Acts 6:9-12; 7:58). Witnessing can be a risky business.
Analyze Stephen's prayer in Acts 7:59, 60. What major aspect of Christianity did Stephen's last words reflect? Explain how Stephen's prayer was perhaps the best witness he ever gave.
"The prayer for himself was not a request for deliverance, but an affirmation of trust. Though it is in the form of a petition, it is not difficult to see that the petition rests upon a profound trust in Jesus. Not 'Lord, save my life,' but 'Lord, receive my spirit.' It is a prayer that looks forward, not backward. There is no fear in it, only faith. It assumes that whatever happens, Jesus will be there and that he will be adequate to any emergency.
"All he asked was that Jesus should keep his spirit, that through his present trial Jesus should steady him...."The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 9, p. 105.
Such prayers do not come easily. They represent a life of sacrifice and service, a life of dedication and commitment. We cannot think to be a martyr for Christ in death if we will not be a martyr for Him in life.
When Luke wrote the book of Acts, the persecution that began with Stephen's death had ended. The church, however, was soon to be confronted with another period of persecution. Persecution was regarded as a challenge, an opportunity to witness. Tertullian, a Christian living during that later persecution, affirmed that "the blood of Christians is [the] seed" of the church (Apology, chap. 50, p. 55).
Review the qualifications required by the apostles for church officers (Acts 6:3). Which of them is more important for witnessing? Why? How can a person fulfill that condition? How can you model certain aspects of Stephen's witness?
After Stephen's murder, persecution broke out, and the Christians were forced to flee Jerusalem. Read Acts 8:1-5 and 11:19-21. If your Bible has a set of good maps, determine how far they fled. Then list three ways in which the witnessing of these people serves as a model for us.
Antioch was the greatest city of Asia, made so in part by its position on the Orontes River approximately 15 miles (24 km) from the Mediterranean Sea. It was the headquarters of the Roman prefect of Syria and a large community of Jewish people for whom Herod the Great constructed a marble colonnade running the length of the city. It also boasted of chariot races and its worship of the goddess Daphne, whose temple reigned in the beautiful laurel groves five miles from town. That a great number of people in Antioch accepted Christ is a testimonial to the witnessing skills of the scattered Christians who settled there.
"When they were scattered by persecution they went forth filled with missionary zeal. They realized the responsibility of their mission. They knew that they held in their hands the bread of life for a famishing world; and they were constrained by the love of Christ to break this bread to all who were in need."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 106.
Persecution has always aroused the church for witnessing. Where peace and comfort prevail, it seems that the church easily develops a false sense of security that does not motivate believers to pray and to witness with a sense of urgency.
Why wait for persecution to force you into witnessing? If you are not witnessing now, do you think you will do so when persecution rears its ugly head? If Christians are not now being persecuted in your part of the world, how does the story of the scattered ones inspire you to witness now, during relative peace? If Christians where you live are suffering for their faith, how can this story strengthen you to continue witnessing for Christ?
The deacons were to care for the material needs of the growing church so the apostles could give themselves totally to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). However, Scripture mentions that some of the deacons also were active in gospel ministry. Stephen "did great wonders and miracles among the people" (6:8; 6:10; 7:2-56), and Philip preached, performed miracles, and baptized.
This Philip was not an apostle but one of the seven deacons appointed along with Stephen (8:1, 4, 5). In commenting on his example, let us consider Revelation 22:17: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come." "The charge to give this invitation includes the entire church. Every one who has heard the invitation is to echo the message from hill and valley, saying 'Come.' It is a fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends alone upon the ministry.... Why is it that many more do not respond to the call? Is it because they think themselves excused in that they do not stand in the pulpit? Let them understand that there is a large work to be done outside the pulpit, by thousands of consecrated lay members."The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 110, 111.
To what three cities did Philip go in his attempts to obey the gospel commission? Acts 8:5, 26, 40. What does his willingness to do so tell us about him?
Israel was composed of three main regionsGalilee to the north, Samaria in the middle, and Judea in the south. Samaria, the city, in the region of Samaria, had been the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C., Assyria defeated the northern kingdom, killed many of the Jewish people, and carried others off to Assyria. Those who remained married those who helped to repopulate the area. Their children are the Samaritans we read about in the Bible. When the Jews returned to Samaria after the exile ended, a deep prejudice festered between them and these offspring. Yet despite such hatred, Jesus witnessed to them, as did Philip.
How were Philip and his family known in the church? Acts 21:8, 9.
|How can deacons, elders, and deaconesses participate in missionary activities? How can professors, carpenters, nurses, students, secretaries, farmers, children, mechanics, etc., participate in the work of saving souls? How can you become involved in a specific evangelistic project in your community?|
Acts 11 ends by saying that Barnabas and Saul went from Antioch to Jerusalem, taking relief funds for the church there. Acts 12 is like parentheses. It could have started off, "Meanwhile, in Jerusalem..." then proceeded with the story of Peter's deliverance from prison. The end of the chapter closes the parentheses, declaring that "Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry" (12:25). There John Mark joined them to be their helper (Acts 12:25; 13:5). Because Mark's mother frequently opened her home to the apostles, he would already have spent much time with many of the well-known people of the early church.
What happened with John Mark in Perga? Acts 13:13. What did Barnabas propose at a later date? Acts 15:37-39.
"This desertion caused Paul to judge Mark unfavorably, and even severely, for a time. Barnabas, on the other hand, was inclined to excuse him because of his inexperience. He felt anxious that Mark should not abandon the ministry."Conflict and Courage, p. 348.
Scripture offers no concrete explanation concerning why Mark returned to Jerusalem. But Acts 13:14 perhaps gives us a clue. The road to Pisidian Antioch was located on a plateau 3,600 feet (1,080 meters) above sea level. The only road there was a difficult passage through the Taurus mountains. And if that wasn't bad enough, the route was haunted by criminals. Perhaps the knowledge that this would be the next part of their journey convinced John Mark to return home. (Read The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 169, 170.)
Read what Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; and Philemon 23, 24 have to say about John Mark. What conclusions about his experience can we draw from this information?
Perhaps John Mark's most important contribution to the church was the writing of the gospel named after him. There may be several John Marks in our churches who could become church leaders if they were given a chance to serve.
|Are you ever tempted to quit doing something that you started for the Lord when it gets to be too difficult? Have you ever been afraid of continuing a project that you started for Him? How can John Mark serve as a model for your experience and give you courage to continue?|
What do the facts about Aquila and Priscilla's origin, birthplace, previous residence, and an emperor's decree tell you about this couple? Acts 18:1-3.
Paul went to Athens alone, leaving behind Silas and Timothy. Soon he discovered a couple, Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, with whom he had much in common. They worked at the same trade. They were the same nationality. They were well-born, and they were refugees. Priscilla and Aquila had been driven from Rome; Paul from other cities because of his witnessing.
When Paul returned to Palestine, the couple went with him as far as Ephesus. There they met Apollos.
What do you understand about this couple's gifts, ministry, and commitment to God's work from their relationship with Apollos? Acts 18:24-26. (Also see Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19.)
Acts 18:26 tells us that Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside, most likely meaning that they took him home with them. Can you imagine what they said to him? "They shared from their own experience that the same Jesus whom Apollos had preached was alive. Surely they explained the profound fulfillment of the atonement of Calvary, the victory of resurrection morning, and the infilling of the Spirit of the Lord at Pentecost. Jesus Christ was alive! He was not a dead hero or even a resurrected but departed Savior. He was present, and the power of His presence was not around but within the minds and hearts of His people."Ogilvie, Acts: The Communicator's Commentary, p. 271.
Priscilla and Aquila functioned well as a team. Evidently they shared their views of service and supported each other in ministry. In Corinth they used their own home for church meetings (1 Cor. 16:19). The fact that Paul mentions the couple in several letters indicates that he considered them to be valuable lay workers in the churches to which they belonged.
The success of the gospel was due, among others things, to Paul's encouragement of people like Aquila and Priscilla to use their gifts. Notice that Paul "went to see them" (Acts 18:2, NIV).
|How can you model Aquila and Priscilla's witnessing example? What does their example teach us about teamwork in witnessing?|
FURTHER STUDY: Explain how the people in the following texts are good models for us to imitate in the area of witnessing: Daniel 3:8-18; Mark l2:41-44; John 4:5-29.
Read any or all of the following: The Acts of the Apostles, "The First Christian Martyr" pp. 97-102; "The Gospel in Samaria" pp. 103-111; "From Persecutor to Disciple" pp. 112-122.
"Through the ages that have passed since the days of the apostles, the building of God's temple has never ceased....
"Paul and the other apostles, and all the righteous who have lived since then, have acted their part in the building of the temple. But the structure is not yet complete. We who are living in this age have a work to do, a part to act.
"Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that the Saviour desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and His character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour's love. All heaven is waiting for men and women through whom God can reveal the power of Christianity."The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 598-600.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by reviewing the lives of the people we studied this week and stating why they are good models for us to follow in the area of witnessing. Which person's life inspires you the most to witness, and why? Because of what you learned about witnessing from this person's life, what will you do differently in your witnessing?
Being a faithful Seventh-day Adventist in Malawi is not easy. Jobs are hard to find, and most work places remain open on Sabbath. It takes great faith to walk away from a job on Friday afternoon, not knowing if the job will be there on Monday. Youth applying for work often are tempted to hide their religion for fear they will lose the job before they even get a chance to prove themselves.
A strong youth organization in the church is crucial to maintain ties with God during these difficult times. The youth group at one church in Blantyre, Malawi was organized to encourage spiritual growth and outreach. One of its most powerful ministries is its prayer corp. When a member of the group has a Sabbath or other spiritual problem, the entire group comes together in prayer. And knowing that friends understand the difficulties and are praying has helped several young people grow in faith and strength. One of them is Daniel.
Daniel had been a faithful member until he went to work at a new job. Then he began missing church and youth meetings. The prayer corp began praying for him. Friends stopped by with encouragement and literature. Daniel appreciated the visits and prayers. He explained that he was negotiating with his employer to have Sabbaths off and hoped he would soon have a breakthrough. But friends noticed that he came to church less and less.
Then one Sabbath morning Daniel came to church and reported that his sister was sick and he must go home immediately. He asked his friends to pray for her.
The next Sabbath Daniel was back in church. He told his friends that his sister was seriously ill but had been glad to see him. "She asked me to pray for her before I left," he said. He paused a moment, then continued. "I know she is dying, but she will die in Jesus." The peace on his face told of a faith that had grown.
Daniel was not in church the following week. But later he told his friends why. "My sister died Sunday. On Sabbath she told my dad that she was dying. But she promised him she would not die on Sabbath so that he would not need to make funeral arrangements on that day. God let her live until early Sunday. She died peacefully, knowing that God accepted her."
Daniel learned what was really important. Following his sister's death he told his employer that he would no longer work on Sabbaths.
Beverly Herbrandson Koester, a former missionary in Malawi, is a teacher's aide at Atholton Adventist School in Maryland.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness
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