The apostles began their witness of Jesus to the world from the city of Jerusalem.
Apostolos (apostle) was the word used in ancient Greece to denote an envoy, ambassador, messenger, or delegate. Inherent in the term is "one sent" with special orders to represent the views or ideas of a sending party. It is used in the New Testament to describe the 12 men Jesus selected and sent to preach the gospel of salvation to all nations. It is also employed by the Holy Spirit in a broader sense than the twelve to refer to "messengers" of churches (see 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25).
The word first occurs in the gospel of Matthew with reference to the twelve whom Jesus sent to the cities of the Jews to announce repentance, peace, and the coming of the prophetic kingdom. "These twelve Jesus sent forth," Matthew tells us (10:2,5). They, by the power of miraculous signs, represented Jesus and delivered His message to His own nation of Jews. This limited commission was preparatory to a greater commission that would order them to go to all nations and every creature (Matt. 28:28-20; Mk. 16:15,16).
The Book of Acts opens with a discussion of this mission. It begins with the final appearance Jesus made to the twelve before He ascended on a cloud unto the right hand of God. His last words promise the coming of the Holy Spirit and outline for the apostles their work as witnesses to the uttermost part of the earth. "But ye," He said, "shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Their qualifications as witnesses are highlighted later in the chapter when Mathias is chosen to take the place of Judas who had fallen through transgression and death. To take the place of the Lord's betrayer one must have traveled with Jesus from His baptism to the ascension and must have been a witness of His resurrection (Acts 1:16-26). Their message, though given by the Holy Spirit, was to be the testimony of eyewitnesses. So it was in Jerusalem 10 days later when they declared the resurrection of Jesus from the dead -- "whereof we all are witnesses," they declared (Acts 2:32).
These were men who had observed firsthand God's approval of Jesus by mighty works, wonders, and signs (2:22); who saw Him nailed to a cross by wicked men and set before the multitudes to die (2:23); who visited the empty tomb and met with Him on several occasions after His resurrection (2:24-32); who were left standing on the Mount of Olives after observing Him ascend into the heavens on the cloud (2:33-36); and who received the Holy Spirit and spoke in the Spirit's words as Jesus had so often promised (see Matt. 10:19-21; Jno. 14:16,17, 25,26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:1- 5, 8).
Jesus had announced to them the night of His betrayal that they would receive the Holy Spirit and "He shall bear witness of Me." He also told them that they would "bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning" (Jno. 15:26,27). And this witness, He said in His final words, will begin "in Jerusalem" (Acts 1:8).
It was "they" who "were all together in one place" at Jerusalem when from heaven suddenly came the sound of "the rushing mighty wind" that filled all the house where they were sitting. Immersed in the Spirit, as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:5), tongues like fire sat upon each one of them and they began to speak in all the languages of the devout Jews who had assembled there for the Pentecost feast (Acts 2:1-8).
Having tarried in the great city of the Jews to be clothed with powr from on high in fulfillment of the Father's promise, the apostles as witnesses began preaching "repentance and remission of sins" in the name of Jesus "beginning from Jerusalem" (see Lk. 24:47-49; Acts 2:38).
And this, as Peter noted at the household of Cornelius, was the "beginning" (Acts 11:15). They continued their witness in Jerusalem (Acts 3:15; 4;19,33; 5:32) until the time they were to go out into Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth.
The witness of the twelve at Pentecost can never be equaled at any time or place. This was the city where Jesus was crucified, buried, guarded in the tomb, raised from the dead, and made His appearances to many witnesses including the apostles. It was there they confronted the ones who knew, arrested, crucified, and buried their Lord; it was there that, if a hoax, the story of Jesus could have been stopped. But all the officials could do was threaten, beat, and imprison these men. The one thing they could not do was disprove their testimony. It stood there and then -- and it stands today some 2000 years later.
By L.A. Stauffer in Biblical Insights, Vol. 4, No. 10, Oct. 2004.
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