My Spouse and I Are Divided Over Church. What Should We Do?
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My Spouse and I Are Divided Over Church. What Should We Do?

What Makes for a Good Testimony? {Acts 21:37–22:22}

Imagine being the apostle Paul. A violent mob has viciously beaten you, nearly to death. But in God’s providence, Roman soldiers intervened and carried you toward safety. Would you seek permission to turn and address your persecutors? Paul did. The speech he gave is his personal testimony. Yes, he’s defending his innocence against false charges (Acts 21:28), so his speech deliberately proves his interest in historic Judaism (e.g. Acts 22:3, 12, 17). But he’s also defending God’s gracious work in his life.

A testimony—which every Christian has—is a personal account of the facts of God’s redemptive work. Here’s the problem: many of us have not been trained to testify about God’s grace, nor encouraged to do so. But God calls even ordinary, untrained people to testify about his grace (John 4:39). Paul’s testimony in Acts 21:37–22:22 shows three things we must do to witness well.

Care about the Lost

As Paul was being carried away from the frenzied mob, he implores the commander to allow him to give a speech. Luke’s word for “implore” is the same word a desperate father once used to beg Jesus to heal his demon-possessed son (Luke 9:38). Why did Paul beg the commander to allow him to speak to this violent crowd? Because he cared for the lost. He had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart for unbelieving Jewish people (Rom. 9:1). His “heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [was] that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1). Without such a burden for the lost, we will likely keep our testimonies to ourselves.

The calling of every Christian is to “declare how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). When Jesus said those words to a former demoniac, he trusted that the man truly wanted others to know the freedom he had experienced. He also trusted that the man would obey his new, loving master. If God cares for the lost, so must we. Pray that you would share God’s heart for the world and profess the Savior who rescues perishing people.

Connect with Your Audience

Paul doesn’t use gimmicks to gain a hearing. But he purposefully connected with his audience (cf. Acts 17:22–23).

First, Paul spoke a common language (Acts 22:2). Greek may have been his native tongue but that wasn’t the language of his people. Increasingly, Christians use a different vocabulary from non-Christians. We can’t assume people understand basic biblical words like “sin.” So let’s define it, and other words like it. Sin is failing to do what God commands or doing what he forbids.[1] Christians are translators; we should speak biblical concepts in familiar ways.

Second, Paul was courteous. He called his audience “Brothers and fathers” (Acts 22:1; cf. Acts 7:2; 1 Tim. 5:1). The gospel itself is offensive—that can’t be avoided. But for his part, Paul aims to show “perfect courtesy” so that his manners would not diminish his message (Titus 3:2).

Third, Paul presented his credentials. It mattered to his audience that he was a Jew, raised in Jerusalem, and tutored by Gamaliel. He became a Pharisee and was zealous toward God, “as all of you are this day” (Acts 22:3). We won’t always have these kinds of connections with people to whom we witness. And we certainly mustn’t stretch the truth. Still, it is wise to highlight common ground where possible.

Communicate Your Experience

Our stories will differ from Paul’s, but the essentials will not. Christian experience orbits around three truths: the greatness of our sin, how we are saved from our sin, and how we must serve God for such deliverance.[2]

Talk about your sin. Paul once thought he was good. In his spiritual blindness, he could not see that his zeal was contrary to God. But God revealed the truth: Paul was actually persecuting Jesus. Every believer comes to realize that only God is righteous. But the God that sinners must fear (Matt. 10:28) can also save us from our sin.

Talk about salvation. When God confronted Paul’s sin, Paul asked a vital question: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). Ananias gave this answer: Call on God’s name (Acts 22:16). God was merciful to Paul. God struck him blind. He could have struck him dead! But by grace, he washed away Paul’s sins, as his baptism signified.

Talk about service. Those who hear and see the Righteous One must also “witness for him to everyone” of what they have “seen and heard” (Acts 22:14–15). Like ours, Paul’s life of service though witnessing would be hard. But from the first threat of the Jews until Paul drew his final breath, God stood by his beloved servant.

Paul could tell his audience: I was in the same place as you. I thought I was good. But I learned that sinners like me don’t deserve to live. So I called on the Lord. He answered, purifying me by Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death. Now I want to serve him completely.

Is that your testimony? Who will you tell? God may never call you to preach to an angry mob. But perhaps God will use your testimony to lead another sinner from death to life. Your calling is simple. Care. Connect. Communicate.

[1] Cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A 14.

[2] Cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 2.

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William Boekestein

William Boekestein is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has written several books and numerous articles. He and his wife, Amy, have four children.