Your Testimony is Powerful

Acts 22:1-29

February 5, 2022 | Brian Bill

How many of you have had a root canal?  I had my third one on Monday.  Do you feel my pain?  To say they’re unpleasant is an understatement.  Actually, since becoming a member of the root canal club, I can give testimony that the thought of having a root canal is more painful than the actual procedure due to new techniques and improved methods.

For many of us, we’d rather have a root canal than share the gospel with someone.  The thought of it can make us cringe but when God uses us to share the good news, it’s not so bad, is it?  Today, we’re not going to discover a new technique, but rather a tried-and-true method which has been around for thousands of years.  Our main idea is this: Give God glory by telling the story of God’s grace in your life

  • Listen to this example from Psalm 40:9-10: “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord.”
  • In Luke 8:38-39, after healing the demon-possessed man, Jesus sent him to tell his salvation story: “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”  
  • Jesus said something similar to the Samaritan woman in John 4:39: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’”
  • John 15:27: “And you will also bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • We’ve seen the power of testimony throughout the Book of Acts.  Acts 4:33 says, “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
  • 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
  • 1 John 1:3 speaks of the effectiveness of eyewitness testimony: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.”
    Revelation 12:11 celebrates the power of testimony as a tool in fighting against the devil: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
Your testimony is one of the most effective tools in your evangelism toolbox

People can doubt or debate the Bible or the existence of God, but no one can deny your personal story with God.  Your testimony is one of the most effective tools in your evangelism toolbox.  One dictionary defines “testimony” as, “giving a firsthand authentication of a fact, especially in court.”  It also has the idea of “open acknowledgement,” and is closely related to being a witness.  In Hebrew, it refers to someone who sees something amazing or important.  In Greek, it means, “to answer” and is the word from which we get the word martyr

The word “witness” is the most frequently used word in the Bible to express a believer’s primary role in the world.  Here’s a question to ponder: What would happen if a witness took the stand, was asked for his or her testimony, but never opened their mouth?

There are at least three benefits of a personal testimony.

  • Exaltation of God.  A testimony can stir us to worship.  Psalm 107:1-2: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” 
  • Encouragement for others.  There’s nothing like hearing a testimony when you’re feeling discouraged and even distant from God.  Psalm 71:15-16: “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.  With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.” 
  • Evangelization of unbelievers.  1 Chronicles 16:24: “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” 

Last weekend, we left the Apostle Paul standing on the temple steps.  He had just been falsely accused of bringing a Gentile into the temple, was almost killed, and then arrested by the Romans.  Because he was granted permission to speak to the people, he decided to share his testimony.  As evidence of how powerful a testimony is, Paul’s testimony is recorded seven times in Acts and the epistles.

Please open your Bible to Acts 22 where we’ll see how Paul approached getting the good news out to lost people.  

There are three main parts to an effective testimony which are modeled by Paul in this chapter. We could sum them up with three words:

  • Before – share what your life was like before you became a follower of Christ.
  • How – talk about how Christ saved you.
  • After – speak about what changes Christ has made in your life.

Every Christ follower has a story of grace to tell.  The details are different, but we’re all saved by God’s grace and our testimonies are a direct reflection of the indisputable, life-changing power of the gospel.

In verse 1, Paul begins with gentleness and respect, inviting his listeners to lean forward: “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”  The word “brother” means “from the same womb” and “father” has the idea of model or mentor.  Remember they had just beaten him and yanked him out of the temple.

Paul was experiencing the promise made by Jesus in Matthew 10:19-20: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

By choosing to speak their heart language in verse 2, he engages them emotionally and takes them off-guard: “And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet.”  We could apply Paul’s approach this way – be kind and look for ways to connect to the heart.

1. Before. 

The best way to begin your testimony is talk about what your life was like before Christ saved you.  Listen to how Paul did it in verses 3-5: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness.  From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”

Paul identified himself with them by declaring he is a Jew.  He was born in a world-class city but was educated right there in Jerusalem “at the feet of Gamaliel.”  This phrase means he sat on the ground in humility to learn from the great Gamaliel, a well-known and highly respected rabbi.  He was a doctor of the law and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court.  Paul is “name-dropping” here, much like I do when I tell people Ray Pritchard is my mentor and taught me how to preach.  Paul learned to be accurate in his understanding of the Torah and followed a strict interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures, just like his listeners.

Next, he established how zealous he was, even persecuting members of the “Way to the death.”  Paul used to be one with them in his opposition of Christianity.  This resonated with them because it was their zeal that was causing them to want to kill Paul.  Paul even received warrants from the officials to travel 150 miles away to Damascus to hunt down, arrest, and punish followers of Jesus.  He tormented both men and women, even tearing mothers away from their children.  Paul’s life before Christ included the murder of Christians.

Here are some questions to think through when preparing the before part of your testimony.

  • What were you searching for before coming to Christ?
  • What was your view of God at the time?
  • What was the chief issue, attitude, or problem you were struggling with?
  • How did you try to satisfy your inner needs through unsatisfactory solutions?

Give God glory by telling the story of God’s grace in your life.

2. How. 

Paul spent the bulk of his testimony time on how he came to faith in Christ.  Listen to verses 6-16: “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.” 

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’” 

As Paul described a great light from heaven making an appearance at noon, my guess is his listeners paid attention.  The word “suddenly” has the idea of unexpectedly.  Paul wasn’t searching for God or on a path to learn more about Jesus.  By saying this light came from heaven, Paul described something only God could do.  It was clear everything about Paul’s conversion came from God.  

Paul mentioned he “fell to the ground” in awe and surrender and then he described hearing a voice, which used his Hebrew name, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  This was another connection to his Jewish audience.  To persecute believers is to persecute Christ.

Paul asked two critical questions we should all ask.

  • Who are you, Lord?  His name is Jesus, which means Savior, and His title is Lord, or Master.  Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which fulfilled prophecy, and distinguished Him from other men with the same name.  You must come to grips with Jesus as Lord for Him to be your Savior. 
  • What shall I do, Lord?  Because He is Lord, we must all ask, “What do you want me to do?”  Once we’re saved by the Lord, we must serve the Lord.  Paul did not have an easy-believism kind of faith.  A person does not receive salvation until they come to a place of full surrender, which includes a willingness to do God’s will.

The answer to Paul’s question about what he should do is given in verses 15-16: Be a witness and get baptized.  If you’re a born-again believer, you’re called to be a witness and you’re commanded to get baptized.  The phrase, “be baptized” is emphatic and means, “to cause thyself to be baptized.” The grammatical structure indicates the washing away of sins is tied to calling on the name of the Lord. Baptism is the visible seal of salvation, reminding us of the remission of our sins.  Baptism doesn’t confer salvation; it confirms it. 

Here are some questions to help think through the how part of your testimony:

  • Where were you when the gospel first made sense?
  • What circumstances or events led to your conversion?  
  • What attribute or characteristic of God did you begin to grasp?
  • How did God convict you of sin and show you your need for the Savior?
  • How did you come to salvation?
  • In what specific ways were you led to surrender to the Lord?
  • Who was the Ananias in your salvation story?

Give God glory by telling the story of God’s grace in your life.

3. After. 

After sharing what he was like before meeting Christ and explaining how he met Christ, Paul described how his life had changed in verses 17-21: “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Paul described a time when he wrestled with obeying the Lord’s will.  When he returned to Jerusalem after his three years in Arabia, he went to the temple to pray.  The Lord had made it clear he was to get out of Jerusalem quickly, but Paul thought he could make an impact there because these religious people knew how his life had changed.  In this part of his testimony, Paul demonstrated authenticity because we all think we have better ideas than God does.  Amazingly, you get the feel that Paul is arguing with God.

Interestingly, in verse 19, Paul called him “Lord” but also wanted his own will to be done.  In verse 21, the Lord tells him emphatically how and where he is to live on mission: “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”  God wants His message to go to all nations.

I’ve always wanted to do a deeper study on the word “go” because it appears more than 1700 times in the Bible.  We must be a people who are willing to go because God is a sending God.  Because God is a global God, His heart is for all people everywhere.  

At the mention of “Gentiles,” the religious Jews went berserk, revealing their pride and prejudice.

Here are some questions to help you think through what to include in the after part of your testimony:

  • In what specific ways has God changed you?
  • How is Christ meeting your needs right now?
  • What does your relationship with Christ mean to you?
  • How has His forgiveness impacted you?
  • How does knowing Christ give you purpose in life?

Give God glory by telling the story of God’s grace in your life.

Sometimes things don’t go well when you share your testimony, as Paul experienced in verses 22-24: “Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.’ 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.”  They had cast off their own garments to prepare for throwing stones and flung dust up in the air, which symbolized throwing stones and was a gesture of absolute rage and indignation reserved for punishing blasphemers.

This was Roman flogging, which was much worse than what the Jews did.  Flogging involved using a leather whip, which had pieces of metal or bone attached, designed to shred a criminal’s back.  It sometimes produced death or permanent disability.  This was designed to be like waterboarding, in which they were hoping to elicit a confession.

In verses 25-29 we see what happens next: “But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?’ 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, ‘What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.’ 27 So the tribune came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ 28 The tribune answered, ‘I bought this citizenship for a large sum.’ Paul said, ‘But I am a citizen by birth.’ 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.”

With complete composure, Paul asked the centurion if it was lawful to flog an uncondemned Roman citizen.  When the tribune heard this, he became alarmed and stopped the process.  Because Paul appealed to his rights as a citizen, he eventually appeared before governors and later journeyed to Rome where he gave his testimony to Caesar himself.

Give God glory by telling the story of God’s grace in your life.

Preparing Your Testimony

Before sharing some pointers, which will help you prepare your testimony, I want to mention two resources we posted on Sermon Extras.  One is called, “How to Prepare Your Personal Testimony.”  The other is called, “My Boring Christian Testimony.”  Simple go to the “resource tab” on the website or to “eBulletin” on the mobile app.

Here are 11 guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Pray for wisdom and insight, asking God to give you the right words.
  2. Tailor your testimony to the person you are speaking with, modeling Paul’s approach in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.   I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
  3. Be positive and smile.
  4. Don’t become preachy.  Simply tell your story.  Say, “I” and “me,” not “you.”
  5. Give just enough details to arouse interest.  Reduce clutter where you can.
  6. Avoid “churchy” words and religious jargon.
  7. Be careful about criticizing churches or denominations.
  8. Type out your testimony.  This will help you choose the right words and make sure it flows.  Those who write it out become more confident sharing their story.
  9. Practice giving your testimony in three minutes.  Earlier this week I read Paul’s testimony out loud and was surprised it only took three minutes.  You can always add to it.
  10. Consider ending with something like, “The greatest benefit is I know for certain I have eternal life” or “Now I know all my sins are forgiven.”  This may give you a jumping off point to give a clear presentation of the gospel.
  11. When you’re finished, bring the conversation back to your listener by asking, “Has anything like this ever happened to you?”  If they say no, you could ask, “Would you like it to?”

Wouldn’t you agree there are a lot of drug commercials on TV?  They often begin with a personal testimony about someone suffering from a specific disease and how a particular drug helped them out.  These testimonials seem believable, until we learn the people are usually fake patients who consult with fake doctors dressed in white lab coats, often referred to as “doctor dramatizations.”  After learning what a drug might be good for, the ads consist of rapid staccato-like talk about possible side-effects.  It’s all a bit unnerving.  

These ads make me think of two great foes when it comes to witnessing.

  • All talk, no walk.  We might confess Christ but deny Him by how we live.  Our acting is not fooling anyone.
  • All walk, no talk.  We might cultivate a Christian life but deny Him by not speaking about Him.  
It is necessary to use our lips to preach the gospel and it’s necessary to make sure our lives line up with our lips

I’ve always struggled with the phrase, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”  It is necessary to use our lips to preach the gospel and it’s necessary to make sure our lives line up with our lips.  We must talk the walk and walk the talk. 

As we prepare for communion, I want to ask you three questions.  Have you repented of sin?  Have you received Christ as Savior?  Have you relinquished your life to His Lordship?  Until you’ve done all three, evangelism will be like having a root canal.  

  1. Look back – “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
  2. Look in – “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28)
  3. Look up – “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)
  4. Look around – “This is my body, which is for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)  The “you” is plural.  We’re reminded we are members of the international, intergenerational, multi-ethnic, global body of Christ.
  5. Look Forward – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

We practice open communion here. You don’t need to be a member of Edgewood to participate, but you do need to be born again. 

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?