Acts is the premier book for us to learn what the apostles were commissioned to do in evangelism. Luke begins Acts by telling us that they were commissioned to be witnesses unto Christ:
Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
As witnesses unto Christ, they were commissioned to tell people what they themselves had seen and had heard concerning Christ. Luke plainly tells us that Christ Himself showed Himself alive to them repeatedly over a 40-day period in many appearances to them. Acts 1:1-8, therefore, indisputably teaches us that Christ commissioned the apostles to witness to people that they had seen Him alive in those appearances and heard Him speak to them.
Later in Acts 1, Luke informs us that the apostolic company fully understood that what was central in their evangelism was that they were to be witnesses of His resurrection:
Acts 1:21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
No human being was an eyewitness of the actual Resurrection of Christ (the exact moment when Christ rose from the dead).
For the apostles, therefore, to be witnesses (people who tell others what they themselves have seen and heard), they had to tell people not just that Christ rose (something that none of them actually saw or heard in person), but also and especially, that they themselves in person saw and heard Him alive in the Resurrection appearances in which He repeatedly showed Himself to them in the 40-day period between the Resurrection and the Ascension.
The actual Resurrection was not what changed the apostles from their meeting in private to bold, continual witnesses of Christ. What transformed them was that they themselves saw and heard the risen Christ in His appearances to them. Acts 1:1-8 and 1:21-22 thus plainly teach us that testifying to the Resurrection appearances of Christ was central and essential for the apostles to be faithful witnesses to what Christ had commissioned them to do in their evangelism.
Furthermore, Luke provides further confirmation to us about what the apostles held that they had to do in fulfilling the commission that they had been given:
Acts 4:18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
This passage shows that the apostles had as their premier goal to speak what they themselves had seen and heard. We can be certain that their testifying to their eyewitness encounters with the risen Christ was the very center of their apostolic evangelism.
Whenever they possibly could, the apostolic company never just stated that Christ rose–they unendingly testified in addition that they had seen and heard Him in His resurrection appearances to them. Doing so was the essence of how they were commissioned to be witnesses of His Resurrection.
*This post uses extensively and is based on a series of comments that I myself posted elsewhere online concerning this subject.
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