Acts 1: 8 …but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth. 

Who were the “witnesses” here described?

Who are the “witnesses” now and have they changed?

Let’s first start by defining what the term “witness” is.

As used above it is the Greek word “martus” (from which the word martyr comes). One who bears witness (by his death).

And the following from an English Dictionary:

–verb form (used with object)

1. to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception: to witness an accident.

2. to be present at (an occurrence) as a formal witness, spectator, bystander, etc.: She witnessed our wedding.

3. to bear witness to; testify to; give or afford evidence of.


1. an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder, spectator, or eyewitness.
2. a person or thing that affords evidence.
3. a person who gives testimony, as in a court of law.
So, applying the definition and within the context of what was transpiring in those verses, that is, Jesus had gathered (verse 4) the 11 “apostles” (v2-3) (not here being called as “disciples”, but “apostles”)-and “to these” (v3) he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs, appeared “to these” (the apostles) over 40 days and spoke of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (v3).
Let’s look at other Scripture here and let Scripture interpret itself as to what these “witnesses” more closely were meant to witness to. We can already see in the main text above that these witnesses were “My” witnesses, that is witnesses of and from Jesus. The word witness used here is in the noun form. So whilst we assume that witnesses witness, the focus here is on the fact that that is who they were, or what their role was, that is, one of being a witness, as compared with one who witnesses (the verb form). It doesn’t say…and you shall witness for Me (though it is implied that that is what would happen by those who are witnesses), but it is written “…and you shall be My witnesses.”
So, what were those who were witnesses supposed to witness to? In chapter 1 and verse 22 it is spelled out. When Peter spoke of the Psalms describing Judas Iscariot vacating his number as one of the apostles, the apostles understood that another had to take his place (v20). Consider the qualities that had to be met for the replacement apostle as described in verses 21 and 22…”Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us-beginning with the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us – one of these must become a “witness” with US, of His resurrection.”
In chapter 2 and verse 32 Peter is preaching to the multitude who had gathered and who had seen and heard the great outpouring of the Spirit upon those who had received. And Peter said to them (in verse 32), “This Jesus God raised up again to which we are all witnesses.” Again, this shows the fact of them being “witnesses” and is referring to the first hand sighting and bearing testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. Later, also, Paul saw the resurrected Lord, and he too, soon after, became an apostle (a sent one who testified of the resurrection of the Messiah). Peter again, to another multitude (in chapter 3 and verse 15) says the following, “…but put to death the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which WE are witnesses.”
So Scripture makes it clear that whilst all can be baptised with the Holy Spirit, it is now and was then, the role of apostles to be sent forth into all the world, by the Holy Spirit, being empowered from on high, with the affirming testimony of witnessing to the resurrected Jesus, who appears, calls and apoints such ones. For surely it is apostles who go forth into all the world making disciples and not every person who has the call ‘to go’ (1Cor 12:2). For the correct rendering in the Greek of that verse at the end of Matthew is “in your going, make disciples….” that is, the emphasis is on making disciples, not in the going, because apostles already are going-they are the sent ones! So they weren’t being commanded “to go” but that IN their going, they were to make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching…Certainly, it is not a command telling everyone “to go”. That would be silly; no one would be staying then, we’d all be going! Philip (the evangelist) was just ONE person, who went down to Samaria and preached and proclaimed Christ and we are told that all of Samaria came to the Lord. It didn’t need ALL the ‘Christians’ in Jerusalem to go down to Samaria, just ONE-Philip, as that was his role given him by the Holy Spirit. There would have been thousands in Samaria at the time. And then, not even ALL the apostles followed up with laying on of hands for them to receive the Holy Spirit afterward, just TWO apostles came down and did that job! God doesn’t need huge numbers to do His work of evangelism (remember Gideon’s whittled down lot), but He does need HUGE numbers to do what they have been called to do, each in his own called place, each in his own function, each related to the other in a supporting role as ONE body. And when we all function where we are meant to, then the job can get done and get done effectively.
So, who were the witnesses being described in Acts 1:8….they were the apostles (as well as apostles that would come later on the scene, including today!). Who are the ones we think of as being told to go? Again, it is apostles. The apostles are the ones who are sent forth with an eye witness account of the resurrected Messiah. (For if Jesus has not been raised our preaching and faith is useless; we all remain in our sin!). Why are they always sent out in two’s; so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WINESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMERD (Jesus resurrection!) to those who hear the gospel …Matthew 18:16
We all have a responsibility to not quench what the Holy Spirit wants to do and He wants to send forth apostles from local churches, those He is raising up. Paul and Barnabas were first teachers and prophets before they became apostles (see Acts 13:1).  Let’s not call them evangelists if they are apostles, let’s not call them apostles if they are evangelists, and let’s not call everyone pastors if they are not true shepherds (plural) of God’s flock, and where oh where did we get the term missionaries from-let’s stick with what is in Scripture please. Apostles are sent forth not by the agency of man says Paul the apostle (Gal 1:1).  After all, if a church is a church at all, as ordered by God, it will FIRST have apostles, then prophets, then teachers…(1 Cor 12:28). If we miss this mark, we wont see the fulness of what He has for us and indeed for the many lost souls who are out there, from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth. But God will have His way.
Let’s neither fool ourselves by describing what we do as ‘APOSTOLIC’, there is no such word in the Bible. The word is APOSTLE. If we go around labelling things with the adjective ‘apostolic’, we will deceive ourselves into thinking that we are covering that ‘base’, when actually we are not. There is just the one word, and it belongs to an individual person called by God. They are either an apostle or not an apostle. What then is apostolic? Only an apostle is apostolic, but then that’s stating the obvious! Let’s rightly divide the Word of Truth. And where we lack, let’s call on God to supply.
We all can and should be the light and the salt of the earth and we can preach and testify when the situation arises and go here and go there, but let’s take off the unnecessary yoke that pressures you into thinking you have ‘to go’, or have to witness to three people today…be at peace and be led by the Spirit.
“Let’s let apostles be! And go. And make. As they have been commanded to do.”
May God’s will be done.