Over the years I have had many visits from a usually well-dressed couple of people who wanted to discuss Jesus Christ. At times I would answer their questions, but it was always obvious that they believed they knew the truth and wanted to explain it to me. As you might realise, their congregation was named Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they believed that what they were doing was a required part of their calling to be a witness.
The question that arises from this is, do we have a part in witnessing for Jesus Christ and, if so, what is it? First of all, we must know what a witness is. Here are some definitions from various dictionaries of what a witness could be.
- An eyewitness. A person who sees an event and gives testimony about it.
- An expert witness. A person who does not see an event but is highly knowledgeable about a pertinent subject and uses that knowledge in testifying.
- In a religious sense, it can be an open profession of one’s religious faith through words or actions.
In the New Testament Church, the original apostles were eyewitnesses. They lived with Jesus Christ for three and a half years, ate with Him, saw His miracles and were taught by Him personally. He sent them out to the whole world as witnesses. Acts 1:8 reads: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Wherever they travelled, they taught about Christ from their extensive personal experience. The apostle Peter mentions this in 2 Peter 1:16: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” The “we” refers to Peter, James and John who all saw the vision of the transfiguration of Christ on the mountain (Matthew 17:1-9). The apostle John also mentions this in John 1:14.
There are many other passages where the apostles, especially Peter, claimed to be eyewitnesses of the life and teachings of Christ. The apostle Paul was also directly taught by Christ and instructed to be a witness in Rome as well as Jerusalem. Acts 23:11 reads: “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.’”
After these apostles, others were called to continue preaching and witnessing about Christ. An early biblical example is the evangelist Timothy. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 informs us that he was taught what was needed to be an evangelist, but also, that he had known the Holy Scriptures from childhood. While he was not an eyewitness, he would today be called an expert witness. Because of his knowledge and understanding, he was able to preach and teach (2 Timothy 4:2).
In Revelation 2:13, we read about another witness at Pergamos, Antipas. Most old and new versions of the Bible, except basically those related to the King James Bible or the Authorized Version, state that he was “My faithful witness who was killed among you…” This is, of course, where the Editorial’s title comes from. Actually, in three places God names His people as witnesses to the fact that He alone is God (Isaiah 43:10, 43:12 and 44:8).
That is some biblical history of witnesses. But what about us today, what is our role in witnessing? We know the Gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14), and the Church will continue to be a part in that. While the ministry performs most of the preaching of the Gospel, the members support that preaching with their prayers and offerings. But individually, we also have a part to play in the witnessing.
In the sermon of the mount, Christ made this comment about His people, in Matthew 5:14,16: “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Jesus Christ wants us to live our lives as examples to all who see us. He wants us to interact with others in a manner and behaviour that shows a good light on God. In effect, we are to be a witness to God. Notice it does not say many words but good works. They may not understand what this witness means now, but they will understand in the future.
But there is a time to use words. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” If we are seriously asked what we believe and why we believe it, we should be able to respond to their questions in an appropriate and friendly manner. Colossians 4:6 also gives us instructions on how to answer: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how you ought to answer each one.”
So, none of us in this day are eyewitnesses and only a few are called to preach, but all of us should be living our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God. We should be a right example to others by our way of life and behaviour and by the way we answer them. In other words, each of us is to be a faithful witness to God.