The Faithful Witness: (1) Our Calling

February 1, 2004 / No. 3187

Dear radio friends,

     Every member of the church has both the privilege and the calling to be a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are to do this by the very example of our lives, first of all, or, what the Bible calls, our conversation.  The word “conversation” in the Bible reflects the truth that our life says something.  It says something about God.

     We read in I Peter 2:12, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles:  that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”  The world beholds the life of those who testify and confess the gospel.  Our life must be a clear and shining witness of that gospel.

     Our witness is not only our lifestyle, but also our words.  We are to speak and to leave behind us a witness, in our words, of the truth of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Every member of the church, both old and young, not just the minister and elders, but all the members are called of God to be personal witnesses of the truth of the gospel.

     We read, for example, in Isaiah 43:12, “ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”  Again, in Acts 1:8 these words of the ascending Christ:  “and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  It is, therefore, the privilege and the duty of every believer to be a witness of the gospel.

     Both of the passages in Isaiah 43 and Acts 1 that I have just quoted to you bring out the honor and the grace of God in making us His witnesses — witnesses of the gospel of His Son.  They also bring out the calling or duty that all of us have as members of the church.  The Scriptures teach us that the church on earth has the duty and the privilege from the ascended Lord Jesus Christ to preach the gospel.  For this, Christ has given to the church the special office of the minister of the Word, or preacher and pastor, as we read in Ephesians 4:11 and 12, that He has given to the church pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints.  Again, we read in I Corinthians 1:21 that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”  The idea there is not that the content of the preaching is foolishness.  It is the truth of God.  But many men would say, “What a foolish way of spreading forth the truth of the gospel — through preaching!”  Yet, we know from the Scriptures that God has called the church to preach the gospel.  This is the chief and primary way whereby God builds up His church.  So the apostle Paul continues in I Corinthians 9:17 to say that “a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me,” that is, God had appointed the means through which He will accomplish His saving purposes, and that means is the preaching of the gospel committed to the church.

     But it is also true, and it is not in opposition to what I have just said, that Christ has also sent each member of the church to be a witness, a faithful witness, of the gospel, of all the things that we have seen and heard, as we read in Acts 4:20.   As we have heard the living Word of God preached to us, so also that Word, living now in our heart, is to be our witness before the world.

     Our witness, then, is broad and all embracing.  We are to witness not to some but to all whom God places before us — rich and poor, neighbor and stranger, those who are not Christians and perhaps even those who are Christians but need still to be shown the more complete way of salvation.

     Our witness must be faithful.  It must be according to the truth of God’s Word.  But we must also be faithful witnesses.  We must use the opportunities that God has given to us, as members of His church, to witness of the gospel.  For Christ has given to each member of the church also an office — the office of all believers (of prophet, priest, and king).  And it is in this capacity of believers that we have the commission to witness.  When Christ instructed the church to go and to make disciples of all nations, He gave that great commission to the entire church, so that every member must face this calling as a solemn duty before God.  Pastors and missionaries must make disciples by preaching and by baptism.  And members of the church are also involved in making disciples by their witnessing.  This is a privilege and a calling that is held before us in the Scriptures.

     Do you hold it before your eyes?  Do you seek to be a faithful witness?  Is this something that you grow in?  Do you find a desire worked in you more and more that you be like the apostles, who in Acts 4:20 (when they were commanded that they may not speak in the name of Jesus) responded:  “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”?  As the hope of eternal life is within each child of God, so also that hope more and more must shine out of us in this world of darkness.

     To be a faithful witness of the gospel, then, is an important aspect of our Christian calling and life.  We certainly have many things to do from our Lord.  We must grow in grace personally.  We must work diligently in our occupations.  We must raise our family and bring up our children in the fear of the Lord.  We must seek the things of the church and of Jesus Christ.  And we are to be witnesses — not in addition to all of those things that I mentioned — but our lives must be lived in such a way that they are constantly giving a testimony before the world, before our children, before the church, of the Lord who has loved and saved us.  And we must use the opportunities that God gives to us to speak of Him who is our God and our Savior.

     It is very crucial, as we consider our calling to be witnesses, that we do so under the authority of God’s Word.  For the subject of evangelism and witnessing can, perhaps, raise certain red flags due to false ideas and methods so abundant today concerning evangelism and witnessing.  Much of witnessing and evangelism today, throughout the church world, is tied to the false doctrines of Arminianism, that is, of “freewillism,” the false and unbiblical idea that it is the sinner who makes his decision for Christ and that Christ cannot save a sinner without the sinner first exercising his free will.  There are also unbiblical methods employed today in what is being called the “user-friendly” church.  And there is the idea that the church must conform itself to the world in order to attract the world into the church, thereby ignoring the majesty and glory of God and the reverence which is His due.  There are emotion-based decisions.  There is witnessing which proceeds from the idea that people must be pressed for a decision, that each Christian then becomes something like a salesman, to see if he can make a sale for Jesus Christ.

     There is abundant error.  But error must not make us shy away from that which is right.  Error must not rob us of the truth.  We must not react to error by beginning to look at our personal call to witness with suspicion.  Biblical principles must be brought to bear on our hearts.  And out of those principles must come a heartfelt, warm, and faithful witness of the truth of our God.

     Each one of us is called to be a witness.  “Ye,” said Isaiah in chapter 43, “are my witnesses.”  And, again, our Lord and Savior in Acts 1:8, “And ye shall be witnesses unto me.”

     The word “witness” in the Scripture has a legal connotation.  A witness is one who, first of all, has seen something and knows something.  Secondly, a witness is one who has been called upon to testify of what he has seen and known.

     The word is familiar to us in the court of law.  The defense or prosecution will bring forth witnesses, that is, people who have firsthand knowledge, who have seen or heard.  Now, placed upon the stand, they are given the legal obligation, the responsibility to speak and to say what they have seen.  Failure to do so is punishable by the law.

     So also are we witnesses of Christ.  That implies, first of all, that you and I, as Christians, as members of the church, have been given to see and know the things of the Spirit of God, the things of Christ.  I Corinthians 2:12 makes this plain.  “Now we,” we read, “have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”  A faithful witness of Jesus Christ is therefore one, and can only be one, who has received the grace of God unto salvation.  That comes out very powerfully in the passage in Isaiah 43.   In the opening verses of that beautiful chapter, God speaks of His eternal, His sovereign, His powerful love toward the elect.  He says to them, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, … I have loved thee.”  And the passage goes on to speak of the fact that God, irresistibly, calls these unto Himself and gathers them from the east and the west and says to the earth, Give up and bring My saints, My precious ones to Me.  Then God says in verse 10, By grace, you are the ones whom I have chosen.  And I have chosen you that ye might know and believe Me and understand that I am God.  Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me.  I am the Lord and beside Me there is no savior.  And because all of this, ye are My witnesses, that I am God.

     God is speaking here of the most basic, the most majestic, the most awesome of all truths.  He is the living God.  He is our God.  And we know that because He has revealed Himself to us out of His love and grace.  Now, because you have been given to know the truth that God is God, you are My witnesses, saith the Lord.  You see, it is not something that, perhaps, you might or might not want to do.  It is a calling.  You are the witnesses of God.

     But more.  A witness is not only one who has been made a witness by grace, but also one who has been empowered to speak by Christ.  That is very comforting.  Let us understand that.  That is also brought out in Acts 1:8 where Jesus is speaking as the ascended Lord and the One who promises to His disciples the Holy Spirit.  Previously, throughout His ministry as well, the Lord had spoken of the fact that His disciples would be placed before the unbelieving world to leave a testimony for His sake. He said to them that at that time He would give to them a mouth and wisdom that all of their adversaries would not be able to gainsay or resist.

     Then, at the ascension, He says, “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 Judea, and in Samaria.”  The teaching of the Scriptures here is simply this:  Christ has promised to give to each believer the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit empowers us, that is, gives to us understanding of the Holy Scriptures and convicts us of those Holy Scriptures, and therefore qualifies us to be the witnesses of Jesus Christ.

     The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church does not refer to some unique blessing for a special few of the church in some baptism of the Holy Spirit so that now members of the church can speak in tongues.  That is not the truth.  But the truth is, the coming of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ granted to the heart of each and every believer to convict him of the truth, to give him to believe the truth of the Holy Bible, to give him to know the Lord Jesus and His sovereign and eternal love, and then to empower him to speak of that love of Jesus Christ.

     The idea of the Holy Spirit today is that His blessings are something that you conjure up by some kind of emotional swaying together in a circle and then you get some type of special illumination of the Spirit.  No, that is not the biblical teaching.  The biblical teaching is that the gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon the heart of the believer by grace and illumines, makes known, the Scriptures to his heart so that now he is empowered to be a witness of God.  God has given to us to know the things of His kingdom.  He has convicted us of those things through the Holy Scriptures.  He has given us to know that He is God, that Christ is His eternal Son now in the flesh, and that He is the only truth and salvation.  We have received, then, the anointing of the Holy Spirit so that each believer is a prophet in Jesus Christ.  Thus, we have a spiritual duty, a calling, which God works in our hearts:  we are to speak of the things that we have seen and heard.

     Christ is the true and the faithful witness of God.  Christ is the prophet sent of God to declare the truth of God.  But we share, as members of the church, as true Christians, in the anointing of Jesus Christ.  And we are made prophets so that we may witness and speak of Him.  That is our calling.

     God, by His grace, has made each believer to be a witness both in his conduct (the way he lives) and in his words, to his neighbors and to his associates, of the truth of God and of His Son Jesus Christ.

     Ye are My witnesses.  Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.

     The question is not, then, am I a witness, should I witness of my faith?  That is not the question.  You are a witness.  And, by God’s grace, you are saved in order that you might be a witness.  The question is this:  Am I a faithful witness, not only faithful in the content of my witness, but faithful also in the use of the opportunities given to me to witness?  Am I faithful to my calling?

     God has given to His church the call to preach the Word, through the preaching of the gospel by one who is sent by the church, a pastor.  That is primary in God’s saving purposes.  And all of our witnessing, as we are going to see in future messages, must also direct those to whom we witness to the church.  For the preaching of the gospel is the primary means of God in the sanctifying of God’s people.

     But God has also sent forth every believer and member of the church to be a witness, to speak of the truth of the gospel.  Throughout all of our life, in our conduct and in our words, God has said, “This people have I formed for myself.  They shall show forth my praise.”

     If you ask me, “Exactly, then, how do we perform this calling?” (in the coming weeks we are going to look at that more carefully), let me say at least a few things today.

     There are three things that we should hold before us.  First of all, there is the need that we have to reach out to our neighbors and to our associates.  Now a careful distinction must always be held before us.  The Bible makes very plain that we are not to have friendships with the world, which would deny our witness or corrupt our souls.  That is, we must not join with an unbelieving neighbor in their activities.  But our avoidance of such ungodly friendships must not take away from us our calling that, as we have opportunity, we are to witness to them.  And any effective witness to our lost neighbor necessitates contact with him, which can be interpreted as genuine concern for his spiritual well-being and for him.  It takes much effort to build bridges with such a neighbor and to bring the truth of God’s Word to him.

     Secondly, when such contact has now been established, we must know how to speak of the gospel and share our faith.  That means that we must daily be studying the Scriptures ourselves and daily seeking to understand that glorious faith.  Involved is membership in the church.  And not just any church, but in that biblical, that Reformed church, that church that proclaims without shame the majesty and the glory of God in all things.

     Then, as we live in the Word and know the truth, we are to seek to explain that truth to the person with whom we have made contact.  No one can take your place.  That is your call at that time.  You may want, as you continue to witness and to speak to them of the truth, to invite them to the church.  You should begin, perhaps, by inviting them to a Bible-study in the church or, perhaps, to offer to study the Bible with them personally.  Bring them to a Bible-study of the church, if they are willing to come, for sometimes, for one who has never been to church at all, to come to church is a most daunting thing.

     Then, as you seek more and more to establish that tie and to speak to your neighbor of the truth of the gospel, you do invite them to come with you to the church.  That is our goal — to get that person interested in coming to the church to hear the preaching of the gospel and to worship the living God.

     Then, as that person comes with you, you must show genuine interest in him.  Sit next to him.  Help him find the Bible text (he might not know the books of the Bible).  Sit next to him and help him.  Find the songs in the Psalter for him.  And, afterwards, after the sermon, be willing to sit down with him to discuss with him what he has heard and explain it to him.  And, under the blessing of God, as this person becomes interested in the truth, then you want to take him with you, perhaps, to a membership class in the church for formal training in the Word.

     Ye are My witnesses, saith God.  Ye shall be witnesses of Me, says the Lord Jesus Christ.

     May God give us enthusiasm and may God give us a heart to be faithful to this calling.

     Father in heaven, we do thank Thee today for Thy Word.  And we ask for its blessing upon our hearts.  Thou hast opened the truth of the Scriptures by grace to us.  Thou hast revealed to us the things of the Spirit of Christ.  We pray now that as those things are known to us personally, we might respond with the apostles, “We cannot but speak of the things that we have seen and heard.”  Bless, then, each one of us in our calling as members of the church to be witnesses of the truth.  Amen.