Commentary: The essential nature of a Biblical witness


We have often heard it said, and I believe, that witnessing is absolutely essential to the survival of Christianity.  It is so essential that we are told in Matthew to reach all nations for the Lord.  In Acts 1:8, we are also told that we are given the ability to witness when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.  I think that there are a number of things we should note about this thing called witnessing.  It is the work of the church…the hardest thing to get people to do.  It is also the lifeblood of the church.  Without it, most people would not be led to the Lord Jesus.  It is very, very important, indeed, central to our survival and that is the reason that satan does everything he can to keep the church from witnessing. He doesn’t mind us doing most everything the church is doing today but he does not want us to witness.  Now, if satan fears witnessing that much then, it stands to reason that there must be something to it that he fears.  He knows that if we witness, a certain number of people are going to be won to the Lord.  So, lets discuss this thing called witnessing.  This is vital to our existence as Christian churches no matter the denomination.  It is also vital to each of us personally if we plan to be obedient to the Lord and enjoy His blessings.

I want to ask this question…”Can we compare a witness in today’s world with a witness during the days of Paul the Apostle?  Does it take the same level of desire, trust and spiritual intestinal fortitude as it took for Paul and Silas to go into a synagogue and reason with the people there?  What would be the difference in what we might say and what they said?  Would we go in and say “all you have to do is to believe; have faith”? Scripture says they “reasoned with them three sabbath days…Acts 17:2.  Paul based his witness on facts found in scripture (OT) concerning Christ while we base our witness on emotion by and large.

When Paul spoke to the Philippian jailer, his “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” was stated based on the fact that the Philippian jailer had certainly heard them praying to Jesus and singing hymns in the jail cell.  Then, there is the miraculous loosening of the men who did not flee when the doors were opened.  After experiencing all of this, the man had fact as well as experience to base his belief upon.  Paul was asking him to believe something which was based in facts the man had witnessed himself.  Today, we tell people to believe like the Philippian jailer did as if his belief was simply an emotional response to an invitation.

We tell people to “leave the old way of life behind.” Of course, this is in reference to, sinful desires and wicked lifestyle of life before Jesus saved us.  When the N.T. people were told to “leave the old way of life behind” it certainly included sin, sinful desires and wickedness, but it meant more than that to them.  It meant leaving family, friends, loved ones and possibly their homes and jobs.  That’s why Paul had to reason with them so long and prove Christ to them from their own O.T. scripture.  Their belief cost them possibly everything while ours cost us little.  In fact, where they were persecuted, we are encouraged and often applauded.  Our belief makes far fewer demands than theirs did.  And yet, we possess the same scripture and appeal to the same God and Lord Jesus as they did.  Does this mean that the Lord has changed the standard?  Has He relaxed the level of commitment required of us?  I think not.

In our easy age does Jesus now say, “all you have to do to be saved is ‘just believe.’” When so much has been required of generations before us, do we now have a special deal with God?  The question arises…”Have all the martyrs died in vain?” If present day evangelism is the correct model then were the martyrs’ lives given for little reason at all.  No, they saw their very lives as being enslaved to what they were committed to with that being the Lord Jesus Christ. They died because they were convinced and committed to Christ and not just because they had the degree of faith we are willing to accept today as bringing salvation to a soul.

So, a Biblical witness was predicated upon several things.  First there is a personal trust in the Bible’s information given to us by God concerning Jesus and the need for being saved.  That is followed by a personal experience with the Holy Spirit as He indwells us upon our sincere confession of faith (commitment) to Jesus.  Then, being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, one is given the ability to witness to what happened to them at the point of salvation so that they too will have the ability to witness concerning Christ and his saving power.  When the Holy Spirit takes control of the situation, He brings personal sorrow for sin to the unrepentant and shows him the facts concerning his life.  The Spirit also leads the unsaved to realize that he needs help from Jesus and if he believes in Him and commits his life to Him, he will be born again and heaven bound.

Those claiming Christianity should consider it a privilege to witness as the Lord gave us instructions to do in (Matthew 28: 18-20).  If we don’t do as He told us to do then it will only take one generation for Christianity to cease to exist.  Satan would love that but he will be disappointed and defeated in the end.  I urge all Christians to recommit themselves to the act of witnessing concerning our Lord Jesus Christ.  Your reward will be great when you obey Him.  Here is a sobering thought: when you get to heaven, how many people will you see who are there as a direct result of believing in Jesus when you witnessed to them concerning Him?

So, a Biblical Witness was much stronger and well grounded than our glib…”justaccept Jesus”….”Just believe”.  We are implying that salvation is very cheap.  It is not cheap.  It cost God His only Son.  No, it’s not cheap but it is free.  It is a gift but not a cheap gift.  What will you do with it?


William F. Harrell is former pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta.