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"Ye shall be Witnesses" (1)

I Robertson, Auchinleck


The Lord Jesus said to His followers, "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, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1.8). None were left in any doubt as to their personal responsibility to the Lord. They were to be His witnesses!

The exhortation

This exhortation to be witnesses surely goes beyond these early disciples and beyond first century Christians. It places the same responsibility upon us, as on all who have gone before. It is all-embracive in its scope including the young and energetic, the middle aged and mature, and even the elderly and infirm. No allowance is made for exceptions. Not everyone can witness in the same way, nor do all have the same opportunities, but each of us has a responsibility to use the openings the Lord gives us to witness for Him. I often think back to a dear old, almost housebound, sister I visited. She felt that there was nothing she could do for her Lord. However, she used to keep a small bundle of tracts on a window ledge next to her front door and everybody, without exception, who knocked on her door received a portion of Scripture and a cheery word in the gospel. She felt the need to respond to His command and, although frail in body and weak in sight, she faithfully used whatever opportunities were given to her to be a witness unto Him. She had caught the vision that "somebody, somewhere will be the next person to be saved" and she wanted to be involved in the work of witnessing, seeing a potential convert in every visitor to her home.

The subject matter

The subject matter of our witnessing should be Christ-centred. We bear testimony to what we believe. We must present the three "Rs": the ruin of man because of sin (let’s not fudge this vital issue), the remedy through Christ (we need to focus on the Cross and the subsequent resurrection of the Saviour), and the responsibility of each individual (there needs to be "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ").

We should gladly witness to our personal experience of Christ. Surely it thrills us to tell of what the Lord has done for us in the past. He has saved us, forgiving all our sins and fitting us for a personal relationship with Himself and the Father. Can we not also bear witness to what He is doing for us in the present? We can testify of His faithfulness through times of difficulty, of how He supported us in times of bereavement, strengthened us in times of weakness, provided for us in times of need, ministered to us in times of extremity. Our testimony to the Lord Jesus should stretch from His dealings with us in salvation right through to the present day. Do we take for granted His dealings with us and therefore rarely speak to others about them? Remember, those who do not know Him have no-one to whom they can turn in times of difficulty. Would they not therefore be interested in hearing of how Christ has become to us "a friend"?

In addition, we can testify to our personal enjoyment of Christ. Is it not true that we speak most readily of the things that excite us? One of the rules in the drop-in-centre run by my wife and me for drug addicts is, "No talking about drugs". This is virtually impossible to enforce, because all drug addicts want to speak about is drugs. Why? Because drugs are their lives! Is the Lord Jesus Christ our life? Are we excited about Him? Are we delighting in Him? Are we living for Him? I personally find it much easier to witness for Christ when I am enjoying Him, while during times of barrenness in my own soul I have so little to say to others about Him.


What should be our motivation for witnessing? One motivating force should be the reality of hell. Hell is real, and is the destiny of all who die without Christ. I wonder if that fact has ever gripped our hearts. In the work my wife and I are involved in we face death all too often. We speak to young people, build up a relationship with them, present them with the gospel, and then suddenly they are gone and we stand still and ask ourselves the question, "Where are they?". The reality is that if they died in their sins the words of Christ are true: "Where I am, thither ye cannot come". Over 150,000 people die every day. How many of these are heaven bound because someone took the time, at some point in their lives, to witness to them about the Lord Jesus. How many find themselves in hell because nobody took the time or made the effort to tell them of the Saviour? Remember, one day your neighbour, friend, family member, colleague, and the man or woman that you just happened to meet today, will pass into eternity — have you been faithful in witnessing to them in order that they are without excuse and you are free from their blood?

If we really believe that Christ is the only answer to the need of men, this should be another incentive to speak of Him to all we meet. Would it not be criminal to keep a guaranteed cure for cancer to ourselves? Is it any less criminal to keep Christ and His message of salvation from others?

The fact that the Lord has commanded us to be witnesses should motivate us to witness. To be a witnessing Christian is simply to be an obedient Christian. The reverse is also true, for a believer not to be a witness is a mark of rank disobedience. "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Lk 6.46).

Another incentive is that through our witnessing glory is brought to the Father. In John 14.12-13 the Lord Jesus says, "Greater works than these shall he do…that the Father may be glorified in the Son".

The all compelling power

However, the all-compelling power behind effective witnessing must be love. The heart of the effective witness will beat with love for Christ and be filled with the love of Christ. Paul says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor 5.14). Love is an action word. It is not enough to say that we love; we must prove our love by how we live and what we say. It was love that compelled the Saviour to leave heaven for earth. It was love that compelled Him to leave the comforts and security of His home in Nazareth to embark on an itinerant ministry, reaching out to individuals here and there in their deep need and ministering to them at such personal cost. How much does it cost us to be witnesses for Christ? To what extremes are we prepared to go to reach one soul? Consider the personal cost in reaching the woman at the well or the man of Gadara. What value do we put on a soul and how important is it to us that they hear of Christ? Does love constrain us to reach out at all costs? A heart filled with the love of Christ will draw men to Christ. Maybe sometimes we are a little bit hard, technical, pushy, proud, and even arrogant when we witness to others. What will soften hardened hearts and convince the ungodly of their need of Christ and of the truth and effectiveness of the gospel? Surely it is love. People to whom we witness are not stupid, they know the genuineness of our concern and whether or not we are witnessing to them out of a sense of duty or whether it is out of a deep, loving concern for them. Let it never be said of us, as it was said of one dear sister: "You can tell who she has been witnessing to by the haggard look on their faces". A buzz phrase in evangelical circles recently was "friendship evangelism". I believe that is the key to successful witnessing. We must develop friendships with those still not saved. We must build bridges to them. We must show them, in practical ways, that we really care for them.

To be continued.


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