1-1-2 Witnessing For Christ
And then there is the matter of preaching. Paul takes a prophecy concerning
how Christ personally would be the light of the whole world (Is. 49:6),
and applies it to himself in explanation of why he was devoted to being
a light to the whole world himself (Acts 13:47). Paul even says that this
prophecy of Christ as the light of the world was a commandment to him;
all that is true of the Lord Jesus likewise becomes binding upon us, because
we are in Him. Note that Paul says that God has commanded us to witness;
it wasn’t that Paul was a special case, and God especially applied Isaiah’s
words concerning Christ as light of the Gentiles to Paul. They apply to
us , to all who are in Christ. We too are lights in the dark world (Mt.
5:14; Phil. 2:15), because we are in Christ, the light of the world (Jn.
9:5). As the Lord was the light of those that sat in darkness (Mt. 4:16),
so Paul writes as if all the believers are likewise (Rom. 2:19). The light
of Christ lightens every man who is born into the spiritual world (Jn.
3:9), with the inevitable effect that he too becomes the light of the
world for others (Mt. 5:14). The inevitability of witness is developed
further in We’re All Preachers. And there is an old question relating
to the parable of the sower which is relevant here: who is the sower?
The preacher, or the Lord Jesus? Some Greek texts read “a sower” (followed
by the AV), others “the sower” (cp. the Diaglott). Perhaps the Lord said
both: ‘A sower, the sower, went out...’. Surely the sower is the Lord
Jesus, but in our work of witness we are His witnesses. For we represent
Him to the world. This is why “the Spirit (the Lord the Spirit, Jesus)
and the bride (the ecclesia) say, Come”; ours is a united witness with
Him. As He was the lamb of God sent forth for the salvation of men, so
those in Him are sent forth with that same Gospel, as lambs (Lk. 10:3).
Men heard Paul’s preaching and ‘clave’ unto him, as they did to other
preachers (Acts 17:34; 5:13); but conversion is a cleaving unto the Lord
Jesus (Acts 11:23; 1 Cor. 6:17 Gk.). Thus Paul “spoke boldly in the Lord
[Jesus], which gave testimony unto the word of his grace” (Acts 14:3).
To this extent does the preacher manifest his Lord, to the extent that
Paul’s preaching amongst the Galatians was a placarding forth of Christ
crucified (Gal. 3:1 Gk.). God “was pleased to reveal his son in me, that
I might preach him” (Gal. 1:16). And thus Paul could conclude by saying
that he bore in his body [perhaps an idiom for his life, cp. the ‘broken
body’ of the Lord we remember] the stigmata of the Lord Jesus. He was
so clearly a slave belonging to the Lord Jesus that it was as if one could
see the marks of the nails in his body. Preaching is a revealing to men
of the Christ that is within us; this is what witnessing in Christ is
really about, rather than pushing bills or placing press adverts or writing
letters. Not that any of these things are to be decried, but the essence
is that we from deep within ourselves reveal Christ to men. This is why
those who witness to Him, as only those in Him can, testify to His especial
presence in this work. The promise that “I am with you always” was in
the context of being near the preacher as he or she witnesses.
It is significant that Paul takes a passage from one of Isaiah’s servant
songs and applies it to us. The servant who suffered and witnessed to
the world was evidently the Lord Jesus. And yet Isaiah is also explicit
that the servant is the whole seed of Abraham, “Jacob”, the slowly-developing
people of God (Is. 41:8; 44:1). There are many connections within Isaiah
between the servant songs, and the descriptions of the people of Israel
into which the songs are interspersed. The saviour-servant was to bring
out the prisoners from the dungeons (Is. 42:7), so was every Israelite
“to let the oppressed go free...loose the bonds”, and to “undo the bands
of the [heavy] yoke” (Is. 58:6) as Christ did (Mt. 11:28,29); His work
of deliverance is to be replicated by each of us in our witness. Whoever
is in Him will by this very fact follow Him in this work. In Isaiah’s
first context, the suffering servant was King Hezekiah. Yet all Israel
were to see themselves as ‘in’ him, as spiritual Israel are to see themselves
as in Christ. “He was oppressed”, as Israel at that time were being “oppressed”
by Assyria. As they were covered in wounds and spiritual sickness (Is.
1:5,6), so the suffering servant bore their diseases and rose again in
Other parts of the servant songs are quoted concerning us. The Lord’s
servant being called from the womb (Is. 49:1) was applied by Paul to himself
(Gal. 1:15), as it was likewise true of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5). Or take Is.
49:8,9: “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation
have I helped thee [quoted about us in 2 Cor. 6:2 in the context of us
being preachers, labouring with God]: and I will preserve thee, and give
thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them
inherit the desolate heritages; saying to them that are bound, Go forth;
to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves” (RV). This is the language
of the Lord’s preaching, which freed men from the prison house (Is. 61:1,2).
Yet because we are in Him, we too have His ministry; our words too can
make men inherit the Kingdom, and free men from their bondage. As the
Lord in Isaiah’s servant songs was the suffering, saving, atoning servant,
lifted up to give salvation world-wide- so are we. For we are in Him.
Paul explained his life of devotion to world-wide witness by saying that
the fact his Lord was a saving witness to all men was de facto a command
to him, as one in Christ, to do likewise (Acts 13:47). This is why the
concept of the Name of Christ is sometimes put for ‘the work of preaching
His Gospel’, so definite is the connection between baptism into His Name
and the work of witness which this naturally entails (Mt. 19:29; Acts
9:16; 15:26; 3 Jn. 7).
If they persecuted Him in His preaching, they will persecute we who,
as in Him, preach as His representatives. Paul placarded Him forth as
crucified to men through the example of his own life of death and resurrection,
daily, with his Lord (Gal. 3:1). The wicked and adulterous generation
to whom the Lord witnessed were given the sign of the prophet Jonah- that
after three days, the Lord would re-appear. But that sign was only given
to them through the preaching of the apostles- that generation didn’t
see the risen Lord Himself (Mt. 16:4). But the witness of the disciples
was as good as- for in their witness, they represented the Lord. And even
in the Millenium, the basis of our witness to the world will be that we
are in Christ. Thus Micah’s description of how “the remnant of Jacob shall
be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers
upon the grass” (Mic. 5:7) is consciously alluding to the then-famous
Messianic prophecy of Ps. 72:6: “He shall come down like rain upon the
mown grass: as showers that water the earth”. The blessings Messiah brings
are to be articulated through the witness of those in Him.
Not only must we preach because our Lord preached. We must witness as
He witnessed. When Paul wrote that “the servant of the Lord must not strive”
in his preaching ministry (2 Tim. 2:24), he was alluding back to how the
servant song described the Lord Jesus in His preaching as not striving
or lifting up His voice in proud argument (Is. 42:2 cp. Mt. 12:19). And
Paul goes on: “...but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in
meekness instructing...”. This is all a pen picture of the Lord’s witness
to men in Galilee. And yet it is applied to us. “Apt to teach” is surely
an allusion to the way in which the Lord taught the people “as he was
wont” (Mk. 10:1). So it’s not just that we should witness because the
Lord, in whom we are, was the “faithful and true witness” (Rev. 1:5; 3:14);
because we are in Him, we must witness as He did, with something of that
same ineffable mixture of candour, meekness and Divine earnestness for
man’s salvation. As the Lord was sent into the world, so He sends us into
the world [Jn. 14:12; 17:18; 20:21 – this is perhaps John’s equivalent
of the great commission]. Jesus ‘came down’ to this world in the sense
that He was the word of the Father made flesh, and ‘all men’ saw the light
of grace that was radiated from His very being. And that same word must
be flesh in us, as it was in the Lord. We are to be a living epistle,
words of the Gospel made flesh, “known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2).
Earlier the Lord had sent out His men as lambs (Lk. 10:3)- as those in
Him, the Lamb of God. It was written of the Lord’s preaching that He would
not “strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice [raised up
in this way] in the streets”. And for this reason He asked His converts
not to “make him known” in this way; He wanted them to witness as He witnessed
It also explains why the record of the Acts is a continuation of all
that Jesus began to do and teach as recorded in the Gospels (Acts 1:1).
The preachers were witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:8). We beseech men in Christ’s
stead. It is helpful to read Luke and Acts following straight on. It is
evident that Luke saw the apostles as continuing the work of preaching
that Jesus personally performed. One of the most evident connections is
the way in which Luke ten times uses the word ‘euaggelizo’ to describe
the Lord’s witness; it occurs only one other time in the other Gospels.
And yet Luke uses the word 15 times in Acts to describe the witness of
the apostles. He clearly saw them as continuing the ‘evangelion’ of Jesus.
As Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom as He walked around Israel
in the late 20s of the first century (Lk. 4:43; 8:1; 9:11; 16:16), so
His men continued the very same witness (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23,31).
Not only are there links between Acts and Luke, as if the preaching of
the apostles continues the personal work of the Lord in whom they lived
and moved, but often Acts records the preaching work in language lifted
from the other Gospel records too (e.g. Acts 4:2; 5:12-16 = Mt. 4:23).
And further, the synoptic Gospels use the same words for the activities
of both Jesus and the disciples in respect of preaching, teaching, healing
etc. Theirs was a shared ministry. Thus Jesus is recorded as “shewing
the glad tidings of the Kingdom” (Lk. 8:1), but in the same context He
asks a new convert to go home “and shew how great things God hath
done” (8:39). Particularly significant is the way Mark’s Gospel opens
with Jesus going around preaching, appealing for people to repent and
believe the Gospel (and this is described as “the beginning of the Gospel”).
Mark concludes with us being asked to do the same, thereby directly continuing
the work of the Lord, because we are in Him.
A Shared Witness
The apostles bore witness to the Lord Jesus (e.g. Acts 26:22; 1 Cor.
15:15 s.w.), and He in turn bore witness to the [preaching of] the word
of his grace (Acts 15:8). In their witness lay His witness. Revelation
begins with John witnessing / testifying to the Word [made flesh, i.e.
Jesus], and concludes with Jesus testifying (Rev. 1;2 cp. 22:20 s.w.).
The witness of the Lord and of His disciple were one and the same. And
had not John earlier written of how the witness on earth was a reflection
of that in Heaven (1 Jn. 5:6,7)? The whole purpose of the Lord’s life
was that He should “bear witness” unto the Truth of the Father (Jn. 18:37).
But John also records the Lord’s expectations that all in Him should likewise
“bear witness” (Jn. 15:27). And as John recounted the Gospel [of which
the Gospel of John is a transcript], He stresses that by doing so he is
‘bearing witness’, living out the work of the Lord who lived as the faithful
and true witness to men (Jn. 3:11; 19:35; 21:24 cp. 18:37).