1.2 Making Disciples
If we are real witnesses, testifiers to the reality of the Lord's
death and resurrection, we must therefore, by the very
nature of our experience, be witnesses of these things to the world.
The resurrection is the witness that God has given of His Son. Whoever
believes that witness, will have within themselves the witness-
they will be witnesses to God's witness (1 Jn. 5:10 Gk.). The Lord
twice told the disciples: " Go ye...go ye" (Mk. 16:15
cp. Mt. 28:19 and contexts). He was encouraging them to do the natural
corollary of what they had experienced.
Indeed, following Christ, which is to carry His cross, is paralleled
by Him with preaching His Kingdom (Lk. 9:59,60). To live out the
essence of the cross, in daily self-control, unconditional kindness
and forgiveness, patience with those who provoke us….this is the
real witness (Lk. 9:23-26). If we don’t preach, we aren’t following
Him. And if we do follow Him, it’s axiomatic that we therefore preach
Him. “From henceforth thou shalt catch men. And...they forsook all,
and followed him” (Lk. 5:10,11) definitely parallels preaching with
following the Lord. Following after Him is the way to be fishers
of men (Mk. 1:17), and yet following Jesus is so often understood
by Him as a call to carrying the cross. A focus on Him and the life
of His cross leads to a catching of men for Him in a quite natural
way. The aim of our preaching is to “make disciples”, learners /
followers of Him whose life was characterized by cross carrying
(1). This is why Rom. 15:16 speaks of the preacher as offering up
his converts upon the altar [note how Acts 11:7 uses the same image
of ‘offering up’ sacrifices to describe preaching]. And this connects
with how Paul had earlier spoken in Rom. 12:1 of offering ourselves
as living sacrifices in dedication. The aim of the preacher, therefore,
is to provoke a sacrificial life in his or her converts, after the
pattern of the Master whom they learn of.
Of course, our success in this depends to a large extent upon the nature
of the lives we live. Several times in the Psalms, David’s
poetry matches ‘myself’ with “all men”; he wants all men to share
in his experience of Yahweh. Thus: “My mouth shall
speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his
holy name” (Ps. 145:21). As Yahweh provided a pillar of fire to
give light in the night to His people in the wilderness (Ps. 105:39),
so Israel were to arrange for a fire to be burning throughout the
night in the tabernacle. They were to give light in response to
God’s giving light to them. As with any form of parenting, it’s
a sobering thought that our image, our view of the Lord Jesus, will
be replicated to some extent in those whom we convert. This is why
it’s so wrong to mix in any way our personal image with that of
the Lord in our preaching. And yet let’s give full weight to how
Paul’s convert Timothy was so in step with Paul that he could by
visiting Corinth draw their attention to how Paul’s ways were “in
Christ”. The Lord foretold that thanks to the preaching of His people,
the world would come to believe that God had sent Him- yet He had
just commented that the disciples had believed that God had sent
Him (Jn. 17:8,23 RV). It is our beliefs about Jesus which we are
to pass on to others.
- " I believed, and therefore have I spoken"
(Ps. 116:10) is quoted in 2 Cor. 4:13 concerning the attitude
of the preacher; because we have believed, therefore
we preach, after Paul’s pattern. He apprehended men for Christ,
“seeing that I also was apprehended” (Phil. 3:21 RVmg.). It's
a natural relationship. We naturally have a debt to preach to
all men, as we have a debt to love all our brethren- because of
what has been done for us (Rom. 1:14). God has put in each
of us the preaching of the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19
AVmg.). Prov. 21:28 (Heb.) likewise implies that the man who has
heard truth will constantly speak about it. Those who heard God's
call to repentance were to naturally teach repentance
to others (Jer. 9:20 cp. 19). We have shown elsewhere that if
we have really received forgiveness, and have thereby grasped
hold of salvation here and now, the wonder of our own experience
will inevitably lead us to tell others, as it did David and Peter
- The enigmatic Jn. 7:38 must be read in this context: " He that
believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly ("
innermost being" , NIV) shall flow rivers of living (Gk. spring)
water" . What " scripture" did the Lord have in mind?
Surely Ez. 47:1,9, the prophecy of how in the Millennium, rivers of
spring water will come out from Zion and bring life to the world; and
perhaps too the references to spring water being used to cleanse men
from leprosy and death (Lev. 14:5; 15:13; Num. 19:16). Out of the innermost
being of the true believer, the spring(ing) water of the Gospel will
naturally spring up and go out to heal men, both now
and more fully in the Kingdom, aided then by the Spirit gifts. The believer,
every believer, whoever believes, will
preach the word to others from his innermost being, both now
and in the Kingdom - without the need for preaching committees or special
efforts (not that in themselves I'm decrying them). The tendency is
to delegate our responsibilities to these committees. There is no essential
difference between faith and works. If we believe, we will do the works
of witness, quite spontaneously. And note how the water that sprung
out of the Lord’s smitten side is to be compared with the bride that
came out of the smitten side of Adam. We, the bride, are the water;
thanks to the inspiration of the cross, we go forth in witness, the
water of life to this hard land in which we walk.
- Every one who is taught the Gospel will naturally bring forth
out of his treasure (his innermost heart- Lk. 6:45) things
new and old- his new knowledge, plus his old things of the old
covenant (Mt. 13:52 cp. Song 7:13).
- That we can’t be secret believers
is brought out by 2 Jn. 7 [Gk.]. Anyone who does not confess publicly
that Jesus came in the flesh is described by John as a deceiver
and even anti-Christ. The French [Segond version] is clearest:
“ne declarent pas publiquement”. Whilst the passage is open to
a number of interpretations, in our context the point perhaps
is that to secretly believe in Christ isn’t possible- it must
in some way be declared publicly or else we are “deceivers”.
- Hebrew poetry rhymes according to
the ideas presented rather than the assonance of the words. However,
this doesn’t mean that in a couplet, the first part is directly
equal to the second part. Subtle differences are set up in order
to make a point. Am. 3:8 is an example of this. The lion has roared:
who shall not fear? God has spoken: who can but speak forth [AV
‘prophesy’, but not only in the sense of predicting future events]?
If a lion roars, so a man naturally fears as a result of it. God
speaks, and just as naturally we can do nothing but speak it forth.
Hence Am. 3:9 goes on to exhort the hearers to publish God’s purpose
to the Gentile nations around them. The lion roars, and man fears;
and we are set up to expect: God speaks, and man should fear.
But there is an intended dashing of this expectation. God has
spoken, just as the lion may roar; but we are not to fear
but rather to speak it forth to others. We come down,
therefore, to something very basic, something in the foundation
of our faith: that the Bible is the inspired word of God. But
if we believe that, if we hear that voice of Yahweh, we will inevitably,
axiomatically, speak it forth to others.
- The Lord deftly broke the bread and gave it to the disciples,
in evident anticipation of the breaking of bread and His death
for the life of the world. They then presumably broke the bread
again (for they collected remnants of the broken food) and in
their turn gave it to the crowd. Our receipt from the Lord, our
experience of His cross, must be reflected quite naturally in
our sharing it with the world. Our witness to the world is therefore
not just putting bits of paper in letterboxes or handing them
out on the streets; it is a very real and personal telling out
of our own very personal share in the Lord’s death (Mt. 15:36,37).
The Lord gave the broken bread to the disciples, eloquently speaking
of the gift of His life. They in their turn “did set before the
people” (Mk. 8:6). We must pass on that which was given to us
by the Lord. Paul is our example in this (1 Cor. 11:23). We must,
of course, have a valid relationship with the Lord in the first
place, feeling we have definitely received something from Him,
if we are to pass it on. The Greek term for “set before” recurs
in 1 Tim. 1:18 and 2 Tim. 2:2 concerning how we simply must
pass on the word which has been given to us. Quite simply,
if we’ve really heard it, really received it, we must pass it
- What we hear in the ear, that we must preach on the housetops
(Mt. 10:27). This is built on the language of 1 Sam. 9:15,25,
where God speaks in Samuel’s ear, and then he speaks that word
to Saul on the housetop. The Lord is saying that in essence, we
are all in Samuel’s position; we hear the word of this world’s
salvation, the word about “the Kingdom” as it was for Saul, and
that very fact is in itself the imperative to overcome our natural
reservations and share it with those for whom it is intended-
even if, as with Saul, we consider them unlikely and unspiritual
- Our way of life will make an inevitable witness to the world. Simply
not moaning and groaning in the daily round will be a holding out of
the word of life to those with whom we trudge through this life (Phil.
2:14 cp. 16).
- Paul seems to have assumed that all of us would preach and make converts
(not leave it to just some of our community): he speaks of how "
every man" in the ecclesia builds upon the foundation of Christ,
but how he builds will be judged by fire. If what he has built is burnt
up at the judgment, he himself will be saved, but not what he has built
(1 Cor. 3:10-15). I would suggest that the 'building' refers to our
converts and work with other believers. If they fail of the Kingdom,
we ourselves will be saved, but our work will have been in vain. This
parable also suggests that the salvation of others, their passing through
the fire at the judgment, is dependent upon how we build. This may be
hyperbole to make a point, but it is a powerful encouragement that we
are all elders and preachers, and we all have a deep
effect on others' spirituality. We have responsibilities to those who
respond to our preaching. The preaching of the Kingdom of God is not
only in words but by the power of example (1 Cor. 4:20). He makes the
same assumption in 1 Tim. 6:1, in warning believing slaves to act faithfully
before their unbelieving masters, lest the doctrines of God be blasphemed
by them. Paul takes it as read that the slave would have taught the
doctrines of the faith to his master, and therefore any misbehaviour
by him would cause those teachings to be mocked. And again in Tit. 2:5,
he writes that wives should behave orderly so that “the word of God
be not blasphemed”. He assumes that all believing men and women would
be preachers of the word, yet if the wives were disorderly in their
behaviour they would bring mockery upon the message preached.
- Paul 'assuredly gathered' that " the Lord had called us for
to preach the Gospel unto them" (Acts 16:10). The Lord calling
is usually used concerning His calling of men to understand and obey
the Gospel. Perhaps Paul is saying that the reason why we are called
is to preach, and in this context he realised that the people he
was to preach to, were the Macedonians. He later reminisced: "
As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so
we speak (i.e. preach)" (1 Thess. 2:4). Likewise Heb. 11:13 teaches
that all the faithful went through the same process: persuaded - embraced
- confessed to the world around them. Confessing was part of the natural
response to belief of the promises. Hearing God's word in faith is associated
with declaring it (Jer. 9:12). “Your participation in the [preaching
of the] gospel” is paralleled with “your faith” (Phil. 1:5). If we really
believe, we will be involved in the preaching of what we believe.
- “Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the
beginning” (Jn. 15:27) was exemplified in Acts 4:13, where it was apparent
from the nature of the disciples’ preaching that they “had been with
Jesus”. To be with the Lord, to have experience of Him, meant that one
would witness to Him; such is the true experience of Him that it is
axiomatic that it issues in witness. All who have truly known the Lord
will witness to Him. And if we don’t...do we know Him, have we “been
- Rom. 10;9,10 stresses that belief and confession are necessary
for salvation. This may be one of the many links between Romans and
John’s gospel, in that Jn. 12:42 speaks of those who believed but wouldn’t
confess. Confession, a public showing forth of our belief, is vital
if we are to be saved. It’s perhaps worth noting that baptisms tend
often to be attended largely by believerss, and be performed indoors,
e.g. in a bath at someone’s home, or a church hall. It’s quite possible
to learn the Gospel, be baptized- and nobody out in this world ever
know. It’s down to us to ensure this isn’t true in our case.
- The righteous man is like " a tree planted by the rivers of
water, that bringeth forth his fruit in season; his leaf also shall
not wither; and whatsoever he doeth (in this work of preaching?) shall
prosper" (Ps. 1:3). These words are quoted in Rev. 22:2 concerning
our holding out of life to the mortal population at the Lord's return.
The conclusion? If we witness now we are living the Kingdom life now,
and therefore we will be perpetuated in that time. The fact we teach
others to do righteousness will therefore be a factor in our acceptance
(Mt. 5:19); although not the only one. There is a connection between
us 'freely giving' the Gospel now (Mt. 10:8), and being given 'freely
given' salvation at the last day (Rom. 8:32; Rev. 21:6). The freeness
of God’s gift to us should be reflected in a free spirited giving out
of the Gospel to others.
- Israel were constituted a Kingdom of priests; a whole nation who
would preach forth God's ways to those about them. And this designation
and commission is applied now to the new Israel (1 Pet. 2:5,9 cp. Ex.
20:5). Males who could not procreate were barred from the congregation
(Dt. 23:1), possibly in prototype of how spiritual procreation was to
be a vital characteristic of the future Israel. Israel were seen by
the Lord as the tree by the roadside (Mt. 21:19), whose fruit should
have been for all that passed by (Dt. 23:24). But because there was
not even the glimmer of this kind of giving of fruit, they were condemned
by the Lord.
- Consider the following passages in the Spirit's biography of Paul:
" Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred
within him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry" and
therefore he preached to them (Acts 17:16). In Corinth, " Paul
was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was
Christ" (Acts 18:5). " Now, behold, I go bound in the spirit
unto Jerusalem" (Acts 20:22) is difficult to divorce from the previous
passages. It may be that the Holy Spirit confirmed the desire of Paul's
own spirit; but I am tempted to read this as yet one more example of
where he felt overwhelmingly compelled to witness. " Paul purposed
in the spirit...to go to Jerusalem, saying, after I have been there,
I must also see Rome" (Acts 19:21). It was as if his own conscience,
developed within him by the word and his experience of the Lord Jesus,
compelled him to take the Gospel right to the ends of his world. His
ambition for Spain, at a time when most men scarcely travelled 100km.
from their birthplace, is just superb (Rom. 15:24,28). Indeed, "
Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16). It may
be that in these words Paul is alluding to how the High Priest had to
have bells so that " his sound may be heard...that he die not"
(Ex. 28:35; this idea of the sound being heard is picked up in Ps. 19
concerning the spread of the Gospel). Whatever the predestined and foreknown
purpose of God with Paul as a preacher may have been, the fact still
stands that the record emphasises the quite natural spirit of compulsion
to preach which arose within him. Paul himself seems to have foreseen
the tendency to leave the work of preaching to a few 'specialists' within
the ecclesia. He tells every and any believer who is invited
out to lunch with a non-believer to eat what is set before them; and
yet in this piece of advice Paul is quoting the Lord's command to His
seventy preachers (1 Cor. 10:27 cp. Lk. 10:8). Surely Paul's point was:
'You're all preachers, just like those seventy specially commissioned
preachers, and in your everyday contact with the world, you too have
a special commission to preach as they did'.
- We are the salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13). Salt inevitably affects,
by reason of what it is, whatever is next to it. We are lights
in a dark world. Lights give light. If the salt doesn't have the influence
of salt, it is thrown away. Our poor recent record of preaching by personal
contact is very worrying when seen in this light. We have hidden behind
leaflets and press adverts and giving money. But if we aren't the salt,
if we don't show our light in our little world; are we in fact
the salt or the light of the earth? This unconscious spirituality, this
natural witnessing, is the essential reflection of our experience of
the Lord Jesus. He didn't say 'Do good works so that men may see the
light'. He said " let your light shine" - and then
men will see your good works and glorify the Father. “We preach…Christ
Jesus as Lord…seeing it is God…who shined in our hearts, to give the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:5,6 RV). Because
the light was shone to us, we reflect it to others.
- Paul puts the same principle another way when he says that we're
all mirrors (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). A mirror by its very nature, because of
what it is, reflects the light which falls upon it to others. If we
have really seen the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will
inevitably reflect it to others. Many of the Lord’s parables
portray the [preaching of] the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as a kind
of secret force: treasure hidden in a field, the tiniest seed in the
garden, wheat growing among weeds, a pinch of yeast worked into dough,
salt on meat...these are all images of something which works from within,
changing other people in an ongoing, regular manner.
- The word of God comes down like the rain and brings forth fruit in
we who respond, so that there may be more seed produced for
the next harvest, as a result of the fruit brought forth in
us (Is. 55:10 RV). If we are properly responding to the word, we will
be playing our part in bringing forth the next generation of harvest.
Joseph - Jesus bought / redeemed the people so that they might
go forth and sow the seed (cp. the Gospel; Gen. 47:23 cp. 1 Cor. 6:20;
7:19). Likewise Jesus ‘found’ Philip, and he in his witnessing ‘found’
Nathanael (Jn. 1:43,45). Our finding of men for the Lord reflects His
finding of us.
- The Lord Jesus through the cross can “present you holy and unblameable
and unreproveable”. Yet by our preaching we “may present every man perfect
in Christ” (Col. 1:22,28). The connection is clear: because we are being
presented perfect in Christ through belief and baptism, we preach the
opportunity of this experience to others. Likewise the Law often stressed
that on account of Israel’s experience of being redeemed from Egypt,
they were to witness a similar grace to their neighbours and to their
- Whoever drinks of the water of life will have within
them a spring that also gives eternal life (Jn. 4:15). The purpose of
a spring is to give water to men. Experiencing the Lord's words and
salvation inevitably leads to us doing likewise to others,
springing from somewhere deep within. This was in fact one of the first
things God promised Abraham when He first instituted the new covenant:
" I will bless thee (i.e. with forgiveness and salvation in the
Kingdom)...and thou shalt be a blessing" , in that we
his seed in Christ would bring this same blessing to men of all nations
by our witness (Gen. 12:2,3). When the Lord offered salvation to the
woman at the well, He spoke of how it would be a spring of life going
out from her. She wanted it, but apparently just for herself. Therefore
when she asked to be given such a spring, the Lord replied by asking
her to bring her husband to hear His words (Jn. 4:15,16). Surely He
was saying: 'If you want this great salvation for yourself, you've got
to be willing to share it with others, no matter how embarrassing this
may be for you'. In a similar figure, the Bible begins with the tree
of the lives [Heb.], and concludes with men eating of the tree and there
appearing a forest of trees-of-life. Our experience of salvation will
be the basis of our witness to men in the Millennium, just as it should
be now. On the basis of our experience of reconciliation with God, we
have been given “the ministry of reconciliation”, in that God “hath
put in us [Gk. settled deep within us] the word of reconciliation” (2
Cor. 5:18,19) . That which is deeply internal issues in an outward witness.
For this reason all discussion of how that outward witness should be
made is somewhat irrelevant- the witness naturally springs from deep
within. If it doesn’t, we have to ask whether we have anything much
- Paul seems to have taught as part of the Gospel that the Lord expects
those who come to Him to share that good news with others. Preaching
the message isn’t an option- it’s part of the package of conversion
which we accept. It has been argued that the very style and content
of the four Gospels is in order to encourage the hearers / readers of
the Gospel to be themselves evangelistic. Hence the records all conclude,
in one way or another, with the great commission to go and spread the
message. The Gospels are persuasively written, aiming for conversion,
and concluding with an appeal for baptism- they are transcripts of the
early preaching of the Gospel.
- The Lord realised that the necessity of personal witness would be
unwelcome by His followers. But He saw it is part of the inevitable
cross which we must each take up: " Whosoever (these words
aren't just meant for those who specialise in preaching) will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross...whosoever shall lose
his life for my sake and the gospel's (i.e. the sake of preaching the
Gospel), the same shall save it...whosoever therefore shall be ashamed
of me and of my words...of him shall the Son of man be ashamed"
(Mk. 8:34-38). Witnessing is essential. But it involves a denial of
self and a decided will; as that moment of actually taking up the cross
required a conscious willing decision by the Lord. If only we could
see the tragedy of all these people going, suicidally, to an
eternal grave...when we have the way of escape to show them.
Merely being embarrassed by their possible reaction to us is no real
excuse for not having a heart that bleeds for their need. In encouraging
His preachers to courageous witness, the Lord reminded them that there
is nothing hid that will not be revealed at the judgment (Mt. 10:26).
Then, it will be openly apparent to all. And so in who we are there
must be the unhideable, inextinguishable flame of testimony. The Lord
didn’t shout out in the streets who He was. He wished His followers
to following Him in showing the message to the world just as
He did- in who He was (Mt. 12:18).
The basic thesis outlined above is not only Biblical. It's demonstrated
by a statistical analysis of the growth of Christianity in recent
years. It is clear from this too that generally, the method
of preaching God prefers to use is personal preaching
by the believer; not leaflets, press adverts, Bible exhibitions
etc. The only times when it seems He does widely work through these
methods are when His Gospel is being pioneered in a new country.
In this case, of course, there are no believers to preach the Gospel
by personal contact. In country after country throughout Africa,
Eastern Europe and indeed the whole world, we have had the same
experience: the Gospel was introduced by leaflets or press adverts.
There was a good response, and believers were baptized. Once there
were a reasonable number of converts, the response to the leaflets
and press adverts strangely dropped off, often for no evident reason.
We kept on advertising etc., but with far less response.
This has happened so consistently that it seems we are seeing God's
principles in operation. Clearly He prefers to work through personal
witnessing rather than the more indirect methods of leaflets etc.;
not that I am in any way decrying these things in themselves. In
many Western churches, over 90% of converts have been from personal
contact or the children of believers- rather than from witness to
those totally in darkness. It could be asked whether the power of
this statistic has really registered with us. Surely God is telling
us something: He doesn't expect us to hide behind the excuse that
we are preaching because we left a leaflet on a bus. He wants us
to not only do that sort of thing, but more importantly to deeply
believe His Gospel, and thereby to naturally, effortlessly tell
it forth to others.
Preaching has to be personal. For God is all about the salvation
of persons; and He hungers for intimacy with her persons whom He
has created. We each make an individual witness, and that witness
is intended by God to be uniquely suitable for certain people within
our sphere of contact. Jeremiah is an example of how our witness
to others should be framed in the language of our own experiences,
thus giving it credibility. He had just been in the dungeon, where
he had sunk down in the mud (Jer. 38:6). But he soon afterwards
appeals to Zedekiah to have the courage to do what God wants and
not what his princes think is humanly smarter. Metaphorically, Jeremiah
says, it was Zedekiah whose “feet are sunk in the mire” (Jer. 38:22).
‘Spiritually, you’re like I was physically’, was what Jeremiah was
saying. And because he personalized his message in this way, it
became all the more credible. Thus a blind brother can speak about
our spiritual blindness with an obvious appropriacy and credibility
which the sighted lack. This is why all witness simply has to be
personal- impersonal handing out of tracts or hiding behind web
sites on the internet isn’t the essentially personal witness which
Do We Really Believe?
And so I come to my fundamental point. I'm not saying 'Let us strive
the more earnestly, brethren, to preach, we really ought to do more
of it, you know'. I'm not saying this, because it would be a waste
of time. No human words can influence any of us to preach, really
preach as God intends us to. What I'm saying is that preaching to
others is a natural, automatic, spontaneous response to belief of
the Gospel, and therefore we can use an analysis of our attitude
to preaching as a powerful tool for self-examination as to whether
we really believe. What I'm saying is that it's quite
possible to 'believe' on a surface level, but not really
believe. It's easy enough to reflect such surface level 'belief'
in some kind of tokenistic preaching- e.g. sheepishly saying "
I've got a friend at church who..." , or even in giving out
leaflets or going on a preaching campaign (not that in themselves
there's anything wrong with doing these things). As I've said, such
kind of preaching isn't necessarily a proof of our
belief. It's easy to have the attitude that because we assist in
certain physical things connected with (e.g.) the correspondence
course, or we give a leaflet to the JW who calls, that we are thereby
discharging our responsibility to preach (3). But if
we really believe the Gospel, we'll tell it forth
naturally, the sense of discharging responsibility just won't be
there. We won't have to psych ourselves up to preach; we'll artlessly
show it forth in our lives, and talk about it, talk... .
And if we don't do this, do we believe? Remember how the
record parallels not confessing with not believing in Jn. 12:42. We were
called and converted so that we might give light to others.
We were " put in trust with the Gospel" , literally 'en-faithed'
with it, God gave it to us in faith that we would preach it (1 Thess.
2:4). Paul uses a strong and emphatic Greek construction in 1 Tim. 1:11
when speaking of how the Gospel was “committed to my trust”. The Greek
means ‘to me, myself, I, personally’. Those raised ‘knowing the truth’
should pause and reflect whether the wonder of the fact they have been
given the Gospel is registering with them as it might. God believes in
us; this is why He has graciously called us to know His Truth. Thus when
Paul writes in 1 Tim. 1:14 about his own conversion: “The grace of our
Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”,
he perhaps means that it was the love and faith of Christ in him, Paul,
that was the basis of his being converted by the Lord Jesus.
Reflect a while on what is really being taught in Jn. 2:23-25: “Many
believed on his name, beholding his signs which he did. But Jesus
did not trust [s.w. ‘believed’] himself unto them, for that he
knew all men, and because he needed not that any one should bear witness
concerning man; for he knew what was in man”. When a person trusts / believes
in the Lord properly, unlike those who believed only a surface level,
then the Lord trusts Himself unto them. He believes in them as they have
believed in Him. Paul often speaks of how the Lord has trusted / committed
[s.w.] the preaching of the Gospel unto him (1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; 1
Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:11; Tit. 1:3). We believe, and therefore we speak
forth the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:13). Perceive the parallels within the Jn.
He knew all men = He knew what was in man
Jesus did not trust [s.w. ‘believed’] himself unto them =
because he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man
If we truly believe in Jesus, He believes in us, and we therefore bear
witness concerning Him. If we don’t truly believe in Him, He will not
commit / trust / believe Himself unto us. But by grace we have truly believed.
It is therefore axiomatic that we bear witness of Him.
God has therefore trusted us with the job of preaching His Gospel. That
He trusts us, believes in us, is a surpassing thought. If you trust someone
completely with a task, to the point it is clear that now if they don’t
do it, it won’t be done, they often respond with a maturity and zest which
wouldn’t be seen if they merely were given partial responsibility [children
are a good example of this]. And so God has done with us. Of Abraham God
said: “I have known him, to the end that he may command his household
and his children after him” (Gen. 18:19 RV). The knowledge of God was
not so that he could enjoy it alone; it was given to him as it is given
to us to the end that we might share it with others. We are compared
to a candle that is lit (cp. our baptism) so that it may give
light to others (Lk. 8:16; 11:33); the woman (the Lord Jesus) lights a
candle (He uses believers) to find his lost coin (through our efforts)
(Lk. 15:8; this must be seen in the context of the other two references
in Luke to lighting a candle). If we don't give light (God's word, Ps.
119:105) to others, we are a candle under a bucket, and therefore we will
lose our faith, the flame will go out. So it's hard not to conclude that
if we don't naturally give the light to others, we don't believe. The
very nature of a lit candle is that it gives light; all candles
do this, not just some.
The Lord wants to use us as His candle, and He will arrange situations
in life to enable this. The family at Bethany may have been an example
of this. The Jews had commanded “that if any man knew where he was, he
should shew it” (Jn. 11:57). And “Jesus therefore…came to Bethany”
(Jn. 12:1 RV). He purposefully attracted attention to His connection with
the Bethany home. And so it was that “much people of the Jews learned
that he was there”(Jn. 12:9), and the context makes it clear that this
was a source of witness to them (Jn. 12:10,11). The Lord sought to expose
their secret discipleship, to take the bucket off their candle. And He
will do likewise with us. Jonah is of course the great example. He refused
to “cry” the message of repentance to Nineveh; he wanted to be an incognito
prophet. But an incognito prophet is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron.
So the Lord brought about a situation in which he desperately “cried”
to God; and then told him to go and “cry” to Nineveh. The very same Hebrew
words are used about his crying to God and his crying / proclamation to
Nineveh (Jonah 1:2; 2:2; 3:2,4). Jonah was forced by circumstance to share
his relationship with God with the world around him which he despised.
Naaman is another example. He wanted to be a secret believer, even bowing
down to Rimmon to keep his boss happy. God seems to have allowed this,
but He worked in Naaman’s life, I suggest, so that his faith was no longer
secret. For soon after his conversion, his master got the hunch that one
of his courtiers was “for the king of Israel” (2 Kings 6:11). And Naaman
would have been the obvious suspect, as he had gone to Israel and been
cured of his leprosy by an Israeli prophet. We then read that the army
of Syria came against Elisha the prophet and sought to surround him in
order to capture him. They were then judged by God. Could it really be
so that Naaman would have led that army? Surely the situation arose so
as to force Naaman to resign the job. Thus God worked to stop him being
a secret believer, and to remove him from a position where he could not
live with a free conscience before the Father. And so God will do in our
lives- if we respond.
I know what I'm saying won't go down well. As a community, we have to
admit that generally our members are hopelessly shy to breathe a word
to the man next to them about the good news of Christ and His cross. But
if we don't tell others the Gospel, do we believe it...? Could
it be that for all our Biblical research and struggles for purity, our
attitude to witnessing shows that many of us don't actually believe
the basic Gospel very deeply at all? Confession (preaching of
the Gospel) is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:9); there is a connection
between our preaching and salvation, because salvation depends upon faith;
and if we believe, if we have drunk the living water, it will spring up
in us and bubble over to others. Because David did not conceal God’s mercy
and truth [a phrase often referring to the Gospel covenant to Abraham]
from others, therefore God would not conceal His mercy and truth from
David (Ps. 40:10,11). The farmer who sows seed is likened to every preacher
of the Gospel; and yet his own life and the lives of others depends upon
the sowing of the seed. This is how vital preaching is; it isn’t the only
virtue which the redeemed believer is expected to demonstrate, but it
is one of them.
Finally, these thoughts about the spontaneity of the Gospel lead us to
a more general principle. It isn't only preaching that comes naturally
to the serious believer. As brothers and sisters have a natural affinity
to each other, so true Christian fellowship is something which naturally
occurs. Thus a group of new converts can meet at a Bible School for the
first time and naturally gel with each other. There's no
need to tell them to be close to each other. They are brothers and sisters,
and they know it, and they act like it quite naturally. We are all members
of the same body, and therefore there is a natural sympathy between us,
e.g. a natural sense of hurt when one part of the body suffers (1 Cor.
12:26). The body grows together, it edifies itself in love (Eph. 4:16).
Growth is a natural process, it doesn't really occur through being pulled
and stretched by the words of another brother in an article or Bible talk.
Yet on the other hand, we shouldn't feel that OK, we are in Christ now,
we are growing, we can just sit back and watch the changes in our personality.
It won't happen like this.
The power of growth comes from two related ways. Firstly, the word of
God is the power by which we were conceived, and it is this which will
give us that power of new birth inside us (1 Pet. 1:23; James 1:18). Regular,
systematic, personal Bible study is the absolute key; not
just hearing the words of another brother at a Bible address and intellectually
assenting, more or less, to the truth of what he's said; but searching
the scriptures for ourselves; " desire the sincere milk of the word,
that ye may grow thereby " (1 Pet. 2:2). It is the
word of the Gospel that brings forth fruit in us (Col. 1:6). The seed
is the word (Lk. 8:11), and it springs up in the new convert, the sower
(the preacher) knows not how (Mk. 4:27). God gives the growth, not the
brethren who preach or do pastoral work (1 Cor. 3:6). This is true comfort
for those who worry that because a believer is in isolation, away from
contact with other believers, they will find the way to the Kingdom hard.
If the word is allowed to be in us, it will spring up and enable fruit
to grow, we know not how. Thus there is a parallel drawn in Acts between
the growth of the word and that of the church (6:7 Gk.; 12:24; 19:20).
Secondly, the dynamic for spiritual growth is related to having the spirit
/ mind / disposition of Christ (Col. 1:11 cp. Eph. 3:16). It is the influence
of Christ that makes us grow and become more loving and spiritual (Col.
2:19; 1 Thess. 3:12). His spirit brings forth love, patience etc. (Gal.
5:22; Eph. 5:9). Our connection with Him brings forth fruit (Jn. 15:5;
Rom. 7:4). If we concentrate our thinking upon Him, on appreciating the
moral glory of His character, we will be changed into that same image
by the possession of His spirit / mind (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). Truly do we sing
to Him: “Thy fellowship shall make me strong”. On the cross, He declared
God's character so that His love might be in us (Jn. 17:26).
If we begin to see the height of His righteousness, to appreciate albeit
from afar the beauty of His perfection, we will begin to attain His spirit,
the radiating glory of His face will rub off on us, more and more. So
growth will come naturally if the word, the logos of Christ
is in us. We won't need to be told how to live, we won't need to agonise
so much over our spiritual inabilities. The changes will come, naturally
and irresistibly- if we give the word of the risen Lord the place it should
have in our hearts.
(1) The aim of our fulfilling the great commission is above all
to "make disciples", to get more followers behind Jesus,
more learners of Him, a greater bride for Him. Gramatically in Mt.
28:19-20, mathateusate ("make disciples") is
the main verb, and poreuthentes ("while going"),
baptizontes ("baptizing"), and didaskontes
("teaching") are subsidiary participles. In other
words, the focus of our work must be upon making disciples for Christ,
on thereby bringing about His glory. All the baptizing and teaching
which we do is subsidiary to this aim, and they can therefore never
be ends in themselves.
(2) See 4-1
Humility And Preaching.
(3) This attitude seems to have arisen from a wrong emphasis being
placed on the passages in Ezekiel which state that the duty of the
prophet was to warn Israel of impending judgment, and if they did
that, they would be free of their responsibility. The impression
is given that the prophets therefore said " Look out Israel,
judgment day is coming!" and then walked away breathing a sigh
of relief that they wouldn't be condemned themselves for failing
in their duty. But the purpose of the prophets was to plead with
Israel to repent, to describe the judgments for sin with the earnest
hope that this would bring about repentance among those who heard.
If they didn't do this they would be condemned. The
Lord says that we are all the watchers of the door
of the house of the ecclesia (Mk. 13:34,35; Lk. 12:39,40),
as the prophets were the watchmen over the city of Zion, God's Old
Testament ecclesia. We all therefore have a responsibility
to guide and warn the ecclesia, not just to scrape out of condemnation
for ourselves, but from a genuine, earnest desire to help others
to the Kingdom road.