A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


3. “Witnesses unto me”

3-1 “Witnesses unto me” || 3-2 Witnessing For Christ || 3-3 Paul Preaching Christ || 3-4 Boldness In Witness || 3-5 The Servant Songs || 3-6 The Proof Of The Resurrection Is The Church || 3-7 Preaching As Christ Did

3-3 Paul Preaching Christ

But Paul is the clearest and commonest example. He was told by Jesus that all those whom he had persecuted were in fact Jesus personally (Acts 9:5). And this idea of the believer being so totally bound up with his or her Lord continues with Paul throughout his life. Thus he 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- although 26:23 applies it to Jesus personally). 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. And when on trial, Paul explained his preaching to the Jews “and then to the Gentiles” as being related to the fact that he had to “shew” the Gospel to them because Christ rose from the dead to “shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:20,23). In other words, he saw his personal preaching as shewing forth the light of Jesus personally.

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). Notice how in the preceding verse, Jesus said spoke of how “I must work the works of him that sent me” (Jn. 9:4 AV), yet the RV reflects the manuscript difficulties by giving “We must work”. Could it be that the Lord said: ‘I must work, we [you in me] must work’? The Lord Jesus was the light of the world on account of His resurrection: “He first by the resurrection from the dead should proclaim light both to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23 RV). If we are baptized into His death and resurrection, we too are the light of this world in that the light of His life breaks forth in us. And this is exactly why belief in His resurrection is an imperative to preach it. And it’s why the great commission flows straight out of the resurrection narrative.

 There are a number of other instances of where Old Testament Messianic Scriptures are applied to Paul in the context of his preaching Christ:

The Servant / Messiah


The servant known from birth (Is. 49:1,5)

Gal. 1:15,16 [choice from birth, calling, ministry to the Gentiles]

“I have laboured in vain…” (Is. 49:3)

“That I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Phil. 2:16; 1 Cor. 15:58)

“Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord” (Is. 49:4)

“He that judgeth me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4)

“Him whom man despiseth” (Is. 49:7)

“We are despised” (1 Cor. 4:9,10; 2 Cor. 4:9,10)

“The Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you” (Is. 49:& RSV)

“A chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15)

Is. 52:15

Rom. 15:21 [here Paul appropriates a prophecy of how the news of the crucified Christ would spread to those who had never heard it. He didn’t just read those verses as prophecy; he saw in them an imperative to fulfil them. This is an example of where prophecy depends to some extent upon us to fulfil it. The 19th century brethren understood the prophecies of Israel’s return to the land like this- they collected funds to enable it] (1).

Is. 49:8 “In an acceptable time have I heard thee”

Quoted in 2 Cor. 6:2

Is. 53:1

Rom. 10:16

Is. 49:6

Acts 13:47

Is. 43:5

Acts 18:9,10

Paul speaks of how the believers in Macedonia "first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us" (2 Cor. 8:5). He saw their response to the Lord as their response to him- because he appreciated the degree to which he as their converter was a full manifestation of the Lord whom he preached. In the same way as the Lord Jesus came to seek and to save, so Paul appropriates the same two Greek words regarding his seeking and saving of others (Lk. 19:10; 1 Cor. 10:33).

Our Pattern

And repeatedly, Paul’s conversion and mission is set up as our model. I have detailed this in http://www.aletheiacollege.net/bl/14-1Conversion_Of_Paul.htm . He had the same calling as we do (Rom. 9:24; 1 Thess. 4:7); in him above all there is set a pattern for all those who would hereafter believe. This may not entail itinerant missionary work as it did for Paul, but all the same, the same essential commitment to Gospel preaching must be at the core of the life of every convert. The great commission is the mission statement of the true church. In 1 Cor. 10:33; 11:1 he bids us follow his example in that he lived a life dominated by seeking to save others- both in and out of the ecclesia [see context]. This may explain why there is little direct encouragement in Paul’s letters to preach; not only was his pattern axiomatically an imperative to live a life devoted to witness, but the following of Christ as he did inevitably issued in a life of witness. Thus Paul made himself a slave in order to save others (2 Cor. 9:19), just as the Lord made himself a slave on the cross to save us (Phil. 2:5-8). Our work of saving others is therefore part of our sharing in the Lord’s cross. Paul was to bear Christ’s name to the world in that  he would suffer great things for the sake of that Name (Acts 9:15,16). His sharing in the Lord’s sufferings was the bearing of the Name before men. The Greek word for ‘bear’ in Acts 9:15 is the same used in Lk. 14:27 about bearing the cross. To bear His name to the world is to bear His cross. The record of the disciples’ persecution for the sake of their witness is studded with references to their preaching being in the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:2,7,9,10,12 RV). Whoever heard them heard Jesus (Lk. 10:16). The prophecy of Psalm 2 concerning how “the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ” was appropriated by the preachers to themselves even though it is elsewhere applied to the crucifixion (Acts 4:26). Paul exhorts preachers to be “with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel”, and then goes on to define that “one mind” as the mind that was in Christ Jesus in His time of dying. Having outlined the mind of Christ at this time, Paul then returns to his theme of preaching, by saying that the Lord’s death was so that each of us should be inspired to humbly confess him as Lord to the world (Phil. 1:27; 2:2,5,11).

Mission work, in whatever form, is not glamorous. It is a sacrifice of self, a not saying and doing as we feel, a surrendering of our own rights- to a shower every day, to good food, to safety, to comfort, to the acceptance of men- for the sake of others’ salvation, both in the preaching of the Gospel and in helping our brethren to salvation. To lose life is paralleled with the Lord to unashamedly witnessing to Him in an unbelieving world; and He calls us each one to lose our lives in this way (Mk. 8:35). When Paul is described as going “forth without the gate” to preach in Philippi (Acts 16:13 RV), this is the very language of Heb. 13:12 about the Lord going forth without the gate, carrying the cross, and bidding us follow Him. For Paul, to preach was to carry the cross of Christ, and so it must be for us. The Lord likened the preaching of the Gospel to a seed falling onto various types of ground, good, stony, etc. In all the synoptics, the account of the sower parable is recorded at length; and within that parable, the Lord emphasizes this falling of the seed onto the ground. Likewise He likes response to the Gospel message to “a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth… but when it is sown…” (Mk. 2:31,32). But the Lord clearly understood the image of a seed falling into the ground as prophetic of His forthcoming crucifixion (Jn. 12:23-25). The connection in His mind is surely clear- the preaching of the Gospel is a form of death and crucifixion, in order to bring forth a harvest in others. Is. 53:14 prophesied that through the cross, the Lord Jesus would "justify the many". Yet this phrase is picked up in Dan. 12:3 and applied to those who preach the Gospel- and thereby become "those who justify the many". The implication is plain enough. Through preaching, we live out the Lord's death for others in practice, we placard Him crucified before the world's eyes. We are not simply "Him" to them; we are Him crucified to them. The honour of this is surpassing.

In Rom 15:21, Paul justifies his preaching by quoting from part of the suffering servant prophecy in Is. 52 / 53. That whole passage is set in a context of explaining “how beautiful are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings…all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Is. 52:7,10). The preaching of good tidings and the declaration of God’s salvation was through the crucifixion. Paul quotes Is. 52:15: “To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand”. This was Paul’s justification for taking the Gospel to where Christ has not been named. Note in passing how the Lord Jesus sees us as “beautiful” in our witness to Him (as in Song 7:1). Yet further into Is. 53, so much else jumps out at us as appropriate to Paul’s preaching: “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high [cp. Paul knowing how to be exalted and abased, themes that occur in Is. 53 about Jesus’ death]. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man [cp. Paul’s thorn in the flesh?], and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for [that] which had not been told them shall they see; and [that] which they had not heard shall they consider”. Paul appeared before Agrippa, Festus, and one or two Caesars, with a visage marred by his evangelistic sufferings.

It was this marred visage of Paul which had impressed the Galatians with how much Paul was Christ-manifest: “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4). He could truly say in Gal 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ”, and that before their eyes “Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth [‘placarded’], crucified among you…for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 3:1; 6:17). Thus to preach through cross carrying means sharing in the Lord’s sufferings. It may mean being crucified by our brethren for it as He was, physical hardship and pain… but this is the ground of credibility for our witness. When Paul speaks of how he has "made myself a servant unto all" in his preaching (1 Cor. 9:19), there is an evident connection with his reasoning in Phil. 2:7 about how on the cross, the Lord Jesus likewise made Himself a servant to all. For Paul, preaching was and is to be a sharing in the cross of Christ.

The fact that true preaching is a carrying of the cross explains why Paul felt that the fact that to preach what he did went right against his natural grain, was the proof that indeed a “dispensation of the Gospel” had been given to him. Likewise Jeremiah complained that the visions which he had to preach, about violence and judgment, were quite against the grain of his sensitive soul (Jer. 46:5 RV; 47:6). There is therefore no such person as a natural preacher in the ultimate sense.

The Lord Himself had seen His preaching work as a carrying of the cross. He spoke of how His witness to the Samaritan woman was a ‘finishing of the Father’s work’ (Jn. 4:34). The ‘finishing’ was clearly only accomplished upon the cross, when He cried “It is finished”, and He “fulfilled” or [s.w.] “finished” the Scriptures (Jn. 19:28). Thus in His life, He lived out the essence of His future cross by witnessing to others. Like Paul, we need to grasp what this means for us in practice. Crucifixion was a public, painful, sacrificial act; and true effort in witness will be the same. And this is exactly why Paul can speak of “the preaching of the cross”, the preaching which is the cross (Gk.).

Showing Christ

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). John “was not the light” in the sense that he was not Jesus personally (Jn. 1:8 RV); but he was in another sense “a burning and shining light” (Jn. 5:35) in that he like us was “the light of the world” on account of his connection with Jesus. The Son was “sanctified and sent into the world” (Jn. 10:36). And yet we too are sanctified (Jn. 17:17,19), and likewise sent into the world (Mk. 16:15). As the Lord was sent into the whole world, so are we (Jn. 17:18). 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.). He could remind the Ephesians that Christ personally “came and preached peace to you” after His resurrection (Eph. 2:17 RV), when it was in fact Paul who did this, motivated as he was by the resurrection of Christ.

Paul could tell the Corinthians that his preaching of the word to them “was not yea and nay…for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us…was not yea and nay” (2 Cor. 1:18,19). Paul’s preaching was an exact transmission of the person of Jesus; He was not indecisive, He was positive; and likewise Paul’s preaching of Him had the same marks. He quotes this as a counter to the criticism that he was “yea and nay”, a man with no sense of truth or decision. ‘If I am a man in Christ, then I will axiomatically act like Him, and therefore this criticism of me cannot be true’. God “was pleased to reveal his son in me, that I might preach him” (Gal. 1:16). To preach Christ is to reveal Him to men through ourselves- this is the purpose for which we are called, that our lamp was lit, to reveal Christ to others through us. 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. “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins”, Paul stressed (Acts 13:38)- the preaching of the man Paul was in effect the preaching of the man Christ Jesus. Acts 9:22 records how Paul preached “proving that this is very Christ”. This is a strange way to put it; it’s as if Paul himself was standing there showing in his person, Christ Himself. 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.


(1) “ ‘Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!’ said Bilbo. ‘Of course!’ said Gandalf. ‘And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?’” (J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit).