3 “Witnesses unto me”
The Lord commissioned us to go into all the world and make disciples
of all; but He describes this in other terms as being witnesses of Him
to the world (Mt. 28:19; Acts 1:8). Our witness must fundamentally, therefore,
be Christ-centred. The same Greek words are used about treading underfoot
the seed of the Gospel, and treading underfoot the Son of God (Lk. 8:5;
Heb. 10:29). Our knowledge of Him and living in Him are the essence of
our witness. He is essentially our witness. The great commission is framed
in language which picks up on the descriptions of the Lord’s own preaching
earlier in His ministry. His idea clearly enough is that He will no longer
be on earth; therefore His people must be ‘Him’ to the whole earth:
The great commission to us
The personal preaching of Jesus
Make disciples (Mt. 28:19)
Made disciples (Mt. 4:18-22; Mk. 1:16-20;
Preach the Gospel, teach people (Mk.
Proclaimed the Gospel (Lk. 4:18), taught
people (Mk. 6:30)
Proclaim repentance (Lk. 24:47)
Proclaimed repentance (Mk. 1:15)
Forgive and retain sins (Jn. 20:23)
Forgave sins (Mt. 9:1-9; Mk. 2:1-12)
Retained sins (Jn. 8:21-24; 9:41)
Witnessed to others in obedience to the
great commission (Acts 1:8)
Witnessed what he had seen and heard
Cast out demons, heal (Mk. 16:16)
Cast out demons (Mk. 3:15; 6:7,13), healed
We are all aware, at least theoretically, that at our baptism we became
" in Christ" . Through that act we obeyed all the Lord's invitations
to believe " in Him" , or as the Greek means, to believe into
Him. We believed into Him after we heard the Gospel, by baptism
(Eph. 1:13). We are now connected with the death and resurrection of the
Lord Jesus Christ; we are treated by God as if we are His Son. His supreme
righteousness is counted to us; we have a part in His redemption and salvation,
because we are in Him (Rom. 3:24). In God's eyes, we became newly
created people, because we were in Christ by baptism (2 Cor.
5:17; Col. 1:16,17). He made in Himself a new man (Eph. 2:15).
But do we appreciate what it means to be " in Christ"
as well as we might? Paul could say that he spoke to his brethren in the
face / countenance of Christ (2 Cor. 2:10 Gk.). This is how close we are
to Him. We are the face of Christ to this world, and to our brethren;
He has no arms or legs or face on this earth apart from us, His body.
God “makes His appeal by us” (2 Cor. 5:20 RSV). As we reflect Him, so
will be the perception of others of Christ. We are “witnesses [on account
of our being] in him” (Acts 5:32 RVmg.). We are His epistle to men and
women; His words of expression consist in our lives and characters (2
Cor. 3:3). The richness of His character, the wisdom and knowledge
of the Father that is in Him, is there for our eternal discovery (Eph.
1:7; Col. 1:27; 2:3). We were baptized into His death; He had a cup to
drink of (His death) and a baptism to be baptized with (His burial) which
we now become united with (Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:10-12). As such great attention
was focused upon that suffering Son in His death, as such lavish, almost
senseless extravagance of care for His burial: all of this becomes
lavished on us as we become in Him. All that is true of Him becomes
in some way true of us; as He is the seed of Abraham, so we become; and
so the list could go on. Every stage of His being is applicable to we
who are in Him:
- At the beginning of the world, when He was yet in the Father’s plan,
we were in Him (Eph. 1:4)
- Even the language of His virgin birth is applied to us (Jn. 1:13)
- God sent forth Christ to save the world, and likewise we
are sent forth in witness (Gal. 4:4 cp. Mt. 9:38; 22:3; Acts
13:4). The Saviour Himself said that as He was sent into the world,
so He sent us (Jn. 17:18).
- As He witnessed in His ministry, so must we (Rom. 2:19 cp. Mt. 4:16)
- As He had a predetermined and foreknown destiny (Acts 2:23), so the
same words are used about us who are in Him (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4,5).
- “I will make an everlasting covenant with you”, plural (Is. 55:3)
is quoted about Jesus personally in Acts 13:34; and yet the covenant
applies to us too.
- As He will rule the world with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:9) and brake
the nations to powder at His return (Dan. 2:44), so will each of those
in Him (Rev. 2:27). And notice how Ps. 2:1,2, a prophecy about opposition
to Jesus personally, is appropriated to those who preach Him, because
they are in Him (Acts 4:25,26).
- As He witnessed before Pilate, so must we witness (1 Tim. 6:12,13)
- As He prayed for those who despitefully used Him, and blessed and
cursed not as the thieves did, so must we (Mt. 5:44; 1 Pet. 3:3)
- Baptism commits us to a life of sharing His death and resurrection.
When John fell at the Lord’s feet “as dead”, the Lord responded
by saying: ‘I too was dead , but no more; I’m alive for
evermore, and as I died with you and for you, so I live with you
and for you, and you do the same for me’ (Rev. 1:17,18).
- There are times when Paul uses the word "Christ"
when we'd have expected him to use the word "church"-
e.g. "Is Christ divided?... as the body is one... so also
is Christ" (1 Cor. 1:13; 12:12). This synecdoche serves to
demonstrate the intense unity between Christ and His people- we
really are Him to this world.
- ‘Christ’ is simply the Greek form of ‘Messiah’. We suffer as ‘Christians’,
Peter says. We are in that sense Messiah, and as Messiah was a suffering
Messiah, so we must bear our part in His sufferings. This would have
been a radical thing for the first century Palestinian Jewish mind;
to accept that by conversion to ‘Christ-ianity’, they became as it were
- The description of the believer as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1)
alludes to the scapegoat, the only living sacrifice, which was a type
of the risen Lord (Lev. 16:10 LXX = Acts 1:3). As the Lord ran free
in His resurrection, bearing away the sins of men, so we who are in
Him and preach that salvation can do the same. As Christ bore away our
iniquities (Is. 53:11), so “we then that are strong ought to bear the
iniquities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1).
- We died, rose and in a spiritual sense even ascended with
Him to heavenly places in Him, and even sit with Him there
(Eph. 2:6). 1 Cor. 15:12 reasons that there absolutely must be a resurrection
of those in Christ, simply because Christ rose. Those in Him
absolutely must rise, therefore; to disbelieve in our resurrection is
to disbelieve in His.
- We build our spiritual house upon the rock, and He does just the
same; we work together with Him in this, because we are in Him (Mt.
- “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare
thy way before thee” is how Mk. 1:2 quotes Mal. 3:1; but “before thy
face” is added, as if to create a reference to the Angel sent before
Israel in the wilderness, to find a resting place (Ex. 23:20). The parallel
is set up between John and the Angel, and therefore between Jesus and
the people of Israel. The Lord Jesus is His people. He personally
is the vine, the one body- symbols of the whole community. He isn’t
the trunk, and we the branches. We are the branches, and He is
the whole vine. We are Him to this world. Thus Eph. 3:20,21 and many
other passages parallel Christ and the ecclesia. “The servant” of Isaiah’s
prophecies is therefore both Israel and the Lord Jesus. The fact He
was and is the representative of God’s people means that those in Him
must act and witness as Him.
Those seminal promises to Abraham hinged around what would be realised
in, not " by" , his seed. I emphasize again:
all that is true of the Lord Jesus is now true of us, in that we
are in Him. Often the promises about the seed in the singular (the
Lord Jesus) are applied to us in the plural (e.g. 2 Sam. 7:14 cp.
Ps. 89:30-35). Baptism is not an initiation into a church. It isn't
something which just seems the right thing to do. And even
if because of our environment and conscience, it was easier to get
baptized than not- now this mustn't be the case. We really
are in Christ, we are born again; now we exist, spiritually!
And moreover, we have risen with Him, His resurrection life, His
life and living that will eternally be, is now manifest in us, and
will be articulated physically at the resurrection. All the outward
forms will slowly fade and pass away... but the essence will remain.
And the essence is that we are in Christ, we are His, not
this world’s, and the life we have in Him will eternally continue.
His God is our God. God is rarely addressed as "Father"
in the Old Testament- not once in the Psalms. And yet "Father"
becomes the usual term used by Christians to address God in the
New Testament. Surely this is because being "in Christ"
means that Christ's relationship to God becomes possible for us.
As He called God "Abba"- a strikingly unusual term for
God- so we can too. Indeed it could be argued from an analysis of
the term "Father" in the New Testament that this title
for God became progressively popular amongst Christians as the first
century went on. Thus Mark, the first Gospel record, has only three
references to God as "Father", whereas there are over
100 such references in John's Gospel [which appears to have been
written last]; and Paul's letters are progressively full
of the term and the idea. And so with us too on an individual level-
the idea of God as Father becomes progressively attractive to us
as we grow in intimacy with Him.