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 “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; Lk. 5:1-11)

Preach the Gospel, teach people (Mk. 16:15)

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 (Jn. 3:11)

Cast out demons, heal (Mk. 16:16)

Cast out demons (Mk. 3:15; 6:7,13), healed (Mk. 6:13)

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 Christ.

- 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. 7:24; 16:18).

- “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.