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 salvation victory.

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 (Mt. 12:16,19).

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).

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