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Christian Witnessing : Part– III


About the Subject – “Christian Witnessing”                                    

    ‘Evangelism’ and Christian ‘witnessing’ are synonymous terms. Yet, these two are vastly different in content in their practical form.  ‘Witnessing’ is a Biblical term standing unchanged in purpose and scope of activity. ‘Evangelism’ too has the same purport.  Yet, it became drastically restricted in scope to a narrow purpose and activity, which is, just presenting the ‘message of salvation’ with a few follow-up (sequential) acts.  Functionally ‘evangelism’ is an abridged version of ‘witnessing.’ In such a limited scope, ‘evangelism’ means ‘sharing the good news.’ That in itself sounds very brief in content, purpose and work. In this context, just to a) ‘preach’ ‘salvation in Christ,’ b) inviting the listener to accept Christ as the personal Savior and c) assuring eternity with God, and d) enjoining the new convert to come into a Christian fellowship – the church.  The preacher can keep working on the hearers till the desired results (decisions) are accomplished. Campaign can end there as the preacher moves on. Then, with some believers, a small church starts, or new members would be connected to an existing church.  To an itinerant preacher or radio/tv preacher the task ends with the dissemination of the message.  In this, the major task is ‘preaching the message of eternity’ in the ordeal of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

      Whatever follows is not necessarily as important as the main message.  That is a different chapter of work related to the church or related agencies. This is what is evident in today’s evangelism activity.

     ‘Witnessing’ is rather more extensive. This term is based on the Biblical content. In this, ‘witness’ means representing ‘a situation,’ a ‘fact,’ ‘experience’ and ‘the person’ involved in it.  This comes in twoforms: One, The activity in heaven.  As such, this is about the divine realm of God, what happened there, experience of it, the ensuing activity, the One who is the witness to all this. This further means, it is about God, what God talked and decided in heaven,the One who saw it – the Son Jesus, and his work of God’s mission on earth.  Two, its activity on earth: a) such activity through God’s Son, Jesus, and b) through the followers of Jesus.

      This ‘representative’ work is about a ‘living’ experience. It means, the Son ‘lives’ what he had seen and heard from the Father in heaven (John 3:11; 7:16; 8:26b, 28b; 5:36). This heavenly divine experience, the Son brings to earth as ‘life’ (Jn. 6:63b). As such the Son is the ‘representative of life and light and the very word of God’ on earth. For this reason Jesus always connects ‘life’ to the ‘word’ that he brought from God and the ‘word’ that himself has been (Jn. 5:24).

      The meaning of Jesus being the ‘witness’ to what happened in heaven  as the Father saying (Jn. 12:50b), is again, testified by God Himself for people to believe (Jn. 1:32-33; 3:17; 5:37;12:28); also testified by John the baptizer (Jn. 1:34; cf., 5; 31-35); and testified by Moses in the former times even before the Prophets did (Jn.5:46).

      The other part of ‘life’ that Jesus brought from the Father in heaven is life eternal.  Therefore Jesus allowed the skepticism of his critics about his words and claims. So, he gave them a proof, and that would be (what happens on) the cross (Jn. 3: 14, etc.).  

     In all these, witnessing about God’s work that the Scriptures narrate and the work done through Jesus his son is about ’life eternal.’ The uniqueness is that this life was brought to earth from life by God in the work of his Son Jesus.  The cross is about life more than it is about death. Thus, it is not ‘saying a word’ rather ‘living the word in it its human form.’  As such, witnessing for life is not just ‘saying the words about life, rather living the world in the life of the witnesses.

      Our witness for Christ in the world: In the same analogy, true followers of Jesus are expected to ‘represent’ life they received in Jesus Christ among those whom they touch with that message.  It is as if they are truly representing eternal life that they themselves experienced.  It is, therefore, not merely telling the story of Jesus Christ.   It is, therefore, not ‘saying mere words.’ What has been said is what has been represented as a living form.  That is the meaning in Christ saying, he bears ‘witness’ to what had happened in his Father’s heavenly realm. Therefore, Christian witnessing is not about Christ, rather Christ literally living in us.  Only this touches lives. This touch of life is both mundane and eternal. In both, God’s word of life must come through.    This is divine word and work.  This does not allow darkness nor dark acts (Jn. 3:20, 21).  If the lives of the witnesses are dark and their deeds suspect, their preaching stands suspect; of empty words; and the hearers might even say, “There is no difference between your lives and our lives.” 

      “Witnessing” is the mission why God chose Israel. It is through their word, work and life Israel was supposed to show God’s active presence to humanity. For this reason God always has been saying, ‘you are my witness” (Isa. 43:10, 12, etc.). Israel was specifically called to be that ‘representative’ people among the nations.  In other words, Who God was and what God did and would do must be the content of the message of truth in the real life of this ‘representative’ people.   Simply put, when nations see Israel living as God’s people should, they must be able to see God (just as Jesus said in Jn. 12:45).  It is this call, “You are my witnesses” (Isa 43:10, 12) the meaning is broader. Jesus makes a reference to Israel’s hollow understanding of the Scriptures in his talk with Nicodemus: (Jn. 3:10) and Jews of his crowds (5:39, 40). Their study was empty, without getting the real meaning, hollow and ‘lifeless.’  In God’s expectation Israel failed.  Then, God took the next step of bringing ‘life’ to humanity through His Son Jesus. In all these episodes, it is about ‘life’ in the ‘word’ and our failure as it was Israel.

     Furthermore, God had a greater purpose in Israel standing among the nations as His witnessing nation.  And that is about the nations knowing that God of the Universe and God the Creator is involved in human affairs and not withdrawn to heaven as the other nations believed.   By this, God meant that the nations should be able to see in the national life of the people of Israel that God’s will, word and work continues to rule the life of all humanity.  In today’s world, God’s expectation that he is involved in human life and is expecting humanity to walk in the righteous path (the “way of the Lord,” Gen 18: 19) is the existing requirement.  Jesus reiterates this in his various statements about fulfilling God’s mission on earth (read the gospel of John). However, this is not an active aspect in today’s evangelism program. [This topic will be discussed under ‘God’ in other chapters and in the separate larger essay, “Understanding the Bible”]. 

    The will of God was about how He wanted His people to live (the life of righteousness). This has been foundational to a) everything that happened in the life of Israel, b) God’s responses to their failure and c) the skepticism of the surrounding nations about God and His work.   

    Experiencing God and His Son Jesus is “experiencing God’s will, word and work in people’s real life and literally living it.  This was the expectation on Israel.  But, Israel failed in this.  The Prophets shouted this requirement of truth, justice and righteousness as their unending message from God. The unfailing purpose in God’s call to humanity has been that it followed ‘the way of the Lord’ (Gen. 18:20)in the model of Israel’s life because there would be accountability at the end of time of human life on earth at the Great Day of Judgment.  Jesus repeated this message throughout his teaching ministry.  God didn’t threaten humanity of this Day of reckoning without offering an alternative.  He offered forgiveness through redemption of sins in the sacrificed life of His Son Jesus Christ. 

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Last modified on Sunday, 09 September 2012 04:12
Dr. John Reynolds

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About Path of the Divine Virtue

Some understanding of the term *The Divine Virtue is necessary. The series of articles on Biblical themes, study of the biblical topics (Bible Study), topics on Christian witnessing, theology, understanding the Bible Read More..