What Is a Witness?

By Ross Rhoads   •   June 5, 2006

In more than 50 years of traveling around the world, I have never had anyone witness to me about their Christian faith, though several have confessed their faith after I initiated a conversation. Surveys indicate that the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians do not witness to others about their faith in Christ. Eighty-five percent never invite anyone to church, and 95 percent never win anyone to Christ.

What does it mean to witness? Before the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, His last words were, “You shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). Witnessing was a command, not a choice. The disciples boldly testified, “We were eyewitnesses from the beginning” (Cf. Luke 1:2) and “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16, NKJV) and “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NKJV).

The word witness needs little explanation. A witness testifies to what is seen or heard and verifies what is true. In court, a witness must swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God.

A witness can be a symbol. For example, Abraham gave Abimelech seven lambs as a witness in a land agreement (Genesis 21:27-30). Jacob made a pile of stones as a witness to mark a boundary between him and Laban (Genesis 31:44-50). The tribes of Reuben and Gad made an altar as a witness to Israel (Joshua 22:34). For Christians, baptism is a witness and confession in identification with the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Romans 6:3-5).

God is a witness: He testifies to the veracity of His Son. Jesus is a witness of Himself and the Father by His words and actions. The Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus. The Scriptures are a witness of the Trinity. The Law and the Prophets were a witness. The apostles gave witness. The angels witness. People’s actions are a witness against themselves. The human conscience is a witness of the laws of God. People witness to their experience, and believers are to be witnesses of the Gospel to the entire world (John 5:32, 5:39, 8:18, 15:26; Romans 3:21; Acts 10:43; Matthew 23:31; Romans 2:15; John 4:39; Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19).

The New Testament lists people in biblical history and calls them faithful witnesses. Hebrews 12:1-3 uses the imagery of a stadium in which a crowd views a great contest. Those viewing the contest have been in the arena themselves. This picture challenges every Christian to persevere because these faithful witnesses are watching. Therefore, run the race, look to Jesus. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith; He endured the cross and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. And finally, the Lord Jesus is proven in Revelation 1:5 and 3:14 to be the faithful, true and ultimate Witness.

What prevents a person from witnessing? Cultural pressure makes people hesitant. Many assume that witnessing creates intolerance. Witnessing about the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who don’t believe, the Scriptures say. The fear of losing friends silences a witness. The insecurity of not having the right answers for other religions prevents some from sharing their faith. In many parts of the world, persecution is a threat. Other times a lack of conviction that people are lost prevents witnessing. The failure to live a consistent Christian life negates a convincing witness. But none of these obstacles can compare with the tragedy of Christians doing nothing as people on every side enter eternity without Jesus Christ. May God make us all faithful witnesses.

What Is the Witness of the Christian Faith?
Christians have been commissioned by Jesus Christ to testify to the following:

The Gospel
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Sriptures”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV).

The Divinity of Jesus, That He Is the Savior of the World
“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14, NKJV).

The Love of God
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).

The Forgiveness of God
“[God] commanded us … to testify that it is [Christ] who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:42, 43, NKJV).

The Grace of God
” … that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24, NKJV).

The Hope of Eternal Life
“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV).

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