I ran across this article and thought I’d share. It has bothered me for quite a while when I hear someone claim they have “witnessed” to someone. This article sums up why I feel this way and I certainly couldn’t have said it any better.
Witnesses and Bearing Witness for Christ
The word “witness” appears in God’s holy Scriptures more than one hundred times. It has widespread application and a variety of meanings depending upon the Hebrew or Greek word used and the context in which it is used. The most general definition for the word “witness” is to give testimony. In 2 Corinthians 8:3, Paul bore witness to the Corinthians of the Macedonians’ deep poverty. His witness (testimony) was true making him a true witness of the facts. Paul would have been able to convince a court of law with the facts that these people were poor because he had been there and saw the conditions in which they lived. He had the evidence necessary to convince the Corinthians concerning the truth of his testimony. Jesus used the word “witness” in the same manner in John 18:23. He stated, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if I have spoken well, why do you strike Me?” Jesus demanded that they produce condemning testimony based on facts which would be proven to men. A true witness could produce some clear cut evidence that Jesus worked some type of evil, but we all know that there wasn’t any. Men who bear witness of a crime need ample physical evidence to prove their testimony to a court of law. If they do not have the evidence, their witness is ignored or they become false witnesses and are judged themselves.
Using the word “witness” in this sense, men today can bear witness or give testimony of Jesus through the Word of God. The testimony of the Holy Spirit has been proven and the Scriptures testify of Jesus truthfully and accurately. Even though we have not seen him, the testimony of Jesus given by the Holy Spirit will stand the litmus test of critics as a true historical account of the Son of God. We can persuade men with this testimony. It is important for us to remember that the testimony we bring forth is not of our own, it is the witness of the Holy Spirit, whose testimony is true.
Is it possible for men to be witnesses of Jesus Christ today? Simply because I am able to tell others the testimony of Jesus revealed in the Scriptures doesn’t make mea witness of Jesus. Even though I am able to bear witness of the Christ through the Scriptures doesn’t make me a witness of Jesus Christ. There were many witnesses of Jesus in the New Testament. Thayer defines these witnesses as individuals who have been eye or ear witnesses of Jesus’ extraordinary sayings, deeds, and sufferings which proved his Messiahship. Paul was not a false witness of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:15 for he had seen the resurrected Savior (1 Cor 15:8). The apostles were witnesses of Jesus because they had physically experienced the Savior’s life, death, and life again on this earth (Luke 24:48). They were witnesses of his resurrection because they saw him alive again after his crucifixion.
They soon would witness repentance and remission of sins being preached at Jerusalem and throughout the world because they would be the ones preaching it. These men were witnesses of these things, therefore making their testimony absolutely undeniable. As time went on, Peter told the world that they were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-41) and the list continues to go through the book of Acts. They were able to confirm their witness because the Holy Spirit endued them with undeniable miraculous powers. This made their testimony come to life to the masses. Their mission was to testify of Jesus and their witness was true because they themselves were eyewitnesses of a resurrected Christ.
What about me as a 20th century disciple of Jesus? Can I be a witness of Jesus Christ? The answer is emphatically no! No matter how hard I want to be, I cannot be a witness of the things which the apostles and many disciples witnessed in the first century. I cannot be a witness of Jehovah either for I have not literally seen him nor heard him speak to me. We can all see the power of God and know that God lives through the things he has made and the revelation he has delivered. With all this, it still doesn’t make me a witness. However, on the flip side, we can bear witness (give testimony) of God through the revelation he has given us through the Holy Spirit. If our testimony is of ourselves, it means nothing; but if our testimony is nothing more than book, chapter, and verse; it is of God and needs to be obeyed. Paul told Timothy to preach the Word of God (2 Tim. 4:2). This was his only proper avenue of testimony to bring men to Jesus. We would do well if we followed the instructions of Paul, a witness and apostle of the resurrected Christ.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 10 p. 17-18