Witnessing Part 1 - An Effective Witness
Updated: Aug 16
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. 1 John 1:1-2
The Holy Spirit Bears Witness
Witnessing is the direct approach in which Christians communicate the power of Jesus Christ in their lives and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to those living outside the kingdom. Christians witness in order to bring others into the kingdom with them, by God’s saving grace. "There can be no higher enjoyment found in this world that is found in pulling souls out of the fire and bringing them to Christ" - Unknown. In Scripture, a witness is defined as a person who tells the Truth, which is Jesus Christ.
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26-27).
The Holy Spirit is in the industry of witnessing about the Truth. The Holy Spirit has come to testify about the Truth found only in Jesus Christ, Lord to all and Savior to all who choose to believe in Him.
The Holy Spirit was not only sent into the world to testify about Christ, but He was sent into the hearts of Christians to bear witness to Him. It’s those who have walked with Christ, who are eyewitnesses of Christ. It’s those who have seen firsthand who Jesus Christ is and how He can transform a life; from darkness to life, from dead in sin to alive in Christ. Therefore, witnessing is a ministry that is committed to all Christians. Acts 1: 8 says that we will be witnesses when the Spirit of God has come upon us. Every single Christian is called by God to share his or her testimony and proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to others.
"You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). More than writing His Law on stone, God writes His Law on the hearts of those lives He transforms. We don't become Christians just because we join a church, graduate confirmation class in 8th grade, or even because we get baptized when we're 3 months old. We don't become Christians just because we receive some certificate or letter with a pastor's signature of approval on it. As Christians, we don't have some document that will get misplaced or a letter written in ink that will fade over time. As believers, our letter is a living one, and it's written on the tablets of our hearts by Jesus' own divine power through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. We become Christians when we are saved by grace and put our trust in Christ alone, and that's when the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1:8). That's when we become living testimonies to the truth in Jesus.
An Effective Witness
So, as Christians, do we have to have some sort of special training to be able to witness to others? It’s always helpful to be prepared to answer people's questions and to have some training when sharing the gospel. But really, anyone who truly knows Jesus Christ can be a witness. That’s the non-negotiable for effective witnessing. We must personally know and walk with Jesus Christ to be able to truly testify about Him.
In the world, if we were called to be a witness in a trial, the lawyer would ask us, “What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel?” It’s on those direct terms when one automatically becomes a real, firsthand witness; Seeing, hearing, and touching with our own eyes, ears, and hands. We were there when it happened and experienced it firsthand. Therefore, we are an eyewitness.
1 John 1:1-2 says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us."
So, this means that a witness is someone who has personally seen, heard, and touched the power of Jesus Christ. When we have come to know Christ; when we have seen Him, heard Him, and felt Him in our own lives is when we are able to truly witness to someone concerning Christ. To witness, we don’t have to know all the ins and outs of theology or all the doctrines of Scripture, and we don’t have to fully comprehend all the biblical principles and angles. All of that surely helps, but if we are truly walking with Jesus Christ and have come to know Him personally, we are fully capable to effectively witness to anyone. Being a living testimony to the power of Jesus Christ, knowing firsthand who He is, what He has done, and what He can do, is way more important than witnessing by some sort of step-by-step guide or theological formula.
Head Knowledge Vs. Heart Knowledge
Even a pastor of twenty years can understand all the doctrines of Scripture, teach biblical principles, know all the facts, and yet, still not truly know Christ. He may have all the head knowledge in the world, but if he doesn’t have the heart knowledge of Christ, he can’t be a witness, let alone an effective one. It’s only when he comes to know and receive Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and submit to His Lordship that he becomes a true witness of Christ. Just knowing all the biblical facts and theological doctrines can’t get us very far, but personally walking with Jesus sure can. And truly walking with Jesus will inevitably lead us to desire to know more of Him. And how do we all come to know Jesus more? We come to know Him through knowing His Word, for God is His Word (John 1:1). Knowing the Word of God and having a right view of theology is absolutely important for all Christians and their spiritual growth, but above and beyond, it’s possessing the Spirit of God that makes for an effective witness of Jesus Christ.
So, everyone who is a real Christian is a real witness and has the potential to be an effective witness. That’s everyone who truly believes in Jesus and submits to His Lordship, receiving Him as Savior. In other words, that’s everyone who intimately knows Jesus and walks with Him daily. He is central in our daily lives, not just something we add to our lives when we feel like thinking about Him or asking Him for something.
It's Not Up for Debate
As Christians, we are commanded to be witnesses. Witnessing to others in this world is not up for debate. Witnessing is not based upon our personalities, whether we're outgoing and vocal or shy and reserved. Witnessing is not based upon our personal preferences, feelings, or comforts. Jesus commands His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel (with whatever unique personality or natural disposition He's gifted us with). He says in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” That’s a command that leaves no Christian out. Every single last Christian on earth is commanded to go out into the world and be witnesses to our Lord and Savior, in whom we have personally seen, heard, and felt in our own lives.
See, it’s a very sad thing for us to know the Truth and yet not communicate it to those who don’t have it. To not tell the world who lives in darkness about the Truth in Jesus - the only thing that is able to save our very souls - is a sad, selfish, and unloving thing for us to do. To not share with the lost what we have come to know in Jesus Christ, is to keep others from hearing the greatest thing that will ever pass through their ears – the way to eternal life.
A Seed is Made to Be Sown, A Light is Made to Shine
There is a an innate drive and an ingrained responsibility to take the message of the gospel to others. It's the nature of the gospel. It is to be shared, proclaimed, and shouted from the rooftops. It is expected that if we have the seed, we plant it, and if we have the light, we let it shine. That's the instinctive nature of a seed and the nature of a light. A seed is made to be sown, and a light is made to shine. It makes no sense to store away a a seed or keep a shining light hidden. We are to make Jesus Christ known because He has made Himself known to us. We are to share Him boldly and joyfully with others.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Even as a Christian, if we choose not to say anything and people still know we’re a Christian, we’re a witness. And let’s be honest, to not ever say anything about the saving power of Jesus is not a very good witness, but nevertheless, a witness. That’s because the watching world is looking at the meaning and value of Christ in our life by how we speak, how we behave, and the way we live our life. And so, if we don’t feel like ever saying anything about Christ, taken at face value, it is merely showing the watching world that Christ must not be that valuable to us to never share Him with others. Or, it could just be showing that we might not be too convicted of the Truth ourselves to never speak about Him or share the incredibly good news of the gospel.
"My Faith is Personal" is Bologna
We should be discerning of the people who tell us that their faith is personal and that they prefer not to talk about Jesus. Faith is never to be personal. Jesus is not to be kept a secret. Our faith ought to be the most public thing about us as Christians, regardless of personalities. Being truly convicted of something, especially as powerful as the Truth of Christ, should far outweigh and transcend our personalities, personal preferences, and the manner in which we like to socialize. Again, it’s not up for debate. All Christians are commanded by Jesus to go out and tell everyone about Him! And it should be a joyous thing to do so since Christ is the epitome of joy! And that's not just my opinion. That's the Truth.
"The greatest joy is to know Jesus Christ. The second greatest joy is to make Him known." - Steve Lawson
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).
Let’s put this idea of "My faith is personal" into an everyday illustration. Let’s say you love your husband or your wife dearly, or you love your children and your grandchildren to pieces. They are valuable to you. They are precious to you. They are the second biggest part of your life (with God being the first of course). And let’s say a friend of yours asks what is meaningful to you in your life. And you say,“Well my family is, but I’d rather not discuss it because it’s personal. I don't really like discussing my family with anyone.” Or, say you love the sport of baseball, and a friend asks you why you love the sport of baseball. And so you say,“Baseball is personal to me too. I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it. I prefer to keep that joy to myself.” See, that’s silly. It makes no sense. We naturally desire to talk about the things we believe. We naturally want to talk about the things we love. And we naturally want to share the things that bring us true love, joy, peace, comfort, meaning, purpose, fulfillment, promise, grace, blessings, and most certainly eternal life. It’s only logical to share the things that you truly care about, believe in, and bring you joy, especially when people are interested in hearing about them.
If we call ourselves a Christian and we can conceal it, meaning we never talk about Jesus Christ for years and years with anyone, it shows through lack of action that He can’t really be that big of a deal to us, that Christ and Christianity is at its best, secondary to us, or maybe just a nice little addition added onto our life. Rather, it could be that we’re just not totally sold on Christ or convicted of the truth and the power and the glory of who Jesus Christ really is, what He did on the cross, or how He has changed our life.
All Christians Are Witnesses
So, we as Christians are all witnesses. Jesus doesn’t say that He prefers that we be witnesses. Rather, He says “You are My witnesses.” So, as Christians, we need to be sure we are effective ones because only Christians can be effective witnesses to the living power of Jesus Christ. Christians have the Holy Spirit who was sent into our hearts to give testimony and bear witness to the Truth.
Now, we must also understand this: The gospel, in and of itself, is oh so powerful that it can come from the mouth of even an unbeliever, travel into someone’s ears and take root in someone’s heart, in which that person comes to true saving faith in Christ by God’s grace. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). See, the saving power of the gospel is able to transcend a person’s lack of experience or even the total lack of being a Christian. Let’s not forget that God used Balaam’s donkey to speak forth truth. So, there is a sense in which the gospel is so powerful that it far exceeds the vehicle carrying the message.
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." (2 Corinthians 4:7). By using weak and expendable people, God makes it clear that salvation is the outcome of His power and not any power that could ever come from within us. We are simply His messengers, the jars of clay, which contain the valuable treasure of the gospel. God's power transcends the jars of clay, and the weakness of His messenger is never a hindrance, but rather a necessity. God's power is perfected in weakness and works most efficient in vessels that are empty of themselves. The weaker the vessel, the more God's power shines through.
So all in all, the gospel is the power of God, but for us to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must first have seen and heard and felt the power of Jesus Christ infiltrate our hearts and transform our lives. Our personal testimony is not the only thing we share with someone. Our testimony is only the precursor to sharing the power of the gospel by the work of the Spirit, the only thing that can bring someone to saving faith. "Sharing our personal testimonies is not evangelism. It's merely pre-evangelism, sort of a warm-up for evangelism." RC Sproul
For you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. Acts 22:15
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead Acts 10:42
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4