Witnesses and testimony. And us.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 September
1 John 1.1-4 KJV
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

John and the other apostles knew Jesus. Knew him personally; saw him with their eyes, touched him with their hands. He taught ’em bible. More importantly he taught ’em what he meant when he got the prophets to write it.

These experiences with Jesus became their testimony. And yeah, Christians tend to treat this word like it has a special religious Christianese meaning. No it doesn’t. It means the same thing as it does in a deposition or a courtroom: We saw stuff, or we know stuff—we really know stuff, and aren’t just repeating what was told us, ’cause that’s hearsay. We’re a witness to the things we know. And we’re sharing what we know.

Every Christian has a testimony, ’cause every Christian has interacted with God to a certain degree. Many of us have full-on God-experiences. Some of us have even seen Jesus, ’cause he still appears to people. Far more of us have heard God speak back to us in our prayers, had those prayers obviously answered, seen miracles… you know, other God-experiences which are a little more mundane than any special-effects light-show. We witnessed these things. We know what we saw. So that’s our testimony.

Those Christians who claim “witness” and “testimony” mean something different: It’s because they haven’t actually witnessed anything.

Usually because they’re mixed up in cessationist churches, or their favorite preachers likewise believe God stopped doing that sort of thing back in bible times. So even when they do see God actively working in the world, their churches and preachers tell them to ignore those things. Disregard ’em. Don’t share them. Because those other Christians don’t believe in those things, and insist they’re tricks of the devil—even when there’s no reason whatsoever for the devil to trick people into glorifying God.

So for cessationists, their only “testimony” is that once upon a time they said the sinner’s prayer. And ever since, their lives have been good; or at least they feel content about things. (Or they’ve learned to feel content, because they’re successfully suppressing all their angst.) Their “witness” is that story of how they said the sinner’s prayer, and their absolute certainty they’re now going to heaven.

Is that what the apostles meant when they used the word μαρτύριον/martýrion in the bible? Not even close. They saw stuff. And yeah, not everyone believed it, and mocked it, and thought they were nuts. Ac 26.24 So what? Plenty realized these guys were on the level, turned to Jesus… and eventually had their own testimonies of what the risen, living Lord had done in their own lives.

Well, you’re expected to be a witness of Christ Jesus too. You need some testimonies to share of what he’s done in your life. I expect you have some already. If not… start getting some!

Yes, you too. You’re an evangelist.

Ephesians 4.11-13 KJV
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Regularly this pull quote gets misinterpreted as “Paul said God made some of us apostles… and some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors. So some of us aren’t. And I certainly don’t feel called to be an evangelist, so I’m likely not one. I feel more called to be a teacher.”

Yeah, a teacher would’ve studied and found out that’s not what Paul meant. He was writing about vocations in a church: Some of us have to work as apostles. Others as prophets. Others as pastors. But when people aren’t around to take on those other duties, y’notice all of us can do them, because the Spirit equips us to do them. Jesus did all of ’em. His apostles likewise.

So when the pastor’s out sick, someone preaches the sermon. When the music pastor’s out sick, somebody leads the singing—badly, but you do what you gotta. When the children’s church teacher is absent, somebody steps up and does the job, whether an accredited professional, or just a mom or dad who knows the bible study well enough. It’s how life goes: Anybody can minister.

So say you’re not in the church building, and you unexpectedly run into someone with a God question. Whose responsibility is it to step up and do the job?

Right. Yours. You’re a Christian. You’re a priest, under Jesus our head priest. Rv 1.6, He 7.26 You have the Holy Spirit in you, same as every Christian, including the vocational evangelists. Therefore you are just as qualified as anyone to minister God.

“But I suck at it!” Yeah, you might. Fix that.

Because the day will come—if it hasn’t already happened—where you gotta step up. Where it’s up to you to share Jesus with people. Might be a stranger on an airplane. Might be a relative at a family get-together who figures you’re Christian, so you oughta have some answers. Might be a work colleague who’s going through a really rough time, who’s never gonna set foot in a church, but they know you talk to God and out of the blue asks you to pray for them. You never know. I’ve never known.

And if your knowledge of God is somewhere between jack and squat, that’s not acceptable. Get ready.

At the very least you need to be able to share your God-experiences with anyone. What have you seen? What has God personally told you? What personal proof do you have of interacting with God?

Yeah, you can quote bible verses at people, but that’s not your testimony. Yeah, you can tell of the time you said the sinner’s prayer, but that’s not really your testimony either. ’Cause all that stuff might be important to us as Christians, but it’s not gonna move non-Christians. It’s not gonna make pagans doubt their unbelief.

Your pagan friends will ask you questions. That’s fine. Tell ’em what you know. Don’t claim to know anything you don’t; never lie. If you don’t know, tell ’em “I don’t know.” If you know someone else who knows the answer, say, “Let me find out,” then find out. But be as useful a resource as you can.

And remember, their salvation isn’t up to you. It’s up to the Holy Spirit. He’s the one who’s nudging them to ask questions; he’s the one trying to break through to them. Your job is to support him—and at least not get in his way!

It’s not rocket science, y’know.

Sharing Jesus isn’t complicated. People overcomplicate it because either they’re trying to sell an evangelism class, or they’re looking for excuses to not share Jesus.

So no, you don’t need to take an evangelism course, or go to seminary. Trust me: I’ve gone to seminary, and some of my fellow seminarians suck at sharing Jesus. All seminary means is you know a lot more about certain fields—how to run a church, theology and church history, how to study a bible; useful stuff, but none of it means we know Jesus any better, or have better fruit. In fact loads of seminary graduates have lousy fruit.

Knowing Jesus isn’t taught in school, after all. It’s taught by the Holy Spirit.

And since you and I and every Christian have the Spirit, we have access to everything we need to know. So we can share Jesus with anybody and everybody. When someone legitimately asks you, “Why’s Jesus so important to you?” or “What’s your religion all about, anyway?” you already know enough to have a reasonable answer for them. Or should! 1Pe 3.15

And if you don’t, you’re not following Christ Jesus. So follow him! Get to know him. Then share him.