OceanSide church of Christ
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WITNESSING AND TESTIFYING
Victor M. Eskew
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (I Pet. 4:11). In this verse, Peter informs us “how” we are to speak. When it comes to spiritual things, we are to speak “as the oracles of God.” Sometimes we say that our speech must have a “thus saith the Lord” behind it. At other times, we declare that our messages must be backed up by “book, chapter, and verse” from God’s Word.
Oftentimes, individuals who are religious say things that cannot be affirmed from God’s Word. When they do, they are not speaking as the oracles of God. Take for instance, we have all heard the words: “Attend the church of your choice.” This phrase makes it sound like the Lord has established and authorized many churches to exist. The phrase indicates that one church is just as good as any other church. It also implies that man is free to worship and serve in any church he desires and be pleasing unto God. The problem is that the Bible nowhere mentions the words, “attend the church of your choice.” These are man-made words. They are not divinely revealed words.
There are other times when individuals take words from the Bible and make application of them in the wrong way. This is extremely dangerous because the person “sounds as if” he is speaking as the oracles of God. The words “witnessing” and “testifying” fall into this category. Many religious people use these two words. They talk about going out and witnessing to others. They eagerly discuss their worship services where several individuals came forward and testified.
When these words are used today, they share a common element. They involve an individual’s story about his/her “experience” of salvation. Some of these stories involve difficult times while a person was living in sin and iniquity. They often involve some type of intervention by God in their life in order to save them. The stories are usually very emotional in nature. The person weeps as he/she describes the wickedness of the past and they weep again while recounting the joy of their salvation experience. These stories are meant to touch the hearts of unbelievers and encourage them to make a decision to accept Jesus as their Savior.
The Bible, however, nowhere speaks of witnessing and testifying in the manner in which so many do today. In the Scriptures, a witness was an eyewitness. A witness was one who had seen or heard or experienced something personally. Thus, he could testify about it. In Luke 24, Jesus appears to His apostles after His resurrection. He reveals to them that the events of the past few days were the fulfillment of things written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him. “Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, and he said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47). The crucifixion and resurrection were now historical events. They were foretold by the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus showed this to His disciples. He then said: “And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). These men had lived with Jesus, eaten with Him, touched Him, and had been taught by Him. They also saw both His crucifixion and His resurrection. They were eyewitnesses of these things. Thus, they could be called witnesses in the true sense of the word. They could go forth into all the world and testify to what they had seen and heard.
In the book of Acts, we see them doing this. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). When he spoke to the Jews at the temple, he said that they had “killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15). Before the Jewish council, Peter again proclaimed that he and the other apostles were witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye shew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things…” (Acts 5:30-32).
There is not one occasion in the New Testament where a person tells his story of conversion and calls it witnessing. We do not read of one worship service where the members of the church rose to give their “testimonies.” The witnesses of the Bible were witnesses to Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. The only testifying they did was with regard to those facts.
There is not a man or woman alive today who has witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is impossible for anyone to Biblically witness and testify. To use the terms to refer to one’s conversion experience is not Biblical. Those who use the terms with this modern-day definition are not speaking as the oracles of God.
“Witnessing” and “testifying” are just two words the religious world takes from the Bible and redefines for their own purposes. This writer wonders how God feels about men perverting His Word? Does anyone really believe that using Biblical terms in an unbiblical way is looked upon by God as “no big deal”? Surely not! If God is not pleased, then we beg all who do this to cease. Resolve to follow Paul’s divine directive to Titus: “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1).