Witnessing for Christ is an important calling for all believers. As Christians, we are called to share the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). This blog post will provide an in-depth look at what the Bible says about witnessing and how we can be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.
The word “witness” in the Bible comes from the Greek word “martys” which means “witness” or “martyr.” A witness is someone who has seen or experienced something firsthand and can give testimony about it. As Christians, we have witnessed the transforming power of Jesus in our own lives. We are called to give testimony and witness about what he has done for us.
Sharing our faith is an act of obedience to Christ. Before ascending to heaven after his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples, “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). As recipients of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to be effective witnesses for Christ.
Witnessing is a responsibility and a privilege. When we share the gospel, we point people to salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus. There is no greater joy than to play a part in someone coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As Charles Spurgeon said “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
As we explore what the Bible teaches about witnessing, let’s keep an open heart to how God wants to use each of us to further His kingdom.
- Witnessing is sharing our firsthand experience of the gospel and the transforming power of Jesus.
- It is an act of obedience to Jesus’ command to be His witnesses.
- Witnessing points people to salvation in Jesus.
- It is both a responsibility and privilege of being a follower of Jesus.
- Our goal is to see people repent, believe, and be saved from their sins.
The Call to Witness
The call to be witnesses for Jesus begins with having a personal relationship with Him. We cannot share what we have not experienced for ourselves. In Acts 1:21-22, as the disciples were selecting a replacement for Judas, they chose someone who had been a disciple from the beginning and was a “witness to His resurrection.” The first qualification was that this person had to have witnessed Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
In a similar way, we are called to witness firsthand to the life-changing power of the gospel. 1 John 1:1-3 describes how the apostles heard, saw, and touched Jesus – he was revealed to them personally. The result was that they proclaimed Him to others. Effective witnessing flows out of a personal walk with Christ. Our witness must be backed up by the credibility of a changed life.
Not only are we called to witness to what we have seen and heard but also what we have experienced. In Acts 4:20, Peter and John told the Sanhedrin, “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” They had no choice but to speak about what they witnessed of Christ’s life and ministry. But they also testified about what they experienced – the healing of the lame beggar in Acts 3. They saw this miracle firsthand and could not be silent.
So our witness involves proclaiming the truth of Jesus that we find in the Bible, but it must be backed up by our personal experiences with Him. We have a story to tell of how He saved us, transformed us, and continues to work in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Witnessing in the Book of Acts
The book of Acts provides many examples of what witnessing looks like. After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples immediately began witnessing. Acts 2:40 says “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'” Filled with the Spirit, the disciples preached the gospel boldly with conviction and urgency.
We also see them performing miracles that showed the power of Jesus’ name. In Acts 3, Peter healed a lame beggar and then proclaimed the gospel to the astonished crowd. The miracles gained people’s attention and authenticated the message of salvation.
The early church witnessed not only through preaching but also through their Christ-like love and unity with one another. In Acts 2:42-47, we read how the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer. They cared for each other selflessly. The result was that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Their actions backed up their words.
Opposition came against the witness of the early church. But they responded with prayer and continued to speak the Word with boldness (Acts 4:29-31). Stephen’s witness cost him his life when he was stoned in Acts 7. Yet even as he was martyred, Stephen testified to seeing Jesus in glory. Nothing could stop the early Christians from witnessing.
In summary, witnessing in Acts involved Spirit-empowered preaching, miraculous demonstrations of God’s power, changed lives, courage in the face of opposition, and a willingness to suffer for Christ.
How to Witness
Witnessing involves both our words and our lifestyle. Here are some principles for effective witnessing found in the Bible:
Pray. We should pray for boldness, for opportunities to share the gospel, for listeners’ hearts to be receptive, and for the Holy Spirit to empower our witness. Paul asked for prayer “that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
Make the most of opportunities. God opens doors for us to witness. We need spiritual discernment to recognize these moments and boldness to walk through the doors God opens. Paul told the Colossians, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).
Rely on the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that when believers witness, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit gives us power, words, courage, and effectiveness in witnessing.
Share your story. Tell people how Jesus saved you and changed your life. Your personal testimony is a powerful part of your witness. John told others, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:3).
Live differently. Our actions should back up our message. Paul said he aspired to live “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). A consistent Christian lifestyle gives credibility to our witness.
Speak with gentleness and respect. We should share the gospel in a loving, humble, and wise way. Peter wrote, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
By applying these biblical principles for witnessing, we can joyfully fulfill our calling to make disciples for the glory of God.
The Message of Our Witness
What is the content of our gospel witness? Here are key biblical truths we want to communicate when we share Christ with others:
God’s holiness and justice. Witnessing begins with helping people understand who God is – holy, righteous, and just. Isaiah 6:3 says, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” But Isaiah 6:5 goes on to say, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” God’s perfect holiness reveals our sinfulness and need for cleansing.
Sin’s penalty. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Because God is just, sin demands a penalty – eternal separation from God. Witnessing includes warning people of judgment if they remain in their sins (John 3:36, Romans 2:5).
Christ’s atoning sacrifice. At the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins once and for all. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” His death satisfied God’s justice so He can forgive us without compromising holiness.
Salvation by grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Good works cannot save us. Only through repentance and trusting in Christ’s finished work can we be saved.
Assurance of eternal life. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11-12). When we believe in Christ, we receive His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee of our eternal salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Call to repentance. Part of the gospel message is urging people to turn from their sins and false beliefs to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
The complete gospel includes all these elements. When witnessing, we want to share the full message so people understand their need for salvation and how to receive eternal life in Christ.
The Heart of the Witness
Effective witnessing is not just about having the right techniques and message – the heart of the witness is key. If our hearts are not in the right place with God, it will hinder our witness. Here are some important attitudes of heart we need:
Love. Our motivation should be love for God and love for people. Paul said, “For Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It was love that compelled Jesus to leave heaven to redeem sinful people. Love should drive our witness as we plead with people to be reconciled to God.
Compassion. As we look at people, we need God’s heart of compassion for the lost. Jesus saw the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Brokenness and compassion for people’s condition will make us effective witnesses.
Boldness. Sharing the gospel requires holy boldness. Peter prayed for boldness in witnessing (Acts 4:29). When we have courage, we will not shy away from gospel conversations. Boldness comes from relying on God rather than ourselves.
Wisdom. We need wisdom to know when and how to share our faith in various contexts. Paul said, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders” (Colossians 4:5). Wisdom applies the gospel message with discernment to each situation. We should be “innocent as doves and as wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16).
Humility. “In humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Arrogance and condescension sabotage our witness. Humility opens doors as we point people to Christ, not ourselves. We should have confidence in the gospel, not ourselves.
Holiness. Our lives must back up our message. Paul urged believers to live “as is worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). When our lives adorn the gospel, our witness will impact people.
As we witness for Christ, we need the right heart motives of love, compassion, boldness, wisdom, humility, and holiness. Pray that God will cultivate these attitudes in you.
Blessings of Witnessing
Witnessing has many blessings – both for the one sharing Christ and the one hearing the gospel. Here are some blessings:
For the Witness:
- Joy of participating in God’s mission to seek and save the lost.
- Increased faith and courage as we step out in dependence on God.
- Fulfillment from using our gifts and abilities for God’s kingdom.
- Eternal reward for bearing gospel fruit that remains. As Paul said, “You are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:20).
For the Unbeliever:
- Hearing the truth about salvation so they can believe. “Faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).
- Receiving new birth into God’s family when they repent and believe. Now they have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
- Coming into relationship with their loving Creator.
- Finding purpose, meaning, and eternal life rather than death.
For the Body of Christ:
- Multiplication of converts who will also share Christ with others.
- Strengthening of our local churches as new believers are discipled.
- Greater unity and joy as we partner to fulfill the Great Commission.
Witnessing has manifold blessings when believers have courage to share the gospel. Let’s pray for a renewed passion to make Christ known.
Objections to Witnessing
While witnessing is an exciting endeavor, it comes with difficulties and objections we must be prepared to overcome:
Fear. Many Christians fear rejection or offending others and so avoid sharing their faith. But Jesus told us to “not be afraid” (Luke 12:4). Our fear of people must be replaced with holy fear of God.
Apathy. Apathy says evangelism is optional or the responsibility of clergy. Apathy prevents us from fulfilling the Great Commission. We must regain urgency to reach the lost.
Busyness. With crowded schedules, it’s easy to think we don’t have time to witness. But if God wants it prioritized, He will make time for kingdom work. We can redeem time for eternal purposes.
Feeling Ill-Equipped. Many believers feel they don’t know enough or lack the gifts to witness well. But God promises to give us the words and power to witness when we step out in faith (Luke 12:11-12, Acts 1:8).
Offending Others. Some object that witnessing imposes our views on others. But if we speak truth gently and respectfully, we leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. The gospel will always offend some, but we must still share it lovingly.
Pluralism. In our relativistic culture, people assume all religions lead to God. We need courage to say Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). God will use our witness to draw people to the truth.
By humbly relying on the Holy Spirit, we can overcome these objections and have courage to make disciples. Pray for boldness to witness.
Witnessing is a special calling and privilege for every Christian. Jesus has commissioned us to share the life-changing message of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we go forth lovingly sharing Christ in our words and actions, let’s trust God to use our witness to draw many to repentance and faith. May we live out the words of the old hymn by Daniel March:
Hark! the voice of Jesus calling, “Who will go and work today?
Fields are white and harvests waiting, Who will bear the sheaves away?” Loud and long the Master calleth,