EVANGELIZING AND WITNESSING
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The evangelist is a gift to the Body of Christ, but God makes witnesses over a period of time. Perhaps it will help us to consider the difference between being an evangelist and being a witness.
Table of Contents
EVANGELIZING AND WITNESSING
Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. (Acts 26:16)
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11)
The word witness appears over a hundred times in the Bible. The terms evangelize or evangelism do not appear at all. Evangelist is found twice and evangelists once.
When we use the term witnessing today we usually are speaking of evangelizing. We are telling others about Jesus, about the plan of salvation.
The word witnessing is employed only once, and that by the Apostle Paul.
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22,23—KJV)
Paul here was referring to that which had been shown him by the Lord. Notice how different Paul’s witness was from the “four steps of salvation” we use today. I think the difference is significant.
- Christ would suffer.
- Christ would be the first to rise from the dead.
- Christ would proclaim light to the Jews.
- Christ would proclaim light to the Gentiles.
Paul was actually bearing witness of what he had seen with the Lord. What a refreshing breath of Heaven Paul’s witness was! Our approach today, “all have sinned, we can’t save ourselves, if we confess and believe we will be saved,” sounds more like we are making converts to a religion. It is not really a witness of anything. It is a kind of “canned evangelism” that operates without regard to the individual’s background or needs and often is pressed without any sense of the Lord’s leading or timing.
Today’s kind of proselytizing lacks the vibrant uplift of Paul’s witness of what he had seen with God. All kinds of religions and cults send forth their converts to make more converts to their group. This is proselytizing and I think it is what often takes place under the name of witnessing, leading others to Christ, saving souls, or what have you. I don’t believe there is much Divine life in it.
There certainly are Christians who are evangelists, ranging from personal evangelists all the way to the greatly used evangelist who stands before hundreds of thousands of people.
But telling all believers, even if they have been converted for only five minutes, that their job is to save others, that they have been saved to save others, is not at all scriptural and is the same thing that takes place in the cults. It would be comparable to telling a baby that had just been born that his task is to go out and get more babies.
When we of today refer to personal evangelism, or “leading others to Jesus,” we are speaking of evangelizing, not really of bearing witness.
We think this is an important issue. It is our opinion that the tremendous emphasis placed on getting all believers from the time they receive Jesus to go out and evangelize not only is not scriptural but actually detracts from their spiritual growth. We feel that much more time needs to be spent on helping the believers come to know the Lord so they will be able to stand in the age of moral horrors we are entering.
There is little or no emphasis in the Epistles on having each believer go forth and try to “save souls.” There is a very great emphasis on having each believer overcome sin and grow in Christ. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God we ought to emphasize what the Bible emphasizes. Do you agree with this?
The Bible does not emphasize to the believers that they should go forth and save souls. Why are we emphasizing this? Is this coming from the Holy Spirit (in spite of its lack of emphasis in the Scriptures) or is it a spirit of proselytizing and not a genuine gift of evangelism?
In fact, the expression “save souls” does not appear even once in any translation we own. When our terminology is different from Bible terminology there may be a reason.
In any case, the continual harangue to go out and “bring others to Christ” is not a Bible emphasis, detracts from the need to grow in Christ, and leaves uncounted multitudes of believers with a sense of guilt because they do not have the unscriptural “passion for souls.”
It is not scriptural that every believer is an evangelist in the Body of Christ. In fact, the emphasis in the Scriptures is on diversity of gifts and ministries, being compared to the human body.
The Holy Spirit gives to some believers the gift of evangelism. The gift of evangelism brings people to a saving knowledge of Christ. However, it is scriptural that every believer is to be a witness of God, His Person, His will, and His eternal plan in Christ. In view of this, let us think for a minute about the difference between evangelizing and bearing witness.
The gift of evangelism is similar to a gift of faith, or tongues, or prophecy, or knowledge.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11)
The evangelist is a believer with a specific ministry from the Lord. It is not scriptural that every member of the Body of Christ is an evangelist, although each believer ought to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in him or her, with meekness and fear.
There is no “gift of witnessing.” God makes witnesses. God makes every believer a witness. Every believer is to show the light of good works so that people will glorify God. The entire Church of Christ is God’s witness. The new Jerusalem is God’s witness.
What It Means To Bear Witness
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-3)
That which was from the beginning.
Which we have heard.
Which we have seen with our eyes.
Which we have looked at and our hands have touched.
Concerning the Word of life.
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard.
This is what it means to be a witness. You have heard, seen, and touched something. Now you can tell others about what you have heard, you have seen, and you have touched. This witness will stand up in court because it is not a conclusion but something you have seen, heard, and touched.
The Apostles of the Lord had heard, seen, and touched Jesus. They had seen Him killed on the cross. They had seen and heard Him after He came back to life. They went everywhere telling what they had heard, seen, and touched, and God confirmed their word with signs following.
You can bear witness of what you have experienced from God. This is scriptural.
You can seek and use gifts of the Spirit to build up the members of the body. This is scriptural.
You can behave righteously as you grow in the Lord, bearing witness of the fact that knowing Jesus has changed your behavior. This is scriptural.
When people ask you concerning the hope that is in you, you should tell them of your faith in Jesus, doing so with meekness and fear. This is scriptural.
The Apostles walked with the Lord for three years and then they were filled with the Holy Spirit so they could bear witness of what they knew to be true. Their testimony was accompanied by miracles. As far as one can tell they did not try to persuade people to take “the four steps of salvation.” They stated that God was ready to forgive their sins in the name of Jesus. That they were to repent and believe this. That God raised Jesus from the dead and it is He who will judge people in the Day of Judgment.
Their emphasis was on forgiveness and repentance, all in the name of Jesus whom God has made Lord and Christ.
They were bearing witness of what they had seen, heard, and touched, and their witness was empowered by the Holy Spirit and reinforced by miracles.
The history of the world was changed by their witness.
The epistles some of the Apostles wrote to the young churches were generally exhortations to righteous living, not admonitions to “go out and get souls saved.”
If as much emphasis was placed on righteous behavior as there is on “going out and getting souls saved” the churches in America would be radically changed and our government would have a moral light to follow.
There always is a need for evangelism. However, what our country needs and is looking for is righteous behavior on the part of the Christians. The righteous behavior of the Christian people is the true and eternal witness of God, His Person, His will, His way, and His eternal purpose in Jesus Christ. The transformed life is proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Can you say Amen to this?
To announce that Jesus Christ has died on the cross for our sins, was raised from the dead, is Lord of all, and is coming again to judge all people, is evangelism. It is the good news. There are those in the Body of Christ who have been chosen by the Lord to carry the good news to mankind.
To show forth in our life the Presence, the righteousness, the holiness of God is to bear witness. It is the light by which the world glorifies God. Every Christian is called to be a witness of the God who has saved him or her. The entire Body of Christ is God’s witness, God’s servant who will bring justice to the nations of the earth.
As far as “getting people saved,” which is not a scriptural expression, the very best thing any of us can do is to follow Jesus closely. He will bring us to the people with whom He is dealing. We may just plow the ground. We may water the ground. We may plant the seed. We may cultivate. We may reap. One plows, one waters, one plants the seed, one cultivates, one reaps. But the heavenly Farmer guides each worker.
When the novice, with no sense of the Lord’s guidance, goes forth to plow, water, plant, cultivate, and reap in the same night so he can write in his record book how many “decisions for Christ” have been made, he is neither evangelizing nor witnessing. He is proselytizing. He is blind and leading the blind.
No man can come to Christ except the Father draw him. If we are not following the Lord, how can we know what we are doing? This is spiritual Babylon, the building of a tower to Heaven according to our own wisdom and strength.
Sometimes a person will see your godly life, or perhaps hear a sermon, and there is no evidence any change has taken place. Perhaps years later something will happen that will cause him to come to the Lord.
The point is not that we should not be preaching. It is rather that we should follow the Lord with the understanding that each one of us has a different gift and ministry. More than that, nothing is to be taken for granted. We are to look to Jesus for every detail of all that we do every minute of every day. If Jesus is not leading us step by step then we are walking in the flesh. We are not truly evangelizing. We are not truly witnessing. We are making proselytes to our way of thinking.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. (I Corinthians 3:5-8)
The Gospel of the Kingdom is a seed. It is to be cast abroad by every means, as the Lord leads. But no one knows how it will spring up, except God. To try to control this process, to attempt to preach a certain formula for salvation and then seek for closure so a “decision is made for Christ,” is neither true evangelism nor true witnessing. It is proselytizing, nothing more and nothing less.
We might as well be Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons if we are going to go out and in our own strength and knowledge try to persuade people to accept our line of reasoning, even though we think it is scriptural. This is not the way of the Lord.
The Lord Jesus has not commanded us to fish for men. Rather He said, “I will make you fishers of men.” A big difference here! Has the Lord been making you a fisher of men? Follow Him!
If you let the Lord transform you He will make you a tree of life. As you become a tree of life you will win souls to the ways of God. You will be counted among the wise and will shine as a star throughout the ages to come.
God Makes Witnesses
God wants witnesses. God wants people who can reveal to the world His Person, His will, His way, and His eternal purpose in Jesus Christ.
The nation of Israel was God’s witness to the world of the true Nature of God. The Ten Commandments were a witness to the world of God’s holy Person and will for man.
The Hebrew Prophets were God’s witnesses to Israel and to other nations of what He was thinking concerning them.
John the Baptist was trained for many years and then came forth from the wilderness to bear witness of Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest Witness of all, showing clearly in His personality and His mighty works the Person, will, way, and eternal Kingdom and purpose of God.
The Apostles of Christ were witnesses to the Jews and the rest of the world of what they had seen, heard, and touched.
The Christian churches are to be witnesses, the lampstands of God, the lights of the world. The surrounding communities are to see the Glory of God in the churches.
Every believer is to be a witness of God wherever he is. He or she is to show a pattern of good works, meekness, humility, truthfulness, patience, sincerity of speech, that the Father in Heaven may be glorified.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12)
We are not saying that the believer should refrain from saying what he knows concerning the atonement, if the circumstances warrant it and the Lord seems to be leading this way. In America, however, most people have heard of Jesus Christ. They hate to have people try to jam the Gospel down their throat. They may have been raised in church and been turned off by what they saw.
They are waiting to see someone who is living the life! Do you agree with this?
If you are filled with God, the people around often will stop their swearing. If you are filled with a spirit of proselytizing, the people around you may start swearing. There is a difference.
People are not as stupid as we may think they are. If we would just follow the Lord and live a godly life we will have a great impact on the people with whom we come in contact. If the occasion arises we can tell them what we know about the Lord, or what we have experienced with the Lord. But if we are trying to convert them they will sense this and be upset.
Don’t try to force things. Live the life. Follow the Spirit of the Lord.
God makes witnesses. The Lord Jesus makes fishers of men. A witness is always a fisher of men. A witness of God is always bringing people to Jesus and to the ways of God by the life he or she is living. Isn’t it so? Have you ever noticed that?
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins [takes] souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)
The above verse is often used to encourage personal evangelism. But the expression “wins souls” is not found in the New Testament, and it is certain Solomon was not referring to personal evangelism.
No doubt the meaning of “he who wins souls is wise” is found in “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” The idea is that a righteous person brings life to those around him. The wise person by his wisdom and righteous behavior influences those around him and brings them to the righteous, holy ways of the Lord.
Righteous behavior and eternal life are often found together in the Scriptures.
How does God make a witness? By drawing that person to Himself. By dealing with him or her day and night, night and day. By bringing the individual through deep waters and then keeping him from drowning. By bringing the believer through intense fires and then keeping him from bring burned.
The three friends of Daniel had quite a testimony after they came forth from the furnace. “We saw Him! We heard Him! We touched Him! He saved us from the fire!”
This is what it means to be a witness of God.
Daniel himself had a story to tell. “I thought my life was over. I fell among the lions, landing on top of one of them. But they began to purr like kittens. They rubbed up against me. They kept me warm all night with their bodies. The Lord sent his angel and shut their mouths. It was a most pleasurable experience. I wouldn’t mind doing that again!”
This is a testimony. This is what it means to be a witness of God.
And then there was the Apostle Paul. “I’m telling you I saw Him! I heard His voice! I was struck blind! Then a Christian prayed for me and I could see. I know that Jesus is the Christ.
“Later I went into the wilderness and there Jesus showed me how the Law of Moses and the grace of Jesus Christ are related. I am telling you what I know, what I learned from the Lord. The other Apostles added nothing to me. This is what I heard and I saw.”
Are you getting the idea of what it means to be a witness? Witnesses are formed in the Divine fire over many years. When God is finished with them they are not reeds shaken by the wind. They know what they are talking about. They have seen the Man!
I am not saying we all will have a testimony like Daniel and Saul of Tarsus or that we cannot express our faith, even as a new Christian. Rather I am pointing out the difference among evangelizing, witnessing, and proselytizing.
We can begin when we are a new Christian to show in our personality the Divine life that has come to us through Jesus Christ. We do not have to preach to people, just live the life. This is what the whole world is waiting to see.
If the Lord grants us many years we will be able to say, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.” The Lord will bring us through the waters and through the fire. He keeps drawing us to Himself.
The witness is infinitely more than our recital of the plan of salvation. That task belongs primarily to the preacher. Rather our witness is what we have heard and seen with God throughout the years of our pilgrimage.
Our witness is of God, who He is, what He is like, what He expects of us, His faithfulness toward those who trust in Him, His great love for all of His creatures, His wrath against sin. God teaches us of Himself.
But now, this is what the LORD says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:1,2)
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10,11)
This is the witness: “That you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.”
When we first receive the Lord we believe this is true. After fifty years of walking with God we know it is true. How do we know? Because of what we have heard with our ears and seen with our eyes.
God has been utterly faithful to us. He has answered our prayers to the smallest detail. He has led us through many fires, but looking back we can see the need for them. We are being saved with difficulty. We are coming to know that God is God. He is the Lord.
I was not raised in a Christian home. By the age of eighteen I was not certain there was a God. God in His goodness brought me into contact with a young man who did know the Gospel. He told me of Christ, of the blood atonement—mostly because I kept pumping him. He was backslidden at the time.
I prayed for faith and God gave me faith. I told the Lord that I would do His will as I understood it and I wanted Him to reveal Himself to me. I said (in my youthful idealism) “If this way proves to be truth I will tell others that it is true. If I find there is nothing to it I also will testify to that.”
That was fifty-seven years ago. I have kept my part of the bargain and God has kept His. I am here to say, to bear witness, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and the New Testament is a true and accurate account of spiritual realities.
There is no use reasoning with me. I have heard. I have seen. There have been many miracles in my life, some of them fairly dramatic and most minor. When I have prayed in Jesus’ name I have almost always received the answer—far more times than could be attributed to chance. I know that the unanswered prayers will be fulfilled at a later time, that is, if they will bring me joy and peace.
I will testify that God has not failed me once in fifty-seven years. I have gone through many dangers but God has brought me forth. It has not been easy. It has not been without pain. But then, everyone suffers pain in this world so what is surprising about that?
I now can see the purpose in the pain, in the confusion, in the delays, in the frustrations. God took a Gentile youngster who did not know the difference between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Easter bunny and made him a man of God.
I was a pretty poor specimen when I started out. But now I hope one day to stand among the Lord’s servants. God has done this for me. I am not really religious. I am pastoring a church and writing these words to you because that is what my friend Jesus wants. I would rather be out enjoying nature, out in the weather, relishing the wind and snow that prevailed where I was raised.
But my Friend wants me here in Southern California. The least I can do is to help with His Kingdom. After all He made something of my life. I am positive I would be dead now, having accomplished little or nothing, had it not been for Jesus.
I am bearing witness to you! I am telling you what I know, not what I read in a book. If you want purpose in your life, turn it over to Jesus. We are entering a moral age of horrors. God and Satan will be facing each other in the days to come. Based on what I have experienced I am counting on God to win.
You know what? Even if I knew God were going to lose I would still go God’s way. God’s way is right. It brings health, joy, peace, love. Satan’s way is totally wrong. It brings corruption, misery, frantic unrest, remorse, hatred, and every other evil thing. This I have seen during the days of my pilgrimage. I want nothing whatever to do with Satan or his ways. God, and God alone, is good. I take my place with God, win or lose.
I know also from my journey that God will win. He already has won. He is permitting Satan to work his works in the earth because God is forming conquering sons who will govern the works of His hands for eternity, and they are learning to conquer by resisting Satan.
I testify to you that this is true. Whether you are young or old, your life is meaningless until you receive Jesus. You are living in death. To be attached neither to Jesus or to Satan is to be attached to Satan by default. There is no middle ground for we are only dust.
Jesus Christ Himself is eternal life. Receive Him now and live. Don’t let another moment go by.
Why should you be an eternal loser when you could have had God, Christ, and everything else of value?
(“Evangelizing and Witnessing”, 3913-1)