Sometime one meets either personally or by letter young people who suddenly become very serious in their outlook upon life as a young Christian and feel that theirs is the calling to be “Witnesses for Christ.” And whereas we all have a streak of Arminianism in our flesh, and furthermore, the Arminian appeal that all be “Witnesses” has the semblance of being based upon solid Scriptural considerations and to be a true spiritual psychological manifestation of the new life in Christ. Nevertheless this type of witnessing for Christ is not a manifestation of giving ear to sound words of doctrine and life. It is really very seriously wrong and mistaken and hurtful for the young Christian, and must sooner or later lead to disillusionment and a deep sense of failure!
In the first place, youthful reader, bear in mind that Christ told his apostles on Mount Olivet that they were to be His witnesses. These were men who Jesus had elected for this very purpose. They are witnesses of Christ in a special and unique sense. They were eyewitnesses of Christ’s ministry for three years of all the wonders and miracles which he wrought; yes, they were eye-witnesses of his institution of the Lord’s Supper, and they beheld the agony of Gethsemane from a stone’s throw, and had experienced the awful night of the Lord’s being taken captive of men, the unjust trial before Caiaphas and before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. And when Christ was nailed to the accursed tree they stood and beheld it, and were in great sorrow and gloom for three days til the Lord came forth triumphantly from the grave. And after forty days, when they had received commandments through the Holy Spirit they see their Lord ascend up on high in glory upon a cloud of majesty. And these men are to be Christ’s witnesses in the world. Are all apostles? (I Cor. 12:29). Hath not God set in the church some to be office-bearers? Writes Paul in I. Corinthians 12:28: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers. . . .” And we ask: are all “witnesses”? To ask this question is to answer it!!
In the second place, no one besides the Apostles could possibly be “My witnesses” in our day and age. We did not see Christ labor, suffer and age. We cannot and may not be such witnesses. We have the written Scriptures which must be preached in our midst by ministers called for that very purpose. Writes Paul: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7). But even ministers are not witnesses as were the apostles. They are preachers of the gospel and preach that which the apostles witnesses and that which Christ has spoken to the church in the Word and Spirit. And this is very important to maintain with might and main!! How much of our discussion in the Young People’s Society is not a re-echoing of what we heard from the ministry of the Catechism room and the preaching from the pulpit on Sunday, year after year? But when this is made suspect; when the preaching is belittled and we need to have “discussion groups” to take its place, (even on a Young People’s Convention?) then Satan has had his day. Then we come together not for better but for worse!!
In the third place, there is a form of witnessing which is much more profound, spiritual and lasting – lasting even within the portals of heaven itself. It is that “our whole conduct we testify of our gratitude to God for His blessings”! This is really that we walk practically in a reasonable service of presenting our whole life on the altar of dedication, approving what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God! This is not a shallow, cheap “witnessing for Christ,” but it is the sanctification of the whole man, body and soul.
This means, fourthly, that one has a spiritual and basic understanding of three things which one must know to enjoy the only comfort in life and in death, to wit, that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. We know then that since we have been redeemed (delivered) from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, we must do good works! Are we not God’s creation in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before prepared that we should walk in them? (Ephesians 2:10). And this calls to testify by the whole of our conduct that we are such a new creation, belonging to the one new man in Christ (Ephesians 2:15).
Yes, then there will be a mighty testimony of the Lord in our confession and walk; yes in that very order: confession and walk!! It will be such a walk that the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. We have assurance of faith by the fruits of faith. A tree is known by its fruit. And such “more fruit” is only when we abide in Christ (John 15:5). Yes, that is then the testimony in our own life and thus we make our calling and election sure, young people. Not by all kinds of philosophical analysis, and mutually relating of life’s experiences do we gain the certainty of being God’s elect. Nay this is only ours when we add to faith, virtue, etc. (II Peter 2:8-10).
Yes, such a life is a testimony to the power of the preaching of the Word, by which God works faith in our hearts. We will then be in our very life the proof of the ministry which by God’s Spirit is effectual in us. Writes Paul to the Corinthian church: “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart” (chapter 2:3). Yes, the conversion of the Corinthians was the work of Christ, effected by the ministry of Paul. “Considered as a letter, they were a letter of Christ written by the hand of Paul as Christ’s instrument” (Dr. Hodge).
When such a letter is read of those who are not yet believers it must be a powerful testimony of God’s grace. And even those who believe are greatly won to Christ, more and more in their affections.
Young people let your whole conduct testify to the grace of God in the keeping of His commandments, and in a life of prayer. That is the battle of constant conversion, the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man in Christ.
*Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 31, Question 86.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 3 May 1971