To “bear witness of Jesus Christ” means different things to different groups of nominal Christian religions. To some, “bearing witness of Jesus Christ” involves proselytizing to as many people as will pass by. To others, bearing witness involves merely going to church services to socialize with others of like mind. An innumerable variety of interpretations abound beyond these two examples as well. But what does the Bible say in regard to the responsibility of a Christian to “bear witness of Jesus Christ”?
Rightly understood, the Bible nowhere uses these terms. Where then does the idea of “bearing witness of Jesus Christ” come from? Two of the primary Scriptures in the Bible that describe bearing witness of the things and events pertaining to Jesus and the message which He brought can be found when He addresses His disciples in John 15:27 and Luke 24:48.
In addressing the apostles before He was murdered, Jesus explains the tasks ahead of them after His inevitable physical departure. “‘But when the Helper comes, [which] I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth [which] proceeds from the Father, [it] will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning’” (John 15:26-27). In this moment, Jesus tells the apostles that they will receive the Holy Spirit after His resurrection, and that they will also share their knowledge and understanding of the events pertaining to Jesus and His Work and Message with others. Following this passage, Jesus also informs them that because of their Work in sharing the Truth with others, they will be despised and persecuted for it.
Following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His disciples were gathered together with Him for a brief period of time. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He addressed them saying, “‘…These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the 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 to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things’” (Luke 24:44-48). Clearly, Jesus informed them about the privilege they had regarding the knowledge and understanding they were blessed with, knowing the Truth about Jesus’ role in the Plan of God.
Seeing that the disciples who were close to Jesus at the time were literal eye witnesses to the fulfillment of Scripture, it is clear that they were able to share a firsthand account of Jesus’ Work. Because they were willing and able to share the knowledge of the Truth with others, we have the Bible that we can read today to provide us with access to the same knowledge. The role of being a “witness of Jesus Christ” required then that they boldly proclaim the Truth—the role He had to fulfill and the message that He, the Messenger of God the Father, proclaimed. The same responsibility of standing up for the Truth continues for Christians today.
“Bearing witness of Jesus Christ” in the sense of standing up for the Truth, is the responsibility of a Christian. If it wasn’t, Christianity would have died out after the first generation, because no one would have shared the knowledge of the Truth. As we know from Jesus Christ’s own words, the Church in these last days has an unending commission to preach the gospel to the world as a witness, which necessarily involves proclaiming the Truth which Jesus Christ proclaimed, which includes of course, but is by no means limited to, the Person of Jesus. What the Church needs to proclaim is the gospel OF Christ, not the gospel about Jesus Christ (compare Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15). Therefore, being part of the Body of Christ and playing a role in the Work given to the Church, we have a responsibility to “bear witness of Jesus Christ” in the way as explained in this Q&A.
In order to bear witness, we must have some firsthand experience that we can share. Since we presently live in an age when Jesus Christ does not physically exist, how is this possible? Quite simply, with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ and God the Father living within us as baptized members of the Church of God, we have access to the knowledge and understanding of the Truth. As we read earlier, the Holy Spirit “testifies of Him,” and therefore it also provides us with a way of gaining firsthand experience needed to be a trustworthy witness.
But what does it mean to be a Christian witness in our day-to-day living? Under what circumstances are we expected to offer testimony of our experience? While a prescription for the specific actions to perform does not exist, the Bible provides us with a great deal of guidance on the matter.
The first guideline in being “a witness of Jesus Christ” is to be ready to share our knowledge of the Truth of the Gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD, which Jesus proclaimed, and of Jesus Christ’s role in the Plan of God. As we read in 1 Peter 3:15-17, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
We can see that being ready to “bear witness of Jesus Christ” is expressed here with a few salient characteristics. First, we are to be ready to give a defense or an answer to those who ask us about our beliefs. This refers to our individual responsibility. When addressing the Church, it has the duty to proclaim the Truth as a Witness, whether being asked to do so or not. Those who respond positively can and will be taught further by the Church.
By contrast, being ready to give an answer does not involve preparing to attack others with our knowledge. Reinforcing this, our attitude in offering our witness’ testimony involves meekness and humility. Even though the knowledge of the Truth is privileged, we need to be cognizant of the fact that such knowledge does not elevate us above others. Glorifying God by offering a witness of Jesus Christ’s message and role in our lives requires us to be convicted in our beliefs, so much that we’re ready to explain ourselves to anyone who enquires about it who are genuinely interested and who want to learn about the Truth.
In addition to being ready to answer for our faith as a “witness of Jesus Christ,” we need to be confident and unashamed in proclaiming our beliefs. If we have faith in the Truth, we have nothing to worry about in expressing our confidence in it when we are asked to do so. In fact, if we express ourselves without confidence, and instead are ashamed of the teachings of Jesus Christ, He too will be ashamed of us. In His own words, Jesus states, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). When we are being asked to share our firsthand experience as “witnesses of Jesus Christ,” we have to remember that God and His Truth will back us up, and we have every reason to be completely confident.
While it is important to be ready and confident in the way that we offer our belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ which He brought from God the Father, there are times when our efforts to offer testimony are wasted. It benefits no one to proclaim our witness to individuals who only want to provoke an argument. As Jesus instructs us, “‘Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces’” (Matthew 7:6). In some cases, we may encounter individuals who seem to want to learn about our beliefs, but in reality, are only interested in arguing and justifying themselves. In such cases, offering a “witness of Jesus Christ” is futile.
In addition, we need to remember that our role in the Body of Christ is not to bring people to conversion. It is God’s job to call people out of the world, not ours. Because of this fact, when we offer a “witness of Jesus Christ,” it must be for the purpose of sharing our account of the Truth, when asked, which may help others who are in the process of being called to understand more clearly. Quoting from our Booklet, How to Find the True Church of God on the topic of proselytizing, we write the following.
“‘We do not believe in proselytizing. Therefore, we do not seek members by having people standing on street corners or going around neighborhoods knocking on doors. We carry out our various projects in an effort to freely give to all people regardless of their race, nationality, or religious affiliation. We believe in the godly way of helping others by providing the financial means by tithing and voluntary contributions.’
“Rather than trying to proselytize or ‘convert’ others, we are told to preach the gospel as a witness. The Greek word for ‘witness’ is marturion, and means, literally, ‘witness’ or ‘testimony.’ This word is also used in Acts 4:33 where we read that ‘with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.’”
As we grow in our conversion as Christians, our ability to offer a “witness of Jesus Christ” and the Truth of God will also grow. When we are challenged and called upon to do so, it is our responsibility to share our personal testimony according to the guidance provided by the instructions of the Bible so we glorify God and participate in fulfilling the Work He sets before us.
Lead Writer: Eric Rank