Faithful Witness: Unity The World Needs To See
We live in a world that is rejecting God. Prayer is no longer part of our public life, and Christians are being restricted more and more from public preaching. How should we respond to such a world? What this sinful world needs most is Christians who will give faithful witness to Jesus, Christians who live a life that honors God.
A Faithful Witness
What does it mean to give faithful witness? Does it mean we shouldn’t smoke, drink, gamble, swear or work on Sunday? People who show this discipline tend to stand out in our society, and have the respect of others. Some criticize them, but know in their hearts who they can rely on.
Or does it mean we should try to get so-called “Christian” legislation established? For instance, the abolition of slavery and legislation limiting child labor in the British Empire was driven by the revival in England in the early 1800s. And the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement in America had similar roots. Remember that line in the Battle Hymn of the Republic: “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” Politics can be nasty, and many Christians feel they shouldn’t get involved; but it would be a lot nastier without the presence of Christians.
Or does it mean we should support charitable work? The world will always be opposed to God, so why bother with the big picture? Let’s just help those who suffer because of it. This is an honorable approach too. The Australian community today – with unemployment benefits, pensions, subsidized health care, and family support – arose because charitable work by Christians shamed the government to follow suit. While some of these programs are open to criticism, the underlying concept of caring for our neighbor sprang out of this kind of Christian activity.
Or should we ignore politics and charity, and put all our effort into missionary programs and evangelism? After all, souls are not saved by better laws or charity, but by coming to know Christ.
If you think any of these answers is the right one, does that mean the others are wrong? I refuse to believe that. All have been put into effect by godly Christians through the years, and all have been of service in their generation. They are all part of a larger answer that includes them all. The best way to give faithful witness to Christ is to be like Christ.
Just Like Jesus
The two witnesses in Revelation do miracles, just like Jesus. They suffer, are humiliated and killed, just like Jesus. Their bodies are raised from the dead and vindicated, just like Jesus. And then they are taken into heaven, just like Jesus (Rev. 11:1-13). The unbelievers in Revelation do not just hear about Jesus; as they watch these witnesses, they see what Jesus is like. The two witnesses do not just preach Jesus; they represent Him.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. There are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all” (1 Cor. 12:5-6 NKJV). The different ways Christians are faithful are all legitimate. The saint who lives a “Puritan” lifestyle to honor God is worthy of respect. The saint in politics has a different mission, but for the same Lord, and is worthy of the same respect. The missionary is worthy of much respect, but so are those who support him. The same Lord “works all in all.” Notice that important word “in.” God does not work all through all, but all in all. We are not just working for an absentee Lord. We represent the Lord Himself as we work.
The Body Of Christ
Paul made this even clearer: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” Then he concluded, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:12-13,27).
He wrote the same thing to the Roman church: “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
The same thing is implied in his letter to the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Gal. 3:1). Note that he did not write “in whose ears” but “before whose eyes.” He seemed to refer to his own sufferings while he was with them. There was no television in those days! He had already told them, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
And to the Colossian church, he wrote, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27).
Christ And Believers
We tend to think of Christ in heaven and Christians on earth, but Scripture teaches a stronger relationship than that. Luke finished his gospel this way: “While He (Jesus) blessed them … He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Lk. 24:51). Here we see that Jesus’ body ascended into heaven and we know that He is presently at God’s right hand (Mk. 16:19; Rom. 8:34). But the Scriptures we have already read tell us that the body of Christ is also on earth, as His Church.
At the Last Supper Jesus prayed, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). Here we see that Jesus wants us to be on the earth. But Paul wrote, “God … made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). In addition to the body of Christ being on earth, the saints are also seated together with Christ in heaven.
He’s In The World Today
This is not just Paul’s idea! God confirms this with the testimony of other New Testament writers. For instance, Luke starts The Acts Of The Apostles with these words: “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Now Luke’s former account, his gospel, concluded with Jesus’ ascension into heaven. If the gospel was only the “beginning” of what Jesus did and taught, what happened to the middle and the end? Luke clearly saw the ministry of the Church as Jesus continuing His work in the world, a task still unfinished. Luke even described the death of Stephen so as to show its similarity to the death of Jesus Himself (Acts 6-7).
Paul also described his sufferings this way: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, the Church” (Col. 1:24). And Peter wrote, “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet. 4:13). Many New Testament writers confirm this same teaching: what we do as believers, Christ does; what we suffer, Christ suffers.
One In Christ
Jesus Himself told His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (Jn. 15:5). And later, His prayer included this: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the Glory which You gave Me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (Jn. 17:20-21).
What does it mean to be “one” in Jesus, as He is “one” with the Father? Jesus explained it. When Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father,” Jesus responded, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:8-9).
If you want to know what God the Father is like, look at someone who is one with Him – Jesus. It then follows that if you want to know what Jesus is like, look at those who are one with Him – His people here on earth.
So this is not just Paul’s way of saying things. Luke, Peter, John, and most of all Jesus, also made it clear that Jesus is “one” with His saints, and they are His body. This means that faithful witness is more than just talking about Jesus. It is more than keeping His commandments. It is even more than showing faith, hope and love in the middle of a sinful world. Faithful witness is about actively being the body of Christ in the world.
A Powerful Witness
People hear lots of stories. There has always been propaganda – from the likes of Pharaoh, Caesar, Hitler, bin Laden. The average person takes it with a dose of cynicism. Talking rarely convinces anyone; if they believe, their faith is weak. To really believe, people have to see for themselves. As Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You. Therefore I … repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5).
This is the most powerful witness any Christian can offer to this fallen world. To preach Christ is great. To obey Him is more powerful. But to be the body of Christ takes faithfulness to the very core. Then it will not be pretense, duty, or even cheerful sacrifice. It will be, as Paul said to the Galatians, to show the Crucified One before their own eyes (Gal. 3:1).
We are the body of Christ, even if we think it futile. If the saints facing the barbarian invasions into the Christian Roman empire had felt the same way, missionaries would never have been sent to Northern Europe, and the western world would still be barbarian today. In one sense Jesus has already returned in triumph, in His Church which is the body of Christ. We are called to show His victory in our lives as well as with our words.
So what are we asked to do? To be what we already are – the body of Christ in this fallen world. Peter wrote, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). And Jesus said, “Be merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Lk. 6:36). And Paul summed it this way: “Be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). What this world needs to see is Christ. And they will only see Him in us – His body.
By Bob Springett
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.