In thinking of witnessing, we have to walk between a narrow and a broad definition. Narrowly defined, witnessing is confined to a rehearsal of a few gospel facts in the hearing of a nonbeliever. Broadly defined, it is whatever we do as Christians before the watching world. Neither of these definitions is satisfactory. The first narrows witness to only our lips; the second broadens it to just being nice. Both our words and our ways are inextricably bound together in witness. It is easy to excuse ourselves by saying either “Well, I told her the gospel!” or “I just live my life before others.” These two extremes
seem to have developed more in reaction to each other than on any biblical basis. What might be a more balanced view?
The main design for each man and woman is not “to be a super soul-winner night and day.” As the Westminster Catechism says, it is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This means that we, as whole people, are to enjoy God, starting now, and keep his honor in focus in all that we do.
Clearly the way we live is a primary aspect of our witness. Yet our life is to be coupled with telling God’s truth. People need to be told who makes our lives different. Our lives, then, will illuminate the truth we express to nonbelievers. The airplane of Christian witness has two wings: our lives (conduct) and our lips (conversation).
To remain silent and let others interpret our actions is wrong; God himself did not do this. The pivotal points of God’s redemptive action in history are accompanied with verbal revelation. God wants us to understand the meaning of his actions. Likewise, we must speak—and speak of Christ— even if we sense our own inconsistency of life. We must speak even when
we do not know much about the Bible. We must speak even when it is inconvenient.
God is bigger than our sins, our ignorance, our pride. He will honor his word in our mouths.
Nevertheless, at times our actions do speak louder than our words. When
John describes our commission to witness, he says that as the Father sent the
Son, so we are sent to others (Jn 20:21). God didn’t send a tract; he prepared
a body. Likewise, God has prepared your life and personality to demonstrate
him. We need to be creative and selfless in our love to others. We need to learn
how to be friends as well as perceive the needs of others and do something for
them. Much of Jesus’ witness was in response to a question following an act of
kindness or a miracle. But we need to make sure that we are not condescending.
We should allow others to help us, let them minister to us. Jesus asked
the Samaritan woman to give him some water. We need to learn to be human
and treat others as God’s image-bearers. If we are friendly only as long as
someone is interested in discussing the gospel, we don’t know much about
friendship. We need to listen and seek to serve, not just talk.
How does the Bible define witnessing? In the Great Commission as expressed
by Luke, we have central truths to which we are witnesses (Lk 24:48). At the ascension, Christ’s last words command the disciples to witness about him, a person (Acts 1:8).