By J. A. Thornton
We hear much about “witnessing for Christ” in our present day. Even some of our brethren are taking to using it. The denominational world uses this expression to refer to “a special working of grace.”
A dictionary definition is in order. Webster’s Collegiate gives this: “Testimony, one who beholds or has personal knowledge of, to have direct cognizance of or to observe with one’s own eyes.”
The Greek word martus or martur is defined by Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words as: “to aver what one has seen, heard, or knows” or “to observe.”
Actual usage in the Bible is in Acts 1:8, 22; 5:32; 1 Peter 5:1. These are but a few. Each time the term is used in the sense of stating what one has actually seen or observed or has direct knowledge of.
Brethren who use the term do not use it in any of the above senses. I cannot bear witness of the death of Christ for I was not there. I cannot testify as to the work of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost because I did not observe it. I can pass on to others the testimony of Luke who wrote the Book of Acts. I can pass on to others the witness of the apostles but it is not my testimony. In other words there is a difference between reporting the testimony of a witness and bearing the witness. When I preach I am simply passing on to my hearers (at least I hope it is passed on) the testimony of those who were actual witnesses. We are taught to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). For this reason we should be extremely careful in using the expression “witnessing for Christ” lest we not be using it in the way the Bible uses the term “witness.” Let us speak as the Bible speaks then we can be sure of the message we bear.
- J. A. Thornton; via the weekly bulletin of the Lebanon Road church of Christ in Nashville, TN. Adam Faughn serves as the pulpit minister for the congregation, and he may be contacted through the congregation’s website at: http://www.lebanonroadchurchofchrist.org