March 11 - 17
Witnessing With Assurance
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Josh. 24:1-21; Isa. 42:6; 52:7-10; Mal. 3:13-18; Rom. 10:14, 15; 1 Pet. 2:9; 3:15; Rev. 6:9.
MEMORY TEXT: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: Assurance of salvation is not something to keep for ourselves, but to share joyously with others. Gratitude for deliverance from danger, illness, or death was always a matter of shared joy in Bible times. It was a matter of public witness to the honor and glory of God and for the encouragement of others. So it must be to us today.
THE CHRISTIAN'S CALLING TO W1TNESS FOR CHRIST. Christ emphasized the basic continuity of His own mission and that of His followers with the high calling to them to be a saving light to the world (compare John 8:12; Matt. 5:14 with Isa. 42:6). We can be such a light to others only if we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. To be a blessing, one must first receive a blessing. Effectiveness in witnessing for Christ is, therefore, largely dependent on our personal assurance and joy of salvation. Our words resonate our inner experience with Christ. Our calling from God thus resembles our breathing in and breathing out. This week as we study the witness of God's saving acts in the Bible, may the Holy Spirit empower us always to share the good news with love and assurance.
Why did Joshua renew Israel's covenant with God at Shechem? Josh. 24:1-15. How did Israel respond to Joshua's example? Josh. 24:16-21.
In his farewell address to the leaders of Israel, Joshua first recounted God's saving acts on behalf of His people, in order to show God's faithfulness to all His promises. He then said: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:22, NIV). The people responded: "Yes, we are witnesses." "Joshua desired to lead them to serve God, not by compulsion, but willingly. Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment, would avail nothing. Open apostasy would not be more offensive to God than hypocrisy and mere formal worship."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 523.
What did Deborah, Samuel, and Micah find necessary to do in order to revive the faith of Israel?
Judg. 5:10, 11 _____________________________________________________
1 Sam. 12:7 ______________________________________________________
Mic. 6:5 _________________________________________________________
Before we can truly worship God, we must know Him from His redemptive works in history. Knowing God this way leads us to love and praise Him and declare Him with assurance.
How did David praise God? Ps. 103:1-8.
Israel's God is exalted as the one who "alone does great wonders" (Ps. 136:4, NIV). These refer to God's acts in both Creation and redemption. The only proper response of Israel to such a Creator-Redeemer is: "Give thanks to the LORD" (Ps. 136:1-3, 26). Bible scholars believe that the congregation had a part in this liturgy by alternate responsive singing. This kind of thanksgiving is a necessary part of our witnessing to the glory of God.
What valuable lessons can we learn from the two classes of witnesses in Israel according to Malachi 3:13-18?
What was God's redemptive purpose for the Gentiles, and what role was Israel to play? Gen. 12:2, 3; Exod. 19:6.
Israel as a whole was elected to fulfill the role of priesthood to all nations. For that larger purpose Israel received a saving knowledge of God—His "blessing" in order to be a blessing to all the families on earth.
Why would God's plan with Israel not fail even when His people failed? Isa. 9:6, 7; 11:1-9; 53:10.
How did a girl from Israel witness for her God while serving a Gentile master? 2 Kings 5:2, 3.
"In every land there are those who are as earnest and sincere as Naaman, and who are waiting only for the faithful testimony and the holy lives of the people of God before giving their hearts to Him."--Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 878. Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, "I will become a Christian when I see one!" He clearly meant that a true witness of Christ includes a harmony of faith and works!
What impact did the witness of Daniel and his three companions have in Babylon? Dan. 3:16-18, 28-30; 6:25-27.
"The light of heaven had been shining forth from Daniel and his companions, until all their associates understood the faith which ennobled their lives and beautified their characters."—Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1170.
How did the king of Nineveh and his nobles react to Jonah's message from God? Jon. 3:5-9. How did God honor their response of faith? Jon. 3:10.
Because of Jonah's compelling testimony, a city of more than 120,000 people believed God, repented (Jon. 3:5), and were spared.
|How would you have responded to God's call if you were Jonah?|
How did Christ consider His life and work as a witness for God? John 3:13-18; 8:12-14; 17:8, 14-18.
"From His earliest years He was possessed of one purpose; He lived to bless others."—The Desire of Ages, p. 70. "Light" was the well-known symbol of God's presence. David sang with full assurance: "The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1, NIV). In the words "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12, KJV). Jesus announced that He was the promised Messiah for all peoples. He wanted His disciples to be "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14) and His witnesses "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
The indwelling Holy Spirit makes our witness powerful and effective. We witness about Christ and His work for us before we witness to His transforming power in us. The Jews who listened to Peter on the day of Pentecost were not converted by his personal emotions and feelings, which they ascribed to drunkenness, but by the earnest preaching of "the wonders of God" (Acts 2:11, megala, NIV; "the mighty deeds of God," NASB) in Christ Jesus! We need to become aware of the priority of the message above the medium of the message.
How did those listening to Peter respond to his proclamation of the gospel? Acts 2:41, 46, 47.
How did Paul and Barnabas explain their mission and mandate to the Jews? Acts 13:47. How did the Gentiles respond? Acts 13:48, 49.
The apostolic church believed that "its mission was that of witnessing to Israel and to the world of the redemption God had wrought in Christ.... It is this witness and life and this sense of mission that make her the Church. The secularizing of the Church does not consist of her institutional forms, but in the loss of her convictions, in the dilution of her message, in the surrender of her witness to the world. Then she becomes like the world and only a part of the world and no longer the Church of the living God."—G. E. Ladd, The Young Church, Acts of the Apostles (New York, N.Y.: Abingdon Press, 1964), pp. 94-96.
|In what way does your witness reflect the light of Christ?|
How did many Samaritans come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah of prophecy? John 4:39-42.
Being weary from His work in Judea, Jesus nevertheless grasped the opportunity to speak with a woman, though she was a stranger, an alien from Israel, and living in open sin. Although Samaria did not look inviting to the disciples, Jesus observed that it was a field ripe for the harvest. "As soon as she had found the Saviour, the Samaritan woman brought others to Him."—The Desire of Ages, p. 195.
To the Samaritan woman He had explained: "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14, NIV). This "living water" is the gift of Christ, and it flows out from the believer to refresh the lives of others. He asks the church, as His "bride," to add her voice to that of His Spirit: "'Come!' ... Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Rev. 22:17, NIV).
Why did Christ send a healed Gentile demoniac back to his family and friends? Mark 5:19, 20; Luke 8:38, 39.
"In doing this work they could receive a greater blessing than if, merely for benefit to themselves, they had remained in His presence. It is in working to spread the good news of salvation that we are brought near to the Saviour."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 339, 340.
What did Christ say to some Greeks who requested to see Him? John 12:23-25, 32. How do you explain Christ's seemingly paradoxical statement in verse 25?
Jesus knew that only after His death and resurrection could He reach out to the Gentiles and "draw all men" to Himself. This He does through His witnessing disciples and through the preaching of the gospel.
Reflect on 1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9. In what ways can you witness effectively "without words" to nonbelieving spouses and others?
|Reflect on Revelation 12:17; 14:6-12. How have you been involved in the calling and witness of the remnant church?|
How does the book of Revelation refer to the faithful work of the risen Lord? Rev. 1:5; 3:14. Why does Christ mention Antipas as an example for all who are called to give the ultimate witness for Him? Rev. 2:10, 13.
The Greek word martus ("witness") soon after New Testament times came to mean "martyr." But in Revelation it still denotes one who witnesses for Christ. Antipas receives from the Lord the title of "my faithful witness." "From Pliny's letter to Trajan (Ep. x. 96) and from the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp we know that in the second century it was part of lawcourt procedure that those accused of being Christians should be invited to exculpate [exonerate] themselves by cursing Christ."—G. B. Caird, A Commentary on The Revelation of St. John (New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 38.
Why were Christ's faithful witnesses persecuted and martyred? Rev. 1:9; 6:9; 12:11; 17:6; 20:4.
"John has said of his own exile that it was 'because of the word spoken by God and attested by Jesus' (1:9), and the martyrs have lost their lives in the same cause, not merely because they bore their own testimony to the word of God, but because in so doing they were giving new expression to the testimony which had brought Jesus to his death."—G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John, p. 84.
What is the meaning of the two symbolic witnesses of God during the 1,260 days in Revelation 11:3-6?
We may understand the meaning of the two witnesses of God on two levels: (1) as the twofold testimony of "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus," which equals that of the two Testaments, the message of the Hebrew prophets and the witness of the apostles; (2) as the living witnesses of Christ who proclaim this twofold message. "Century after century the blood of the saints had been shed. While the Waldenses laid down their lives upon the mountains of Piedmont 'for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus,' similar witness to the truth had been borne by their brethren, the Albigenses of France. In the days of the Reformation its disciples had been put to death with horrible tortures."—The Great Controversy, p. 271.
FURTHER STUDY: Study about God's great intervention in behalf of His people in 1 Sam. 12:6-11; Pss. 22:22; 40:1-3; 136. Study about the disgraceful impression Gehazi gave to Naaman in 2 Kings 5:20-27.
The theme of witnessing to the trustworthiness of God's acts and words is of central importance in both Testaments. Such a witness receives the status of a legal validity before God. Fundamental to its reliability is the requirement that "a matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses" (Deut. 19:15, NIV). Jesus recognized this and claimed that His Father in heaven was His other witness (John 8:15-18; 12:47-49). John explains that God gave His testimony about His Son conclusively through His Spirit at Jesus' baptism, at the cross and Pentecost, and further through the anointing in the hearts of true believers (1 John 5:6-10).
Read about Christ's witness in Matt. 10:32; John 3:11; 7:37-39; Isa. 42:5-7; 55:1.
Read The Desire of Ages, chaps. 37, 70, 73; the chapter entitled "The Work and the Life" in Steps to Christ. "Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver."—The Desire of Ages, p. 195.
"The only way to grow in grace is to be disinterestedly doing the very work which Christ has enjoined upon us.... Strength comes by exercise.... Thus the Christian who will not exercise his God-given powers, not only fails to grow up into Christ, but he loses the strength that he already had "—Steps to Christ, pp. 80, 81.
SUMMARY: The Scriptures teach that God's initiatives and interventions in history need to be recognized in human witnesses. This takes the forms of worship and missionary outreach. Witnessing is not about some human philosophy or personal emotion about God, but God's own acts in salvation history, in His Son Jesus Christ in particular, as recorded in the Bible.
"I will never permit a son of mine to become a Christian!" the angry man said as he tied his son's hands and locked him in his room. For six days young Sofyan remained a prisoner in his father's house.
Sofyan is a Muslim teenager living on the island of Java in Indonesia. When a friend invited him to attend a Christian church service, Sofyan refused. But his friend was persistent, and finally Sofyan agreed to attend, partly to please his friend and partly out of curiosity.
As he neared the church building, he glanced nervously in all directions. No one must see him enter. The pastor read John 3:16. Sofyan had never heard such a wonderful message. Allah loves me! He turned this thought over and over in his mind as he contemplated the greatness of God's love. His heart was touched; he had to know more.
Sofyan secretly returned to the church each week until his father found out and locked him in his room for six days. Then his father released him after he promised to never enter a Christian church again. To keep Sofyan away from his Christian friends, he was sent to a far corner of the island.
Sofyan had studied the Qu'ran, the Muslim holy book, for many years. He had won a prize for reciting from the Qu'ran. Now far from home, he read the Qu'ran for comfort. One day he was amazed to read in the Qu'ran that the seventh day is the holy day of Allah. Excited, Sofyan knocking on doors, asking people if they knew of any Christians who kept the seventh day holy. Finally he found someone.
"Yes," the man said. "I keep holy the Sabbath day of God. There is a congregation of Sabbath keepers here in the city."
Sofyan asked the man about other beliefs. Satisfied that he had found people who worshiped Allah and kept holy His Sabbath day, Sofyan started studying the Bible with them. He recognized God's truth and asked for baptism. Sofyan rejoiced in his new walk with God.
Then Sofyan's uncle died. The family told Sofyan to come home. During this visit home Sofyan's father learned of his conversion. Angry, the man grabbed a large knife to kill his son. But neighbors who heard the scuffle intervened. They held the angry father so Sofyan could escape.
Today 18-year-old Sofyan is preparing to become a pastor. He wants to teach his own people more about Allah and His Son, Jesus.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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