Witnessing: A Christian Fundamental
"SDA SHOE MAKER." So reads the sign by the road in the town of Agusan del Sur, Philippines. At Washington Dulles International Airport, a businesswoman, delayed for more than an hour, shares religious tracts along with her business cards to other waiting passengers. A photographer in Zacateculoca, El Salvador, consistently leads tens, and sometimes more than a hundred people, to Jesus every year. Some of the youth in your church go with their Sabbath School leader to conduct a branch Sabbath School at an orphanage on Sabbath afternoons.
Their circumstances vary greatly. But what one thing do all these people have in common? They love their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and are serving as His witnesses. As you study this week's lesson, pray that God will help you to be aware of that special witnessing place He has designated just for you!
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. What Is a Witness? (Acts 9:1-22; 22:15, 16, 20).
II. The Goal of Witnessing (Matt. 28:18-20).
III. Reasons for Witnessing (Acts 8:26-31; 2 Pet. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:14).
IV. Three Basic Approaches to Witnessing (Daniel 1; Matt. 5-7; Acts 18:4).
V. Witnessing as a Matter of Obedience (Acts 5:17-42).
MEMORY TEXT: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).
What charge did Paul receive on the day of his baptism? Acts 22:15, 16. Based on his conversion experience in Acts 9:1-22, list at least three principles of witnessing. What phrases attract your attention?
|DEFINITION: A witness is a person who can give a first-hand account of something. "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us" (1 John 1:3).|
Witnessing is not something we do because it is a "program" of our local church. It is a natural result of our conversion and commitment to Jesus. We witness because we are in love with Him. One reason for a lack of real witnessing among some of us is that we know little of Jesus and His power in our own lives. We cannot witness if we have nothing to share. "No sooner does one come to Christ than there is born in his heart a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus.... If we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good we shall have something to tell."Steps to Christ, p. 78.
The apostles had seen and heard events about which they were eager to tell others. Death might silence them. But they could not deny their experience. We become powerful witnesses when the joy and the assurance of salvation work wonders in our life.
What word did Paul use to describe Stephen? What is the importance of that word? Acts 22:20.
The Greek word for "witness" is martus. Martus is also the root for the English term martyr. "Now, a martyr is one who is convinced of truth, and manifests it in life and death. The fires of persecution do not make martyrs; they simply reveal them. The man who is not already a martyr never lays down his life for the truth. The martyrs died, not that they might become martyrs, but because they were martyrs."LeRoy B. Froom, The Coming of the Comforter, rev. ed. (Hagerstown, Md.:Review and Herald, 1956), pp. 106, 107.
What would happen if church members sacrificed not only time and money but life itself in order to share Jesus and communicate the gospel? Should we wait until the latter rain fails to develop that attitude? Why, or why not? How can you serve Jesus as a witness now?
According to Matthew 28:18-20, what is the goal of witnessing?
Identify the action words (verbs) of Christ's great commission. Matt. 28:19,20.
The first verb, "go," could be translated to mean "as you go" or "while going." "Baptizing" and "teaching" also are action verbs. They indicate how we are to make disciples. The one command is "make disciples."
What is a disciple?
|DEFINITION: The word disciple means "followers of a master," "people who follow the discipline taught by a teacher." The term is equal to Christian. In the book of Acts, it refers to those who confess Jesus as the Christ. Discipleship suggests the idea of total attachment to someone. Disciples are people who are committed to making Jesus the Lord of their life.|
Disciples are eager to use their spiritual gifts to advance God's kingdom because Christ's love motivates them to do so. They have been born again by the Holy Spirit. Because they are new creatures in Christ, they will have characteristics that the world will recognize as different from their own. They will not be perfect. But they are part of God's family. For example, Peter was among the disciples. He was not perfect after Pentecost, but he was committed to Jesus, and he was willing to obey Him.
Discipleship also implies a continuing work toward maturity, a growing to new stages where the disciple will bring others to a saving relationship with Jesus.
Is it possible to be a "church member" and not be a "disciple"? Explain. How willing are you to make the goal of the Great Commission one of your personal goals? Examine your life carefully.
Read each text in the chart below. Then tell what reason it suggests for witnessing.
|TEXT||REASON FOR WITNESSING|
|2 Pet. 3:9|
|2 Cor. 5:14|
Read Acts 26:15-18. Provide at least four of Paul's tasks as he witnessed among unbelievers.
Witnessing is necessary from two points of view: the Christian's and the non-Christian's. Christians need to witness, because there is something inside them that wants to tell others about Jesus. Non-Christians need someone to witness to them because only by learning about Jesus and accepting His sacrifice can they know the way of salvation.
Philip's experience with the Ethiopian teaches us that for our witness to be meaningful, we should be aware of the concerns and needs of the people to whom we direct our witness. Ask them questions. Listen to their answers. Let their focus be your starting point in sharing Jesus' love. In so doing, they will learn over time that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the light.
|Witnessing also brings spiritual power: "Strength to resist evil is best gained by aggressive service."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 105. List other reasons for witnessing.|
In what office did Philip serve the church? Acts 21:8.
|DEFINITION: Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is the presentation of Jesuswho He is, what He has done and is doing, and what He has taught. Evangelism presents biblical teachings through the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way that people will be persuaded to accept Jesus as their Savior and serve Him in the fellowship of the church. An evangelist is one who announces the Good News.|
The three basic approaches to evangelism are:
1. Presence evangelism. This deals with the impact of the Christian lifestyle. We evangelize by living the gospel. This involves a positive testimony. In the mission field, presence evangelism may take the form of medical or agricultural work. By meeting people's needs, the evangelist opens their hearts to the preaching of God's Word.
2. Proclamation evangelism. The emphasis of this approach is on the explanation of Scripture. Most Sabbath morning sermons take this approach. Preachers help people to understand the gospel. But they do not know whether anyone in the audience has made a commitment.
3. Persuasion evangelism. This method illustrates the traditional understanding of evangelism. The emphasis of this approach is on doctrine. It persuades people to make a decision for Jesus and His truth. A preacher who, during Sabbath morning services, invites the congregation to respond under the power of the Holy Spirit through an appeal or an altar call is utilizing persuasion evangelism.
Which method of evangelism does each text below describe? Why do you think so?
Acts 18:4 ___________________________________________________________
Daniel 1 ____________________________________________________________
Matt. 5-7 __________________________________________________
|Review the definition of evangelism in the box above. Explain how each of the evangelistic methods described below it fits this definition. Why do we need all three methods? Which method does your local church use the most? Which one are you actively participating in?|
The Sanhedrin, called "the council" in the book of Acts, exercised its control in civil and political, as well as in religious, affairs. Composed of seventy men, it was the main governing body of the Hebrew people. The high priest presided over the council. When the apostles were brought before the council, the high priest denounced them, declaring, "'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this [Jesus'] name ... yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's s blood' "(Acts 5:27, 28, NIV).
To what higher command did the apostles refer? Acts 5:29.
In Acts, we find the church heavily involved in witnessing. Another term for what the church did is "evangelizing," even though this word does not appear in Acts very often. The apostles risked their own lives in order to obey God. They could not deny what had happened in their lives and what they had seen with their own eyes. "In the history of prophets and apostles, are many noble examples of loyalty to God. Christ's witnesses have endured imprisonment, torture, and death itself, rather than break God's commands."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 81.
The apostles "never asked, 'Is this course of action safe?' They asked, 'Is this what God wants me to do?' "William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, rev. ed. (Philadelphia, Penn.: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 48.
How did the apostles react to the instructions of the council? Acts 5:40-42.
In such behavior lies the solution to many problems. People respond differently to opposition. Some, preferring peace, are easily scared into silence. Others will make sure that the world knows how unjustly they have been treated. But few souls do not flinch at suffering for Christ's sake. Jesus Himself declared such persons "blessed" (Matt. 5:10-12). The ability of the church to withstand opposition excited the people. And "the number of the disciples was multiplied" (Acts 6:1).
|If the lawmakers of your country or city were to declare witnessing a crimes would you be found guilty or be ignored for lack of evidence? In what circumstances should Christians risk disobeying civil laws that restrict their obligation to witness?|
FURTHER STUDY: What activities in Jesus' ministry may be considered as witnessing, and why? What witnessing events do you recall from the Old Testament? Under what method would you classify Jesus' witnessing activities and those you recall from the Old Testament? (see Wednesday's lesson). What principles about witnessing can we learn from both Jesus' ministry and the witnessing events of the Old Testament?
Read Ellen G. White, Christian Service, "A Call to the Individual" pp. 9-13. What activities are described as "the highest missionary work" in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 41?
"The church of Christ on earth was organized for missionary purposes, and the Lord desires to see the entire church devising ways and means whereby high and low, rich and poor, may hear the message of truth."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 29.
"Our work has been marked out for us by our heavenly Father. We are to take our Bibles and go forth to warn the world. We are to be God's helping hands in saving souls channels through which His love is day by day to flow to the perishing."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 150.
SUMMARIZE in your own words the following concepts from this week's lesson: (1) What is a witness? (Acts 9:1-22; 22:15, 16, 20). (2) What is the goal of witnessing? (Matt. 28:19, 20). (3) What are some reasons for witnessing? (Acts 8:26-31; 2 Pet. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:14). (4) List and explain the three basic approaches to witnessing (Daniel 1; Matt. 5-7; Acts 18:4). (5) Why is witnessing a matter of obedience? (Acts 5:17-42).
How has this week's lesson made you feel about witnessing? What will you do differently because of what you have learned?
J. H. Zachary
For many months a gang of "rascals," ruthless criminals, terrorized a section of the Eastern Highlands Mission in Papua New Guinea. Two hundred violent youth robbed and raped travelers between the cities of Goroka and Lae.
Midway between these cities the highway passes between two hills. Gang members would watch for traffic from the north. When a lone vehicle approached, they signaled their companions on the hill overlooking the narrow passage, who alerted a third group of rascals, who stopped the vehicle and carried out their criminal and often violent deeds.
Several Adventist churches serve the communities in this area of Papua New Guinea. Members were deeply concerned over the increasingly violent nature of crimes being committed by these gangs. They took their concern to the Lord in earnest prayer and discussed possible solutions. Finally, the members agreed on a solution to make their community safe once again. Carefully they laid their plans.
Nearly everyone who lives in the region knows which youth are gang members or sympathizers. Pairs of Adventists visited the homes of these people and challenged the gang members to come to a meeting at the church. "Surely you do not want to spend the rest of your life as a rascal. God wants something better for you. He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. We have prepared a special seminar for all the rascals in this community. Please come."
And many of the rascals came to the meeting and continued to attend the evangelistic meetings prepared just for them. Before the meetings ended, 107 of the rascals came forward to express their desire to begin a new life with Jesus. In just over a year that number reached 200.
As the pastor in this region and I passed through this once-dangerous spot on the highway between Goroka and Lae, the pastor told me, "It is safe to travel here now."
Praise God for the transforming power of the gospel that changes lives and gives each person hope for the future and a better life today.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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