Can I Get A Witness?

witnessMost of the time when we hear of the concept of being a witness, we think about someone who testifies about what he has seen, heard or has knowledge of. Certainly, this is also one of the meanings the Bible means when the term “witness” is found. However, there are some other aspects and meanings of the term that would also enlighten and enrich our understanding of the concept of being witnesses if we properly understood them.

The first occurrence of the word in the Old Testament is in Genesis 21:30, but I’m going to start the citation at Genesis 21:27 and go through verse 32 for context: “And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, ‘What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?’ And he said, ‘For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.’ Wherefore, he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them. Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.” (Gen 21:27-32 KJV) Note that Abraham said that the seven lambs were a witness that he dug the well. Of course, we know that the lambs could not talk, therefore they could not testify of what they knew, seen, or heard, so obviously, they were a witness in another context of the term. So how were they a witness? Abraham used the term; “witness” to mean, evidence or proof! The Abraham gave the lambs to Abimelech so that they might serve as evidence or proof that Abraham had dug the well and as evidence or proof of the covenant the two of them made concerning that fact. So it is indeed interesting to note that the first introduction of the concept of witness or witnessing in the Bible is not about testifying, but rather about evidence or proof!

The concept is used in a similar manner in the Greek in James 5:3, where the author wrote to the rich men of his day: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5:1-3 KJV) Note that whereas the sheep couldn’t talk in our Old Testament example, but yet they served as a witness, here, the inanimate rust of the rich men’s gold and silver served as a witness! Again, the idea is not that of testifying, but rather that of being evidence or proof!

witness crossNow, I cited these two examples of the use of the word “witness” in its Hebrew and Greek origins to emphasize the point that being a witness in the Bible was not always just about testifying or speaking! Sometimes, it was about being evidence or proof! Could it be, that when Jesus spoke to his disciples about being “witnesses unto me” in Acts 1:8, in addition to their verbal testimony, he may have also had in mind  that they would also be physical, living proof and evidence that he was indeed who he said he was? That seems to have been the idea in our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. He prays to the Father in John 17:20-23: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23 KJV) Do you see the connection? Jesus prayed that his disciples would be “one” just as he and the Father were one because that unity would serve as proof to the world that he was sent by the Father! Yes! According to Jesus, the unity of his disciples; past, present, and future was and is the witness; the evidence and proof to the world that he was sent by the Father!

It is also interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “witness” is a word that means; martyr! A martyr was one who proved their faith to Christ by suffering a violent death! In the New Testament, the word; “witness” was, in a sense, a synonym for one who died a violent death!

So these are some things we should be mindful of the next time we hear somebody asking in church: “Can I get a witness?” They may just be asking for an “amen” or some form of acknowledgement to something they said. But when the Lord asks the question: “Can I get a witness?” I think the Lord is asking for a whole lot more! The Lord is asking for someone who will not only just confess with their mouth, but also who will be an example, proof, and evidence of the presence and reality of Christ! The Lord is asking for someone who is willing to die for the faith! No! “Can I get a witness” is not just a simple call for an “amen.” “Can I get a witness” is a call to be true disciples and followers of Christ! Can I get a witness?

The Rest of the Story!

Paul HarveyFrom May 1976 until the early part of 2009, American radio broadcaster and commentator Paul Harvey was on the air with a popular commentary called: “The Rest of the Story.” During these segments, Harvey would talk about various topics of public interest laced with true-life stories. He was famous for his use of the dramatic pause and other speaking techniques to get his point across. Harvey would never finish the complete story in the first half of the broadcast. Usually he would introduce the topic or story during the first part of the program, but would delay the conclusion of the story until after a commercial break. When the commercial was over, he would begin the conclusion with the words: “And now. . . the rest of the story!”

Well, there are many who are preaching and teaching the Gospel today without telling the whole story! They tell the first segment or the appealing part without telling all or the rest of the story! For instance, if you listen to many who exclusively  preach/teach prosperity and/or the “word of faith” messages, you might note the extensive use of Hebrews 11 as a proof-text. That chapter in the Bible has been called the “Great Hall of Faith!” In it, we read about Enoch, who, because of his faith and because he walked with God, was translated so that he did not see death! We read about the great heroes and she-roes of faith such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab! However, usually when this text is preached, the preacher/teacher will climax and stop with Hebrews 11:32-35a. But why conclude at 35a when 35b and following tell the rest of the story?

Hebrews 11:35b begins by reporting: “And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection.” The rest of the chapter relates what happened to others who suffered cruel mockings, beatings, imprisonments, being sawed in two, and having no certain dwelling place, wandering around in deserts and caves! Whew! You’re not going to get many members or have a good offering if you preach that! But that is the rest of the story! The people at the end of the chapter were just as faithful as those at the beginning because the Bible says (verse 39): “And all these, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”

That’s the rest of story! No matter how faithful we are or how much faith we have, true biblical faith does not guarantee the earthly success and victory many would like to think it does! All the faith in the world will not prevent death from eventually knocking on our door! Yes! Through the grace of God, we may be healed today, but we are still going to die sometime tomorrow! King Hezekiah was sick unto death. But he prayed to the Lord and the Lord healed him of his sickness! But the rest of the story says that it was not an indefinite extension; it was only for 15 more years, after that, Hezekiah died!

We do the Gospel and the Kingdom of God a disservice when we preach and teach only the appealing parts of the story! We must be honest and tell people the rest of the story! There is tremendous blessing in being a Christian, but the rest of the story is that the blessing comes with trouble and persecution! Being a Christian does not exempt one from trouble and distress! However, being a Christian does enable one to have access to the Source the world does not have! The rest of the story is the Lord’s promise to be with us through it all! Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  And that, my friend, is the rest of the story. . . Good Day!

Who Is The Church For?

I think the church today is making the same fundamental mistake that Israel made back in the Bible days! God’s purpose for choosing Israel to be His peculiar people was so that Israel might introduce and show God to the world! But instead of fulfilling that task, Israel became introverted and tried to keep God as her own peculiar treasure. Instead of being a conduit to share God with the world, Israel became a pool and tried to isolate God and herself from the world! Not understanding that God wanted to use her to reach the world, Israel concluded that her selection by God meant that she was better than the rest of the world and that God’s favor was for her exclusively.

churchliquorIsn’t that exactly what has happened to the church today, especially in America? Visit any urban city in America and you will observe an interesting phenomenon. In most locations, you will find a church building on many city blocks. However, within those same city blocks, you will also find buildings that provide housing for illegal drugs, prostitution, and liquor stores! In some locations, the church house and the house of ill repute are even situated next door to one another! You would think that one would offset the other! How in the world can they seemingly peacefully co-exist?

I think there are several reasons for this happening. First, just like Israel in the days of old, the church today has misunderstood her calling. Instead of being “for the world,” most churches today are mainly for themselves! And many of the ones who are evangelistic are making the fundamental mistake of trying to be like and liked by the world in a futile effort to win the world!

The Bible is clear on this subject and we should use the Carpenter from Galilee as our model. Jesus said; “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV) Jesus did nothing for himself, but rather his whole life was for others! He was born for others! He ministered for others! He performed miracles and healings for others! He was crucified for others! He died for others! Early that 3rd-day Sunday morning, he was raised from the dead for others! And one day, he’s coming back again for others! Yes! Jesus, the Head of the church, was for others! And just as Jesus was for others, the church should be for others!

The church will be what God called her to be, have the power and influence God ordained for her to have when she comes to the realization that she does not exist for herself but rather for others! Real power will return to the church when church members repent of their selfishness and come to the realization that the church does not exist primarily to serve them. Real power will return to the church when church members come to the understanding that they are members of the church so that their talents, time, treasure, gifts, and abilities might be used to fulfill the church’s mandate to reach, save and serve others for sake of Jesus and the Kingdom of God!