In the realm of religious tradition, Christians frequently want to identify themselves as “witnesses for Jesus.” A witness is a noun, but we’ve embraced this witness identity so tightly, we’ve even turned it into a verb—so that sharing the gospel with others would mean we’re “going out witnessing.” We also find where works-based individuals will worry that mistakes they’ve made will ruin their “witness for Christ.”
Jesus told His disciples they were His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Being a witness in this instance means an eye-witness, an actual spectator; somebody who saw or heard what took place. After Jesus departed, these apostles sought to replace Judas with another who had “witnessed” everything they had:
“So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).
Later in the book of Acts, God opened the door for Peter to bring the gospel message to non-Jewish people (Gentiles), and he explains to these new converts just exactly what a witness is:
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39-41).
We can clearly see witnesses were defined as those who were with Jesus and saw proof of life after he had risen. In the age of the New Covenant, we can share the gospel and “bear witness” to the truth of Jesus Christ, much like the prophets from the Old Covenant looked ahead and did bear witness that everyone who believes in Christ receives forgiveness of sins through His name (see Acts 10:43). But this doesn’t make us witnesses for Jesus.
A witness in Scripture is defined as someone who is a spectator and actually saw something happen. You and I were not the spectators. It’s strange how Christians exposed to legalism will identify themselves in this way, while struggling with the truth of who they are in Christ—a perfected, clean, forgiven, holy, righteous, and sanctified child of God.
You are not identified as His witness, He is your witness. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). It’s not so much that we are representing Him, rather He represents us because He continues to make intercession for us (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
Take the pressure off of yourself and begin to realize you can learn from your mistakes, and that nothing is going to “ruin” your witness. That’s because “your” witness is Jesus Christ, through the Spirit of the living God. Can I get a witness? I’ve already got one!
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