This brings us specifically to the question of the calling to witness.
We must reject out of hand all so-called “confrontation witness.” Any kind of witness which “confronts man with the claim of Christ,” no matter what specific form it may take, has no place in the life of the Church or in the calling of believers. It is man-centered in its entire approach. It is Arminian in its character with its emphasis on “accepting Christ,” “soul winning,” “decisions,” etc. Indeed, there is an inescapable element of pride in it all because the emphasis always falls upon “what we shall do for God.” There is an arrogance and a presumption in this which ought to be anathema in the life of the Christian.
If we turn to the positive calling, there are several points which we ought to make. In the first place, because the preaching of the gospel and Christian witnessing are so closely connected, we may expect that there will be an analogy between the two in certain important respects. I refer specifically to the fact that the book of Acts makes it very clear that God always directed the course of the gospel in the labors of the apostles. God sent Peter to Cornelius and-Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch. God directed the church at Antioch to choose Paul and Barnabas and send them out to preach the gospel. And, in fact, so closely did God direct the course of the labors of the apostle that they “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, (and) after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not.” Acts 16:6, 7. It is this same truth which the Canons of Dordt emphasize when they speak of the fact that we must preach to all those “to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel.” (Canons II, 5.)
The principle holds true also for witnessing. It is a safe principle to follow, for in following it we follow the direction of God. The question is, of course, how do we know where God is directing us to perform the work of witnessing? The answer to this is, (and it is this idea which I have attempted to incorporate into the definition which I offered above), that we must witness to all those whom God places upon our path. The Scriptures also very strongly suggest this. I have reference, e.g., to such a passage as I Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” While witnessing is not specifically mentioned here, we may assume that this “answer we must give of our hope” is precisely the genuine character of all witnessing. But, so Peter teaches us, we must give such an answer to those who ask us. This certainly implies that our witness must be directed to those whom God places, in His providence, in one form or another, upon our path. God puts such people upon our path. God brings us into contact with them. And then we can be sure that God wants them to hear the witness to the truth. And God will do the work He intends to be done. We must remember that witnessing is God’s work. We must not try to take matters into our own hands and be wiser than God. We must expect Him to do His work even when He is pleased to use us.
The question necessarily arises in this connection whether so-called door-to-door evangelism is the proper calling of the Church. While, I am not prepared to condemn such door-to-door witnessing, there are several points which are worth making. 1) It is almost always fruitless. And this is to be expected, if what I have said above is true. 2) If such type of witnessing does meet with success, it is often at the cost of sacrificing the truth at worst, or, at best, of bringing into the church those who are not properly instructed in the truth of God—with the result that the church increases her problems with unfaithful members. 3) I have absolutely no use for making Sunday School an arm of witnessing or an aspect of evangelism. The idea seems to be that, through the Sunday School, children are brought into the Church even if not the parents. And some even suggest that one can perhaps get at the parents through the children. This is, it seems to me wholly at odds with the Reformed truth of the covenant—that God saves His people in the line of generations. I.e., that God saves believers and their children. And this is also the emphasis in the book of Acts throughout.
The whole question arises as to what form our witnessing must take. And there is one point here that needs the strongest possible emphasis. The Scriptures certainly point us to the fact that the strongest witness we make is the witness of our life. This sort of thing is often disparaged and even mocked in our sophisticated day. It is mocked as being a dodging of our calling. It is disparaged as being ineffective. But the Scriptures point us to this nonetheless.
We earlier quoted the passage in I Peter 3:15. In this passage the apostle points us to our calling of being ready to give an answer to those who ask of us a reason for the hope which lies within us. While surely the emphasis of this passage falls upon our readiness to give an answer, it is equally obvious that this answer presupposes a question. And that question is concerning the reason for our hope. Now it is clear that, if wicked men ask a reason for our hope, they are prompted to ask such a question because they observe the evidences of our hope in our lives. And the whole thrust of Peter’s remarks here centers in the fact that we live lives which are constant expressions of our hope. That is, we live as pilgrims and strangers in all our conversation. This life will be the life of the antithesis, and this will raise, in the minds of unbelievers, startling questions concerning that hope to which we must be prepared to give answer.
The same truth is taught very clearly by Jesus Himself in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name: and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
This is not to say, of course, that our witnessing must not also include speaking the truth. Paul writes of confessing with the mouth as well as believing with the heart. But the fact of the matter is that any verbal testifying of the truth which is not the fruit of a life of the antithesis and of a godly walk according to all the precepts of Scripture, is a sham and a hypocrisy. In an interesting book by Michael Green entitled “Evangelism in the Early Church,” the question is discussed concerning the personal witnessing of the saints by means of which the Church was spread to every nook and cranny of the empire of Rome. He quotes from ancient church fathers and comments himself upon the fact that the main witness of the saints was the witness of a changed life, changed by the power of grace. He sums it all up when he says: “Unless there is a transformation of contemporary church life so that once again the task of evangelism is something which is seen as incumbent on every Christian, and is backed up by a quality of living which outshines the best that unbelief can muster, we are unlikely to make much headway through techniques of evangelism.”
Thus, by means of a godly life the power of grace is manifested in us; the attention of unbelievers is attracted and aroused; the opportunity for witnessing is given; and the truth of that which we believe is substantiated.
The Importance Of Witnessing
It is at this point that we must bend every effort to look at things in their proper light. We often tend to glorify door-to-door witnessing and some kind of personal confrontation. There is a certain glamour about it that appeals to us. There is a certain zip to it that makes it sound proper and exciting. I fear, however, that there is also an element of pride and self-glory in this sort of thing.
We must remember, after all, that this is not the difficult way to witness. It is the relatively easy way. The difficult way is the way of faithfulness to our covenant God in our own station and calling in life. The difficult way is the way of a faithful covenant mother in her home who goes about her daily tasks as a virtuous woman cheerfully filling her God-given assignments in the quiet fear of the Lord. The difficult way is for a husband and bread-winner to occupy his place at the drill press in the factory or behind a desk or in a garage and to be a constant testimony of the grace of God in his day-to-day labor and in all his actions, and speech. The difficult way is the way of the antithesis in a world of darkness and sin, the way of being pilgrims and strangers in the earth. And this is the God-glorifying way.
We must never weigh the importance of this in human terms. The important thing is not winning souls for Christ, extolling ourselves because of evangelical prowess, or boasting of numbers of converts and weighing success in terms of decisions. God always witnesses; also through us. And He uses that witness as He sees fit.
You see, the point is that God alone must be glorified, He must be glorified in his manifestation of His work of grace in the salvation of His Church according to His decree of election. It is a terrible thing when this does-not happen. When David confessed his sins of adultery and murder to Nathan the prophet, Nathan assured him that his sins were also forgiven. But at the same time, Nathan told David that the sword would never depart from his house because he had given occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme. This happens sometimes in our lives. Our lives are occasions for the enemies to reproach the cause of God. That is the opposite of witnessing. That is horrible beyond description.
Always our witness must be of such a kind that it points away from ourselves to God. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16.
Then the glory is God’s alone. And that is all that counts.
Let us, if we would be faithful witnesses, examine our own lives in all respects; then, conforming our lives to God and His Word, we will have opportunity to be and will become faithful witnesses to God in this present world.