Bearing Witness to the Risen Christ (Part 2)
The purpose of this blog series is to give Christians some principles for how they may “bear witness to Jesus” in their day-to-day lives, by drawing lessons from Paul’s ministry as described in Acts 22-24. Before we do that, however, I felt it necessary to demonstrate from the Scriptures that bearing witness to Jesus is, in fact, something God commands and expects his people to do. Last week, we began a survey of the Old Testament which revealed that, from the very beginning, God intended his people to acts as his representatives in the world. We continue that survey today.
God’s commission to Israel that they be a “kingdom of priests” (that is, to act as mediators between God and the nations) is assumed and developed throughout the rest of the Old Testament. For example, Deuteronomy teaches that God gave Israel the law of Moses so that the nations would be in awe of the Lord’s wisdom and greatness. Moses tells Israel in Deuteronomy 4 that if they will keep the law God gave them, then the surrounding nations will say of Israel, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (4:7), and that the nations will attribute Israel’s great wisdom to the fact that they have a great and wise God who is near to them (4:8). Essentially, the nations were supposed to look at Israel and say, “Wow, what an awesome God they must have to give them laws like that!” So the Lord intended to make his goodness and wisdom known to the whole world as the nations observed Israel.
God also intended Israel to actively praise him among the peoples. David says in 2 Samuel 22:50, “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.” Solomon prays in 1 Kings 8:58-60 that the Lord would help Israel to love and obey him so that “all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” And the psalmist issues this command to the ends of the earth: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Ps. 33:8).
But how did God plan to reveal himself to the world, so that they would come and bow before him in reverent worship? Through his people, of course! That is why the psalmist prays, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Ps. 67:1-2). Did you catch that? The end goal for God’s blessing upon Israel was so that the rest of the nations would see the blessing, and then look up to see the greatness of the Lord who gave that blessing. This is what God meant when he told Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “I will bless you . . . so that you will be a blessing.”
And the nations weren’t just supposed to look at God’s people and say, “Oh, how nice. OK, back to our lame gods now.” No, they were supposed to be attracted to Israel’s great God and come and worship him along with Israel, and actually become part of God’s people (see Psalm 87, for example). This is why Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would not only be the Savior of Israel, but of all the nations of the world: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant . . . to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6).
So we see that the church’s mandate to make God known in the world is not based on a few selected verses from the New Testament, but actually has its foundations in the entire biblical storyline.