“He that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30)
The duty of the believer to win souls through personal witness is a concept found in both Testaments. Old Testament believers shared their faith with others by using every possible means available to them. David was one such character that delighted in teaching sinners about the Lord. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalm 51:13). When we come to the New Testament believers were especially enabled with the power of the Holy Spirit to witness for Christ. “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is definitely not God’s will for His people to be silent about the salvation they have received from Him.
The importance of witnessing
It has always been God’s will for His people to share the good news, that is, to be His witnesses to those who do not know Him as Lord and Saviour. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God” (Isaiah 43:10-12). The Jews were meant to be a missionary and an evangelistic people who sought to convert followers of false gods to the one true God. The Pharisees understood the importance of reaching out to others the Lord, for though the Lord Jesus hardly commended them, He did say to them, “Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte” (Matthew 23:15). They did it for all the wrong reasons, but they knew they could win people to their cause by making an effort to reach out to them. Christ told His disciples to do exactly the same thing for the best reason possible, which is to win souls for Him. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). If we do not go to them then how will they ever know the way of salvation? “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
The meaning of witnessing
A witness is simply someone who relates what he or she has seen. In a courtroom the witness offers evidence, that which is believed to be fact rather than fiction, of what has been seen or heard. The witness has the duty of convincing the jury that the testimony given is absolute truth. As Christians it is our responsibility to tell others the truths of God’s word without distorting it in any way, and with the intent of winning souls to Christ. It must be remembered that no witness can save a soul but only brings the person to the Saviour to receive eternal life. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The purpose of witnessing
The purpose of witnessing has been the same since God first ordained a man to preach His word to the lost. It is never to tell people of a particular denomination they must join, but to point them to Christ. It is basically as we have already noted in the words of the Great Commission, to teach and baptise. We are called to bring the light of salvation where there is spiritual darkness, “I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47), and lead people out of sin, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). Daniel refers to this as converting sinners to righteousness. “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
The subject of witnessing
We have no business engaging in conversations about worldly things as an icebreaker to prepare the way for getting to the only subject that can save souls. The early church spoke of Jesus rather than the news of the day or what the Romans were doing. “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). They simply told others about Jesus. “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) … “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5) … “Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom” (Colossians 1:27-28). The only message we have been given is the Gospel of Christ. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There is nothing complicated about this, so why do we not do as Jesus commanded. How many would be saved if we did?
This means that we teach the message about the need to be born again through repentance and faith. It is obvious then that the messenger must know the one who sent him and what the message entails. “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). According to David only the saved can rightly preach the everlasting Gospel. “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2). If we do not learn the subject of witnessing then we cannot be effective in our testimony but will bring shame on the cause of Christ through our ignorance. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we are truly born again then we ought to have no difficulty telling others about this wonderful salvation. “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16).
The wise witness witnesses both in word and in deed, that is, by what is spoken and by living a holy life. Any conflict here is in reality hypocrisy. Though Peter was writing about husbands and wives his words hold true for all who desire to win others to the Lord, he said, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). We see then that the witness must set a good example through holy living, or practice what is preached, if he or she desires to win souls. Therefore, we are not called just to witness but to be a wise witness both in the words we teach and the lives we lead.