Sharing ones faith with the world around them has its roots deeply embedded in the very words of our Lord Jesus. At His ascension Luke reveals that He informed His disciples that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and yo u will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This dove tails very tightly with what we call the Great Commission, where Jesus pronounced upon His disciples at a designated location in Galilee following His resurrection: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19 20)
In the next sever al issues of the “Bethlehem Star” I am going to be dealing with this topic of witnessing ones faith with the goal of making disciples. I will be doing so through a reprise of a publication sent out by Concordia Publishing House, our Synod’s publishing arm. The author is Amy Bird, who holds a Masters degree in Systematic Theology. I deeply appreciated what she had to say and hope that you are equally blessed by her words.
With this in mind, be aware that since the time of Jesus' instructions to His disciples before His ascension, up to t his very moment, all who follow Jesus are called to be His witnesses by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is part of what it means to follow Jesus. It relates very closely with our vocation or our calling in life. This i s a “both/and” proposition, in that it has a both a secular and a spiritual component. At its most elemental level, our secular vocation is the work we do out in the world to earn a living and benefit our neighbor. At the same time, being a witness to Jesus is an important aspect of our spiritual or Christian vocation one that every follower of Jesus has, starting with Jesus' first disciples.
We are fairly well versed in understanding about our secular vocations, but what about our spiritual or Christian vocation and what it means for our call to be a witness? Here is how the Merriam Webster abridged dictionary defines witness: 1. attestation of a fact or event... 2. one that gives evidence... 3. one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place... 4. one who has personal knowledge of something... 5. a. something serving as evidence or proof... b. public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction.
Notice the two parts inherent to being a witness. First, a witness has seen or experienced something. Second, a witness speaks about it in a legal venue or in the public square or in a private setting by giving a testimony of what he or she knows to be true based upon personal experience.
As the Early Church carried out Jesus' call to be His witnesses, to attest to His death and resurrection, the word for witness began to take on a different meaning. The word we translate as “witness” in Greek is in fact the word “martyr.” [WAIT: don’t stop reading! I’ll explain.] Today, we see witness and martyr in very different ways. Rightly so, we recognize a martyr as someone who not only declares what he or she knows to be true (a witness) but also willingly dies for such a conviction. Therefore, because of the Early Church's unwavering witness to Jesus even in the face of persecution, the very word for witness – martyr – is forever loaded with meaning. It is important to understand: you are likely not going to face such a high cost when it comes to being a witness.
That’s not the case elsewhere. Due to the fact that we live in a fallen world, Christians in every corner of the globe continue to live out the definition of martyr. Brothers and sisters in the faith are so committed to their faith in Jesus that they are tortured and killed for it. Let us pray for the committed disciples in these perilous situations, that they may be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to give unwavering witness.
May the witness of these Christians around the world and throughout time give us conviction and boldness to speak ever more freely and confidently of what we know to be true: Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord. This is what the coming articles will be about as we consider some practical ways to follow Jesus' command to be His witnesses among the people and in the places we find ourselves from day to day, so that we can winsomely and confidently attest to the fact that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.
In our short time on earth, we are called by God to take care of His things. He has made us His stewards. Through faith, we understand that all we have belongs to the One Who created us.
Being a steward is faith in action. What a privilege and honor that God, Who has created us and recreated us in Baptism, chooses u s to be His stewards. In this honored position, we are expected to b e responsible and accountable. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we become God pleasing stewards.