The Witness of Jesus

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot not be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” —Matthew 5:14-16

THE SCRIPTURES CLEARLY teach that the followers of Jesus are commissioned by the Holy Spirit to be his representatives in the earth, his ambassadors. (II Cor. 5:18-20) Representing Christ in the earth by proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, of which he is the central figure, is not an incidental aspect of the Christian life, but one of its main features. It is in the pursuit of this vocation that a Christian lays down his life. When the Apostle John was shown in vision those who were to live and reign with Christ, the ones he saw were those who had been “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God.”—Rev. 20:4

This is a symbolic ‘beheading’, denoting that we have given up our plans and arrangements of life, and have accepted the will of God through Christ. We have denied ourselves, and have accepted the headship of Christ in our lives; and the divine will is that we lay down our lives bearing witness to the truth concerning him as it is revealed in the Word of God. This means that being a Christian is not merely a matter of obtaining salvation through his blood, important though this is. But in addition, those who are reconciled to God through the blood of Christ are called to lay down their lives in the divine service of being the light of the world through the faithful proclamation of the word of reconciliation. This is one of the great truths of the divine plan which largely has been lost sight of by many Christians. The division of the church into clergy and laity has been partly responsible for this. Under this arrangement the clergy are looked upon as being the servants of God, while the laity are those who simply go to church, where they are encouraged to lead moral and upright lives and thus be good citizens of the community. There are, of course, exceptions to this, and especially in recent years. Now, indeed, quite a movement is on foot to enlist the services of ‘lay workers’ in the church.

Certain groups, such as the Quakers, take the view that all should let their light shine, but seem to think that light-bearing does not involve proclaiming the truths of the written Word. The idea is quite prevalent that a Christian witnesses for Christ simply by living a moral and upright life. This, apparently, is particularly true of the Quakers. A few years ago an editorial appeared in a Quaker magazine in London, England. It appears that the writer thought that something more should be done than simply to live a good life. This writer, commenting on the Quaker viewpoint contained in the expression, ‘Let our lives speak’, wrote: “It rests on an enormous presumption, which no other body of Christians has presumed to hold, that our lives, and our actions, are good; that they shine as candles in a naughty world; and that when they are seen other people will say of them, ‘Ah, that’s really good. That must be of God. I must try to find him too!’

“How could we possibly have imagined that anything we are or do, wretchedly imperfect, smeared with our inhibitions, our limitations, and our sin, should look good, and still less that it should speak of God himself? We must retrace our thoughts. We must renounce our appalling arrogance. We must return to the realization, which among the wiser of us has been with us from the beginning, that the ‘Light’ is not in our pocket, not our property, not of our nature at all, but belongs to God only, who alone is good and can do good things. We have been foxed all this time by the ambiguity of the concept of the ‘Light Within’, into thinking that because it is within, it is something belonging to us, something that we silently take credit for, and get holy kudos in the world for. It has led us into the solecism of caring for other people, while unconsciously keeping them out from the sharing of our fellowship.”—Friend Magazine

The Quakers are exemplary people, adhering to high standards of righteous living. There are probably none better in the world, yet the writer of the above acknowledges that this alone is not inducing people to become Quakers. His implication is that in addition the Quakers should be proclaiming their views and thereby inducing people to become interested in fellowshipping with them. The same principle would hold true with respect to any group of professed Christians.

Man was created in the image of God, and while he is now fallen, some remnants of that image remain. When these remaining elements of the divine image express themselves in habits of thought and conduct, the result is bound to be praiseworthy. Besides, the moral teachings of the Bible are in harmony with the various elements of the divine image with which man was originally endowed. These have influenced the righteously inclined of all groups of people in the professed Christian world, and indeed, to some extent among the heathen. For this reason the daily living of a Quaker will not be much different than that witnessed in other groups. We can thank God that the righteous standards of the Word of God still do exercise such a wide influence in the world. It helps to make for the degree of law and order that still remain in a chaotic and increasingly godless society.

The Light Within

The truth which the Heavenly Father has given us to witness to mankind is a ‘light within’ us—not our own light, but the knowledge of Jesus, our Redeemer and Savior; and it is this knowledge that glorifies our Heavenly Father. Paul wrote, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”—II Cor. 4:5-7

From this it is apparent that when Jesus said let ‘your’ light shine before men, he referred to the light that would be given to us concerning him. This is our light in the sense that we make it our own by our wholehearted acceptance of it, and our complete yielding to its influence in our lives. In proclaiming this light we are not our own representatives, but Christ’s, his ambassadors, holding forth the ‘word of life’ received from the Lord.—Phil. 2:15,16

One of the elements of Christlikeness is self-sacrificing zeal in the proclamation of the truth concerning the divine plan. We have a beautiful example of this in the case of Peter and John, who so faithfully proclaimed the glad tidings in the face of much opposition. We read concerning them, “When they Saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”—Acts 4:13

Righteous Living Essential

A pious and righteous life is fundamentally essential as a background for the Christian ministry, hence the emphasis which the Scriptures place on the importance of purity in thought, word, and deed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) If our thoughts are in keeping with this admonition, our conduct will be influenced along these lines.

This, in turn, will result in a life from which the message of truth can emanate to the glory of the Lord’s ministry of the truth which he can approve. Paul again wrote, “Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministration may not be blamed; but in everything establishing ourselves as God’s servants, by much patient endurance in affliction, in necessities, in distresses; in stripes, in prisons, in tumults; in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by forbearance; by kindness, by a holy Spirit, by love undissembled, by the word of truth, by the power of God; through those arms of righteousness, on the right hand and left; through glory and disgrace; through bad fame and good fame; as deceivers, and yet true.”—II Cor. 6:3-8, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

An approved ministry of the truth calls for the presence and proper application of these details outlined by Paul, but by themselves they are not the ministry. “Love … is kind,” Paul wrote. (I Cor. 13:4) If we are unkind in our associations with others, they will pay little or no attention to anything we might endeavor to tell them about the Word of God. On the other hand, simply being kind will not explain the divine plan to them.

Paul speaks of an approved ministry being by, or in, the power of God. Any power or ability we have will avail little in the presentation of the Gospel, for it is the truth itself, and its power, that accomplishes the purpose designed by God. No inherent goodness of our own will teach people the truth. So far as our own abilities are concerned, even after we have done the best we can, we are unprofitable servants. It is only because we are covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness, and have been provided with the Gospel of Christ to proclaim, that we can be his approved ambassadors.

Faithfulness Expected

In our text, Jesus reminds us that men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel. Thus he implies the possibility that we might not make the proper use of the truth; therefore, would fail to be among those who are the light of the world. Negligence of our opportunities is undoubtedly one of the ‘bushels’ under which we could hide the light of truth. Erroneous views as to the Lord’s purpose in giving us the truth also serve as ready excuses for unfaithfulness.

What the truth accomplishes in the minds and hearts of others is not our responsibility. The Lord’s will for us is to proclaim the message. This is our vocation, and we are to give all diligence in the ordering of our lives along the lines of righteousness that we may be fit ambassadors of the kingdom message, and then we are to lay down our lives proclaiming it.

In symbolic language, Solomon indicates the possibility of seeking excuses for not sowing the precious seeds of truth. He wrote, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”—Eccles. 11:4-6

Observing the winds and the clouds, as mentioned by Solomon, suggests looking for excuses not to sow and reap because conditions are not favorable. This is not the proper attitude, he explains; for, after all, we do not understand how the Lord accomplishes his purposes through the truth which we proclaim. This is the Lord’s province, and our responsibility is to sow the ‘seed’ in the morning and in the evening, whenever and wherever we have the opportunity, knowing that the Lord will prosper the message according to the good purposes of his own will. It is God that gives the increase.

As we observe the Lord’s people throughout the world, we are impressed with their great zeal for the truth and its proclamation. The brethren of Christ, his zealous followers and ambassadors, have always been small in number, a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) This is more applicable today than it was earlier in the harvest period, yet these few are holding forth the light to a degree that makes them as a ‘city set on an hill’.

Through the combined efforts of this little flock, the truth continues to go out over the radio, by television, by films and videotapes, shown in churches; by public meetings, by books, booklets, tracts, and cards; and by the personal testimony of thousands of the Lord’s faithful witnesses. Surely the Lord is pleased with this; and as we look ahead to the months of 1993, may it be with the firm resolve that we will do all we can to keep the light shining, and thus continue to be faithful ambassadors of Christ.

Faithfulness in our service as ambassadors, serving in the manner outlined in his Word for an approved ministry, is one of the ways in which we will make our calling and election sure to a place with Jesus in his kingdom, to live and reign with him a thousand years. The prospect is glorious, and we know that the Lord can and will help us to attain if we but continue faithfully to do our little part now, thus proving our love for him, for his people, and for the truth of his plan.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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