This is based on a Bible Study on John Chapter 9 for a twitter space I co-hosted with Dunni.
Anchor scripture: John 9
John 9 tells us about what it means to be a witness and what can happen when we witness
First, what does it mean to witness?
To witness is to report what you have heard from God Himself and what you have seen and experienced.
I emphasise seeing here because we don’t have to be direct beneficiaries of something to testify about it. Elsewhere in the book of John, we see people talking about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Even though it didn’t happen directly to them, they saw the event, hence they could witness.
Witness (verb): to have personal or direct cognizance of. To see for oneself.
Synonym: “testify” : to make a statement based on personal knowledge or belief
Acts 22:15 (NKJV): For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
Because Matthew, Mark, Luke, John wrote their respective letters, we can see and read and hear what they experienced and know more about Jesus. In John 21:24, John (the writer of the book) is saying he was a witness: This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
Another example is Mary. In John 20:1–2 and in verse 18, we see Mary telling the other disciples what she has witnessed: the tomb is empty and (in the latter verse) she had seen Jesus and He had told her things.
From the definitions, witnessing could be telling others about an experience or inviting them to come and see something.
What do we witness about?
We witness about something that has happened
Witness (noun) ”attestation of a fact or event”
Mariam Webster gives ”testimony” as a synonym of which one definition is ”an outward sign”. We’re going to come back to “outward sign”
The blind man in the anchor scripture told people how he was and what had happened: he had been blind, he encountered Jesus, and now he could see. Jesus healed another blind man in John 3. Verses 25–30 show the man witnessing. The man said: I was blind before and now I can see.
John the Baptist also testified about Jesus. By speaking about what he saw (see: John 1:15,32).
Additional scriptures: Luke 24:9–33,48
Who caused the change?
We witness about what we have experienced. A change has occurred in us, and we have been transformed. We witness about the agent of the change, the cause. In this case, Jesus. Jesus comes to us or we encounter Him somehow and He saves, redeems, delivers, heals, and renews us.
In Psychology, there is a statistical method called a T-test. It is used to assess the efficacy of an intervention by comparing a measure (or score) before and after the intervention is applied. There’s a before state, a “treatment”, and an after state.
There’s a scene in the TV series, The Chosen, that I love so much and I believe encapsulates this:
It’s the same here. There’s a before state (in sin, struggling with something, suffering through an illness etc), a treatment (Jesus), and an after state (salvation, deliverance, redemption, healing, renewal etc).
This quote from an article by John Piper reminds us that witnessing is about Jesus and nothing else
[As witnesses] you do not go as an emissary of your nation of origin, you go as an emissary of the kingdom of Christ. Your aim is not to create cultural enclaves replicating your earthly home. Your aim is to establish outposts of the kingdom of heaven.”
Who can witness?
From the Bible, we see that anyone can witness. In the old testament, there’s a story of a man named Naaman. One of his servant girls who knew about Elisha (a prophet) witnesses to Naaman’s wife, and we know how the story goes.
She said to her mistress, “If only my master would go to the prophet who is in Samaria, he would cure him of his leprosy.” — 2 Kings 5:3 BSB
The Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well, as recorded in John 4, also witnessed. She went and told everyone what she had experienced, and verse 39 says: Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” (emphasis mine)
As we’ve already seen, Mary witnessed. All the disciples and apostles came from different backgrounds — rich tax collectors, poor fishermen, doctors, lawyers, Pharisees.
In summary, everyone can be a witness. As long as you have experienced and seen something, you can witness.
The Bible also says:
Let no one despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. — 1 Timothy 4:12 BSB
No one is too young (whether in age or in how long you’ve “been in Christ”) to witness. The Samaritan woman began witnessing immediately after encountering Jesus. So did Paul
Now that we’ve seen the what and who of witnessing, let’s take a look at the why, how, when, and where.
Why should we witness?
There are various reasons we should witness
- Jesus instructs (and prayed for) us to witness (John 17:18; 1 Chronicles 16:8–12).
John 17 says: Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. Telling people about Jesus and how he has transformed you, saved you, and renewed your life is witnessing and is obedience to Him. From 1 Chronicles 16, I’ll highlight this: make known among the nations what He has done.
- Our witnessing helps and encourages others (John 20:31)
When you share your testimony with other people, it can encourage them, bring hope, and strengthen their faith. We’ve already seen how the woman at the well’s testimony encouraged people to believe Jesus.
Isaiah 52:7 says: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings…” And Paul also references this scripture in Romans 10:14–15: How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
- It is who we are (2 Corinthians 2:14, Isaiah 44:8)
Paul writes in Second Corinthians: But thanks be to God, who …through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. In Isaiah, God also says: Do not tremble or fear. Have I not told you and declared it long ago? You are My witnesses! Is there any God but Me? There is no other Rock; I know not one. These verses show us that we are witnesses. It’s just who we are.
- It strengthens us when we are weak in faith and when we’re struggling (Isaiah 44:8)
Isaiah 44 reminds us not to tremble or fear because we are God’s witnesses. On the day I did the twitter space on this topic, I had just received some bad news a day or so prior. I didn’t want to do the space. But I did it anyway, and having that conversation renewed my strength. Witnessing also encourages us because it reminds us of what God has done in the past and knowing He is the same true and faithful God, He can and will do it again.
When we experience something amazing, watch an interesting movie, or read a thrilling book, we immediately share with others and recommend the experience, movie, or book. This is the same thing we do here. We say: Jesus, tried and tested. Will recommend 10/10
How can we witness?
We witness with our words and our deeds.
With our words
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:7 (ESV)
In Acts 4:18–20, we see Peter and John defying those who say they should stop witnessing. They replied: “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
We also witness with what we do. Our witness as Christ-followers is tied to what we do (and don’t) say and what we do (and don’t) do. Here are some Bible verses that speak on this.
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticise you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” — Philippians 2:14–15 (NLT)
“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples” — John 15:8
Conduct yourselves with such honour among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. — 1 Peter 2:12
Where and when do we witness?
Because we witness with both our words and our deeds, we can witness everywhere and at any time.
We witness in our conduct, how we speak, what we say, what we do and don’t do, what we allow and don’t allow. And that happens every day with our every interaction. Like Paul encourages us in Romans 12, we live as living sacrifices.
We can always rely on the Holy Spirit for help when it comes to sharing our stories as a means to witness. You can write, do a podcast, talk to someone you know about what you’ve experienced. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the opportunities around you to share your testimony.
As for when?
The time to witness is now
While it is daytime, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. — John 9:4
As we see with the formerly blind man, he immediately started rejoicing and telling others. Just like the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well. They didn't wait to wonder about what people would think or say. Or whether they could explain what had happened. They just immediately testified.
Does witnessing save others?
It is important to know that witnessing does not save people. In fact, you probably will be attacked for witnessing. People may try to dispute your story, give different “logical” explanations about what has happened, tear it apart, tear you apart. But you know your story. You know what you have experienced and seen.
In our anchor scripture we see that people were upset by the blind man’s story. He simply told what had happened to him which others had seen, yet they did not want to accept his testimony. His parents were even afraid of being excommunicated from the synagogue.
You don’t have to have the answers, you don’t have to know everything. The Samaritan woman at the well only knew what she experienced. The blind man didn’t know the mechanics and physics and chemistry of how he was healed. Naaman didn’t know as well. They only knew what they had experienced and invited others to come and see
It is God who saves people. What our witnessing does, is to invite people to come and see. (Just like Philip invited Nathaniel in John 1:44–46)
I like this excerpt from the First 5 Bible Study on Romans
The Israelites tried to obtain righteousness by good works, but the human will is not enough. (Romans 9:32; Romans 9:16) Since our will is based on our desires, and our desires tend toward sin, (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21) choosing God isn’t something we just do on our own. And if people could choose salvation without the Holy Spirit, then that in itself could be considered a good work, making Jesus’ work unnecessary.
We can’t convince people to believe in Jesus. Only God does that work through the Holy Spirit. However, we can use our lives and stories and experiences to encourage them to search for Him.
What stops us from witnessing?
One common reason is fear, as we see with the parents of the blind man from the anchor scripture. They were afraid of being excommunicated.
Peter denied Jesus three times because he was afraid of being arrested or jailed. But after he received the Holy Spirit, he continued to witness even after being beaten and threatened.
What is stopping you from being a witness now? What are you afraid of? If it’s not fear preventing you from witnessing, what else is? Ask God for help today to infuse you with boldness from the Holy Spirit to witness about Jesus and what He’s done for you.
In summary, we are all called to be witnesses. To testify about what we’ve seen, heard, and experienced first hand. To, with our words and actions, tell people about Jesus and how He has saved us and transformed and renewed our lives. To not keep silent about the good He has done us. To encourage others to come and see and taste and see that the Lord is good.
I leave you with this prayer from Ephesians 3
I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God’s blessings and grace and peace be with you and yours.