Be a Living Witness for the “Good News”
“‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One.’”—Isa. 43:10.
1. (a) When it comes to man-made deities, what have none of them been able to do with a view to confirming their godship? (Isa. 43:8, 9) (b) How does the true God differ in this respect?
NONE of the man-made gods and goddesses could ever provide even a single witness to establish their godship. These deities uttered no prophecies that were fulfilled with unerring accuracy. But over 2,700 years ago the Most High God Jehovah could point to a whole nation of people, Israel, as his witnesses, saying: “You are my witnesses, . . . even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. . . . I myself have told forth and have saved and have caused it to be heard.”—Isa. 43:10-12.
2. (a) As is evident from Psalm 78, what did the Israelites know about Jehovah’s saving acts? (b) What shows that the Israelites knew Jehovah to be a fulfiller of his prophetic “word”?
2 In their inspired Scriptures, the Israelites had a trustworthy record of God’s dealings with them as a people. They knew that the Almighty had saved their forefathers from slavery in Egypt and had delivered them from their enemies at other times. They knew about the promises that he had fulfilled in giving them the land of Canaan as an inheritance. (Psalm 78) The Bible book of Joshua reports: “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.”—Josh. 21:45.
3. (a) What did Isaiah’s prophecy indicate as to what was going to happen to the Israelites? (b) How would the fulfillment of these prophetic words enable the Israelites to bear witness?
3 The prophecy of Isaiah, in which Jehovah God addressed the Israelites as his witnesses, pointed to the time when the nation would come into Babylonian exile for unfaithfulness and when later the Most High would effect their release through Cyrus. (Isa. 43:14, 15; 44:24–45:2) Thus they would become living witnesses of a new deliverance. But how could the returned Israelites serve as Jehovah’s witnesses? They would not do so by preaching to people of other nations, as that was not their commission. But they could bear witness by the way that they lived their lives. They could show that they fully relied upon Jehovah God as Protector and Savior and that their present and future welfare and happiness rested solely in him.
A NEW COMMISSION TO BE WITNESSES
4, 5. (a) What does witnessing include in the case of those who become disciples of Jesus Christ? (Matt. 28:19, 20) (b) Whose witnesses were the disciples of Jesus Christ, and how is this evident from Acts 1:8; 2:32, 33; 4:19, 20; 5:29-32?
4 With the coming of the Messiah or Christ, Jesus, to the earth, a new feature of witnessing opened up. Those who became disciples of Jesus Christ accepted the responsibility of telling others about what Jehovah God had done in connection with his Son. For example, on the day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E., a crowd of Jews and proselytes were astonished at seeing the operation of God’s spirit on about 120 disciples of Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter told them: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.” (Acts 2:32, 33) Note that Peter was testifying to what Jehovah God had done. At the same time he was also a witness for Jesus, presenting testimony that this one was indeed the Messiah or Christ. Peter was thus acting in harmony with what the Son of God told the disciples prior to his ascension to heaven: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me.” (Acts 1:8) As witnesses of Jesus, believers in time came to be called “Christians.” According to Acts 11:26, this was “by divine providence.”
5 The witness concerning the “good news about the Christ” was now being given by the Christian body made up of both natural Jews and Gentiles. These were now the people whom Jehovah God was using as his witnesses. (Phil. 1:27) And the disciples publicly identified themselves as such. When ordered by the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, not to speak on the basis of Jesus’ name, the apostles stated: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:29-32) Earlier, the apostles Peter and John had told that same judicial body: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.”—Acts 4:19, 20.
6. (a) What marvelous opportunity did the “good news” open up to individuals? (b) As is evident from Acts 4:12 and 17:29-31, what did Jesus’ disciples recognize that both Jews and non-Jews needed to know?
6 The apostles and other disciples of Jesus Christ fully appreciated that they were under obligation to be witnesses of God and of his Son. All persons were entitled to hear the “good news” that, by accepting Jesus as the Christ and his sacrifice as having sin-atoning value, they could gain eternal life. (John 3:16; 17:3) The apostle Peter told the Sanhedrin: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) Some years later, the apostle Paul said to the Athenians: “We ought not to imagine that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man. True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.” (Acts 17:29-31) Yes, all men, both Jews and non-Jews, needed to hear the “good news” before death prevented them from seizing the opportunity to become witnesses of God and of Christ with everlasting life in view.
7. (a) What were first-century Christians willing to endure for declaring the “good news”? Why? (b) What questions might we ask ourselves in view of the apostle John’s example?
7 So the “good news” involved the eternal welfare of fellow humans. It was also God’s will that it be proclaimed to all. (1 Tim. 2:3, 4) Hence, devoted Christians, because of deep love for God and their fellowmen, kept on witnessing, though it could result in loss of freedom and even their lives. About 96 C.E. the last of the living apostles wrote to Christians in Asia Minor: “I John, your brother and a sharer with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in company with Jesus, came to be in the isle that is called Patmos for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Rev. 1:9) Are you, like John, “speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus”? Are you willing to suffer for doing so, convinced that people need to hear the “good news” because it can mean salvation for them?
BEARING WITNESS THROUGH FINE CONDUCT
8. Is bearing witness merely a matter of preaching, and how might this be illustrated?
8 In order to reach the hearts of sincere persons, the Christian witness of Jehovah must live in harmony with what he teaches. Mere words, without the backing of a good example in Christian living, are meaningless. Consider: Would you want as a character witness a man who is well known for his lying and fraudulent practices? Would not his record of dishonesty call into question the truthfulness of his statements and, even if he did state the facts, could not his testimony actually damage your case? Might you not be judged as being like the man who is testifying in your behalf?
9. What kind of conduct is required of one who bears witness for Jehovah? Why?
9 The reputation of the one bearing witness can definitely affect whether his testimony is believed or not. So, then, all who identify themselves as witnesses of Jehovah must lead upright lives. Emphasizing the importance of this, the apostle Paul wrote with reference to Jews who knew God’s law: “Do you . . . the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You, the one expressing abhorrence of the idols, do you rob temples?” (Rom. 2:21, 22) When a person’s life does not agree with what he proclaims, this brings great reproach upon God. The apostle Paul continued: “The name of God is being blasphemed on account of you people among the nations.”—Rom. 2:24.
10, 11. (a) When it comes to family life, what should be expected of those who represent themselves as witnesses of the Most High? (b) What does it mean to “hold a good conscience” and, as shown at 1 Peter 3:16, how can this have a wholesome effect even on opposers?
10 Therefore, to be a living witness for Jehovah, Christians must stand out as exemplary husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, sons and daughters. (Eph. 5:24–6:4) Married couples should be striving to cope with problems that arise in their marriage by applying the Bible’s counsel instead of imitating the world by seeking a way out of an unpleasant situation through separation or divorce. (Matt. 19:4-9; 1 Cor. 7:10, 11) Though true Christians may be disliked and misrepresented on account of their faith in Jehovah God and his Son, they should at all times be heeding the inspired advice: “Hold a good conscience, so that in the particular in which you are spoken against they may get ashamed who are speaking slightingly of your good conduct in connection with Christ.”—1 Pet. 3:16.
11 This means that Christians should guard against wrongdoing so that they do not get a bad conscience, one that will condemn them. Fine conduct may lead opposers to recognize that they have been wrong in their conclusions about God’s servants. This may result in their becoming ashamed of the way that they treated his witnesses. These opposers may come to realize that their speaking slightingly of true Christians—perhaps accusing them of hypocrisy, insincerity, hatred of the human race and the like—has no foundation.
12. According to 1 Peter 2:12, what can happen to persons who become eyewitnesses to a Christian’s fine works?
12 Earlier, the apostle Peter pointed out that a Christian’s good conduct might even help opposers to become glorifiers of God. We read: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Pet. 2:12) Think of it, fine conduct may convince outright opposers that the ones whom they are misrepresenting practice true worship and it may move them to become glorifiers of God, themselves rendering service to the Most High! So never be discouraged by opposition and indifference toward your efforts to share the “good news” with others. It may well be that your fine conduct in the face of an unpleasant situation will help sincere persons to appreciate that your worship has real substance. As a result, they may be stirred to learn more about it.
13, 14. (a) What may be the best witness a wife can give to an unbelieving husband? (b) If a Christian wife heeds the counsel of 1 Peter 3:1, 2, what should her unbelieving husband be able to see?
13 A Christian wife, for example, may find that efforts to speak with her unbelieving husband about the “good news” are unsuccessful. Her fine conduct, though, may provide a more powerful witness than many words. That is why the apostle Peter encouraged Christian wives: “Be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”—1 Pet. 3:1, 2.
14 An unbelieving husband should be able to see that his wife is cooperative in all matters that do not infringe on her worship. From the fine way in which she conducts herself, he should be able to see that her faith is a strong force for good. Her disposition, words and actions should give no basis for valid criticism. Through having before him a living example of praiseworthy conduct, an unbelieving husband may in time become a believer. A wife’s thus winning her husband “without a word,” of course, does not imply that she would never speak to him about spiritual matters. However, she should avoid arguments and persistent, nagging discussions about true worship.
15. How can young persons make the “good news” more attractive to teachers and fellow students?
15 Similarly, young persons going to school can, by means of good conduct, make the “good news” more attractive to teachers as well as to other students. Because of his beliefs, a young person may become the object of ridicule. But if he endures this pressure without retaliating in kind, some teachers and even fellow students may begin to wonder just what it is that has given such moral strength to the student. Especially if he is dependable and conscientious about his school assignments and treats others with kindness and respect, eyewitnesses may be favorably impressed and be prompted to investigate his beliefs. Again, fine conduct would result in an excellent witness.—Compare Titus 2:6-8.
16 A Christian working secularly should apply the principles set forth in the admonition directed to slaves: “Let house servants be in subjection to their owners with all due fear, not only to the good and reasonable, but also to those hard to please.” (1 Pet. 2:18) “Let slaves be in subjection to their owners in all things, and please them well, not talking back, not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity to the full, so that they may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” (Titus 2:9, 10) Accordingly, a Christian should perform his work cheerfully and quietly even if unreasonable demands are made upon him. He should be respectful, not argumentative, in dealing with his employer. Observers should be able to see that the Christian is an honest, industrious worker who cares about other people. When that is the case, true worship is elevated in the eyes of those who come to appreciate that the individual is a good worker and a fine person on account of his religion.
17. How should we feel about our way of life before we came to a knowledge of the truth?
17 What about your own life as a witness of Jehovah? How do you feel about the way you conducted your affairs before you had an accurate knowledge of the truth? Possibly you are one of those described by the apostle Peter: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.” (1 Pet. 4:3) Surely there is never a proper time for anyone to engage in such corrupt practices. Christians should have had enough of these things when they were in ignorance and, therefore, should never want to return to them.
18. If we really want to be living witnesses for the “good news,” what might we ask ourselves, and what should we strive to do?
18 Now that you are living “for God’s will,” are you eager to help others to share your happiness? (1 Pet. 4:2) Is your heart so filled with appreciation for the “good news” that you seize and make opportunities to bear witness about Jehovah God and Jesus Christ? (Luke 6:45; 8:15) Is your conduct such that it adds force to what you tell others about God’s Word? Only by both declaring and living the truth can we be faithful witnesses. So may we imitate the example of the apostle Paul who wrote: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:27.