Gospel, Witness, Testimony
What are they? When, how, and why are they used?
Strong’s Concordance #2098: the Gospel – literally, “God’s good news”
And He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
Matthew 4:23 ESV
Merriam-Webster Online – gospel – noun
- often capitalized: the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation
- capitalized: one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
- : an interpretation of the Christian message
Witness and Testimony
Can at times be used interchangeably.
Strong’s Concordance #3142: a testimony, a witness
“and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”
Matthew 10:18 ESV
“and before governors also and kings you will be brought on account of Me for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles”
Matthew 10:18 Bible Hub, Interlinear
This is an example where “Christianese” tends to muddy the language.
- In part due to the many and varied bible translators and paraphrasers
- In part due to improper word usage that seems acceptable
- In part due to the peculiarities of the English language
Merriam-Webster Online – witness – noun
- : attestation of a fact or event: testimony
- : one that gives evidence
specifically : one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal
- : one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place
- : one who has personal knowledge of something
- : something serving as evidence or proof : sign
- : public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction
Being a witness and giving witness are two different things.
- To be a witness: the act of personally seeing an event, activity, or occurrence
- To give witness: to testify to the fact of an event, activity, or occurrence
These two things fall under the idea of “one who has personal knowledge of something”.
There is another subtle variation of giving witness which falls under “public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction”.
- To affirm one’s sense that something is correct
- By an internal sense of leading in one’s spirit
- Holy Spirit leading
- By knowledge of the Word of God as a confirmation
- By an internal sense of leading in one’s spirit
Merriam-Webster Online – testimony – noun
- : a solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official
- : firsthand authentication of a fact : evidence
- : an outward sign
- : an open acknowledgement
- : a public profession of religious experience
Testimony is the telling of the matter. This is not in words only, but in actions as well. It is one thing to say the words, but the actions confirms or denies the truth of those words.
One Word or Two Words?
Although the two words, witness and testimony, may at times be interchangeable, I believe there is a distinction between them that is worth making.
Now that we have considered the technical definitions, let’s consider the more practical usage of these words.
The first four books of the New Testament in the Bible are called Gospels: The Gospel According to Matthew, The Gospel According to Mark, The Gospel According to Luke, and The Gospel According to John. These are “books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ”, and though they each have their own styles of writing and audience, they tell the same basic story. This, however, is not our topic for today.
What is the gospel, the good news? The apostle Paul preached this: Christ died for our sins as was prophesied, He was buried, He was raised on the third day, He appeared to the apostles, and then He appeared to more than 500 people at one time.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you –
unless you believed in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul was reminding them of what he preached when he had been with them; the gospel of salvation which they heard and received, by which they were saved. He recaps it like this:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in
accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. The He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some
have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV
Paul preached a gospel of salvation which he summed up in this letter as:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV
This is the crux of the matter, that Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, through His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of our sin. Jesus brought forgiveness to us in order to restore us to a right relationship with the Father, Almighty God. He did not come to judge us, but to redeem us and bring us back into a loving relationship. The words of Jesus on this matter are recorded in the Gospel According to John.
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge
the world but to save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”
John 12:46-48 ESV
The first coming of Christ was a mission of love, so much so, that He suffered and died for our sake. The power of God and the witness of the success of the mission was displayed by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Men and women received the truth of the gospel that was preached by Paul and all the disciples of Jesus Christ. They were saved by it as the truth resonated in their spirits and they humbled themselves before God acknowledging the Christ as Lord and Savior. They stood in this gospel, that is, they clung to the truths they heard, laying hold of the forgiveness and eternal life it promised, experiencing the power of God to stand firm.
There are other ways of laying out the gospel message such as what is referred to as The Romans Road to Salvation which is a series of bible verses in Paul’s Letter to the church at Rome that explains the problem, the consequences, the solution, the response, and the assurance.
Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13
The gospel message is also summarized in the Gospel According to John.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name
of the only Son of God.
John 3:16-18 ESV
It appears that Jesus got the message from the Father as He preached the very same thing during His ministry. Do we get it?
Witness and Testimony
We are witnesses of the things that God has done in our lives and we give testimony of those things to others to encourage them in their faith or to bring to salvation those who have yet to believe.
We have a testimony to share of God taking us from sinner to child of God through His forgiveness and salvation for us. Others give witness as they testify to the changes they see in us since our receiving the gospel, believing its truths, and holding tightly to it. Someone may also receive their salvation simply through observing the change in us and asking the Lord for the same salvation. I know because it happened in my life.
Do we live our daily lives as Paul did? Will we have a similar testimony?
And when they came to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with
tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house
to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Acts 20:18-21 ESV
This is one testimony that Paul had, and the people to whom he was speaking, the elders from the church at Ephesus, could provide the witness that he indeed did live just as was written here and in his letters.
What would the people in our sphere of influence testify of our lives and our walk with God? Scripture is written for our sake, as examples for us, that we may live lives that are pleasing to God and encouragement for others. We can not learn this without spending time in the Scriptures to learn about God and what He has to say about who we are and how we ought to live. We cannot create good testimonies without living the life that God intends for us to live. Without the good testimonies, there is nothing for others to witness and nothing for them to desire from our relationship with God, or lack thereof. Why would they want something that is nothing?
Two or Three Witnesses
This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV
This concerns the existence of witnesses, people who have personal knowledge of something that has taken place. This is a sound practice for the safety and fairness of all who are involved.
- The person being charged or accused of something ought not have his or her reputation tarnished by false accusations
- An accuser may be in error
- An accuser may have motives that are not honorable
- The person bringing the charge or accusation ought not have a reputation of making false accusations if in error
- A rumor or untruth presented to the person as a fact
- A misconception of what took place through a lack of knowledge of a situation or other circumstances
- An assumption made in error
The facts of the matter need to be clear and therefore two or three witnesses is a safeguard against something in error or something devious going too far.
This is also a good practice for a group making decisions on a direction to go with activities or ministry work. In this case it would be a confirmation through the internal sense of leading by Holy Spirit; a sense in one’s spirit. There would also be a confirmation through knowledge of the Word of God.
For example, in cases of spiritual warfare it is good to be sure of what one is doing. Who better than God to confirm or deny the activity that one believes should be undertaken.
- An idea is raised about a spiritual issue in the city that ought to be confronted
- Those involved spend time in prayer and meditation seeking God on the matter
- A course of action is proposed by someone
- The others who are involved confirm the action or they don’t
The practice of doing things only with two or three witnesses can save a group from acting out in a way that is not from God.
Let’s use an example of a particular type of crime continuously happening at a specific geographic location in a city. Seemingly everyone is aware of the issue, but it continues to go on no matter what anyone tries to do about it. Let’s say there is a group of people who regularly gather to pray for the city and someone in the group raises this issue suggesting that it is a spiritual realm problem that the group needs to confront. Who senses the same thing? Are there two or three that have a sense in their spirits that the person is on the right track in this case, on this issue?
If there are two or three “witnesses”, the sense of witness from Holy Spirit, then the group ought to seek God on what they are to do about it. If there are not the two or three who sense the “witness” of God in their spirits, it would be wise to not take immediate action. This doesn’t mean the initial suggestion was wrong, it may be that it is not the correct time for the engagement of the issue. The idea should be “put on the shelf”, so to speak, and possibly revisited at another time when Holy Spirit prompts someone to raise the issue again.
Taking this example a step farther, if the group determines they are to move forward on the proposition, the same practice should be applied to the ideas of what the group ought to do in response to the issue. The ideas being proposed should be taken before God in prayer. Some ideas may be:
- Dedicated prayer time
- Prayer and fasting
- Release of Scripture over it
- If so, which passages of Scripture
- Singing of songs
- If so, which songs
- Participation in communion
- Anointing with oil
- Making of decrees
- For each one of these, at the location or at another location (room, church, home)
The group must be in full agreement that with two or three “witnesses” the group will move forward, and without them the group will shelve the ideas. This has been tried and true in a group that intercedes for our city and engages in spiritual warfare over it as led by God. This is one function of the Ekklesia that the Lord builds, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.