WITNESSING

Scripture Reading: Acts 9:19-21; 22:15; 1 John 4:14; John 1:40-45; 4:29; Mark 5:19

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (Acts 9:19-21)

 

For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.  (Acts 22:15)

 

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.  (1 John 4:14)

 

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. (John 1:40-45)

Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?  (John 4:29)

 

Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.  (Mark 5:19)

I. THE MEANING OF WITNESSING

How long will the light of a candle last? Of course, the light will go out when the candle burns out. But if we light another candle with this one, the light will double in intensity. Will the light of the first candle diminish because it has lit the second? No. If we use the second to light a third, will the light of the second diminish? No. The light of each candle will last until the candle burns out. But when the first light goes out, the second will still be burning. When the second light goes out, the third will still go on shining. If we keep on lighting more candles—ten, a hundred, or a thousand candles—the light will never go out. This explains the testimony of the church. When the Son of God was on earth, He lit the first candle. After that, more candles were lit one after another. For the past nineteen centuries, the church has been like candles; when one candle burns out, it is continued by another one. This goes on and on even today. The church has never ceased shining on this earth, just as salvation has never stopped. Some have lit ten candles; some have lit a hundred. Candle after candle has been lit, and the light continues on.

Brothers and sisters, do you want your light to continue, or do you want to see it end when your candle is extinguished? You have been lit by someone. He does not expect the light to end with you. Every Christian must try his best to bring salvation to others. He must do his best to testify to others and lead others to the Lord so that the testimony may continue on this earth from generation to generation. It is unfortunate that with some people their light ends and their testimony ceases. This is most pitiful! The church has been propagating itself for generations. Some people find their testimony continuing, while others have unfortunately gone without posterity. The light of a candle can only shine while it is still burning. Likewise, a man’s testimony continues only while he is still alive. In order for the light of a candle to go on, other candles must be lit before the first one burns out. In this way the second, the third, the hundredth, the thousandth, and even the ten thousandth candle will carry on the light. This light will continue forever and spread to all parts of the world. Such spreading will not diminish the light of each candle. We suffer no loss when we witness. But by witnessing, the testimony goes on.

What is witnessing? In Acts 22:15 the Lord sent Ananias to speak to Paul: “For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” From this we see that the basis of witnessing is what we have seen and heard. You cannot be a witness to what you have not seen with your own eyes or heard with your own ears. Paul saw something with his own eyes and heard something with his own ears. God charged him to be a witness of what he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears. First John 4:14 tells us what witnessing is: “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” A person is a witness to what he has seen. Thank God, you have believed in the Lord. You have met Him, believed in Him, received Him, and gained Him. You are saved. You have been delivered from sins, received forgiveness, and obtained peace. Now that you have believed in the Lord, what joy you possess. This joy is something which you did not have before. Formerly, how heavy was the load of sin upon you! But now, thank God, this load of sin is gone. You have seen and heard something. What should you do today? You should testify of your experience. This does not mean that you have to leave your job to be a preacher. It means that you should witness to your friends, relatives, and acquaintances of what you have seen and heard, and bring them to the Lord.

The gospel will stop with you if your testimony does not continue. It is true that you are saved; you have the life of the Lord and you are lit. But if you do not light others, you will be finished when your candle burns out. You should not meet the Lord empty-handed. You should bring many with you when you meet the Lord. New believers must learn from the very beginning to witness to people and bring them to the Lord. Never be lazy in this matter. If a believer does not open his mouth from the very beginning, after a few days he will form a habit of keeping his mouth closed, and then it will take much effort to turn the matter around. You have believed in the Lord. For the first time you have tasted so great a love, received so great a Savior, obtained so great a salvation, and experienced so great an emancipation. Yet you do not testify for the Lord or light others with your light! You really owe the Lord something!

II. EXAMPLES OF WITNESSING

Let us consider four portions of the Word. They are good examples of witnessing.

A. Going into the City to Tell Others

In John 4 the Lord told the Samaritan woman about the living water. By this she realized that no one on earth can find satisfaction without the living water. Everyone who drinks of the water from the well will thirst again. No matter how many times man drinks of that water, he will thirst again; he is never satisfied. Only by drinking the Lord’s water will we not thirst again, because there is a spring that will flow out of us and satisfy us continuously. Only this inner satisfaction can give us true satisfaction. The Samaritan woman had been married five times. She married one man after another; she had changed her husband five times, yet she was still not satisfied. She was a person who drank again and again but was never satisfied. Even the man who was with her at that time was not her husband. She, undoubtedly, was not a satisfied person. But the Lord had the living water that could satisfy her. When the Lord showed her who He was, and when she had Him, she left her waterpot and went away into the city, saying, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (v. 29). Her first reaction was to testify to others. What did she testify? She testified Christ. Perhaps the people in the city knew something about her, but there were probably many things which they did not know. Yet the Lord told her everything. She testified to others, saying, “Is this not the Christ?” The moment she saw the Lord, she opened her mouth to invite others to find out whether He was the Christ. As a result of the woman’s word, many believed in the Lord.

Every Christian has an obligation to be a witness and to introduce the Lord to others. The Lord has saved a great sinner such as me. If He is not the Christ, who else can He be? If He is not the Son of God, who else can He be? I have no choice but to open my mouth. I have to open my mouth to testify. Although I may not know how to give a message, at least I know that He is Christ. I know He is the Son of God, the God-appointed Savior. I have seen that I am a sinner, and I know that the Lord has saved me. I cannot explain what has happened to me, but I can ask others to come and see what a great change has occurred in me. I do not know how it came about. Formerly, I considered myself a good man. Now I see myself as a sinner. The Lord has shown me my sins, things which I did not realize were sins. Now I know the kind of person I am. I committed many sins in the past which others did not know about and which even I myself may not have known about. I committed many sins, yet I did not realize that they were sins. Here is a man who told me everything I have done. He told me what I already knew, and He also told me what I did not know. I can only confess that I have touched Christ and have met the Savior. Here is a man who told me that the “husband” I had was not my husband. He told me that if I drank of this water, I would thirst again and come back for more. How true were those words! Come and see. Is He not the Savior? Is He not the Christ? Is He not the only One who can save us?

All those who have seen that they are sinners surely have a testimony to give. Those who have seen the Savior also have a testimony to give. This woman gave her testimony within a few hours after she had met the Lord. It was something that happened on the same day, not something that happened a few years later when she returned from a revival meeting. She witnessed to others immediately after she returned to the city. Once a person is saved, he should tell others what he has seen and understood immediately. Do not speak what you do not know, and do not give a long discourse. Just tell them what you know. This is all you need to testify; you only have to tell others how you feel. Some can say, “I was so depressed before I believed in the Lord. But now that I have believed in the Lord, I have become so happy. In the past I pursued many things but was never satisfied. Now there is an unspeakable sweetness within. Before I believed in the Lord I could not sleep at night. But now I can sleep well. I used to be full of anxiety and bitterness. But now I feel peace and joy wherever I go.” You can tell others what you have experienced. You do not need to tell them what you cannot say. You do not need to tell them what you do not know. Do not speak anything beyond what you know or beyond your present situation. That may stir up arguments. Present yourself to others as a living witness. They will have nothing to say.

B. Going Home to Tell Others

In Mark 5:1-20 we see a person who was demon possessed. It is the most severe case of demon possession recorded in the Bible. A legion of demons was within this man. He dwelt among the tombs, and no one was able to bind him, not even with a chain. Night and day, he would cry out among the tombs and in the mountains and gash himself with stones. When the Lord commanded the demons to come out from him, they did and entered into about two thousand hogs. They all rushed down the steep slope into the sea and drowned. After the demon possessed man was saved, the Lord said to him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (v. 19).

After you are saved, the Lord wants you to tell your family, neighbors, relatives, friends, and colleagues that you are now a saved person. You should tell them not only that you have believed in Jesus but also what great things the Lord has done for you. The Lord wants you to tell others what He has done for you. He wants you to confess and witness to others what has happened to you. Others will be lit when you do this, and salvation will continue on; it will not stop with you.

What a pity that many souls in Christian families are on the way to eternal perdition. Some of our parents, children, relatives, and friends have not heard the gospel of Christ from our own mouths. They have only the blessing and happiness of the present age, without the hope of the coming age. Why should we withhold from telling them what the Lord has done for us? These are the ones who are right next to us. If they cannot hear the gospel from us, who else can?

In order to witness to our family, we must show them the great change in our conduct. We must show our family what a wonderful change has been wrought in our lives since we believed in the Lord. Only then will they listen to us. They will not have confidence in anything less than this. We must be more righteous, more self-sacrificing, more loving, more diligent, and more joyful than before. They will not believe us if there is no change in our conduct. At the same time, we need to witness to them the reason for this change.

C. Proclaiming in the Synagogue

Acts 9:19-21 says, “And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” (Acts 9:19-21)

Saul was on his way to Damascus to bind the believers of the Lord. But he met the Lord on the way and the Lord spoke to him. The moment light came, he fell on his face and became blind. The men who journeyed with him led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. He was there three days without seeing, eating, or drinking. The Lord sent Ananias to lay his hands upon him, and he received sight, rose up, and was baptized. After he had taken food, he was strengthened. After a few days he immediately went into the synagogues to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and to witness to others. It was obviously difficult for him to do this because he had been persecuting the Lord’s disciples all along. He could have been a member of the Sanhedrin. The Jewish Sanhedrin was comprised of seventy-one persons, and he could have been one among the seventy-one. He had secured a letter from the high priest and was on his way to bind the believers of the Lord and to bring them before the high priest. What should he do now that he had believed in the Lord? Originally, he was going to bind those who believed in the Lord. Now he himself was in danger of being bound. Humanly speaking, he should have escaped or hidden. Instead, he went into the synagogues, not just one but many, to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. This shows us that the first thing a person should do upon receiving the Lord is testify for Him. After Paul received his sight, he went at the first opportunity to testify that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Every believer of the Lord should do the same thing.

Everyone in this world knows that there is a Jesus. But they only know Jesus as one among millions of men in this world. In other words, Jesus is considered merely as one man among many. Although they regard Him as being a little more special than others, He is still an ordinary man to them. But one day light and revelation came to you; the eyes of your heart were enlightened, and you discovered something. You discovered that this Jesus is the Son of God. You discovered that God has a Son! Jesus is the Son of God! What a great discovery! You discovered that there is one man among all men who is the Son of God. This is truly tremendous! When a person receives the Lord Jesus as his Savior and confesses Him as the Son of God, he is doing a great thing, a tremendous thing. He cannot let the occasion pass by lightly, because it is a momentous event. Of the millions of men in this world, he has discovered One who is the Son of God. What a great and tremendous discovery this is! Among the billions of men throughout history, he has suddenly found out that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This is indeed a great matter. We would marvel if someone were to discover an angel among us. How much more marvelous is it when someone discovers the Son of God? We do not know how many million times more superior the Lord is than the angels. There is no comparison between the two. The angels are far, far inferior to our Lord.

Here was a man on his way to bind all those who believed in the Lord’s name. But after he fell and rose up, he went into the synagogues and proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God. He either was mad or had received a revelation. He was not mad. Indeed, he had received a revelation. He actually had met the One among millions of men who is the Son of God. Like Paul, you also have met this Man among men, the One who is the Son of God. If you realize how great the discovery you have made is and how important and wonderful your discovery is, you surely will tell others immediately, “I have met the Son of God.” You surely will proclaim aloud, “Jesus is the Son of God!” How can a person sit still and act as if nothing has happened when he has believed in the Lord Jesus and is saved? If a person has believed in the Lord Jesus and yet does not feel anything, if he considers this to be nothing marvelous or special, we doubt whether he has believed at all. Here is something great, marvelous, extra- ordinary, special, beyond all imagination—Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This is too crucial a matter! It is not too much for a man who has seen such an important matter to knock on the door of his friends’ house after midnight to tell them of his discovery. A marvelous thing has happened in the universe—Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!

Here was a man who had just recovered from his illness; he had just had his sight restored. We see him running immediately into the synagogues and proclaiming, “Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!” Every believer who has seen the same should go to the synagogues and shout, “Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!” Every time we consider how Jesus of Nazareth can be the Son of God, we feel that this is the greatest discovery in the whole world. No discovery can be more amazing and more crucial than this. What a tremendous thing for us to discover that this man is the Son of God! When Peter told the Lord, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the Lord Jesus told him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:16-17). While He was among us in disguise, no one knew Him except those who had the Father’s revelation.

Brothers and sisters, never consider your faith to be a small thing. You need to realize that your faith is a wonderful thing. Saul had to go into the synagogues to speak because he knew that his discovery was too wonderful. You will do the same if you realize how wonderful the things you have seen are. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This is a most wonderful and glorious fact.

D. One on One

A person needs not only to go to the city, to his home, and to the synagogues to witness to others about his faith in the Lord, but also to bear a special testimony—to lead others to the Lord one on one. Such is the testimony in John 1:40-45. The moment Andrew believed in the Lord, he led his brother Peter to the Lord. Although Peter later became more gifted than Andrew, Andrew was the one who led Peter to the Lord. Philip and Nathanael were friends; Philip first believed in the Lord and later led his friend to receive the Lord. Andrew led his brother to the Lord, and Philip sought out his friend. Both are examples of leading men to the Lord one on one.

About a hundred years ago, there was a believer named Harvey Page. Although he did not have any special gift and did not know how to lead many people to the Lord, the Lord was gracious to him and opened his eyes to realize that he could lead at least one person to the Lord. He could not do many great works, but he could concentrate on one person. He could only say, “I am saved. You also need to be saved.” Once he laid hold of one, he would not let go. He would pray and talk to his friend until he was saved. Through this practice he solidly gained more than one hundred persons for the Lord by the time he died.

In a certain country there was a believer named Todd, who was very good at leading people to salvation. He was sixteen when he was saved. It was a holiday and he was in a village. An older couple from a church took him in for hospitality. They were experienced workers, and they led him to the Lord. The young man had lived a wanton life, but on that day he knelt down to pray and was saved. In the course of their conversation, the young man found out that the gospel could not prevail in that place because a certain Mr. Dickens would not repent. When Todd heard this, he asked, “Who is this Mr. Dickens?” They told him that he was a retired soldier over sixty years old. He kept a gun at home and vowed to shoot whoever came to preach the gospel to him. He regarded every Christian in the world as a hypocrite, and he called them all by such a name. Whenever he came across a Christian, he would behave in a violent way. No Christian dared to preach the gospel to him or even walk past the street where he lived. If he knew that a Christian was walking past his street, he would curse vehemently and fiercely. When Todd heard this, he prayed, “O Lord! I have received Your grace today. You have saved me. I must go and testify to Mr. Dickens.” Even before he finished his tea, he said, “I am going.” He had been saved less than two hours earlier, yet he wanted to witness to Mr. Dickens. The older couple advised him, saying, “Do not go. Many of us have failed. He has chased some away with a rod. Others fled when he threatened them at gunpoint. Even though he has beaten up so many people, we do not want to take him to court because we want to maintain a proper gospel testimony. This has given him the excuse to become more fierce.” Todd said, “I feel that I should go.”

He arrived at Mr. Dickens’s door. As soon as he knocked, the man came to the door. He had a stick in his hands, and he asked, “Young man, what do you want?” Todd said, “Is it all right for me to speak a few words to you?” The man nodded, and both of them went into the house. The moment they were in the house, Todd said, “I would like you to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior.” Mr. Dickens lifted up his rod and said, “I suppose you are new here. I will let you go and not beat you up. But have you not heard that no one is allowed to speak the name of Jesus here? Get out! Get out right away!” Todd said again, “I would like you to believe in Jesus.” Mr. Dickens became furious. He ran upstairs and returned with a gun in his hand. He shouted at him, saying, “Get out or I will shoot!” Todd responded, “I am asking you to believe in Jesus. If you want to shoot, you can shoot. But just let me pray before you shoot.” He immediately knelt down in front of Mr. Dickens and prayed, “O God! This man does not know you. Please save him.” Then he prayed again, “O God! This man does not know you. Please have mercy on him. Have mercy on Mr. Dickens.” Todd knelt there and would not rise up. He continued praying, “O God! Please have mercy on Mr. Dickens! Please have mercy on Mr. Dickens!” After praying five or six times, he heard a groaning near him. A little while later, he heard Mr. Dickens lay down his gun. Soon Mr. Dickens was on his knees next to Todd, praying, “O God! Please have mercy on me.” Within a few minutes, that man had accepted the Lord. He took the young man by the hand and said, “In the past I have only heard the gospel. Today I have seen the gospel.” Later, the young man told others, “The first time I saw his face, it was truly a face of sin. Every wrinkle spoke of sin and evil. Later, light shone through the wrinkles, and every wrinkle seemed to be saying, `God is merciful to me.'” The next Lord’s Day, Mr. Dickens went to church, and later he led dozens of people to salvation.

In the first two hours after his salvation, Todd led a notoriously difficult person to the Lord. The sooner a new believer opens his mouth, the better it is. We should not waste any time in leading others to Christ.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF WITNESSING

A. Being a Great Joy

The two happiest days in every believer’s life are the day he believes in the Lord and the day when, for the first time, he leads another person to Christ. The first one, of course, is a particularly happy day. However, the joy of leading another person to the Lord for the first time may be greater than the joy experienced on the day of his own salvation. Many Christians do not have much joy because they have never spoken anything for the Lord; they have never led a person to the Lord.

B. Learning to Be Wise

Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” From the very beginning of our Christian life, we should learn to win souls by various means. We should learn to be wise. This will make us useful persons in the church. I am not talking about delivering a gospel message on the platform. Platform preaching can never replace the personal work of leading people to the Lord. A person who knows only to preach from the platform may not know how to lead people to the Lord. We are not exhorting you to give a message on the platform. We are asking you to save men. Many people are good at preaching, but not at saving men. They do not know what to do when a person is brought to them. They are of little use. The really useful ones are the ones who can lead men to Christ one by one.

C. Begetting Life

No tree will sprout without further growth. Likewise, no one can have God’s life without begetting more life. Those who never witness to sinners are probably in need of others witnessing to them. Those who have no desire or interest in leading others to repentance unto the Lord are probably in need of repentance themselves. Those who are silent for the Lord in front of others probably need to listen again to the voice of God’s gospel. No one can be so advanced that he no longer needs to save others. No one can advance to the degree that he no longer needs to witness to others. New believers need to learn to witness to others from the very beginning. This is something we have to do for the rest of our lives.

When you become a little more advanced in the spiritual life, others may tell you, “You have to be a channel of living water. You should be one with the Holy Spirit so that the living water—the Holy Spirit—can flow into you.” However, a channel has two ends. This channel of the Holy Spirit, this channel of life, also has two ends. One end is toward the Holy Spirit, toward life, and toward the Lord, while the other end is toward man. The living water will never flow if the end toward man is closed. No one can be so wrong as to assume that just opening to the Lord is enough. The living water does not flow through those who are opened just to the Lord. One end must be opened to the Lord, and the other end must be opened to man. The living water will flow out only when both ends are opened. Many people are powerless before God because the end toward the Lord is not open. But many more people are powerless because the end for witnessing and leading others to Christ is closed.

D. Experiencing the Misery of Eternal Separation

Many people have not heard the gospel because you have not yet testified to them. The consequence of this is eternal separation; it is not merely temporal parting. This is too crucial. A brother was once invited to another person’s home for dinner. As he was very learned and eloquent, he spoke quite much on intellectual subjects. Another elderly friend who lived nearby was also present at the dinner. Since both were very intellectual, they talked for a long time. It was getting late, and the host invited them to stay overnight. The elderly friend’s room was directly opposite to this brother’s room. Not long after they retired to their rooms, the brother heard the sound of something falling to the floor. When he went to the other room, he saw the friend lying on the floor, dead. Other people started rushing into the room. The brother said sadly, “If I had known that this was going to happen, I would not have spoken what I spoke two hours ago! I would have pointed out eternal matters. I did not spend even five minutes speaking to him about salvation. I did not give him an opportunity. If I knew what I now know, I would have tried my best to tell him about the Lord’s crucifixion for him. But it is too late! If I had told him these words at dinner time, you would have laughed at me for speaking at an inopportune time. But it is too late for him. I hope that you will listen now. Every person needs to believe in the Lord Jesus and in His cross!” There is an eternal separation; this separation is not just temporary. What a tragedy! Once the opportunity is gone, a man will be eternally barred from heaven! We must seek out every opportunity to testify to others.

D. L. Moody was very good at leading men to salvation. He once made up his mind to preach the gospel to at least one person a day, whether or not he was giving a message on that day. One day he went to bed, and then he remembered that he had not preached the gospel to anyone yet. What should he do? He changed his clothes and went out again to look for someone he could speak to. It was already midnight when he looked at his watch; the streets were empty. Where could he find anyone at such an hour? The only person he could speak to was a policeman who was on duty: “You must believe in the Lord.” The policeman was in a bad mood over something at that moment, and he scolded Moody angrily, saying, “Do you not have something better to do than persuade me to believe in Jesus in the middle of the night?” Moody went home after sharing a brief word with him. But the policeman was touched by Moody’s word. A few days later he visited Moody and was saved.

As soon as a person believes in the Lord, he should make a resolution before the Lord to lead men to the Lord. Everyone should have a record of how many souls he will save in a year. He may resolve to save ten or twenty a year. He should then begin to pray for them. General prayers are useless prayers. If you go to the Lord and say, “O Lord! Please save sinners,” it is too general a prayer. You must have a specific goal in mind. If you want ten, aim for ten. If you want twenty, aim for twenty. You can prepare a book in which you write down the names of the ones you have gained for the Lord. As you gain one, write his name down. At the end of the year, you can count the number of those who were saved and the number who remain unsaved. Continue to pray for those who are not yet saved. Every brother and sister should practice this. It is not too much to gain thirty or fifty souls a year; ten or twenty is common. We must ask the Lord for a specific number in our prayer. The Lord wants to hear our specific prayers. We should pray to the Lord every day and should testify whenever there is opportunity. If all of us preach the gospel and lead people to the Lord this way, our spiritual life will advance quickly in a few years.

We must uphold the torchlight of the gospel and must light everyone around us. Let every Christian go forth to light others. The testimony of the gospel needs to go out from us until the Lord’s return. We should not be lit ourselves without lighting others. We should light more and more candles. So many souls before our eyes are in need of salvation. We must try our best to testify to them and lead them to Christ.

Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

BAPTISM – Immersion in water

Scripture Reading: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:20-21; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12

Baptism is a great subject in the Bible. We need to be clear about two aspects concerning baptism. First, before we are baptized, we need to be clear as to what baptism can do for us. Second, after we are baptized, we need to look backward and ask, “What is the significance of baptism?” In the first case, the baptism pool and the water are before us. As we are going to be baptized, we should ask ourselves, “What can baptism do for me?” After our baptism, we need to ask, “What is the meaning of my baptism?” One is a question posed in foresight, and the other is a question posed in hindsight. The former touches one’s knowledge prior to baptism, and the latter, one’s understanding after baptism.

I. WHAT BAPTISM DOES FOR A PERSON

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

(Mark 16:16). This verse shows what baptism does for a person.

A. Baptism Saving Man from the World

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” I suppose that all Baptists are a little afraid of this verse. Therefore, they dare not read it. Whenever they read this verse, they change it to, “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” But the Lord’s Word does not say this. In order to avoid the error of Catholicism, the Baptists deliberately go around God’s Word. However, as they evade the error of Catholicism, they fall into another error. The Lord’s Word is clear: “He who believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Man has no authority to change it to, “He who believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”

1. Salvation Being a Deliverance from the World

Let us now pay attention to the meaning of the word salvation in the Bible. What is a person being saved from? According to the Bible, a man is saved from the world, not hell, though being saved he will go to heaven. The opposite of eternal life is perdition, but the Bible does not regard salvation as the opposite of perdition. The Bible shows us that salvation is one’s deliverance from the world. As long as a person is in the world, he is already in perdition.

Let us consider man’s condition before God. Today man does not have to do anything to perish. I will not perish because I have killed someone, and I will not be saved from perdition because I have not killed someone. The fact is that the whole world is perishing. From among the perishing ones, God has pulled us out and saved us. The whole world is perishing corporately, but God is saving men one by one, individually. God does not catch all the fish from the sea and then separate the good from the bad, assigning some to salvation while destining others to perdition. All the fish in the sea are perishing. Those which are caught by God are saved; the rest remain in the sea.

Hence, the matter of salvation and perdition has nothing to do with whether or not you have believed or how good your conduct is; it has to do with your location. If you are in the boat, you are saved. If you are still in the sea, you are perishing. You may not have done anything, but as long as you are in the world, that is enough for you to perish. It does not matter whether you are good or bad, a gentleman or a villain. It does not matter whether or not you live by your conscience. As long as you are in the world, you are finished. If you have not left that place, you are condemned by God.

2. Salvation Being a Matter of Position

Because Adam sinned and became a sinner, all men became sinners. Man need not sin to be qualified as a sinner. All have become sinners through one man’s sin. Today God has saved you from among many men. If you are on the world’s side, no matter what kind of person you are, you are opposed to God, and you are God’s enemy. Your position is wrong; it is a perishing position, one that leads to perdition. If you are a person in the world, you are perishing.

The word salvation has been used freely among us and with much confusion. There is a distinction between salvation and obtaining eternal life. Obtaining eternal life is a personal matter, but salvation is a matter not only of receiving the eternal life personally but also of coming out from a wrong corporate body. Brothers and sisters, are you clear about this distinction? Receiving eternal life is a personal matter. Salvation, however, is not just a personal matter; it has to do with the corporate body to which you formerly belonged.

Salvation means coming out of one corporate body into another. The receiving of eternal life speaks of what one has entered into; it does not speak of what one has come out of. Salvation includes both a coming out of and an entering in. Therefore, the scope of salvation is wider than that of receiving eternal life. It includes being delivered from the world, that is, coming out of the world.

3. Four Major Facts Concerning the World before God

There are four major facts concerning the world as shown in the Bible: (1) The world is condemned in the eyes of God, (2) the world lies in the evil one, (3) the world has crucified the Lord Jesus, and (4) the world is at enmity with God; it is God’s enemy. These are the four major facts concerning the world before God. As long as a person is in the world, he is already condemned and will perish regardless of his conduct.

Please remember that the salvation of men is not a matter of personal conduct. They are wrong because their position is wrong. We know that it is not easy to be delivered from the world. How can I forsake the world if it is still attractive to me? However, when I realize that the world is in a wrong position with respect to God, I will have to forsake it no matter how lovely it may be to me. Hence, salvation is not just a matter of our personal conduct. The corporate body to which we belong is wrong. We need to be saved from our relationship with and our position in the world.

When the Jews tried to do away with the Lord Jesus, they cried, “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (Matthew 27:25). Although we are not the ones who killed the Lord Jesus, our forefathers did. Even though we did not commit the act, the corporate body to which we belong did. The corporate body to which we belong is an enemy of God and is condemned to perish. Whether we are right or wrong individually is another matter. I hope you can see not only that we are sinners individually and need to be saved individually, but that we also belong to a corporate body which is wrong. The world to which we belong is God’s enemy. The world we are in is condemned by God. We need to be delivered from that relationship and that position.

4. Salvation Being to Come Out of the World

What is salvation? Salvation is a deliverance from a certain corporate body. It is a deliverance from a certain position and certain relationships. In other words, it means to come out of the world. Most people pay much attention to their personal salvation, but the question before us is what are they saved from? The salvation highlighted in the Bible involves being saved from the world, not from hell. The world as a whole is condemned by God.

There is no doubt that he that believeth has eternal life. We have been preaching this for many years. Once a person believes in the Lord Jesus, he has eternal life and is saved forever. All problems are solved. But please remember that if a person believes but is not baptized, he is still not saved (from the world). Indeed, you may have believed and you may have eternal life, but are you saved in the eyes of the world? If you are not baptized, you are not saved (in their eyes), because no one knows that you are different. You must rise up and be baptized, declaring that you have terminated your relationship with the world. Only then will you be saved by the truest definition given in these verses.

5. Believing Being on the Positive Side, and Baptism Being on the Negative Side

What then is baptism? Baptism is deliverance. Believing is on the positive side and baptism is on the negative side. Baptism delivers you out of that corporate body. Many people in the world may say that you are one of them. But the moment you are baptized, they will realize you are finished. The one whom they have known for years is now saved and baptized. Your friendship with them is terminated. You are in the tomb; you have reached the end of your road. You already know that you have eternal life. Now that you are baptized, you are saved. From now on, everyone knows that you are the Lord’s and that you belong to Him.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” This is true because once a person believes and is baptized everyone will know where he stands. Without believing, there is no inward reality, and what one does will be nothing but an outward display. With believing, there is inward reality, and if one takes a further step to be baptized, he will be separated from the world, having terminated his relationship with it. Baptism is a separation. It separates us from others.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The Lord Jesus’ word is quite clear. It goes on by saying, “but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Unbelief alone is sufficient for condemnation. As long as a person belongs to that corporate body, his unbelief is sufficient for condemnation. But if one has believed, he still needs to be baptized. If he is not baptized, he still has not made an exit outwardly.

6. A Very Amazing Thing in the World

A very amazing thing in the world today is the attitude of Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam toward baptism.

Any Jew who embraces the Christian faith in secret will not be persecuted. Many Jews believe in the historical record concerning the Lord Jesus. Their greatest hurdle is not in believing in Him but in baptism. Once they are baptized, they are cast out. Some sisters were poisoned by their fiancé after they were baptized. Such things happen even in civilized communities like London and New York. It is all right for a person to believe in his heart, but once he is baptized, others will persecute him.

In India, no one will do anything to a believer if he is not baptized. But once he is baptized, they will cast him out. It is all right for one to believe in the Lord, but he cannot be baptized.

The reaction of the Muslims is more violent. Someone once said that it is difficult for a Muslim believer to remain alive. As soon as he believes, he will die. Dr. Swema is the first person who succeeded in working among the Muslims. He said, “My work will never grow, because once a person believes in the Lord, he has to be sent away immediately. Otherwise, he will die within two or three days after his baptism.” This condition is prevalent even among Muslims today.

Baptism is an open declaration that one has come out. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We should never consider the salvation here to mean a personal salvation of the spirit. In the Bible, salvation signifies a deliverance from the world, not deliverance from hell.

B. Baptism Being for the Forgiveness of Sins

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles told the Jews, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38). The Baptists have difficulty accepting this verse. But this verse is the plain word of the apostles. “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” It is strange that the emphasis of the apostle’s word is not upon faith but upon baptism.

Was the focus of Peter’s message in Acts 2 on persuading men to believe? No. Does this mean that Peter’s preaching was inferior to ours? The Bible tells us that the most crucial thing concerning salvation is faith. How could Peter have left this out? Perhaps he could ignore other doctrines in his message, but how could he not speak about faith? Nevertheless, he did not speak about it. Instead, he spoke about baptism, and the Holy Spirit pricked the heart of those who listened. What about us? We say that faith alone is enough. We think this is orthodox Christianity. Yet Peter said, “Be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ.”

Peter spoke only of baptism because those who listened to him were the ones who had killed the Lord Jesus. Fifty days prior to that, they were crying, “Take this man away.” These were the same people who were shouting and crying in Jerusalem. Now they needed to be separated from the rest of the Jews. This is why it was not necessary to speak to them about believing. They only needed to be baptized. That would be sufficient for them to get out. As soon as they were baptized, their relationship with that corporate body would be terminated. As soon as they were baptized, they would leave that corporate body and their sins would be washed away. They would no longer be part of that corporate body; they would be out of it. This is why Peter said, “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” The act of baptism brought them out. As soon as they came out, all problems were solved.

You need to realize that you were originally in the world and that you were an enemy of God. Since you have come out, you are saved. You need to confess before God and before men that you have come out and have nothing to do with that corporate body. You are through with it. “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This was the main teaching on the day of Pentecost. At this point your mind needs to be directed by God’s Word, not by Protestant theology.

C. Baptism Being for the Washing Away of Sins

Let us consider the case of Paul. Ananias came to Paul and said to him, ” And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16).

Paul was the foremost and greatest teacher, prophet, and apostle of Christianity. Was there a little error in his experience? Sometimes we preach the right doctrines but have the wrong experience. What would happen when we gave our testimony? What would happen if others did the same thing we do? The testimony of a teacher is very important because it may mislead others. Could it be that the experience of the foremost teacher of Christianity was wrong?

“And now, why do you delay? Rise up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Please take note of this verse. It says that baptism can wash away one’s sins. The Catholics quote this verse and regard it as a personal matter before God. The error of Catholicism lies in saying, “If you are baptized, your sins will be washed away.” Therefore, they claim that a death-bed baptism can wash away sins. They do not realize that the significance of this matter is not before God but before the world.

Formerly, Paul was a man in the world. After he had believed in the Lord Jesus and had seen Him, he needed to rise up and be baptized. The moment he was baptized, his sins were washed away. The moment he severed his relationship with the world, his sins were gone. If you are a Christian secretly and are not baptized, the world may still consider you as one of them. You may say that you are saved, but the world will not admit it. You may say that you have believed in the Lord Jesus, but they will say that they have not seen it. Once you get into the water, they will see it; they will know that you have believed in Jesus. Otherwise, why should a person be so foolish as to get into the water? The moment you are baptized, you are freed from the world. Water baptism is a severance of one’s relationship with the world.

If a person believes in his heart but does not have any outward gesture, the world will still consider him to be part of it. For instance, in Kuling of Fukien there is a strong tradition of idol worship every fall; everyone is required to donate some money. If a person merely says that he has believed in the Lord, others will not believe him. But the moment he is baptized, they will know that he is no longer one of them. Therefore, baptism is the best way to free oneself from the world. If you want to be freed from the world, you must be baptized. You must tell the world, “My relationship with you is over.” By doing this, you come out of the world.

Baptism is an open testimony, and we should not be afraid to let others witness it. Unbelievers can also be present during our baptism. Recently, when we baptized some people in Foochow, a brother said, “We do not like to conduct the baptism meeting in such a messy way. There were too many spectators.” If this is the case, John the Baptist would have to learn from this brother because John conducted baptisms that were not that orderly. Even the baptisms of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost were not that orderly. The issue is not whether a meeting is orderly. Of course, it is not good to be disorderly. But all the brothers and sisters should know what we are doing. When we baptize someone, we should let the whole world witness what we are doing.

D. Baptism Leading to Salvation through Water

The Scripture is consistent in its principles. First Peter 3:20 says, “… in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water ” This verse shows us again that baptism leads to salvation. The Lord Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” On the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins.” Paul’s action shows us that when a person is baptized, his sins are washed away. They are not just forgiven, but washed away. This is because our sins are washed away when we sever our relationship with the world. Here, the word in 1 Peter also shows us that we are saved through water. Therefore, baptism leads to salvation through water.

Those who cannot pass the test of water are not saved. A person who cannot pass through water drowns. During Noah’s time, everyone was baptized, but only eight souls came out. All the people were baptized and immersed in the water, but only eight souls emerged from it. (They were in the ark – our ark is Christ and by the illustration we are saved “into” Him.  We who are saved are also in the ark spiritually.) In other words, the water became the water of death to some, but to others it was the water of salvation. Others go into the water and remain there, but we pass through the water and emerge from it. There is something positive in Peter’s word. When the flood came, everyone drowned. Only the eight souls in the ark, whom the water could not overcome, emerged from it. While the rest perished, these eight souls were saved. Today the whole world is under the wrath of God. For one to be baptized today means that he goes through God’s wrath. But he does not only go through it; he comes out of it. His emergence from it shows that he is one who has come out. This is baptism.

Baptism is being immersed on one side and emerging out of water on the other side. Baptism means passing through and emerging from the water. You must emphasize the aspect of “emergence.” Everyone went into the water, but only the eight souls came out. Today we are saved through baptism. What does this mean? When I am baptized, I do not go into the water and remain there. Rather, I enter into the water and emerge from it. If you have never believed in the Lord Jesus, your baptism will not result in an emergence. Today my going into the water and coming out of it means that I am different from you. I can come out from the world through the water. I testify to others that I am different from the world.

E. Baptism Freeing Us from the World

The above four portions of the Scripture clearly show us what baptism is. Once we are baptized, we are freed from the world. We do not need years to be freed from the world. The first thing for a new believer to do is to be baptized. You must see the position of the world before God. You have renounced your former position in the world. This is salvation. You must put off the world completely. From now on, you are no longer a part of the world; you are on the other side.

Once we believe in the Lord, we should realize that we are no longer a part of the world. (See the illustration!  We have moved out of the world and “into” Christ.)  Our baptism is a sign that we are freed from the world. Through baptism we assume a different role. Henceforth, we abide in the ark and are persons on the other side. We can tell others that we do not do certain things because we have believed in Jesus. But, even more, we can tell others that we do not do them because we are baptized. We have crossed the bridge; we are on the other side. (In the illustration we have moved from the left to the right.)

Today we must recover the place of baptism before God. What is the meaning of baptism? Baptism means to come out of the world. It is a step which we take to free ourselves from the world. Our baptism is a declaration to others that we are out. This is like the words of a hymn which say, “Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come.  Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus I, come to thee.” Our dear ones know that we are finished and that we have come to the end of our road. We are through. Only this kind of baptism is effective. If this is not our realization, our baptism is too light and insubstantial. We must realize that we have been freed from the old circle and have come out of it. Eternal life is something that our spirit gains before God, but salvation is an act of our separation from the world.

II. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAPTISM

Everyone who is already baptized needs to look back and consider the meaning of baptism. Even if you were baptized ten or twenty years ago, you still need to review this matter. We should always remember the verse which says, ” Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”(Romans 6:3). This verse is spoken in retrospect, not as forethought.

The verses in Mark 16, Acts 2, Acts 22, and 1 Peter 3 are for those who have not yet been baptized, whereas the verses in Romans 6 and Colossians 2 are for those who have been baptized. They address those who have been baptized already. God is telling them, “Do you not know that when you were baptized, you died together with Christ and were buried and resurrected together with Him?”

Romans 6 emphasizes death and burial even though it also speaks of resurrection. Colossians 2 is more advanced; it emphasizes burial and resurrection, with resurrection as the focus. The emphasis of Romans 6 is death: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? ” The main point here is death. We should die together with Christ. Romans 6 is on death and burial, whereas Colossians 2 is on burial and resurrection.  “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)

The water of baptism typifies the tomb. Today, when we put a person into the water, it is as if we are burying him in the ground. When we raise him up from the water, it is equivalent to raising him up from the tomb. Before one can be buried, he must first be dead. You cannot bury a living person. If a person rises up again after he is buried, this is surely resurrection. The first part of this truth is found in Romans, and the second part of this truth is found in Colossians.

A. A Great Gospel—I Am Dead

When the Lord Jesus was crucified, He carried us along with Him to the cross; we were crucified there as well. In the eyes of God, He has terminated us. What do you think of yourself? You may say, “I am a terrible person to deal with!” Those who do not know themselves do not realize how impossible they are. A person who knows God and who knows himself will say, “I am an impossible person.”

When we were heavy-laden with sin, we heard of the death of the Lord Jesus. This is the gospel. Then we saw that we were beyond all hope and that we were dead. This is also the gospel. Thank God, this is the gospel! The Lord’s death has included all of us. We are dead in Christ. This is a great gospel! Just as the Lord’s death is a great gospel, our own death is also a great gospel. Just as the Lord’s death is a joyful matter, our own death is also a joyful matter. What should be the first thought that comes to our mind when we hear that our Lord has died? We should be like Joseph of Arimathea; we should bury Him. Similarly, when we hear that we are dead, the first thing that we should do is to bury ourselves, because burial is the first thing that follows death. Death is not the end. We are already dead in Christ; therefore, the first thing we need to do is bury ourselves.

B. Having Died and Risen

Brothers, when we step into the water of baptism or when we look back after being believers for many years, we must remember that we are already dead. We allowed others to bury us because we believed that we were already dead. If our heart is still beating and we are still breathing, we cannot be buried. In order to be buried, we must be dead.

When the Lord was crucified, we were crucified too. We allowed others to put us into the water because we believed that we had died. The Lord Jesus has resurrected; He has put His resurrection power within us. Now we are regenerated through this power. This resurrection power operates within us and causes us to be resurrected. This is why we rose from the water. We are no longer our former self; we are now resurrected persons. Today, we must always remind ourselves of this matter. When we went into the water, we believed that we died and needed to be buried. When we came up from the water, we believed that we had newness of life. Now we are on the side of resurrection. Death is on the other side, but resurrection is on this side.

C. I Am in Christ

Once I saw a headline in the newspaper which read, “One Person, Three Lives.” The article was about a pregnant woman who had been murdered. After the woman died, it became known that she was pregnant with twins. Hence, the headline read, “One Person, Three Lives.” Please note that concerning the Lord, it is, “One Person, Millions of Lives.” This is why the Bible repeatedly emphasizes the words in Christ. In the murder spoken of above, the murderer apparently killed only the mother; he did not kill the two children. However, because the two children were in their mother’s womb, they died when their mother died. Likewise, since we are in Christ, when Christ died, we died in Him.

God has put us into Christ Jesus. (See the illustration above.)  This is the revelation in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “Of Him ye are in Christ Jesus.” Since Christ has died, we are all dead. The basis for our co-death with Christ is our being in Christ. If we do not know what being in Christ means, we will not understand what dying with Him means either. How could the children die with their mother? They died because they were in their mother’s womb. The analogy in the spiritual realm is even more real. God has joined us to Christ. When Christ died, we died also.

As soon as this gospel is preached to us, we should learn to look from God’s viewpoint and acknowledge that we have died in the Lord. We have died because we believed this to be a fact. We have been buried in the water and have come out of it. We declare that we are on this side of the tomb. This is resurrection. Reckoning in Romans 6 involves both reckoning oneself dead in Christ Jesus and reckoning oneself alive in Him as well.

Brothers and sisters, I hope that you will take this way once you are saved. These are two separate thoughts. One thought comes before baptism, and the other comes after baptism. Before baptism we must see that we have already died and that we need to be buried. After baptism we must realize that we are in resurrection and that we can therefore serve God today.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

 

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