The Preacher is a Witness

The Preacher Is... Part III

Precious Articles in the Series:
Part I “The Preacher is a Steward” 
Part II “The Preacher is a Herald” 

To preach the Bible faithfully, you need to operate as both a steward and a herald. These are the first two of five roles the preacher fulfills, according to John Stott’s book The Preacher’s Portrait. The third role outlined is the preacher as witness. 

The preacher as a witness deals with the preacher’s experience and humility. 

The three metaphors to this point emerge from three different spheres. While the steward is a domestic metaphor, the herald is a political metaphor. Conversely, the witness is a legal metaphor.

In essence, Jesus stands on trial before the world, and the preacher is to be his witness. 

As a witness, it is vital that the preacher knows his jury. We must have a biblical view of the world before we can bear witness to Jesus in front of them. Stott refers to the “antagonism of the world” in this section.

“The world hates, the world persecutes, the world ostracizes, and the world kills. This is the antagonism of the world.”[1] 

Charles Spurgeon referred to Galatians 6:14 as the ‘theme of Paul’s ministry.’[2] The Apostle says,
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

In an age where many in the church are engaged in a PR image campaign, seeking to restore the church’s standing in the eyes of the world, the writers of the New Testament play a far different tune. Even as they sought to reach sinners with the good news of Jesus Christ, they didn’t operate ignorant of the depravity of the world. We see evidence of this reality in places like Ephesians 5, where Paul makes the statement “make the best use of time, for the days are evil.”[3] John also spoke to this in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.” Jesus didn’t seem to think that those who followed Him would score a high favorability number from the world:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.[4]

To properly bear witness to Jesus Christ you must know your jury. The preacher must understand that the world standing in judgment on Jesus is not a world that is simply sick; it is a world that is dead in sin. Why does this make a difference?

If the world is sick, they need a doctor.
If the world is disturbed, they need a therapist.
If the world is a victim, they need a counselor.
But if the world is dead, they need Jesus Christ.

Ravi Zacharias has said on many occasions: “The thrust of the gospel is this: Jesus did not come to make sick people well, he came to make dead people live!”

Christian witness is:

  • To the world
  • About the Son
  • By the Father
  • Through the Holy Spirit
  • And through His church

The Spirit is the one who speaks in the act of “witness” through the Scriptures. The witness also comes in the context of Christ’s body—through his corporate church.

The witness must have:

  • Experience
  • Humility

In terms of experience, the witness must be an “eye-witness” to what he proclaims.

“Our task is not to lecture about Jesus with philosophical detachment. We have become personally involved in Him. His revelation and redemption have changed our lives. Our eyes have been opened to see Him, and our ears unstopped to hear Him, as our Savior and Lord.”[5]

“We shall remember that the real preparation of a sermon is not the few hours which are specifically devoted to it, but the whole stream of the preacher’s Christian experience thus far, of which the sermon is a distilled drop.”[6]

In terms of humility, the preacher must be personally humble while remaining confident in the message. 

“The overriding purpose of our witness-ministry is that they will see Christ and give their allegiance to Him.”[7] 

In his excellent book on preaching called He is Not Silent, R. Albert Mohler says this:
“Let’s be honest: The act of preaching would smack of unmitigated arrogance and overreaching were it not for the fact that it is God Himself who has given us the task. In that light, preaching is not an act of arrogance at all but rather of humility. True preaching is never an exhibition of the brilliance or intellect of the preacher but an exposition of the wisdom and power of God. This kind of humility in preaching is possible only when the preacher stands in submission to the text of Scripture.” [8]

The danger of the perilous task of preaching is that “success” can lead to vanity in our flesh, which fundamentally destroys our ability to be a true witness. 

The true witness is called to faithfully deliver the truth that he has seen and experienced. This gospel is to be presented with a humility that is consistent with the life in Jesus that the sinner (the preacher himself) receives by the grace of God in Christ.

Go To Part IV: The Preacher Is A Father

[1] Stott, 62.

[2] Tony Merida notes this in Exalting Jesus in Galatians, p. 137.

[3] Eph. 5:16

[4] John 15:18-19

[5] Stott, 74.

[6] Stott, 77.

[7] Stott, 78.

[8] Mohler, 47.