Who is a Witness?

By Peter Eng
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Proposition

This is a short fact-sheet to demonstrate that the term “witness” in the Bible is used as we would normally mean witness: someone who sees an event in person and testifies to it. In this regard, the term to “witness for Christ” is fundamentally flawed. The Bible itself uses the term “to evangelize” or to “proclaim the Good News.” While we appreciate the attempt to make the work of proclamation for the good news the joy and privilege of every Christian, the term “witness” is still the wrong term. We may substitute “proclaim the Good News” with “sharing the Good News” or “sharing how Jesus saved me” etc. But witness should be removed from our vocabulary when we talk about the proclamation of the Good News. Bearing witness was the work of the Apostles who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.

You are invited to check out all the references in the Bible to see if there is any justification to suggest we can be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. Below are all the references to the word “witness” in Acts.

Evidence

References in Acts Usage
Acts 1 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus talking to the disciples
Acts 1 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Very clear that witness refers to eye-witness, and that they understood the earlier commission to be the appointment of the witness of 12 apostles to the nation Israel and beyond.
Acts 2 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.  12 Apostles as eye-witnesses
Acts 3 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this 12 Apostles as eye-witnesses
Acts 5 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 12 Apostles as eye-witnesses
Acts 6 They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.  Eye-witness in court
Acts 7 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. Eye-witness in court
Acts 10 39 We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.  12 Apostles as eye-witnesses
Acts 10 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 12 Apostles as eye-witnesses, and others
Acts 13 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. 12 Apostles as eye-witnesses
Acts 22  15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ Commissioning of Ananias to Saul/Paul who saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul as eye-witness to Gentiles.
Acts 26  16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.  Paul as eye-witness of the resurrected Jesus
Acts 28 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Paul as eye-witness of the resurrected Jesus

Conclusion

At no point can we be called witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. We should abandon the term “witnessing for Jesus” and use an alternate term.

This is just another example of our being biblical @theWell. We will say what Scripture says and not say what Scriptures does not say, regardless of our own preferences or popularity of an idea. We recognize the good intention of Christians who popularized the term “witnessing” to refer to the proclamation of the Good News. We support the intention and goal, but the term is misplaced.
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