The Witness of John the Baptist to the Word: John 1:6-9 -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:639 (Jul 2003)
Article: The Witness of John the Baptist to the Word: John 1:6-9
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Witness of John the Baptist to the Word: John 1:6-9

David J. MacLeoda

Nineteenth-century Bible teacher A. T. Pierson used to say, “Witnessing is the whole work of the whole church for the whole age.” He added, “A light that does not shine, a spring that does not flow, a germ that does not grow, is no more of an anomaly than a life in Christ which does not witness to Christ.”1 Another well-known minister of the Word, Stephen F. Olford, wrote, “Something is wrong—terribly wrong. The rank and file in the body of Christ today are not witnessing Christians.”2 The late James M. Boice has said that it is wrong for contemporary believers to think that witnessing is to be done primarily by paid clergy. “Witnessing is every Christian’s job.”3

The view that witnessing is “every Christian’s job” was certainly the belief of the early Christians. Their acceptance of this task was perhaps the single most important factor in the astounding outreach and expansion of the early church. It was not simply that Peter, Paul, Stephen, and others spread the good news of salvation in Christ. It was rather that all Christians—small and great, rich and poor, slaves and freedmen—made it their consuming passion to tell others about the Lord.

Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) wrote, “For there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians, or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads, or vagrants, or herdsmen living in tents, among

whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered through the name of the crucified Jesus.”4 Tertullian (A.D. 160-225) said to his pagan contemporaries, “We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you—cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum—we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods.”5

How did this happen? “It became the most sacred duty of a new convert to diffuse among his friends and relations the inestimable blessing which he had received.”6 As Harnack wrote, “We cannot hesitate to believe that the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.”7

The main work of...

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