What Is True Gospel Witness?

Whenever I read the gospel presentations in the book of Acts, I am struck by four elements of the apostles’ witness—boldness, humility, tenacity and urgency.

And I believe our witness should be characterized by those same four traits.

Think of Peter and John, for instance. They constantly went around reminding the religious leaders that they had killed Jesus, a fact they were less than thrilled to recount.

Their boldness astonished the religious leaders, especially since everyone knew that Peter and John weren’t particularly educated guys (cf. Acts 4:13). When a fisherman stands up to the most powerful figure in the city, that is bold.

But their boldness didn’t lead them to arrogance; they actually acted with incredible humility.

Luke goes out of his way to point out that Peter and John weren’t terribly bright. (I wonder if they read Acts later on and thought, “Hey, Luke—this ‘uneducated, common men’ line? That was a little unnecessary.”) The apostles were astoundingly blunt about who Jesus was, but not because they had figured things out on their own. They were men who had received salvation by grace, and those who receive grace know that they have zero ground for moral or intellectual superiority.

If you meet an arrogant Christian, they aren’t arrogant because they believe Christianity’s claims too fervently; they’re arrogant because they don’t understand the message at all!

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that humility backs down. A humble witness can still be a tenacious one.

So we see Peter and John shrug off threats of imprisonment and death instinctively. “Throw us in prison? Slander our names? Kill us? Fine, but we’ll keep preaching, because God deserves it and the message is worth it.”

Where did tenacity like this come from? The resurrection: They really believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, that he was doing something to save people who could not save themselves. When we believe that, we cling to our witness with grit in the face of opposition.

Not only will we cling to our witness, but we will be urgent to spread it, because we recognize that only one name offers salvation.

The gospel was constantly on the apostles’ lips everywhere they went, because they took the gospel’s implications deadly seriously. They knew, as Peter said, that salvation is found in no one other than Jesus Christ. Believe that, and you’ll do something about the lostness around you. Believe that, and you’ll have a movement on your hands. How else can you explain how some backwoods, uneducated fishermen who were in prison half the time spread their message across the entire known world?

Now, I have often talked with people about this, and it just doesn’t seem fair to them. Salvation through Jesus alone seems so restrictive, so exclusive, so unfair.

What we need to realize, however, is that God owes none of us salvation. That any of us have access to it is an unspeakable act of grace. But what is unfair is for those of us who know the gospel to not do all we can to bring it to others.

What if Jesus’ claims are really true? What if the power of salvation is found only through him? Have you thought about the implications of that?

Have you ever thought about your life in light of global priorities? If you have, then you will find yourself becoming bold, humble, tenacious and urgent in your witness.

If this message is true, then it would be cruel for you to not do everything in your power to help get the gospel to the 2.6 billion people who have never heard it. You were not saved for yourself; you were saved to bring the message of salvation to others.

Charles Spurgeon was once asked whether or not those who never hear the Gospel can be saved. His response is perfect: How can we, who know the Gospel, be truly saved if we don’t go to them?  

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.