The Believer’s Witness in the World
1. Paul has been speaking of his heart’s desire to speak the mystery of Christ.
a. Paul had been commissioned of the Lord to preach Christ to the Gentiles… throughout the whole world.
b. He recognized it as a moral obligation to tell others about Christ.
c. He was a steward of the mysteries of God and knew that God would hold him accountable for this stewardship.
d. He was willing to suffer for it. He was in prison for preaching Christ.
2. He wanted the whole world to know Christ as he knew Him.
a. At the time of writing, Paul wasn’t able to walk about the world and preach Christ because he was imprisoned… confined.
b. But he knew that many other believers WERE free to walk about.
c. And he was concerned for their testimony in the world… for that would either open or close doors to preach Christ for them.
d. The next couple of verses speak of Paul’s concern for the believer’s testimony in the world: our walk and words.
Our Walk in the World: Walk in Wisdom
A. The Walk of a Believer
1. Walk – a term used to describe the general course of one’s life; one’s whole manner of life; conduct; behavior; lifestyle.
2. If our message is Christ, our walk ought to be Christlike.
3. Our walk is to be a WITNESS before the world.
4. The exhortation of this passage is that our walk be conducted in WISDOM… spiritually.
B. A Wise Walk – Paul mentions 3 channels for wisdom:
1. Pray for wisdom and spiritual understanding in our walk! (Col. 1:9)
2. Be faithful to the local church – that’s where God’s Word is to be taught in all wisdom for your maturity. (Col. 1:28)
3. Be in the Word that God’s wisdom might sink in (Col. 3:16).
a. In other words, the wisdom needed for a worthy walk comes from three places according to Colossians: praying, reading the Bible, and going to church!
b. Let’s be faithful… the end result is growing in a wise walk!
4. God’s wisdom is not to be stored in the head. It is to be LIVED! (James 3:13, 17)
a. To put wisdom into practical everyday life involves the discernment to evaluate circumstances and situations and make decisions that are wise, sensible, incorporating common sense, spiritual understanding.
b. A wise walk is one in which the believer lives IN the world… yet he remains unspotted by it.
c. He mingles with the lost, yet he remains separated from them morally and spiritually… in his mind and in his heart… his goals, his purposes… He was separate from sinners because He was separated UNTO the Father.
5. Eph. 4:1 – a worthy walk is a walk that consistent with our calling IN Christ…. our heavenly position…
a. Our calling in Christ separates us FROM the world and UNTO Christ.
b. Eph. 1-3 – Paul described our glorious position in Christ.
c. Eph. 4-6 – Paul then turns to speak about our condition… our WALK… how to put our position into practice in everyday life. What could be more practical?
d. Our walk on earth is to be a reflection of our UNION with Christ… our walk is to be governed by our UNION with Christ… empowered by our union with Him… in fact, to live IS Christ!
e. To live is no longer I but Christ. That is the walk of wisdom.
f. Others should see CHRIST in us.
g. Spiritual wisdom and understanding results in a life that manifests Christ’s life through our daily lives… His lowliness, meekness, grace, holiness, etc.
6. Eph. 5:15-16 – a wise walk is a circumspect walk… upright… a good testimony… a godly example of what a Christian ought to be… (shining as lights in the midst of darkness… and yet avoiding fellowship with darkness… vs. 8,11) That’s where wisdom comes in.
7. Perhaps Paul had the words of the Lord Jesus in mind as he sent the disciples out to preach. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)
C. A Wise Walk Opens Doors. (in context)
1. A walk of spiritual wisdom is one that is characterized by Christlikeness… a mind saturated with His Word… a heart filled with His love and grace… affections that are truly settled on things above… a heart that is truly satisfied and content with a relationship with our heavenly Father… a life that rejoices in God even if there is no fruit on the vine… a life that is valiant for the truth… a heart that knows God and loves God and it shows.
2. That kind of a life will always open doors of opportunity to tell others about the Savior.
a. I Thess. 4:12 – being honest; hard working; paying your bills on time; generous to others; that’s an important part of out witness.
b. Being a regular guy… not some artificial religious show… holier than thou…
c. Taking care of your property…
d. Well-balanced life—not some crazy wild-eyed zealot always ranting and raving…
e. A balanced and sensible person. That opens doors!
D. A Foolish Walk Closes Doors
1. A walk NOT characterized by spiritual wisdom and Christlikeness.
2. Selfishness: unwilling to sacrifice; too busy in our own affairs to care about the spiritual condition of the lost;
3. Pride: holier than thou.
4. Laziness: A lazy or unreliable worker cannot effectively witness to his boss or co-workers!
5. Contentious spirit: antagonistic; pointing out the errors of their church; mixing religion and politics.
6. Dishonest: if folks in the office know that you are stealing from the company—whatever you say about Christ falls on deaf ears.
7. Imbalance: a gravitation toward that which is a bit kooky, controversial.
8. Offensive: I Cor. 10:31 – do NOT offend Jews or Gentiles!
9. That kind of folly closes doors for us to tell others about Christ.
10. Leviticus 19:14 – Moses warned against putting a stumblingblock before the blind.
a. How cruel and heartless? It’s hard to imagine the malicious intent behind such a thing…
b. These things were written for our learning.
c. We can certainly make application to the spiritual realm.
• The lost are blind spiritually.
• As it was possible for an Israelite to put a stumblingblock in the pathway of a person physically blind, it is also possible for us as believers to put a stumblingblock before a person who is spiritually blind!
• Our lifestyle… our words… our walk CAN be a HINDRANCE to a spiritually blind person coming to Christ!
• “If that’s what a Christian is like—no thank you!”
• When a Christian gets caught stealing… or it is known that he is stealing… or committing adultery… a hypocritical life… it gives the unsaved justification for not coming to Christ… (at least in their minds).
• “Why should I get saved? Those people are a bunch of hypocrites!”
• People say those sorts of things all the time… and if we KNOW this… how malicious is OUR heart… when we indulge ourselves in sinful behavior… knowing that it will be a stumblingblock to those that are spiritually blind…
11. A walk in wisdom will attract some men to Christ. A foolish walk will turn them away!
Our Testimony Before the World: Them that Are Without
A. Them That Are Without
1. This is a New Testament term used several times to describe the person who is lost… unsaved… a non-Christian… an unbeliever…
2. Perhaps the expression came about from some of the metaphors about the church: a flock; a vineyard; a cultivated field; a family.
3. I Cor. 5:12-13 – a distinction between those inside the body of Christ (saved) and those outside the body of Christ (unsaved).
4. Those who are saved are IN the household of God… the family of God. Those who are not saved are OUTSIDE the family of God.
5. And lest this goes to anyone’s head, we are inside the family of God by GRACE and grace alone. It has nothing to do with our worthiness, merit, or works. It is pure grace.
6. I Tim.3:7 – those in leadership positions are to be especially careful to be blameless before those that are without. God wants us to be concerned about our testimony before the lost. A poor testimony will turn people away.
B. The World is Watching
1. Those outside of Christ watch those inside Christ very carefully… and usually quite critically.
a. As saints we should be gracious to one another in dealing with our indiscretions. Love covers a multitude of sins.
b. But don’t expect that from the world. They are watching and will pounce all over the sins and failures of a Christian.
c. That’s why we need to be extra careful about our behavior in the world… because people are watching.
d. People are not only watching, but they are going to base their concept of Christ and the Bible on the basis of what they see in our lives!
e. No wonder we are warned to walk in wisdom!
f. Our PUBLIC life is extremely important.
2. At work: are you lazy? A grump? A complainer? A troublemaker? A gossip? Consistently late? Always trying to get out of doing the work? Do shoddy work? Do you stretch the truth? Cut corners? Work with eye-service? A procrastinator? Unreliable? Finger pointer? Those without Christ are watching to see what effect Christ has in your life… if there is anything to Christianity or not. OR —
3. In the neighborhood: Are you friendly? Helpful? Or are you always complaining? Yelling at the kids? Constantly in a dispute or argument? Do you let your dog loose on your neighbor’s property? Are you a gossip? Do you give your neighbors a hard time? OR —
4. Paul states here that our PUBLIC life is what the world sees… and we need to use great caution and care in our public life…
a. Much of what we do as believers is unseen by the world. (private prayer time; reading the Bible; family devotions; worship at church).
b. Unsaved people in the world judge Christians not by our doctrinal statement, but by our lives.
c. It is not what they hear us say, but what they observe in our lives.
d. The world values and is looking for honesty and integrity… and they are not so interested in whether we are premillennial or not.
5. It is important that our LIVES accurately reflect the message that we preach accurately.
a. We tell folks with our lips that Christ can save you from your sins.
b. Those are good words, but have little impact if we are slugging down a six pack of Bud as we witness… or if our lives reflect that we are still slaves of sin!
c. Illustration: drinking at the bar and witnessing…
C. Our WITNESS in the World (let’s consider some important truths that Pastor Carleton Helgerson loved to remind us of)
1. A witness in court (Num. 35:30)
a. This was one who was an eyewitness to a crime.
b. He testified about what he knows.
c. This person was able to SPEAK forth what he knew…
d. He spoke out of personal knowledge… what he saw or personally experienced.
2. The Heap of Stones (Genesis 31:48).
a. This heap of stones served as a visible sign of the agreement that was made between Jacob and Laban.
b. A mere pile of rocks was a witness – it served as a reminder concerning the covenant that was made between the two men.
c. From that time forth, whenever Jacob and Laban would view the heap, it would cause them to think about the agreement.
3. Acts 14:17 – The rain and fruitful seasons are called a “witness.”
a. They cause us to think about God and His goodness… His faithfulness.
4. Many other things in the Bible are called “witnesses.” A heap of stones, a song, rain, an altar, a stone.
5. We tend to think of a witness for God as what we DO… or where we GO.
a. A witness is a witness without GOING anywhere and without SAYING anything.
b. Its value as a witness is NOT contingent upon what it says or does… contrary to the way we usually think.
c. Its very existence is a TESTIMONY that causes men to think about something… draws attention to a fact…
6. The existence of the nation of Israel was a witness for God among the nations. (Isa. 43:10)
a. Israel’s value as a witness is described in terms that might seem unusual to us.
b. The purpose of God putting His witnesses in the world and God’s goal for that witness is that the witness might KNOW GOD.
• Israel was a witness because they KNEW God… not just about Him. They knew HIM!
• They were a witness because they BELIEVED God. They more than just believed He existed. They lived by faith. They trusted in Him and it was to be evident.
• They were a witness because they UNDERSTOOD God. (They had a growing and deepening understanding of who He is—growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.)
• The nation of Israel fulfilled their purpose and function in the world simply by knowing the Lord… and trusting in Him.
• If they knew God in a deep, personal way… and believed and trusted in Him, they were able to fulfill their God given purpose of being His witness.
• And they fulfilled that purpose without going anywhere or saying anything.
• They were God’s witness by what they WERE!
• They were LIGHT in the midst of darkness.
• All God wanted of this people—His witnesses—was to walk humbly with God. “What doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)
c. And when Israel walked uprightly, their very existence pointed men to God… caused men to think about God.
d. Deut. 4:7 – For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
e. Their existence as a nation caused the other nations to think about the Lord… they drew the attention of nations around them to their God.
f. When Israel knew God and TRUSTED in His power, their witness was powerful and undeniable!
g. Example: David facing Goliath; Israel advancing on Jericho; or facing other nations. When they trusted in the Lord, God’s power and glory were manifested to all onlookers.
h. When they trusted in themselves (or the world or hired enemies to help them), their utter failure testified a lie. Their actions testified that God was NOT ABLE to help them! It led the nations to believe that their God was no different than any other god.
i. When a believer today faces the same trials and tragedies in life that unsaved folks face (we all live in the same sin cursed earth)… and face those trials with poise, dignity, faith, and do not fall apart… but trust God and receive strength and encouragement from Him—that is a persuasive witness that the world cannot deny.
j. That kind of a LIFE (a life of one who knows and trusts in God) has much more of an impact as a witness than passing out a thousand tracts cold turkey to total strangers.
k. Yet in churches which seem to gloat of their involvement in evangelism, we hear folks give a testimony that they gave out 1000 tracts… (Lost their reward; it may have little impact.)
l. It’s good to pass out tracts, but you can pass out 10 million tracts and not fulfill your God given purpose as a witness… unless you KNOW GOD… and trust in Him before the world…
m. But the little old lady who knows God and has a deep abiding relationship with Him… is a much better witness for God in the world than the one who distributes thousands of tracts whose life is shallow and shady.
n. There is such an emphasis in the evangelical world today on what we DO for God… and much IS being done in His name.
o. One is led to believe in those circles that one becomes spiritual by what we DO. (Our works neither save nor sanctify!)
p. It is not unlike the contrast between Mary and Martha. Martha was busy doing many things for the Lord. But Mary was busy getting to KNOW Him…
q. Being busy FOR God is no substitute for getting to KNOW Him.
r. God tells us what HIS concept of a witness is: one who knows and trusts Him.
s. This ought to be our EMPHASIS… and in fact, that IS the emphasis in the epistles… where God tells the church what they ought to BE.
t. Paul’s burning desire was to KNOW CHRIST and the power of the resurrection in his life. He wanted to be a good witness for Christ in the world.
u. And because Paul KNEW Christ… he also desired to make Him KNOWN… to manifest His LIFE.
• It is from that deep inner abiding RELATIONSHIP to Christ that real doors of opportunity to preach Christ are opened.
7. Acts 1:8 – Ye shall be WITNESS unto Me.
a. Israel failed as God’s witness in the Old Testament.
b. Christ sent His disciples out into the world—to the uttermost parts of it—to BE HIS WITNESS in the world.
c. Christ sent His disciples out to BE what Israel was intended to BE: God’s witness in the world.
d. The dispensation soon changed… the message was altered for the new age ahead… God’s program changed, Israel was put on the shelf… and the church became God’s witness in the world.
e. But the concept of a WITNESS did not change.
f. We are to BE what God intended Israel to BE… but they failed.
g. We are to BE witnesses by knowing Christ… and growing in a deeper understanding of who He is. (Col. 1:9 – pray to be “FILLED with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding!”)
h. The church is NOT like Israel in the sense that there is not just one church in one location surrounded by Gentiles… but in this age, God’s plan is for churches to be planted in ALL nations… as WITNESSES in MANY geographical locations.
i. A church is faithful to our commission IF we know God… and trust in Him… and have a deep, growing, abiding relationship TO Him.
j. And FROM that relationship should stem ministry FOR God. (Not the other way around!)
k. Notice the careful wording in Acts 1:8: it does not say “ye shall witness for Me unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” It says “ye shall BE witnesses unto Me unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
l. Again, the emphasis is on what we ARE not what we say or what we do.
m. Doing and speaking FOR God does not make us an effective witness. But KNOWING God, possessing a deep UNDERSTANDING of who God is, and TRUSTING in Him does!
n. The last thing we want to do is to discourage folks from verbally witnessing for Christ.
o. But in all our speaking, let’s not forget what the Bible says… where God’s emphasis is: on what we ARE and who we KNOW. That is our value to God as His witness.
8. I Pet. 3:15 – it is our LIFE that functions as a witness for God.
a. Sanctify the Lord God in your heart: (Col: the preeminence of Christ in our lives)
b. The life that truly has GOD as its center… the one whose goal in life it is to KNOW Christ and to GROW in Christ… who is willing to suffer for Christ… and has a deepening spiritual UNDERSTANDING of Him… and who TRUSTS in Him… that person will draw attention to God.
c. That person is a WITNESS by their life… it is what they ARE… without opening their mouths… without going to a foreign field… that person is an effective witness for God.
• That life is like LIGHT… that shines in the darkness.
• Men will see the light of God in you. Some will HATE the light. But others will be attracted to it.
• As they BEHOLD your life, they will be forced to acknowledge God and give Him glory for your life.
• It is a sweet savor… a fragrant odor of Christ… that causes people to “smell” Him.
• We are living epistles known and read of all men who observe us. Men who have no interest in reading the Bible or studying theology… will watch us.
d. And there will be some living in darkness who will be curious about the light they see in us… attracted by the odor of Christ… curious about our lives… what makes us tick…
• How come your daughter was killed in an accident and you haven’t blamed God?
• How come you suffer so from that awful disease and have not grown bitter against God?
• How come you got laid off and you’re not grumbling about the boss?
• How come your kids are so respectful?
e. They aren’t interested in our theology. But they are interested in our lives! What we ARE… not what we say… or how many religious works we do… but what kind of people we ARE.
f. Peter implies that when that IS the case… when our lives are a witness because we KNOW GOD… others will ask us about it.
g. And notice that the conversation Peter envisions here is one prompted by the unbeliever… and what the believer says is an ANSWER (a defense; a response).
h. The believer’s life… like salt… made the unsaved neighbor thirsty… curious… caused him to think about God…
9. Apart from a godly LIFE where Christ has the preeminence… a life that KNOWS God in a saving way, BELIEVES Him in everyday life, and has a deepening spiritual UNDERSTANDING of who He is… what we say falls on deaf ears… all of our efforts in witness and ministering are but tinkling brass and sounding cymbals.
10. This is precisely Paul’s point in Col. 4:5.
a. A wise walk toward them that are without Christ… is a LIFE… a lifestyle… characterized by spiritual wisdom and understanding.
b. A wise walk before the lost is a life lived in their presence… before their eyes… that manifests that we know God… and that we walk in His ways… and that we trust Him… and have a deep relationship TO Him.
c. That’s a worthy walk… a walk that is aware of our heavenly position IN Christ… a walk that is GROWING in the knowledge of that glorious heavenly position… and a life that draws near to Christ daily in sweet communion within the veil.
d. Paul exhorts us all to walk in WISDOM toward them that are without… toward the lost.
• These words are in perfect harmony with Moses, Isaiah, and Jesus.
• A witness fulfills its function as a witness for God by KNOWING God in a saving way… (a regenerated life) by BELEIVING Him… (a walk of faith)… and by spiritual UNDERSTANDING (a deep abiding relationship to God… a deepening understanding of who He is!)
• Let’s make sure that we ARE a witness before we start witnessing!
• Next week we will look at SPEAKING (vs. 6). Here Paul speaks of the kind of LIFE out of which speaking up for Christ arises…
• So pray for that kind of walk… saturate your mind in the Scriptures that God’s wisdom would sink in and transform your walk… sanctify the Lord God in your heart… that you might attract others to the Savior…
• If we (like Mary—as opposed to Martha) concentrate on knowing Jesus Christ… and growing in our knowledge of Him and deepening in our relationship to Him… then we will be better suited to open our mouths FOR Him.