The Bible mentions some specific details that were part of the testimony of early believers. Jesus called this testimony “the facts about me.” They included …
- the fact that Jesus was God’s choice to judge the world.
- that God’s righteousness is available to all.
- the good news that God saves people by grace.
- that Christ had been with the Father, and appeared to humanity.
- that the Father had sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
- that Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews had waited for.
- that Jesus is the King of God’s kingdom, of whom the Old Testament speaks.
- that Christ gave himself on the cross as a ransom for all.
- that God raised Christ from the dead, which guarantees our resurrection.
- that Jesus is the Lord in whom we must put our faith.
- that God has promised eternal life for those who are in Christ.
The gospel is not about us. It is not the fact that if we do something, then God is obligated to save us. The gospel is about Jesus Christ. It is the story of what he did for us. It is the glorious truth that God has a solution for humanity’s failure, and invites us to accept it and experience it. It is the revelation of a divine plan, which began in eternity past, and will result in a glorious future eternity.
God’s primary means of turning the world to himself is the testimony that believers communicate. His plan includes an eternal destination, and he has chosen us to get the news out, so that others can join him there. That eternal destination has often wrongly been called “heaven.” It is an unfortunate choice of words because the destination to which we aspire is not a particular location (heaven as opposed to earth) as much as it is an inheritance. God’s plan is to redeem all creation. That is why the Bible speaks of a new heaven and a new earth.
The testimony of faith looks at all the ugliness of this present reality and chooses to trust Christ and his promises. The believer does not wish to escape earth and go to heaven, but longs for the redemption and restoration of the whole universe so that it once again can be called “very good.” The goal of faith is not to escape the evil but to outlast it. The key to doing that is the resurrection of the righteous. By faith, the believer looks beyond her own death, and embraces the promise of a resurrection unto eternal life at Christ’s return.
In the mean-time, the believer chooses to live in the kingdom of Christ, and occupy herself with proclaiming the good news of that kingdom’s existence. It is a kingdom that is both now and later. It is a dominion of a king who is willing and able to rule in the lives of those who submit to him. But it is also a promise of a future rule of that same king over the domain of the entire universe. The testimony is a declaration of salvation both here and now and there and then. It is the good news that Jesus can cleanse and restore our broken lives and relationships today. It is also the good news that another, future life awaits those who put their faith in him, with a glorious transformation unlike anything that we can experience in the present. Gospel witnessing includes these three messages:
- what Christ did for us on Calvary’s cross,
- what Christ can do for us today,
- what Christ promises for eternity.
By Rev. Jefferson Vann
(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)