As Christians, the work of God in our lives is awe-inspiring. What God has done through Jesus Christ to unite us to himself truly is the most significant thing that has happened to us and it’s the most significant thing that could happen for anybody else. In our joy and excitement, we should want to share this marvelous work of God in our life with others. This may lead us to share our testimony, which may be helpful to reveal basic truths about Christ to others.
We must be careful not to confuse the story of how we became a believer with the story of how someone becomes a believer. We need to understand the difference between our testimony and the gospel.
What is our Testimony?
Our testimony is our spiritual autobiography. It’s the story of who we were before Christ, how God began to work in our lives to understand the gospel, and how Christ affects our lives now. Our testimony can be a helpful tool to point others to Christ and share basic truths of the gospel, but this must be clear, as R.C. Sproul said, “your personal testimony is not the gospel.”
As Christians, we have been entrusted with a message and that message is the message of God reconciling the world to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:19). Meaning that the message we have to share with the world is all about what God has done through Christ to bring the world back together with Him and not about us.
As Will Metzger points out in his book, “The content of our message is Christ, not our journey of faith and what Christ has done in our lives. Our personal testimony may be included. But witnessing is much more than a spiritual autobiography. Specific truths about a specific person are our proclamation.” And that person is Jesus.
Thinking back to the definition of the word “herald,” which we mentioned in our article on the importance of the content of the gospel, a herald is someone who communicates a message on someone else’s behalf. We’re not communicating about us or who we are, but rather we’re communicating a message about someone else for someone else.
People need to hear the biblical message of Jesus. They need to hear of God’s righteousness, his requirements, our failing to live up to his standards, and our inability to do anything to make ourselves right with God. People need to hear that though they are helpless before God in making themselves right with Him, God has done what only He could do in taking on the punishment we deserve and making us in a right relationship with Him through Jesus. People need to know that upon hearing this message they can be made right with God if they turn from their sinful ways and trust in Jesus. This is the gospel message.
Our testimony can be helpful in communicating these truths of the gospel, but we need to be sure our focus is on Christ and not on us. When we share, when we witness to others, some important questions to consider asking ourselves: How much is Christ present in the message? How much of the time was focused on God and what he has done through Christ and the need to be made right with Him?
We Can't Confuse our Testimony with the Gospel
It’s important to make this distinction between testimony and gospel because, in this pluralistic and secular culture, so many people are testifying to these “personal truths” within themselves. All the time people may say, “well, I found this to be helpful for me but it may not be helpful for you.” These are not presenting absolute truths but rather ideas that anyone can believe whatever they want and be okay.
But we’re missing out on the big picture of declaring the truth of reality. If we don’t clearly present the message of God’s righteous requirements over all human beings, people will die in their sins thinking they didn’t have to be made right with God even though it may have worked for someone else. Every human being has been created by God and is accountable to Him.
As one author puts it, “it is worth noting that the New Testament Christians never attempted to establish the truth of Christianity based on their personal, inward experiences. To put it another way, we never find Paul trying to prove the truth of Christianity to others, because of the difference it made in his life.”
So, we share our story in order to share THE story, the good news of Jesus, and what he has done. Our spiritual autobiography is simply a means to an end, the end being presenting the message of Christ!
In sum, the content of our message as Christians to the unbelieving world is Christ. We have been given a message by God which we are to share with the world and that message is the gospel.
But in sharing the gospel with others, is it our job to bring those people to Christ? Must we convert every person that we share the gospel with? How are we to view our role as people who proclaim the gospel to others?
That’s what we’re going to cover in the next article.
Together let’s make God’s name famous!