Commentary on "A Perpetual Ministry"
Day 2: Sunday, June 24, 2012 - Never-ending Witnessing and Evangelism
The author invokes the story in John 4 of how Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well as a template for how we should witness to unbelievers. He states, “It seems that Jesus followed a simple “formula” when He spoke to the woman of Samaria.
Later, the author says, “ …The principles seen in this passage can be broadly applied to our attempts to reach souls.”
At first, it may seem wise to look to Jesus as a Model for how we should witness to unbelievers. However, there is one important difference between our witnessing, and Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman. Specifically, Jesus was all-knowing; so it is impossible for us to witness to someone like He did to the Samaritan woman. For example, Jesus knew that the Samaritan woman had been married five times. He had supernatural power to be familiar with the details of her life, and this is what brought her to the point of conviction of Who He was. (“Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ? John 4:29). By contrast, we do not have these powers, so we cannot 'witness’ in this manner as Jesus did. It is not our job to convict people of their sins; that is the Holy Spirit’s work (John 16:8).
A better model for witnessing to unbelievers can be found in the Acts’ accounts of when the early apostles took the message of Jesus to the Jews and the Greeks and Romans. Interestingly, when they witnessed, they did not speak about their personal testimonies or try to convince the people that they needed to keep the Ten Commandments. Instead, they consistently relayed the public, verifiable events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances (Acts 3, 4, 10, & 17). The early church was embedded in a culture that was very pluralistic. The Romans and Greeks worshipped many different gods, and for the most part folks left one another alone to worship their own preferred gods. However, the Christians were persecuted because they made a very bold claim—that Jesus was the only God and all the others, including the Roman emperor, were false. Christians were not persecuted for worshipping Jesus. Rather they were persecuted because they spoke boldly about truth claims which contradicted the pluralism of that time.
Currently, Western culture has become similarly pluralistic and religious claims are confined to the realm of each individual’s personal experience. In other words, it is becoming less acceptable to claim to know what is objectively true. It is okay to talk about your own private truth, but not truth that comes to us from the outside and holds any kind of claim on our lives, regardless of our personal opinion about it. Thus, it makes more sense to look to the apostles like Peter and Paul for a model for witnessing than it does to attempt to role model Jesus’ behaviors with the Samaritan woman. Because the resurrection is given in 1 Cor. 15 as the evidence of the veracity of the Christian truth claims, it is probably better to appeal to the historical events of the death and resurrection of Jesus when witnessing to unbelievers, rather than attempting to re-create Jesus’ conversation points with the woman at the well.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised May 23, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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