In Acts 26:14-18 we read about what the risen Jesus told Saul (also known as Paul) at the time he was struck blind on the road to Damascus.
In v. 16 the Lord says to Saul:
“But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of the things in which you have seen Me and of the things in which I will appear to you.”
Note how Jesus tells Saul that He has appointed him to be a witness of things in which he has seen and will see Him.
When the Lord refers to Saul being a witness here, He is using a metaphor derived from lawcourts. During a trial, witnesses give testimony of things they have seen and heard that are relevant for the case in question. Saul is being pictured as an honest witness in court, telling others what he has seen and heard.
When we strip away the metaphorical language, Saul is being instructed to truthfully tell other people about his experiences of Jesus.
Other biblical references to being witnesses
Elsewhere in the New Testament too the theme of Christians being witnesses is a common one. Believers are said to be witnesses, to testify, and to give testimony, and these are all different ways of referring to the same theme.
Sometimes this theme refers to the role of Christians as proclaimers of the gospel message. Christians testify in the sense of truthfully telling people God’s way of salvation.
At other times, however, the theme is used in a similar way to Acts 26:16. Christians are witnesses when they tell what they have personally seen God do (Luke 24:48; John 15:27; 19:35; 21:24; Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15, 18; 1 Peter 5:1; 1 John 1:2; 4:14).
It is true that these verses all refer to one or more apostles. However, some of the verses imply that non-apostles also performed the same role. So there should be no doubt that in the early church non-apostles often acted as witnesses by telling people about their experiences of God.
We should tell others what we have seen God do
Given the prominence of this theme in Scripture, and given that non-apostles in the first century often told others of their experiences of the Lord, we should have no hesitation in saying that Christians today are called to do the same.
We may not have seen the risen Jesus like some in the early church. However, if we we have been Christians for any significant length of time, we should have experienced things that He has done in our lives. And we should be telling others about those experiences.
If we have had a notable answer to prayer, for example, we should normally aim to tell others about it. Testimony of what we have seen God do builds up our fellow Christians in the faith. And it also helps to bring non-believers to the Lord.
Times when it is better to keep quiet
It is true that there are times when it is better to keep quiet about our experiences of God.
Sometimes it is right not to share very personal things. And we should also be careful about what we tell non-Christians or even very new Christians. God’s ways can at times seem problematically strange to those who don’t know Him or have just come to know Him, and we need to be sensitive to that.
Nevertheless, our general attitude should be one of wanting to tell others what we have seen God do.
Not letting uncertainty put us off
Christian experience in this world often involves uncertainty about things (1 Corinthians 13:12). So there are bound to be occasions in our lives when we think we have seen God do something, but we are not sure it was Him.
In such cases, it is still possible to give testimony, as long as we truthfully say what has happened and admit that we are not sure that God was behind it.
Of course, Christian testimony is better if we are sure that the Lord has done something. But it is still possible to testify when we have doubts.
Much more experience at some times than at others
If I look back at my own Christian life, I see great variety from time to time in the number of things God has done that seem to stand out. Some years I have seen Him do striking things, but most years have been much quieter as far as testimony is concerned.
I am not saying that God’s involvement in my life has been any less at these quieter times. He has been working every day and helping me in countless ways. But most of the time I have not had the sorts of experiences of Him that I can really use as testimony.
I think most Christians probably find that their lives are quite similar in this respect.
Choosing to be witnesses
If you are a Christian who is not used to telling other people what you have seen God do, I would encourage you to get into the habit of doing this. Our notable experiences of Him should not usually be kept to ourselves.
Let us all, like Christians in the first century, choose to be witnesses of what we have seen the Lord do.