TESTIMONY IS NOT THE GOSPEL
from R.C. Sproul
So they again called the
man who was blind, and said to him, "Give God the glory!
We know that this Man is a sinner." He answered and said,
"Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I
know: that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:24-25).
This statement, "Give God the glory!" seems positive
until we read the remainder of the sentence, in which the Pharisees
revealed that they had concluded that Jesus was a sinner and therefore
could not have performed the miracle. They were saying that the
man should give glory to God, not to Jesus. The man was straightforward
with them, saying: "I don't know whether He's a sinner. I
don't even know Him. All I know is this: once I was blind and
now I see."
With these simple words, the man bore witness to Christ. He testified
about the redemptive work of Christ. However, he did not preach
the gospel. What am I getting at? In the evangelical Christian
community, we sometimes employ language that is not always sound
or biblical. You've heard the lingo. It goes something like this:
"I plan to become an evangelist so I can bear witness to
Christ." Or sometimes we say, "I had a chance to witness
the other day," meaning, "I shared the gospel with someone."
We tend to use the terms evangelism and witnessing interchangeably,
but they are not synonymous. Any time I call attention to the
person and work of Christ, I am bearing witness to Christ. But
that is not the same thing as preaching the gospel.
More than thirty years ago, I learned the evangelism technique
taught by Evangelism Explosion, and I trained more than 250 people
in that program and led them through evangelism efforts in Ohio.
One of the finest aspects of that program is that everyone who
goes through it must write out and memorize his or her testimony.
Your testimony is your story of how you became a Christian. I
think it's very important that Christians are able to articulate
to other people how and why they became believers. We all should
have a prepared testimony, and we should be willing to share it
at the drop of a hat.
But we shouldn't confuse our personal testimonies with the gospel.
Sharing our personal testimonies is not evangelism. It's merely
pre-evangelism, sort of a warm-up for evangelism. Our testimonies
may or may not be significant or meaningful to those with whom
we are speaking. There are lots of folks who can relate to my
story; they say, "Yeah, I know what he's talking about because
I used to live like that too." But not everyone can relate
to my story. In any case, the gospel is not what happened to R.C.
Sproul. God makes no promise that He will use my story as His
power unto salvation. The gospel is not about me. The gospel is
about Jesus. It is the proclamation of the person and work of
Christ, and of how a person can appropriate the benefits of the
work of Christ by faith alone.
We see this from our passage in John's Gospel. The healed man
could say, "I once was blind, but now I see," and that
was a wonderful testimony. But it was not the gospel. The man
could not tell the Pharisees about Jesus' saving work and about
how they could be delivered from their sins by faith in Him. So
we need to learn not only our testimonies but the concrete elements
and content of the biblical gospel. Evangelism takes place when
the evangel is proclaimed and announced to people-that is the