Bearing True Witness Against Those Who Pretend to Love God
Jesus promised good things to those who would keep His Word (Jn 8:51–52; 14:23–24; 15:20). The Jewish religious leaders had no place for His Word in them, and there was a reason, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason, you do not hear them because you are not of God (Jn 8:47).”
If there is no place for God’s Word, then there is no faith, either. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17). The religious leaders in Jerusalem did not believe in Jesus, and there was a reason, “But you do not believe because you are not My sheep (Jn 10:26).” The fact is that the followers of Jesus hear His voice, and they do follow Him, having believed in Him because of the Word spoken to them, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 5:24; Acts 10:42–47).
Stephen preached before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, having been arrested by the elders and scribes, who heard the testimonies of false witnesses (Acts 7:1–60). In his sermon, Stephen preached the history of Israel beginning with Abraham. He highlighted Moses, then David, then Solomon. These were all related by blood, being the family of Abraham, but they were also related by faith. This was Stephen’s point of contention. His countercharge against those who were pressing charges against him was they were in unbelief.
The uncircumcised heart is one of unbelief. Unbelief has consequences. Stephen pointed out that the religious leaders who killed Jesus, the Righteous One (Acts 7:52; 1 Jn 2:1), were following the pattern of their fathers, who had killed the prophets before Him. The unbeliever is naturally a son of Adam, the sinner. Spiritually, the unbeliever is a child of the devil (1 Jn 3:10). Jesus did not mince words when He brought this charge against the Jews in John 8.
If the Jews had no faith in Christ, then why were they pretending to love God? Jesus told them that they had no love for God in their hearts (Jn 5:42). The insidious nature of man-centered religion is that it looks good on the outside (e. g. robes, hats, rites, rituals, etc.), but it is rotten in the heart. The showiness is intended to draw attention away from God and toward man.
The devil marketed deification to Adam and Eve, promising that they too would be like gods (Gen 3:5). This means that God’s will, to bring glory to Himself, is an intrusion into the plans of man. In his heart, man hates God (Rom 1:30). Jesus is God (second Person of the Trinity), and thus, man hates Jesus because Jesus testifies that man’s deeds are evil (Jn 7:7). Man hates Jesus without a cause, and there is hatred for His followers, too (Jn 15:18–19, 24–25).
Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit and power, preached the truth to his hearers that day in Jerusalem. He testified that their deeds were evil. They proved that he was telling them the truth by committing murder against the servant of the Lord, even as they had done to Jesus.
Today, we must not coddle unbelievers, as if they were children hoping for some religious candy. In order to be a true witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8), one must be filled with the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11), to stand in the face of adversity and preach Christ crucified (1 Jn 2:2). Christians are witnesses to the truth, and God’s Word is truth (Ps 119:160; Jn 17:17).
In preaching the Word, in the Spirit, a separation occurs between those who have a place in them for God’s Word and those who do not. Resistance to the Word should be expected because the natural man cannot accept the things of God that are revealed to him (1 Cor 2:14). He does not believe because the Spirit has not implanted the Word in his or her heart (Jas 1:21). Without the Word of life, there is no faith, and without faith, there is no pleasing God (Heb 11:6), and when God rejects man’s works (Is 64:6), then man gets mad. His natural passion is to kill God. This is why Jesus repeatedly asked the Jews why they were trying to kill Him (Jn 7:19; 8:37, 40).
In conclusion, no one can love God unless God loves them first (1 Jn 4:19). God set His love upon His chosen people before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:9; 17:9). In love, He predestined His elect to adoption as His own children (Eph 1:4–5; 1 Jn 3:1, 10). Jesus Christ, who received the elect from His Father (Jn 6:37; 17:2, 6, 24), came into the world to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). Those who belong to Jesus hear His voice (Jn 10:16, 27). They love His Word preached to them. They believe the Word of God because the Spirit of God has given them faith (Rom 12:3; Gal 3:22; Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1).
The true witness loves God, and therefore, in obedience, he or she bears witness of the truth (Jesus Christ = God’s Word). The threat of consequences remains, today, as those who pretend to love God continue to kill Christ’s followers thinking they are doing service for God (Jn 16:2). He who loves the truth more than his own life will bear true witness, regardless. In this, Christian martyrs follow the example of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who followed Jesus Christ, of whom the prophets spoke about and who also were killed for the message they preached.
My dear reader, may God give you boldness in bearing true witness of Jesus Christ, to the chagrin of those who pretend to love God, and may God be merciful to those He has chosen to show mercy…for His glory and for your joy.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 8, 2021