Christian Witness by Word and Deed

jesus dends his disciples out to be witnesses in word and deed

Christian Witness by Word and Deed


The world needs to know the truth of the gospel, that the Messiah—Jesus the Savior, the Son of God—has come. And they need to know who God is, what he is like, and what he has done to prove his love for us. But how can they know? By true Christian witness—by word and deed.

Before he left the earth Jesus gave his last command to his followers to sow the gospel seed everywhere and make disciples from all nations. The Lord also promised that he would provide the power to fulfill his command:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The disciples were to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. And the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit was absolutely essential to complete their mission. Without the Spirit they would be going in their own strength, and incapable of fighting the powers of darkness that were sure to oppose them.


The Church as witness to the gospel

But even with the power of the Holy Spirit, it was obvious that the original disciples could never have fulfilled the Great Commission. Why? Because the earth is too big, and there are too many people, cultures, and languages. The task was too big for just 12 disciples. The whole Church—all believers—would have to be God’s instrument to complete the task.

But how can this happen if most of us are not evangelists? What part does the average believer play?

The answer is that we are all witnesses of what God has done for us through Christ. Some of us aren’t gifted or persuasive speakers. But all believers have the indwelling presence of God and at least one spiritual gift that we can use in our witness. As we live out our faith and use our spiritual gifts, God is revealed to the world.


Word and Deed


When we hear the word “witness,” preaching and teaching are mostly what come to our minds. But true Christian witness includes both words and deeds.

Jesus set the standard for public ministry for his disciples. His ministry consisted of preaching, teaching, and talking with people about God’s kingdom. But he also showed compassion to the helpless and desperate, and impartially showing love towards all. And when he sent his disciples out to train them, they were to preach the kingdom of God, but also to perform acts of mercy such as healing the sick (Luke 9:1-2). The two disciples who walked and talked with Jesus at Emmaus after his resurrection confessed this of Jesus:

He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. (Luke 24:19)

This idea of word and deed was repeated in the apostle Paul’s admonitions to the churches:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

God desires that every Christian be able to provide both a verbal witness and a life witness to Christ. People need the witness of both to understand who God is and what Christ has said and done. One without the other is incomplete.


Word Witness


Word witness is telling others about our faith, about the hope we have in Christ.  People need to hear specific revelation about God: his character attributes and especially his redeeming work through Christ. A few of us will have the privilege of sharing to groups of people through teaching or preaching. But for most of us, witnessing by word is simply sharing informally how God has worked in our lives to bring us into a relationship with him. Peter tells us to be prepared to give reason for why we have hope.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

Preparation could include memorizing a brief statement that summarizes the story of what God has done in our lives. When the topic comes up, we can then use it quickly without stumbling over our words. It’s also important to know the basics of the gospel message. Having a knowledge of Scripture prepares us for these discussions and the questions that are sure to come. This involves study and memorizing key verses.



There are two extremes that Christians can fall into when speaking of their faith: timidity and arrogance.

Timid Christians avoid speaking about their faith. They’re afraid of what other people think and say about them. But God tells us to be strong in our witness, as the Spirit God gives us is not timid.  It’s true that not all of us are evangelists. But all believers should take every opportunity God gives to speak about him.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)

We should never be ashamed of the gospel or of confessing Christ’s name.

At the very least we should be firm in what we believe and not give in to pressure to conform to someone else’s belief. Giving in to the beliefs of others is timidity at its worst. We should refuse to affirm what we don’t believe—regardless of pressure put on us—whether in theology, ethics, or politics.


Arrogance has no place in our Christian witness. An arrogant attitude causes damage to the name of Christ. It can also lead a Christian to think that they know all the answers, when in fact they only know certain answers. Christians know the gospel is true, and that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. But this doesn’t mean we also know the answers to every question people may have. And we shouldn’t pretend we know. Continuing in the 1 Peter 3 passage, the apostle Peter wrote:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Sometimes Christians can cause offense in their word witness by being disrespectful and “in-your-face.” Certain Christian groups and preachers seem to be prone to this problem. But this actually pushes people away from Christ. It’s so important that we confess our faith with gentleness and respect! Our goal is to persuade, not to confront. Brash and disrespectful preaching is abhorred by most people. It also discredits the gospel, damages the church, and dishonors the name of Christ. A gentle and respectful approach will disarm our critics and give them little room to reproach us for our faith.

All things to all people

When sharing our faith, we should avoid using Christian jargon. And if we use theological words or quote difficult passages, we should explain their meaning. To persuade people, we need to avoid deliberately offending them and appeal to their God-given reason. We need to meet them half-way as Paul did:

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.    (1 Corinthians 9:22)


Arguing with unbelievers just to win an argument doesn’t advance God’s kingdom. It only advances our own personal pride. And it lessens the chance a person will repent and come to faith.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Words of grace

Word witness is also speaking words of grace: words of God’s love for the lost, encouragement to the discouraged, and hope to the hopeless. The world needs to know that there is absolute truth, unconditional love, and a purpose and meaning in life. And these conversations may lead to a discussion about Christ who is the center of our faith. Paul commanded that our words be full of grace:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)

This means being respectful and giving people freedom to respond with what they think and believe. It also means valuing them as individuals even when they contradict us. Grace-filled conversation is just as much word witness as sharing the gospel message itself. By it, people get a better picture of what God is like.


Deed Witness


Some Christians think that their only job is to tell the gospel to everyone they know. But solely focusing on telling people the gospel presents an unbalanced view of God. In reality, witness by deed is just as important as the word witness. In fact, having words without deeds is hypocrisy. Every believer must have both.

Witnessing by deed means living the gospel out in our lives. As we live out our faith, we show the character of God in our actions and way of life: love, mercy, kindness, holiness. And we serve God and one another in humility. The Beatitudes give us a good template for how God’s people should conduct themselves in this world.

And as we live as Christ lived, opportunities to share our faith will come. That’s because people will see us as trustworthy, worth getting to know, and worth listening to. People just aren’t interested in listening to a rude, untrustworthy, or obnoxious person. There’s nothing more embarrassing to the church than an overzealous and insensitive religious person whose life doesn’t reflect what they preach.

Before we speak out in Christ’s name, we need to be living a life that honors him. Not that we have to be perfect Christians to speak about Christ. But if we treat people poorly or don’t reflect God in our behavior, our spoken words about God will actually push people away from him. This is because the image of God we provide to others will be a negative one, and they will associate God with our poor behavior. It also gives unbelievers an opportunity to mock the Christian faith.

Sincere love for others

Our love for people is not just to lead them to a commitment to Christ. We love people for who they are, because they are made in God’s image and are of great worth to him. People can tell if our love is sincere, or if we’re just trying to get them to become a Christian.

Telling people about God’s love isn’t enough. They need to see it demonstrated to understand it. When we value people and show sincere love, others can see what it is.



God’s people should avoid controversies that lead nowhere. Christians that subscribe to or publish questionable or salacious stories or conspiracies about other people, churches, or organizations discredit the gospel. People start to characterize all Christians as vengeful, weird, or detached from reality.

The apostle Paul also had to deal with this problem. But in his day, people were fixated on myths and genealogies:

… command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.   (1 Timothy 1:3-5)

The goal of Christian witness is to advance God’s work, not promote controversies or conspiracy theories. To advance God’s work, God’s people should live in love: love for God and for others.

Three pillars of an effective witness

For an effective Christian witness, the believer’s life should be characterized by these three supporting pillars:

  • pure heart: One who is pure in heart is innocent, honest, and sincere, without malice or evil intent, and free of evil thoughts and desires.
  • good conscience:  This means avoiding sins that compromise our relationship with God, pollute our conscience, and destroy our witness for Christ.
  • sincere faith: Our faith should be sincere and authentic, not hypocritical, fake, or done for show.


The power of an authentic Christian witness

Marian Pearce (my wife Nancy’s great aunt) contracted polio at an early age. She lost use of her legs and was bedridden for much of her adult life. She lived alone in poverty after her abusive husband was committed to a mental institution. But her faith in Christ was strong. Her love for God and for others, her patient endurance, the joy she had from God, her many acts of kindness, her encouraging notes to her wayward teenage niece, her love for God’s Word, and her unapologetic confession of her faith—all these made her Christian witness powerful and exemplary. In spite of her difficult life, she influenced many people, including my wife.

A woman who cared for Marian’s needs at the end of her life wrote this to Nancy:

… [what a] rich blessing it is to care for your aunt Marian Pearce…. Her wisdom from the Word of God, her pleasant manner and desire to live to the glory of God have combined to make her life one of the most outstanding for God I’ve ever known. God has used her to give me a lasting impression of true Christianity and I thank God for letting her cross my path…

Take a Christian witness inventory

How is your Christian witness to the world? What would someone write about you before you died? It might be good to take an inventory. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my witness balanced with both word and deed?
  • Do my deeds match my words?
  • Am I silent or timid before those who question the faith? Do I pass up opportunities to tell others about our Lord?
  • Do people see me as a good representative of Christ? Or do they see me as an offensive person not worthy of respect?
  • Have I fallen into arrogance about my faith and understanding of the Bible? Do I think I know way more than I really do?
  • Do I gravitate toward quarrels and controversies?
  • Am I fond of unproven theories and conspiracies that dominate my conversations rather than Christ?
  • Is my life characterized by a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith?

May God give you understanding of where you are spiritually and of your witness to the world. And may he give you the grace to grow in your faith and make the necessary changes to provide the authentic witness for Christ the world really needs.




Christ in Scripture is listed on Feedspot Top 200 Christian Blogs.

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