The Strange Task of Witnessing About Light
Witnessing about light is a strange task if your aim is for people to see the light and believe in the light. Light illumines by itself. When you want someone to see a light, you don’t witness about the light, but you hold up the light. If you have a torch in your hand, and you want someone to see the torch, you don’t say, “This is a torch.” You hold up the torch.
But John 1:7 says that John the Baptist “came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.” So as strange as this task is, that was John’s mission. And it is ours too.
So what do we learn about our task when it is described as witnessing to the light?
1. We learn that Christ, the Light of the world (John 8:12), shines not like a physical torch before the physical eye, but like a spiritual glory before the spiritual eye. This is why Jesus said, “Seeing they do not see” (Matthew 13:13). And it is why Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:18, that you would have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” There is a seeing that we do with “the eyes of the heart,” not merely with the eyes of the head.
2. We learn that the light of Christ, this spiritual glory which we see with the eyes of the heart, shines mainly through the gospel. That is, it shines mainly through the witness of human beings about what Jesus accomplished when he died and rose again. This is strange. Light shines through words. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4–6,
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The glory of Christ is his light. This glory, Paul says, shines as “the light of the gospel.” That means it shines through a witness. When we witness to what Christ achieved for us in dying, we are “witnessing about the light.” That is how the light of Christ shines in this world. Deeds of love are crucial in this shining (Matthew 5:14–16). But deeds alone cannot witness effectually to the greatest glory of Christ, namely, his achievement on the cross. That light shines through the gospel in the mouths of witnesses.
3. We learn that people need to have the eyes of their hearts opened to see the light of Christ in the gospel. Jesus said to Paul when he sent him to witness to the light, “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:17–18).
God does this eye-opening work through human witnesses. Luke tells us that the way Lydia saw the light was that “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Paul witnessed. God opened her heart. So Paul prays that this would happen: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that [you would have] the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:16–18). God’s answer to that prayer is described in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “[God] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
So we witness about the light, even though we know that people are blind to this light. But that does not daunt us, because we know that God’s eye-opening power accompanies the witness about his Son.
4. We learn that the miracle of spiritual sight through the gospel happens when witnesses tell blind people to look at Christ and then describe what they will see when they look there. There is a mental analogy to this spiritual reality. Consider a typical optical illusion like this one:
Suppose someone only sees one picture in this illustration. They are “blind” to the other. Then you “witness” to them: “Look at this, there are two pictures: a girl’s face and a man playing a saxophone. That very witness opens their eyes to both pictures.
It’s only an analogy, because in the spiritual realm the process is not merely mental or natural. It is spiritual and supernatural. But we can get some idea of how it is possible to be spiritually blind and yet God can use a witness to open our eyes.
Therefore, don’t let the strangeness of witnessing about light stop you. It is gloriously strange. It is strange in a way that gives us hope that we really can help the blind to see. It is strange in a way that will get all the glory for God—both in the gospel itself and in the way people see the glory of Christ in it.
Seeing and speaking about the Light with you,