The History of the Testimony

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Grant Melville, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. The history of the Christian testimony is an immensely interesting and instructive subject. While there's no substitute for study of the scriptures and good teaching, Christian history is a profitable subject for any believer to take up. As believers, in a certain sense we can say that it's our history - more so than the history of our particular country of birth or our culture. The Church existed in the counsel, plans and purposes of God before time was. That being the case, its history is longer than any of the nations, cultures of institutions of man.

    Not all of us are interested in history, or have the leisure to spend reading, or even enjoy reading. While there's a good deal of literature online these days, many of us wouldn't know where to begin when researching a particular topic. That being the case, I thought it might be good to start some general discussion of the history of the Christian testimony - beginning, say, with John the Baptist, up until the present day. I don't know what format this should take, so I'm just putting the idea out there. My initial idea would be for people to post historical questions or topics which could then be answered or contributed to by others.

    I should say at the outset that I want to avoid controversy. This is not intended to be a source of argument or contention over historical doctrinal differences; rather a review of the historically established facts, which we can all make our own judgements about.

    What do they brethren think?
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  2. If we start with John the Baptist, the first thing which pops into my mind is that he was in the wilderness, I assume by choice, also fulfilling prophecy. He needed to be away from the bothersome Pharisees to be able to teach and baptize. There must be something to being alone in the wilderness which purifies, steeling one's resolve. Selfish desires definitely get put on the back burner.
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  3. History is very important to the Christian in this time based world in which we live. When I was a very young Christian I did not have a "history" with God to be able to "look" back in time and see how the Lord strengthened me to get through many difficult times. I had none of those things to look back on. It is very hard to trust in a person whom you know very little about, including God. As time goes forth the ability to trust in your best friend become much easier than before, because they have proven themselves to you through the years. If they were trust worthy back then, they will be trust worthy today. King David had a history with God when he said the Lord delivered him from the lion, and the bear, why would he not also deliver me from this giant Goliath. He probably would have had second thoughts about taking on Goliath if he did not have a history with his God. In the New Testament we find this....

    Heb 10:32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,
    Heb 10:33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.
    Heb 10:34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

    These people suffered great things in their lives, yet they endured great struggles, and sufferings. They took "joyfully" the plundering of their property!!
    If they did not a history with God before that, I guarantee they would not have been happy about all their property being taken from them. Being able to look back in time and seeing how the Lord always saw us through trials and tribulations is a very very powerful thing to have.
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  4. Good stuff. When I think of John the Baptist I think of a "bridge". He filled that gap from the Old Test. to the New Test. and was the one who came to introduce the Messiah.

    Then with all the talk and confusion over gifts and miracles and signs we hear today, of John Jesus made this comment.

    Matthew 11:11............
    "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

    Now the key to that is that John the Baptist did not come performing miracles or signs and wonders.
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  5. #5 Grant Melville, Sep 23, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
    Absolutely. In every way, John's position is totally opposite to that of the Pharisees. His location, his mode of dress, his diet, his activities - they're all such a contrast to what we know of the religious world of the Jews. In the eyes of the Pharisee, his behaviour was aberrant, "For John has come neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon." (Matthew 11:18). The believer in the Lord Jesus, who finds their strength and joy in Him, will always be misunderstood and accused by the religious world. The empty religious professor can never understand why the real believer does without the props and enjoyments of earthly religion, why they aren't "eating or drinking", figuratively speaking.

    John's food was of a different character altogether, "his nourishment was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4). Some say that the "locusts" referred to here weren't actually insects, but some sort of fruit. I don't know whether that's true or not, but a diet of locusts would suggest moral cleanness, they were a clean creature according to the Law. ("Yet these shall ye eat of every winged crawling thing that goeth upon all four: those which have legs above their feet with which to leap upon the earth." (Leviticus 11:21)). These creatures who could "leap upon the earth" might suggest an ability to rise above the earth and be free of its moral influence. Leviticus 11:29 would be a contrast, the crawling things which were unclean. The dietary law teaches us that we're formed by what we eat, spiritually, and shows us the characteristics that spiritual food gives us, and the character that unclean things give us. I think we can tell a good deal about John because of his choices, as you helpfully point out. Wild honey was the other part of his diet. Perhaps that would also suggest purity - honey is a food which doesn't spoil - and sweetness. The believer's pathway is through a wilderness scene, but we'd be sustained by wild honey, the sweetness of divine things.

    A garment of camel's hair and a leathern girdle were John's clothes. Camel's hair would be a resilient material, maybe suggestive of the protective nature of a near walk with God. A leathern girdle would also be functional and practical, and John was girt about his loins with it. In Ephesians, we're exhorted to "Stand therefore, having girt about your loins with truth..." (Ephesians 6:14). Girt loins in scripture is often suggestive of readiness for service, preparedness.

    Then we have his mission: "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the country round the Jordan, and were baptised by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matthew 3:5-6). Persons were drawn out of the city, and the region, and the country, to John and his baptism. Here were Jews who felt their sin and the sin of Israel, wholly unlike the self-righteous Pharisees and the heretical and exclusive Sadducees. By entering into the waters of baptism, they accepted death to themselves, and their disassociation with Israel's wanton sinfulness. I suppose that these were Jews who were wholeheartedly looking for their Messiah.

    But, the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to the baptism of John, nonetheless. I've heard it said that "the devil is a regular churchgoer", and I'd absolutely believe it. He'll try to insinuate himself at every opportunity, and be ready to spoil and distract where He can. Thanks be to God though for the great gift of the Holy Spirit! "*Ye* are of God, children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4). There is nothing the devil can do that can break in on the Spirit's power. John sends away these Pharisees and Sadducees with a rebuke and a warning.

    But, yes, there is something about the wilderness setting here which is very distinctive. Here, John shows the character of someone to whom the world morally is a wilderness, without charms or pleasures, and whose food is divine, and whose expectation is the coming One. There is nothing selfish about John. He is nothing in his own estimation, as we see from his preaching in Mark 1 and his response to the interrogation of the Levites in John 1. I've often been led to imagine his feelings when "two disciples heard him speaking, and followed Jesus". There would be no bitterness or sense of abandonment in John's heart when his disciples left him - his joy would be full that these two had heard the glad tidings - "Behold the Lamb of God." (John 1:36) - and were about to go with Jesus and see where He abode, and abide with Him.
  6. Very much so! I'm glad you've brought in the aspect of personal history, the believer's own history with God. We really see that with David, don't we? And with many others in scripture, of course! It's good to look back on our own history, and compose our own psalms.

    The history of the testimony, I believe, would be instructive in a similar way. When I look back on my own history, I see a good deal of my own unfaithfulness, but throughout everything, God's unfailing faithfulness. That would be Israel's history too. The Church's history has a lot of the same features.
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  7. #7 Grant Melville, Sep 23, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
    Yes, John as the bridge - it's an interesting thought, one well worth looking into - perhaps you can expand on it for us?

    The Spirit indwelling the believer is an amazing feature of the dispensation (if you'll excuse the use of that word), isn't it? Would that be what underlies the power displayed by even the least in the kingdom of heaven, what would mark him out?
  8. #8 CCW95A, Sep 24, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
    A thought, if there is no time in eternity how will those who never had a history with God, because of some illness or untimely accident be able to judge God faithful?
    I would say by the fact that we would not look back in time, but into eternity when God prepared all things for us from the foundation of the world. Knowing in advance what we already have from the Lord would be a way to judge God true, and faithful to his children.

    1Co 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"
    1Co 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

    God is faithful because of what he has already done for us, which he has shown to us by His Spirit.
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  9. Very much so! What a thought. That would be one of the many wonderful aspects of being brought into a sphere which is timeless and eternal. We would get an impression of that in 1 Peter 1:18-20: "... knowing that ye have been redeemed, not by corruptible things, as silver or gold, from your vain conversation handed down from your fathers, but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ, foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but who has been manifested at the end of times for your sakes..."
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  10. Yes and he was his brother / cousin. He grew up with Jesus. It is human nature to think little of the achievements of those you know. But John knew Jesus was someone special. Making John's testimony very significant.
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  11. I believe they were cousins. Jesus' brothers didn't believe in Him before His death.
    John 7:
    3 His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.

    6 Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

    10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
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  12. Even though Jesus, and John were related, John had no clue that Jesus was the Messiah, until he saw the Spirit of God come down and remain on him.

    Joh 1:31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel."
    Joh 1:32 And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
    Joh 1:33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'

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