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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, September 8, 2013

“For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15).

The Apostle Paul gave his salvation testimony many times. It is recorded three times in the Book of Acts, and referred to several times in his epistles. I am not going to go into the details this morning. I will just show you the central thing that Paul spoke of when he gave his testimony.

The day when we were saved is the most important day in our lives. If you are truly born again you will look back on the time you were saved and rejoice over it. And when you give your testimony it should center on that time, and on what Jesus did for you then.

When Paul was saved a man named Ananias came and prayed for him. He received his sight that day. Ananias told him more about Jesus, whom he called “that Just One” (Acts 22:14). Then Ananias said,

“Thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15).

That little sentence, that Ananias spoke to the newly converted Paul, gives us the essence of what every Christian should focus on when he gives his testimony. In this sermon I want to tell you how to give your testimony as “his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” I will speak, very simply, first on the wrong way to give your testimony, and then on the right way to give it.

I. First, the wrong way to give your testimony.

Of course, if you are not yet converted, you don’t have a salvation testimony, and therefore you should not try to give one, or make one up! Ananias told Paul he would be Christ’s “witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” Since you are not converted yet, you haven’t seen or heard anything that will help a lost sinner to trust Jesus and be saved. The best thing for you to do is not say anything. Whatever you say will be wrong, since you have never seen or heard anything about Jesus that saved you, yourself.

The best thing for you to do is admit that you are not yet a Christian, and don’t try to give a testimony at all. Just try to get the person you are talking to into church to hear the Gospel preached. That’s all you can do if you are not saved.

Yet there are those who try to give a testimony, but do it in the wrong way. Sometimes people think that arguing with sinners is the same as giving a testimony. But they are wrong. The Apostle Peter said,

“Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).

What I want to bring out here are the words, “with meekness and fear.” The modern translation puts it “with gentleness and reverence.” Your testimony should never come across as an argument. That’s why I don’t particularly like the word “defence” replacing the KJV “answer” in the NASV.  It is true that the Greek word could be translated “defence.” But the context makes the word “answer” a better choice. And I think that is why the NIV retains “answer.” A “defence” bristles with negativity. This is not the meaning here, as we see from the qualifiers at the end of the verse, “with meekness and fear” (or “with gentleness and reverence,” NIV).

Also the “answer” is not to be forced on the lost person whenever we want. The verse says we are to be ready to answer “every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

When I was very young I used to become irritated when I heard someone speak against Christ or the Bible. I defended them at every opportunity. But it had no effect in winning people to Christ. As I got older I usually waited for the right opportunity. People often ask you a question about your faith. When they do, answer them gently and reverently. They will think about your answer for weeks, and even months and years, if you answer sweetly and reverently.

When I was at the liberal Southern Baptist seminary I had already learned this great truth. Though I answered the professors sharply, I had learned to simply give my own testimony of what Jesus did for me, “with gentleness and reverence” to the lost men in my class. As a result God used my words of testimony in the lives of two graduate students, who were hardened liberals. Both of them sought me, after they were saved, and thanked me with tears for witnessing to them about what Jesus did for me. So, the first mistake is to think that your testimony should take the form of a debate or argument. “I’ll show those dirty sinners that they are wrong!” That attitude won’t win anyone to Christ.

The second mistake is to have your testimony center on your sin. We have often heard people say they were giving a testimony about Christ, when they were really giving a testimony about their sin. I have heard people talk on and on about their sins, giving lots of “juicy” details. I remember one fellow who went into great detail about the different girls he had sex with. It held everyone’s attention – but it did not glorify Jesus or help to get anyone saved! The Apostle Paul said that sexual sin, filthiness, and all uncleanness and “foolish talking” should “not be named among you” (Ephesians 5:3-4). A so-called “testimony” that centers on giving a long list of sins will not help anyone to be saved. I heard one person talk about a demon with great liveliness. But after a vivacious description of her encounters with the demon, she simply said, “Then I came to Jesus,” and sat down. What she really did was to give a testimony about a demon – with the briefest possible mention of Jesus at the end! Testimonies centered on sin and the devil will not help anyone to be interested in finding Jesus. If such testimonies do anything, it will be to cause the lost person to take greater interest in illicit sex or the occult. That kind of “testimony” will not make anyone interested in Jesus!

Thirdly, a testimony centered on “backsliding” will do more harm than good. If you talk about being saved, then going deeply into sin, and finally rededicating your life, you will not help lost sinners get saved. You will only confuse them! The Apostle Paul said, “Let all things be done unto edifying” (I Corinthians 14:26). A “testimony” that focuses on “backsliding” doesn’t edify anyone. Furthermore, it tells lost people, ahead of time, that they can backslide also. Why do that? I don’t think testimonies that focus on backsliding should be permitted in any services. They simply don’t edify anyone! And they certainly don’t cause lost sinners to want Christ! Why should they be interested in a Christ who meant so little that a person backslid from Him? Testimonies that center on backsliding will not help lost sinners to seek Christ! A testimony like that may make a new-evangelical woman in the church happy, but it will not help a lost sinner!

Fourthly, a testimony that centers on the story of your life will not benefit a lost person. I am not telling you that you shouldn’t say anything about your life. In a testimony you must say some things about your life and experience. But you must select only those parts of your life that glorify Christ. As Ananias said to Paul, “thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15). You must be “His witness” – telling others what you have seen and heard, and experienced, about Him.

Dr. Chan knows how to do this very well. He tells how he was a sick boy, confined to a hospital room for months on end, thinking about the meaning of life. He says, “My life was very empty. It actually hurt.” Then he tells us that he studied very hard, that he was driven to get straight A’s so he could get into medical school, and please his mother by becoming a doctor. But becoming a doctor did not satisfy him. Then he knew that nothing in this world would ever give him peace.

He tells us how he heard me preach the Gospel when he was twenty. He said I preached the Gospel so forcefully and convincingly that he felt "awestruck." He said, “I knew that I must have Jesus.” He said he felt irresistibly drawn to Jesus. “He encountered me, and I knew that my sins were washed away in His Blood, and that I was made whole. I knew I had a new life with Christ in our local church. I knew my life would never be the same. The experience was so real to me, and remained so vivid in my mind, that it seemed to have occurred only yesterday.”

This is a Christ-centered testimony. This is the kind of testimony we should all be able to give, telling lost people what it was like before we were saved, and then telling them what Christ has done for us. Dr. Chan did not tell us the whole story of his life. He only told the parts of his life that show how miserable and hopeless life is without Christ, and how knowing Christ personally brings life and peace. These are the elements that should be central in a conversion testimony. You should leave out many of the details of your life, and only focus on the central message – how it feels to be lost and hopeless, and how Christ pardons our sin and gives us a new and better life. A testimony that focuses on the details of your whole life will bore people. Their minds will drift away while you are talking. But they will be very interested if you tell them what it felt like to be lost, and what it feels like to be saved by Jesus. As Ananias told Paul, “thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15).

The fifth mistake people make is to have their testimony centered only on their church. It is one thing to invite people to a party at the Baptist church. But that is not a testimony. It is right to talk about having a good time at church when you are inviting people to come. But when you are called on to give your testimony, you must not center what you say on the church. You must be able to speak about Jesus, about what it was like when you were lost – and about what Jesus has done to save you, pardon your sins, and give you hope and joy. “For thou shalt be his witness...of what thou hast seen and heard.” You can say a few words about church, but it should not be very much.

If you can’t say inspiring and joyful things about the Christ you have encountered, if all you can talk about is the church, then it probably shows that Jesus has never saved you. All you can talk about is what happens in church. You can’t say anything exciting and inspiring about Jesus Christ, because you have never known Him personally. And so, a church-centered “testimony” probably reveals that you still have an unconverted heart.

That is also true of those whose testimonies are centered on a divine healing of their body, or a great answer to prayer, or some other spiritual phenomenon. If any of those things are central, and most prominent in their testimony, it is not a salvation testimony – it is not a Christ-honoring testimony, and it will not inspire lost people to want Jesus to save them. Such testimonies often do more harm than good because they cause lost people to think about some spiritual phenomenon rather than Jesus Christ. He must have the preeminence! He must be central. He must be the one who inspires us with hope, and peace, and joy that the world does not know!

II. Second, the right way to give your testimony.

You must have a testimony of salvation or you can’t give one! Many people can’t testify about Jesus because they have never been saved by Him in the first place! They cannot be witnesses of what they have seen and heard of Him, because they have never seen or heard from Him! All they can do is get in an argument. All they can do is talk about their sin. All they can do is talk about backsliding. All they can do is talk about the details of their life. All they can do is talk about their church. All they can do is talk about God healing their body. All they can talk about is an answer to prayer, or some other spiritual experience. They cannot give a testimony about being saved by Jesus – simply because they have never been saved by Jesus! So, the right way to give your testimony can’t be learned until you actually have a testimony of being saved by Jesus!

That’s what lost people want to hear! They want to hear what the Lord Jesus Christ can do for them! Yes, we must tell them that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for their sins. But how does that affect them? They want to know how it affected you! Yes, we must tell them that Jesus rose physically from the dead. But how does that change their lives? They want to know how it changed your life!

Dr. John R. Rice did exactly what Ananias told Paul to do,

“For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15).

Listen to Dr. Rice’s great song, “Jesus, Only Jesus.” In this song Dr. Rice gives a perfect testimony centered on Jesus Christ Himself. Listen to the words of his Christ-centered testimony. Then make this a pattern for your own testimony, the next time you give it.

I walked the path of pleasure, I toiled for earthly treasure,
   But peace beyond all measure, I found in only Jesus.
My sins are all forgiven, The chains of sin are riven,
   And all my heart is given, To Jesus, only Jesus.

My boasted goodness failed me, No cure for sin that ailed me,
   God’s Spirit then prevailed me To leave my sins on Jesus.
My sins are all forgiven, The chains of sin are riven,
   And all my heart is given, To Jesus, only Jesus.

Oh Christ, for love unceasing, For blessings e’er increasing,
   For all my fears releasing, I praise and love my Jesus.
My sins are all forgiven, The chains of sin are riven,
   And all my heart is given, To Jesus, only Jesus.
(“Jesus, Only Jesus” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

Would you like to have Jesus give you peace? Would you like to have all your sins forgiven by Jesus? Will you leave all your sins on Jesus? If you desire these things from Jesus, and you are willing to come to Him in simple faith this morning, please leave your seat right now and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet room to pray. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will come to Jesus, and give their heart to Him this morning. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Acts 22:6-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, Only Jesus” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:15).

(Acts 22:14)

I.  First, the wrong way to give your testimony, I Peter 3:15;
Ephesians 5:3-4; I Corinthians 14:26.

II. Second, the right way to give your testimony, Acts 22:15.