Growing up in Evangelical churches, we heard often from folks who wanted to share their testimony with the church. A lot of weight was given to the sharing of one’s testimony. In fact, it was weighted so heavily that many times I heard caveats that both disturbed and discouraged me in my faith. Caveats such as, “well, my testimony isn’t nearly as powerful as that of brother so-and-so” or “I don’t have much of a testimony, because I grew up in a Christian home”. Such rubbish. This is NOT Biblical, and I want to end the week by looking at what our testimony is.
Your Testimony isn’t about you
We will look at the Biblical definition of what a testimony is, and what our testimony is supposed to be in a minute, but I want to point out that the major flaw in the caveats I mentioned is that they betray a fundamentally flawed view that a testimony is about the person giving it. It isn’t. Have you ever heard someone give their testimony and start to get a little uncomfortable about how they keep going on and on about how bad they were? We get into weird competitions over who was the “most bad” person was before they were saved.
Everyone born of man is born equally dead in sin. Sin isn’t a merely list of wrongdoings, it is a state of being.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Romans 3:9-20 (ESV)
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Apart from the Gospel, no one is righteous, nor can they be made righteous or justified in God’s sight, even by the Law. Man’s need for Jesus Christ is Universal. In the same way, all who have come to the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ share in that same testimony, that we all need Jesus. We don’t need to add to our sinfulness to amplify the Gospel. On some levels, we want people to know that the Gospel finding ME was such a super big deal that no one should ever doubt in it. But that isn’t the focus of the Gospel, it is a blanket truth for all of mankind. Unless the Gospel of Jesus Christ finds you, you have no hope of salvation. And that is why we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our testimony isn’t supposed to glorify our sin; rather, it is supposed to focus on the Word of God.
Now, let us take a look at some Biblical foundations of what a Testimony truly is so that we might have a better understanding of what it means to share your testimony.
The Ark of the Covenant
If you remember in a post from earlier in the week I made reference to how the Passover Lamb pointed to Jesus on the Cross, as an atonement, the final atonement for all our sin. How in the Israelites leaving Egypt points to our being rescued out of the kingdom of Darkness, and how their passing through the Red Sea points to our water Baptism which represents joining Christ in His death and burial and resurrection to a new life in Him. We also compared the wandering of Israel for a generation in the wilderness to our living in a fallen and sinful world as we make our way to the Promised Land which in our case is the Kingdom of Heaven by the blood of Jesus Christ. In keeping with that same imagery, let us now turn to Exodus 25, when God commanded Moses to build an ark.
Exodus 25:10-22 (ESV)
10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on itsfour feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.
17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.
Now, outside of the Law of Moses, this ark is most commonly referred to in the Bible as the Ark of the Covenant. What we see in Exodus and in Numbers, though, is that it is referred to several times as the Ark of the Testimony. I hadn’t noticed that before, so it’s very exciting for me to read now. We see here God instructing the building of the ark, and he tells Moses that he will be giving him a testimony that should be placed into the ark. Before we get to that, notice where the mercy seat of God is placed… over the testimony. We can already see here, that the Mercy Seat of God rests atop the Testimony that God will give. Let us move ahead a bit as we follow the instructions regarding the ark.
Exodus 26:31-35 (ESV)
31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.
This veil, is the one that was found split when Christ died on the cross. Notice that before Christ, the veil separated God’s people from the mercy seat except for certain times, and then only by proxy (the High Priest). Now, let’s jump ahead a bit (Moses was given a lot of instructions here) to chapter 34.
Exodus 34:27-35 (ESV)
27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
34 Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Praise the Lord. The testimony is the Law of God, the 10 Commandments. They were given to Israel as a testimony to His Covenant with them. If you read from the beginning of the chapter, you see God instructing Moses to bring 2 fresh tablets to replace the ones that he smashed after seeing the sin of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. Those, too, were called the tablets of the testimony.
Exodus 31:18 (ESV)
18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
Exodus 32:15-16 (ESV)
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
Exodus Chapter 40 concludes the instructions given to Moses regarding the tabernacle and the ark.
Exodus 40:16-21 (ESV)
16 This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
The Day of Atonement
Now that we know that the testimony Moses was to place inside the ark was the two tablets of the testimony. They were placed into the ark of the Testimony, upon which rested the Mercy Seat of God, and all of it was behind the veil. Let us skip ahead to Leviticus to see the Ark of the Testimony and the Mercy Seat.
Leviticus 16:1-5 (ESV)
1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2 and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. 5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
Leviticus 16:11-16 (ESV)
11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.
We see a great deal going on here, but I wanted to point out this Day of Atonement and the special place of the ark of the Testimony and the Mercy Seat, and the blood of the atoning sacrifice. All of this points to Christ.
Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant*
In closing, I recommend reading the book of Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews explains the 2 covenants beautifully, and when you read through it, take the time to cross-reference the Old Testament passages.
Hebrews 8 (ESV)
1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
And the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, is that this new covenant is available to all people, not just the Jew. And our testimony, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 19:9-10 (ESV)
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Amen. Whenever you share your testimony, know that what you are sharing is not supposed to point to you; rather, it is to point to a risen Savior, whose blood was shed on your behalf, so that you can stand before the Mercy Seat of God without fear of judgement.
Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Grace and Peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord,