Brother Duncan Heaster is a young brother in his early thirties, and the son of Brother Marcus Heaster. Although
he now lives in Vilnius, Lithuania, his preaching and pastoral work takes him across one quarter of the world’s
land surface. Since living there he has travelled to some of the most desolate and uninviting places in Russia
and other countries to conduct baptisms or to strengthen the faith of one who has become a brother in Christ.
Prior to moving to Lithuania, he spent considerable time in Africa, preaching and following up contacts. We
would mention that Brother Duncan has been invited to visit Australia by the Bible Mission and will be speaking
in all capital cities and several provincial towns to brethren and sisters throughout August and September. We
encourage all who can to attend the meeting that will be in their area and so gain a firsthand appreciation of
God’s expanding work in these lands.

May I present the conclusion of this study first: we each one, by reason of our being in Christ, and by the very nature of the God we serve, are of ourselves witnesses to the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, we each must go out into our own worlds, as far as we are able, and shed abroad the light of His knowledge to all men.

We Witness Because We are In Christ

 All that is true of the Lord Jesus likewise becomes binding upon us, because we are in Him. We too are lights in the dark world (Matt 5:14; Phil 2:15), because we are in Christ, the light of the world (John 9:5). As the Lord was the light of those that sat in darkness (Matt 4:16), so Paul writes as if all the believers are likewise (Rom 2:19). Paul takes a prophecy concerning how Christ personally would be the light of the whole world (Isa 49:6), and applies it to himself in explanation of why he was devoted to being a light to the whole world himself: “For so hath the Lord commanded us , saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles…” (Acts 13:47). Paul even says that this prophecy of Christ as the light of the world was a commandment to him. All that is true of the Lord Jesus likewise becomes binding upon us, because we are in Him. Note that Paul says that God has commanded us to witness; it wasn’t that Paul was a special case, and God especially applied Isaiah’s words concerning Christ as light of the Gentiles to Paul. They apply to us, to all who are in Christ. Because of this, other parts of Isaiah’s servant songs are quoted concerning us. Take Isaiah 49:8,9: “In an acceptable time have I answered thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee [quoted about us in 2 Corinthians 6:2 in the context of us being preachers]: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages; saying to them that are bound, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves” (RV). This is the language of the Lord’s preaching, which freed men from the prison house (Isa 61:1,2). Yet because we are in Him, we too have His ministry; our words too can make men inherit the Kingdom, and free men from their bondage. Their salvation is to some extent delegated to us; they will not hear without a preacher.

Not only must we preach because our Lord preached. We must witness as He witnessed. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace” (Isa 52:7) is a preface to one of the servant songs, concerning the Lord’s crucifixion that enabled this witness to be made. It evidently concerns the Lord personally. But the Spirit changes the pronouns: “How shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings” (Rom 10:15). Paul is answering the objection: “Where is the commission for us to go preaching?”. “Why”, Paul is saying, “the Lord preached, with a surpassing beauty about His manner; and as we are in Him, this naturally applies to us”. And thus Paul could change the pronoun. In our preaching we make manifest the savour of Christ, we pray men in His stead, as His ambassadors (2 Cor 2:14; 5:20). Or take the parable of the sower. “Who’s the sower?” is an old question. It is pre-eminently the Lord himself. But our preaching is likewise a sowing of the Word, and as we do it, we are in the Sower himself.

When Paul wrote that “the servant of the Lord must not strive” in his preaching ministry (2 Tim 2:24), he was alluding back to how the servant song described Yahweh’s servant Jesus in His preaching as not striving or lifting up His voice in proud argument (Isa 42:2; cp Matt 12:19). And Paul goes on: “… but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing…”. This is all a pen picture of the Lord’s witness to men in rural Galilee 2000 years ago. And yet it is applied to us today. “Apt to teach” is surely an allusion to the way in which the Lord taught the people “as he was wont” (Mark 10:1). So because we are in Him, we must witness as He did, with something of that same ineffable mixture of candour, meekness and Divine earnestness for man’s salvation.

We Witness From Our Experience of Forgiveness

 There is a link between experience of forgiveness and the witness that naturally and unashamedly is made in response to it.

  • Isaiah realised his unworthiness: “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips”. He felt he was going to be condemned. But then the Angel comforted him: “Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged”. And then immediately he offered to go on a preaching mission to Israel: “Here am I, send me” (Isa 6:5–8).
  • Capturing the spirit of Isaiah, Peter fell down at Christ’s feet: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. But the Lord responded: “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:8–10). So Peter’s deep recognition of his sinfulness resulted in him being given a preaching commission. And in similar vein, Peter was given another commission to teach the word the first time he met Christ after his denials (John 21:15–17). In response to this he stood up and preached that forgiveness of sins was possible to all those that are afar off from God (Acts 2:39). As he did so, consciously or unconsciously, part of his mind must have been back in that shameful night when he followed the Lord “afar off”, and far off from Him, denied Him (Mark 14:54).
  • The even greater commission to go into all the world with the Gospel followed straight on from Christ upbraiding the eleven “with their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mark 16:14,15). That “upbraiding” must have left them wallowing in their weakness. It would have been quite something. The Son of God upbraiding his friends. But straight on from that: “Go ye… go ye into all the world” (cp Matt and Mark—“go ye” was said twice). Mark’s record stresses three times in the lead up to this that they “believed not”; and then, he records how they were told to go and preach condemnation on those who believed not (Mark 16:11,13,14,16). They were humbled men who did that.
  • Paul describes himself as having been called by God, by grace; and in this context he comments how he called the Galatians to the grace of Christ (Gal 1:6 cp v15). His response to his calling of grace was to go out and preach, thereby calling men to that same grace, replicating in his preaching what God had done for him. Paul seems to ascribe his own unflagging zeal for preaching to his experience of God’s gracious forgiveness of him. And further, he speaks in the third person, suggesting that his fellow preachers had a like motivation: “Therefore, seeing we have this ministry (of preaching), as we have received mercy, we faint not” (2 Cor 4:1).
  • The Samaritan woman at the well had a sense of shame and deep self-knowledge come over her, as she realised that Christ knew her every sin. It was with a humble sheepishness that she confessed: “I have no husband”, because she was living in sin. She was converted by that well. Immediately she “left her waterpot, and went her way into the city (the record inviting us to watch her from a distance), and saith to the men (significantly), Come, see a man… is not this the Christ?” (John 4:17,28,29). There was a wondrous mixture of enthusiasm and shyness in those words: “Come, see a man…”. It is a feature of many new converts that their early preaching has a similar blend. It is stressed that men believed because of the way the woman told them, “He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:39). He had recounted her past sins to her (4:18,19). And she now, in matchless humility, goes and tells her former life to her associates, using the very words of description which the Lord had used. He convicted her of her sins, and this conviction resulted in her unashamed witness.

We Witness Because We Have The Truth

  • The Spirit (‘The Lord the spirit’, Jesus) and the bride (the ecclesia) say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come” (Rev 22:17). The whole spirit of the Lord Jesus is to invite others to come and share his salvation. He that hears will say to others “Come”. How purely natural this process is can be seen by observing the way in which people learning the Truth very often share their new-found knowledge with others. Time and time again this happens; a student on the correspondence course will introduce what he has learnt to others. And in the Millennium, the mortals will preach to other mortals as they begin to understand the Gospel (Isa 2:3; Jer 50:5; Mic 4:2; Zech 8:21). We so often hide behind excuses: my Bible’s not marked, I don’t know all the verses, it’s better if someone else does it, I might not say the right thing. All this is symptomatic of a very serious basic problem: perhaps we don’t really believe the basic doctrines of the Gospel as we should. New converts are generally characterised by an uninhibited zeal and success in preaching to others, even though their familiarity with the Bible may not be that great. It has been a real joy recently to see new believers making so many converts. If we really believe, we will naturally, as an intrinsic aspect of believing, talk about it—and not just for the first year or so after our baptism.
  • Peter sums it up in his defence: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). He told the Sanhedrin that to make true Christians agree not to preach was simply an inappropriate suggestion, because “we cannot but speak” out—it was something which went part and parcel with the experience of the risen Lord Jesus.
  • The account of the disciples’ response to the realisation of the resurrection shows perfectly how men will rise above every barrier, both within them and without, to speak the good news of what they now realise to be absolute truth. Mary “went and told them that had been with him”, the brokendown women “with great joy… did run to bring his disciples word”, those on the Emmaus road “went and told it unto the residue”, “the other disciples therefore” told Thomas, John told Peter “It is the Lord”, and finally they all “went forth, and preached everywhere” the news of the resurrection (Matt 28:8; Mark 16:10,13,20; John 20:25; 21:7). The speed and spirit of the narrative pounds away at a major theme—the natural desire to tell others the Gospel of the Lord’s resurrection. This same spirit of urgently passing on good news pervades the preaching recorded in Acts. It seems almost certain that as a community we have generally failed for all too long to appreciate the height of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, and the glorious wonder of his resurrection. Peter and John had seen Jesus despised, hated, dropping from exhaustion in the boat, slumping dehydrated at a well, covered in blood and spittle, mocked in naked shame. And now they knew that he had risen, that he had been exalted to God’s right hand, so as to make the salvation of men possible. They could do nothing but speak this out. The fact they spoke a-grammatos(Acts 4:13 Gr), without proper grammar, the fact they weren’t, humanly speaking, the right men for the job… all this meant nothing to them. The height of the Lord’s exaltation and the salvation this enabled just had to be shared with others. If only we can grasp the wonder of who the Lord Jesus has been exalted to be, if we can enter more deeply into the real meaning of that empty tomb, the Son of God stooping and walking out into that early morning, we too will have that same natural, uninhibited desire and ability.
  • I’d paraphrase Acts 5:28–31 like this: “Question: Why do you keep preaching when we told you not to? Answer: Christ rose from the dead, ‘and him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance’”. The blessings now mediated by the exalted Lord mean that whatever the barriers, those who appreciate those blessings and the height, the pure, wondrous height of his exaltation and what this thereby enables for us, will naturally preach it.
  • The enigmatic John 7:38 must be read in this context: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (‘innermost being’) shall flow rivers of living (‘spring’) water”. What “scripture” did the Lord have in mind? Surely Ezekiel 47:1,9, the prophecy of how in the Millennium, rivers of spring water will come out from Zion and bring life to the world; and perhaps, too, the references to spring water being used to cleanse men from leprosy and death (Lev 14:5; 15:13; Num 19:17). Out of the innermost being of the true believer, the spring(ing) water of the Gospel will naturally spring up and go out to heal men, both now and more fully in the Kingdom, aided then by the Spirit gifts. The believer, every believer, whoever believes, will preach the word to others from his innermost being, both now and in the Kingdom—without the need for preaching committees or special efforts (not that in themselves I’m decrying them).
  • The Lord deftly broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, in evident anticipation of the breaking of bread and His death for the life of the world. They then presumably broke the bread again and in their turn gave it to the crowd. Our receipt from the Lord, our experience of His cross, must be reflected quite naturally in our sharing it with the world. Our witness to the world is therefore not just putting bits of paper in letterboxes or handing them out on the streets; it is a very real and personal telling out of our own very personal share in the Lord’s death (Matt 15:36,37).
  • We are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13). Salt inevitably affects, by reason of what it is, whatever is next to it. We are lights in a dark world. Lights give light. If the salt doesn’t have the influence of salt, it is thrown away. Paul puts the same principle another way when he says that we’re all mirrors (2 Cor 3:18 RV). A mirror by its very nature, because of what it is, reflects the light which falls upon it to others. If we have really seen the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will inevitably reflect it to others. Whoever drinks of the water of life will have within them a spring that also gives eternal life (John 4:15).

“For his name’s sake they went forth…”

 In fulfilment of the great preaching commission, “for his name’s sake” the early preachers “went forth” world-wide (3 John 7). For the sake of their experience and recognition of the greatness of the Yahweh Name as manifested in the risen Christ, that Name which should be made great worldwide, they went forth. And so should we. As so often with reading the Gospels, it is profitable to imagine the tone of voice in which the Lord spoke the words which are recorded. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. If only we could sense the intensity of desire, the deepness of spiritual meaning, which his voice would have conveyed. We must have the spiritual ambition to take the Gospel to the whole world—no matter how small our world may be. The world of our street, of our town, nation—and as far as we are able, the whole planet. And it is marvellously appropriate that our latter twentieth century has so many facilities, linguistically, politically and technologically, for the spreading of the Gospel to literally all nations. If the above reasoning is sound, then we need to wake up to our responsibilities; in terms of money, time, resources of all kinds, and above all in fervent prayer and spiritual effort to fulfil our Lord’s earnest desire: that all men might see the light of the Father’s love which he reflected. “Go ye into all the world…”, obey the command, catch the vision—“for his name’s sake” (3 John 7), for the surpassing excellence of the knowledge and experience of all that is in Him.

“Go ye… ”

 The above paragraphs provide evidence which demands some kind of verdict. Should we make a special effort to spread the Gospel, or not? Of course we should. But more than this, the desire to witness should come naturally, and it should be done in a true humility. We should want to spread abroad the savour of the Lord’s knowledge as far and wide as possible. Don’t make excuses like, “I’ll do it when I’ve finished studying… when my children are grown up”. Do it now, because of the Truth you hold, the Lord you love and in whom you are, for His Name’s sake, for the sake of the Hope you have. Of course, preparation helps—to mark one’s Bible, to find explanations of the “difficult passages” which you feel comfortable with. And especially, find sound and experienced brethren (and sisters) to work with. But if the basic desire is there and the basic appreciation of why we want to witness, all these things will naturally fall into their place. You will go, a-grammatosas Peter, and testify to all men. But the testimony to the Lord and His Name doesn’t finish at baptism. This is only the beginning of a responsibility. Our preaching is in order to eternally glorify the Father’s Name, and so we won’t stop our involvement there. This is where letter writing is so important. And now we get down to something concrete. Gospel News magazine circulates to many brethren and sisters in the mission field. It is their magazine, largely written by them. I keep the address lists on my computer. I would be delighted to let anyone have some names and addresses of English speaking brethren and sisters in almost any part of the globe—so that you can witness to them of the height of the Lord’s exaltation and the greatness of the Name that has been achieved in Him. And one last thing. Pray fervently for God’s blessing on the work of witness, even if you can’t be involved. And want to witness, even if you are housebound, as God reckoned Abraham to have offered Isaac, as He accepted the generosity of the poor brethren according to what they had rather than what they could not give—so He will accept your dominant desire to witness as if you have witnessed.