So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:24–25).
This statement, “Give God the glory!” seems positive until we read the remainder of the sentence, in which the Pharisees revealed that they had concluded that Jesus was a sinner and therefore could not have performed the miracle. They were saying that the man should give glory to God, not to Jesus. The man was straightforward with them, saying: “I don’t know whether He’s a sinner. I don’t even know Him. All I know is this: once I was blind and now I see.”
With these simple words, the man bore witness to Christ. He testified about the redemptive work of Christ. However, he did not preach the gospel. What am I getting at? In the evangelical Christian community, we sometimes employ language that is not always sound or biblical. You’ve heard the lingo. It goes something like this: “I plan to become an evangelist so I can bear witness to Christ.” Or sometimes we say, “I had a chance to witness the other day,” meaning, “I shared the gospel with someone.” We tend to use the terms evangelism and witnessing interchangeably, but they are not synonymous. Any time I call attention to the person and work of Christ, I am bearing witness to Christ. But that is not the same thing as preaching the gospel.
More than thirty years ago, I learned the evangelism technique taught by Evangelism Explosion, and I trained more than 250 people in that program and led them through evangelism efforts in Ohio. One of the finest aspects of that program is that everyone who goes through it must write out and memorize his or her testimony. Your testimony is your story of how you became a Christian. I think it’s very important that Christians are able to articulate to other people how and why they became believers. We all should have a prepared testimony, and we should be willing to share it at the drop of a hat.
But we shouldn’t confuse our personal testimonies with the gospel. Sharing our personal testimonies is not evangelism. It’s merely pre-evangelism, sort of a warm-up for evangelism. Our testimonies may or may not be significant or meaningful to those with whom we are speaking. There are lots of folks who can relate to my story; they say, “Yeah, I know what he’s talking about because I used to live like that too.” But not everyone can relate to my story. In any case, the gospel is not what happened to R.C. Sproul. God makes no promise that He will use my story as His power unto salvation. The gospel is not about me. The gospel is about Jesus. It is the proclamation of the person and work of Christ, and of how a person can appropriate the benefits of the work of Christ by faith alone.
We see this from our passage in John’s Gospel. The healed man could say, “I once was blind, but now I see,” and that was a wonderful testimony. But it was not the gospel. The man could not tell the Pharisees about Jesus’ saving work and about how they could be delivered from their sins by faith in Him. So we need to learn not only our testimonies but the concrete elements and content of the biblical gospel. Evangelism takes place when the evangel is proclaimed and announced to people—that is the gospel.
This excerpt is taken from R.C. Sproul’s commentary on John.