Witnesses to Christ

Cornelius Van Til

Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. He was about to institute the New Testament Church. He did not show himself to the scribes and to the Pharisees. Their condemnation was just. He sought out the twelve humble Galileans whom He had instructed in the ways of the Kingdom of God.

But He did not come to them as individuals. He came to them when they were met in official session as the apostolate. He would have them know of His resurrection. He would have them represent Him as witnesses to that resurrection. And so He met with them as with a unit, that they might for Him authoritatively represent Him in days to come.

So it is even now in our day. You are not apostles, but the church of Jesus Christ is one, and it has one Head, even Jesus Christ our Lord. And there is a unity among those that go forth to proclaim His will. And though you go forth in different churches, denominations, there is a bond of fellowship that unites you, as you give forth the simple, common testimony to the resurrection of our Lord.

But there was more than this. Jesus would have everyone of them go forth together, and Thomas was not with them on that first occasion. And so He would come when Thomas too was present. And Thomas was the doubter. And so Thomas could not believe. And so He came the second time to them. This time Thomas was with them. And He showed His hands and feet, as He had done to them before, to Thomas, not so much as to an individual, but as a representative of the apostolate. He was the weakest link. That link must be as strong as were the others links, or the whole chain would fall. It was the apostolate as a unit that must see the fact, that must understand the fact, that must believe the fact, that then must witness to that fact before an unbelieving world, and before an apostate church.

And so my friends we believe that as a unit you have seen the facts, you have understood the meaning of these facts, you believe these facts, and you would now go forth to witness for the Lord of these facts. If as a faculty we have helped you in the least to see those facts, to understand their meaning, and to believe them, and to be ready to go forth and preach them, then we shall be greatly rewarded.

This in a sense would be little in significance. But listen again to Jesus as He said, "Even as the Father hath sent me, so send I you." We send you forth this moment, so to speak, but He who is the King of the Church really sends you forth and His work cannot fail. You must handle the keys of the kingdom. Whosoever sins - after you are ordained - you remit, they are remitted, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained. It's a great undertaking, an impossible task it may well seem to be to you. But His strength, the power of the resurrection, that power that raised Him from the tomb, works through you, because He through you witnesses to Himself.

For it is not merely a voice from the past that comes to you, it is not merely an echo across the ages. But it is that Holy Spirit of which Dr. Richardson has so eloquently spoken, who takes the things of Christ and gives them unto you. As He spoke with them, He breathed on them, and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit." That Spirit takes the things of Christ and gives them unto you. Through that Spirit you are strong and irresistible. When men ridicule and despise you, when they scorn you and laugh at you, when they suppress your words and even oppress you possibly, Be not afraid, little flock, it is the will of your Heavenly Father that you should receive the Kingdom.

Even youths may fail, and young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall move up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Note: From the 1953 Westminster Theological Seminary commencement ceremony. At the Commencement exercises, following the granting of the degrees, the Chairman of the Seminary faculty delivers a brief address to the graduates. Here, as it was recorded is the address Dr. Van Til gave at the exercises this year.

Reprinted from the Presbyterian Guardian, Volume 22, No 6, June 15, 1953. The OPC Committee for the Historian has made the archives of the Presbyterian Guardian available online!